Tag Archives: cycling

One day, many cyclists: on perfect days and making do

September 5th, 2015

Annika and Roberto over at Tasting Travels came up with a wonderful idea: They picked a date (September 5th 2015) and invited lots of cycling friends to document that day. Timetables, cycled distances, food, encounters and problems and everything else. We thought it was a great idea and immediately decided to participate. Then September 5th rolled around and we took it quite seriously and that started with taking a lot of pictures during that day. Way more than we usually take. It was actually even a bit exhausting to remember taking all those pictures. But we did. The next thing was to document all the thoughts, problems and wonderful little things that we encountered on that day. In order to do that in a disciplined way you would typically write that down or even better write this blog entry on the same evening or the next day. Well, we are not that disciplined. The next day was spent with our wonderful hosts relaxing from 5 days of hard cycling. And so some time passed and about a week later we found out that one of our cameras was missing and we lost a lot of pictures from September 5th. So, long story short – this is sort of a compromise, we’re going to make do with what we have. That on the other hand is not a bad motto for cycle touring after all!

Here’s our day (posted about two month later as we are still behind with our blog):

5:45am: Our alarm clock rings for the first time. And then many more times. Oh, how we love the Snooze-function!

7:00am: We actually get moving. It’s another beautiful day in Home Hill, Northern Queensland, Australia. Last night we pitched our tent on the Showgrounds in Home Hill. Many of the Showgrounds in Australia are open for Campers when there is nothing else going on. We especially appreciate the showers and toilets for very little money.

So we finally decide to get up with slumber still lingering in our eyes…

107:20am: We are in the middle of our daily process of packing up. Our ‘house’ has to fit in our panniers and backpacks, so we roll up the sleeping bag and mats, dissemble the tent and pack everything else. We usually try to do that before having breakfast as not to waste too much time afterwards.

27:40am: Torsten fires up our MSR Whisperlite to make some coffee – something we rarely go without. As it’s quite windy we really appreciate the windscreen! Apart from that our breakfast usually consists of muesli. As we only have oats left we spice it up with chai spice – not too bad!

3408:40am: Everything is packed, water bottles are filled up and we are ready to go!

509:00am: We’re cycling along the Bruce Highway towards Townsville. The sun is shining and we are thankful for every cloud to have a little break from it. Queensland is also called ‘The Sunshine State’ and that couldn’t be more true for us. We had exceptionally beautiful weather so far.

609:30am: Our first stop of the day is at the Coles supermarket where we get some more food. Surprisingly Lisi is hungry yet again and has her second breakfast of the day. This time it’s fresh bread, cream cheese with cracked pepper (was on sale 😉 ) and juice.

10:30am: We’re on the road again. Dark clouds are looming over us, but we stay dry.

7We are surrounded by sugar cane which seems to be the most popular crop in this area. With cycling you can actually smell the sugar cane – it’s like a taste of caramel in the air!

8Sadly we see lots of roadkill, mostly kangaroos and wallabies. Usually we smell them before we see them and the stench of dead animal is quite strong in this hot climate.

 12:20pm: Lunchbreak, Fruit: Roadside stall/warehouse with fresh honeydew melons (and more) invites us to make use of their chairs & table. Great! The road is missing picnic areas today, and shade. Apart from fruit there’s baguette, Nutella, Jam, Cheese … pretty much our usual Australian lunch, if there’s no leftovers from the day before.

13:30pm: As the land around us is quite dry (save for the irrigated crops of course), bush fires are not uncommon. Streets often work as fire brakes, so this is why our left side looks rather brown and the right side is all lush and green:

9 1014:20pm: Only 37k to go! And by the way – if you’re looking for your Aims and goals in life – they might be here! 😉

1114:30pm: Flat, third in a row of three days, sucks. But what can you do? Schwalbe Marathon tyres are waiting for us in Cairns 🙂

15:15pm: Roadhouse with chairs – but again, there should be a picnic area … well, we kill our pineapple and have more fruit (it’s a hot day), cookies and resist the temptation for overpriced chips and ice cream.

 16:30pm: Arrived in Townsville a bit earlier than planned – this is rather unusual – and as it was a very hot and humid day we could do with a bit of downtime before meeting with our hosts. So we decide to indulge in one of our guilty pleasures and go for a coffee at Hungry Jacks (much cheaper and only a little worse than at regular cafes) Sometimes it’s really nice to just have a bit of time for yourself and not do much.

 16:50pm: We go shopping for some food and wine as we don’t like to come empty handed to our hosts.  Coles doesn’t have a liquor department here, so we stumble upon another drive in liquor store where people stay in their cars while someone tends to all of their alcohol needs. Funny, somewhat!

 17:20pm: Finally, we make it to our destination for today: Kay, our warmshowers host welcomes us warmly and we couldn’t feel more at home. She and her husband have the most beautiful and inspiring house: It is built in a way that air flows through naturally which works as a natural cooling system. It is surrounded by native plants, a green green garden and a pool! All these perks remain for another day though as we make ourselves at home in our comfy guest room and soon after get to know each other over wine and snacks all the while we are preparing dinner.

12 13Today was a good day. We managed to cycle 98k which was quite easy given the flat terrain and the favourable winds. Yes, we could have gotten up earlier and thus avoided some of the worst heat, but oh well, maybe someday we will. Not much did happen today, it was mostly quiet cycling along the same old highway. But still, there were all the big and small things which make it a perfect day of cycling: enough sun to feel good, enough clouds to give your skin a break, funny road signs, a yummy fruit stand with a table in the shade, drivers giving us thumbs-up and us feeling capable of going the distance. And to top it all we got to meet Kay and enjoyed ourselves immensely in her wonderful company. It felt just like coming home after a trip and that’s really what makes it a perfect day! And there’s pear crumble for dessert:


Uncomfortable in Bowen

p1110929Our host Peter told us that the only place to experience the Great Barrier Reef directly next to the coast would be Bowen. Usually you have to go with a tour and pay for a boat to take you out to snorkel or dive. But in Bowen you can snorkel directly from the beach as the reef is very close! Sounds great!

p1110908So we cycle north, find beautiful back roads for the most part, camp once with about 50 other campers and once alone in a dried out river bed. We fight a lot with headwinds and I have a hard time cycling into Bowen. Dealing with my motivation is getting better, but at some point headwinds are just no fun. Period.

p1110949In Bowen we head to a camp site as the local council is pretty strict about free camping. Once we arrive we find out that the town is quite touristy which reflects in the high prices for everything. We settle for the cheapest camp site only to find that reception seems to be closed and no one answers the phone either. It’s not a nice camp site anyway – there is almost no space and it looks more like a crowded parking lot. But we have to stay somewhere. So we wait for about half an hour and still nothing. That’s when we start to get a bit frustrated as we want to get settled in, leave all our stuff here and go to a different beach to snorkel. I try to call a second time, but again no one answers.

So we decide to make some coffee and have a little snack. And to use the shower. I’m a bit concerned that it might be rude to just use the facilities without having checked in but Torsten is unconcerned stating that we are going to stay here anyway. So we shower and that was the best idea in a long time!

After about one and a half hours of waiting we finally decide to leave. We don’t like it here anyway and it’s quite expensive on top. So we plan to go to the other beach, snorkel and then just cycle out of town and free camp somewhere. Of course, just when we cycle out, the owner arrives and nonchalantly asks if it was me calling about staying here. However, I still ask about prices to stay here only to find out that they have even gone up. No thank you.

p1110951So, off to the beach it is and once we arrive I can only laugh about everything: We talk to some people who just snorkelled and they tell us that the water is murky and you can’t see much. Well, so much for that plan.

It’s funny sometimes: We usually don’t go for touristy things or for the must-sees because we care much more for all the small things and encounters by the road. We both really like being spontaneous and being surprised by what the day brings. Still, sometimes we get caught up in the must-sees and dos and snorkelling in Bowen was one of those things and it got us all stressed out.

Once we ditch that plan it’s actually kind of nice. The beach is not too bad and after a snack we go for a nice swim and talk with a local who just loves living here and going for a swim every day. And just as we  decide to leave we meet another local who invites us to set up camp in his backyard. We enthusiastically agree and thus this weird day continues.

p1110952Over the course of the next few hours we make dinner for ourselves and our very helpful host, get talked several ears of and listen to his view about the second world war and how the holocaust was all a masterpiece of Jewish propaganda and completely untrue. He is a Jew himself by the way.

We try to discuss, try to understand where his views come from, but it’s like talking to a wall. At some point Torsten just leaves but I stay listening politely, trying to argue, trying to find a way out of this conversation. I get this churning feeling in my stomach as my core beliefs are attacked and I feel increasingly uncomfortable with our host. Finally I manage to say that I heard enough and we say good night.

I just want to go to bed with a pillow over my head but Torsten convinces me to go to the beach and talk it out. And we do talk and it’s really good. We talk about where our boundaries lie and how it’s hard sometimes to hold those boundaries when someone invites you into their home and you feel grateful for that. We talk about how we want to learn from many people on this journey and how sometimes it’s important to listen and how sometimes it’s important to say what we think and need. We’ll have a long way to figure all of that out.

p1110954For now, with the crushing waves and the sand under my feet, I feel calm again and for that I’m grateful.

Changing routines: introducing siesta in Central Queensland

Waking up surrounded by palm trees

Today, I woke up, feeling well rested as there were no alarms disturbing my sleep prematurely. So after staying in bed a little while longer, I got up. Thinking it would already be quite late, I grabbed my phone to check the time. It was barely 8am. And I had slept IN!
I remember listening to my parents talking about their weekend routines and saying something about sleeping in. Meaning sleeping until 8 or 9am. This concept was incomprehensible to me as sleeping in meant sleeping until 10 or 11am at least! So here I was, feeling rested and ready to start the day at 8am. And thinking about changing routines.

Temperatures are rising

Some time back when we first started our tour I remember talking about how we should change our daily routine and get up earlier to have more time for cycling in daylight. Getting up early would be even more important once we’d be in areas too hot for cycling during the midday heat. I also remember thinking that all of this was still a very long time away.
Well, here we are now. Since we took a turn towards central Queensland (away from the coast) a few days ago, I changed into my lightest cycling shirt, applied 50+ sunscreen a couple of times per day and felt the distinct need of a nap during lunch time. It was just too hot to cycle.

Morning light

So, we had our first siesta that day and did actually manage to get up at around 6am the next day. As it still takes about 2 hours to have breakfast, pack our tent and all our panniers, we left at 8am. And the morning ride was quite enjoyable. Getting up early and being super productive right away is not the easiest thing to do for me – I like to start my days slowly, have a long breakfast, one or two coffees and maybe read a few pages in my book. But this doesn’t seem to be compatible with bicycle touring in a hot climate. Torsten suggested that I just have to switch that morning downtime to the lunch hours during our long break. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do and I guess it’s better than tackling hills and headwinds under a scaldering midday sun.

But, you know, this is why sleeping until 8am feels like sleeping in and being really lazy now. And don’t worry, that’ll change again.


Of inner monsters and lacking motivation

Beautiful empty road

Ever eager to get away from highways and traffic we took our future host Peter’s recommendation to cycle the old Marlborough-Sarina Road towards Mackay.

Dead snake

Over the course of three days we would cycle along the old highway, meet few cars but many kangaroos (which are always too quick for pictures though) and a snake and experience sun, lots of hills, rather strong headwinds and meet Bruce. And in the middle I would get a lesson in self motivation.

Setting out, we carried way too much food as there was only a small and expensive store in the middle of the highway. And as you know I’m a bit crazy when it comes to food.

Dry cattle paddocks

Still the first day was enjoyable, albeit the terrain started to get drier and we couldn’t find any of those waterholes Peter described to us. It hadn’t rained for a long time in this area. There was little shade and the sun was really strong. So while we were taking a little break someone stopped to have a chat and that’s how me met Bruce.

Us by Bruce

On his way to a work meeting he preferred the quiet road as well. And we couldn’t believe our luck when he opened his esky and gave us an iced coffee! Seriously, nothing is more amazing than an iced drink on a hot day like that! He even promised to meet up with us again the next day.

Bruce and Torsten

In the evening we made it to Clarke Creek, a small settlement in the middle of large pastures. The school principal allowed us to set up camp in the school yard – how very cool!

School yard camp site

The next day we tried to get up early to avoid the midday heat. Well, we left at 8am, that is something for us ;). The morning cycling was quite enjoyable as it wasn’t that hot yet. As the day progressed it got more and more exhausting though.

Hills in the distance

Somehow the mix of being really away from people, from water and constantly fighting with hills and headwinds in combination under the relentless sun got to me. I was grumpy, did not want to cycle anymore and let Torsten know how beat I was. Repeatedly.

Dry dry land

It was really bad until I realized something. It was not my body that couldn’t cope. Quite contrary to the beginning of this trip when I often had to stop during hills to rest my legs, my body wasn’t tired. Sure, the sun was exhausting but my legs were doing fine. It was me, my mind, my motivation that was lacking energy. And as all of Torsten’s attempts to better my mood weren’t really successfull, I realized that I will have to deal with self motivation in order to make this trip an enjoyable one.

And so I tried different strategies which I don’t remember in too much detail now. What had probably the most effect was the realization itself and thus the separation of my feelings from the conclusion. Before I felt bad because I thought I’m tired and this is too exhausting for my body and that’s why I can’t cycle any more. Later I was still tired from the sun but my muscles were fine and I realized I had to find ways to keep myself occupied. Thinking good thoughts rather than all the bad ones (this sucks, this is boring, I don’t want to). Usually this isn’t that big of a problem but with the scenery not changing much and hill after hill and constant headwinds it can get boring and frustrating.

And then we met Bruce again who gave us chilled yoghurt (oh, so good!!) and isotonic drinks out of the freezer. Thank you so much, Bruce!!

In the evening, after a long hard day, we met two fellow campers who were on the lookout for rare birds and we enjoyed talking, laughing and sharing stories. And I realized one more thing. People just make everything so much better. And my lack of motivation had a lot to do with being away from people, too. As beautiful as being alone in nature is, sharing that with someone and connecting with people really is a gift.

Rest days and rain

Today is all about rest. Yesterday was too exhausting and I need a day or two off the bike. So our goal for today is to cycle to the camp site that we wanted to be at yesterday and do nothing for the remainder of the day. Of course my tyre is flat, so after patching up some tubes and getting more food, we’re on our way at the not so early hour of 11am. But I don’t mind at all, we only have to cycle 13k today. And so we do. It’s wonderfully flat and we arrive at Bush Chooks Travellers Village in no time. And from now on all is good. Chris, the owner welcomes us with the warmest smile and lots of laughs and I feel immediately at home and very comfortable.

Tent Area with pool

We set up our tent and I just love the setting of the camp site. It’s indeed a little village with a grassy area for tents and caravans in the middle and some cabins around. And last but not least there is a perfectly stocked camp kitchen which is an awesome change to our camp stove! I think we need about 5 minutes to decide to stay for two nights ;).

p1110703And then Chris and his wife make us the best present ever: They upgrade us from our tent site to a cabin! With our own attached bathroom!

Best relaxing stay at Bush Chooks Travellers Village with Free Upgrade from Tent to a comfortable bed with...
Best relaxing stay at Bush Chooks Travellers Village with free Upgrade from Tent to a comfortable bed with…
... our own bathroom!!!
… our own bathroom!!!

Seriously, at this point of our trip this feels like heaven. And so we spend the next days with doing a lot of nothing, eating and some blogging, working and more eating. This is all we need right now! Thank you so so much, Chris!

The next two days are easy because there are almost no hills. We cycle about a 100k to Gladstone where we learn about Trivia Games to stay awake on the road:

p1110707I didn’t really have problems with staying awake on the bicycle so far but you never know :). Apart from that we cycle on the highway and there is not much happening except for… rain! It hasn’t really been raining since we started in Sydney so this is quite new and actually very refreshing. It’s a light and warm but very dense rain so over the course of the day we get drenched a few times and then completely dry again and so on. But I’m really grateful for a break of the sun!

In Gladstone we meet our host Stephen who has a big house and hosts lots of couchsurfers. We enjoy talking with him, eating together and trying some of his home made alcohol ;). The only shame is that we didn’t get to enjoy his very own outdoor movie theater which is seriously very cool and I so want to have one when I live in one place some time in the future! Thanks for sharing your home with us Stephen!

Cycling out of Gladstone we have a strange encounter: While we stop on the shoulder of a not too busy road to take a picture, a man in a car stops on the road behind us. We continue taking pictures and he continues to wait. We consider that a little strange and move our bikes on to the grass thinking that he might be bothered by us taking pictures on the shoulder. He drives past us and stops a few meters down the road. He gets out of the car and then the following dialogue occurs:

He: “Do you know that I can’t overtake you when you are an the shoulder like that as there is a line in the middle of the road that I’m not allowed to cross and I have to give you a meter space?”

I say: “I’m sorry but that is not true as we just looked that up on the Queensland Government Page. You are allowed to cross single and even double lines on the road to give cyclists the necessary space of a meter.”

He: “No, that’s not right. You’re wrong.”

Me: “We really just looked that up on the Government Homepage.”

He: “No, that’s not…

You get the gist. While the conversation went on like that for a little while, Torsten looked it up again and showed it to him.

He: “Oh really, oh I didn’t know that. Well then I guess we all learned something today.”

Eerm, sure.

p1110716For the rest of the day the road and the weather looks approximately like in the picture above. I still enjoy the occasional rain but am also grateful for a petrol station with some shelter to eat and have coffee. And we are blessed with a tailwind that blows us right into Rockhampton. Here we are going to stop for a few days again as the Yeppoon Village Festival is not too far away but more on that next time!


In the woods

p1110619A new day on the bike begins and it’s a quiet day on back roads. Soon after leaving Rae and Bob’s house we stop and Torsten fixes his wobbling front rack. After that I’m lost in my own thoughts while peacefully cycling over hills and gravel roads. I feel a bit sad, too. Meeting Rae and Bob was just wonderful: I haven’t laughed that much in a long time and we connected really quickly. So leaving was hard and I miss them.

p1110621During our lunch break two farmers stop to inquire if we saw some of their fugitive cows. We decline and talk  bit about our trip. Apart from that not much happens today and we find a place to camp when it gets dark.

p1110631_v1I stomp around loudly to scare snakes away and then we each have a half-bottle shower. Not the most fun thing to do but water is scarce here and our supplies are low.

So our first mission for the next morning is to cycle to a nearby village where we find a kind lady who lets us fill our water bottles on her tank. We chat a little bit and then cycle on to have breakfast on the beach. I could get used to this:


p1110649 Later in the day while cycling into Maryborough we discover this awesome bat colony:

p1110660After resupplying in Maryborough our rather long hunt for a place to sleep begins. We mostly use On- and Offline Navigation on our phones and so far that has worked quite well. But today Google Maps suggests a route that just doesn’t exist. So we end up between pineapple fields and forests instead of a place with a shower. But oh well, we manage to find a well enough hidden clearing in the woods and make camp, yet again. In the morning we have a beautiful breakfast next to a small lake…

p1110662 and a pineapple field.

p1110668After that another beautiful cycling day begins. I just love the light and the colours in Australia which makes picture taking very easy: Land and Sky:

p1110669Sugar cane fields aplenty:

p1110675And sugar cane fires (courtesy of sugar mills) to go with that:

p1110680Today, in dire need of a shower, we end up camping next to Avondale Tavern. One of many taverns / pubs which offer a place to camp in exchange for your patronage. Right before the last hill I suddenly find it very exhausting to cycle and feel almost as slow as I was in the beginning when cycling uphill. That is disappointing on a whole new level until I look down and discover my very first flat of the tour. Oh well, it couldn’t have come at a better time! I pump up the tyre quickly, climb up the hill and decide to fix the tyre in the morning. For now we enjoy a couple of beers and even more so the shower in the portable loo / shower / sink block. What a combination ;)!

The next day is a hard one. We found a nice camp site in a small village but will have to cycle about 110km to get there. That alone would be enough but we haven’t factored in the hills and – of course – the headwinds that come on rather strong today as well. At some point it gets quite clear that pushing on is getting more and more exhausting for me and it’s getting dark as well. We considerate finding a free camp but have no such luck as all of the land is either fenced off or otherwise not accessible. Torsten is not too bothered as he has still energy aplenty but when we only have about 10k to go I just want to be done cycling. As we also don’t have enough food for tomorrow, we soon decide to stay in a nearby caravan park next to a Caltex station. It’s basically one caravan next to another right next to a gas station meaning right next to the road.

p1110696This must be the most uninspired place we have stayed so far and I don’t really like it but at least they have fries and we don’t have to cook tonight. So we’re off to bed with a TV show and tomorrow is another day.