The big unknowns were always going to start in the desert. Sitting at home imagining what it might be to cycle hot, sandy roads, my thoughts were occupied by the obvious. I had not thought about the peace, the open road or that gentle tailwind that joined us for this part of the journey. Neither had I thought about mechanical failure that really would bring us to a halt. We carry more spares than most… even back up brake and gear systems but of course we don’t carry everything. When I thought about the desert stretch of this trip, I did not imagine how much I would enjoy the riding nor that we would find ourselves roaming the back streets of the only town for hundreds of kilometres and sitting for hours in cafés, debating our options and waiting for the elusive bicycle mechanic to open his doors. It has only really been a few days, but unfortunately we need to get to the Gambia by Christmas and those few days delay will inevitably put us on a bus for part of our bike ride. Having been forced off the road by buses and watched them duel with the trucks, we often discussed our preference for taking our chances on two wheels.
Having put this in writing, I can see that we are maybe losing sight of the bigger picture. We have become self absorbed and somewhat obsessed with our wheel issues. You only have to glance up from your navel for a moment here to see that this little hiccup in our world of privilege hardly constitutes a problem. This message was delivered yesterday, in lumps of rock hurled at us when we declined to give children money and the sentiment was reinforced by the indifference of onlookers.
There are some gutsy riders out there with challenges we hope we never face. I have been following Derek’s blog for some time. Having lost his wife to cancer and facing the same fate himself, he declined treatment and decided to set off to experience as much of the world as he could on two wheels. He took the same route as us, only to be robbed of everything in Senegal and sent back to the UK. However, soon after he set off again to ride the Pamir Highway. Here he was hit head on by a 4×4, his bike and equipment written off and a forced hospital stay. He’s a real inspiration and we’d like to help his friends in raising some funds to get him back on the road to realising his dream. You can visit his website here http://www.dereksbiketrip.com. I hope you’ll consider donating or sharing on a social media site.