A Travellerspoint blog

From Cambodia...

all seasons in one day 32 °C

A new letter arrived today from Mr. Togh Main, the Cambodian headmaster. It reads as follows -

Hello Tom

Thank you so much for your email and wonderful news, i am so happy that you are doing a Cycle ride for raising funds for the school it looks a great works.

Yes at the moment we are looking a sponsor for operating expense for the school project to provide free education for poor children and underprivileged children with english language and Moral education. please look at my attachement of planing budget expense for monthly and also i am plning to build the orphanage center in the future and spiritual center that i can take street children to learn value of life and i think that it's great project that i am going to work hard for children in Cambodia. if you get success of raise funds and also your support are going to change the life of poor children and underpriviled children. i would love to tell you that all your financial and charity donation are going to expense for that projects.
it's my summary writing projects if you and donor would love to hearing from me i am so happy to sharing my experience life with them.

Many thanks for your hard work to support our dream.looking forward to hearing any more good news from you.

love
Togh and Children

Really, this is to all the donors. Thanks to everyone who's sponsored - you can be sure it is appreciated!

Posted by Tom.Calver 14:54 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mons: The GPS fights back

sunny 32 °C
View Calais to Chiasso on Tom.Calver's travel map.

This has been very tough going. We began with a slight setback as our GPS hadn't been charged the night before, and despite our best efforts in the morning we were only able to get around 4hours worth of power. With this in mind we opted to use it sparingly, which wouldn't be a problem as, for the most part, or route consisted of following one canal and one river to Mons (there's that "M" word again...). On the way out of the hotel we spoke to some Englishmen who were friendly and sponsored us £10 and €10 for our journey, and I hope will comment on this if they check the webpage as I didn't catch their names. The way out of Lille-Roubaix was predictably confusing, though not as bad as past experiences leaving cities, and before long we found the canal we intended to follow - the atmosphere slowly changed from graffiti to countryside and some miles later we found ourselves at a lovely café that sat on one side of a lock. On the side with the café it was France, on the bank immediately opposite was Belgium (pictures soon, I'm having difficulty finding time to tag them).

The route along the canal was beautiful, yet the paths were of various integrities. John had a puncture after one rough section (he hasn't had much luck, and it's only two days in - there may be need for a nickname soon) and we had some difficulty finding the next river, but really things were going well.

Then the GPS took a turn, and things started to go to hell. Cycle paths ranged from perfect tarmac to miles of rough gravel so unpredictably we needed to start using the GPS and our pre-programmed route, but the GPS would either throw up random towns where they didn't exist (leading us at one point to think we'd travelled in a 20mile ellipse around Wallonia), or suggest routes so bizzare that at one stage we were told to circumnavigate Mons by 15miles, when we knew the city we needed was just ahead of us. Hopefully a full charge will take care of it, but really, today has been tough - we cycled 15miles further than necessary, often into the wind or on such terrible terrain there was a constant risk of punctures. Tomorrow we intend to get up early to give us plenty of time to make Namur.

Well, even though I've showered I still have hundreds of small bugs stuck to my arm; time to call it a day! Anyone who's donated can trust me we're working hard for it.

Tot ziens,
Tom

P.s. I received an e-mail from Mr.Main today, the Cambodian headmaster; I'll put it up now x

Posted by Tom.Calver 00:45 Archived in Belgium Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Calvers on...

semi-overcast 24 °C
View Calais to Chiasso on Tom.Calver's travel map.

Kilometres

Unbelievably, we've made it to Lille! 85miles and 8hours of cycling, the longest we've ever done in a day with panniers, and here we are. The journey was far from smooth (as I'll explain under the Calvers on Contours heading), but regardless we've sucked it up and are now back on schedule despite only making 10miles on day one. There isn't much to the the city, yet we'll still be in Belgium tomorrow no matter how we view it.

Contours

As you can see from the first blog entry Calais to Chiasso, all our maps for the journey were pre-planned and uploaded to GPS to prevent unnecessary hills. However, because Dennis (the bar owner from yesterday) drove us and the bikes 7-miles to the mechanic in Ardres this morning we decided to put the GPS' route finder through its paces to take us to Saint Omer instead of cycling back the7 miles to the canal to rejoin our route: predictably, this meant roughly 20 miles of beautiful but sapping countryside, rising and dipping so often that a profile cut out of the terrain would look like the top of Viennetta ice-cream. The route was dotted with road kill from seemingly rare species as well, at one point a hawk, which led me to think we'd cycled 20miles to Saint-Omer as the dying hawk flies.

The town was very pretty by the way, we took a few photos which I'll upload soon. We didn't spend much time there as we decided it was too early to call the day to a close, so continued the 60miles to Lille. This time though we stuck to the pre-arranged route, which worked well. The terrain was ok, some height, but acceptable inclines. There was one section where we cycled through a village to find a mile of medieval cobbled road which threatened to shake my bike to pieces (they need to call their council and get it tarmaced), but overall alright. Lille felt like a bit of a let down in honesty, as there isn't much to distinguish it as a place and, as is the case with cycling in most cities, it is confusing and as a result a little more dangerous than the countryside. After this I'll work on re-routing our original route into Belgium to hopefully bypass the rest of Lille and Roubaix.

Calories

An important lesson, if anyone reading this happens to attempt a cross-continental cycle ride, is that to achieve any significant distance in a day you need to eat every 10-15miles. We knew this, but still had times where we were lucky to find places open when we did, as rural stores typically close for the afternoon - many villages don't even have stores at all and rely on travelling butchers or bakers. The day's total of consumption included a croissant, bread, a pastry filled with chicken and a cheese, a pizza/quiche hybrid, a baguette, an apple tart, two mini donuts and sushi for dinner. Without this food our pace would have become intolerable and we would have had to find somewhere to stay far earlier. Tomorrow we'll take enough provisions for the day.

Completion

See you in Belgium :)
Tom xx

Posted by Tom.Calver 03:05 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (2)

Delay on the way from Calais

semi-overcast 17 °C
View Calais to Chiasso on Tom.Calver's travel map.

There is an old adage that anything which can go wrong will, almost with out exception, end in complete catastrophe. It is in this spirit of poignancy I write my first post from the continent - in a room above a bar in the tiny French village of Les Attaques, full of horse sausage, celebrating French Independence Day with 3 pedals between the two of us and a roaming internet charge which averages at over a penny a word.

So, I'll be brief.

We left Dover later than expected as we overshot our long-stay car park. John decided this was one of the areas he would economise on and, as you get what you pay for, we had a four-mile cycle to the ferry terminal. A little busy but a good chance to break in our new equipment; So Far, So Good. Dover was nicer than expected and had definite character and the white cliffs, though a cliché, did make me feel slightly emotional to be leaving England in the knowledge it would be weeks before I saw them again. The ferry was swamped with young teenagers on their way to a foreign exchange, who were at that conflicted age where the battle between shyness and a desire to flirt is answered with shouts and screams from everyone. Photos to come.

Calais was very quiet. Stores were closed, streets were empty and barely any cars were seen. A little eerie, but good cycling conditions. We found the canal without too much trouble and concluded the GPS was a worthy purchase, and began to follow the route which would take us to Saint Omer. Not only that, but after we left the outlying areas of Calais and entered the country the route became beautiful, bordering countryside and canal, with just the occasional cyclist or fisherman on the way.

Now for the catastrophe. I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainnence when I was younger and he mentions something called "gumption traps" - random occurrences of bad luck which suck your will to continue, and this situation definitely fits the phrase. John's clete pedal began to wobble, then came off entirely. Not only had it come off, but it had destroyed the thread lining meaning his replacement pedal was too slim for the groove. Hence, three pedals for two cyclists. Our options were very limited, and far from promising; we had encountered a potentially fatal dilemma just hours into our trip. We know enough French between us to graduate with a BA in ??? from the University of Nowhere, and explaining something as complicated as a pedal malfunction would have been as difficult as trying to explain the 12th dimension. What could we do? Near everywhere was closed for French Independence Day and we were at least 15miles from the nearest sizeable town.

We limped to the next village, Les Attaques, and were then extremely fortunate in finding a bar run by a kind man named Dennis, who knew enough English to understand our problem and had a room we could rent for the evening, with a beautiful bathroom. He also knew a nearby mechanic run by (as we later discovered when we met him), the regional president of the cycling society for the last 26years, who was very excited by the news of our trip. We intend to see him tomorrow morning for repairs. Later his friends arrived who surprisingly lived in Kent but had grown up locally, so were fluent in English and French, which meant we could actually have a conversation. We drank lots, ate lots of horse sausage (beautiful by the way), and John smoked lots, and have done little exercise to make up for it, though not for want of trying.

Oh yea, and our internet was never configured for use abroad, despite making it clear to the salesperson that was all we intended to use it for, so now we have to pay roaming internet charges at extortionate fees.

As we can't predict how long repairs will take tomorrow it is difficult for us to gauge where we will end up. We will at least make Saint Omer, but how much further remains to be seen.

Happy French Independence Day :), I'm going to sleep now to the sound of the fireworks in Calais.
À Bientôt,
Tom x

Posted by Tom.Calver 11:38 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (2)

Itinerary

What to take.

overcast 16 °C

So we're pretty much there; almost everything we need has arrived or will arrive very shortly and anything else we can buy quickly. I figured now was as good a time as any to lay out what I intend to take as well as the few things which are missing, and the bike which is (hopefully) going to carry me the 800miles to Italy. Anything which isn't in the photos has been marked in italics.

Picture_001.jpg

Clothing:

  • Dryfit T-shirts
  • Cotton T-shirts
  • Cycling Gloves (padded, to help reduce shock on the wrists)
  • Lycra shorts (they look ridiculous, but are easy to clean and padded)
  • Casual shorts
  • Jeans (may not take these, we have noticed that some restaurants can be snooty on patrons wearing shorts.)
  • Waterproof jacket or poncho
  • Flip-Flops
  • Light hoody
  • Underwear and socks (not pictured, but I own them...clearly)

Toiletries:

  • Sun Cream
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Contacts lenses, solution and holder
  • Razor & Gel
  • Travel sized antiperspirant

Electronics/Misc.:

  • GPS & Adapter
  • Netbook & Charger
  • Mobile phone & Charger
  • Roaming internet & extension lead
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Digital Camera & Lead
  • Passports
  • Insurance Documents
  • Phrasebooks (crucial...kind-of...)
  • Hayfever tablets
  • Cards: ID, Debit & Student
  • Euros

That takes care of what's on the back, as for the bike itself...
Picture_002.jpg

On the bike:

  • Panniers
  • GPS & Handle-bar holder
  • Cadence sensor, one on the pedals, one on the wheel
  • Water bottle holder
  • Water Bottle
  • Toe clips
  • Tool kit: Pump, Allen keys, Puncture repair gel, all the things you'd expect...

So there we are. I hope everyone noticed I'm not taking any hair products on this journey, potentially a bigger step for me than the entire trip. The heart-rate monitors and sensors are there to help us set our pace, but as we intend to upload all the information from our GPS each night onto this site we thought people may be interested to see how we did.

Together it shouldn't come to much weight, certainly less than our previous cycling trips: of course if anyone thinks I've left out something crucial feel free to say!

Posted by Tom.Calver 09:35 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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