“I wanted to get away from it all and
test my endurance and willpower at the same time. I was also single,
between jobs and had plenty of time and spare cash on my hands.
A Sydney to Brisbane ride which I completed a year earlier had wetted my
appetite for something a tad longer.
I generally tried to
stay away from the coast and managed to avoid the major highways – but
in Nth Queensland I couldn’t avoid the Pacific Highway for long
My ride took about 6
weeks – taking it fairly easy, riding 5-6 days per week, with a couple
of 2-3 day rests along the way. There would have been only a handful of
days where I rode over 100km on the day. I rode solo without a support
vehicle and carried all my gear in pannier bags strapped onto a rear
bike rack only. Took only the bare essentials. The bike was a TREK
mountain bike. I stayed in pubs and Youth Hostels along the way –
which meant I didn’t need to carry any camping gear.
After arriving in
Cairns – for good measure, I spent another week riding around the
Atherton Tablelands and then put myself and the bike on a plane back to
Mr ride went fairly
smoothly without too much out of the ordinary. Not knowing much about
bikes - I now regret that I didn’t do any servicing of it along the way,
which probably made the riding a little harder than it should have
been. Believe it or not - I can’t recall getting even a single puncture
along the way. I did make sure the tyres were checked and pumped every
3 days or so but that was about it.
The one thing that I
recall is the swooping magpies which were a real nuisance as unwittingly
I had picked hatching season to pass under their nests. I learnt to keep
a keen eye out for them as I approached or left a township - but they
would inevitably take a few dives at me from behind during the split
seconds I wasn’t looking. There was a really tenacious one during the
approach to Coffs Harbour that took a few nips out of my ear and caused
me to bleed like a stuck pig.
I was particularly
lucky with the weather – apart from an evening thunderstorm I
encountered when I was in Kilcoy, Qld the rest of the journey was
As if riding to Cairns
wasn’t a zany enough goal – after returning to Sydney I then did
something really way-out. I packed my bags and went from an Aussie Summer
(Dec 1991) to a Russian Winter to visit a girl I’d met in Sydney not
long before I did the Cairns Trip. At that time it was roughly
equivalent to going from “heaven” to “hell”, as the old Soviet Union was
in its death throes and in fact ceased to exist just a few days after I
arrived (from memory that was 19/12/01). I ended up staying there for
5 months - which is another story in itself.
Anyhow - we got
married the following year and we’re still living together happily all
these years later.
When I was over there
- I naturally thought about cycling and looking at a map, thought about
the fanciful possibility of doing an east-west trip from St. Petersburg
to Vladivostok. After returning to Sydney, I found that a group of guys
had already beaten me to the punch and had written a book about the
experience – “Between
the Hammer and The Sickle” by Simon Vickers (an Englishman) – a
great read and a real inspiration for long-distance cyclists. Also
captures down to a tee what daily life is/was like for the average
Soviet citizen living outside the big cities. Karl Marx has got a lot
to answer for.
I still have high
hopes of doing a cycling trip in that part of the world – perhaps from
my city of birth – Harbin (Northern China) – (don’t ask !! – that is yet
another story !!) to the city where I got married - Novosibirsk
(Russian Federation). That trip would have a nice symbolism about it.
The distance is about 3,200 km as the crow flies, but closer to 3,600 by
road – comparable to Sydney - Cairns. A tough trip - no doubt - but
definitely achievable. The summer weather in that region of the globe
is not that different to an inland Aussie Summer - with plenty of days
of baking heat in July (35 to 40 degrees or better).
If anybody is
interested in this type of trip - now is the time to start planning for
May-June 08 or Aug-Sep 08. I’ve got contacts in both cities and would
be seriously interested in organising something - possibly with
sponsorship, etc. to help defray costs. Its not a particularly
glamorous part of the world (I wouldn’t be surprised if there is zero
interest) - but maybe for some people that could be an attraction in
As far as some details
about myself - I work as a Data Analyst for the Tax Office – focusing on data trails of
people who may have understated their GST liability. Been there for about 7 years.
Have done a lot of odd jobs throughout my life - including a 6-month
stint as a Blackjack Dealer in Star City Casino, mobile-phone
packer/dispatcher, manager of a customer-care centre for a
satellite-phone company which is now defunct and a PC Network
Administrator for the old Department of Science in Canberra, when the
quiz-king Barry Jones was at the helm.
I’m celebrating my 50th
birthday this coming October and I hope to rack up another 50 years as
my health is generally pretty good and continuing to ride the bike
should keep me in good fettle !!