Shot for the Day (25 September 2013)


A decade ago, I was in southern Argentina, on my travels around South America. I have fond memories of camping out close to the Perito Moreno Glacier, with some friends from the Raleigh International expedition I had just completed.  The previous night, we were kept awake by the violent sound of huge chunks of ice carving off the glacier.

I arose at 4am and walked to the glacier to watch dawn break. It was a truly spellbinding moment. Unfortunately, the next time I visited the glacier, you were no longer allowed to camp in the National Park, so a doubly lucky moment.

Here’s looking at you 2003!

Day 6: De Koog to Leeuwarden

Day six and Julien had a great day today, the best so far and is reporting fewer aches and pains as he has adjusted his bicycle seat!

He set off this morning and retraced his steps going from De Koog to Den Helder where he cycled through a massive dyke. With a slight tail wind and sunshine Julien was able to clock up a quick 25 miles.

He stopped in for lunch in Harlingen which Julien says was gorgeous and his favourite place on the trip so far. He then cycled onto Leeuwarden and found a great campsite just on the outskirts which is essentaily a 4-5 acre field by a river and an animal sanctuary that Julien is sharing with just one other traveller who is staying down the opposite end from him!

Julien hopes to make it to Germany tomorrow and if the cycle paths are as good as they have been in Holland then he expects to make it to Leez and Oldenburg and estimates that the journey through Germany should take him about the same time as travelling across Holland – around 4-5 days.

Here is the Google Map for today and as always Julien would appreciate it if you would please vist the Child’s i Foundation and his Just Giving page. Thanks!

Day 5: Katwijk to De Koog

Just a quick update tonight as Julien has again stuggled to get a good phone signal.

Julien set off this morning at 9.30 and ended up doing a 5 mile loop due to some poor Dutch signposting. He then pushed on to Haarlem but could not find anywhere decent to stop for lunch!

Luckily the weather stayed sunny so he rode on to Alkmaar which had some gorgeous views. After speaking to some locals Julien was advised to travel to Texel so he cycled 30 miles north to Den Helder and then caught the ferry to Texel.

Julien then continued on to Da Koog where he found another campsite by the sea to pitch up in for the night.

Unfortunately he then found out that the onward ferry is not currently working so he will have to retrace the last 15 miles tomorrow – bit of a bummer!

To speed things up Julien has decided to cut through Holland tomorrow rather than continue cycling along the coast.

Julien has been having a problem getting email to work on his phone so I will be adding images to the site from the web until he is able to send his own pictures to me. As soon as Julien sends me his own pictures I will upload them to his Flickr page.

Here is the day’s Google Map and please also visit the Child’s i Foundation and Julien’s Just Giving page.

Day 4: Haamstede Burgh to Katwijk

Day four went very well for Julien. The weather picked up staying sunny at around 22 degrees all day and as a result he was able to get many more miles under his belt. Julien says that Holland is an amazing country to ride in, with excellent cycle paths through and alongside picturesque fields.

After a busy morning cycling along the Dutch coast Julien stopped in for lunch at a cafe in Stellendam where he reports he had a first class burger!

After lunch he continued on, making it to Rotterdam where he came across a special escalator for cyclists and pedestrians that leads underneath a large river and up the other side. Luckily he managed to utilise the escalator despite his very heavy bike!

After passing Rotterdam Julien found a great campsite surrounded by sand dunes at Katwijk aan Zee where he has decided to stay for the night. The good weather has given Julien a chance to dry his wet clothes from the last few days and begin to develop a rather patchy suntan!

Tomorrow Julien will touch the famous North Sea cycle route and continue on his way to Nordkapp.

For those of you following the route here is today’s Google Map. Please show you support by visiting the Child’s i Foundation and Julien’s Just Giving page.

Day 3: De Panne to Haamstede Burgh

Day three and just a quick update today as Julien is having trouble getting a phone signal so our communications have been limited to text messages!

It sounds like Julien has done incredibly well today, covering 84 miles across the northcoast of Belgium and making it into Haamstede Burgh in Holland. This whilst contending with heavy thunderstorms and hail. Holland’s well known flat landsacape meant that he had no cover – ouch!

Julien has found that the roads in Holland are excellent for cycling and a real improvement over those in the UK. If the weather permits and Julien keeps up the fast pace tomorrow he hopes to get past Rotterdam and close in on Amsterdam. I’m sure he will make it!

Google Map of Today’s Route.

Please remember why Julien is undertaking this epic journey and visit his Just Giving page and the Child’s i Foundation website. Thank you!

Day 2: Faversham to De Panne

Julien again faced bad weather and useless maps as he continued his cycle to the coast. Much like yesterday Julien had to make a 30 mile detour off the planned route to get back on track. This meant that he only just made the 2 o’clock ferry to Dunkirk. The rain died down as he crossed the channel but sadly picked up again as he set foot in Dunkirk.

Julien got off at Dunkirk along with a large number of trucks which he had to cycle alongside until he found an alternative route. Eventually he ended up getting a bit lost again and kept ending up back on the motorway leading out of Dunkirk. After a while, Julien decided to pull into a shop where he used his best French to communicate with the locals – one of whom cycled ahead of Julien for around 6 miles to the main road into De Panne!

After around 20km Julien made it to the town of De Panne. As the bad weather persisted he decided to spend the night in a local hotel. Julien is hoping for better weather and the chance to camp out in the open tommorrow. The good news is that Belgium has great cycle ways, so from here on in, progress should be a bit quicker!

Please click the buttons on the right to sponsor Julien and help out the Child’s i Foundation. Thank you.

Google Map Day Two

Day 1: London to Faversham

Hello, my name is Tom Phillips. I will be updating Julien’s blog with news from the road as he travels from London to Nordkapp, the most northern point of mainland Europe. Julien is embarking upon this epic journey of around 2,500 miles, to raise money and support for the wonderful charity the Child’s i Foundation. So please do your bit by donating money on Julien’s Just Giving site and by visiting the Child’s i website. Thank you!

So on to the first day – unfortunately things haven’t gone exactly according to plan! This morning Julien discovered that his bike and gear was going to be a little too heavy for such a long trip. Once some excess baggage was removed Julien set out only to discover his speedometer had broken, this was then followed by a puncture on the rear tyre of his brand new bike!

To add to this Julein had to contend with some very inacurate ordinance survey maps which had him cycling down dead ends and alleyways. To catch up on his mile target Julien decided to veer off the planned route and head along the A226 for some quicker riding. So there weren’t too many exciting sights on the way today, but Julien did mention that he saw some great views whilst cycling through Erith in South London. As the weather turned nasty late this afternoon Julien decided to forgo camping and has instead settled down in a B&B just outside Faversham.

Overall he clocked up 70 miles today – not bad going considering the slow start. Let’s hope for a better day tomorrow as Julien catches the ferry to Dunkirk and begins his journey across Belgium.

A Google Map of the journey so far!

One week and counting…

Time is ticking away as the ensuing departure date is now less than a week away.  Even though I have been preparing for this trip for ages, I am stick racked with anticipation.  Concerns of the overall requirements of the ride interlaced with daily issues such as shopping, whilst not having my kit stolen or finding somewhere to camp.  All in all, there are many issues to contend with.

In the grander scheme of things, I hope that this ride is a success.  By this, not only do I mean achieving the loft target of cycling 2800 miles to a vary sparsely populated are of the world but I also mean raise finds for the charity I have dedicated this ride to, Child’s I Foundation.  So far, I have raised just under £350 on my Just Giving page, which is a good start.  I hope that as I continue, people read about the various adventures I am likely to have en route as my blog will be maintained by Tom from Child’s I, in my absence.  I would love to hit my target amount of £2,500, so please keep reading this blog and make a donation if possible.  All of the money is destined to help kids in Uganda.  I am paying for all of my own expenses on this trip!

I have been testing all of my kit prior to my departure and so far, so good.  I have to make sure I can maintain my MSR stove as I know occasionally they can gunk up.  The biggest challenge will be to decide how much stuff to take along with me.  In the first couple of weeks, the temperature will hopefully remain in the warm twenties.  However, the further I travel up the spin of Sweden, the cool the weather will become.  Indeed, the figures I have seen for night time temperatures for Nordkapp and the north coast of Norway, even in mid summer, are around 4 degrees Celsius.  The weather is also likely to me inclement but that should only add to the drama of the journey.

It would be great to hear from any one if they have experience of travelling in this part of the world as so little has been written about it.  That said, hopefully my blog will be a useful place for other people considering this journey as a portal of information in due course.

Dangerous animals en route

Courtesy of BabyDinosaur on Flickr

I think I have decided upon where I am going to journey this summer.  Although I love Iceland and would love to circumnavigate the island, my original desire to cycle to Nordkapp is captivating me more.  I love the idea of travelling through Europe’s last true wilderness.

Due to the nature of where I intend to go, it will be necessary for me to wild camp on a regular basis.  To this end, I have been looking further into what treats may lay ahead for me if I pursue this course.  As I delve deeper into researching my route through Scandinavia, I have started to uncover something that I had not contemplated before, dangerous animals.  It was actually in conversation with a Swedish friend last night that alerted me to the perils that I might encounter on the road.  The list runs from nuisances, such as mosquitoes hordes, which are particularly prevalent in the north during the summer.  Although they are most active around dawn and sunset, I will be north of the Arctic Circle for a couple of weeks, truly in the land of the Midnight Sun.  So, this means that if I camp along the way, I am likely to be under attack most of the night.

Other insects that may provide me with issues are Gadflies, with painful but mercifully non-poisonous bites.  In addition, Sweden is home to large plagues of wasps, so I will need to be careful with any foodstuffs that may attract them.  A more serious issue will be ticks, widespread in southern Sweden and northern coastal regions.  Ticks can transmit Lyme’s disease and more serious TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite.  I have the choice of either staying inland with the mosquitoes or on the east coast with the ticks.  Tough choice…

Sweden does have a venomous snake, the European adder.  Fortunately, the snake is not very common, although ubiquitous throughout Sweden except for the north.

Then there are the top two mammals on the bloc; the brown bear and the wolf.  This worried me considerably as I will be headed through the areas where both species are most commonly located.  I did take solace in the fact that bears in Sweden have killed no more than a handful of people since 1900 and that wolves have not killed a human being since 1821.  This information was marred by the accompanying caveat of how to deal with a bear encounter in the woods.  Evidently, the done thing is to walk slowly away from it whilst talking loudly.  This I could probably muster.  The tough bit is what to do in the event of a bear attack; the answer, to play dead, protect your head and make yourself as small as possible.  However, once could adopted the opposite approach and start screaming as loud as possible at the creature, jumping and making oneself as large as possible.  Always a worry to be presented with such conflicting options.

I just read an article that brown bears mate between May and June. During this period bears are active both at night and during daylight hours. Young males are searching for females at this time and cover long distances in their search, while last year’s cubs are making their first independent forays into the world.  I am likely to be on the road towards the end of this period, so I will be vigilant.

To round up then, I will have to be acutely aware of various animals including the brown bear, wolf, moose, wolverine, lynx, the very rare Arctic fox, reindeer and perhaps even the golden eagle.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’d love to see all of these animals, just from a safe distance and not whilst trying to sleep in my tent, completely along in the absolute middle of nowhere.  Then, I may take issue with such beasties dropping by for a snack, which could ultimately turn out to be me!

File:Saami Family 1900.jpg

Putting all of this jeopardy to one side, one of the truly exciting parts of the expedition will be once I reach Lapland, or Sápmi, on the northern side of the Arctic Circle.  Here lies the ancestral home of the Sámi, or Lapps, indigenous people of the region.  The Sámi people are among the largest indigenous ethnic groups in Europe.  They are renowned for tended their herds of hardy reindeer for millennia.  I aim to visit an old Sámi settlement to find out more about their culture and way of life.  I may even succumb to the touristy urge to stay in a traditional Sámi tepee. It should all make for some stunning photography.