My Road to Damascus

I find myself in a peloton of bikes, lycra clad people are jostling for first place, quick work is calling. Cycling through London on the Monday morning after reaching the capital and I am over taking taking people on bikes which if sold could fund another six months of my trip and they just use them as commuters; to be fare that is only one or two numpties, a good splattering of commuters are on run of the mill fit for the job bikes. It is a fashion parade, why people would spend so much money on cycling gear just to commute is beyond me. Being head to toe in lycra is by no means what I would wear on a fancy night out but the London rush hour is like a fashion parade.

I’m no explorer in the Edwardian sense of the word; I’ve surveyed no rivers, named no mountains nor have I discovered any long and forgotten civilisations, I will save that for my next trip. Everywhere I have gone someone has been there done that. Rarely did I stray to far from the road, albeit of questionable quality at times. It has been more of an exploration of a personal nature, I didn’t find myself, which is lucky because I can be an arse, no that would be to much of a cringe worthy conclusion. It has not been my road to Damascus, I’m still the same, women are beautiful, farts are funny and drinking is cool*. It has been personal in the fact that I have stumbled across a plethora of fantastic, generous and carefree individuals who have welcomed me with open arms.

In the isolated patches of the trip I have been free from the blabbering’s of Mr Trump, the bickering’s of the British parliament, bills or even a telephone. It is liberating, a sense of content satisfaction that few get to enjoy. Camping in vast wilderness’s has been a sheer pleasure with nothing but some mediocre camping food, a good book and my imagination to scare the bejesus out of me at the slightest noise in the night. At times this trip has been uninspiring to say the least, monotonous tundra or endless desert for days at a time but I can safely say that pretty much 80% of the time it has been a sheer pleasure. A more intelligent man than I, Richard P Feynman, once said “See that the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man.” This rings true for me.

But why do the trip in the first place? I’ve always felt that I needed to push myself physically and have yet to really scratch that itch. The endeavour has of course been challenging at times, f’ing miserable both physically and mentally tiring but it has not been as tough as I expected or hoped it to be. Yes I have been in deserts in temperatures up to 50C where heat stroke was a serious threat and in the mountains of Peru I was in the clutches of hypothermia though it cat have been to bad cause I was conscious of the cold and the risk it posed. I would love to push myself further.

The entire trip is a touch egotistical or macho in that I needed to push myself to feel like I have achieved something to feel like a man. The stories and pictures are a good by-product with which to show off. For a while at parties my friends might introduce me, “this is my friend harry who just cycled around the world” but probably not and anyway soon it will be “this is plain old Harry” for nothing really has changed. Finishing is perhaps inevitably an anti climax.

For much of this trip I have looked like a Yeti all beard and hair, not having to worry about what to wear or if I have food in my beard (its normally a high probability). I’m back to the normalities now, with all the modcons, wearing underwear, using deodorant, showering every day with hot water and socialising perhaps even with the fairer sex. For now I will be confined to using the porcelain, no more nature poos. To reconnect with nature perhaps once a month I should walk off into the country with a loo roll tucked under one arm and go in search for the best spot for a poo with a view. This might be difficult if I end up in London, Hyde Park is limited in terms of suitable shrubbery.

I never actually understand what it is people do for a living unless they are say a policeman, a fireman or a doctor. But it is time I put on a white collar and find a desk to do what ever it is people do sat behind their desks. At times on this trip I have felt more content than I have ever been and I do have some concerns now that unless I find something that really tickles my pickle I might end slightly discontent with what life has in store for me down the line.

I remember being 18 and working in my local in Warminster, most of the core group of punters were in the thirties, what darn old buggers I thought. To a young whippersnapper with life laid out before him they seemed, pretty middle aged, settled and some had grown comfortable (a beer bell or two), uncool and unexciting. I travelled, played sport, skied and dived (God I’ve had a privileged life). Life was exciting, surely it would be all down hill from after my mid twenties; little did I know that at thirty I would embark on this cycle, a trip far more adventurous than anything to date. The arrogance of youth.

So if I’m doing this now, what is next? Drug addicts progress from the soft stuff through to heroine and adrenaline seekers escalate in their hunt for the next injection or adrenaline. They might start off as awkward baggy jeans and hoodie wearing teenagers, skate boarding and doing stupid things like jumping in to bushes (women might wonder what I’m talking about but I’ve jumped into a bush or two at full gallop and from a height), next snow boarding, then sky diving which might then culminate into the ultimate thrill seeking feat, extreme ironing. It is unlikely I will take a step backwards I suppose, so as a traveller and a challenge seeker what is next after this?

I’ve passed through 36 countries, across six continents with the Antarctic still eluding me and its just taken me 36,180km. I didn’t actually achieve my goal to reach all seven continents and I’ve been a lazy arse not cycling as far as I had wanted. An extra day here to have a few drinks with friends or the odd extra lazy day where I simply couldn’t be arsed has totted up. I wouldn’t change anything though for the butterfly effect would dictate that I would have had an entirely different set of experiences, met different people, perhaps being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right at the right time I suppose but who knows.

All I know is that this year has been quite something. If I have learnt anything from this whole experience it would have to be, always give it an extra shake, for there is nothing worse than a soggy crotch.

*everything in moderation, please drink responsibly.

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