Category Archives: Australia: Sydney to Melbourne 1000kms

Left high ‘n dry….

One or two of you may have wondered at the lack of activity on this web page in recent days. Well, let me recount a true story with a salutary lesson……. of course, it happened to me.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing my laptop and projector to give a slide presentation of my cycle ride Down Under. I had an expectant audience waiting for the start. I had checked that all leads were connected, the PowerPoints were functioning normally, and the Windows Media file of music was set to play at the appropriate moment. All was working as expected, and I was about to indicate to the assembled audience that I was ready to start……… then:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain, for promis’d joy” (Robert Burns).

crashed laptopMy laptop crashed……. not just temporarily, but terminally (hence the lack of activity on this blog). I spent twenty minutes trying to re-boot the blasted thing, but absolutely no response. The prospect before me was either to bail out completely, or to fill the whole hour with words only. I thought to myself: the committed professional would never bail out, but then they weren’t paying me (so bail out!). The expert wordsmith would be able to paint word pictures (but then, I am not a wordsmith). I finally asked myself: am I really going to wimp out, or should I just take control of the situation and play down the importance of the technological lapse, and pretend it was only a minor inconvenience?  What would you do?

In the end, I calmly pulled up a chair, sat down, meekly apologized for the delay and the lack of slides, and then proceeded to treat the whole hour like a fireside chat. I imagined the slides in my head as I pieced together the story: I was able to engage with the audience much more directly, respond to their questions and observations, and be much less tied to the sequencing imposed by a series of slides.

Thirty one years in the classroom had equipped me with the gift of “waffling”, and they liked it, apparently. For at the end they made a generous donation to the Syrian Appeal.

Message for me at the end? Well, first of all, go equipped with a plan B (ie. another device for showing slides). And secondly, it’s a mistake to think that your visuals carry the ultimate message. It’s you, the speaker, who carries the message. And interestingly, I didn’t see a single pair of drooping eyelids in the audience (a common factor in slideshows…..powerpoints do provide a trigger that sends listeners off to the land of nod).

So now I write this post on a new Windows Surface, having spent a couple of weeks familiarizing myself with the game-changing software of Windows 8…………..hey ho…..

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A second chance……

We had a great turn-out at the first presentation of  “A Bespoke journey Down Under”, and over £200 given as donations to the Syrian Appeal…..gently nudging our current total up to £7,700. If you missed it and would like a second chance to see it, come along to Grafham Cycling, Marlow Car Park  on Monday May 20th at 8pm. Free admission and refreshments served.

For the keen cyclist, you could also join a group ride around the water, from 6.30pm. Have a bit of fun and exercise, then settle down to hear about the thrills and spills on my ride in the Antipodes.Copy of Bespoke Journey

A bespoke journey Down Under

If you are free, and live locally, do come and join us.

This will be the first of several presentations…….so it may benefit from the freshness that comes with not knowing exactly where the script is going to take me……;0)

Poster Frank V5

Pressing matters……

The day I arrived in Warragul, just 100km from Melbourne and the end of my 4000km journey, I was met by local resident Jim Connelly, who cycled with me into town, and delivered me to the offices of the local newspaper, The Trader. I was interviewed by Emma Ballingall…..and the rest, well……..you can see for yourselves below.

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Bloggers unite!

It has to be said, there is usually a great sense of camaraderie in the world of blogging. CIMG9118On my trip through NZ and Australia, I came across several fellow-bloggers, and was met with exceeding kindness. My chance meeting with Al (left above) in Marlo (Australia) led to me staying the night in the house he shares with his wife Courtney (left below), and their housemate Tim (right above). IMAG0457It was a great evening. The conversation was ‘wall-to-wall’ cycling, the food was high in carbs, and everybody was up early in the morning busy with their training for the upcoming events.IMAG0455

And, of course, as fellow-bloggers do, we have since engaged in a bit of mutual back-slapping, so I here re-print a paragraph recently posted by Al and Courtney on their blog, and recommend highly that you visit their blog, and be inspired by some of their cycling adventures: http://therollingadventures.wordpress.comIMAG0456

“We also had a cycle-tourist stay at our house during the week. Al met Frank from the UK at the general store and the two got talking and we were lucky enough to have Frank stay for the night and have some dinner with us. He had ridden from one side of New Zealand to the other and was on his way from Sydney to Melbourne. He is raising money for the Children of Syria. Here is his blog, check it out, he was an inspirational and very nice dude https://frankburns.wordpress.com/ We even made it onto his blog!!

https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/no-not-34c-again/

AND HERE

https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/what-kiwis-dont-know/

Check it out and donate to his cause, what a LEGEND!! I hope to do something as rad as he has done one day!!!”IMAG0461

Children in Syria Appeal: www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1 

Being stalked by jet lag!

If you have ever been on a long adventure that has been physically demanding, you will understand the sense of disorientation that sets in when you finally stop. In my case, when I had finally stopped pedalling, sedentary lethargy threatened, and then after a 24 hour flight with no sleep, a wicked dose of jet-lag stalked me into submission. But when I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I was bright and chirpy, and delighted to be met not only by Jenny, but also by my brother Dominic.

IMAG0577And as you can see, the answer to the big question “Will he, or won’t he” (ie bring the bike back home) is clearly answered. It will either become a garden feature, draped in all kinds of climbing plants, or if proven fit, it could become a run-around bike for local trips.

A few days at home drifting in and out of sleep at random times of the day, eventually merged into a welcome-home reception at our local Bytes Café. I hadn’t fully realised just how many people had been following my progress all those miles away. Some said how sad they were that the daily post on the blog might cease, now that the journey was over. Some kindly hinted that a book should emerge from all this. Amidst sandwiches, cakes, coffee and raffles, we raised yet more money for the charity, bringing us to almost £6,500………and still counting.

Outside Bytes cafe

I want to thank all those who came out in the cold to welcome me home, and especially to Jean Stratford who was the prime mover in making it all happen. When you are thousands of miles away, pounding the miles in some distant land, forging a lonely furrow from one end of a country to another, you sometimes forget there is a spirit of community that is willing you forward. And coming back to that community is a forceful reminder that these things never happen in isolation.

If you are reading this, and you have followed some (or all) of this journey, and even contributed something to the Children in Syria Appeal, I want to thank you sincerely. For me, it has made the whole thing much more than just one man riding his bike…….it has added our grain of sand to helping a few unfortunate children suffering in a desperate civil war.

Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

A glance at the future….

It’s tempting to sit back when you think a job is complete, and sink into a well of happy memories and nostalgia. Having recently updated myself on the current situation in Syria, what was bad news 8 weeks ago when I arrived in NZ, is now simply appalling. One million displaced people, living in tent cities across borders, thousands of orphaned children, and more than 60,000 fatalities…..in a civil conflict that the rest of the world watches from the touchline.

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The message has to get out. People have asked me lots of searching questions in the Antipodes. Awareness of the Syrian civil war needs to be spread further.
My job may appear to be complete (from the cycling point of view), but the real work is only just starting.

Back in the UK, I will be offering to visit groups and associations with an illustrated presentation of my 2,500 mile venture. I will make no personal charge for the talk, but will happily receive a donation for the Children in Syria Appeal. I sincerely want funds to continue flowing into this cause. We can’t stand by and hope that a solution will magically appear on the horizon. Our ‘grain of sand’, however small, will be of immeasurable importance.

If you know of any group that would welcome me as a visiting speaker, please get the message out by word of mouth, email, or sharing on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you in advance.
http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

And do give them the link to this blog, so they can get a flavour of what it’s all about.
http://www.frankburns.WordPress.com

Reflections on Melbourne

What can a day reveal about Melburnians and their city? Did you know

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that Melbourne led the way in admitting women to the Anglican priesthood and episcopate? Come on UK, you need to run harder to catch up!

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Not sure if this is a caricature of a typical Melburnian, but a lady receptionist has the doubtful pleasure of looking at it all day long from her desk just 2 metres away.

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The Museum of Immigration gives an in depth insight into the migration of people into Australia over 200 years. But most poignant of all was a photographic account of the recent migration of the Irish during the current economic downturn

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all of the photos personal studies of individuals who have separated themselves from family and friends

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…a reflection of what my own mother did in the 1930s, and what my father’s ancestors did in 1840. I felt a certain vicarious empathy.

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The River Yarra may not be one of those iconic city rivers, but it certainly has its own charm.

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And a chance to meet up with fellow blogger Chris Yardin (left) and his brother Mark, and spend the evening sharing drinks and pizza

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and chewing the fat over cycling issues the length and breadth of the sport. Thank you both for the invitation and for the generous donation to the Children in Syria Appeal. Catch Chris’ blog here: http://www.christopheryardin.com

The big question remains: will this man, when he climbs onto the plane this afternoon, be accompanied by his bicycle?
Stay tuned!
http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

The Great Ocean Road

This amazing feat of engineering was built as a tribute to the Aussies who had died in WW1, and was built largely by returning soldiers. It wends its way along the coast for 200km west of Melbourne, and throws up some natural phenomena so astonishing that photos do them scant justice. But I’m going to try anyway……

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Monument depicting the heroic men who brought this project to fruition.

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A visit to a colony of koalas in the wild taught us that these seemingly cuddly little bears have a serious violent side to their personalities during the mating season.

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Cape Otway lighthouse gives stunning views along the coastline.

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The scene of the tragic loss of a Scottish clipper along with 57 lives, but two did survive, to become legends in Australian folklore.

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…but the cove made a perfect place to swim.

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Then the famous Twelve Apostles

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of which only seven remain

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located along a coastline of pristine beaches with perfect sea conditions for world-class surfing.

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…..and one for the photo album!
Phew, but stepping out of the air conditioned bus at each stop was like stepping into a furnace….it reached 38C today!
Really looking forward to the cold and snow of the UK!
See you up the road!

Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

Best laid schemes o’ mice and men…..

Self improvement literature constantly reminds the reader: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Well, I had planned to be in Melbourne two days earlier, but my failure to keep to that plan was my good fortune. Staying a couple of extra nights with Jim & Anne was the best thing that could ‘befall’ anyone.

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I accompanied them to their church on Sunday, where I was warmly welcomed, and showered generously with donations.

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We drove into the mountains to a country restaurant and enjoyed a plate of locally farmed trout

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…then we went to check out a beautifully restored wooden trestle rail bridge,

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that once carried a line for the transportation of logs. Through a combination of bush fires and arson, the line became unserviceable and had to be closed.
But temperatures continue to be in the mid 30s, so resting in the cool indoors, or plunging into the pool, are as much as the doctor would advise……:-) How sad!

Warragul-Melbourne 131km(82m)
So, what about the ‘best laid scheme’ for my departure? The concept of leaving about 6.30am, before sunrise, obviously reflects my prowess as a decision-maker……but when you are a guest in somebody else’s house, it has ramifications. My hosts valiantly dragged themselves out of bed, Jim courageously donned his cycling kit, and he led me to the outskirts of town, just as the sun was breaking the horizon……

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….and riding in a westerly direction, I had it warming my back, and not dazzling my eyes (a feature that has been constant for the duration of my journey in both countries).
I passed through Garfield, Jim’s birthplace

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….and I doffed my cycle helmet, and thought of Jim (nice place, Jim!). But my best laid scheme (to have a shorter ride and camp somewhere out of Melbourne) did ‘gang aft aglay’ (with apologies to the bard). Once again, I got the bit between my teeth, reached the homeward stretch following the cycle track round Port Philip Bay, saw the city skyline of Melbourne in the distance,

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and just kept pedalling. And to cut a long story short (thank goodness, you are saying) I got to my hostel accommodation in the city centre before I was fried to a crisp in the suffocating 36C heat which, unfortunately, will be with us for two more days.
The upside of this planning failure is that, with the extra day in Melbourne, I’ve been able to book an all-day bus tour to see the delights of the Great Ocean Road. What a considerable gain, I would say!

So this is journey’s end. I go into ‘recess’ and the bike now will probably go into retirement.

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The welded frame makes its future durability uncertain. The big question now is: do I leave it in Melbourne, or box it up, bring it home, and dine out on all the derring-do journeys we’ve had together over 20 years? Is there room for sentimentality in the life of a long distance cyclist?
Do help me with this quandary…..

Help us to reach £6000: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

To the land of the ‘wild dog’

Rosedale to Warragul 95km(60m)

I told a lie in my last post. I had intended staying in Sale, but the sun went behind a cloud, it freshened a bit, so I decided to sneak another 30km to Rosedale,
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where I knew there was a campsite…….but, you know, these things happen…….. you make a change to plans and then you regret them down the road. And, down the road, the sun came out again and made the last 20km a superhuman effort. When I got to Rosedale, I was spent………and I do mean, spent. I checked into a ‘freebie’ campsite, discovered it had portaloos
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and a tap (no showers……..:-( and was about to break a cardinal rule…….) when I fell into conversation with a crowd of Queenslanders (some of them most definitely British born)
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and before ‘Bob was my uncle’, I had been invited to a shower on board Terry and Karen’s caravan, to supper and to an early breakfast the following morning. If this is typical Queensland hospitality, I would buy into it any day.
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Terry and Karen have sold up house and are now spending their time travelling Australia in their caravan, working as and when is needed to top up the bank account. What a lifestyle! Thank you to them both for their kind hospitality.

I have been cycling now for three days in impossibly warm temperatures. The following press article
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did not reassure me about the coming days. Melbourne was heading to break an all time record for March: the highest temperatures and the most consecutive days above 30C since records began. It’s that Mother Nature thing again…….some days it throws vicious headwinds at you, or throws an inch of rain on you……and now temperatures that make all but the siesta impossible.

But relief was on the horizon. I was about to meet Jim Connelly
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on the road a few kms out of Warragul (meaning ‘wild dog’). Jim very kindly guided me into town, delivered me to the offices of the Gazette (the local newspaper) for an interview and photos, then took me to his home, where a swimming pool,
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air conditioning and cold drinks awaited me. Jim and Anne
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had very kindly invited me to stay at their house on my run into Melbourne. No sooner look at me, they realised I needed more than one day and night to get back on track. I am very thankful to them for being good Samaritans, and for allowing me to stay three nights before making the final run into Melbourne. Besides, this is a holiday weekend in Melbourne, and the city will be steaming with heat, street processions, wild behaviour, excessive drinking……I mean, who would want to be a part of that?
See you up the road!
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

Through Stratford to Sale

I might be forgiven for forgetting where I am sometimes……or is this land I’m in just a clone of the old mother country: aka ‘old blighty’?

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I asked the girl who served my coffee where I could get tickets for tonight’s Shakespeare performance…..it took her several seconds to appreciate my unsubtle humour, but she then told me they do actually have a Shakespeare festival each year, and on the banks of the River Avon.

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When I got to my destination for the day (by 1:30pm), I was reminded that my first cycling club back in the 70s was based in Sale (nr Manchester). Here in the land of billabongs

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…life had come full circle. Come on, let’s have a tuneful rendering of Waltzing Matilda….didn’t the swagman camp by a billabong? Now you may think you know what a ‘swagman’ is….? In the UK, most people will probably visualise the cartoon image of a burglar carrying his bag of ‘swag’ (stuff he’s pinched) as he creeps away unobtrusively. Here in Oz, people who go swagging are campers who go with their ‘swag’ (bivvy sack) and usually sleep out in the open, under the stars. So, unless some alert Aussie corrects me on this, now you know what a swagman is? But, hands up, who really knows (without googling it) what a ‘billabong’ is?

Going back to the topic of roadkill, I have three possible explanations for this below:

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1. It’s a snake’s slough
2. or it was a snake that didn’t know it’s highway code;
3. or it’s a ‘dead’ bungee (‘hockey strap’ to you Aussies). What do you think? (Footnote: I have been rightly corrected by an alert Aussie, Richard Tulloch, that it should read ‘ocky strap’ as in ‘octopus’…….thank you Richard!)
But joking apart, the highway shoulder is littered with dozens of bungees

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…of all colours and lengths, and I began to ask myself why? I can only assume that there must be a lot of insecure luggage, surf boards and bicycles being transported about the country.
Talking of bicycles, the model below could be the ideal design for weaning the car addict from his car to riding a bike.

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After all, he would still have a steering wheel in his hands!
Now, I have to say the Victorian transport authorities are really beginning to annoy me. Every few kms there’s some warning about dozing off at the wheel

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….well some of us just need a bit of ‘shut-eye’ as we trundle along….can’t they just leave us alone?
And this sign, a universally recognised one, really got me wondering

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….the age of steam came to an end several decades ago. Anyone under 40 only knows them as museum pieces, or fun things at the seaside. Isn’t it time the image was updated? Ah, you might ask: but to what?

The route today was fast and flat (I had covered the 100km by lunchtime), but the extreme heat radiated from all directions: from the sun (naturally), from passing trucks and cars, and from the tarmac. It was just like a sauna, except for the breeze created by pedalling at 25-30km per hour. When you stop, and therefore lose that breeze, that’s when heat exhaustion really begins to kick in. Solution? Find some diner that has A/C and wallow in the coolness…….as I’m doing now!

Help us to reach £6000 in our fundraising: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

No, not 34C again!

Marlo to Metung 95km (60m)

Staying with a household of people in training had very definite advantages. Everybody was up early to get in their morning training!
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Tim, who is training for his next Ironman event, headed off before sunrise to get in a 9km run. That is pure dedication….

Courtney was off to do a swimming session before work,
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and Al was ready at 7.30am to do his daily commute into school….which also happened to be on my own route. So an early start and fast-paced company for me for the first 16km. But what I had not expected was to have Tim drive past and get his name in the history books by making a drive-by donation as we were heading out………All I can say is: “only in Australia………!”

So as a ‘thank you’ to Tim, I am publishing the URL of his blog, and I would like everyone who reads this to click on the link…..if for no other reason than he will now feel obliged to update his blog by writing another post!!!! So go on, click on the link, and let’s see if we can make his site crash!!

The early start was a relief. It was still cool, but the forecast was not good….by that I mean it was going to get hot……very hot indeed. The thing is, I’m not going to be lounging on a beach sipping Pimms all day. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that. I need to get the bulk of my daily mileage in before noon….otherwise its curtains for the rest of the day. The temperature rose to 34C in the afternoon, not good news for climbing hills…..but at least the speed going downhill creates its own breeze and prevents the ‘engine’ from overheating.
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Just before reaching my destination, I came across this bit of roadkill on the road. I won’t describe what I saw in detail (you can see it for yourself, anyway), but it had only just been struck by some vehicle, which probably now has a completely knackered front end….. because this is a BIG piece of roadkill……a “beer barrel” of roadkill…..a wombat in fact. Big fella! He probably weighs 70-80 kilos at least. Glad he didn’t launch himself under my front wheel!
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My target for the day was to get to Metung, about 20km from Lakes Entrance.
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I had been very kindly invited by Heather and Brian Marsh to stay the night.
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Whatever negative people have about the power of the internet, and networking, through blogging or other social media, for me it has been a privilege to be welcomed into Heather and Brian’s home, to be introduced to the highlights of the beautiful area they live in, and to sit at their table and share their food and friendship. After a long hot day in the saddle, their home was indeed an oasis in a hot desert. Do check into Heather’s blog, and learn a little of the life of a Scottish-born lady living in Australia. She has a way of persuading you that Australia is the place to be 🙂 Thank you to both for such a warm welcome, and the wealth of knowledge you shared about life in this wonderful country. You very nearly convinced me to stay……..!
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See you all up the road!

Children in Syria Appeal: www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

What Kiwis don’t know….

The rivalry between New Zealand and Australia is legendary. The reality is that they will mouth off about each other, and tear each other to shreds on the sportsfield, but if one were to come to grief through natural or man-made disaster, like a faithful relative, the other would come running to assist.
Nevertheless, Kiwis were keen to warn me that Aussies would not be as friendly, nor indeed, as generous as New Zealanders……..Now that I’m in Australia, I’m hearing much the same about the Kiwis! It all sounds a bit like sibling rivalry, really.
But I have to say, after only 8 days in the country and 620km of riding, Australia has held out a helping hand and made me feel personally very welcome.
Today, after 82km of riding, I had reached the small coastal town of Marlo

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intending to push on another 18km to Orbost, but then serendipity kicked in: a passing local cyclist stopped to chat and, within minutes, had offered me a bed for the night. Would I accept, or keep to plan and push on? Well to keep a long story short, I did accept, was taken to this beautifully situated country cottage

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that had bicycles everywhere: in the garage, lounge and on the verandah

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…..and I had found my way into a household of cycling fanatics! All of them teachers, Courtney & Al (facing each other) have toured Cambodia together and do a lot of event cycling, and Tim is an Ironman triathlete.

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It was great to be fed good cycling carbohydrates and share cycling-related stories that would bore the pants off any normal human being.
Then, of course, I had a guided tour of the bike collection, where carbon, alloy and steel were all in evidence on bikes that performed subtly different roles in different environments: triathlon, cross, mountain track & trail, and road. Quite a collection! I quite fancied one or two for myself……

Thank you guys for the warm reception, and (in the words of an old Irish blessing) ‘may the wind be ever at your backs’!
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

The land of G’Day!

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The almost universal greeting in Oz is “G’Day”, and when you say ‘thank you’ to someone for their help, the reply is invariably “No worries, mate, no worries”. When I say “hello” or “good morning”, I immediately identify myself as a Pom.
Now, I’ve had a bit of fun recently, when introducing myself. I’ve used the following introduction: “Hi, I’m Frank, a whinging Pom”……and then waited for the reaction. It has invariably caused a smile, and quickly broken the ice and, of course they kindly say that I don’t look like a whinger. However I used that introduction with a couple two days ago, and they simply looked at me totally bemused. They didn’t understand the inference. Why? Well, they were Canadians!
Today’s route, Eden to Cann River, was going to be a full day (120km/75m), but I never bargained for the “tundra” I was about to cross. This was the day for going south “to Mexico”, in other words crossing the border between NSW and Victoria.

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The map marked communities along the way, even with services and amenities…….but the reality was very different. Even the village of Genoa had nothing, its only cafe having recently closed. Nor was there drinking water. The only water came directly from the river. A kind couple with a caravan filled my bottle from their personal supply. 120km (75m) without services! That is the longest stretch I’ve done. And fortunately, I had stocked up on sufficient emergency rations.

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Close to the state border, I met my first fellow cyclist in over 500km, going in the opposite direction. Roger had been born in the UK, but has been living in Norway for over 40 years. After 2 minutes chatting to him, I realised we were garments cut from the same cloth. He had just spent a few weeks touring Tasmania, and was now completing the considerable distance between Melbourne and Brisbane. And I took careful note of the Surly bicycle he was riding……with even wider tyres than mine!

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Victoria has an imaginative series of road signs dedicated to getting you to check your own fitness to drive. But what about the weary cyclist? Having microsleeps on the saddle……I say no more. I would never do it, of course!

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So now I’m in Cann River, checked into the simplest of campsites, but it does have showers. The aptly named “primitive sites” generally only include ‘long-drop toilets’, and water will come from a stream. I have to say, a shower at the end of a long day in the saddle is a non-negotiable luxury.
To conclude, with a startling revelation: Kiwis are not singular in their ‘drive-by donations’. Today I had two cars pull alongside me and hand money through the window. I begin to see Aussies in a new light…..
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

Heading to Mexico….

Bermagui to Eden 106km (65m)

Understandably, you may be mystified by the title of this post. No, I am not jumping on a plane to do an unscheduled stretch of the Pacific Highway. I was chatting to a hairy biker the other day (you know the sort I mean), and when I told him I was heading south to Melbourne, he said “Ah, so you’re off to Mexico then”. He explained that when you go south of the border (of New South Wales, that is) you are going to “Mexico”. I smiled to show appreciation……. But tomorrow, I will be crossing the said border, so …….I am off to Mexico!

Most of my blogging has been done on a little smartphone, using one finger to carefully type the message, and uploading only the pictures I have taken with the phone camera. The upside of all this has been that it has (through fatigue and distraction) limited the word length of the posts. Thank God, I hear you say! Well, sorry about this…..but I have the use of a keyboard for the first time in 10 days. So sit back and allow those eyelids to gently close…….zzzzz

At 5.30am this morning, as I was gently stirring and contemplating an early start, I heard pitter patter on the tent. Yes, it had started to rain, and NSW weather was trying to intercept my plans again. So the tent had to be packed damp, I dressed assuming the worst, but as I set off just after sunrise, things improved significantly, turning very warm and sunny in the afternoon.
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If signage warns motorists to beware of wild animals, what does that mean to a cyclist?
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Not that I am likely to collide with one of them, but that I might actually see one or more. Well today was my day. You may not be able to see two kangaroos in this photo (the zoom on the phone camera is rubbish) but, trust me, they are there.
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But no sign of a koala……yet.

But for much of the ride, I kept passing these,
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of all shapes and sizes, scattered about in the forest. Termite mounds?

And then I nearly ran over this little creature.
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An Australian porcupine? Imagine the damage he could have done to my tyres! I’m sure that not even Schwalbe Marathons would withstand a porcupine on the defence.

Over the last several days, I’ve lost touch with what it’s really like to cruise along on the flat. There has been absolutley no flat since leaving Sydney, and some of the climbing has had me twiddling in bottom gear for long periods. The maddening thing is: what takes you 30 minutes to climb only takes you 5 minutes to descend. There is no justice in that! But it has to be said, the descents can be very fast and hair-raising. Like this one…..
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I began braking at 40 mph. Had I let go completely, I could easily have reached in excess of 50 mph, or even 60 mph. Imagine what it would be like with 40-50 kilos of luggage on the bike!
But to round off the day, I wasn’t lured by this holiday park, the scene of original sin
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….but by a cheaper municipal site where I could pitch my tent by a lake
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and be entertained by pelicans, cormorants and egrets. (Sorry about the laundry!)

So across the border tomorrow, which will mark approximately the halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne. As they say in Spanish: “la ultima recta”….the last lap. Only 500km to go 🙂

The Children in Syria Appeal: www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

Caught from behind!

Chance encounters of an unnerving kind……they happen on journeys like this. Several hours into my route today (Moruya to Bermagui), I was again overtaken by a car, which pulled over ahead of me, and out stepped Cecile and Dean

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….and the first thing Cecile said to me was: “You’re Frank. I’ve been following your blog. How’s the trip going?”. I simply stood there aghast….until, of course, I found my voice again. We chatted about several topics, as the traffic streamed by, and then bid each other farewell. What especially intrigued me about Dean is that he lives in a tent…..but considerably bigger than mine, he said.

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At last, I was able to divert from the Highway and take a scenic (and quieter) route along the coast. The wind was blowing from the SE, right into my face, but forest and roadside vegetation did much to protect me.

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The little town of Tilba was an absolute gem.

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A conservation order was placed on the whole town being, as it was, one of the very early gold-digging communities 175 years ago.

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The predominantly wooden buildings are all over 100 years old, and beautifully preserved.
When I diverted again from the Highway, to make my way to Bermagui on the coast, I had to cross this narrow bridge

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but before I did, I noticed a fisherman struggling with his line, trying to haul in, and land, what looked like a big catch. Then I noticed his right arm was a prosthesis so, effectively, he was trying to land his catch with one arm. So I went to his assistance and we hauled in this octopus

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which turned out not to be on his list of things to catch

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….but he had to battle with it to save his line. They are very determined creatures and, of course, it has eight tentacles to parry with you.
After supper this evening, I trotted down to the beach to catch the setting sun.

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What is it about the setting sun that stirs the soul of man?
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

I blame Bill Bryson

You are being treated(?) to a supplementary post here, but it’s a confessional piece. No, I’m not seeking remission from sins (though I have many) but from fear.
We all know that NZ has a completely different eco-system to Australia, including the fact that there are very few bugs and beasties that can actually do you harm. The infamous sandflies are merely a nuisance. Well, not so in Australia. Just across the Tasman Sea, Australia has the greatest number and variety, of any country in the world, of creatures that can cause you serious harm, even (dare I say it) death!
Now I don’t want to be too melodramatic about this point, but I have elected to camp throughout most of this trip, and I might be accused of making a cardinal error when I chose to read Bill Bryson’s eminently readable account of his trips to Oz in his book Down Under.
I like Bill Bryson, but I didn’t need to be reminded of the myriad vicious and poisonous creatures that are lying in readiness everywhere to have me for lunch…….

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Do you remember as a child looking for the bogeyman underneath your bed? So now this is me, looking for the unwelcome visitor to my tent as I crawl inside it after dark, and in the mornings, I find myself shaking out the tent with unusual enthusiasm, before I pack it.
Hey ho……….:-)

The M&M day….

Milton to Moruya: 87km (55m)

Kit dried, limbs rested, body fed, humour restored….I simply could not find a convincing reason to ask the Doc for a ‘sickie’….so on the saddle I climbed, dressed for all the Aussie elements could throw at me. The weather brightened, and off came the layers one by one.
Being the (horti)cultural guy that I am, I began to notice some of the roadside vegetation

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…and I know at least one botanist who might be impressed. But then I was mightily glad I didn’t have to climb this hill

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…because I’m sure it would have crucified me. So many names of places are suggestive of some significant event of the past, and some are clearly signed as to be in no doubt about their importance

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…but when I asked about the chances of becoming an instant millionaire, if I were to spend an hour panning for gold, I was told I should have come in 1850!
Today’s route, because of the changing weather, has been solidly on the Princes Highway, a busy holiday and commercial route, which crosses the lower slopes of the Great Dividing Range…..mountains which separate the outback from the coastal area.

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This unequivocally means that you have to cross dozens of creeks in a day, and creeks always flow down steep ravines from the mountains……ergo, I have just spent the whole day descending and climbing back out of deep ravines. OK, I suppose the legs needed a bit more climbing practice, and I know I’m not going to get your sympathy…..:-(
But I do like to be stopped by ladies on the highway, especially when they thrust a $40 bill into my hand.

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And when I checked into a campsite, the warden gave me $6 back from my pitch fee as a donation. The above family greeted me as I put up the tent, he offered me a ‘stubbie’ (can of beer), gave me $10 for the charity, and said I could have a ‘spa’ (hot-tub) in their cabin in the morning. People’s generosity continues to astound me, and I am the grateful recipient of it.
I’m not sure the following observation is significant, but several Aussies have photographed the sign on the bike, suggesting they would like to donate online. I, for one, will be watching this space.
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

How a day can degenerate….

No WiFi and they call Vodafone “Vodafail” in the village of Milton….so be very surprised if you ever read this post!
Whether the weather be good, whether the weather be bad……so now you know what sort of day it became, but it did start off with this

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then it really degenerated to this

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to put some simple carbs back into the legs…..and to give me a sugar fix! There’s a certain ease of conscience (totally unjustified I suspect) that these naughties will be burned off up the road. Whatever….two muffins are definitely better than one.
I then chanced upon the track of a devastating tornado that passed through 3 days ago, ripping up all the trees and destroying buildings. Only a force 1…so I’d hate to see what other, stronger ones might do.

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Then, under sad circumstances I saw my 2nd and 3rd kangaroos

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…the first, of course, had been in a pie on my lunch plate. Such is life for some of the animal kingdom.
Then before a miserable 25mm of rain fell (and all on me) I got a final view (for now anyway) of this stunning coastline

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……then a sign appeared telling how far still to go to Melbourne

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Do we get signs in the UK saying things like “Aberdeen 550m” or “London 430m”.
So now I am holed up in a friendly village called Milton, trying to dry out, and facing the prospect of a similarly wet day today. If I said I really feel disheartened and thoroughly miserable, and suddenly experience a total aversion to getting back on the bike……would people take pity on me and donate more to the Children in Syria Appeal?
http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1
Do share this on Facebook and Twitter.
Distance:124km (77m)

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