Summary of Project Overland

This is officially the final post of Project Overland, hip hip, hooray! Just thought I’d add a quick summary to answer everyone’s unspoken questions about money.

Where did we go?

See the table below for a full breakdown, but we visited 20 different countries on our trip if you include Scotland. We spent an average of two weeks in each country but it varied a lot, a maximum of (I think) 87 days in France and a minimum of 3 days in Switzerland. I was getting keen to draw a box and whisker graph with this data but then realised it probably isn’t interesting enough to justify it.

A screenshot from maps.me, each pin represents a place we stayed overnight in Europe

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SCOTLAND!!!!

As our train chugged its way up the east coast of the UK, I was closely following the little blue dot on Google Maps that represented our position. Slowly but surely it made its way toward the Scottish-English border. I was briefly distracted by the coastal scenery and when I looked back at my phone…

Andy! We’re in Scotland!

We’ve made it!

I must say, Andy was pleased but not quite at my four-exclamation-marks level of excitement. He went back to listening to his podcast.

I can’t honestly tell you if this photo was taken in England or Scotland

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In the steps (and seats) of great physicists

The easiest way to get our bikes into central London was, as always, just to ride them. We picked a slightly longer route which followed the last little bit of the official Avenue Verte, it was actually pretty good cycling into the city on one of the ‘cycle superhighways’ (I love that phrase, I feel like I must bike at least several kilometres per hour faster when I’m on one just because of the name). Then we hit the city. Around Buckingham Palace the cycle lane somehow jumped across three lanes of traffic to go around a roundabout against the flow of the traffic. I will reserve overall judgement on cycling in London but based on our small experience I would say that there are some great cycle paths but also some high-risk, high-traffic linking sections. Happily we made it to the train station with no issues.

Bye bye London

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A week in London

In London we were staying with Andy’s friends Sam and Nicole who lived in the suburb of Tooting. They shared a flat with eight other people, including I think three other kiwis but honestly I struggled to keep track of who lived there. We were doing the classic kiwi thing, sleeping in their lounge.

Tooting turned out to be full of different ethnic restaurants and we quickly managed to tick another item off our Typical English Food list – an Indian curry. Various flatmates enthusiastically recommended Mirch Masala which is allegedly the favourite restaurant of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London. I briefly tried to fact check this and couldn’t conclusively confirm that it was his favourite, but it was pretty delicious and the first proper Indian food we’d had in a long time.

For our first day in London we eschewed the central city and instead went for a walk/run to Richmond Park which is home to 630 deer. That’s right, there are herds of deer roaming around a London Park. It’s so epic. We were there during the roar (mating season) and it was the first time I’d been able to watch deer while they were booming or roaring or grunting or whatever it’s called. It was fascinating watching some of the male deer protecting their harems. Such a cool park.

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Cycling to London

We took it really easy cycling from Seaford to London. It wasn’t very far but we tried to delay our arrival to be closer to the weekend when we figured more of our friends would be available. Then the weather was kind of average which dissuaded us from moving quickly. We ended up taking a full day off after each day of cycling, although some of the cycling days were surprisingly difficult. The South Downs are pretty hilly and some of the tracks were quite muddy. Andy finally reaped the benefits of his mudguards while without any protection my bags and I got splattered. Mudguards: 1, Brittany: 0.

Nothing particularly exciting happened so I am going to try out a picture-based blog post. That’s a legitimate technique right?

Layering issues as we leave Seaford in average weather, jacket on or jacket off?

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The best Airbnb in the world

England! The land of our forefathers! The homeland! We had made it.

Our initial welcome consisted of the immigration officer giving me a massive grilling. How long are you going to stay? How will you support yourself? Are you planning to undertake any work, paid or unpaid?

Entering the UK with a stream of campervans and freight trucks

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Cycling out of France

Our plan for the next week or so was to cycle from Paris to London along the Avenue Verte which is a 406km long cycle route. We started cycling from our Paris apartment at about midday and it felt like we continued cycling through Paris’ suburbs for the whole afternoon. The areas we passed became cheaper-looking and more industrial as we pedalled but it never really felt like we left the city. We ended up in a campsite only 20 minutes by train from the centre of town which didn’t feel like a lot of progress. However the first day had been surprisingly challenging after a month’s break from cycling.

A sign! We’re officially on the Avenue Verte!

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In search of Vermeer

The next morning we went to take a look at Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica which we could hardly miss when they were so close to our apartment. The basilica was impressive and the view of Paris from the hilltop was pretty but it was insanely crowded. I was also a bit thrown when we passed through a group of guys who wanted to give us bracelets “for Africa” and physically grabbed us as we tried to go past. I’m sure Andy was wondering why I had brought us to such a busy, touristy spot.

Sacre Coeur + tourists

Once we wandered over the other side of the hill, however, we were able to appreciate why Montmartre is such a famous part of the city. The buildings were all very old and pretty, you could see views in the opposite direction and there was even a small vineyard. We happened to be able to eavesdrop on a guided tour group and learnt that they do indeed make wine there but apparently it is very expensive and doesn’t actually taste that good. It seemed like people buy it more as a collector’s item than anything. Each to their own.

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A couple of classic Parisian activities

Our train into Paris arrived late morning and had a bit of a cycle to our Airbnb apartment in the 9th arrondissement. To pass the time until check in we stopped in a park partway to sit and read our books. We also spotted a local Parisian mouse. We were sitting in front of some garden beds and every 30 seconds or so it would scurry from one side to the other. We must have looked a bit crazy, sitting there reading and not talking to each other but both cracking up laughing every 30 seconds.

The first native Parisian we encountered

Our apartment was on the 6th floor and serviced by the tiniest elevator I have ever seen. Which was an appropriate prelude to our tiny apartment, all nine square metres of it. When I first opened the door all I could do was laugh, it was just so small.

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And relax…

With the combination of the Tour du Ruan and the Tour du Mont Blanc, Andy had just completed 18 consecutive days of hiking. I had done the same except for my two-day break in Geneva. We really needed a break.

As much as we liked our hotel in Les Houches, we (especially me) were pretty keen to leave the Chamonix Valley. We scouted around on Airbnb and ended up booking a place that was really cheap in the town Passy, right next to St Gervais Les Bains which is only just out of the valley. We caught the train and cycled to the apartment which was the lower storey of a French lady’s house. It was pretty sweet setup and we spent the next two nights there doing very little. It was exciting to be able to cook in a proper kitchen (with a gas stove even) and we were able to get through our mountain of laundry. A washing machine has very quickly made it onto our list of non-negotiables when looking for Airbnb houses.

Somehow whenever we have access to a proper kitchen we always end up making nachos

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Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc: Part 3

Our first day in Switzerland was also meant to be the easiest day of the TMB. Most of it was sidling or downhill. Although everyone’s knees might have been a bit happier if there was a bit less downhill. We stocked up on food in La Fouly then kept heading down the valley. Along the way we passed the same kiwi couple that I had met while walking backwards a few days earlier. When we passed them for the second time a while later the guy asked “is that Brittany?” It turned out to be Dan who had gone to the same hall of residence as me. With our sunglasses and hats on, neither of us had recognised the other, although I had been thinking that his voice sounded eerily familiar. Dan had also been cycle touring so it was great to catch up and compare notes.

We came out of the bush and passed through a cute little Swiss village that appeared to be deserted except for several old men, each sitting by themselves in their front yards. My personal highlight was the property with an extraordinary number of garden gnomes.

Two of the many gnomes

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