I would like to introduce you all to Andrew P. Sykes. Andrew is writer, teacher, speaker and long distance cyclist with three fantastic travelogue books about his cycling adventures under his belt. His engaging, informative and humorous style of writing will have you hooked and back onto Amazon (or other equally good book retailers!) to swiftly order Andrew's other books. And you may find yourself with a serious case of wanderlust too!
I had the pleasure of hearing Andrew give a cracking talk at the recent Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe, and he has kindly agreed to answer questions about his latest book, Spain to Norway on a Bike called Reggie (Summersdale, 2017) and maybe a few others thrown in for good measure too!
Lets get started!
Where did the idea for the Spain to Norway cycling adventure come from?
Having already cycled across the continent twice, I was looking for a third and final route to complete the trilogy. Examining the map, the northern parts of Europe were a blank canvas in terms of my travelling so I came up with the idea of cycling from the continent’s southernmost point at Tarifa to its northernmost point at Nordkapp in Norway.
Your book begins by explaining the challenge of reaching the most southerly point of Europe. What happened?
Accessing Tarifa itself is no challenge whatsoever. You can drive or cycle there no problem. But the issue I encountered was that Tarifa is not actually the southernmost point of the continent. There is an ‘island’ attached to Tarifa by a long causeway – that has been there for 200 years – so the real southernmost point of Europe (in my mind at least) is the southern point of the erroneously named ‘island’. Alas the ‘island’ is occupied by the Guardia Civil military police so it took a lengthy exchange of emails before they granted me permission to access the island and set off from what I considered the real southernmost point of the continent.
As touring cyclists, we often attract the attention of others along the way; from questions about our journey, comments about our sanity for cycling such long distances, to acts of wonderful kindness. Is there anyone who stands out from this journey?
Many people stand out; most for good reasons, a handful for less good reasons. I suppose the two people who I will never forget are Hans and Veronika. They were a father and daughter from southern Germany and I met them for the first time very close to the Arctic Circle. They were good company and I continued to bump into them at campsites, cafés and occasionally whilst cycling during he final two weeks of the journey. It was good to see familiar faces as I was nearing the end of the ride and it also meant I had a couple of people with whom I could celebrate upon arrival at Nordkapp.
During this trip, where were the best and worst places you slept? Feel free to adjust names to avoid offending!
The best place I slept in terms of a campsite – and I camped for about two thirds of the time – was probably the remote Norwegian island of Andøya near the town of Bleik. A wonderfully atmospheric place next to a sandy beach with mountains in the distance. It was just about as good a place to camp as you could find. The worst place to camp? I wasn’t a great fan of the campsite in the forest just outside Montargis in France. It was far too creepy for my liking.
What was the funniest situation you found yourself in?
There are many funny situations and hopefully these come across in the book. Very often the situation isn’t that funny at the time but when you look back upon it, it was quite comical. Running over a Japanese tourist in Paris? (It was entirely her fault…) Being attacked by a rough-legged buzzard in Norway? Taking pictures of the signs in wonderfully named Båstad in Sweden? (The Båstad School, The Båstad Police…)