ON TOUR! Latest GPS timestamp: 2019-09-13 17:39:25
  • Hills and passes and summits and hairpins and borders and stuff
    • 14/09/2019
My road onwards follows the Drava river valley for the first half of the day, before turning off onto quieter, more alpine roads. There are plenty of so called forest roads here, hard packed gravel untarmacked, but the surface is pretty consistent and free of pot holes.
Farms are a mixture of cattle and corn, and nowhere is particularly flat, so as darkness falls I have to settle with camping on a not quite flat bit of grass with views to distant mountains, waking to cloud inversion sitting on and then blowing through the valley below.

Today was serious climbing, reaching 1000m only to drop into the valley and climb again.
The roads are small and quiet except for the occasional logging truck roaring up and down the hill and the local population is stockpiling wood for winter etc in neat stacks
As evening approaches I breach the pass and am treated to the most spectacular views yet, of rocky 2000m peaks towering over a green valley floor, with sporadic farms and little white churches clinging to shoulders of relative flatness. Camp on the first flat bit I see, which again doesn't have the PERFECT view down the valley but still surrounded mountain peaks in mosy directions so pretty OK.
Unfortunately the moon is nearly full and washes out the stars from a photo perspective.

Today was serious climbing (again). This time reaching a max of 1388m before dropping down an epically steep and bendy road into Austria for a few km - hand cramp from squeezing the brakes hard enough to get around the corners, and then climbing all the way back up on a beautiful series of smooth switchbacks, which makes it the easiest 500m climb I've ever done. This road is unsurprisingly very popular with motorbikes leaning round the bends and revving their engines to echo off the trees and valley sides, as well as a fair few other pedallers. Reaching the pass marks another border post, crossing back into Slovenia, with the reward of 20km continuous downhill back down a river valley admiring the views.

Pausing at one viewpoint i chatted with a Slovenian bloke who is driving round the borders of the country in a classic Yugo -
Why do Yugo's have rear window heaters?
So your hands don't get cold pushing it!
However his is 30 years old and allegedly never broken down though! He has also cycled all over Europe and run across Slovenia so a legit dude.

Finished off with a bit of a slog to reach Lake Bled as darkness falls, passing bars playing accordion music for a day off in a hostel.
  • Not Maribored
    • 14/09/2019
Hungary throws one final thunderstorm at me and a little 10% climb to the border, really as a small warning of what to expect...
The landscape immediately changes! Or maybe the land use changes?
Lots of small, steep valleys, down and up, though the road attempts to stick to the ridges where life is concentrated - every house and farm perches on the edge of the slope with marvellous views over the valleys, which are partially vine yarded, some pastures of cows, and the valley bottom wooded and gloomy.

This makes it impossible to find a hill top campsite, so I've missed the end of a beautiful sunset. Could be worse though!

Maribor, famed for the oldest vine in the world, seems like an appropriate place to do some wine tasting, easily accomodated, and also discover "Most", essentially grape cider.

The historic town centre is coincidentally displaying a history or railways in the town, with a panel describing Darlington's place in history! Nice to see the recognition!

In the hostel met Shane the kiwi tour de France chaser - He has also been travelling for two months, but is covering up to 200km a day on a carbon racing bike, carrying just a 3l backpack. Rapid!
He sneaks on to stages after the gendarmes close the roads but before the race comes through and rides as far as possible before he gets caught.
Completed a stage in the mountains this year which was cut short for the actual race due to a massive hailstorm before the end.
  • Balaton Burn Out
    • 08/09/2019
Escaping the city is a bit unpleasant as there does not seem to be an obvious nice bike route towards Balaton.
Anyway, eventually I get into the countryside and have a beautiful wild camp spot on a ridge with the lake in the distance.

Dogs. More prevalent in Hungary than the previous countries, in villages everybody has a dog in their garden which all seem to be either paranoid, nasty, or just enjoy a good bark.
As I roll down a street one after another takes up the chorus, some galloping down to the extreme end of their fence before launching into a frantic barrage of pointless woofing. And this treatment is for anyone walking past, not just reserved for me. How the local inhabitants put up with the constant noise I don't know.

The north side of the lake is all vineyards and interesting conical hills, with the waterfront all being caravan parks and fenced off pay to enter "beach" sections. Whenever I get near the shore it doesn't smell good nor does the water look enticing so not too impressed with the lake itself.

After some deliberation I have decided to switch to Plan B at this point and take a shortcut direct to Slovenia, cutting out the Serbia - Montenegro - Croatia loop. I'm tired and the extra time and distance feels a bit much.
Thus I can relax a bit more and get into the wonderful scenery of Slovenia I've heard so much about, hopefully while the weather is still decent.

Eurovelo 14 doesn't officially exist, yet I have been encountering signposts marked for it on and off over the last three days. I wonder where I would end up if I kept following them?

Most common car in Hungary is a circa 2000 Suzuki swift. Overheard a joke about the lack of a Hungarian car industry, Czechs go home in their Skoda's, Russians go home in their ladas, Hungarians go home for lunch? Hmm.

Runes. Hungary has an archaic runic alphabet used ceremoniously on signs and monuments, which looks cool.

Sunflowers are now dried up, shrivelling hunched like creepy Tim Burton figures. I wonder if they have a special combine harvester attachment for sunflowers?
  • Buda Pest
    • 08/09/2019
Since I can't check into my luxurious airbnb apartment until the evening I have stopped at Momento park, collection of soviet statues removed from their original places, not quite living up to that scene in GoldenEye, but spiced up as there seems to be an airshow in progress nearby as loads of old planes keep flying over

So much for three days relaxing? Three days pounding the streets trying to see a whole city under a relentless sun....

On the face of it Budapest is vibrant, full of cafes, burger bars, wine festivals, music events, parks, spas, kebab shops, etc, so many nice buildings I don't know which ones are the famously significant and end up just wandering around randomly taking photos.
Their parliament is impressive, built to imitate the British one only marginally grander [...read the rest]
  • video killed the radio star
    • 03/09/2019
  • Welcome to Flatland
    • 31/08/2019
Eger is also famed for its wines, the local "bulls blood", and has a whole area crammed with wine cellars and bistros where you can get any container filled up for €2 a litre - the so called " valley of the beautiful woman", evidently named by a crafty marketing campaign at some point in the past.
You could spend days happily swaying between cellars getting blotto - note for a different kind of trip.
I'm continuing to another nearby attraction, the amazing "salt hill", basically a hillside with a spring so saline that it deposits salt crystals all over the place and makes interesting formations - now with adjacent mega spa resort.
After that minor diversion, south bound, and suddenly hills are fading into the distant past, it's flat flat flat, the horizo [...read the rest]
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Eurocycle 2
latest trip pic
Taking the summer off to explore former Austro-Hungary, Western Balkans region

I've never been to any of these countries before, except for a brief school history trip, so this should be an interesting trip, expecting a mixture of western europe and communist influences, a mixture of mountains, rivers, plains, historic cities and rural villages.Maybe some interesting wildlife? I've mapped out a load of points of interest to visit, but have tried to avoid looking at photos so that everything can be a surprise! route plan on Google maps
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Trips!
Eurocycle 2
Taking the summer off to explore former Austro-Hungary, Western Balkans region
I've never been to any of these countries before, except for a brief school history trip, so this should be an interesting trip, expecting a mixture of western europe and communist influences, a mixture of mountains, rivers, plains, historic cities and rural villages.Maybe some interesting wildlife? I've mapped out a load of points of interest to visit, but have tried to avoid looking at photos so that everything can be a surprise! route plan on Google maps
Africa Overland 2017
Safari tour in a big yellow dustbin lorry
Travelling from Nairobi to Victoria Falls, through game reserves and whatnot, with Oasis Overland
North Sea Cycle
cultural bike ride around northern europe
Over a couple of months, i'll be testing my legs by riding from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Bergen in Norway. Approx 3000 miles, sounds like a lot but not very much each day on average...
Caribbean 2016
3 weeks of sun, sand, and craziness
A much needed relaxing break in the Cayman Islands... was what i expected, but instead almost none stop action, sports, sightseeing and partying. And then 10 days in Cuba, a beautiful, welcoming, and bewildering place like no other. And then back to Cayman for more awesome...
Tour du Mont Blanc 2015
A 10 day hike around Europe's biggest peak
The alps in the summertime are majestic. This walk, between 1500 and 3500m took in breathtaking views, high altitude camping, wildlife, and charming locals. After completing the walk i spent a few days relaxing on the shores of, and in, Lake Geneva.
Wales Walk 2014
A three week struggle across Wales on the Cambrian Way
Having skipped Wales on last year's LEJOG, i wanted to finished the job. The Cambrian Way provides 18,000 metres of ascent, the same as Everest - and twice that of the Pennine Way or Cape Wrath Trail. So it was hard work!
LEJOG 2013
1800 mile trek from one end of Britain to the other
After being a nomadic traveller for two years, I wasn't ready to go back to real life and get a job, but i wanted to do something constructive. Whilst in other far flung parts of the world i was often embarrassed by my limited knowledge of my home country. So i bought a train ticket to Penzance. And i walked.
South Pacific 2012
Beaches and reefs, palm trees and cava
A month relaxing in the Cook Islands, another month relaxing in Fiji and Samoa, with lots of diving, snorkeling, book reading, cava drinking, sunbathing and such. Then hitting the tourist trail on New Zealand's North Island, from Cape Reinga to Wellington. Off to Australia for a couple of weeks of modern world, then flying to Singapore, numerous public transport adventures through Malaysia and Thailand to the gap yearers mecca of Bangkok before flying home.
North America 2011
Backpacking around the US and Canada
Summer camps in New Hampshire, backpacking around the East Coast, protesting at the White House, traveling across Canada to track down my namesake, couchsurfing and hitchhiking through California, bears, snowboarding, crazy cyclists, Christmas in San Diego
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