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The Tourist Dash

Posted February 2nd, 2009

The Opera House seen from a ferryNo sooner has our plane touched down in Sydney than it feels like it’s taking off again.

Our six days on Australia’s east coast go by in a flash as we do the tourist dash between the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, from the historic Rocks district to flashy Darling Harbour and countless neighbourhoods all around the city.

We buy a bus, train and ferry pass to do all this running around and when the cashier asks for A$125 in return, we can’t help but miss our trusty, economical bicycles. This backpacking malarky gets expensive quickly! Either that or travelling by bike has just made us very, very cheap indeed. Since we still tend to compare everything to the cost of a 50-cent iced coffee in Thailand, maybe it’s the latter.

But really, we can’t complain and we certainly can’t feel hard done by when we arrive at Dave and Nancy’s flat. They quickly get added to our list of the world’s most wonderful people (even if Dave does tease us about putting everything ‘on the invoice’) and during our visit we’re treated to many fantastic meals and cycling chatter. Dave also points out that we’re lucky enough to be staying in a flat with an Ocean View, which is mostly true, if you squint and look really hard at the dip in the landscape on a clear day. (more…)

Goodbye Tassie, hello Sydney

Posted January 27th, 2009

171km Westbury to Launceston and Devonport

Andrew and PatThree years on the road. That’s what our trip is quickly shaping up to. We reckon we’ll hit the 3-year mark just as we approach Montreal in September and complete one zig-zaggy loop of the globe.

It’s a dream for so many people, this kind of extended travel, and yet it never seems quite enough. There’s always the next deadline pushing us onward. Visas. Seasons. Money. They all send us scurrying along to the next destination before we really feel we’ve discovered the one we’re in.

And so it was with Tasmania. Just 3-1/2 short weeks after we landed we were back on the boat, rocking and rolling over the Bass Strait and trying not to feel queasy on one of the world’s roughest crossings.

“This doesn’t bode very well for our cargo ship voyage,” we said to each other as we put our heads down on the sofa for yet another nap, doped up on motion sickness pills and still feeling a bit wobbly. The doctor in Hobart who filled in our fit-to-travel forms told us most people don’t get seasick for more than 3 days. Our trip to New Zealand by boat will only be a week at most so 36 hours of seasickness is something we’re definitely hoping to avoid!

Here comes PatWe pondered this across the waters and then landed back in Melbourne, where we found Pat waiting for us with his racing bike, ready to escort us to our new temporary home. We met Pat in Tasmania and he generously offered us a room when we returned to the North Island (as the Tasmanians call it).

That was Saturday and for the last 3 days Pat’s given us the whirlwind tour to his backyard. We’ve been up in the Dandenong Mountains, had a barbecue with friends, got beaten playing bowling on Wii by 4-year-old Carlo (Friedel is still holding out hopes for a rematch) and checked out Melbourne on Australia Day.

Thanks Pat! How did we ever get so lucky to meet all of Australia’s best citizens?

Now it’s off to Sydney for a few days in the famous city (an air journey this time, the bikes are staying in Melbourne) before coming back here for our ship out. Phew! By the time we hit the road again in another 3 weeks or so, we’ll no doubt be out of shape and puffing up those first few Kiwi hills. All that training in wild and windy Tasmania gone to waste…

Bliss in every moment

Posted January 19th, 2009

271km Hobart to Westbury

Mike, the best campsite owner in Tasmania“There is pure bliss in each moment: find it…”

Those words came our way some weeks back as we read John’s journals about cycling from England to Australia. We thought it wise advice for dealing with those inevitable frustrations that affect all of us occasionally. Cycling into a headwind. Feeling tired. Stressed about things you can’t control.

“There’s a silver lining here somewhere,” we’ve often said to each other in difficult moments. After all, as one particularly calm and collected Tasmanian said to us recently: “If I stress and worry about something I don’t get the time back at the end of my life. I’d better just enjoy myself in the first place.”

And so it was that we were trying to ‘find the bliss’ as we headed out of Hobart. We had our plans and then the weather had its plans. It didn’t take long to figure out who was going to win. We struggled on through headwinds and rain, punctuated by occasional sunny moments, but our resolve broke when we stopped for lunch on the second day of miserable weather. (more…)

Meet a legend

Posted January 10th, 2009

609km – Gowrie Park to Hobart

So wonderfulIt’s a brave man who’ll show up for a bike ride with two people he’s never met before, willing to take on whatever comes his way. Meet Frank – just such a guy.

You’d think the cold breezes of Tasmania alone would have been enough for anyone from balmy Queensland to go running for the first plane home but Frank put up with the bracing weather and everything else these two Canadians could throw at him.

Frank and his flagA 100km ‘day trip’ to Cradle Mountain? No problem. Want to go bush camping, Frank? Sure. Cycling into a headwind under rainy skies? Frank was game. Even when the days stretched into early evening and ended with impossibly steep hills, Frank just kept his legs spinning around without complaint – and he didn’t have the benefit of two year’s training beforehand!

Frank even found time between the climbing and dubious weather to teach us a few Aussie words. “Oh, they’re having a domestic,” we say now when we see a couple having a fight. And an easy day on the road is now a bludge of a ride. Not only that but the man cooks a mean wallaby curry (yes, really, we ate wallaby) and can be trusted to have the coffee going at 5am.

What a legend.

Here comes the legendWe tried to convince Frank to keep going with us but instead he insisted on going back to work (did we tire him out that quickly?) and seeing his family. He kept on talking about a soak in the bathtub. Must have been all those hills that finally brought on a case of aching muscles after 620km and 8 straight days of riding.

We understand but we were sad to seem him go. When we left Hobart for a trip to Bruny Island on Saturday morning, we felt the team was incomplete. Frank, come back! Team Wallaby misses you.

A glamour shot

Posted January 5th, 2009

100km – Cradle Mtn – Gowrie Park

Power cycling!With such a beautiful backdrop, we couldn’t resist taking a ‘glamour shot’ at Dove Lake, with Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain in the background.

The picture was taken to celebrate 35,000km on our bikes – a milestone we just passed in the last few days.

This is how you throw your back out, we thought as we grinned stupidly and posed for the photo….