Our reason for coming to Germany is essentially a sad one. Whilst planning our journey home back in Chengdu we received an e-mail form Reinhard, a traveller we met in Bishkek, a fellow inmate at Nomad's Home back in 2008 where he celebrated his 62nd birthday. We got on well with him and stayed in touch with occasional e-mail. He wrote telling us that he had been diagnosed with cancer and did not have long to live. He would be very pleased if we could visit him. And we said yes. And so we arrive at his home in Duren, where we stay a few days and spend time with him and his family. It's a strange experience for us - Reinhard, his wife and children and their families are going through a very painful and difficult time - but at the same time it is also a very special experience and we are treated with such kindness and hospitality by everyone.
Life suddenly seems all too short and yet it is clear Reinhard has lived a very full and happy life. He tells us that he wrote to an old school friend living abroad who had come to visit. We said we thought it was quite unusual to receive his request that we visit and with a smile and a gleam in his eye he replied how unusual it was that we had agreed to come.
After saying goodbye to Marie-Luisa and Reinhard everything else seems inconsequential. We had planned a slow return home but suddenly want to see our families. On our way we make fleeting stops to visit Jeff and Else in Antwerp, Marthein and Eun Yung in Breda, Martine and Guy in Wuurstwezel (am I making that name up?) and Friedel and Andrew in Den Haag. It's good to see these friends that we have made on this journey and we hope they don't mind us passing through so briefly.
It takes three and a half day's cycling to get from Harwich to Manchester. The next day we cycle to Oxton. Along the way we are hosted by a friendly family in Harwich, Phil in Cambridgeshire, Chris and Anna near Loughborough and Margaret and Mike in Macclesfield, where there is a Silk Road. As any scholar could have told us - there's more than one.............