We have been back in England for five days now and the weather has thankfully started to warm up. It doesn't feel like over 16 months ago that two fledgling cyclists wobbled their heavily laden bikes out of my father's drive in Norfolk. Using the theory that we would get fitter as we progressed, we made our way through Europe and to be quite honest, much further than I ever expected!
Slowly over time, the line between 'travellers who happen to be on bikes' and hardened cycle tourists has become increasingly blurred. Cycling has certainly afforded us opportunities that would have been difficult to experience any other way.
During our time in the saddle we have had, as you can imagine, plenty of time to muse over the pros and cons of travelling by bike. At times it is hard to imagine a better way to travel. Riding along exchanging greetings with friendly locals, through beautiful scenery on a warm day takes quite some beating. Stopping to chat, often through sign language, or accepting a generous offer of a drink and occasionally food from people frequently less monetarily wealthy than ourselves, is both humbling and heart warming.
Occasionally though, some of the pros are also the cons. The very act of travelling so slowly means that you get to see all of the places in-between, which at times is brilliant. The con of course, is that travelling so slowly means that you also get to see all of the bits in-between that would probably be best avoided. There have certainly been times when we would have loved to have been able to skip ahead to the next big town or city. Normally when we were short of water/food, which was often, or passing through a less than friendly area. In truth security, other than in one previously documented case, has not been a problem.
At very few points during our trip have we ever felt unsafe. Contrary to how the region is often portrayed in the media and to the surprise of many, this is especially true of the Middle East. Watching the news now and seeing the terrible situation unfolding in Syria leaves us deeply saddened. We have so many fantastic memories from our time there and hope that some kind of resolution is reached soon. It is a beautiful country, full of friendly hospitable people, we can only hope it remains so.
I had originally contemplated writing a long list of names of people, who have gone beyond the call of duty to make our journey so memorable. In truth there have been so many, that I still find it quite overwhelming. We know of course, that many of those people who offered us food, water, tea, accommodation or even just an encouraging word, will have no means of reading this. We can only say that our lives have truly been enriched by your selfless actions.
To those that will be reading this, we offer once more our heartfelt thanks, With luck we will see some of you again, either in your home countries or in ours. Just don't all come at once as most British houses aren't very big and at the moment we don't even have one!
When we started this trip the plan was to have an adventure, one that we would remember for the rest of our lives. It has certainly been that and more. There have been times when we could easily have given up and it certainly hasn't always been easy. But I am proud to say that we made it and probably more importantly, that we made it in one piece.
To everyone that has followed our blog, we hope that you enjoyed reading it. At some point there will probably be another trip, whether it will be on bicycles, only time will tell.
For now though we offer a big thank you and goodbye from Matt, Debs and an older and even less fuzzy Toad.