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And after the blossom….

And after the blossom….

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……the snowfall

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Lanzarote Day 4: 75kms

A recovery ride?

So, your curiosity has got the better of you? Did this man get back to base yesterday without succumbing to the “efectos laxativos” of the dreaded bar of chocolate? Well, sorry to spoil a good story with the truth….if there were any negative effects, they were felt this morning. I struggled to get out of bed and had little appetite for breakfast. I did a typical retired man’s thing by walking to the kiosk to buy a newspaper, and then spending the next hour reading it. I thought to myself: I should be spending more time like this, in cafés, reading the national press….doing what ‘normal’ people do.

But the road beckoned once again by mid-day. As I headed north, directly into the wind (again), I passed several hand-cyclists, and for a fleeting moment, I envied their low-slung, streamlined posture. Just the trick when the wind is blowing at 25 mph in your face….handcyclist…..but my envy was short-lived, to be replaced by my total admiration at what they were achieving. And these weren’t just leisure cyclists. They were in serious training for something, and they were moving…..

Approaching Órzola, the furthest point of my ride, there were uncharacteristic dunes of white sand sweeping down to the sea,IMAG1114 and I noticed several amateur naturalists, with their expensive cameras, at close quarters with a flower that was growing out of the sand. My curiosity got the better of me. I stopped and asked one of them, a German, what he thought it was. He told me he thought it was a ‘cistanche’, and it was the first time he’d ever seen one. The equivalent of a ‘lifer’ in the birdwatching world?

Cistanche

Cistanche

In Órzola, sitting on a café terrace overlooking the sea, I chatted to the barman in Spanish, and he eventually said to me: “How long have you been living in Lanzarote?” “Oh”, I said “about 4 days”. He looked at me in surprise and said he had thought I was the rich English businessman who lived in Costa Teguise. “You look just like him” he said. I resolve, then, to seek him out in Costa Teguise and give him a surprise. Wonder if he’ll accuse me of impersonating him…..

Turning back towards base, I decided to take an inland route…..which means only one thing on Lanzarote……mountains.

Climb up towards Monte Corona

Climb up towards Monte Corona

But at least the wind was at my back. In fact, after the climbing was done, the route back was a cruise, with the wind in my sails.Orzola

Milford Sound

Once called Milford Haven (because of Welsh connections), some say there is only a 10% chance that you’ll catch a fine day there. And guess what? The Maori weather gods were on our side! This place gets nearly 7 metres of rain per year. You may think that 2012 was a wet one for the UK, but that was less than a fifth of what the west coast of S Island can get on an annual basis. So if you have been a whinging Pom about last year’s weather, you obviously need to get things into perspective…..!

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You may think this photo is upside down…..but look again

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The road up to Milford is simply littered with must-see panoramas (sorry about the thumb!)

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then the launch that took us up the Sound (a modest affair but it did provide lunch)……

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to be entranced by waterfalls in full flow

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then when the sun came out the lingering clouds took on a special outline

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providing a framework for the soaring peaks. It’s remoteness is essentially a contributing factor to the conservation of such beauty, which proudly has the status of a World Heritage Site.

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If you come this way, hail rain or shine, put Milford Sound on your itinerary. You will not be disappointed.
To conclude the day, I sped the 20km to Manapouri to put me in place for a trip out to Doubtful Sound, even more remote, and accessible only by boat.
Children in Syria Appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/Frank-Burns1

The rape season is here!

Now that I have got your attention……………………. please forgive the tabloid touch. I know it is unbecoming and it should never have a place in blogging, but if you love the countryside it will not have escaped your attention that the fields are progressively being covered by the annual blanket of yellow which, not so many years ago, we put down to the unusually generous EU subsidies that had farmers tumbling into the cultivation of certain very lucrative crops, including oilseed rape. The blanket of yellow, though smaller these days, still dominates the countryside of the East Midlands and, as the crop matures, its aroma (like the taste of Marmite) is something you either love or hate.

Which reminds me of the story of the young girl who went to see the doctor about her hay fever, and announced vocally at the beginning of the examination that “she was allergic to rape”!

For me, the beginning of the rape season heralds an important change to my road bike. Off come the 25mm winter tyres (Schwalbe Duranos), and on go the 23mm go-faster summer tyres; this year, Schwalbe Blizzard Sports with a fetching blue stripe on the outer casing. Could it be a case of appearances making up for a lack in performance? Or will that blue stripe be the secret weapon?

In the morning’s thin mist……………….

The ‘Dunkirk spirit’ was evident. The miserable, cold misty start to the day did not deter seasoned adventurers, and the allure of a promised sunnier afternoon was all too tempting. A goodly number assembled at Stanwick Lakes café, charged their legs with the necessary carbs, and donned their winter layers to do battle with the elements once again. Cruising through the lanes of Northamptonshire, enjoying the camaraderie awheel, we traversed the A14 by cattle bridge and our entry into Cambridgeshire was heralded by the appearance of the sun, and suddenly………..we had gone from winter to spring in a matter of minutes.

Lunch at the White Horse in Tilbrook was, as ever, convivial and sociable, and the service and menu that Richard (and his team) provided was characteristically excellent. Challenged by the fact that one of our team had ridden all the way from Market Harborough, prompted me to take a detour round Sharnbrook on the way back to Kimbolton. Thus a 2 mile journey morphed into 25 miles, and it brought my day’s total up to a respectable 60 miles. It began to feel like a normal Thursday!

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