Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Almost forgot…

February 18th, 2012

And almost 1,800 blog posts, 2,000 photos and 700 videos…



Final flurry of statistics

February 18th, 2012

Miles ridden Almost 20,000 (about 30,000 kilometres) – so, by any measure, quite a long way…!

Revolutions (of the wheels) Sixteen million

Continents Four – Europe, Asia, Australia, North America

Countries 17

Border crossings 31

Visas 10

US States 12 (including night in Hawaii – no time to surf!)

Coldest -15 oC in New Mexico

Hottest Forties in Kazakhstan and China’s Gobi desert

Cyclones One – Yasi – Northern Australia

Highest point Over 8,000 feet – Emory Pass – New Mexico

Lowest point Turpan – pronounced Turvan – Basin, Western China – below sea level

Favourite nations New Zealand, North America, Serbia, Georgia (also the friendliest)

Most expensive country Australia (cost of living about 2-3 times that of the UK)

Cheapest countries China and the Republic of Georgia

Most corrupt nation – Azerbaijan – if you don’t pay a bribe you’d never leave. Ever.

Detentions by border guards 2 – Kazakhstan (shorter of the two!) and Australia

Uprisings (just missed) Bishkek, Capital of Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan, and sporadic (unreported) ethnic civil unrest in Western China

Toughest challenges Loneliness – especially in China – and tropical humidity in Northern Australia

Lowest point Few hours after drinking kumus – fermented mare’s milk

Most bizarre moment Tearing around Republic of Georgia in a police car (sightseeing courtesy of a local Mayor!)

Most used words Nee-how – Hello! – and Sh-e, Sh-e, nee – Thank-you – in Mandarin

Least heard expressions Have a nice day! (in US – rarely said) and It’s free! (in (expensive) Australia – rarely heard)

Favourite foods Stack of pancakes with maple syrup – US – and stuffed dumplings – China

Favourite places Camping amongst wild bears in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon, and nights spent in Chinese truck stops – for less than 20 yuan – about two pounds

Bikes Just one – my trusty Somerset built two-wheeled steed

Punctures 10 – with just one in whole of North America

Spokes broken or loosened – not a single one, and wheels still look pretty true

Most elusive wildlife Wild bears in North America – saw just one cub – and deadly snakes in Australia – two in the wild

Most common wildlife Wallabies – like a kangaroo but smaller – in Australia

[With especial thanks to Tim for the encouragement to compile these…]



The Old Curiosity Shop

November 26th, 2011

I’m not Australian and don’t like to be called as such. Which happens fairly frequently in North America. Finding myself particularly riled by this, forcing myself to ponder why this might be. Of course, I know a good number of great people, destined to be life-long friends, who happen to be Australian. My issue firmly cultural rather than individual.

True, I admire their stoicism in the face of frequent adversity. Their self-reliance. Itself a little ironic for what appears to be the ultimate Nanny State. Runaway regulation. Officious bureaucracy. Federal system unwarranted for a population less than a third of that of the UK. Governed by a mediocrity of politicians. Always grains amongst the chaff. Anna Bligh, Queensland’s Premier. Met her briefly. But not Prime Ministerial material. Not that you need to be.

Some aspects simply amuse rather than annoy. Bowling greens and old fashioned social clubs, serving meals reminiscent of school dinners. Rather quaint. Like an Old Curiosity Shop. Finally embracing EFTPOS like it was a sparkly new children’s toy. Words like free or inclusive have largely been discarded from their lexicon, replaced by the likes of gourmet – pronounced ’gore-met’ – its application bordering on the abusive. It’ll be fondue sets next. Their de facto national dish as unoriginal as it is uninspiring in a continent of unique flora and fauna. Fish and chips. Almost criminal. But that’s history for you. Made worse by the fact that a rather better model for European colonisation lies right under their noses. New Zealand.

I’d been asked by one fellow traveller why I thought all this might be? What about atmospheric nuclear testing? I paused, albeit briefly, then replied, smiling, that my diary was clear next week. In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for a friend’s suggestion. When asked by a US citizen if you’re Australian, reply by asking which part of Canada they come from…



Swift passage to Seattle

October 23rd, 2011

Swift passage to Seattle from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken parts company with Canada, making a swift passage by fast catamaran from Victoria into Seattle, Washington State, USA. And there are postcards to write..



Reflections on Canada

October 23rd, 2011

The Yukon. British Columbia. Two Provinces. Well over a thousand miles through Canada. But what to make of the place, the US’ top-hat? I’d often had to remind myself which country I was in. Perhaps, I thought, it was a bit like Germany and Austria. No sharp cultural divides.

But there were differences. Little details. Unarmed border guards. A people who seemed far less trigger happy than their neighbours. And quite a few less of them. Yukon Province making Alaska look positively crowded.

I’d missed saturation ice hockey. Out of season. But intrigued – even amused – by the very pervasive nature of a minority language. French. I’d suspected this to be a result of a vocal few exerting undue – even unwarranted – political influence. But a German immigrant I’d met had put it far more succinctly. Arrogance. Tres Bien.



Into Seattle

October 23rd, 2011


It was late. Gone ten pm by the time I’d cleared US Customs at the ferry terminal in Seattle. My luggage – four panniers, one large dry bag stuffed with bottles and the handlebar bag, one tent and my trusty steed – retrieved and my bicycle laden for the short journey – a few miles – to meet up with an old school friend.

I’d taken the fast catamaran from Victoria, on Canada’s Vancouver Island, directly into Seattle, Washington State. A little shy of three hours. Turning up ridiculously early for check-in had paid dividends. In spades. Arriving prepared to lash panniers together to minimise excess baggage charges, only to find my early arrival being rewarded with some sensible discretion. My luggage treated as equivalent to the normal inclusive allowance of two larger items.



In the pottery shed

October 23rd, 2011


Actually it was an art studio, admittedly with a small potters wheel and a couple of large clay blocks amongst the various brushes and paints. A former garden shed that also doubled has a rather charming stop for the night, a small sofa bed tucked away at the far end.

I’d been met earlier, around sunset, by host Michelle on her robust BMW touring bike. Guided to a small, neatly kept trailer park in the suburbs of Victoria. Ordinarily these were the sort of places I’d positively avoid, rather than simply let allude me. But her lot, shared with partner Patti, was different. Quite different. It had character. A distinct cottage feel. I loved the little touches. The woodstove. Home made, lightly perfumed soaps. Driftwood decorations.



On Vancouver Island

October 23rd, 2011

On Vancouver Island from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken reaches Victoria Island. Couple of hours of daylight remaining, twenty five miles or so to cover. But always time for a refreshing cup of flask-stewed tea…



Sailing to Swartz Bay

October 22nd, 2011

Sailing to Swartz Bay from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken takes a ferry from the unpronounceable port of Tsawwassen, a little south of Vancouver, to Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island. Heading on for the night to the suburbs of Victoria, Capital of British Columbia Province.



Tunnelling south

October 22nd, 2011

Tunnelling south from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken continues his journey south from Vancouver, heading for the ferry to Vancouver Island. Coming up against the George Massey tunnel. Not the sort of thing you’d want to cycle through…


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