Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Almost forgot…

February 18th, 2012

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

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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…]

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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…

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Travelling around New Zealand

July 24th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "Pissed aside". Kills insects

And finally….

For my travels around New Zealand I used a Flexipass ticket on the InterCity bus network. And stayed in either Youth Hostel Association hostels, or those affiliated to the network. Excellent value for money. And the accommodation amongst the best I’ve ever seen. Consistently so. Often better equipped kitchens than most homes…

[With especial thanks to Roger from Birmingham, with whom I’d shared a campsite back in Australia, for his invaluable advice on travels around New Zealand]

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New Zealand – a few fuggers

July 24th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "McKennock". Fixes cars

Sheep spotted very few

Hobbits – even less

Naff cups of coffee nil – absolutely none

Wet days – very few

Glaciers visited – one – Franz Josef

Cyclists met – one – Caroline

Time spent at sea – about six hours (didn’t want to overdo it)

French military tourists met – nil

[Ed. That’s quite enough statistics for now…]

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Reflections on New Zealand

July 24th, 2011

I’d not exactly liked New Zealand. I’d loved it. In so many different ways. Dramatic scenery. True. It might be cold, wet and windy here. But the people. Warm. Friendly. And, for all my teasing examples, I’m a bit smitten with the accent. I can take being called "Kin". And being sat on the edge of the Pacific Rim. Some serious fault lines. As Christchurch can attest to.

Neighbours they may be, but New Zealand isn’t Australia. Definitely not. Whereas Oz strikes me as a bit brash, a big gawdy, even greedy, "NZ" is, well, rather charming. Genuine. Welcoming. Even the Customs and Immigration Officers. Because you’ve made the effort to come. Not simply to get you to open up your wallet. In fact, so much about the place is terribly reasonable. Sensible. Makes you feel right at home.

On a practical level, the cost of living seems broadly similar to that of the UK. Which, given it has about a fifth of the population of Australia, and a similar reliance on imports, does seem surprising. Its neighbour being considerably more expensive. Exploring, albeit briefly, has been a joy. Efficient, affordable public transport. Some of the finest hostels I’ve ever seen.

I’ve no plans to emigrate. Anywhere. But if I ever were to consider it, it’d be New Zealand. A few years in Australia. Perhaps. But settle somewhere permanently? No contest. Certain I could live here. Think I could fit right in. For now though, I’m settling on returning with my trusty steed. Reckon three months would be great. Might be a few years off. But return I shall.

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In the clouds

July 23rd, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "Ear roebucks". Type of exercise

Personal response. Within the hour. US Consulate in Sydney. Quite understanding about my predicament. Just let them know when I was back in the city and they’d sort something out. I’d feared I’d have to arrange a fresh visa interview. Incur a couple of weeks wait. Unable to make the one I had. Grounded in New Zealand by a volcanic ash cloud disrupting air travel.

Unable to reach them by telephone, I’d fired off a quick e-mail, explaining my problem. My timeline into Alaska. Asking, if I wasn’t able to make my scheduled interview, whether or not they could offer me an expedited one. Not hopeful. Expecting them to be inundated with such requests. So, doubly surprised at such a quick, individual reply.

In the event, there was no need to take up the Consulate on their offer. Able to make my scheduled flight and arrive back in Sydney a few days ahead of the interview. Before the cloud closed in again.

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Bristol shape

July 23rd, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "polla-tucks". What MPs engage in

Glasgow, I’d explained, had the coma scale. Measurement of consciousness. Intriguing. As not even dead people can attain the lowest rating. But Bristol has stools. Not the sort you buy from IKEA. The other type. Three or four a good score. There’d been a quick search of the web. Not yours truly I hasten to add. Pictorial guide. Passed around the breakfast table.

Note to self. Add stools to list of verboten topics for polite company. Now numbering five. The others being sex, religion and politics. And koalas.

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Wellington bound

July 22nd, 2011

Wellington bound from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken returns to Wellington on the ferry linking North and South Islands.

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Big

July 22nd, 2011

NApreps

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "prophet-shearing". Dividing up the proceeds

Mum was right. North America is, well, BIG. Sought to bound the problem. Keeping the entire continent to two maps. Worked for China. Apart from the bits where I got lost.

"All you need is ignorance and confidence and success is sure" Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain – witty writer

Sat on the ferry back to Wellington. Three or so hours. Enough time to contemplate the next continent. A few rough calculations. Couple of weeks from Anchorage, Alaska to the Canadian border. Six weeks to cross Canada.

Various influences on the route. I’d seen "The Shining". Liked the sound of the Jasper National Park. Yukon River. Great prospects.

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