2022 has been another busy year, but although I still have my hands full running my late father’s business I have at least had a bit more time for my own projects, and so I’ve managed a fair bit of cycling. My year started in the Canary Islands, where I was finishing up a two-month trip. There's a lot more I'd like to write about the Canaries, but for now, suffice it to say that the islands are spectacular and that I think Gran Canaria in particular is an absolute dream for bikepacking. If you were following along with my updates on social media you’ll know just how beautiful that part of the world is.
I have a complete new bikepacking route ready to go, the Gran Canaria Grande, a 300-kilometre mixed terrain loop starting and finishing close to Gran Canaria airport. I wanted to design a route that was geared toward someone flying into Gran Canaria for a week’s cycling holiday, and I’m very happy with how it’s turned out. I haven’t published it yet, partly because I’ve continued to be so busy, but mainly because I’d like one or two other people to complete test rides of the route first, just to make sure it all flows. So if any of you are up for a week of epic cycling and don’t mind being a guinea pig, send me a message and I’ll happily share the route.
I returned to the UK for a few months of work, and then when a window of opportunity opened, I jumped on a cheap flight to Valencia. I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have as I knew there was a fair chance that something might come up that I’d have to race back to the UK to deal with, but my rough plan was to cycle down through Spain to Gibraltar, and to then take a ferry over to Morocco to spend a few weeks cycling through the Atlas Mountains before flying home from Marrakech or Agadir. In the end, I was left with just under a month in the saddle.
Southern Spain was a real adventure, with the provinces of Castilla-La-Mancha and especially Andalusia proving to be both utterly spectacular and eminently suitable for bikepacking. In many ways I actually think that this area is one of the best parts of Europe for bicycle travel, affording not just beautiful scenery but also wilderness, something which I’ve often lamented can be very hard to find in much of Europe. I followed a mixture of various different routes from bikepacking.com (primarily the Altravesur, with parts of the GR247 and Transnevada thrown in) as well as a few improvisations and detours of my own. My route was moderately challenging in terms of climbing, but very straightforward from a logistical standpoint, with easy wild camping throughout and resupply options almost every day. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
The greatest challenge I faced was the weather. Weather averages had suggested that southern Spain in April and May would likely be very pleasant, but although I did have a fair number of beautiful sunny days, I was also lashed with several days of heavy rain and even a few days of heavy snow higher up in the mountains. It was unseasonably cold, with multiple nights camping at sub-zero temperatures, and I was very glad that, on impulse, I’d brought my winter gear with me, including a four-season tent and winter sleeping bag. It wasn’t a decision based entirely on pessimism; I’d been hoping to test how the setup dealt with warmer temperatures, but whatever the reason it meant I was able to travel in relative comfort even with the cold conditions, and for that I was grateful.
I’d made it to Gibraltar and even had my ferry to Tangier booked when I got the call I’d feared and had to cancel the last few weeks of my trip to fly back to the UK. It was certainly frustrating to have to bail with Morocco being quite literally in sight on the horizon, especially considering that this made it FOUR times that I’ve had to cancel a trip to Morocco, with the Atlas Mountain Race (for which I’d been signed up since 2020) having already been postponed three times due to the pandemic. But I couldn’t be too upset; I’d had an incredible month and was grateful for the time that I’d had. Morocco can wait, the fifth time’s the charm. I’ll be posting more about my ride through Spain, as well as sharing more photography, later in the summer. For now, the next journey beckons.
I’m writing this on a train on my way up from London to Edinburgh. I had a couple of weeks back in Sussex catching up on work, and I’ve now got just under one more month to play with. I’ve plotted an exciting route up through the Highlands which I can’t wait to ride - I’ve been looking forward to getting back to Scotland since I spent three weeks bikepacking through last summer, so I’m absolutely stoked to get stuck in. I just hope the midges aren’t too hungry; they usually are.
I’m very happy that things are continuing to calm down on the work front for me, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve got time for this next trip to Scotland at all. I’ll probably be busy again over the summer, but not all the time and everything is moving in the right direction. This next year is likely to continue to involve starting and stopping, but I’m optimistic that by the summer of 2023 I should be able to get back on the road again full time. And I still feel positive and cheerful, which is the main thing.
The last thing on which to update you is the long-awaited Trans-Kenya Bikepacking Route, about which I'm still getting quite a few messages. Despite some setbacks, the route is 100% finished and ready to go, and the accompanying 30-minute documentary film is also complete. Both have actually been ready for a couple of months now, and more than a dozen people have now completed test rides of the route as well. There have been some delays in getting it published, but one way or another you can expect the route and the film to be released within the next couple of months. I can’t wait to share them with you!