The Journey Continues….

Hey guys, my 2 1/2 year, 52,000km bike ride around the world may have finally come to an end but the journey is only gaining in momentum.

I was pretty nervous of finishing as I didn’t really know where my life was going to go. I needed another massive challenge to fill the void and that challenge came in the shape of my first book ‘The Long Road From A Broken Heart’.

Just a few days ago I received a sample copy and it looks absolutely sensational!! I could not be happier with the way the book looks.

‘The Long Road From A Broken Heart’ is beautiful a coffee table style book that contains 274 pages, each page being 345 x 250mm; it is one impressive publication. As you know, it is not like me to do things by halves 🙂

The book is filled with stunning images, journey maps and contains plenty of stories that never made my blog, mainly because my poor parents would have suffered heart attacks if I told them everything that happened during my ride.

10% of every book sold will be donated to either the New Zealand, Australian or British Heart Foundation.

For more information, have a look at the following:

My website – jeremyscott.com.au

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Long-Road-From-A-Broken-Heart/1479030315704583?ref=hl

if you would like further information do not hesitate to email jeremy@jeremyscott.com.au I would love to hear from you.

Please like and share My FB Page. The more people who know about this the better as it is a book that will appeal to everyone, especially with Christmas just around the corner.

Through my website you will be able to follow me and my upcoming adventures along with the work I will do with numerous International Heart Foundations.

 

BTW…….to everyone who followed, supported and encouraged me during the 2 1/2 years I cycled around the planet I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot tell how much that support and encouragement meant to me.

Jeremy

The Long Road From A Broken Heart - Book Cover

The Long Road From A Broken Heart – Book Cover

 

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New Zealand North Island, The Final Chapter

As beautiful as the North Island would prove to be, I knew it would be unfair to try and compare it with what I had just experienced in the South Island. The best part of New Zealand was behind me, my third winter on the road was about to start, the weather would soon deteriorate. I had had enough of this solitary existence on the road. As I arrived into Wellington on the Inter Islander Ferry I knew I was ready for this trip to end. I was ready for new challenges in life.

Oriental Bay on a typical Wellington day

Oriental Bay on a typical Wellington day

While catching up with friends in this lovely city, I took time out to make some presentations at local schools. As always, they seem to be well received. It was great to see my friends all around the country and here in Wellington it was no different.

A yacht parked up at the Wellington Port

A lovely yacht parked up at the Wellington Marina

Eventually I departed the capital city of New Zealand and headed north. No sooner had I found my rhythm when I passed the 50,000km mark on my way towards Upper Hutt. To be honest I do not get too excited about these milestones these days. It is just a number. I get far more pleasure and satisfaction thinking of the incredible people I met along the way.

The Rimutaka Rail Trail was a bit rough at times

The Rimutaka Rail Trail was a bit rough at times

I soon learnt that the hills in the North Island were not as big as those down in the south, but they are definitely steeper. Up down up down day after day through rolling countryside and along striking coastline.

Longest place name in the world

Longest place name in the world

I had cycled in the much hyped Cyclone Lusi down on the West Coast. It was pathetic to be honest considering the widespread media coverage. As I rode towards Havelock North another cyclone hit the country and this time she came with a lot more of a bite. Vast areas of farmland lay flooded where a day or two earlier, sheep and cattle grazed on lush green grass. Swollen rivers raged and threatened to cover the roads. Headwinds and rain slapped into my face, gusting at over 100km per hour. It was actually amusing in a sadistic sort of way for the fact it was so horrible. Having spent the day being slapped about by mother nature, I was mighty happy to arrive at a friends for the night. No camping for me. Happy Happy Joy Joy!!.

Te Mata Peak looking beautiful after the cyclone had passed

Te Mata Peak looking beautiful after the cyclone had passed

After an awesome Easter Weekend with a load of great friends I cycled towards Gisborne. With a few days up my sleeve I took a cheeky detour to the incredible Lake Waikaremoana. It was a pretty tough climb up to the lake but most definitely worth the effort. Despite being a public holiday it was still extremely quiet. Swans and ducks swam, tuis sung in the trees, the surrounding hills reflected in the mirror like waters.

Camping at Lake Waikaremoana. Very nice!!

Camping at Lake Waikaremoana. Very nice!!

Back in Hanoi, Vietnam I had the chance meeting with Warren Bowers, the wonderful guy who’s brother also underwent surgery at the hands of Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes. Sir Brian managed to change my life but sadly Warrens little brother did not survive his Open Heart Surgery. This conversation with Warren changed my attitude a lot. I realised how lucky I had been to survive and I got to see first hand how other families were not so fortunate.

Taking a break at the Tolaga Bay Wharf

Taking a break at the Tolaga Bay Wharf

While in Gisborne I spent an evening with Warrens parents. I had been looking forward to meeting Shelley and John ever since my chance encounter with their son Warren. It was an incredibly nice evening and a moment I will not forget. It was incredibly humbling for me. It felt unfair that I should survive my operation while their son did not.

From Gisborne, another great mate of mine, Jonny Cato decided he wanted to subject himself to a world of pain by joining me for the ride around the East Cape. For a man with a lovely wife and three adorable girls, getting a week off like this is a very rare pleasure.

Jonny resting with the sacred Mt Hikurangi behind

Jonny resting with the sacred Mt Hikurangi behind

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Maori culture and heritage still thrives in this part of the country

The East Cape was awesome. Beautiful isolated beaches, rugged coastline, lush green farms and forests all in an area that holds on proudly to its Maori heritage and traditions. Dozens of Marae’s  stood proudly within the small communities that populated the coast. It is great to see these strongholds of Maori culture still thriving and proud. I loved i

East Cape at sunset. Isolated, rugged natural beauty. WOOHOO!!

East Cape at sunset. Isolated, rugged natural beauty. WOOHOO!!

Looking down over Te Araroa

Looking down over Te Araroa

Considering there was not a huge amount of training done, Jonny did exceptionally well cycling over the steep, brutal hills that lay in our way. By the end of the week his legs were horribly sore but it was the bum which caused the tears 🙂

The Cows skateboard around here. RAD!!!!!

The Cows skateboard around here. RAD!!!!!

Horses graze outside a picturesque little church

Horses graze outside a picturesque little church

I have always loved Mt Maunganui. One day I will call this place home. Magic beaches, a wonderful lifestyle and some beautiful friends make this place very special to me. It is so cool to wake in the morning, grab the kayak and go fishing out in the ocean as the sun rises. It is just so peaceful sitting out there on the ocean while the birds drop and the fish jump.

Scooby taking time out from chasing seagulls to do a little body surfing on Papamoa Beach. I will live here one day :)

Scooby taking time out from chasing seagulls to do a little body surfing on Papamoa Beach. I will live here one day 🙂

The weather forecast looked pretty good so I decided to make my way to Auckland via the VERY hilly Coromandel Peninsular. I was nearly home so why not explore one last beautiful corner of the country before reaching the finish line.

Not paying attention cycling around here could end up with a rather big tumble down to the rocks

Not paying attention cycling around here could end up with a rather big tumble down to the rocks

The Coromandel was as tough as any other place I had cycled. The roads were brutally steep in places but not nearly as hard as I found it right up the top of the Coromandel. The roads stopped and hiking tracks started. These steep knarly tracks may be good fun with hiking boots or maybe a mountain bike but damn hard work when lugging a touring bike up and down the muddy paths. If the views were not so spectacular I would have seriously asked myself why I thought that was a good idea.

Not only is Waikawau Bay as stunning as I remember, I have caught some huge crayfish here too!!

Not only is Waikawau Bay as stunning as I remember, I have caught some huge crayfish here too!!

Cycling along the hiking tracks was very tough at times

Cycling along the hiking tracks was very tough at times

As I packed my panniers to leave Thames it suddenly dawned on me. There were no more continents, countries, states, cities, villages, beaches, deserts or mountains to explore. In two days I would reach Auckland. My journey was almost over. So many thoughts filled my mind.

Port Jackson on the Coromandel Peninsular

Port Jackson on the Coromandel Peninsular

Molly and I rolled quietly into Auckland. I spent a couple of nights with Jonny and his family before riding from there to the finish line at Auckland Medical School. Jonny and his 3 girls Mia, Ruby and Fleur rode with me into Auckland City then they left me to roll the last few meters alone.

The New Zealand Heart Foundation was there with red carpet, balloons, banners and their incredible staff who gave up their Sunday morning to see me finish. David Barratt-Boyes; the son of my surgeon was there to read me a heartfelt poem. It is not every day you get to look a man in the eye and think “your father saved my life and gave me the opportunity to do what I have just done” what words can you say to reflect the gratitude??

Meeting David was a pretty emotional moment

Meeting David was a pretty emotional moment

As I rode towards the finish I thought I had my emotions under control. I thought it was going to be easy. I would arrive, there would be a few hugs then we would celebrate. No problem

When I started to see the faces of all my incredible family and friends the tears started to flow. I have received so much incredible support since I cycled away from my flat in London. It was all incredibly overwhelming.

So many people have done so much for me I cannot begin to express my gratitude enough. My sister Melanie has been simply incredible.

I have seen some incredible places, I have challenged myself in ways I never thought I would. I believe this journey has changed me in so many ways. I feel incredibly fortunate to have done what I have done.

I have seen enough to start and understand how incredibly unfair this world is. Being from New Zealand I can travel freely. I have access to good food, shelter, education and health. So many people I met share the same dreams as me but they will never be able to fulfil their dreams or attain the same basic necessities in life, simply because they were born in one country while I was born in another. We are definitely not all born equal that is for sure.  I am a fortunate one.

The most beautiful and rewarding aspect of this journey was very simple. I feel so incredibly humbled and lucky to have met so many wonderful people over the last few years. Regardless of race, religion or beliefs I have been cared for and helped by the old, the young, the rich and the incredibly poor. I have laughed, danced, cried and sang with strangers from all over the world. So often, it was the poorest people who cared for me the most.

I feel blessed to have felt the warmth and goodness of people from around the globe. I have witnessed how kind and selfless some people can be in helping one another. I have been humbled to see how certain truly beautiful people dedicate their lives to helping others less fortunate.

A journey like this certainly rekindles your faith in the human spirit.

Do not generalize about people from a certain country, religion or ethnic background. Do not believe half of what you read in main stream media about people from certain countries.  Have the courage to go and see for yourself before making judgement on any other people or nation.I am sure you will also be blown away by the incredible hospitality you will receive in some countries where main stream media would have you believe you should expect hostility.

To all the people who have made this journey so special…….I say thank you from the bottom of my patched up, reconditioned heart. I will never forget how humble locals from all over the world have treated the Monkey on a bike.

 

for more photos from the North Island, please have a look at the following link:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinsadventure/sets/72157644890661232/

New Zealand South Island – Heaven on Earth

After very little sleep, my flight from Melbourne to Christchurch touched down as the first light of day began to push away the darkness of the previous star filled night. By 7am the sun was up and I had rebuilt my bike, ready to ride into the city.

Having my feet back on New Zealand soil came with a variety of mixed emotions. On the one hand I was incredibly excited about being back in my beloved homeland after so many years away. On the other I felt unsettled and nervous. The finish line is just up the road now. There is no other country to cycle after this.

A sheep sheering shed at Menzies Bay, Banks Peninsular

A sheep sheering shed at Menzies Bay, Banks Peninsular

The first week I spent in or around Christchurch catching up with friends. It felt so good to catch up with and stay with so many wonderful people. It gave me an incredibly warm feeling to see some friends I had not seen in such a long time.  Stacey, Scott and Carla. Thanks so much for having me and Lili, it was awesome to see you again as well 🙂

 

Kids going for pony rides on Waitangi Day

Kids going for pony rides on Waitangi Day

 

Young kids checking out the horse in the pen at Okains Bay, Banks Peninsular

Young kids checking out the horse in the pen at Okains Bay, Banks Peninsular

While in Christchurch I got to see how devastating the February 2011 earthquake was. It is not until you see the destruction personally that you really come to appreciate how badly the city was affected. The city centre still looks like a huge construction site 3 years after that terrible day. So many of the old landmarks that made Christchurch the city it was have vanished. There were desperate attempts to save the facades of certain buildings to help restore as much of the old Christchurch charm as possible.

The stunning Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsular

The stunning Akaroa Harbour, Banks Peninsular

Entire suburbs so badly damaged have simply been vacated and remain merely as ghost towns. No cars on the roads, no kids playing in the parks, no bbq’s cooking in the back yards, no signs of life. There is simply street after street of abandoned homes and shattered memories. It was incredibly eerie and quite emotional to drive through these ghostly suburbs. It felt like everyone had simply vanished into thin air. No wonder so many of the locals cannot bring themselves to come here. It would hurt too much to see their beloved city so badly damaged and lifeless where happiness and joy once thrived.

Flowers on display in front of the severely damaged Cathedral in Christchurch City

Flowers on display in front of the severely damaged Cathedral in Christchurch City

On the bright side were places like the Container City. Shops, cafes, banks and kiosks have been made from shipping containers to help get retailers trading again. It was great to see these places alive and vibrant. Art works and interesting spaces were created from the rubble and debris of the earthquake.

Hay Bails under moody skies

Hay Bails under moody skies

My first little jaunt on the bike was out to Banks Peninsular to visit Shane and Becs at Pigeon Bay. This is a peninsular of volcanic origin and as a consequence there were a few VERY cheeky hills to climb. None steeper than the gravel road Shane and Becs lived on. I did not really roll down their road but descended in a semi controlled skid.

Waitangi Day was enjoyed at the Okains Bay Marae. A huge waka (Maori canoe) rested on the river bank, children played on the bouncy castle or took Shetland Pony rides while the parents kicked back on the lush green grass and ate hangi (traditional Maori food) or drunk coffee from the little caravan stall. It was a very chilled and enjoyable day. This was kiwiana at its roots. I was home 🙂

The time had come to leave my friends and hit the road and start smashing out the kilometres. From Christchurch I took the Inland Scenic Route past Mt Hutt and on towards Lake Tekapo. I knew New Zealand was going to be stunning but Lake Tekapo blew me away. The colours of the lake, skies and mountains simply took my breath away. What surprised me more was that it was no way near as touristy as I had envisaged. What a bonus.

The beautiful little stone church on the shores of Lake Tekapo

The beautiful little stone church on the shores of Lake Tekapo

I headed south with no intention of visiting Aoraki Mt Cook as it was a 120km detour to get there and back. As I rode past the southern end of Lake Pukaki the mountain towered over the far end of the lake. As the highest mountain in the country she stood there incredibly beautiful but it was plain to see she demanded respect. This was a harsh mountain not to be messed with. Like a moth to a light I was drawn to the mountain. How could I not ride to the mountain when I was this close? Afterall, what is an extra 120km of cycling at this stage of the game?

Up until this particular day I could comfortably say I had been lucky on the road and not had any serious close calls with vehicles. This changed dramatically on my way up the side of Lake Pukaki.

I stopped on the side of the relatively quiet road to take a photo of the lake. The lake was on the other side of the road so I crossed to get a slightly better view. It was only slightly better so I wondered why I bothered.

Just after taking the photo I looked back to see three cars heading in the same direction as me so I waited for them to pass before crossing back over and cycling onwards towards the mountain. The first car past as expected. As I looked out to the lake I heard the second car approach. I then heard a quick toot on a car horn and the harsh skidding of tyres on the road very close to me. My stomach suddenly felt sick. I turned to see a car skidding around in circles towards me. It then veered off and flipped 3-4 times down the bank on the other side of the road, exactly where I had just crossed over from.

When the weather it is as beautiful as any place on earth. When the wind blows.......hold on!!

When the weather it is as beautiful as any place on earth. When the wind blows…….hold on!!

I dropped my bike and raced down the bank expecting to find a pretty horrible mess inside the smashed up car. It rested on its side in swampy wet grass. I tried to get a door open (which was facing the sky) but it did not budge but at least I could see movement inside. They were alive. By some complete miracle the young Thai couple were completely unscathed and I was able to help them out of the rear window which had exploded. Having seen this car flip so many times down a bank it was incredible to see them escape completely unscathed

Some young German tourists were following this car and also stopped. They explained how lucky I was. The car had been swerving a bit over the last five minutes. The Thai driver was falling asleep at the wheel. The German girls told me that the car driven by the Thai man had veered across the wrong side of the road straight towards me at about 100km per hour. I was totally unaware as I was looking out to the lake. At the last second (literally) the driver must have half woken up, seen me directly in front of him then swerved into a skid before flipping down the bank on the opposite side of the road.

To this day I am not sure who tooted the horn. Maybe it was the Thai driver when he suddenly woke to see me in front of him (yay for my bright red shirt being a stark contrast to the turquoise coloured lake and dark grey skies) or if it was the German girls who tooted their horn which woke the driver just in time. If that was the case, those young German girls saved my life.

Colourful Paua shells

Colourful Paua shells

From what the young Germans told me, if that Thai man had have remained asleep for another 1-2 seconds his car would have ploughed straight into me at about 100km per hour as he veered across the wrong side of the road.

If I did not cross the road to take the photo (which I did not often do) I would have been standing exactly where the car flipped down the bank to its resting place in the swampy grass. Either way I had an incredibly lucky escape.

The remaining ride out to Aoraki Mt Cook hideous. Wind gusted at around 100km per hour. Campervans were swerving all over the road in the wind. This was a real hazard as the gusting wind meant I could not hear them coming while I struggled to stay on the road. I got blown off the road many times and had to push the bike. When I could stay on the road I had to stand up and really push hard to cycle at 5km per hour on a perfectly flat surface. Tents were getting flattened all over the place at the DOC Camp site which sat at base of the mountain. Luckily I found a spot to put my tent in the shelter of a hill and some trees.

After such an insane afternoon it was nice to crawl into my wind battered tent and simply slip into my sleeping bag. My mind raced…….yet again, I have been a very lucky boy………..

Thankfully the next morning was perfect. The mountains looked awesome. Small avalanches slipped off the mountains reverberating in the valleys. The wind was at my back when I hit the road. Happy days……

The isolated Lindis Pass. An awesome place to cycle.

The isolated Lindis Pass. An awesome place to cycle.

It is encouraging to see how tracks like The Otago Central Rail Trail are breathing life back into small communities

It is encouraging to see how cycle tracks like The Otago Central Rail Trail are breathing new life back into small rural communities

I cycled over the wild Lindis Pass then around the Otago Central Rail Trail before going to visit me ol’ buddy James Clark in Dunedin, a work colleague from London. James was generously giving some time each week to work with a group of Special Needs people. I popped along and had a talk with these great people. It was a really fun afternoon which I think we all thoroughly enjoyed.

The little town of Clyde......like stepping back in time.

The little town of Clyde……like stepping back in time.

The Catlins in the far south of the South Island could be described as beautiful, isolated, quiet and rugged. It was my kind of scenery. As I ate my dinner in front of my tent one evening, Hector Dolphins swam in the quiet Curio Bay just in front of where I sat. Beautiful.

Nugget Point in The Catlins Conservation Area. Rugged natural beauty

Nugget Point in The Catlins Conservation Area. Rugged natural beauty

Camping at Purakaunui Bay in The Catlins Conservation Area. Not too bad :)

Camping at Purakaunui Bay in The Catlins Conservation Area. Not too bad 🙂

In the tropical city of Invercargill I stopped to see Zane Moss and his family where I was fed up on loads of sensational paua, crayfish and other delicious food. Man, these guys eat well!! Revitalised, I started heading north after visiting a cousin I had not seen in 17 years. It felt so wrong not to have seen my cousin Zane Scott and his family in such a long time.

The far south did live up to its reputation with a few days spent on the bike being battered by hail, rain and strong winds. It is such a lovely feeling to wake, listen the cold rain and hail pounding your tent knowing the first thing you will do when you crawl out of the sleeping bag is to slip into soaking wet clothes and shoes. JOY!!

Baaaaaaaaa. Our wooly friends grazing with huge mountains beyond

Baaaaaaaaa. Our wooly friends grazing with huge mountains beyond

The next few weeks could well prove to be the most incredible 2 weeks of my journey. I spent my days exploring incredible lakes, rivers, snow capped mountains and vast open spaces. It is not every day that you can cycle over 60km on a road and not see a single vehicle. The scenery was simply mindblowing. Sheep and cattle roamed freely around the incredible Mavora Lakes. These animals were not restricted by fences. Mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes controlled their movements.

Camping at North Mavora Lakes. Oh yeah baby you wee Mama!!!!!!

Camping at North Mavora Lakes. Oh yeah baby you wee Mama!!!!!!

What a place to ride. WOOHOO!!!!!!!

What a place to ride. WOOHOO!!!!!!!

Cycling towards Walter Peak Station, Lake Whakatipu. Photo courtesy of Boris Mauny

Cycling towards Walter Peak Station, Lake Whakatipu. Photo courtesy of Boris Mauny

In Queenstown I was joined by a really good mate from my school days. Brett decided he wanted to cycle with me from Queenstown to the top of the South Island, not at all phased that he had never done something like this before.

With practically no training at all under his belt, I took him straight over The Crown Range on his very first day. For those who do not know, this is the highest sealed road in the country so therefore no small feat on a bike with all his food, clothes and camping gear. Following that nasty Baptism of Fire, Brett began to dislike me less and settled into the groove.

Brett and I were blessed with some stunning weather as we rode past Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka then on towards the Haast Past and The West Coast. Every single day we were blown away by the sheer beauty of the country we call home.

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Brett cycling around the incredible Lake Hawea

It was not all lovely warm days and clear blue skies, Cyclone Lusi kindly blessed us with her presence as we approached the top of the West Coast.  This cyclone was hyped up in the news for over a week as a monster storm that was to wreak havoc on our country. What a load of rubbish. Some gusts blew Brett and I off the road and there was some rain but nothing to be worried about.

About 15km south of Greymouth we approached the Taramakau Rail and Road Bridge. Before riding onto the bridge was a sign warning cyclists (VERY CLEARLY) of the hazards presented by the recessed rail tracks. I took a photo of the sign thinking it would be funny to tag Brett in the photo on Facebook as if that was him flying over the handlebars.

Warning signs as we approached the notorious Taramakau Bridge

OOPS!!!! I jinxed the boy.

Exactly 19 seconds after riding past the warning sign Brett’s front wheel got caught in the recessed rail track and down he went. I still believe Brett was feeling a little tired and wanted like a lift into Greymouth.  It seemed a little extreme but he did get his lift into town. An ambulance took him to the local hospital where the very efficient Doctor Singh inserted three stitches to close up a very ugly looking hole in his stomach.

Brett in an ambulance about to be taken to Greymouth Hospital for some repairs

Brett in an ambulance about to be taken to Greymouth Hospital for some repairs

I had ridden for almost 900 days without a serious injury (touch wood) Brett almost lasted a week before he was heading for hospital. Nice work Kippa  😉

How did I know it was exactly 19 seconds? Brett filmed his hideous crash and moan fest on his Go-Pro camera.

Sadly our time together came to an end as we reached the top of the South Island. Despite doing practically no training what so ever, Brett managed to ride over 900km without a single rest day.  This included some very cheeky hills and a crash which put him in hospital and smashed him around a bit both physically and mentally. I could see he was very tired and incredibly sore but still he pushed on. Even when we became mates around 25 years ago Brett was a tough cookie with fierce determination. Some things do not change.

West Coast South Island at its isolated rugged best

West Coast South Island at its isolated rugged best

Brett, it was an absolute pleasure to ride with you my Brother.  It was great to catch up and share hundreds of laughs. Not only was it a huge amount of fun, I was incredibly happy to share one of the most incredible sections of my journey with one of the boys. I was happy you got a little taste and understanding of what my life has been about over the last 2 ½ years. Thanks so much for coming mate!! Just keep a look out for those train tracks in the future 😉

Copious piles of fresh blackberries collected along the road side made breakfasts an absolute pleasure

Copious piles of fresh blackberries collected along the road side made breakfasts an absolute pleasure

My last week or so in the South Island was spent chilling with family and awesome friends. My cousin Michelle and I went hiking in the stunning Kahurangi National Park.  At times it felt like we were the only people hiking through the isolated mountains and forests.

My cousin Michelle teaches Pilates in Motueka. She could not even go on a hike without bringing her work with her ;)

My cousin Michelle teaches Pilates in Motueka. She could not even go on a hike without bringing her work with her 😉

When I nervously set off from London I was 38 years of age. While in Nelson I celebrated my 41st birthday. It was absolutely brilliant to spend part of the day with Fi (whom I met travelling in Africa) then later with Lauren (who I travelled with in Borneo, Vietnam and Switzerland) It was so cool to spend a few days with these awesome girls and their young families. It was so nice to see how life moves on. One day we were tracking black rhinos in Zimbabwe or climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo then now we find ourselves entertained by their gorgeous wee girls. Lauren and Fi, you two are awesome and I was so pleased to spend time with you both on my birthday 🙂

My last evening on the South Island was spent camping in a small bay within the incredible Marlborough Sounds. As the sun set on a beautiful warm day, seals frolicked in the mirror like waters just off shore.  While photographing the stunning sunrise the following morning, a cheeky weka (native bird) stole my breakfast the moment my back was turned. It made me smile. I was home and my home has to be one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

My last morning on the South Island turned out to be an absolute stunner. Thank you South Island for being so incredibly beautiful

My last morning on the South Island turned out to be an absolute stunner. Thank you South Island for being so incredibly beautiful

My expectations for the South Island were outrageously high but the reality of cycling around this incredible isolated jewel of an island simply blew me away. It was infinitely better than I could have ever dreamed it would be. Every single day I was left speechless by the natural beauty that dwarfs and engulfs you.  It was hard not to spend your days smiling when admiring such natural beauty.

This is me. I am a Kiwi and this is where I am from.  This natural beauty is where I call home. We are incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful country to call home. Not a single New Zealander should take this for granted no matter where we live on earth. This is a place to be treasured and if you get the chance, share our beautiful country with those you care about.

As I caught the ferry from Picton to Wellington at the bottom of the North Island it dawned on me just how close I am to finishing this journey.  The end is so very close now. My future remains uncertain but this is exciting all the same.

With just the North Island remaining to cycle on my wee journey, it will not be long before I lay down my bike and ask myself “what next…………”

 

for more photos from the incredible South Island, please have a look at my flickr page:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinsadventure/sets/72157642775786703/

Australia – The Bottom Half

During my first 7 weeks in Northern Territory and Queensland I had cycled over 5000km. It was a pretty hectic pace in that heat so I took the chance to enjoy some down time when I reached Brisbane.

Matt and Michelle were two of my best friends back in London so it goes without saying I loved hanging out with them and their two lovely kids here in Brisbane. They too did their bit to fatten me up before I set off once again. It was a great week with lots of laughs to be had as we reminisced over days gone by. I also took the opportunity to catch up with plenty of other friends while I was in town. I loved seeing everyone up there in Brisbane. Wicked fun 🙂

Matt teaching little Finn how to swim while a local cruises past.

Matt teaching little Finn how to swim while a local cruises past.

Matt and Mich, thanks so much for having me stay. You guys rock 🙂

From Brisbane I headed down to the Gold Coast for a few days where I stayed with my Dad. It would be fair to say we had not been on the best of terms over the last few years but it was good to slowly start rebuilding bridges again. Although it was not so easy, it was good for the both of us.

As a treat for riding like an idiot over the last few months I decided to return to Hanoi for a few weeks to see Nhung, the gorgeous girl I had first met when I made a presentation at The Hanoi Bicycle Collective early in 2013. Following the incredible time we had together in Bali, the two of us realised we had something special and decided to try and maintain a relationship despite the obvious difficulties our situation was going to create.

The time passed in a blur. It felt like Nhung (My Mosquito) and I had hardly got back together again when I was taking off to leave her behind once more. It is far from easy trying to build a relationship in this situation. Feeding off dodgy internet connections and skype chats is far from ideal. The two of us are already making plans to see each other again before I finish this trip. The sooner the better as far as I am concerned…………..

Upon my arrival back in the Gold Coast I did not muck around. The next day I rode to Mullumbimbi where I caught up with Dave Lisle, the absolute legend I had cycled with for 4000km in China. It was scary how fast I lost my ability to cycle in the heat. I really struggled. By fluke I arrived the day the Mullum Festival was taking place. Dave kindly got me a ticket to the 4 day festival. It is not often you can go to a 4 day music festival and not see a single police officer but that was the case. Everyone was there to chill out and listen to so great music. No drunken fights, no stress, just happy days. That is Mullumbimbi for you……..

Dave decided to ride with me for 3-4 days which was so absolutely brilliant. About 40-50km out of Mullumbimbi we were riding through some isolated countryside and forest when his bicycle derailleur broke. This was not good. As we sat on a gravel driveway thinking what sort of bish bash job we could do to fix it, a small truck stopped and the driver asked if we were ok. We described our problem and he asked if we carried a spare “Errr no” was our response “Well follow me, we have a shed with lots of bikes, you could probably find some spare parts there”

By sheer fluke Dave’s bike had broken down right outside an Outward Bound Centre. This organisation takes kids on camping/hiking/mountain biking excursions. They had a pile of old bikes they were shipping off to Fiji and we were welcome to take whatever spare parts we needed from the old bikes. What a result. An hour later we were back on the road with a replacement derailleur doing a job.

Dave looking out at the incredible view from the top of Bald Rock

Dave looking out at the incredible view from the top of Bald Rock

My last day cycling with Dave took us to Bald Rock National Park, the largest exposed granite rock in Australia. This was such a beautiful place to visit and camp. From the top of the rock one could look out over vast areas of beautiful forest and mountains. Apart from the wind blowing in the trees, silence enveloped us.

The next morning I bid Dave farewell. He headed back to Mullumbimbi on a chilly wet morning. I had enough food so I stayed in the National Park for another day. It was not too long before the rain eased and I could go exploring. The dude is awesome and it was a pleasure to cycle with Dave once again. I have a sneaky feeling it will not be the last time either.

Wollomombi National Park

Wollomombi National Park

Cycling in the north of New South Wales was simply magic. Wild camping does not get much better when I wake to the sound of a waterfall just a few meters away from my tent.  While eating my breakfast on a huge rock warmed by the morning sun, I hung my feet in the river while kangaroos grazed quietly on the far side.  Cheeky birds would watch me while perched on my bicycle tyre then try and steal my food or spices the second my back is turned. It is also pretty comforting to be able to wash in a river again without fear of being eaten by a crocodile.

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A cheeky bird patiently waiting to steal my food.

While cycling along some quiet roads in the hills some cows had escaped from their paddocks onto the road. These incredibly stupid animals would not simply let me slowly ride past, they would run for miles up the road to get away from the threat I posed. Eventually they would get tired and jump over a half fallen fence into another paddock miles down the road. Why could they not do that at the start??

While visiting the Wollomombi General Store I come to learn just how little you can have on your shelves and still have the nerve to call yourself a General Store. If that was a General Store then the average person could refer to their pantry as a Supermarket.

New England National Park was pone of my favorite places in Australia

New England National Park was pone of my favorite places in Australia

There were a lot of sensational National Parks around the Waterfall Way. New England National Park was the highlight. At over 1500m above sea level the lookout over the surrounding escarpments and valleys shrouded in forest really blew me away.  The scenery around here was stunning. What’s more there were very few visitors when I was there. At times I was the only person camping in the National Parks while the peak season received thousands of visitors daily.

Camping in New England National Park. Love it :)

Camping in New England National Park. Love it 🙂

A little further down Thunderbolts Way I stopped at the tiny farming community of Nowendoc. I had planned to camp in a small rest stop. A bit of flat grass, running water and a toilet was more than I could ask for. It was perfect. While gazing over my maps a farmer stopped and asked if I was ok. When he learned I was going to camp here at the rest stop, he told me to go to his farm across the road as he had a spare bed there. WOOHOO!!!! A BED!!!  YEAH BABY YEAH!!

Walcha

Walcha

George and his girlfriend Lou were awesome. We had a great night chatting. I liked their company so much I stayed an extra day to go ripping around their stunning 5000 acre farm on motorbikes to try and find some cattle that had gone missing. It turns out George and I knew some of the same people in Melbourne while  Lou went to Rohampton University just around the corner from where I lived in London. It is a small world and it will probably seem smaller as I get closer to home.

As I camped in Barrington I got to see this awesome dog that loved to swim under water in the river. It was hilarious to see this dog disappear under the surface for 15-20 seconds. A story numerous locals told me was not so funny. Some murderer had roamed the nearby hills for years avoiding capture. “He is probably still out there” they told me. I was camping alone in a small reserve next to the forest clad hills a long way from anyone. Gee, thanks. Glad to know this delightful news.

A little further down the road while huffing and puffing going up a hill a bee flew down my throat.  I was quick enough to at least cough it out of my throat but it still stung me on the tongue. I could only compare it to having a cows tongue sewn into your mouth. As far as talking goes…….try chatting with a water balloon in your mouth and see what you think. The locals I “spoke” with thought I had a speech impediment for a few days.

Trying to eat with a tongue this fat was a nightmare

Trying to eat with a tongue this fat was a nightmare

Dave had given me awesome ideas on how to get into Sydney while avoiding main roads. I travelled a lot on quiet dirt roads, some of which were painstakingly built by convicts. It was incredible to camp in a the lovely Mill Creek National Park near Wisemens Ferry with lots of kangaroos, wombats and birds knowing I was only 70km from such a big city.

The traffic jams around here can be incredibly frustrating at times

The traffic jams around here can be incredibly frustrating at times

While in Sydney I stayed with Nathan and Ash, two people I had flatted with years ago in London.  Although the intention was to stay for just a few days, I ended up squatting for about a week. It was so cool to see them again. These two are simply awesome people who went well out of their way to make me at home.

My prolonged stay in Sydney was due to an invitation to appear live on Channel  7 Sunrise Show. This is the highest rating breakfast show in Sydney with audiences in the hundreds of thousands. Why not I thought.  When I entered the studio I was a bit nervous seeing all the cameras but I felt at ease before too long. One of the presenters (who shall remain nameless) was scoffing a huge piece of Christmas cake during an advertisement break while the lady who was being interviewed before me was so hung over she feared she might throw up live on air. These are just normal people enjoying Christmas.

In the Channel 7 Sunrise TV Studio with the presenters Samantha and Andrew

In the Channel 7 Sunrise TV Studio with the presenters Samantha and Andrew

The interview went really well and it helped raise a fair bit of money for the Australian Heart Foundation which was awesome. As a result of the interview I received quite a few incredible messages from people who themselves or someone in their family has a serious heart condition. A lot of them mentioned how my story had given them and their families so much hope for loved ones who had undergone or were waiting to have heart surgery. I had a few teary moments reading these messages. It is an incredible feeling to know I am giving these people a lot of hope and belief for the future.

The moment I walked out of the studio in the centre of Sydney I stared cycling towards Canberra. It was the 23rd Dec and I was planning to take a scenic route up into the Blue Mountains which would have taken me about 4 days. After an hour or so I changed my mind and decided to take the more direct route to Canberra. I wanted to have Xmas with friends rather than out in the bush. I did not want to be alone.

The Hume Highway was far from exciting but I was knocking on the Walsh’s door the day after I left Sydney. When I departed NZ to go to London I was leaving behind an incredible group of friends. Simon and Heidi were definitely at the core of this beautiful group. It felt so good to see these friends again after so long. Heidi’s cooking is simply incredible. I ate like a king the whole time I was there. I spent about 5 days with Walshy, Heids and their kids. What an awesome few days. Apart from the customary morning and evening stories for the kids, it was like old times, with plenty of laughs to be had

Christmas with the Walsh's was simply awesome :)

Christmas with the Walsh’s was simply awesome 🙂

The entire family came for a short bike ride to send me on my way. I was a little teary eyed when we said our goodbyes. I love you guys 🙂

It was with mixed feelings that I cycled out of Canberra. I would have loved to have spent more time with the Walsh’s but I knew I only had around 900km to go to my sister’s place near Melbourne. My last leg in Australia was underway.

I love cycling on the quiet roads like this.......

I love cycling on the quiet roads like this…….

As per usual I found some quiet roads to cycle on and it would be fair to say it was bloody hard work at times. Demoralizing winds hampered progress on days that were already pretty tough. I found some great places to camp with plenty more wildlife. The roads through ski resorts and mountain villages in the Alps were pretty cool.  Mountains and forests surrounded me. At times I felt like I was breaking the law by not wearing lycra in this country.  Let’s just say it is not for me………

Cycling over Dead Horse Gap - my highest point in Australia

Cycling over Dead Horse Gap – my highest point in Australia

New Years Eve was a non event. Following a long day in the saddle I found a beautiful little campground in The Alps. I washed in the river, cooked my dinner then crawled into my tent before 9pm. It would be fair to say the rivers are starting to get chilly as I head further south. Talk about brass moneys!! Other people in the campground may have been celebrating the New Year but I would not have known. A good sleep was more appealing to me.

The highlight of my entire journey was rolling into Bonnie Doon

The highlight of my entire journey was rolling into Bonnie Doon

After an enjoyable camp in Mt Samaria State Park I rolled into Mansfield where I was to rendezvous with my sister plus Karen and David, my awesome Auntie and Uncle who cycled with me when I first entered Australia. Those 3 took turns at cycling with me over some very tough dirt roads then down into Lake Eildon. There were far easier roads to take but that would not be my style. I loved the quiet and the views of the dirt roads. I do not think Mel, Karen or David gave a flying fudge about the views!!

David, Karen, Melanie and I on top of the hills overlooking Lake Eildon

David, Karen, Melanie and I on top of the hills overlooking Lake Eildon

After a lovely day resting on Karen and David’s House boat on Lake Eildon I rode my final day in Australia, a tough 180km cycle from Lake Eildon to New Gisborne. Surprise surprise, all of it was into a headwind. Mel was so excited. She had text all her friends to say I was on my way. As I approached Mel’s town there were little groups of her friends standing on the side of the road in the freezing wind cheering me on.  It was so sweet of all these people to do this on such a chilly afternoon.

The view from the back of Karen and David's house boat. Terrible I know!!

The view from the back of Karen and David’s house boat. Terrible I know!!

It felt surreal to roll up to Mel’s front door knowing my days cycling in Australia were over. I was booked to fly to New Zealand on the 15th January. My situation changed so I delayed my departure until the 4th February. I now had plenty of time to spend with family and friends here in Melbourne. It also meant I could go back up to Brisbane for my good mate Toby’s 40th birthday. This was awesome for the fact I got to reunite with some people I had travelled with in Africa 13 years ago.

My family were there to greet me as I arrived at my sisters house. My time cycling in Australia is done.

My family were there to greet me as I arrived at my sisters house. My time cycling in Australia is done.

I have absolutely loved my 5 months in Australia. The 8000km cycled here was pretty tough at times but thoroughly rewarding. The scenery was pretty amazing in places but as usual, it was the people who will leave the greatest impression. There were loads of funny characters all over the country which will make my time here special. It has been humbling how well I have been looked after by my wonderful family and friends. I cannot explain how enjoyable it was to see my family and friends again.

Throughout my time in Australia I have worked a fair bit with The Australian Heart Foundation. You guys have been absolutely awesome. Many thanks to Paula in Queensland, Julia in New South Wales and of course, Katie and Phoebe down here Melbourne. You guys rock 🙂

My incredible sister Mel and her team can take a massive amount of credit for the $5000 we have raised thus far for the Aussie Heart Foundation. They did an extraordinary amount of work creating media opportunities all over the country which raised awareness of what I was doing. I cannot thank Mel and the team enough for their efforts.

In just two days I will fly to New Zealand. Twenty eight countries are behind me. It is really quite surreal to think there are only a few thousand kilometres to be cycled before I begin the next chapter of my life. My epic 2 ½ year, 50,000km challenge is almost over

Before I reach the finish line I will have the privilege to explore the most beautiful country on earth…….my beloved homeland awaits…….

Australia – Hot Red Earth & Big Skies

When I rolled into the modest Arrivals Hall at Darwin Airport following the short flight from Bali, my Auntie Karen and Uncle David were there to greet me. It may sound like a fairly normal thing for family to do but Karen and David had driven over 5000km to make it happen. To put that in perspective, driving from London to Iran would be a shorter journey.

The two of them took up cycling just a few years ago. With this new found passion pulsing in their veins, David and Karen found the temptation too great. They decided to join me for the first leg of my Australian journey. With their bikes strapped onto the back of the ute and their trusty caravan in tow, the pair of them set off from Melbourne in the bottom of Australia to Darwin in the top. Yep, my family are all slightly crazy in a beautiful way 🙂

Aboriginal students who attended a presentation I made in Darwin

Aboriginal students who attended a presentation I made in Darwin

It was great to see these two wonderful people again. While in Darwin I presented a talk to some indigenous kids at a school on the outskirts of the city. Some of them could not care less about what I had to present, others eyes really lit up with excitement when they thought about what they could do with their lives. Besides this talk I also had media duties to uphold with local TV, radio and news paper journalists. I have to admit, it was weird to see myself in newspapers and on TV. I am simply a monkey on a bike.

Live on air during an interview at a Darwin Radio Station

Live on air during an interview at a Darwin Radio Station

With great excitement Karen, David and I hit the road. One day Karen would cycle with me and David would drive. The next day they would alternate. They were adamant that one of them would be cycling with me at all times despite the debilitating heat and vast distances we were covering in the gruelling, energy sapping conditions.

Huge termite mounds in the Northern Territory

Huge termite mounds in the Northern Territory

We made a cheeky little 400km detour into Kakadu National Park. The sun beat down on us daily. Shade was nonexistent. Huge termite mounds grew from the hard red earth, kangaroos, cattle, wild pigs and other animals laid slain on the side of the road, baking in the heat while kites hovered above looking for a meal. Many of these animals met their maker at the bull bar of the huge road trains that patrol the roads up here. These monstrous trucks, over fifty meters long at times, roar around the roads of Northern Territory. It can take them well over a kilometre to stop so any animal that wonders in front of them is in for a rough time.

A huge 90 wheel Road Train with its 90 tonne load.

A huge 90 wheel Road Train with its 90 tonne load.

One afternoon I took the opportunity to enjoy a cheeky siesta under a tree as the afternoon sun beat down. I was roused by the presence of something walking close to me. In a dazed state my eyes slowly opened to see a Kite skipping about in the dust just a few meters away. A few more were circling overhead. These hawk like birds are scavengers and feed off the dead animals out here in the outback. It was a weird feeling to know they wanted to eat me.

The detour into Kakadu National Park was well worth the effort. Huge escarpments towered over rivers, water holes and natural springs. Kangaroos hopped around and grazed in the warmth of the early morning sun. Hundreds of different birds filled the air with noise. It was clear to see from the water depth markers along the roads that this was a completely different world in the wet season.

We meet some really ‘interesting’ characters in the Aussie Outback. Some had spent far too much time lost in the arid wastelands and appeared to be borderline nut cases while others were absolutely brilliant. Cycling in the heat was pretty damn tough. It was a little surreal to look into the wavering mirage on the horizon and note the distant figure of a man standing in the middle of the road facing us. As we got closer I broke into a huge smile when I realised he stood there with two ice cold bottles of water for us to enjoy.  I cannot explain how good that water tasted…….

These guys stopped to give us some ice cold water on a stinking hot day. LEGENDS!!!!

These guys stopped to give us some ice cold water on a stinking hot day. LEGENDS!!!!

Some Aussies up here have a funny idea of distance. We were talking to a couple about some natural hot springs we planned to visit at Undara Volcanic National Park. They described them as “those hot springs just over there” with a nonchalant backhand flick of their hand as if they were just on the other side of the road. Those hot springs were 1500km down the road. Another young lad was describing how he was almost back at the station (farm) where he worked. “I am almost there” he said pointing up the long red dusty road. His station was still 250km away.

Cattle mustering

Cattle mustering

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This part of Queensland is not what you see in the tourist brochures.

One of the things I loved the most about being in the Aussie Outback was the perfect night skies, the sunrises and the sunsets. When you are hundreds of kilometres from the next town the skies are simply mind blowing. The Milky Way almost looked cloudy the stars were so dense. Most evenings I would spend time laying back and admiring the perfect skies. Such beauty and serenity are so rare in life.

Yet another magic sunset in the Outback

Yet another magic sunset in the Outback

After a long day cycling we stopped to camp in a place that had a small swimming pool. Such pleasures I know!! After swimming 20 laps Karen washed the water from her eyes to note she was not alone in the pool. She shared it with a snake.

I am not sure why kangaroos or koalas are considered the national animal of Australia. I think the humble fly deserves the distinguished honour. The plagues of flies were incredibly friendly. Day after day they climbed into the corner of my eyes, up my nose, in my mouth and ears. When the sun finally dropped it was incredibly sad to see the flies suddenly vanish into thin air. Thankfully their friends the mosquitoes would then come to keep us company!!

The owners of this ute were parked up next to us the previous day cooking their lunch. It appears they did not turn the bbq off properly. Oops!!

The owners of this ute were parked up next to us the previous day cooking their lunch. It appears they did not turn the bbq off properly. Oops!!

Having the caravan with us made things so much easier. Although I quietly refused to put any of my gear into the caravan to lighten my load, it meant I did not need to carry so much food and water. It was like I was cheating to have the support of the caravan. I mean, we had a fridge and freezer in there. We had lots of lovely food and water. I got to eat delicious fresh lunches and dinners while enjoying ice cold drinks in the evenings. This was something I only dreamt of when cycling solo. For the last 6 months my drinking water was stupidly warm day after day. To have cold drinks available daily was an embarrassing luxury.

No trees. no shade. Hard work on hot days

No trees. no shade. Hard work on hot days

On the way to Normanton we stopped to camp close to Flinders River. David and Karen always slept in the caravan; I had my tent. Only the major rivers had water at this time of year and the Flinders River was one of these. That evening we walked down to the river and shone the torch out over the water. Lots of eyes reflected back at us. Some sunk slowly into the water upon our inquisition. Crocodiles filled the river and lined the river edge. It was a little unnerving to walk 200m back to my tent knowing full well there were loads of crocodiles so close. I know my tent is still waterproof but I could not recall reading in the tent manual that it was crocodile proof.

The signs next to rivers say it all........

The signs next to rivers say it all……..

It is hard to imagine how big and vast the Australian Outback is until you experience it firsthand. We spent a few hours riding past Soudan Station. This farm alone covered 1.8 million acres. Out here the farmers search for their cattle with helicopters. Once the cattle have been located, then the teams on horseback and motorcycle go to muster them up.

Peak hour traffic was not so horrendous around here..........

Peak hour traffic was not so horrendous around here……….

On a long hard cycling I passed 40,075 kilometres which equates to the distance around the equator. It was quietly satisfying to know I had cycled enough to circumnavigate the earth but as red bull dust filled my eyes and the sun beat down I knew I could not be further from the leafy streets of Barnes and the Thames River where I started this journey. We had planned to have a little celebration that night but after cycling 175km in 35-40 degrees with strong headwinds I was shattered. I ate dinner then passed out. The frozen mango (my Northern Territory champagne) would have to remain on ice for another day.

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40,075km, One lap of planet earth. Job done!!

We made really good progress from Normanton to Cairns along the Savannah Way. When we set out from Darwin a month earlier we had no idea we would get this far together in the time we had. Karen, David and I covered a mammoth 3100km in a month. That is not slow in these conditions. I am simply in awe of Karen (63) and David (70).  Watching these two cycle in these brutal conditions was incredible. Temperatures sat close to 40 degrees more often than not yet they would regularly cycle over 100km per day when it was their turn to ride. How can I not feel inspired when I cycle with these two incredible people??

Karen and David looking down over Cairns. We had made it!! WOOHOO!!

Karen and David looking down over Cairns. We had made it!! WOOHOO!!

The day we arrived into Cairns was our last evening together. Some friends of theirs kindly hosted us and we had a huge bbq to celebrate our journey together.

The following day Karen and David packed up their bikes and started driving the 3000km home. Towing the caravan it would take them at least a week to get back to Melbourne. “Officially” I have not been sponsored on this trip. It would be fair to say Karen and David sponsored me during the month we rode together. They simply refused to let me pay for anything. Not only were they so kind but it was a huge amount of fun to cycle together.

Karen and David, I am so pleased you were a part of my journey. You two are simply inspirational, beautiful people. Cycling through the Aussie Outback would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable without you. You two are awesome J

Once these two headed south I went to see some other friends in Cairns. I had met Neil and Laurie in Turkey the first time I went there. They have both spent many years travelling the world so it was a pleasure hanging out and spinning yarns. It was great to catch up and spend a few days resting which I sorely needed. They also treated me so well while I stayed with them.

A slow sugar cane train rumbling along the old narrow tracks

A slow sugar cane train rumbling along the old narrow tracks

The Australian Heart Foundation had asked me to be an Ambassador for the Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle Challenge which was quite an honour knowing it happened to be the biggest bicycle ride in Queensland. The tight deadline meant I had to leg it down the Bruce Highway to ensure I made it to Brisbane in time for the charity ride.

It would be fair to say I did not really enjoy cycling the Bruce Highway. It was busy, hot and pretty damn boring. The most memorable part of this ride was being slapped about on a daily basis by magpies. These birds were such a menace at this time of year. I would be riding along minding my own business then “WHACK” in the back of the head.  These horrid birds would clobber me in the back of the head then fly up into a tree as if to say “ha ha I can get you but you cannot get me”. As soon as I turned my back and start cycling again I would get clobbered once more. Time and time and time again, day after day after day. In the end I learnt to completely ignore them. They seem to get excited and attack me more whenever I get agitated.

In Townsville I stopped to see a mate called Ken. We had met years ago in Venezuela where we climbed Mt Roraima together. Ken and I had a lot of laughs back then and it was a pleasure to see the guy once again. Ken is also addicted to travel and dreams of having his own yacht to sail the world within 10 years. Knowing his passion for living life I will hear of him sailing the Caribbean before too long .

The gears on my bike were not operating perfectly so I had organised to rendezvous with Paul Moir, the Queensland Distributor for the Rohloff Hub Gearing System which I have on my bike. Paul agreed to meet me even though he was on holiday. Paul removed my hub, stripped it down and gave it a full service. I had cycled around 43,000km over the previous two years yet no questions were asked. It did not cost me a cent. Rohloff just fixed the problem then sent me on my way. Now that is a huge thumbs up for Rohloff.

It was a great blast cycling with Matt. It would be fair to say he had a strong opinion about hills :)

It was a great blast cycling with Matt. It would be fair to say he had a strong opinion about hills 🙂

Back in 2001 I travelled through Africa for five months. I met some incredible people on this trip, a few of whom have become my best friends. Matt Henzell was one of these people. Matt and I were actually planning to do this bicycle ride together.  Unfortunately it did not work out as I was far too slow leaving London but it was an absolute please to ride with him for a few days into his home town of Brisbane.

Having a cheeky mid day siesta to escape the afternoon heat

Having a cheeky mid day siesta to escape the afternoon heat

Matt came to meet me in Yarraman and together we cycled for three days into Brisbane. We took the mickey out of each other from the outset. To be expected when a Kiwi and an Aussie get together I guess. We cycled along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT). On the first day we were met by Jeff and Kate who work on the BVRT. They had some cold drinks and nibbles waiting for us. One night we camped on the platform of an abandoned train station while another we were invited to camp behind a country pub. As we walked in the door of this pub a man at the bar looked us up and down then asked “are you the two cyclists?” word had spread Matt and I were in the neighbourhood. He knew we were heading his way. This guy gave us a place to shower, pitch the tent then bought us both a few beers. What a result after a hot day slogging it up and down hills!!

Matt being harassed by magpies. I have not laughed so hard in ages :)

Matt being harassed by magpies. I have not laughed so hard in ages 🙂

It brought tears to my eyes seeing Matt getting attacked by magpies. So funny!! We discovered it may not have been so funny when we spotted the hole punctured in his cycle helmet. These feral birds can be well nasty!!

The time I spent in Brisbane was absolutely brilliant. I caught up with a lot of good friends who I had met all over the world. Matt and his lovely wife Michelle put me up for a week. We had spent a lot of time together back in London so it was great to hang out once more.  Good people, good times!!

Matt rode with me during the Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle Challenge. There were over 10,000 cyclists participating. The two of us had completed the 100km course by 11am and were then treated to a feed and a massage thanks to the Australian Heart Foundation. Nice one! Along the route I got to chat with loads of people which made it a really enjoyable day

The sunrises were as stunning as the sunsets

The sunrises were as stunning as the sunsets

The first half of my journey through Aussie was complete. The toughest cycling on this huge lump of an island was now behind me.

For me, one of the best things about cycling in Australia was seeing my friends and family along the way. I was so happy to see every one that I did. Thanks so much to everyone who hosted me throughout Northern Territory and Queensland. You guys are absolutely awesome and I shall never forget your kindness 🙂

Bali and Lombok – Very Happy Days

It was a wonderful feeling to roll off the ferry and start pedalling from the port into Bali. I could not help but smile as left the ferry port. The majority of the traffic headed down the south coast towards Denpesar while I headed out along the north coast via the Balai Taman National Park. The sun was shining, the birds were singing in the national park and the roads were smooth and quiet. Life was all good.

It was a pleasure to be back on quiet roads once again

It was a pleasure to be back on quiet roads once again

That serene feeling quickly vanished when I accidently spooked a troop of monkeys. The males did not appreciate my sudden intrusion into their tropical domain so the males found it was their social duty to chase me out of their hood. I think I actually preferred being chased by the wild dogs in Turkey than these snarling, screaming menaces as they tried to grab hold of my bike. Not fun at all!!

A Hindu Ceremony taking place on the beach at Lovina.

A Hindu Ceremony taking place on the beach at Lovina.

My first night in Bali was spent in the fairly laid back touristy town called Lovina. I never really like touristy places but have to admit it was a lovely relaxed evening spent sitting on the beach watching the sun set as a Hindu Ceremony took place.

Although Bali is a part of Indonesia the Balinese are fiercely independent people. When you see how differently they are religiously, culturally and politically from the rest of Indonesia it is easy to see why.

Balinese men gathered at a small ceremony

Balinese men gathered at a small ceremony

On my way towards Nusa Dua and my rendezvous with my family I passed through quiet little seaside villages, beaches and beautifully stepped rice fields around Kahang Kahang.  Bali is a very picturesque island with a relaxed way of life but it was easy to see tourism had made its unpleasant impact on the local communities. The small town of Candasa was a perfect example of the impact tourism has had on this island. Candasa itself was filled with affluent tourists, quaint little cafe’s, galleries, restaurants, studios and shops. It was all quite exclusive and very picturesque. Just two kilometres up the road the locals lived in poverty. Kids played with old bicycle tyres, unemployed parents sat in the doorway of their run down homes. The contrast was undeniably stark and yet another example of how the rich get richer and how the locals are simply brushed aside.

I had looked forward to Bali for months and it was with much excitement that I arrived at the embarassingly lavish Novotel Nusa Dua. Here I was, a dirty monkey on a bike who lives in a tent turning up to a place like this to meet my family. My room was not yet ready so the staff poured me a freshly squeezed juice and asked me to wait in the stunning breezy reception.  I was so excited. Before too long a van pulled up and my sister instantly recognised the much skinnier brother she had last seen 3 ½ years earlier. She came running up the stairs and we embraced, both with tears in our eyes.

Jackson always taking things a little too seriously

Jackson always taking things a little too seriously

The next three days with Mel, her husband Trent and gorgeous kids Jasmine and Jackson were absolutely brilliant. It gave me such a warm feeling to be with family once again after so long living abroad and travelling. If I was not chilling and having a laugh with Mel and Trent I was playing with Jasmine and Jackson in the pool. They are such cool kids and it is scary to see how much they have both grown since I saw them last.

Nhung and Jasmine becoming good friends

Nhung and Jasmine becoming good friends

Three days after Mel arrived, the two of us headed out to the airport to collect our mother who was to join us. Not only was Mum joining us but so too was a girl called Nhung. I had first met Nhung back in Hanoi when I made a talk at the Hanoi Bicycle Collective. We then met up in Laos six weeks later when she went there for work and I was cycling through Vietntiane. We got on really well so Nhung bravely (or insanely) decided to come and spend some time with my family and I.

This guy had the warmest smile

This guy had the warmest smile

I felt humbled to sit back and look at all these people who had flown from three different countries to meet me here in Bali. I felt lucky to have these people in my life.

We had another phenomenal week together.  After months and months alone dealing with some pretty harsh conditions and pumping out the kilometres it felt so good to relax here in a stunning resort and enjoy myself with people I care about dearly. I was a very happy boy.

Mum and I together again for the first time in 3 1/2 years

Mum and I together again for the first time in 3 1/2 years

Nhung had us down on the beach doing yoga before breakfast, the kids kept us entertained during the day with their endless levels of energy. The evenings were spent eating out at some quality restaurants with delicious food. I loved spending time with Jasmine and Jackson. They are such adorable kids. Mum, Mel and I got to catch up on so much while Trent and I became even closer friends.

Trent loves his coffee and I shall cherish the moment he was presented with a cup of local Kopi Luwak Coffee. The Asian Palm Civet eats the coffee beans and eventually poo’s it out. The coffee beans are collected from the Civet poo and ground down to make coffee. The look on Trent’s face when presented with a cup of this coffee was priceless. For all those who find themselves with the chance to try this unique coffee, give it a go. It is actually pretty damn good. Just try not to picture it coming out of some animal’s cake hole and you will be fine. Easier said than done 🙂

On our last night together Mel had organised a belated 40th birthday cake to celebrate the occasion. This was my first birthday with family for many years. It was hilarious. The staff came strolling purposefully down the stairs with a cake blazing in candles singing Happy Birthday only to realise they were not sure who the intended recipient was. From table to table they went hoping someone would take it off their hands. Eventually we claimed it. Caos!!

Our last dinner together. Rubbish!!

Our last dinner together. Rubbish!!

It was sad when Mum, Mel, Trent and the kids headed for home. No sooner had they arrived in Bali that it felt like they were leaving again. I was a bit choked up to see Jasmine’s sad face and quivering bottom lip when we said our goodbyes. I know I do not see my family enough. I cannot wait to see you all again as I look to finish this trip.

Thankfully it was not a total exodus. Poor Nhung, was stuck with me for another week!! We hired a little motorbike for 8 days, packed a few clothes, grabbed my tent and without any idea where we were headed, set off in the afternoon sun. Our “Bali no plan plan” was underway.

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My cheeky Mosquito emerging from the tent

From the few days I had spent with Nhung prior to Bali, my gut feeling was that I had crossed paths with a quite incredible human being. Our time together here in Bali reinforced this feeling. We had an awesome time zipping about the island exploring beaches, villages, mountains, temples, lakes and everything else Bali had to offer. It was so good to get away from the touristy areas and explore the natural beauty so many people miss when they come to Bali. We never planned much, just did what we wanted, when we wanted and went where the mood took us, if it took us anywhere. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed going up the hills on a motorcycle rather than my pushie for once.

The picturesque Danau Batur

The picturesque Danau Batur

Sometimes we would treat ourselves to a nice little bungalow in the mountains and enjoy some lush home comforts while others we would pitch my little tent next to a beach or lake and simply enjoy the blanket of stars at night.

Nhung had only been scuba diving a few times and wanted more so we took the opportunity to explore the big blue while we were there. The ocean was alive with brightly coloured fish and coral. The underwater world is so incredibly peaceful and calm. I love it down there.

Nhung and I exploring the underwater world around Bali

Nhung and I exploring the underwater world around Bali

Those days with Nhung were so much fun but unfortunately the inevitable day came where we had to say goodbye. I really did not want Nhung to leave but sadly, like most normal people, she had a job to return to back home in Hanoi. She had real life commitments. It was only me who currently lived in some sort of dream like existence as I cycled around the world.

People toiling away in rice fields

People toiling away in rice fields

The last few weeks were a bit of a blur. I was so lucky that my beautiful family and my cheeky Mosquito (Nhung) had come to see me in Bali. I was sad to be alone again but it reinforced my determination to push on and finish this journey. I miss you all a lot and I shall be forever thankful for the time we had together.

Yet another beautiful quiet beach on Lombok

Yet another beautiful quiet beach on Lombok

Everyone had gone. I was alone again. Thankfully I did not have time to mope about feeling sorry for myself. I cycled up to the lovely hillside village of Ubud where a friend called George lived. George and I had met in Malaysia a few months back. He had also done a fair bit of cycle touring in different parts of the world. George was a Cypriot who passed his days enjoying the Bali sun, carving sculptures from stone or natural timber he found washed up on the shore. His work is incredible. George was kind enough to have me stay in his lovely villa for a few days and with typical Cypriot hospitality, bluntly refused to let me contribute in any way. “This is my house, you insult me if you bring anything into my house” We had a lot of laughs as we chatted about cycle touring and football which was awesome.

George, thank you so much for the kindness you showed me. The day will come when I can return the favour 🙂

Some cool kids who came to see me and my tent as I slept in their village up in the hills

Some cool kids who came to see me and my tent as I slept in their village up in the hills

Enough mucking about. I had been lazy for a few weeks now and the time had come to get the legs ticking over once more. I had booked my flight from Bali to Australia so to fill in the days, I popped over to Lombok, a predominantly Muslim island and cycled around there for a week.

I think Lombok is more beautiful than Bali. It was much more quiet and the people far more friendly. Tourism has had less of an impact here. It was easy to find stunning isolated tropical palm lined beaches. Camping was easier but the cycling was pretty damn tough in places.

The impressive volcano Gunung Rinjang dominates the skyline of Lombok

The impressive volcano Gunung Rinjang dominates the skyline of Lombok

There were a few places crammed with sun baking tourists. I would pop in for a look at what normal people do, quickly decided I wanted nothing to do with it, moaned about the expensive food prices and busy beaches then cycled 10km down the road to find a quiet little beach and set up camp under the stars.

Lombok has lovely beaches, thick tropical forests and a massive volcano in Gunung Rinjani which seems to loom ominously over you no matter where you are on the island. It is a great place to visit.

My last few days were spent relaxing on a very quiet little beach in the south west of Lombok. While floating around in the warm ocean with my eyes closed and the sun warming my chest I thought a lot about the road ahead. I thought about where I was now and knew I should enjoy it. In a few short days I would be cycling through the harsh, unforgiving, brutal conditions of Northern Australia.

Not the worst place in the world to spend my last couple of days in Indonesia

Not the worst place in the world to spend my last couple of days in Indonesia

I had spent the last two years wondering what I would do with my life once I finished this journey. Where I would live, what I would do. Up until now I was no closer to finding that answer than the day I cycled out of London. Now things were becoming a little clearer. I had other challenges and ideas. I had other things to look forward to. I was beginning to get a little more clarity on where I wanted my life to go.

My time in Indonesia had come to an end. I returned to Bali and cycled back to Ubud where I spent one last night hanging out with George. The next morning the two of us cycled 40km to a Specialized bicycle shop just outside of Kuta. The staff were so good to me. A great man in the shop stripped my bike down, packed it beautifully into a box and then the staff kindly dropped me off at the airport. I arrived at the airport in such a good mood. These people had made that happen. Their kindness was the perfect way to finish my time in Bali.

George (on the left) and a great guy at the bike shop before I said goodbye and headed for the airport

George (on the left) and a great guy at the bike shop before I said goodbye and headed for the airport. Australia….here I come!!

Indonesia had been incredibly tough at times but here in Bali it was like I was living a dream. Bali was simply beautiful thanks mainly to the people who came to see me.

Love you all. I look forward to seeing every one of you again.

-xxx-

ps: if you would like to see more photos from Bali, have a look at the following link :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinsadventure/sets/72157635302307494/

if you would like to see more photos from Lombok, have a look at the following link :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinsadventure/sets/72157635314287708/

Java – roads of chaos

Java

It almost felt offensive to pay a meagre $2 for the three hour ferry ride from Sumatra to Java but I certainly was not in the mood to complain. I was the only foreigner on the over loaded ferry which meant I received more than my fair share of glances and giggles. Jammed amongst the masses of motorcycles on the deck of the ferry stood a single touring bicycle and its tired looking panniers. From what I could fathom on that ferry, every man in Indonesia was a bicycle mechanic. As the men puffed continuously on their cigarettes they checked my brakes, tested the seat, assessed the tyre pressure and studied the gears. They all liked my bike a lot, some maybe a little too much for my liking.

Who said you cannot put a power pole in the middle of the road??

Who said you cannot put a power pole in the middle of the road??

While camping in a school some students gave me drinks and snacks to take with me in the morning

While camping in a school some students gave me drinks and snacks to take with me in the morning

There are always times when cycling in poor countries that you become distinctly aware others are very curious about the value of your bicycle.

Despite receiving a few uncomfortable glares, I rolled off the ferry without incident, pulled up at a small restaurant and devoured a huge meal. With a full belly I was ready to start cycling east through Java.

I cycled with this guy for a few hours even though we could not speak a word with each other

I cycled with this guy for a few hours even though we could not speak a word with each other

looking back over tea plantations and dormant volcanoes

looking back over tea plantations and dormant volcanoes

It would be fair to say I had underestimated just how busy the roads of Java would be. Cycling through even the smallest town proved to be a frustrating experience. Traffic jams and thick pollution came to be a normal part of my day. Cars and buses stuck in traffic with no chance of moving, sat insistently on their horns, just for something to do. I would stop at traffic lights and at times hundreds of motorbikes squeezed to the front, all revving their engines and bellowing out smoke. It was horrid. At least I was able to cover my mouth with my shirt. The poor infants and young children on the back of motorbikes were left to suck it up. Cycling past the city of Bandar took over 4 hours as the traffic jams and sickly pollution started 25km out of the city. It would be stretching the truth if I said I was enjoyed days like that.

Traffic jams like this were all too frequent in Java. The air was thick with fumes from motorcycles and cars

Traffic jams like this were all too frequent in Java. The air was thick with fumes from motorcycles and cars

It did not take too long before I learnt to do as the locals do. This meant showing no consideration or politeness towards any other road user. I cut people off and refused to let people in.  If I let one person in from a side road, a hundred others would also force their way in. If I left a smallest gap between myself and the motorcycle in front of me, someone would force their front wheel into that gap. There was absolutely no courtesy or consideration for others on the roads of Java. The drivers on Java are incredibly impatient but their tolerance towards the horrific driving around them is to be admired. After just a few arduous days of cycling like this it was driving me nuts. It was difficult to comprehend how the Javanese people remain so calm and battle these roads all their lives.

One evening I was stuck for a place to sleep so these students asked me to sleep at their place. GOLD!!

One evening I was stuck for a place to sleep so these students asked me to sleep at their place. GOLD!!

Having left the students flat in the hills, this was the view I enjoyed first thing in the morning. Happy Days

Having left the students flat in the hills, this was the view I enjoyed first thing in the morning. Happy Days

With a population of around 140 million people; Java is the most populated island on earth so it was little wonder the roads were manic and less of a mystery why so many cycle tourists bypass this island.

The traffic mattered not. This man had a place to go. With or without shoes......

The traffic mattered not. This man had a place to go. With or without shoes……

One evening I found a cheap hotel feeling absolutely shattered. For some reason I was not hungry. None of the food I saw being cooked appealed to me. I assumed the last few weeks of manic cycling was taking its toll and I was just over tired. Overnight some sort of virus took a grip. I spent most of the night sweating on the throne with nasty stomach cramps. At dawn I was broken and feeling incredibly weak. Getting out of bed was a mission. My elbows, knees, back, shoulders and neck ached constantly. I started to wonder if I had contracted something quite sinister. My pace was incredibly slow as I plodded up and down hills in the heat. I stopped for what turned out to be the most repulsive bowl of noodles ever presented to a human being. I dry reached every mouthful but I knew I had to eat to maintain any sort of energy. Plain biscuits seemed to be the only thing I could stomach without gagging. Somehow I made it through the day. As heavy raindrops started to fall late in the afternoon I sought refuge in a nice little restaurant. There I ate some more food. A meal that I would normally devour in five minutes took nearly an hour to finish. As I sat there with my head resting on the table I fell asleep, only waking when I noted I was dribbling on my arm. This was a tad embarrassing but the audience that had gathered all seemed to find it quite amusing.

The rain failed to ease off so with darkness closing in I donned my jacket and went in search of another cheap hotel. Thankfully I found a place to sleep quickly enough. Completely drenched I plodded into my room. Too tired to even shower I just stripped off my wet gear and collapsed on the bed.  Looking back I have no idea how I managed to cycle almost 100km that day.

It would have been so easy and sensible to just sleep all of that day but with my visa about to expire I had to push on.

This makes my bike look rather light in comparison.

This makes my bike look rather light in comparison.

The stomach cramps and dodgy belly remained for a week or so but thankfully the appetite returned. This allowed me to cycle with some sort of energy in the legs even if the belly was a little “grumpy”.

A misty morning on the way into Yogyakarta

A misty morning on the way into Yogyakarta

Rolling into Yogyakarta was a great feeling. I had completed one of the toughest months of my journey, including the last 18 days without a rest in some seriously challenging conditions. I would do a quick visa run to Singapore to collect a new visa for Indonesia. I would return to Yogykarta knowing I had 850km to cycle in eight days if I was to rendezvous with my family in Bali. After the last month cycling in Sumatra and West Java, I was super confident. This would be a walk in the park.

Fruit Stalls in Yogyakarta

Fruit Stalls in Yogyakarta

Cannot be easy on very bumpy roads in that traffic.

Cannot be easy on very bumpy roads in that traffic.

The last month of hectic cycling had taken its toll. The scales at my friend Harm-Jan’s flat in Singapore told me I had lost 5kg in 30 days. Looking in the mirror I would be the first to admit I do not have 5kg to lose. I needed to slow down and have a break.

In the limited time available back in Singapore on my visa run, Harm-Jan did his utmost to fatten me up again. After a few days resting and eating I returned to Yogyakarta with renewed energy.

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A typical work vehicle on Java

It would be quite an understatement to suggest Java was not even close to being my favourite cycling destination but the last few days were actually quite pleasant. The traffic lessened the further east I rode, lush green rice fields sprawled out towards massive volcanoes which lined my route. Men dragged massive loads of bamboo through busy towns. The people commuted on pedal powered tuk tuk’s or horse drawn carts. The homeless and mentally unwell were left to their own devices. One poor guy slept completely naked next to a busy road in the baking sun. No one seemed to care.

Heavy afternoon downpours became the norm as I rode along the north east coast of Java. The rain was a nice reprieve from the heat but with the roads flooded the numerous potholes were impossible to see.

Another big load on a wobbly old bike

Another big load on a wobbly old bike

One such evening I rolled into a police station, completely soaked hoping to pitch my tent next to their station. The young officer was a bit startled as I appeared out of the darkness and seemed really apprehensive to help. The officer asked loads of questions, asked for my passport then referred me to his superior. The sergeant asked more questions “where am I from, where do I go, why do I travel alone, what is in my bags, why do I wish to sleep at a police station” “Because it is safe” I told him. The young guy eventually softened his stance as we chatted and even took me to dinner, paying for my meal. On the way back to the station he hung his head and apologised. The guy was incredibly remorseful and embarrassed that when he first saw me he thought I was a terrorist rolling up to his station with bags full of bombs.

I found this pretty damn funny but he was horrified by his assumptions. When his shift had finished he came to me once again, head hung low to apologise. The shame was obvious. I told him not to worry but the poor guy went to his superior and broke down in tears, so ashamed of what he had assumed about me. I ended up being given a room for the night and endless tea and biscuits by these good policemen.

An awesome little fishing village on the north east coast of Java

An awesome little fishing village on the north east coast of Java

Terrorism was a serious concern around here. The following day I stopped to take a photo of the first road sign I saw giving directions to Bali. This sign was outside a small police check point. My mistake. Three officers came charging out, guns on their hips, demanding to know why I was taking photographs around their station. They insisted I delete the photos. I said I was merely taking photos of a road sign and refused to delete it. They wanted to take my profile photo from the front, left and right. They insisted I remove my hat. I refused to remove my hat and said they could only take my photo if I could take theirs. I was tired, hot and not in the mood to be treated like a criminal. They quickly took my photo, I quickly took theirs. They were not happy. Eventually we all calmed down and I explained what I was doing. They finally believed me then told me to sod off. It seems the local police have an idea of what a terrorist apparently looks like and it appears I fit the bill.

My last night on Java was spent camping next to a small restaurant 10km before Ketapong. The restaurant itself was not much more than a thatched roof on poles over a timber floor. The owners hired a security guard to protect their property at night. Despite the difficulties communicating we had plenty of laughs throughout the evening as the guard inspected all my equipment. He suggested I take his blanket and sleep on the restaurant floor so he could sleep in my tent, so amazed he was with my lightweight mobile home. Not sure how he was meant to protect the restaurant from thieves if he slept in my tent or just how useful his bow and arrows would be in there but never the less, he was well excited about the idea.

My last night camping on Java. I was happy to be moving on.......

My last night camping on Java. I was happy to be moving on…….

I won’t lie, I was glad to be leaving Java. It was not my favourite place to cycle by a long shot. Java was far too busy and manic for my liking. There will always be some unpleasant places on a journey as long as mine but it is nice to have some rewards in the end.  is a source of motivation to know that once I cycle through some unpleasant areas eventually I will get my reward. Bali was going to be that reward…….