World traveler and bike packer, Josh Ibbett, has just spent the last six weeks in Europe mostly riding through the Iberian Peninsula. At the time of writing he has caught a plane to New York and now managed to ride up to the Canadian boarder at Niagara Falls. We managed to check in with Josh and catch him for a journal entry on his experiences so far.
6 weeks have passed. 6 whole weeks since I rolled off the ferry into France to begin the trip of a life time. As I fly to the USA I sit and reflect on all that has happened as I cycled through Europe.
The first two weeks were big, 2000mile from London to Bordeaux, then to Andorra and then to Porto in Portugal. My mind and body was still in race mode, fresh from victory in the Italy divide. Each day was all about riding, riding the smooth cycle paths of northern France as fast as possible, battling the headwinds as I rode down the Atlantic coast, feeling the heat at the temperature began to rise as the weeks ticked by. Andorra was my first new country, the tiny mountain principality which you can't reach without climbing at 2000meter pass. I camped at 2000m and was stunned by the sunrise, the first of many magical moments that will forever etch themselves into my mind.
Packed for the USA
The aim of my trip isn't to break records, smash miles or race anywhere despite my frantic start. I want to see the world, take the road less travelled and explore. Heading into Northern Spain over the Col du Cabus, a 2600m gravel maintain pass is a reflection of this. I crossed the boarder and saw no one. Just me, my bike and the soaring birds of prey hunting in the morning sun. I began to slow down and take it all in.
I progressed through northern Spain, stopping in Pamplona. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and it seemed as if there was a festival on. The old town was packed, people dancing in the street, drinking wine and being merry. When I asked at the hostel what event was on the owner simply replied, 'nothing, it's just the weekend and its sunny'. The people of Spain like to party, like to socialize and like to enjoy life.
One of my favourite aspects of touring is seeing the landscape change and the subtle shifts in culture. Border crossing days are always exciting, what's it going to be like the other side, will it be warmer, will it be noticeably different? Riding into Portugal from Spain was a noticeable change. I crossed from hot scrubland into a world of colour. Bright yellow covered the heather and butterflies fluttered in the breeze. Even the darkest of mood can be lightened by such a shift. Sometimes the changes are not so great though. The Spanish are the most considerate road users I've ever encountered. They hang back in their cars and then overtake on the opposite side of the road often accompanied by a toot of the horn and a wave of encouragement. This is a stark contrast to Portugal where I was often concerned about my safety, the drivers pass close, overtake on blind bends and often swerve with no notice normally talking on their phones. I decided to keep riding to a minimal in Portugal and made an effort to wear my brightest jersey and always use my lights. Every cloud has its silver lining though, the surf was good!
I found sanctuary from the driving madness once back in Spain. The driving was better but things began to heat up. The centre of Spain sits on a large plateau and as I cycled towards Madrid the weather turned hot. Less than 30 degrees was considered a cool day, closer to 35 being the average. I began to understand why the Spanish take a siesta and extended lunch breaks became the norm. The pace of my early weeks through France was now a thing of the past. Fatigue begins to build up, exaggerated by heat. It takes longer to get going in the mornings, hunger is a constant companion and 1litre tubs of ice cream disappear in a few scoops of a spork.
Another day, another boarder crossing.
I'm in this for the long run, this is no Transcontintal Race. There's no finish line, this thing is continuing for a year. My mileage is still around 100miles a day, however I now enjoy the odd 50mile day if there is the reward of a nice hostel or campsite. I'm finding my rhythm, my fitness is building and my routine forming.
My European leg was around 3000miles, maybe a little more, I've already lost count. The numbers don't bother me, I just love being out there, living on the road, finding a new place to call home every night. Europe was the warm up, no new cultures, no unknown countries. My bike works, my kit works and now I am strong and ready to take on America. Let's see what it brings...
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