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England to Georgia in 20 Photographs


As our time here on this blog comes to an end until the judges make their decision in January, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back over our journey so far.

We blogged about our training rides across the length of England and around the Isle of Wight but here are 20 pictures that tell our story from London to Georgia so far...

 
We left from Hampton Court Palace on August 18th, fresh faced with shiny new bikes.


Joined by friends to our first night's camp, the coast and some all the way to Paris.



France was the perfect introduction to our tour: good weather, friendly drivers and delicious food.

 
Then we hit the Alps in Switzerland...

...2,000 vertical metres to the top.


Followed by a long winding descent.

We've taken every opportunity for a wild swim.

We reached our first one thousand miles in Italy...


...and made a tribute to the country with torches at our camp site.

  
We followed the Croatian coast, camping regularly by the sea.

We were recommended a wonderful secluded bay.

This photo tat Laura took on a Croatian island has been used in advertising campaign for our bikes!

2,000 miles

Albania was a surprise favourite with plenty of animals in the road...

...and muddy dirt tracks.

We reached Greece and were hosted by a kind orthodox monk.


We clocked 3,000 miles I'm Turkey...

...where we were hosted almost every single night by kind local hosts.

Now winter has tightened its grip and ahead of us lie the mountains of Georgia, Armenia and Iran followed by the rest of the world!



The Road Ahead

We are now at the far eastern edge of Turkey, looking towards the vast landmass of Asia and wondering what lies ahead. We have cycled here from England and it has been a wonderful journey so far. 

If anything, it’s all felt rather easy - the weather has been kind, the terrain manageable, the food plentiful and the bikes have worked perfectly. Over the last few weeks, the weather has changed and we've had to deal with snow and colder temperatures, but we've been lucky enough to spend most nights indoors, invited in by local people.

By far the most precious memories of the last three months involve the people we’ve met, as we have hopefully demonstrated on this blog. Through our '100 Sporks' project, we gave a Light my Fire spork to everyone who helped us on our travels, and subsequently wrote about them here.

When we read back over the entries, we remember with fondness the Greek Orthodox priest who fed us soup while explaining his religion, the Croatian shepherd who called himself ‘Uncle Niko’ and who flagged us down at the side of the road to give us some figs and the Serbian road cycling champion who serviced our bikes for us. This is the greatest souvenir of our trip so far, and we would like to thank Light My Fire for giving us the Sporks in the first place.

One of the seven finalists in this competition will be given €3000 to fund their next adventure, and we would use this to continue cycling across Asia to Australia. The money would ensure we have enough funds to cover the whole distance.

We are looking forward with trepidation to the road ahead and preparing ourselves as much as possible for the adventures it will bring.

We will be continuing to blog about our trip at www.thenextchallenge.org so please take a look and sign up to our monthly newsletter. Thank you for reading and following our adventure this far.

Tim & Laura


Photo update

Here are a few more photos from our cycle journey from the UK to Australia, this time from Turkey. We experienced some big snow falls which made cycling a little difficult, but met some wonderful people along the way.

For more photos, see our collection at www.thenextchallenge.org/photos.

Happy Christmas to all who celebrate it.









Latest Video: Quit Job, Cycle to Asia


Here's our most recent video from the trip. A montage of footage from the UK to Istanbul.

It finished in the Top 50 of a competition run by MagistoMagisto, the video editing software that we use.

You can see all of our videos at www.thenextchallenge.org/videos

Spork #42: Istanbul visitor


In addition to Laura's parents, we were joined in Istanbul by a good friend of ours: Jonathan.

Jon gets top marks for flying all the way out to the far side of Europe to catch us before we enter Asia for the briefest of visits, arriving at 4am on Saturday morning and departing in the evening of the next day.

His departure marks the last planned visit that we have (offers always welcome but at present, no one else has arranged to meet us on route yet) and the last deadline that we had. Prior to Jon's arrival in Istanbul we had booked accommodation in Switzerland and later on the Croatian island of Hvar for fixed dates, met my brother in Thessalonika and had a visit from Laura's parents in Istanbul. Each of these things required setting a date and sticking to it but, for now, the road ahead is entirely flexible with no fixed dates or deadlines.

Seeing a familiar face is always welcome, with the chance to catch up on news from home and enjoy a few too many drinks together.  It offers a brief opportunity to reconnect with our normal life, before we are tossed back into the uncertainty and unknowns of the road.  We hugely appreciate the efforts that people have made to come and join us, however short the trip.

Jon - we owe you a spork.


Sporks #40-41: Christmas puddings

By the time you read this, we will probably be somewhere in the middle of Turkey, experiencing the joys of winter in the mountains.  We have told to expect temperatures down to minus 20, and camping in these conditions requires some careful preparation.

Before we left the UK, we left a cupboard full of warm clothes and extra sleeping bags.  Laura's parents then flew out to join us in Istanbul for a few days in November, bringing this extra equipment with them. 

More importantly, they also brought a total of five(!) Christmas puddings with them.  For non-British readers, a Christmas pudding is a very dense cake made with dried fruit, traditionally eaten on Christmas Day for dessert.  They are delicious and we had been worried about the prospect of a Christmas without them.

Our bikes are now heavier than ever, but it was a wonderful break and so good to see family before we start the long journey across Asia.  We are very grateful to Laura's parents for bringing our stuff out, and for being generous enough to pay for us to stay in a nice hotel while they were there - a rare treat!


Spork #39: Hakan of Istanbul


Cities are always the most difficult on a bike tour - lots of traffic, hard to navigate, nowhere to camp, difficult to walk around with a fully laden bicycle - so we were very relived to hear from Hakan, a cyclist who lives on the west side of Istanbul.

We contacted him through the WarmShowers website and he put us up for a few nights while we awaited the arrival of Laura's parents for a short break in Istanbul.

For a 22-year-old he seemed to be alarmingly well informed about so many different topics - film, photography, literature - and he told us about his experiences at the Taksim Square protests a few months before our visit.

As a cyclist himself (he's currently planning a big trip around the Turkish coast line) he knew exactly how to keep the tired tourists happy: a big greasy meal on arrival, unlimited hot tea, a comfy bed, access to wireless and lots of films.

He is also the founder of the WarmShowers Turkey Facebook page, members of which are currently lobbying to allow bikes on public transport.

Spork #38: Food from Above

Our "Magic Letter" explains in the local language who we are, what we are doing and what we want from the poor people we have opted to interrupt that evening. We use it most nights but we don't usually hand it over to children.

They laughed a lot and the younger ones primarily ran in circles shouting "Hello!" before hiding behind a friend but, eventually, the older members managed to help us out by taking it in turns to run into a building and return with a filled bottle of water (I did offer to go with them and fill up our one big water bladder but it was either not appropriate or not communicated effectively).

They then tried to point us to a suitable camping spot. We wheeled off down the road and they continued to shout after us but they did so in unison, each shouting different things and pointing in several different directions. We pitched on a spot that seemed good to us but a shifty man appeared and tried to convince us (we think) that we should stay in his hotel by repeatedly pointing to our tent and acting out having his throat slit. Not reassured by this man or his miming, we picked the tent up and wheeled back up to our friendly young acquaintances.

Eventually we were led towards a large front yard and directed to pitch outside one of their houses. Our bikes were brought over by teams of two kids at a time and the re-pitching of our tent was assisted by many small hands, a little over enthusiastic with the rocks to bash in pegs. Again, food was brought out to us on trays (there was some kind of religious celebration happening that evening, hence the kids and their families were all gathered).

As we woke and prepared our breakfast, an old lady poked her head out of the window of the house above us and dropped a bag of bread down to us which was proceeded shortly by two chocolate muffins. A surreal but brilliant start to the day.


Sporks #36-37: Our friend, Suleyman

By now, you know how it works. We find somewhere to ask for water and we end up not only being given the water but also a place to camp and, in this instance, a tray of hot food for dinner.

This time it turned out to be an off-season hotel whose cafe and garden were currently populated by the owner's extended family. As we ate our tea we had the prying eyes of two wide-eyed and very cute granddaughters and the owner (the granddad) was keen to inspect each item of equipment that we removed from our bags: the tent and its elaborate pole system, our camping mats with their inflation bags, our gas stove, the Kindles and so on.

Amusingly, with the days that bit shorter now (it's dark a little after 5pm) and with our dinner handed to us on a platter, our evening routine was completed by 7pm and we found ourselves tucked up in the tent alarmingly early. No doubt this was the first of many such nights and we approach the depths of winter.

The following morning, the granddad sat down and began writing on a small piece of paper with some concenration. After ten minutes he handed us the slip with a telephone number and some words: "When you reach Australia, please call this number. Your friend, Suleyman."


Spork #35: Tekirdag

We were hosted by Ben Ali in Tekirdag, a town on the European side of the Sea of Marmara. He is an English teacher with many interests: always out swimming or playing football.

We had some time to kill before we were due in Istanbul so he very kindly let us stay with him for three nights, cluttering up his front room and abusing his WiFi. He apologised for leaving us alone for so long when he was out at work or in the evening, but actually the rest and peace was just what we needed.

He offered us a great introduction to life in Turkey, taking us for Turkish coffee and cooking us a wonderful dinner of fish and salad. He also explained lots about Turkish culture to us, perfect timing as we began our cycle across this vast country.

We are giving sporks to all who help us on our cycle trip around the world. For more information about our trip, see www.thenextchallenge.org 


Sporks #33-34: The Shell Garage


A petrol station.
Perhaps not the first place you'd anticipate generosity but, nonetheless, that is what we found.
Initially shown a patch of concrete on which we could safely pitch for the night - which was very welcome to us, our first night in a new country and with clouds setting in - we were almost forcibly sat in chairs and provided hot, sweet tea (for any budding hosts of cycle tourists out there - there are few better ways to to welcome a cyclist that a hot, sweet cup of tea).
Before I could finish my admittedly second cup of tea, the stern man that had shown us to our tent pitch dragged me around the corner and up some stairs to the roof of the building. He indicated that rain was coming then opened the door to a room with two beds. Bliss.
Showered and unpacked there was a knock at the door. In came one of our hosts bearing a tray with two bowls of steaming soup and a large bowl of bread. This was the icing on the cake and another top tip for the aspiring cycle tourist host.
Just as Panos (Spork #32) had told predicted, the Turkish are indeed "very hospitality".
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Tim and Laura are cycling across Europe and Asia to Australia. Follow their progress at www.thenextchallenge.org

Spork #32: Chateau Grand


It was a big hill, no doubt about it. 550-metres doesn't sound that high but, on a 50kg bike, through the bowls of a city (Thessaloniki) and after five days of rest, 10 miles' cycling uphill feels tough.
We had assumed Chateau Grand was a hotel when we pedalled up the drive in search of water and a place to pitch the tent. But as Panos later explained after appearing on the balcony in response to our calls of "Calispera!", it is a wedding venue.
In fact, Panos gave the best possible response to the question: "Can we have some water?".
His reply: "Hot or cold?".
He then made us coffee and we spent the evening discussing his background, politics and the Greek economy with two of his friends.
Oh, and when we asked him what we should expect in Turkey, he replied simply: "Very hospitality. Turkish people, very hospitality".
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We are cycling 15,000 miles from England to Australia. Follow us at www.thenextchallenge.org

Spork #31: He's My Brother

We had our first visitor from home in Thessaloniki: Tim's brother Robin.

He flew out for a long weekend in the city, the first familiar face since leaving England/France two and a half months ago.

We stayed in the spare room of a local's apartment (arranged through the Air B&B website) and set about being tourists for a few days:

Walking around the city, its many old churches and up to the old town for a view out to sea
Attending the military parade, heavily guarded by armed riot police
Taking a bus out to the beach
Watching entries into an international film festival (some excellent, many depressing, several just plain odd)
Looking at weird and wonderful creatures in Insectopia
Rob and Laura playing with their SLR cameras
Indulgently watching films in our room

Eventually, after five days, Rob walked to a bus stop as we reacquainted ourselves with our bikes. It was a brief goodbye but left me with a little sadness. I probably won't see him again for another year.

P.S. Rob, we forgot to actually give you your spork! Thankfully, there is a whole box full of them in the loft so please help yourself...



Spork #30: God and Soup

A wonderful welcome to Greece was provided by the Orthodox church or at least by one of its members: Father Paeseus.
(N.B. I am sure that I have spelled his name incorrectly - sorry Father)
We stopped at a church to ask for some water and see if they thought it would be alright for us to camp outside.
We were soon treated to two large chocolate ice creams, invited to camp in the church garden and given a big slap-up meal in Father Paeseus' home.
He had been learning English in preparation for a trip to America and - with the aid of hand signals and, later in the evening, his English tutor - we learned about the Greek Orthodox church and how it's traditional for its members to abstain from meat, fish and diary products on Wednesdays and Fridays; its differences from Roman Catholic and similarities with Russian Orthodox; and about his grand plans for a huge monastery in the foothills behind his church.
The grilled fish he packed us off with lasted us through two huge lunches. No mean feat for two hungry cyclists.
You can read the full account of our encounter here: http://thenextchallenge.org/2013/11/night-orthodox-monk/
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Tim and Laura Moss are currently cycling around the world - www.thenextchallenge.org

Video of cycling across Europe

We have now reached Istanbul and later today will cross the Bosphorus from Europe into Asia. It feels very much like the first stage of our trip, through familiar territory, is over. What lies ahead is  the great unknown.

This is a short photo slideshow of the last few months: http://animoto.com/s/2snDmgkgWoi767JsyvgnLA 

Watch this space for more updates from the road and visit www.thenextchallenge.org for more information about our trip.  

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Progress Update and Video: Biking the Balkans

Video of Biking the Balkans