Sitting at a desk in Adelaide, a world bike journey may seem like a world away. Stress, deadlines and meetings make days blur into years. Want to make a change and step off the merry-go-round for a while? Well, this is for you. Some tips for cycling around the world.

Approaching the pass

A quiet road in the back blocks in Uzbekistan

  1. How to I actually DO it? Tell people about it!

You’ve heard stories of people making life decisions with mates at the pub after a few too many? You say what’s on your mind, and what you want to (and are going to) do. Then your mates keep you to your word. The cat is out, and now they’re watching you now follow through. No more letting time pass with inaction.

I decided that my bike trip was not just a dream when I told a friend, and excitedly she said she would come along too. At that moment I realised it was not crazy, and I could totally do it. My mind switched from it being one of those things you just dream about, to something that was going to be a reality. That friend ended up not coming along, but the more people I told about my excitement to do this, the more I knew I really would do it.

Road to Blinman

Approaching the Mawson Trail in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

  1. How do I know what bike to take?

There seem to be two philosophies.

The first is take a totally standard bike with standard everything. Things will break and you will need to fix them – which will be possible. This philosophy relies on there being replacement bike parts wherever you are. Even if the part is not available (if you are on the Pamir Plateau in Tajikistan), but there are always people to help, makeshift tools to borrow, and hacks to be made.

The second is to buy an expensive high-end bike with ‘unbreakable’ parts that are built to survive a lifetime. If they break, the parts are so uncommon and unheard of outside of the western world, you will be stuck. Take spare parts of the most uncommon things and hope that everything really is unbreakable. This is the option for the total technically incapable bike user.

I am hopeless with bike maintenance and I followed the second philosophy.

Road to Mimili

In the aboriginal APY Lands in northern South Australia.

After going on a 1000km bike tour in Norway and my bike collapsing beneath me (spoke after spoke broke), I went to a bike shop I trusted and let them go through all the different options regarding bikes and their parts, and I ended up with the bike I needed for my adventures.
 

  1. What should I take?

Take photos of home and photos of your bike trip up to now to give to the beautiful people you meet on the way. They really appreciate it. It’s wonderful to share your trip with them, like they are sharing their life and home with you!
 
What else? It depends on where you go. I went through hot and cold areas. In the mountains and desert I needed to cook for myself and be more independent. In south-east Asia, there’s cheap and good food to be had everywhere, so I sent my cooking things home for that leg. A tent there is not needed (as it is too hot), but a hammock and mosquito net is a plus.

In general you will need a bike, panniers, a sleeping bag and mat, clothes and repair stuff. Most cycling blogs have a list of things they took. Here is my list: https://arctic-cycler.com/equipment/

Money money money

US$100 in Uzbekistan som.

  1. How do you prepare your route? What about the visas?

I read blogs. I got excited reading blogs. And videos. I’m going there and it will be amazing! I read blogs to see what the options are. In general, cycling from Europe to Australia, you go through Europe, Turkey, Iran (or Azerbaijan if you are American and can’t get an Iranian visa) and then either Central Asia and China, or India and Burma. From there, it’s down through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore. Many people fly from Singapore. I cycled through Indonesia to East Timor – an absolute highlight. Here is my list of blogs that inspired me: https://arctic-cycler.com/links/
 
For visas, it is an ever-changing story. Iran, Central Asia and China are the most challenging. I was lucky enough to apply for my Chinese visa in Tehran in the short window of time they were handing out 90 day visas with no questions asked. I understand they no longer do this. The latest up-to-date information can be found on http://caravanistan.com.

Vero giving us tips on the Pamir Highway

The touring cyclist legend Vero in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

  1. How should I train for it? Will I be able to do it?

The bike journey is not a race – it is a life journey, and you have time to do it. Start slowly and stop to smell the flowers (there are lots around at the moment in the desert – it has rained a lot). Cycling will get you fit for cycling, and as you go on, you will do more, you will seek more challenging and amazing roads and places, and you will become more confident with what you can achieve.

I have met world cyclists of all ages from 18 to 72. I have met westerners, Chinese, Thai. I have cycled with people on budgets of $5 a day (including cycling in Australia). Sure, save some money up to do it, but don’t wait too long. You can start today. Who knows what might happen tomorrow. Your plans may be Trumped by a new situation, and your dreams may remain just that – dreams.

This was an article I wrote for the BikeSA blog in November 2016.

The thai cyclist

A thai cyclist we met that has covered over 100,000km by bike.


The more remote sounding, the more appealing. I saw Lost World on the internet, and knew I had to go there. At the end of a long, bumpy, dead-end path, Lost World is a rock on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a beautiful Blue Mountains valley. I heard a coooo-eeee from the other side of the valley. And then silence again. They were far away, and couldn’t see me. I was at Lost World.

Lost World

Lost World

Every week I go to explore the option I discovered the week before. Last week I met some people that told me of an app with offline bike routes, and in particular of the routes south of the main trainline through the Blue Mountains. Starting at Wentworth Falls, I cycled past a swimming hole to Woodford, and then the ‘classic’ Oaks Trail.

The waterhole was silent. The road was closed for cars, and there is no way to get there except by cycling. The water was warm and still, and there was a trickle over the waterfall at the far end of the pool. I went for a cool-off swim and a relax in the mountain pool.

Ingar Pool

Ingar Pool

After the swim, I realised why the cars can’t get there. The road I came down was blocked, and the other road is too steep for most cars. Brakes screeching, I slid down the dirt track, crossed the river, and pushed my bike up the other side to Woodford.

Bedford Creek

Bedford Creek

On the way to Bedford Creek

On the way to Bedford Creek

From Woodford, the ‘classic’ Oaks Trail is sandy, bumpy and up and down. But, the side road to Lost World is steeper, bumpier and just as much soft sand. There were mountain bikers hooting along the Oaks Trail. There wasn’t a soul on the path to Lost World.

Road to Lost World

Road to Lost World

Road to Lost World

Road to Lost World

Road to Lost World

Road to Lost World

Lost World

Lost World

Forest fire

Forest fire

Lost World

Lost World


‘It’s a walking path, but, yeah, you should be able to make it down!’
My plan of returning back down the dead-end road back to Lithgow was transformed into a beautiful loop through pristine Blue Mountains landscape.

Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley

The return was also on a dead-end road, through the Wolgan Valley. Dead-end roads are the best. There are hardly any cars. People are too busy going from A to B to worry with dead-end roads. Cycling on them is like being on a different planet.

Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley

And the kind of people driving on the road are cool. Some cycling fans recognised my bike – a Koga with Rohloff hub. They were so excited they stopped for a photo opportunity, and then offered me food and water. It was like being on the world bike trip all over again!

Friendly people

Friendly people

At the end of the dead-end road is an old pub that now runs as a kiosk on weekends. Entering there makes you feel time has stood still.

Newnes pub

Newnes pub

Going backwards in time through the day, to get to the Wolgan Valley, I had to descend from the Newnes plateau, where I passed through the Glowworm tunnel (I’ll come to that). The plateau comes abruptly to a halt at some vertical rock walls. There is a little walking path that makes its way down, but, it involved a little bit of carrying the bike.. 🙂

Down to the Wolgan Valley

Down to the Wolgan Valley

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

The actual trip was inspired by a turn-off I passed last week to the ‘Glow worm tunnel’. That sounded too good to miss. The glow worm tunnel is at the end of a 35km dirt road from Lithgow that passes over the Newnes plateau. In the middle of the tunnel, total darkness reigns. After a few minutes, when the eyes adjust, little green points of light appear. Everywhere. Like millions of stars in the night sky, the glow worms dot the blackness with life.

The Glowworm tunnel

The Glowworm tunnel

Entrance to another tunnel

Entrance to another tunnel

A palm paradise

A palm paradise

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel

Approaching the Glowworm tunnel


‘Yep. You should be alright,’ they said, eyeing off my touring bike. ‘You could get past on that.’ Well, the road was closed, and had been for years, judging by the state of it. A quiet descent into the lonely valley in the Blue Mountains. Not a soul was there, and I was happy.

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

The main roads in the Blue Mountains are not that great – cars scooting along around sharp corners and not much room for cyclists. My plan was to leave the busy Bells Line Of Road asap, and I headed off to the road to Mt Wilson, past the ‘Cathedral of Ferns’ and a few lovely lookouts.

Cathedral of Ferns

Cathedral of Ferns

Wynnes Lookout

Wynnes Lookout

The closed road connects Mt Irvine to Bilpin. It is closed due to a crumbly bridge at the bottom of a long descent, and due to numerous places where the road has caved away and slipped down the steep valley slope. There were lots of big rocks and bumps, and it wasn’t much wider than a walking trail. And there were numerous trees that had fallen across the road. It was a lot of fun!

Bridge Bowens Creek

Bridge Bowens Creek

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

Bowens Creek Road

Returning to the main road, I had to leave as quickly as possible. It was the end of the Australia Day long weekend, and the mad drivers were building. So, I did my little detour through Mountain Lagoon, and remained in peace until just before Richmond. A lovely way to spend a Sunday in the Blue Mountains.


It was a cool oasis. The rocks rose above me on three sides, the cool mountain water cascading over the edge above. The grotto was shaded from the sun, and the temperature was several degrees lower. I sat there feeling the oneness with nature, entering a trance, my brain pulsing with the beats of the cicadas’ song. Alone in the Blue Mountains.

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Today was a loop on tracks, avoiding the main Bell Line of Road as much as possible. Once I left the main road, I plunged into the bush, bumping down into the steep valley, to the drone of the cicadas. The Burralow Creek camping ground was almost empty, just one car, which belonged to some Indians I met on the way to the waterfall.
‘Go to the waterfall at night,’ they told me. ‘There are glow worms.’
That’ll have to be next time.

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

Waterfall at Burralow Creek

On the way back up out of the valley I scared a couple of horses pulling carts. Not what I expected to see off the beaten track in the Blue Mountains.

The Mountain Lagoon road was another road that wasn’t the main one, and so I took it. The lagoon is not that special, but the road was pleasant enough.

Mountain Lagoon

Mountain Lagoon

The side track to the Colo River lookout was a bit up and down and sandy in parts, but afforded a beautiful view out over the Colo River.

Colo River

Colo River

The road remained dirt until quite late in the piece, which meant it was tranquil until I hit the Bell Line of Road again just before the end. I even had a little adventure fording a stream.

Fording the stream

Fording the stream

AND, my trusted ‘Drahtesel’ bicycle is not 60,000km old. Quite an old bike now, although not much is left of the bike that I left Eindhoven on. The pedals are the same, and the pannier carriers are the same. Not a lot else.

60,000km for Drahtesel, the bike

60,000km for Drahtesel, the bike

Waterfall, mountain lagoon and river crossing, all completed by sunset. A beautiful ride in the mountains Sydney calls its own.


“It’s hot, like the sea in Borneo. Wow! Here’s a cold spot. Now it’s cold around my feet, and warm at my top.”
All alone in this little park we swam, through the green cool waters with the cicada frenzy all around. A short cycle, and we were off the highway and into paradise.

Elizabeth at Mirang Pool

Elizabeth at Mirang Pool

I had never thought of cycling through Heathcote National Park – it looks so small on the other side of the Princes Highway from the Royal National Park. This one was a suggestion from the people at Oma Fiets – my local bike shop.

Very soon we left the busy Princes Highway, and were instantly alone on a small road through the bush to a tranquil dam.

Woronora Dam

Woronora Dam

The Pipeline Trail was blocked by a gate which meant that no cars could disturb us, and we proceed to scoot down a dirt track into the valley. The Mirang Pool is not such a long walk from the Heathcote train station, although we didn’t take this route, and were a beautiful, refreshing stop before the steep ascent back to the ridge top.

Mirang Pool

Mirang Pool

Update: The goat is spared

Posted: August 8, 2017 in Australia
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Crossing fingers has been ineffective. Prayers to the christian God, and other gods have been ineffective. The imaginary goat has been ready for sacrifice for some time now, as part of a policy to try all avenues, including sacrifices. Last Friday the goat was spared, and I was offered a job. The goat, who lives in Adelaide, is happy – I am told.

Some happy people

Some happy people

People often ask what happens to cyclists after their big bike trip. Like many others, I left my job and got rid of all my possessions to do the trip. Now I’m at the other end of the adventure. This is the third update of the ordeals of a world cyclist starting a new life post-cycling adventure. (This is the first update, and this is the second.)

Returning to Adelaide, months later.

Returning to Adelaide, months later.

I have been offered and accepted a job as medical writer at NPS Medicinewise (https://www.nps.org.au). NPS is a not-for-profit organisation that provide independent information on medicines and medical procedures for medical professionals and the general public. Their goal is to improve healthcare delivery in Australia. I am really looking forward to starting the new job this Thursday.

I ran past the opera house a lot.

I ran past the opera house a lot.

It took ten months to find a job. That’s if you count from the time I finished my 41483km bike trip from the Netherlands to Adelaide, Australia. If you count from when I got really serious, moving to Sydney and sending off many, many applications, it has been 5 months. I applied for 63 jobs and was invited to 11 interviews. I also had 3 job recruiters that put my name forward for positions that didn’t lead to an interview. I have been to three networking drinks, volunteered opening envelopes on multiple occasions, and given a motivational talk for runners training for a marathon, raising money for cancer. Many friends have helped, and for all their support, I am truly grateful.

This has been a journey every bit as tumultuous as the 2-year bicycle trip. I left my life in Europe mid-career and mid-life (I don’t think it was a mid-life crisis though). I arrived in Australia with a good CV but no professional network in Australia, and a two-year gap on my CV. I was interested in working in communications in the not-for-profit sector, and found myself in a dilemma. Not-for-profits are typically small and pay poorly. No-one believed I would stay in a job like that, and so I didn’t receive any offers. Jobs in the communications market in general are hotly contested given the number of skilled, experienced journalists who have been made redundant as the journalism industry goes online and is undergoing fundamental change. For these jobs, experience in Australia is valuable, as is an Australian network. So, here I was, watching my savings dwindle, and applying for jobs. Lots of jobs.

View from Mrs. Macquarie's Chair

View from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

My mood was like a rollercoaster. When interesting jobs were in the pipeline, I was happy. I
spent my time with my new partner Aaron, and running in the glorious sun (which has been shining here all winter). There were days when my irons in the fire all dissolved and left me returning to square one. Again.
‘You are a very strong candidate, but..’
‘There was an amazing number of really great candidates, and unfortunately..’

Being unemployed and looking for work, I felt like less of a person. All around me were people working, contributing. Although I have never really been extravagant with money, I noticed myself looking after my money more than ever, and even becoming angry at this consumerist world. All the while, I was thankful for my family, friends and partner, and wishing for this period to be over.

The email must have arrived (although I was offline) when I was at Frazer Beach. I saw the email a few hours later. I tentatively opened it. I had opened many emails like this before. I was great, but.. And, in this one, I got the job. My worries washed away, and I was happy. Now, the next phase of my life can begin. 🙂

Frazer Beach

Frazer Beach

The bike trip took 2 years, and spanned 41483km to Adelaide and about 43000km to Sydney. It was the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I am so, so happy to have done it. I never felt any other way about this during and after the trip. If you know what your dream is, do it! I am now excited about the next chapter of my life. Bring it on!


It was morning, the sun was shining, I had a big tailwind, it was flat, and for the first time cycling for a long time, I put on my Infected Mushroom music. The kilometres hurtled by. The energy music from my adventures in Borneo and Sulawesi was fitting for today. I felt the strength in my body, the blood pumping through my veins and I saw the road whiz past. I laughed with joy. I was on the way to Tin City!

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City is a collection of little tin shacks plopped in the middle of an endless beach with massive, rolling sand dunes. It feels like the end of the earth, with the wind howling, and the sand blasting against your skin. Popping out from Boyces Trail which led me through the scrub to the start of the mountains of sand, the strength and raw beauty of the nature was imposing before me.

Boyces Trail

Boyces Trail

The dunes start

The dunes start

Scurrying up these sand monsters and down the other side, I feel like in my own personal playground. I stand on the crest looking out over the expanse of sand, all to the backdrop of the howling wind.

The sand dunes

The sand dunes

I spoke to Al, often the only person here. Today he had a few guests. He looked rough like the wind and sand, and had an inner peace. He felt comfortable and at ease. I could tell that he belonged here.

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

After a fight into the same wind that had blown me here, I was in the train from Newcastle, and back in the hustle and bustle of Sydney. What a contrast!

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton