Today we set off ! We set off to ride the 406km across 5 days from the London Eye to the Eiffel Tower :).
It’s very exciting, a little daunting but is another adventure in a life that I am lucky enough to be living out loud.
We are taking a set of ‘sustran’ routes that wind their way through South London, down through the Sussex countryside to the town of Newhaven. We than take the ferry across the English Channel to Dieppe. Once across in France, we spend the next 3 days working our way through French lanes and tracks arriving in Paris on Wednesday evening.
Doesn’t it sound romantic and idyllic ? Have you seen the weather reports ? Wet weather gear has been packed ‘just in case’.
So the small bag has been dropped at our friends house (BTW we aren’t carrying our own bags !), the chamois butter is to hand, the trusty hybrid has been serviced and prepped and the go-pro charged for some perfect moments……… off we go !
As I said in my previous blog, recently I saw the movie Tracks, about Robyn Davidson and her adventure walking from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. She used 3 adult camels to carry her supplies during this time, all of which she had personally trained from the wild to join her.
People seem to be slightly surprised to find that camels run wild in Australia – in fact there are more wild camels in the outback than anywhere else in the world.
How did that happen ? When Australia was initially being settled it became apparent that camels were the best way of carrying equipment and supplies through the desert – they are tough, resilient and famously do not need vast quantities of water – and many were imported to do this work. Once other forms of transport arrived, eg trains, the camels were no longer needed and released into the wild and thrived. Unlike the infamous ‘rabbits in Australia’ they have remained healthy and haven’t strayed into the more densely populated communities, therefore allowed to roam.
There is a market in capturing, taming and selling camels. During our road trip from Alice to Adelaide we visited a camel farm which has the reputation for caring for these animals carefully and humanely.
I took a little ride on my ship of the desert, found it a little uncomfortable especially when it broke into a run, but another experience in the rich tapestry of life !
A natural camel lady ? Hmmmm not so sure !
Yeah, not so sure ! Perhaps he didn’t like the hat 🙂
Last week I went to the cinema for the first time in ages ! I rarely go to watch a film as firstly, there isn’t a lot that captures my imagination but secondly, I just can’t sit still that long anymore…….. But there was a movie that had grabbed me, mostly because it brought back my memories of my trip through the Red Center in Australia earlier this year on a small bus with 20 strangers and a crazy tour guide. The movie was called Tracks, and a story about a young woman’s adventure : her 2000 mile walk from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robyn_Davidson#Tracks). It was an enthralling story and brought a tear to my eye !
I had found this tour before l left the UK and it sounded like my type of trip – lots to see, great value for money and took me the way I wanted to go : from Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory to Adelaide in South Australia !!(http://www.groovygrape.com.au/our-tours/tours/rock-2-water).
As ‘Groovy Grapers’ we were going to be on the road for 6 days and 5 nights, sleeping in swags (an outer sleeping bag with the required ‘monster flap’), under the stars with all the wild creatures your imagination can conjure up and a new friend, Simon the scorpion
I don’t think I have really appreciated the vastness of Australia until I embarked on this tour. Australia is big, I knew that ! It had taken me 12 days to work my way from Sydney to Cairns, there was a time difference between the east coast and Alice Springs, but ‘vast’ has a different to connotations to me – it means more than just BIG and the impression came through loud and clear. Miles and miles and miles of red sand, huge blue skies and very few people.
Our first overnight stop after leaving Alice Springs was Kings Canyon. After a short valley walk, we made camp and sat down for dinner – and I have to admit that I was starting to think about what I was going to be like sleeping under the stars, surrounded by surrounded by all sorts of poisonous creatures : spiders, snakes etc. I know, I know extreme thoughts but that’s me……… throughout the night I heard every single noise and managed about 2 hours sleep in total !
We greeted the sunrise the next day with a walk around the rim of Kings Canyon. The photos do not do it justice – fabulous sunrise, rising temperatures and some incredible views. It was definitely worth the 5am alarm call.
After we returned to camp and eating our 2nd breakfast, we packed up and set off in the happy bus knowing that our next stop was Ayres Rock campground to spend a couple of days in the presence of the renowned Uluru.
When I decided my route around Australia I had written a list of things that ‘make Australia, Australia’ and Uluru was right at the top. I can remember seeing it on TV when I was a child and was fascinated by this natural wonder. My visit only confirmed its mystique. The Aboriginal history and customs that surround this sacred location is fascinating and its most recent history will ensure it is protected for generations to come.
We stayed 2 nights on this camp ground and the evening of the first night we took the short walk to a look out point and witnessed the best sunset I have ever seen.
After an interesting night’s sleep having met Simon the scorpion, we headed off to experience an Uluru sunrise. How different it looked in the morning, seemed smaller than we saw the night before. I can’t really explain the emotions or the atmosphere I was feeling – I was very much in awe of what was in front of me.
After eating a substantial breakfast back, we spent some time in Kata Tjuta, I guess you would call her the big sister of Uluru. This was a much larger area to visit and walk around. Unfortunately given the temperature we were only able to touch a small part of the hike – but what I saw took my breath away.
During the afternoon we visited the Cultural centre which was fascinating and then we set off to ‘walk the base’ – a 10km path that takes you around Uluru, pointing out the spiritual stories that have formed the interesting rock formations. The photos can only begin to show the beauty but I’ll let them do the talking at this point I think !
Wow, what an experience !
Then it was off to witness another moment of magic as Uluru disappeared again at sunset !
What a couple of days………….. full of cultural mystique, varying emotions around what I was seeing and experiencing. I know it wasn’t quite the same as Robyn Davidson’s solo adventure, but I felt like an explorer 🙂
At this point in the Outback adventure, I’m going to wrap up this blog. It feels like a good place to stop for a while.
The rest of the trip was different but I think I’ll save that for another blog : long days covering 100s of miles on long straight roads, Coober Pedy with its underground living and opal mining, Flinders ranges and our arrival in Adelaide.
If you had told me a year ago that I would have spent 3 weeks in 2013 on the island of Lanzarote I’d have laughed and told you no way ! But I did and given that I’ve just got back from my first trip there in 2014, it got my thinking why ? Firstly why would I have said no way in the first place ? Then why did I spend 3 weeks here last year and why am I doing more this year ?
The first why is easy – honestly because I can be a little bit of a travel snob ! There you go, I’ve said it, phew glad that’s off my chest ! And my evidence that it wasn’t a great place to visit ? The image of Brits on a drunken, partying holiday was on my mind – I’m sorry we’ve all been there, seen it and wish we hadn’t.
So I built a bridge, got over it and May 2013 was my first time visiting any of the Canary Islands.
The second question was why did I spend 3 weeks here last year ? That’s fairly straight forward too – I found that it’s a great place to do the things you love, if what you love is swimming, biking and running. I’m not saying that it is an easy place to do those things, but it is a great place – now that’s a another blog topic all to itself.
One of the places that help this is the Club La Santa resort (www.clublasanta.com), which is a small (or not so small) oasis on the north-west of the island that caters for many many forms of exercise and sport. I had seen resorts like this advertised before but had considered them out of my price range and only for elite athletes, not age group warriors like me and my buddies. Little did I know that this wasn’t the case ! A week there and you feel like you are in a bubble……. A bubble of swimming, biking, running and many other activities and equipment that are available for residents.
Fancy trying SUP’ing ? You can, grab a board and head to the salt water lagoon
How about a little paddle tennis ? You’ve got it, lots of courts available
Scuba diving ? They have a scuba center that will get you sorted
Golf ? Yes indeed !
Etc, etc, etc
I think you get the picture………
But there is more to the island that I have discovered, mostly from the seat of a bike and it certainly does have some charm ! I have always found volcanic islands fascinating and they remain high on my list of places to visit…… fantastic scenery. Rugged coastlines, long sandy beaches, interesting weather conditions, camels, whitewashed buildings, black land and Timafaya National Park.
So now to 2014 – more than 3 weeks ? Well only by a couple of days ! Tri camp is over for another year (more blogs to follow) and we stayed longer to support a friend and fellow tri-camper in his quest to be an Ironman (now that seriously is another blog – in short wow, what a day ! Then a return to the Running challenge (there are times to beat right ?) and then the swim camp (it will always be my personal battle !)
So I’m back, inspired and full of new blog material and ready to write ! Back soon