Cycling

Following the 29th parallel – South Africa – 1999 | Following the 29th parallel – Australia – 2001 | Tour de Nepal – 2008 | Coast to coast – England 2011 | The desert dash – Namibia 2011 | Tour de France route – South of France 2011 | Cycle tour of the Karoo – South Africa 2013

Following the 29th parallel – South Africa – 1999

The idea of cycling across South Africa from Port Nolloth to Richards Bay, following the 29th Parallel as closely as possible, was sparked by an article that appeared in the October 1998 edition of the magazine “Getaway”, which described a motorcycle trip aboard three large and powerful BMWs along this route. The fact that the 29th parallel spans the widest part of South Africa and passes through towns that are simply not on the road to anywhere significant, and are therefore seldom otherwise visited, adds a further measure of intrigue to the route.

Springbok, Pofadder, Kakamas, Griekwastad, Kimberly, Soutpan, Babanango. Wonderfully exotic names that conjure up visions of the early settlers, of the prospectors and miners of copper and diamonds, of Mary Moffat and David Livingstone, of Barny Barnarto and Cecil Rhodes. The 29th line of latitude slices through some of the most historic areas of South Africa and to travel along at just 25 kph would afford a rare opportunity to absorb the atmosphere of the country. At over 1800 kilometres in distance, the trip would be both physically and mentally challenging to accomplish by pedal power. And it just sounded like fun.

Port Nolloth on the West Coast to Richards Bay on the East Coast

Port Nolloth on the West Coast to Richards Bay on the East Coast

I decided to cycle alone, and my wife (at the time), Avril, and I planned the trip for a party of two – she would travel by car and I by bicycle. We kept the planning relatively simple with respect to travelling, accommodation and catering, as we intended to play it off-the-cuff to a large extent. The route, on the other hand, was worked out fairly thoughtfully and the stopover points determined with care. I tried to limit the number of times that we would need to convey the bike on the back of the car by planning a town-to-town schedule, although I realized that we would have to be flexible on this.

Clearly accommodation would not always be available precisely where it was needed. This country has a wonderful network of caravan parks and camping sites, but it would not always be possible to cycle directly a suitable spot at the end of a day’s ride. And so it proved.I planned to take two bikes, a road bike and a mountain bike, although the intention was to ride the road bike as much as possible. The mountain bike would be for insurance in case something happened to the road bike, and would also be brought into play if there were stretches of dirt road or extensive deviations to be covered. Road bikes with their narrow tyres and dropped handlebars do not take kindly to the corrugations and loose gravel of the typical uncapped road in South Africa. As I found out to my cost on the very first day of the cycle.

Day 1: Port Nolloth to Springbok
Day 2: Springbok to Pofadder
Day 3: Pofadder to Kakamas
Day 4: Kakamas to Upington
Day 5: Upington to Groblershoop
Day 6: Groblershoop to Griekwastad
Day 7: Griekwastad to Kimberley
Day 8: Kimberley to Soutpan
Day 9: Soutpan to Winberg
Day 10: Winberg to Bethlehem
Day 11: Bethlehem to Harrismith
Day 12: Harrismith to Junction N11 & R602
Day 13: Junction N11 & R602 to 20km from Babanango
Day 14: 20km from Babanango to Mfuli Game Lodge
Day 15: Mfuli Game Lodge to Richard’s Bay
Day 15: Richard’s Bay finish line

Total distance from Port Nolloth to Richard’s Bay – 1833.76km

Following the 29th parallel – South Africa – 1999 | Following the 29th parallel – Australia – 2001 | Tour de Nepal – 2008 | Coast to coast – England 2011 | The desert dash – Namibia 2011 | Tour de France route – South of France 2011 | Cycle tour of the Karoo – South Africa 2013

Following the 29th parallel – Australia

I suppose that it was quite natural, really, once I had recovered from the cycle across South Africa in 1999, to take a look at the atlas to see just where the 29th parallel crossed Australia. It ran, I found, across the bottom third of the continent, and for the most part it traversed a landscape bereft of any roads. If one is looking for major, surfaced, roads crossing Australia from west to east, there are only two. One runs more or less along the north coast and the other more or less along the south coast.

Ballina (A) to Dongara (B)

I bought a road atlas of Australia, and started looking into the feasibility of the trip. An early observation was that it would not be possible to follow the 29th parallel for any length of time as there were simply insufficient roads. In fact much of the route would, of necessity, be covered between 31 and 33 degrees south. If I started and ended at points 29 degrees south, it would lengthen the trip to well over four thousand five hundred kilometres. More than double the distance of the trip across South Africa, but I felt that I had learned a lot about distance cycling since that time and could avoid some of the pitfalls that made the ride tougher than it would have been otherwise.

The idea blossomed once Jane agreed to accompany me over the entire distance, as this made it a realistic possibility. Together we sorted out the details and the whimsical thought became a reality as the route was finalised.

Air tickets were bought, hotels booked, bicycle spares obtained – I decided to take my own bike, rather than hire one in Australia – and all the other arrangements made. In mid-March we left South Africa for Australia.
We decided to hire a campervan in Australia and this was done purely on the basis of price. It was the cheapest that we could find. With an exchange rate of R4.00 to the AU$, the cost of the daily rental was more important to us than comfort. If it was going to cost an extra AU$20.00 for a campervan with a toilet, we would pee in the bush. No, not really. We wouldn’t do that. The facilities in Australia are clean and quite close together. Well, okay, not in the Outback, but then you can’t have everything.

When we collected the campervan we found that the licence plates reflected the number “OXO 862”, and because of its overall shape the van was immediately christened “OXO Cube” or “OXO” for short. We found our way to the Pacific Highway outside Sydney and headed north towards Ballina, the closest town to the point where the 29th parallel intersects the east coast and which, for that reason and that reason only, had been selected as the starting point for the trip.

Day 1: From Ballina to 75km before Tenterfield (115km)
Day 2: From 75km before Tenterfield to Glen Innes (167.3 km)
Day 3: From Glen Innes to Armidale (101.17 km)
Day 4: From Armidale to Lake Keepit (161.17 km)
Day 5: From Lake Keepit to Coonabarabran (138.5 km)
Day 6: From Coonabarabran to Warren (178.27 km)
Day 7: From Warren to Cobar (151.18 km)
Day 8: From Cobar to Emmdale (150.25)
Day 9: From Emmdale to 50 km beyond Wilcannia (148.02)
Day 10: From 50 km beyond Wilcannia to Broken Hill (148.45 km)
Day 11: From Broken Hill to Yunta (201.94 km)
Day 12: From Yunta to Orroroo (123.22 km)
Day 13: Orroroo to Iron Knob (163.17 km)
Day 14: From Iron Knob to Wudinna (190.39 km)
Day 15: From Wudinna to Ceduna (210.67 km)
Day 16: From Ceduna to Nundroo (153.32 km)
Day 17: From Nundroo to Nullabor Roadhouse (144.9 km)
Day 18: From Nullabor Roadhouse to Eucla (198.21 km)
Day 19: From Eucla to Madura (182.99 km)
Day 20: From Madura to Caiguna (154.91 km)
Day 21: From Caiguna to Balladonia (182.28 km)
Day 22: From Balladonia to Norseman (191.11 km)
Day 23: Norseman (0 km)
Day 24: From Norseman to Coolgardie (167.18 km)
Day 25: From Coolgardie to Southern Cross (186.3 km)
Day 26: From Southern Cross to Merredin (108.73 km)
Day 27: From Merredin to Northam (161.25 km)
Day 28: From Northam to Moora (169.14 km)
Day 29: From Moora to Beyond Eneabba (155.23 km)
Day 30: From Beyond Eneabba to Dongara (56.52 km)

Total distance covered 4567 km

Following the 29th parallel – South Africa – 1999 | Following the 29th parallel – Australia – 2001 | Tour de Nepal – 2008 | Coast to coast – England 2011 | The desert dash – Namibia 2011 | Tour de France route – South of France 2011 | Cycle tour of the Karoo – South Africa 2013

Tour de Nepal – 2008

In April, 2008 I joined a cycling tour that was organised by “Red Spokes Adventure Cycle Tours” around the countryside of Nepal, taking in parts on the Kathmandu Valley and the foothills of the Himalayas. Following a course that, to the best of our knowledge had not been ridden as a single tour before, it was informally christened the “Tour de Nepal” by those taking part.

Part One – Days 1 to 4
Part Two – Days 5 to 9
Part Three – Days 10 to 15
Part Four – Days 16 to 22

This trip was planned as a ride from Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal, but because the Chinese border was closed at what was the crucial period for us, for fear of disruption to the 2008 Olympic Games celebrations, it was hastily converted to a cycle tour of Nepal.

England – 2011
Coast-to-Coast – Day 1
Coast-to-Coast – Day 2
On the 5th and 6th September, 2011 my brother Ken, my son Andrew and I cycled the Coast-to-Coast across northern England, starting at Whitehaven on the west coast and and ending at Tynemouth on the east coast.

France – 2011
South of France (Tour de France route) – Part One
South of France (Tour de France route) – Part Two
South of France (Tour de France route) – Part Three
On Friday, 9th September, 2011 I left England with my brother Ken and a friend, John, for a cycling trip in the south of France. Basing ourselves at the little village of Bagneres de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees quite close to the border with Spain, we spent a week cycling some of the mountain passes made famous by the Tour de France.

Namibia – 2011
The Desert Dash

South Africa – 2013
Cycle Tour of the Karoo – May 2013: Part One
Cycle Tour of the Karoo – May 2013: Part Two
Originally this cycle tour was planned as a “Knysna-to-Cape Town” event, but once the planning started in earnest it was decided to opt for a more scenic and challenging circuit through the Little Karoo, taking in some of the renowned mountain passes through the Outeniqua and the Swartberg Mountains.

Following the 29th parallel – South Africa – 1999 | Following the 29th parallel – Australia – 2001 | Tour de Nepal – 2008 | Coast to coast – England 2011 | The desert dash – Namibia 2011 | Tour de France route – South of France 2011 | Cycle tour of the Karoo – South Africa 2013