Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Burning Questions

Frequently asked questions about our trip

Which countries are you going through?
See previous entry, although since Dgym got back from a weekend in Bratislava we've added Slovakia to the list. It wasn't far off our original route, and it sounds really nice.

Are you going to camp?
If we have to. We're bringing tents, sleeping bags and associated paraphernalia, so we can. However, one of us is a little more keen on camping than the other - I'll let you guess which is which :) Camping is cheap, and if we're buying and carrying the kit, we may as well get lots of use out of it (dgym: I disagree, I don't try and get as much use as possible out of a fire extinguisher, camping gear is for emergencies). On the other hand, there is the need for comfort after a hard day's cycling, and to recharge our laptops as well as our legs. It'll probably just depend on what we feel like doing.

What, on a pushbike? Not one with a motor?
A solar-powered vehicle would be nice, all donations welcome. But as for petrol power, we're more the eco-friendly kind of hippie - no crawling down the motorway belching smoke from a psychedelic VW van stuck in first gear for us.

Can you speak any other languages?
A fair bit of French, a little bit of German (ich habe keine kasekuchen), a couple of words in Spanish, and not much else.

What made you want to do this?
It started with a combination of "We're sick of England, it's expensive and overcrowded. We could sell our house now and use the profit to buy a nice house abroad without needing a mortgage" and "Programming jobs in the UK suck. You have to either live in London, commute into London, or put up with a really pants job outside of London. We're both bright programmers, if only we had the opportunity to work on our own projects" and a little of Hel thinking "Ooh, I'm all itchy for some travelling, and my poor touring bike has never really been touring (OK, so my racing bike has never raced, and my mountain bike has only been out four times, none of which were even within sight of any mountains).

Full time jobs don't leave much time for traveling around and checking out countries for potential emigration. So we decided to ditch everything and just do it. It's not as radical as it sounds - we were planning on selling the house at some point, and neither of us were particularly enamoured with our jobs - even so, it took a while (for me at least) to realise that the house and job are things that are supposed to help us, not make us feel trapped. (At least not until there are kids to make you feel trapped properly!) It also took a little persuasion from Dgym in the form of "Let's cycle it". That was easy.

Have you been training?
Er, not really. Read about Anne Mustoe, a former headmistress who cycled around the world. She hadn't cycled in 30 years, yet she just got on her bike and did it, getting fitter as she went along. We're not quite that out of practice - I've been using a bike on various commutes for about five years and even Dgym has been known to ride occasionally. We'll try to do a few more rides before we leave. But there's no rush, so we'll just pick it up as we go along.

So, when are you leaving?
Alright, alright... we know where we're not wanted. We've just been informed that Dgym's getting his trike on Friday. So with any luck, and a bit of organisation, we'll get going next Friday.

I'm so jealous! Can I come along?
If you can keep up...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Our route around Europe

This is a rough plot of our intended route around Europe. It was plotted using Gmaps Pedometer (see interactive version of the route), which builds on the most excellent Google Maps (although I wish they had more detailed maps of the European continent).

Although the intention is to tour continental Europe, we won't be leaving England straight away, because (a) one of us is guaranteed to forget something (b) we will be using new camping equipment and a new trike - so if something's going to go wrong early on, or we're missing something, we'd rather it was closer to home.

From our current residence in Guildford, Surrey, we will head west towards my home county of Dorset where we will make a nuisance of ourselves to various family members, before leaving the country via Poole Harbour, crossing to Cherbourg.

From Cherbourg we will stick vaguely close to the coast through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, taking in a section of the North Sea Cycle Route. At some point in Germany we'll leave the coast and head for western Poland. Poland's one of those cheap-but-not-too-dodgy countries that's interesting to us for potential habitation, so we may stop there a while and see what life's like there.

After Poland, we'll stop our eastward travel and turn southwestwards towards the Czech Republic. This is where we start seeing proper gradients - there is a mountain range between the two countries. At Vienna, we will meet the Danube and follow it west back into and across south Germany.

We'll have to get away from the Danube at some point, and it's probably best to do that before it hits the mountains. After that it'll be France again, trying to dodge the mountains wherever possible - unfortunately, with Portugal as a final destination, the Pyrenees are inevitable.

Portugal seems like a good place to spend the winter months (cheap-and-not-too-dodgy, but also doesn't have Polish winters), so we will most probably end our trip there in the autumn.

We will be visiting ten countries (OK, I included England) with eight different languages. We know a fair bit of French, a little bit of German and a few words in Spanish. Fortunately somebody had the bright idea of getting me a European Phrase Book for my birthday, which covers useful phrases in every language we'll need. And you can always communicate using pen and paper and/or wild hand gestures.

Goodbye House

We sold our house on Tuesday, and it was quite anti-climactic. For all the paperwork we had to sign, cleaning and tidying for viewings, anxiety of last-minute delays, and that minor business of moving, the sale went exactly as a sale should go - money was received and the item in question was given.

Of course the excitement has been somewhat dampened by the lack of sleep and the state of the flat, which is our temporary home, and the long-term home of all our stuff. Imagine emptying a three-bedroom house (sheds and all) into a two-bedroom flat, and then try living in there. The picture looks bad, but it's an improvement on two days ago in that you can now cross the room without specialist climbing equipment.

It won't be for long though. In just over two weeks we hope to be away. Until then, we will be spending our time rearranging boxes so they all fit in one room, investing our money so we actually have an income, and getting our equipment and muscles ready for the long journey.

The most crucial piece of equipment to get ready is Dgym's trike. He already owns a recumbent bicycle, which is a lovely light tourer for flat country - however, this year we will be going over mountain ranges and carrying quite a lot - so he has decided on a third wheel. The Trice QNT is currently being built, and delivery is expected in two weeks time. That will leave not much time to put it together, load it up, and set off.

I will be sticking with my beloved Dawes Galaxy which has taken me on a few long rides, and is currently lurking at the foot of the bed with all our other babies (It's the one on the right)