London to Melbourne
This was a 30,000km ride spanning 19 countries and 15 months during 2005-2006. We started in London and finished in Melbourne with an air hop from Singapore to Darwin.
The concept of cycling from London to Melbourne manifested itself in The Long Way Home Project. This was conceived by Gaye as part of a self development course she was doing with Landmark Education. We had cycled Australia ‘to death’ having been around, up, down and across it on many great cycling trips. But we hadn’t taken on anything quite this challenging and exotic before. Also this gave us the opportunity to raise money for a charity. After much research we decided on OXFAM (see below)
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This trip presented a big challenge in the planning.
Weather conditions had to be assessed, visa requirements for the many borders we would cross.
Money to carry..some countries don’t interwork with foreign banks and some don’t take travellers cheques.
Vaccinations before the ride took a couple of months and can cost around $1000.
Our bikes, camping gear and other equipment had to be organised. Parts for our bikes would be scarce in many countries and many things can be hard to get simply because of the language difficulties. For instance Kerosene is called Paraffin in UK, Lamp Oil in Greece, Narf in Iran and who knows what in China.
Overall on this trip the people were very friendly and curious about us. Hospitality was great and people were always ready to help us. Officials were generally curious and friendly particularly the Iranians. On one occasion the Iranian police pulled us over to take our picture. In China we were stopped on a remote mountain pass by police and offered a couple of ‘Pepsis’.
Central Asia had the most authoritarian officials (a hangover from the Soviet Union) and we just about wore our passports out having them checked several times a day. But even here their curiosity at seeing a couple of westerners on bikes meant there were few problems.
The Trip in Brief
Part 1: London to Istanbul
Heading out of London on a quiet Sunday morning, we headed south to the port of Dover. Our first ferry trip took us across the English Channel to Calais, France. Skirting around Paris, we travelled south through the Loire Valley, then east to enter Italy near the town of Villaneuve. We stopped off in Milan before visiting the picturesque coast of the Cinque Terre. Heading down the length of Italy we eventually arrived at the port of Brindisi. An overnight ferry trip took us to Igonomitsa, Greece and from here we explored northern Greece including Vikos Gorge, Meteora and Mt Olympus. Then it was into the exotic east, crossing into Turkey passing through Gallipoli and on to Istanbul.
Part 2: Istanbul to Dali
Departing Istanbul we headed east across Turkey visiting the capital Ankara, Gorome, Erzerum, Yusufeli then reaching the Iranian border. Once we have crossed into Iran we visited the cities of Tabriz, Tehran and Esfahan, and secured visas for the next few countries. Next up was Turkmenistan and the city of Ashgabat, before continuing on into Uzbekistan. We passed through the ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent. Entering China, we travelled through vast empty plains of western China and across the edge of the Tibetan plateau. A challenging and rewarding experience.
Part 3: Dali to Singapore
Crossing in to Laos, we headed south to Vientianne and then followed the Mekong River and crossed to Vietnam. A leisurely ride south towards Ho Chi Minh City then crossing into Cambodia. Spent some time at Siem Reap to explore the wonders of Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. Next we travelled south through Thailand on to the Malaysian Peninsula approaching the end of this part of the trip
Part 4: Singapore to Melbourne
The first part of the next stage was easy – a quick flight across to Darwin, Australia. Feeling great being back in ‘Oz’ we spent a few days relaxing in the tropical city of Darwin. From here we headed south for the outback town of Alice Springs. We diverted out to Uluru (Ayers Rock) to revisit one of our favourite places. Then south to Adelaide and the final run to Melbourne. We were greeted by a big crowd of friends at our official finish in Federation Square, Melbourne.
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad is the charity organisation that we have chosen to receive all proceeds from our fundraising activities. We have no other association with Oxfam, we are not employed or contracted by Oxfam, nor do we represent this organisation in any way. After researching many different, and equally worthwhile charitable organisations, we chose to support the work of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad.
Oxfam are an Australian, independent, not-for-profit, secular, community development organisation. Their work covers a wide area, including long term development projects in over thirty countries, responding to emergency situations around the world, and advocating and campaigning for a more just world. We raised almost $10,000 by the time we arrived home, and all this money went to Oxfam Community Aid Abroad. This is more than half of the cost of a new school in Cambodia($15,000 each) and was a chance for us to really make a difference in the lives of others. Cambodia is a country that we will be travelling through on our journey, and is just one of the many countries in which Oxfam supports self-help projects. For further information about the work of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad please refer to their website – www.oxfam.org.au
We offer our thanks to those companies that supported us:
Jamis Bikes: Supplied half price bikes. These performed extremely well with only a couple of niggly problems(bottom bracket and pedals). Disc brakes performed well and we only went through two sets of pads for the whole trip. www.jamisbikes.com
Camera House: Supplied a Canon IXUS 40 Digital Camera. We took over 12,000 photos with this camera and the results were great. Around 400 pictures per battery charge if you don’t use the monitor all the time. www.camerahouse.com.au
Princeton Tec Head Torches: Supplied 2 torches. These torches have LED lights in them. I think we used two sets of batteries each for the whole trip. Very low battery drain and reliable. www.princetontec.com
Kangaweb Technologies: Provided free web hosting for over 2 years while the project was in planning, during and after the ride. www.kangaweb.com
DeGrandi Cycle and Sport: Supplied 2 sets of good quality tyres to get us on our way. www.degrandi.com.au?
Enzo Dirtwear: Free riding gear…knicks, shorts, tops, longs…great gear we wore this stuff for the whole trip. The Kombi shorts are especially good as they resemble normal street wear. www.nzoactive.com?
Lonely Planet: Supplied all our guides and language books for the ride. We posted them to places along the way to save weight. www.lonelyplanet.com?
Nalgene Hydration Systems: Supplied backpacks with water bladders in them. We wore these continuously throughout the trip. Very durable. www.nalgene-outdoor.com
One Planet: Re-conditioned our One Planet sleeping bags which are still going strong after over 10 years of use. www.oneplanet.com.au
Thermarest: Supplied 2 thermarest 2/3 length. We’ve tried others but the Thermarest is the benchmark for self inflating mattresses. Comfortable and durable. cascadedesigns.com/Therm-A-Rest
MSR: Supplied highly durable water bladders for general use around camp. cascadedesigns.com/MSR