The French Haute Route – 2013

The wheels won’t be turning this year on the French alps and I am sad, it will be the first time since the beginning of the French Haute Route that we will not be traversing those familiar high peaks and welcoming the early morning sunshine. Instead we will be taking part in a new adventure: the first ever Dolomites Haute Route!

Last year’s French Haute Route was a barrel of fun as I wasn’t just supporting the Boyfriend, I was supporting a loveable group of cyclists who all knew each other. They were all extremely keen to take up the challenge of the Haute Route.

French Haute Route 2013

The group had a weeks preparation in the village of Morzine consisting of endless cycle talk, coffee and the chance to cycle up every possible incline available to them. By the end of it the boys felt ready, but little did they know their journey had only just begun…

French Haute Route 2013

I was the support crew. I would be up and out into the early morning’s silent darkness. Behind the wheel, the car would hug the corners of the skinny mountain roads. The roads would twist themselves to the top of the mountains where I would usually encounter the Haute Route crew automatically setting up the cyclists feed station.

French Haute Route 2013

Out of the car and the tingle of the warm rising sun on my body gave rise to my excited anticipation …

It was never a long wait at the top just enough time to appreciate the cool mountain air and the secret envelope of bewitching scenery at such a height and like an army of ants from below the cyclists could be seen marching their way to the top.

French Haute Route 2013

The approaching roar of the motorbikes with their flashing lights warning everyone that the cyclists are on their way. Ready to cheer, clap and holler I release my ardent support to any one and everyone pedalling up the mountain on two wheels.

French Haute Route 2013I always hope that my solitary amount of clapping and cheering will give each cyclist that little boost to help them make it to the end of each stage – some riders are oblivious to my existence which doesn’t bother me, some give me a simple nod of the head, others smile in delight and some even thank-me verbally with a grateful smile…

The leading cycle group always seem so focused and fast, unwilling to stop. They are like rockets heading for the moon.

The climb to the top of the mountain seems easy for them, but to the rest of the cyclists, after relentless hill climbs and the top of the mountain in sight they reveal more of themselves without any hesitation.

French Haute Route 2013

The cyclists delicate frames strain as they begin to pedal harder and their muscles stress working overtime. As they get closer the pull on their faces look as if they are lugging huge bags of potatoes about on their back. You can hear the continuous exasperated gasps and their will power wound up in swear words. The sweat drips off their skin as their bodies hunch over the bicycle frame craving more energy…

French Haute Route 2013

Observing the determination and strength in each person gives me goosebumps – internally they reach from within to push themselves beyond their own limits. It causes them to release a flood of emotions and the joy that is projected is like magic fairy dust scattering itself for all to delight in. This human spirit is contagious.

French Haute Route 2013

The feed station is like a small piece of heaven to these cyclists. I can only imagine it to be like feeding time at the zoo, ravenous animals with no time to talk or be polite in case of missing out or losing his or her place. Mouths are be stuffed full with as much energy giving delights as possible. Liquid is then added to wash it all down and as quick as you can say ‘ Bobs your uncle’ they are back on their bicycles, heads lowered and speeding off down the mountain as if it were a slide in a playground.


As soon as the boyfriend has cycled by I am back in the car, trying my best to beat him to the finish line – Usually I am there waiting for him and for all the other cyclists too… although I am often distracted by the changing scenery which nags at me to stop and appreciate its isolated beauty – it can be breathtaking and I try to imagine what it must be like on a bicycle? From mountain lakes to deep gorges… It is so easy to fall in love with the surroundings with which the roads travel.

French Haute Route 2013

It is also easy to fall in love with the people who take part in this event, they are friendly, fun and full of life…

French Haute Route 2013

French Haute Route 2013

Every evening is spent in a new town and there are always opportunities to meet new people, make new friends and have plenty of laughs. With the added bonus of tasty local cuisine and bottles of wine.

Tour de France, you don’t know what you are missing!French Haute Route 2013

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Cycling colourful San Francisco

San Francisco USA

Discovering a bike hire shop right next to your accommodation is a dream come true.

san francisco - USA

Staying in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s china town must have distracted our attention from the collection of bicycles hanging in the dusty windows? Our exciting cycle across the Golden Gate bridge the day before meant the Boyfriend and I were definitely up for another day in the saddle.

Above, the bright red lanterns of China town are swaying in the morning breeze, the market stalls are piled high with a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables as we squeeze our hire-bikes through the throngs of people buying the weekly goods… the greasy scent of soy sauce and cooking oil seeps from the small eateries.  Tired eyed people hunch over the tables slurping bowls of hot soupy liquid.

san francisco - USA

China town is wide awake making it impossible to cycle through its cramped roads so we take a small side street and stumble into a tiny piece of history… the Vesuvio bar, where the once beat generation use to read poetry, write and drink until the wee small hours… Jack Kerouac and his artistic chums.   It is full of dark nooks and crannies and has a warm glow to it. san francisco - USA

We don’t stop for long and continue to cycle down the road towards the harbour front.  Once again we come upon the outstanding ferry building, turn right,  away from the Golden gate bridge. We pass sleeping yacht clubs and tired eateries.

San Francisco - USA

Finally we slip away from the glistening harbour and begin to pedal up a very busy road full of traffic in the direction of Haight – Ashbury the colourful hippie district.

san francisco - USA

The road is flat and long to begin with, the cycling is fun with us trying to avoid oversized motorbikes, the grumbling trucks and the rumble of the antique trams and buses.  Half way up the hectic road is a large paved area full of tented stalls.

san francisco - USA

It is a weekly farmers market and the locals have turned out to get their fix of fresh food.  We stop to buy a few tasty treats and chat happily to the friendly stall holders.  This is where we begin to use our faded city map as a guide looking for specific street signs to help us find our way.

San Francisco - USA

An incline begins and we attempt to climb it with success.  We swing our bicycles into quiet suburbia where the streets are lined with colourful Victorian homes.   Standing smartly in rows these wooden beauties remind you of a time where pomp and grandeur once ruled.

san francisco - USA

Pedalling through this thoroughfare it is easy to imagine an era where folk in top hats, lace and frocks strolled these sweeping streets.  The legs frantically push the pedals up the many slopes  while the body welcomes the adrenaline rush of the wind on the downhills.

Painted Ladies - San Francisco - USA

We cycle upon the park where the ‘Painted Ladies’ can be found sitting on its fringes overlooking the city.   These are most photographed Victorian houses in San Francisco and from where we rest under the coolness of the trees some of the wooden ladies look as if a new coat of paint would certainly cheer them up.   They look a bit tired however they still manage to capture my imagination posing proudly like models on the hillside.

San Francisco - haight ashbury - USA

Onwards to Haight – Ashbury and the opportunity for my imagination to work over time.   This is where the main streets are lined with creativity.  The many shops are alive with interesting frontage, soap bubbles float on the breeze…

San Francisco - haight ashbury - USA…60s tunes sway out onto the pavements and characters of all types entertain visitors and locals alike with their off beat humour.

We stop for lunch and enjoy the atmosphere of what was once the place where the hippy movement really did mean something.

On the return home we somehow get lost and end up in the massive expanse of the beautiful Golden Gate park.

San Francisco - USA

Lush green areas that stretch on for ever with the added bonus of shadowy trees and grunting bison!   The afternoon sky soon turns to evening and we manage to find many different cycle paths that eventually guide us all the way back to our accommodation which is hidden in the bustle of China town.

Our bike shop owner is patiently awaiting our arrival – ready to lock up and head out for a night of San Francisco fun. Still excited from our cycle ride we find we have to do exactly the same!

san francisco - USA

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A Golden Cycle in San Francisco

San francisco - USAAlong the skyline a patchwork of skyscrapers sits perched upon the rolling hills of San francisco.  Down at the port our bicycle wheels roll peacefully along the waterfront..  Pedalling away from the luxurious ferry terminal with its tempting food stands, we head towards the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s wharf.  Our cycle route is part of the busy Embarcadero road, it takes us on a direct route through a hub of activity.

You can’t miss Fisherman’s wharf with its huge sign encouraging you to come and explore its labyrinthine of colourful wooden buildings which rest over the ocean. We dismount our bikes due to the amount of people strolling about.

San Francisco - USA

There are a number of enticing seafood stalls offering chunky clam chowder.  Above the seagulls screech flying in ravenous circles looking for scraps left behind by people’s oversized snacks.

Fishermans wharf - San Francisco - USA

It is the wrong time of year for the seals that are usually found sun baking on their bobbing pontoons which sadly sit empty and quiet.

We discover an old penny arcade housed in a huge warehouse and happily spend an hour or more playing with the relics of the past before mounting our bikes again and continuing with our journey.

The sea air is enticing so we follow it down a pier towards a small but interesting collection of boats.  The boats are part of the maritime museum, which is worthy of another stop. Our bicycles must feel abandoned by now.

They have hardly had a work out.  Walking back down the pier the city clutters the blue sky, like a mountain range with a tin of shiny paint.

San Francisco - USA

Back on our bikes and our pace picks up as we follow a path that guides us around the calm harbour waters, up a steep climb to weave us through a busy park full of joggers, lovers and picnickers into the deserted America’s cup spectators park – there is always something to distract us.

Alcatraz -San Francisco - USA

The spectators park has a tiny handful of curious people poking about at the set up. Luckily a boat race is scheduled for the day ( NZ vs Italy), but hardly any one has turned up to watch?  We wait for the race to begin finding a great spot right on the water’s edge.

America's cup - San Francisco - USA I didn’t expect to see such speed from the boats, but these boats move as if they had motors on them – they zip by slicing through the water with acceleration like that of jet plane! It was a real spectacle, I felt like a child at christmas time bubbling with excitement. San Francisco - USA

The New Zealand boat won which made us even the more excited.  We pedal onwards feeling very satisfied with ourselves.

San Francisco - USAIt isn’t long before the cycle path comes up beside the busy road full of noisy trucks, huge cars and the stylish motorcycles all heading in the direction of the iconic Golden Gate bridge. This is where our legs are made to work with an incline that even our lowest gear struggles with, but we all make it to the top where there is an area to rest, take photos and learn a bit of history about the area with many boards dotted about the place.  The place is a hive of activity, other cyclists  come and go.

The ruby-red pillars of the bridge stretch into the Californian mist.  The closer we get to the bridge the more we realise the real scale and size of this classic piece of architecture.

San Francisco - USA Pedalling on the bridge you eventually become aware of just how small you are. With only a metal fence between you and the roar of the traffic, the cycle path is shared with pedestrians which makes for tight squeezes and an opportunity to test your balance and agility on two wheels!

San Francisco - USA The liquorice strap wires holding the bridge upright are what you imagine a beanstalk to look like, Jack could have slid down the twisted metal to escape the clutches of that bellowing giant.

Pausing to stop we experience the chaotic roar of the traffic, the rough white waves rolling in the ocean below, the mystical damp mist floating in the distance while the wild blustery wind pelts our skin. It makes me feel very much alive and ready for action.

San Francisco - USA Free wheeling down the bridge was like the bicycle had a motor on it!  It was a joy to turn off away from the busy traffic onto a much quieter road towards the colourful coastal town of Sausalito.  With the cool ocean breeze on our tail we pedalled through the hills and past quaint beach side homes to the main street  which sits like a decoration on the waterfront with views to die for.

sausalito - USA Sausalito was busy, very busy.  We hunted around for lunch which ending in being a delightful deli full of fresh food.  So it was as we sat on the water’s edge with our salads and sandwiches in hand – we looked back at San Francisco and admired all the beauty she had to offer.

San Francisco - USA Our day ended with us catching the ferry along with many other excited cyclists back to the city… and we were sad to have to hand in our hire bikes.  Little did we know that we were going to use them again the following day… but that is another story…

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Good times on a BMX bike – Auckland

As an adult capturing any chance to be a kid again is always on my to do list – the nostalgia of it all makes me bubble with excitement.  Last weekend a window of opportunity opened for me to once again breathe childhood exhilaration, freedom and fun.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

The boyfriend and I went on a BMX ride along the water’s edge in Pakuranga, Auckland.  Upon arrival a tiny group of BMX fanatics and their children had already gathered.  I was given a stylish BMX bike for the day and instantly my senses were flooded with memories of the shiny chrome BMX I once owned as a young teenager.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

The joy of sitting on the BMX bike that I had been given had my pulse racing and I couldn’t wait to get going .  The surrounding harbour was calm, the clouds were dull and the air still, but the adrenalin within the BMX group created a buzz as we departed along the Rotary walkway that hugged the coastline.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

This was a part of Auckland I had never explored and it was very serene. With houses perched above the grassy slopes, knotty native trees over hanging the path and the sea lapping the shore I almost felt as if I wasn’t in the city anymore.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

My BMX was in cruise control yet each time I came to a bend in the path I found myself out of my seat and increasing my speed just so I could hug each corner as if I was on a motorbike.  Avoiding the few walkers and joggers was easy as there were very few of them out and about…

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

For a short time, the sleepy boats in the harbour became our only spectators as a boat jetty became a mini ramp for us to roll down on with speed.  In our excitement the dull clouds had slowly merged into one big cloud.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

It now looked like an enormous tsunami coming to swallow us whole – the scene looked quite surreal as we continued around the coast.  We stopped at an exercise playground where the adults and children all pulled, pushed and spun the equipment designed for fitness.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

I had an overwhelming urge to do sweet jumps on my BMX bike and I whizzed about the car park tarmac attempting tricks.  Twisting and turning the metal frame – lifting it from the tarmac was thrilling even if I was a bit rusty!

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

Just down the path was a very inventive snakes and ladders park consisting of steps and slides entwined with flax bushes which amused the children for ages.  On the path again, it  guided us inland, pedalling us past hundreds of overgrown mangroves and up short steep inclines into suburbia.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

We got slightly lost at one point and just as our bottoms were getting sore from the BMX seats we found park number two.  The lawn was covered with spindly legged Pukeko birds who greedily enjoyed our lunch as much as we did.

Pukeko - New Zealand

The bike ride back to our cars became a race for some, including myself.  It was thrilling stuff… I took every corner with speed, moving the bike from side to side to increase my pace and to overtake others, but the BMX race came to a sudden end when the big swing was discovered.  It was dangling up on the grassy slope attached to an enormous tree overlooking the picturesque waters of the harbour.

BMX - Auckland - New Zealand

As I sat on the swing dropping from a huge height with my legs stretched our in front of me, a cool rush of air on my face and the high-pitched squeal releasing from my lungs I think I could say that my entire day was spent swinging into memories full of adult exhilaration, freedom and fun.  I can’t wait to do it all again!

Pakuranga - Auckland - NZ

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Biking Beautiful Brisbane – Australia

I like surprises and Brisbane city is certainly a box of treats. We arrive at the Youth Hostel in the late evening. The constant deluge of rain has followed us up from Surfers Paradise and I wonder what this city can offer us in the next few days?

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Lucky for us the rain is gone in the morning, replaced with a bright blue sky above. The busy Youth Hostel has a small choice of hire bikes displayed out front and we seem to be the only ones interested in snapping up a pair of the old off-beat cycles.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Finding the cycle ways in Brisbane is not too difficult – you simply pedal down to the Brisbane river. The cycle way we find hugs the river. It weaves under massive concrete bridges and beside roads laden with polluted traffic. Down below the air is crisp and the greenery abundant. We feel hidden and safe from all the noise and confusion above.

cycling Brisbane - Australia

The boyfriend soon becomes curious about life above and a detour into the city centre becomes an uphill climb. My heavy bike only has two gears so my arms and legs certainly get a lengthy work out!cycling Brisbane - Australia

We pedal up and down busy streets getting happily lost. Brisbane City Hall, the Clock Tower and King George Square are all visual treats.

After zig- zagging around we eventually find direction and pedal back down to the calm of the river’s edge. Few people are about and we seem to have the cycle way to ourselves.

We stop at a quirky riverside eatery and enjoy a delicious cooked breakfast in the glowing morning sunshine.

Time easily ticks by. We jump back on our clunky bikes and enter the Brisbane city botanical gardens.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

It surrounds us with its sweaty scent of tropical jungle. A towering canopy of green protects us from the approaching grey clouds that turn the city a shade of grey. We push on, pedalling towards the suburb of New Farm.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Ahead, Storey bridge has me mesmerised. Its sturdy steel structure poses powerfully like an important business man over-seeing the static flow of the Brisbane river.

Cycling Brisbane - AustraliaContinuing to follow the bend of the river I find myself glancing back. The bridge sits as an industrial artwork fragmented against the backdrop of the glistening city.

A steep climb leads us up and away from the river and the cycle path. We begin to follow bike signs along the road. New Farm is refreshing.

It is dotted with colourful homes – where historic riverside factory buildings have become unique apartments and where corner coffee shops are buzzing with locals.

We discover a few more cycle paths – allowing us to explore some riverside parks before we turn back to towards the city’s skyline.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Our bicycle wheels engage with a Storey bridge crossing – gliding over its metal frame we enjoy the scenic city views. The other side of the river is waiting for our arrival…

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Kangaroo point greets our us with its imposing cliffs. The grey clouds have quickly passed as the heat in the air slows our pace. Creativity is everywhere as eye-catching artwork frequently decorates the riverside. We cycle in the direction of Southbank.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

South Bank is a busy hive. This is where all the people are! With its spacious museums, picturesque gardens, relaxing eateries and its own man-made beach who wouldn’t want to come for a visit?

There is so much to see and do in this tiny area you could be here for the day, but we continue cycling over another fabulous bridge and then along the bicentennial bikeway which practically sits on the river.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

It guides us with a few diversions ( due to previous flooding ) beside the river. It by-passes busy suburbs and leads us towards the University of Queensland. The shade of the trees around the university grounds are a welcome relief from the heat and humidity in the air.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Another cycle friendly bridge takes us over the river and guides us up Highgate hill where we rest under the trees – From the Highgate hill we are thrilled to find ourselves freewheeling alongside cars down into the inner suburb of the West End – where there are engaging boutique shops, fresh produce and friendly locals to chat to.

Cycling Brisbane - Australia

Finally we pedal back to exciting South Bank where we watch the radiating sunset in an open air bar with a glass of bubbles!

Wrap her up and give her to me any day – Brisbane is a real treat!

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Cycling before the Storm in Surfers Paradise

A roaring storm is rolling in to hit the sandy white beaches of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, but as the sun is still shining the Boyfriend and I are going to beat it before it hits.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

Having just arrived in Australia we discover two rickety bicycles in the garage below our rented apartment at Biggera Waters.  We are itching to explore the area and the bicycles look as if they need to be dusted off and taken outside for some fun!

A cycle path sits right below our apartment weaving its way beside an expansive inlet which heads in both directions, but before we begin we cycle to a local petrol station.  The bicycle wheels are in need of some good ol fashioned air.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

The bicycles creak and the chains squeak happily along the cycle path.  There is no rush.  The sun warms our backs as the sea sprays its salty scent in our direction.   We pedal through quiet grassy parks dotted with spiny trees.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

Clusters of colourful boats lay like empty seashells on the sandy shoreline.  A random fisherman stands hunched and crumpled in the shadows of the on coming clouds as we continue to pedal in the direction of the high rises of Surfers Paradise.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

With faceless apartment blocks on one side and the vast inlet on the other you feel as if you are never too far from it all.  A big camp ground sits right next to the inlet as we pedal over a bridge and into a sizeable park.  It is all very serene.  Only the odd jogger and elderly walker uses the open space to their advantage.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

We cycle upon Broadwater parklands.  It has a delightful children’s playground complete with an enormous bouncy tarpaulin that resembles a colourful pillow!  I simply can’t resist the chance to play on all the equipment that bounces, spins, rocks, twists and turns…  We stop, becoming kids again and time simply becomes obsolete.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

A gentle breeze begins to blow as we climb back on our bicycles.  In the distance crazy distorted shapes appear… They are the curves of a unique water park.  The shiny mosaics glisten under the small spurts of water.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

Constant flows of water create a stream for children to paddle in.  If only we had our brought our swimmers!  An interesting children’s cycle park catches our eye with its little ramps and stop & go signs.  This place is a child’s paradise!

The cycle path guides us safely onto the busy Gold Coast highway and over the inlet via a lengthy bridge – We hoot and holler as we are carried along by the speed of cars and trucks whipping past us.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - AustraliaFrom above we would resemble ants as we take a small detour below the towering apartment blocks.  It is a quieter route which eventually guides us to a path right next to the ocean.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

Sadly, the clouds have finally gathered momentum and begin to look menacing.  Surfers Paradise greets us with a busy promenade full of people, a row of crumbling sand sculptures and a maze of shops and eateries… The place doesn’t hold our attention for long and the rain begins drizzling.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

We quickly turn back into a strong breeze pedalling back to the shelter of a surf club.  Once inside we have a comforting bite to eat. The rain falls intermittently.  We are mesmerised by the huge ocean waves powerfully beating up the fragile golden sands.  Dragging the delicate sand into its wild depths and leaving frothy white foam behind.

Surfer's Paradise - Queensland - Australia

Finally we decide to make a dash for it.  The brave bicycles groan and creak under the strain, but they get us back to the warmth and shelter of our apartment just in time!  The storm hits with the force of a roaring lion. Untamed it closes all the beaches, closes the National parks and eventually floods many of the coastal roads south of Surfers Paradise.  Thank goodness we are heading north next.

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