Conclusion, at home, 9th July 2011

We rode the 10km from our hotel at Alsmeer to Schipol Airport, outside Amsterdam, packed our bikes and were on our way.

We stopped off, as we usually do at an Asian hub on the way home.  This breaks the 21-hour journey, and helps with the jet lag.  We book a really, really nice hotel, and veg out.  We go for a bit of a walk, maybe hang around the pool, and indulge ourselves.  Usually, the flight out of Europe arrives in the early morning, and we can leave on the evening of the following day for Australia.

We indulge ourselves with the wonderful breakfast that these hotels offer and then don’t eat during the day.

The stopover, Hong Kong this time, is an indulgence and a celebration, and something just for us, before going home.

As this is our fifth European bicycle tour, the experience of getting there and home are now pretty familiar.  While I love getting back to my own home, perhaps the most overwhelming feeling is the one of withdrawal from the intense daily exercise hit.  I know that over the coming weeks I will mourn the gradual loss of the very high level of fitness, that I simply do not have the time to maintain in “normal” life.

This was the hardest trip we have yet undertaken.  We rode just over 3700km, a little less than in some of our other trips, but feel that the workload was much more intense.

It cost us around $150 per day, Australian dollars that is, and of that perhaps $100 was for accommodation.  We could have done it for a bit less, if we didn’t have blowouts.  But we like the blowouts.

This was not a trip for the first time bicycle tourist.  I think it takes a trip or two to develop the confidence in your own ability to know that you can cope with the continuous hard riding through Scotland and England.  While the hills are not large, they can be very steep, particularly in England, and there is no relief.  Most days, we were either riding up a hill, or down the other side.  The weather in Scotland is not easy, it is often wet, cold and blowing, but there was never a day when I just wanted out.

It is hard to know whether we just had luck with the weather and our trip organization, or at some level our experience from these trips and a lot of other travel leads to some subliminal planning that allows us to pick a way through that works.  In 43 days of touring, we only got seriously damp on 4 days.  Pretty good in wet country.

Our trips are about the journey, and now after some 20,000km of European bicycle touring, we are a bit over cathedrals, castles and the like, and more into the subtleties of the changing landscape. 

The thing in the built environment that struck me most was perhaps the Great War German cemetery outside Ypres.  It’s stark and somber design made more of a statement about that war than all of the other monuments, most of which I found slightly sickening in their honouring of the soldiers who would have been shot by their own side, had they not sacrificed themselves.

I think unless you undertake an extended bicycle tour you cannot understand the sheer joy of just riding when your stamina is up, and your confidence is high.  It is an absolutely exhilarating experience to be riding hard on a good day, with the bike spinning along, knowing you can ride like this forever, and getting to this point is so easy.

I always find it hard to think about another trip at this stage, but I am absolutely sure we will be back.