Check out this feature on our trip from KTN News shown across Kenya on 20th August 2011. Very exciting to see us and Turning Point on prime-time Saturday night TV!
On a rather crisp Bank Holiday Monday morning, Tim & Mat set out to take their first tentative pedal strokes on a bicycle made for two. It was a fairly wobbly affair and it will take a bit of practice to develop the finesse that the bike deserves, but, Tim, Mat and Tandem all escaped without harm. All the morning’s action was captured on film by Jonny ‘Spielberg’ Simpson, who has put together a fantastic video for you all to see.
The pair have since been out on a slightly longer twenty-mile ride on the tandem sporting, for the first time, their rather fetching shirts from Shutt Velo Rapide. They were deemed ‘too sexy’ for the video but if you are all very nice there may be some pictures coming soon. By the end of the ride the Tandem was a much more stable place to be and the twenty miles were rattled off in about an hour, feeling and looking fantastic. There was even a chance to have a nice chat about the pros and cons of Syria and Sudan!
So, after reaching Turkey we have two route options that boil down to the question – Which is the safer country to cycle through, Syria or Sudan?
Our original plan was to go through Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then fly from Jeddah to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. But this is beginning to look somewhat unappealing. If you look at the map on the left you will see a blue line that tracks our proposed route through Syria. The red patches mark all the areas that the UK Foreign Office are advising people to avoid. Most of the unrest is centred around the major cities so we could simply give them a wide berth, but how will the locals out in the country react to a pair of Brits on a Tandem?
Another issue with this route is Ramadan. This year it falls between the 1st-30th August and we will probably be trundling into Saudi Arabia at about that time. Travellers are permitted water during the day, but it will certainly make the procurement of food and water a little more taxing.
Going by the lack of red patches traversed by our blue route line you would probably say that Sudan looks like the better option. But, it has been ravaged by civil wars and is in the process of separating. Southern Sudan is due to formally separate (or secede, if you like more politically polished prose) on the 9th July this year. We have no idea how this may affect the passage of a tandem over newly created borders? Will it cause any further unrest or conflict?
On a less dangerous, but still potentially painful note, this route will mean much more time cycling in Ethiopia. We’ll be able to get some cracking coffee there, but we will also be faced with some rather daunting mountains. To give some perspective on their scale, Ben Nevis stands at 1,344 metres and is the UK’s largest mountain. Ethiopia is littered with peaks of 4000+ metres, it’s calf-crampingly mountainous!
So there lies the conundrum, Syria or Sudan?
If anyone has any knowledge of, experience of, or any contacts on the ground in any of the countries we will be visiting please do get in touch via the comment box below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crikey, two months gone already and not long left until the first few pedal strokes towards Dover in June. Will we be ready to roll? Well, we are slowly but surely ironing out the creases and, though we may remain a bit rough round the edges, by June we should be prepared for the challenge ahead.
The Adventurer’s Gathering put on at the Royal Geographical Society by Alastair Humphreys was a great night. It was very reassuring to meet so many people who have already completed, and survived intact, adventures that are far more ridiculous than our little jaunt down to Nairobi. We were told of the joys of Brooks saddles by a crazy Dane named Henrik. We were very kindly advised to avoid camping in Serbian Mine Fields by a chap who walked to Turkey. We were also informed that we will be chased by dogs and have stones thrown at us by children?!? But, perhaps most importantly in terms of route planning and our peace of mind, we were told by many experienced people that cycling through the Middle East and Africa should be safe. In fact, we were told to expect humbling displays of hospitality, particularly throughout the Middle East. So, the route is set and we may even get a few decent brews along the way!
The problem of non-existent bikes has also been solved this month. We now have one bike, but it has two seats! Paul Barnes has very kindly agreed to loan us his Tandem for the trip, so now we just need to add a few bits and bobs to the bike and sort out some light weight camping gear and we are ready for some continent crossing. We already have a blindingly bright light and mp3 speaker that have been sponsored to us by Magic Light, and a couple of Merino Wool cycling jerseys sponsored to us by Shutt Velo Rapide. Illumination, transport, threads and tunage… done!
Also this week the dynamic duo will be reunited - welcome home Tim! - and will finally be able to train, plan, fret and dream together as the start date begins to loom. So over the next few weeks you will probably spot a fairly wobbly tandem whizzing about the UK in an attempt to build stamina and acquire some tandem-handling skills.
If you think you can help us out in any way as we prepare for our trip then please get in touch by leaving a comment below, emailing us at email@example.com or of course you can dig deep on our Just Giving page.