Unsurprisingly, as I am sure that many impetuous plans are conceived over a couple, if not, five pints and a few Jägerbombs, it was perched on a hostel windowsill in August 2017, Tallinn, Estonia, observing a mildly raucous game of pool and supping the local ale that the feasibility of a major cycle touring adventure officially rooted itself. After boasting about my most recent purchase of a pair of ice axes and crampons in anticipation for my Scottish winter plans, reciprocated by his equally proud ownership of a new super-lightweight Terra Nova Laser Competition tent, Jacob and I started to lace together a somewhat audacious plan to cycle across central Asia and through the most illustrious mountain range on the planet.
Encounters between Jacob and I throughout the preceding four years were often fueled by excessive alcohol consumption. We would passionately share tales of our recent adventures while aimlessly throwing cash into a kitty. By definition, a kitty is defined as “a pool or reserve of money, often collected from a number of persons or sources and designated for a particular purpose specified by the contributors“. In such cases, the so called kitty was a means of hemorrhaging cash in exchange for frequented rounds of Dark and Stormys, pints of ale and of course a Beano staple, the Jägerbomb. The alcohol infused conversations would quickly evolve into adventure travel planning sessions. Countless times, Jacob and I planned cycling trips across the planet including circumnavigating the globe and cycling the length of the Americas from Argentina to Alaska. As fruitful as these planning sessions were, we would inevitably wake up the following morning with an aftertaste of chilly sauce, a fuzzy headache and vague memories of the previous nights events. Our cycle touring dreams quickly faded and were replaced by a full cooked breakfast, a mug of strong coffee and some form of sporting event that has, in the past, been known to lead to a brief visit to A&E. It turns out that ice skating is by no means the most effective hang over cure.
As the years rolled on it became known that Eliza, my flatmate, had her sights set on venturing east across the planet in the summer of 2018 with a goal of continuing her career in New Zealand. Eliza would therefore be moving out and 2018 also being the year I turn 30, rather than settling down and budgeting for a mortgage or renting my own place, it was the perfect opportunity to once again pack up all my belongings, meticulously label each box and load them into my mum’s garage. Great thanks once again go out to my mother for allowing her hatch-lings to come and go as they please.
It was during yet another alcohol fueled encounter between Jacob and I, at one of our closest friends wedding reception in September 2017 when we officially shook hands. One sweaty, morning run before the wedding and the deal was almost done. Once Jacob had cleared the prospect of a sabbatical with work, the stake would be firmly in the ground. However, it was rather farcical, yet amusing, that having just agreed to cycle across central Asia and through the Himalayas, we were both petrified of running through a field of cows and their new born calves. Nevertheless, now I just needed to buy a bike…
“Just need to buy a bike” were those famous last words. Although I had ventured out on two mid-length cycle tours through South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, I was fortuitous enough to acquire most of the necessary equipment for $190 Australian Dollars and a large bottle of Coppers Pale Ale from a Canadian guy who had suddenly rolled into a Hostel in Sydney on a nondescript Trek mountain bike that was more than likely the wrong size and probably the cause of a knee injury that set in during the tour. He was keen to sell everything he owned before his flight back to Canada. For this longer-term, potentially infinite, cycle tour I wanted to ensure that I invested in robust, reliable equipment and a decent camera. I was all of a sudden catapulted into a labyrinth of reading product reviews, a necessary but often minefield-of-a-task that can consume whole evenings, and in some cases, entire weeks. Fortunately, with nine months until our provisional start date there was plenty of time. I also hoped to schedule a few small excursions to test some of the vital pieces of equipment necessary for such an endeavor, of which, I look forward to writing my own long-term reviews during the tour.
As expected, the preceding months ran away from me. With the exception of spending weekends fantasising over YouTube videos and sifting through adventure blogs, I had barely scratched the cycle touring ‘research and development’ surface. The kit list and to-do lists were ever expanding. Due to the difficulty of planning an epic journey whilst living 100 miles apart, it was thanks to a series of video calls and shared documents that Jacob and I were able to share thoughts and ideas and officially begin to piece together a plan.
“Life is too brief and too rich to tiptoe through halfheartedly, rather than galloping at it with whooping excitement and ambition.”
Alastair Humphreys, There Are Other Rivers: On Foot Across India