‘No GPS is going to help you out of this one.’ I thought as I tried once more to take control of the ping pong ball that was bouncing around in my brain with random thoughts and unwelcomed emotions. This was getting far deeper than I had expected and I had not prepared for this leg of the journey.
‘What are you going to do when you get back?’, said just about everyone I came across near the end of my trip. ‘I’ll figure it out’ I’d say with a confident nonchalance, ‘It’s just the next chapter and I’m quite excited about it. A blank page to fill with whatever I choose.’ That was what this journey had done for me. I felt I could do anything I set my mind to. The World had made me an optimist.
Hi All My next book is now underway. In the meantime please take a look at my ebook which was written on the road. It offers advice on how to start planning, fund-raising, promoting and organising your own trip, including top tips from other renowned riders like Sam Manicom, Lois Pryce and Nick Sanders.
Raindrops slipped between the well-used visor and the duct tape that held it in place, dripping onto my nose and forming a thick layer of mist that was almost impossible for my eyes to penetrate. The clouds obscured the sun, leaving a greyness that I had failed to recall during my ‘nostalgia for the rain’ moments in the sweltering desert stretches of Iran or Sudan!
What was it I always said? Oh, yes, ‘Riding a bike allows you to see and feel everything around you. It is wonderful to be open to the elements and vulnerable to your surroundings’! I must have written that back in the days of warm summer breezes! The sky was now in full sarcastic mode and beating a tune on my helmet that said, ‘Welcome back, SUCKER!’. Still, four years on, despite the ‘Beast from the East’ flicking its nonchalant wet tail in my face, it was good to be back in Europe! I was finally closing the circle I had set out to draw all those years ago, having ridden my ‘silly little’ 250cc on all seven continents. It felt good! It was soggier than I had imagined – but it did feel good!
As I unfetter my complaining body from the last in the chain of uninspiring budget hotels in France, I wonder when this bag got so heavy and how it gets heavier every day! I have happily carried this luggage with me all over the world, and now on the final leg, I am almost unable to carry it to the bike for the injuries and general lethargy I feel with every move. 'Just a few more miles and I'm there!' I tell myself. 'Just a few more miles!'. In the absence of my friends, who would normally point and laugh at my pathetic-ness at this stage, I laugh at myself instead. Talk about limping home! Europe is supposed to be the easy bit! I am here though. I am alive and the lines are almost touching! Full bloody circle baby! GET IN!!!!!!! :)
I rode onto the ferry first and was quickly hemmed in by the cattle truck full of nervous looking cows. Like me, they had just crossed the border from Sudan, and they had good reason to be nervous. Their fate would be sealed here in Egypt (probably with cling film and a nice polystyrene tray). Mine hopefully, would not! The air-brakes went off and a half-ton bull looked like he was coming right over the top. I edged my way onto the stairs, not wanting our fate to collide, and imagining what that would look like if it did! Given enough time, it would make for a funny ending I guessed, 'She rode around the world by motorbike and was killed by a flying bull!'. There would be jokes - in time.
As you have probably gathered I am very close to home now and with one last push, I should be back at the Ace Cafe (where I started 4 years ago) on the 18th March. I will be escorted in from Newhaven by some of my family, friends and the Shropshire.Staffordshire.Cheshire Blood Bikers. I can't wait. It is going to be quite an emotional day for me I think. If anyone wants to join the ride anywhere along the way then I will be posting the route very soon. Otherwise you are welcome to join at the ACE where we plan to arrive around 11am.
To celebrate the homecoming, my good friend Paul Tomlinson of 2Can Design has come up with a great t shirt design. 50% of any profit will go to the Blood Bikers charity and the rest will go towards shipping me out of Africa and back into Europe.
I plan to make the order to the printers in the next 24 hours so if you would like to buy one please get your orders in as soon as possible so I can avoid any wastage on the order with guessed sizing etc. If you are at the Ace Cafe then I will also have some there.
To order please see the banner on the left of this post.
Thanks for your support and further update coming soon. Regards Steph
It always amazes me the difference a border can make. Neighbouring countries can have such obvious differences in the space of a few hundred meters. There were two that struck me immediately when I left Ethiopia and entered Sudan. The first was the lack of livestock on the roads. There were still camels and goats, but here the shepherds would keep them just off the road with a practiced crowd control that was impressive. No longer did I have to stop and weave my way through the herds. Secondly was the lack of people asking for money. We were back to the friendly, no-agenda waving now, and as much as I loved Ethiopia, I found this refreshing.
How many people does it take to fill up a tank of petrol? Well if you are in Ethiopia, the answer is 30! That's if you are buying black market in a small village and you just rocked up on an iron steed!
Actually I got an even bigger crowd when riding through a village with my visor up and got something in my eye! It felt like someone had stuffed an amazingly hot chilli in there. My eyes watered and naturally closed up. It stung so badly I felt it in the nerves all over my head! I pulled over making appropriate, 'arghhhh' noises and blindly jumped off the bike. I sucked water out of my Kriega bladder, spat it in my hand and frantically washed out my eye. Hair everywhere and dirt creating patterns on my face as I washed out the offending article. Eventually I could see again and looked up to survey my surroundings. I found maybe 50 surprised faces staring back at me. Someone from the crowd shouted 'What happened?'. I explained and smiled apologetically at the drama. As one, they decided I was not crazy and moved in to get a closer look! A friendly bunch, clearly glad of the distraction for the day.