Friday 26 December 2014

Plagued by Asian heat and feelings of isolation in Australia

Pedal the planet

Breifne Earley

Published 29/07/2014 | 02:30

Breifne is cycling the planet for Cycle Against Suicide
Breifne is cycling the planet for Cycle Against Suicide

A typical day on the bike while cycling around the world varies so much.

Over the last few months through India and South East Asia the weather has played a huge role in planning out my days. Each leg of the journey has an ultimate finish point, which have been Istanbul, Kolkata and Singapore for the first three legs but the intermediate stops and even sometimes the route aren't specifically planned.

I usually pick a target in the right direction, around one hundred kilometres from where I'm starting the day. I'll round that up or down a little if there is a suitable place of interest or if a town is more likely to have better options of accommodation.

A basic rule of thumb is to allow an hour per 20 kilometres including all breaks. Europe was a little more than this as the road surfaces were a bit better in most places and the cooler temperatures required fewer breaks.

My days then started by being on the road before 9am and covering 70 or 80 kilometres before stopping for a decent lunch, getting an hour or so off the bike, then hitting the road again for another similar distance in the afternoon.

India and Asia, in general, was a completely different proposition. Having to factor in the midday sun, with temperatures regularly going well over the 40 degree mark for hours on end, even the locals had the sense to get out of the sunshine and rest for a few hours.

Stops were also much more frequent to reload my water levels every hour or so. The roadside shacks selling water were a god send.

It became a battle to get as many hours in the saddle before 10am as possible before spending a few hours in the shade and making further progress in the afternoon. The timings and distances between breaks was completely at the mercy of where water and food were available.

Thailand and Malaysia have been slightly different, although nearly as hot as India. I found it a lot cooler on the bike, I'm not sure whether it's the proximity to the sea or ocean, the cooling wind factor or just simple acclimatisation which allows me to cycle right through the middle of the day.

It's allowed me to pick my final destination with a little more certainty each day and planning my days has become a little easier here.

I normally leave my sleeping arrangements until I'm actually in the town I've targeted. My best friends over the last few weeks have been some of the fantastic online search engines which will find you a room in your locality based on quality, price and user reviews.

By the time you read this I'll have landed in Australia and will be setting up for the next leg of my journey. The vast, wide open expanse of the Nullarbor Plain the 1,100km stretch to the east of where I should be today in Perth is, as the term 'Null' in it's name suggests, completely devoid of anything. It's going to be a logistical nightmare to get through this with up to 200km between points of civilisation.

Luckily, I've been in touch with a few people who've done this before. Simon Hutchinson, Mike Hall and Juliana Burhing have all given me valuable advice.

The weather in the Australian winter should be much more favourable with temperatures barely reaching the low 20s. I'm going to be sending most of my gear to Adelaide allowing me to travel lighter and faster. I'll just have a bare essentials kit for running repairs for the bike and all the spare capacity will be used up by carrying extra water to keep me on the road. I'm hoping it will be one of the fastest segments I've done.

Despite the fact that I've cycled over 10,000km through 19 countries, it's been this section of the trip between Perth and Adelaide which has always been the most intimidating of the entire route. I haven't seen a familiar face in almost five months but for much of the next few weeks I will actually be on my own for hours or even days on end.

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