I normally cycle in Scotland where wind, rain and midges are the major challenges and not necessarily in that order. How exciting then to come upon this ‘Group Cycling’ event in Florence – on a hill above Florence to be precise. Here hundreds of people cycled on gym bikes (I think this might be ‘spinning’) to music and loud encouragement. The moves were demonstrated by chaps up the front doing what the gang should be doing.
This seems a very strenuous activity and it was being done in 34 degrees Celcius. I can hardly walk on the flat in that heat, far less pedal furiously. At least one person looked as if he was about to have a heart attack. Emergency services were all around, as they needed to be. Respect!
On the final day of our ferry-themed jaunt around the West of Scotland we went over to Lismore, by ferry of course. Lismore is an island, ten miles long and about one mile wide, lying in Loch Linnhe at the southern end of the Great Glen. Of more immediate interest to us on the wet and breezy Sunday morning was the ‘Nippy Chippy’ van which sold HOT tea/coffee and home bakes, made by the young woman’s granny. Delicious.
We had been told of a ‘coffee shop’ in the North of the island (otherwise why would we be there?) but it is way more than that. It is a heritage centre with a museum depicting life on the island in the 19th century. It was eerie in its stillness and the recorded conversations of the time. The café there is so welcoming! There is good wifi (how do they manage that?) and they don’t mind you sheltering out of the wind and rain all day.
Since this was a cycling holiday, we did go a bit further afield and came to the charming high street of Port Ramsay – not a Starbucks to be seen! The local phone box is being turned into an information centre. There is a ferry from there to the mainland but not often on a Sunday so we gave it a miss – – another time.
It was a great start to a day that deteriorated badly later on. But it started with a free trip on the Corran Ferry – bikes and foot passengers travelling for free. We needed coffee and something for lunch on a 30 mile trip with no shops. The guys on the ferry told us about the Clovullin village shop. Yes! What a find. As well as coffee, bacon rolls and fruit the owner made us the best-ever ham rolls for lunch.
The wind whipped up after the first hill and it was the hardest ride we’ve ever done. Finding a place to eat that lunch was a challenge because it was impossible to be standing in the wind and rain for long before getting hypothermia. When we did find a nook we enjoyed those rolls as no food ever. So do call into Clovullin when you are on Ardnamurchan. It’s not technically Ardnamurchan but Morvern … maybe.
The highlight of an adventurous day on bikes was the last working turntable ferry in the world. This is the community owned Glenelg to Kylerhea ferry which is manually operated and only takes six cars. It runs across the Kyle Rhea straits south of the Skye Bridge in Scotland.
We biked 41 miles around from Kyleakin, under the Skye Bridge,. The day included two viewpoints of 900 feet each. Spectacular. Exhausting. Felt great to have achieved it, tough though it certainly was.
I knew there were lots of bikes and cyclists in Cambridge but nothing prepares you for the reality of it. Even in the Artic conditions of this weekend, the streets are full of bicycles. Bikes are used to carry children (often more than one), shopping, dogs and anything else that needs to be transported. YHA hostels always have bike ‘sheds’ but the Cambridge one has a range of bike lockers AND a maintenance point – so I didn’t need to bring my pump or multi-tool kit.
There are so many bikes that the riders don’t need to be afraid of the motorised traffic. Bicycles were here first, after all. However, some of the manoeuvres are startling – cyclists in dark clothing just dart across the traffic wherever they like. It’s even more hair-raising (if you weren’t wearing a hat to stay warm) in the dark where bicycle lights are clearly considered a waste of energy. Make a stand against climate change – ride your bike without lights. Eeek!
I was sad not to have adventures on my bike here. It is really too cold for recreational cycling – at least for this softie! But the city is beautiful and
the history so interesting. Bikes are not at all a modern invention, relatively, and so it should not seem so incongruous to see this bowler-hatted College porter behind all the bikes at this College gate. There is an ‘illumination’ festival on just now during which complex lighting shows are played on many of the old buildings in the city – gorgeous.
Note to self: come back with a bike in warmer weather!
I have fallen in love with Sydney in spite of the unpredictable weather. It can go from a heatwave to damp and cool in a day – and then back again. But it is so varied. Walking from Bondi Beach to Coogee in a heatwave (as you do!) I snapped this chap with his surfboard on his bicycle and the dog too! Reminiscent of Japan where cycling your board to the beach seemed commonplace.
Back in the city, I love lots of things. Going to the opera at the Sydney Opera House was an experience to treasure forever. Eating there in the evening, watching the Harbour Bridge light up and ferries going to and fro was magical. The huge cruise liner heading out of town was a bit terrifying size-wise and raises issues about whether these cruise ships are good for the city or not.
Recycling is strong here in Sydney – you can post your recyclable waste in these machines and get points on a card, which are presumably exchangeable for something useable – in a recyclable container, of course. And so it goes on. If your offering is not recyclable there, it politely rejects it. For people living in places without easy access to a recyclables collections, this is a great idea. Wonder if you can get gin and tonic with those points?
Tourist tip: look out for the Susannah Place museum. It’s a set of houses from the 1800s – preserved, rather than restored. Well worth a visit – only open 2 – 4 pm.
I just finished the Central Otago Rail Trail – a great New Zealand cycle trip of 150 Kms. It’s flat, easy and magical – especially when completed over five leisurely days. There were many amazing things about it – the landscape, the skies, the rurality
but perhaps the most unusual was the lack of bike locks or any need of them. We could just park the bikes anywhere and they were perfectly safe.
Lunch was always a lovely mini picnic. Coffee stops were often had before we had biked very far – a record low was 100 metres. I was so sad when the trip was finished but other adventures beckon.
I can’t resist a post about this gorgeous town between Queenstown and Milford Sound – both of which are well-written-about. This is a great town and I stayed in the recommendable YHA hostel. It’s not clear that it is so easy to pick up a Milford Sound tour from here – the buses all stop for a break and you can book it from here, rather than Queenstown. That was hard information for me to find but I got there.
I took a guided bike tour of the lake area this morning and was the only client. Apart from a wild wind, which would not have been out of place in the Outer Hebrides, it was a glorious morning. There’s been snow in the past few days so the mountains are delicious (that is when you are not trying to walk them). Cycling at lake level was a wise choice.
The Scots have been here, of course. There is a statue to Quintin McKinnon who was paid to explore routes here in the 1880s. In an unusually honest account of him in the little museum, he is described as having a fondness for a drop and having abandoned his wife and family. He had a colourful but short life (1851-1892). On a cheerier note we were lucky to see a Takeha couple and chick. This endangered flightless (there’s a clue right there) bird was thought to be extinct but survives up here and is being protected. Magic to see the mum feeding the chick. There is a long story about this but I will spare you as I favour short postings on this blog!
Oooh – I love planning! The prep for this trip has been going on for about a year so it’s very exciting that it’s really close now – we start next week. The planning, of course, had to include maps, food and wine. Of course!
The final planning meeting was in this lovely ‘colonial’ house in Auckland. As well as the food and wine and maps, I must get back into bike-shape. So I did a bit of that today with Auckland Nextbikes. I saw my first pohutukaka flowers. No – I did not take a photo of them – what am I? A tourist?
This is all about the famous Otago Rail Trail – the first (?) and most famous of the newish bike trips in New Zealand. It seems fab and will take us a leisurely five days. It’s 150 km in all but it won’t feel like that as we’ll have a grand time exploring the little towns on the way and trying to keep warm and dry. Just like home!
This little colonial town is pretty, especially a warm sunny day. It’s full of tourists, which made me feel like a local because I speak some Spanish and know what I like on the menu. Living in Edinburgh, it’s hard to impress me with old buildings and cobbled streets – though parts of these streets are like mountain paths before the Romans sorted them out.
The best fun, for me, in Colonia, was the variety of transport. While the town is small, the surrounding area includes a huge stretch of beach, along which runs a fine paved road. Many of the tourists are from a country where walking is considered odd (I’ll let you guess where!). So being able to drive around is a great solution. You can hire bicycles (my choice, of course), motorbikes, quad bikes, golf-caddy-type electric cars or bigger electric cars.
I met one group in a ‘golf caddy’ while I was cycling the ‘rambla’ by the beach. I overtook them with much smiley greeting and waving. A little later, as I was cruising along enjoying the day, they overtook me with waves and shouts of ‘ciao, ciao’. Oh no you don’t! ‘No ciao’, I shouted as I pedalled harder and overtook them. By now we were taking photos of each other – their camera activity being a little safer than mine, since they had one driver and three passengers. We kept meeting each other and had a final wave after I handed back my hired bike and they headed off into the sunset, slowly!