“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference”
– Robert Frost
Four years of dreaming, a year of serious planning and a whirlwind final few weeks of visas,
equipment, administration, websites and bureaucracy: departing to cycle around the world was mayhem.
But once I had set off things quickly settled down: cycling, sleeping, eating, studying my maps. I was pedalling towards Australia. I was ready for the savage -30C Iranian winter, I was confident about cycling during the Muslim period of Ramadan. I was looking forward to the madding crowds of India. All the unique charms and wonders and frustrations of Asia lay before me and I was as ready as I could ever be.
And then on September 11th the world went crazy. The shockwaves of the horror have spread, and
continue to spread, over the entire globe. Suddenly my nationality became a serious issue thanks to some
terrorists and a Prime Minister I didn’t even vote for. Doors were slammed shut all around me. My dream
to cycle around the World was fading away fast. And so as I rode across Europe I spent hours every day
wrestling with the options available to me. My biggest concern was ‘breaking the chain’: if I flew or took
a bus for even the tiniest fragment of my route then in my mind everything after would be futile. I would
not have cycled around the World, I would be shadowed by that regret all my life and so I might as well
just go home right now. Over-flying the trouble zone to India was therefore not an option: it would have
been the easy way out and ‘the easy way out’ is not compatible with riding around the planet. Cycling
north through Kazakhstan would ensure that the chain continued unbroken, but the mind-boggling
bureaucracy of the region was too much to deal with off the cuff and on the road.
Continuing as before through Iran and Pakistan was still my preferred route. Eventually though it sank
in that I owe a debt of sensible-ness to certain people in my life and reluctantly began to look for another
In Istanbul I spent long, lonely nights drinking black coffee and see-sawing between the fear of failure
and the excitement of real adventure. The maxims I try to live my life by are adventure, challenge and
high comedy. It began to look like I had no alternative. It was time for a complete reversal of my route.
All of my carefully laid plans went out the window. All my organisation and planning, thinking,
dreaming and mental preparation was of no use now. I had never even glanced at the possibility of doing
what I was now about to do. This was exactly the sort of mess I love getting myself into, but the sheer
scale of it unnerved me.
I found myself walking out of the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul, passport and (extremely expensive)
visa in hand. And then in a wave of terror it really hit me: I was going to cycle to Cape Town. I was
turning right for Africa.
Never before have I had to take such a drastic choice of path. Africa is a vast continent, a land of
unforgettable music and beauty and soul. It is also a land of mistrust, baffling bureaucracy and hatred.
Thousands of miles of burning sunsets, border crossings, hardships and magic now lie between me and
the Cape of Good Hope.
Horrible imaginings of what awaits me and the fear of the unknown, combined with an aching
excitement keep me awake at night now. It is slowly sinking in that I am no longer cycling to Asia. I am heading, alone and completely unprepared, for Africa. In terms of outrageously ludicrous changes of plan, this one really will take some beating on my journey! Who knows what may have been if I had not taken this path. But, on the other hand, who knows what adventures and challenges lie in wait for me now as I turn right for Africa.