Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#7) Camino de Santiago

If your idea of a pilgrim is someone in a robe and sandals carrying a staff and a Jesus beard, think again. The modern pilgrim might just as easily be wearing Lycra and SPD shoes.

For centuries, Christian pilgrims have been shuffling across Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago towards the supposed remains of St James, Christendom’s first martyr, beneath the cathedral in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. In recent years, they’re being overtaken – literally and figuratively – by bikes, with statistics suggesting suggest that up to 20% of all Camino pilgrimages are now made by cyclists. I’ve been one of them, and it’s a ride so good I’ve lost all desire to ever walk the Camino. Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#8) Central Vietnam

Vietnam cycle1

A select few places in the world are synonymous with cycling. Vietnam is one of them. Think of this country and you might invariably picture a worker in a conical hat pedalling across rice levees, or girls in ao dan dress riding rigid old fixies to school.

The appeal of the place on a bike has spread across borders. Vietnam is one of the best-selling – if not the best-selling – cycling destinations for cycling tour operators in Australia. For many, bike travel in Vietnam is very much a when-in-Rome (or Hanoi) experience. Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#9) Luberon

Luberon1

This post has been a while coming, but then it’s a long ride from the last entry in this list – New Zealand – to the foothills of the French Alps…

I came to the Luberon pretty much by accident. Partway through a five-month cycle trip across Europe, I was riding from France’s Mediterranean coast, angling towards Burgundy. But as I was crawling north, the mistral was blasting south. This great bastard of a wind is one of the most maddening in Europe – some suggest it was the nuisance of the mistral that caused Vincent van Gogh to lop off his own ear. Fittingly, as I reached the foot of the Luberon, after days of being lashed by the mistral, I was almost in spitting distance of the asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence where van Gogh was incarcerated. Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#10) Otago Rail Trail

Last year I posted my top 10 mountain treks across the world. Now there’s a sequel – my favourite 10 cycle journeys.

Over the past 15 years I’ve toured long distances on four continents, from the highest roads in the world to long stretches at sea level, from open highways to some of the roughest tracks in existence. It’s taken me across tens of thousands of kilometres of roads and tracks, which also means there are millions of roads still out there. It is inevitably, then, a limited and biased list. But hey, ain’t they all. Continue reading

A Not-so-Happy Anniversary

Children complicate adventure. Not so much because they might be inherently weaker or whinier, but because of their blind trust. Even at times of potential danger, they look at you with the surety that they’re safe inside some parental bubble, that nothing can harm them while dad or mum is in hand-holding reach. Take risks and you do so for two or three people but with the knowledge of only one. Such trust frightens me, especially since I know how fragile and misplaced it can be. Random chance doesn’t respect a child’s naivety.

Six years ago I took my family to Europe with the plan to cycle across the continent, beginning in Biarritz and meandering for five months towards Venice, towing our two young children in trailers behind the bikes. Two weeks into the trip – six years ago tomorrow – my then three-year-old son fractured his skull. Playing on a rotunda, following his older sister as she crept around its edge, he fell six feet onto a concrete path, landing on his head.

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Lessons from Bogota

I recently wrote an article for BBC Travel about the remarkable cycling culture in the Colombian capital city of Bogota, where every Sunday roads close and up to two million people ride their bikes in a brilliant event called Ciclovia. The hero of the article, at least in my eyes, was former city mayor Enrique Penalosa who, when taking office, took millions of dollars slated for highways and poured it into the creation of bike paths instead. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Zugspitze, A Child’s View

Zugspitze

So much of my adventure focus in recent years has been about children. As my own two kids grow and form, I’ve tried to spark and encourage their inherent adventurous spirits. It’s a primary reason that I live where I live, in easy touch of mountains and water. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Eliot Falls, Cape York

Eliot Falls

A few years ago I cycled with five friends from Cairns to Cape York, the northern tip of Australia, a three-week journey of around 1200 kilometres across some of the roughest roads in the country. There were days we pushed our bikes as much as we pedalled them, grinding through sand and over corrugations that had ambitions to one day become the Grand Canyon. Continue reading

Crocs, Yaks and Camels: The Joy of the Open Air

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Colorado found that camping has the ability to reset our body clocks. In dragging us away from the electric lights that so disrupt the natural order and cycle of daily life, camping isn’t just good for the soul, it also apparently recalibrates our sleep patterns. Continue reading

Cycling Manali to Leh, India

Between the Indian cities of Manali and Leh, a highway wriggles through the Himalayas. It travels for 500 kilometres, crossing five high passes, including some of the highest road passes in the world. It journeys from the monsoon-washed greenery of Himachal Pradesh to the high, stark desert of Ladakh, passing through terrain so gorgeously brutal that the road is usually open for just three or four months of the year. That time of year is now. Continue reading