Turkey, Trabzon to Unye

Our first real day in Trabzon, well we’re not counting yesterday because we were both knackered and spent most of our day catching up on sleep, night flights are a pain !!

Anyway back to our first day, we’d booked a trip into the mountains to see a monastery, The Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary at Melá Mountain within the Pontic Mountains range, in the Maçka district of Trabzon Province in modern Turkey.

It’s about an hour or 46km up into the mountains and the drive up was quite pleasant. It didn’t take to long for the temperature to drop and the rain to start, almost a relief after the hot weather in Denmark !!

We stopped just once on the way up to take pictures at a waterfall, nice to get out of the minibus for even a short time. The road up gets very narrow and also quite steep with sheer drops, it’s amazing how the drivers manage to get up without accident.

Once at the top there was a little confusion about how long we had or where we needed to get back to so we stuck with a family from Saudi Arabia, Abdul, his wife and daughter. Lovely family and as they spoke the language they were also very helpful.

From the carpark it’s only about 300m to the monastery steps, but it’s an unmade path that winds round the mountain and is in itself quite lovely, there are also places to get a good view across the forested hills.

The steps up are steep and crowded, we realised early on that British reserve wouldn’t work so we went with the elbows out strategy and were soon pushing our way through the doors at the top.

As you emerge through the portal your faced with the inner courtyard which is down another steep flight of steps, there are rooms of to the right hand side, guard rooms, library and stores. At the bottom is the bakery, dining room and of to the right the accomodation. In the centre built into the steep cliff is the church, it’s beautifully painted both inside and out, although it’s been neglected and vandalised over the years you can still see how amazing it would have looked.

We spent about 45 minutes checking out the monastery out before heading back to the tea rooms at the bottom of the steps. We met up with Abdul and his family and chatted until it was time to leave. We found the mini bus and as we still had time we walked further up the path to get photos of the monastery from a distance, impressive looking place !!

Once back in Trabzon we asked if we could get out in the centre, firstly because we’d not been there yet but also because we needed to eat and felt there’d be a good choice. As luck would have it we were dropped if right opposite the Tourist Info. We wandered in and got a few tips on what to see and do with our next day off.

The helpful man suggested several museums, one of which was local so as we still had time we walked in it’s direction. We found it easily enough and paid our tiny entry fee to go look around.

The museum is a mansion was built in the beginning of the 1900s as a private residence for Kostaki Teophylaktos, a notable banker of Greek origin. It is known that the architect was of Italian origin and many materials used in the building were brought from Italy. However, the name of the architect is unknown.

As Teophylaktos went bankrupt in 1917, all his properties were confiscated, among them his mansion. The building was acquired by the Nemlioğlu family.

During the timespan of Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923), the mansion was used as the headquarters for the military in the region. In 1924, it was prepared for the first visit of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Turkish Republic, to Trabzon. Between September 15–17, he and the First Lady Latife stayed in the mansion.

In 1927, the building was nationalized by the Governor of Trabzon Ali Galip Bey, and served until 1931 as the Governor’s House. Between 1931-1937, it was used as the inspector’s office.

The Kostaki Mansion was assigned in 1937 to the Ministry of National Education, and was used for fifty years long as a vocational high school for girls. Finally, in 1987, the building was handed over to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to be transformed into a museum.

So basically it’s a huge slightly neglected but otherwise beautiful grand house full of stunning furniture and objects. The areas are roped off to help preserve them but the access is still quite generous and as museums go it gets my vote !!

Well after that we found a great buffet for dinner, lots of vegetables, salads and bread….just love Turkish food, especially the olives and soft cheeses 😉

The walk back to our hotel was both needed and interesting and now we have a much better idea of what to do, where to go and how to get there, one more day then it’s back on the bikes so we’d better make the most if it !!

 

Ok, day two in Trabzon, let’s take a little tour of the town. We start with a short walk up to the main shopping street, past the Tourist Info and just under the bridge we find the Dolmus that will take us up the hill to Boztepe. It’s listed in the guide book and on the local tourist map as “the view point”, guess it’s not hard to see why….

The views from here and slightly further back down the road are amazing, I especially like the view from Trazbons Hollywoodesque sign, shame about the rubbish.

We carried on walking back down the hill, stopping to photograph more views, mosques and rooftops were in plentiful supply and look very colourful.

After walking for quite a while we hopped back on a dolmus to get back into town, a quick coffee in Maccy D’s and we were off again, but wait, panic !! Where’s Naomi’s camera ?? Back to Maccy D’s, grateful to the lovely family that were looking after it until our return….love turkey !!

Ok, back on a dolmus and across town to the Hagia Sophia Museum.

The Church of Saint Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, meaning “Holy Wisdom” Turkish: Ayasofya), formerly the Saint Sophia Museum, is a former Chalcedonian (Greek Orthodox) church. It dates back to the thirteenth century when Trabzon was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond. It is located near the seashore and two miles west of the medieval town’s limits. It is one of a few dozen Byzantine sites still existent in the area. It has been described as being “regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture.

Lovely little place, tranquil despite it’s location and beautifully decorated with vibrant paintings. The views from the rear of the garden show just how busy this location is !

From here we walked back towards the ancient city walls, stopping on the way for lunch. The local delicacy is kofte, they were very cheap, very tasty and the people so friendly, fantastic !!

Approaching the city walls and fort we of course stopped for more photos, we crossed the road into a park and found a tree house, statues and a clock, all worthy of a photograph….such a wonderful space in a busy city !

Crossing the busy road to continue on into the city we crossed a bridge, and more surprises awaited us, the views from the bridge were stunning and not what we expected at all. A beautiful park, it stretches right the way back under the busy overpass, the water runs through the middle and there are plenty of places to stop and relax. The view of the other side is equally good, the old wall flanks the right side while on the left are old houses, in the middle more park, more formal here but just as good.

We continued our walk past more mosques, busy shopping streets, urban decay, quirky alleys, neglected tired buildings and frantic bazaars !!

I think the photos will show what a vibrant, exciting city this is, it’s given us a few surprises but I think we like it, the people are so friendly here, especially the guy in the cafe next door, his name was Ishmail and he refused to take payment for our teas and water on our way back and never fails to great us with a cheery hello and a handshake. I’m looking forward to our trip through this wonderful country and hope to meet more people like him !!

 

 

We were up and away early for our first bike ride in Turkey, we said farewell to the two guys that run the Bulvar Palace Hotel, a cheap, no frills basic hotel in the old quarter about 1.2km from the centre. It was clean and despite the shared bath and erratic water supply we liked it. The guys were friendly and looked after us and our bikes without question, top guys.

So check out complete, breakfast done we set off, I little nervous but after a km or two we were back in the rhythm and rolling along quite nicely. The road out of Trabzon was busy and to start with there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on but we were soon on a bigger road and the shoulder was plenty wide enough. The surface was smooth and relatively free of debris so we managed a good pace.

We passed by the Haiga Sophia museum we were at yesterday and then we just seemed to have the road all to ourselves for a while. We passed this sign a few km later and suddenly realised just how far from home we are, and we’re going the long way round…gulp !!

We passed forts, boats yards and plenty of hazelnuts while riding and after about 50km we stopped for a drink. We got chatting to the owner of the stall, Ardem, and next thing you know he’s plying us with food. Hazelnut and Walnut spread, cheeses, bread, tea and water….such generosity, we even had to force him to take money for the coffees and water we already had !!

We were going to stop at Basikduzu but we’d got ther by 10.15 so we pushed on a bit further to Gorele but yet again we were far to early. We pushed on yet again and finally came to rest at Tirebolu but not before some tunnels and fantastic roads that just seemed to go on forever. What with the sea to one side and mountains on the other we’d had a great first day and yet again had sampled Turkish hospitality…long may it continue !!

 

 

Day 2 of cycling in Turkey saw us up and away early, stopping only for some bread to add to our cheese and fruit we bought yesterday. We headed out on the D010, not much choice here….correction, no choice at all !!

Now the Black Sea coast from Trabzon to Samsun may not be the most beautiful bit of coast but it’s certainly not dull, lots going on so always something to keep your mind active. Add to that the tunnels, lots of them, over 8km of them in today’s 95km ride. I guess it takes the hills out but man some of them are scary on a bike and there’s no choice. One of them was particularly bad and we hit a pothole, my rear pannier fell of and I didn’t even notice. Thankfully after we emerged into the light a car stopped us and told me. Luckily it was only about 100m in and undamaged !!

We stopped for a picnic breakfast after about 20km, cheese, bread and fruit, oh and I got the trangia out and boiled some water for a brew, Nescafé, ahhhh !!

Apart from that we stopped in Giresun for a coffee and kunefe ( a local sweet ), very sweet and very nice, we won’t be having to many of them though as we’re both trying to lose weight !!

I guess Giresun was trying to promote it’s local produce with these odd little places, shame they didn’t finish them, I guess it wouldn’t be Turkey if they did !!

There were a few great little bays along the route, and even some that weren’t strewn with litter, one of my pet hates, just can’t understand why people can’t use a bin or take the rubbish home, oh well !!

So after lots of good roads, wide shoulders and sometimes little traffic we arrived in Ordu, a very together looking place, a real holiday vibe about it. It even has a cable car up the mountain, and yes of course we went up, fantastic view….

They even have a spot for paragliders to take of from so we stood and watched for a while before heading back down for food, I must admit that we also both had our first beer in Turkey, it won’t happen often as like I say we’re watching our weight.

Ordu is perhaps the most together place we’ve seen since we landed and if your thinking of heading to the Black Sea Coast you could do far worse !!

The ride from Ordu to Unye would have involved one of Turkey’s longest road tunnels, at over 4km it was certainly one we wanted to avoid ! Lucky for us then that we could take the coast road round the headland through Persembe, Mersin, round to Yalikoy and Bolaman before rejoining the D010 for the last 25km into Unye. It added considerable mileage to our route but to avoid the tunnel we thought it was worth it.

As it happens it was a great ride, our first bike lane got us out of Ordu and onto the coast road, now much quieter roads take us along the coast and although there are still tunnels there very small on this road. The sea is never far away and little coves appear through the trees and brush giving tantalising vistas.

Despite there being no shoulder on this smaller road we were never troubled by traffic but there were more hills and it was hot and muggy.

We did meet other cyclists, a German couple Bert and his wife Ricky, they were travelling from Istanbul to Armenia, we had a brief chat, took photos and carried on. A couple of Km later we took a side road for Jason’s church…

Lovely little place by the sea so after a few photos we had a quick cup of tea before cycling back up the hill to the main road. We stopped again only a few km later, primarily to use the toilet at a gas station but yet again we drank tea and bought water, we’re not in any rush so may as well relax now and again.

The further round the headland we went the longer the hills seemed to get and as we approached Yalikoy Naomi ran out of steam so we stopped for lunch. A roadside cafe, doesn’t look much but the food was fantastic and so cheap, £8 for what you see on the table and that includes drinks !!

After lunch Naomi felt much better and we pressed on to Fasta, now only about 20km from Unye, it was busy going through the town so we took to the wide pavement for a while. As we crossed a side street a guy in a cafe called to us to have tea with him, he seemed pleasant so we sat and drank tea for a while. He showed us his photos of Capadoccia a place we said we were going to. We drank more tea, and Naomi took his American 32″ wheel street cruiser for a test ride, can’t see her doing the whole trip on one but she certainly enjoyed it !! After that we tried to pay but Mahmut wouldn’t take any money, another example of the generosity of the Turkish people.

Here he is in a selfie with Nao and myself, thanks Mahmut !!

From there into Unye it went ok, good to have some interesting stuff to look at though as we were both getting tired by the end. We found a hotel in Unye without to much trouble, showered and went out for a walk. We took a stroll to the end of the pier and got talking to Turguy, he owns a boat and runs short trips round the bay. Despite not wanting a boat ride we were invited on board, given coffee and left to chill out and relax, more genuine hospitality, this country is amazing !!

Just a few photos from the pier…
And finally one of perhaps the most prolific buildings in Turkey, the Mosque, I think they save there best work for these places, they’re all stunning !!
 

So what a day, what a week, it’s been fantastic so far and tomorrow we head south into the hills, direction Capadoccia !!

For now though I wish you all well and hope you continue to read my blogs and look at the photos !!

JC

 

 

Posted in Black Sea Coast, Cycling, Ordu, Trabzon, Turkey, Unye | Tagged | Leave a comment

Denmark, Weddings, Friends and so much more !!

After six hectic weeks back in the UK I was ready to get going. My kit was packed and loaded, my goodbyes said and the GPS that I was relying on was playing up. Not the start I was hoping for but, after a minor wobble, I finally got going.

It was a muggy day, warm but overcast and every so often it would rain, nothing to worry me though. I made my way into Wycombe and struggled up the hills towards Chesham – amazing how much fitness you can lose in six weeks !!

From Chesham I stuck to A roads to get me across to Ware in Hertfordshire. By the time I got there it was really warming up and it was time to stop for a pint and some food. I checked the map as I supped my pint and decided to crack on to Bishops Stortford another 20km away. Man that was a bad call, steep hills, really hot day and no breeze, by the time I got there I was done for. I reckon I’d done over 100km due to me not taking a direct route and it felt like it.

The following day was slightly easier and I cruised into Colchester at about 1.00pm and was showered and relaxed by the time Naomi arrived at about 6.00pm. She’d somehow managed to go to two completely wrong hotels before finally checking the email I sent with the hotel name and directions !!

We’d both had some interesting routes getting to Colchester, A roads, B roads, cycle paths, bridal paths and more but one thing we both agreed on was that we were enjoying being back on the bikes 😉

The following day we headed out for Harwich Ferry, the GPS now working ok after we’d both had a go at it’s menu settings !!

A great route through the back roads brought us to the ferry and very soon we were on our way to Denmark, Esbjerg to be precise. The ferry took about 18 hours and we made our selves comfy in our ensuite cabin until it was time to dock.

As we’d arrived fairly early in the day we decided to hop on a ferry across to Fano, a small island just off the coast. It’s very flat, has picture postcard beeches and was also our first introduction to Danish cycle paths. It really is a beautiful little island and we did cycle from one end to the other, stopping for refreshment on the way. The cycle paths take some getting used to as do the cars that actually stop for you at junctions…..a little freaky !!

Back on the mainland we headed for our first nights camping just outside the town of Esbjerg, your typical family campsite with lots of stuff we don’t need and prices to match !!

We did however meet a couple of cyclists from Belgium. Lisbeth and Walter were doing the North Sea Route, lovely couple, great company…..I hope they finished their trip 😉

The next couple of days we put in some good mileage keeping to the back roads. We stopped at Sonder Felding the next night and the following day arrived in Bording, home of Naomi’s friend Jackie and soon to be husband Bo. Their wedding is the reason we started our latest trip in Denmark. I’d met Jackie in Yorkshire when we were at the Tour de France weekend and she’d gracefully offered an invite, how could I refuse 😉

The next four days were a bit of an eat and drink fest along with offering a little help to get things ready for the party on Thursday night. It was great to get involved and it gave me a chance to get to know Jackie and Bo a little better. Their good friends Jayne and John from Brisbane were over and they were great company as were Lee and John and Bridget, who had also all been in Leeds for that wonderful weekend.

The wedding was amazing, the bride was stunning and the after wedding celebrations were incredible, especially the food, some of the best wedding food ever !!

But sadly after four days of eating, drinking and partying it was time to leave and so we did, it was misty as we set of for Aarhus some 70km away. We made a brief stop in Silkeborg, a beautiful place on a river, took a few photos, ate an ice cream and drank a coffee. Life is good 😉

Again the GPS found a lovely route through the back roads into Aarhus and we didn’t even realise we’d arrived in a major town until we suddenly arrived at the river, flanked either side by cafés, bars and restaurants. We stopped for lunch and to be honest it was very expensive and not very good, oh well, lesson learned !!

We were staying the night in a hostel before catching the ferry across to Sjaellands Odde and our next ride into Roskilde. We did a little sightseeing in Aarhus but not much, it was just so damned hot and we were up early for the short ferry ride. Off the ferry and onward to Holbeak before finishing this 85km day in Roskilde. Great scenery on the way, being able to see the sea on both sides is a rare treat and the ripening corn and wheat along the route provided a perfect backdrop !! We yet again managed to keep of the main roads, the GPS is really earning it’s way now !!

Two nights in a hotel in Roskilde with shopping at Aldi across the way for cheap food meant it didn’t work out too pricey, especially when you remember that the breakfast buffet is included, and what a buffet….mmmm !

Now there are several things to do in Roskilde but the top two picks are, the Cathedral and the Viking museum . We set out to do them both !!

First the Cathedral, we rounded a corner and there it was, or at least one small piece of it, we started taking photos as we walked round the outside. Full of angles, windows, roofs and spires and a fabulous colour as well, it really is a fantastic building. And then you walk in, and wow, I mean it, it’s incredible !! The sheer scale of it, the ornamentation, the woodwork, stonework, carvings, reliefs, ceilings, walls, crypt….I could go on and in but I’ll put a few photos in so you get the idea, you really should come and see it though, outstanding !!

Next up the Viking museum. When they were reinventing the marina they found six Viking ships buried in the silt and over the next few years they uncovered them and hundreds of other artefacts and now there all in a purpose built museum. The building itself may be less than impressive and starting to crumble but the ships and artefacts are first rate and certainly worth the visit. The whole area is now a living museum. There there all sorts of crafts being displayed from rope making to basket work to carving, not to mention boat building….great place for all the family 😉

We wondered about for the rest of the day before heading back to the hotel, it had been a great place to visit but we’d be on our way again in the morning, a short ride to Koge and our old friend Gus. But first a little detour to a bike shop, my seat post has a crack in it and so does my helmet, better to find replacements here rather than in Turkey.

The ride to Koge was very short and also very picturesque and we arrived just after midday, we let ourselves into Gus’s flat and made ourselves at home. Gus, bless him had sourced some boxes for our bikes so while Naomi put the kettle on I dismantled and packed our bikes, possibly for the last time !!

That job done it was time to do some washing, the launderette down the street soon sorted that out and by the time Gus got home from work we had all our jobs completed and were showered and ready to go get dinner. We had a great evening with Gus, good food, company and a few beers, just like it was in Yorkshire !!

The following morning we set off on the train for the airport, not for us to leave but to see our friend Irin arrive from Switzerland, we’d ridden through Africa with her and were delighted she could make it to Copenhagen to see us and Gus 😉

We dumped our bags at the train station before grabbing a coffee and discussing our ideas for Copenhagen, it was unanimous that we’d start with a boat ride. We got tickets for the hop on / hop off boat and settled back to enjoy the views. It was a hot day and the slight breeze coming off the water was very pleasant. We saw so many beautiful places, none of which I can really put names to, suffice to say I took a few photos !!

By the time we got back to the beginning it was lunch time and after lunch we went in search of a tower, for views of the city. Gus found us this amazing place…

It’s like a road inside, no steps until the very last bit and then you climb a very tight flight of helical stairs to the observation deck, I’ll let the photos do the rest….

Wow !!

After that we just had time to go and see the Elephant Gate at the Carlesberg Brewery, amazing place, such drama and amazing architecture !!

Next was a little siesta in the afternoon before dinner and drinks at the Brewpub, great ales, great food and for Copenhagen…reasonable prices !

More sightseeing the next day, we started with another boat ride out to the Little Mermaid, incredible how any people were there, just amazing. We elbowed our way in and finally got a photo without some dopey tourist grinning inanely in it before wandering off towards the English Church and then on to the Palace, we arrived just as they were changing the guard so yet again, very busy !!

Again a siesta in the afternoon, it’s just so hot here at the moment, then dinner and more drinks. I feel like I’ve rather over indulged since I set foot in Denmark but what the hell, you only live once !!

What a great weekend in Copenhagen, Irin whom we’d not seen for just over a year looked great and as always was a delight to be with. Gus our very good friend acted as guide and did us all proud, his hospitality was also top notch, a huge thanks from us both 😉

While Gus and myself walked Irin to the station the following morning Naomi made herself ready for the day and after breakfast we had one more quick look at Copenhagen before heading back to Koge on the train.

A little walk to the beach and later a walk into town for dinner brought us nicely to 9.30 and our time to leave.

The taxi which Gus has so diligently organised arrived on time and with a bit of effort our bikes and kit were stowed. A big hug with Gus and promises to keep in touch and we were on our way to the airport. The flight to Istanbul and on to Trabzon went with out a hitch and as I write this blog I’m sitting in an air conditioned hotel room in Trabzon, North East Turkey. As I look out the window I’m a little daunted by the hills that I see around me but that’s for another blog.

Take care, keep reading

JC

 

 

Posted in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Cycling, Denmark, Fano, Køge, Roskilde, Silkesborg | Tagged | 3 Comments

My lazy summer !!

We arrived home from Australia at the end of May, six weeks of relaxation stretched before me until we'd be off on our next adventure. Relaxation, I use the word sparingly, our time back in the UK would be in constant demand.

After the initial sorting of bikes and kit before Naomi headed back to Dudley, I was booked in to run the local 10k run. It's the Run the Rocks second year and is a tough cross country course and as it's local I like to support the event when I'm back. Sadly my performance was dreadful but hardly a surprise as I've not run since the last one !!

Fortunately I was soon on a flight to Kusadashi in Turkey, my sister is married to a Turk and now lives there, not only that but my mum was on holiday visiting them so it was a great opportunity to catch up with my family 😉

Kusadashi isn't my favorite Turkish resort but it certainly isn't bad by any means, and the surrounding area isn't to bad either…

On my return from Turkey there was just time to repack my kit, grab my touring bike and catch a train to Dudley. I was going to meet up with Naomi, the idea being to leave my bike at her mums ready for our trip to Yorkshire, but first a small matter of Glastonbury. Naomi has been going for about 20 years now and works with the recycling crew. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited by her to help out and as I enjoyed it I was invited back.

We arrived on the Tuesday and spent the day putting up the tent and sorting ourselves out ready for the crews to begin work on Thursday. Despite a few small issues things went well and when Naomi's friend Kathy arrived to help out we were able to take some time to see some bands. I think Dolly Parton was the highlight for me despite not being comfortable in the huge crowd I still enjoyed the occasion !!

The weather behaved itself most of the time although we did have one day of heavy rain which turned the paths and fields into mudbaths very quickly….

All in all a great few days but no sooner had we left and driven back to High Wycombe, it was time to repack and drive to Dudley. We had a little free time here and Naomi and her mum drove me out to Bridgnorth, a beautiful town full of history and interest. It's unusual in that there is also a funicular railway to get between the towns two distinct levels. Great gardens, beautiful architecture, flowing river and a sunny day made this a fantastic day out….

Well no rest for the wicked and with that we were away the following morning. Our bikes loaded we set out for Macclesfield, this would be our halfway stop on our way to Harewood House in Yorkshire. Thanks to Naomi's organisation we were due to meet several friends and spend the weekend camping, cycling and watching the Tour de France, especially the Grand D'epart from Harewood !!

I think the highlight of the weekend though was cycling to Knaresborough for the second day and watching them come past a fairly tight left hand bend, we thought it might slow them down but we were wrong and in a matter of seconds they'd gone !! We consoled ourselves with beer in the local pub and with lunch and fantastic cakes at the church hall, we couldn't believe how cheap they were, not to mention the quality !!

A great weekend but sadly all to soon it was over, our friends all headed home, Naomi cycled off to Harogate and I was lucky enough to get a lift with my friends Jude and Brian, back to Wycombe.

Our busy schedule still wasn't over, I took another train up to Dudley and yet again joined Naomi at her mums, from there we drove to Bristol to meet a small group of friends that were cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats. Alan, Bridget, Alex and Vince were all on the Cairo to Capetown trip we did in 2013 and thanks to the internet we've been lucky enough to keep in touch. It was great to see them all again and despite the long round trip it was certainly worth the effort !!

Well as you can see my relaxing summer was a non stop whirlwind, I'm not complaining, I quite enjoyed being busy and even when I did have a few days at home I was still out on my bike visiting friends in the local area.

So after such a great summer and being well and truly spoilt at my mums the time for me to leave on my final stage of our world cycle tour has arrived. My bags are packed, my bike serviced, the routes planned, ferries booked…I'm ready 😉

Friday 18th July, today I'll be cycling in the direction of Colchester, I aim to cycle up to 100km and find a B&B or cheap hotel before carrying on the following day. I'll meet Naomi in Colchester and we'll stay the night before catching a ferry from Harwich on Sunday morning. We land on Monday and we'll take a couple of days to cycle to Bording where we'll be going to a wedding 😉

From Bording we cycle to Copenhagen where we'll enjoy a few days exploring the city with a couple of friends before packing the bikes and flying to Trabzon in Northern Turkey. From there we'll cycle home, not a direct route by any means !! We aim to come through Eastern Europe and Europe and return through Rotterdam and into Harwich in mid December.

I hope you'll all continue to follow our adventure on this final trip and that you enjoy the blogs and photos that I'll post on a regular basis 😉

Take care

JC

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bridgnorth, Glastonbury, Kusadashi, Tour de France, Turkey | Tagged | 2 Comments

Australia, Adelaide and surrounding area !!

I've been thinking about this blog for quite a while now, it's the last piece of our Australian adventure and I've found it hard to write. In the end I decided to just do a pictorial trip, the details of how we got to places aren't so important but needless to say Naomi's friends Kate and ….., played their part and we are extremely grateful for their assistance.

Kate lives in North Brighton so let's start with there :-

Great beaches right on your doorstep !

Fabulous Victorian houses line the sidewalk on the way to Glenelg, a great contrast to the modern apartment blocks that are now taking over !

As you reach Glenelg the pier comes into sight, then the Hindmarsh monument, while further north you find the marina, Ferris wheel and more beaches.

Now Glenelg does have a thriving shopping district, cafés, restaurants and bars but I know you'd prefer to see sunsets, and as we walked home we got lucky again. I love it when the sun is reflected in the damp sand and across the water 😉

Ok, enough beaches, what else did we see !

Well Kate drove us up to Mount Lofty, Naomi and I cycled in to Adelaide and had no idea that we'd come so close to this place, shame we didn't get a photo with the bikes as I think you'll agree the views are amazing !!

Ok, what about the city, well we did finally manage to get there, the first day was more of a fact finding mission, oh and we met a friend of Naomi's for lunch. But the second day….

Old and new creating more great contrast, war memorials honouring the dead, markets, fabulous old buildings most of which seem to be either civic buildings or colleges.

Some quirky stuff just to add a little light relief…

Statues of people I've never heard of, churches and fantastic Victorian buildings…

Oh and one of our favourite places, the botanic garden, such a wonderful place….

And to finish a few contemporary buildings and some funky art…

Adelaide seems to have it all, and we were lucky enough to see a fair bit of it !!

We had a great time in Adelaide and the surrounding areas and can see why it's such a popular place to visit. A huge thank you to everyone that helped us get the most out of our time there !!

Take care

JC

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Adelaide, Australia | Tagged | 2 Comments

Australia, The Flinders Range

As I said at the start of my last blog, the cycling is finished in Australia so were now doing some trips as “normal” tourists, we've already been to Kangaroo Island but this time we head out to The Flinders Ranges!!

We booked the trip online with a company called Heading Bush, we got lucky because they agreed to pick us up where we were staying which saved us having to get a taxi into Adelaide !!

Our guide and driver, Flynn turned up on time and we got settled for the trip. We picked up three other people and that was it, just the five of us and Flynn !

It's great that we had a 16 seater mini bus and so few people, just so much room. Once everyone was on board and settled Flynn gave the introductory speech and outlined a basic itinerary for the next few days, he also said that as there were so few of us we could decide amongst ourselves where and what we should do and see….brilliant !!

It was still very early when we left Adelaide behind us for the trip up to the Ranges and most of us nodded of for a couple of hours but when we reached a place called Snowtown our guide let us out for a stretch, and to take a look at this…

It's a blade from a wind turbine, it's huge !! Now Snowtown is on the map because it has the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, it just so happens that the hills and wind conditions make it a perfect place to sight these behemoths and they produce enough electricity for 70,000 homes !!

From Snowtown we continued north to the coastal towns of Port Wakefield and Port Germaine, the landscape was shrouded in mist and the wind turbines looked quite ghostly standing on the hills !!

We reached Port Germaine, it boasts the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, this is a day of big stuff and big boasts !! Seriously this jetty is huge, over a kilometre long..and no we didn't walk to the end, we didn't have time !!

What with the jetty, lighthouse and some odd looking clock it was a great place to fire up the camera and rattle of a few photos !!

Sadly our stop at this lovely place didn't last long and we needed to get going, we still had a long way to go to our accomodation at one of the original sheep stations in central Flinders !! And we still had plenty to see and do before we got there !!

Our next stop was at Mount Remarkable National Park, here we'd have lunch, but first a little walk along the river and into the bush. Flynn was a great guide, he and his family come from the Flinders area, they've farmed sheep for generations so he was very knowledgable about the various plants, trees and wildlife, made it much more interesting having a little info about what you were looking at !

Needless to say the cameras were clicking away madly, it it was pretty, colourful or moved we took photos ! Then it was a gentle walk back to the minibus and trailer to sort out lunch. Now as with our kangaroo island trip, the guide cooks but the punters get to wash up…no problem !!

Well so far we're all loving this trip, Flynn is a great guide and careful driver, the scenery so far has been fantastic, lunch was excellent and we've only just started,lots more to do and see so what's next ?

Quorn, historic township on the northern end of the Pichi Richi pass and the start of the original Ghan Railway, the old railway buildings are still there but sadly the steam locos stopped a long time ago !! We stopped here mainly for fuel and grocery shopping but we did have a quick look round and it is a very quaint looking place !!

Still heading north and getting more and more remote with each passing kilometre we turn off the sealed road onto an unmade road that stretches out into the distance further than my eyes can see, surrounded by 600 million year old mountain ranges, the sun picking out the crests, the birds chattering and the desiccated trees standing alone in this wilderness….I felt so small !!

We were on our way to visit the grave of a guy called Hugh Proby, the son of a wealthy Scottish landowner, Hugh set out for Australia in the 1850's. He made his home here in the Flinders and set up a sheep station, he was only 19 years old when he arrived here. He worked hard and built a fantastic home (we'll see that later) but sadly during heavy rains he was swept away by flash floods while trying to move his sheep to higher ground. I can only imagine the sheer effort of will needed to carve out an existence in this landscape but to do it at only 19… Incredible !! His family made it out to his grave after several years and shipped his grave stone from the UK, it weighs a ton and must have been a logistical nightmare to get to this remote part of the world !!

From Hugh's grave we carried on, still heading north to our home at Rawnsley Park for the next two nights. Naomi and I had opted for the tent option, much cheaper than the dorm or cabin and as it was warm it wasn't a problem !! We got ourselves settled in then met the other guys for dinner. The sheep station we're staying at is now more for tourists than sheep. It has places for caravans, motor homes, theirs dorms, tents and several levels of cabins with or without ensuite !! There are also plenty of facilities including fully equipped kitchens and dining rooms and plenty of showers and toilets. It's a huge site and it was very busy, I was quite surprised considering how far from major towns and cities it is !!

As we watched the sun set over the Range our guide promised that we would be in a great spot to see not only sunset tomorrow night but sunrise in the morning…looks like we've got an early start then, bed early I think !

No surprise to find us up and about early then, we skipped breakfast as we all agreed that we'd see sunrise then come back for it after. So all aboard the minibus and off we go to the well positioned viewing area, it's up a fairly steep unmade road and we didn't think the bus would get up but we were wrong !! The views were fantastic and as the sun rose slowly into the deep blue sky it highlighted the red rocks just as if someone had shone a torch on them, it looked incredible !! What a great start to our day, and with breakfast still to come it was only ever going to get better !!

As I said earlier, our guide gave us the option to change the itinerary if we wanted to see something in particular but we all agreed to just let him drive us about and show of this beautiful area, our only request was to visit Wilpena Pound so that's where we headed first !!

We made our way there though more rugged landscapes and into the Flinders Range National Park, we had to get our permits to visit this wonderful place. From the office it's a short drive through the campsite to a carpark further up the range, a little less hiking and more time to see things and take photos…good idea.

From the carpark Flynn guided us up the trail through long since deserted farms, through dense bush and up steps carved into the rock of the Pound itself, up and up we walked, the air already hot and humid, the sky a brilliant blue such a great contrast to the rust coloured rock and vibrant greens of the vegetation. Finally we made it to the viewing platform and we were in awe, what an amazing place…

Although from the outside the Pound appears as a single range of mountains, it is actually two: one on the western edge, and one on the eastern, joined by the long Rawnsley's Bluff at the south. A gorge called Wilpena Gap has been cut in the eastern range, and most of the inside of the Pound drains into Wilpena Creek which exits through the Gap. A small part of the high northern slopes of the Pound drains into Edeowie Creek, which drains in time of flood over steep cliffs and waterfalls in Edeowie Gorge to the north.

The wall of mountains almost completely encircles the gently-sloping interior of the Pound, with the only breaks being the gorge at Wilpena Gap and a high saddle in the south-western range over which the Heysen Trail passes. This latter saddle is called Bridle Gap, supposedly because it's the only place other than the gorge where a skilled horseman might ride into the Pound. The interior of the Pound does not rise to a height at the northern edge, but instead simply drops off very steeply to the plain below in a series of steep gullies.

The photo that was taken from above shows if this natural phenomena far better than I can explain it and my own photographs taken from ground level hardly do it justice but take my word for it…..it's incredible !!! Needless to say we took lots of photos, not just of the great view but if plants, rocks, trees and carvings….fantastic !!

Well how do you top that ? Easy, you head straight to Bunyeroo Gorge, stopping along the way to view it first from the lookout. What amazing colours in the rocks and with that unmade road snaking it's way past the Razors back it makes for a fabulous photo, we couldn't wait to get down there !!

This gorge is one of several in the area that we could have visited but Flynn picked because it's home to the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, strange though, it doesn't have yellow feet but it does have a banded tail and distinct markings on it's face…real cute but very skittish !!

The gorge is through rock that are over 600 million years old and are a treasure trove of fossils, no wonder it's called the “Corridor of Time” !! We hoped we might also get to see kangaroos, emus and ostrich and we did, sadly we still didn't get to see an echidna or any snakes !!

The gorge really did live up to expectation, such a great place to take photos, lots of them, wildlife, plants, trees and rocks were all on the hit list, such vibrant colours..amazing !!

From Bunyeroo we travelled through more incredible scenery to Sacred Canyon but not before we changed the flat tyre we'd gotten on the rough roads through the gorge. A team effort had it done in no time and with the old tyre on the roof rack and the jack stowed safely we were on our way again. The canyon is an Aboriginal sacred site, with it's watering hole and rock carvings it's not hard to see why. We parked up the bus and walked in, surrounded on both side by towering ancient rocks with huge native red gum trees clinging to the scant soil at the base. The path winds it's way through the canyon, over rocks through crystal clear springs until you round a corner and are faced with, it might not look much, a muddy brown pond, but it hardly ever dries up and that's why it's so important. The rock walls are adorned with carvings honouring this place, the split in the rock at the rear of the watering hole leads you further into the canyon and more photo opportunities !! Such a fantastic place 😉

It's getting late in the day now, it's been an incredible day but we're all a bit excited about the sunset so Flynn heads back to Rawnsley Park and the lookout. As we head back through this wonderful place the sun sinks lower and lower, the rock walls now lit up, there rust colour just seems to shout at you. The desert floor covered on low scrub, home to snakes and numerous other forms of wildlife starts to cool but the contrast of colours is amazing !!

We reach the viewing area in plenty of time and take our positions, cameras ready, batteries charged for the greatest show on earth, sunset at Flinders Range !!!

How amazing is that !!!

And so back to camp, weary after a long hot day but elated, we've all taken literally hundreds of photos and I for one can't wait to see them on my ipad but first the small matter of showers and dinner !! The group worked well as a team and dinner took no time at all, we were ravenous and it was soon demolished, the dishes washed and then we joined Flynn for a quick beer under the stars before heading to the tent for much needed sleep. It'll be another early start in the morning and we need to pack up our kit, it's a long drive back to Adelaide and we have a few things to see on the way !!

I got up early and relieved Flynn in the kitchen, I made breakfast for everyone, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato, Naomi played commis chef and sorted the toast, we just got it to the table as Flynn and the other guys arrived…perfect timing and a very tasty start to our day !! Then Flynn looked up and noticed this huge spider above where I was working, he said it was a huntsman and although not deadly it would be very painful. Next thing you know he's off looking for more spiders and spots this one right by the door, a red back, again not life threatening but certainly painful if bitten !! Let's get out of here !!

Our first stop of the day was to be Hugh Probys Homestead but as the sun climbed higher into the sky we noticed this beautiful spot and persuaded Flynn to stop for photos…

Well worth the stop I think you'll agree but we really must get on, we've got a long way to go. The Proby estate is big, in it's heyday it must have been an impressive place and hard to believe the guy was only 19 when he arrived here. Its sadly now ruins but the sheer scale of it is still amazing and it certainly makes for some great photos !!

Well it's still early in the day and we're already having a great day, where next we wondered ?

The answer was a place called Melrose, the oldest town in the Flinders Range and a very pretty place indeed. We'd be having lunch here but first a short walk through some of the idyllic countryside. The diversity of plant life here had me snapping away like a maniac, such great colours. Not just plants either, fungi, leaves, trees were all there to be photographed not to mention the old brewery, old doors and stone work !!

After the walk we met Flynn in the local public garden where the pay as you go electric BBQ was getting full use, grilled chicken was on the menu with some great salads and bread to accompany it. The food was good and plentiful but yet again I was longing to take photos, such a beautiful place !!

Heading south back to Adelaide and with still quite away to go we had to cross the railway lines more than once but we got caught out by a passing train on one occasion and boy did it take a long time to pass. I stopped counting after 50 carriages and it still had lots left….makes for a great photo though !!

Now were approaching the Clare valley, one of Australia's best wine regions and that means another stop but this one is for wine tasting !!

To be honest when we pulled into Mr Mick's winery we were all quite disappointed, it wasn't quite our idea of a Clare valley vineyard, we were expecting somewhere a bit more rural, vines, a nice farmhouse, outdoor tables with stunning views. The reality was a modern facility next to an old stone building but it was situated in what looked more like an industrial area and was next door to an Australian version of B & Q !! Hardly a romantic setting and to be honest the wine wasn't up to much either, it was the first and only disappointment on this trip and we quickly forgot about it !

With just one more comfort stop before Adelaide we took the opportunity to sit and have a coffee and cake, the owner had a parrot outside, lovely looking animal but we gathered he could be quite naughty so fingers were kept well away !!

It wasn't to long after that we arrived back in Adelaide, Flynn was a star and dropped us back at our place in north Brighton !

Well what a trip, great guide, fantastic scenery, lots of photos and nice people, it was expensive but worth every penny !!

I hope you enjoyed this tour of The Flinders Range and that you'll continue to follow our adventures 😉

Take care

JC

 

Posted in Australia, Bunyeroo Gorge, Flinders Ranges, Hugh Proby, Melrose, SA, Port Germaine, Sacred Canyon, Wilpena Pound | Tagged | Leave a comment

Living your dream !!

Let's see if you recognise this scenario, it's a weekend, you've just got up and gone downstairs. You've got bed hair, your wearing your pj's under a robe and your first act of the day is to light up as smoke !!

Next is to put the kettle on and while it's boiling you switch on the TV, you take your tea or coffee and slump into your nice comfy armchair. Maybe you even curl your legs under and get nice and cosy !!

On the TV is a live sporting event, it's the London marathon, you've never had any interest in running but for the next few hours you sit and watch while countless thousands of normal people run 26 miles.

Some are elite athletes who make it look easy, some are running in costumes, some are old, some young, some are fast while others are slower and some are in wheelchairs !!

You watch, fascinated by the spectacle and a thought goes through your head…”one day I'd love to do that” !!

Admit it, you've thought that, you have I know because I did the exact same thing years ago !!

It was only a small thought, it barely registered but you know you still want to do it, well guess what ! Unless you put down the computer, switch of the TV, get dressed and put on some trainers and get outside it will never happen. Shock horror, things don't happen just because you thought it…nope, you actually have to make an effort !!

Right now your making excuses right, not enough time to train, the kids need looking after, the in laws are coming to stay, the car needs washing or the grass needs cutting…..just excuses !!

Maybe running the marathon isn't your dream, maybe it's something else ! Maybe you want to swim the channel or climb the three peaks or cycle across America, who knows what secret dream you have. The fact remains that unless you make the time and effort your dream will always be just that…a dream !!

I know it won't be easy, you dream big ! But trust me it's worth the effort, most things worth doing aren't easy otherwise everyone would be doing it !!

The second you take that first stride though…..your a runner, you belong to a world wide club, you feel better, you'll lose weight, gain confidence and be more energetic, your friends will notice the improvements and will take your lead. In six months time you'll be running that marathon or completing whatever challenge you've dreamt of for so long.

Imagine how you'll feel when they hand you your medal, it feels fantastic, but what feels even better is watching your friends finish as well and knowing you had a part in it !!

So, what are you waiting for folks, go get dressed and start living that dream !!!

Just do it !!

Good luck

JC

 

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Australia, Kangaroo Island

So having arrived in Adelaide it was time to pack the bikes and relax. We had about two weeks before we were due to fly home so we started looking at trips we could do. When I say we, what I really mean is Naomi started looking !!

After a little research on the internet she proposed a two day trip to Kangaroo island, I had a quick look at the itinerary and thought it looked great. We decided to book it through a travel agent, that way we get the documents in our hand and we get to ask questions about food and accommodation. I have to be honest, it wasn't a cheap trip but we decided we'd do it as we're unlikely to come back !!

The day arrived and we were up at 5.00am to get a taxi a few miles up the coast to Glenelg. We'd arranged to meet the minibus at the Stamford Grand Hotel and it turned up on time…a good start ! The minibus then drove us across South Adelaide to meet the coach that would then take us to the ferry at Cape Jervis. Now I'm sure the scenery on the way down was fantastic but sadly I fell asleep and only woke on the arrival at the terminal !!

The coach doesn't come on the ferry so we walked on and took our seats for what was a very smooth crossing across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island. We were met as we disembarked by our guide a very bubbly young lady called Kate. She rounded up our small group before giving us some info and setting off !

We were lucky, the minibus could seat about 24 people but there were only 12 of us so lots of room to spread out and get comfy. The info was mainly safety related, seat belts, doors, not talking or distracting the driver (Kate), the usual stuff. It also gave more info on our itinerary and what was expected of us. For instance, at meal times Kate would prepare and cook but we as a group would be expected to clean and wash up…reasonably fair 😉

We got going and headed out to Rob's Sheep Shearing, it wasn't to far from the ferry terminal, about twenty minutes was all. Now I have to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this bit, I just wanted to see the rugged coastline !! So it was a bit of a surprise to me that I actually enjoyed it, Rob was a great guy and spoke with passion, honesty and knowledge about his farm and life…..it was evident that he loved it. He literally told his dogs to go fetch the sheep and of they went, five minutes later they were back with a dozen sheep…brilliant. He told us all about the sheep, the wool, shearing and weaving, the demonstration was great to watch and then he answered all our silly questions…..all in all a very worthwhile visit.

Next up was a visit to a stunning beach, sadly I can't remember the name, on the way we passed some stunning scenery and Kate gave us a running commentary about what we were seeing.

From the beach we had a short drive to a eucalyptus distillery where we would also have lunch. The distillery is a little out of the way and it took a while to get there, great place though ! When we arrived we were introduced to Phsyco the emu, scary looking bugger !!

Inside were plenty of things to spend your money on, mostly eucalyptus based, the free sample was more than enough for me though !! Outside, rusty trucks made for great photos as did the old carriage in the foyer. Lunch was ok, sliced meats, bread rolls, salads and fruit, plenty of it and cheap tea and coffee if you wanted it..perfect !!

Well so far, great trip, and it just kept getting better…

Next up, a trip that several us us had been looking forward to….Seal Bay !!

Self explanatory really, a colony of sea lions have made this particular beach there home and to protect them you can't visit without a guide. There's a wooden walkway and steps down to the beach and on the way we saw plenty of seals resting in the undergrowth, they do look cute !!

Once you get on the beach the guide gives you the do's and don'ts before leading you in the direction of the seals.

Your not allowed to approach them but if your stationary and they come to you it's ok !! There were plenty of seals and they were reasonably active so we all got some great shots…another cracking visit !!

Well it's getting late in the day now so it's time to head to Vivonne Bay and our rooms for the night. Kate drove all the way to the beach first, and what a beach, no wonder it was voted Australia's best beach at some point !! A huge bay with exquisite soft white sand that just went on for miles, and hardly anyone on it !!

We took a few photos before Kate drove us a short distance to the lodge. Some of the group were in dorms but Naomi and myself had opted for a private room. I think everyone was impressed with the accommodation and facilities, very modern, clean and bright. Pool table, television, free tea and coffee, great kitchen, lounge and dining room and some great outside spaces as well….excellent !!

Once settled in you could either borrow a bicycle and hit the trails, borrow a kayak and take a leisurely paddle down the river or take a walk to the beach. We opted for a walk, hoping to spot some local wildlife. We'd seen some wallabies and kangaroos but what we really wanted to see were Echidnas, they look like hedgehogs but aren't even related !! The walk itself was lovely, great brush, fantastic view but sadly no wildlife ;-(

Dinner was fantastic, a proper BBQ and plenty of it, good salads and bread were also on offer as was a desert….Kate did us proud !!

After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast it was time to get back on the minibus, first stop, a kuala sanctuary. It's not a hospital but rather a safe place with the correct species of eucalyptus trees that they need. On the way in we were amazed by the amount of kangaroos grazing in a nearby field, later we'd get closer for some great photos. The sanctuary is basically an avenue of trees, they put markers underneath the trees if there are Kuala's in them….makes finding them much easier !!

After a good walk, great photos and a coffee we were once again back on the minibus, our next stop would be the highlight of the trip..”The Remarkable Rocks” !

The trip to get there was almost as good as the rocks themselves, incredible roads and scenery !! Before you get to the rocks there is an opportunity to stop for photos of the view from a distance. The road twists and turns away in the distance with the rocks standing on a steep cliff above the bay, it looked amazing and we couldn't wait to get closer.

Our arrival was timed perfectly, one coach load had just left and there were only a small amount of people left. We managed to get some great photos of this incredible place without people getting in the way. The orange lichen that covers huge areas of the rocks was such an intense colour with the sun shining on it and made a great contrast to the coarse grey granite. Of course we posed for a few silly photos before heading off to the next attraction !

Cape du Couedic, the lighthouse and Admirals Arch were the highlight here, not forgetting the colony of seals !! To get there we passed through Flinders Chase National Park, we'd stop for lunch here on the way back. We stopped briefly to take photos of the lighthouse before driving down to the car park and then walking down to Admirals Arch.

It's a natural arch in the limestone cliff, it's huge and difficult to take good photos as the arch is in shade but the sunlight streams through, the contrast is tricky.

Lunch was great, chicken wraps, salsa, sour cream, avocado and veggies….mmm !!

A great place as well, Kuala's and wallabies made themselves comfortable in our presence and gave us all more great photos.

Our last stop was at Little Sahara, a huge expanse of sand dunes, quite a long way from the sea where we would have time to do some sand boarding. Well I tried but I think it's a young mans game so I just took some photos of this wonderful place.

After everyone had played enough and was thoroughly covered in sand we headed back to the ferry port. Time was on our side so Kate made a brief stop at the islands Beehive and honey shop, tastings and photos taken we were off again 😉

On our way to the ferry terminal we were gifted a beautiful sunset, a fitting end to what was a fantastic trip. The subsequent ferry ride and coach trip back to Adelaide went without any problems and we were soon back at Kate's house in Brighton.

Looking back on the trip it really was one of the highlights in our Australian adventure and a trip I would heartily recommend to anyone !!

Hope you enjoyed this blog and that you continue to follow our adventures 😉

Thanks

JC

 

 

Posted in Australia, Kangaroo Island | Tagged | Leave a comment