It was a glorious day in London today, so I grabbed the camera and headed to the South Bank. As Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are currently under wraps, the Millennium Wheel seemed like a good place to grab a few shots. This photograph was exposed for almost 7 minutes, hence the motion blur and absence of people (best way to remove them from the scene).
Summer in Scotland and the weather was perfect. This one is reminiscent of the screensaver image for MS Vista from several years ago.
This was the road to nowhere I found whilst walking around the hills of Harris. It was close to a tiny enclave called Meavaig, on the way back from Hushinish. This was the last of the sun for a few days, which was a shame as the island looked incredible under blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
Last week saw story weather striking the south coast of the UK. I was in Devon and took the opportunity to travel to Dawlish Walsh. The sun was not hidden behind opalescent clouds but the water was being violently tossed around by the gale force winds. The groynes in this picture are at the top of the beach and seldom get wet. On this day, they were over run with wave upon wave.
End of day in Iceland in 2011 when I cycled round the island. It was the middle of summer and on the first few days, the temperature was a balmy twenty degrees Celsius.
A few days later, the skies open and for the remainder of the 18 day circumnavigation, the weather was in single digits and rained steadily most days. However, what stays with me above all else from Iceland was the unrelenting wind. Regardless of one’s orientation, the wind seemed to be permanently against one. If ever I have been close to quitting on a ride, it was several days into that experience.
This morning was a beautiful one to wake up to. Sunny and bright, not words we would have associated with Iceland so far. The road out of Blonduos was calm and tranquil and we covered about 35-40kms without seeing any traffic. However, this was clearly too good to be true. As we turned a corner we could see a rising valley ahead of us. Shit! came to mind. It is difficult to put this into words but we could see tiny cars up ahead of us climbing very very slowly. This did not bode well for us lowly cyclists.
We climbed 500 metres higher and higher up the hill. It was grueling and exceptionally tough. As we reached a plateau at the top of the mountain it was still fairly sunny and warm and the scenery was awesome.
As we began to head down towards Varmahlio (a small town housing 120 residents) we could see the massive drop ahead of us and it was a long long long ride down. The weather was beautiful and really warm. We safely reached the bottom and after an amazing lunch thought ‘life is great’.
Over lunch we looked at the map and saw that we could get 45 km towards our next destination. Unfortunately our luck was out and the stand on Julien’s bike broke. No stand on a touring bike fully loaded is frankly a pain in the arse as you can’t just stop for a drink. You have to find something to lean it on. This put Julien in a grumpy mood. Then the weather clouded over and it got cold. Our non-stop uphill climbing of only 15km took us a whole 4 hours! We were so high up that we got to the point where there was snow all around us. We were yet again battling strong head winds and we were freezing cold. Finally we reached the path at the top. We had drunk a lot of water and were very thirsty. The wind chill made it below zero. Julien had full weather gear but Angelique’s full weather kit had one missing in transit so we hailed her a lift down the mountain. Julien camped alone at the top of the mountain and experienced -2 degrees in the tent. That said it was a beautiful evening with clear skies and the now familiar light nights.
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Julien had a little bit of a late start this morning as it took him some time to recover from the 95 miles he cycled yesterday.
He knew that today would be a bit shorter and was expecting to cover around 120km.
He set off towards OverKalix and cycled towards the town for 53km. The route was very hilly and Julien faced a constant headwind that really slowed him down.
The hills and the wind meant that it took Julien 4 and a half hours to reach OverKalix, rather than the two hours he was expecting.
Julien stopped in briefly at OverKalix, which was a really nice picturesque town. He pushed on and was excited about heading towards Finland.
Julien cycled to Övertorneå and again faced a strong headwind. This meant he arrived at the town about an hour later than he was expecting.
He had a bite to eat at Övertorneå and then cycled onwards crossing the bridge from Sweden in Finland.
Crossing the bridge Julien had about 50km of great cycling. The road was finally flat, the wind died down and there was very little traffic.
Julien passed the campsite he had originally planned to stay in and decided to push on to the Artic Circle.
Finland is two hours ahead of the UK so by the time Julien arrived everything had shut down, but he was still really chuffed to have made it the Artic Circle after 2000 miles!
The excitement of reaching the Artic Circle gave Julien a boost of energy and he continued on for another 25km.
However the wind picked up and he was very tired by this stage so it took him a couple of hours to reach the nearest campsite.
When Julien arrived at the town it was absolutely buzzing with people in the streets and a band playing.
Julien had to queue to get into the campsite and once he made it inside he discovered that a massive motor racing event is occurring over the next couple of days.
At 11.30 it was still really bright outside with the sun still a fair distance above the horizon. Combined with the party atmosphere Julien is not expecting much sleep tonight!
Still, hopefully Julien will get some sleep before cycling on tomorrow – he really is on the home stretch now!
Please also visit the Child’s i Foundation and see if you can do anything to help out!
Total mileage: 72
Terrain: Hills – challenging with some really tough moments
After the pleasure and comfort afforded us by Andrew, we headed off, through the increasingly complex urban streets and cul-de-sacs of Yatton on a glorious sunny morn. Although we got underway in the rush hour, we soon left the slow moving traffic behind by taking smaller, less obvious routes.
Within half an hour, we crossed the M5 and then headed up towards Avonmouth, via Clevedon and Portishead. Much of the route was along intense A roads but fortunately the West Country drivers were courteous enough to pass us at a sensible distance.
Avonmouth is an absolute hole of a place where we unfortunately were stuck for an hour or so as the signs were nonsensical. After talking to a teacher manning the gates of a local school, we found our way onto the cycle path and over to Seven Beach, where we jumped onto the Severn Bridge and crossed our first border.
Wales much not surprisingly much the same as England, save for the broken glass on the cycle track. We headed towards Chepstow for lunch and found a small grassy knoll.
After filling our bellies up, we took the A466 on one of the best rides of the trip, through the Welsh valleys up to Monmouth. The mountainous landscape covered in green trees was much like Scandinavia. We all pelted around the roads at great speed, enjoying the relatively traffic-free roads.
After getting lost in Monmouth, we escaped, taking another very pleasant road, the B4347, north west towards Pontrilas. We were all pretty knackered as the terrain was very hilly. All of us were on heavy steal bikes, weighed down by our luggage. Although we had anticipated that the toughest parts were in Devon and Cornwall, Wales offered equally challenging roads.
We passed through Ewyas Harold ending up in Abbey Dore. Unfortunately, due to a completely random choir singing contest, we were unable to find anywhere to stay. We were lucky enough to befriend a local publican who called a few B&Bs in the area, and ended up finding us a lovely room back in Ewyas Harold.
We were greeted by the landlord, Mark, who turned out to be a lovely guy. He and his daughter invited us in with a very cheery demeanour and cooked us a sumptuous meal, much needed after the long day’s ride.