This website was the blog we kept...
Friday, October 26, 2007
On one good day in Bulgaria Lucas decided to go shoot some nice scenery on a nearby beach. There he found a bottle full of messages! He duly took the bottle and proudly presented it to us. The bottle was full of little bits of paper with crayon writing on it. We could recognise some german words, but the messages were all neatly rolled up.
My theory was that it was a German or Austrian school project where they had tossed the bottle into the Danube. The bottle had travelled 3500 kilometers to the Black Sea and there it had washed up. David said he'd swallow a Bulgarian Penny if that was the case. His modest theory was that it was a local school that had ambitiously thrown the bottle into the sea at the same, or perhaps a nearby beach. The waves had washed it back within a day or so.
A date was set for the ceremonial opening of the bottle; our last night together. That night came. We got the valet of the fancy hotel to fetch the car and we searched for the bottle. We found it. But we also found that condensation inside the bottle had ruined the messages! The micro climate of the support vehicle had apparently caused some dew inside the bottle.
Not to be disspirited by such minor detail we got implements and extracted the bits of rolled up paper. My suggestion of smashing the bottle was not entertained as we had a plan B. Plan B for the bottle was that if indeed it had come from a Bulgarian school, a school within a stone throw of the beach where Lucas found it, we would take the bottle to Australia and place it on Bondi beach. There we would have alerted the paparazi and the rest of the media circus and made a big hooh-hah about a bottle from Bulgaria washing up on Australian shores.
All we found inside was nicely blotched bits of paper. Nothing identifiable at all. Beware all you potential shipwrecks out there!! Use waterproof ink!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
No sooner was I back home and I had to pack my bags again for a quick trip to Hobart to see the CF clinic. I was itching to go and see them, so there was no problem! I even took the bike with me to show them what a Batavus bike looks like! Here are (from L to R): Rowan, Nathan, me, Denise, Jenny and James and MadDoc David.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Nice new Patagonia gear was waiting for me at home!
Wow, home again. This marks the end of the adventure and the beginning of much work! There has been a lot of requests for a book. I am seriously considering this, it would be fun to do, and I have always aspired to be a writer!
But just getting back to the last few days. David and I left the hotel at the checkout time of 11am. We could have stored our luggage there a little longer, but we were keen to get on our way; our plane was not due to leave till 7pm... Having polished off the beers we had in our hotel fridge we had a good start to the day. At the airport we had no trouble getting our luggage checked in by British Airways, despite the heavy weights with the bicycles!
According to the check in lady there were new luggage rules which might not allow the bikes, but they let them on. I checked this on the Internet just now and found this to be incorrect (for those intending to fly with BA and bikes in the future): All customers will be allowed to check in their respective free checked baggage allowance (1 bag of up to 23kg) PLUS one additional item of sports equipment from the list below: ... Bicycles A single seat touring non motorised bicycle.
Next we sat in the BA Club Lounge for many hours watching the clock. Lucky for us we had lounge privileges! The flight from Amsterdam to London was uneventful except for the small delay due to a runway being closed because two planes had touched wing-tips - a close shave I say! Heathrow security was tight as per usual, shoes off etc. All went smooth, we got our boarding passes at the transit desk. We were seated one seat apart with me at a window seat - not desirable if you need to cough and get up for toilet breaks as often as I do. Flight was comfortable none the less - thanks to the nice lady who sat in the isle seat next to me who had to cough and pee as much as I did!! We synchronised movements...
A few movies (Movies on Demand!) and a bunch of meals later we arrived in Melbourne at 5am. I bought the wrong duty-frees - which I noticed way too late when I noticed the receipt were for double the amount I intended to spend! The purchases were still Scotch Whiskey, but just the way more expensive ones... Ooohps, Ah well...
David and I parted ways and at avbout 11am I landed in Devonport with my shiny Batavus bike with 4500kms on the clock in the box!
Batavus bikes going to Tasmania!
Katherine was there to greet me with a few good friends and at home I found a beautiful scrap book with an impressive collection of trip clippings and a great set of brand new Patagonia clothing (which never made it on the trip due to the lost luggage)! A quick walk up Kelcey Tier (see photo on top) to stretch the legs, a quick nap, nachos for dinner and off to bed now!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
David and I drove home with me slowly running out. We were lucky we missed out on a bistro dinner in our Austrian overnight stop (small town, 930pm...) and were given a small snack by the B&B host which only required a couple of pills.
When late the next night we arrived in Holland with the support vehicle I was down to 1 pill. In the morning I went to the local pharmacy where they had enzymes in stock and I replenished my supply for the trip home. They only had Pancrease, which is what I used to get until it was no longer available in Australia. The only problem I have with them is that they do not fit well in the Cotazym dispensers. No big deal!
I should remind you all that Roche Pharmaceutical did supply me with two excellent travel nebulisers for the trip which will be donated to ACF and CFTAS in Tasmania on my return home. The nebuliser, Pari Boy Mobile, was quickly charged, would easily go for two long sessions, and above all was small and convenient and was suitable for Pulmozyne.
That was enough product placement for today...
This has got to go down as one of the most hilarious travel experiences I have ever had...first, I’ll explain the idea of a Turkish bath: you get scrubbed by someone armed with a lofah sponge until you are gleaming. Sounds easy enough, if not a wee bit intimate and right horrific, yes, but I had to try it
First, I walked to the Hamam (
I was not too excited when I entered the bath as it seemed kind of seedy in there, but I had asked at my hostel for a good bath that was not touristy, so I had committed. Plus, I was more curious than I was scared.
I changed into the cracked, well-used flip flops and a rather tatty-looking towel and was shown into the bath area.
Creepy! Shafts of dim light came through open holes in the tower above my head and the room was steamy and claustrophobic-feeling with its wetness.
I was told to WASH! By an angry looking old lady and she motioned for me to sit on the marble. I was a little creeped out sitting el nude-o on the wet marble where everyone else's parts had been, but again with the curiosity....
The old lady left and I splashed water over myself from an urn beside me that looked like a toilet mounted on the wall. There was a 'fresh' water supply coming in from a tap that lent a sort of calm-watery sound to the air with its constant drip.
Somewhat doused in water, now, I sort of just sat there, all modestly trying to cover myself with my hands while I watched what the woman across from me was doing. She seemed to be overly enjoying herself and hardly noticed me until I got up to leave and she said, finished? With a look of shock. I had NO idea what I was supposed to be doing! Was I supposed to have brought my soap? She had some... did I ask to borrow hers? Was anyone going to come a scrub me, or what?
Being impatient, I walked back out into the foyer and there again was much murmuring and the angry old lady came over and pushed me back into the bath saying
So I just sat there, splashing bowl after bowl of water over myself until finally the fat, angry old lady was back. But she was naked. Except for a black pair of bikini underwear - Yuk! I had visions of a more nurturing, motherly sort! Maybe she was just coming to bath herself - nope!
She slapped her hand on the giant slab of marble in the middle of the room and barked something. I went over and she pushed me down onto the marble. The next thing I know, I’m being vigorously rubbed down with a lofah sponge by the naked, fat, nasty old lady! She kept slapping me on the ass to signify that I had to turn over! And there were breast and stuff, in my face, dangling over my eyelids!
She reefed me up into a sitting position and scrubbed my arms and my hands kept brushing her saggy parts! I did look down at my arm through all this and was astonished to see these gloppy balls of dead skin all over me - Yuk! But somehow, fascinating...
WASH! She says.
Then she's back and slaps the marble again. I come over and lay down and she goes at me with soap and another sponge. There is so much lather that I keep slipping around like a soapy fish and she keeps trying to grasp my leg or my arm, but I’m all over the big marble table and barely clinging to it. I am laughing uncontrollably under my breath and this is aggravating her, which makes it funnier.
After, there is a shampoo session complete with my face between her breasts as she massages my scalp; I emerge from her flesh with soap in my eyes and frantically trying to breathe.
There is another wash and then I’m ushered to the sauna where she doesn't let me out until I have all but melted and am starting to feel faint.
Then, blessedly, it's over with a cold
And that, ladies and gents, was my Turkish Bath Experience NEVER to be had again unless I can afford the fancy hotel ones where the woman may be better looking and a bit more 'firm'...
I’m sorry for any family members that read this far. Family gatherings may be awkward now...
Well, time to go shopping for cashmeres and carpets!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The DVD we will have of the documentary will hopefully be distributed free of charge to all CF clinics around the world to provide inspiration and a more positive view of living with Cystic Fibrosis for all CF patients, their relatives and friends.
Keep an eye on this blog for more info in the next week...
Oh, and you wonder what I have in mind for my next project? We thought of Coughing in the Sails, and sail a boat around the world in 2010. That will be a real challenge.
Special thanks must go to the Mad Bomber company for sponsoring us, Martin Quelle for providing the VW Caddy support vehicle and Batavus for providing the excellent bikes! To ride a bicycle like we did on some of the worst roads imaginable for 4500 kilometers requires tough equipment. The Batavus AM400 did the job admirably! No breakdowns of significance. Considering we had 5 bikes doing the trip and we only had one seat break off, and one bike which lost a couple of gears of the cluster on the second last day we cannot complain!
And let me tell you about our flat tires!! How many would you imagine to get on a 2 months plus trip on rough terrain? Well, between the 5 bikes and say 20 000 kilometers they traveled combined we had a grand total of ONE flat tire. The secret? Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. We can highly recommend them as we had good grip at all times on dirt roads and mud, and low resistance due to their slick road profiles, and tough as nails! They were recomended and fitted by Cor Melissant Fietswereld in Dirksland, the Netherlands.
Special thanks must also go to Patagonia for dressing us! And thank you to all of you out there that read this blog, donated money and thought of us. Without all of you this trip would not have been the same!
We celebrated the bike ride over a two night stay in a lovely Istanbul hotel, visited the famous Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, and then it was time to go our own ways.
Cindy flew to London to go have a break with her daughter in Ireland, Troy flew to Brisbane to have a naughty catch-up weekend with his girl (apparently). Lucas will soon be flying home to Canberra from Istanbul and Heather is going back to Canada via Scotland to visit her very pregnant girlfriend before leaving Europe.
David and myself got into the support vehicle and headed for Holland. It is a long trip! We left at 11am on Monday morning and with panic in our eyes, two GPS units on the job, and me with a map as well, we negotiated the Turkish traffic to get out of Istanbul.
We made it out of Istanbul without a hitch and soon after got to the Turkish Bulgarian border. We knew that Troy had driven the car into Turkey and had a stamp in his passport to say so. With our incredible foresight we got a photocopy of that page in his passport and the front page as well, and a statement of Troy to say he has left the car with us to return to Holland.
The customs found this an irregularity and we were sent from one to another building, none were easily found and noone was easily understood. IT was a frustrating process which we finally got through after two hours of juggling, custom officers pointing at the photocopy of Troys passport and telling us he was Mafia and we had to pay a US$100 fine.
Next we were faced with many toll roads along many sections of highway. Not all roads looked like highways of course, but we got through the Balkan countries with one stop in Bulgaria and the next in Austria. We literally went THROUGH the Alps using amazing tunnels. The scenery was great and I was glad not to be cycling over these mountains.
Once in Austria the car's navigation system kicked in and we belted down the freeways at 130km/hr in the ultra slow lane. Most people appear to do 160 and many over 200 km/hr. Amazing! We got into the Frankfurt rush hour, learned to use the smart dynamic navigation system which keeps into account current traffic conditions (it diverts you automatically and turns up the radio when the traffic updates come on). When we got stuck in gridlock in Frankfurt we pressed the BLOKADE button and blocked out the next 10km which we assumed were not moving. Immediately the navigation system diverted us off the next exit and around the problem section of the freeway. The unit also told us we would be in Holland by 11pm.
And so we got to a friend's house late at night where we enjoyed a scotch before retiring to bed. Today we will clean the car up a bit before returning it to Martin. We are exhausted! Not sure what we will do in Holland but I think it will include lots of sleep and laundry! Will keep you posted when we find a place in Amsterdam to do just that, I expect it will be Saturday.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
My God, where do we even start...?! How to possibly capture what it feels like to be finished The Great COFE for Cystic Fibrosis?
Well, for starters, you can bet there were wet eyes, wide grins and a few, "I can't believe it"'s.
And what would the final day be like without a giant helping of Wally Luck?
Whether you believe in coincidence or fate, our final day on the COFE challenge was most certainly accompanied by something other than the ordinary. It started with the insane traffic of Istanbul. We had spent the previous night on the outskirts of the giant city hoping for a relatively straightforward ride in to the finish line, which was to be the front gates of the Dutch Consulate General smack in the middle of the city.
Two friends of Walter's, Kathryn Whitfield, a journalist from London, and Laura Bins, in charge of Press and Cultural Affairs for the Consulate (whom Walter just happened to meet on a train in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip), had exchanged countless emails and phone calls in order to plan a reception for the COFE team at the Consulate. We had no idea what to expect and boy, were we surprised!
But back to the traffic...!
The rider's were Walter, Cindy, David and Heather. Troy and Lucas were in the support vehicle laden with cameras and no small amount of adrenaline to cope with Turkish drivers.
At about 9:30 am, we rode out into the streets, squeezing our way through narrow gaps between sidewalks and buses, metal and flesh. We soon saw that biking through the streets of Istanbul, although completely damaging to even healthy lungs, was THE way to travel. The support vehicle made it approximately 6km before it was wedged deep into the worst kind of metal-hell jam. This was when Lucas got nervous. Our lunch meeting at the Consulate was slated for noon and it was clear nothing bigger than a human body was going anywhere fast.
So, just as any devoted, young film-maker would do, Lucas sprung from the car and started running. Armed with no more than a basic point in direction from Troy, he was off but when the car passed him about a half hour later, he was missed in the roar of engines around him. Thinking fast, Lucas flagged down a taxi and said, "Follow that car!"
Meanwhile, the COFE team was happily summing up the trip during an interview outside our hotel with CNN Turk.
At 11:55, there was no sign of either the support vehicle or Lucas. As you can imagine, it would be very sad not to all travel across the finish line together, so we started getting antsy.
Just then, we spotted the car! A red-faced but calm Troy jumped out, ran to the bathroom and emerged in his biking gear. We were just about to ride the 200 meters over to the Consulate with our press entourage when we heard, “Guys! I made it!”, and spotted Lucas emerge from a taxi.
Together at last, we rode through the gates of the Consulate to sound of hands clapping and corks popping. I think that was when we all started crying.
Our lunch was fantastic and made no less memorable when a complete brass band showed up. The Chaupiques: http://www.chaupiques.nl We were blown away that the Consulate had gone to the trouble, but as it turns out, the band wasn't planned. They happened to be walking by with their instruments and when they looked in and saw a party going on, they asked if they could play for us. The uncanny part of it was...they were on a one week busking tour from Holland and did not even realise they were walking into the Dutch Consulate! Those Dutch must give off a special scent...
There we sat in the garden with our smelly, sweaty biking clothes around dignitaries of the Consulate, but no one seemed to mind. During dessert, we were again surprised by a letter from the Ambassador of Australia expressing his admiration for Walter and his mission to inspire people with CF.
As much as we would have loved to have lazed on the Consulate grounds all day, we had a deeper urge to get showered and relax before our celebratory dinner. Some of us headed off to the Grand Bazaar, where you could buy anything from mosaic tiles to Turkish Delight to rugs to leather bags…..
At 8:30 we all met for dinner. Again, with the Wally Luck - we just happened to be staying in a hotel acclaimed to have the best restaurant in the city. Knowing full well we deserved the best on this special night, we tried making a reservation that afternoon. The hotel reception said, "No way. It is the best restaurant in the entire city on a Saturday night of Ramadan! You cannot just make a reservation now." We tried a little name-dropping using the Dutch Consulate for a start, but they still didn't buy it. They suggested we go up and speak to the host of the restaurant. We were again told there was no way to get a reservation, "For 1 or 2 people, maybe, but 8?" (We were to be joined with Kathryn, the journalist and her friend, Vicente.)
Just then, the phone rang and it was a table with a reservation for 8 calling to cancel……….Yes, I know, it is absolutely freakish!
And that is how we came to spend four hours on the roof of our hotel with the best view of the city, spending hideous amounts of money for small, but delicious morsels of gourmet food.
Around dessert time, we were joined by a nice couple fresh off a cruise (it’s amazing they let our bike-gang into such a place of refined tastes, really!). Poor Jim was subjected to Troy in the urinal, who, by this point, was well and beyond happy and full of affection for his fellow man. There may have been some hugging in the urinal, but it mustn’t have made Jim too uncomfortable as he brought his wife, Heather, over to say hello. They joined us with a celebratory bottle of Moet champagne and here we learned of yet another coincidence – not only does Jim’s wife have the same name as my own, they were from Calgary, Alberta, which just happens to be my home town.
A more perfect day could not have been thought up and we would like to extend our dearest thanks to everyone involved in the reception and to those of you who journeyed along with us for the last 73 days. We are all very proud of Walter and the kind of person he is. Surely each one of us has ingested some of this man's happiness for life and may we all be able to draw from it throughout our lives.
Way to go, Wally!!!!!!!!!!
Please keep checking in with us! We are putting together a Final Slide Show and are hoping to squeeze in a few entries from the other's as well, if they get the chance before leaving tomorrow!
Well it is all over, I can't believe we all got here in one piece. I have had the time of my life on this journey and to do it with a group of people I never knew before the trip (except for Walter and Cindy) has made it more exciting in some ways. I must say a special thanks to Walter and his lovely wife Katherine for asking me to join Walter on this trip. To see what it is like on this side of the world is amazing. I have had good and bad days in and out of the car the only real trouble was coming into Istanbul. I have never seen traffic like that (after all I do live in a small town with only about three roads). Anyway I also would like to say to the other guys and girls that have help on the trip a very special thank you.
It is finally starting to sink in that we are now reaching the end of this incredible journey. From the vibrancy of Paris to the splendor of Vienna and to the calming beaches of the Black sea - and now we find ourselves here, on the outskirts of Istanbul, within a day's ride of our finish line. This has been my first trip to Europe and what a trip it has been, there are far too much for me to tell in this short entry - but suffice to say that it has certainly been a milestone in my budding career.
Looking back on what we have overcome and accomplished (and I mean that literally because I've filmed and reviewed the clips repeatedly already) it is utterly amazing that we have made it this far, and this well. Whether it be the physically demanding stretches of endless rolling hills or the nerve-raking chaos of city traffic, somehow we managed to get through it all in one piece.
It is a true testament to David's spot-on navigation, Troy's technical ingenuity and Walter's sheer utter determination (as well as the almost indefinable 'wally factor') that we are here now. And of course the trip would not nearly have been as enjoyable without the accompaniment of Heather who has done a fantastic job of keeping the blog updated, as well as Cindy, whose incredible energy and enthusiasm brought a bit of fresh air to our team.
To be honest I had hoped for this crazy group of people to get into far more trouble than we did, good for the doco you know - but at this point I am simply relieved and very proud of what we have accomplished. And I must say we certainly had a good dose of mishaps and hardships - mountains, rain, mud, head wind, blazing sun, heavy traffic, as well as Hungarian con artists, Romanian Weddings that never end, feral dogs or even that wonderfully nasty slivovitch - just to name a few things, in all the 60+ hours of footage that we have amassed I am absolutely confident that we will have something worthy of Walter's vision.
My real work is now about to begin, I can look forward to many months of intensive editing sessions in front of the computer to shape this documentary into something that will entertain and inspire. Though it will take time, it is not a hard task - for Walter's story is that of a person who refuses to consider himself a victim, and there is definitely something in that for all of us.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The fırst rıdıng day ın Turkey was more ups and downs. I expected more flat terraın for some reason. The wınd was strong as well. Was kınd of sad to leave Bulgarıa behınd. The last day had lıttle traffıc, great forests, hardly any dogs or people for that matter. We had a nıce farewell lunch ın the border town and met our last frıendly englısh speakıng Bulgarıan - an ınternatıonally competınıg marathon runner who was a teacher ın thıs town.
But here we are, Turkey. It ıs hard to belıeve the end ıs ın sıght.
4, 213 km
Can it be true? Only three more days until what will surely be a teary rıde into Istanbul? How is this possible? It was just a couple days ago that we were halfway, wasn’t it?
I don’t think it has really hit any of us yet as we have just entered our last country – Turkey - and it always feels exciting to enter new territory and spot the differences. This time, it is bordering on extreme. Having spent the last week feeling like we’d stumbled into all-inclusive vacation resorts along the Black Sea, we are once again confronted with adventure as we search small, crowded towns for obscure hotels and find the only restaurant in town with hopes the food is decent.
The border crossing into Turkey was more complicated than any of our crossings to-date, though the people offer easy smiles and are very welcoming. Today, a nice man waved us into a café for coffee and then paid for it.
When Troy and I pulled into the next town, it was much smaller. I went into a shop to ask the man if there was a hotel nearby and he said no, but the Turks are not one's to watch idley while a visitor suffers. The next thing I knew, there were 5 or 6 people around me and 3 around the car, all offering us any help they could. Of course, it was all in Turkish, but one man did speak English and soon we were escorted to a man's fish farm 1 km down the road where we were urged to camp for the night.
Camping is fun and all, but this night, not so much. It would save us the cost of a hotel, but it was hard to watch the faces of our tired rider’s when they showed up and surveyed the scene: three tents perched on uneven ground, not a drop of water for showers or toilet needs in sight and the worst part, it was Cindy’s birthday and we hadn’t secured a beer stash yet!
Troy and I left the team to ‘get comfortable’ and drove back into town where we were immediately escorted to a restaurant where the nice woman made us kabobs-to-go and had a young man do a beer run. Luckily, the town we had stayed at the previous night had a good store and we were able to get Cindy a yummy cake that survived the day in the car.
We drove back to the team who didn’t look much happier than when we’d left and tried to brighten their mood with food and beverages. This worked and soon, Cindy was singing, 'It's my party...', with a bottle of Jim Beem in her hand and most of the cake was gone. What was left went to our surprise guests for the evening. Two other cyclist’s from Poland were riding from Istanbul and, on their way past, turned around and asked if they could stay with us that night. We were happy to have them, but I think they were happier to run into us after we gave them cold beer and cake.
Birthday or not, the night ended early and we were all asleep before 10:00, that is until a stray dog woke some of us up with its midnight prowl through the garbage bag we left out…ooops.