15 01 2014

The smell of trees and damp earth after a light rain in the evening.

What a pity there is no way to record it. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy it.


Laos, China and Kyrgyzstan

3 06 2013

The current bike trip is well underway, from Laos to Kyrgyzstan. I did get my passport back in time (just).

I had plans to update this blog along the way, but for various reasons I’m using a crazyguyonabike blog this time. So far there have been almost daily updates – sometimes it takes a while to get to an internet connection to upload them though. Feel free to check it out and leave comments!


New keyboard!

15 04 2013

I just got another package in the post. Always exciting when one of these turns up. Actually, today I managed three – a final (hopefully) order from wiggle, an order from bivouac (some more camping gear – and there I was thinking I had everything I needed), and now a mini keyboard. Two of the boxes are in Adelaide, so the only one I can play with is the keyboard. Gone are the days of going shopping in a store…

And as I expected, it’s too small. But still better than the on screen keyboard on the nexus 7. I’m still going to take the tablet, but longer blog posts might need a computer. When it is set up as a laptop, the whole thing looks ridiculously small, smaller than the old 7inch eeepc. And I think it is even harder to type on. Although the screen is now far better than the eeepc. Touch screen and high resolution beats the nasty resolution of the eeepc. And battery life of this thing is much better. Either way, this one is going – with the tiny keyboard. I’d be much happier if it had an sd card or usb port. Perhaps next time I’ll have to look at a proper tablet. By then they’ll be everywhere.

Other things. The camera has recently died. Which means a new one has to be bought. Which isn’t a big problem until you look at the selection available now. Ridiculous. I had to narrow to one brand I already know. So, hopefully this weekend I’ll make a final choice, and get another new toy.

The trip is organised. Well more or less as organised. At least as organised as it’s going to be. The time is flying though – only 3 weeks left. The count is for the number of days left that are not work days. That makes it seem very close! I just hope the passports come back from the Chinese Embassy soon. Preferably with a nice shiny visa in there somewhere.

Right, the keyboard has proved it will work. I might get frustrated pretty easily, but it’s better than the android on screen keyboard.

The formatting got all screwed up for some reason. WordPress? What happened there?
I just tried to add a photo. Now that will be a real challenge. Will definitely need a proper computer for that, or… Another toy?


16 03 2013
Poor blog has been ignored for too long. Again.
As the last post alluded to, there’s going to be another trip! Yippee! I never finished writing about the last trip. I still think I should write something more but it’s been a year and a half and I still haven’t got around to it. Looks like it’s not going to happen. So… A quick summary: Pakistan seems to be full of great scenery and people. Because of the (perceived) danger, the tourists seem to huddle together and you end up with a great experience. India couldn’t be more different, and if I was in a different ‘head space’, I may have even enjoyed it. As it was I was at the end of my trip and the end of my tether, so I ticked a few of the tourist must-sees with my father and headed home.
 18 months goes by
There must be a different time scale in operation when travelling. I can hardly believe how fast time goes past in ‘normal’ land. I just had to check my calendar (yes, at home I need a calendar…) – I’ve been in the west for two weeks. That really flew past.
Anyway, the upcoming trip. When I came back to Australia, I convinced myself that I would be back for about six months, then back to India to resume where I left off. Then more work came along, and the Pamir highway looked inviting. Then, for various reasons, I decided to stick it out in normality and see how it went.
It was good for a while, but I couldn’t shake the idea of getting back out there. Again, for various reasons, I decided to try a shorter trip. The one year was quickly reduced to six months. Now it’s four months. See how a shorter length trip goes (maybe it’s too short?). And the starting point changed from where I left off in India to somewhere in SE Asia. Mostly so I could build a route that finished in Kyrgyzstan so I could ride for a month with Stefan an Sabine. They’ll be there in August, but they can’t wait that long for another trip – they’ll be in Jordan over Easter.
So, a one way ticket has been bought. To Thailand at the start of May. Quickly leg it over to Laos, then ride the length of Laos, look around China (assuming the Chinese authorities give out a visa). Head over the desert to Kyrgyzstan for August. Do a lap of Kyrgyzstan and fly back. I don’t know if there will be time to ride all the way. Since the trip has an end date, it makes more sense to skip any boring bits with a bus.
Looking forward to starting now!

Still alive

11 09 2011

I appear to have forgotten about the blog. I am still alive, and at the moment I am safely back in Australia. Not exactly home, but Frankenbici is parked up in my parents shed, and I’m several thousand kilometres west of there. I’ll try to write something about Pakistan (a great place) and India (a less great place) before I forget about it, or get overwhelmed by the day to day. The latter may have already happened…

Rooftop talking

14 06 2011

This is  good way to pass the time in Yazd. Talking about Alexander the Great (since when have I been interested in ancient history?), waiting for sunset, overlooking the oldest city in the world. Somewhat confusingly, I have now been to the oldest continually inhabited city in the world three times: Damascus, Aleppo and now Yazd.


Yazd rooftop


22 04 2011

I’m in Turkey. ANZAC cove is in Turkey (albeit on the far west of Turkey, ie the other side). ANZAC day is in a few days, but I’m not going to be there. I have been surprised that many Turks know the word (ok, acronym) ANZAC. When we meet, most ask me where I’m from. When they work out it isn’t Austria (“ahh, Spreken zie Deutsch!”, “no, no, awrstr-AL-ia”), they often come back with “ANZAC!”. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, what took place is as much a part of their history as it is mine.

I think it’s great that we remember what took pace at Gallipoli and at the same time all soldiers that fought in wars. War is a terrible thing, but for the most part, the average soldier doesn’t have any say in what is happening or what stupid cause they may be dying for (without me passing judgement on the morality of any particular war). So I think it’s good that we remember the sacrifice by celebrating a slaughter of our own kin, rather than trying to promote the activity as a glorious event.

Having said that, I’m a bit concerned by the way we do it. Australians on tour have a bit of a reputation of a hard drinking, hard partying bunch, which is fine. It helps us keep our reputation in the world. But it does seem a bit out of place on a day of remembrance of a battle that was basically a massacre. Several Turks have also had this discussion with me. They say (to paraphrase) “Why come all the way here to drink all night, smoke weed and screw when you are commemorating a battle in the morning? We have more respect for your soldiers than you do”. Clearly not all who go to Gallipoli behave like this, but enough do that this is the reputation we get.

I’d like to be there. But I wont be. I’ll do my own thing, away from the tourist industry that has emerged to service the hordes of Aussies and New Zealanders who come to watch, blearily, the sun rise in a place that many have no direct connection to.

Lest we forget.

I’m alive

4 02 2011

It’s 2am and I’ve just found a working internet connection. I’m sick but safe (enough) in Hurghada (on the Red Sea), Egypt. There have been some problems here… Not sure where I’ll be going next.

On a plane

19 01 2011

Yes. My time in Santorini has come to an end. It was an excellent few months, where I spend a lot of time with Jurg and Rahel (and yes, they are still speaking to me), and met a few excellent locals on Santorini. Some photos are on Picasa.

Of course I should write about what I’ve got up to in Santorini. And maybe I will. But right now I am waiting for a plane to whisk me south. Yes, this eco-friendly travelling style hit a snag – winter. I’m not all that keen on riding around in Greece or Turkey (or anywhere further north) in winter. Weich-ei, warm ducher, softy. Yeah, yeah. I promise I did search for a ferry to take me south – and indeed I found one. There is one ferry from Venice to Egypt running over winter. From Venice, and not stopping anywhere near Greece. Ridiculous. So the remaining options are to spend the rest of winter in Santorini (which is a good option); ride around in freezing Turkey (not a good option); or fly south (disappointing to have to use a aircraft, but well, the reality is this is the best option).

So here I am – in the Athens airport. I arrived on the ferry from Santorini last night and cycled through Athens after midnight – lucky the roads were more or less deserted. I slept briefly, then ran around to find a bike box. The first one was big enough to fit the bike in without removing the wheels. Too big. So I wandered around for another. And found one without too much trouble. Packed the bike (always an entertaining activity), and then set about getting to the airport.

The buses are on strike. It’s Greece. So are the trains. The road to the airport is a no-cycling-allowed motorway. Lucky the subway is not on strike, and goes to the airport. So I walked, no staggered to the metro station nearest. 200 or so meters, but it took me 5 rest breaks to get there (including one half way down the stairs). I thought I must be getting soft. And maybe I am, but it turns out the bike box weighted 32kg, and the backpack 23kg. That’s quite a bit of weight, and a little too much to easily split into my allowance of 20kg for the bike, 20kg for the bag. But somehow I managed to get two packages of 20kg and a carry on that has got to the gate so far without comment (I’m just nonchalantly heaving 12kg or so about the airport – I’ve gone camping with less gear…).

So it’s time to get excited again. Not about the flight. But a new city, a new continent, a new language. Pyramids. I’m being called.

Snow – Really

11 12 2010

Last Tuesday the three of us (Jurg, Rahel and I) went snorkelling with a friend we’ve made on the island (Ushi, form Munich). It was a beautiful day, in the sun it was hot, in the water it was… refreshing. There was nothing to see in the water but that’s only a minor point. The following day I went for a ride on my newly returned hub (yes it’s back – it was sitting in an office on the island for a week – so now I don’t have any excuse for prolonging my departure). Again, a pleasant day, a little overcast and slightly windy.

Three days ago it was warm and sunny. Not last week. Not last summer. Three days.

Right, so this morning I went to get the bread, having drawn the short straw by being the first awake. It was raining. And cold. Then it started to snow. Yes, it really does snow on Santorini. Now I’m not going to be going out and buying skis, but it is super cold today. Perhaps I’m not yet far enough south to avoid this winter thing. Egypt?


13 09 2010

Again, no time for a long post. I’ve been on the Danube now for three days, and I’ve pulled into Vienna for a shower 🙂 Insert photos of a very wide river with alternating landscape of flat (flat, flat, flat) or pretty hills and cities / villages, invariably with a castle and/or monastery on top.

Stafan suggested it might be possible to do 200km a day. It may be, but I’m 25km short of that so far (possibly because of a lack of chocolate, but mostly because the sun has this habit of hiding when I need just a bit more time). But I have made 500km in 3 days. If you’re not impressed, then you should be. Unfortunately Vienna stopped me, and I’m now off to look around the city, with my new friends Daniel and Marion (from Switzerland – they are cycling to Japan, but get this – via Finland). They also have a blog: www.detours-deux-roues.ch if you can read French.

I also think the very expensive hub I have is buggered – I changed the oil a few days ago and now there is oil everywhere. The good news is the chain is well lubricated / drenched in stupidly expensive oil, I just hope I don’t have to send it back to Germany to get it fixed…


10 09 2010

Another rest period over (two full days off the bike!), and the job of updating the blog has been left until 2am. Seems I’ve been too busy talking with Stefan and Sabine, cleaning / servicing the bike, upgrading a few things, etc, etc.

But I have been learning some more German. My current memorised spiel is:
Entschuldigung, ich spreche kein Deutsch, aber, ich habe, sowieso, ein vogel.

I think I know what it means, it seems to crack Stefan and Sabine up when I get it right. It’s an improvement (sowieso) over “Ich habe eine hund”. Which is all I remember from 3 years of primary school german, and is wrong in so many ways (gramatically and, well, I don’t have, and never have had, a dog). But I am (at least a little) crazy. And I’ve owned a bird.

And coming all this way north to see Stefan and Sabine was a good idea. It was great to see them again (and sample/devour some more of Stefan’s cooking). Although they may have appreciated stepping inside their house after a month in Cuba before having to deal with me 🙂

Now, I’m going to roll down the Danube, until, possibly in need of food, I hit Hungary.

And out again

30 08 2010

I’d love to spend more time in Italy. I had great plans of a circuit of Tuscany, a quick stop in Rome, maybe a giro of Sicily. But I also have only a few days to get to Regensburg to welcome back Stefan and Sabine, and so simply wont have the time. (And really it’s to hot and full of tourists in August.). A return trip will have to be planned.

So, I’m after a bit cooler weather. Switzerland? Maybe. I’m going to have a go at grunting over a pass north of here (here is lake Como, another rediculously pretty place, infested with tourists) today, then turn right. Then mountains, mountains, mountains, hills, Bavaria. That’s the plan.

But that means I have to leave the pizza… At least I can carry some pasta with me.

Into Italia

27 08 2010

I am getting seriously behind in my posts. Things are happening, but I’m not getting much internet access, nor am I giving myself time to write. There’s only so much you can do in a day.

But I couldn’t let this pass.

I picked my route across the Alps and into Italy a few days ago by looking at the map and finding the highest pass I could see, Col Agnel. By luck I think I also picked the prettiest. So this morning I lugged all my gear up and over the Alps. Along with lots of roadies (who all overtook me). Some of them had things to say (like my new friend Pascal who rode with me for maybe an hour), but I felt like a celebrity at the top. Lots of people saying “bon courage!” – even I could understand that. And fair enough too, it was 2744m high. I didn’t feel tired until later I discovered I could hardly move my legs.

Luckily there was a whole lot of down for a while, in fact I definitely didn’t pedal to my new high score of 72km/h – that was trying to keep things under control. I can only imagine what the Tour de France riders get up to (they came this way 4 years ago – I could still read the paint on the road, including “Allez Evans!”)

I was exhausted, but found a second wind and rode into Fossano, well out of the Alps. Rode around in circles looking for somewhere to stay, and then just rode on. This is clearly not tourist country, there was nothing. I found a restaurant in the middle of no-where and had some pasta, but they didn’t know where I could stay. Out of water, out of daylight and in a tiny place, I asked a family if they knew where I could find a campsite. They must have taken pity on me, because I was offered the spare room in the garage. Once they heard my story, they wanted to hear more and for the second time in the day I felt like a celebrity. I was brought into have dinner (second dinner!) and we talked for some time. All in English, of course, my Italian needs some work. Amazing how kind some people can be to strangers.

I think Mario was most impressed, he managed to round-up some friends and we timidly chatted for a while, before they went out. I should have got a photo of everyone so I could put it here. Maybe Mario can send me one for the blog (I know he’ll read this!)

Thank you for your hospitality Lucia, Mario and Anna! Gracie!

Piernas del toro

19 08 2010

Sorry about the extended absence, I have been in Barcelona for three full days now. Two days longer than I planned. Partly because it’s August, and everything is shut, making getting things done difficult, but mostly it is because I was / am dog tired from my blast across Spain and back.

The important jobs have been done, one of which was going to be a decent blog post, but that has now been relegated. I’m going to head out again tomorrow, as soon as the last government office has been visited. So, maybe tomorrow.

Edit: I rode to Girona today. Only a hundred k’s, and pretty flat. I had hoped to put together an update, but after doing a myriad of other jobs/emails on the internet for the last hours, I’ve run out of steam. Maybe I’ll have more time in France. But probably not, I’ve got my sights set on Italy. I was planning on going over Andorra (just for fun), but that would take me further West (away from the good pizza). We’ll see how strong the legs (the “legs of the bull”) are feeling in the morning.

Day 16

8 08 2010

I thought I should be writing a diary. Maybe I will. This is the prologue though, so no-one will be terribly interested. Spain will be quite easy to write about:

Hot. Long day. Tired. Ate lots, didn’t get much sleep last night because it seems  a pre-requisite to being a pilgrim is snoring very loudly, and getting up at 5am. Headwind.

repeat x16

But today is different. It’s 20C and overcast. The rest is the same. Oh, and today I will hit 2000km. I’ve stopped the seat creaking, and the bottom bracket has taken over. Todo bien.

Really, I’m having fun, it’s just right now there isn’t much to write about.

Santiago de Compostella

3 08 2010

Now that's a Cathedral

Well I got here. Where’s here? Santiago. With the hordes.

This year is a holy year to come visit. Apparently you get a free pass through purgatory or something if you do the pilgrimage this year. That sounded like a good deal to me. Unfortunately it did to half of Spain as well. The population along the track is pretty well logarithmic – it doesn’t change much for 600km, then starts to increase, until the last 50km is packed with people. So much so, I ended up riding on the road.

So tomorrow (if my legs can handle it), I go to the Fisterra. The most westerly pointy in Spain (well, almost). I thought it was going to be the most westerly point on mainland Europe (and it is within spitting distance of being so), but that’s in Portugal, and I’ll be buggered if I’m riding another few days south (and dealing with Portuguese) to make a such point. This’ll do.


Camino de Santiago

30 07 2010

I think I wrote that it was hot. HOT. Apparently there is a saying about these parts:  “Spain has 9 months of winter and 3 of hell”. It really is very hot – chocolate doesn’t last too well in the panniers at 38°C. So I went north. To Pamplona. Then followed the hordes along the camino (track) toward Santiago. I am now a card-carrying peregrine falcon. Or peregrino (pilgrim). Yep, Frankenbici and I are on a pilgrimage. I bet most of you never expected to see that.

Castilla y Leon is pretty flat, so I’ll keep riding for a few more days, but don’t be surprised if I walk the last bit. Everyone else is, and riding feels a little like cheating (even if I will go on a bit after everyone else jumps on the train home). Stayed last night in Burgos. Hope that is useful information.

I seem to be collecting photos of cathedrals and churchs. I guess that is appropriate behaviour for a Pilgrim?


27 07 2010

I thought internet might be more easily come across in Spain. But then I have been riding fairly long days and camping, so there’s not a lot of time for hunting down internet. I found a restaurant for lunch today in (consulting the map) the metropolis of Lledena. Tiny town, big truck stop style restaurant, but has internet. And stupidly friendly people. Good choice.

It is hot. Some kind of heat wave in Spain. I found out today it was a good choice to abandon my route to Madrid – they have a high of 38°C. In the sun that is just too much. I’ll go toward the north coast. Hopefully the sea breeze cools things off a bit.

Pamplona tonight. If I, or the road, don’t melt.

A long jouney starts with a single…

25 07 2010

day of 100 miles. Well, almost, I only got 156km. I would have made it had they not turned out the lights and someone had removed a few of those annoying hills.

The last week in Barcelona had been a mix of riding to the top of the nearest hill (Tibidabo) and moping around in general, but frequently in the gear shops (or playing at IT support for a ‘customer’ half way round the world). I had half packed several times, worked out what I would like to send home, and my room was basically a mess of piles of gear and clothes. I got my Rabies jab on Friday, but had stupidly taken a Cholera vaccine on Tuesday, which meant I should stay until the following Tuesday. Either that or carry a fridge (I did spend a day trying to work out how to build one for the bike, but without a power source, it’s near impossible). Again going through all my papers on Friday arvo, I decided to actually read the Cholera vaccine info sheet. I deciphered the Spanish, and realised I could take the vaccine between 1-6 weeks. But… I’ll be back in 3 for the last rabies – I’m free!

So I broke into a frenzy of activity, packing, unpacking, repacking. Filling my suitcase with things for Aus. Realising I had too much for the bike. Running around in circles trying to make it all fit (note: front panniers are a bad idea, all the space tends to get filled – if you don’t have the space…)

4am: Got some sleep. 8am, up and doing last minute cleaning, etc. 10:30 on the road. Huh! Finally! (being stuck in BCN was killing me – I thought I’d never get going).

So I went and overdid it on the first day. The sun eventually told me to stop, so I was following a sign to a camp ground when it went down. The sign said 5.6km. That should be ok. What they didn’t say was 400m up. At the end of a big day… I had to walk for a bit. But the great news is (despite my involvement in putting it together) the bike works fine (only the seat post keeps slipping down, and creaks a bit – I’ll sort this out soon enough). I was amazed that I could go that far on an essentially new bike and had no issues. Ok, I was tired, but no pins and needles, or numbness. I’m impressed.

So today I took it a bit easier, rode into Lleida. Looked at the map again and decided that it’s too hot to go to Madrid. Too hot and boring. So I turned north. Currently still planning on hitting the Atlantic, and maybe even Santiago de Compostella. But I’m going to go closer to the Pyranees. Will be more hilly, and therefore slower. But I like the mountains, and it really is VERY hot here – I’m in Lleida at 5pm, 36C or so, so I’m hiding in the corner of the restaurant I had lunch in. They’ve turned the lights out, but don’t seem to mind me sitting here too much. I’m going to load up with water and see if I can get to the next big town (Huenca) 100km NW of here. Not all today though.