Saturday, 24 May 2008

Day 367 - Cha-Am

Blimey, another post already, some people don't know when to stop.

But I write today as I have now been on the road for exactly a year, and that is pretty amazing in itself. I shall never forget the day I set off. I set off from my sister Aoiffe's house in Aylesbury having left home a few days earlier. As I pedaled away I can clearly remember turning around and waving to her, but it was strange as I waved never expecting to be away for this long, in fact I hardly expected to be away more than a couple of months. Australia was the destination, but I didn't truthfully expect to get outside of Europe. The problem was that I had a little heart rythm problem, something I had had for a couple of years prior to departure. It started of as Atrial Fibrillation and got worse over time to the extent that I had a little operation in 2006. It did the trick and cured it completely, though it seemed to trigger Atrial Flutter in it's place and the last couple of months prior to my departure it was getting worse and worse, to the extent that I thought it was a total waste of time going and very nearly didn't bother, but in the end I decided that if I didn't at least set off I would forever think "what if?'. So I left with a pretty negative outlook, but at least I would find out the answer. It's has been well worth it too, as despite regular "attacks" early on it never stopped me cycling, though I expected the Alps to put an end to it all. It did cause some problems through the mountians, but nothing that stopped me for too long. Then I reached the Black Sea in Turkey and on one particular day it certianly gave me something to think about. I really struggled that day and with just 4km to go to my destination I thought "How on earth am I going to get there?" it seemed an impossible task, and hardly a sensible one. But I pushed on very slowly with regular stops, I had no choice but to keep stopping, not that there was much difference in the pace between cycling and having stopped, but at last I got there only to find nowhere to stay. I knew I couldn't go any further and I managed to find a house to stay in. Strangely enough that was the last time it has really been a problem and my heart hs been almost perfect ever since, so now I know the answer and I am so glad I made myself leave. If anything it has improved my health and that has to be a good thing.

But although I have been away for a year, to me it really only feels like 5 or 6 months, it has gone that quick. I have met no end of people who have been able to get a year off work to travel and early on I would have said it was plenty enough, but now I have changed my mind, it isn't nearly enough. Modern transportation has shrunk the world in size, but for many like myself it has made it a bigger place as there are so many places to visit, the more places you go the more it fires the imagination. If a country becomes a little dull after a while, cross a border and there are a full range of new sights, sounds and smells to bombard the senses, new people to meet and talk to and new experiences to be gained, some good, some bad, but generally exciting. I have always wanted to go on a long overland journey. but only in recent years have I had the desire to do it by bike. I rather assumed that an extended period of travel would finally put that desire behind me, but the opposite has happened. Now I know just how good it is, I suspect I am going to want more of it once I return, unless something else can put it to the back of my mind. The best thing about not have a set duration to the trip is that you never have that feeling that you are half way through, or that you time is running out. It becomes a lifestyle in it's own right, and a damned good one at that.

Even after a year I still get up every day with relish. I normally wake a little before 6, get up almost straight away and set off before 7. Nick Barlow will find that pretty hard to believe as in my backpacking and camping days with him, on more than one occasion he resorted to literally tipping me out of bed. Each day is there to be lived, each day is different and I don't know what's in store, though in reality it is still pretty similar to the previous day. But I love moving on, seeing a new destination, and I still get a wonderful feeling of satisfaction on arrival, of dumping my stuff in the room, knowing I have had a good few hours exercise. I still enjoy the days most when I have no idea where I will be staying, though again, it nearly always falls into place really easily, normally just by cycling on until I find something suitable, but even so, it's still more rewarding than the places I know have half a dozen guest houses or hotels.

I have to admit that I would have epected to have been a little further on than this in a year. I have cycled 23,351 km, but have also taken my time, stopped and seen places when I have wanted to visit and hardly taken the most direct route. Though setting out without an exact route and no schedule, even in my mind, I suppose I can't really be behind schedule can I?

When it rains here by heck it rains. Last night I dashed to the internet cafe as it started to rain, I thought I might as well sit out a storm there as anywhere else. When I came out it had eased but was still raining heavily. I started to run the 300m or so back to the guest house. After a few metres down the lane there was surface water, hang on, that's more than surface water! It was over ankle deep the whole way and with no pavement to walk on. It somewhat slowed down the running, in it's deepest spot it was just under knee deep, not bad for a little over an hours rain. Most people seemed to have taken shelter but others like me on the move were soon totally drenched though it made for a jovial atmosphere.

Thankfully by morning it had drained away. Heading out of Bangkok was just about as easy as heading in, though this time I was carrying a better map of the place, a freebie I hasten to add, I am still a tight git when it comes to things that aren't really necessary and all that is necessary is food, plenty of food! My new sandals got their first outing and I have to say I still prefer the old ones, so I haven't thrown the away yet. The new ones cover more of the foot, a sort of shoe without toes. It defeats the point a bit and my feet felt hot and sweaty, but no doubt I will adjust to them.

Today I had an early start at the floating market, but once again I was a little disappointed. I guess without us tourists it wouldn't exist. There were lots of boats selling tourist tat, some selling food cooked on the boat and other selling fruit and veg, but the buyers of the fruit and veg were the boats cooking food for the tourists. Still, it is a wonderful sight and the people are all very friendly. I made my way to Cha-Am and saw some mountains for the first time since Vientiane and also saw the sea for the first time since Oman. There are plenty of places to stay here but it took a while to find a place shabby enough to be in my price range, but I guess as I head down the coast I will have to face the fact that I will have to pay more for less. It's a gentle introduction to Thai beaches though as their is hardly a foreigner in sight. Walking along the shore having a paddle, which incidently I didn't go in as deep as I did on the flooded roads of Bangkok, I saw more elephants on the beach than all the bikinis, swimsuits and swimming trunks put together. Ok, so I only saw one elephant, but it was still more as people go into the sea wearing long shorts and shirts, basically their normal clothes. As I paddled I didn't feel overdressed, but I did feel overage as it's generally teenagers around here.


chris said...

I'm glad you posted the picture - I wondered where my dragonfruit came from! Congrats on the year JB. I agree, I too thought you may have progressed more than 23,351km. In fact in miles, it's even less - a mere 14,509 !! I jest of course. It's an amazing achievement. Fortunately you've realised the trip is to be enjoyed and that it isn't a race. It's the same with me at work which is why I've only cycled 297km so far. On a world trip I make my position somewhere in the English Channel. Anyway, enough of this waffle, good luck and happy cycling.

jac said...

Hello again, I popped back to check on your blog and was amazed to see we were again in the same place! I also stood waiting for the Queen to come out of the Wat at the top of Khao San Road, but gave up at 6 cos I needed some food before going for the night bus to Ko Tao. Can't believe she didn't show up til 8pm - she was already an hour late at 6!
Congrats on your year travelling - I've been travelling for 9 months and completely agree that a year isn't long enough. I do have a time limit (well, my flight home expires in August and I'd need to shell out for another if I stay out longer) and there is just so much world to see.
Wish you the best with your trip.

Dan said...


What fun you must be having. I am especially interested in how your atrial flutter is doing. I was hospitalized recently with a flutter and now take medication. They are saying that they might want to restart the heart to normal with an electrical shock. That might get rid of the flutter. Was the operation you had Catheter radiofrequency ablation?

It is interesting that in part of your journey you were able to knock it down.

Thanks for the posting.

aoiffe said...

You bring a tear to my eye as I read of you leaving a year ago, or pehaps it is the rain as the weather here in blighty at the moment is much the same as the day you cycled off a year ago.

I remember how glad I was when you passed the 3 months mark, as we had talked of how you would be disappointed if you made less than that - and I searched those early posts for hints of your heart playing up.

What a testimony you are to reaching for your dreams even when there are so many 'ands' 'ifs' and 'buts' and even though there are the downsides to living the dream, as in Burma. You encourage me to do likewise...

Caff said...

Well I had hoped to be first to congratulate you on the one year milestone (km?!) but am obviously too late! Many congrats - I'll have a drink or two tonight to help you celebrate. I look forward to hearing more of your exploits as your 2nd year progresses. Very strange too (as Aoiffe mentioned)how one year on the weather is the same wet, grey and cold as when you left us!! Happy pedalling:-)

S said...

Congratulations on your setoutday (that is the anniversary of you leaving!) I hope you can carry on for as long as possible as I am really enjoying reading your blog and would miss it if you finish. Are you maybe thinking of continuing all the way round?

David & Lindsey said...

Hi John, just south of Cha-Am is the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (good for bird watching), this is where we we stayed for 2 weeks in a small fishing village called Ban Khung-Thanod. Here you should be able to see the rare and endagered Dusky Langur (Monkey). There is also a local cave which is well worth a visit (Tham Phraya Nakon).

We enjoyed looking at the Angkor Wat photos - strange to think that you must have in stood in exactly the same spot as us when taking some of your pictures - We also had the 3 day pass although it's really not long enough! just goes to show how huge the whole complex of temples is.
What must it have been like for those early explorers when they came upon these monuments in the
19th century- amazing place.
Good luck & best wishes David & Lindsey