Whistles, barks and rustles – 3,500k of sound
In the months I spent planning my route for Pedal the Planet I anticipated the sights, tastes and smells I might encounter on the worldwide cycle, but the thing that has stood out for me during the 3,500k between London and Istanbul has been the sounds I've heard along the way.
The first time I became aware of sound on the trip was on Day Two in the northern French town of Roubaix with the constant rattle of the tyres as I crossed the cobbled streets of the famous cycling town, the whistling train tracks ahead of a passing train in Belgium, the crack of a military firing range in the German hills and the hum of overhead power lines along the length of the Danube were just some of the initial impressions.
In Salzburg, Austria, funnily enough the hills weren't alive with the sound of music, but it was the rustles in the bushes in the dark at the end of a night which certainly caused a bit of concern to this rider at times.
Slovakia for me was more about the sounds away from the bike – it was St Patrick's weekend in Bratislava and Ireland had just sealed the Six Nations, naturally my Scottish and English room-mates in the hostel there insisted we visit the nearby Irish pub. The 'Irish' music which blasted out certainly wasn't any Irish band I'd ever heard, but the noise of the celebrations will be my abiding memory.
In Hungary, it's the sound of re-enforced plastic colliding with tarmac. The crash, which seemed to have ended my interest in the World Cycle Race as a meaningful competition, stays in my memory as does the grating of my helmet along the ground as I landed.
Croatia features as the tightening of my spokes on my wheel. After two crashes it needed to be realigned for a second time. Serbia is the noise of trucks, but specifically the rumble you hear before the truck comes into view. I used to get an eight to 10 second warning of being overtaken as the rumble grew and grew until I felt the gust of wind and the cabin of the truck appeared over my left shoulder.
After crossing the border in Bulgaria, I experienced the same noise most of the way across the country, but the abiding sound I'll take from the home of Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov is the barking of the wild dogs. In a single day I faced seven attacks from the canine population. It was almost as if they had decided as a group they were gonna make my life a misery for the day.
My short Greek sojourn was certainly noticeable for the single police car that I played leapfrog with for the entire 30k journey. The most officious policeman I've ever encountered refused to believe that I didn't have more baggage. He tried to force me off the highway but had to backtrack when I pointed out it wasn't a motorway. His interest in the discussion ended when he realised I was heading to Edirne on the other side of the Turkish border, barely 15k up the road, deciding I was somebody else's problem at that point.
Turkey has been a little of each of these countries, but the main sounds I've encountered is the beeping of horns and cheering from pedestrians. Those noises combined have helped make the past five weeks absolutely superb as I start my Indian adventure over the next few weeks.
Once again I have preconceptions about the sights, tastes and smells from the sub-continent, but I'm looking forward to experiencing the sounds of the world's second most populous nation.
Breifne is taking part in the World Cycle Race. See www. pedaltheplanet.tv