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.


I jumped on the saddle again after a few months in Adelaide to go to Sydney for Christmas. To make it interesting, I passed by Mt. Koscuiszko – Australia’s highest mountain. Here is a video of this little escapade.


From a breakfast on the balcony with a multiculti crew, to cycling on a dirt track in the dense bush, to admiring the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the sun, to a record amount of bike-hate abuse hurled at me on the Pacific Highway. A day of differences.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

It was peaceful and quiet in the Royal National Park. From a beautiful view on the cliff-faces above the coast, I plunged into the dense forest, leaving the main road for the little dirt track that followed a stream.

View from above

View from above

Royal National Park

Royal National Park

Dirt track

Dirt track

Road block

Road block

Then a long trip into the city, swapping between cycling on the main highway, to trying to navigate my way down small bike paths, when I could find them. The weather was beautiful for my arrival in Sydney.

Opera House

Opera House

Unfortunately the road-rage against cyclists continued. On the 20km stretch north from the city along the Pacific Highway, I had as much cyclist hate yelled at me (and tooted at me) than I have had on my whole 2-year trip from Europe (all of this hate has been in the last few months since I entered Australia).

Anyway, Sydney is a beautiful city, with lots of lovely family and friends living here. I’m looking forward to my time here to finish off an amazing 2016.


So there we sat – 3 Frenchmen, 2 Chinese women, 1 Chinese man, 1 Australian man, 1 Australian woman, and me. The Frenchies had cooked up a storm, and I had been enjoying myself all evening speaking French and Chinese. How different it is having lovely company, and a warm, dry place to stay. Thank you Kieran – my warm showers host!

The big group of dinner guests

The big group of dinner guests

Today technology was taken away from me. I cycled without a map – on just the day I needed to follow the intricate bike route that I had found on the internet. Avoiding the main roads is worthwhile, but also hard to do. My phone was unusable in the raini (I couldn’t unlock the screen), and so I had to go into dry places and dry the phone down with a tissue before I could proceed with looking at the maps.

The descent from the highlands was beautiful through dense forest, before cycling along beautiful beaches (unfortunately in the rain).

The forest

The forest

The beach

The beach

I am now one day from Sydney. My little cycle trip has almost come to an end.


Today it rained from when I woke up (and before) to when I finally stopped. I pulled the plug early – I was like a cold, drowned rat, and decided to bite the bullet and stay in a hotel.

Hotel in Robertson

Hotel in Robertson

This morning was a slow start as I moved my tent under a little roof to try to prevent it from getting wetter than it already was. I also wasn’t terribly fast in getting started, watching the rain get heavier and heavier. A woman from the village came and had a chat, which was a good reason not to move on.
Before long I found my way on the main road – the Hume Highway. I thought, well, as it is miserable and cold, I should at least get some kilometres done, so I stayed on the Hume for quite some time.
By the small town of Robertson, I decided to call it a day. It is no fun cycling in the cold rain.


He jumped in front across my path as I became aware of others on both my sides. I slammed on the brakes as the one next to me, surprised, was skidding on its tail to change direction. He jumped away as the others around me dispersed. Then, in the blink of the eye that it took to happen, it was over. I was further down the road, and the kangaroos were gone. Noone was hit.

Road

Road

Today I just didn’t stop cycling. With rain predicted, only getting worse in the coming days, I kept on going while it was dry. Lying, dry in Bungonia, I listen to the constant pitter-patter on the tent. The rain has really started, ending the few hot rest days I have had in Canberra and Batesman Bay with family and friends.

Family

Family


‘Get off the f*ing road!’
I was doing nothing wrong, cycling on a road that I was allowed to. This agro between cyclists and motorists in Australia is such a shame. Australia is the only country where I’ve seen it. Anyway, after this unpleasant start, I have had a lovely welcome to Canberra.

Entering the ACT

Entering the ACT

Today’s cycling was uneventful, scaling each 5km climb and descending the other side before starting on the next climb. I did a little circuit of parliament house before spending the rest of the afternoon with family. Nice to catch up with them!

Parliament House

Parliament House


Last evening the possums were out and about. This morning, it was the kangaroos. They hopped through the camping ground in hoards. And then there was the echidna waddling across the road. An animal rich day cycling through the undulating landscape south of Canberra.

Kangaroos at the camping ground

Kangaroos at the camping ground

The echidna was sweet. It tried to hide from me on the side of the road by scrunching itself into a tight ball. Slowly it got less nervous and started poking around with its snout.

Echidna

Echidna

Lake Jindabyne was beautiful in the warm sun, and there were many views of it to be had as the road rose and fell around its edge.

Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne

Tomorrow Canberra, and the end of the first (longest) leg of the trip to Sydney.