Our Journey Home and a Summary: Some practicalities that my be useful - From Copenhagen's Little Mermaid to Milan's Great Cathedral - CycleBlaze

October 6, 2012

Our Journey Home and a Summary: Some practicalities that my be useful

All worked well on our trip home. Of course such a long plane trip is always a trial but it was made a bit better by the fact that the leg from Dubai to Auckland (18.75 hours) was on an Airbus A380 which has that little bit more leg room that makes all the difference. Coleen and Peter met us at the airport. It has been so good having someone living in the house. The animals although pleased to see us were ’normal’ – our usual experience when we have been away being that Lucy (the Birman cat) meows for about a week when we get home to tell us how ill treated she has been. Ken has put the bikes together and although there is a bit of damage they aren’t too bad. Unfortunately I developed an awful cold but that will soon go. All we have to do now is think up a trip for 2013. We have found that this was a really great trip and thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

Copenhagen was a really good place to arrive as of course the city has such a cycling culture, it is easy to put a bike together at arrivals and even in our jet lagged state there was absolutely no problem cycling into the city. Cycling through the country was relatively easy though you do need to have good maps, as we did. We had been a bit worried about the prices but didn’t find them too terrible, camped a couple of times and these camping grounds were well equipped. Each time there was a pleasant place for tents. Had no problem getting a wireless internet connection anywhere in Denmark. The ferry over to Rostock was a painless experience, just rolled up and bought our tickets and were off – can’t recall the price but it wasn’t too bad.

Northern Germany is a delight to cycle in, every major road seems to have a high quality cycle path along it. Our maps were ‘adequate’ and we used the GPS quite a bit as for a lot of the time we were not using recognized cycle routes. Prices in Germany we found very favourable, it was easy to find good quality accommodation. The only time we camped in that part of Germany the camping ground was lovely. Wireless internet connection in Germany was something that had been concerning me because of my experiences in the past. Things seem to have changed dramatically, even since last year, and I had no trouble getting a free Wlan connection wherever we stayed except for the camping ground. I bought a Vodaphone Dongle in Bremen and the kind man installed it for me – this was an absolute waste of money it NEVER worked. Slight correction, at the camping ground I got a very slow, hopeless connection which enabled me to get the words on my Journal but no pictures.

Cycling in the Netherlands is of course a way of life. Because of this there are so many cycle tracks that navigation can be difficult. Long Distance (LF) cycle routes we found difficult to follow and our map was very inadequate, The Dutch navigate using a series of numbers and if you have the correct maps this is a fail proof method., though often adds a lot of distance to your journey. I had an atlas of these at home but had not brought it with me because of weight issues. To buy maps with these numbers on at the VVV gets very expensive as they don’t cover a very big distance. It seemed to us that although nearly everyone in the Netherlands is cycling most of them are using bikes going about their everyday business and therefore travelling relatively short distances. We saw few cycle tourists in the Netherlands but in the weekends saw many couples and families going on day rides. Internet good, prices a little higher than Germany, easy to get accommodation most of the time – we didn’t camp at all.

In Belgium again there were cycle paths along roads but these tended to be poor quality, narrow and very bumpy. There are of course some parts of the country where the cycling is great but what we had planned was not sensible. We had planned to go right across the country to Iepre then back again, it looked great on a map. This meant we ended taking the train for part of it. Using a train with a bike in Belgium is OK if you know the complicated system and have some sort of sixth sense to know which carriage is the bike carriage. It is usually not marked and is just ‘somewhere’ near first class. Travelling by train with a bike in Belgium is extrodinarily inexpensive. Finding accommodation in Belgium can be difficult unless you are in a ‘tourist’ area, many quite big towns seemed to have none. Most of the time internet was OK. From Namur along the Meuse and into France is a magic ride.

There is an outstanding cycle way from the Belgium/france border to Charlesville, after that to Verdun and on to Metz things are not so cycle friendly though Ok just a bit ‘lumpy’ with moderate, well behaved traffic. We hardly saw another cyclist in this part. France of course has easy to find accommodation, with the exception of Saturday nights. We find this can be difficult and usually tried to book it the previous evening, prices and WIfi Ok. If you are in the more rural areas of course you experience difficulty getting supplies between lunch time Saturday till Monday and then of course many places are also shut on Monday . Shops usually shut down over the lunch time which can be very extended


The Moselle Cycle Way is an absolute joy. It is well marked all the way and the surfaces are good. It is achievable by absolutely anyone. Accommodation available in all the numerous little towns and villages, though in some centres this can get very tight in the weekends. There are numerous camping grounds, these are filled with large numbers of campervans but they do have an area for tents and good shade. In the one we stayed in the services are excellent and it was very cheap. Prices reasonable.

The Rhine as far as Basel. We started up the Rhine at Koblenz. The middle Rhine is of course the part with numerous castles. The route is generally on dedicated cycle paths or very small roads. Marking is OK but it seems to deteriorate when you get into cities and unless you had a reasonable map ,as we did, it could be very difficult to find your way. Again except for the Saturday night we had no trouble with accommodation. The part of it in Alsace is particularly lovely. Wifi OK. We had an overnight in St Louise (just before Basel) in a terrible and very expensive hotel.

We crossed the river to the left bank at Basel but found the route really bad so crossed back onto the right side (German side) and stayed on this all the way to Schaffhausen and this was great passing through lots of beautiful little towns and villages and this continues all the way to Konstance and around the Bodensee. We found everything in Switzerland VERY expensive . Accommodation was costing at least 30% more as were meals though supermarket prices were not as bad. Internet connection was always superb though on 2 occasions we had to pay for it (5F for 30Min). We had intended to camp in Switzerland but the weather was cold and wet and many of the camping grounds appeared to be closing for the season. After Chur it begins to get steep and I found it difficult but absolutely loved the spectacular country. We were lucky to have a beautiful day to go over the magnificent St Gotthard Pass. One thing about Switzerland is that it is very easy to take your bike on public transport – both trains and buses and you can get anywhere this way. From Aerolo it was very steep spectacular downhill often on roads with moderate traffic. The route markings deteriorate badly after Bellazona and we found we were relying on the GPS a lot – this was partly because we had a poor map of the area.

The ride from Como to Malpensa Airport was OK but would be very, very difficult if you didn’t have both a good map and a GPS (I have put a map of the route we took in the journal)

Without exception in every country we have been in we have encountered kind , friendly and helpful people. It really gives you a wonderful feeling about humanity and counters the horrors you see on TV


The bikes (which are basic) held up well. We had only one puncture despite not having fancy tires – this is the second tour Ken’s Decathalon tires have done (over 7000km in total) without a puncture but the back one is very worn now. No other bike problems at all though we should have got some attention to my brakes – the back pads so worn it is really metal on metal now

We carried camping gear all the way but camped rarely – would take it again. Our camping gear is great and even comfortable. It gives a good sense of security to have it but wouldn’t take the stove pots etc. – never used

Clothes – about right but would have liked some polyprop legs or something similar for the cold weather we struck.

Maps – we had good maps nearly all the way. I buy these from Stanfords in London and they only take a little over a week to get to NZ. Our biggest gap was in the Netherlands as we had left the cycling atlas of the Netherlands ,we had bought, at home (weight considerations). We do find having a Garmin Vista etrex GPS loaded with their European City maps a great help at times.

Electronics – We each carry a basic cell phone which is roaming on our home plans. We use it virtually only for txting, we both carry one after the nasty experience of losing each other last year! Have a smart phone – but never used this. I have an Asus Eee netbook which is marvelous – have now used it on 4 tours and I have put a bit more memory on it and empty it out of photos etc between times. Use the ipad almost exclusively for the kindle ap – also have a kindle so we can both read at the same time. Have relied on getting internet connections as we go along and this seems to be working better each year. Our camera is a Sony Cyber shot about 4 years old now –has rechargeable batteries. Wouldn’t change anything.

Transport. We always fly Emirates for a number of reasons

1 Their luggage allowance in Economy is 30kg and 7kg of carryon. With great care we can manage this and not pay any excess

2 We can have a stop over in Brisbane (where our daughter and her family live) without any extra charge.

3 Emirates fly in and out of so many airports in Europe, it is easy to devise a good trip around their routes

4If you have a stop over of over 6 hours in Dubai you are put up free of dcharge in a good hotel and this makes a huge difference eg this time we arrive in Dubai from Milan at 11pm and flew out again at 10am so we got a good sleep between flights. You have to ask for this when you book your flight.

5 Airpoints – we use these to upgrade one of the longer legs if we have enough – this sure improves the quality of the flight. Lately however they don’t seem to be quite as generous in the number of airpoints you get – they are linked to how much you pay for your fare and as we book early we have pretty low fares.

Packing bikes

On the way over we get a man in the local bike shop to pack them for us. He makes a wonderful job in bike boxes with lots of protection and we can be reasonably confident that they will arrive undamaged despite the baggage handlers. The weight of the bikes and boxes packed like this is fairly high – 19 to 20kg each

On the way home we have found finding bike boxes almost impossible (took us nearly a week in Rome!) We have used two other methods. Clear heavy plastic bags, designed for the purpose, that you can buy on line from Wiggle (in UK) and are sent to us in NZ. We of course have to carry these the entire trip – they weigh around 2kg. We pad the delicate parts carefully using the plastic bits and pieces Mark has used when he packs the bikes on the way over. The advantage is that the baggage handlers can see they are dealing with bikes and are hopefully more careful . The bikes had only very minimal damage when we used this method. You can buy soft bike bags from Ground Effect (a NZ firm) that are light enough to carry with you though slightly heavier than the plastic bags – we used these last year and padded the bikes – it all looked very neat and nice but the bikes got more damage than they had got in their clear plastic bags so we are back to plastic this year.

We realise how lucky we are to be able to do these trips.

1.We have the health and fitness to do them

2.We can afford it

3.We have someone to do it with

Thank you for following us on our journey

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