Happy xmas from the Fat Kid!

Filed in Ron Rutland by on December 18, 2014 • views: 1989


It’s been a somewhat frustrating couple of weeks seemingly crisscrossing the Mediterranean in order to balance my goal of seeing as much of Africa as possible with that of staying relatively safe; but at the end of the day, as normal, things have a way of working themselves out. With the eastern Algeria door closing, it opened up parts (and countries) in Europe that I would have never had the pleasure (and at times freezing) privilege of riding, and I managed to meet up with friends, old and new, that I would not have managed to had I stuck to the original plan!

Anyway, these will be the last Fat Kid Diaries of 2014…it sounds as if most people (in SA at least) are well into holiday mode, so I’m going to take that lead and take a bit of a break from the diaries (and probably most updates too – as someone mentioned to me the other day, and I quote, “it’s going to be hard to keep people interested while you are in boring Europe”, and although I’m finding it far from boring, I had to appreciate the honesty in his feedback and opinion!).

As I look forward to the stretch ahead towards southern Italy and onto Tunisia, I would like to take this opportunity to send everyone who has anyway supported or followed the story of Lettie’s Ride the best for the xmas holidays and for 2015…what a year we have in store!

Ending: Sat 13 Dec 2014
Starting point: An olive grove near Antequera, southern Spain
Ending point: A ‘basic’ (generous use of the word) hostel in central Toulon, France (country 48 to date) – via Algeria, Spain (again), and Andorra!
Approx. Km’s covered: 1,300km – excluding 2 crossings of the Med, by ferry and, as a last resort, flight respectively.

Some selected highlights:
1.    Safely reaching Algeria, and enjoying a wonderful week cycling along the coast from Ghazaouet to the capital Algiers. The people of Algeria could not have been welcoming, and in an environment in which tourism is struggling to say the least, I certainly felt very ‘appreciated’ with people going out of their way to ensure I stayed safe and enjoyed the country.
2.    The food…on both sides of the Med, the Fat Kid is certainly keeping well fed!
3.    Some of the most spectacular scenery and riding conditions of any stretch to date…the Med coast (both north and south) truly beautiful.
4.    Watching Toulon smash Leicester at home in the European Cup…in the most amazing seats and a unique rugby atmosphere imaginable – the pre match wine and cheese on the harbour’s edge particularly good too!
5.    Crossing the Pyrenees in winter, through Andorra (partially successfully at least)…very memorable.
6.    The ‘bike friendliness’ of Europe…quite a contrast from Africa.
7.    A visit from Jules and Philsie from Zurich, and Rosie in France…brilliant reunions!
8.    Meeting the SA ambassador and the rest of the embassy staff in Algiers, and for the wonderfully homely welcome…and the lessons on foreign policy…wow it’s a complicated world!

Some challenges:
1.    Crossing the Pyrenees in winter!
2.    Night after night of cold, damp camping…after day after day of cool, damp riding.
3.    The free fall of the Rand…is there any end in sight to this nightmare!!
4.    Losing my phone and camera in Toulon…I guess a small price to pay for a brilliant weekend.
5.    Finishing the starters ordered at a Thai restaurant in Toulon after “2 portions of each between the 3 us”, was taken by the waiter to mean “2 portions of each, each”! French a tough language to master – no names mentioned!
The #HumanSpirit moment of the week:
1.    The lengths that the people in Algeria went to to keep me safe and happy…almost stifling at times by the police, but the intentions massively appreciated.
Particular thanks to (as always, in no particular order, and apologies for the inevitable omissions – ESPECIALLY this time as I don’t have my diary with me!):
1.    Joerg and Senia in Algiers, and Syntio in Oran, and the entire staff at your respective Starwood Hotels in Algeria, for the incredibly warm and generous hospitality on my way through. An unbelievable treat after some tough night’s camping either side of my visits.
2.    Jules and Philsie for making the trip out from Zurich to visit the Fat Kid in Toulon, and for taking such good care of ensuring I was fatter after you left!
3.    My cousin Rosie for making the train trip out from her home in central France to visit me for the afternoon in Marseille…a great reunion after so many years.
4.    Janette Dos Santos and her colleagues at the SA embassy in Algiers for their help and advice in keeping me up to date on the security situation in Algeria and surrounding countries.
5.    DHL in Algeria and Spain for facilitating Lettie’s crossing of the Mediterranean.
6.    Nikki Williamson for facilitating the Fat Kid’s ferry crossing of the Med from Spain to Algeria…incredibly appreciated indeed!
7.    Michael Claassens and Bryan Habana for the hospitality, tickets, banter, meals, and for generally ensuring a very memorable visit to Toulon…and Bob Skinstad, Annelee Murray and Piet Dixon in helping out too – the rugby family is really incredible!
8.    The president of Algerian cycling who pulled over to say hello and offer his assistance in “any way whatsoever” for the duration of my visit when he drove past.
Something random I learnt (aka a FFF or ‘Fascinating FatKid Fact’):
1.    Andorra was forgotten when the treaty of Versailles was drawn up after WW2, and thus was technically at war with Germany until 1958 when Andorra declared peace with Germany…(can’t imagine Germany was losing too much sleep about any potential threat from Andorra!!)
What I will try never take for granted again:
1.    Being warm…after many months of dreaming of ice cold water in the deserts and tropical rain forests of Africa, the last few weeks have become all about hot tea and shelter…never ever take a proper house/shelter, and warm food and drink for granted in winter.

Keep in touch:
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Twitter @RonRutland

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