Jul 022010

Today has been entirely within the Lake District, and we’ve gone through some of the prettiest countryside we will get to see on this whole adventure. The low cloud that gave us occasional light rain added a lot to the mood of these landscape views. Continue reading »

Jul 012010

We did safely arrive in England, although we have been literally too busy to post an update. It was even easier to fit the trikes into the hire car than it had been with our car, and we had a very pleasant drive up through The Midlands and The Lakes to Whitehaven.

Our first day of riding was from the Irish Sea at Whitehaven up into the Lake District and Keswick. The route passed through lots of small farming hamlets and fields with sheep. There was even a runaway chicken that had escaped onto our path.

The weather was very warm, even by our Australian standards. That could have been emphasised by the two stiff climbs that dominated the day. In particular, the ascent up to Whinlatter Pass was a “long pull” (in the words of a friendly local).

We didn’t even get to feel the wind in our faces on the descent, as it was down a steep and rough gravel forrestry trail. We took it steadily and the trikes managed fine.

We arrived a little late at our accommodation, and took advantage of the long evening light to walk down and see Derwent Water. It was beautiful in the soft evening light, and the sheep frolicking on the shore surprised us.

It really is pretty here.

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Jun 292010

We’re safely to Singapore, and will shortly be re-boarding our plane for the longer leg to London Heathrow.  I’m using a free internet kiosk that is at standing height, which is a nice relief from all the sitting of the last 10 hours.  The flight was without incident, except at one point it smelled as though someone nearby had been smoking (is that even possible on a plane these days?)

Jun 282010

We’re sitting in the Qantas 747 “City of Hobart” at gate 10, waiting for everything to be finalised for takeoff. It all feels very real now, and the excitement should help keep me awake till Singapore.

The trikes didn’t end up giving any trouble. We didn’t even need to fold them; with pedals and chain and mudguards removed the baggage staff were happy to take them. Actually, the friendly Oversized Luggage staff were thoroughly intrigued with them, and thought they were some of the best-built trikes they’d ever seen. I suppose they get to see quite a few interesting objects!

Wheeling recumbent trikes around an airport is not a way to stay inconspicuous, and we got plenty of smiles from fellow travellers and staff.

Jun 232010

Clansi and I are in the final stages of preparing for a grand cycle tour in the UK.  It is now only 5 days till we depart Sydney for London.  I am intending to keep this website updated with our progress, and so here’s an introduction to this adventure.

We are going to ride for 11 days from Whitehaven (on the west coast of the Lake District) to Newcastle Upon Tyne (on the east coast of England), and then up to Edinburgh.  This will take us along two well established cycle routes that have been created by Sustrans, a British charity that promotes sustainable transport.  Unlike most others on the route, however, we’ll be riding our Greenspeed recumbent tricycles.

The first part of our journey will be on the Sea to Sea (C2C) route:

The UK’s most popular ‘challenge’ cycle route passes through the northern Lake District before climbing the Pennines, ‘the roof of England’, and then descending to the railway paths of County Durham. It includes Black Hill, the highest point on the National Cycle Network (609m) and the Consett-Sunderland railway path and sculpture trail.

From Tynemouth, we will follow the Coast and Castles South route:

The route passes a plethora of historic sites including the world famous Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle, the ancient capital of Northumbria, as well as nature reserves until it crosses the border at Berwick-upon-Tweed and moves into the Tweed Valley. Quiet lanes take you through the border country until a gentle climb onto the Moorfoot Hills into Midlothian and a spectacular view of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth.

There are quite a few challenges that will make this trip an adventure.  Obviously, there will be significant distances to cover by pedal-power.  Since we want time to be able to see the marvellous places that we pass through, we’ve broken the trip down into fairly short days.  People typically do the C2C in 3 days and we’ll be taking 5, but even then we will be riding 40-60 km each day.

The weather will almost certainly turn against us for some of the trip.  It would be a dramatic statistical anomaly if we had 11 days of sunshine.  Hopefully we do at least get a few.

Even the transport of our trikes will be an interesting challenge.  We have been assured that they will not be too difficult to take on the plane, and we’re prepared to break them down and box them if required.  Once in England not even ordinary bikes are allowed on trains, let alone unusual 3-wheelers.  We will hire a car one-way to drive from Heathrow up to Whitehaven, and our trikes fold to fit easily.  Fascinatingly, the hire care turned out to be cheaper than two adult train tickets anyway.

There should be more than enough to compensate for these difficulties.  I’m anticipating great views and old castles and friendly B&B hosts and fun accents and pleasant trails and rewarding baths and …

I’m excited!

Jul 082009

Many years ago my parents visited Warwick Castle during a holiday in the UK. Being quite young and obsessed with knights and castles, I was absolutely fascinated by their stories of the visit. So coming over to a conference at the University of Warwick, the first thing that I added to my sight-seeing list was this nearby castle. Continue reading »

Jul 072009

I am at the University of Warwick, in my residence room, trying not to go to sleep just yet. I can fight the jet-lag a bit longer (and thus hopefully win sooner), so let me tell you about a number of pleasant surprises that spiced up my trip from Canberra over the last 45 hours.

I took the coach from Canberra to Charles Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney (the fare of merely $15 was quite pleasant in its own right), and arrived with plenty of time to spare. I went up to the “Viewing Deck” and was excited to see a Qantas Airbus A380 for my first time. An hour or so later, as I was walking down the terminal to find my gate, I saw a Singapore Airlines A380 taxi in to the terminal. I was disappointed to have missed its landing (unless it had simply been parked somewhere), but these giant planes are still new enough for a sighting to be interesting.

My flight to Hong Kong was smooth and uneventful except for the bad local weather that delayed our landing by 20 minutes. I was on an Airbus A330, and thoughts of the recent Air France tragedy made me somewhat somber as we flew a holding pattern through the clouds. I was glad for the unremarkableness of our flight.

Most of my (shortened) transit time in Hong Kong was taken up with walking the length of the terminal back to gate 2. This might perhaps be an exaggeration, but it certainly is an enormous terminal building! My flight to London Heathrow was aboard a Boeing 747, and I was lucky enough to be sitting in the first row behind a bulkhead. The extra leg room was very pleasant indeed.

I switched on my mobile phone after landing, and was delighted to get a call from Clansi within minutes of stepping off the plane. It’s my first use of international roaming, and having it work so well is very convenient.

After meeting my supervisor (who was on a different flight that came in to a different terminal at Heathrow), I was very surprised to bump in to a friend from Sydney. Grenville Kent was just as startled to see me, and we had a brief chat about the (separate) conferences that we are here for. This chance encounter was so amazingly unlikely that it gave me quite a buzz.

But the greatest serendipity happened at lunch today. On the way from Heathrow to Warwick we stopped in at Oxford to visit some colleagues and have a look in their laboratory. Having had very early breakfasts on our planes, we decided to find some lunch. A number of restaurants and cafes failed to capture our attention, and so we headed back towards the “Lamb and Flag” (which we had passed earlier in our wanderings) for a pub lunch. On the way, however, we saw the “Eagle and Child” and were enticed by their fish-and-chips deal.

This turned out to be the very same Eagle and Child that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien enjoyed often with “The Inklings”! I was so glad that we stumbled upon it. Retrospectively, there are probably few things in Oxford that I would have been more interested in seeing.

Qantas A380 in SydneyThe Eagle and ChildInside The Eagle and ChildmenuOn a wall near the bar, there is a note to the landlord written in 1949 by the Inklings.

Apr 222008

43 days, 9 countries, 2091 photos, and countless kilometres later I am finally home again. Clansi and I landed in Melbourne at 5:00 on Saturday morning, and were in Canberra by 8:00. The seasonal change was dramatic; we left the green budding of spring and were welcomed home by the height of autumn colour. It actually feels a bit strange to be home and surrounded again by life’s normal routine. Continue reading »