Shuffling off to Buffalo

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After 10 days of shuffling back and forth on the same 8km section of rail trail, I expanded my horizons a little and went in the other direction today.

It was really pleasant weather for cycling — about 23°C and very little wind.

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The scenery was stunning for the first 6km of my trek, as the trail overlooks the floodplains of the Tarwin River. This area is diary-farming country and comes dotted with magnificent gum trees, Fresian cows (the black and white ones) and newly made round hay bales.

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The best bit was cycling over the new "trestle" bridge which crosses the river.

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And then it was into the hinterlands, on a relatively flat trail surrounded by scrub and lowland forest.

The surface was, at times, covered in leaf litter and the odd fallen tree branch. In the dappled shade I had to keep my eyes peeled at all times, half-thinking that most of the branches on the ground were snakes. They weren't.

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As it turns out the only creatures I saw were magpies, bunny rabbits and this little echidna who walked right across the trail in front of me. Of course, by the time I got the camera out, he was almost in the scrub, and because he'd heard my arrival, he was going at full pelt. In 10 seconds he was in the roadside undergrowth curled up into a ball of prickles.

I managed to get myself tothe township of Buffalo unscathed, before turning around and heading back to my point of origin. The round-trip was 35km. It took me roughly two hours done at a fairly easy pace with regular stops to take photographs.

Next time I might be braver and see if I can make it all the way to Foster.

It was like Bourke Street out there


After several days cooped up inside because of the unseasonal weather, I was keen to get back out on the cycle path today.

Obviously I wasn't the only one with this idea, because today I had to share the path with:

  • One woman walking
  • Two leisure cyclists dawdling all over the path
  • An elderly couple walking their large dog, who strained on his leash to try and get to me
  • A 20-something chap walking his fluffy dog
  • A man going for a run
  • A teenage girl riding her pony
  • A teenage boy carrying the world's biggest box

I guess the lovely warm weather (27°C) brought everyone out. But do they really have to do it at the same time as me? 😉

Cycle track friends


I'm beginning to become so familiar with my 16km route that I'm noticing subtle changes to the scenery: this gorgeous looking bull has moved into the paddock which has a water company sign on the fence; the black Holsteins that were in the paddock near the reed beds have gone; and the paddocks on the hilly incline have been slashed.

Today I also had company on my cycle. After days of having the entire track to myself, it came as somewhat of a shock to come across two cyclists — an elderly man looking a bit lopsided on his bike and a woman wearing wraparound shades and all kitted out in lycra — and an elderly male pedestrian ambling along.

Towards the end of my ride I also came up behind two men pushing a pram while two young kids trailed after them. Despite ringing my bell and then shouting "excuse me" they seemed oblivious to my arrival, until the little boy shouted "Dad, get out of the way!" That seemed to do the trick.

I guess it was the lovely afternoon sunshine that brought them all out. Hopefully that's the end of the rain and wind for a bit.


Cycle track hazards


There might be signs up warning you about the snakes, but where are the signs warning you about the fallen tree branches?

I came across this during this afternoon’s 16km cycle. The weather’s been a bit wet and wild over the past two days, so I wasn’t particularly surprised to come upon this. I stopped and pulled it off the track, then went on my merry way.

I expected the track to be pretty wet and muddy, but it was actually quite dry despite heavy rainfall over the past 48 hours.

I now have a mudguard on my rear wheel. I bought an el-cheapo set yesterday, only to discover they don’t quite fit my bike. The front one constantly rubs against the tyre, so I took it off, while the rear one is sitting in place through the ingenious use of a cable-tie.

I also have a drink bottle cage, which means I don’t die of thirst. Although in this mad weather there’s no fear of suffering from heat exhaustion!

I was grateful for having a bottle of water with me today, however. The last 8km of my cycle was in a terrible headwind. The only way I could make progress was to cycle in a low gear, very slowly. But boy, my legs were killing me by the time I got to the end!

Have wheels, will travel


I'm spending the next month in Australia and thought it might be a good idea to get myself a set of wheels to explore the countryside.

I bought this little baby, a Trek FX 7.0, this morning for $AU399 (£UK250).

I then went on a maiden voyage with it and cycled the 8km from the bike shop to home along a dedicated cycle track that cuts through farmland and native bush. I had the entire place to myself — just me, the magpies and the cows!


The only thing that slightly worried me was this sign (see below) pasted on one of the roadside posts.


Fortunately the weather is currently a bit too mild for the snakes to be out and about, but it does make me thankful that the only native wildlife I really have to worry about in London is the odd duck or two wandering across my path in Hyde Park!

Cycling Xi’an city wall

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After cycling around Hangzhou I was eager to get back on the bike again, and so when we got to Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, I took advantage of an opportunity to cycle the city wall.

The 12-metre high wall, which is just under 14km in length, is one of the oldest in China.

Together with a fellow traveller, we paid the 40 RMB (£4) entrance fee at the South Gate, went through security and climbed the stairs to the top of the wall.

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Cycle hire was easy to arrange — and cheap. After paying a 200 RMB refundable deposit for the bikes, we were charged 20 RMB per 100 minutes.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how few people were on the wall. I had expected the place to be heaving with tourists and I wasn't particularly looking forward to weaving in and out of them on two wheels.

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But during the entire 14km journey we spied only a handful of cyclists, and an equal number of pedestrians. It was a bit like discovering Xi'an's best-kept secret.

The surface of the wall was a little bit bumpy in places, and, typically, if there was a pothole to be found my two wheels found it!

But we weren't in any rush and spent just as much time off the bike as on it, while we took photographs or peered over the edge of the wall to check out the neighbourhoods below.

Of course, we didn't get around the circuit in 100 minutes and had to fork over extra cash for being late (an additional 5 RMB for 30 minutes extra time on the bike), but it was worth it. Cycling Xi'an's city wall was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to China!

A two-hour cycle in Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou 064 How's this for an exotic location in which to go cycling?

Yes, I'm in China, two-thirds of the way through a 21-day tour, criss-crossing the country with six other independent travellers.

Hangzhou, which is two hours north-west of Shanghai, is an incredibly cycle-friendly city. It has an extensive cycle-hire scheme, a bit like "Boris bikes" in London, but for a non-Chinese speaker it seemed a little complicated to use. I decided to rent a bike from a little man outside the main department store instead, and after elaborate use of sign language — lots of thumbs up, smiling and numbers scribbled on paper — I was given a little pink bike with orange wheels.

Armed with a map and a sense of adventure, I then took to the road by myself.

I had an amazing time cycling the streets around the West Lake, a picturesque circuitous route totalling about 14km. In places I had to cut it up with the best of them, because the traffic was pretty manic. In China there as just as many bikes as four-wheeled vehicles, so it never feels as if you're out there as target practice for cars or buses, but it can be daunting if you're not used to the unpredictability of large groups of bicycles.

What I found particularly liberating was not so much the scenery — absolutely stunning in places — and the lovely wide lanes dedicated solely to two-wheeled vehicles, but the fact that there doesn't seem to be any rules whatsoever for bikes: you can cruise through red lights, go up one-way streets, cycle against the traffic — or with it, and even trundle along the footpath with no-one blinking an eye.

And because everyone cycles — and drives — at an ultra-slow pace, it feels very safe. I got the impression that everyone, including pedestrians, are so used to the chaotic nature of it all that they're prepared for the unexpected and take things easy, with a view to stopping quickly or getting out of the way if necessary.

I have to add that it helps to have a bell, or a horn, and to use it freely — just as everyone else does, so all you can hear is a cacophony of toots and whistles and ding-a-lings!

I took my time cycing the route and stopped a lot along the way to take photographs and admire the scenery.

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 All up my two-hour adventure cost the equivalent of £2. And the bike was terrific: new tyres, ultra-strong brakes, an easy-to-adjust seat and a lock. A highly recommended way to discover the city if you are ever in this neck of the woods!