In January 2011 I only had a slight itch to quit my job and go travelling, but no real plan to. With my landlord wanting his house back, in February 2011 I decided I would quit my job and go backpacking to Australia. The idea was to pass via train through Scandinavia into Russia, cross Russia to China, then venture my way down from China through south-east Asia towards Australia. The overwhelming urge to cycle the whole way took over and my plans changed once again.
It was quite a late decision, around April 2011 (I left end of June 2011), as I decided I wanted not only a challenge, but doing it via something I enjoy...cycling (and will hopefully still enjoy by the end). Part of me also wanted to splash out on a new bike and go on a rather large shopping spree as part of the preparation as I get a kick out of buying new cutting edge gear.
I finished my job on May 6th 2011 and around 7 weeks later I was heading off from London towards France on my bicycle. The backpacking idea is now a backup plan should the cycle tour not work out for whatever reason (disliking it, injury, bike damage/theft). I can easily fly back with my bike, drop it off, and set off once again with my rucksack.
The plan is still fairly vague as I'll do a lot of planning en-route. The trip can be split into five phases though covering 19 countries if I have counted correctly.
- Europe - England (London) > France > Belgium > Luxembourg > Germany > Austria > Slovakia > Hungary > Croatia > Serbia > Romania > Bulgaria > Turkey (Istanbul)
- China - Shanghai > Kunming
- India - Calcutta > Kerala > Mumbai
- South-East Asia - Thailand (Bangkok) > Malaysia > Singapore
- Australia - Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne
These are very loose as I have no idea how long it will take me to cycle across parts of China and India. I'm typically allowing Europe = 8 weeks, China = 10 weeks, India = 10 weeks, South-East Asia = 8 weeks, Australia - ?
I need to be in China before September due to my visa (which lasts 3 months from entry). Ideally for warm months I'll be there until no later than November. At the same time I can't enter India until around October due to the monsoons. Finally, I just need to reach Australia by the time their Summer kicks in, although I'd rather avoid the warmest period. It'll most likely be around February.
The above plan obviously involves quite a few flights. As part of my plan I had to make some key decisions.
- Flights - I will have to take some flights. This trip isn't about being totally green. I also don't want to take flights where I need to change, given that my bike will have to jump around between flights. Therefore I need to pick airport hubs that have direct flights to the places I want to go to.
- Turkey & Iran - I decided to not do these countries (I had planned to take a ferry to Dubai). Both are quite large, and in the case of Turkey very mountainous. Iran can be tricky to get a visa for. Also if I spent time doing them, it would meaning arriving in China later in the year when it gets quite cold. So instead I decided to make Istanbul my flight hub as I'd like to spend more time in China.
- China - having previously gone to the south of China I thought I'd base most of the tour around there. Shanghai is a good southern yet eastern hub to fly into. The plan is to cycle China while it's still warm enough while the monsoons in India finish (hence doing China first then India).
- India - I would like to do north-west India but it'll have to wait another time. From Kunming (China's most south-western flight hub) I can take a direct flight to Calcutta. I'll go south to keep with the warmth.
- Europe - it can be expensive travelling across Europe. Because of this I'll be camping whenever possible. Using a camp site saves me around €15 over a hostel, and wild camping €20. I spent £460 on camping equipment, therefore around 25 uses and the equipment will have paid for itself. As a guess I reckon I'll get 20 uses across Europe but at the cost of carrying 2kg of extra weight. I'll most likely post home my camping equipment once I reach Istanbul as I won't use it throughout Asia.