Well, my bike is packed up in its bag again, most of my possessions were collected yesterday for shipping back to New Zealand and, really, I’m a bit bored of packing. I leave London for NZ – five and a half years to the week after I left to see a little bit of the world – curious if I can settle back in a beautiful country far at the bottom of the globe. At the least, I should get a good summer of riding in. Over dinner with Trish at our favourite local Italian pizzeria the other night, there was plenty to reflect on – many excellent things, only two or three not so great happenings, all memorable.
So excuse me while I try to remember most of them and jot them down for posterity. Naturally I’ll start with the highlights in no particular order, as there are many.
As I delve into the archives, this is proving more difficult to narrow it down than I expected, …
My first port of call was the States – little did I know that would be the first of four visits and about six months in total in the country, it turns out the west is fantastic for scenery and mountain-biking.
A west-USA road-trip with plenty of mountain-biking was always a pipe-dream for when I was in my forties or fifties – thanks to living in Canada & the company of my aunt, Valerie, it became a reality much earlier.
The best biking holiday was my return to Moab last year – fantastic trails, great company & beautiful scenery – click on the photo above to watch the video Megan put together.
I also never intended to visit Africa four times, but somehow that happened. Each of the four safaris were quite different, but all excellent.
But the first one in the Masai Mara was the best.
Seeing the Pyramids on Christmas day was excellent – not very crowded either.
I only briefly went to Asia, on a visit to Turkey:
Gliding over the spectacular landscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon is indelibly in my memory.
Five weeks’ vacation almost five years ago in the Canadian Rockies saw me learn to ski, a bit, and then all of a sudden, living in Bow Valley for a year of mountain-biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Returning to the UK, I managed to settle into a job that I quite liked – that was, until the rather horrible drawn-out experience of plant closure & many redundancies. It was a good base for travels near & far while it lasted – the long, dry & hot summer of 2013 was especially good with many mountain-biking trips around the south-west. Always good to visit Taunton & also ride with my Somerset riding buddies, the Combe Raiders – whatever the weather.
That summer saw me enter a few biking events too – a six-hour solo (nice trail, but boring riding round & round the same thing for six hours), a couple of marathon events, & culminating in my first multi-day stage event.
That event, as you can probably tell from this photo taken while riding along, was in Africa.
Apart from the redundancy experience already mentioned, only two other notable low-points are worth bringing up. The mugging incident in San Diego the day after I left NZ is still the best if I ever have to tell one story from my travels. The ongoing shoulder dislocation saga was painful in a different way – but after four dislocations I had surgery and it’s been fine ever since.
With all the trips to North America & Africa, I perhaps didn’t see as much of Europe as I originally hoped. But I managed a fair few trips – with Italy being the most visited country, five times now I think. I also loved the time spent living in London wandering around all parts of the city & delving into the history. Due to the demise of work, my bikepacking tour of western Europe was brought forward to this year & shortened (& then shortened even more when I got sick of travelling alone in the August rain & mud).
Straddling the German-Belgian border somewhere.
One of the most pleasing & proud parts of the trip was crossing the Alps over Great Saint Bernard Pass – because my grandfather did the same on a bike sixty-five years ago.
Somehow I ended up spending four weeks living & working on a small vineyard in the north-west of Italy – eating a lot, hiking a bit, making new friends & thoroughly enjoying myself. Learning a second-language, Italian – thanks to work, was something I never thought I’d do – but it turned out I really enjoyed it.
Oh, almost forgot the whirlwind two-week trip back to NZ (the only one) for some friends’ wedding, and coincidentally my thirtieth birthday & many celebrations with friends & family all over the country. Hectic, but most enjoyable.
The visit also coincided with my shoulder being declared fit – so after six months of no biking, it was great to be active again – here skiing near Wanaka.
I’ll be back with these fine folks next week – hard to believe we’ll have our first Christmas all together since 2006.
That’ll do for unashamed self-indulgence – thanks to all the family & friends that made all this possible in many different ways (usually providing somewhere to sleep & plenty to eat). Biggest thanks goes to cousin Trish in London for repeatedly opening up her home to this often-vagabond – all this would not have been possible or lasted nearly as long otherwise.