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.


A second in the series of Bikes and Canyons, this time, a pleasant cycle from Lithgow towards the Glowworm Tunnel and down a dry, dark canyon to burst out to a beautiful place with an amazing view over the Wolgan Valley.

Start: Lithgow Station
End: Lithgow Station
Total distance: 70km
Strava link

Canyoning usually involves abseiling down cliffs and waterfalls, scrambling over slippery rocks and logs and wading and swimming in narrow, beautiful canyons surrounded by tall walls of rock on either side. As much as all of this is very appealing, I chose Dry Canyon on this cold day as a winter trip one I could do without getting too cold and wet, and one I could safely navigate by myself.

The trip to the canyon is a 35km jaunt along a beautiful dirt track from Lithgow over the Newnes Plateau.

Newnes Plateau

Newnes Plateau

Newnes Plateau

Newnes Plateau

Newnes Plateau

Newnes Plateau

The path from the car park to the canyon and through the canyon is flat with no challenges at all. You are just left to concentrate on the beauty of your surroundings.

The path to the canyon

The path to the canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

Dry Canyon

The canyon ends and a quick scramble brings you to a rock sitting over an amazing view over the Wolgan Valley, staring at the beautiful Donkey Mountain.

Wolgan Valley

Wolgan Valley

Seeing this canyon should be classified as bushwalking rather than canyoning. It remains beautiful!


With winter approaching, there are not enough hours of daylight to fit in a long cycle in and it’s time for something different. In 1997 I went canyoning with my university friend Hamish. This is a return to that really cool activity in the same really cool place – in the Wollangambe Canyon.

Start: Bell Station
End: Mt Victoria Station
Total distance: 55km
Strava link

Today I lay on my lilo inflatable air mattress and floated down a beautiful canyon deep in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. It was offseason and borderline cold, and so I was the only one. A short walk to the canyon from Mt Wilson town saw me inflating my lilo on the lonely beach surrounded by high cliffs on the edge of the beautiful clear-watered river.

At the starting beach

At the starting beach

At the starting beach

At the starting beach

With estimates of 6-8 hours for the trip, with upper estimates of 10 hours, I wanted to get back before dark and so hurried down the deep parts of the canyon. I should have stopped to jump off the cliffs into the cool, clear water. It is an amazing part of the canyon.

The deep canyon

The deep canyon

On the lilo

On the lilo

There were some rocky scrambles. At times they were a bit tricky.

Boulder dash

Boulder dash

Boulder dash

Boulder dash

There were also lots of shallow bits which were very relaxing. I could walk along side the lilo and didn’t need to scramble over rocks.

Shallow bit

Shallow bit

Shallow bit

Shallow bit

Shallow bit

Shallow bit

There was even a little side canyon.

Side canyon

Side canyon

The trip back to civilisation saw me cycle 7.5km along the Bells Line of Road. With the Easter traffic trying to leave Sydney, some people found my presence on the road unbearable, informing me that I was a f*ing w*nker and that I should get off the f*ing road. I’ve been living in Australia long enough now to be used to this. Shame though.

My day was, however, a big success. Canyoning is awesome!


Start: Bell Station
End: Leura Station
Total distance: 68km
Strava link

After getting all excited reading about canyoning adventures in the Blue Mountains, I wanted to see if I could get to one of these canyons by bike – at least to the bottom of one. No abseiling required.

I decided to try to get to the bottom of the Koombanda Canyon, following a deserted mine road from Bell, and across a road slip to the base of the little Koombanda Creek. It was all rather adventurous, but in the end, a little too dangerous for me by myself. The boulders in the creek were covered in moss and slippery. I didn’t fancy a broken leg all by myself, so eventually I turned back.

Part two of the trip was along the Mt Hay road, recommended by my Blue Mountains friends Howard and Judith. It was a lovely ride and then walk out to Lockley’s Pylon with a spectacular view out over the Gross Valley.

Early morning at Koombanda Creek

Early morning at Koombanda Creek

The little rock slip I needed to navigate

The little rock slip I needed to navigate

The little rock slip I needed to navigate

The little rock slip I needed to navigate

Koomdanda Creek

Koomdanda Creek

Koomdanda Creek

Koomdanda Creek

Koomdanda Creek

Koomdanda Creek

Mt Hay Road

Mt Hay Road

Towards Lockley's Pylon

Towards Lockley’s Pylon

View from Lockley's Pylon

View from Lockley’s Pylon

View from Lockley's Pylon

View from Lockley’s Pylon

View from Lockley's Pylon

View from Lockley’s Pylon

Road from Lockley's Pylon

Road from Lockley’s Pylon


Start: Blackheath Station
End: Mount Victoria Station
Total distance: 68km
Strava link

I have been eyeing off this trip for months. The trip was foiled twice when thunderstorms were forecast over the Blue Mountains and twice due to track works on the Blue Mountains line. Today was the day. I cycled down part of the Six Foot Trail to Cox’s River with the famous swinging bridge. Returning to civilisation with a train station was a steep affair on a beautiful back road.

The last 7km into Mt Victoria from the west is very dangerous, and I won’t be doing that again. It involves a steep climb up a windy main road with only one lane in each direction, no space to the side of the road, and railings stopping an emergency escape.

The rain had set in by the time I reached Mt Victoria and the traffic was bumper to bumper, so I decided to call it a day there rather than returning to my starting point at Blackheath.

Early morning on the Megalong Valley Road

Early morning on the Megalong Valley Road

The Six Foot Trail

The Six Foot Trail

The Six Foot Trail

The Six Foot Trail

The morning sunlight over the Six Foot Trail

The morning sunlight over the Six Foot Trail

The Six Foot Trail

The Six Foot Trail

The suspension bridge over Cox's River

The suspension bridge over Cox’s River

The suspension bridge over Cox's River

The suspension bridge over Cox’s River

Crossing Cox's River

Crossing Cox’s River

On the way back to the Great Western Highway

On the way back to the Great Western Highway

Cox's River

Cox’s River

66,000km for the bike

66,000km for the bike


Start: Lithgow Station
End: Richmond Station
Total distance: 102km
Strava link

Bowens Creek is at the bottom of a deep gully. It is famous for its canyoning, but, on this trip, I explored it on a road closed to traffic because of a dilapidated bridge crossing the river. It involves a beautiful descent into the valley and a bumpy climb along a road that has all but returned to nature.

To end the day I visited the Burralow Creek campground and waterfall.

Early morning leaving Lithgow

Early morning leaving Lithgow

The coal mine

The coal mine

Wynns lookout

Wynns lookout

Near Mt Wilson

Near Mt Wilson

Bowens Creek

Bowens Creek

Climbing out from Bowens Creek

Climbing out from Bowens Creek

Climbing out from Bowens Creek

Climbing out from Bowens Creek

The waterfall at Burralow Creek

The waterfall at Burralow Creek


Start: Moss Vale Station
End: Kiama Station
Total distance: 117km
Strava link

With a sense of trepidation I set out to cycle past all the major waterfalls in the Southern Highlands. I didn’t expect to be amongst the crowds the whole day. In particular, I had read Belmore Falls was more remote and quiet due to the dirt roads, and the closed walking path to the base was only ventured by intrepid walkers.
Well, looking over Belmore Falls from the top, drone buzzing overhead, I noticed that not only at the top, but at the base there were swarms of instragrammers (OK, like me). I ticked off all of the waterfalls, but was never alone, and couldn’t reach any serenity.
The dirt track to Gerrigong Falls was the most beautiful, passing through some highlands open terrain to the edge of the waterfall.

On the way to Fitzroy Falls

On the way to Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls

On the way to Belmore Falls

On the way to Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Belmore Falls

Nellie's Glen

Nellie’s Glen

Carrington Falls

Carrington Falls

On the way to Gerrigong Falls

On the way to Gerrigong Falls

On the way to Gerrigong Falls

On the way to Gerrigong Falls

Gerrigong Falls

Gerrigong Falls

Gerrigong Falls

Gerrigong Falls


Start: Mittagong Station
End: Mittagong Station
Total distance: 139km
Strava link

This was always going to be a long day – a 70km ride each-way ending in a 500m drop on a dirt road to the Wollondilly River and a 500m climb out the other side. It was, however, a beautiful trip to the Wombeyan Caves. There is a lot to see there. I only saw the limestone gorge and went for a swim in its beautiful clear cold waters.

The road to Wombeyan Caves

The road to Wombeyan Caves

The tunnel on the way to Wombeyan Caves

The tunnel on the way to Wombeyan Caves

The descent to the Wollondilly River

The descent to the Wollondilly River

On the way to Wombeyan Caves

On the way to Wombeyan Caves

Limestone Gorge at Wombeyan Caves

Limestone Gorge at Wombeyan Caves

Limestone Gorge at Wombeyan Caves

Limestone Gorge at Wombeyan Caves

Turtle in the middle of the road

Turtle in the middle of the road