Six weeks in and we can safely say we have enjoyed a fantastic start to our ramble. We are currently in Scotland and its high time to share our impressions of the first part of our journey.
On the way through France and Luxembourg we decided to make a small detour to Belgium to see the city of Bruges, eat Belgian fries and drink some Trapist beer brewed by local monks. A few days later we took the ferry from Calais, arriving just on time in the UK to experience the notorious English weather. Soaking wet we made it to Canterbury on our first day in the UK, continuing on from there to London, Cambridge, Loughborough, Peak District National Park, Sheffield, York, Yorkshire Dales through Lake District and Penrith to Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.
Every day we meet people who offer us their selfless help. As we are more than crazy about the tandem, we protect it like our own child. For that reason, camping in forests or fields and letting the bike out of our sight during the night causes almost physical pain. To sleep calmly we decided to try our luck by asking people we meet for a space in their gardens to pitch the tent. As a result we encounter a new person or family every day and listen to a different life story. But the most precious part of this travel is experiencing a sort of kindness we would never dare to expect. We receive not only a safe place to sleep but also a special kind of care from people who know us only for few moments. The families we have already stayed with have offered us food, showers and even an opportunity to do some laundry, which frankly speaking was the best gift we could get.
Worried as we are about the bike, we can be a real pain in the arse for our couchsurfer hosts. Unable to leave it on the street, we have carried it upstairs (see it here!), even to the forth floor, already many times. Our hosts agreed to share their living space not only with us but also with our Velotraum tandem. We are REALLY grateful for that! Thank you, guys, and sorry once again for the circumstances!
We obviously expected obstacles and difficulties on the road but we never thought that we were going to get into trouble on the very first day. It took only few hours and around 50 kilometers for one of the SPD cleat screw threads to break in Bens bike shoe and for our front light wires to get detached (which is quiet hard to re–attach due to the rack). But that wasn’t the end; after arriving in the UK we found our rear brake didn’t work properly. Fortunately Ben managed to repair it and now we know what kind of adjustments the tandem components need for the upcoming big trip. After all, this is what this trial journey is all about.
The biggest problem we have faced was Martas knee pain. She’s got a nasty inflammation, therefore we had to take it easy. For that reason we spent over a week in London even though what we wanted most was to hit the road again. Fortunately everything’s back to normal now, and we are happy to ramble around England anew.
Staying in the capital we didn’t waste our time. We have visited museums and galleries as well as all the tourist places, took some pictures which admitedly were neither very original nor creative in front of the Big Ben and the London Eye, and tasted some amazing chocolate.
London seemed to us, probably like most big cities, a very lonely place. The crowd is overwhelming, everyone is busy doing their thing and constantly hurrying to places. People suffer from a chronic lack of time and space.
Obviously the city has its unique charm. All the nations of the world live here together and change Londons districts into little countries. One can taste all sorts of food, sold by totally different people coming from the most distant places, and listen to amazing music sang in a hundred different languages. You can see all kinds of art and learn about various customs and traditions. In London you can travel far without leaving the city.
On the way towards the north we discovered the most beautiful corners of England and were astonished by the idyllic atmosphere of the British countryside. Sheep grazing on the green, hilly meadows, little rabbits jumping in tall grass and surprised cattle following our bike (due to the orange color) were often the only company we had while cycling.
We were surprised to learn that the import of Polish potatoes is forbidden in England and possessing them is as illegal as carrying drugs!
We have visited three national parks which we highly recommend everyone to see. The Peak District, The Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District are definitely a must see if you are visiting the United Kingdom, especially if you are going there by bicycle.
Traveling by bicycle turned out to be perfect for the both of us. It seems that we are not going to get back to hitchhiking any time soon. We genuinely enjoy the dynamics of the journey and discover lovely corners and magical places which we would never see while traveling by car. It is not always easy, dont get us wrong. Actually, due to the weather conditions or the general exhaustion, things get quite tough pretty easily. But it is very rewarding, looking at the map at the end of a long day, to be able to literally see what we have already achieved and how far we have come. Overcoming our weaknesses and pushing the limits makes us proud and definitely keeps us going.
We are looking forward to telling you about the ramble around the Scottish Highlands and how we go about facing its raw environment. Even though it can get rough at times, we are determined to explore and learn more. We will keep you posted. Greetings from the left side of the road!