Getting ready for our 6 month trip has been one long catalogue of decorating the flat for renting out (yes, re-grouting tiles a bonus item), getting our gear sorted and checking that the bike (our lovely Africa Twin) is tip-top. I think we had assumed that it would all sort itself out as if by magic, letters would be forwarded, books would pack themselves, and the flat would be inhabited by lovely people willing to pay top dollar (well, pound). We hadn't even thought about a route yet, other than "heading south" and "if it has a flag, we're going there" (don't worry, it'll be fine).
To calm any worried parents/siblings out there, yes, countries have been checked out, books read, jabs porcupined into our arms and the general malarkey that is involved in heading off on any sort of trip. Obviously the first thing is the leaving party where we empty the flat of residual food and booze in the company of good friends, all bringing food and booze, so a new "drink-up the new stocks" evening was swifty organised. Note to self, try not to do massive amounts of bike maintenance the following day or self-doubt will creep in ("I'll never get it all back together again")
At the moment, our (vague) gear list is tent, sleeping bags, therm-a-rests (read following blogs for Imogen's back problems..) & chair converters, ground sheet, Trangia etc, maps, guidebook, spare bike parts, new toys (the mini speakers for the MP3 seem like a necessity at the mo), medical bits and pieces, a weeny pack for clothes (yes, one t-shirt only), Imogen's insistance on shampoo ("No, I can't use Fairy household soap on my hair") and James's many books on birds and butterflies, but at least Imogen managed to convince him that the uber tripod was really one item too much.
Just over a week to go, don't worry, it'll be fine.....
OK, so we managed to finish sorting the house and loaded up the bike. All our smug ideas on how little we have seem to have not quite materialised and the panniers are full to bursting. A wave off from Shirley, and Imogen runs to meet James, who has sensibly ridden up the ramp to collect her. A momentary embarrassment as Imogen can't quite get her 5'2" arse up onto the bike, but a good leg over secures success.
James weaves in and out of the Tunbridge Wells traffic, causing only a few vehicles to swerve out of the way as the Twinkies width looks a little like a hippo from the rear.
The trip to Sheffield was one of the coldest ever experienced by the southern pansies (look! no heated grips or lovely toasty jackets) and it turns out we were zipping along in minus 2 degrees.
Seeing the first signpost to Sheffield was one of the highlights of the day, and it's not often you hear someone say that.... luckily the legendry entertaining delights of the Pightlings warmed the cockles of the travellers, as we vowed never to have to do a night time frosty ride again....(cardinal rule no. 1 as we are often told, "never ride at night" - DOH!)
After 2 days of sleeping in, MASSIVE fry-ups, cakes and much dodgy Czech moonshine and bike tinkering (fitting the kozee komfort fleecy seat cover and securing Ganesh to the bike a must), we headed off through the Peak District (the A57 snake pass is fabulous) to our next comfort stop Glastonbury, home of the intrepid travellers John and Malgosia. Much pouring over maps of Africa and pouring of beer and wine down throats - a joy!
Don't ever let anyone tell you that England is a dull old country, we're really making the most of our last few days in dear old Blighty - the riding has been wonderful and the countryside is gorgeous and varied.
Next stop, le continent.....
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