Back home after his mammoth New Zealand to Ireland cycle, Daniel Ross (21) from Drimoleague explains what it’s like to travel those last few miles back to West Cork
A COOL mist lingered in the air as the ferry boat rolled into Cork.
I stood on the upper deck feeling the morning chill and watching the ferry pull into port, gazing out at the tranquil town of Cobh. It was t-shirt and shorts weather when I departed France the night before. Now, however, I was searching deep down into my bag to pull out a jumper that had got very little use this past year.
‘How many days did it actually rain over the entire year?’ I asked myself. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had a lot to be thankful for, in how rare it was that I had to pull on a coat. Today would be the final day that I would be stretching the legs in preparation for a day of cycling, and now long gone are the thoughts of which road I should take. I wouldn’t need a map today.
These roads were familiar territory, and I laughed to myself, thinking how funny it would be if I managed to get lost on my own turf! But that wasn’t going to happen today, and certainly not with the gang of cyclists that I would be joined by, to complete the final leg home. As I cycled off the boat, about 30 friends and family had gathered to welcome me back into the country, and 10 of these would cycle back with me.
Later on, I would be joined by a further 20 as I neared home. It was an amazing thing to once again have company on the journey. Instead of talking to Melissa (my bike), I had real people and more importantly, friends, to chat, laugh and discuss life with. After being a year away in places where language was a constant barrier, you forget how great it is to be able to communicate easily with one another, and how much better life is with good friends around.
Thinking ahead I imagined what life would be like 80kms away – back home in Drimoleague. For starters, I would have a roof over my head, I’d have a kitchen to cook in, a fridge to keep drinks and let my milk and yoghurt cool in. I’d have friends to laugh with again, and a family to share life with. I even would have ... a mattress! Believe me – when you’ve lived in a tent and a sleeping bag for a year that is a thought worth savouring!
Barren Australia, Curious China, Majestic Nepal, Dangerous Pakistan, Hospitable Iran, Picturesque Serbia, these are just some of the adjectives that pop into my head when I think about some of the incredible countries I’ve been privileged to cycle through.
It’s hard to summarise all that has occurred during the past year to me on the bicycle, but one thing is for sure – the world is a much better place than you might think.
Hospitality, helpfulness and openness on the whole were outstanding and that can be easily said for the any of the three continents I crossed. I will never forget the random locals who invited me in for breakfast or dinner, to pile on my plate all that I could eat.
My mind flashes back to Iran where a motorcyclist invited me in for breakfast with his wife. After an hour of eating and chatting, I was ready to depart, but not before his wife pulled out a huge jar of homemade strawberry jam for the road.
Like, honestly could the same be said if an Iranian cyclist was pedalling about the West Cork countryside? Would they be invited in with such vigour and enthusiasm and then sent off with gifts? I’ve literally never seen as much joy in one’s face as I’ve witnessed in those who’ve helped fill my stomach or provided me with a place to sleep. We should learn from their example. It’s hard to say if I could ever do another trip like this again.
Taking a year out, away from home to physically challenge yourself on a daily basis, is a big commitment. One that I don’t feel like I’d be quite able to do for some time. But every day doing this trip I have felt alive. And that is a rather addictive feeling, and one that I imagine I will be searching after, sooner or later. Whether it is on a bicycle or not, is another story!