I’m on the road again

I first got the travel bug on my 10th birthday when my best friends and I went to see Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday.  I was smitten and not just with Cliff. To buy a big bus and you and all of your friends head off to Greece! Or anywhere for that matter. My girlfriend’s playhouse became a bus and then in my late teens I was off to the UK. I met Mr Bishi in London and we started our travelling in a VW Beetle with tent and gear in the back for our grand European tour honeymoon.

A little older, more responsible, widely travelled and back in NZ, getting away is just that bit more expensive, but I hanker after visiting favourite places and seeing new ones. What to do? No brainer really: live vicariously through travel books, the quirkier the better.

Cover of Sleeping AroundBrian Thacker is Australian and it shows in his style of writing (humourous and irreverent) and his continual wearing of shorts. Using Couchsurfing.com, GlobalFreeloaders.com etc., Brian is travelling on the smell of the traditional mechanic’s wiping cloth. He’s bed testing/couch surfing to Reykjavik, Istanbul, Kitchener, Rio, places he’s never been. In fact you might say he’s been Sleeping Around.

His potential hosts he chooses carefully. A lot of profiles mention their desire for guests to use the loo instead of the bathroom floor and generally that they like to party and drink copiously. No-one boring – the more outlandish the better. His liver takes a bashing and he lacks sleep, but he certainly sees places through different eyes. No longer a tourist but a friend of a local. Ideal.

Cover of Narrow Dog to Wigan PierLike a lot of people I have “Take canal boat through canals of UK” on my secondary bucket list. Being secondary, there is little hope of this happening. This makes the stories from Terry Darlington featuring wife Monica, Jim the cowardly thieving whippet who hates boating, and their English canal boat Phyllis May all the more fun.

Together we’ve been across the English Channel (a first for a narrow boat) and down to the Med and along an Indian River in the south of the good ole US in Narrow Dog to Indian River and I joined them in their earlier journeys around the UK in Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier. Darlington’s writing is funny and I’ve been transported to some beautiful places (some with insects that bring to mind small aircraft), have met the “gongoozlers” on the towpaths, and have visited the pubs where Jim scoffs pork scratchings.

But it was Dervla Murphy who got us attempting to cycle from the UK to Australia*. She is modest, fearless, tough, funny, Cover of In Ethiopia with a Muleextremely fond of beer and my hero. At the age of 30-something, she headed off on her bike from Ireland to Nepal. She made it and having a social conscience she stayed and worked in  the refugee camps. Once she got a taste for travel she was soon off again and over the years has cycled, ridden or walked – whatever works for the terrain (but never used motor transport if she can help it). When her daughter was barely old enough, Rachel adventured with her mother to India, Cameroon, Baltistan and beyond.

She is a personable woman and it comes through in her writing.  I admire Dervla hugely; she is a very brave woman and brilliant travel writer.

Not forgetting the library’s own Armchair Travel Newsletter which brings us new  and recently released titles.  I’ll end up anchored to my armchair in the Spring sunshine in Christchurch, but in my head I’ll be enjoying some of these new titles that I have already reserved.

Do you travel dangerously, wittily and vicariously? Admire writers for their get up and go and the ability to string the words together in an interesting fashion? Use their books as a guide for your own travels?


*We left the tandem in Iran due to a severe shortage of money and made it to Australia with $3 to our name.



Nirvana on a bike – long distance cycling

Cover of CyclosportiveYou did know there was an around the world bicycle race on at the moment, didn’t you? No, I thought not, unless you happen to be one of those strange people who like long distance endurance events, and even  then you probably stick to multisport events that finish in approximately the same week as they started. However, cycling around the world – and doing it as a competition with others – must stand as unique in the slightly sweaty annals of willing self torture.

My dears, lets not get started on what the chafing must be like. Have I piqued your curiosity? You can read all about it and follow the riders on www.worldcyclerace.com, where the remaining riders struggle through deserts and across the tundra, pursued by bears, no doubt. And mosquitos the size of bears.

And the reward for all this effort? Well, there isn’t one, apart from an impressive rash, really big mosquito bites and some blisters in places you wouldn’t want to show your mother. There were 4 starters this year, as compared to 11 last year; 1 has already been disqualified for using a taxi, leaving the rest to battle it out between themselves. The disqualified entrant is still out there cycling, determined to finish the event anyway.

Fancy having a go yourself? Well, there must be worse ways to shake off your midlife crisis. Ok, maybe not. This race is an annual event, so the 2015 race still has vacancies, and you can start from Auckland if you like. Browse our books on cycling training and explore Kiwi Radonneurs – Long distance cycling in New Zealand.

Cover of Get on your bikeAppetite whetted? Well, that’s great, because if you can’t make it for the next around the world race, how about the upcoming TransAmerica event in June (you just have to cycle across North America for that one, but it’s a different event from the RAAM – Race Across America- which also entails cycling across the USA, and also in June, but using a different route). If you would like a bit of Euroculture with your chafing, there’s also the Transcontinental race across Europe, starting from London and ending in Istanbul in August. This one adds another level of challenge in that the cyclists have to be entirely unsupported, which means if they can’t carry it on the bike, it doesn’t go.

New Zealand isn’t entirely out of the loop with endurance cycle races – some time ago (2001) there was an end to end event, the Mizone Endurazone Bluff to Cape Reinga 2001 Challenge, chronicled by Christchurch’s own John Hellemans in his book The Misery of Staying Upright. Alas we don’t have such an event here any more, but there are opportunities for long distance rides at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, which offers 320km, 640km and 1280km distances, should the ‘standard’ distance of 160km not be enough for you.

My dears, think of the chafing!