Our return to the ‘Real World’ was always going to be rather weird, but with all that is going on at the moment it’s been even stranger than we could have imagined…
Friday 20 – Saturday 21 March 20 – Auckland to Singapore – 8,500km (9hrs) and Singapore to London 11,200km (13:40hrs)
We said our goodbyes to Debbie early on Friday morning, jumped into Stuart’s ute and headed south to Auckland with our bikes boxed and firmly strapped in the back. According to Stuart the roads were much quieter than usual, a reminder, if we needed one, that the Coronavirus outbreak is starting to take effect even in New Zealand. We got to the airport super early, but that was fine with us as we hate rushing – especially with bikes. We said our goodbyes to Stuart and had a very smooth transition through a very quiet airport to departures…
We debated a few times as to whether we should return to the U.K. early and eventually decided that it would be good to get back on home soil as soon as we could. This was confirmed not long after we’d bought new air tickets when our original flights home (scheduled for 7 April) were cancelled. We spent a day in the comfort of Debbie and Stuart’s home in Kerikeri booking new tickets and cancelling other things we’d organised. Had we set out on bikes as originally planned it would have been much more difficult. Thank you Debbie and Stuart for looking after us and especially for the yacht ride in the Bay of Islands, which was definitely one of the highlights of our time in New Zealand and a great finale to our overall trip!
One down side to going home early was that we missed out on visiting my friend Keith who lives on the North Shore. But we will hopefully be back at some stage and we can rectify that. Keith is now apparently self-isolating with his wife and 70 bottled of beer…..!
To say that we were in a funny mood throughout the journey home is a bit of an understatement. I think that the realisation that our journey was over hit home and for once we were very subdued, though we did manage a smile…
Martina had a few tears and it took us a long time to pluck up the courage to look at our 1 Second Everyday app. We have mentioned this before – it’s a movie of one second snapshots from each day of our journey. If anyone is at all interested it can be viewed from the link below – But be warned… it’s about 11 minutes long! If you need cheering up in these difficult times then I defy anyone not to laugh at the monkeys on 15 December 2018…
The rest of our journey was incredibly smooth as there were very few people about and we were soon back at base with Dina and Trent, our friends who initially saw us off when we set out back in April 18, by 9am on Saturday.
We were home early, so with time on our hands and in an effort to beat the jet lag we did a very naughty thing and went into the centre of London to get new clothes. Technically speaking this could be deemed as essential shopping! The clothes we had left were so well worn and lacking elastic that the situation was desperate, my underpants in particular were almost translucent and could have been used for tracing paper! Oxford Street was almost eerie and devoid of nearly all life…
All very bizarre! We did a whirlwind buying spree and got out of there as quickly as we could.
And so that’s the end of our travels for now. Once the Coronavirus mayhem has calmed down we plan to set off again and we will blog our journeys when we do. In the meantime it looks like we will have plenty of time for planning!
A few general notes on what we learned from our 2 year experience on the road…
- People are great! We have had so many people show us kindness, from those that have opened their doors and looked after us to those that have randomly rolled down their car window and passed us a cold drink on a hot day. If we believed everything we see in the news we’d think that the world is full of bad people and this just isn’t true. We have learned a huge amount about kindness, trust and hospitality from all of these people and we will be passing it forwards in the future. We can only think of two occasions when we felt uncomfortable and that we were in the wrong place, but and at no stage over our two years did we really feel threatened.
- Our journey has not just been about the cycling or learning about the world. There has also been a significant personal internal element. We spent a lot of time on our bikes and not everyday was super interesting, so there was plenty of time for thinking. It’s rare, in a hectic world, to have time to just think for extended periods about what we want out of our lives. Though we don’t have all the answers we certainly know some of the things we want to do going froward, and just as importantly what we don’t want to do.
- We have both changed as people and personally I think that I am now far less judgmental of others. Over and over again people surprised me and turned out to be very different from what I had expected. I think I’m also a lot less worried about what people think of me, though that won’t stop me from trying to be nice to everyone I meet.
- When we set out a few people asked how we would cope with being with one another for such a long period of time. The answer is very well as it turned out – we have basically lived with each other 24/7 for the past 2 years and in that time only had proper cross words about 3 times. Even on those occasions we nipped it in the bud early and quickly apologised, which meant it only lasted, at most, 10 minutes. We realised early on that we rely on each other too much to let an argument go on for long – and it’s no fun for either of us. As it was we found that we didn’t have much cause to argue anyway.
- We naturally fell into different roles: I was the main navigator, route planner and bike fixer and Martina was communicator, accommodation and chief food organiser as well as financial guru. This type of travel is not a holiday and there are always jobs to be done. Even when we had a day off we were continually looking forwards and planning what we wanted to do and see, where to stay, where to get money, what provisions and water we needed until the next available shop, etc, etc. I don’t think either of us realised how much time and brain power this would take and how tiring it could become at times – basically we never really switched off.
- It took us at least three weeks through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark to get bike fit. This underlying fitness stayed with us on the trip but our actual fitness levels fluctuated quite a bit over the two years. This was especially evident when we came to some hills after a period of pedalling over predominantly flat ground. We’d struggle for the first few days and slowly become ‘hill fit’ after which we’d cope much better over hilly terrain. It was amazing how quickly we’d lose this additional ‘hill fitness’ when we returned to flat ground. It’s also amazing how few serious ailments we had – we are, after all, no spring chickens, but we had no lasting strains or breaks, and apart from Martina’s accident in Vietnam, no other major traumas.
- There is no doubt that we visited some amazing places during our travels. However in our minds, the places are no more amazing than those we have back home in Ireland and England. We will be seeing our own home countries with new eyes and will appreciate them even more than we perhaps did in the past.
This is just scratching the surface of what this journey has taught us – it has certainly changed us as people and our whole outlook on life is very different now to when we started.