One dedicated reader commented recently that I’ve not mentioned many troubles encountered. The simple reason for this is that, so far, I’ve not encountered many problems.
Well, nothing that has caused me any serious issues. Certainly nothing that’s made me think, ‘why exactly am I doing this?’ or ‘what I’d give right now to be back at the office’!
Sure, the grey days and rain at the start of the trip weren’t the best introduction to France, but I still enjoyed them. I’ve just enjoyed the sunny days even more. Of course the heat has been intense in Spain, but I’ve plenty of time and can afford to while away the hottest hours in the relatively cool shade of a tree or better still, an air-conditioned bar. Not really a problem – It’s just the way it is and you just deal with it.
Anyway, for those that may be interested I listed everything I can think of that has caused me the even slightest grievance, aggravation, inconvenience or annoyance in the last six weeks or s:
1. After the wedding (technically a blessing, but not relevant to this point) I attended in the UK, I left behind not only my laptop but also my trainers, thereby having to spend the major part of my last day in the UK getting a lift back to the venue, retrieving the rather crucial gear for my trip and catching a train back. The laptop I figured I could do without and have sent on to me at a later date. Cycling in flip-flops (the only other footwear I have with me) or the shoes I wore to the wedding I figured wouldn’t be ideal however.
2. After only a few days in France, I successfully left behind my leatherman and had to cycle back to retrieve it.
3. A couple of days after this, I successfully left on a bench everything of value I have with me, namely cameras, lenses, gps, wallet, passport, phone (you get the idea) and had to cycle back very fast to retrieve it. Fortunately it was all still there.
4. Twitter: After the few days, I was unable to text updates to twitter, for some unknown reason.
5. Phone: Point 4 became irrelevant when a couple of days later I was unable to recharge my phone. The phone is still dead and I am still waiting for a replacement from the manufacturer.
6. Ipod: A couple of days into the trip I was charging my ipod from my laptop while copying some files from a usb stick. I then formatted the usb stick…. or so I thought. No, I accidently and quite stupidly formatted my ipod instead thereby losing all my music and learn french files. Genius! Six weeks later and I have a full ipod again! Apart from the French files, I’m quite glad I’ve not had music to listen to while cycling. True, I have missed it at times, but overall I think I would have missed out on the subtler things if I’d been zoned out to some heavy rock while beasting my way up the hills.
7. GPS: When I finally bothered to turn on the GPS device to track my route, I didn’t realise the ‘save tracks’ was turned off. Entirely my own fault for not reading the instruction manual! I still haven’t read the manual but I have turned on the ‘save tracks’ function.
8. Stove: I have failed on every attempt to get the stove working and having been through the maintenance procedures can only conclude that there’s a problem with it. I’ve now been sent a replacement (Thanks Webtogs!). Apart from the time spent trying to make it work, it’s not been a big problem as hot meals are not all that necessary in this weather and if I want a good meal I can always eat out (it just costs more).
9. Tent: One breezy night I became covered in dust that had blown through the mesh inner. This is something I had overlooked when choosing a tent, and could be more of an annoyance in the desert environment. Even so, I would still choose the same design as I like the good ventilation it provides and being able to see the moon and stars at night without getting bothered by biting insects is great.
10. Bike: I began having trouble changing gear with the twist shifter, but this was easily fixed with a cable tie and duct tape. I should probably speak to the manufacturers and get a replacement but my quick fix was so simple and easy and lasting that I haven’t bothered.
11. Bike: Having put up with a clicking noise from the bike through most of France (I have a high tolerance for little annoyances and am also inherently lazy), when I had a day off in Pamplona in Spain, I popped into a bike shop and asked them to fix it. The problem was nothing more than the pedal needing a bit of grease!
12. Bike: After the rain in France, the chain started to rust a little. Since I wasn’t in a good place to clean it first, I just hid the rust with a thick coating of oil. This created another problem – namely me getting oil on my right leg pretty much every day after that until I bothered to clean the chain properly, which was when I got to Mijas on the the coast in southern Spain (laziness, a high tolerance for petty irritations and a generous supply of wet-wipes coming into play here!).
13. In El Burgo when asking for a beer, ‘una cerveza’, I was highly confused when asked if I wanted milk with it. Turns out the barman thought I asked for an espresso. Again in El Burgo, when asking for a burger at a burger bar, ‘una hamburguesa’, the lady looked at me highly confused and when she couldn’t understand my subsequent attempts at pronouncing ‘una hamburguesa’, she solved the problem by ignoring me and taking the order from the person behind me (who could understand everything I was saying and so ordered my burger for me). Why exactly she couldn’t understand what I was asking for is a bit of a mystery since she was only selling hamburgers and baguettes!
Finding the perfect lunch spot
14. There was a stretch of days in Spain when I failed to find a nice spot to stop for lunch. One time it was annoyance by ants, another by wasps. One day in a park I managed to step in dogshit (fortunately I hadn’t removed my shoes at this point), another day in a field I realised I was surrounded by cowpats (but fortunately didn’t step in any of them). Once I had hoped to lunch by a lake but found it to be completely dried up when I got there. None of these I’d like to point out have hindered my ability to eat and enjoy a huge quantity of food. They just shortened the subsequent siesta time that’s all.
Having a quiet night’s sleep
15. I think last night was the first time I slept all the way through the night until it was time to get up. Having said that, there’s only been a handful of occasions where I’ve been kept awake for any length of time to start to annoy me. Campsites are noisy places, and it’s difficult to sleep while others are up and about making noise – the French are noisiest in the morning (at this point I was going to bed late and would have enjoyed a peaceful awakening) and the Spanish are noisiest in the evening (when I was needing to go to bed early so that I could be up cycling before it got too hot). I have been woken by dogs barking, cockerels crowing, lorries roaring down the motorway, kids playing games on campsites, workmen drilling, bad karoake, the moon being so bright, getting cold because I didn’t bother to get out my sleeping bag, drunk people shouting and singing, werty trying to cuddle me. Most of these caused little more than a stir, rolling over and going back to sleep though. Despite being woken up most nights, the times when I’ve been most tired have been when I’ve been in town and gone out drinking late and so only have myself to blame.
The roads and getting lost:
16. Dead-ends: I’ve come to the end of several roads for one reason or another and rather than back-tracking to find another road, I’ve usually just gone for the ‘head across country’ option instead – fortunately I have a bike that is up to the job and this bodes well for any terrain I may have to cross on the African continent.
17. Closed roads: I haven’t got truly lost yet, but the biggest cause of me not knowing entirely where I am and having to ask regularly for directions has been closed roads and diversions. These invariably take the small back-roads that aren’t detailed on the road atlas I’ve been using and generally aren’t signed after the first turning. This can be a little confusing for the non-local, especially when cycling and every extra mile is significant (especially as the littler roads are always more hilly!). Sometimes however, it’s turned out to be a far prettier route and since I’m not constrained by time at all these deviations haven’t really been a problem.
18. The weather has been rather influential. The heat has been significant and resulted in me changing my routine so that I could rest during the hottest part of the day. Not really a problem though and so far I’ve found my clothing and gear to be working out very well in this respect. I’ve been dry enough when it rains, warm enough when it’s windy and cloud-covered up in the hills or I’m flying down a mountain at high speed and as cool as possible in the heat of central Spain.
19. One morning I struggled with the cycling due to some serious indigestion, but that was entirely my own fault for eating such an obscene amount!
20. The slightest hint of ‘nappy rash’ one afternoon, brought on most likely by wearing the same pair of sweaty cycling shorts for a third very hot day in a row. Skank, I know! Problem disappeared by the next day having used some talc and wearing a clean set of clothes.
21. In the first three weeks I lost a fair amount of weight – not a bad thing mind you since I had plenty of spare pounds padding out the bum and thighs – but it did mean that my clothes were starting to hang off me. Since then I’ve become somewhat addicted to pastries (my sweet tooth), nuts (presumably my body craving the salts) and ice-cream (lovely and cold in this hot weather!); all of which have a high fat content. Needless to say, the weightloss has stopped and now I’m spending a week relaxing doing very little but eating I am piling on the pounds again – wardrobe / pannier stuffed with clothes issue solved for now.
I can’t think of anything else at all. And anyway, most of these things are entirely self-inflicted.
In short, the only things that have really caused me anything more than a slight annoyance or grievance are my forgetfulness, the phone and the stove. The stove has now been replaced, my forgetfulness seems to have been forgotten and now all that remains is to get a functioning phone just in case I need it; I hope I won’t.