journey

Touring the UK – Map and Stats

After hurtling (relatively speaking) back to Bristol from the top of Shetland in a mere 30 hours, by bike, ferry, train, and bike again, I’ve had a few days off to relax.

And now’s the chance to get a bit of reflection in on the UK tour, before planning begins in earnest for resuming the round-the-world trip in a couple of months (that’s looking like early December now, by the way).  From the Isles of Scilly to Shetland, it was a fair ride, with loads to think about along the way.

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I’ll put up a full post-mortem on what went well, what I’d have done differently, and so on, fairly shortly.  It’s also just possible that I’ll finally get around to updating the rest of the pages here to more accurately reflect what’s actually been going on for the last six months or so.

But for now, this is just the bare-bones summary (via a map and some statistics) of my little tour of the length of the UK.

MAP:

Hopefully, the Google maps gremlins of a few weeks ago have given themselves some time off.  This should show the route I took.  The markers show mainly overnight stops, with a few extras to clarify direction or ferry ports etc.

If Google (or even I) have once again failed to deliver any useful information on the map, you’ll just have to imagine it.

And every map needs some statistics to go with it.

STATS:

NB – these are all Bristol to Bristol (i.e. including travel to and from the start and finish of the ride).

Measurements:

Total Cycling Distance – 1814 km / 1127 miles
Total Ascent – 11231 m / 36838 ft (1.27 times the height of Mount Everest)
Overall Toughness Index – 61.91 (100 = Really Tough with bags on)
Toughest Area – Devon and Cornwall (SW England) – Average TI 85.66

Days:

Total Days (Bristol to Bristol) – 28
Full Riding Days – 19
Average Full Riding Day Mileage – 90 km / 56 miles
Rest, Short Ride and Travel Days – 9
Wet days – 2 (which is really quite remarkable for the UK)

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Geography and Transport:

Countries Ridden – 1 – the United Kingdom.  Or:
Countries Ridden – 4 – England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland.  And:
British Crown Dependencies Ridden – 1 – Isle of Man
Islands Ridden – 11 – St Mary’s, Great Britain, Isle of Man, Ireland, South Ronaldsay / Burray, Glims Holm, Lamb Holm, Mainland (Orkney), Mainland (Shetland), Yell, Unst
Ferries – 12
Approximate Hours on Ferries – 28
Trains – 2
Approximate Hours on Trains – 14 (a tad longer than flying from London to Singapore)

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Diversity:

Issuers of UK pound-denominated banknotes spotted – 7 – Bank of England, Isle of Man Government, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland (I missed out on the full set; First Trust, and Danske Bank notes – bizarrely, the Danes can apparently print pounds – eluded me in Northern Ireland)

Indigenous Languages Encountered – 6 to 9, depending on what’s a language and what’s a dialect – English, Cornish, Welsh, Manx, Irish Gaelic, Scots, Scots Gaelic, Orcadian, Shetlandic (Orcadian and Shetlandic are basically Scots mixed with Norn, an extinct Norse language)

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Miscellaneous:

Unfortunate Encounters with Trucks – 0
Near Misses with Traffic – 0
General Traffic Behaviour – Good
Dreadful road surfaces – Several, but Ayr (and the towns around it) stood out as actively dangerous to cyclists
Near-Catastrophic Skids due to Sheep Droppings – 1
Canine Confrontations – 1 (not serious)
Illness – just the explosive fish incident in Cornwall
Punctures – 0
Mechanical Problems – 0
Days cut short due to pain / discomfort from Thai accident damage – 1
Ibuprofen capsules taken – 32
Memorials to Russian Warships passed – 1 (and, yes, that’s specifically a memorial for the ship, not the people on it)

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Well, that’s the outline.  As I said above, I’ll post some more detailed thoughts on the ride later.  Those are likely to be fairly positive, due to the lack of any major disasters.  For now, I’ll just point out my clear preference for surface transport over planes.  As I left the Shetlands on the overnight ferry to Aberdeen, I was reminded how getting on a boat to go overseas really feels like travelling.  Far preferable to getting in a little metal tube to pop effortlessly from one concrete-and-glass terminal to another.

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And the view’s a little better too…

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Beast in a Box (Again)

Well, the ‘slow boat from Jakarta’ plan didn’t work out.

It proved to be too many things: too complicated (the Beast being treated as cargo and sent separately); too time-consuming (endless running between offices near the port); too tiring (language barriers and miming can wear you out) and too relatively expensive (24 hrs on the ship would cost the same as the ridiculously cheap hop between Jakarta and Singapore).

And so I flew the Indonesian coop this morning, popped back into the northern hemisphere (just), and arrived safely in Singapore just over an hour after leaving Jakarta.  The Beast, while whining as usual about being dismantled and packed in cardboard, appears to have survived once again.  I’ll know for sure when I put it back together tomorrow.

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I did have time for a poke around the more monumental end of Jakarta before I left.  It reminded me a bit of some cities in the Former Soviet Union (albeit without the same apparent risk of being topped for being rude about the government), or maybe North Korea, with everything laid out neatly and then massively oversized to emphasise the importance of the place.  The Istiqlal Mosque (above) is hard to get a scale on.  My estimate is that the vertical part (below the dome) is about seven or eight storeys high.  It’s a big mosque.

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It’s a little easier to appreciate the largeness of the National Monument.  It’s a monster.  And the enormous, carefully tended park around it was an idyllic setting for families enjoying a Sunday stroll yesterday.  Or at least it would have been, if it weren’t for the fleets of hired mini-motorcycles being raced around and around by manic, grinning teenagers.

Now, I’ve seen so many abused bicycles in Indonesia, overloaded to breaking point to carry everything from reeds to dumpling stalls to multiple sacks of rice, that I felt it was time to expose the practice (although, sadly, I suspect that simply pointing it out will not stop the exploitation).

I’ve switched off my hypocrisy filter, by the way.  The Beast actively enjoys being loaded until it creaks and then thrashed across thousands of miles of mountains, deserts and crumbling tarmac.  Honest.

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Anyway, this pitiful example was being used as a coffee shop in central Jakarta by a particularly villainous owner.  An owner who insisted on being photographed with his poor, worn out victim.  And then tried to charge me five US dollars for a coffee to cover his modelling expenses.  Bearing in mind that the normal price of a coffee is 5000Rp (around 40 US cents), and that $5 will buy you a meal in a decent restaurant, I declined his kind invitation, and gave him a twenty percent tip on the coffee instead.  I didn’t want a picture with his mug in it anyway.

For the first time on this entire trip, I walked away from a conversation with what I can only assume were carefully selected curses and threats ringing in my ears.  I wasn’t looking back, but I reckon there were probably some less-than-flattering hand signals involved, too.

In fairness, he was the first and only unpleasant human being that I met in Indonesia, which only accentuates how lovely people generally were there.

Let’s hope that Singapore, Malaysia and points further north are as interesting, and the people as nice, as Indonesia has managed in the last month (though preferably with slightly better roads and less manic traffic).