Australia, Young to Wagga Wagga

It was a good camp but when I woke my tyre was flat, obviously not the puncture mending god I thought I was, oh well. Nothing I like better at 6.30am than fixing a puncture but it didn’t take long, seems I missed a second small hole !!
So breakfast done we hit the road, 50km would see us into Cootamundra. It was a grey day, overcast, and the sky looked heavy with rain, we kept our waterproofs handy just in case.
The railway seemed to be our constant companion now, it was somehow reassuring in this vast space, like a link to the rest of the country. We crossed and recrossed it several times and once or twice we watched in amazement at the sheer size and length of the train when it passed, 36 wagons and two locos, just huge !!
We passed by several small towns / villages along our way, all of them looked like they were just hanging on, we were looking for coffee and hopefully cake, we found what we were looking for at Wallenbeen. It’s a crossroads town, the Olympic Highway passes through from north to south and the Burley Griffin Way passes through east to west. In all honesty there’s not much there, but there was a snack wagon in the layby with hot coffee and doughnuts !!
We had a good chat with some “grey nomads”, retired folk who now travel Australia in a camper or caravan. Lovely people, always friendly and ready with advice on routes etc.
We were soon back on the road though and hoped to be at camp before the rain started, we didn’t have more that 25km to go and it passed fairly quickly. The camp was close to town and easy to find, we asked if they had the weather forecast, they did and it wasn’t good. Basically we’re now expecting rain over the next four days, now I like camping but in the rain, not if I can help it ! We did a deal on a basic cabin and quickly moved in. The cabin had a kettle, toaster and microwave, plus the usual cutlery and plates….all we needed now was something to cook !
We ate at a bistro first then shopped, a stroll round the town didn’t take long and to be honest, it wasn’t lighting my photography fire !!
Back at the cabin we were warm, well fed and dry, the rain came at about 2.00am and as you’ll see in the next blog it was still raining when we left the next morning !!
Ok, not a lot of photos, it’s nice but not stunning here…

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Like I said, what with the weather and the lack of spectacular scenery, this leg is beginning to drag !!
6.30am and all I can hear is the rain bouncing of the tin roof of our cabin, a quick peak outside confirms the obvious, it’s chucking it down, torrential !! We slowly got up, dressed, ate, packed and without much enthusiasm, set off into the downpour. It’s typical, today we’d decided to have a “make up time day”, our original destination was going to be Junee but we’d decided to head further and get to Wagga Wagga, a total of 95km. We’re still trying to get into Melbourne earlier than planned to give Naomi time with her friend before she goes on holiday, so it’s all in a good cause.
The railway just like the last few days is still running parallel, it’s useful because they’ve levelled the road to match the line, as a result we had a fairly flat ride into Bethungra, we stopped here for our usual coffee and to dry out for a bit, our stop was at a petrol station, grocery shop, cafe, coffee shop, craft centre and anything else you’d need it to be. The coffee was good as was the conversation and hospitality, the owner even gave us a souvenir postcard of the town, lovely gesture. From there it was an even flatter, faster ride into Junee, now it’s a nice little town, and very much a Railway town and had a museum and ornate railway station. The station also had a cafe where we managed to get some lunch and a coffee. If it hadn’t been so wet we may have stayed to have a look round, I especially would have liked to visit Junee’s other claim to fame, the chocolate and liquorice factory !!
Still, we were wet and starting to get cold so we decided to get back on our bikes and carry on for the last 40km. The weather may have been against us but at least the road was still good and flat, we felt like cycling gods as we hurtled along at 26km an hour, that’s good for us !!
From Junee we’d taken the old highway to Wagga Wagga and eventually hit a T junction, it seems strange but we had no idea which way to go, there was no sign post and no sign of a town anywhere. Luckily for us a car pulled over to check we were ok and soon had us pointed in the right direction. Another 4km had us arriving into town and as we cycled in we passed the first open bike shop we’d seen in a long time. We needed some inner tubes so we popped in and were soon in receipt of four new tubes. Next up was accomodation, we’re expecting rain so we found a cheap hotel close by and quickly had our bikes and kit stowed in our room !
Well the rain just kept on coming, so pleased we checked into a hotel, it was so wet we never left it. We just ate downstairs, had a couple of beers and watched the storm from the open door !!
Anyway here are a few photos, again not very many…

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So that’s it, we’re warm and dry in Wagga Wagga and ready for the next day. Hope you all keep reading
Take Care
JC

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Australia, Blayney to Young

My day started as usual, packing the tent, breakfast and checking emails. I was surprised and delighted to have received one from my mum. She was making comments on my last blog, Sydney and Manly, she’s been to Sydney herself and was commenting on places we’d now both visited. Her post script though was not her usual “take care”, it was unfortunately a message to let me know that a good family friend had sadly died.
This led me to thinking that life is so fragile and fleeting, your life is not guaranteed to be any particular length, it can be taken away by accident, disease, illness or by some else. Our hope is that our life will be long and that perhaps we’ll die eventually of old age. Sadly, for so many people this is not the case, so I ask you not to waste a second, live your life, enjoy it now because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed !!
If you’ve read all my blogs, especially the most recent ones you’ll know that I suffer from depression, I don’t think your ever cured of this disease but instead you learn to live with it and recognise the symptoms. I therefore wasn’t always the most positive person, I wasted a lot of my life, watched to much TV instead of visiting friends or going for walks in our beautiful country. There’s so much I could have done, I’m making up for it now though. I still have bad days and occasionally feel a little negative but at least I’m out here trying.
And so with my sermon delivered I best tell you about our day. Our destination was 70km away in Cowra, and from the route profile it was practically all down hill. Complete rubbish, not sure where they get the profile from but I think this one was drawn by a three year old. There were hills, I recognise them now, I’ve had a lot of practice, there the bits where my heart rate soars and my speed decreases !!
Ok, so it wasn’t all that bad, a few hills, sunshine, good views, lovely agricultural land, the usual cattle and horses, oh and one kangaroo !! The scenery wasn’t stunning or spectacular, it was pleasant and we rarely had cause to actually stop and take photos. I’ve become adept at using my camera while cycling and so long as you don’t wander across the road it’s ok !
We were going to stop for a coffee, but we didn’t see anywhere so we just kept on going until we reached Cowra. It’s a fairly large town and we seemed to enter it about 5km before we actually saw anything other than a Tourist Caravan Park. We were going to stop but thankfully decided to ride on into town and get some lunch before heading back. So pleased we did because we found another place to camp just of the high street. Great spot with one of the best camp kitchens we’ve seen in Australia, even had saucepans. It just means that our dinner will be a little more interesting than normal.
We got ourselves squared away, showered and headed out for lunch, a hotel with bistro and lunch specials did the trick. Washed it all down with a nice pint of ale before heading off to do some shopping,we found a Coles supermarket only a block away, so it didn’t take to long to get everything we needed for dinner. Back to camp to relax and sort out photos, FB and emails before dinner !!
It never ends ;-)
Not to many photos but here’s a little taste….
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Lovely countryside, just not spectacular !!
As we left camp this morning we did so with the sun already on our backs, feels so good to be warm and dry. We soon crossed the bridge over the Lachlan river and turned left onto the Olympic Highway, we’re heading south now towards Melbourne. We’ll pass through all the places named on the signpost, Young, Cootamundra, Junee, Wagga Wagga and Albury. Tonight we’ll be in Young though, only 70km away and according to the guy on reception at camp, a mainly flat road. That’s not what my route elevation app says, it shows lots of hills, one or two quite big ones !
Well it was certainly flat to start with, flat and straight ! The road lined with trees for about the first 20km or so, and still no hills. We were pleased that the road is fairly quiet, or at least compared to the Mid Western Highway it is. It seems that the Hume Highway from Sydney is where most heavy traffic heading south ends up, fine with me !!
At about 25km we entered a small village, Koorawatha, we wanted two things, firstly a toilet and secondly a cup of coffee. The first was simple due to some very clean public toilets, the second was not so easy. In fact we failed, despite there being two cafés and a hotel, none were open for business !! Damn shame, we like to spread a little cash around, and some of these small villages really need the help !
We cycled on, revelling in the beautiful countryside, sunny weather and lack of traffic….oh, and still no hills !
At about 45km we entered another small village , Bendick Murrell , a signpost at the junction pointed towards a tavern about 1.5km away. We decided to go and see if we could get coffee and perhaps a light snack. We cycled into the carpark and noticed a sign saying they’d gone to the hospital. Not knowing whether this was an old sign or one just put out today, we decided to wait a while and see if it opened at 11.00am. It didn’t and the ringing phone confirmed our suspicions that we were out of luck. My luck tumbled further still, I’d got my first flat tyre in Australia. I fixed my tyre while Naomi chatted to a guy that was also trying to get into the pub. It didn’t take me long to fix the tyre and we were soon saying goodbye to the stranger and were on our way again. 25km to go, and it’s still pretty flat, we were loving it, it’s just one of those days when you feel great !!
With about 10km to go we finally hit the hills, just a couple of long drags, nothing steep or hard but it wasn’t flat anymore. Some good views from the top were appreciated before the descent into Young. We headed for food and I’m ashamed to say it but we had McDonald’s !!
We don’t do it often, we just knew they’d have toilets and there cheap, I promise it won’t happen again for at least two months !!
The camp was good, easy to find, friendly and with good amenities, I was even lucky enough to find an electrician who had a soldering iron so I could fix my front light…bonus.
And so after dinner and all the usual stuff, it’s time for bed, looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings ;-)
But first, the photos…

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Just a good day !!
Another blog done, keep reading, we’ll be in Melbourne soon !!
Take care
JC

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Australia, Katoomba to Blayney

Our time in Katoomba was a little frustrating, there’s so much to do and see there and we were well and truly scuppered by the weather. It’s not to say that we didn’t have fun, we most certainly did, but the fact remains that in life you usually only get one shot and this time we had to pass !!
Oh well, onward and upward as they say. We woke to another grey day, the mist just like yesterday hanging low over the mountains, almost completely obscuring them. We dressed, packed and set off into the gloom, neither of us particularly excited about the ride. We were only going about 50km but with it being so grey it felt much longer. About 15km into the ride we entered Blackheath, we were aiming for a view point called Govetts Leap. We turned right off the highway into the main road, at this point we were out of the mist and hopeful of a view. As we cycled towards the view we started to descend and as we did we were yet again surrounded by mist. It was impossible, there’d be no view, so we turned back towards the town, just taking a picture of the road, mist and signpost, a souvenir of a good idea !!
Any way as we started back there was a woman speed walking, I started to talk to her and before I knew what had happened she was reprimanding me for not going all the way to the view point, practically could me lazy….if only she knew !!
Oh well, I could have explained but I think my words would have been wasted on her, by the time I’d finished my coffee I was over her crass remarks ;-)
From Blackheath you keep climbing until Mount Victoria then you get to enjoy the 3km descent into the valley, all of a sudden your below the mist and there are vibrant green fields, rivers, lakes, ponds and trees clinging to the steep sides. The sheer vibrancy after being in the greyness was almost overwhelming. We were enjoying this bit of the ride but we knew there’d be another climb up to Lithgow and our final destination. We weren’t wrong, it was a good long drag of about 3km or so, not to steep but enough to get the heart rate up. We entered Lithgow by the tourist info and asked a few questions about campsites, routes etc. we were going to cycle another 14km to a free camp they told us about but after a light lunch I hesitated and we stopped in Lithgow. I couldn’t find any campsite in the place they suggested and I got cold feet, oh well, at least the site in Lithgow was cheap.
The only thing is it’s way out of town so just as well we had food with us. We spent the evening sorting new routes, emailing, FB and blogging….and taking photos of toadstools and ants…..we always seem to have something to do. Let’s hope tomorrow has better weather then we might get to see some more of the beautiful area !!
Not to many photos from the ride but here’s what I’ve got..

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It seems there were more than I thought ;-)
When we started out trip in Brisbane both Naomi and I agreed that we wanted to cycle all the way from Brisbane to Adelaide. In some of our other trips we’ve had no option but to take other forms of transport but here we decided that we’d do it all. Well the thing is we have friends in Melbourne who we’d love to see, but our intended arrival date means they’ll all be on Easter holidays. So to get there earlier we needed to make up a day or two and have fewer rest days ! Well today is going to be tough, we’ve decided to cycle 100km and get further than we’d originally intended. The problem is that today’s ride now has over 1200m of climbing and it’s suddenly decided to be hot !!
Oh well, best get in with it. We left camp ridiculously early because we got up at the normal time then found out the clocks had to go back. So by the time we’d packed up and had breakfast it was only just 7.00am. It’s also a Sunday is we pretty much had the roads to ourselves for a while, it’s an eerie feeling being on a huge road with no other traffic !
The first of many hills was straight out of camp, a
One slow 2.5km drag, three gears left so an easy start, the rest of the 60km into Bathurst followed the same way. Up one hill, ride the plateau then down the descent, did I ever mention how much better I am at going down hills !!
The scenery now is pastoral, cattle grazing, horses in paddocks, a few sheep, rivers, lakes and far less trees than yesterday. The road is still wide and thankfully the shoulder for the most part is still wide enough to keep us out of harms way.
The weird thing about today was the large number of positive toots, waves and headlight flashing…oh and the occasional thumbs up as well, it was like everyone had taken there happy pills today, not complaining though !!
At Bathurst we stopped for food, a great little cafe next to the tourist info, it was only 10.30 so Naomi had the mega breakfast and I had a burger. Man that breakfast was huge, god only knows where she put it all and as for my burger….delicious !!
Back on the road and only 40km left, there was a time in my life I would never had said “only another 40km” distant memory now !!
The hills kept on coming and with 20km my knees were beginning to ache, this is nothing new and all I can do us keep turning the pedals. Naomi in contrast was like an express train up the hills, amazing stamina !!
Finally we reached the top of the last hill and from there we knew it was a good 6 or 7km to reach Blayney. It was such a relief to just coast downhill and barely pedal. We found the campsite and got ourselves sorted then as we’d had a tough day we decided to go out for food and a cheeky beer.
Back in camp before eight and already tired, at least tomorrow should be a little easier, my eyes are closing as I write this so I’m off to bed !!
Night all ;-)
Oops, nearly forgot the photos !

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So much better when the suns shining ;-)
Well that really is it, another blog finished, I’m off to bed ;-)
Take care
JC

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My life, from depression to cycling the world !!

There I was happily married, content with life. I had a beautiful wife, my own business, good friends, BMW’s on the drive and a home that we were comfortable in, your regular suburban dream !!

It didn’t last, my business failed, my wife and I separated and finally divorced, the cars were replaced by cheaper models and although I ended up with the house it required three lodgers just so I could afford to stay there, it was now a business and not a home !

Slowly but surely and without even knowing what was happening I became depressed, I lost some friends, I pushed others away, I worked like an automaton, I had no self worth and my life was like living under a black cloud. My first thought every morning was ” oh no not again ” it meant that I had to endure another day and believe me the days felt endless !!

During this time I have to admit to trying to take my own life, several times in fact and at least once it resulted in a hospital stay, if I hadn’t been such a coward I would not be here! At the time though it felt like another failure, something else I’d fucked up, how could I be so bloody useless that I couldn’t even kill myself !!

When I look back now I realise just how lucky I was, I had some friends that just wouldn’t give up on me. They started a film club, every week at my house they would turn up and we’d all watch a film, sometimes I just wanted them to leave but I couldn’t be that rude, other times I did enjoy it and there was always a bit of time at the end, they’d ask how I was, what I was doing. I’d tell them about getting to work and bursting into tears or running out of the pub with a panic attack and hiding for days, I told them about lying to my boss about taking time off work because I just couldn’t face it !

Slowly though their efforts started to have an effect, I told them I wanted to sell the house and go traveling. As soon as I realised this my life had meaning again, they helped me to work out how to get to where I needed to be.

In the meantime another event helped to shape my future even more, a friend offered me a ticket for the St George’s day rugby match at Twickenham, this was 2010 and although I wasn’t overly excited, this being my normal state I agreed to go with him. Now at the time I was a heavy smoker, I drank a lot but never to the point of being drunk, I liked to remain in control . And I was fat, really fat at least by my standards, I was nineteen stone and looked bloated, a bit like a beached whale !

Anyway, someone pointed out that you can’t smoke on the trains, tubes or at the ground, I left my cigarettes at home, the match…. I don’t remember nor do I remember getting there or back, what I do remember was being pleased to have survived the day without a cigarette !

I got through the next day, then the week and very quickly the idea formed that I could give up, well I did, two and a half years ago I had my last cigarette ! That was a catalyst for me, an eye opener, I’d managed to get something right but I also knew that if I stopped smoking I’d put on weight. I got out of the shower a few days later, I looked in the mirror and a big fat bloated man looked back at me, I was disgusted, this wasn’t me….I wanted to change !

In my garage was a bicycle, I bought it off a friend years ago, I only had it because he needed money and it was all he had to sell. I’d never used it but I went down to my garage, pumped up the tyres, dusted it down and adjusted the seat and without any thought other than I needed to lose weight I set off. I cycled to Reading and back, 50 miles, I hurt, I was knackered but I did it. Soon I was cycling frequently, going further, I bought a better bike and my friends started coming with me.

Then the winter came and cycling stopped, all the good feelings started to drain away, I needed to do something else so I started running. My first run in the winter of 2010 was about 200 yards but I kept going and very soon a friend and I had entered a 10k event. We trained and finally the day arrived and we lined up near the back, the race started and we ran, we overtook people, we felt great and when we finished we were in the top 200, we were amazed that with so little training that we could do so well, we carried on running and cycling, we entered events for both.

In the meantime I’d put my house on the market, I was going to travel !!
More of my friends got involved in running and cycling, we joined bootcamp classes and circuit training, we finally cycled 100 miles in a day, we ran our first half marathon, we did duathlons, multi sport events and finally in may 2012 my mate and I ran the Edinburgh marathon, me in 4hrs 8mins, I was delighted.

My house finally sold and I moved in with another friend. Back in 2011 a friend and I cycled from London to Paris with a group, all for charity. One of the people kept reading about my completed challenges on Facebook and would occasionally suggest things for me and my friends to do, one day she posted about the Global Bike Race, I checked it out but after reading it I decided it wasn’t for me, but I was interested in cycling round the world. I looked online and found The World Cycle Challenge, I read up on it, emailed the organisers about some reservations I had but I knew I wanted to do it and eventually I paid my deposit. I started training even harder, the WCC had a Facebook page where we could all discuss our training and get to know each other before we met, it was great, just what I needed, a way to see the world and cycle, I was very happy !!

Unfortunately my happiness didn’t last, the organisers decided that there just wasn’t enough interest to make it a viable proposition, we all got a phone call to say it had been cancelled….I can only speak for myself but it felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach, I was gutted. We all got our money back fairly quickly and I knew that I still wanted to get out there and do something. I posted on the WCC Facebook page that I still had the time, money and inclination and was anyone else up for it, one person came back and said yes !!
She lives in Edinburgh, very useful in May when we ran the Marathon as I got to meet her for the third time !

We or to be honest mainly her, planned our trip and finally left for Seattle on July 7th 2012, bear in mind that we’d only met four times before we got to the airport !!

Since then we’ve cycled down the Pacific coast from Seattle to San Francisco, 600 miles round Japan, a quick layover in Hong Kong to do some sight seeing, cycled round the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, a month in Rahjastan and a month in southern India. We arrived home on December 8th 2012 after about 4000 miles or so and we’re now ready for our next tour, Cairo to Capetown. We leave on January 6th 2013 and will hopefully be back in late May. We’re not doing Africa on our own as its dangerous, the company organising this trip is called Tour D,’Afrique and because its their show we will need to cycle at their pace, it works out at about 86 miles a day !!

Even when we get back in May we already have plans to go to Europe, South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia, money permitting !

It’s amazing to think back now to the person I was two and a half years ago and see how far I’ve come, some very good friends, a little luck, a new found determination and exercise !

When I finish travelling I’d like to use my experiences to try and help motivate or encourage people who feel like I did, to show them that things can change and that life can be better, I’m not suggesting that everyone should go and cycle round the world but to have some sort of goal isn’t a bad thing and exercise and fresh air are free and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to turn off the TV and have a go !!

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Exercise and Depression, Panic attacks, world cycle tour | 22 Comments

Australia, Manly to Katoomba

So the time has come for us to leave Sydney, it’s been great catching up with Rosi, and having somewhere nice to stay has been brilliant !
Still, leave we must, the first part of our trip is back on the ferry into Circular Qyay, we stopped there briefly to take photos but the sun was right in your face so not helpful !! The next step was to catch the Parramatta River ferry to Parramatta, very simple, if only public transport in the UK was this easy ;-) From there we cycled along the M4 highway, it has a bike lane so not to bad. Not much to see along this route, no shops, cafés or bars ! Anyway just after the turn for Penrith the road starts to head up as you climb into the Blue Mountains. It’s fairly steep at the start and it’s hot, no breeze and the traffics picking up. Then, to top it all, Naomi has her second puncture of the day. The pit crew, namely me, springs into action and a few minutes later we’re back to cycling. Our destination is Faulconbridge and soon enough we enter the outskirts of the town. We’ve booked a motel here as there are no campgrounds and we wanted to stay as Naomi knows someone who lives here. Dave and Sara and there four kids used to live in Bristol but Sara’s from Australia originally so they’ve come to live out here, Dave teaches in Penrith and Sara has the unenviable job of home schooling the kids, tough gig !!
We checked into the motel, showered, emailed and FB’d then wandered round to there house for a chinwag and dinner. Naomi certainly enjoyed catching up with them all, I managed a word or two when she stopped for breath… only kidding ;-)
So despite it being a pretty boring ride day, it turned out to be a great evening !!
So not to many photos today….

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Like I said, a slow day photo wise !!
From Faulconbridge we headed to Katoomba, not far away but we’d booked a backpacker, we’ll take a day off here as there’s loads of stuff to do. We’re still climbing and it’s still very hot, were still on the highway but every now and again we find a short alternative. It’s great to get off the highway in one sense as it’s a bit quieter but the roads are so narrow ! When a car does come we literally have to stop to let them past, they’d push us of the road otherwise ! It was on one of these sections when Naomi started to feel a bit of. Not sure what was wrong but she’s tough and I don’t remember seeing her looking this out of sorts before. The road was rolling hills but steep hills and on our tourers we were having to work hard. I’m not sure how Naomi managed that last 10k into Wentworth, the first place we could stop at, but she did and we were rewarded with a great cafe / bakery. Great coffe, pies and a huge cinnamon bun between us, heaven ;-)
The sugar rush worked it’s magic and for the last 10k into Katoomba it felt like I was cycling with a different person, Naomi was back !!
We found the backpackers without any trouble and quickly made ourselves at home before getting down to work. Naomi is doing a talk on, cycling round the world, in Edinburgh when she gets back and needed to design a poster. Ipad and relevant app to the rescue and an hour or so later, job done ;-)
I in the meantime caught up with my blogs, email and FB and by the time we’d finished we were hungry. Time to head out for food, and maybe a beer or two. We found what we needed at the Old City Bank Brasserie, great pizza and pulled pork sandwich with extra chips and some great ale, a real taste of hops !! We didn’t stay out to late as to be honest we were a bit tired, the three days in Uluru were catching up on us.
Just a few photos….

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Not great cycling roads but hopeful things will get better ;-)
Our day off in Katoomba didn’t get off to a good start, it was raining and had been all night ! Still we’re British and so we donned our waterproofs and headed into town. Now, as I said earlier there’s loads to do in and around Katoomba but most of it requires good weather. You see we’re in trail walking country, lots of views over valleys, waterfalls, rocky outcrops not to mention, sky walks, the sky way ( worlds steepest railway ) and so much more. As it was raining we opted to take the hop on hop off bus for a while to see if things improved. By 10.00am you could still barely see your hand in front of your face, the mist had really come down and it was still drizzling !!
We got of at stop 17, Leura Cascades, a lovely walk down through temperate rainforest with a small river flowing nearby. Every now and then it widens and tumbles over moss and lichen covered boulders until it plummets over a fairly high cliff. It was beautiful, the mist gave everything an ethereal look, the sun desperately trying to break through gave the canopy an eerie quality. There were lots of interesting flowers and toadstools to photograph not to mention the path itself, twisting and turning it’s way through the forest, over boulders, round rocky outcrops and across small bridges. Despite the weather Naomi and I really enjoyed our walk but now we were hungry.
Lunch was in Leura at a Chinese restaurant, cheap and cheerful, we finished our meal and were going to head to the three sisters. It’s a group of three large rocks, there’s a walk down to them and a bridge between the first two. On a good day they’d easily be visible from the lookout but today…..no chance !
As we headed for the bus stop it started to rain again, then it got heavier, then the thunder and lightening started and pretty soon you had a full scale storm. The road quickly became a river and was nearly three inches deep, it’s a steep road so it’s incredible that there was that much water. By the time the bus came we’d decided to abandon our walk, it’s a steep walk down and would be treacherous in these conditions, the bus driver agreed and instead dropped us at the cultural centre.
We spent time in the art exhibition and in the Blue Mountain Cultural History, I much preferred the history, some great characters, photos and stories. Well not only did it keep us dry but I learnt a few things as well.
We did a little shopping on our way back to the backpackers then chilled for a while before heading out for dinner. These backpackers are always so busy that the facilities are just not adequate for everyone to cook, eat and wash up at the same time so we prefer to go out.
Well the day wasn’t as we’d planned but despite not seeing very much in Katoomba we still had a good day, let’s hope the weather improves for tomorrow ;-)
And so for a few photos…

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We may have gotten wet but it was still a great day ;-)
Another blog done, really hope you like these photos and will keep reading.
Take care
JC

Posted in Australia, Cycling | Tagged | Leave a comment

Australia, Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon

Awake and very excited, today we fly from Sydney to Uluru ! We had originally decided against going as it’s very expensive but everyone we speak to, tells us, its a must do trip, so we’re going.
We left Rosi’s at about 8.00 and took the ferry to Circular Quay, from there it’s a short trip on the train straight to the airport. We arrived and as we’d only got hand luggage we were able to check in online and with that done we proceeded to security, no problems there so now to chill before the flight.
It left a little late but the coach transfer was waiting when we arrived and soon delivered us safely to the Ayers Rock Resort. The resort is a collection of three hotels, all priced at different levels, a camp ground and town centre with a couple of shops and some eateries. The Sails in the Desert Hotel actually does all the food for the resort and each hotel offers something different, you can eat, swim, drink where you like and it all goes on your room number, just don’t forget to take your key !!
We were in the budget hotel, The Outback Pioneer, we’d been upgraded as well…yippee ;-) The staff were friendly and helpful and the room was great, much better that we’d anticipated. We didn’t have very long before our first trip was due to pick us up so we quickly showered and changed then went to wait for the coach.
The trip was to go and see Kata Tjuta, formerly known as the Olga’s then on to see the sunset at Uluru. Now for those that are unfamiliar with this area, it’s known as the “red centre”, simply put, everything is covered in a layer of red dust. It’s actually red oxide or rust and when the sun hits it the colours are incredible.
Kata Tjuta is just a small part of a rock formation most of which is still underground, it’s joined to Uluru and some other lesser known formations. A couple of seismic events a long time ago threw up these formations and in the case if Uluru, twisted it 90°. At first it looks like one large rock but as you drive round it you can see that it’s actually four separate rocks. They are streaked with lichen and black marks from waterfalls and yes it does rain here and how !!
We were first shown the rocks from a distance, there’s a viewing area some way off, but the highlight is the walk into the gorge between two of the larger rocks, only then can you appreciate there size and colour. At the far end of the gorge is a watering hole surrounded by flowers and shrubs, a great place for wildlife of all sizes.
The walk didn’t take to long and we were all back on the coach anticipating the sunset, this is one of the highlights, if you get a good sunset. There’s a viewing area and also a table laid out with wines and snacks, we were all well looked after. The drivers and guides are well informed and are constantly sharing information, all of it interesting. I think we were a little unlucky with the sunset though, it wasn’t one of the best and Uluru didn’t change colour in the dramatic way that we know it can. Still it was a pleasant afternoon and the drinks and snacks were very welcome, we also got to meet a few of the other people staying at the same hotel.
Well it’s already been a hectic and long day, Uluru is an hour and a half ahead time wise so we’ve been up for a while, tomorrow starts at 3.30am so we’re of to bed, night night !!
And so a few photos from our first day in Uluru…

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I forgot to mention how bad the flies are in Uluru, the nets are definitely needed. As for the rock, it’s amazing how different it looks when the sun shines on it !!
As I said earlier, we’re up very early, today’s trip is out to Kings Canyon, it’s a good three hour drive, so best get started !
The coach was comfortable, the driver informative although he let us sleep a bit first and we did stop for breakfast on the way. Kings Creek Station is a working cattle station but like most places in this area they also offer accomodation, camping, food, tours, helicopter rides and even have a petrol station !!
The owner of this place has been working with the local Aboriginal tribes to try and get the kids an education, he now has over 20 kids at schools in Adelaide. He funds this work out of his own pocket and with his wife’s help and support seems to be doing one hell of a job, well done Ian and Lyn Conway !!
From the breakfast stop to the Canyon was another 40mins and by the time we got there we were all ready and raring to go. There are two options, the rim walk, 500 steps up to the top of the gorge, then you walk round the top of the gorge until it’s narrow enough to step across then walk back round the other side until you descend back to the carpark. In total about 6km and three hours, plenty of time to take photos and explore ! The second option is much easier, 2km flat walk into the gorge, no steps !!
We picked the first option and we weren’t disappointed, it was stunning. The sky was a brilliant blue and the red rocks and vibrant green vegetation made for fantastic photos. The steps up were uneven but not a problem and the walk round the rim was like a huge adventure playground. So many photo opportunities that some people started to lag behind, in the end the guide gave me and a couple of others permission to carry on to the next stop point while he rounded up the stragglers. One of the highlights was the Garden of Eden, it was most unexpected, there’s a huge watering hole, almost a lake in fact and the setting is just amazing, you really do feel like you’ve stepped into another world. There are steps leading down to it but as you reach the last landing you get a glimpse of what’s waiting at the bottom….just incredible !!
The second half of the walk moves along a little quicker and although there are still plenty of photo opportunities you are basically looking across at where you’ve already been. I pretty much ran the last bit as I needed a comfort break but it really was a fantastic place, I had no idea what to expect but I would urge people to make a point of seeing it !!
The journey back to the resort saw most of us fall asleep although I did manage to watch some of the DVD they played, Australia’s natural history from about 4.5 billion years ago to present day. A shame I was so tired because the bits I saw were very interesting !
Back at the resort we ate, drank a few beers, watched the sunset then hit the sack, another early start tomorrow for our last trip, sunrise at Uluru.
But first a few photos…

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Great scenery……just incredible !!!
5.45 and I’m up already, the coach was on time and we were driven to the viewing area for sunrise. Coffee and tea was provided when we arrived and after that we made the short walk to the elevated viewing area. The sky was just beginning to get interesting when we got there and at the same time there was a storm rolling in from the other direction. The sky became more and more colourful, intense reds, oranges, blacks, greys and white and all the time we could hear the rumble of thunder. The lightening started next then a few drops of rain but in the other direction we still had sunrise and then something magical happened, a rainbow, right over Uluru !!
I’d already taken so many photos but now we had the show of our lives, we were apparently in the 1% of people who ever see rain on Uluru and even less see a rainbow !!
It really was a feast for the eyes, so beautiful, then the rainbow reflected, and it looked like a double rainbow….stunning !!
There was a short cultural walk after sunset and we finally managed to get close to Uluru, interesting stories told by Cassidy Uluru, he’s the son of Kumuntjai Uluru. Undisputed custodian of the rock, he fought to get it back for the Aboriginal communities and after seven years finally succeeded although sadly by that time he’d passed away. His son’s Cassidy and Reggie continue to give tours and impart there stories and heritage to visitors.
Well our trip to this red rock wasn’t in vain, we’d seen a rainbow and were very happy, sadly it was now time to leave for Sydney. We were dropped at the airport and completed the outward trip in reverse without any problems. We were literally on the next ferry out of Sydney after Rosi but yet again we were treated to a real display. The sunset was stunning and as we looked back at the Opera House and Bridge they were set against a vivid pink and red sky….a great end to a great day and a fabulous trip ;-)
Pictures from our last day in Uluru….

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Three long, tiring and wonderful days !!!
Hope you enjoyed it or at least the photos.
Take care and keep reading
JC

Posted in Australia, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Uluru | Tagged | 2 Comments

Australia, Sydney and Manly

We slept in, not to long but long enough, it was nice to have proper beds and duvets and we were happy to make full use of them. We finally emerged and had breakfast before heading for the ferry into Sydney. Rosi’s place is about 100m from the wharf and from there we took the fast ferry into town.
The trip only takes 18 minutes on a fast ferry so very quickly you round a headland and get to see the Harbour bridge and Opera House for the first time !! I’ve been to quite a few cities now but this skyline is truly unique and it’s breathtaking, I doubt I’ve taken a photo that truly does it justice !!
The ferry terminates at Circular Quay and as you pass through the barriers onto the wharf it really is a great feeling. To be in Sydney has been a long held dream, I never imagined that I’d cycle from Brisbane to get to see it. I was like a kid in a candy shop and couldn’t wait to take my first photo, the only issue was, Bridge or Opera House !!
Naomi and I had a tour of the Opera House booked so we headed that way and stopped for a coffee and a look at the souvenir shop before collecting our tickets. In the meantime the weather changed dramatically and within the space of a few minutes a full blown thunder storm was in progress. Glad to be inside we went to get our tickets, sadly the tour time had changed due to an impromptu performance so we had two and a half hours to do something with !!
Fortunately the rain had let up a bit so we headed for the tourist info to collect a few ideas, it’s a short walk round to the other side of the quay, more photo opportunities along the way. Our choices would be determined by the weather but we came away with a few ideas and also located a good bookshop, we wanted to find some good maps and tourist books for the next step of our Australian adventure. We set off up George Street, it was spitting with rain but we were to busy looking to be bothered by it. We reached Dymocks, the book shop and still couldn’t find what we wanted, very surprised at that !
We’d passed a few good looking eateries on the way up and we were certainly hungry now but also conscious that food in Sydney isn’t cheap. It just so happened that we stumbled across an Asian food court and were soon tucking into large plates of great food at only $6.50 a plate….bargain.
We arrived back in plenty of time to join the tour and took our place while we waited for the guide. The tour itself, although very good as was the guide, was still a little bit disappointing. They only show you the bits you could see if you bought a ticket to a show, no backstage or dressing rooms, no props or wardrobe, no lighting rigs or sound booths, in fact none of the things I really wanted to see. Apart from that you can’t even take photos in the actual theatres, copy write rules !!!
Despite my moaning I did enjoy the tour and the story of how it came to be and the man who’s dream it was, a sad story with an eventual happy ending ;-)
We took the ferry back to Manly immediately after the tour as we had an appointment with Hillary or “Hills” as she’s known to Naomi. Hills is a friend of Naomi’s from her Edinburgh days and she was looking forward to catching up. We met her in the Wharf Bar at Manly and sent Rosi a text to see if she wanted to join us. Nao and Hils were soon engrossed in girlie gossip and soon Rosi joined us. A few beers later and Hills had to leave so Nao, Rosi and myself went to a bar for a few beers and much needed food. The bar is also a micro brewery so Nao and myself had a taster rack of five ales….all were wonderful but we did have a favorite, the Pale Ale, it was full of hops and tasted incredible. Rosi, bless her paid for everything, very grateful not to mention….full !!
And so our first day in Sydney draws to a close, what a fantastic place, bring on tomorrow !!
Day 1′s photos…..

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Just a small sample from the days photos !!
Day two in Sydney, we were going to take the ferry tour, it’s a get on get off ferry that allows you to see all the major parts of Sydney Harbour but it was raining and to be honest we had no real interest in the zoo or other attractions that the ferry gets you close to. We changed our mind and decided to take the open top tour bus around Sydney instead ;-)
As I said it was raining but we were well dressed in our waterproofs and being British we were undeterred, we were of course the only ones on the top deck !!
It was hilarious, we laughed like school kids and took silly photos through the rain streaked windows, some of them turned out ok !
The tour lasts about 90 mins but we got off in Woolloomooloo, great name ! Don’t think I’ve ever been to a place with eight o’s before, we of course had a quick look round, took some photos, found a good coffee and cake then went in search of a sign to say we’d been there. With the help of the waiter we found the perfect sign, written in a way so that you can say it properly, you’ll see it below.
Our next getting off point was at the fish market, second largest in the world behind Tokyo, amazing place with all sorts of weird and wonderful fish and shell fish for sale. We again had a look round, took photos then had a fantastic fish and chip lunch, it was huge and so fresh and crispy….mmmm !!
Now the night before we’d been invited to go sailing but due to the weather being rubbish we wondered whether it would be cancelled, if so we’d carry on with the tour, if it was still on we’d make tracks to the sailing club. Lucky for us, Rosi had supplied us with a number, we texted and found that it had been called off. We were disappointed but at least we knew now. We carried on with our tour and got off underneath the bridge round by The Rocks, had a little wander about, followed the water back to Circular Quay then decided to use our tickets yo take another tour out to Bondi Beach. It was still wet but had lessened a bit so weren’t the only ones on the top deck. This tour was an hour and to be honest there wasn’t much to see, even Bondi Beach looked a bit run down compared to Manly. We didn’t even bother to get off, just took a snap from the bus, the place was designed to resemble Brighton but it just doesn’t have that cosmopolitan vine about it !!
Any way we soon arrived back at Circular Quay, tired but happy with our days adventures. When we got back to Rosi’s she’d cooked a yellow Thai curry, so we opened a couple of bottles of wine and ate and chatted until bed, another good day !!
And so to the photos….

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I know, there’s a lot of photos, but you like…don’t you ?
Sydney, day three and the one I’d been looking forward to, the Bridge Climb !!
Yes, I blew the budget on a Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk, I was booked in for 10.15 but I turned up early, those that know me will not be surprised by this !!
Because I was early and there was space I went in the 9.45 tour, after being given the safety briefing and signing the indemnity we were issued with, boiler suits, caps, handkerchiefs, radios and harness. Everything, including the cap is tethered to your boiler suit and is checked before you leave. Your not allowed to take anything, no cameras, watches, necklaces or bangles, you can if you need them, take spectacles but they issue you a tether for them. There safety record is not surprisingly top class and there not about to let anyone mess it up.
As we lined up to finally get out on the bridge we were already tethered to the safety line, we wouldn’t be able to get off it until we’d completed the entire bridge walk.
It starts on a double wooden plank that runs out over The Rocks, the guide, who was brilliant by the way, gave us a running commentary on what we could see and some stories about the building of the bridge. Soon enough we came to the most difficult part, three quite steep sets of metal stairs, one or two people were a bit nervous but our guide soon had them climbing up to admire the view. From the top of the stairs your now on the top arch and you can see it stretching out I fronton you for what seems like a mile !! It’s wide though, if it wasn’t for all the hand rails and other additions it would easily be wide enough to drive a car on, so wide in fact that it’s probably the part you feel safest on. The views are incredible and you really start to admire the guys that built it. Our guide kept the facts and figures coming in between taking the inevitable photos. We reached the top, where the two flags are, had our last photo then began the slow return to the changing rooms, we were never rushed and we all felt that we’d had a good opportunity to take in all the sights.
My only complaint would be the prices they wanted to charge me for photos, they give you a cap, certificate and a photo of the group but the rest are so damned expensive. The tour is $220 and it’s going up in price soon, for that you’d think that maybe they could charge a little less for photos. They’ve already invested in taking them so why not charge less, people would buy more and they’d actually make more, in the meantime it would improve there image !!
After the climb I joined Nao and Hills in a restaurant on the quay side, towards the Opera House. A few beers later we were ready to continue our sightseeing of Sydney. Off to the Sky Tower, we had tickets already, another concession from the tour bus !!
It’s a short walk up the hill to the tower and once there it didn’t take long to get up to the observation deck. Some great views from there but alas the views of the bridge and opera house are obscured by one of the ugliest buildings in Sydney, what a shame !!
Returning to ground level we strolled back to the Opera bar where we finally got our tasting plate, it should have been on the same day as the tour but as they’d changed the time and date twice we decided to use it today !! It was good and we washed it all down with a couple of real ales, Rosi joined us straight from work and as we sipped on another ale we decided to head home, order pizza and watch a movie, this is something we rarely get a chance to do. The movie over it was time for bed, this tourist thing is tiring ;-)
And yet more photos….

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Not to many photos today but I’ve not finished yet !!
Day 4 in Sydney started early, we’d agreed to join Rosi on her early morning cycle ride !! Cycling in Sydney is never easy due to the volume of traffic so most cycle groups go out early for a couple of hours, even on weekends. It was Saturday and we were up at 5.15, dressed, ready and on our bikes by 6.15. We met up with the group on the Pittwater Road but one of them had a flat, as they were all on lightweight racers we decided to get a head start. We followed the same route towards Palm Beach that we’d come in on but turned left before we got there. No surprise that the others passed us fairly quickly and were at the turn around point when we got there. The route our was on the busy main road but the route back to Manly tries to follow the coast more closely. This means plenty of hills, views and photos…wish I’d taken a camera now !!
We managed a respectable 46km in about two hours and were soon joining the rest of the group for coffee and cakes, that’s what cycling so all about ;-) A great bunch and very interested in our travels, we’d meet a couple of them later as Rosi had decided to have a BBQ !
As we’d not yet explored the Manly area Rosi was keen to show us at least one of her favourite walks. We quickly showered and changed then set of along Manly Beach towards the headland, there’s a great path for walking and cycling with lots if access to the beach and swimming pools. There’s boats, surf boarders, kayakers, swimmers, people sunbathing, families and singles, such a great place with fabulous facilities. The walk climbs higher up above the beach and as you’d expect the views are stunning, there’s little lizards sunning themselves on rocks, incredible plants, so vibrant !! At the top is a large plateau with a small pond, you can hear the frogs calling and there’s so many birds, the noise is incredible ! We walked to a visitor centre before heading back into town via the roads, great to see a little bit of the area but now we needed to shop.
Rosi already had a good idea of what she needed so shopping didn’t take long and we were soon back at the apartment prepping ready for the BBQ. People began to arrive about 7.00pm and very quickly it turned into a very pleasant evening. Naomi and I were fielding questions about our trip all evening, although we did get a few of our own in. A fabulous evening with great people, good food and beer, what more could you need. Another wonderful day but time for bed, we fly to Uluru tomorrow !!
Night all ;-)
Just a few photos, didn’t take to many today…

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Well that’s the end of the Sydney blog, what a fantastic place, I don’t think you’d ever get to see everything and I’m quite sure that everyone will ask if we saw “this” or did “that”, we did our best given the time and weather and we’re more than happy with what we’ve seen !!
I would like to say a big thank you to Rosi for putting us up, she really made Sydney easy and accessible for us ;-)
Keep reading folks, more to come !!
JC

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