I have never really planned how to get home after my travels. My philosophy of “That’s a problem for future Karl” has worked out so far. Besides, going home usually isn’t high on my to-do list whilst on an adventure.
“Utopia” Boom-festivals after-party was over two hours away by bus. It was nestled deep in the hills, surrounded with trees next to a river that cuts the valley in two. A stark contrast from the dusty mountain lake with its endless sky.
With mixed emotions I wheeled my bike and belongings away from the music and out of the gate. The soundtrack of quiet hills and squeaky pedals welcomed me as I moved up and out of the valley. I wasn’t all too sure which direction to take. I did not have the resources to cycle all the way home, but I also wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
I decided to fall back on my favoured philosophy and make it tomorrows problem. Today I would just enjoy the ride.
Later that afternoon I stumbled onto a small mountain village that boasted a free campsite and swimmable river that contained the coldest water I have ever experienced. I think I jumped out faster than I jumped in.
The next few days were spent slowly and aimlessly zigzagging my way to the coast, procrastinating the fact I had to find a way home sooner or later. Each day I found a different town or village with swimmable water, and each day I took a refreshing dip during siesta. Amongst all the beer breaks I still managed to find time to take a dehydrated frog to a pond.
Before arriving at the coast I found myself in Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital city situated on the Mondego river. At the cities train station I was told that I could take a night train from here to Hendaye in the south of France, from there I could travel north to Paris and on to Calais.
The only ”inconvenience” was the next available train was five days away. This was fine by me, five days to enjoy a cycle to the coast and back sounded great! I bought myself a beer and headed off to find a place to camp. I stayed in a small forested area outside of the city centre and made friends with a stray cat. I named her Sammy and we had dinner together.
The days ticked away as I journeyed to and from the coast. It was only half a days ride away, so I stayed three nights by the sea to fully enjoy my last days on this trip. Sunsets, swimming and the odd beverage was the perfect way to wind down before heading back to Coimbra. It felt a little surreal to start making the homeward journey.
Squeezing my bike, all my gear and myself into a tiny train carriage was a challenge. No friends were made that evening as I held just about everyone up by frantically trying to disassemble my bike in the hallway. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to share my sleeper carriage.
It would take three more train rides, a car share and some cycling to get me to the ferry port at Calais. But the drama wasn’t over yet.
I was a little ahead of schedule but I decided to check in anyway. Inside the ferry terminal I found a place to lean my bike. Then I took my wallet, keys, and pass….. “Oh ****! Where is my passport!?”
I completely strip searched the bike, creating a mountain of dusty and well-traveled belongings on the floor. I checked everywhere twice, some places three times, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. It was gone.
I composed myself and walked over to the check-in desk. The service staff had witnessed my mini meltdown and I am sure they were somewhat aware of my situation. After a long conversation and a lot of begging, all was not lost. My Mother had told me to take photo’s of my passport and important documents before I left (thanks Mum).
All I had to do now was have an interview with French Border control, get the go ahead from Customs, convince the officers on the ferry to let me on, and then pray I would be allowed off the boat the other side… simple, right?
It was not the smoothest check-in experience I have ever had. However It was decided I would be allowed onboard. Whats more, a fellow passenger over-heard my strife and bought me two pints at the bar. I had no bed booked for this ferry, so 3 pints later I fell asleep on the floor in an unused dining room. I used a stack of sick-bags as a pillow, It wasn’t very comfortable.
I awoke, feeling mildly unpleasant, to the sunrise over Portsmouth harbour.
I had made it home.