I would ride as far as I could each day and set up camp by the side of the road as it got dark. I slept in a bivvy bag, no tent. Luckily, I only had a few days of rain over the duration of the trip. The bivvy was for when no one was around, but when I rode through villages I was often stopped and offered food and shelter. No questions asked, no money requested.
I quickly learned to trust strangers and accept their kind offers. People are much friendlier than you ever imagine, even when there are language barriers. I stayed in several mosques and many homes, helped along the way by so many warmhearted strangers. This kindness helped me overcome my initial concerns embarking on such a long journey.
I rode varying distances each day depending on the weather, altitude and if there were any places I wanted to see along the way. My goal was to make it home before winter took hold in Europe. Along the way, I made time to visit sites such as the terracotta warriors and the Great Wall of China.
With visions of being ripped to shreds—the area was also home to snow leopards—I carried on, looking for a wolf-free place to camp. I had a sleepless night, waking every few minutes to scan the darkness for hungry eyes.
I was quite awake when I heard animals approaching at 1 am. It turned out to be three locals on horseback. I don’t know who was more surprised, them or me. Probably them because I flicked on my head torch. One of the guys leapt from his horse and asked—via the internationally understood baby’s bottle mime—if he could drink some of my water. He drank almost the entire one bottle I had left.
In the morning light I crossed over the pass and descended into the valley below. Looking up at the next pass, I saw that it was even higher than the first one. Having already pushed my luck, I decided to abandon that climb and follow the parallel gravel road back to the smooth asphalt.
After taking the ferry across the Bosphorus, Asia was finally behind me. From Budapest, I followed the signed Eurovelo cycleway along the Danube. I made a brief detour into the Austrian Alps, visiting the scenic village of Hallstatt. I rode fast through Luxembourg and Germany, benefiting from smooth, straight bike paths and that beautiful feeling of not having to worry about feral trucks.
In the Netherlands, before the ferry home to Newcastle, I stopped at Giant's European headquarters near Amsterdam. Yes, I could have picked up a bicycle a lot closer to home. But where’s the fun in that?