15 Feb 10 Weeks Left!
With only ten weeks left until I leave, I still have a lot of organising, test riding and route finding to sort out, not to mention finalising all the kit, getting medical jabs and insurance. Right now, I haven’t even got the bike, although it’s been ordered and I’m assured it’s heading my way in the next few days ready for me to assemble.
Nearly every time I go away on expeditions or long tours, I inevitably end up cutting it pretty fine when it comes to finalising things, often working late into the night before my departure in a mad scramble to ensure everything is in place. In fact, it’s become a bit of a running joke amongst friends that it’s how I prefer doing things. In truth, I’d rather spend the days running up to any departure relaxing and resting up as, nine times out of ten, whenever I leave for a trip, I know I’ll get little chance to do any of those things while I’m away. But with an expedition like this one, over four years, tens of thousands of kilometres, and through numerous countries and their borders, with so little time left I’m bound to be still finalising things up to the minute I leave.
When I left in 2009 to climb the Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney Islands, I remember visiting climbing shops en route in a bid to find the correct cam size for the large cracks, having been unable to source one during the planning stage. Failing to get my hands on one would have meant that although the climb was still possible, the runouts between anchor points would be far longer and scarier than they had to be. In 2012, when I travelled around Europe in my campervan for two years in an attempt to climb in every country I visited, I only got confirmation of my insurance three days after I left. I realise all this makes me sound very unorganised but I’m not, honestly.
If I decide I want to try something then I become very focused, doing everything I can to make it work. I’ll set myself a leaving date, or more than likely as in past expeditions, the date is already set for me by available weather windows or visa restrictions, and I’ll hide away somewhere and make sure I’m as ready as I can be to leave on time. But, no matter how hard I try, inevitably I’m still emailing or waiting for confirmation for one thing or another as I board the plane.
It’s not for a lack of trying either. Since December last year, I’ve spent anywhere between 8-14 hours a day, seven days a week, researching and preparing for the 10th April when I leave. Just creating a route around the world, one that’s viable and uses the least amount of transport besides the bike took around ten days. Once I did find a way around I spent another week making sure I found border crossings that didn’t take me too far off route and even when I knew them, I spent days researching if they were still open, what I’d need to cross into each of the 35 countries in terms of paperwork and if crossing them by bicycle was even an option.
Then there’s the weather. High heat isn’t favourable for cycling in but it’s not something that would stop progress altogether. However, monsoons and heavy snowfall will. Arriving in certain countries to find my way blocked by snow would mean waiting for the weather to clear, which would mean staying put and cost me more money. Even when I think I know the route and what weather to expect, that is only two of many, many aspects of the planning stage to sort.
But the hardest and most frustrating aspect of planning any trip, and the one that often means I end up cutting things very fine, is the waiting. Not the waiting for the trip to start, you understand, but waiting on third parties (if you have ever tried to get a visa, one that’s not available through an online application, you know what I mean), Often, as I said, leaving dates are immovable and it can become very hard to convince others, whether its sponsors, immigration departments, or any other number of people, that time is of the essence and I kind of need an answer now.
I’ve picked April 10th as my leaving day as it means, if I stay on schedule, I should arrive at favourable times in each of the countries. I can change this date by a day or two, a week maximum, but any longer and I’ll have to wait another year, and I’m far too impatient for that. So, with just over two months to go and a list that seems to just get longer and longer, I’m off to go and look at some tents.
Edited by – Emer Garry