Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sunny Scotland

It was sunny and mild this afternoon. It's not such a bad old city really and neither are its people. I feel a bit guilty about the things I've been saying - and I'm not so stupid that I don't know that it says more about me than the reality that is Scotland. This photo depicts a statue of Donald Dewar looking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow on a wet autumnal evening. Mr Dewar was the inaugral First Minister in 1999 when Scotland became a devolved power with its own parliament. Sadly he died a year later whilst in office, prematurely of a brain haemorrhage, and then this statue was erected. He wore glasses, which are a difficult thing to sculpt, so they were made of wire. Several times young tykes pulled the wire glasses off the sculpture and in the end he was left spectacleless. He surveys the throbbing metropolis, in a blurry haze.

So, I was in town to do a bit of last minute shopping and I was accosted by a charity worker. She was very persistent and I'm very polite, especially when the lady in question has a lilting Limerick accent. She told me all about the mistreatment of animals and how gorillas have their hands chopped off to make ashtrays. All she wanted from me was the price of a cup of coffee a week, via a standing order to help fight a war against animal trafficking and mistreatment. I felt terrible - and sorry for her more than all the gorillas with stumps. However, I told her about my shoestring existence and how me and my last pennies were about to go to Australia. Somehow I managed to extricate myself and then bumped into my neighbour, Tony.

Tony had just used his bus pass for the first time, as he's now 60 and bus travel is free for oldies. He walked back to keep me company though, as I don't do buses. I don't usually do walking, but of course I can't ride my bike for fear of contamination. He told me about the time he was swimming at Bondi Beach and a jellyfish tentacle became wrapped around his middle three times. He said it was the worst pain he'd ever experienced, although he had made a complete recovery within an hour. When we got back to our tenement building, Tony helped me to dismantle my bike and put it in the box. Or rather he did most of it because he's very handy. He had donned his blue overalls and he meant business. Even with a wheel removed, along with a mudguard, the rack, the handlebars and the saddle, it was still a squeeze to get in there.

The rest of the day was spent packing. Or rather I spent the rest of the day covering the my bed and surrounding floor with things I might pack, then Laura came over after work and supervised the actual packing.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


This is near the town of Wollongong, just south of Sydney. I want to ride on that road!

I woke up this morning and checked emails on my netbook before surfacing, as I usually do. I went from bleary-eyed to wide-eyed in 0.24 seconds when noticing the date on the screen as 29/2/12. I leave on the 1st and still have loads to do. The date was wrong of course - but isn't it odd how we rely so implicitly on computers.

What a funny old place Glasgow is. I'm looking about me much more than usual, as I'm about to leave this world behind for two whole months and enter another world. All day it was that peculiar weather between drizzle and mist, or smir as they call it here, which is so common. I remember, when first landing in this northern outpost, in December 1990, that it rained for part of every single day and the city felt dark, mean and melancholy. I quite liked it though because it matched my mood. There was a French film director on TV last night and he was raving about the quality of light in Scotland. He said it wasn't like anywhere else and even looked beautiful in the rain. I kind of see where he's coming from, although he's probably just trying to say all the right things to get funding for some project from the Scottish Arts Council. Today I walked around my local suburb of Dennistoun and thought how the people are like rodents, the way they scuttle about silently and look scared, as though you're about to do them harm as you pass them by. I arrived back at my flat just behind a dustman, who didn't hear me as he was hauling a wheelie bin. When he saw me his startled eyes seemed to say "Please don't eat me!" Maybe I look like a cat, or maybe I look just they same as they do. It's incredible how quiet it is round here though and it can't just be to do with the sturdy Victorian tenements we all live in.

Watch out Australia, I'll soon be making nasty comments about you too!

Monday, 27 February 2012


This is a four-spined jewel spider and isn't he or she beautiful? The shape reminds me of the Millenium Falcon spaceship in Star Wars. I've been sating myself on such imagees today and can't wait to see all the beautiful insects and other beasties (although I won't get too close to the spiders). The biggest insect on the continent is a stick insect that can grow to 50 cm! The biggest butterfly has an 18 cm wingspan and a type of bird-eating spider can measure 16 cm. Today I learned that insects make up almost 90% of all living things on the planet and also that female mosquitoes like to urinate on us as they suck our blood. Tidbindilla Nature Reserve is one of the places Lucie plans to take me when I visit her in Canberra. Here I should see koalas, kangaroos, potaroos and wallaroos, possums, platypuses and possums, emus, echidnas and lyrebirds, all in a a natural setting. It could well be the one and only time I see any of these animals throughout my stay - apart from roadkill.

Looking at creatures put me in a good mood this morning; it was downhill from there. All the aforementioned animals might be washed away before I get there - and Canberra along with them. 114 mm of rain fell on parts of Victoria in the previous 24 hours. Compare that with the average total February rainfall of 50 mm. More is set to fall over the next few days and as much as 200 mm in the Capital Territories. Watch this space. I'll be interested to see if they moan about it and then I can call them whingeing Ozzies. Meanwhile it's forecast to reach 17 degrees in parts of Northern Scotland tomorrow... in February! 17 degrees would be practically a heatwave in July, let alone in February.

The other bad news relates to my bicycle. I had it returned to me today, after its service. It cost... I can't even bring myself to type the amount, but it was more than double what I expected. I'm so glad I will have extra rent money coming in because without it I'd be in trouble. Neil at the bike shop said it took him six hours and he's never spent that long on a service before. He worked on it mostly after the shop shut because he didn't want to be disturbed and finished at 10.30 pm last night. Just about everything was replaced. If all those bits that had been taken off were put together, the whole would be more my bicycle than the bicycle that I call my bicycle that grins at me from across my ambiently-lit bedroom. I suppose the frame is still the one from the original bike. So, it was cleaned very, very thoroughly, and this being Scotland it was caked in a lot of mud and grease - six years' worth in some hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. Ross, who brought it to my door, said I should give the tyres a wipe before I put it in the box! That's an end to my training. I better not ride it before the flight - I've barely used it in the last week as it is.

Another succinct Google Maps hotel review to finish. Bronwyn says of the Wee Jasper Station :

"Locals are... intresting." (sic)

Sunday, 26 February 2012


That's what they call flip flops. In other countries they're called jandals, slip-slops, diggers and slippers. It must lead to a lot of confusion. I worked on a helpline once and we used to get this perennial pervert phoning us. If he got through to a man he would hang up, but with a woman he would go through the motions as if it was a genuine call and then he would somehow get onto the subject of footwear. He liked women to say "flip flops". That was his thing. His thing was the thing Ozzies call thongs, not the thing we call thongs and they call g-strings, which you would have thought would be more of a common thing to be into. But I digress... One of the things that I'm definitely not into is change in any shape or form. Glen is moving in next week and I have to make my/his bedroom liveable; ie empty, or at least emptier. Laura, my lovely, lovely girlfriend was staying here this weekend and luckily she is good at - and even enjoys - changes of this nature. I guess, as a woman, without wishing to appear sexist, change is what her gender is all about; which is why they (and especially Laura) like to buy new clothes, wear make-up, jewellery and have haircuts. This attitude must continue into the general domesticity, inherent within the female, including featherng the nest, decluttering and renewal. Whereas the male of the species likes to slob about in the same comfy clothes he's been wearing for years, not changing his appearance and generally never thinkng about prettyfying anything. A man would never, for example, buy an old piece of furniture from a junk shop and paint it, and neither would he encircle his bathtub with aromatherapy candles. Forking stuff (which hasn't seen the light of day since the old Queen died) out of the wardbrobe and drawers, was actually quite an enjoyable and cathartic experience when accompanied by an individual, who not only puts up with my stick-in-the-mudness, funny little ways and intensity; but makes fun and light-heartedness of something I couldn't do on my own unless a rocket was stuck up my backside. I would stand in the middle of the room, boxes at hand (I could get that far) gaze about me at the fusty chaos that is my bedroom, flail my arms, then sit on the bed and stare into nothingness.

So, we were going through all this stuff from the Pliocene era, and we came across a pair of Australian flip-flops, identical to the ones in the photo. I remembered they had been posted to me by Lucie several years ago. I must have shoved them at the back of the wardbrobe, thinking that in the wet wilds of Scotland, and not being the type to holiday on beaches, that they might not be useful for some time. Well, that time has come!

It's now Sunday evening and I'm in my favourite habitat (my bedroom) and attitude (supine with one leg crossing the other and upper foot tapping to the electro beat). Surveying my pared down quarters, I feel that anything is possible, like riding a bicycle across Australia. The wardrobe and drawers are empty and I've taken down the cork noticeboards and all the teenagerish paraphernia from the walls. No, not posters of hot chicks; cartoons, postcards and dead beetles. I left the maps, including the Australian one, which Glen can study if he's feeling homesick when he realises he hasn't seen the sun in eleven weeks and he's started growing webbed feet.

I've been exhausted this weekend. Nothing much to do with hefting boxes, more mental fatigue borne of stressing over this trip. It might also be the anguish associated with another birthday passing by. I turned 46 on Saturday. Only three full days to go now and it still doesn't seem real. I'll be fine once I'm over there and pedalling away.

Friday, 24 February 2012


There was this British TV comedy in the 70s called The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Every time the eponymous character, played by Leonard Rossiter, thought of his mother-in-law an image of a hippo galumphing across a mudflat would flash before his eyes with an accompanying 'dum dum' trumpeting sound. I often see the same image when out and about in the East End of Glasgow. I've just returned from a shopping expedition and hate to go so late in the day because it gets busy (but had a bloody Couchsurfer staying!) As a posh English twit it's not pc to criticize the Scots. So I can't say how fat and disgusting a lot of them are. I can't talk about how they smoke right in the supermarket doorway, wear shellsuits, look miserable and the ones who don't look miserable are scowling at you. I also can't mention the men with full heads of hair who have shaved it all off, how everyone has babies in pushchairs, they stand with their trollies against the shelves so you can't reach across, they gossip with their fat arses filling up the aisles so you can't get past and fill up scores of plastic bags (a checkout assistant told me less than 10% bring bags with them) with white bread, booze, ginger (that's what they call fizzy drink here), crisps and cream cakes. Whereas of course I don't do any of these things, being the paradigm of virtue that I am.

Filling my panniers with a week's worth of healthy supplies (All Bran, raw spinach, organic quail's eggs, artisan tofu, etc) is always a delicate operation. I put the heaviest and largest items at the bottom and smaller, larger things higher up, with something like a locally-sourced bunch of bananas at the top.

I got my dollars yesterday. I was looking at the exchange rate online and then discovered that money could be delivered by post. It was my normal postman who handed 1440 AUS dollars/1005 sterling to me! Obviously it had to be signed for.

Sent out my final, desperate, pleas for accommodation yesterday and it resulted in two more beds. Looks like I'll have to stay in hotels for about six nights out of my two month stay - which is very good. One host sent out a group email amongst her local friends and all of their replies landed in my inbox. It was interesting to read the messages they sent to each other. One described me as "Your lad" to the host who had sent out the original message. Someone else said "Give me a hoy if you need more info." Think I'll start a book with all the lingo I hear.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Four 'n' Twenty

According to the man who will soon be sleeping in my bed (not in the biblical sense) these are delicious pies. They are the most popular meat pies in Victoria, you can get hot ones at 7-elevens and I don't think blackbirds feature in them. Lucie tells me about vanilla milkshakes too, which apparently can't be found for love or money over here. She thought those little wooden forks you sometimes get with chips were funny too. It's interesting what one notices and remembers about other countries.

This is something that struck me as noteworthy about Lucie's country. I was watching a TV programme entitled Best Undressed the other day, concerning the entrants in a Miss Nude Australia contest (for research purposes you understand). One of the competitors talked to the documentary-maker about how a mother of a terminally sick young man had approached her to ask if she would strip for him at his hospice. She thought it was a bit weird, but went along with it. She performed her routine in front of the young man, literally lying in his deathbed and he was unable to move or speak, along with his friends, as I recall. A few days later she received an SMS from the mother thanking her and saying that her son had just died.

A man in Perisher Valley, New South Wales, replied to my Couchsurfing request today. Not only the name is off-putting, but also the fact that the town is actually on top of a mountain. Because it's at an altitude of 5,640', which is 2,528' higher - and 19 miles further - than Jindabyne, I might stay in a hotel in the latter. If I go to Perisher Valley it will entail two back-to-back 100+ mile rides (as opposed to 85 & 87 miles via Jindabyne) - and this would be only a week into the journey.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Yesterday I carried a big cardboard box home from the bike shop, a distance of 1.5 miles. My arms are still at least a foot longer. The perils of non-cardom. There was only one available and it was full of rubbish, the mechanic said. Oh, I don't mind, I said, thinking he meant a bit of bubblewrap and polythene, and didn't even look. Outside the shop I discovered he meant all manner of rubbish - cans, bottles, paperwork, etc. I put some in a bin in the street, then started to feel guilty that I was putting too much rubbish in a public bin and I should be recycling most of it anyway. I also worried that if I filled the bin up, passers by would be more likely to drop their litter. It was windy as well and the bin had a big enough opening so that it could easily be stirred up. My life is full of conundrums such as this. I only put about 10% of the rubbish in that bin, then moved on to another. Several bins later, the box and I continued our slow progress. I had to keep shifting positions as it was such an awkward shape to carry - and the wind tossed me about like a ship with a sail. I had to stop at the supermarket for a few things and worried that someone would throw away, rip up, dispose of, or urinate on my box. I couldn't very well take it around with me and it was too big to go in a trolley. The box was still there and even assisted me as a container for my shopping! It's now safely stowed behind the sofa, ready to be filled with freshly cleaned bicycle bits.

Today it's even windier, but I'm working at home. I know I go on about the wind a lot, but really it affects my life a lot.

My friend Lucie in Canberra has given me some advice as well. She says it's illegal to cycle without a helmet everywhere except the Northern Territories. I have to wear it for insurance purposes anyway. Here are her top tips :

1. Turn your shoes over when you take them off in case a venomous spider crawls inside.

2. Squash any spiders you see by treading on them.

3. Wear long pants in the bush in case of snakes and stomp loudly to warn them you are coming.

4. If you are bitten by a snake get a good look at it so you can describe it to hospital staff.

5. Pantyhose is an adequate material for keeping jellyfish stings at bay.

6. When you are about to sit on a rock make sure it is not infested with ants.

I certainly will NOT be squashing any spiders. She also says there are green ants in the north whose abdomens taste lemony. I will not be eating any ants either. While I'm on the subject... being a carnivore myself, I have no problem with anyone eating the meat of any animal. However watching TV 'personalities' wincing as they chew witchetty grubs and dressing it up as entertainment is dispicable animal cruelty. They call it a 'bushtucker trial' in I'm a Celebrity. It's a bit more of a trial for a helpless insect (that would one day become a beautiful moth) to have its head bitten off actually.

Monday, 20 February 2012


This was my speed on my return trip from Edinburgh today! Shocking. In my defence the relentless headwind was 15/20 mph, as well as being wet and generally pretty miserable. I usually enjoy cycling whatever the weather, but not today - it was very arduous - and I'm just glad I didn't give in and take the train, as well as relieved to now have my feet up in the warm, dry confines of my bijou flat. I had no fight in me whatsoever. The wind was master and I let it be. You sometimes see hardened cyclists battling the elements, red-faced, with an expression straight out of a Samurai warrior painting, who wore the nastiest, contorted grimace imaginable to frighten their opponents in battle. Not me; I give in, keep my head down and go into a zombie state. On dreich days like this I think about all kinds of stuff (often food-related) and make trivial plans, especially relating to simple sums and calendar dates. Anything to take my mind off it. Today I tried to work out how one could ride a bicycle from A to B in adverse wind conditions and somehow negate the wind, or use it to their advantage. Water and oxygen-starved my brain seemed to think it a possible puzzle to solve, like the wind or the Earth could be shifted on its axis using maths. As you can imagine, apart from cycling the other way around the globe I didn't get very far.

As I'm not very well off, I thought I might as well advertise for a temporary tenant for my bedroom while I'm away. In a city the size of Glasgow there's always someone who is looking for a short term let. As is the case with Glen, who is moving in the day I leave. He's new to the city, so while he finds his feet, this situation suits him perfectly. And get this - Glen is from Melbourne! He's got dual citizenship due to having a Scottish mother and is trying out living in the Old Country to see if it suits him. He picked me up over the way I said his home town which is pronounced Melb'n. He also bitched about people from the north and called them rednecks. Personally I'm happy to meet such individuals, as I want to experience as much diversity as possible; city slickers, Crocodile Dundees, naturists...

As she has extensively backpacked all over the country, Laura gave me advice on the Australian animal kingdom this weekend. What do you do when you see a cassowary (pictured)? Make yourself tall apparently. What do you do when you see a spider? Don't touch it. What do you do if you see a snake? Run. Can you swim anywhere in the sea? Not if you see a sign warning about jelly fish or shark-infested waters. She's worried that I'll want to touch things and keep beasties as pets.

Only ten days to go.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Dear Dr. O’Mittenz?,

I’m writing to you about the most irritating sound I have ever heard? It’s what has become known simply as the Interrogative Inflection?, but it’s official name is the Australian Interrogative Inflection (AII)? You know what I’m talking about? It’s when speakers put a slight inflective lilt at the end of every single sentence? sometimes in the middle of a sentence? to make everything sound like a question? And to make you look like a complete idiot?

I came across this when Googling 'Australian inflection'. Also known as HRT (high rise terminal) this is one of the few things I'm not looking forward to. I'm also slightly worried I will start doing it myself. Apparently I already have an Australian accent, even though I've never set foot in the country. Especially in Scotland, but in England also people ask me if I'm from the Antipodes. Just yesterday I phoned a lady in England I had met last summer to do with work and trying to remember our encounter, she asked if I was Australian. I can only surmise that after living north of the border for 21 years my accent has softened and slurred as I've subconciously tried to blend in and not sound as if I've got a plum stuck up my backside (as one girlfriend put it). Maybe I am returning to my spiritual homeland.

I have been checking out hotels as well because some legs of my journey are Couchsurferless. Using Google maps I came across a hotel in Carmila, northern Queensland, which a lady by the name of Jessica had reviewed. She had given it four stars and written :

Looking good. I might just stay there one day.

Thanks for that Jessica.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


So, I was in the bike shop today, making enquiries about purloining a cardboard box. No problem, one of the mechanics informed me, all their new bikes arrive boxed, so they always have plenty available. I'm so glad I told him what country I was flying to because he knew of people who had emigrated there, only for their bikes to be refused entry. What was the matter with them might you wonder? They were dirty. Yes, Australia is the only country the mechanic had heard of where this had happened. I never clean my bike, not out of laziness, but as a deterrent to would be thieves. Foreign dirt is not allowed over there apparently - Laura says they don't want to upset their precious pH balance. Shoes have to be squeaky clean too.

So, anyway, the box might be too big to fit in with luggage requirements, so it would have to be truncated in some way.

I thought I'd better take a look at the Australian tourist board/Embassy to find out if I need to be inoculated for avian bird flu as my Dad was concerned about this. It was a good thing that I did look because I found out I needed a visa. Of course it's all done electronically nowadays and I have nothing to show for it. except for a 24 quid dent in my bank account. After this I forgot all about the bird flu...

Talking of birds and dirt, I also forgot to mention another excellent Ozzie film called Long Weekend. It concerns this couple who leave their suburban home one to camp on a remote bit of beach and how nature gets back at them after they kill a dugong. I've spoiled it now and possibly put you off anyway, although it really is worth watching.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Bad Boy Bubby

This is a still from Bad Boy Bubby, my favourite film, which also happens to be Australian. Unless you're of a nervous disposition you might want to check it out. It's about a 35 year old man who lives alone with his mother, who calls him Bubby. She wears a gas mask when she leaves the house to give him the impression the outside world is a harmful environment. He has never left the house and hasn't been allowed to develop beyond the mental age of a small child, with a vocabulary to match. Then he escapes...

Australia has produced many great films, such as The Piano, Shine, Muriel's Wedding, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Celia and Sweetie. Then of course there's Crocodile Dundee and Babe. Kidding! What I particularly like about many of them is their naturalism and unselfconscious actors. Apparently there was a film made in 2006 called Jindabyne, filmed in the town of the same name in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains - and I'm going there.

I saw a skein of geese overhead yesterday and it seemed odd that they were flying north at this time of year. Maybe spring is around the corner. I hope it isn't as warm here this March and April as it was last year. I made a note in last year's diary of a ride in South Lanarkshire. It was March 24th and I clearly remember wearing only a T shirt and shorts most of the way. The trees were still completely bare so it seemed a little odd. I like the weather to be bad here when I'm holidaying in sunnier climes, so that I'm avoiding it. This may sound perversely uncharitable, but hey, that's the way I'm made.

It's all gone a bit quiet on the accommodation front and I'm still waiting to hear from several people. Today there was an email from the delightfully named Ardath Wunsch and 'Ivan lighted mesh with placid translation' was its subject title. Just in case it related to my trip I thought I'd take a look.

I am Ardath and I randomly choose different people in case to find interesting ones and meet further.
I suppose you are not afraid of such things;) So, I'll be first. I'm rather sociable and open to people.
I am sure that everyone has something peculiar about himself. So what's special about u?) What are you interested in???)
I'm sorry, I gotta go now but I rely on you...) I hope you will have some free time to write me an answer. Please do it)))
Talk to you later!

Shall I reply?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Ooh er Mrs

This photo is from Laura's facebook updates and was taken in an Australian pub. I'm suddenly looking foward to my trip immensely. Laura has lots of Antipodean friends as a result of living in NZ for six years and backpacking in Oz. She told me that one place on my route, Bowen in Queensland, is renowned for backpackers being stranded there as there are temporary fruit picking jobs which attract them, but when the money runs out they get stuck. Or something like that. I wasn't really listening. As my brother, Anthony, who has dived there, points out, Queensland is also renowned for highly dangerous jellyfish. According to Wikipedia Box jellyfish have been categorised as the most venomous creatures in the world. Why would anyone go diving there?

Today's cycle back from Edinburgh was another arduous one. This time I averaged 10.4 mph. I'm actually less bothered about this than the 11.7 I clocked the other day, as the fiendish wind is usually against me on the westward leg.

More whinging I'm afraid. Why are there so many horrible people in this country? Today I witnessed drivers cutting me up, not indicating, someone dropping litter and a driver who joined the stationary queue of traffic whilst waiting for lights to change and in the process blocked a pedestrian crossing. A woman with a pram couldn't cross the road because of him. There better not be any people like this in Australia. Or any litter. I think the London borough which is attempting to pass a law banning spitting from its streets and imposing an 80 quid fine on perpetrators is a bit excessive, but rubbish and dogshit are both disgusting. If I was in charge litter louts caught in the act would have a ton of rubbish emptied all over the floors of their houses to give them a wake up call.

Finally, Laura showed me the way to be sent an email to say I've updated my blog is to become a follower. I know this sounds like I'm the leader of a cult, but I promise not to brainwash you into following my demented belief system.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Whinging pom

My mother says yes, she has been having kittens.

So I am on here to whinge again about the weather. Riding a bike in the winter isn't much fun as you have to get all bundled up, then get too warm when you are going up a big hill, stop to remove various items of clothing, continue uphill, then come down the other side of the hill, get cold, stop to put clothes on, etc, etc. It would be OK if I lived somewhere flat, but Scotland is a wee bitty on the hilly side. Also there's less oxygen in the winter and less sunshine. I cycled to Edinburgh to be with my girlfriend, Laura, on Friday and took one of the longer, hillier routes, via pretty Elsrickle and Lamancha (which sounds to me like a location for Westerns). Over this 65 mile journey, with not much bullying from the wind, I averaged 11.7 mph, which is pathetic. This is only partly to do with the temperature. It is also to do with a lack of fitness. When I cycled across the US in 2008 on an average day I was doing 14 mph over 70 miles. This might not sound like much of a difference, but actually in car terms, 14 is cruising speed and anything below 12 is like being stuck behind a tractor.

Of course I should be training more, although this brings me back to the weather and whinging again.

In other news, out of the 59 nights I will be on Australian soil or sand there only remains 13 nights where accommodation has not been arranged. At least three of these will almost certainly be spent in hotels or roadhouses, as the population is so thin on the ground in certain parts. Of the other 10 I'm sure to cobble together a few more hosts. This is excellent and I'm a happy pom once more.

I have been receiving more colourful messages from down under such as this one :

Hi again actually Manly itself will have all you need while waiting. Restos. Pubs. Cafes. Beaches. Swimming in 23 degree water two blocks away. Cheers P

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The rain & the raw

This is a photo of a lady I’m staying with in Chiltern, Victoria. Well, I think she's a lady. Can’t wait to meet her!

As a few correspondents have mentioned how wet it’s been in Queensland this summer (our winter) I thought I’d check out the rainfall stats on Wikipedia. It rains more in a year in Cairns than it does in Paisley (closest weather station to Glasgow) by a ratio of 79 : 49! Sydney has marginally less and Melbourne nearly half as much. I thought Australia was hot and dry. Well at least it’s sunnier over there. Paisley averages 34 hours of sunshine throughout the whole of January, whereas Cairns basks in 192 hours - inbetween downpours that is.

Here’s another Couchsurfing reply I received today :

Hi there Adrian...

It certainly looks like you are a very experienced CSer!!

I usually like guests to stay for more than two days - if possible - so as to get to know them and establish a good friendship.

How long are you planning to be in Cairns?

Will you dive the Great Barrier Reef while you're here? It's of course one of the main reasons why people come here to visit.

The weather in April in North Queensland will be a warm but the humidity will have dropped a little - so that will make your journey more pleasant. At present, it's about 70%.

I moved here from New Zealand 11 years ago, and I have cycled around all the South Island... so I can understand your amazing journey.

Finally, I'm a nudist, and my home is a nudist environment, are you ok with that?

My mother will be having kittens. Actually the thought of being nude anywhere but my shower is a scary thought as I shiver cross-legged and fingerless-gloved at my computer.

I’m still looking for more hosts (naturist or otherwise) if anyone knows of anyone in the land of the free from clothes.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Going live

Yesterday I bunged up servers the world over with my dastardly viral email. I sent so many that my Yahoo account kept telling me off with warning messages about spam and making me copy letters into a box, sign in again and generally waving an electronic finger at me. I am hoping to create a bit of a buzz about my exploits and really want people to post on here. Nearly 24 hours later one person has commented. Woo hoo! These are some of the other replies I received :

I will be reading your blog and appreciate that it's your sour butt not mine.

Is this the same Adrian who bicycled across the US playing Scrabble?? Adrian, don't you EVER stay home?

Good luck on your 3500 mile odyssey! I first heard of you through the Scrabble site when you were in the PNW of the USA. Hoped to meet you then, but it did not work out. I'm a cyclist too though on a much smaller scale ;-)
Best wishes from Oregon!

pls unsubscribe me

Thanks for the below, unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea who you are.

In other news, I looked into bike bags. They’re very similar to body bags and could serve as one if you chopped the legs off. It’s a bit like that with bikes as you have to remove the wheels. I need to package my bicycle in some way to take it on the plane. A bag would be a good idea as I can use it again, they have handles and they’re easier to carry than a box. So I went into a bike shop. I don’t know what I was thinking of. It’s huge and heavy - and has to be to protect it. There’s no way I could carry it on my bike. Folded up it would fill up a whole pannier and I only have two. There’s no point in taking one on the outward flight, leaving it in Melbourne and then using a box in Cairns. I could post it but that would cost money... So I will probably be boxing it up again.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Magpies & beetles

It was -2 first thing this morning and my feet are perched on a hot water bottle as I type.

So I was playing Scrabble last night with a young lady (we hooked up via the wonderful experience that is Couchsurfing) and she told me about her time living in Melbourne. She gave me lots of tips, such as which mobile phone company to go with (Telstra) and how some cyclists have big eyes painted on their helmets to keep magpies at bay. This sounds like a joke, but I've just googled 'Magpie attack' and seen a whole host of injuries, including a girl who lost her sight. There were other images of cyclists with spikes coming out of their helmets and one with a fake bird atop his. A pet eagle would be a good solution. Josephine, my Scrabble partner said they didn't look like our neatly coloured magpies, but as if they had been haphazardly splattered with paint.

Yesterday I bought insurance and I hope I am covered for avian mishaps. This reminds me I need to look into bird flu, which according to my Dad is a danger down under. I phoned up Direct Insurance and they said it ws 38% extra for cycle tourism. I phoned again and someone else said it was an extra 50%. It's cynical cyclism is what it is.

Talking of creatures, I hope not to be hit by a kangaroo bounding across the road either (Josepine said the only roos she saw were roadkill) but don't mind insects alighting on me, as long as they don't bite of course. I like insects very much, especially beetles and will be stopping every time I see a new one. Here in a Glasgow winter there is very little coleoptera beetling about. The only ones I get to see are the size of a pin head and seem to like my toilet paper.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Ozzie Open

As an Ozziephile and a tennis nut I was of course enjoying the coverage of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Not that I have Sky TV or anything and was quite content with the blinkng boxes on the electronic scoreboard, where I paid particular attention to the Murray matches. However, for the first time ever, I listened to the official radio station. It was a treat because the dulcet, dark-brown voiced commentators were so laid back and humorous - unlike the stuffy old BBC. They talked about balls being out by a bee's nadger and a female pundit was given the specific task of counting how many times Rafa Nadal adjusted his shorts, which he does very often at the gusset. I can't imagine Sue Barker, the Wimbledon lynchpin, engaging in such antics.

Today I bought more plane tickets. I have to get from Glasgow to Heathrow and the easiest option seems to be by air, especially when transporting a bicycle, which is the best way to travel, but ironically a very awkward object to transport. My bike and I will also be flying from Cairns back to Melbourne. I would rather have taken the train, yet although the three states in question have settled their differences with regard to gauge widths, I would still need to change twice and just getting to Brisbane takes two days. At least I'll get to see the landmass from above.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Deadly treadly

I’ve been amusing myself with the lingo at, which was sent to me by my friend Lucie, who I’m hoping to stay with in Canberra, if she hasn’t been transferred to Alice Springs by then that is. A deadly treadly is a fast bicycle. Other expressions that tickled my fancy are :

Nana nap - sleep in the afternoon
Nicky na nas - underwear
Pack of poo tickets - a mess
Burqini - a modestly cut swimming costume - cross between bikini and burqa
Maggot bag & blood - pie & tomato sauce
Boiled bum nuts - eggs
Wobbly boot - drunk, eg “he’s got the wobbly boot on”

Burqini would be a beaut in Scrabble as it’s a seven letter word with a q-less u.

So, I’m going to be posting on here every day now, even though I‘ve hardly told a soul about this blog yet. I received 20 odd replies to nearly 40 accommodation requests. I even woke in the middle of the night and had to check to see how many had got back to me. If this level of excitement keeps up I’ll need to start having nana naps. These repliers didn’t disappoint either, liberally sprinkling their messages with g’days, mates and general Ozzie bonhomie. Some in northern Queensland talked of dirt tracks, monsoons and how they couldn’t plan that far ahead, adding to my vision of rural Australian being a land apart, where civilization, time and progress have had little impact on the wilderness. I shouldn’t have preconceptions though and don’t want to annoy anybody with prejudiced generalizations before I’ve even arrived.

Lucie also told me about how the states used to have separate governments right up until they were federated in 1901. The railways had been around for some time in each state, but nobody had thought that it might be helpful to build them all the same gauge. Queensland was poor and built 3' 6" lines, New South Wales & South Australia were a little bit richer so theirs were 4’8”, whereas Western Australia & Victoria had lots of gold, so were able to construct 5’3” tracks.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Four weeks to go

Yes, I leave on March 1st. Today I do have something to say - quite a lot has happened in fact. First of all I want to grumble about the weather, as we like to do in this damp, little island. It hasn’t been damp of late, sunny most of the time, but cold, literally freezing the last few days and to use the well-worn forecaster’s phrase : in some sheltered glens might drop to -10 tonight. I also have the cold, as they say in these parts. It was brought on by my last return journey from Edinburgh, when a chilly, easterly wind whipped me along at the giddy heights of 12.1 mph, yet gave me a touch of man flu. I’m glad it’s now and not during my escapade. It wouldn’t stop me though, and in fact today I was beetling about Glasgow on my clunky machine. It really needs a service and will be treated to one before I leave of course.

So, anyway… Today I sent messages to Australians who use and (the two travel hosting websites I use - the first is general and the second for touring cyclists). This was after I’d plotted the route from Melbourne to Cairns. I looked to see where hosts were available, worked out the distances and then put in all the dates. I have 60 days in total in the country and after a few days are subtracted from each end, this left 53. Starting the first leg as ‘day 1’ from Melbourne, averaging 60-70 miles a day and taking roughly one rest day a week into account, I reached Cairns on ‘day 53’, which was exactly what I wanted. The headache bit was over. I have only written one request to each location and if the say no (surely not) more requests will be despatched.

But that’s all rather boring. I am actually a tiny bit excited by the prospect of meeting some of these people I’ve contacted, as some of them seem eccentric through my grey, British eyes. I’ve come across quite a few new-age types and others who come across like they’ve just arrived ‘off the boat’. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way; just that they look like pioneers. All the pioneers in Britain have pioneered there way out of it.

From what little knowledge I have, I absolutely adore Australia and Australians. In a way I don’t want to know too much about it, so that I can drink it in with unsullied taste buds. As an example of why I feel so positive about my trip, I’ve already received four replies to my requests before 9 am their time - I only wrote them a few hours ago - during the Down Under night - and one of them got back to me at 5.26 in the morning his time!