In case you’re wondering why I seem to have disappeared for the last few weeks, I am finally able to bring you news of my predicament.
For what seems like an eternity I have been locked in a small, darkened cell in Yerevan, sentenced to the dismal task of producing a completely new website for Ride Earth. Only a few hours ago I completed this monolithic feat of endurance, and the fruits of my anguished sufferings can now be enjoyed by you, the reader.
As you will remember, Andy and I took our separate roads back in January. From that decision came a pair of remarkably similar stories of love in a forgotten, far-flung city, and many months of rest from travelling as a result. Now, the next stage of my journey will yet again coincide closely with that of Andy. With Georgia and Tbilisi thrust into the public eye by the recent escalation of the conflict between Georgia, its breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and their supporter from the north, Russia, I’d agree that it’s an opportune time for him to leave for Azerbaijan, where he will only have to deal with the occasional exploding mosque. Head over to his blog to see what he’s up to right now.
For me, I’m no longer going to postulate any long-term plans. I know I keep trying to hypothesise as to where I’m going to be and when, but to be honest this has many times proved fruitless — how did a 2- or 3‑day visit to Yerevan back in January turn into a stay of over 8 months?!
I’m frankly quite happy to keep you on your toes for now, so I’m going to say only this. One: I’ll be leaving Yerevan with Tenny within the next couple of days to cycle off into the Armenian countryside; two: I have a visa for Iran, and the border is about 400km south; and three: it’s nearly September, and we’re not planning another winter at ‑30°!
It’s going to be a shock to the system to be on the road again, and not just for me. Tenny is now exactly where I was nearly 15 months ago — overwhelmingly nervous in the face of the great unknown, but knowing that the most important things she should do is to leave, and then see what happens. I remind her that the act of leaving is the most difficult part of the journey — a sentiment I heard umpteen times myself before I left. “Every great journey began with a single step.”
It was reassuring, but I didn’t quite believe it. Now I know that it was true, but I can understand from my own experience why Tenny is still so scared, no matter how many times I give her these words of encouragement.
I’m aware, although I don’t like to admit it, that cycle touring is probably not for everyone. But I’ve never met a cycle tourer who regretted choosing this way of life. I know that Tenny loves cycling, but also I know that leaving home comforts behind is going to be very tough. Sometimes she’s incredibly enthusiastic, and at other times she’s terrified to the point of tears. As a result of her personal background and nationality, the mountain she is facing is many orders of magnitude greater than the one I stood at the foot of. I think she’s incredibly brave.
And I try to tell her that we’re just going to give it a go — we’re going to cycle to Lake Sevan and camp on the banks, the next day potter a bit further into the mountains and camp again, and see how it all works out — that we should think about the now, not about the next week, month or year — but I can’t stop myself dreaming of far-off lands, epic mountain ranges, trans-ocean voyages, vast red deserts, the silence, the noise, the smells, the pain, the joy, the process, and how all this could bear on our relationship and future together. It’s a swirling mix of emotion, worry, ambition and optimism, and it’s highly volatile.
But I digress — I should take my own advice and think about the now!
My mother will no doubt be pleased to hear that I had my flowing locks chopped off the other day, 14 months after my first pre-departure shaving, and I am now sporting a rather dashing crop for my second big departure.
The filming continues — I have so much enthusiasm for this sub-project, and a small, impatient part of me wants to see the results right now! We are hoping that a sixth and final episode of the original podcast series will soon be released in order to wind up the story so far.
On a related note, I hear that the BBC recently broadcast a short series on Marc Beaumont’s world record attempt to “cycle round the world” (I use inverted commas to signify my cynicism at the Guinness definition), and his experiences on the major highways of a few unconnected parts of the planet. Well done to him for breaking the record, but it’s impossible to overstate just how far removed this must have been from my experience of bicycle travel. Taking my time over this idea has led to the most precious experiences and meetings of my life.
Finally, it would be great to hear what you think about the new website. Splitting the blogs in this way seemed to be the logical thing to do, and we think the new design will make it much easier and more enjoyable to find something interesting to read. If you’ve got a little spare time, why not start reading my journal, which is a kind of self-contained continually-evolving book that I’ve been working on? At over 30,000 words already, it’ll hopefully keep you busy for a while!
I’m counting the hours now — once we’ve left, I’m cautiously hopeful that everything will fall into place. Wish us luck.