Episode 11: Cycling the world solo
Cycling the world solo has never been my plan. This is why on the 15th of April 2014, I embarked for this journey alone… I knew I would meet plenty of people. I knew good things would happen. And I was far from being wrong.
This is the story of two cyclists supposed to ride together for only few kilometres.
I remember the first kilometres of this amazing journey, alone around the world. I remember how it feels to leave everything behind, the loneliness of the beginning. I remember also all the friends and family saying that going alone was crazy. Maybe it was, maybe not.
I first met Antoine near Mulhouse (east of France), 2 weeks after I left London. He was sitting on a bench fixing the last part of his bicycle. I was rushing, already. We had a chat for 15 minutes and I had to go. I always have to go. Until now I can’t get rid of this bad habit. I keep my eyes on the bike computer with the aim to achieve at least 100km a day. There is no specific reason to this. Why 100 km and not 80km or 50km? I don’t know. Maybe I just need to feel that I am moving fast, that I am getting closer to home.
I was surprise when I met him again the next day. He was still sitting on a bench and I was still rushing. It was just after the German border. As we were obviously going in the same direction we cycled together a day and half. And we did split again. This was supposed to be the last time I saw him.
A month and a half later, I reached Belgrade after a week off in Sarajevo. Guess who was there? This is how we “officially” started to cycle together. At first it was to Istanbul. Then, we decided to keep cycling together to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), then to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia). We eventually made it together to Japan. That was only few days ago that we took a different direction, after over 15000 km together.
Together goes with compromise. And so we did, for the best. It probably took me more time to reach Japan than expected. But I cycled amazing roads I didn’t think I could. Also, I wouldn’t have been through the Pamir (Tajikistan) in winter on my own. It was indeed one of the most beautiful and certainly the most challenging place I have been too (episode 8 : The Ultimate Challenge).
The good thing was that we were naturally a good complement to each other. I was better prepared for every matters related to bicycle mechanic. And he was better prepared for all the rest. I could handle the heat without troubles, so I dragged him in Turkey and Iran. When winter came in Central Asia, I was the one to drag and he was the one dragging.
Being alone on the road is quite different than travelling with someone. On one hand, it requires much more self-confidence as no one is there to acknowledge a good decision, or to challenge a bad one. Also, every feeling is amplified. With no one to talk to, an entire day of heavy rain on a bike seems like an eternity. As on the bad days, a plate of pasta can be hard to swallow alone on the side of the road.
On the other hand, every nice acquaintances can make your day, help you forget all the struggle you have been to and remind you how amazing is your journey. And it truly is. Alone, the tough is tougher, the good is great.
I consider this friendship as one of the numerous gift this amazing journey has brought to me. I had a friend to share this journey with, especially the highlights: Finishing the Euro velo 6, crossing the Bosphore to enter Asia, entering Tehran or crossing the Pamir… All these days which were special to me because they meant a new step in my journey. The day we split will also remain as one of them. The day when I let my friend go and start the last part of my journey, alone.
Sheltering from the woind in an abandonned petrol station
We survived the Pamir, Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)