Tuesday, July 03, 2007

3 months to the start, and counting

Only 3 months to go now until I fly to Perth to begin my one-year circuit of Australia. The time has gone so quickly, but the planning has been intense, and yet enjoyable. Some might say I’ve gone over the top, but I want things to go smoothly in Oz and with the advantage of Broadband and a PC it’s easy to get information to help with this.

I had a somewhat stressful couple of weeks moving house last month – my old house that I’ve been very comfortable in for 9 years has been sold and I’m now in a rented house a few miles away. I thought I would miss my old (circa 1875) place but in fact I am enjoying the new place – it’s a brand new detached house with lots of light and no draughts. Mustn’t get too comfy or complacent though, I’ll be in a tent before long.

I’m using the Thorn Raven (that I’m riding in Oz) as often as possible and adding useful / new bits here and there, such as Thorn’s carbon comfort bars and carbon bar ends mounted inboard of the brake levers. I’ve found riding with the hands on these bar ends to be extremely comfortable, easily compensating for the comfort of drops, and the combination of carbon bars and bar ends should offer more ‘give’ and comfort on bumpy roads and the corrugated tracks which are a feature of the Outback away from metalled roads. Unfortunately I’m having trouble trying to fit a bar bag in between these bar ends without it being in the way of a comfortable grip, most are too large, however I’m sure there’ll be a solution. A bar bag proved really useful during my Alps tour last July for keeping valuable and camera in since it can unclipped very easily and carried away. The one I’m trying to fit just now doubles as a bum bag, a very well-designed piece of kit.

I’ve got a set of Memory-Map 1:250,000 maps of Oz, rather expensive, but I’ll load the relevant ones onto the Dell Axim PDA, probably onto a 4GB CF card (the whole set takes up 8GB of memory storage). With GPS on the PDA I shouldn’t get lost, and hopefully the solar charging setup I’ve described before should keep me powered up. It might appear to be overkill but I’ve also decided to buy a GPS-based Garmin bike computer which has a great array of functions including heart rate and cadence. I know gadgetry doesn’t suit everyone on tour, but I enjoy using it and the access to useful information, it’s a bit of a hobby really. It will also help me log features as I ride along – available water points, camp sites, wild places, things to see etc. – because I’m going to write all this stuff up and hopefully produce a guide or help others update currently available guides.

Arrangements to post regularly to my blog once in Oz have proved a little bit more complex than I thought. I plan to type up my notes most days using a portable keyboard and the Axim, and then post however I can – sometimes at an internet cafĂ© or local library when available, and sometimes directly from the Axim using a Bluetooth phone as a modem where there’s a signal. That still leaves long stretches where neither of these options will be available, so I was interested to read on the Thorn Tree (Lonely Planet) Forum about Pocketmail. This is a novel system of sending and receiving e-mail from any telephone – house, public or mobile – and is not at all expensive. You type your e-mails, find a phone (even in the far Outback there’ll be the odd public phone) and hold the Pocketmail device to the receiver for a few seconds, and that’s it. It’s a well-proven system that’s been on the go for years it seems. I can post to this blog automatically by e-mail without having to log onto the website. Apart from enjoying writing the blog, I also hope to encourage as many readers as possible to donate to WaterAid. I intend to publicise the blog widely whilst in Australia and hopefully build up sizeable interest.

I’m still likely to be well overweight at check-in; the bike weighs about 19kg as set up and the limit is 20kg! I am reliably informed however that Cathay Pacific are pretty tolerant and I may get away with 25kg, or more? That’s a gamble at £30 / kg though.

Well that’s me back up to date I think, more later.