OUT OF PRINT

‘Having just cycled a thousand miles across the blowy coastal flatlands of Holland and Germany, I was now in the middle of cycling across Denmark on my way to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, when I suddenly got the idea of cycling there via New Zealand.’

Not perhaps the most direct route in the world. Yet the chance of a cheap lift on a Russian container ship to escape the northern winter was too good an opportunity to miss. Especially when it substituted solitary pedalling with a voyage encompassing two oceans, one Panama Canal and a flotilla of South Pacific islands. And, of course, a cargo of Russian seamen. Surely things don’t come better than that?

But the seemingly straightforward journey has delays and detours and five weeks turns into six, then seven, then eight. While the other passengers are quietly going mad with frustration, Josie develops unusual strategies to cope with the hours of potentially endless tedium on board. It turns into an epic journey of rough seas, clashing personalities and crises in the ship’s engine room, plus an attempt at a daring sea rescue of a heart attack victim on a yacht. The temperature on board reaches boiling point en route to the sultry south and with safety issues, personal disputes and lengthening delays will they actually reach New Zealand before someone jumps ship or is pushed?

This fascinating, funny and sometimes quite moving account of Josie’s experiences at sea is a delight. The tale of a 15,000-mile journey to New Zealand by Russian freighter will enthrall all cyclists and travellers who have ever wondered what it might be like to sail halfway round the world the hard way. It may not be quite as challenging as riding a bike to out-of-the-way places, but, as Josie relates with great wit, perception and unfailing optimism, it’s almost equally rewarding.