(60) One year by Cowburt
On the 31st of May 2012 two people set off from a hotel room near Heathrow airport leaving their best man Andy and maid of honour Katie behind. The date was their wedding anniversary and the start of a 3 year cycle ride around the world. They started from NordKapp in northern Norway and were heading to Cape Augustus in South Africa then they would travel to southern Chile to continue their ride north to Barrow in Alaska.
They started with their good friend Sara who they met at Heathrow and travelled together to Alta in Norway. They slowly made their way to the start using a bus for the first 80 miles then cycled 100 miles and a then another bus journey for the last 20, arriving at the Northern Cape on the 3rd of May late in the evening ready for the start of a long trip. For the first 8 weeks they had 24 hour sunlight and the midnight sun to mark the start of a trip – and no one would know what was to come.
There was someone else who joined this trip and this is my brief account of a year on the road.
By Cowburt Bridgman
My position was clear from start; I would be head of the team. When I say head of the team, that means that I was clipped to the front of Tim’s handlebar bag which meant that I had the best view but also the first drops of rain, the first blasts of dust and the ice cold wind that came off the Arctic Ocean.
I was joined by my good friend Mini-me who travelled with Sharon and was a moose in an orange jacket and got his name from Tim who used to go snowboarding in an orange jacket wearing a moose hat. He was great company and would spend the next six months travelling with us before travelling home due to work commitments .
The plane was fun and the first time I had been on one but the cold was something else. Mini-me was fine as he not only had a nice orange jacket but was also used to cold weather, I was quite frankly Frisian my udders off.
We all watched as the bus loads of tourists were waiting for the midnight sun to appear from the fog and with no sign then climbed back on their bus and disappeared.Then half an hour later the sun appeared as if especially for us in its full glory still well above the horizon.
Me at the start
We were off riding down the first hill of the trip then up the first hill of the trip and slowly they all peddled at a steady pace to the first town of Honninsvag where Sharon and Sara did the shopping while I laughed at Tim falling asleep whilst guarding the bikes.
The scenery was spectacular and with a north wind blowing at their butts and not on mine they were happy and so was I. We would often stop for breaks and take many pictures which would slow progress but it was well worth it.
Me Sharon Mini-me and Sara
This far north there wasn’t going to be many cows but Mini-me was very excited to see the first signs of family members he hadn’t met before.
Although there were some signs that made him nervous to the environment we had entered into.
With still a lot of snow on the ground it gave me chance to wander around looking for signs of grass while the others drank tea to warm up.
As we moved towards the Lofoten Islands Sharon had touched what was known as the Tromso palm. It is much like cow parsley (no pun intended) and is related to hog weed and is very toxic and reacts to sunlight. After a few days of exposure sixty blisters appeared and her hand and looked more like my udders, to be honest I thought she was milking it.
Its not her right had its the udder one Aka the claw
Tim and Sara took her off to hospital. Desperate measures were put into place and we soon arrived at the skin specialist in Harstad.
Sara only had a week left so we stayed in Harstad while she continued on through the Lofoten Islands on her own. We were so sad to say goodbye. With Sharon being on strict orders to rest it did however give me time to graze.
After leaving Harstadwe all stopped for a few days with our new friends Alf,Siv and their family and one evening enjoyed reindeer stew which made Mini-me very nervous. As we headed down through the Lofoten Islands and down the west coast we realised Norway wasn’t the flattest country and as the hills climbed so did we revealing amazing views.
We would often stop and be amazed at the scenery and feel how lucky we were not only to be there but also that it wasn’t raining which made us able to look down on the deep fjords and valleys.
At the end of each day we were all tired as we slowly mooooved south and with little grass in the north it made all this travel lark very tiring so we all needed a well-earned break.
Taking a break
As we climbed over the roof of Norway stopping at the top for a brew we noticed that as we were heading south the snow line was getting higher and the mountain pastures getting greener and one day we managed to meet a few of my distant relatives on the way.
Cup of tea anyone ?
We descended out of the hills passing many farms giving me the opportunity to try out a few old favourites of mine from the farm.
”I got a brand new combine ‘arvester, but I can’t find the key”
We would often pass kind friendly people that would wave and smile; it was great being at the front as I would always be the first to get the smile or wave.
Once at the end of Norway and Sweden it was time to take the ferry to Denmark where we would meet Sara again. We were so excited and we all waited at the harbour for the boat to arrive to take us there.
Now in Denmark and only a short ride before we met Sara again we arrived at the airport all happy that we were altogether again.
At the airport
While Tim and Sharon enjoyed time with Sara riding through Demark and staying with Bjarne and Birgitte, enjoying lots of great food,climbing wind turbines and looking at new shoes, I went on a field trip to the local dairy and did some sightseeing of my own.
I told Tim they wouldn’t fit but would he listen?
Checking out this years new look
We enjoyed our ride through Denmark into Germany and if we had time I would sit on the fence while the others cooked tea and pitched their tent which all seemed a lot of work. I don’t know why they don’t eat grass and sleep in fields, we get so much more time to do things.
It wasn’t long before we had to say goodbye to Sara again and another sad moment as she needed to fly home. We had so much fun together but it was time to continue on along the Danube through Germany stopping for a few days in Berlin at Ollie and Kiara’s house who we had met in Norway. I managed to stay out of the heat while they went off around the city seeing all the sights and meeting all of their friends.With no other cows or moose in Berlin, Mini-me and I hung out in the flat watching one man and his dog, The Deer hunter and how to improve your milking parlour in 60 minutes on satellite TV.
We all really enjoyed our time off and with Sharon’s family coming out to Poland in a few weeks we set off for the border and a ride around Poland. We saw many castles on the way and with the leaves starting to fall from the trees and the temperature slowly falling; it was nice to be heading south.
We arrived in Krakow to meet Sharon’s Mum Wendy, sister Natalie and husband Darren and their 2 children Lennon and Ophelia who were great fun and they even managed to storm a local castle which I stayed out of, as I was too much of a cow-ard.
While we were in Krakow Mini-me announced he would be needed back in the UK to play with Lennon and Ophelia. It was a brave choice and a lot of work but he felt their happiness was more important and it sounded like good fun. Saying goodbye to Wendy, Natalie, Darren, Lennon and Ophelia was hard enough but I also had to say goodbye to my travel buddy as well, it was so hard.
As they left I shouted ‘sirloin my friend’ to Mini-me as his antlers poked out above the head rests in their taxi. With Sharon’s family and Mini-me gone leaving an empty void in my heart, I didn’t know how I was going to fillet but with so much at steak I had to continue.
We headed south again over the Tatros mountains into Slovakia and bear country. The views were amazing but with it came the tension of hearing the bears. While Tim and Sharon lay awake listening for noises in the woods outside I cow-ered in the corner of the tent, all waiting for the first rays of sunlight to illuminate our world. We moved through the hills into Hungary. The vehicles on the road were simple here but worked and I even got the chance to try some out.
Throughout our journey, water was something we needed to carry and as we travelled along the flat lands of Hungary we would always look for places where we could get water, often asking locals for help.
Looking for water
To my delight we stayed with many very warm and kind farmers in Eastern Europe which was so much fun meeting the farmers and the local animals.
One of the many kind farmers
As we moved through Romania autumn was upon us with brightly coloured leaves in the trees and stretching out across the forests and through the hillside, it was a truly magical and mystical land. As we climbed up through the forests on the steep hillsides we spotted the odd horse pulling timber out of the forest and gave me chance to wave hello.
‘Why hello there’
As we rode through central Romania we passed some European bison grazing on some very tasty looking grass. It was a balmy 25 degrees as we rode along the lowlands but we soon climbed over the giant spine of the Transylvanian mountains to arrive at the top again freezing my udders off at just 2 degrees just so Tim could take my picture.
It’s flipping fresian
We descended into a deep, dark and cold valley stopping after spotting a hotel. We all managed to get a warm night’s sleep after cow-hursing the hotel owner into allowing me in his hotel out of the cold and away from the bears. We rode on through the lands of Dracula, hills and more bears into Bulgaria and then Turkey.
We met many more kind people and animals on the way, but all feeling tired from the hills we all needed some time off.
We all spent time in Istanbul waiting for Tim and Sharon to get their Sudanese Visas which their friend Dina helped them with, so to pass the time they drank beer with 2 French cyclist called Alaine and Oscar while I drank bow-vine, which at 13% made everything go black and white.
We travelled south over the many mountains, finally reaching the Mediterranean Sea. It was amazing but had been such hard work. We spotted a shop selling chocolate (not Milka though) so we quickly stopped, made a purchase and spent the next few minutes in a Kit Kat feeding frenzy to recoup.
We wound our way along the beautiful coastline stopping from time to time enjoying the sea and relaxing on the beach – it was good to stop.
Tim’s parents had arranged to meet us all on the island of Cyprus so once we reached the Turkish port of Tisugo we all caught the ferry to the lovely island. It took a day and a half to cross and arrive in Paphos to be greeted at the hotel by Sue and Fred. They were so happy to see one another and we all enjoyed the next few amazing days relaxing in luxury.
While they all caught up on missed news and time together I enjoyed the sea and thought of Mini-me back home enjoying the company of Lennon and Phei, tears ran down my face of missing my good friend and wishing he was here but also of the fun they must all be having playing together.
Thinking of Mini-me
It was Tim’s birthday while we were in Cyprus and with so much chocolate sent out by friends and family they were all in heaven, it would be hard to say goodbye.
It took a while to find a way to get to Egypt but with a bit of juggling and me offering to be cow-pilot we were off to Africa, continent number 2.
Ready for take off
The temperature was rising and with only 150 miles to Cairo we were all very excited. After finally reaching the massive Giza Pyramids I chose to make my own way to the best spots. We had made it, I just wish Mini-me was here to enjoy it with me.
After a few days in Cairo we headed south passing a few sights and trying out the local transport.
We rode on through the desert looking for the best route; it was tougher for me with only a few tufts of grass here and there.
As we headed south through central Egypt we celebrated Sharon’s birthday with a big cake. It was so tasty they both had to stop me from eating it all.
Having to be held back from eating Sharon’s cake
With a little sightseeing left to do we stopped in Luxor to see the Luxor temple which made me feel very small.
A bit of sight seeing
Now at the end of Egypt it was time to catch the ferry to Sudan. We were all very excited and enjoyed watching the stars as we cruised along Lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa passing Abu Simbel on the way.
Sudan was very hot and being Christmas it was time for more cake. This time I was held back from the Christmas pudding and cream because they both said there wasn’t enough for us all but they did let me lick their bowls.
Please give me some cake!
We rode through the desert stopping as the temperature rose and then would ride again as the sun started to set. It would sometimes reach 48 degrees which would drain all our energy and almost make my milk curdle.
It’s never too hot for tea
We called in at a few sights on our way to Khartoum which was great fun but with no grass I had to eat water melon and grapefruits which were actually really tasty.
Checking out the sights
We arrived in Khartoum and with an invitation to stay, we all went to Yousif and Huda’s place but after crossing the desert we were filthy and all needed a bath before going anywhere.
”Hay I’m in the bath!”
“Can you pass the towel?”
It was so nice while Tim and Sharon enjoyed home cooking and great company, I played with kitty who was pregnant and Biscuit the Puppy. We all had so much fun.
The night before we were due to set off Tim discovered his bike Winston had been stolen; it was horrible and so sad to see Tim and Sharon upset. I managed to borrow a bike and went out looking for him but with not a sign anywhere all I could find was petals to cheer them up.
I could only find petals
I needed something more powerful than a bicycle to find the thieves, so the next day I headed out again but still with no luck we needed to let everyone know what had happened. Yousif and Huda were so supportive during this time and we would have struggled without them.
This should do
As Yousif and Huda were due to head back to the UK we needed somewhere to stay while we sorted out something. Tim and Sharon and I had done a talk at the International school in Khartoum and had been invited to stay with Simon the Head master and his wife Amanda. The best bit was they had 2 great kids called Joseph and Patrick. We played many games together and while we did, Tim’s best man Andrew had offered his bike to Tim and his brother Julian would build it up and their parents David and Tina would post it – amazing.
Tim and Sharon were so happy and amazed at how generous they had been and the many other offers of help from friends which included our friend’s Avril and Charlie’s 5 year old son Finley who offered his bike because it was too big for him.
After a week Andrew’s bike arrived and Tim named her Dolly. It was a great moment and once he had built her up we all set off once again through the heat of the desert to Ethiopia.We started to climb the many hills and as we did the views were amazing and as we gained height, the temperature dropped to a more bearable heat. We passed many people–some would wave,some would throw stones, most would ask for money and a few had funny hair.
Must be a new fashion
We stopped for a rest on Lake Tana before riding on through the deep but spectacular Blue Nile Gorge to Addis Ababa where we were invited to stay at the German Embassy with Gina and Connar. We had a wonderful time and even got to ride a tortoise.
Ethiopia had been beautiful but tough on Tim and Sharon and we were happy to be in Kenya. In the north we travelled 350 miles of bad mud roads being shaken to bits but finally arrived at the equator.
As we mooooved south to Mount Kenya I couldn’t help but think of climbing bigger peaks.
Building up enough bottle for the summit
We headed west towards Uganda and it wasn’t long before I saw my first Zebra which was very exciting.
Check out the Zebra
We continued west crossing the equator a few more times including the East Rift valley – we all marvelled at it taking in the views.
“Can I get down now?”
Heading west into Uganda we headed for its capital Cowpala where we stayed for a few days with a great German guy call Julius. It was fun to stop but with Tim getting sick we all worried he may have malaria. After a trip to the doctors and Tim slowly showing signs of improvement and with a few days to get better we headed off. We all continued west to a small village near Bushenyi to meet Horice and Bethan where we would work and play for 2 weeks at a small school for orphaned and other disadvantaged children. It was great to help out and play and give us a great insight into life in Uganda.
“I need more beef this end”
Two weeks came and went so fast and needing to get going we headed south on a dirt road to Rwanda. While I enjoyed the view their little legs struggled up the short steep climbs and down through the steep valleys.
We saw many large horned cows, I don’t know how they got that big. No matter how hard I work out mine just won’t grow. I’m sure they’ve had horn enhancement surgery.
As we got closer to Rwanda the scenery was stunning and we would often stop and take a break to take in the view.
After a short ride we all reached the Rwandan border and the home of the gorilla. Whilst Tim and Sharon helped Hanae get her Rwandan visa I said hello to a few of the locals before heading off through this amazing country.
“Hay you looking at me?”
After a good days ride through Rwanda towards the capital Kigale I got to check out the city in stile
After only a short ride through Rwanda we were at the Tanzania border crossing the great river that separates the 2 countries.
Crossing the border
The hills were steep from the border and while I waited at the top eating grass it gave Sharon and Hanae time to catch up.
Riding on, we all joined the dirt road south west towards Lake Tanganyika. The Road was orangey red with a fine dust that covered all of us. We reached the small town of Kasulu where Tim and Sharon celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and a year from when we had left home with the amazing Helen and Alistair who kindly made a cake for them.
It didn’t take long to eat their cake and the next day we headed to the lake to wait for the Liemba which was a hundred year old ferry. It was great timing as it had been a year since we left Nordkapp to head south.
We were so pleased to be in such a nice place and happy to have made it 1/3 of the way round the world and having covered 11,500 miles and over 132,000 metres of climbing, it was time to relax and look back at our time on the road along with all the help and support from everyone.
Thinking of friends
“ha I look like you”
“Is it safe to go in with crocs around?”
Behind the scenes
Tim was always keen to take pictures of us along the way. We have had so much fun and are all very excited and looking forward to what lies ahead.
Why does he keep saying ‘work it Cowburt work it?’
We all hope you have enjoyed our blogs over the last year and would like to say thank you all for your kindness and support, it’s very mooooving and makes our journey on the road so much easier.
We would also like to say a massive thankyou to everyone who has donated to our ongoing nominated charity ShelterBox who are very grateful for all they have received.
By Cowburt xx
Songs played while writing this post:
I’ve got a brand new combine harvester – The Worzels
Justified Ancients of Moo Moo – The KLF
Milk – Kings of Leon
I want to ride my Bicycle – Queen
Teddy bear – Elvis Presley