Turkey is a land of incredible contrast, history and beauty. In December 2019 I was lucky enough to spend 9 days exploring the unparalleled Cappadocia region of Anatolia and the hectic, sprawling metropolis of Istanbul.
Broome & The Kimberley. Where do I start? This amazing part of the planet will always be second home to me. I spent 3 years of my life here (plus three dry seasons), and it’s where I really honed my photographic craft and developed a passion into a business. There really is no place on earth like Broome!
Images created in partnership with Broome Camel Safaris
Neues Schwartz, Dortmund, Germany – Roasters of specialty coffee, and home to a cafe with a relaxed, down to earth vibe. I spent an afternoon with the baristas from Cafe Nomad as they learned the basics of coffee tasting, roasting and latte art.
Heidelberg has been my home for over two years, and I have taken countless photos during this time. Here are a few of my favourites. Images are available for licence and stock photography, please enquire for prices.
If you’re looking for Heidelberg photographs for print, you can find them in my Print Store.
In a few months, it’ll be two years since I last photographed the camels on Cable Beach. This job was an invaluable step along my path as a photographer and gave me confidence and foundational skills to pursue photography as a career.
I can’t say when I’ll next have the opportunity to run barefoot down Cable Beach, with camera in hand and salty air filling my lungs. But in the gloom of a long European winter, the scene often replays in my head behind closed eyes.
Hard as it was to leave this job, the climate, the people, the beach, this was a move that had to be made. One that I’ve tried but failed to regret. I could never better myself as a photographer, a person, by staying where I was. Life was too comfortable, too easy.
But I feel no guilt in reminiscing, in longing for an easy life of again running across a beach resembling an upside down sky and squinting into the blinding tropical light. Trying to get that perfect shot.
I never did get that perfect shot, I’m sure many photographers feel they never will. But this series of photographs is about as close as I feel I came.
I hope you enjoy.
As always, feedback is much appreciated. Do you have a favourite? Have you been to Broome, or ridden these camels? What was the experience of a sunset on Cable Beach like for you?
My favourite shots of Heidelberg, where I took them and the settings I used.
Heidelberg is a well-known tourist destination and the city has been well covered from all the common angles. But I have spent a lot of time around here over the past year and a half and tried to cover the city from a less common perspective. So here’s my take on Heidelberg and surrounds:
Ziegelhausen and the Odenwald
While these images are not specifically in Heidelberg, they’re close enough for me… One of the things I like a lot about Heidelberg is the proximity to the outdoors and what seems like complete wilderness. Heidelberg is surrounded by forests full of walking and mountain biking trails.
The most famous walk in Heidelberg. This path runs parallel with the Neckar River – Rather than capture the traditional shot of the city from up above, I like to head a bit further and capture the forest trails. Particularly in autumn when the fog starts to roll in.
Evidently I like to go up Königstuhl when it’s snowy, and I generally only go there for drone shots – and usually for sunrise. The reason being that Heidelberg is in a valley and the sun doesn’t show until quite late. So if I get to the top of the highest peak then I can catch the first light better. Also, while the snowfall doesn’t usually stick around for long in town, the extra elevation up here means I’m more likely to catch some wintery looking shots.
Heidelberg’s Altstadt is famed for its beauty. As a
While it is the obvious focal point of the city, I still had to include some castle shots. Hopefully, they’re a little different to what you’ve seen before!
Leave a comment to let me know what your favourite shot(s) are and if any of the information I’ve provided is helpful!
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, a Spanish Archipelago off the coast of Morocco. The island is infamous for being a tropical – lay by the pool and do nothing for a week – resort destination. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve visited twice this year and discovered that there is so much more to this dramatic, volcanic paradise. My own impressions of Tenerife couldn’t be further from that cliche.
So for those of you picturing a beach full of stranded whales, mostly of British descent, pints of Fosters balanced on their sunburnt stomachs, let me paint you another picture of Tenerife.
Tenerife Is Wild
First off, I’m a photographer. So forget the poolside cocktails, I love Tenerife because of its incredible landscape. But what really gets me going is the visual diversity. Every turn you make on Tenerife offers up a completely new perspective. From remote villages and endless banana plantations to volcanic peaks and North American-looking pine forests.
When I first considered a trip to Tenerife I pictured sandy white beaches, palm trees and snorkel-friendly turquoise waters. But Tenerife is wild. Sure, you’ll find beaches and palm trees, but the coastline is more New Zealand than New Caledonia. Steep cliffs plunge into the Atlantic as the steady flow of breakers creates a curtain of mist, which lingers until dramatically capturing each day’s last light.
If you head inland the elevation increases rapidly as you navigate some of Earth’s most winding roads. Within a few minutes, you’ll be in a forest that’s enveloped in a veil of cloud – some 1500m above sea level. Drive on and you soon exceed 2000m in elevation and emerge from the cloud into a landscape resembling Mars, dominated at its centre by the ever-present Teide.
If you drive a lap of the island you will, within a few hours, experience the rainforests of the north, the barren desert-like south, snow in the centre and vineyards, forests & cities in between. Surely nowhere else can boast that kind of wild and compact diversity.
The Food and Wine Scene Is Amazing
You’ve probably never considered Tenerife specifically for a culinary getaway. Understandable. A few hours of wandering the resort packed south of Tenerife exposed me to foods with all the sophistication (and flavour) of a wet cardboard box. But, as in any destination, you need to escape the tourist masses to discover the real flavours. I mean, even in Italy it’s easy to find horrible pizza if you spend all your time amongst the crowds. So get out into the more traditional parts of the island and you’ll discover some unique, delicious foods and a rich history of wine production.
Traditional dishes include rabbit, goat stew and of course plenty of fresh seafood. Accompanying almost every dish are papas arrugadas and the Canarian speciality “Mojo” sauce. Papas Arrugadas are potatoes boiled with the skin on and a generous helping of salt. Mojo sauce is either red or green and made up of garlic, peppers, onion, olive oil, vinegar and chillies. I was lucky enough to visit Bodegas Monje (a 5th generation winery and restaurant in Tenerife’s north) and receive a Mojo making masterclass, after which I sat down to delicious local wines and the best pulled pork I’ve ever eaten.
While you’ve probably never seen a Tenerifeian wine on the shelf of your local supermarket, Tenerife has had a booming wine industry since the days of Shakespear – who apparently was a big fan. The fertile volcanic soil and generous sunshine make for perfect grape growing conditions. But the islands size and topography mean production is limited, hence the lack of mass-exports. On the flip side, that means they don’t waste their time producing rubbish. I’m no connoisseur, but I do love a good drop of red, and this was up there with some of the best I’ve tasted.
I can’t write about my food experiences in Tenerife and not mention Arepas. Arepas are a traditional Venezuelan food that can be found in almost any local bar or cafe on Tenerife. They became popular because of the two-way migration that has been going on between the Canary Islands and Venezuela (sometimes referred to as the 8th Island) for generations. Made from ground corn, the breads are then deep fried then sliced open and served like delicious little burgers; with meat, chicken, avocado – or whatever you want – inside. Not to be missed!
Tenerife has the Best Weather in the World
Tenerife is sometimes referred to as the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’, and for good reason. Regardless of the time of year, Tenerife is never too hot nor too cold; average temperatures range from about 18-28 degrees year round. Regulated by the cool currents of the Atlantic, the island is one of the places on earth with the lowest difference between average high and low temperatures. At least at sea level. Head uphill a bit and it goes from speedos to ski jackets real quick. It may be the tropics, but in “winter” there’s a permanent white cap on the centre of the Island.
The height of the Teide also contributes to a number of microclimates. Aside from altitude, this is most noticeable between the north and south of Tenerife, with the north receiving 73 per cent of the island’s rain – despite being less than 100km away. No doubt the reason most tourists never leave the south and miss out on the beautiful and moody northern rainforests.
But you can be forgiven for wanting to visit Tenerife only to experience perfect sunshine. Having lived in Europe for a year I now understand the need to escape the misery of winter and relax on a beach.
It’s Spain, but with Its Own Flavour
As a Spanish colony since the 15th century, Tenerife is dotted with cities and small, colourful villages with a very Spanish feel to them. However, isolated from the mainland and with close ties to Latin America, the Canaries have also developed some cultural and linguistic differences from mainland Spain.
Many Islanders’ joined expeditions to help Spain populate the New World, most notably in Venezuela and Cuba. Many of the relatives have since returned to Tenerife, bringing their way of life and Latin American influences with them. These are evident in the music, food, and the Spanish language in the Canaries.
The architecture is typically Spanish, but the topography of Tenerife gives some of the towns a very unique look. Many colourful villages are perched on impossibly steep hillsides. Then there’s the famous town of Garachico, rebuilt on the very same lava flow that destroyed it in 1706.
Tenerife Is One of the Biggest Volcanoes on the Planet
Have you ever considered the thought of being atop a 3718m snow-capped volcano while looking down at a tropical coastline? Teide is the highest point in Spain and one of the biggest volcanoes in the world from its base. You can hike the mountain from the plateau or you can take a cable car up. From the top of the cable car, it’s a steep 160 vertical meters to the peak. But the incredible views across the Atlantic and the other Canary Islands are worth it.
Hiking is popular all around the Teide National Park, but outdoor activities are popular throughout Tenerife. There are hiking trails throughout the rainforests of the north, and an incredible trail from the Masca village down to the ocean. Cycling has become very popular in Tenerife and Mountain biking trails have been built throughout the island’s interior. But if you’re really keen/a biological freak then it seems a popular activity to ride from one side of Tenerife to the other – reaching altitudes of over 2000m in between.
Because of its altitude, clear skies and lack of light pollution, Tenerife is one of the best places in the world to observe the night sky. Guided hikes, stargazing and sunrise tours from the top of the mountain can all be booked through Volcano Teide Experience.
For some more images of Tenerife you can check out my earlier blog 4 Days in Tenerfie!
“But if you’re up there who’s going to take care of you?” That was the response from my doctor the last time I left hospital as an inpatient. It was five years ago in Melbourne. I’d just told him I was moving to Broome, a small tropical town in the North West of Australia with no specialist Cystic Fibrosis care. “That’s the point. In Broome I won’t need looking after.” It probably sounded arrogant but it’s what I genuinely believed, and it turned out to be pretty accurate.
It was the middle of winter and I’d just spent 2 weeks receiving IV antibiotics. A pretty routine experience for someone with Cystic Fibrosis, and one that I’d been through maybe 6 or 7 times before. But this time I’d blown my lowest ever FEV1 (the main indicator of lung health), and I was scared. They say that with CF the lung function should decline by about 1-2% per year. Until that point I’d been stable for about a decade, but this time I was down nearly 10%.
Unwilling (as I always will be) to accept that this was just the natural progression of my disease, I decided that something had to change. So I quit my job and I moved to Broome. 5 years, zero hospital stays and a 20% increase in lung function later, I’m confident I made the right call.
Over time I’ve realised that Melbourne itself wasn’t the problem. It was more the other changes that came along as a result of new circumstances.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, I made a list. These are the 5 things I believe had the greatest positive impact on my health over the past 5 years:
- Avoiding winter
- Getting a lot of fresh/salty air
- Having passion and ambition (outside of CF)
- Being Busy
I’ll elaborate a little:
Exercise was always the go-to for me, so this isn’t a recent development. I attribute my good health growing up to the fact that I was a very active kid (among other things). But there have been times when I’ve slumped and my motivation levels have flatlined. In Melbourne I was working late nights in bar. The work was fun but my exercise routine and sleep patterns were all over the place, or non-existent. I’ve always enjoyed working out or running in the evenings, but this wasn’t possible with my work hours. And after working late I was hardly motivated to get up and do anything early the next day.
So I made the simple decision that I wouldn’t work nights anymore. My routine may not be perfect and I’m not always consistent, but I seem to have that base level of muscle memory. Especially when it comes to running. If I feel that I’m coming down with a chest infection, my first instinct isn’t to visit the doctor or down a load of antibiotics. My first instinct is to put on my worn out Nike’s and head out the door. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard and I come up with plenty of excuses to avoid it. But, ultimately, I know it’s what I’m going to do. What I have to do. And I’m never more motivated and pumped than when I’ve just smashed out a run I didn’t want to start in the first place. Not to mention how much better it makes me feel physically.
Until the start of the year I would have put this one right at the top of the list. I attributed a lot more of my good health to warm weather than I would now (I’ve just endured my coldest winter ever here in Germany without a single issue). Before this European winter my last winter was 2013 – in Melbourne.
Looking back, though, all but one of my previous hospital stays were in winter. It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots there. Undoubtably I feel more energised in the warmer months, and sunny days are far better at seducing me into outdoor activities. Also, being outdoors more has the additional bonus of reducing your exposure to the bugs that other people carry.
In future I won’t head into winter with the same sense of dread, but I will still avoid it completely if possible. At the very least I plan on settling down somewhere where winter is a bit less wintery.
Fresh Salty Air
I first visited Broome in 2011. I remember it well because before arriving I’d been feeling sick. So sick that I was thinking I’d probably need to fly straight to Perth for a hospital visit. But, no exaggeration, the day I arrived – a full day of beach, sun and fresh salty air – I felt amazing. Maybe it was coincidental, but that effect was permanently etched into my mind. So, naturally, Broome was my first choice when it came to escaping the Melbourne winter. I lived there over the winters (Broome has no real winter) for the following few years, before staying permanently until 2017.
Warm weather aside, there’s a lot to be said for the healing properties of the beach and it’s salty air. Maybe it’s a personal thing – I almost feel some kind of claustrophobia inland or in a big city – but the wide open spaces and the fresh breeze at the beach give me an ability to breathe and think clearly. Then there’s also the medically proven ability of salty air to clear the lungs. In that sense, I was extremely lucky to have a job that required me to be at the beach 6 afternoons per week.
In future, I want to live as close to a beach as possible. But it doesn’t have to be a beach. Even here in Heidelberg, I find that just going outside to walk around for an hour, or even riding my bike to work both have a huge positive impact.
Passion and Ambition (Outside of Cystic Fibrosis)
These last two are the big ones, because I firmly believe that good physical health starts in the mind. This is why, even when I was getting the first three right, it sometimes didn’t all come together.
Until the previous few years I’d been very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not that I didn’t have any ambition at all, I just didn’t know where to direct it. I spread it around aimlessly and changed my mind on a daily basis.
While working in Sydney I developed a passion for the work I was doing as a Barista. I wanted to learn everything I could, and I wanted to be good at it. Eventually I found that I actually cared about my job and, get this, some days I actually looked forward to it! I’d genuinely not experienced that before.
Then, when I returned to Broome I got lucky with a job photographing camels on Cable Beach. I rediscovered my love for photography and I started to devote a lot of my spare time to it as well. Photography is now a massive motivator and distraction for me. And not just while I’m out there doing it; mind space that used to be set aside for worrying and stressing is now used up dreaming about the places I want to go and the things I want to photograph.
When I had nothing to aim for it was a lot easier to get caught up in thoughts about my health, and I have no doubt that those thoughts physically affected me.
Now on any given day I spend very little time, if any, thinking about Cystic Fibrosis.
During the peak seasons in Broome I was working 60-70 hours per week over two jobs. In my spare time I’d be out taking photos, at home editing photos, or out running. I never felt sick. Before I left New Zealand I was working maybe 20 hours per week and I felt sick all the time. It sounds counterintuitive, and a balance needs to be found, but in my experience being constantly on the move seems to help my body stay on top of any potential infections. Being busy also I means I don’t have time to sit around and feel sorry for myself. An obvious mental advantage.
When I moved to Australia I made a point of never telling my employers (and I had many…) that I had Cystic Fibrosis, because I didn’t want the option of using that as an excuse. Also, in Australia I always had casual jobs. This meant that I didn’t get paid for sick days and I could be fired without notice. So being sick wasn’t an option.
It’s not that I have to be working all the time. But having anything else to focus on and distract me just seems to help a lot, and it’s in the down time that I often don’t feel my best.
Find Out What Works For You
I often find that there’s a sense of inevitability within the Cystic Fibrosis bubble. I know I’m in a relatively privileged position, though I won’t say lucky. Lucky is being born without CF, or any illness at all. I still have my stuff to deal with. I just realise that for many people Cystic Fibrosis was a dominant force in their lives from a very young age. But I still think we have the ability to dictate terms to Cystic Fibrosis more than we are led to believe.
During my first ever hospital stay (as a 12 year old) a nurse said to me “Oh, this is your first stay? I guess we’ll be seeing you more regularly from now on. You’ll also need a Portacath soon.” I had no idea what a Portacath was and I haven’t needed one to this day.
This is what I mean by inevitability. There was no malice in what that nurse said, just failure to consider that I could go on to have a normal life. Comments like that can instil such unnecessary negativity, and for what possible benefit? It was based on previous experience and education I’m sure, but there’s no hope, or faith, or imagination – whatever you want to call it. Not to mention encouragement. It’s the same as a doctor once explaining to me that my lung function could never improve, while showing me a graph of my lung function improving. And why, when I explained that in Broome I wouldn’t need taking care of, the doctor in Melbourne thought I was a fool.
This is by no means an anti-doctor post. I have full respect for the medical community and I’ve had a great relationship with most of my doctors. I still pop handfuls of pills on a daily basis and I can’t deny the positive effects of Hypertonic Saline. But I don’t think there’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution to CF. You’ve gotta take what you can from doctors and medicine, but work out your own way of dealing with it too.
“You’re from New Zealand and you moved here?”
My awful German inevitably leads to this question on an almost daily basis. It’s asked in way that suggests Germans feel obliged to inform me that, actually, I was much better off staying home. I don’t fully understand this reaction. Sure, New Zealand is beautiful and we can even go shopping on Sundays if we want. But Germany isn’t all sauerkraut, terrible weather and funny leather pants; the country is filled with history, culture, and some incredible scenery of its own.
LIFE IN GERMANY
Recently I celebrated one year of living in Germany. Aside from a daily frustration with the Germans’ lack of queueing etiquette, and the inability to pay by card at will (they are very suspicious of technology), I love it here. So much so that I’ve even taken a liking to sparkling water – the default version of water here. All I need is a decent beach and I’ll happily stay forever.
I think there’s an old fashioned stereotype that paints the Germans as serious, even a little cold. Sure, they do love structure and rules here, and sometimes their brutal honesty catches me off guard. But Germans are some of the most friendly and accommodating people out there. During my time backpacking around Australia, it was often the Germans who I found the most fun and the easiest to get along with. Everyone I meet seems to have a genuine curiosity about where I’m from and how I like it here, and they are all incredibly patient towards foreigners who at least have a go at learning their language.
How did I end up in Heidelberg?
Long story short:
In 2016 I cycled across Europe (from France to Romania) to raise funds and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. Along the way I met a German girl who studies here in Heidelberg. Soon after returning to Australia I quit my job and decided to return to Europe and have a go at living the German dream.
Heidelberg is an incredibly beautiful city of around 150,000 people. It’s home to Germany’s oldest university (1386) and about 40,000 students. The old town is one of the major tourist attractions in Germany – and I live right in the middle of it. Coming from a country where 100 year old buildings are rare and marvelled at it’s sometimes hard to comprehend the fact that the castle out my window is from the year 1214. Needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time out and about photographing the city and it’s surroundings.
The German Seasons
Even though Heidelberg is in the warmest region of Germany, one of the major differences I’ve noticed here is the dramatic change between seasons. Ok, so I lived in Broome for the previous few years where it’s either hot and dry, or hotter and wet. But even compared to New Zealand the four seasons here are incredibly distinct. Summer days are long and hot, with sunrise just after 5 and sunset at around 9.30. Winter days, although mild by European standards, are short and, well, fresh! I had to buy my first ever genuine winter jacket, and for a few weeks there I basically tried not to leave the house if I could get away with it. The weather in Autumn and Spring is mild but unpredictable, an added bonus being I can usually move along the main street without being steamrolled by a Chinese tour group. Also, Because Heidelberg is surrounded by forest, these seasons are full of amazing colour.
Here’s a few more of my favourite shots from the past year:
PHOTOGRAPHER | TRAVELLER | CYSTIC FIBROSIS ADVOCATE
New Zealand born and currently living in Germany, I developed my photographic style on the beaches of Western Australia. I have a passion for people, travel and the natural world, and I’m constantly seeking the perfect light. Take a look at the About page to find out my story.
BROOME, WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S HIDDEN TROPICAL OASIS
Broome is a well kept secret. Until I started a road trip in that direction 7 years ago, I’d never heard of this seaside paradise. People often ask me where I lived in Australia, but give me a strange look – as if I’ve misunderstood the question – when I reply. But it’s remoteness and the fact it remains so unknown are probably major contributors to Broome’s appeal. Broome, to me, is the most stunning and incredible place in Australia. Here’s why:
THE BROOME DOME
It’s a legal requirement that you download at least three weather apps before you set foot in Broome. In fact nowhere on earth will you find such a concentrated population of weather experts, all with their own interpretations of the rain radar or the dragonfly-per-cubic-meter ratio. Which is strange, because for 8 months of the year Broome has no weather. I’ll sum up the forecast for April to November right now: Sunny and 30-35 degrees. Every day.
Of course there’s the Wet Season, though. But don’t be fooled into thinking that means rain. No, it just refers to the sweaty state of your clothing for four months. Coming from New Zealand it was a strange phenomenon to witness the excitement that comes with the prospect of rain, and the disappointment when the rain fails to materialise. But this is the daily reality of Broome’s Wet Season; For these four months it’ll be 35-40 degrees and humid. Like – I’m not embarrassed about my full back sweat stain because everybody has one humid – It’ll still be sunny most of the time and there will be huge cloud build-ups and epic lightning storms most afternoons. But these storms are just a visual spectacle; the rain only provides relief to those on the outside of the “Broome Dome”.
Trust me, though, the visual spectacle is worth it!
Cable Beach isn’t all camels, hippie backpackers and naked old people, there’s also 22km of pristine white sand! In all seriousness, the first thing I did when I got to Broome after that road trip was park up at Cable Beach and dive into the water; I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with the place ever since. The turquoise water ranges from about 24 – 30 degrees year round, and you can either find a spot between the flags or wander a bit further and have plenty of beach to yourself. Best option is to drive anywhere north of the rocks and find a lonely spot to park your Land Cruiser. There you can crack open an Emu Export and watch the world (aka camels and naked men) go by.
If you do drive on to the beach just remember to check the tides. The tidal variation in Broome is one of the most extreme on the planet – up to 10m in variation at times! It’s not uncommon for tourists to park up and go for a swim, only to return and find the Indian Ocean where their car used to be.
The great thing about swimming at Cable Beach is that most days you can relax in the knowledge you probably won’t be eaten or poisoned. This makes it safer than 90 percent of Australia. Sure there’s the occasional Croc sighting or Irukandji sting, but in reality Cable Beach is incredibly safe. As far as I’m aware there’s never been a shark (or crocodile) attack, and in the time I lived in Broome I only ever heard of a handful of jellyfish stings. Just don’t go swimming in any of the nearby creeks.
BEST SUNSETS IN THE WORLD
Of course I can’t write about Broome without mentioning the sunsets. Often when something is so talked-up the reality can be a little underwhelming. This wasn’t the case with the Broome sunsets. Day after day the sky lights up in colours you’ve only previously imagined. I was there basically every afternoon for three years and I can recall very few occasions when I wasn’t completely blown away.
Hot tip: The sunsets in the Wet Season are generally more spectacular with all that extra cloud around. For some epic reflections time your trip to coincide with extreme low-tides at sunset!
If there’s somewhere on earth that can make an average photographer look good it’s Broome, which is lucky for me. Often it would require a lot of skill to take a bad photograph. The landscape, colours and contrasts are just ridiculous. It’s not hard to see why Broome quickly became a hotspot for drone photography. With the pure white sand of Cable Beach to the broken red rocks of Gantheaume Point and hardly believable water colour of Roebuck Bay, it sometimes feels like you’re on another planet. An observation that is best made from the air.
GATEWAY TO THE KIMBERLEY
The Kimberley is one of the most remote, untouched and vast regions on the planet. It’s hard to describe just how vast and remote, but I’ll give it a go: With an area of 427,513 square kilometres it’s three times the size of England and has a population of around 35,000. Broome is the big city and gateway to this region, although Broome only has 15,000 residents and is more than 2,000km from Perth, the state capital. Perth itself is one of the most isolated major cities on the planet.
During an 11 day cruise from Broome to Wyndham I barely scratched the surface of what lies out there, but what I have seen was mind blowing. The whitest sand you can imagine, more waterfalls than you can count, world class fishing and of course the incomparable Horizontal Falls.
Tip: The horizontal falls day trip isn’t the cheapest attraction in town, but it’s not ranked number one on Tripadvisor for nothing. The views are ridiculous and the experience is like no other. To quote my Dad, who’s spent the last few years travelling to Europe, North & South America and has seen much of Australia & New Zealand: “I’ve seen some incredible places, but this is right at the top of the list.”
Many of these images are available for purchase in the Print Store!
PHOTOGRAPHER | TRAVELLER | CYSTIC FIBROSIS ADVOCATE
New Zealand born and currently living in Germany, I developed my photographic style on the beaches of Western Australia. I have a passion for people, travel and the natural world, and I’m constantly seeking the perfect light. Take a look at the About page to find out my story.
Tenerife: Incredible Landscapes Perfect Weather and Spanish Charm
Before my girlfriend suggested Tenerife as a quick holiday spot I knew very little about the Island. Aside from the fact that it was warmer and cheaper than Germany, therefore probably full of Germans. Bingo.
But the natural beauty of Tenerife caught me by surprise. Tenerife is a tropical island with a (3718m) snow-capped volcano right in the middle of it. The jagged coastline is full of stunning black-sand beaches and dotted with quaint villages, and the varying altitude means that the climate literally changes with every kilometre you drive.
Sure it’s touristy and a little tacky in places, but the island has retained a lot of it’s Spanish charm, and the landscape is unparalleled. We hired a car to get around (do) – a Fiat 500 wagon (don’t). From what we’d read beforehand I expected the roads to be horrific. They are steep, windy and narrow for sure, but provided you’re a semi-competent and confident driver it’s no biggie. I’ve seen a lot worse in New Zealand and to be honest the Fiat was my biggest concern.
Anyone who knows me well will agree that I seem to find myself in situations that aren’t ideal on a regular basis. It turns out Daria is the same, and together we make an ultimate team. On day two we got up before sunrise to drive an hour and catch the first cable car up the Teide. Too windy – closed for the day. Lets hike the Masca valley! Closed – Germans got stuck there last week. But, amongst cancelled airport trains, an unplanned 3 hour scenic view of the tarmac in Seville, watching our car get towed past us as we carried our gear to it, and catching the flu, we still managed to have an epic time.
I also took a few snaps, so I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
(Title image now available in the Print Store)
Cystic Fibrosis & My Inspiration
Two years ago I didn’t even own a bike, in fact I probably hadn’t even sat on one for the 15 years before that. I’ve never been a big fan of cycling, partly because bike pants creep me out, but mostly because my legs are more built for sitting in cars. Most girls are jealous of my legs. But for some reason, late in 2015, I found myself unable to sleep and becoming increasingly obsessed with the idea of riding a bike across Europe.
At the time I was nearing the end of my 20’s. While the idea of turning 30 may fill most people with dread, it was a much anticipated occasion for me. Not because I like finding new grey hairs on a daily basis, but because of a Readers’ Digest article I read when I was 12. This particular article was about Cystic Fibrosis and it told me that I could expect to live to 30, if I was lucky. Until that point I don’t think it had dawned on me that what I had was so serious, or permanent. But at that young age I made a decision that, not only was I going to live past 30, I was going to do something significant to mark the occasion.
Cycling Across Europe
I spent the few months after that sleepless night planning, saving and fundraising, and on August 18 2016 I found myself at the start of the Eurovelo 6 cycle trail in Nantes, France. I was feeling very apprehensive on day one, probably because my ‘training’ had consisted of three rides around Broome on a little girls’ bike. This occasionally involved the humiliation of being overtaken by actual little girls on their bikes. But, after a few obligatory selfies, I made a start and after a few hours I had 50km behind me and I’d arrived in Ancenis, stop number one.
On day two I managed 80km before setting up my tent for the night. That was to remain my daily average for the next two months as I followed the Loire River throughout the French countryside, the Rhine through Switzerland, then met up with the Danube in Germany. I stayed alongside the Danube as it grew and lazily twisted through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and to it’s mouth at the Black Sea in Romania. Eleven countries and 4,000km in all.
I cycled with my 20kg of luggage through major cities such as Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade, through the quaint villages of France, past Europe’s largest waterfall in Switzerland and even picked up a girlfriend in Germany. I rode past thousand year old castles, through stunning river valleys and vast fields of corn. The over seemingly endless hills and across the borders of countries that were not so long ago at war with each other.
I faced challenges such as getting lost on a regular basis (at times cycling up to 20km in the wrong direction), the constantly changing languages and (I’m sorry Europe) awful coffee. Then there were the rough and crazy roads as I got further East, not to mention the crazy drivers! At the beginning of my trip I cramped up in the 40 degree French heat, but later on I froze in the Bulgarian Autumn rain.
Beating Cystic Fibrosis with Exercise
I usually try not to worry so much about Cystic Fibrosis on a daily basis, but I’ll admit that I was nervous at the beginning. I was half expecting a nasty infection somewhere in the back-blocks of Eastern Europe. But I can’t remember a two month period where I’ve had consistently better health. Even on the days I woke up feeling a little rough the fact that I had no choice but to get on the bike meant that I was forced to push through. Within an hour I’d usually forgotten about it and was feeling great again. This, aside from raising over $20,000 for CFWA and the desire for bigger legs, was the real reason for my trip. I wanted to prove, as much to myself as to anyone else, the importance that remaining physically active plays in fighting Cystic Fibrosis. I’m now more convinced than ever.
Total days spent cycling: 50
Total Distance: +/- 4,000km ( my trip computer died for a few days in Germany, so I’m not sure of the exact distance)
Average per day: 80km
Biggest day: 136km – Tata to Budapest, Hungary.
Most physically challenging day: Konstanz – Sigmiragen, Germany.
Average speed: 15.7 km/ph
Max Speed: 61.6 km/ph – racing Maurizio down a hill in Serbia somewhere.
Punctures: 1 – heading in to Belgrade in the rain.
Crashes: 1 – near Dole, France. My front rack collapsed and stopped the front wheel dead. Also I did forget to unclip my shoes and tip over a few times.
Money Raised for Cystic Fibrosis WA: $21,000
Heres a few photos from the trip…
SILISTRA - CONSTANTA
I had vivid images of how I’d celebrate when I finally saw the Black Sea. I’d settled on the idea that it would be really satisfying and cool to rip my shirt open in a burst of adrenaline. But when the moment came it was a little less dramatic than that; celebrating by yourself is strange, plus it was cold and I don’t have many shirts or money to buy new shirts. Although I suspect the real reason was my fear that I wouldn’t actually be strong enough to rip my shirt and I’d erase all the self-esteem I’d built up over the previous two months. In the end I was content with a deep breath of sea air, a couple of selfies and a cold beer in an Irish pub creatively named ‘Irish Pub’.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been three weeks since I completed the ride. I now find myself back in Broome in my old place and sitting in the same spot I sat in during the planning stages of the trip. It’s very cliche, but it honestly feels like I never left. The last three months, while being some of the most memorable of my life, are now a complete blur. Although I’m still having to fight the urge to pick up my phone and check the distance for tomorrow’s ride or a cheap hotel for the next night, and when people speak to me it takes a few seconds to register that it’s English, I do understand, and I am expected to reply rather than nod, smile and revert to hand-gestures. As comforting as it is to be home and to have the security of a job and incoming funds, the thought of getting back into my old routine fills me with a strange sense of emptiness. I’m already trying to work out how long it will be before I can head off somewhere again.
Crossing into Romania
My final morning of cycling in Bulgaria was brief, as the border was literally through the middle of Silistra, so after about ten minutes I found myself in Romania dodging horse-drawn carts and Gypsies (there were nearly as many horse drawn carts as there were cars in rural Romania). With rolling hills, endless vineyards and patches of forrest with golden leaves, the countryside was visually quite stunning, but while riding through this isolated natural beauty the fact that Romania is home to 50 percent of Europe’s wild Bear population kept popping back into my mind, so I didn’t pause too often to take it in. I’d read that this part of the route was going to be most challenging because of the cobbled road surface, but this never eventuated and the recently paved roads were, surprisingly, some of the best quality since Austria, except that they were lined with litter and dead animals. Some of the villages I passed through were genuine slums where the ground had been trampled into mud and hillside caves were a legitimate accomodation option. Speaking of dead animals: having just committed the fatal faux pas of admitting to not loving all dogs in my last entry, I was forced to rethink my thoughts on the matter within minutes of crossing in to the final country of my trip. The dogs in Romania were seriously malnourished and timid – I went from fearing them to sympathising with them. I passed one particularly miserable looking dog as he walked up a hill along the centre line and as trucks passed by within centimetres of him he didn’t even flinch. I spent a few minutes trying to coax him to the side of the road, but every time I moved on he returned to where he had been. He wouldn’t even look up when I tried to call him and his body language suggested he didn’t want any help. That’s when it dawned on me that all the roadkill was more likely suicide than a series of impossibly frequent accidents.
My first night in Romania I ended up in Adamclici, a run-down village that didn’t have a single place to eat but did have a large, modern and seemingly brand new hotel. The hotel was hidden away down some back streets and when I arrived there were two identical BMW X5’s parked out the front. I don’t know a lot about the Romanian mafia, but this place reeked of dodgy business. I walked in the entrance and found a dark, abandoned reception area and rang the bell a few times before a woman appeared in front of me. Obviously I was an inconvenience to her, and she had no qualms making that clear to me, which, as far as I was concerned, provided further evidence that the place wasn’t built with money made in the hospitality industry. She pointed to a plaque on the wall which displayed the price for a night then shrugged her shoulders and turned back to me with a look that said ‘I know you can’t afford that, you scruffy piece of shit’. This process was repeated several times before I showed her some cold, hard Romanian leu and received a key in exchange. It probably goes without saying that I was the only other person staying there, and the walk through the dark hallways to find my room felt like the opening scene of a horror movie.
The next morning I woke before my alarm for the first time on the trip. I got up excitedly and went through the process of repacking my bags and tucking my pants into my socks one last time. Breakfast wasn’t an option in Adamclisi, but I didn’t care because it was the last day and I only had 65 Kilometres to go. I re-stacked my bike and cycled out past what had now turned into three identical X5’s. The cycling was similar to the previous day aside from the final 20 kilometres in to Constanta which were along a busy stretch of highway that, legally, I was probably supposed to avoid. Aside from the clouds parting and the sun shining on me for the first time in a week, the arrival in Constanta was a bit of an anticlimax. Once in the city I wasn’t even sure which direction the Black Sea was in until I finally saw it between two high rises at the end of a street, and when I got there I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I could see straight away that life in Constanta was a world away from the other parts of the country I’d been through; I’ve never seen so many late model European cars, and the people I came across were mostly young, well dressed and spoke english. I made my way to a hotel with a younger woman sitting on the front steps smoking, and without looking up she told me I could park my bike ‘over there’. I obliged, then turned around and asked how she knew I spoke english. She shrugged an ‘I don’t know’ and walked back inside – I’m always curious about what gives this away.
I made the mistake of thinking that the adventure was over by this point and as a result I was massively unprepared for the day I was about to face when I woke the next morning. I had to get back to Sofia where I’d left a bunch of my stuff in the apartment owned by my sister in law’s family, but public transport between Romania and Bulgaria isn’t too regular on a Sunday (I probably should have guessed this would be the case in a strictly orthodox christian part of the world). While I was at the bus station trying to find a way to Bucharest for an overnight train to Sofia, an opportunistic local approached me and told me he could drive me to the Bulgarian border for 200 leu (about 40 Euro). Every instinct was telling me it was a terrible idea and that I shouldn’t trust the guy, but I thought this way might end up quicker and cheaper, so I went for it. We bungy-tied the boot shut with the bike hanging out and headed south. The guy turned out to be decent and along the way he explained how hard it was to get ahead in Romania; how he’s left the country only once and would have to save for another five years to go on holiday again. His dream was to see Barcelona play at Nou Camp one day, something I made a casual decision to do when I happened to be in Barcelona four years ago. Listening to him (and just being in Romania) was another sobering reminder of how good we have it in certain parts of the world, and how much we take for granted. After he dropped me off he told me there was a bus from the Border straight to Varna and then on to Sofia – all I had to do was walk across the border. When I did get across I used google translate to ask the lady at the customs shop about a bus and she confirmed with her own google translate that it came at 1.30pm, but when 2pm came and went I got google out and asked her again and she straight away admitted that sometimes the bus doesn’t come on Sundays. I stared at her and shook my head, then asked google to translate “maybe that would have been useful information two hours ago”. I would have hitched a ride from there but it’s a little difficult with a bike, so I had to take a taxi 100km to Varna and buy a bus ticket there. The bus the driver said I couldn’t take my bike because there was no room but, miraculously, 15 leu created a little extra space and I was finally on my way to Sofia, bike and all.
After a 7 hour bus ride and another taxi trip, which nearly ended in a fight, I was back at the apartment of my sister in law, whose family were kind (brave) enough to let me have free rein. The taxi ride in question involved the driver getting lost and relying on my directions the whole way, then the fare coming in 20 Lev more expensive than quoted and an extra 10 Lev bike-handling fee, which apparently hadn’t existed at the time of the quote. I initially refused to pay but I changed my mind pretty quickly after he unfolded his 7 foot frame from the drivers’ seat and approached me with clenched fists at his side. As you can probably tell I’ve use the term ‘near fight’ very loosely here.
I spent two days in Sofia looking around, getting all my things together and organising to get my bike boxed up for the flight home. My first impression of Sofia two months earlier had been so good that I prepared myself for disappointment upon my return, but once again I immediately picked up a great vibe from the place. For a city of close to two million, Sofia has such a calm, relaxed feel and is full of markets, cobbled streets and Viennese inspired architecture. I was so relieved to have finished my ride, but waking up in Sofia I found that all I wanted to do was get on my bike and go exploring. So I spent the days cycling through the stunning parks surrounding the city and sampling the many coffee shops.
After all the cycling I wanted to do some travelling as a normal tourist before heading home, so I flew to Germany for 10 days to visit some friends before flying back to Sofia to pick up my bike and taking off for the Southern Hemisphere.
Here’s a few stats from the trip for ya!
Total days spent cycling: 50
Total Distance: +/- 4,000km ( my trip computer died for a few days in Germany, so I’m not sure of the exact distance)
Average per day: 80km
Biggest day: 136km – Tata to Budapest, Hungary.
Most physically challenging day: Konstanz – Sigmiragen, Germany.
Average speed: 15.7 km/ph
Max Speed: 61.6 km/ph – racing Maurizio down a hill in Serbia somewhere.
Punctures: 1 – heading in to Belgrade in the rain.
Crashes: 1 – near Dole, France. My front rack collapsed and stopped the front wheel dead. Also I did forget to unclip my shoes and tip over a few times.
BELGRADE TO SILISTRA
I’m in Silistra, the last Bulgarian town before I cross the border into Romania tomorrow morning. The roads to get here have been busy, the terrain hilly and the weather bleak. Particularly yesterday as I cycled from Svishtov to Ruse. Although it was only 100km in total it was easily one of the toughest days so far – full of hills that looked like they would would never end. By this stage of the trip my body has had enough, so to even get up and get started each day is a massive mental challenge, but to approach hill after hill and know you have no option but to cycle up them is pure torture. “Character Building” I keep telling myself, although Im not sure it’s helping. By now I can’t even take comfort in the fact that ‘at least it’s going to make my legs bigger’ because, well, I’ve been doing it for two months now and my legs definitely aren’t any bigger. I’m genuinely worried that when I get back people will see me and immediately write me off as a fraud: “There’s no way you cycled across Europe with those things!”
The other thing I’m having an issue with at the moment is dogs. Now I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with dogs at the best of times, mostly because I hate them. Come to think of it it’s more of just a hate relationship, really, but I’ve never actually feared dogs until now. Every time I stop to have a drink, or check my map, as if on cue a dog will appear at the nearest fence and absolutely lose its mind at my presence by making some kind of repetitive angry sound come out of its mouth. That’s if I’m lucky. Because at least a few times a day now they are not behind fences and they chase me, sometimes in packs, trying their best to bite my legs off, or at least push me into approaching traffic. They are genuinely wild around here. They roam the streets without anyone looking after them, and only the bones of ill-fated cyclists as sustenance. It’s for this reason that I stole a butter knife from an old couple at a home stay in Serbia (I didn’t have the heart to steal a decent knife) – I know that stealing is bad, but I left them my sleeping mat as compensation, so they got a good deal – A butter knife might not sound like much in the way of self-defence, but I keep it strapped to the front of the bike and I’ve done a few practice drills. I’m sure if I strike in the right place it’ll be effective. I’m mostly joking here, but at the same time I’m not sure. At least I hope it doesn’t come to that because I actually like dogs sometimes (when they shut up and act like cats), and the amount of dead dogs on the roads in and around every town here is sad, not to mention off-putting.
I woke up on Thursday to find that my good old mate Maurizio had ditched me in Belgrade. Apparently he’d found out there was a ferry crossing down the line that only went a couple of times a day, so he wanted to leave early to make sure he made it in time. I hadn’t done any planning ahead because I was relying on him, as he’d relied on me up until Belgrade, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this out when it was too late for me to make it in time. Cheers, Maurizio. As a result I had a slow day cycling through mud and across grass to get me within distance of the ferry for the next day. After I did cross the ferry the next morning I was suddenly hit by a strong headwind and spent the day feeling like one of the many plough-towing tractors I kept seeing in the fields alongside. I eventually arrived at a guesthouse nestled within the forrest in a town called Vinici just before dark. It was a beautiful little place and the hosts, who spoke no english, brought me rakija, coffee, a little cake and beer as a welcome. They then brought over a neighbour to act as translator and demand payment straight away, which I thought was a little distrusting. But, then again, I did steal one of their knives so they read me well.
My last day in Serbia took me to Negotin, which is across the bridge from Romania, and about 18km from the Bulgarian border. I had intended to cross the border and get to Vidin that night, but I’d had some bad information about how far this actually was. I was in the hills above Negotin and a German guy pulled his car over to talk to me. I told him I was headed to Vidin and he said it was just 10 or 15km past Negotin, which would have been well within range. Then, when I got into Negotin, I stopped at a sign which told me the Bulgarian border was still 18km away. Knowing that Vidin was well past the border I instantly realised I’d have to change my plans for the day. As if reading my mind (or maybe just my confused facial expression) a local couple approached me and told me they had a friend who owned a guest house for cyclists (that’s literally what it was called) which was ridiculously cheap (800 dinas, or about 6 euros), and they also happened to be the nicest people in Serbia. I went to dinner with them and we had a few beers while they told me all about the complicated political and social situation in Serbia, then they insisted on paying for it all because I was a “guest of Serbia”. I was blown away by the whole experience, and it’s one of the nicest examples of local hospitality I’ve ever experienced. Certainly a positive way to end my travels in the former Yugoslavian territories.
The next day I did cross the border, after being hurried through by an army lady with a gun who didn’t appreciate me taking selfies on the road, and headed to Vidin. It was easily the coldest day of the trip so far, and to top it off Vidin was one of the most intimidating places I’ve been. I know that gloomy weather never makes a great impression of a new town, but the streets were dirty and dark, many of the buildings completely abandoned, and the people seemed to take more of an interest in me than usual -as in they wouldn’t stop staring even after I’d caught them staring, a sure sign of craziness in any culture. It was a strange experience and I was actually a little worried to venture too far around the city that night, which is generally not something I have an issue with. Thankfully, since then the Bulgarian people I’ve met have actually been very nice. They wave to me as I go past in little villages and, although we cant communicate much, they mostly seem willing to try.
I realised that the weather at this end of the trip might become a factor, which it has, but what I failed to take in to account was the shortening of the days as the seasons changed. In the early stages of the ride I could go until 8 or 9pm without having to worry about the dark, but now as soon as 5pm hits I start to freak out a little and make sure I have myself a place to stay, something that is also more urgent because of the fact it’s far too cold to rely on my backup plan of wild camping. These factors combined have added a lot of pressure because I can’t now rely on the fact that I can suffer a few delays and still manage to pump out 120 kilometres in a day. As a result I did a little bit of cheating a few days ago. I was in Vidin, western Bulgaria, and realised that there was nowhere I could stay that was within 120km. The forecast was for rain and a high of 8 degrees, and the day before I’d heard that there was snow spotted on the surrounding hills. I’m pretty carefree most of the time, but I wasn’t risking getting stranded in that, so I caught a train to the next town. I would have stayed and tried the next day, but at this stage I also have a few time constraints – if I want a job to go back to that is. So I apologise for this! But I’m on track to do 4,000km and the website states that the Eurovelo 6 is 3,600km total, so it’s still more than I’d bargained on.
At this stage of the trip I feel like I can look back on things with a little bit of perspective, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to France. I was a harsh critic of France’s roads, signage and even some of the scenery. But, now, having some basis for comparison, I can confidently say that I’d cycle back and forth across France a few times before I’d attempt to cycle anywhere east of Budapest again. The route I’m following (Eurovelo 6) is supposedly the ‘Danube cycle trail’. Well I see the Danube when I leave a particular town each day, then I see it again when I arrive at the next town each night. In between I generally see potholes, empty fields, run-down villages and, well, dogs, but I forget that there’s even a river there. Of course the route now is not along purpose built cycleways either, so I have to deal with heavy, and aggressive, traffic throughout the day. It’s a sad reality, but at this point it really has become just a case of going through the motions to try and get to the end.
Speaking of which: I am now (hopefully) only two days away from Constanta, my final destination! It’s strange to think that after two months this journey is nearly over, and that in a few days I wont need to put padded shorts on when I get up. But it’s also going to be a huge sense of satisfaction and relief when I finally get there. The forecast is looking good for the next few days, so lets see what the Black Sea has to offer!
Right now I’m in a coffee shop in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and former capital of Yugoslavia. Apparently this is the best coffee shop in the country and it took me half an hour to walk here, so it better be. When I’m in the bigger foreign cities I like to find places where I believe I might be able to get a flat white, because that’s why you travel, right, to experience the luxuries you can find any day in your home town? Really, though, a good coffee shop is on of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture and judging by the looks I keep getting I can say with confidence that I’m the only foreigner here.
To say there’s been a volatile history around these parts would be an understatement and I’ve been constantly reminded of it for the past few days, particularly as I cycled across the border between Croatia and Serbia. In villages on either side there still stands the bullet-ridden remains of abandoned houses and churches, and to think that only 25 years ago these two countries were at war, and that many of the people I’ve spoken to in little shops or waved to in the street would have been personally involved is hard to comprehend. Belgrade itself was bombed by NATO even more recently (1999), I can even remember seeing footage of it as a child (when I probably thought it was in Africa somewhere), so to walk around and see that it’s a modern city with regular, albeit freakishly tall, people makes that even harder to accept.
I say that Belgrade is a modern city and, despite the horrific communist architecture that typifies this part of the world, it is. There are nice restaurants and cafe’s everywhere, quality sporting and cultural facilities, and very well-dressed people walking the streets. But country Serbia is vastly different to anywhere I’ve been so far. The roads are rough, littered with potholes and patch-up jobs, and most of the buildings lining the road are (or should be) abandoned. It seems the young people have fled for the cities and to spot anyone under the age of 50 is rare. Old men sit on street corners smoking, drinking and watching the world go by, and women ride their bikes to the store. I’ve seen more tractors than cars for the past few days, and the cars I do see are usually on the wrong side of the road heading in to a corner, desperate to get past the tractors. Since crossing the Serbian border it’s like a switched has been flicked and now all of a sudden everybody is in a hurry and lacking any common sense or consideration for others when behind the wheel. This makes it an unlucky coincidence that for the past few days the whole Eurovelo 6 trail has been along the highway. Every driver feels the need to use a horn to warn you of their presence moments before speeding up and passing you as closely as possible, whether thats out of courtesy, annoyance or just a reminder that you’re a loser on a bike I’m not sure, but if I’m already on the gravel edge of the road theres not a lot else I can do – this is the reason I got a screw in my tyre and my first puncture of the trip yesterday.
For the past two days I’ve been cycling with Maurizio, a 67 year old Italian former physics teacher. We met at a restaurant in Vukovar, Croatia and after chatting for a few minutes realised we were both riding our bikes in the same direction, so we agreed to meet up in the morning and go together. Maurizio has a lot of knowledge on this region so each day has been like a history lesson, which has been amazing. But unlike my podcasts there’s no pause button on these lessons so, while informative, they are never ending and I barely have the time to think or look around to take any of the scenery in. He’s the kind of person who gives you a running commentary on every thought that enters his head, and feels the need to check that you’re ok if you haven’t responded for a few seconds. Then, when you arrive at your destination for the day, you have to do everything together. After six weeks of doing everything alone it’s taken a fair bit of getting used to, but watching him talk to all the younger women we come across is hilarious, and he uses the word ‘coolio’s’ for things that he likes and that makes it all worthwhile.
Yesterday’s ride started with a 5 kilometre non-stop uphill ride out of Novi Sad, which I was able to tackle with surprising ease. After that the cycling was relatively flat, in and out of small villages and a lot of maize fields and apple orchards. We stopped at times to taste the apples straight off the trees, and at one point I grabbed on the the back of a tractor that passed us and hitched a ride for a few hundred meters up another hill. Everywhere we went people were collecting or cutting firewood in preparation for the winter (which, to me, feels like it’s already arrived), and in one town a guy was cycling along the main road with a massive pile of firewood as his seat. Life in country Serbia certainly seems very simple and, as Maurizio pointed out, maybe that’s the way they like it.
Before arriving in Serbia I spent two days in Croatia and it started off a little more adventurously than I’d planned. It was a day in which I wasn’t exactly sure of the distance I needed to cover, but I had booked accomodation in advance, so I was locked into arriving at a specific location (all of my most stressful days have had this in common). By the time the sun had set I was only 5km away so I wasn’t too worried, however it turns out the signpost I’d followed (don’t ever put your faith in the Eurovelo signposts) took me in the exact wrong direction. By the time it got fully dark I found myself in the middle of the bush with a broken light and being chased by wolves. That’s a lie, but I was surrounded by wild deer which is basically the same thing. The deer were obviously just spooked by my presence, but when I heard them running around me I had all kinds of images of the wild beasts that must be chasing them. Not to mention the fact that at any moment the deer themselves could have wiped me out and trampled me into the ground. I had sudden pulse of fear and adrenaline, so I turned around and peddled as fast as I possibly could all the way back to the road. I then followed that the long way around to my accomodation, all the while ashamed of myself for being scared of deer.
The morning I left Tata I was hesitant to even start my ride. The forecast was bad and I knew it was going to be a big day, but I was more bothered by the fact that I wasn’t sure how big. Every blog or map I’d read suggested a different distance, and my little detour the day before had thrown a bit of extra uncertainty in the mix. On some good advice I opted to avoid the mountain range and take the long way around to Budapest, and I was rewarded with some smooth and easily navigable roads for most of the day. Unfortunately half way through the day it started raining and I had no option but to keep going. It ended up being my biggest day so far (131km), and to top it off I spent the last hour having to carry my bike up and down stairs in the castle district of Budapest in order to reach Gabor’s house (apparently centuries ago they didn’t build these places with cyclists in mind).
Gabor is an older man I met in Broome about 6 months ago. He hurt his leg on a camel ride on the beach one afternoon and I offered to drive him back to his resort. We had a bit of small talk and he used the line that everyone does when they know nobody is ever going to take them up on it: “If you’re ever in my country you can come stay with me”. He didn’t realise I was planning a trip to Hungary, and he may have regretted those words immediately, but when I turned up dripping at wet at 9pm on a sunday he welcomed me in like an old friend, poured me some wine and served me a traditional soup he’d prepared. Gabor, who it turns out is actually Sir Gabor, a prominent university professor and kind of a big deal in Hungary, hosted me for two nights and was an absolute legend. I used the opportunity to do some sightseeing and visit one of the local health spa baths I’d heard so much about. It was good to have a bit of relaxing down-time!
After leaving Budapest on Tuesday I ended up in Rackeve. That night I had been trying to sleep for a while but in the room across the hall there had been a constant, muffled, but very loud conversation going on for a while. Now I’m not a patient person by any means, but it does take a lot for me to actively show my anger to strangers. So by this stage I’d really had enough. I put my pants on, took a deep breath and stormed out my door into the open doorway across the hall. I ended up face to face with two big men in army uniform in the process of trying to restrain a third, heavily intoxicated, man. The three of them paused and stared directly at me. All I could do was nod an ‘as you were’ before I stepped backwards at an increasing pace into my own room, locking the door behind me.
That was an exciting end to a dull day, possibly the most miserable day of the ride so far; From start to finish it was cold and raining and the scenery, which consisted of industrial wasteland and more Soviet-era housing complexes, was hardly worth looking up for. I spent the first hour of the day trying to navigate my way out of an abandoned railway yard on the fringes of Budapest, without knowing how I even got in there in the first place. so by the time that was done I was already well behind for the day. By the time I arrived in Rackeve, after having only cycled 65 kilometres for the day, I was ready to call it quits. I stopped in a Pizzeria that specialised in Mexican food(?), and asked about a place to stay after ordering some nachos. The young girl pointed me in the direction of a panzio (basically a small motel) before delivering my ‘nachos’ (corn chips on plate with a cheese sauce placed in the centre) a few minutes later. After an awkward confrontation with a homeless-looking lady who’d been filling up a water bottle in the toilet, and who’s only words in English were “I love you baby”, I made my way to the place I’d been recommended and was welcomed by a very enthusiastic Hungarian man.
If you don’t speak the local languages east of Austria the go-to seems to be German over English, so I’m generally greeted with “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” when it becomes obvious that I’m foreign, which is mostly upon first glance. I always reply “ein bisschen”, which is technically true; I do speak a little German. It’s just that my German vocabulary consists of those two words which I already used, and a few lines that I’m not going to use on an old Hungarian man. So we battled our way through the check in process, but when it came time to pay he shook his head at the credit card. I was ready to give up and go somewhere else when he insisted he drive me to the ATM 5km down the road. Initially i was a little worried at how keen he was to have someone staying at his place, like it was some kind of novelty rather than his legitimate business, but I decided I was too cold and wet to worry about it so I shrugged my shoulders and off we went.
Anywhere else I’ve been in Europe I would have expected the cash only system but Hungary seems to have adopted Paypass as the preferred method of payment – the first time I’ve even come across is since leaving Australia – and I’d become complacent again about having cash on me. Another surprising observation I made in Hungary was the abundance of Solarium studios, even in tiny villages where people were still using horse and cart on the road and a hot meal was impossible to find. Who cares about food and modern convenience when you’ve got a sweet tan, right?
At this stage I’ve covered over 3,300km, and have roughly 1,000 to go. I’m spending a day or two in Belgrade because the forecast is awful, plus it’s the last major city I’ll pass through before the Black Sea so I’m trying to soak up as much civilisation as I can. The Danube itself almost seems like an ocean now compared to the small river it was near its source in Germany, and I’m hoping that for the remainder of the trip I’ll see a lot more of it than I have for the past few days. I’m caught in two minds between wanting to get the trip over with before winter fully sets in, and wanting to take my time and experience as much of this part of the world as possible. Ultimately money, or lack of it, is going to be the deciding factor and I’m planning a return to Broome for some time in early November. Hopefully the wet season can hold off for a bit longer!
As of right now I’ve raised over $18,500 for Cystic Fibrosis research on this ride, and I’m less than $1,500 away from my $20,000 target (thanks for the maths help there Paul). If you would like to read more about my personal story, or donate to the cause, you should check out my donation page here.
Massive thanks to anyone who’s donated or even offered support in the way of encouragement so far!
Cover Image: It may have been my longest day of cycling, but arriving in Budapest at night was one of the most spectacular sights of the trip so far.
In one of my first blogs I said I cycled 30km around Broome as part of my training for this ride. That was a lie, or at least an exaggeration. It was actually 20 Kilometres and I spent a week recovering. It’s quite sad, but admitting this now makes it all the more satisfying that I was able to ride 75 Kilometres on Thursday in 3.5 hours. It’s no world record, but it’s better than I expected from myself, and, having recently had a couple of slow days with knee pain, it was timely reminder that I have at least made some progress in the fitness department.
Thursday’s ride was between Vienna and Bratislava, the capitals of Austria and Slovakia respectively. I expected the difference between the two countries to be obvious and dramatic, being the border between East and West Europe, but for half the ride I wasn’t even sure which side of the border I was on. When I finally crossed the bridge into Bratislava I still didn’t encounter anything that screamed out “wrong side of the Iron Curtain”. There were Audi’s and BMW’s everywhere, nice looking restaurants, and people in nice suits. Granted I didn’t see much else in Slovakia, and I’ve since found out that residents of Bratislava earn on average three times more than the rest of the country, but I was surprised at how clean and modern Bratislava was. Having said that, what was obvious after crossing the border was the level of service. Or rather the lack of service. I ordered a round of drinks at a local bar and the barmaid literally dropped the change on to the bar, from a height, while watching TV and raising a cigarette to her mouth with the other hand – yeah they smoke inside in Slovakia too – we actually kept going back for more because the service was so shocking it was entertaining. I was at that bar with Ross and Lia, who’d come to meet me one last time on their drive back to Bulgaria. We started the night by trying some Slivovica, the Slovak national brew, then went out for a traditional dinner, which consisted of garlic soup served in a bread roll. Tasty, although unnecessary in a restaurant that I did notice also had bowls. Plus not recommended if you’re planning on talking to any of the local ladies, apparently.
I mentioned earlier that I was having knee pain. I’ve had this a bit before, but never to the extent that it hit me on the day I left Melk. Because of that I had to stop early and I was a day late arriving in Vienna. I stopped in a town called Tulln, about 35 kilometres short of Vienna. It was a pretty little town with people sitting outside all the restaurants in the main square. I joined them, ordered sausages and sauerkraut and sat there people watching – a pastime that is becoming less and less socially acceptable the more my beard grows. An hour or so after my first dinner I was still hungry, which is becoming a common (and expensive) theme, so I followed the directions on a poster to the ‘best kebab in town’. When I arrived I was greeted by three Pakistani guys who looked confused about the idea of having a customer, a scenario they eventually remembered how to deal with. They were abrupt and almost intimidating at first, but when I mentioned where I was from they said, in unison, “oh, Brendon McCullum!”. They then insisted I sit with them while I ate and we discussed cricket for half an hour; not an experience I expected to have in small town Austria!
When I did arrive in Vienna the next day I soon realised that I’d grossly underestimated it’s size. I arrived on the outskirts of the city and looked around for my hostel, almost expecting to see its name on one of the nearby buildings. When I didn’t see anything I asked a guy if he knew where exactly it was: “yeah, if you cross that bridge it’s about an hour by bike in that direction.” “Uh, excuse me? Did you say an hour..?” He wasn’t far off the mark either, apparently Vienna is the second largest German speaking city in the world (after Berlin). Cheers, Wikipedia – I’ve made a mental note now to google the population of every city before I enter it – Thankfully, however, Vienna also happens to be an incredibly beautiful city. The buildings, the waterways, and the streets were all immaculate and the footpaths were teeming with people enjoying the last of the Autumn sun. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city that had so many people out and about. It had a great vibe, and if I were to live in Europe somewhere I’d now put Vienna near the top of the list. I checked in to a hostel and spent the whole afternoon walking the streets taking photos that I was unhappy with, then cursing myself for taking crap photos. Later on I went to the hostel bar for a beer and joined a couple of Scottish guys for the pub quiz, which we won (naturally).
Yesterday’s ride took me from Bratislava, across the Hungarian border and on to Gyor. This time I did notice a difference straight away. The towns, and roads, were much more run-down, and everything seemed to be going at a slower pace, except for any person behind the wheel of a car that is, an observation which prompted me to finally buy a helmet. But the cycle paths themselves for these few days in Eastern Europe have been the flattest, most accurately signposted and easily navigable of the whole trip so far. At least thats the sentence I’d planned to write before today, when I cycled through villages with roads inspired by the surface of the moon, then missed my turn-off and headed 6 kilometres in the wrong direction. But the end result was an amazing beef stew, and an encounter with couple of guys who were also a bit lost. A few hours later, after being ditched by my new friends (I had to stop for a snack), I ran in to an old Hungarian guy who was cycling across the country to find his high school sweetheart. That’s probably not true, but I couldn’t say for sure; I cycled with him for the last two hours of the day and, while we spent the whole time talking, neither of us could understand a word. However, through the grunts and the pointing he convinced me that he knew where we needed to go, so I settled in and followed him. The fact that I now find myself in Tata, 40 kilometres away from the town I was supposed to be in tonight (Esztergom), and facing the prospect of backtracking and adding 40 kilometres to tomorrow’s journey, or cycling over a mountain range to get to Budapest tomorrow would suggest otherwise.
Cover Image is a little lake i spotted just on the outskirts of Gyor.
I just got off the train from Munich to Melk, Austria. The train was full except for one seat – the seat next to me. There are many theories about how to keep the seat next you empty on trains and buses: Avoid eye contact, be fat, drool on yourself etc. But growing a dirty beard and having a book about Syria in your hands evidently works pretty well.
I was in Munich for a few days to see some friends and to experience Octoberfest. My brother and his wife picked me up on on Thursday on their way through Austria, then we headed straight for our hostel and got prepared. Wanting to get the authentic experience, I’d bought myself a full outfit from a nice lady in Passau a few days beforehand. I say nice because she’s the first person who’s ever told me I had ‘big arms’ or ‘big feet’, but in hindsight she may have been just trying to get a sale. Then again, she did try to set me up with her daughter when I said ‘now all I need is a Bavarian woman’.
Octoberfest is just immense. Try to imagine 6-8 million people coming together from around the world over the course of two weeks to celebrate beer and you’d probably come up with an accurate mental image. Word of warning to anyone planning on going: pace yourself… not only is the beer only served one litre at a time, it’s also brewed with a higher alcohol content especially for the event, as counterintuitive as that may seem. Of course food is also an important part of the event, and nowhere in the world will you see more meat. The germans, for all their prowess in engineering and beer brewing, could hardly claim to have the most refined culinary taste in the world, but, when it comes to festivals like this, meat and bread prove to be an effective way of feeding the drunken masses. Another example of German efficiency I suppose.
Because of my shopping experience I got away from Passau quite late on Tuesday, but the ride from there across the Austrian border and on to Linz was the easiest yet, and possibly the first day I haven’t been even slightly lost at any point. The route was what I had been expecting the whole Eurovelo 6 to be like: flat, well paved, accurately signposted, and entirely alongside the river. I spent half the day easily cruising at 25kph, which is significantly higher than my overall average. Along the way there were a couple of mandatory ferry crossings which also added to the experience, and gave me the opportunity to relax and take in the surroundings for a few minutes. The second day of riding in Austria took me from Linz, which holds the dubious honour of being Hitler’s proclaimed hometown, to a place called Melk, the town I’m back in now. It’s a beautiful little place with an amazing Monastery that appears to have more windows than this town has residents. It is absolutely massive. The cycling was easy again, but a lot of it was along a busy, narrow road, which is surprising given that this is supposedly the most popular cycle route on the continent.
I didn’t notice anything dramatically different on crossing borders between Germany and Austria, except that you can still smoke inside here(!), and maybe the spelling is a little different. That’s based on no fact at all, but place names seem to me to be missing a few vowels and are a little harder to sound out as an english speaker. I will say, though, that people here did not initially come across quite as friendly. Perhaps they’re a little more reserved. My first interaction with another human in Linz was being very sternly told off by a policewoman for cycling on the footpath (which I’ve done everywhere). I tried to explain to her that there was nobody else on the footpath, and that the roads were made out of jagged, uneven bricks from 700 years ago, but she wasn’t having a bar of it. My second interaction was later on in that night when I tried to make some small talk with the waitress in a pizzeria; she stood there and stared me down like I’d just soiled my pants and was asking her to change me. This is in contrast to a very unusual, even slightly surreal, experience I had last night in Munich. I was attempting to dance in a night club, which is unusual enough in itself, but the German people there were so kind that for the very first time in my life I did so without a single person going out of their way to come over and point out that my horrible dancing was ruining their night.
This morning, after dancing the night away, I woke up on the floor of a strangers’ apartment. It’s not exactly what I had planned, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Because of the outrageous prices in Munich at the moment (I saw one bed in a 16 bed dorm going for 300 euro per night) I only booked two nights in my hostel, thinking I had a place to stay with a friend for the third night. Only that friend got a little too carried away early on her first Octoberfest day and was obviously incapable of using a phone by the time I was supposed to meet her. I can confirm that being alone, and the only sober person at Octoberfest while you wait two hours for a message isn’t a crazy amount of fun. Thankfully another German girl I know – Julius’ housemate from Konstanz – was there. She and her friends were brilliant fun. They allowed themselves to be seen in public with me, gave me a roof to sleep under, and even helped me add to an ever-growing, but wildly unsuccessful, repertoire of German pick-up lines.
Tonight I’m treating myself to a bed ahead of a big ride to Vienna tomorrow. It’s roughly 120km, but the terrain is going to be flat again and the forecast is good. I’ve heard a lot about Vienna so I’m excited to check it out, but I think I’m more excited about the next day when I’ll cross over into Eastern Europe and arrive at the Slovakian capital, Bratislava. I don’t really know what to expect from Bratislava, or Eastern Europe at all, but I think that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. It’ll be a lot less comfortable, but more of a true adventure. More Importantly, especially after my last few days, it’ll be a whole lot cheaper!
-The cover photo is the sunset as i crossed the bridge just before arriving in Melk the first time. Best sunset of the trip so far.
I’m sitting in a restaurant in the village of Kirchroth (population 3,600), eastern Bavaria, with a local wheat beer on the table and a schnitzel, which probably came from the farm next door, in my stomach. On the table beside me the kitchen staff are sitting down to their end-of-shift meal and chatting to all the locals as they leave. I don’t understand a lot of German at the best of times, but even I can tell that the Bavarian accent is thick here; It’s a bit more sing-song like than the German I’m used to hearing.
I arrived here about an hour ago. I’m roughly 20km short of today’s intended destination, but today happens to have been the wettest day of the trip so far and after stopping and starting of hours, waiting under trees and bus shelters as thunderstorms swept overhead, I’d had enough. So when I spotted a little hotel above the restaurant I’m now in, I didn’t think twice. I was greeted by a friendly, round woman in traditional dress who gave me a key, no questions asked and no forms filled in, and explained where my room was. She is also the only waitress in the restaurant, and her english is surprisingly good.
It seems the European weather I’d been promised by so many people has finally caught up with me, and, until this last hour, I was regretting my decision to even try to make some ground today – Yesterday I sat out the rain at a friends house in Regensburg, and I had the option to do the same today – But these experiences with genuine people in old fashioned villages are what I enjoy the most about what I’m doing and where I am right now. Having said that, my time in Regensburg was also brilliant. I arrived on Friday afternoon and met Verena, a friend and former workmate from Sydney. She took me to a Bavarian restaurant where I was lucky enough(?) to taste pig lung, then to some local bars and yesterday a local football game. It’s safe to say SSV Jahn Regensburg aren’t going to be challenging Bayern Munich for a title any time soon, in fact I think they’d even struggle to compete with the All Whites, but the currywurst was good, and the crowd was passionate and entertaining – even if at times I did feel like I was at Nazi party rally.
After leaving Ulm a few days ago I cycled a steady 110km to Donauworth, which is one of the most beautiful and lively towns yet – This is actually one of the big differences I’ve noticed between France and Germany: while French towns felt deserted, the German towns are all bustling with life and energy. You never have an issue finding somewhere to eat, the menus are varied, the food good, staff friendly (and English speaking), and prices reasonable. Granted I wasn’t in the most commonly visited parts of France, and I know my love of the Germans makes me see this country through rose-tinted glasses, but why so many people travel to France and never give Germany a second thought is completely beyond me. Anyway, I got to Donauworth late because the sunset was too epic to cycle through and I ended up getting out my camera and drone to capture it. Of course that meant cycling the last 20km into town with the dilemma of either not being able too see, or swallowing mouthfuls of bugs as they head towards the light on my head.
The next morning I got off to a late start which worked in my favour because, as I was going through my daily ritual of trying to find my way back to the Danube path, I ran in to the wind-shadow steeling German girl from a few days ago. But this time she was with Ian, a dude from Malta who happens to be following the same route as me to Romania. We got on well straight away and set off together. It was a challenging day, filled with hills and rough roads, but having someone to chat to and pick up tips from made a huge difference. At one point we stopped for a break under a tree and got chatting to a Croatian man who was cycling home (to Croatia) from Heidelberg. He had a beer in one hand, cigarette in the other, and explained to us that he was going home because he needed to relax to get over his ‘health issues’, being 60 and all. I suggested there were probably more relaxing ways of getting to Croatia, then we said our goodbye’s and carried on, only for him to overtake us up a hill half an hour later.
Ian and I arrived in Ingolstadt (the home of Audi) at around 6pm. I decided I was going to stay for a night, but Ian carried on because he likes to do 200km per day. (It goes without saying that Ian is a lot more experienced than I am. Plus he had less weight on his bike and a girlfriend waiting for him on his yacht in Malta. Pretty good incentive to get the trip over with, or pretty good reason to not go on a trip in the first place I would have thought). It would have been great to carry on with Ian, but 200km per day was just a bit beyond me and I knew I was stopping for a day in Regensburg anyway.
I checked in to another Youth Hostel in Ingolstadt and ,thankfully, this time there weren’t any kids to make me feel like a dirty old man. There was, however, an annoyingly thorough guy working at the reception. It was one of those occasions when I was reminded of a massive pet hate of mine: people who state the obvious, talk really slowly, or talk for the sake of talking. This guy ticked all the boxes. After explaining the check-in process and ‘house rules’ in excruciatingly painful detail, he went on to describe how to unlock a door with a key, and how the colours on the tap in the bathroom determine whether the water comes out hot or cold. I couldn’t help but wonder how this guy thought I’d even survived for 30 years, let alone cycled from France to his hostel, but the confused look on my face clearly caused him to go into even more detail and I was forced to go along with it. Those four hours of my life excluded, Ingolstadt and the hostel were both great.
Weather permitting, I’ll try to get an early start tomorrow and ride the 100km to Passau, my final stop in Germany and the start of the Passau to Vienna route. This is the most popular cycle route in Europe, and widely accepted to be the most beautiful part of the Eurovelo 6. I’m excited about Austria because its supposed to be stunning, but also it’ll be the first time on this trip that I’ll arrive in a country I’ve not been to before, and the Austrian border is roughly what I’ve worked out to be my half-way mark! Exciting stuff. But I’m not kidding myself; the roads after Austria are only going to get rougher, and the weather isn’t going to be getting any warmer. So Im going to make the most of the last of Western Europe.
To all the followers of my blog (Mum, Dad) I’m writing to you from Ulm, Germany. Birthplace of Einstein and home to the world’s tallest church. I’m staying in a youth hostel that truly lives up to its name, and I feel more than a little judged by the school children surrounding me in the dining hall. School children who, by the way, are freakishly tall. I wish you had fed me more sauerkraut when I was young.
I know it’s been too long between updates ( I’ve crossed two international borders since my last post!) but it’s been so hard to find the time to sit down and write anything. So here goes:
Yesterday was hard. Real hard. I started off in Konstanz, which is right on the German side of the Swiss/German border. Home to an 18 tonne rotating statue of a naked prostitute holding the Pope in one had and the Emperor in the other (I’ll let you guess the story behind that), the second largest lake in Europe (the source of the Rhine), and home to Julius. I know Julius from his Broome days a few years back, and I went to stay with him for a rest day. As always it was good to have a local show me the sights of a new city, and it was good to share a few (too many) beers with an old mate!
Because Konstanz is a little bit off the path I’m actually following, I added a few more kilometres to my total, which is fine, but I forgot to factor in my horrendous sense of direction and the extra time it would take to find my way back to the Eurovelo 6. Needless to say it was a frustratingly back and forth start to the day, made even more so by the fact that the German SIM card I’d just bought lost all its credit within 10 minutes because it was sneakily connected to the Swiss network from across the river. Brilliant.
By the time I’d finally gained some distance and momentum I started to notice that as the roads were gradually getting narrower they were also steadily getting steeper. Stupidly oversized tractors were passing me at an uncomfortably regular rate and none of it was feeling right, so I stopped to double check that I was going on the correct path. As I did so Alfred, a German lawyer wearing all the road racing gear and casually cycling 100km home from a meeting, stopped to check if I was ok. I explained my concerns and he told me I was going the right way, but that we were just at the beginning of a 900m ascent. I was on the verge of completely losing it and turing round to find a train station, but he said he’d ride it with me, so I couldn’t back out. What followed was easily the hardest section of the tour so far, and probably the toughest hour of exercise I’ve had in my life. Every time I wanted a break Alfred would point to the approaching storm clouds and tell me we had to hurry. By the time we made it to the top I was absolutely wrecked, but I was thankful he turned up because I genuinely wouldn’t have made it otherwise. Plus we were rewarded with an incredible 360 degree view of the Black Forrest, Lake Konstanz and could just make out the outline of the Alps. It was epic. Although all that effort was wasted because It took us about 13 seconds to get down the other side at 60kph, which was kinda scary with a headband for a helmet.
To top the day off I ended up in Sigmaringen where I had my first ever couch surfing experience, although I’m not sure if you can call a private room in a German mansion real couch surfing. My host Juliane was amazing; we sat up drinking beer and chatting for a while, then in the morning I was treated to a proper German breakfast and before I set off she took me down the road to where there was an epic view of the local castle.
Sigmaringen is near the start of the Danube, and it’s this river that I followed to Ulm today, and will continue to follow now to it’s Delta at the Black Sea. Which means down-hill, baby! The day was pretty uneventful aside from one point when I passed a lady going super slow, then turned around 10 minutes later to see her crouched down three feet behind me stealing all my hard work. I was having none of that, so I casually sat up and pretended I was resting, then did the same to her after she passed me. Proper badass.
Tomorrow I’ll cross the border into a strange land where the men wear leather shorts, white sausages (that you have to peel…) are served for breakfast, and beer is not just a beverage but the actual meaning of life. I’m talking about Bavaria. Germany’s largest state and the home of Octoberfest which, coincidently I promise, is about to start. To say I’m excited about the next couple of weeks would be an understatement.
For now I’ve missed out on my summary of the last section in France, and that’s intentional. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts on a country where you can buy 18,000 different varieties of cigarette 24/7 from any corner store, but it takes 40 minutes of cycling around a city of 120,000 people before you find a single place that sells things you can, you know, eat rather than inhale. So i’ll come back to France. Oh, and Switzerland. Anyway, nobody said I had to do this in order!
So today I reached 1,000km in total, I did my first 100km day, and I had my first crash. Talk about milestones. I’m currently in Dole, and getting so close to the Swiss boarder I can smell the cheese.
I spent last night in Chalon-Sur-Saone, and I can confidently say that it’s been the best town yet. I arrived and saw people. Not just a person walking home with a baguette, actual groups of people interacting and looking like they enjoyed it. It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s been a regular theme and one of the most unexpected parts of my trip so far; every small town in France has been absolutely deserted and devoid of any atmosphere. It’s been really depressing. But in Chalon-sur-Saone there were shops, and most of them were actually open. Some of them even looked like they had customers. I had to get a piece of this, so after setting up my tent I rode back in to town and sat down amongst the crowds with a beer. But before that I visited the photography museum and had a look at the very first photograph ever taken, which was pretty amazing. Amazing in the sense that it genuinely looked like a piece of toilet paper after the first wipe. Sure the late Mr Niepce invented the first ever camera, but hadn’t the dude heard of Instagram filters? Seriously.
Anyway, while I was enjoying my beer I thought I’d Google some info about the places I’ll be visiting/ have visited. It seems each of these little towns is very proud of one particular part of their history. Chalon-sur-Saone obviously had the photography history and museum, which is cool, but the town I’m in tonight – Dole – was apparently made famous back in the 16th century by some guy who decided he was a werewolf and started eating children. That’s it. That’s all I could find out about the place. So in the end he was burned to death for his sins, and of course that part came up as a link, so I clicked on it. Before you know it I’m reading about all the different ways to execute someone by burning and the waitress comes over, sees my phone, and freaks out. I found it pretty hard to get served after that, but did you know they used to pour molten lead in people’s ears as a method of execution? What the hell is wrong with us.
But really, the town was beautiful and the atmosphere was great. There were crowds of people in a square in front of the main cathedral where all the restaurants had combined seating. There was a guy playing guitar in the street, and there was a hum and excitement in the air that I’ve been craving (expecting) since day one, but only experienced in Paris.
I started today still with a bit of a buzz from last night, and I carried it with me as I managed to ride out 105km with relative ease. I feel like I’m back to my pre heat-exhaustion fitness levels, and I really enjoyed the ride today. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience much of Dole, though, as I arrived just before 7pm and it was raining. But the werewolf guy is long dead so what was I gonna do anyway?
The main photo is from the photography museum. I don’t know what relevance it had to photography, but I sure am glad I didn’t ride 1,000km on that bad boy.