Imagine: You’re wildcamping among trees on the outskirts of an unknown town in a foreign land. It’s 2am on a moonless night and you awake (along with the rest of your family) to the galloping sound of hooved feet racing past your discreet encampment.
In pursuit, a pack of baying dogs follow closely behind whereupon seeing your small domed home believe themselves to have tracked and captured their pray: snarling, barking, no doubt foaming at the jangles, they move in for their coup de grâce.
Deftly, you locate and slip your hand around the inappropriately small penknife beneath your fleece-top pillow.
Metres away the Hounds of the Baskervilles posture their haunting haka through a wafer thin flysheet wall. You, on the other hand, lie prostrate reassuring your family that everything’s going to be okay… as long as they don’t move a muscle…
Eventually the beasts grow tired and drift away, allowing for everyone to breathe normally again. Soon your children drop back off to sleep. But afterwards you lie there wide eyed and fidgeting until the lingering effects of adrenaline and action replays simmerdown, hours later.
Fear sears the memory.
Yet experiences like these are as much a part of tour cycling as the golden times of slow dramatic sunrises, empty country lanes, and humbling cultural exchanges of others. In a sense they encompass what it means to travel simply, live in the moment, and deal with life’s ups and downs as you voyage along.
En route you will always encounter hardships; whether it’s being blown back by the Mistral -as you cycle the valleys between the alps and massif central- or pedalling hard to escape the volley of stones lobbed in your direction by bored village kids, or even lying still and quiet to the sound of frenzied dogs outside your tent. Adversity is never far away.
But adversity is a part of travel. And learning to accept its challenges (to a certain degree), is what makes the journey continue…