Eastwards and Far




My head hits a pillow, 27 hours and 4700 miles after waking up.

I rummage in the dark through my day bag, and my mind generates questions: will this bag be safe next to my pillow? Where should valuables be kept overnight? How fucked am I if it gets stolen? Isn’t it ironic that earplug packaging is so loud to open?

A hostel dorm in Vancouver is a good place to ask these questions. It’s safe and quiet enough that they probably won’t be relevant, but it’s a scratty enough part of town that I don’t feel paranoid asking them. (Scratty is fair: people were being arrested just outside the hostel a few minutes before writing this).

There were more questions while waiting for the connecting flight in Toronto earlier: will the baggage handlers respect the word ‘FRAGILE‘ emblazoned all over the thing plastic bags covering our bikes? Will the stickers stay on our weird luggage? (Kristian and I brought an ancient strapless scouting duffel bag and a thin linen sack, respectively, to put our pannier bags in during the flight). How many of our possessions are in the same continent as us currently, and how many are stranded on some tarmac or being detonated by security forces back in Gatwick?

But, as usual, it all turned out fine.

Luggage arrived, bikes were delivered unbent and unbroken to the oversized luggage section. We reassembled them under the curious and suspicious eye of other luggage-waiters, then rode them 10 miles through Vancouver suburbs to the hostel.

Already the trip has brought conversations, connections, comparisons.

Comparisons from the lads on our flight who will cycle from Vancouver to Mexico, and who immediately discounted the credibility of their trip in relation to ours (“it’s nothing like yours, it’s only 2000 miles!” . Rubbish of course, it’s every bit as credible as any other bike ride).

Conversations with the bum in the street who approached us for money “for beer or ganja”, and who proclaimed “holy mackerel, you boys will have fun!”; conversations with the family in the connections queue who run a safari reserve in Uganda, and lead mountain bike tours accompanied by a gun-wielding bike-riding ranger to pacify rowdy bison; conversations with the excellent fellow on the plane who used our ride as a springboard from which to reminisce about adventures he’d had in his youth, and from which to recommend Canadian highlights to us that we might enjoy.

A quote from Ted Simon sits in my mind:

“Essentially we all live two lives simultaneously. One of them is made up of all the plans, hopes, ambitions and expectations we have woven around ourselves. The other consists in just being alive. Sometimes it is extremely hard to switch from one to the other, from expectations to reality.”

The honest and open interactions with complete strangers already make the gradual un-weaving of plans, hopes, ambitions and expectations that characterise the last few months of my life seem less reckless, and point to the new reality being woven being a fun and rewarding one.

And this is before I’ve even seen anything of Canada beyond night-time suburbs and rainy views from the hostel window this morning.

Bring it on!

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