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2013 Land's End to John O'Groats

Lejog: The Departure

28th June 2013

Left Home at 7.50, with the Specialized on the rack & the over-stuffed bags in the car & headed for the Harbour. Everyone arrived on time & there was an air of excitement with the blokes & the partners not sure where their emotions were. The weather was grey, the sea a mite choppy, but the overnight boat is big & ugly, so not really a worry & indeed the crossing was smooth & gave us a decent night’s sleep.

29th June 2013

Portsmouth at 06.30 is not the most uplifting of places & the bus station at the railway station even less so. However, Tony, our support driver, was there to meet us took away our bags & bikes & we were left to get ourselves to St Just. The greasy spoon cafe opened at 8.00 & gave warmth & the usual fare, so a couple of hours was passed relatively pleasantly, before we could board a train at 09.20 en route to Havant to Westbury to Taunton & by 5.00 to Penzance. Despite the trains being full to capacity, there was a good mood amongst the passengers & staff, the trains were clean & efficient & spot on time, all along the way. The sun came out, the kids heading to Glastonbury were amusingly giddy & the countryside just got better & better, to the point where we were seeing beaches & familiar seaside place names & our own anticipation levels began to rise. Ken made the comment that he’d someone remarkably like the picture’s he’d seen of Rodney who sure enough, was in the next cabin. The peloton is complete!

By 17.30 we were in the Wellington Hotel in St Just. Tony has the bikes & van organised & equipped with spares & a brand new tool box. It’s agreed we shall dine at 7.00, Tony will give us the lowdown (although he says it’s up to us as to what we want to do each day) & we shall get an early night in anticipation of a pretty hard & hilly ride tomorrow. The weather is a little cold, there’s mist in the air but hey ho, we’re just about to start our adventure. John O’Groats, brace yourself!!

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2011 South Africa

South Africa 2011 Reflections

November 2011

Back safe & sound & what a wonderful trip it was. Much tougher than expected in that although the mileage was not huge (around 450km), the bikes were heavy, wide tyred offroaders, most of the route was on tracks (some very rutted), the hills were steep & the weather was hot.

Having said that, the weather was mostly sunny (though lots of wind), the people were wonderful, the accommodation was good, the food was great & plentiful & the scenery simply amazing. I managed to cycle all the days & all the routes (plus a few voluntary add-ons) & loved (almost) every minute of it.

There’s now a daily diary on the ‘Diaries’ page plus some photos on Photobucket (www.photobucket.com/brianonabike). Stuart Fell has also done a group video song which you can see on You tube at;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQnZk-X9C4w

So thanks for all your help you lovely Supporters from Jersey Hospice & from me

Brian
Jersey Nov 28th 2011

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2011 South Africa

Day 7: Cape Agulhas – Cape Town

12 November 2011

Drive for an hour, cycle 15km & finish! A bit of a doddle day really with whale watching in Hermanus – quite wonderful with sightings of two pods, one with newborn & then to a penguin colony with thousands of the cute guys & marmosets type creatures. Bussed on to the Cape where we all cycled onto the point of the Cape of Good Hope, in convoy – Judy & Kirby leading. Lots of photos & emotions.

A great trip, possibly far harder than anyone expected & although not as long as prior trips, the off road nature of much of it plus the heavy bikes & heat meant it was no doddle. But lots & lots of joy & fun & the very best of company

Drive to Cape Town where Chris/JT & I branched off for the Victoria & Alfred hotel where we met up with our ladies.

The evening celebrations at the African Café on Sunday night were quite wonderful with a selection of African foods, lots of wine & the staff doing a series of songs to the accompaniment of a single drum. We also met up with the Trekkers who had clearly had a wonderful time.

Big thanks to Steve, the SA rep – what a lovely guy, to the ever smiling Duncan from Discover Adventure UK & the lovely doc Anna who was not only great in her doctor role but an amazing cyclist/athlete/supporter & full time, uncomplaining back marker. Big thanks also to Paola for all the support/training/massages & to Phil & Anwin for their supervision & to Phil & John for endless laughs. I think we shall also owe a vote of thanks to Stuart for what promises to be a great video record of the trip

Brian Frith
Jersey, Nov 2011

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2011 South Africa

Day 6: Mossel Bay – Cape Agulhas

11 November 2011

Up at 6 just to make sure of that shower & then a walk & photos on the beach. Seal sightings but kept eluding me. We were bussed through dramatic scenery with wheatfields up to the foothills of the mountains and sightings of elephant & ostrich.

The bus ride was 3 hours with a decent stop at 11am to observe 11 Nov silence (very emotional not least of all in the company of John Lyon’s widow Judy, her daughter Kirby & god daughter Kerrie) Around 1pm we stopped for tyre repairs & to start our cycle in the rain. Ok whilst we were on tarmac but as soon as we hit the tracks the mud began to fly & it was interesting to see a mud splattered group when we stopped for lunch. Whilst there was wind from the south I think we all realised it could have been so much worse although small comfort as the road seemed to become endless in our journey to the most southerly point of Africa. After what seemed an endless road with only the odd vehicle (which covered us in dust each & every time) we hit the tarmac & a right turn towards the Cape. Agulhas is a pretty place with some quaint, old fishermen’s cottages (not unlike Jersey’s) & a beautiful shoreline with crashing waves & sandy beaches.

We stopped just short of the Cape to regroup at a pretty cafe (great milk shakes) but an owner determined to close at 5 despite our pleas to stay open for the rest of our group.

We cycled to the cape point & walked the boardwalk to the monument for videos/photos & xmas hats & managed once again to get other visitors involved in our photos & celebrations.

Our accommodation (Back Packers Hotel) initially seemed something of a come down after prior accommodations. 6 bunks in our room, 8 in Arnies’ but the cheap build and corrugated roof was hidden by flags & pictures & endless scribbling & it actually had a great ambience, helped by a great open hearth on which some excellent food was produced.

Chicken hotpot went down well with everyone & a party atmosphere followed with yet another spell of video with the locals, Stuart style. 

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2011 South Africa

Day 5: Wilderness – Mossel Bay

10 November 2011

Full marks to the hotel for coping with us plus a whole battalion of German tourists. Organised chaos in the dining room but a great breakfast featuring guava & for the first time porridge! Out of the hotel, down a cycle path for a short way then off to make a climb onto the plateau with the loveliest views of Wilderness below. Quite a way on these red dirt roads & feeling on top of the world. It’s not easy riding with heavy bikes on track but in this sort of scenery it’s certainly very uplifting. A spectacular descent on tarmac & then a long, long climb through lush forest, complete with all associated noises/birds. Stop at the Nelson Mandela University (in a strange location) to regroup when an ominous wind became apparent. A long slog on tarmac but thankfully with a cycle lane, to finish with a strong wind on our left hand side.

Lunch in a field but with the added bonus of chocolate ices from an adjacent shop.

The afternoon was pure adventure as we set off through a game reserve on dirt roads – giraffe/gemsbok/ngala/rhino/wildebeest/water buffalo plus forded 3 streams and became completely & utterly knackered. Having said that, not quite as knackered as JT/Chris/Belinda/Sandra et al who headed for the hills, having missed a turn & put in a good few extra kilometres. Eventually found a cafe & a very welcome coffee and warm up where Stuart once again got the locals singing for his video. Then bussed to our digs – railway cabins on the beach! How novel is that & identical to the one Jude & I rode from Joburg to Capetown some years ago & therefore knowing lack of showers, dumped bags & grabbed one very quickly! A meal in the restaurant car & a nights sleep to the sound of the ocean (& Stuart’s snoring).  

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2011 South Africa

Day 4: Knysna – Wilderness

9 November 2011

Up at 6am, breakfast at 7am just down the road (fry up – no ‘healthy’ option) & we leave this lovely place. Tarmac for a while but then the inevitable dirt roads but somehow more acceptable than yesterday – maybe the rain has compacted them.

Three steep climbs early on but the overcast sky & cooler temps help a lot. Stayed back marker today & all at the back seemed much more relaxed today and had more stamina & rhythm.

Water stop at a rather quaint shed/store where we got a surprisingly good coffee from a machine. The morning was an amble through what looked exactly like English countryside with huge herds of cows , a significant number Jersey breed. Stuart is beginning to put together his video so much play acting & laughter.

Lunch was at the back of a house/cafe “leafy shade” type of place with egg mayo/tomatoes etc on offer. The sun was shining by this time & the group looked relaxed & happy & all agreed it was a good mornings ride despite the abundance of uphill stuff.

The afternoon took us into more ‘forest’ type areas & a rather humid/rain threatening environment though mercifully it held off. What we did encounter were corrugated dirt roads which make everything hurt from your wrists & elbows to your ankles & knees. A few hours of that & the energy begins to just drain away. More climbing, some undulation & finally a very steep dirt road defence onto marsh flats & the road to Wilderness. About 1 ½ miles from the hotel Kirby got off her bike, quietly threw it onto the ground & decided – enough! We’d been in the saddles a long time by then so there was lots of sympathy & 15 minutes later she found the energy to make the final push.

The Wilderness Beach Hotel was not as dramatic as the previous 3 nights but pretty good even so & a 2x double bedroom to share is just fine with me. A coffee to take off the chill, a shower to wash off the dust & grime & I’m all set to…..go to sleep! Phil & John had been hamming up the gay thing since being branded a ‘couple’ early on in the trip. When they were spotted sitting together in the dining room Paola couldn’t resist & sent them a flower & candle. With what must have been 120 German tourists looking on plus our crowd, their reaction was to link arms & drink a toast to each other! These guys provided constant laughs from the beginning to the end of the trip  

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2011 South Africa

Day 3: Plettenberg Bay – Knysna

8 November 2011

To Knysna via a loop through the mountains – we followed a path from the hotel, after a cooked or ‘healthy’ choice of breakfast. We were soon onto gravel roads which were fun because of the lack of traffic but took serious energy on the uphill bits & serious concentration on the steep downs and as the day progressed that’s really all there was. There were at least 3 really big climbs with a final long descent of around 15kms which shook every bone in your body & a lapse of concentration meant a serious crunch (Ali went that route and has a bruised face & damaged shoulder). I joined the A-team simply to get it over with as quickly as possible! Finally down & then a steady ride through the township outside Knysna – lots of waving from kids but a couple of reports of stone throwing. Then via a very pretty town & out the other side for a ride around the lake & onto a little pub by the lakeside. Hotel/Lodge only a few km away and simply stunning rooms – great views and 3 rooms for the 3 guys in ours, all en suite! Meal on adjoining balcony & lovely atmosphere all round.

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2011 South Africa

Day 2: Tsitsikamma National Park – Plettenberg Bay

7 November 2011

Tsitsikamma National Park to Plettenberg today. Woke at 5.40 – bright blue skies & no wind – yippee! Breakfast of banana & muffin with promise of brunch to come at the bungee jump. A few of us chose to do the steep ride to the park entrance where the others met us.

Around 36km of undulations to the bungee site where 6 of our number could not resist! ‘Storm River Bungee’ claims to be the biggest bridge bungee in the world – very dramatic & an awesome setting. Through the forest where Duncan’s “can’t get lost” instruction meant we battled over roots & ruts with Gloria falling at least once, only to end up where we started! Everyone did the same so it meant we were actually the first group out! Then came some serious climbing as we descended the 1st of 2 gorges that day. Took its toll on a few of our group but most made it given a little help and lots of patience.

Lunch at a lovely working farm with sandwiches, fruit & water top up. Some red faces & tired bodies but still great spirit. After lunch we had 25km undulation & finally a short sharp climb in the heat into Plettenberg with the very welcome Rod & Reel pub at the Castleton complex. How welcome was that – terrace – views of the ocean & a pint of shandy. Castleton accommodation first class – great view apartments (2 double/1 single bedroom) with kitchens & really great living rooms & terraces. This trip is by no means easy after a day of some serious climbs, but we’re certainly being treated & accommodated very well. 

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2011 South Africa

Day 1: Port Elizabeth – Tsitsikamma National Park

6 November 2011

Met up with JT in Heathrow & smooth BA flight & impressive airport at Joburg (or Tambo ex Jan Smuts) with smooth immigration process and zero hold up for customs though lots of ‘dog’ checks. 9.45 check in for Port Elizabeth on the 10.15 where we were met with Chris/Tony plus Gus & Sue.

Lovely lunch on the waterfront at Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth quite nice – some ‘Disneyesk’ development and busy port but quite nice. We could have done without the 2 1/4 hour drive to Tsitsikamma National Park but what met us there more than made up for it: crashing waves, lovely chalets & a dramatic coastline.

Dinner a couple of km away where I was sorry to have left my camera – salt encrusted beaches, frothing raging seas & a great braai – a bit long in the coming but so good (steak/sausage/chicken) & everyone in such good spirits despite the inevitable tiredness – bed around 10.45.

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Vietnam 2007

Arrival – Vietnam

HANOI (Ha Noi) is not a city one can easily ignore. There is constant motion & constant noise & literally millions of scooters driven primarily by helmet less people, often 3 or 4 to a bike & often carrying loads that would do justice to a small truck. Horns are relentless but not in an aggressive way but rather to say, ‘I’m here’.
It is disconcerting to try & cross a road & involves more risk than most people take in a lifetime. We were told the method is to just go, they avoid you but you must avoid eye contact. It actually works & one arrives in a fashion Moses would have been proud of. One of our number merely stood in the middle of a busy junction & lo & behold the traffic went around him without protest or concern.
The pavements are not a great deal easier to negotiate & at least 80% of available space is given over to every commodity known to mankind. However there’s no great hustling going on & in the majority of cases a polite ‘no’ does the trick.
The City has lots of appeal & attractions but the guide books will tell you these far better than I can.