It's pretty much safe to say that we have not prepared for this trip at all.
This summer has been a complete whirlwind, what with a wriggly new puppy to care for, various business trips every week that barely sees one of us at home, and a move to a new flat to contend with.
The last month of our lives has looked something like this:
When we were gearing up to go touring in Burma at the beginning of the year, that was us at the peak of our organisation. Extensive research done on the landscape and potential route. Rides on our turbo trainer three times a week. Hours spent discussing the supplies we'd need. Test packing and careful consideration of each item we'd take with us.
This time around? We've thrown the baby in with the bathwater and are hoping for the best.
Neil has family in Belfast, and because we'll be starting and ending our trip there, we're able to pack Samson into proper bike boxes this time (one half per box) and leave them in storage for when we finish the loop. This will cushion his travel and hopefully mitigate any of the gremlins that plagued us in Burma. So that's a plus.
Northern Ireland's weather is notoriously variable, and as a result, we've packed a combination of winter and summer kit. Thermals and waterproof clothing to shield us from the wind and rain, and typical bib shorts and tops in the optimistic hope that there will be some sun. But really, it doesn't matter what the forecast says - expect the opposite. And clouds.
Regarding tools and supplies, we are taking only the necessaries - multitool, spare inner tubes (of which only one is unused and two are patched because we didn't have time to get new ones), coupling grease, chain oil, and a 15mm wrench for our pedals. That's it.
We're not travelling to the middle of nowhere like we did with Burma. Northern Ireland has infrastructure, and thanks to an increasing cycling culture (in part, due to the 2014 Giro d'Italia which started in Belfast), we'll most likely find and buy what we need.
In the absolute worst case scenario, someone can pick us up and take us where we need to go. We won't be stranded. And because we can speak the language, it'll be a lot easier for us to communicate our issues and find help.
Here we go!