Archive for October, 2006

G’day from Tennant’s Creek - the heart of the Northern Territory or something

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Yo peeps,

Today I have that rare commodity being a day of rest, free internet time, an endless supply of cups of tea and a comfy chair so yes, it’s email time.

I sent my last update from Mataranka after solving the great Aussie question of “how the hell do you cycle through this damned place”. The riding at night thing has proven to be of immense benefit in so many ways. In reality I haven’t actually had to do as much cycling at night as I expected. On average the roadhouses are around 60miles/100kms apart and my day usually consists of leaving the roadhouse at around 5ish, cycling till 9 which gets me around 40miles/64kms before I make camp for the night, crack open a Stagg Chili with baked beans and have a cup of tea. In the morning it’s then up at 5:30, leaving camp at 6 and riding the last 20miles/32kms to the next roadhouse for breakfast. The roadhouses usually have grassy shaded areas where I spend the next 8 hours or so reading, dozing and drinking copious amounts of liquids.

Cycling this way has been beneficial in numerous ways. The first, most obvious and most important is that I’ve reduced my chances of dying from heat exhaustion/dehydration. Most of the time I’m cycling into my next water stop with around 3 litres to spare and that’s with being pretty liberal with the water and using it for luxuries like cleaning pots and pans and making cups of coffee at night. If the gaps were greater I could rein that in and have more water to spare. The second benefit is that I’m now in the roadhouses/rest areas during sociable hours which means I’m always meeting the various people that flow through this great part of Australia. Apart from reducing the sense of loneliness, this has really increased my interaction with the real outback with it’s myriad of characters.

After Mataranka and a swim in the hot springs I headed for the next town of Larrimah. I pretty uninspiring place. Northern Territory (NT) isn’t renowned for it’s customer service standards. I guess we need the goods and there’s nothing for miles in either direction so we’re going to buy the goods whether it’s served with a smile or not. Add to that the notorious laid back NT attitude and you’re getting your food pretty much thrown at you at some point in the distant future. Someone told me that a famous NT saying is “not today and not tomorrow”. The strange thing is that amongst all this hardness you still find plenty of kindness.

Larrimah Hotel

It was in Larrimah where I met Fritz the mad German cyclist. I was sitting minding my own business reading War and Peace when this excited looking and sun burnt man ran up to me and shouted “YOU WITH BICYCLE YA???”. He sat himself down without waiting for an answer and started talking at 500 miles an hour in a strange German/English hybrid. We did the usual where you been, where you going and it turns out he’s been cycling round the world for the last three years and has done pretty much the entire South and North America coast line including Alaska. I’d read about this guy when I was researching my trip and it just feels weird that I’m now a fledgling member of this group of people doing stupid things like cycling the Oz outback. People who I consider to be my heroes I’m meeting in roadhouses in the middle of Oz. The strange thing is that even though I’m not on a level with the likes of Fritz, other people now look at me in the same way. I don’t feel crazy, brave or even that what I’m doing is special and it just seems like this is what I do. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like it’s me that’s doing this. It’s like I’m watching someone else cycle round the world.

Baby Croc Awwwwww......

Fritz was definitely crazy though. At one point we were chatting and he was telling me how much he loved South America and then said he’d been mugged there 5 times, laughed out aloud and did the Greek slapping me in a hearty way thing. His English wasn’t good enough for me to figure out if he loved South America BECAUSE he’d been mugged 5 times or in spite of being mugged 5 times. A measure of his craziness is that even now I have no idea which it is. I assumed he’d be hiding from the heat of the day in the roadhouse for a few hours but after an hour he stood and declared he was off again. I pointed out it was 38C outside and maybe he’d be better off waiting for a while but winking at me he led me to his bike to show me his secret weapon. His bike had a BOB trailer attached which is pretty common amongst long distance cyclists. He’d modified it so that half of the trailer contained a closed box which was insulated like a cooler box. He bought a packet of ice, loaded it into box and explained that he stops every 10 miles and dips his shirt into the cooler box and so manages to keep his body temperature down. The rest of the trailer was taken up with bottles of normal water and I reckon he was hauling around 20 litres with him. Crazy or not the man’s a hero.

After Larrimah I headed on down to Daly Waters which is a famous outback pub. I arrived at Daly Waters around 8 in the morning for my usual breakfast and 8 hours of War and Peace. The girl working behind the bar was a great looking girl from my birthplace of Birkenhead. We got chatting and she asked me what I’m doing and I explained about the round the world charity thing and then sat down with my endless supply of milk and a book. At the end of her shift she came over and said the staff were donating their tips for the day to Macmillan which considering where we were and how hard the life is in these places, is pretty fantastic.

Outside Daly Waters

Inside Daly Waters

Before my next planned stop of Elliot I had that rare luxury of a spare roadhouse. Two roadhouses in a 100km stretch is pretty much unheard of round these parts so I stopped and had more milk. The lady behind the counter asked me which way I was headed and when I said Elliot she said “Oooooooohhhhhhhh it’s dangerous down there”. I asked her what she meant because one of the things I’ve learnt about NT is that when someone tells me somewhere is rough or dangerous it means it has a big Aboriginal population. She wouldn’t say though and just told me to avoid the place at night.

The Aboriginal situation in NT is an interesting one but I’m not going to pass judgment because in the absence of enough knowledge I don’t consider it fair. I can see that something isn’t quite right and I can that people are trying to help. The results don’t look great to me though. You walk into any town at any time of day and there’s usually large groups of Aboriginals hanging around and you can see there’s just no hope there. Domestic violence, low life expectancy and alcoholism look to are common problems. I’ve been trying to find some books which will give me some historic insight so I can form more in depth opinions but, as a subject matter, it’s still quite raw and fresh here so the books tend to be incredibly polarised. I’ll keep searching but bookshops are a bit thin on the ground for now.

After Elliot which was nowhere near as threatening as Halifax on a Saturday night I made my way to Renner Springs. What’s amazing about most of these places is that they aren’t even on the national grid and all power is supplied by generators out back. The lady who owns the place was saying they use 375 liters of fuel a day just to keep the place powered which is one of the reasons everything in the outback is so expensive. Renner turned out to be a busy little spot by outback standards. Some guy was there who I’d been talking to back in Mataranka and it’s surprising how often you bump into the same people even though they’re traveling by car or truck and I’m on a bike. A lot of people head up to Darwin and then back down again so I get to see them again on the return trip and everyone is always interested in how I’m getting on. The bike is a bit like having a cute dog or baby as it gives everyone an in on talking to me. If I’m feeling like a bit of quiet time I have to sit away from the bike or pretty much everyone comes over to have a chat and I can spend an entire day repeating the same stories. It’s strange because sometimes when I’m not with the bike I feel a bit like a a major part of me is missing, almost that I have nothing of interest to offer people. I guess it’s because what I’m doing HAS become my life. I haven’t seen an international newspaper in such a long time that my current affairs knowledge is zero. I haven’t watched television since I left England. I know nothing about sport or current popular culture. I don’t have all the normal conversation hooks that other people use to communicate. I’ve become a kind of one trick pony.

Renner Springs

Another interesting thing is that because people I meet instantly assume that what I’m doing is more interesting than what they’re doing, it’s difficult to have a two way conversation. I ask people what they’re doing, where they doing and they usually mumble something and then say it isn’t as exciting as what I’m doing, like they feel guilty for not cycling through the outback. It can become frustrating because I love hearing about what other people have been up to and what they’ve seen but I have to really make the effort to get them talking about themselves. On the plus side everyone wants to take pictures of me with the bike so I’ll be in people’s photo collections all over the world.

At Renner I also met a French guy hitch hiking round the world. For those who have seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian he was just like the mad guy living in the hole with the Juniper Tree. In a previous email I’d said that it seemed like a great way to travel but I’ve changed my mind for a couple of reasons. The first is that hitch hikers don’t have that ability just to get up and leave if they don’t like somewhere. They’re always dependent on the help of others and I’m not sure I could do that constantly. The second is that no one respects the hitchhiker. People just seem to view then as someone trying to get a free ride in life. The view is more prevalent in places where resource is scarce but I think I’d rather know I was getting round on my own steam. The guy got a lift eventually but not before he’d had to hassle a lot of people. People don’t mind offering help out here but they don’t like being hassled or to feel you’re trying to get something for free. Everyone just has to work too hard for what they’ve got for that to wash.

I stopped off at a rest area 30 miles after Renner as I had the mother of all head winds and had no way of making it to the next roadhouse before the midday sun kicked in. While I was at the rest area the kindness of the various travelers came to the fore and I had a constant supply of people stopping, making sure I was alright and giving me food and drink. It’s mostly the oldies traveling Oz with their gigantic caravans that seem to stop. Think they’re called the grey nomads as they spend months, even years just traveling round Oz after retirement. It’s like having loads of grandparents and they’re always worrying and fussing I’m fully watered, fed and know exactly how hot it is. Some old fella stopped off just to tell me it was 42C. As long as they don’t start giving me dire Christmas jumpers then I’m happy.

I’ve also had a few conversations with the guys driving the road trains. I like to check if they can see me at night and the reassurance that they can see the “dickhead on the bike” from miles away is good to hear. The road trains all talk to each other via radio which is how I’ve come to be known as the “dickhead on the bike”. They’ll go past me and then radio the other trucks just to let them know where I am. One of the blokes told me the truckers know where I am better than any GPRS system.

I slept up at the old Tennant’s Creek Telegraph station two nights ago. It’s an historic building from the 1800’s but there’s no one around at night so a good place to camp. I did the tourist tour on my own at 2 in the morning and noticed that some guy had cycled a similar route to mine in 1899. The roads there would have been single track dirt roads with literally nothing for thousands of miles. When you read things like that it gives you a real sense of perspective.

Bedroom up at the Telegraph Station

I rode into Tennant’s Creek yesterday. It’s my first town with a supermarket since Mataranka so a good place to stock up on tinned food. After a bit of shopping I headed for a cafe for some breakfast. While I was there I got talking to a girl called Melissa who’s living here for a few months, house sitting for some friends. We chatted for a couple of hours as she’d been traveling all over the world so we had plenty to compare and discuss. When she got up to leave she said I could come back to the house for a shower and after I established there was also some internet access I flew over to the house. After showing me round the town she said I could stay for the night. I was thinking about it last night and this is the first time I’ve been inside a house since I left England.

She’s treated me like a king since I got here. Constant supplies of food and cups of tea and all those luxuries that you just don’t get when you’re traveling. I think because she’s traveled she understand the things that you miss. This morning I woke up to find she’d gone out and bought me some cereal because I’d said it was one of those things I missed. It takes an immense amount of trust to invite a complete into your house and christ do I appreciate it. She’s cooking me a lunch at the moment and then I’ll chill for a few hours before heading off again.

Those of you with a knowledge of Oz will know that if I’m in Tennant’s Creek I’ve missed my turn off to head to the East Coast. The turn off to Queensland is about 20 miles back the other way at the Threeways roadhouse. Reason for this is I’ve decided on a bit of a detour. I guess this in itself is a measure of how much more I started enjoying Oz after my initial problems. My plan is to head down to Alice Springs and then out to Ayer’s Rock before making my way back to Tennant’s Creek. In terms of a detour it’s around 1200miles/2000kms so will be about an extra 20 days riding. I’ve started enjoying the outback and it seems only right that I go check out the Big Rock. After that I’m going to reward myself with a 400mile/600km bus trip across to Mount Isa in Queensland and then it’ll be about another 400miles to the coast line. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to head up to Cairns once I reach the coast. I’ll check the timing and then see how much visa time I’ve got left to get me down to the more populated South East where the main airports are and my eventual jump off to NZ.

Anyways best go as lunch is ready and I’m going to have a couple of goes on the Playstation.

Lots of Love as Always,

Craig. XXX

Night riding

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Yo dudes,

Thought I’d do another update mainly because I’ve decided that I am heading down the east coast and also because I did my first night ride (one for Dan) last night and I thought I’d get the results down on email.

I set off from Katherine last night at about 7 after spending a day recovering which consisted of just hiding in a dark room with the aircon on full and drinking gallons of juice/milk/water. I also stocked up on more provisions and was thrilled to find BOWL NOODLE SOUP!!! in the supermarket. As part of my plans to ride at night I also bought some spare lights and back up batteries. I met a few Aussie blokes yesterday who kindly donated a hi-vis jacket to the cause as Aussies are just convinced that the guys driving the road trains will just run over anything that gets in their way.

As I said, I set off at 7ish last night. I’d noticed when I was cycling the other night that the wind seemed to die down at around sunset and sure enough I had less of a headwind when I set off. The pace I was setting was around twice that I’d managed during the day on the way from Darwin which felt great. Whereas previously any hill had me leaking like a teabag and emptying my water bottles, I was now dancing lightly on the pedals and having to force myself to drink as although the thirst wasn’t the same, the night temperatures here are still around 25C so I still need to keep hydrated.

The road trains turn out to be less of an issue at night than during the day. For one you can see them coming miles away. The Oz outback is a dark, dark place and anything producing any light is easy to spot. I’ve installed a mirror on my bike so if the sky starts getting lighter behind me, I know I’ve either been cycling too long and the sun is coming up, or there’s a road train coming. I usually just cross over onto the other side of the road when they come up behind me as this means they don’t have to move and the wind doesn’t buffet me around and blow the various things I have dangling from my bike all over the road. They appreciate the gesture as well and usually give me a wave as they trundle past.

Another added bonus which I didn’t mention in my previous email is the lack of flies. The flies in Oz are a different breed to their European counterparts. Faster, smarter and generally more annoying. In Europe anything above 10 miles an hour and the flies can’t keep up. In Oz I’ve been sailing down a hill at 20 miles an hour and there’s still a swarm following me. They also seem much more friendly than European flies and try and get in your nose, mouth and eyes and ears which added to the immense heat and the headwind can get annoying quickly. Couple of times I’ve just stopped and unloaded a stream of expletives but the flies just take this as a chance to get me while my mouth is open. Anyways, cycling at night removes this problem. Hey presto, no flies. Brilliant. Granted I now just keep running into moths attracted to the only light for miles but moths I can handle. They just bounce off my face instead which I’m cool with.

Life saving fly net

By 11:30 last night I’d managed close to 60 miles which is a pace I haven’t managed in a long time. This is with a headwind so hopefully if it ever turns into a tailwind I can up the pace. Having said that I haven’t had a tailwind since Macedonia so it’s best I just learn to live with it. More importantly I’d only used around 2 litres of water. I’m carrying close to 10 litres at the moment so this gives me a pretty good range which far exceeds any of the distances between water I’ve seen on the map. On top of this, I feel a lot better today. The ride from Darwin to Katherine I just didn’t enjoy at all. When I stopped, I was in no fit state to speak to people or to enjoy the country around me. Today I’ve made it to Mataranka by 7 in the morning after camping just outside town last night. After writing this email I’m heading out to the Hot Springs for a swim, some breakfast, a cup of tea and to try and make some inroads into War and Peace, the perfect book for cycling through the Oz outback. Then I’ll do the same tonight and head off down to the next roadhouse which is also around 60 miles away.

Mataranka Hot Springs

I feel much more positive today. Now I have a way of cycling Oz, enjoying the cycling and still having time during the day to enjoy the country. I still have some pretty tough stretches ahead and it’s another 1300 miles before I hit the east coast at Townsville, which will be around 3 weeks away. I also have some friends down the east coast who I’m really looking forward to seeing and may even get to see Jason and Shel so all-in-all I feel a lot better. I was pretty worried a few days ago and it’s a load of my shoulders that this all feels possible again.

Anyways, some Craig time awaits before I get cycling again.

Lots of Love Again,

Craig. XXX

Greetings from Katherine

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Hey all,

Just thought I’d write a quick one. Quick because internet access out here costs a bomb and an update because I’ve had a bit of a change of plan.

I left Singapore on the 16th, last Monday night, and arrived in Darwin the early hours of Tuesday morning. When I was in Malaysia I met up with a couple of Aussie lads who’d told me that the humidity in Darwin was much worse than Malaysia but it isn’t true. Don’t get me wrong, it is humid, it just isn’t as humid as SE Asia. With this in mind I felt pretty confident about the cycling aspect of things.

View from the Darwin Esplanade

I stayed in a backpacker hostel in Darwin for 2 days because I needed some serious preparation time. Oz is just a different level of cycling to everywhere else. The distances between civilisation or even water can be pretty enormous and this changes the complexion of everything. I started off carrying around 10 litres of water and 4 days of food but I’m starting to question if that’s enough. I have sterilisation tablets for up to 25 litres so could resort to the water in storage tanks if need be.

I left Darwin on the Thursday morning around 9ish which was my first mistake. I planned to bang in a 100 miles by the evening but by midday, with the heat, cycling was bordering on impossible, if not outright dangerous. I started off all breezy and light, averaging 13 miles an hour but by 12 I was struggling to maintain 8 miles an hour as I toiled and grovelled up the slightest of hills. I kept going and dragged myself into Adelaide River by 5ish and I wasn’t feeling too great. I’d used pretty much all my water which didn’t bode well for the bigger distances. I think I was suffering from a degree of heat exhaustion but I spent about half an hour lying on the grass amongst the sprinklers which helped no end. The same water sprinklers woke me up soaked at 3am so the love affair was short lived.

Adelaide River

The following day I set off earlier at 8 but it didn’t make a great deal of difference. By 10 o’clock it was just too hot to cycle. I struggled on till 11 and then found a closed cafe and spent 4 hours sitting, reading and waiting the heat out. I set out again at 3ish but even at that time it’s impossible to average more than 10 miles an hour and water is still being consumed at a rate of knots. On top of that I’ve noticed a beauty little headwind always seems to kick up at around 3ish so then it’s heat and headwind to contend with. I managed about 70 miles for the whole day and managed to get to Pine Creek but in reality I wasn’t in a much better state than the day before.

Yesterday I tried to get up even earlier and was on the road by 6:30. I managed 40 miles by 10 o’clock and then found a drainage pipe under the road and sat the heat out till 5ish. I’d laid my bike along the road which meant that cars kept on stopping to see if I was alright. This is pretty reassuring as they all asked me if I needed water so it means that if push comes to shove, I’ll always be in a position to get myself out of any trouble.

I set off again at 5 but although it was cooler that damned headwind just wasn’t letting up. I couldn’t believe how tough it was and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m having serious doubts whether I have what it takes to cycle in Oz. If you have any doubts, any insecurities, any questions, anything, then cycling through this place just takes you to the cleaners. It really is the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced and the scary thing is that it’s going to get tougher.

I was making my way to Katherine when in the distance I saw two cyclists coming towards me. Seriously I thought the heat had finally got to me. Turned out to be two Aussie guys at the end up their tour from Adelaide, which is around 4000 miles. We sat talking for a while but it was me doing most of the talking as I was just pumping them for information. A lot of it I already knew but it was good to hear it confirmed. No one is cycling NT during the daytime. They’d found a German guy suffering from heat exhaustion because he’d been cycling during the day. These guys had been getting up at 3 in the morning, getting in 50 miles before it started to get hot and then sat out the heat until just before dark and then put in another 30 miles. I asked about how they were coping with the road trains but they just pulled over or even crossed onto the other side of the road so they had that sorted as well.

They also asked me about my route and I said I was heading down to Perth and then across to Sydney. They reckoned that doing the Nullabor in December would be bordering on suicide as there’s nowhere for shade and it’s the height of summer. They’d come up the East Coast and recommended I took that route as there’s more civilisation and just more to see and do. It was great to get some first hand knowledge and tips from guys that had actually cycling through Oz. I need to serioiusly modify when I cycle and have a think about my route. Even getting up at 5 isn’t good enough and I need to look at doing a lot more cycling in the dark. I have enough lights to make me visible for miles so it definitely seems the way to go and I don’t think I have much choice. By the time I left them to head for Katherine it was about 7 and the sun was going down and with this the wind also calmed down. I was back to doing 13-14 miles an hour and feeling pretty good. Maybe it was just the pleasure of meeting other people and getting some good information but it definitely confirmed riding at night will get me some valuable miles. That’s the tough thing about Oz. You can’t just say you’ll do 30 miles a day because you’ll run out of water and you can’t do big miles during the day because you’ll also run out of water. The key is obviously to cycle at night when you aren’t consuming as much water and then try to sleep during the day.

I stopped off in Katherine last night as my last real point of civilisation before I decided to go East Coast or West Coast. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go down the East Coast for a number of reasons. The first is that if Aussie cyclists are telling me that a particular route at a certain time of year is suicide then I should listen. The second is that my visa is 3 months and while it would get me round whichever way I go, the East Coast gives me more options in terms of airports if my visa runs out. Also I’ll just get to see more of Oz. I don’t want to have to cycle 6000 miles in 3 months. I want the option to stop and chill if and when it’s possible.

Anyways best go as like I said, everything here is stupidly expensive. I’m going to sleep in Katerine tonight and then set off fully watered and lit up like a Christmas tree tomorrow evening.

Lots of Love,



Greetings from Singapore

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

Yo peeps,

Greetings from Singapore!!!

Yeah well that’s SE Asia done dusted and put to bed. Bring on Australia I say. Hopefully that conveys a sense of bravery and daring but, in reality, Oz scares me a bit. I’m looking at a map of Oz as I write and well, ummm, there’s nothing there. Just a lot of nothing with big bits of nothing in between. I keep on staring at the map, willing towns to appear with names like Cokesville, Foodstown and Waterdorpe but it’s futile, the nothingness stays. Ah well.


Well what’s happened since my last email? I left the island of Koh Tao a little over two weeks ago. I felt a bit stupid after my last email because I ended it with a slightly melodramatic line about being on my own. In terms of waking hours I was probably on my own for about 3 hours. I caught the nightboat out of Koh Tao and landed at Surat Thani around 6 in the morning. As I was loading my bags back onto the bike I heard a voice say “Hi” and turned around to find a couple of fellow long distance cyclists doing the same thing. I knew they were long distance cyclists by that hungry look we all seem to develop after a few months. Their names were Mike and Petra, a Dutch couple who’d been on the road for 8 months taking in a pretty hardcore route of Hong Kong, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Mike and Petra

We went for breakfast and afterwards I asked if they minded if I joined them for a while. I’d made the mistake of showing Mike my mileage through Europe and I think there were a bit worried I’d be pounding them into submission demanding 100 miles in a single day but the island had taken the wind out of my sails and I was finding the cycling pretty tough going. It was tough enough that I was starting to worry that maybe I was losing my motivation a little. Whereas in Europe, banging out sequential 100 milers didn’t seem like a big deal, in SE Asia anything over 60 miles was proving to be difficult.

We crossed over to the West Coast of Thailand, heading for the town of Krabi. Somewhere along the way, Mike and Petra seemed to get used to the idea of cycling with someone else. I think initially they weren’t too keen and I can understand that. Cycling with someone else can cause problems, especially if you’re talking about people of differing abilities or/and differing interests. There’s no faster way to take the enjoyment out of cycling that to have someone who’s pushing you over your comfort level for hours on end. I tried to take this into consideration and figure out their preferred pace and also to cycle a bit ahead to give them some time alone.


We ended up cycling together for 4 days and it was great to have the company as well as someone to share the beers with. On the 4th day we rolled into the town of Trang and turned up at the usual backpacker haunt to be greeting by the owner of the restaurant and the guesthouse. It’s pretty embarrassing because whenever you tell anyone in SE Asia what you’re doing, they always exclaim how strong you must be and usually follow this up with feeling your arms or something. Embarrassing because, in the main, long distance cyclists don’t actually look very strong. We just look underfed and a bit dirty. Anyway the owner grabs my arm and says “Ahhhhhhh you strong like chicken”. First thought is what type of chicken has this guy got on the menu and I start looking round for big 6 foot muscle bound chickens but then I just realised his English is probably based pretty much on what he serves and I should be grateful he didn’t say I was strong like prawn.

Kota Tinggi

I left Mike and Petra in Trang the following morning. As I said, it was great to have the company but I think they were compromising slightly on the distances they were doing and so was I. Their type of traveling is more the meander and take in the sights whereas mine is very much the pick the start of a continent, pick the end of a continent, and go for it. If something stops me like Koh Tao then I’ll stop for a while but I like to keep moving. I think 4 days together was the correct amount as I think that’s probably the amount they were willing to compromise and the same for me.

Thai Rock formations

Trang is about two days riding from the Thailand-Malaysia border which I rode on my own. At one point, some guy on a motorbike pulls alongside and starts chatting away to me. He asks me if I’m on my own and, when I answered yes, he pointed to the surrounding countryside and said no, that I wasn’t alone, that everyone was with me. Now I have no idea if he knew how poignant that was but, for me, that moment encapsulated Thailand. He’s right I never was on my own. I’m not sure I can ever convey how fantastic Thailand was. How it suited me and what I was doing perfectly.

The best way I can explain Thailand is that it felt like anything was possible. I don’t just mean for me but also for the people I met. Every time I thought something would be a problem, it turned out to be just another positive experience. It changes the way you think. You just stop worrying about the future because you know that when you get there, something will work out. From a cycling perspective it was more than perfect. It’s like God asked a cross section of cyclists what they like and so we got roads with wide hard shoulders, drivers who respect you and give you space, a flat landscape but with beautiful rock formations that the roads meander round, restaurants every 5 minutes serving rice the perfect food, stupidly cheap accommodation and to top it off the friendliest and most helpful people you could wish to meet. Obviously some weirdo asked for lady boys as well but hey ho. I stopped wearing sunglasses when I was cycling in Thailand because I noticed that when I wore them, the people waving and smiling weren’t quite so open and I wanted to experience that openness to it’s full effect. One of my best moments was when I went past a school of kids who were just leaving for the day and they were all waiting outside and I reckon every kid in the school waved and said hello to me.

On the boat to Malaysia

As luck would have it, my rest day fell on the day I was leaving Thailand. Instead of taking the land crossing, I caught the ferry and entered Malaysia via the island of Pulau Langkawi . As usual, customs was interesting. Something about being on a bike instantly makes you safe in the eyes of customs officials. I remember entering Greece and I wasn’t even asked to show my passport. I was entering from Macedonia , through one of the major entrance points for illegal immigration and the guy just waved me through. The same thing happened in Malaysia. Everyone else was being searched and sent through the metal detectors and I was just waved through. This could be an important tip to any potential illegal immigrants amongst you. Just get a stupidly heavy bike and you’re laughing.


In terms of a holiday destination, Pulau Langkawi is fantastic but it’s probably a bit too perfect for a long distance cyclist. There’s certain places which make you feel a bit self-conscious that you’re a little bit too shabby, a bit too starved looking and this was one of them. I left the island after my rest day and headed back to the Malaysian mainland. From there I headed back over to the East Coast. I must confess I cheated a little here and caught the bus. The main reason was that I’d read that Highway 4 was an engineering masterpiece. As a cyclist, I don’t like engineering masterpieces because that usually means tunnels and I hate cycling through tunnels so I had my first experience of SE Asian public transport. My over-riding impression was one of being frozen. I’m not sure what it is about the public transport here but if you aren’t freezing to death, then they think there’s something wrong. The bus stopped for 5 minutes so I went and got my rated to -17C down-filled sleeping bag and, I’m not joking, but I was still cold. I have no idea why or how people put up with it.

Pob style monkeys

After reaching the East Coast I started trying to put the miles in again. I say trying because I ran into the same problems I was having in Thailand. 60 miles was proving to be difficult and usually after 40 I started feeling physically ill. I thought it may be dehydration but I was stopping for plenty of water so I had no idea what the problem was. It was around this point I had a couple of bad days psychologically. When you start struggling like that, you start to question everything, “why the hell am I doing thi?s”, “what’s going to happen when I get home?”, “how can I expect to cycle through the Australian outback when I can’t manage 60 miles a day?”, “will I have enough money to complete this?”. I’d read about this when I was researching my journey but, even in Serbia, when it was really tough, my motivation was still there. Just turning the pedals had begun to feel like a chore. These feelings are obviously made worse by being on your own. You haven’t got anyone to reason with you or to encourage you so, once you start going downhill, it’s difficult to stop. I named it my Damascus moment as I’d read about another guy feeling the same on the road to Damascus. Plus mine happened on the road to Pekan and Pekan moment sounds like a dessert.

Pekan Moment

I got out of it partly by accident and partly by design. The accident was that one evening, around 4ish, the rain bucketed down. This was the first rain I’d had since Thailand and I ended up missing my hotel because I couldn’t see a thing. I stopped for a few minutes and when I got back on the bike again I felt a lot better so I thought I’d press on. I’d done 50 miles by this point and usually I’d be groveling into some town with a pounding headache but today I felt good. I kept on going and by 7 I’d done another 50 miles for my first 100 miler in SE Asia. The point was I’d been cycling during the worst part of the day, during the build up to the monsoon season and I was just asking too much of myself. Especially when you’re doing it every day. The next day I got up early, did some miles in the morning, and then rested for a few hours before getting some miles in late afternoon to early evening. Suddenly doing 90-100 miles was achievable with a bit of planning and forethought. The good thing is it took a load off my mind about Oz. I may even do some of my cycling at night as I’ve read from a water pov, it just isn’t profitable to cycle during the hottest part of the day.

The design was that I took a day off in a great little town called Mersing and put my photos on the internet. The guesthouse I stayed in was how I’d imagined backpacker hostels to be and the perfect place to take a day off. I spent a day sorting the photos and this got me thinking about the great experiences I’d had. Sometimes when you just press on, getting in the miles, you forget what’s gone before and going through the photos really helped. Here’s a link to the photos which should hopefully work. I’ve put split them by country but when I get more time, I may add comments although some of them are pretty self explanatory.

Sheltered from the storm in Mersing

I love carrots

I left Malaysia yesterday. I think my impressions of Malaysia are slightly tainted because I went though a difficult time there. From a cycling perspective, it suffers in comparison to Thailand, but then so does everywhere I’ve ever cycled. It’s a wonderful country shaped heavily by religion. The mosques are stunning and there’s something incredibly atmospheric cycling though town when the call to prayer sounds. The people are still friendly but there’s a hint of shyness. None of this holds for the children though who can spot a westerner on a bike from a 1000 yards and still get a “HELLLLLOOOO” in. The tourists also differ in Malaysia. In Thailand, I was usually one of the older travelers but, in Malaysia, it was the opposite with pretty much everyone being not only older but they’d also usually been traveling for a long time. I think it’s because in the main, the nature of Malaysia means who have to be interested in the traveling rather than the partying. Things you could get away with in Thailand, just wouldn’t wash in Malaysia so you have to make sure you appreciate the people and the culture.


Now I’m in Singapore and it’s great be here. Mainly because I ran out of books about 200 miles ago and I suffer without books. I found this brilliant bookstore and spent hours just stroking and cooing over the books like a demented lover. They even stocked a book I’ve been searching for since I left Europe. I’ve also developed an interest in Balkan history and found a couple of cracking books to keep me going. Think my main weight on the bike will be books and water in Australia.

Shipping lanes of Singapore

I found a campsite on the East coast of Singapore. It’s between the city and the airport which is perfect. Camping is free, which is great, as Singapore isn’t the cheapest of places although, as usual, I seem to have camped in some lovers area as young people were still whispering sweet nothings to each other at 5am and keeping me awake. The campsite also looks out onto the shipping lane into Singapore port and it’s just miles and miles of boats. Looks like another city at night. Bizarrely, the campsite also has a bowling centre and so I went in last night and had a few games. Lanes suited me and it was like I’d never stopped bowling. Pro-shop owner came out and we spent a while talking about bowling. I even got invited to their anniversary tournament but I won’t be here as I fly to Darwin on Monday night at 20:00 to begin the Australian stage of my journey.

Church from WWII Japanese Prison

Once I leave Darwin, I have no real idea when I’ll send my next email but I get the feeling it’ll be a while. Maybe Broome but I literally have no idea and plus I suspect things like water may be of more interest to me.

Two fans in Singapore

Anyways best go as Singapore is famous for it’s food and I’m off to sample a few of the food courts.

Lots of love as always,