Where to next? It’s not a question that would concern me on a daily basis, but everybody keeps asking. Usually I reply by explaining my recent travelling history: Each year the interval between starting to plan a trip and actually departing has become ever shorter. If it’s linear, by 2020 I’m probably going to start planning a trip after I’ve been en route for a week already.
Yet don’t ever confuse not knowing what to do with having no ideas what to do! Work-related, on both Nelson’s part and mine, there won’t be any big bike journey in 2017, but some other year a next one will take place (and if any one of us is going to be lazy about it it’s good to have it black on white (or whatever is your screen setting) here). So what’s in the basket?
Surely there is hardly a region that’s completely uninteresting. There are, however, huge swathes of land that aren’t suitable for biking. Liberal standards apply: For example, going along the Panamericana requires carrying the bike manually through the Tapón del Darién, a 110 km gap in the swampy, guerilla-infested borderlands between Panamá and Colombia. This kind of issue sounds fun and worthwhile rather than a no-no-criteria. The Sahara, on the other hand, sounds more like blacklist material, as anyone who ever cycled through the March of Brandenburg will agree upon. Deserts, of the sandy and icy varieties, are out, as is the densest jungle. Too much nothing is cyclable but hardly great entertainment, so no Kansas.
This leaves something like … 90% of well-known destinations? So in the end random picking will be necessary. The easiest would be the grand hubs that could be reached solely by bike, rather than with a plane shortcut in between: The Caucasus. Russia. Iran. On the other hand even the latter leaves me suspicious that Nelson might not find that sufficiently far away from Europe. Surely he’d prefer a sojourn somewhere on the other side of the disc, say … roundabout California?
Jokes aside. I’d like to think there’s something far more important than a destination. An objective. It’s not what decides whether or not a trip is worth the effort but it makes all the difference in flavour. It’s the spice I like best, even if it’s far from being essential. So far we had: I. Moving into Terra Incognita, i.e., Kraków, and II. meeting the Pope. The first was very successful, the second got only very close to a full 100 % success for we forgot to bring mate along. This sort of objective is hard to make up since they are best when absolutely one-of-a-kind. One could finish a trip climbing the Everest, but there are other mountains, less climbed, more difficult ones. No distance is the longest, no constraint the hardest (these are essentially variations of the old Westphalian saying that goes: There’s always someone doing a bigger trip. For example; not all, but many of our hosts will remember having commented on how little luggage we carried – except these two wonderful witches in Świecie who found it waaaayyy too much, who knew some bloke who went all the way to Gibraltar with but one backpack).
Apart from many ridiculous tenets there is one that keeps coming to my mind. The constellation isn’t optimal but it’s not impossible to pull off, even if in the worst case it’s for a trip very far in the future rather than right the next one. It’s the one great marvel in the world that must have come about by pure coincidence. If we ever encounter an alien civilisation, chances are they’d turn Earth into a holiday resort because of it. It’s this:
There is no special reason eclipses in the fashion we know them occur. That the moon and the sun have the same apparent size is something absolutely special to this location and time within, to my knowledge, a few light years at least. This is an objective of literally universal allure. The calendar looks dire: Throughout the next years, total and annular eclipses take place over Antarctica, over the sea or islands, over other uncyclable territory or, when in friendly lands, at nightfall or in areas notorious for their bad weather. An extremely fancy and accessible one takes place over Spain and North Africa, with longest totality around Luxor, on the 2nd of August 2027. In Arabia, notably Mekka lies in the path of the shadow. If in that summer I suddenly get a tad religious, do not worry, probably it’ll fade by the 3rd …