Not wired for sound

I am not sure that you can see this particularly well but this bike (not mine) has a bluetooth speaker in one of the water-bottle holders. The cyclist plays music from his phone as he pedals along. It’s handy on the canal towpath where other path users can hear him. I had some adventures with this cyclist. First he helped me to do a photoshoot with a banner at Falkirk Grahamston station where we arrived. He had been explaining that he didn’t like hills and was just out for a day instead of ‘sitting at home watching the telly and growing old’. If he didn’t smoke and did eat breakfast he might manage hills a bit better, but I refrained from sharing that insight.

The Avon Acqueduct

After the photoshoot I caught up with him at the top of the hill to Falkirk High (the clue is in the name). He decided he was going to cycle with me, all 30 miles back to Edinburgh. To my subsequent shame, I wasn’t too keen on that but didn’t object. We headed West and our first challenge was the very-long and very-dark canal tunnel. Happily I have integral bike lights which helped a lot and I emerged safely at the other end. My new-found friend didn’t. After waiting a bit, I went on and had a lovely ride. I sat to eat a sandwich at Linlithgow where a kayak race was starting and my cycling friend pedalled past with his bluetooth pop music. He didn’t see me then but I came upon him further along the canal, having stopped for a smoke. I stopped to chat and found, when I restarted, that I had a puncture. He very kindly did most of the repair for me. I was prepared enough to have everything I needed except wet wipes, which are environmentally un-friendly anyway. Half-an-hour later we were on our way again and I managed to get home, showered, changed and to the for a delightful concert that afternoon.

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How to scare away boars

‘Tacca’

Everyday problem, right? Here’s an elegant solution from The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  A stream runs into a bamboo cane, blocked off at the end. When the water in the cane reaches a certain level it tips over and empties. It then crashes back onto a strategically-place stone, making a gong sound. It clearly works as there are no boars in sight, other than this elegant sculpture. He is called ‘Tacca’ after the artist who made him and he is a copy of ‘Porcellino’ who resides in Florence.

Bike on front of busPS – these gardens are gorgeous at any time of year and worth a visit. Buses run to and from Victoria and you can take you bike on the bus. What’s not to love? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to pop your bike on the front of a bus in Edinburgh? *sigh*

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Cycling in minus 19

Studded tyre

Not me though! I have trouble being outside in that weather, though the air sparkles in the sun and that is just magical. These cyclists are amazing. One of them chatted and I took a picture of his studded tyre. Most bikes don’t have those tyres, but mostly they do have fat tyres, so that connection with the path is more stable. It is all relative, though.

Messy collage – sorry!

The cold is such that some cyclists wear full face masks. At least, in these temperatures there are not many others out, though joggers are still jogging.

I loved the sign that suggests we should not cycle on the seat – just imagine it!

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Hot cycling

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!

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Lismore – wet and charming

Nippy Chippy van
A welcome sight when getting off the ferry

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.

Heritage display in the centre
Eerie museum of life in the ‘old days’

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.

whitewashed houses
The High Street of Port Ramsay

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.

 

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Hidden gem and great sandwiches

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.

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Turntable ferry – Glenelg

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.

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Cambridge – ‘Bicycle capital of the UK’

Bike facilities at YHA Cambridge

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.

Alternative antlers in the Old Bicycle Shop restaurant

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!

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Sydney – a quick visit

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.

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No bike locks

otago_mini_collageI 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

perfectlunchspot
Perfect lunch spot

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.

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