Things were picking up pace in my life when I flew to Denmark from London. A summer of pedalling was ahead of me. The goal - The Arctic Circle.
I had calculated the distances and figured that I had just enough time to ride from Copenhagen, Denmark to the Lofoten Islands in Norway.
It was going to be tight as I had shortened the regular school summer break by securing a new contract to work in Uzbekistan. Induction week and familiarisation in Tashkent would mean that I had left myself three weeks from the night I set up my bicycle in a city hotel, to flying back to the UK from Bodø.
I had been training a bit for this ride on the dusty streets near the school in Lomé, Togo, where I had fallen in love with my now wife. This was our first time apart for more than a few days, and I would soon remember the loneliness of cycling alone and the behaviours that go with it; talking to myself, scrimping on food and shelter, pushing too hard each day and generally not looking after myself properly. I would pay for this a bit later in life as this mis-treatment led to me needing to have my gallbladder removed. So, although this is not a guide to bike touring, I am duty-bound to advise all readers who may be considering an arduous journey: Be a grown-up, feed and water your body well, more than you would normally. Treat yourself to a night in a hotel once in a while, even if the prices are ludicrous. Rest.
It was no surprise that I did not sleep during the first night in Denmark. My adapted road bike with rear panniers reflected in the bathroom light across my bed and I imagined I could see it raring-up to go, so I let it whisk me off at silly o'clock in the morning. Zooming through Copenhagen, I soon realised that this was a fantastic country to ride a bicycle in. Bike route signs and distances on every corner and within an hour, I found myself by the sea, staring at a sculpture of a little mermaid.
I sauntered across to the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace, for a few prime snaps before the masses of tourists arrived and then dropped my loaded bike onto my ankle, chain-side. The chain-ring sunk it's teeth into my flesh and blood actually squirted out under the pressure. I must of caught a fragile part of the ankle as I was battling to affix plasters and bandages. So there I was, in the middle of a cobbled and now bloodied courtyard, struggling to get myself and my bike upright as tourists gathered. Not one person offered to help me; I was alone.
It took a while for me to come around, but I eventually remember what I was there to do. I tentatively hobbled back toward the coastal bike path, got back on the bike and tested out my handiwork. It just about held, but I had to change the dressings every hour that day, and my pinkend socks.
Each time it throbbed I focused on the challenge ahead and the adrenalin did the rest. The bike routes were wonderful and mercifully quite flat that day, so I soon made it to the port town of Helsingor for the short crossing to Sweden. Two people on the ferry told me that I must go to the hospital, but I was by now too focused on where I needed to get to that night and blasted out of the vessel like a wounded and teased bull.
I still have the scars from that day, but I remember it fondly. Whilst touring alone can be a mind-game, there is something powerful that comes from a personal challenge, where one must rely only on oneself. Being positive and determined in these circumstances can reap the biggest rewards of self-satisfaction and achievement.