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Touring and Hiking the Heaphy Trail in New Zealand

A ride from Greymouth to Hamilton along the west coast. This included a flight from Nelson to Wellington. There is no road around the NW corner of the South Island. But there is a walking track that takes 4 days. We had the bikes bussed around. This was our fifth New Zealand tour and I am sure there will be another. It is such a good country to tour on a bike.

Having flown into CHC, stayed at the airport Jucy Pods, bussed across the island on Atomic Coaches, stocked up at the Four Square, we are heading north 200km before the start of the walk. In Karamea we stay at the Last Resort and the Heaphy Bus Co picks up our bikes and panniers there to take them the 425km by road to the other end of the Heaphy. On the ride to Karamea we have the extra luggage of backpacks and hiking boots.

We are on the Heaphy now. The first day is coastal with amazing palms flowering and wonderful views. The idea of including one of New Zealand’s Great Walks in a bike tour is looking good.

New Zealand prides itself on being so “natural” however most native forests were ripped out and many other disastrous things happened (including at the hands of the Maori 600 years ago). Along the Heaphy though, things are as they were.

The Dept of Conservation (DOC) runs several huts. You have to book well in advance. It means you only need to carry sleeping bag and pillow and food and water during the day. This is Saxon Hut, leaving in the morning.

A side-track to one of the lookouts.

Weka. Watch out for your food!

Love the Heaphy Bus Company. They arrived on Schedule after we arrived from Brown Hut. We put the bikes together and continued North on gravel and then tar.

Riding down the Aorere Valley to Collingwood.

Bike friendly. Press the button and traffic behind you gets warning lights for a few minutes. This is in the Golden Bay region, arguably the best in New Zealand. A bit isolated because there is only one road in and that is over the scary Takaka Hill.

We’ve been over the hill before so this time we are going round it.

There are a lot of eels in New Zealand although there used to be more. Their lifecycle is amazing. When they are decades old they swim out from rivers to the ocean and to the tropics where they breed and die. The fertilized larvae float back on the ocean surface. They grow and swim back up rivers into small streams like this.

A land of plentiful berry fruits at roadside stalls.

Approaching Nelson. We will fly tomorrow. A few years ago, when riding in this area, I went to the airport to ask if they carried bike cartons and they did. Today on the way into town, I check again and yes, they have stock.

On the North Island now. Heading around to Whanganui and passing cycle tourers regularly.

The cows dutifully line up to be milked.

Often licked. Never beaten.

Mt Taranaki, close to New Plymouth. It is a first time for me to see this corner of New Zealand.

Heading up the Awakino Valley. This region is quiet and beautiful. These days mainly beef cattle and sheep.

Wild turkeys. There have been several rafters over the last few hundred kms.

After coming out of this valley we will be in Hamilton, and at the end of another great bike tour.

Fixing Broken Pedals for the Locals in Odisha, India

A ride in northern Odisha. We landed at Vizasg, the only international airport in the region. We used the train system to get to Bhubaneswar and back. The focus was in the forested and tribal hill areas of Odisha State.

The vibrancy of the street sellers tells us we are really in India again. It is such a stimulating and amazing country.

A farmer uses a water lift to manage the level in his paddy.

Check out how much load is on this rickshaw at the markets.

We pass herds of cattle as we head inland.

With another rice harvest done and the grain threshed out, the straw is being carted to haystacks.

A fish trap.

There are lots of ways that grain is threshed in India and often in a given area one way is favoured. Around here it is the cattle-drawn heavy log-roller. We see them every day. The roller is pulled round and round in circles.

Heavy load passing.

Making an enclosure to either keep animals in or out. Natural materials being woven through sticks dug into the ground.

The never ending transportation of firewood on bicycles. One of so many shots like this I’ve taken on this trip.

When touring in poorer areas of India I carry pedals to replace the broken pedals so many of these local bikes have.

Beautiful pastoral scenes. Classic India.

The man in this picture met us on a road 50km out of Cuttack and asked us to stay at his humble home in Cuttack (where we were headed). Words can’t express how gracious and kind he and his family were.

At the train station in Cuttack. The regulation is that bikes have the handlebars covered and a reference number and destination is painted on the wrapping. When you arrive, you wait for your bike at the luggage depot. The bikes don’t necessarily even come on the same train. Once they even came the next day!

These are the same boys that washed my bike in Vizag last year. They were so stoked that I came back. They did a great job.

Looking for Phantom India in 1978

In 1978 a six month, 5,000km tour of Sri Lanka and India. Inspired by Louis Malle’s groundbreaking six-hour documentary, Phantom India. Noel and Danny started searching for it. We started in Colombo and followed the coast around to Hambantota. Then up the east coast to Trinco. The east coast had just been hit by a typhoon and coconut palms were on the ground like match sticks. There were no bridges north of Batticaloa and we used canoes 13 times. From Trinco to Anuradhapura then north through Elephant Pass to Jaffna. The peninsular was later closed for decades so it was special to be touring there. Then down to Talaimannar to get the boat over the Palk Strait to India.

Sri Lanka was to be our preparation for India but from day one we were blown away by the difference coming from a mainly Buddhist society to a Hindu/Muslim and poorer one. We had no particular plan and made it as we went. Firstly we rode across Tamil Nadu and Kerala to Cochin on the Malabar coast. Then up inland to the Ooty hill station and back through Salem and Erode to the east coast and Pondicherry which where there was an alternative commune. Then up to Madras as it was called, staying at Broadlands in Triplicane.

Summer had arrived. Dan got the train to Bombay and I rode up to Hyderabad myself. A few weeks later we found each other in Hyderabad by leaving messages at the Poste Restante. It was unspeakably hot. We got the train up to Nagpur to reassess. It was still too hot so we got the train to Delhi. From there we started riding again, across the plains to Chandigarh. Now the mountains began, and we first got to Shimla. From there we went on to the Kulu Valley reaching Manali. As we rode up that valley there were people lining the road cheering us on, possibly as the first cycle tourers to arrive in the region.

The journey started with us driving across Australia to Perth. The flight was Perth-Negombo. This shot was at the Eucla sand dunes.

Off we go. Notice the gallon water container on the back. We were boiling all of our water and eventually carrying two gallons each (9l).

It is a very steady pace of life on the road.

The Sri Lankan coast is picturesque.

Another fishing village. Everything depends on coconut. The huts are thatched with the fronds. The structures are all in the timber. The rope is coir from the husk. Cooking oil is coconut. Pittu (coconut and rice) is a main dish.

Danny with a fisherman.

The wharf at Talaimannar taken from the boat. The bikes were hauled up the side of the boat with ropes.

We were bowled over by the intensity of India. We developed the term “India Shock” to describe what the initial immersion into India is like. As months went by we came to feel at home here. I cried when I eventually left, five months later on another boat (Madras to Singapore).

Along the road. Many of the roads were very rough and at one point I broke my steel seatpost just from the constant hammering.

The mighty Kaveri. In the dry season the big rivers virtually stop running. The women and kids are there doing the washing.

We are arriving at the western ghats. The Indians call them hills but the passes are mostly between 1,500 and 2,000m.

Noel at 26 years of age.

The canals around Alleppey (later renamed Alappuzha) in Kerala.

In Old Cochin these fishing nets are lowered into the water and when fish are seen to swim across them the nets are quickly raised up.

In the Keralan town of Nilambur we are taken in by this family. They were so kind.

Elephants are in widespread use on the west coast, especially to handle the very heavy teak logs.

OK for the brave. Cobras are quite common but of course are deaf so playing the pipe is just for atmosphere.

Climbing the ghat road up to Ooty.

Coming down and heading east it is classic India.

As we ride across the Deccan the pastoral scenes are beautiful. Here the rice is being winnowed. When there is a breeze, they climb up on stands and slowly tip out the grain so that the husks and straw are blown aside.

There is always a sense of commonality when you are touring in countries where people walk and cycle. We are in it together.

In the big smoke! This is central Madras. Notice that the cars (mostly they are taxis) are all Ambassadors. India had bought an old car factory from England and almost every car in the country was an Ambassador.

Looking out from the verandah at Broadlands Lodge. We hired two rooms (one just for the bikes) and stayed a week. Broadlands at the time was an institution for hippy travellers in South India. In former times it had been a harem connected to the mosque behind there.

Charminar in Hyderabad. The ride from Madras to Hyderabad was tough because of the heat. I would start at 4am. Riding trough towns there were lines of people sleeping on both sides of the street. No one would sleep inside as it was just too hot. I would hire a room and leave the bike inside and sleep on the footpath. Every 10km or so I’d stop at a well and dump a bucket of water on my head. It would be 40 degrees by 9am. This is when I learned to only go to India in the winter.

Out the window in Hyderabad. 1978.

On the train to Nagpur. Here we ran out of film and were unable to get more. We had the whole of North India ahead.

Testing a Hebie Chainglider in Germany, Austria

A ride in Germany and Austria solely on bike paths. We started in Stuttgart and caught the train to Nagold and rode down the river to where it meets the Enz and then back into Stuttgart. There we caught the train to Nuremberg and followed the paths along the Regnitz and the Main canal, through Bamburg. We then got the train to Passau and rode the Danube path to Vienna.

Southern Germany has lots of huge farm sheds covered in solar panels. I love that.

Odd but worth a photo!

Bamburg is a gorgeous city. I passed through a few years earlier and am lucky to be able to come through again. Cycling paradise.

There are paths to take you anywhere you want. It is SO good.

I did the rounds of the bike shops in Bamburg and got a Hebie Chainglider fitted. The uncovered chain was ok but rain eventually made it squeak. Plus it is a bit dirty.

How civilized! At the traffic lights there is a hand-hold so you don’t need to take your feet out of the clips.

Over on the Danube going South. It must be great to live around here. The facilities for bikes are so good.

This group of riders is from Oregon. They bought a package that included hire bikes and accommodation. But that meant they rode all day yesterday in the rain whereas we, with no bookings, ducked into a hotel mid-morning and stayed.

For much of the Danube path you can ride on either side of the river.

Vienna is fantastic. It is so easy to ride around. Lots of tourists but you get absorbed by the city.

The city was not smashed in the wars. The architecture is beautiful.

Near to the city is the Schonbrunn Palace, the base of the Habsburg Empire. The empire was so secure that they could have their palace in the country, without fortifications.

My bike posing before packing at Vienna airport. My policy of carrying a small packing knife paid off as the only cartons available were massive and needed to be substantially cut-down. I’m very happy with the Hebie Chainglider.

Discovering Rail Trails in Western Europe

Riding from Amsterdam to Bodensee in Southern Germany. This tour crosses Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxemburg and Germany. I have put drop bars onto my Rohloff test bike and later call it the Swabia model. I’m riding with no paper maps and no digital maps. Just a compass and watching for signs that might help. Due to this navigational restriction, the 850km took me 1,200 but it was interesting and fun. The ride overall was most memorable for the navigation challenge plus discovery of the Vennbahn in Belgium and the canal paths west of Strasbourg.

Out of Amsterdam airport. I only slept one night in the city and next morning zigzagged past very Dutch scenes trying to find straight SE lines when massive canals caused me to often go sideways

Near Maastricht in the SE of the Netherlands I strike some long paths heading just the way I want.

Yesterday I had glimpsed cyclists occasionally through gaps in vegetation and today discovered they were on a long bike path, the Vennbahn, (a rail trail) in SE Belgium. Now I am off the highway.

Rail Trails are always good, but this is the best I’ve come across. I may be the only person to ride it that did not even know of its existence. It happens to be running just the way I want to go.

Classic. The tunnel reminds me of the trail at Newcastle (NSW) and the Rimutaka in New Zealand (another trail I found by pure chance).

No pedestrians and no horses so you can really zoom along.

This trail is only 125km but every bit is a delight.

After passing through Luxemburg, Metz and Nancy I head for Strasbourg. At Saverne I arrive at another region of extensive bike paths. These are along the canals on the French side of the Rhine.

The canals of course have lots of locks. They are ideal for bike tourism and are well used by both boats and bikers.

After Strasbourg there is a fantastic new-looking bike bridge across the Rhine. Germany is on the other side.

The networks of bike paths in Germany is so extensive. I can just head in my south easterly direction and be guaranteed of being on off-road paths most of the time.

This is the Danube quite near its source. I am running a chain on a Rohloff hub. I’m trying out a steerer-mounted accessory-bar as the shift-lever mounting position. There has been a bit of rain and the chain is getting noisy.

Down in the south of Germany I’m in the land of massive farm sheds built to catch the sun on huge solar roofs.

Approaching Bodensee, the apples and hops begin. Feels like home. I dub this new drop bar bike the “Swabia”.

The Reassuring Avalanche Fortifications of Japan

A ride in southern Hokkaido and northern Honshu, following on from our 2014 ride in Hokkaido. We didn’t start with a detailed plan but the basic idea has been to go south from Chitose, check out some of the high snowfall areas, figure out how to use the ferries to and from Honshu, get better at working out the hotels and start to explore Honshu.

Half way to Otaru and the coast road has big fortifications against avalanches. Very reassuring.

The fortifications against the sea are extensive and substantial. Must be expensive too. This is just in a small town.

The guy with the whipper snipper has two helpers. One with a sign warning motorists (and cyclists) and one holding a frame with a big bit of shade cloth to stop anyone getting hurt. Perhaps this is why Japan has full employment.

The Japanese manually pollinate their fruit due to an absence of European bees. There is a hornet in Japan which makes it very uncommon for a bee colony to survive. An individual hornet can kill forty European honey bees in a single minute. Apples and other fruit can cost over $5 a piece.

Happy Drug. There are also Real Drug, Super Drug and Sapporo Drug. Probably more. These are a retail “category” we don’t have (yet) in Australia.

A hearse.

Heading from Akita on the west coast across to Miyako on the east coast takes two days, each over 100km and each with lots of tunnels. About 40 all up. This is the entrance to Sengan Tunnel which measures 2,544m. They are scary but mainly because of the noise. You just don’t know where things are. It can sound like they are right behind you and huge.

This new sea wall extends right behind houses. Not sure if I’d be living there though.

The extent of 2011 tsunami inundation is signposted all along the east coast. Whole coastal towns were submerged.

The soil is amazingly fertile. There is often a volcano nearby. The growing season is being extended by warming up the soil using plastic. This is used extensively including even on many broad acre crops.

We are on the 8 hour ferry from Hachinohe to Hokkaido. Most of the business seems to be moving big trucks but it is a really good way for cyclists to get around. Much less drama than on a train where you need to put your bike in a bag and cross your fingers a bit.

The main hotels we are using are Toyoko Inn and Route Inn. The Route Inn’s are a bit more costly, not as close to city centres but all have an Onsen which makes them very tempting.

No bike cartons available at Sapporo (New Chitose) airport. However for $4 each you can get the cartons here. Added to the brew was a roll of nylon rope, adhesive tape and zip ties. The items that could not be carried on board are in a pannier which is lashed to the bike and then the whole thing is wrapped in cardboard and finally in rope.

Packing took 2 hours for 2 bikes. It meant being able to cycle to the airport which is almost always a lot simpler. It avoided the fuss of finding a bike carton at a bike shop. Local bike cartons would have been too small anyway.

Road Testing Tyre Widths on the Tasmanian Trail

The Tasmanian Trail crosses Tasmania Nth to Sth or vice versa. We (Chris from Omafiets in Sydney and Noel from Vivente Bikes) are starting in the south. The Tassie Trail is for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It is March 2016 and after a typically dry summer so we are expecting good conditions.

We just follow these signs.

Climbing up the Wellington Range turns out to be very rocky. Fat tyres would be unlikely to help here.

Chris is getting way ahead in this muddy section, He has 1.75” Schwalbe Smart Sams and I’m struggling in these conditions with Marathon 35s.

Chris is using the bikepacking (no rear panniers) set-up.

We get out of the mud and into sheep country. You need to register to be able to use this trail. You rent a key that gives you access through some big farms and conservation parks.

There is nothing better than a tree of ripe peaches on the roadside when you are nearing the end of a long day.

Hops at Bushy Park. Ironically our night in the shed at the Bushy Park Showground coincides with the start of the hops harvest. This meant that all night tractors were buzzing around, working 24/7.

The surfaces are really variable. On some, the narrower tyres are great. Although tight corners on downhill runs in gravel like this force the narrow tyre bike to slow down whereas the 1.75 tyres handle corners at speed.

The bush is so peaceful and beautiful.

As soon as an echidna sees or hears you it does not scurry away. It turns itself into this prickly ball.

We meet the occasional cyclist heading south on the trail. This woman is Canadian and we meet up on one of the brief bits of tar.

Tasmania has a big hydroelectric scheme. Some of the infrastructure is in remote places resulting in some better riding conditions in otherwise unsettled country.

You’ll see a lot of wildlife on the Tasmanian Trail. This is a blotched blue-tongued lizard or blue-tongued skink.

The Miena Hotel looks pretty nice. Rain is predicted so we book in for two nights and get a needed rest day plus several meals. And internet!

More fruit. It is really late for plums but these ones waited just for us.

Relics. This old tree still has the hole that a plank was once held in so an axeman could stand on it (on the plank) and cut the tree down.

Chris is keeping the records up to date. The books ask for names, dates, mode and direction of travel and comments.

Many Rivers to Cross

The final Mersey crossing in the Gog Ranges. It has been a great trail ride and is highly recommended.

Going Through the Horror Stretch Anyway in East Coast Australia in 1977

Sydney to the Daintree River, a tour of the Australian East Coast in 1977. Having met on the “Down To Earth” ride in early 1977, Noel McFarlane, Dave McPherson and Barb Lovell took off from Sydney in the winter of that year, heading north. There was no planned route. People would ask what was our destination and we would say we didn’t have one. We ended up inland most of the time, frequently crossing the Great Dividing Range, going as far inland as Emerald, working around Bowen picking fruit and reaching the crocodile warning signs at the Daintree River north of Cairns before turning back.

A highlight of the trip in Queensland was cycling what was called “the horror stretch” or “the triple murder highway”. From Marlborough to Sarina via Lotus Creek. When we said we were just going north people would always say…”yes, but you won’t ride the horror stretch will you?” It turned out to be one of the most beautiful parts of Australia that you could find.

Noel getting his gear ready outside the old Randle in North Newtown, Sydney.

Caroline, Danny and Chris, all teachers, came up and joined us in their break at the end of the school term. We camped in beautiful bush places night after night.

Bike maintenance in the 1970s was a must for bike tourers. We would regularly wash our chains, regrease and adjust bearings and check tightness of things.

The lovely Caroline Weller, who so sadly was not to survive this trip.

In the caravan park at Rockhampton, Barb, a very experience bike mechanic, is explaining things to a sole traveller that we met there.

In those times, bike spokes were crap. Decades later, very good spokes are available and are standard on top European and Vivente touring bikes. On the way to Cairns, between the three of us, we broke and replaced over 100 Ashai (Japanese) 14G steel spokes.

Camping beside small streams every night, we could have gone on forever.

Dave pondering the rewelding on his Europa frame. Notice the Karrimor rack. We all had them and on the same day, in Nth NSW, two of them broke, both in the same spot.

Pushing North. In the 1970s there was no modern suncream. There was pink zinc. Also notice the pumps. We had “English” valves and the pumps had hoses. You were doing well to achieve 50 psi.

About 100km north of Cairns we hit the gravel. Soon after that we were making camp beside rivers with signs warning about crocs. We deemed that to be “north enough”. We rode around the Atherton Tableland and then got the train back to Sydney.

Trying the Local Fish Curry in Odisha, India

A tour in the hills of Odisha and north eastern AP. Two loops starting in Vizag. The first to the NW and the second to the SW. Odisha, inland, is a drier and poorer part of India with many quiet areas. It is great for cycling.

A toddy tapper. They climb certain types of palm trees and extract a liquid that is then fermented.

Climbing up the ghats. The hills here are under 1,000m. Unlike the western ghats which are an unbroken chain, these are more like scattered ranges with quite dry rain shadow areas.

This family is working on the sugar harvest. They have a massive pot of sugar on the boil so as to reduce it down.

A roadworker. It is very physical the way they do things here. These women are really tough.

I’m greeted on a quiet country road by school students.

Big mango trees dot the landscape. It is the dry season. But it is dry most of the time around here.

Although many people think India is all intense and overpopulated it is not true. This is a typical example of the quiet of countryside inland Odisha.

The straw left over from threshing is stacked and then protected from animals with a fence made from local vegetation.

Often the areas around the bigger rivers are quite isolated as it is hard to make bridges that will survive the floods. There is no one around.

It is sugar harvest. Oxen cart the cane to the mills. Often, a 10 year old will be in control of the massive carts being towed.

A young girl scoots past me on her bike, going to school.

The timelessness and lack of dependence on modern machinery and fuel really impresses me.

This fellow rode with me for quite a while and pleaded with me to come to his village. His mum cooked up a fantastic fish curry. A lasting memory on my last day.

Impeccably Stacked Wood in Poland

A ride from Friedrichshafen in southern Germany, to the Danube, along the river a while, then across Czech into Poland, finally departing from Warsaw.

The campsite provided by Eurobike, the world’s premier bike show, for trade visitors arriving by bike. It is held at Friedrichshafen on the shore of Bodensee in southern Germany.

While cyclists in Australia generally have to ride in traffic, in Germany they are far safer. This is a train crossing and the cyclists get their own boom gate.

Moving east across Germany. This is a monument, 20km from Dachau, to the Jews forced into death camps to be systematically murdered.

A gherkin harvester. There are 12 rows per run. Under the canopy there are 12 pickers lying flat, facing the plants, on foam mattresses. They pick the gherkins and place them on a conveyer.

On the Danube bike path, in Austria. We pass river cruise boats all the time. Advertisements for the cruise boats don’t mention how enviously the passengers watch the cyclists.

A wood shed in Austria. Notice how orderly the stack is. Around the world woodsheds reveal something about the local culture. You would be unlikely to find this one in Australia. Too orderly.

The 2013 test bike with Rohloff, chain tensioner, cable disc brakes, B&M lights, WTB saddle, 36 spoke wheels and Alex rims.

Auschwitz. Reconstructed interior of a brick barracks for prisoners. At least 4-5 prisoners slept on each pallet. There was hardly any heating and no sanitation. 1.1million were murdered in Auschwitz.

Scene in Krakow. The historic centre is particularly charming.

Onions drying before harvest in Poland.

Heading north to Warsaw. The forest floor is covered by moss and lichen. When we arrived in Warsaw we were greeted by a couple we’d met in Georgia on another tour.

Touring and Hiking the Heaphy Trail in New Zealand

A ride from Greymouth to Hamilton along the west coast. This included a flight from Nelson to Wellington. There is no road around the NW corner of the South Island. But there is a walking track that takes 4 days. We had the bikes bussed around. This was our fifth New Zealand tour and I am sure there will be another. It is such a good country to tour on a bike.

Having flown into CHC, stayed at the airport Jucy Pods, bussed across the island on Atomic Coaches, stocked up at the Four Square, we are heading north 200km before the start of the walk. In Karamea we stay at the Last Resort and the Heaphy Bus Co picks up our bikes and panniers there to take them the 425km by road to the other end of the Heaphy. On the ride to Karamea we have the extra luggage of backpacks and hiking boots.

We are on the Heaphy now. The first day is coastal with amazing palms flowering and wonderful views. The idea of including one of New Zealand’s Great Walks in a bike tour is looking good.

New Zealand prides itself on being so “natural” however most native forests were ripped out and many other disastrous things happened (including at the hands of the Maori 600 years ago). Along the Heaphy though, things are as they were.

The Dept of Conservation (DOC) runs several huts. You have to book well in advance. It means you only need to carry sleeping bag and pillow and food and water during the day. This is Saxon Hut, leaving in the morning.

A side-track to one of the lookouts.

Weka. Watch out for your food!

Love the Heaphy Bus Company. They arrived on Schedule after we arrived from Brown Hut. We put the bikes together and continued North on gravel and then tar.

Riding down the Aorere Valley to Collingwood.

Bike friendly. Press the button and traffic behind you gets warning lights for a few minutes. This is in the Golden Bay region, arguably the best in New Zealand. A bit isolated because there is only one road in and that is over the scary Takaka Hill.

We’ve been over the hill before so this time we are going round it.

There are a lot of eels in New Zealand although there used to be more. Their lifecycle is amazing. When they are decades old they swim out from rivers to the ocean and to the tropics where they breed and die. The fertilized larvae float back on the ocean surface. They grow and swim back up rivers into small streams like this.

A land of plentiful berry fruits at roadside stalls.

Approaching Nelson. We will fly tomorrow. A few years ago, when riding in this area, I went to the airport to ask if they carried bike cartons and they did. Today on the way into town, I check again and yes, they have stock.

On the North Island now. Heading around to Whanganui and passing cycle tourers regularly.

The cows dutifully line up to be milked.

Often licked. Never beaten.

Mt Taranaki, close to New Plymouth. It is a first time for me to see this corner of New Zealand.

Heading up the Awakino Valley. This region is quiet and beautiful. These days mainly beef cattle and sheep.

Wild turkeys. There have been several rafters over the last few hundred kms.

After coming out of this valley we will be in Hamilton, and at the end of another great bike tour.

Fixing Broken Pedals for the Locals in Odisha, India

A ride in northern Odisha. We landed at Vizasg, the only international airport in the region. We used the train system to get to Bhubaneswar and back. The focus was in the forested and tribal hill areas of Odisha State.

The vibrancy of the street sellers tells us we are really in India again. It is such a stimulating and amazing country.

A farmer uses a water lift to manage the level in his paddy.

Check out how much load is on this rickshaw at the markets.

We pass herds of cattle as we head inland.

With another rice harvest done and the grain threshed out, the straw is being carted to haystacks.

A fish trap.

There are lots of ways that grain is threshed in India and often in a given area one way is favoured. Around here it is the cattle-drawn heavy log-roller. We see them every day. The roller is pulled round and round in circles.

Heavy load passing.

Making an enclosure to either keep animals in or out. Natural materials being woven through sticks dug into the ground.

The never ending transportation of firewood on bicycles. One of so many shots like this I’ve taken on this trip.

When touring in poorer areas of India I carry pedals to replace the broken pedals so many of these local bikes have.

Beautiful pastoral scenes. Classic India.

The man in this picture met us on a road 50km out of Cuttack and asked us to stay at his humble home in Cuttack (where we were headed). Words can’t express how gracious and kind he and his family were.

At the train station in Cuttack. The regulation is that bikes have the handlebars covered and a reference number and destination is painted on the wrapping. When you arrive, you wait for your bike at the luggage depot. The bikes don’t necessarily even come on the same train. Once they even came the next day!

These are the same boys that washed my bike in Vizag last year. They were so stoked that I came back. They did a great job.

Looking for Phantom India in 1978

In 1978 a six month, 5,000km tour of Sri Lanka and India. Inspired by Louis Malle’s groundbreaking six-hour documentary, Phantom India. Noel and Danny started searching for it. We started in Colombo and followed the coast around to Hambantota. Then up the east coast to Trinco. The east coast had just been hit by a typhoon and coconut palms were on the ground like match sticks. There were no bridges north of Batticaloa and we used canoes 13 times. From Trinco to Anuradhapura then north through Elephant Pass to Jaffna. The peninsular was later closed for decades so it was special to be touring there. Then down to Talaimannar to get the boat over the Palk Strait to India.

Sri Lanka was to be our preparation for India but from day one we were blown away by the difference coming from a mainly Buddhist society to a Hindu/Muslim and poorer one. We had no particular plan and made it as we went. Firstly we rode across Tamil Nadu and Kerala to Cochin on the Malabar coast. Then up inland to the Ooty hill station and back through Salem and Erode to the east coast and Pondicherry which where there was an alternative commune. Then up to Madras as it was called, staying at Broadlands in Triplicane.

Summer had arrived. Dan got the train to Bombay and I rode up to Hyderabad myself. A few weeks later we found each other in Hyderabad by leaving messages at the Poste Restante. It was unspeakably hot. We got the train up to Nagpur to reassess. It was still too hot so we got the train to Delhi. From there we started riding again, across the plains to Chandigarh. Now the mountains began, and we first got to Shimla. From there we went on to the Kulu Valley reaching Manali. As we rode up that valley there were people lining the road cheering us on, possibly as the first cycle tourers to arrive in the region.

The journey started with us driving across Australia to Perth. The flight was Perth-Negombo. This shot was at the Eucla sand dunes.

Off we go. Notice the gallon water container on the back. We were boiling all of our water and eventually carrying two gallons each (9l).

It is a very steady pace of life on the road.

The Sri Lankan coast is picturesque.

Another fishing village. Everything depends on coconut. The huts are thatched with the fronds. The structures are all in the timber. The rope is coir from the husk. Cooking oil is coconut. Pittu (coconut and rice) is a main dish.

Danny with a fisherman.

The wharf at Talaimannar taken from the boat. The bikes were hauled up the side of the boat with ropes.

We were bowled over by the intensity of India. We developed the term “India Shock” to describe what the initial immersion into India is like. As months went by we came to feel at home here. I cried when I eventually left, five months later on another boat (Madras to Singapore).

Along the road. Many of the roads were very rough and at one point I broke my steel seatpost just from the constant hammering.

The mighty Kaveri. In the dry season the big rivers virtually stop running. The women and kids are there doing the washing.

We are arriving at the western ghats. The Indians call them hills but the passes are mostly between 1,500 and 2,000m.

Noel at 26 years of age.

The canals around Alleppey (later renamed Alappuzha) in Kerala.

In Old Cochin these fishing nets are lowered into the water and when fish are seen to swim across them the nets are quickly raised up.

In the Keralan town of Nilambur we are taken in by this family. They were so kind.

Elephants are in widespread use on the west coast, especially to handle the very heavy teak logs.

OK for the brave. Cobras are quite common but of course are deaf so playing the pipe is just for atmosphere.

Climbing the ghat road up to Ooty.

Coming down and heading east it is classic India.

As we ride across the Deccan the pastoral scenes are beautiful. Here the rice is being winnowed. When there is a breeze, they climb up on stands and slowly tip out the grain so that the husks and straw are blown aside.

There is always a sense of commonality when you are touring in countries where people walk and cycle. We are in it together.

In the big smoke! This is central Madras. Notice that the cars (mostly they are taxis) are all Ambassadors. India had bought an old car factory from England and almost every car in the country was an Ambassador.

Looking out from the verandah at Broadlands Lodge. We hired two rooms (one just for the bikes) and stayed a week. Broadlands at the time was an institution for hippy travellers in South India. In former times it had been a harem connected to the mosque behind there.

Charminar in Hyderabad. The ride from Madras to Hyderabad was tough because of the heat. I would start at 4am. Riding trough towns there were lines of people sleeping on both sides of the street. No one would sleep inside as it was just too hot. I would hire a room and leave the bike inside and sleep on the footpath. Every 10km or so I’d stop at a well and dump a bucket of water on my head. It would be 40 degrees by 9am. This is when I learned to only go to India in the winter.

Out the window in Hyderabad. 1978.

On the train to Nagpur. Here we ran out of film and were unable to get more. We had the whole of North India ahead.

Testing a Hebie Chainglider in Germany, Austria

A ride in Germany and Austria solely on bike paths. We started in Stuttgart and caught the train to Nagold and rode down the river to where it meets the Enz and then back into Stuttgart. There we caught the train to Nuremberg and followed the paths along the Regnitz and the Main canal, through Bamburg. We then got the train to Passau and rode the Danube path to Vienna.

Southern Germany has lots of huge farm sheds covered in solar panels. I love that.

Odd but worth a photo!

Bamburg is a gorgeous city. I passed through a few years earlier and am lucky to be able to come through again. Cycling paradise.

There are paths to take you anywhere you want. It is SO good.

I did the rounds of the bike shops in Bamburg and got a Hebie Chainglider fitted. The uncovered chain was ok but rain eventually made it squeak. Plus it is a bit dirty.

How civilized! At the traffic lights there is a hand-hold so you don’t need to take your feet out of the clips.

Over on the Danube going South. It must be great to live around here. The facilities for bikes are so good.

This group of riders is from Oregon. They bought a package that included hire bikes and accommodation. But that meant they rode all day yesterday in the rain whereas we, with no bookings, ducked into a hotel mid-morning and stayed.

For much of the Danube path you can ride on either side of the river.

Vienna is fantastic. It is so easy to ride around. Lots of tourists but you get absorbed by the city.

The city was not smashed in the wars. The architecture is beautiful.

Near to the city is the Schonbrunn Palace, the base of the Habsburg Empire. The empire was so secure that they could have their palace in the country, without fortifications.

My bike posing before packing at Vienna airport. My policy of carrying a small packing knife paid off as the only cartons available were massive and needed to be substantially cut-down. I’m very happy with the Hebie Chainglider.

Discovering Rail Trails in Western Europe

Riding from Amsterdam to Bodensee in Southern Germany. This tour crosses Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxemburg and Germany. I have put drop bars onto my Rohloff test bike and later call it the Swabia model. I’m riding with no paper maps and no digital maps. Just a compass and watching for signs that might help. Due to this navigational restriction, the 850km took me 1,200 but it was interesting and fun. The ride overall was most memorable for the navigation challenge plus discovery of the Vennbahn in Belgium and the canal paths west of Strasbourg.

Out of Amsterdam airport. I only slept one night in the city and next morning zigzagged past very Dutch scenes trying to find straight SE lines when massive canals caused me to often go sideways

Near Maastricht in the SE of the Netherlands I strike some long paths heading just the way I want.

Yesterday I had glimpsed cyclists occasionally through gaps in vegetation and today discovered they were on a long bike path, the Vennbahn, (a rail trail) in SE Belgium. Now I am off the highway.

Rail Trails are always good, but this is the best I’ve come across. I may be the only person to ride it that did not even know of its existence. It happens to be running just the way I want to go.

Classic. The tunnel reminds me of the trail at Newcastle (NSW) and the Rimutaka in New Zealand (another trail I found by pure chance).

No pedestrians and no horses so you can really zoom along.

This trail is only 125km but every bit is a delight.

After passing through Luxemburg, Metz and Nancy I head for Strasbourg. At Saverne I arrive at another region of extensive bike paths. These are along the canals on the French side of the Rhine.

The canals of course have lots of locks. They are ideal for bike tourism and are well used by both boats and bikers.

After Strasbourg there is a fantastic new-looking bike bridge across the Rhine. Germany is on the other side.

The networks of bike paths in Germany is so extensive. I can just head in my south easterly direction and be guaranteed of being on off-road paths most of the time.

This is the Danube quite near its source. I am running a chain on a Rohloff hub. I’m trying out a steerer-mounted accessory-bar as the shift-lever mounting position. There has been a bit of rain and the chain is getting noisy.

Down in the south of Germany I’m in the land of massive farm sheds built to catch the sun on huge solar roofs.

Approaching Bodensee, the apples and hops begin. Feels like home. I dub this new drop bar bike the “Swabia”.

The Reassuring Avalanche Fortifications of Japan

A ride in southern Hokkaido and northern Honshu, following on from our 2014 ride in Hokkaido. We didn’t start with a detailed plan but the basic idea has been to go south from Chitose, check out some of the high snowfall areas, figure out how to use the ferries to and from Honshu, get better at working out the hotels and start to explore Honshu.

Half way to Otaru and the coast road has big fortifications against avalanches. Very reassuring.

The fortifications against the sea are extensive and substantial. Must be expensive too. This is just in a small town.

The guy with the whipper snipper has two helpers. One with a sign warning motorists (and cyclists) and one holding a frame with a big bit of shade cloth to stop anyone getting hurt. Perhaps this is why Japan has full employment.

The Japanese manually pollinate their fruit due to an absence of European bees. There is a hornet in Japan which makes it very uncommon for a bee colony to survive. An individual hornet can kill forty European honey bees in a single minute. Apples and other fruit can cost over $5 a piece.

Happy Drug. There are also Real Drug, Super Drug and Sapporo Drug. Probably more. These are a retail “category” we don’t have (yet) in Australia.

A hearse.

Heading from Akita on the west coast across to Miyako on the east coast takes two days, each over 100km and each with lots of tunnels. About 40 all up. This is the entrance to Sengan Tunnel which measures 2,544m. They are scary but mainly because of the noise. You just don’t know where things are. It can sound like they are right behind you and huge.

This new sea wall extends right behind houses. Not sure if I’d be living there though.

The extent of 2011 tsunami inundation is signposted all along the east coast. Whole coastal towns were submerged.

The soil is amazingly fertile. There is often a volcano nearby. The growing season is being extended by warming up the soil using plastic. This is used extensively including even on many broad acre crops.

We are on the 8 hour ferry from Hachinohe to Hokkaido. Most of the business seems to be moving big trucks but it is a really good way for cyclists to get around. Much less drama than on a train where you need to put your bike in a bag and cross your fingers a bit.

The main hotels we are using are Toyoko Inn and Route Inn. The Route Inn’s are a bit more costly, not as close to city centres but all have an Onsen which makes them very tempting.

No bike cartons available at Sapporo (New Chitose) airport. However for $4 each you can get the cartons here. Added to the brew was a roll of nylon rope, adhesive tape and zip ties. The items that could not be carried on board are in a pannier which is lashed to the bike and then the whole thing is wrapped in cardboard and finally in rope.

Packing took 2 hours for 2 bikes. It meant being able to cycle to the airport which is almost always a lot simpler. It avoided the fuss of finding a bike carton at a bike shop. Local bike cartons would have been too small anyway.

Road Testing Tyre Widths on the Tasmanian Trail

The Tasmanian Trail crosses Tasmania Nth to Sth or vice versa. We (Chris from Omafiets in Sydney and Noel from Vivente Bikes) are starting in the south. The Tassie Trail is for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It is March 2016 and after a typically dry summer so we are expecting good conditions.

We just follow these signs.

Climbing up the Wellington Range turns out to be very rocky. Fat tyres would be unlikely to help here.

Chris is getting way ahead in this muddy section, He has 1.75” Schwalbe Smart Sams and I’m struggling in these conditions with Marathon 35s.

Chris is using the bikepacking (no rear panniers) set-up.

We get out of the mud and into sheep country. You need to register to be able to use this trail. You rent a key that gives you access through some big farms and conservation parks.

There is nothing better than a tree of ripe peaches on the roadside when you are nearing the end of a long day.

Hops at Bushy Park. Ironically our night in the shed at the Bushy Park Showground coincides with the start of the hops harvest. This meant that all night tractors were buzzing around, working 24/7.

The surfaces are really variable. On some, the narrower tyres are great. Although tight corners on downhill runs in gravel like this force the narrow tyre bike to slow down whereas the 1.75 tyres handle corners at speed.

The bush is so peaceful and beautiful.

As soon as an echidna sees or hears you it does not scurry away. It turns itself into this prickly ball.

We meet the occasional cyclist heading south on the trail. This woman is Canadian and we meet up on one of the brief bits of tar.

Tasmania has a big hydroelectric scheme. Some of the infrastructure is in remote places resulting in some better riding conditions in otherwise unsettled country.

You’ll see a lot of wildlife on the Tasmanian Trail. This is a blotched blue-tongued lizard or blue-tongued skink.

The Miena Hotel looks pretty nice. Rain is predicted so we book in for two nights and get a needed rest day plus several meals. And internet!

More fruit. It is really late for plums but these ones waited just for us.

Relics. This old tree still has the hole that a plank was once held in so an axeman could stand on it (on the plank) and cut the tree down.

Chris is keeping the records up to date. The books ask for names, dates, mode and direction of travel and comments.

Many Rivers to Cross

The final Mersey crossing in the Gog Ranges. It has been a great trail ride and is highly recommended.

Going Through the Horror Stretch Anyway in East Coast Australia in 1977

Sydney to the Daintree River, a tour of the Australian East Coast in 1977. Having met on the “Down To Earth” ride in early 1977, Noel McFarlane, Dave McPherson and Barb Lovell took off from Sydney in the winter of that year, heading north. There was no planned route. People would ask what was our destination and we would say we didn’t have one. We ended up inland most of the time, frequently crossing the Great Dividing Range, going as far inland as Emerald, working around Bowen picking fruit and reaching the crocodile warning signs at the Daintree River north of Cairns before turning back.

A highlight of the trip in Queensland was cycling what was called “the horror stretch” or “the triple murder highway”. From Marlborough to Sarina via Lotus Creek. When we said we were just going north people would always say…”yes, but you won’t ride the horror stretch will you?” It turned out to be one of the most beautiful parts of Australia that you could find.

Noel getting his gear ready outside the old Randle in North Newtown, Sydney.

Caroline, Danny and Chris, all teachers, came up and joined us in their break at the end of the school term. We camped in beautiful bush places night after night.

Bike maintenance in the 1970s was a must for bike tourers. We would regularly wash our chains, regrease and adjust bearings and check tightness of things.

The lovely Caroline Weller, who so sadly was not to survive this trip.

In the caravan park at Rockhampton, Barb, a very experience bike mechanic, is explaining things to a sole traveller that we met there.

In those times, bike spokes were crap. Decades later, very good spokes are available and are standard on top European and Vivente touring bikes. On the way to Cairns, between the three of us, we broke and replaced over 100 Ashai (Japanese) 14G steel spokes.

Camping beside small streams every night, we could have gone on forever.

Dave pondering the rewelding on his Europa frame. Notice the Karrimor rack. We all had them and on the same day, in Nth NSW, two of them broke, both in the same spot.

Pushing North. In the 1970s there was no modern suncream. There was pink zinc. Also notice the pumps. We had “English” valves and the pumps had hoses. You were doing well to achieve 50 psi.

About 100km north of Cairns we hit the gravel. Soon after that we were making camp beside rivers with signs warning about crocs. We deemed that to be “north enough”. We rode around the Atherton Tableland and then got the train back to Sydney.

Trying the Local Fish Curry in Odisha, India

A tour in the hills of Odisha and north eastern AP. Two loops starting in Vizag. The first to the NW and the second to the SW. Odisha, inland, is a drier and poorer part of India with many quiet areas. It is great for cycling.

A toddy tapper. They climb certain types of palm trees and extract a liquid that is then fermented.

Climbing up the ghats. The hills here are under 1,000m. Unlike the western ghats which are an unbroken chain, these are more like scattered ranges with quite dry rain shadow areas.

This family is working on the sugar harvest. They have a massive pot of sugar on the boil so as to reduce it down.

A roadworker. It is very physical the way they do things here. These women are really tough.

I’m greeted on a quiet country road by school students.

Big mango trees dot the landscape. It is the dry season. But it is dry most of the time around here.

Although many people think India is all intense and overpopulated it is not true. This is a typical example of the quiet of countryside inland Odisha.

The straw left over from threshing is stacked and then protected from animals with a fence made from local vegetation.

Often the areas around the bigger rivers are quite isolated as it is hard to make bridges that will survive the floods. There is no one around.

It is sugar harvest. Oxen cart the cane to the mills. Often, a 10 year old will be in control of the massive carts being towed.

A young girl scoots past me on her bike, going to school.

The timelessness and lack of dependence on modern machinery and fuel really impresses me.

This fellow rode with me for quite a while and pleaded with me to come to his village. His mum cooked up a fantastic fish curry. A lasting memory on my last day.

Impeccably Stacked Wood in Poland

A ride from Friedrichshafen in southern Germany, to the Danube, along the river a while, then across Czech into Poland, finally departing from Warsaw.

The campsite provided by Eurobike, the world’s premier bike show, for trade visitors arriving by bike. It is held at Friedrichshafen on the shore of Bodensee in southern Germany.

While cyclists in Australia generally have to ride in traffic, in Germany they are far safer. This is a train crossing and the cyclists get their own boom gate.

Moving east across Germany. This is a monument, 20km from Dachau, to the Jews forced into death camps to be systematically murdered.

A gherkin harvester. There are 12 rows per run. Under the canopy there are 12 pickers lying flat, facing the plants, on foam mattresses. They pick the gherkins and place them on a conveyer.

On the Danube bike path, in Austria. We pass river cruise boats all the time. Advertisements for the cruise boats don’t mention how enviously the passengers watch the cyclists.

A wood shed in Austria. Notice how orderly the stack is. Around the world woodsheds reveal something about the local culture. You would be unlikely to find this one in Australia. Too orderly.

The 2013 test bike with Rohloff, chain tensioner, cable disc brakes, B&M lights, WTB saddle, 36 spoke wheels and Alex rims.

Auschwitz. Reconstructed interior of a brick barracks for prisoners. At least 4-5 prisoners slept on each pallet. There was hardly any heating and no sanitation. 1.1million were murdered in Auschwitz.

Scene in Krakow. The historic centre is particularly charming.

Onions drying before harvest in Poland.

Heading north to Warsaw. The forest floor is covered by moss and lichen. When we arrived in Warsaw we were greeted by a couple we’d met in Georgia on another tour.

Even though they have arisen in Australia, VWRs are world bikes. The time put into them, along with every bit of them, is from around the world. So, it is fitting that you can buy them from anywhere around the world.

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#pg-7432-1 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-2 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-3 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-4 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-5 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-6 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-7 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-8 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-9 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-10 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-11 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-12 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-13 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-14 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-15 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-16 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-17 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-18 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-19 .panel-grid-cell , #pg-7432-20 .panel-grid-cell { width:100% } #pgc-7432-2-0 , #pgc-7432-2-1 , #pgc-7432-2-2 , #pgc-7432-3-0 , #pgc-7432-3-1 , #pgc-7432-5-0 , #pgc-7432-5-1 , #pgc-7432-7-1 , #pgc-7432-7-2 , #pgc-7432-10-0 , #pgc-7432-10-1 , #pgc-7432-10-2 , #pgc-7432-10-3 , #pgc-7432-13-0 , #pgc-7432-13-1 , #pgc-7432-13-2 , #pgc-7432-15-0 , #pgc-7432-15-1 , #pgc-7432-16-0 , #pgc-7432-16-1 , #pgc-7432-18-0 , #pgc-7432-18-1 , #pgc-7432-18-2 , #pgc-7432-20-0 , #pgc-7432-20-1 , #pgc-7432-20-2 , #pgc-7432-20-3 { margin-bottom:30px } #pg-7432-7.panel-no-style, #pg-7432-7.panel-has-style > .panel-row-style { -webkit-flex-direction:column-reverse;-ms-flex-direction:column-reverse;flex-direction:column-reverse } #pl-7432 .panel-grid-cell { padding:0 } #pl-7432 .panel-grid .panel-grid-cell-empty { display:none } #pl-7432 .panel-grid .panel-grid-cell-mobile-last { margin-bottom:0px } }