Exodus MVZ – final days

Posted: July 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Well the cycling is over and it’s been a pretty hectic last few days so I didn’t really write detailed notes on each day as I had in the past, so what follows is from memory a couple days past.

Day 9 – Getting to Gyor

Even though our hotel was less than 5km from our planned starting point in Halaszi we had to take the transfer there rather than biking, which was something of an annoyance for the group, especially since we only had 40km of cycling planned and by this point everyone could knock that distance off in no time. Exodus policy against adding distance to the published itinerary was the quoted reason, but some flexibility probably would have served them better as the act of loading everyone on the bus, driving, then unloading the bikes takes time and just frustrates the clients.

So after this rather pointless song and dance we were again travelling along a “Hungarian Gentleman”, and it was as promised… flat, gentle, and easy to ride although swelteringly hot.

After our relatively brief ride, it only took about two and a half hours for even the slowest members of the group we had arrived in Gyor, which seemed like a nice little city with a big square full of children playing in water jets which were installed in the square itself. Unfortunately it was way too hot to explore as we had arrived at the peak of the day and I did nothing in Gyor other than find a patio, a cold beer, and afterwards on my way back to the mini-bus I enjoyed an ice-cream, which I’m happy to report the Hungarians really know a thing or two about making.

The trip itinerary then called for a transfer to a place called Esztergom, so we then spent a sweltering two hours in the mini-bus driving there.

Day 10 – The last day

Esztergom was apparently the old capital of hungary, many many years ago, and sports a huge Basilica on the top of a hill. Unfortunately it doesn’t really look like there has been much effort to maintain anything other than the Basilica, and while there is a certain charm in the faded glory of the past reflected in the buildings, after the other towns we had passed through where so much care has been taken to keep the buildings in good repair it was somewhat depressing.

Thankfully we left Esztergom without needing to take a transfer, starting our ride along an extremely pleasant bicycle path right along the Danube. It was a pity when that path ended, going for a mere 10km, as after that we rode along what became a progressively busier road. We were obviously making our way through suburbs of Budapest, and our previous pattern of “Meet at the start of the next village” broke down as the villages were closer and closer together. Finally it became a little too silly to stop all the time and we all rode the last 10km to Szentendre at our own pace, which was good because you didn’t notice the heat so much when you were moving but as soon as you stopped it was like stepping into an oven.

Arriving in Szentendre at about 1:30pm we were given the option of waiting until 5pm for a ferry down the Danube or taking a transfer to Budapest, riding into Budapest was not an option and likely could be classified as suicidal given the behaviour of drivers as we got closer to the city. I opted for the transfer as it was too damned hot to hang out for 3 hours and I really wanted a shower.

Day 11 – postscript

And that’s it! I added up all the kilometers measured by the app on my phone and we did about 420km, while those who elected to ride in the rain out of Vienna probably did about 30km more, so all in we were supposed to do 450km.

I’m going to put together my overall thoughts about the trip, as well as links to all the data I collected (maps, spreadsheets with km’s, elevations, etc) in the next post to sum everything up. I have mixed feelings about this trip, but I’ll try to put it all into writing soon.

Day 1 & 2 – Exodus Prague to Budapest cycling trip

Posted: July 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Learning from my past experience travel blogging I think I need something more specific than simply “general travel blogging” in order to keep things up to date, so I’m going to try and keep a diary of this organized tour I’m on.

In brief, before I get to my trip diary – Cologne was nice (stayed in what might have been the best dorm room I will stay in during my trip), Berlin was cool and fun, and Prague was a strange blend of eastern and western Europe, but strange in a definitely good way.

OK – that done, back to the bike trip.

The prep

The trip starts with a no-biking day in Prague, most of the group are flying in. As Exodus is a UK company, the majority of the group were flying in from the UK. We’ve also got another Canadian, a few Australians, a Kiwi, and… I think that’s it. As I suspected it might be, I am the youngest of the group, there’s something about long distance multi-day cycling trips that calls to older people. I guess I’m getting old too. We have at least a couple retired people, and the rest are just on holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually refreshing to be the youngest in the group, especially after feeling like the oldest person in the hostel for the last 3 weeks, it’s a refreshing change to talk to people who can actually have an idea what it is I do for a living when they ask. My roommate is an Australian who is going to the Olympics in London after this trip, I think he’s crazy to attempt to visit London under Olympic conditions, but he’s pretty excited about it so I guess the queue’s won’t feel as bad when you’re excited.

After meeting up, everyone had a chance to site see in Prague, as I had already been there for 5 days I instead took the time to do laundry and take a nap in the luxury of a hotel room rather than a dorm room.

The next morning, after a hotel breakfast we were picked up by a mini-bus and driven to the starting point in Ceske Budejovice, the home of the original Budweiser beer… not the shitty american beer but the original Czech one they stole the name from. We picked up our bicycles, had a quick stop off at a local bicycle shop to buy supplies (one of the UK couples missed their flight, then their luggage was lost… talk about bad luck, so we were stopping to buy a helmet for her), and were off.

The Ride

Here’s the GPS map of our route:
map of the ride

And here’s a chart of our elevation and speed:
chart showing elevation and speed of ride

As you can see we had a few climbs to contend with… Czech republic is hilly in these parts! I think it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t taken the very first hill at way too aggressive a pace. After a pretty easy first 7 or 8 km we hit our first hill, it looked to be about 80 meters before it leveled out so I took it hard, it turned out to be the beginning of a twisty hill that pretty much let to more hills for the next several kilometers. Live and learn, tomorrow we’ve been warned that we start out with a 4km climb and have all been given the option of taking the minibus to the top of the hill. I, of course, am too stubborn for that so I’m going to just do my best to make it up that hill and hope for the best.

Oh, and we also did ok on the weather… overcast and a steady temperature with the rain holding off until we got to our destination, there were a few points with a bit of a headwind but nothing truly onerous. It’s raining now though, but I’m still hoping we stay dry tomorrow.

More (hopefully) tomorrow.

On the road again

Posted: July 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary, travel | No Comments »

So i promised many, many people that I would blog my trip and here I am 3 weeks in and i haven’t blogged at all. If you’re friends with me on facebook, google+ or twitter or foursquare then you’ll see some updates from me in all those places… but there’s something special about trying to write down your thoughts while travelling that a simple status update doesn’t cover. So here goes.

It may be strange to say, but even though I left Canada on June 21st, and am now into my fourth country (Iceland, UK, Holland, Germany), it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been travelling yet. Iceland was fantastic, but it was more a vacation than backpacking and for all but 2 nights since I’ve been staying with friends who have graciously let me stay with them in both London and Amsterdam.

Now, sitting in the bar under my hostel in Cologne, Germany I’m starting to feel like the trip is beginning for real. I’m nervous, excited, and I miss my partner something fierce… but with skype you’re never really apart from those you love even when you’re doing something silly like backpacking around the world for no apparent reason. 🙂

So. A quick recap to clear the cache and leave me ready for the road ahead.


I’m Canadian, and I come from a country with great wide vistas of unspoiled wilderness and I have been lucky enough to see some truly awe-inspiring landscapes in my own country, but Iceland is a whole different palette of landscapes. The colours, the shapes, the atmosphere is utterly unique and breath-taking. If you love dramatic landscapes you’ll love Iceland. Do yourself a favour and plan a couple guided excursions in the glacier region of the south-east of the island. You may think you can just go there yourself in the cheapest rental car available in the Keflavik airport, but they’re not kidding about needing 4×4 vehicles.

To top is all off, when you’re done with the landscapes and the sheer magnificence of the countryside, Reykjavik is a lovely Nordic city with great nightlife, world-class foodie level restaurants and fantastic shopping.

Oh, just one important note… bring lots of money, it’s expensive.


After a tearful departure from Iceland, with Moira heading back to toronto and me heading off on my own, I made my way to London to stay with Geoff. At this point my travelling starts to feel more like a personal episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, with Geoff bringing me to local haunts in Hackney, taking me to a Brazilian ju-jitsu lesson, a burlesque-comedy-cabaret featuring his fantastically funny girlfriend Lois-of-the-lane, and topping it all off having late night booze fueled deep discussions about political theory, monetary policy and art with our good friend Emily… well, it was a bit of a whirlwind of fantastic times with fantastic people.

After the weekend I made a quick stop over in Cambridge to visit the college of Sir Issac Newton, the father of modern physics and indulge my nerdery by otherwise soaking up the history of science through the several science focused museums in the area.

edit: photo album!

London, Canterbury and Cambridge


I left Cambridge, taking the overnight ferry departing from Harwich to Holland and went to Amsterdam to visit an old friend Chris. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with a bad reputation. The whole red-light district is really just a couple seedy streets, surrounded by a much larger ring of coffee-shops, hostels, and tourist trap stores and restaurants. If you’re going to amsterdam for partying those few streets seem to be the epicentre, but if you’re going to amsterdam for a bit of history and culture the whole area can be safely avoided. If you must see it, just to see, do what I did and go during a weekday afternoon to avoid the crowds of roving drunk men and women. I concentrated my time in Amsterdam on walking around at random looking at the buildings and architecture and visiting museums. In keeping with my science nerd theme I went to NEMO, the science museum in amsterdam (highly recommend, especially if you’re travelling with kids), the Artis zoo which hilariously had raccoons in one of the exhibits, FOAM a museum dedicated to contemporary photography and the amsterdam hermitage.

Aside from Amsterdam I spent lots of quality time hanging out with Chris, his partner Alex, and even Chris’s aunt Deb who was also visiting at the time. They live outside of the city in a small town called Zaandam, which was Holland postcard beautiful with small cobbled streets and old fashioned wind-mills and topped off by a town wide smell of cocoa as there is a processing plant there. We went for what will probably be my flattest bicycle ride of this trip, I watched my first ever F1 race (team Red-bull won), and generally enjoyed the luxury of staying with an old friend in his house.


Well this section is yet to be written. I’m going to work on getting some pictures from the UK and Holland sorted and posted and maybe write something about Germany next week (no promises).

There, my cache is cleared, and I have room in my brain to think about the upcoming parts of my trip.

Travel planning

Posted: March 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: deardiary | Tags: | No Comments »

I didn’t make my first international journey, heck, my first airplane ride, until I was well into my twenties. The opportunity to travel just wasn’t part of my upbringing, to this day I don’t think my mother has yet to leave the continent. It wasn’t until my best friend moved to the UK that I had a reason to go anywhere. Once I did though, I was hooked.

From that first short trip to the UK I followed it up with another, then a trip to Italy, then Cuba, Thailand, Mexico, Switzerland, Croatia, and going back to the warmer climes to indulge my new hobby of scuba diving. Much of this I documented online in one way or another.

Although I’ve been very lucky to travel to all these wonderful places, all my travel has been for 1, 2, 3 or at most 4 weeks at a time (the one 4 week trip worked by combining 2 weeks in one year, and 2 weeks in the next for my 30th birthday in January of 2008). As much as I have loved all these trips, they’ve only really served to whet my appetite for travel.

Which brings me to now. Now, after quite literally years of planning, I have the opportunity to take a year off of my day job and to spend the bulk of that time travelling. I am, understandably I hope, very excited.

Now I’m getting close to the trip, the counter on the right is counting down to my last day of work and the official start of my travels. As I hope to document my trip via this blog, I have decided to start now with the planning and pre-booking phase.

So to start in the middle rather than at the beginning the only thing I’ve actually booked is for October which is just about at the half-way mark of my intended trip. I will be trekking the Annapurna circuit in Nepal in October. I booked so far in advance because there was literally only one spot left and the dates worked for me.

Also, at this early point it’s really more about establishing a firm marker around which I can plan. I now know that I need to be in Nepal before October 20th, so I can shape my plans before then with that in mind. What those tentative plans are though, I’ll save for a future post.