07 April 2010


Header Photo: My brother Michael at the turnoff road to Siberia in Northern Mongolia

06 April 2010

Cyclist and switchback road to Ben Lomond N.P in Tasmania during our December 1992 cycle tour.


     Four days ago approximately 30 km west of Penong I caught sight of a traveller journeying in a most unique manner. I had been simply dawdling  in the pleasant warmth, when the sight of a lone woman and a placid dog caught my vision. I hurriedly jumped off my bike hollering: "do you want to have a yarn?" This was followed by my confused enquiry: "but where's your bike?" Noting the hiking gators and backpack I realised that this Swiss woman; Sarah, was an Outback hiker! Sarah's disposition was one of youthfull enthusiasm; probably 25 years old; and she greeted me very warmly as like minded travellers do. Her dog wore custom made saddlebags, having the job of carrying the water! With two ski poles, she had solo walked from Alice Springs via the dune and mallee country, navigating by GPS and holding a straight line across the desert. Having walked for 11 months her joy had been briefly shattered when the locals at Penong had refused her water! The general store owner  had informed me of the lack of rain for 4 months. Fortunately I didnt need water but they wouldn't make me a cuppa tea: the woman blandly saying: " I would but we've got no cups".
     Sarah's  comment about the railway town of Cook was that it wasn't worth going there: "It's full of fat lazy Aussie blokes". Ever since that meeting people have often asked me about her.  http://www.sarahmarquis.ch/

This chance meeting was part of my cycle crossing of the Nullabor Plain which was 3120 km over 28 days. Photo is of myself  somewhere east of Norseman. This was the moment I'd met two Canadians whose travel log is worth perusing.  photo by:  http://www.australia.beimers.com/

05 April 2010

BIG RIVER CROSSING - mountain creek to Falls Creek 23.12.90

Big River crossing is a gushing torrent even during the summer "dry" season. It lies in a valley below Mt.Bogong in Victoria. The photo depicts michael during a 52km four day hike to Falls Creek and was our first attempt to combine cycle touring and hiking in one journey.

31 March 2010

ANDADO Australian desert July 1994 (My original Australian Cyclist article) ^

Thoughts of an alternative cycling route through Central Australia, following remote back tracks and passing through the Western Simpson Desert had tantalised me and a friend for several months. Our dream of tranquil wilderness, few cars and bush camping would only be achieved by avoiding the bitumen of the Stuart Highway and travelling the Andado Track (Andado, an Aranda word, means “rock knife”).

Our trip was a 1600 km, 20 day passage from Marree in South Australia to Ormiston Gorge in the Western MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory. We passed through country described by adventurer Warren Bonython as: “A landscape always changing, with many views of scenic beauty unexpectantly appearing...”

     Our decision was to travel northward, as the prevailing winter winds are south easterly and the longitudinal dune system runs north-northwest.
     We had already cycled the southern part of the stony Oodnadatta Track (having bussed to Maree from Adelaide at a cost of $80). We departed Oodnadatta with good wishes from our new Aboriginal friend “Bully”: “Take care of yourselves Bros...” Whilst shaking his head!
     The bikes were heavily laden, each with 15 litres of rainwater (a precious commodity not usually shared with travellers), and eights days’ supply of freeze-dried food in case of breakdown or stranding. The “Mongoose” was so heavily laden that I could barely lift it; my comfort came from knowing that its load would lessen over the days.
     We literally bounced our way across the corrugations following part of the Old Ghan rail line, our first significant landmark being the six square kilometre Fogarty’s clay pan, fringed by low lying red dunes.
It was absolutely  flat and featureless but very humbling and magnificent, I felt, upon reaching its midpoint. These clay pans and clay top roads become impassable in the wet. August is usually dry, although arid regions have unpredictable times of rainfall. Maximum temperatures averaged 21 degrees during our journey, pleasantly warmer than an Adelaide winter.
     Our 1:250,000 maps indicated a region of numerous "confused" sand hills. These were barely rideable and involved using our lowest gear (24 inches), pedalling at high cadence and following sand gutters for 100 metre intervals. Our travel diary records “a dispiriting and exhausting day passing through closed in sand country with a significant low treescape..." Michael described himself as riding just to stay awake!
     At Hamiltion Homestead met an old Aboriginal man (possibly one of the Aranda people) who described bygone days when his people burned off the land to hunt animals and indirectly assisted grassy regrowth. He was about eighty years old and may have been one of the last peoples to leave the Simpson Desert. Our conversation in basic English; his second language; was punctuated by a great deal of comical gesticulation. He laughed knowingly when we spoke of our journey to Dalhousie. It was strange meeting this man and his family on the edge of the Pedirka Desert, their settlement being simple and very isolated.
     Our thoughts of this interesting man spurred us onwards as a convoy of perhaps ten 4WD's passed by without stopping. The high technology of the expensive vehicles contrasted greatly with the desert man's lifestyle. Perhaps he had some vague affinity with our simpler method of travel.
     After leaving the dune fields we crossed a barren gibber plain with its fascinating orange, polished rocks. Gibber is formed from erosion of flat topped sandstone hills. The polished and rounded appearance is due to oxidation and blasting by sand grains - thankfully it doesnt cut or puncture semi-knobbly tyres. Pedirka Siding bore lay upon this intriguing landscape and provided us with drinkable but highly mineralised water. Due to fatigue, partly as a result of the shuddering ride, I found myself almost continually falling off my bike. In the heat, I had failed to  realise the need for lowered tyre pressure. Our average speed this day was only seven kilometres per hour; the lizards travelling faster! We pitched our tent quite early amongst the red mulgas, with their curious curls of orange bark. a sunset walk to a nearby elevation showed distant creeklines - we were in fact viewing a mulga forest and not the "dead heart" of Central Australia. This change of perspective certainly excited me and erased memories of a frustrating day.
Early the next day we entered Witjira National Park, seemingly greeted by a small group of red kangaroos. Dalhousie Springs lay northward in a basin with the stony Goodiar Tableland to the east and the Simpson beyond. A flock of galahs signalled the presence of water - at Dalhousie ruins the small spring had quite refreshing water; the sound of frogs reassuring us of its quality. This was but a mere trickle with the best yet to come. After a few minor sand drifts in desolate saltpan country, we arrived at the main spring. To swim in a deep spring at the edge of the Simpson Desert and be able to drink at whim, while cormorants rest in the trees above us, is mind boggling, I thought at the time. Dalhousie is fed by potable artesian waters and is a hot 38 degrees at its source, where the water can be seen bubbling upward. The surrounds are well greened by melaleuca, various acacias and gums up to 15m  tall. Date palms are prominent on the other mound springs which are divided by small saltpans and soft crystals of gypsum. Samphire (an arid succulent) abounds and tall water reeds up to two metres ring the pools. For the naturist there are many diverse ecosystems in a small area.
     Our skin, apparently red and sunburnt after four days of riding, was actually covered with a combination of red dust and body oil. Washing ourselves restored normal skin colour and soothed sore aching muscles. The abundance of water seemed to be a paradox. We used only three litres per day which we carried in seven extra bidon cages. These often drew curious stares of other off-roaders. Little did they know that each pannier also contained screw top bottles and six litre fold up water sacks! We used fine cloth to filter muddy water from the infrequent dams, aquarium hose to siphon water from inaccessible water holes and Puritabs to sterilise it. Water quality varied from extremely salty and undrinkable to ponds containing cattle excrement. Bore water had no effect on us though we had been warned of its potential to cause diarrhoea. Perhaps our evening meals with chilli and garlic protected us?
    We left Dalhousie after a sunrise walk when we heard a bird with a loud gutteral warble which sounded like a didgeridoo! Aboriginal musicians seem to be masters at mimicking nature. The gentle rise from Dalhousie was via dry creek beds and past small mesa structures whose bright red sandstones contrasted dramatically with the verdant greens of the hardy eucalypts. After crossing another gibber plain we arrived at Mt.Dare Homestead to be met by bewildered locals who couldnt quite believe we were travelling the Andado.
     Mount Dare has basic camping facilities and a hot water shower heated by a wood fire, which surprisingly gives almost instant heat. It is privately run by enthusiastic and helpful people.
     A Frenchmnan with a rifle, dried fruit, cheeese and only 16 litres of water intended to walk to Birdsville from here in 1976 and was never seen again! We felt slightly daunted by this, but with our 30 litres of water and spare parts, including wheel building tools and freewheel body, we felt well prepared. Our greatest cause for concern would be heavy unseasonal rain that could strand us for a week - hence the extra food from Mt. Dare store.
     We had previously lodged our itinery with the Oodnadatta police and we carried a $200 satellite beacon for use in extreme emergency. Any cyclist comtemplateing riding isolated outback tracks should be encouraged to have one.
     As we crossed the Northern Territory border, the land was thick with tall, slender coolibahs, which provided pleasant shade. Since the Andado track follows the dune swale, the sand drifts were shallow but up to 5 km long. the underlay of hard clay corrugations gave our wheels much needed grip, making riding possible.
     Every bore, including the misnamed "Highway Bore", were dry and broken. The declining cattle industry has left deep sandy dustbowls and not a blade of grass! Few bores can be relied upon.
     Camping in the dune swale (the area between dune crests) amongst the bright red colours and the vivid blue sky was the highlight of our days in the Simpson. Dingoes would howl at night, and each sunset, we would walk the dunes following intriguing animal tracks and savour bushfoods such as hakea seed and tomatosa berries. From one dune, the view of a featureless and boundless stony plain mesmerised us. Truly a place "without a postcard".
      We crossed the "dustbowl" to old Andado homestead, noting the tall grasses and climbed two 15m sand dunes. These are truly remarkable features which seemed to vibrate  in the setting sun. They were in fact the only steep "hills" of the whole tour. Molly Clarke runs the homestead as a stopover for travellers. It is perhaps the most isolated settlement in Australia. An evening meal can be obtained, but supplies are not available. A stony campground, hot showers and good water await the thirsty cyclist. Telephoning ahead is a courtesy, as Molly runs the 1920's homestead alone.
     Ahead of us lay 320km of waterless track, more sand drifts and much wildlife. Wedgetailed eagles and Kites frequently soared above, and the occasional Euro (a small kangaroo) was to be seen among the spinifex and canegrasses. Wattles and needle bush grow well on the dunes, the vivid redness of which continued to fascinate us. The nights were certainly tranquil. We fell asleep to the familiar sounds of crickets, which seemed foreign in this setting. We would awake at times to a total silence that almost made our ears hurt. Each morning at exactly sunrise, the wind would mysteriously howl for minutes, then the cool air would suddenly be still.                                                                                                                                                          As we reached the first ranges we could see, 225 km away, the breakaway country near the gibber plain, north of Dalhousie. From atop Arookara range, dunes appeared to run forever, resembling a very green forest. These ranges marked the last of the Andado. The bluish tints of the distant McDonnel looked different to the "flat top" ranges we had seen. In a sense this marked the end of our adventure. We were yet to explore the scenic water hole country of Palm Valley with its ancient cabbage palms, Ormiston Gorge with its dramatic canyon walls and the waterbird country of Glen Helen. It was the simple elements of the dunescape with the vivid ferric colours and the blue sky of a "desert alive" that inspired me.

     A traveller I met years ago said that once you had experienced the colours of the desert, no matter how much you hated it at times, it was like a disease and one would always return. We have pondered crossing the Simpson to Birdsville - the logistics are yet to be ascertained, but the notion will tantalise us until our return.


Having just completed a 9 day 97 kilometre hike from the tallest waterfall in Tasmania at Meander Falls and travelling cross country to Lake St. Clair we passed near to the IRONSTONE range which we discovered to be magnetic in nature and severely affecting our standard orientation compass. In the Meander region we found that compass readings varied up to 20 degrees when two compasses were only 10 metres apart. Near large rocks this was greater but on eroded flat areas; consisting of the same bedrock; this was minimal. It is suggested that Global Compasses be used as they are efficient at dealing with high magnetic dipping. Beyond Long Tarn near Mount Jerusalem this effect became negligible and readings coincided with use of GPS.
The highlight of this leg of the journey were views from an un-named peak located 1.75km from the centre of Lake Eros on a bearing of 242 degrees true North. From there we could view Mount Jerusalem in the N.E. all the way to the jagged Du Cane range laying to our west. The exact coordinates on the 1:25,000 "DUCANE" map series are: 55G 04 29364/53 55248. The area is untracked sub alpine scrub of moderate density but with some sections of Phagus (Australia's only deciduous tree) making forward progress very slow.
The final section of our journey was 16km along the CUVIER track on the west side of lake St. Clair. The area south of lake Petrach is a muddy and water logged section of button grass plain. Although a marked track, it is advised by the park rangers that only experienced walkers use this path. In some sections the mud is knee deep and the trail can fade easily. North of the lake is some wonderful steep forest walking, the thick canopy opening at times to reveal the scraggy peak of Mount Byron.
Our day walk to MOUNT RUFUS; lying at an altitude of 1416 metre; was an 18km circular loop starting at Lake St.Clair, which unlike the western Central Plateaux was free-walking along a rocky track with only stunted subalpine vegetation. The views extend dramatically to FRENCHMAN'S CAP, the King william Ranges and afford clear views of the mountain's of the OVERLAND TRAIL. This walk is highly recommended by myself. A fast unladen hiker can achieve this in 4.50 hrs although the track markers suggest 7 hrs.

***The Silva EXPEDITION-54 compass (as pictured above) consists of standard orienteering baseplate but with a sighting prism located near the West cardinal point and is accurate to half a degree. It will not work in areas such as the Ironstone ranges. Alternatively,The Silva Voyager 8010 is a fully damped compass which will accomodate severe needle dipping

17 March 2010

"THE DOGS DONT BARK" Ceylon 1998 ^

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Sri_Lanka/    The air was acrid with waves of volatile diesel fumes and black soot. The dog lay motionless upon the gravel, then half heartedly lifted his ear as the noise of trucks, cows and trishaws whizzed by. The tropical heat nauseated me, yet the dog seemed impervious to the danger, as brisk traffic passed by the tee junction. It was incomprehensible, why would a dog lay in such a place? He was well fed but outwardly appeared alone and unconcerned. The canines of Sri Lanka rarely know the love of an owner and people generally were insensible to their existence.
My head pulsed with the noise of the lentil man shrilly intoning: “waddy waddy waddy” whilst selling his fried food. My nauseated stomach worsened in the polluted greasy air. The heat was unbearable and no verandas were evident for shelter. In desperation I ordered an Elephant brand ginger drink; it was hot after being in the equatorial sun but inexplicably the mesmerised seller offered me a refrigerated drinking straw! Nothing seemed real or rational. I envied the Buddhist philosophy of accepting that “all life is pain and suffering” whilst the voice in my head pondered my self pity, frustration and discomfort. A sudden insight ruminated in my head: “why dont the dogs bark in India?” Unlike the urban comforts of my home in Australia, the dogs never charge or sound warnings when you pass by the village homes. Buses careering through the settlement narrowly missed sari clad women delicately balancing baskets of food. Their response was a quick colourful shuffle, a sideways glance and then a meditative calm came upon them. They didnt seem to be any different than that dog at the junction.
I wished that I was home collecting the autumn leaves for my garden. I imagined my hands running through the cool damp vegetation; that thought was heartening and I could almost feel the light drizzle from the grey monotone sky. The purity of this sky was no different to the vivid blues of my youthful summers. A Venetian blind furtively opened and memories of a womans perusing eyes startled me. Then the whole street echoed with the sound of irritating barking noises. Then I realised the strangeness of an (Australian) Adelaide street; there were no people and the animals were territorial and unused to street activity. A fleeting emotion of weirdness came upon me. My transient comfort was taken from me and I didnt want to be in the Asian heat, nor did I want the aloneness of that Adelaide Street!
Juxtaposition has been a constant theme in all my journeying. Black defines white. Warmth is relative to cool. Height determines the velvet green of a Mongolian valley. A TASMANIAN TREELINE IS PARTICULARLY IMPRESSIVE. Abruptly the eucalypts become stunted, giving way to the subalpine coolness of a high meadow. As you approach, the wind blowing dries your sweat and with expectation you are excited by the impending panorama. You have arrived to a new place. The legs rest on the flat ground and with big strides the body re-energizes. Only from there can you understand where you have been. Culture is no different. The isolation of an English street is understood with the fresh memories of a bustling Thai market. Modern cities seem temporary. Imagine the trees of a forest not having a root system. Yet, a woodland of tall trees gives the illusion of eternity. The flatness and sparseness of an urban Australian landscape is soon forgotten, once memories of a journey to a colourful landscape have jaded.PHOTO: Tasmanian Highland near Lake Eros April 2007.

04 January 2010

Second attempt to reach the mountains!! DECEMBER 2009

This photo was taken on the Canterbury Plains NZ on my way to Springfield and was a transit through pasture and grain country. Although pleasant it was unadventurous. The fierce NW winds at this time of year were fortunately made easier by the numerous wind breaks in the form of very tall hedges.

Franz Joseph Glacier 26/12/2009

03 January 2010


The Author has been experiencing the mainstream Tourist Trail and train travelling from Northern Malaysia to Thailand. There was entry stamp confusion, as departure from Singapore involves firstly stamping into Malaysia and secondly rubber stamping the exit from the island state. I failed to gain an entry stamp in my passport and apparently the fine is 10,000 ringitts ($AUD3500) or 5 years gaol. WHAT THEY DID SAY WAS THAT ALL TRAIN TICKETS MUST BE KEPT ON YOUR PERSON UNTIL YOU FINALLY DEPART MALAYSIA. P.S. This reverse logic method of passport stamping is the official protocol and provided the traveller has a Singapore railway stamp on the Malaysian entry card, then this is processed just before Thai border. Effectively the entry and exit stamp are done simultaneously at this frontier.PHOTO (top):Indonesian woman with Australian traveller "Tamsin of Brisbane". PHOTO (lower): A GROUP OF MALAYSIAN STUDENTS ON THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN TO BANGKOK. "ADIBA SHAREEN" IS TO MY LEFT.

26 December 2009

FRANZ JOSEPH glacier 26/12/2009

After the 409 kilometres from Christchurch I am now in the village of Franz Joseph. Nearby are the glacial fields which cover 20 sq.km and can be seen from the township. I spent the whole day cycling heavy drizzle to arrive here (forecast was 120mm in 24 hours of rain) and have been rewarded. The icefield in my estimation should not exist. It is only at 46 degrees latitude and the greyish blue "lip" of this river of ice is only 300 metres above sea level! I didnt even have to pedal-climb to arrive here; the day being undulating hills and fortunately no cooling winds. How can such a block of ice exist? Just below it are waterfalls and a turquoise river flowing under it. Nearby are ferns and wetland forest. It doesn't seem far enough south nor high enough to exist. In the drizzle we caught tantilizing glimpses of the ice face and eventually gained a complete view. Mia from California accompanied me and together we took portrait photos. The water is wonderful to drink, it feels soft and carbonated and here it was gushing from under the glacier, its dull aqua color unique to the rocks of New Zealand. Photo taken on a misty late afternoon by Mia of Santa Cruz CA

19 December 2009

NEW ZEALAND 18th,19th December: failure to reach the mountains

The first photo is of my rainforest camp at OKUKU, this being the worst place I have ever camped. Finding flat ground in the mountains is difficult and this made for an uncomfortable night. The second photo is the high country near Craigburn just before the Arthur's Pass descent of 16% gradient. Life wasn't meant to be easy. After leaving Christchurch I had to endure warmth, sunburn and 75 kilometres of mostly headwinds, which were forecast to reach 130 kmh but fortunately it was only half this in brief gusts. My cruising speed was about twenty five but dived to about seven when the wind became unkind. After hours of traversing cereal cropping land I arrived at Springfield. The town has a great campground at six dollars a night and myself and two Australian tourers spent the evening in the local pub eating good food and sharing travel stories. The following day it rained and the first of the mountain passes to Arthurs pass were difficult, with ten metre visibility. I can say that i did my best. Failure is lack of attempt but to be honest this was beyond my physical ability. Every twenty pedals I was stopping and resting. "Half" way up I turned back and headed back to the city, which was 112 km away. And guess what? No rain but another headwind. Arriving back in Christchurch the SOUTHERN BLUES CLUB at 198 Madras street starting piping along at midnight and after 3 Jd's with an Australian musician John (from the band Three Legged Dog) I went back to the "SO" and fell into narcolepsy.

17 December 2009

NEW ZEALAND 17 DECEMBER 2009 'So' Hotel Christchurch

The "So" Hotel is this really funky, modern hotel with a backpacker feel to it and boasts all the inovative technology. This includes sunrise lighting to wake you and waterfalls on your widescreen television to relax you. This comes with an ambience of musical electronica permeating every hallway. The hotel is so wonderful that it beckons you to spend lots of money, including small courses of food at $NZ25. I highly recommend the turkish kebab next door!! Christchurch is a really modern city with an English feel to it and is so like my home town ADELAIDE (Australia), that I don't feel like I am overseas - it's similiar to travelling to another Australian province. My journey to the west coast of the South Island begins tommorrow, with a crossing of Arthur's Pass at 924 metres. I am very pensive and the thought of leaving all this comfort behind and having to endure mountain passes and rain or snow daunts me. Modern Western cities make me restless, the sameness and all the material temptations contrast with my travel philosophy of simplicity. In two days I should be camped by a grassy patch, next to a sapphire blue river surrounded by mountains on all sides. The meditation of cycling in cool clean air and living in the moment seems unreachable. I want the New Zealand air to cup me with its hands and glide me along to my destination. Like most journeys our dreams are often better than the reality and the reality can be a dream. Keep reading and together we may find out.


18 April 2009


While cleaning out my cupboards an old hand written diary fell out and opened to this particular page:
"Provide neccessary assistance to the international traveller", greeted us as a black and white signpost at the border. Barely beyond that a signpost proclaimed "Burma beer hall". Our passports are stowed away in Thailand and i feel like a stateless person. TACHILEK is a busy market town with the cigarette trade being the most obvious. This crossroads town is quiet, the people are almost shy but friendly and the border guards wanted 500 baht/$10 to cross the border and smiled pleasantly at doing so - "oh i'll have to go back to Thailand to obtain some money", at my declaration the price halved, although still $AUD3.20 above the official cost. (The local people simply were wading and splashing their way back and forth across the muddy river!)
There is a strong Muslim presence and stalls selling bear's teeth, tiger parts and panda paws are alongside some dangerous looking machetes and knives. Dozens of tiger and leopard skins adorned many shops. There are Indian and even Bangladeshies selling their wares. I can only think of Ang Sun Su Chi, as i eat the nicest clear noodle soup that i have ever had!It has chicken stock,roast pork pieces, sprouts and Tibeten momos. We even had a coca-cola, while one of the shopkeeper's sons strummed an out of tune guitar. I cant help but think that the whole town is simply a showcase for Eastern and Western tourists.It seems too nice and surprising to me were the expensive cars driven by Burmese. No beggars were in sight and it is seemingly similiar to the Thai side in terms of wealth. We both so much wanted to travel further onward but apparently up to 1992 the Shah army had been bombing bridges. I can only feel that borders seem so uneccessary.
PS: the above market photo was taken by Choo Tse Chien in 2004. At this particular stage of my travels my idealistic belief was to never take photos of people in other cultures as a mark of respect. Sometimes the photographing becomes the holiday.

23 November 2008

various photos from Bolivia cycle tour year 2000

The lower photo is of myself arriving to the summit of the HUILA KOTA region at an altitude of approximately 5200 metre.Next to this is the MOON PLAIN near San Pedro Atacama, which is the driest place on earth. During this hike the campesinos (unionised workers) had gone on strike and martial law had been declared. We were unaware of this whilst hiking in such a remote area and eventually stumbled upon the worker's blockades. The group photo is of our mixed travellers group who were stranded in SORATA during this time. In the group photo is "YAHOO", wearing a green shirt in the front row, an ex-pat Australian long distance runner, now living in Austria.***refer to Bolivia blog dated 5 APRIL for further information/

01 August 2008

Airport Radio Weather Reports

In Adelaide in South Australia the Adelaide Airport broadcasts on 362 khz just below the standard AM band, a continuous report of weather conditions. This includes wind direction at all altitudes, barometer, temperature and universal time coordinates. This is helpful for the cyclist who may wish to start the days ride against the wind and literally sail home. For further information of Australian weather try this URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/

15 July 2008

MONGOLIA day-15 6 July 2006 return to Khovsgol ^

MONGOLIA day-15 6th July 2006
It rained all night and by the morning the stratus cloud was a drizzle and the fog limited visibility to 300 metres. The stony uphill for the first 6 kilometres was hot work even though the temperature was about 11˚. At a large creek crossing the cars including the Russian “Comby” vans were almost submerged, their wheels underwater and engines revving jarringly. Our only choice was to disassemble the bikes from their panniers and *wade across in the fast flowing shallower sections. Two Mongolian boys on a Russian Planeta motorbike simply full throttled without any hesitation; their cylinder heads were underwater and the exhaust bubbled. They almost made it and with minimal assistance from us were on their way. A group of Germans and Europeans were very considerate, having made sure that we also crossed safely. I had been pondering for a while why Mongolian rivers often appear from nowhere; a stony creek bed; deceptively dry; would at a certain point begin to gush water. The only conclusion being that the water flows under the stony base, this being something that I have never observed previously. This was confirmed when I placed my ear to the ground and could just hear the burbling underneath. A short 27 kilometres to KHATGAL has given us another rest day. My whole body feels heavy and lethargy promises an afternoon sleep.

See above photo:A phonetic alphabet was invaluable for transliterating Russian script when reading road signs. Here we are on the main gravel road to MORON near the minor turnoff to Russian Siberia.
* Refer to photo: “photo of authors” at top page of weblog.

03 April 2008

MOUNT OSSA 14 MARCH 2008 "the chute"

The gravel climb from the plains, via the ever-thickening woodland was gradual, as it skirted the contours of Mount Pelion East. At about one thousand metres, I felt the cool southerly wind slowly increase, this being indicative of the tree line finally thinning and of our imminent arrival to Pelion Gap. The bright blue sky, with only the occasional silvery cottonwool cloud, opened up with vast views of endless button grass and scrubby moor land. I danced through this with childlike excitement as I sought water from a small soak. The Teatree coloured creeks lay far away below us. The bush at this height was thin and stunted, much like a Japanese bonsai garden and the orange tans of the hardy grasses mesmerised me. The striking rocky flanks of Mount Doris eclipsed the much higher Mount Ossa and both seemed tangible. Ahead of us lay a two-kilometre walk with a height gain of 488 metres, with the final “ascent” having a gradient of 23 degrees along large blocks of dolerite. The unseasonal hot weather made the climb rather hot and even the 70 kilometre per hour winds funnelling up the final rocky chute were warm! Therese (my sister) reached the final last hundred metres of clamber but was tentative in the buffetting wind and sheltered in a rocky saddle. I wandered onward, causing some potentially dangerous rock falls and arrived at the final crest, only to find a small, uniform and strangely windless plain with views of every nearby mountain. A pretty tarn lay to the southwest and made the carting of water redundant. The change of perspective intrigued me, another walker asked me for the location of mount Doris but it seemed to have disappeared, merging amongst the rocky foreground and laying a large distance below us. Mount Ossa (1614 metre) is the highest mountain in Tasmania and generally is hard to climb due to inclement weather, only 23 days per year are usually safe to climb. The provision of some plank walks south of the Gap and the etching of the rocky pathway by the Parks Service certainly made this walk a pleasurable experience.


16 January 2008

Phitsanulok 8 JUNE 1999

I WAS AGAIN IN PHITSANULOK ON 3 JANUARY 2008 FEELING HOT, TRAVEL WEARY AND DISINTERESTED IN THE TOWN. THE FOLLOWING OLD JOURNAL ENTRY SHOWS HOW ONE'S CONNECTION TO A PLACE CAN BE DIFFERENT OVER THE PASSING YEARS: "...The morning wake up call at four thirty was most unwelcome. Two roosters were sparring and crowing, so it was prudent to move hotels. We are now in the centre of town, being the only two guests on the fourth floor, with a huge rooftop balcony. The room is Spartan (with mattresses upon the floor) but is immaculately clean and brightly painted in white. The same cleaner has been sweeping the floor since the eighth hour and the wooden floorboards are literally sparkling.
The streets are becoming busier again since the afternoon rain; prior to that shopkeepers were slumped across their desks due to the heat. One woman was asleep amongst her produce. We wandered through the meat market, where pigs’ heads, looking anaemic and bloodless greeted us. They seemed to grin macabrely as we splashed through the muddy puddles. .
My visit to the Buddha casting factory was where I found her. She beamed a beautiful smile, her palms were prayer like and her head was adorned with a pointed “crown”, pointing skyward like a chedi. She was kneeling and the lead colour of her metallic skin hinted at weight and permanency. An ornate necklace, wide upon her shoulders was inscribed with lotus like designs. Kinnari is a princess representing celestial love and compassion. I did not know her name until today. Whenever I have seen her over the years, I have always felt a sense of calmness, perhaps a placation when I have been addled by the Asian confusion and pace of life. Only today did it feel correct to purchase this small figurine. I feel joyful at the thought of the Buddha like visage greeting me each morn. Aesthetically, I admire the symmetry and when seen in side profile, there is a balance or solidness. In her true form, she is a bird like figure from the waist down but the human form is more meditative for me..."
Postscript: To this very day, Kinnari is always to the right of me as I sleep at night

02 January 2008

AUTHOR at Ayutthaya Thailand 2 JAN 2008

The Ayutthaya ruins date from the 12th century and are in the centre of the town of Ayutthaya, which is surrounded on all sides by canals and the large Chao Praya river (originating in Bangkok) to the eastern side of town. It consists of Stupas, Prangs and buddha platforms all done in the style of narrow brick stucco, which is used also in modern constructions. As a curiousity the ferry journey from the railway station to the town is a mere cost of only 2 baht (-.6c).

24 December 2007

"Tour Down Under" 20 JANUARY 2008 (video)

This is the opening lap of the first ever European Pro-tour race held outside of The Continent. The location is at Glenelg in the metropolitan area of ADELAIDE (Australia). The race has been held for 10 years and for the first time there are more French riders than Australians, this as a result of the new status of the race.The still photo is of the sprint finish in the wine area of South Australia in the town of Angaston.(photo courtesy of TDU).

05 August 2007



08 May 2007

NULLABOR PLAIN - photo of Authors ^

This photo (middle) was taken by other cyclists during my journey across the Nullabor Plain in Australia. If you check my links page you can view the BEIMER'S comprehensive cycle journey of the world. During this sojourn I had in fact cycled into the breeze for all of the journey, having not researched wind direction for that time of year. The Meteorology link has records of prevailing wind directions for each season of the year. Also,a shortwave radio is highly effective for weather reports - near Ceduna I managed a 45 kilometre day over eight hours. Subsequent weather reviews that day indicated wind gusts up to 100 km/h from the west. The first photo shows Michael traversing a flooded creek one day before severe flooding struck the Khatgal area of Mongolia. With only luck we managed to always be one day ahead of the floods as we made our return to Moron via the beautiful Khatgal region. The floods in July 2006 eventually washed cars away and caused the deaths of many. The third photo is the Atacama Desierto which is the driest place on earth, with only 5mm of rain in 100 years!

18 July 2006

MONGOLIA day-26 18th July Rashaant [FINAL]

MONGOLIA day-26 141.24 km 18th July 2006
Tonight we are camped in a beautiful area of high rock outcrop, which overlooks a very large floodplain in the Erdenescent region. The Basque women that we met in Tsetserleg drove past today, giving an inspiring wave. At the outpost of Rashaant, Bernard and Rachel were unloading their bicycles; yet again; from a van as he had damaged a knee. Now that we are upon the bitumen the journey feels as if it has finished. I have thought about Igor, the reserved Spanish cyclist we found at the Tsetserleg “shipping crate” market. This is a city block area of old ship crates that serve as shops, where anything of dubious quality can be procured. He had three broken spokes, a scoured wheel rim and the most shredded tyre that I had ever seen. Igor accepted Michaels offer to re-build his wheel and calmly took it all in his stride. Now many days later I wonder if he is still riding out to western Mongolia. The three Flemish girls on their cheap, heavy steel Chinese bikes haven’t been heard of since we shared lunch at Shin Idler. Their descriptions have not been recognized by any motorists that we have seen. I feel an affinity with all these cyclists. The journey is mostly one of luck. Mongolian highways are a litany of broken cars and riders coming to grief. In the last few days we have skirted the northern Gobi desert near Ovor Hoshoot, which is the geographical centre of the country. Beyond the highway stretch that is Rashaant, we could see the clay orange dunes and this is where we bid farewell to Bernard and Rachel, as they decided to back track ten kilometres to spend a night in the swales. Our two days of 115 kilometres (19th July 141.36 km, 20th July 90.96 km.) upon silk smooth asphalt has been healing to the legs. Pushing the big chain wheels in the cross and occasional tail winds has been pleasurable.
Now, in Ulaanbator I have time to think and have realized that my fears of arriving home with success are at the forefront of my thoughts. Will my travel papers be accepted? Without a passport how do I prove that I have a visa extension? It all seems autocratic and complicated. Riding the steppes and visiting nomad camps seems easier to grasp. Truly, I am ready for home and it is my only wish. Michael is in a post ride slump, probably needing vitamins and protein to “up” his weight from a mere 54 kilograms. In the next few days we shall hike the nearby Terinjli National park and slowly clean our gear.
The local English paper: the Ulaan bator Post (July 28th) reports of floods following heavy rain from various parts of the country. 7 people were killed and ten missing in Teshig soum (Bulgan Aimag), in floods around July tenth, which also destroyed two hundred animals, as reported via the national emergency management agency (NEMA). On July 9th the water level at Tsergaan-uur soum in Khovsgol aimag reached 1.70 metres, though no casualties were reported. The Vice Premier reached the disaster zone on the night of the 9th with working groups to review the situation. Troops rescued fifty people from the rising waters. According to NEMA officials, people had to climb the roof of their houses to avoid the water. The losses from the disaster amount to 140,000,000 togrog. In Shiver area, a lightening strike killed a young child on a horse. The heavy rain also caused the death of two Azarga stallions. Two riders were also struck by lightening and taken to hospital.

13 July 2006

MONGOLIA day-21 JULY 13th , day-25 2006 Kharokarin

127.40 km: Today has been a comfortable downhill ride toward Tsetserleg. Our height is now 1640 metres and warm enough to sit outside the tent and watch the late Mongolian sunsets; (summer solstice is 16:02 hours of sunlight.) We’ve just been visited by the local mentally ill person. Even from 200 metres away her state of dishevelment was obvious, with a blackened body and a coiffure standing stiffly sideways. She sat for an hour before making a wide arc as she approached. She then sat directly behind me giggling to herself in an obviously schizophrenic manner. I offered her a biscuit which she tentatively took but slowly only ate half. I offered water and again she did the same. Eventually she wandered off and then lay prostrate in the creek bed. Dozens of children today have been selling Airag, a fermented mares milk, of a low three percent alcoholic content, with the texture of milk. In the middle of a lonely dusty track they have a small makeshift “teepee” style dwelling and come running with the excitement of a sale. I have dreamt of fresh milk and paid five hundred Togrog for 1½ cups, the smile on the young boys face clearly showed that my offer was too high. Instead of cooling milk, the unexpected taste was of tangy, sour and fermented yoghurt which fortified me. Michael couldn’t drink his portion so I wolfed it down finding the second serve not too bad. At our campsite I noticed a large marmot standing upon its hindlegs, its beaver like tail erect, whilst it made an insect like clicking sound - perhaps this was either a territorial action, or maybe a mating ritual. Unlike most of these animals he didn’t flee from us but remained brightly lit in the setting sun.
Day-22 Tsetserleg 14th July 20.78 km
Day-23 “rest day” 15th July 00.00 km
Day-24 Kharokarin 16th July 102.84 km
Day-25 kharokarin 17th July 25.02 km

12 July 2006

letter from Mongolia-Toyn Valley ^

Hello everybody...just spent five days cycling cross country through the Toyn valley, which has been mountain pass after mountain pass to a height of 2450metres. We accidently camped in the lair of a mountain cat (wolf?) amongst the pines and the scary un-natural sounds that this creature made in the cold misty night scared the two of us and ruined a good nights sleep. Exciting stuff!! After a screaming descent to a lake the weather is back to a very warm heat. We are safe and well in the garden city of TSETSERLEG and have only 600km to go until we are safely ensconced in the capital of mongolia. The rest of our ride is on "highways" which resemble the Strezlecki track in the outback of South Australia. Our hotel tonight (5 days without a wash) has limited hot water and the plumbing leaks onto the floor & the Soviet handbasin broke from the wall like a loose tooth. When I did wash I was in the wrong room, totally naked & soaping myself, when a woman in her 30's just walked in and started talking to me...i am so used to the informality of Mongolians that i didnt flinch. People just shit in the open here, piss anywhere and even breast feed in public. I think the western world needs to let go of its mostly stupid social rules. In a country ranked 198th poorest in the world and where children have to cart water i really cant complain. It could be worse, in this heat sometimes no water comes out of the tap! At least i am laughing and to be honest a Mongolian smile and their hospitality is the warmest I have come across; well, at least on par with Bali - must have something to do with Buddhism. The food overall is poor, mostly old meat (marmots?) fried with flat noodles with butter poured over the top...the tea has butter and salt in it like Tibet. The exception was the above mentioned valley where the green pasture, mountain streams and lush Taiga pine forest produces a wonderfull emental cheese. We were abducted by the local children who were wielding pipes and sticks and they lifted us off our bikes, took us home and fed us. This was without payment as the Mongolian way is that you can walk into anyones home and be fed. Instead we share biscuits and chocolate. It took 1 1/2 hours to "escape" as the kids were sitting on our bikes as we attempted to peddle-away. The rest of the holiday should be without incident...the only annoying thing is that I have to pay for an Australian visa as I am travelling home on a British travel document. That really gives me the shits!!! Overall i am excited and feel good and we are about to visit the Buddhist temple for some solitude.
*****1750 kilometres so far...my ribs are showing and my arms have shrunk!!!!

MONGOLIA day-20 July12th 2006 Tariat


85.90km near Tariat 2092 metres.
Our morning climb to the mountain pass at Oroohyn (2345 metres) was undertaken on peanuts and biscuits, as the Whisperlite cooker failed to function. Although able to cook food at altitude; unlike the Trangia it is more complicated, with fine jets needing regular cleaning and it works less effectively if the fuel is down to 20%; frequent hand pumping is then required. In the cold but misty morning I was quite depressed, hungry and in my wet socks, as I corkscrewed my way higher up the dirt tracks. The early stages of a rupturing rear tyre made for a despondent day. Even the curious children of Tariat and the adults hovering and prying, very much annoyed me. I only had time for an elderly man in a cotton coat with a saffron waist tie, whose interaction was quite spiritual - he smiled, shook my hand with both of his and bowed.
I felt connected to him but also unfulfilled from the lack of common language. This was the only good thing of my day. Our sleep had been in a pine forest near a flowing stream and was very bitter (perhaps 3 degrees) with my night haunted by the sounds of a wolf making threatening growls. In my half sleep I imagined that it had caught its prey and was tearing it apart. My biggest fear was
that we were in its territory. The sounds that it made were strange and almost un-natural. With a foggy head I down hilled to Lake Terhiyn Tsaggan, along a rocky track only to tumble hard and slide along the ground. Nearer the vast lake the tracks were sandy and I fell gently but frequently. A late lunch at Tariat of khuushuur; a fried meat pancake; lifted my mood immediately, confirming that our ride had been done in starvation mode. Tonight we are camped in a broad green valley amongst volcanic outcrops, with expansive views, the sun shining and my hanging socks drying. Now that we have stopped I feel very much at peace.

11 July 2006

letter from Mongolia July 7th 2006 ^

Hello everybody.....we finally made it to lake Khovsgol, very near the Russian border and we could in fact see the distant snowcapped peaks that line the border between the two countries. Unfortunately we had to carry our bikes over flooded rivers, stony ground and mud up to the knees. We did reach a mountain pass (called "davoo") Jaglet Davoo at 2000metres only to get bogged on the other side at the confluence of two beautiful rivers. It means that we miss out on the alpine regions where the reindeer people still live in teepees. So we have headed back and I am writing from Moron on our way cross country to Tsetserleg; which means garden city. The people here are so friendly and remind me of the Australian Outback of 20 years ago, when people all helped each other but also competed in a friendly manner. Today we had two traditionally dressed herders (on horses) race us through a mountain pass and they simply laughed all the way...I must say it was neck to neck at 35kph!!! The Naddam festival starts soon and is vaguely like an olympics with horse racing, bow and arrow contests and wrestling. Apparently if you are in a small town they encourage "gringos" such as myself to compete. "Moi!" wrestling, could be good as you have to slap the loser on the gluteus maximus afterwards. Bye for now and lots of love.

MONGOLIA day19 July11 2006 Oroohyn ^

74.54 km, 2105 metres:

Today has been a perfect day. The first delight being a fast descent into Jargalant. The wooden bridge into the town had the appearance of a structure that had been buckled, as if having sustained the effects of an earthquake. It was bent both upward and side ways and I do wonder how many trucks obeyed the 5 tonnes advisory signs. It looked very solid and intricately engineered. Here we enjoyed a meal of Tsuivan and salty tea in a Guanz set up within a Ger but in close proximity to other wooden buildings. As with all Mongolians the concept of time is irrelevant, the meal was cooking for an inordinate amount of time on a large wok designed to fit with perfection upon the stove - curry was added and the onions cut delicately with mindfulness. Upon approaching the small outpost of Toyn we found the road blocked by half a dozen locals wielding sticks and metal pipes, who then forced us to stop. They ranged from six to twelve years old and we had no choice but to drink tea and eat cheese. This valley is picture perfect and the greenness of the pasture has produced a variety similar to Swiss Jarlsberg. Upon leaving, the children hung onto the bikes and tried to jump upon our luggage racks and pull us backward. It took half an hour to escape their grasp, finally spinning down the clay track, downhill at full speed. The whole day was one of children or young horse riders eagerly inviting us to their homes, which we declined. Every visit would have been at least a half hour and we wanted to camp early, so our only choice was to continue onward. The Toyn Valley is a most pretty place with gers and wooden buildings near to stony creeks and the pine forest forming a charming backdrop. Our road lies above the floor of the dale giving us broad views of verdant pastures.

10 July 2006

MONGOLIA day-18 Zoolongiyn 10th July 2007 ^

MONGOLIA day-18 Zoolongiyn Davaa
Tonight we are camped at 1975 metres after the gruelling ascent to Zoolongiyn pass with its magnificent granite tor landscape. Michael became very cold in the strong cold winds, small intermittent hail and the rigors of riding upon spongy and muddy ground. I spent my time slipping on wet rocky tracks, balance not being a bike skill that I have mastered. We saw very large eagles hovering over an enchanting “U” shaped velvet green valley, the colour ostensibly vibrating in the soft light. An oxcart loaded with wood was towed by two oxen and led by a horse rider; its wheels were planks of wood with re-used rubber nailed roughly to the oblate wheels. As we down hilled to the pretty town of Shine Idler we came across three truckers, who had previously plied us with vodka. When offered a tumbler you must drink it all in one hit; there was a certain aggression when I hesitated and I had to partake of Michael’s share when they were not watching. They had given three Flemish women a lift up a difficult, slushy mountain pass (we had met them in Khatgal), only to commence fist fighting each other in their drunken torpor. The woman told us over goulash in a Shin Idler restaurant, that they just un-hitched their Chinese bicycles and rode off with haste. During our lunch these men arrived and menacingly eyeballed us briefly before disappearing. This has been a day of three seasons in one day, with the blue skies at times kindly warming us.
* The photo was taken on day-19.