14 January 2009 - Bangkok, Thailand
9 months ... 9600 km
We are back in Bangkok after two and a half months on the roads of Thailand and Lao. The memories we will keep from this trip are very different from our previous stay: the small countryside lanes, the smiles of Thai and Lao people, the lush green mountains of northern Lao, the food in the small stalls on the side of the road … and the warm welcome of Brice and Vanh in Vientiane!
We are now getting ready to fly on the 19th of January to Auckland: cleaning the panniers and the bikes, adjusting our new Arkel bags, packing Bob the trailer and the souvenirs for France, updating your favourite blog … there isn’t much time to chill out!
You must have noticed our new logo! Pim, a Dutch friend we met in Chiang Mai, designed for us this beautiful blue planet. Thank you very much Pim!
You can see more of his designs here: Pim van den Broek
Wellington, Nouvelle Zélande … 29 January 2009
9 months 1/2 … 9500 kmA week in the land of Lord of the Rings …
Sylvie’s tendinitis are not getting better and instead of doing some sightseeing we have spent most of our time looking for solutions. After a few trials, it becomes clear that her ankles can bear cycling anymore for the moment. Well, we can understand them after all those km!
‘Frogs on bents’ will thus become ‘Frogs in a car’ for the next month or so. We have always dreamt of a road trip in an old Wolkswagen van so this is our chance. Also, Marion and Matthieu, two former flatmates from London, will be on the South Island at the same time … we can already smell the lamb ribs on the barbecue. Ben already thinks of all the beers he will down with Matthieu and Sylvie is delighted to have a girl to talk to!
Liz and Steve, friends of friends, are kindly welcoming us in Christchurch. Our moral has been lifted since some people have sent us contacts for New Zealand: a big thank you to Joan and Nigel, Benoît, and Adrian for having thought of us!
Sydney ... April 2009Our Australian experience is coming to an end. After having visited Tim and Amelia in Canberra, we took the bus for Sydney. Geoff and Julie (a fluke encounter at the Iranian embassy in Turkey) showed us all the great spots of Sydney: the beaches, Sydney harbour and the Opera, some French restaurants and cafés (Ben had a huge milk coffee bowl for breakfast this morning). We walked a lot along the coast and a little in the city. Australia, just like New Zealand, is more for nature lovers than architecture freaks. Actually, we saw so little of Aussie nature that we want to come back. So we can play the Robinsons on a white sand island!
In the mean time, we are heading back to Melbourne today and will cycle the Great Ocean road, west of Melbourne.
13 May 2009 Bangkok, ThailandWe have been saying ‘here we are again’ for the past few weeks …
We left Melbourne early in May after a fantastic week with Robin and his daughters Thea and Shanon. We also met up with Trish with whom we cycled a good part of Lao.
Then, it’s on to Auckland. In case you wondered, we went back to Auckland because we have a return Bangkok – Auckland, not because we enjoy flying! The flight actually nearly turned into a nightmare.
The air hostess: so where are you going after Auckland?
Sylvie, thinking ‘oh, another one who is interested to hear about our trip!’: oh well, Bangkok and then Kazakhstan and then Khirghistan, and then Chi…
Air hostess: can I see your ticket to get out of Thailand?
Us, a bit worried: well, you see, we haven’t bought it yet…
Air hostess: well, I need a proof for every country until we find a country where you are allowed to stay.
At that point, we think this is a joke and we burst in laughter … not for long though because the hostess is not laughing! Without a proof of exit for Thailand, New Zealand could find itself with two unwanted frogs and the Australian customs would get a beating. So we buy a return ticket to Australia (we can, we hold a 3-month visa) and the air hostess finally checks in our luggage … when will everyone be allowed to go everywhere on this planet??
In Auckland, we meet Brigitte and Dennis who do their best so that we leave New Zealand with great memories. Ben even has a go at flying with Dennis in his small airplane. Together they spend a few hours flying above Coromandel peninsula and its beaches. We also see Sig and Emma and little Lilou who was only 2 weeks when we last saw them. She has changed a lot in two months. She almost looks like she could speak! And, icing on the cake, we see Richard, a friend and colleague of Ben, who is in Auckland for a week.
A week later, we see again (for the third time!) Yannick and Stéphanie in Bangkok. Leeloo and Keira have changed too, they grow so quickly at this age (4 years and 20 months).
In ten days, we will meet with other frogs: Albane (Sylvie’s sister) and Benoît. We will cycle with them in Khirghistan and then they carry on their own cycling journey: 10 months on a bike from Kazakhstan to Vietnam. You can check their website here: Trois ptits tours (three little spins).
We will update the website by the end of next week, before we leave for Almaty on Sunday 25th May.
22 May 2009 Bangkok, ThailandOur stay in Bangkok is coming to an end. Nothing special to say about those past weeks. We sent the bikes to the garage for a make-over, ate and cooked as much as we wanted and had a good time with Yannick and Stéphanie and their daughters.
On Monday morning, we meet Albane (Sylvie’s sister) and Benoît at Almaty airport. We will cycle together in Khirghistan and then we carry on to China while they go to Tadjikistan. You can follow them here: Trois ptits tours.
Oh… and the blog is now up-to-date, stories and pictures… enjoy the reading!
Almaty … 24/05 – 29/05
We arrived well in Kazakhstan after an 8-hour flight and a few turbulences. At the airport, our visas take more time than we thought and Ben is getting really worried for our bikes and luggage: ‘If someone stole from us, I do a Borat II!’. Luckily, someone has put our luggage in a safe place and everything is in a good state. It takes us 3h to fit the bikes again under the curious gaze of a few Kazakhs, just in time to welcome Albane (Sylvie’s sister) and Benoit. We haven’t seen them for a year! We all cycle to the city centre where we check a dormitory, very unwelcoming. We are then lucky to meet an Englishman and a Canadian who work for a university. They offer us tea, coffee and chocolates while the secretary tries to find us a hotel. We finally end up at hotel Saulet while our bikes stay safely at the university, thanks to Albert.
Osaka, Japan 13 September 2009
We are in Japan!
We said goodbye to Marc, Guillaume and Alois regretfully. We had a great time in Shanghai! We cycle in the ferry terminal. Who is this blond foreigner staring at us? It’s Cédric! We cycled with Alice and Cédric last year in Turkey and Iran. We never imagined we would see them again on a ferry to Japan, exactly one year later! The crossing lasts two days, one day at sea and one day between the islands of Japan. The coast is heavily developed, a lot of industries. We left Shanghai in a grey fog and we discover Japan under a blue sky with white clouds. A country can be developed and clean (no, we are not pointing at anyone!). Osaka is very big to say the least. We have to cycle 30 km to reach Helen’s home. Our first impressions of Japan are very positive: people smile and are very friendly without being too invasive. The streets nearly shine, they are so clean! And the city is quite quiet, no horns, no shouting. We feel like we are relaxing for the first time after many months. The only downside is the cost of life. We won’t be able to stay in cities (25 euros for a bed in a dorm is prohibitive!) and we will try Japanese haute cuisine another time. But there are plenty of tiny restaurants selling relatively affordable food.
We take the ferry tonight for Miyazaki, south of Kyushu Island.
The photos albums are up to date and the last article about Khirghistan is online.
We will be in the mountains and the countryside in the next few weeks so we probably won’t be on the internet more than once a week.
13 December 2009 – San Martin de los Andes, Argentina
20 months ... 15.670 kmAfter a week cycling around the lakes on the Chilean side, we decided to go and see what was on the Argentine side and we don’t regret it. Actually, we really enjoy both Chili and Argentine, much more than we were expecting. People are extremely nice (the bent effect!), especially the carabineros who stop every time they see us to check we are ok, we know where to sleep, we are safe. They are really relax: ‘Yes, there is a camping there but, worst case, if it’s closed, you can always sleep on the beach’!
We are amply paid of our efforts by the amazing sceneries: this ‘end-of-the-world’ feeling when we are in thick forest of eucalyptus, pine trees and other trees so green, with a deep blue lake here and there. Once we leave the Panamerican, most rods are ripio, supposedly dirt roads but usually gravel, sand, stones. When going uphill, the bike slips, we catch bike and panniers (60kg) and try to go again. For the first time (except once or twice in Khirghistan), we push our bikes more than a few times when going uphill. Diablos! As they would say here…
In San Martin de los Andes after crossing a lake on a ferry and doing 50km on ripio, we landed in a Bike Hostel so nice that we are still here three days later. We hope to leave tomorrow if the wind doesn’t blow too hard, if it doesn’t rain and most of all, if we manage to get out of here! We go on to Bariloche from where we go back to Chile… Puerto Varas and then the island of Chiloe.
18 December 2009 – Villa Angostura, Argentine
20 months ... 15.770 kmWe just spent three fantastic days…
Our stay at Maxi’s (Maximiliano, Bikehostel) in San Martin lasted four days instead of the single one originally planned. We met Laura and Ullrich, a French couple on holiday for 3 weeks. They also wanted to cycle the 7 Lakes road so we all left together and had a great time. They had never cycled before and the road wasn’t easy, 50km of gravel road and a few steep uphills, but they did really well. We camped next to beautiful lakes, in the middle of the forest. The only downside of this road is, it’s very famous so many cars on the road and a lot of dust for the poor cyclists. Ultimately, Laura and Ullrich were really disappointed to have to travel by bus and plane again so we might see them on a cycling holiday next year…
On the way, we met Patrice and Celine (Cyclorpiste), a French couple travelling for a year on a tandem. Originally they had planned to go to Bolivia but they had heard so much about the Carretera Austral that meeting us was the last drop. Two days later, they were back to Villa Angostura, Maxi dropped them as he was coming back to take Laura and Ullrich’s bikes. Yesterday evening, we all celebrated with a big BBQ…
As they say, a flap of a butterfly’s wings in Texas creates a typhoon in the Pacific: we decided to go to Argentina because a road was closed in Chile and a week later, there are two new cyclotouring aficionados and we are now four cycling together to Ushuaia!