My best friend and I are crying, struggling to let go of each other.
“You be careful and make sure you come back”, she pleads with me.
This is it. I am on my way.
Finally embarking on the biggest dream I have ever had. South America. I can’t quite believe it.
On arriving to Glasgow’s Queen Street Train Station, my mobile phone is ringing. It’s Nichola. The best friend I’ve just left. I answer to the holy grail of all Glaswegian sentences,
“I’m gonna kill you”
my heart stops as it does for all non Glaswegians,
“you’ve left you’re Kindle here.” Bollocks.
Full ‘pelt’ back up to Castlemilk to collect the Kindle, along with one more hug from the greatest girl I know and back to the station for my second attempt at embarking for South America!
I have dinner at Mum’s and after saying good bye to Gran, she drives me to Stirling Bus Station for my 9 pm, 9 hour bus to London. We arrive in plenty of time and chat away, enjoying our last moments together. Some time has passed before we are aware of the fact that the bus has arrived to a different bus stance and has left London bound without me. Mum is raging and wants to tell the station supervisor her thoughts exactly, about this in true Scottish fashion. There is no man better in the world at complaining than the Scottish. I too would complain but having travelled countries where nothing works as it should, I’ve learned only to care about the solution. I interrupt Mum’s flow to get information from the man. There is a ‘Megabus’ that leaves Glasgow at 11.30 pm. I may have a chance to catch that. If there’s a seat.
We rush to Stirling Train Station and I leave Mum at the barrier gate whilst I purchase a ticket to Glasgow. On returning, I can hear Mum telling the ticket man all that’s happened. I’m mortified but smiling inside. No one cares Mum that I missed my bus to London. Mum and I hug a lot and say our good byes, not knowing when our paths will cross next. Goodbye never gets easier. Some say there is a negative for every positive. If that’s true then this is the negative to travelling. It’s not just about missing loved ones. It’s about missing moments in your friends lives that will never happen again. I think of how wonderful the people are in my life and I wonder why I would want to spend so much time away from them. To that I don’t have an answer. I just want to pedal my bicycle and explore all the other countries in this world.
Not knowing how the next few hours will unfold, I sit happy and relaxed on the train to Glasgow. Everything always works out just as it should. There is no place in the mind for worry. If the ‘Megabus’ was full, I would head out to Glasgow Airport and sleep there until the first flight.
It begins to snow in Glasgow as I walk from Queen Street Train Station to Buchannan Bus Station and I feel appreciation for these last moments of Scottish feather like snow. The ‘Megabus’ is an unbelievable success! It has beds, power points, Wi-Fi, food and drink. I lie in bed drifting to sleep on my way to London, thinking how lucky I am that my bus left without me.
I don’t wake up until London Victoria Bus Station. From here I’m on a bus to Brighten. I have visited many places in the world but I’ve never made it to Brighton. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit as I’ve heard such great things about it from other travellers. I am to meet Simon Stanforth here; the man behind Stanforth Bikes and designer of the new bicycle I’ll be riding for the rest of my tour, ‘The Kibo’. To be picked up from Brighton Pier by the bike designer Simon Stanforth, on his moped, to be taken to my new bike is a pretty awesome moment in time for me. http://www.stanforthbikes.co.uk/
When I lay eyes on The Kibo for the first time, it’s instant love. I kneel down and plant a kiss on the frame, forgetting for a moment I’m in company of a man whom I don’t know. I cycled my first year of cycling the world in pain. My city bike was just too big for me. The pains on the bike stayed with me off the bike during my few months home visit to Scotland. This new bike means a lot for me. It means I can experience South America and the rest of the world with no pain from an ill fitting bike. Only the pain of climbs, weight and wind await me. Luxury is ahead of me.
The next day as I arrive at London Gatwick Airport, I receive a message from Simon,
‘You’ve left you’re Steripen here’. Bollocks.
The Steripen is a travellers best friend in South America as when dipped in water it sterilises it within 45 seconds – safe to drink. I don’t have time to return to Brighton so Simon will post onto Turkey. I am flying to Turkey first to collect my equipment, which I had left there with my bicycle having cycled 12 countries. I buy lots of Dairy Milk Chocolate in the Duty Free which will be auctioned off at a much higher price in Turkey to raise money for Animal Aid, an animal charity in Calis. The roads I will take in South America will not allow Lucy’s trailer to come with me so for the time being it’s being used to rescue animals in the Calis area by another mad Scottish woman on a bicycle called Edna. https://animalaidinfethiye.wordpress.com/
I have 1 hour to change flights in Istanbul. I’m in the passport control queue with hundreds of others. Not sure if I will make my connection flight I realise I haven’t downloaded my Turkish visa. It’s sitting on an email which I can’t access. I have no mobile internet outwith the UK. I leave the queue and explain to a worker. She advises me to go to a specific terminal to use the free Wi-Fi to download my visa. I explain I have only an hour and a look of alarm replaces her smile. She takes me by the arm and shows me to another queue. This is the ‘Diplomats’ queue and I have only 2 suited men in front of me. I am through immigration within minutes and marvel at my luck as I walk past the hundreds of others still queuing.
I arrive at Dalaman Airport at 8 pm that evening. A woman greets us with a sign which has a list of names. My name is on it. A small group of us are taken by mini bus to the International Arrivals Terminal, which is closed but enough lights are put on for us to see the baggage rails. I receive my bike box which has a big hole in it. I am sorting this out with the supervisor and along with the fact one of my bags hasn’t arrived. When I finally have everything I make my way out of the terminal. A guard has to unlock the front door to let me out and lock it behind me. I’m in darkness and my friends are no where to be seen. There is a hill going down to the other terminal building where I originally arrived to. I stand on the back of the trolley just as you would as a child in the supermarket and I let myself go. Riding my trolley of luggage down the hill our speed picks up way faster than I thought it would and I begin to wonder how we will stop. Then I see the speed bump waiting for us at the bottom. The speed bump stops us and I gather up my luggage from the ground. I carry on walking my trolley for the rest of the way and hope there are no security cameras covering that road.
I can’t find my friends in the Domestic Terminal. I’m annoyed at myself for not having taking a note of their phone number. My trolley of luggage is too heavy to be wheeled around the grounds. I decide it’s best left inside the terminal whilst I look for my friends and I inform a member of staff I’m doing so,
“No No No, you cannot leave it there, big problem, security will come and big problem, they will take”.
I leave it anyway explaining I’ll have to deal with whatever I come back to, I must find my friends. I call “Gareth” over and over in a broad Scottish twang. I have a large area to cover and many people are turning to me as I shout but none of them are Gareth. I somehow take a wrong turning getting myself back to the Internationals Terminal and I arrive higher up in the building than I should be. I have a moment of exhilaration when I hear Gareth’s voice reply to my calling. At the same time security are closing in on me from behind. I’m not allowed to be where I am and am escorted back out. But I’m just so happy to see Gareth and Elaine. After hugs and hellos I explain we must drive back to Domestics as my belongings may be seized by security.
Everything is just as I left it, untouched, with no security. Turkey’s airports might be on high terrorist alert but there is a football game on and all the staff are watching the game so there is no one left to care about terrorists and bombs.
Arriving back at Gareth and Elaine’s at 11 pm we enjoy a well earned Effes Beer.
All that travelling does nothing to diminish my excitement of having a new bicycle to ride! At 8.30 am the morning after arriving, my Kibo is built and Gareth and I are off cycling with a local bike group. I feel like the luckiest girl alive on my new bicycle.
The next few days in Calis are spent organising equipment and saying lots of hellos and goodbyes to friends. Of all the places I’ve travelled to in the world, Calis feels most like my home away from home. My 35th Birthday is spent on Calis Beach front with friends and surprise cake!
P.S. 35! How did that even happen?!?
Gareth and Elaine are perfect hosts. I have a four poster bed with white sashes hanging around me as I sleep and pink butterflies on the walls. My princess preparation for the hardship which lies ahead of me. I have Gareth who is happily getting my bicycle ready for some of the hardest miles I will ever cycle. A huge thank you to both Gareth and Elaine, not just for all you do for me but for all that you contribute to the world around you.
After much consideration I decide the cycling clothes I wore during my first year of cycling the world are ready for the bin. The holes are now a bit large to be acceptable.
Enjoying my last meal in Calis, I am asked where I am flying to. I can only say that the city begins with a ‘U’ as I can’t remember it’s name. Then I am asked which country the city is in. My cheeks redden with embarrassment that I don’t know this. Maybe Chile, maybe Argentina is my reply.
I depart Calis with my bicycle and luggage on Thursday 26th November, on the 9 pm bus to Istanbul. I sleep for most of the 13 hour journey to Istanbul’s main bus terminal. Here I get a complimentary mini bus to the Ataturk airport. The only way they can fit my bicycle box on is by balancing it in the walk way with people on each side holding it in place every time we round a corner. Everyone made it with no personal injuries.
I have an 8 hour wait for my flight to Dubai. I change my money into American Dollars. In South America I get 9 pesos to every dollar in the banks. But if I have American Dollars in cash, I am able to change this on the street, on what’s called the Blue Market and get 14 pesos to the dollar. I am utterly shocked when I check in my luggage with Emirates Airline. My total weight is 59.9 kg. How am I going to cycle that up 5000 metre mountains? I spend my time in the departure lounge reading an Alistair Humphries book called ‘The Boy Who Biked The World: The Americas’. This would be my only preparation for the trip.
I arrive in Dubai with 5 hours to wait for the next flight. I have a shower and read the rest of my book. But then I realise, ‘The Boy Who Biked the World’ is actually a children’s book. Even though it’s only me who knows what I’ve done, my cheeks redden in embarrassment. I had been thinking all along what a great book this is that even children can read and be inspired to cycle an adventure! But then I tell myself not to feel embarrassed. Back home in the UK many people read the Daily Record and Sun newspapers, which appartantly are written at an English level suitable for 9 year olds.
I’m now on my 19 hour flight from Dubai to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. We have a stop over at Rio but only to drop off and pick up passengers.
On arrival to Buenos Aires Airport I breeze through immigration with surprising easiness. I had read that you require a return flight to get in to South America, which I didn’t have, but no questions were asked. I am desperate for the bathroom but so many people are in my way and no one is moving. I leave my trolley of luggage where it is and slip through the wall of people. When I return security have my baggage surrounded and are cross with me in Spanish. What can I do but shrug my shoulders and say the words “pee pee”. I move to Terminal C where my final flight leaves at 9 am the next morning. I pump up my sleeping mat beside a seated area of passengers. Ignoring my own embarrassment I get into my sleeping bag, put my ear plugs in and go to sleep. I awake to a man shouting “Get up, you must get up now!”. I bolt upright thinking I have slept in, only to find that 5 male travellers have joined me during the night. Their sleeping bags and mats in a row with mine and they are being shouted at to wake up. The airport is busy and I can’t sleep again so I enjoy a skype with my best friend. I was only charged $13 US Dollars for being 45kg overweight in my luggage at check in. This Scottish girl is on top of the world!
Flying over the Andes mountain range I decide it’s time to invest in a compass and map. My task in Ushuaia is to get someone to teach me how to use them. From the air, the scale of the journey I am about to embark on is hitting me with the severity of a Glasgow kiss.
After 64 hours of travelling from Calis Beach in Turkey I arrive at the end of the world and am building my bicycle in Ushuaia airport’s arrival lounge.
And so …the Adventure Begins.
Thanks for being a part of the journey. WBG xxx
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.