An hour later than planned, Ash and I set off on our bikes, destination Putsborough, north Devon. Our plan was to spread the 130km journey over two days which would give us the opportunity to get used to riding with a fully laden bike, finding suitable places to camp and just generally adapting to our newly chosen nomadic lifestyle!
Now I was under the impression that legs were made from bone, muscle flesh and other, substantial, useful biological stuff...apparently, today, mine were made from jelly (not even the posh Robinson's kind, but the much inferior supermarket own variety).
As the day wore on, it was evident that my energy levels were unnaturally low. The flat sections were providing more of a challenge than I would have liked, whilst the uphill sections (and, being Devon, there were many!) were killing me! My snacks of pumpkin and sunflower seeds combined with (only slightly) more substantial goat's cheese and salad rolls were healthy (and oh so middle classed!?!) but not providing me with the calories that my body craved: I needed chocolate, cake, pasties...heck, even a big fat (probably-contains-more-pig-testicles-than-I'd-care-to-eat) pork pie would have been most welcome! Food (and plenty of it) is clearly going to play a significant role in our journey to Singapore.
By the time we reached Crediton (50km), I was completely spent. My legs were barely able to move and it felt as if it were only a matter of time before my goat's cheese rolls would be making a reappearance (they weren't that great the first time). The final hill that that would normally have presented a tasty challenge merely represented an insurmountable problem. My heart sank. I got off my bike and pushed.
Ash was waiting for me at the top of the hill with a encouraging hug and six simple words that filled me with both joy and a depressing realisation that my body had failed it's first real test: "Let's catch a train to Barnstaple." (Does "let's" count as one word or two?).
It's amazing what a rest and bottle of Coca Cola can do for the spirits! By the time we reached Barnstaple, I was a completely different person...full of energy and enthusiasm! The final 17km stretch was a doddle. We stopped in Braunton for a quick and delicious fish and chip supper in the salubrious setting of the public car park, with a few local teenagers drinking, laughing and plotting their first sexual experiences nearby. In a weird and entirely unconventional way, it was the perfect place to sit down together and reflect on our first day of cycling fully loaded.
Apart from anything, today has taught me one thing: I'm very grateful to be doing this trip with Ashley. Together, by hook or by crook we'll support each other all the way to our final destination!