Ashes 2017 Adventure : From England to Australia by road and sea | Sunday Observer

Ashes 2017 Adventure : From England to Australia by road and sea

Ed Miller trying to get a lift during his journey
Ed Miller trying to get a lift during his journey

Ed Miller, an England high-school teacher, travelled to Australia for the Ashes using only land and sea routes.

At a restaurant in Yangzhou, Ed Miller is called over to the next table by friendly Chinese men. They want him to try out some meat. Peals of laughter erupt as he obliges them and he discovers he had just gulped down pig’s penis. It was par for course for the high-school teacher Miller, who had set out on a crazy trip from England to watch the Ashes — No flights, only by land or water, and it took him 117 days to reach Australia..

A treacherous trek in Austria that got out of control, friendly Russians, scammed in China, sleeping in a room with 119 people in Luxemburg, inking an ancient bamboo tattoo at midnight in Thailand, traveling on the trans-Siberian railway, clueless in Ukraine, robbed in Frankfurt, eating bony snakes in Cambodia, and stranded in Bali – it’s been an epic journey.

The roots of the journey, rather the decision to donate the money raised to Oddballs foundation who deal with testicular cancer, goes back eight years.. A lump in his testicles resulted in a fretful week of scans that led to a surgery and a ball was removed. “One ball down, I have been able to live my life to the full since,” he says.

Miller teaches business studies at high-school — first in London and for the last three years for an international school in Dubai. He took a year’s break in July, and inspired by the travel-adventure shows in UK, he decided that he would skip flights. 34, and single, and finding no friend crazy enough, he decides to wing it alone. So far so good.

The first hurdle comes a mere 10 days into the trip in Austria on a hill. What was planned as a gentle 4-hour trek turns into a nightmare as a storm builds up. “I rush down to the river which I have to cross to get to safety but find it dangerously flooded. After a fretful sleep in a cabin, I trek back up hill, in soaked shorts and t-shirt — I hadn’t packed for a long trip, plod over snow-topped 3000-metre high hill, and walk downhill the other side to get to land.”

At some stage, he wonders the mind throws up scary news of lost travelers, but he somehow makes it to land instead of the news item in Daily Mail – English teacher trapped in Austrian snow.

Moscow. Stereotypes float in Miller’s mind: Cold, angry, unfriendly, severe people. Turns out he couldn’t have been more wrong. Donald Trump would be pleased. Miller takes the Trans-Siberian rail, a childhood dream of his, and is stunned by the ever-changing landscape as it weaves out east from Moscow, all the way to Mongolia. A seven-day journey.

“I get out every now and then of course to take in the sights. Small little things: like this one time I was sharing a cabin with three Russians, and one of them got down with me at a station, and walked me all the way to a taxi, spoke in Russian and made sure I got to the hotel safe. The people generally seemed happy to see tourists, and were always cheerful.”

Being an Englishman in China seems to be like moths to fire. He is dragged into strangers’ selfies, and of course that pig on plate. “Not tasty I must say. It was rubbery!” In Cambodia, he also tastes snakes: “Very bony, not much meat”.

Travelogues like this sound great on paper, or in documentaries, but there would have been lonely evenings out there? “Yes, after all, I am travelling alone, and sometimes in countries where they don’t speak English. Sometimes, you want company and get bored – luckily I am a person comfortable being alone. That really helps in journeys like this.”

Perhaps, he should have chosen to be alone in China, where he met a lot of friendly people in general but was scammed at a tea-house. Endless tea-cups later, the “guide” who took him to a few parks tricked him into paying bills he wasn’t supposed to. Or that time in Frankfurt hostel where he lost 120Euros. Nothing unusual in a journey like this.

As the journey wound across to Thailand, he decided to get a ‘Sak yant bamboo tattoo’ he had planned 10 months back. It dates back 2000 years to monks who etch designs with bamboo, and supposedly gives magic powers, luck, and protection from evil. “I will get back to you in the future to tell you whether it works!”

The last leg from Bali to Australia proved the toughest as he couldn’t find any transport but eventually coaxed a cruise ship to take him aboard, and finally, he landed in Darwin before driving on to Brisbane for the first Test.

“The feeling of making it was amazing. It also felt strange as there was also this feeling that this is it, it’s all over I am glad that I have cricket to come out to, I get to stay and enjoy it — as a treat to myself for finishing.” Considering how the first day went, the Englishman who went up the hill and came back down a mountain might just enjoy the next month down under.