Alexander Selkirk – aka, the ‘ real Robinson Crusoe ‘, the cast of the TV series Lost, Tom Hanks in Castaway and if you wanted a longer list, with a bit of gravitas, you could add Nelson Mandela. All, in fiction or real life, have spent time on islands that they did not want to be on.
Islands, by their very nature are difficult to get off once you are on one. I was going to say that they are difficult to get on if you are planning a bit of expansion to empire but the facts do not really back this up. Ever since the trip across what was to become the Channel, stopped being a simple walk, to something involving a boat as the land bridge with Europe disappeared beneath the waves. The British Isles have been invaded and conquered.
We have been ‘ castaway ‘ on the island of Malta for over a month now. The last two weeks or more have been against our will as the ferry operator has serviced all of its fleet at the same time. We ate like donkeys for the first week or so, and then like mules. The weather was so unspeakable that we walked from cafe to cafe with appointments at each with large cappuccinos and cakes. We started to regain weight, which was good and then we over compensated, and still the wind blew and the rain hit the hotel windows horizontally.
Since we went from happy holiday to ‘ castaway ‘, we have had to buck our ideas up and get down to a bit of organised exercise. I told you in the last blog about the rubbish road surface here, and that anyone on the island who is in any doubt can now quote me ” These are the worst road surfaces in the world ” as a definitive answer. We are riding on elderly rims. My front has done 24,000Km and back 14,000Km and I think Esther has front and back that have done about 20,000Km. Much riding with luggage around Malta would end in tears and possibly a long walk, that is certain.
We have adopted a ‘ book into a cheap hotel and go trips most days on bikes without luggage ‘ policy to seeing the island and keeping our touring legs turning. We now have our loops and coffee stops of choice at which we are greeted like locals. I have told you before how we are no strangers to bad roads. The maintenance rotation of East Lothian roads is in places 200 years behind schedule. There are pot holes that most keen cyclists know by name.
Through years of neglect these ‘ rim breakers ‘ have gone from scrapes in the macadam to huge cavities. Now, even tractors have to swing around them and us cyclists treat them more as roundabouts and duck ponds in poor weather. We know them, we remember false dawns when chippings were thrown into their depths as temporary solution. The good thing is that we are not overwhelmed and we can remember each one and which bends we can cut, which descents we have to be steady on. In peloton riding you hardly have both hands on the bars for more than a few miles, so busy are you waving to those behind about this hole and that.
Malta takes rubbish roads to spectacular new levels. There is no way at all that you can become familiar with all the pot holes. The cabbies London memory test ‘ the knowledge ‘ would be easier than memorizing just 10Km of road holes here. We have done our training rides, for this is what they have become, never once wanting to lift our heads for more than a few metres at a time. In towns there is the added fun of drainage grills that run in the wrong direction. With the road, not across it and offer up great chasms of open road between the metal. This keeps you alert.
Amongst all the moaning though we know we are blessed. Every time we stumble across a weather forecast for home we wonder how on earth we are ever going to manage when we get back there. There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes goes the saying. Well these people have never had an outdoor hobby in Scotland in winter. I always wondered why I was so slow up the hills in winter until my pal Jimmy pointed out ” Warren you are wearing 4Kg of clothing “. He was right of course and we decided to call winter miles ‘ long slow distance ‘ or LSD.
The end of our ‘ Castaway Status ‘ is in sight now. We have used the time to plan our travels for the year ahead. Bike bags were purchased from Chain Reaction within a few seconds of finding out that they ship to Malta free. The plan is to bike around Sicily for a bit and then return here to Malta to fly to London, and then onwards to Washington – Dulles. We are going to ride USA coast to coast, east to west on the TransAmerica Adventure Cycling Route. All very exciting and whilst we have a valid 180 day visa in our passports we may as well go and do it.
If any of you live within a short hop of the route, we would love to see you. We are just about to clock up 3 years on the road. The blog pre dates this by a bit and has been helping people with insomnia and the work shy with computer terminal in front of them for almost 200 episodes. Thanks so much for staying with us and posting comments it has lifted spirits many times. Here then is to the final year and to getting off the island of Malta.