Cycling Plus #1:
Introduction, kit and first leg.
'And remember mate, the longest journey begins with the shortest step.'
With these words in mind, I left the Sydney Opera House on a cold morning
in November 1998 to begin the first part of a fifteen month cycling
journey back to London. Winding its way across Australia, South East Asia,
China, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Europe this 21,000 km
route crosses the hemispheres and the Himalayas. But every journey has to
begin somewhere, and it was with excitement and some worry that I set off
on mine, the first thousand kilometres up to Brisbane.
The days pass by in a haze of place names reminiscent of England, unending
roads, inland hill climbs, beautiful beaches and heaps of pasta! Once off
the busy and monotonous Pacific Highway, coastal and rainforest tracks are
punctuated by water stops in remote service stations, relief from the
burning blue sky.
Cycling frees you from the cocoon of a car and makes you feel part of the
nature around you. I see kangaroos bound by the roadside, koalas sleeping
in trees and sometimes dolphins playing in the sea. Having up teamed with
Sacha, a German cyclist heading the same way, up to Brisbane,we have camped
in small towns and national parks. One night we camped in a Macadamia nut
farm and watched bats silhouetted dramatically against the dark sky swoop
down for prey. Where ever we stop, locals are guaranteed to offer advice.
They ask. 'Where have I been, where am I heading? Or they simply chat to
pass the time of day. In one caravan park, an Aboriginal women warned of a
legend, a tale of a strangely hypnotic light leading travellers away from
the main road, into the outback until they are lost in the desert. 'But I
just believe it's a giant moth!' she chuckled.
Cycling across Australia redefines the word vast. At times it seems to
have no beginning and no end. As the kilometres go by, my position on the
map inches forward slowly. The weight of a fully laden bike takes some
getting used to and my Specialized Rockhopper Comp, named Possum, is no
exception. It is fitted with Michelin road tyres for the sealed Australian
roads, drop down handlebars and a suspension stem for comfort, a sturdy
Shimano bar end shifter system, a larger than standard 46 tooth outer
chainring, front and rear Ortlieb panniers and 36 spoke Mavic rims with XT
I am carrying a tent, stove, sleeping bag, medical kit, spare parts and
tyres, walkman and the clothes on my back! A Psion Series 5 palmtop,
Ericsson mobile phone and Garmin GPS allow me to send emails, keep a web
site updated and write a monthly travel journal for Cycling Plus. Food and
up to twelve litres of water weigh me down further. Despite shedding all
the trappings of society, I still wonder what I can throw out at every
This first part of the tour has gone smoothly but it continues to be a
physical and mental challenge. Although questioning what I'm doing at
times, I ultimately look forward to every new day. In the words of Ursula
le Guin, "It is good to have an end to journey to, but it is the journey
that matters in the end."