Having a farewell party the day before leaving may not have been the most sensible of options. I accepted the hangover as the first of many self-inflicted punishments I’ll be experiencing over the coming months and was grateful that the weather was on my side as a small group of friends joined me for the 50km ride to the ferry port.

My departure from Japan 4 years before had been a much quieter affair. I merely waved off a few friends and cycled down to the port to wait for the next boat to Korea. There was no big send off and few people knew about my intended plan to cycle home to England. It seemed easier not telling people in case they tried to convince me otherwise.

This time I was leaving family and friends, and with it a greater sense of comfort and familiarity in my surroundings. Some had already expressed great admiration and respect at what I was doing, others appeared somewhat worried at the thought of me riding a bicycle through Africa. Many other people I’d spoken to about my plans, be they colleagues at work or members of the local squash club I’d become a member of, had perhaps been a little confused. I lost count a long time ago of the number of times I’ve been asked the ‘why’ question.

A small gathering of people came to wave me off at 1pm on Sunday August 16th. They were mostly residents from the village and members of the local WI I’d spoken to a few months previously.

The goodbye hugs and the actual pedalling out of the drive all seemed a little surreal as I headed towards the town of Dorchester. It hadn’t really sunk in that I’d now left home with no clear idea of when I’d be back. ‘About a year’, is a common reply I’ve given to many people who’ve asked how long it will take to cycle to Cape Town. Realistically I have no idea. It’s impossible to say. ‘As long as it takes’ would have been a more accurate reply.

Poole isn’t England’s most scenic harbour town to say farewell to home soil from. I chose a pub along the quay and sat in the sun to enjoy the last few pints. It might also have been the last English conversation for a while, but fortunately I had some company to look forward to during my first week on the road.