Citrus, Ceratodus, Cania, Coast.

Location: Ban Ban Springs – Bangalee, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 561

Despite the lack of water at Ban Ban Springs – I had to ask for some from a couple stopped in a caravan – it was actually a nice stop. Very few mosquitos, nice soft grass and it didn’t rain which made an early start easy and the 30km ride into Gayndah – apparently Queensland’s oldest town – for a breakfast stop quite pleasant. It was good to see the Burnett River flowing strongly but the countryside was noticeably dryer, the rains having fallen elsewhere. This was confirmed by the old timer at the information centre who talked of the stark comparison with last year having been stuck at home for 10 days due to flood waters.

Crossed the river in town on a very high bridge, stopping to take a photo and quietly thought to myself it was a long way down. Moments later I managed to knock the lens cap off my camera and watch it tumble on the breeze all the way down. Bummer. The rain started again and I decided to wait it out by having a hamburger fir second breakfast/early lunch and started reading my 80c copy of The Bourne Identity. Off again and not to far down the road I was greeted by a nice 5km of climbing and a lumpy downhill run into Mundubbera. I was getting low on cash and found but found a Suncorp branch – closed of course on a Sunday – but no ATM. I’d come back in the morning. Sussed out the two caravan parks in town, settling on the 2nd place for $15 (still a ripoff but better than $25) for the night at which I talked away with Nick, a photographer wondering Queensland looking for a new place to settle down.

A late start, tired legs and a reasonably up and down ride to Eidsvold put my intended destination, Wuruma Dam, out of reach. I avoided more rain in the park in Eidsvold and scored myself a hot shower at the local pool before settling down at Ceratodus rest stop a half hours up the road. The clouds looked pretty ominous so I set up under the BBQ area. Unfortunately the rain never arrived and the lights were fun to ignore all night. I did make it to Wuruma Dam the following morning – getting off the highway taking the most direct route along a dirt road or varying quality – and on arrival was met with a rather sad sight. There was plenty of shade though and a nice breeze so I killed time and avoided the heat for a while. I had no particular finish for the day in mind but after some nice rolling hills, cattle country and open forests I made it to Mulgildie when I discovered you could camp for free behind the mural covered pub. A Bundy or two and big, tasty plate of chicken kiev made for a good end to the day.

It was just a quick spin up the highway to Monto where I grabbed a few supplies before riding out to Cania Gorge National Park. At a guess I’d have to say it was 12 years since I last visited but I do remember waking to find frosts on the car windscreen, tent and pretty much every surface, a problem I shouldn’t have to deal with this time. Unfortunately there’s no camping in the national park so I decided on the first caravan park – avoiding the extra 18km return ride to the alternative – and right at the start point for most of the walks. Took off to the fern tree pool and Giant’s Chair lookout in the afternoon, thongs proving much more comfortable than the cycle sandals. Back at camp I quickly made friends with some caravaners, picking up plenty of tips on good spots to camp all over Queensland and a free BBQ dinner while watching Australia beat India again, this time in a Twenty20 match. While I had originally planned to stay a couple of nights I decided to have an early start to get a bit more walking in and I’d see how far I’d make it in the afternoon.

I met a couple of goannas and a brush tailed wallaby on the way to The Overhang. A very peaceful place which I had to myself for a 1/2 hour. Had a couple of fresh, free range eggs for breakfast – something I’ve been missing since setting off from home – before loading up and backtracking to the highway to continue on. Another one of those unknown ranges appeared out of nowhere. Not too steep but it did seem to drag on forever. I did console myself with the the knowledge that – in theory at least – it was all downhill to Rockhampton. After a rest at the top , there was a nice long downhill run and the traffic seemed to dry up. Retired for the day behind Lawgi Hall. Not sure where the town of Lawgi was but it was nowhere in sight.

Powered into Thangool then Biolea in the morning, stocked up at Woolies before gorging myself over lunch. Two ham and salad rolls, 1L of coffee milk, an apple, a couple muesli bars, some peanuts and chocolate. Didn’t move for a while after that but I think I needed it. Spent an hour in the library in the air conditioning sort some photos before continuing north through dead flat countryside and 10km of very rough, unfinished highway upgrades. After some searching settled in a rather rocky paddock near Jambin and watched my first sunset in a week or more. After sleeping well I woke early but was greeted by my first puncture while packing up, almost certainly a result of the paddock I camped in. Just after crossing into Banana Shire the “Rough Surface” signs actually indicated pristine, smooth road. A pleasant change. At Dululu I had a choice of roads, hills and flat – I chose the hills – and filled up with certainly the worst water I’ve had so far. Thankfully there was a cafe open in Mount Morgan last on a Sunday afternoon where I bought the best vanilla milkshake I can remember having. Plenty of vanilla, a decent helping of ice cream and icy cold milk. Mmm! Considering retiring for the day but decided it would be best to get the climbing out of the way and have an easier day tomorrow. Finished the day with a quick blast, down through plenty of switchbacks, camped in the park across the road from the Bouldercombe pub. Enjoyed some good stories, a few beers and a hot shower.

The run into Rockhampton was nice and flat and free of traffic. Had to dodge a sun baking snake and finally saw a train line in use. A never ending coal train lumbering by, probably to a port. Managed to take a ungainly tumble on possibly the worst designed kerb I’ve come across while pulling in to stop at Woolies, dumping the contents of my handlebar on the pavement. Licked my wounds for a while before finding a nice shady table to relax at by the river, whiling away a few hours eating and reading before setting off to Bangalee where my second Warm Showers host awaited. The road out to Yeppoon was less than pleasant. By far the busiest yet. Minimal to no shoulder at times and a good headwind for a near 20km. I arrived eventually, covered in sweat but was welcomed by Rhodes and his family. Enjoying home made pizzas in the backyard pizza oven and plenty of cycling talk. It was good to have a day off, my first in 10 days. Spent the morning under a pandanus tree on the beach and pretty much had it to myself. Stupidly got my back nice and burnt. Won’t be doing that again any time soon.

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments

Climbing in the rain, peanuts and more rain.

Location: Atkinson Dam to Ban Ban Springs, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 353km

The water skiers woke me early far too early again and I did my best to ignore them for a while but was up and packing soon enough and on the road by 9. Made my way to the back roads heading in a somewhat northerly direction towards Esk. Found a nice smooth gravel to follow for a while before taking a break in the shade after the road a few too many short up and downs. Rolling in to Esk I passed my first cyclists, albeit of the road racing, lycra variety but still got a few waves.

It had been 7 or 8 years since I last passed through Esk but was mostly as I remembered it. A typical little town with the usual runs of shops, pub and bored teenagers milling around with nothing better to do a Saturday. Given it was just before midday I’d being hanging around for a while too. Enforcing my own “not riding in the worst heat of the day” rule. Continued reading Game Of Thrones, bought some fresh rolls and delicious smoked ham for lunch and enjoyed doing nothing. Eventually found the motivation get moving late afternoon but only made it 10km or so down the road before deciding the uphill run to Crow’s Nest could wait for tomorrow. Made camp on the least rough area of grass I found in a paddock screened from the road somewhere Redbank Creek. Flashes of lightning in the west had me concerned for a while but no rain eventuated.

Woke with the birds and slowly packed. Managed to get some confused looks from a couple walking along the road as I appeared out of the bush pushing my bike back to the road. I had time my stop well the night before as it was less than 1km until the road kicked up. Not too steep but it would continue for the next 15km or so, luckily with the company of a rather nice forest of trees providing some very welcome shade. Not too far into far into the climb a car passed me pulled over not far up the road and the driver hopped out and started taking pics of me riding up the road. He was called himself Mushgang, someone in Esk had told him about me and hoped I might be riding the National Trail which he had been following on horseback for 5 years. We chatted for a bit before he handed over a couple of nectarines and I continued on. Stopped for some late breakky/early lunch at a rest area near the top looking back down the valley I had climbed out of and found my Leatherman sitting on top of one of my panniers. A gentle reminded to double check everything before I set off. Took a slightly less direct route to get to Crow’s Nest hoping for some more interesting scenery past a couple of dams. Not really worth the effort and extra climbing but I did stop to take off the Kool Stop brake pads – I’d had enough of the squealing. Arrived in Crow’s Nest pretty knackered and in need of a shower. I reluctantly opted for the overpriced caravan park. Found fish n chips in town for dinner and road back to camp in the night rain.

Before leaving Crow’s Nest I stocked up on food as I was pretty sure there was little available over the next few days – later proven correct – and spoke to and old guy from NZ who used to cycle in his younger days. He gave me some directions which handily cut 20km from my journey. The flies found me not too far out of town and accompanied me for most of the day, only disappearing when I kept above 23km/h. Difficult to impossible uphill. The road was quiet, but nice and smooth as it wound its way through rolling cattle country, a car every 15 minutes if I was lucky. Crossed a bridge washed out by last year’s floods and rolled into the deadly quiet town of Quinalow. There was however a library in which I cooled down in air conditioned comfort for a while before setting up camp in the far end of a a park, ignoring the “No camping” signs.

North from Quinalow, more cattle, a short stretch of crappy dirt road and not too hilly but I knew that would change later in the day. I stopped to refuel for starting the climb up the Bunyas which kicked off with a bang. I managed to ride maybe 50m at a time before having to stop but kept at it taking breaks as needed and found myself halfway up just as the clouds engulfed the view and let the rain fall. Out came the Gore Tex as I pedaled onward and upward. Finally made it to the camp ground mid afternoon half wet, the rain subsided and I set up while I had the chance. Very green, wet and quite cool, I could actually wear a jumper. The rain came and went so I whiled away the afternoon, eating, reading and resting tired legs.

Had a lazy morning but I did want to do some walking here, it would have been a waste not too, but I couldn’t have timed my departure any worse. 5 minutes in the clouds unleashed. At least it made the creeks runs swiftly and the waterfalls roar. Decided by the end bike shoes are the devil for walking it – blisters on each big and little toe – and that I return to the a few spots when the rain abated long enough for some photos.

The next morning – Australia Day, a fact I didn’t realise until much later – the Sun made and appearance and I gingerly (need more band aids) retraced some of the Scenic Walk route for a few photos. Spent the afternoon reading until I finished Game Of Thrones (they could have easily made 2 seasons of TV from the one book) and had an early night hoping to be up with the birds.

The rain started sometime in the wee hours and came down hard, sounding like a barrage of small explosions under the fly. Packed up everything inside the tent but waited out chatting to a Czech (good to see some other people in actual tents, not caravans, camper trailers, motor homes) couple over breakfast, hoping the sun would come out or the rain would at least cease momentarily so I could attempt to shake it dry before packing up. It never happened, but I did pack up and set off by 11. Rode west through the rest of the Bunya Mountains National Park, check out the other campsites deciding I’d made the right decision to stay at Dandabah, it had hot showers before the big decent began. Took a break in Kumbia and had a free cuppa with some friendly caravaners before pushing on to Kingaroy in more rain. Found an Aldi and restocked. Realised I’d passed 3 rest areas and endless fields of peanuts coming into Kingaroy but there none (rest areas) marked on my map for another 70km to the north. Local knowledge prevailed and a quick blast up the wet road in fading light to Wooroolin I set up in a Lions Club rest stop.

Spent the morning trying to dry the tent in a War Memorial pavilion and eventually succeeded as the rain eased and the wind picked up. Didn’t really have a destination in mind for the day so I cruised along pretty casually to Wondai where I had a quick look around the information centre museum on the logging history of the Burnett region and picked up a couple books – The Bourne Identity and a John Grisham double The Partner and The Runaway Jury – on the cheap at Lifeline. Had some average fish n chips in Murgon where I was surprised by the number of aboriginals around town until I remembered Cherbourg a town founded under segregation policy of the Queensland government in 1900 was only just down the road. The legs were still feeling fresh so from Murgon I headed for Ban Ban Springs, about 70km north, passing more cattle country, some tiny country schools and a reindeer farm while the rain couldn’t make up its mind. Finally arrived, not long before dark having cracked my first 100km day. The rain ceased and I slept well.

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments

A Stuttering Start

Location: Palm Beach – Atkinson Dam, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 202km

Being about as prepared as I was going to get, I took my last chance – for a little while at least – for swim at the beach just before sunset before tidying up a few last minutes things before leaving. Unfortunately those few things dragged on for a tad longer than planned. I did eventually get everything sorted but it was 2am before finally crashed, hardly the best preparation. Note to self: Don’t leave promised jobs to last night before trying cycling around the world. Not surprisingly I didn’t exactly make an early start and woke feeling like shit. After much procrastination decided to at least ride to my grandparents’ house, a lazy (no, actually it was a sweltering) 5km away to show them my bike and say goodbye. After that meager effort it took me an hour to feel like walking again but promised myself and early night and a better start tomorrow.

There was barely a cloud in the sky the sun was getting well overhead before I made off somewhere around 9am. With the mercury already nearing 30°C, I was in no rush and cruised along the esplanade through Mermaid, Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise and Main Beach. A few stops here and there for some photos and watching the school holiday tourists roast on the beach. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take me too long to fall off my bike. I had been making a conscious effort to remember to unclip at least one foot before stopping but while pulling up to chill down by the Broadwater somehow lost all co-ordination and managed fall into the sand. No harm done but I did take a moment to do my first bit of maintenance, my seat having come loose. As the heat of the day kicked in I headed inland and away form the beach for the last time in a while and I soon found another spot to relax by the Coomera River watching the wake boarders. I had set myself the somewhat ambitious target of about 110km for this first day including climbing over Mt Tamborine (about 600m of climbing) mainly as to find somewhere suitable for camping. However, by the time I got going again I knew I wasn’t going to reach this goal but decided to push on the start of the main climb.

I did do some research on the climb but somehow it didn’t quite prepare me for actually riding up it. 12-14% slopes, 38°C heat, a general lack of fitness and still feeling decidedly average at the start of the day all combined to me feeling somewhat light headed when I finally stopped just short of 60km. There was a distinct lack of flat ground to be found and neither the few locals I asked nor the pub were willing to let me camp so I made do with the best I could find in some bush not far from the road. I sweated it out until at least 10pm before finally sleeping. After a brief war with some mosquitoes in the morning – my tent has blood stains to prove it – I was off again by 8am but I had probably ridden no more than 1.5km before I gave up and tried not to die in the shade by the side of the road. I called for help and got a ride home, thanks Mum!

I spent the next 2 days on the couch drifting between sleep and TV but 4 days later, having rested well, eaten lots and done a few shorts rides I was feeling much more human and ready to take on the world again. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. It was 10-15°C cooler but raining sideways and pretty relentlessly. So I held off another day seeing no reason to subject myself to that kind of weather yet.

Finally, finally, got to get on the road today. Had another custard tart before setting off from the top of Mount Tamborine and was quickly down the other side. All downhill for 8km and some undulating roads to Jimboomba for a rest. Decided not to take to back roads I had planned on but a more direct route to Jim and Marilyn’s,  my hosts for the night. Got a bit lost in Springfield Lakes (that place is depressing) before arriving at Redbank Plains and a steak sandwich later I was off again. Managed to time my arrival into Ipswitch right on peak hour (fun) but was through that and a few last little hills before arriving with my legs screaming at me. Jim cooked up a lovely curry and we talked about our various travels on and off bikes before I crashed.

The next morning I could barely eat but ate what I could before attending to some gearing issues. Thanks ti Jim’s well stock workshop I was fixed and off again quickly enough. Had a 10km stint on the Warrego Highway (not as bad as I expected, decent shoulder to ride on) before turning north to Fairvale to chill in the park during the heat of the day. The ride west to Lowood was enjoyable, being on a horse trail, no traffic to worry about was a welcome change. Arrived at Atkinson’s Dam while it was still light and sent up camp right by the water. I’ll have a day off here relaxing. Reading, watching water skiers and anything else involving little moving before heading north to Esk and Crow’s Nest.

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments


Simply because I found these lists useful when posted by others here’s my list of stuff.

The bike
Frameset: Surly Long Haul Trucker 26″ – 58cm Black
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Deore Bottom Bracket Set BB51
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT Front Mech Conventional 9sp M771 – 44T
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT Rear Mech 9sp M771 – SGS – Long Cage
Crankset: Shimano Deore Chainset M590 – 175mm
Chainset: Shimano XT Cassette 9 Speed M770 – 11-34
Pedals: Shimano A530 Pedals – Silver
Chain: SRAM PC971 Chain 9sp

Rims: Sun Ringle Rhyno Lite XL – Welded Rim – 36h Black 26inch
Spokes: DT Swiss Champion Stainless PG Spokes
Front Hub: Shimano SLX Front Hub M665 – 36h Black
Rear Hub: Shimano SLX Rear Hub M665 – 36h Black
Rim Tape: Velox Rim Tape
Tubes: Continental MTB 26 – 26 x 1.75-2.5 Presta 42mm
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon XR Tyre – 26 x 2.0

Headset: Grand Cru 1-1/8″ Threadless Headset
Stem: VO Threadless Stem 26.0 +/- 6 Rise – 100mm
Handlebars: Grand Cru Course Handlebar- Classic Round Bend – 44 cm
Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace Bar End Shifters 9 Speed 7700
Brakes: Avid Single Digit 7
Brake Levers: Tektro RL520 Drop Bar Brake Levers
Headset Spacers: Grand Cru Knurled Headset Spacers
Bar Tape: Fizik MicroTex Bar Tape Brown
Bar Gel: Fizik Bar Gel Set
Seatpost: VO Grand Cru Seat Post, Long Setback
Saddle: Brooks England B17 STD Steel Saddle – Brown

Front Rack: Surly Front Pannier Rack – Silver
Rear Rack: Tubus Cosmo Rear Rack Stainless Steel
Rear Light: Cateye TL-LD610 LED White Lens Rear Light
Mudguards: SKS Bluemels Mudguards – Black – MTB 26″ – 60mm
Front Panniers: Ortlieb Front Roller Classic Panniers – Black
Rear Panniers: Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers – Black
Handlebar Bag: Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Classic (Large) – Black
Lock: Kyrptonite Cable Lock
Water: 3 water bottle cages
Light:  Cateye LED White Lens Rear Light
Computer: Cateye Adventure Wireless Cycling Computer

1x Topeak Alien II 26 Function Multi Tool
1x Leatherman Squirt Multitool
1x Spoke Key
1x Rema Touring Puncture Kit
1x Park Tool Tyre Levers
3x Spokes
Zip Ties
2x Spare tubes
Duct Tape
Inner Brake\Gear Wire
1x Topeak Road Morph Pump
1x Brooks Saddles Maintenance Kit
1x Padlock

1x Marmot Twilight 2P Tent
1x Big Agnes Air Core Mattress
1x Kelty Cosmic -7C Down Bag
1x Sea to Summit Adaptor Coolmax Bag Liner
1x Petzl Tikka XP 2 Head Torch

1x Primus OmniFuel Stove
1x Primus Fuel Bottle 1L
1x GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist Cook System (1.1L pot, unsulated mug, spork)
1x Tuppaware Container (salt/pepper, seasong/spices, tea/coffee, sugar, knife)
1x Flint
1x Scourer
1x Ortlieb Folding 10 Litre Bowl
1x Ortlieb Water Bag (4 Litre)
1x Scourer/sponge

1x Mountain Designs Cumulus Gore Tex Jacket
2x dhb Pro Padded Undershorts
2x Inov-8 Wrag (fake Buff)
1x Wind/Water proof pants
1x The North Face Jumper
1x Supadry shorts
1x Craghoppers Bear Trek Long Sleeved Shirt
1x Board shorts
1x Underwear
1x Sea To Summit Travel Towel
1x Thick wollen socks
1x Otis Bubba Sunnies

1x Toothbrush
1x Toothpaste
1x Soap
1x Sunscreen
1x Toilet paper
1x First aid kit (various bandaids, compression bandage, ibuprofen, burn/pain gel, gastro pills, lozenges)

Photography/Eletronics (weight weenies look away now)
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Mini (phone/internet/music player)
1x Canon 1ds Mark III
1x Canon 5D Mark II
1x Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
1x Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
1x Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
1x Samyang 14mm f/2.8 UMC
1x Dell XPS 15 L502X
1x Dell Auto-Air 12V DC Adapter
1x Padded laptop case
2x 1TB Portable USB3.0 Hard Drive
1x Benro C1691T Travel Tripod
1x Crumpler Sporty Guy Bag
1x Powerfilm F15-600 10W Solar Panel
1x LP-E6 Battery Charger 240/110/12V
1x Canon LP-E4 Charger
1x Body/Lens Caps
1x Screwdriver
1x TC-80N3 Cable Remote
1x 5x CF cards (32GB, 16GB, 8Gb, 4GB, 2GB)
1x B+W Circular Polariser 77mm
1x Lexar Pro UDMA Card Reader
1x Sensor Sweep
1x Rocket blower
1x Various spare batteries
1x 16GB USB Drive

2x Credit cards

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments

Construction. Ongoing. Finished. Mostly.

After writing the previous post a while ago – almost 2 months now – I had hoped to have done some decent test rides and maybe even a micro weekend tour to test all the gear but alas, “the build” has turned into a Days-Of-Our-Lives-wannabe and is still ongoing.

I was going to go the DIY headset install route but the local bike shop is closer than Bunnings so it won out. $20 later I had a frame and fork ready to go.

So it’s a nice sunny Saturday morning and assembly is well underway, brakes are on, front and rear dérailleur attached and wheels have some nice Marathon XR rubber on them.

Que a friendly visit from the JW salesmen. I trumped their religious rhetoric with my globe trotting plans and they stared on in awe and soon let me be. Sidetracked, I forgot to aline the inner sleeve correctly before installing the left half of the bottom bracket and managed to chew it up pretty badly installing the crankset. Not a fatal error, but frustrating. You can’t buy the sleeve separately so a whole new bottom bracket is now on the way. I’m sure the spare bearings will come in handy at some point.

Turning my attention to the handlebars it was here I came to discover what would still keep me waiting to this day. Jumping back for a moment I had ordered a 58cm Surly Long Haul Trucker frameset. When it arrived the store had somehow forgotten to send the fork. The box had been opened to add the front rack I also ordered so I guess it was a simple enough mistake. No matter, a quick email and a day later the fork was on the way. A few days later it arrived and I opened the box for a quick look. It was black, with Surly stickers, “sorted” I thought.

Back to the build. I had estimated 4-5 spacers would be needed to get the handlebars to a good height. I was somewhat confused when I found I could barely squeeze 1 spacer in with steerer tube to spare. Quick Google later and Surly’s own site had the answer. Wrong fork! So for the past month and a half I’ve been in a shitfight with the store I bought it from – yay for international e-commerce – but so far with no resolution.

In the meantime I completed the rest of the bike, mostly. Brake levers, shifters and cables. Will wrap the bars once I the bar gel arrives. Installed the chain and even went for a careful spin down the street with my super low bars. Add some slick tyres I’d blend right into a road race peloton.

With no progress on the replacement fork I’ve been looking elsewhere but not much luck as of yet. They’re a rare piece of kit. None available here in Australia, can’t find any overseas with a store willing to ship internationally.

Frustrated, I decided to contact Surly to see if they could point me to some stock. After explaining my situation I was somewhat stunned when I read the reply asking for my address so they could send me one free of charge. I graciously accepted but was stunned again when 5 minutes later I received another email stating my warranty replacement fork was on the way. Not wanting to put Surly out of pocket needlessly I turned down their offer, kudos to them.

A week later and here we are. I spent this afternoon finishing off the build. Installed mudguards, front and rear racks and made some adjustments to the cables. Cutting gear cable housing is a bitch! Ended up borrowing an angle grinder which made short work of that; surprisingly clean cuts too. Just need to cut down the steerer tube and add handlebar tape but by this evening she was complete enough to take for a spin. Will be good to get her loaded up to see how she handles but feels good so far.

Looking back I’ve rambled for far too long but its too late, its written now. In other news, my flat mates finally got engaged. Feels kind of rushed after 7′ish years :). I guess I should hang around for the engagement party so I’ll be leaving – fingers crossed – on the 10th January now.

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments

Ready for assembly

The lucky last package – well, at least, last critical package, I’m sure there will be more/other non-critical procurements made yet – finally arrived courtesy of Velo-Orange. Handlebars, stem, headset (that’ll be fun installing!) and a few other banal but shiny odds and ends.

Borrowed a bike stand from friend which should come in very handy and stocked the fridge up with Löwenbräu.

So now I just have to do is to get this….

To look something like this…

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 1 comment

A Long Journey Begins

Since leaving London in July last year and returning to the Gold Coast I had been planning my escape, back to London, as the starting point of what would hopefully turn into an epic, trans African journey to Cairo via Cape Town. Many an hour was spent researching visas, transport options, interesting places & events along the way as well as reading countless other travellers’ own experiences. Unfortunately a couple of months ago the shit hit the fan and my planned travel partner bailed on me having been wooed by some young, eligible bachelor.

Somewhat dejected by this turn of events and having just started reading The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa, I began pondering alternate plans. Having been a avid bike commuter during my time in London (faster, cheaper and a whole less crowded than catching the tube), the idea of merging travel and bike soon emerged and led me to the holy grail of cycle touring, Crazy Guy On A Bike. With 6000+ journals from weekend getaways to lifetime adventures CGOAB has given me all the inspiration and ideas to set off on my own crazy bike adventure. So come January 2012 I’ll be setting off with a planned route looking something roughly like this.

I’ve just ordered a Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and will shortly begin a crash course in how to build up a bike. I could have ordered a complete bike ready to go but that’d be taking away half the fun. The build up process should hopefully leave me with a somewhat more intimate knowledge of the various parts of my bike and the ability to fix anything when it fails which something inevitably will.

Posted by Aaron K Hall in Australia, Cycle Touring, 0 comments

Shetland Islands, Part III – Unst

After the busy and exciting events of Up Helly Aa it was time head north to much quieter pastures, in particular Hermaness and the rugged coasts at the top end of Unst. A mere 100km away the drive itself turned into its own little adventure. Three service stations, three rides on the Toft-Ulsta ferry the Daggri (that was two too many), a bemused but smiling ferry ticket man, another ferry, Muness Castle and the briefest moments of sunshine piercing the blanket of cloud which didn’t seem to move anywhere despite the impossibly string winds. I reached Norwick, the second most northerly town – if you can call it that with just a 1/2 dozen houses – in the UK, just on dusk. Pity it was only just after 4pm. Spent the afternoon evening listening to Radio 4 and reading Dark Star Safari.

Awoke to fresh snow dusted across the hillside like icing sugar and headed off to Hermaness National Nature Reserve. Home to 100 000 birds during the Spring and Summer, the Fulmars are the only birds to ride out the winter but their nests on the rugged, 150m high cliffs and rapidly changing weather make for dramatic scenery. Watching the storms roll in from the North Atlantic was quite a sight, until the it hit you in the face with thousands of tiny knives – snowflakes driven by the wind. Double thermals, shirt, jumper and a GoreTex jacket and the wind was still getting through so I took refuge in the remains of a viking building for a moment while the Fulmars floated on the updrafts created by the cliffs, seemingly oblivious to the changing weather.

At the far northern tip of Hermaness, just off the coast, are the last stops before the North Pole, Muckle Flugga and Out Stack. Unfortunately by the time I made it here I was down to my last few shots, my hands were somewhat numb and the light was fading fast. I did happen to stumble across some amazing icicles of  sorts though. In a gully the wind had driven the rain uphill where it had frozen, creating stalagmite like structures on the grass.

On my final day in the Shetland I was greeted with more fresh snow for my drive back to Lerwick. On the way I said hello to some more locals (Shetland ponies), more sheep, possibly the only forest in all of Shetland and an amazing sunset. I must have made a few too many side trips and combined with snowy roads all the way back to Lerwick  it made for a slow journey and I managed to miss my ferry – I don’t seem to have the best of luck with Shetland ferrys. Luckily though, there was also a cargo ferry leaving later that evening. Goodbye Shetland Islands. I’ll go back sometime but in the summer.

Posted by Aaron K Hall, 0 comments

Shetland Islands, Part II – Up Helly Aa

On the last Tuesday of January for every year since 1882, Lerwick has held a torchlight procession which from humble beginnings has grown to feature over 1000 Guizers today and is now considered the largest fire festival in Europe. It was this that heavily influenced my trip to Shetland.

After a late lunch I needed to kill some time before the main event in the evening I just happened upon the Shetland museum as the Guizer Jarl and his squad were making a visit.  It was a good chance to get up close with the Jarls and check out their viking costumes and weapons. The Jarl Squad consists of 16-25 Guizers dressed in their viking suits and each year hold a new shield designed to fit the chosen theme. The chosen weapon can vary from axes, swords, spears, daggers, bows and crossbows.

The street lights are turned off leaving the Jarls basking in the rich glow of their torches. The main Jarl squad is followed 45 other squads totaling nearly 1000 Guizers ranging from police, priests and punks to stormtroopers and superheroes plus plenty of cross dressers who are responsible for Up Helly Aa’s “Transvestite Tuesday” nickname.

The procession makes it way through the streets for about a 1km in front of thousands of onlookers before gathering at the burning site where the 1000+ Guizers hurl their torches onto the galley which after taking local craftsmen months to construct goes up in smoke in minutes.

With the galley burnt to a crisp the night is just beginning. All 45 Jarl squads including the Guizer Jarl and his squad make their way to 12 halls which have been set up for a solid evening of merrymaking, singing, drinking, eating and dancing which continues until 8am the next morning which fortunately brings a public holiday.

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Shetland Islands, Part I – The Mainland

I’m digging into the archive for this first real post but it has only been rather recently that I managed to process these shots.

Backtracking for a bit. It was December ’08 and HR at work had decided it was cracking down staff accumulating excess holidays. All my flat mates already had other plans or none of their own holidays remaining so after much deliberation I decided on somewhere slightly different, the Shetland Islands. My penchant for rugged, faraway places winning me over but more importantly, the timing of my visit would include Up Helly Aa, a celebration of the Shetland Islander’s heritage. What’s not to like about festival full of vikings and fire? More on that later.

Getting to the islands from London was half the fun. A quick ride to Euston Road station only to realise I my train left from Kings Cross, I managed jump on the tube and scramble to my train just as it was about to pull out. No seconds to spare that time. The 6 hour journey to Aberdeen via Dundee was quite enjoyable; plenty of nice scenery along the way. After quick change of trains in Dundee I spent the afternoon drinking coffee and taking in the Aberdeen vibe before boarding the overnight ferry to Lerwick.  I was too cheap to pay for a bed for the night but found myself a nice, long lounge for what turned out to be a very rough journey. I later learned this was the first ferry to sail in 3 or 4 days due to bad weather.

Given the size and sparseness of the islands public transport wasn’t going to cut it so I hired a car; much easier to get around but also somewhere to retreat to from the amazing winds. Despite the islands relatively mild winter – balmy compared to London – the wind cuts right through you; double thermals, shirt, jumper and a goretex jacket was no match some points. The timing of my visit to the island meant I was enjoying some of the shortest days I’d ever experienced. Sun up at 9am and dark by 4pm meant I had to be productive with my daylight hours but it did leave plenty of time for a few beers at the pub. The main island simply called Mainland, held plenty of interesting sights, Sumburgh Head and the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Eshaness, countless hidden coves and beaches usually occupied by some lazy seals or otters  and a few Shetland ponies.

Standing on the cliffs at Eshaness I felt like I was looking at from the edge of the world. There is an endless battle here between age old volcanic rock and a tireless North Atlantic. Nothing west for a couple thousand kilometers – either southern Greenland or Canada. The windiest place I have ever visited.

Two things so far had stuck me about the Shetlands Islands, their sparseness with a population of only 22,000 you could have whole stretches of coastline to yourself to enjoy and also hospitality of the people I did meet, whether in the pub or passing them on the road.

More Shetland to come.

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