Road to London - The Rush Out Of Europe
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Cycling along the Danube cycling trails in Austria and Germany were so pleasant and enjoyable that that we were oblivious to the length of our stay in Europe until reminded of the 90 days visa limit that when we were in Heidelberg we were actually left with only about a week to leave or run foul of the visa regulations.
Since trying to cycle out to take the ferry at Calais or Ostande would require a Herculean effort to cover that distance we decided to take the train out of Germany to Brussels in Belgium, and from there go to Ostande , take the ferry and cross over to England before the visa expires.
After a few connections we managed to reach a small town Aalter, in Belgium not far from Ostende, where we were guests of Luc Van Parys. Luc who is a seasoned endurance motorcyclist is a good friend of Daniel from Prejmer, Romania (they share the same passion) at whose place we stayed for several days. Like Daniel, Luc who didn't know us until we met him, was also a wonderful host who put us up at his place in spite of his busy schedule at work.
During our brief stay in Aalter, we enjoyed the company of Luc's sister and her husband at whose house we were treated to a sumptuous dinner and also meals prepared by his mother Beatrice Van Loocke. I was moved by the warmth displayed by Beatrice who could hardly speak any English, treated us like her own family. We also met some of Luc's friends, who were so warm and friendly, that when it was time to part it was an emotional affair.
While we were told that we could apply for visa extensions at the countries we intended to stay, beyond the permitted period, we decided otherwise as our finances were depleting and we were already travel weary. We did not exit Europe from Ostende, but instead from Calais in France, as the ferry in Ostende do not take foot-passengers or cyclists. Luckily Luc was able to rush us out to Calais in a van supplied by a friend.
We reached the Ferry Terminal in Calais at about 5.00pm in gale force winds and were told that services were temporarily suspended and would only resume when the weather conditions improved. The Ferry finally left the port at 9.30pm and only reached Dover, some three hours later, although the journey normally takes only one and a half hours.
Well, what an anti climax to our cycling adventure one might say but for such a long journey, to reach good old England the way we did is really not too bad eh!
We reached London on the 9th of June, one day before our European visa expired and are now staying in Barking, south east London. It is interesting to note that this is not the first time for me that I set foot in England. That happened more than 50 years ago in December 1961 and with a totally different mode of transport. That is another story.
Back then I travelled by the jet-prop BOAC Comet that stopped at Calcutta (Kolkata), Karachi, Lebanon and Rome before finally reaching London. You can now fly non-stop direct from KL to London in less than 14 hours. How things have changed.
I couldn't help but feel elated and welcome when leaving the Ferry Terminal in Dover, I discovered that there were actually cycling lanes out of Dover. Unlike the Netherlands or Denmark, England is not known for its cycling culture, so to see positive signs of change towards cycling as a form of people movers, I know I have come to the right place and at the right time.
To give some insight to the seriousness of the promotion of cycling in London readers who have been following this blog must be made aware that prior to the election of the Mayor of London in early May, among the campaign pledges made by the eventual winner, Mr Boris Johnson and other Mayoral candidates were the safety issues of cyclists and improving the infrastructure to match that found on the continent and the needs of cyclists in London.
The Big Ride, ' Love London, Go Dutch' campaign that was held on 28th April saw 10,000 people and about 1,000 volunteers taking part and 50,000 Pounds in sponsorship collected. To ensure that the effort of the cyclists is not futile, the organizers of the 'Love London, Go Dutch' campaign is making the assessment and monitoring the first 100 days in office of the Mayor against the performance of the key demands. How I wish a similar campaign can take place in Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya and the Mayor be held accountable.
At the moment I have no concrete plans to what I shall do before the start of the Olympic Games but I have several options, like a cycling tour around London, say for a week followed by cycling around the British Isles or even go back to the continent to cycle there if that is possible.
However, I must admit that to have made it this far and actually having achieved my objective, it is rather strange that I don't actually feel a sense of great achievement or satisfaction for the effort thus far. Perhaps the inability to cycle that last sector in Europe, especially to the Netherlands, has something to do with the feeling of a slight disappointment. Nevertheless I shall continue to seek new frontiers in the pursuit of adventure. And what better way than to start my new adventure right here in LONDON.
The St Michael's ruins in Heidelberg is
about 900 years old
This Nazi Amphitheatre is well hidden in
A view of Heidelberg
Modern sculpture in Heidelberg
With Luc,brother-in-law Hendrik and
sister Rita in Aalter
A passion for motorcycles
With Luc's mother, Beatrice Van Parys
Aalter 'beef' anyone?
Our new friends in Aalter
Ride and ride everywhere
A 4-hour delay at Calais Ferry terminal
The bicycles take a Ferry ride
The White Cliffs of Dover
If you wish to get in touch with Adnan Osman (his personal blog: http://oadnanxtreme.blogspot.com/), you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can reach Adnan through his wife, Marina Wong (03-77856058 or email@example.com) or his son, Adely (firstname.lastname@example.org).