What to expect when expecting.

As the starting date getting closer, Z and I start to think it might be a good idea to come up with a list of “things to see” for each nation we’re visiting. So here is an email I sent to Rob Duncan in Oz for cycling ideas. Thought posting it here should get us more inputs and ideas.  

Rob. you did make the decision harder. 😉 But I should say a big THANK YOU ’cause it forces us to really sit down and ask ourselves what do we really want to see, experience and maybe explore. How shall we prioritize them? Without a clear idea on this, it’ll a waste of time for both us and you. So here you goes. I’m quite interested in ‘serious’ stuffs like politics, art while my wife more casual on wild flower, hiking and cycling.

Ordered by importances.
– Nature: hiking, cycling, local animals, bird watching, wild flower walk.
– Life: life style, family, parent-child-relationship, work life balance
– Education: School system, public libraries, bookstore
– Culture: literature, photography, film, theatre, music, sculptures,
– Hobbies: astronomy, linux, python, lisp, artificial intelligence and particularly, machine translation.
– Cost of living: , house/apartment cost, cars, banks, phone, mobile, internet
– Politics: history, politics, government, judiciary, social security system

China, and other Asia countries have a quite different yet closed culture and value system. That’s the main reason we want to spend one year tour around the world. I know it must sound crazy trying to cover so many areas in only one month for each country. I’m definitely not doing some scientific research, just thought this will give me a checklist for understanding a nation from different perspectives. It may end up as casual as this one: http://www.portaloceania.com/au-life-index-ing.htm

As you can see, scenery is still quite important for us. Hopefully I’m not confusing you with my last email. Sometimes we just need to sit down and figure out what do we want in the first place. So for this new info, what will you suggest? 😉

Day 28: Nz Itinerary ready for review

Fox Glacier by Brendan O'Brien
Fox Glacier. Love that blue.

OK, finally done with the Nz itinerary plan. I’ll skip the North Island for this time, focusing on South Island only. Reason? Chris Dietl wrote in his Thoughts of New Zealand Feb 2008:

If biking again in New Zealand, I would limit myself to the South Island. On the North Island there was too much traffic for me. To bike State Highways was sometimes dangerous, and I’m thankful that nothing happened. Try to avoid main roads! I took the bus for some distances, and I don’t regret that.

I took most of the itinerary from Brendan O’Brien‘s 4 weeks around the South Island by bicycle. So far, he provides the best photos for the tour, clear, crisp and have some artistic touch in it. He also brought up my attention to 1) noisy campsite neighbors; 2) sandflies nightmare; 3) lots, lots of rain and maybe hail.

Besides these, two other resources I found useful:

Day 27: Still working on Nz travel plan. Plus some nice quotes

Finally finished Kati’s journal. To my surprise, she even wrote me a comment thank me for linking to her log. Wow, how wonderful the internet is. Now, I’m starting to wonder whether should I continue reading other posts on cycling in Nz or take a little bit detour to read Kati’s USA Pacific Coast entry on her first long distance cycling trip from New Westminster to Mexico. Really love her way of capturing the inner feeling of a cycler. Hopefully that’ll give us some idea on what are the typical challenges for the first long distance cycling trip, especially when our own last one whole year long.

I found the following quotes especially interesting:

  • To live the day to day life with grace and meaning, and be happy with it.

  • You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you just might find what you need.

  • Cycling in New Zealand was just a diversion, a treat, and a discovery of who I am at the core. Well, sort of…

Two others thing we manage to get done are 1) come up with a “wish list” so that one of our friends who has some connection with the manufactures could check out potential sponsorship opportunities for us. 2) meet with another freelancing job opportunities. It won’t provide a big check but still some nice cash to put into our wallet.

Day 26: Start working on the Nz travel plan

Millford Sound

One good news is Oz’s visa office called this morning: “Your material is ready and will be sent to you this afternoon”.  I was so happy at that time that I forgot to confirm “ready” means we have successfully got the visa or not.   Besides this, today is yet another day where everything is moving forward but I just couldn’t get a sense of accomplishment.

Spent most of today working on the Nz travel plan. First read through the Lonely Planet book. Given a 500 page book like that, the most valuable parts are less than 50, with the rest are mainly local business directory.  How I hope the paper book is searchable.   Kati Debelic‘s Cycling New Zealand 2001 is much helpful, especially for all the details like travel clockwise could take advantage of the southern wind from Antarctic; or the Millford Sound has a very high chance to have rain.  Get to Day 32, should finish it and probably a couple of others before I could grasp enough knowledge to work out my own.

Millford Sound and Lake Tekapo both sounds great. But the hilly road on the west side of the south island is a little bit scaring.  We’ll see.

Day 24: Try the bicycle out and plan the trip from Sydney via Melbourne to Adelaide

Since experiencing more diversified cultures is more important than covering more roads, Z and I decided to cycle from Syndey via Melbourne to Adelaide with the returning trip on train.  It could get us more time for rest and walk around.  The train ticket is AU$ 110 for 24-hours ride,  which is a bit high but acceptable. :-\

Spent the morning planning Sydney to Melbourne route.    Based on the route described in this journal: Sydney to Melbourne – Audax Australia RAID route, I had a pleasant and productive morning working out a 15-days plan for this part. Plus, the journal was very well written and fun to read.  The evening research on  Melbourne to Adelaide didn’t go well though. I first followed Victoria’s Golden West quite loyally until Chris the author took a bus to go from Hamilton to Adelaide.  There are a couple of others on crazyguyonabike website that I could continue my research tomorrow.

In the afternoon, Z and I went to check out our newly built bicycle.  Due to the annual Spring Festival railway crisis, the parts haven’t arrived yet.  So only mine was put together. I’m writing another blog entry in Chinese describing the bike in greater detail.  Don’t worry if you can’t read Chinese, just check out the pictures should be sufficient.

Day 25: Oz itinerary – How to plan a 30-day cycling tour.

Oz itinerary thumbnail Finally! After 80+-hour spent in book reading, region research, map shuffling and route picking, here is the 30 days Australia cycling route itinerary (PDF) for you to download. It contains a detailed town-to-town tour plan, with “from-to-distance” information for each leg, nice map and elevation graph. I’m pretty happy with this. Here are the steps to prepare an itinerary like this.

Step 1: City Research

  • Goal: List cities to visit. To get an good overview of the country, figure out you’d like to visit. Like almost all planning, this will be part of an iterative process since in later steps, you’ll always be forced to decide which route to give up .
  • How: Do a google search on australia tourism, read the wikipedia or wikitravel entry for the whole country and major cities you. Or buy the Lonely Planet Australia Country guide book and read the introduction section.
  • Example: For me, I feel Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin are all quite interesting to visit.

Step 2: Tour or Town Research

  • Goal: Figure out how to go to each one by cycling.
  • How: For a visitor, it’s always challenging to get some concrete idea on which route to take and what does that feel like. Crazyguyonabike is very helpful to get the ‘experience’ things right for you. Crazyguyonabike.com is a place to find cycling tour journals. Most journals are well written with nice pictures and distance information neatly sorted out. It’ll provide solid ideas of each trip, like the Princes Hwy could become quite narrow without any shoulders from Portland to Adelaide. Or, in March the temperatures of Marlee region could still get as high as 35C.
  • Example: A quick check told me that I will have to choose between “Sydney -> Brisbane -> Cairns” and “Sydney -> Melbourne -> Adelaide”. Darwin and Perth are just too far away to cover within 30 days by bicycle. It took a little bit pain to compare the two options and decide to go for the “Sydney to Adelaide” one. My route plan bought a lot from Sydney to Melbourne – Audax Australia RAID and Victoria’s Golden West. I also found that due to the wind direction, it might be easier to go from Adelaide to Melbourne rather than the other way around. (Similar thing if you go to New Zealand’s South Island and decide clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. )

Step 3: Day to Day Plan


  • Goal: To pull all information together to work out a plan with at least “From, To, Distance” information for each day.
  • How: Based on the step 2’s town research, use Google Map to get the distance from town A to town B. Remember to check the “Avoid Highway” in More Options so that we won’t end up riding on motorway.
  • Example: This route planning process made me realize that even a “modest” route like “Sydney to Adelaide” is still too long to cover within 30 days. After lots of reading and head scratching, I found that in order to cover Adelaide, I’ll need at least 37 days. It was painful but clear that I have no choice to cross Adelaide out.

Step 4: Map Making

  • Goal: Plot the key towns onto map and use elevation graph as a double check.
  • How: Calculate the distance and elevation up-and-down for every single day to make sure that you haven’t pushed yourself too agressively. This used to be quite tedious and time consuming. But with bikely.com, it has become much easier.   Go register an account and start drawing, click each town in the order you have worked out in step 3 and the service will automatically fill out the rest route details for you. By the end of the process, you’ll end up with a quite nice route map and elevation graph like the one showing above.
  • Example: Here are the two maps I’ve created: Sydney to Melbourne and Melbourne to Halls Gap via Great Ocean Way. I have tried to plot the map using Google Earth, but bikely is much more simpler when you have the needs to generate the elevation map, whereas in Google Earth I just couldn’t find a way to do so.

Day 23: Ready for another week

Another day in rest. Book reading and relax. The technician, who is responsible for designing our tour bicycle, just messaged zephyr.  Said that her bicycle is ready for a test. Will go to the shop and give it a try.  There are quite a few responses in the phred.org mailing list, people volunteering suggestions on our route planning. Should keep them waiting for too long.  Will spend some time to come up with another version of cycling route plan tomorrow. (Photo credits to Cyclemania. )

Finger crossed.

Day 22: Good rest

Had a fairly good rest today: enjoyed a fine dinner,  finished a science fiction book, watched an interesting movie and had some interesting phone conversation with friends.

The book is Double Star.  By telling the story from the mouth of a professional actor, it not only shows the inner thinking of an actor, it also opens a window into interesting politics between earth and mars citizen. It’s so true when people said: “All great scifi novels have some deep links to reality. “.  If you have one weekend afternoon to spend, try this.  ( BTW, try to compare the cover of the original book and the Chinese version.  I can bet that the Chinese publisher hasn’t really read this book carefully. )

The movie is The Queen.  It captured what happened in Britain in the first week after Diana’s death. Mostly from both the Queen’s perspective and Tony Blaire’s.  The relationship between the Royal family, especially the Queen, and the government surprised me.  The whole topic of Constitutional Monarchy, the dynamic between the permanent King or Queen and the elected government leader is *just* intriguing. Although it might be something people in UK, OZ, NZ or Canada have been quite familiar, it’s just so foreign to me, someone in a country where the world history was focused in rebellion rather than political changes.

Last but not least, the phone call from friends. One of them strongly suggested us to take the trip from French all the way to Istanbul. “Just to get experience of culture diversity”. Also the shorten the stay in US “since it’s culturely unified”. 

Day 21: Psychological Fatigue …

Human being is such an interesting creature. I could still remember the excitement on Day 1 when we realized the possibility of this one year trip. But as time slides by, the excitement ebbs while tremendous teeny-tiny things seems to over-whelm us. Endless visa application for just one country. Cycling route planning for every single day.

After continuous 20 days work, I’m feeling tired. Need some good rest to move on. (Photo: bookstore in Amsterdam. Credits: llibreria)

llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam - HDR by MorBCN.

I’m a big fan of Standford Entrepreneur through Leadership podcast, today Stan Christensen’s The Art of Negotiation really gave me a happy surprise. He talked about his experience as a traveler in Los Angels or sitting in the back of NYC cab to show how the core idea of negotiation goes into our everyday life. Even more important, he explains that the essence of Negotiation is not grab a larger share of a pie, but to build long-term relationship. He also brought up two principles: objective reference and alternatives. This might be a bit off topic for this travel blog, but I am pretty sure that we’ll have some serious chance to practice what we’ve learned here.