As I did with Tristan, after our trip in France I decided to ask Rudy if he felt like writing a summary of his first tour. Below is part 1.
It was when the pandemic hit that I started cycling again. I hadn’t really cycled in more than 10 years! One of my friends from university left his bike behind when he moved back to his country. I got the road bike, but didn’t even know how to change the gears properly. I decided to take it to a shop to get the bits repaired and also to see if anyone would help me with the gears. That was when I met Luca who worked in the cycle shop. He was very helpful, but more importantly, he was into motorbikes. I have always been a motorbike lover, had three mean machines back home, all of which I had to sell before moving here. We had a nice chat about our mutual interest in motorbiking and Luca showed me how the gears worked. He told me that he was a student at the same University that I was studying in. On the way back, I felt that I should’ve asked him to connect on social media so one day we could go for motorbike rides together! I found his profile and ended up connecting on social media. He was quite sceptical about this at first but later on started chatting about cycling and our interest in sports. He told me that he bike camped down France previously (check out the blog from that here!) with his friend and was planning on a similar trip across the UK in the summer. This peaked my interest, but I knew I wasn’t fit enough for the adventure. I took up shorter rides and ended up riding with cycling UK Merseyside. This improved my fitness levels and my confidence on two wheels. Later in July, when I heard from Luca, he was on his trip and asked if I wished to join. I really wanted to, but he was half way through the journey already. Also, I did not have any gear or equipments for such long rides and camping. Plus as was usual in most of 2020, I had little to no money to afford anything. However, I had a feeling that this might be a great opportunity to have an amazing experience travelling across the country when travelling was almost impossible by other means due to the global pandemic. I would think about it every night and was excited about the possibilities. I decided to get the gear and equipment for the journey and took help from some generous friends to fund this. And just like most travel plans, I decided to do it without much actual planning, and kept an open mind, leaving everything for Luca to chart and take me along. I booked a train ticket from Liverpool to Manchester, then to Sheffield and then to Nottingham. And finally from Nottingham to Boston where I would meet up with Luca. The next day, I started my journey from Liverpool very early and the cyclists compartment and cycle storages proved to be very useful. These are things that do not exist back where I come from. It was exhilarating and I was full of energy and enthusiasm to start riding with Luca. One of my trains got delayed and I remember having to run across a couple of platform bridges with my fully loaded bike and somehow making it in on the next train as the last person to board (the next train was scheduled for hours later!). These challenges made it even more exciting. I realised that moment that my decision to join him for this ride was indeed the right one. My friends and family, however, thought differently, and thought I went mad, because this is not something common or ordinary back home. But what is the fun in doing something ordinary?
Even though I was enjoying the scenic routes on the way to meet Luca, I was dreaming of how the whole trip could turn out to be. This was my first ‘trip’ after moving here, as the pandemic had put an end to all my previous plans to travel. I finally reached Boston and got in touch with Luca who was already in the town, getting his lunch sorted. I had enough time to get some food for myself and catch up with him. Funnily enough, I ended up riding the opposite direction, moving farther away from him. I realised my mistake and turned around, but on the way back, collided with a lady on her bike at a blind turn. Luckily neither of us were injured. Crossed a bridge to find Luca waiting for me. We started riding together and it felt great riding with a seasoned tourist. I followed his lead and on the way talked about his journey so far and my preparations for it. He was quite doubtful about my tent holding up as I had only got a cheap one. It was going to rain heavily that evening and we quickly had to find somewhere to camp for the night. We were on the national cycling network (NCN) route 1 and Luca being an expert navigator found an area with some thick tree cover where we could camp. It was an idea location in all senses, with good enough tree cover to stop the rain from falling straight onto out tents and also away from settlement, not very visible from the road. I had tried setting up my tent the previous night just to make sure I wouldn’t struggle when it actually came to setting it up. Yet, I did struggle quite a bit, and briefly regretted not joining scouts at school. Luca helped me with sorting this out and lent me some sturdy tent pegs as well. It was definitely an experience worth remembering getting into my very own tent, i felt like a kid again. It was already drizzling when we were setting up camp. As soon as we settled in, it started pouring down. I was preparing to be flooded by the heavy rain as we didn’t expect my tent to hold up through the storm. However, to our surprise, the tent held strong. I called my mom to let her know that I was safe, updated my status on social media for friends, had some food I got earlier that day and went to sleep. Luca had advised me to get a sleeping mat so that my sleeping bag wouldn’t be right on the ground, helping me insulate from the cold better. Even when I got comfortable enough to sleep, it was no surprise that I couldn’t sleep. I was tired but my excitement for the adventure wouldn’t let me sleep. Moreover, it was my first night in the wilderness, a completely new experience for me when I realised yet again that life has so much more to be explored and experienced!