A dramatic stage for Ed Pratt’s great adventure – has he given up – NO – just read his solution – RESPECT!
I WAS ALMOST HIT BY A CAR!
Of course I’m aware of the risks associated with attempting to unicycle around the world. Cyclists (and unicyclists!) are vulnerable on the road and that’s just a fact. There’s always a chance that something might happen when out riding, especially touring when you’re sharing roads with heavy lorries and half-aware drivers 6+ hours a day. But so far on this trip I’ve felt in control or these risks and have done my absolute best to stay out of danger. Be that making myself visible at night with reflective gear and lights or deciding to walk instead of cycling through busy cities. Unfortunately a couple of days ago in Kazakhstan I experienced the danger increase to a point which I found unacceptable and was no longer prepared to risk my safety for the conquest of more milage.
I can’t tell you how happy I was to reach Aktobe. After returning to Kazakhstan and spending the previous 4 days (and 150miles) on rubbish roads, Aktobe marked the point at which smooth asphalt would be the rule until I reached the Kyrgyz border. Unfortunately, on the morning that I was leaving the city and would begin the ride to Kyrgyzstan, I awoke to a couple of inches of snowfall. Not a big deal I decided and after Yerlan, an amazing guy who had welcomed me into his home the night before, had dropped me back at the fuel station (the place I had finished riding the previous day) I mounted on the slightly slushy road and was away!
It was a cold day. According to the forecast it was down to -3, though riding away from the city I was feeling pretty toasty with my 4 layers, hat and 2 pairs of gloves keeping me warm. But while, of course, the freezing temperatures offers a real danger, but the greater threat in these conditions is the water and sludge on the road converting to ice. Just 3 miles after setting off, absolute disaster struck! A hatchback traveling the opposite direction had spun out, crossed the central line and was heading straight towards me! I bailed, left the uni to smash into the ground and ran into the sludge covered bank. Luckily (for me at least) a car had been overtaking me at that exact point and the spinning hatchback instead of connecting with me, doing unthinkable damage to myself and unicycle, instead crashed into the overtaking vehicle.
The aftermath of this incident was a lot of glass, 2 smashed up vehicles and 2 drivers & 1 unicyclist standing around looking a bit shocked. No one was badly hurt, although one guy did limp away from his car. I was incredible lucky not to have sustained any damage, and even luckier that the unicycle was completely fine (apart from extremely minor broken tripod which happened when the uni contacted the ground).
After I had established that no one was badly hurt, I picked up the uni and walked the 300m to the nearby fuel station. After kindly being set up with tea and cake, I sat down to have a serious think. I potentially had another 1000miles of these ice covered road! I felt the risk of a repeat of an incident like this was too high. And I knew that once away from civilisation, the traffic would mainly consist of heavy lorries thundering down the highway. What if one of these lost control? I’d have no chance. Was it really worth risking my life for this ride? Of course the answer to this question is no, so I made the painful decision to pause the ride right there, just 150miles after returning to the country and to continue the tour next year when the road improved. This was an extremely difficult decision to make and I’m still struggling with it slightly, but in this case it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry and, for me, this level of risk was just unacceptable.
So I’m now back in Bishkek after arriving yesterday and plan to spend the winter here and return to Kazakhstan when the roads are less dangerous next year. I may have paused my ride, but that’s not to say the same about this adventure. The excitement now is trying and find somewhere to live and somewhere to earn some money. Once I’m set up here, I have plans to head into the mountains (perhaps with my mountain uni…) and explore the amazing landscape of Kyrgyzstan.
Btw if you live in Bishkek and know of any job opportunities for me, please drop me a line smile emoticon