Mediterranean Cycopaths

Last Post

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who followed our journey over the past 6 months and for the incredible amount of support we received via comments on the website, emails, text and phone calls. The trip has been the fulfilment of a three year dream, made possible by the support of many others.

Team Photo

We also wish to thank:

  • Everyone on our route who helped us achieve our goal – Sami and the guys in Libya, the lads at the Algerian Embassy in Marseille and many, many others that either put us up for the night, bought us a meal or a drink, sent us in the right direction or simply cheered us on as we cycled by.
  • All of our readers who were inspired to donate to the Fred Hollows Foundation. Your valuable contributions are vital to the Foundation achieving it’s aims of eradicating avoidable blindness in the world.
  • Penny Tribe, Shaun Jones and Nina Murphy at Fred Hollows for their support of our adventure.
  • Michael Tombs (with us for over a third of the distance), Rob Gourlay and Richard Parker for joining the ride, injecting some much needed fresh personality and no doubt reducing the likelihood of us strangling each other.
  • Farn and Fiona for their assistance in setting up the very website you have the pleasure of perusing right now. 
  • Our other friends who made the weekend trips out – ensuring the European leg would add hangovers to the list of physical hurdles to overcome.
  • Sean would also like to thank his beautiful girlfriend Harry, who has demonstrated a level of patience previously assumed to be beyond the realms of human ability.

We are in contact with the good people at Fred Hollows Foundation regularly and intend to post a fundraising tally in the coming weeks, so it is never to late to donate.

So what now for us?  Sean is moving back to Australia in the coming weeks and Jon will be moving back to London for the time being.  If you need to contact either of us, you can do so via a the following email addresses – jon@gourlay.com and seansmee2004@yahoo.com.au.

Click here to read articles from the Hobart Mercury and TNT Magazine.

Team Cycopath … OUT

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July 20, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dashboard – Week 26

  • Days Cycled – 4
  • Distance Covered – 413kms
  • Cumulative Distance – 13225kms
  • Laps of the Mediterranean Sea completed – 1

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pretty Good Friday

Target: Annaba – Tabarka (126kms)

Status: Achieved (Actual 124kms) – 176kms remaining

Report: With non-functioning toilets, mattresses that did little to buffer the barrage of prodding springs on any position change and the dank smell of urine permeating every corner, it is fair to say that The Royal Automobile Club Hotel – over the years host to thousands of people, and millions of bed bugs – had seen better days. Thus we didn’t need too much (extra) prodding to set a Cycopath Departure Time record of 06.45 for our final day cycling in Algeria.

To ensure the days toil didn’t run too smoothly, we were helped by a Police Officer (who we didn’t ask), who in turn recruited an English speaking local to explain to us that to get from our current location (which I pointed out on our map) to our final destination (which I also pointed out on our map) all we had to do was follow the big red line (on the map): Thankyou Christopher Columbus!

Minutes later a ute-driving local tried his best to take me out by turning right a millimetre in front of my wheel. Naturally, I deviated from my intended path at full sprint to chase him for 100m screaming (another) torrent of abuse. Humourously, our English-speaking navigational guru, not seeing the incident, chased me down the side-road in his car, in order to lead me back to the main highway and eagerly point out the Billboard-sized roadsign indicating TUNIS. Steam still coming out of my ears he was afforded my best wry smile.

Despite this it was a lovely day cycling around wetlands and through pine forests. This was the habitat of storks, wild boars and tortoises – at least if the road kill is anything to go by – but also surprisingly of eucalypt and wattle trees. The day was also a celebration of some fairly significant milestones: 13000kms cycled, last border crossing, last double chevron hill climbed, last friday on tour (ok, I know I’m stretching the point a little…).

Safer up there

So here we are in Tabarka, Tunisia – with a Jazz festival and beach to check out, it looks like a relaxing evening is in store.

Scrotometer: 2 significant hills (and several idiots) in the midday heat tempered an otherwise comfortable ride: 7.2/10

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dashboard – Week 25

  • Days Cycled – 4
  • Distance Covered – 585km
  • Cumulative Distance – 12812km
  • Days Remaining until 6 month deadline – 5
  • Algerian Districts cycled through where at least 1 of the statements below was applied by Australian Government travel advice – 6
  • “avoid any unnecessary movement and maintain extreme caution”; “reconsider your need to travel by road”; “exercise extreme vigilance”; “ensure (you) have appropriate personal security protection measures in place.”

    July 11, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Fertile Ground

    Target: Jijel – Skikda (152kms)

    Status: Achieved (Actual 150kms) – 470kms remaining.

    Report: Todays riding carried us through the most rural territory we have encountered in Algeria – the road surfaces appropriately deteriorating to reflect this fact. But in fairness, Algeria has provided us with some of the best roads of the trlp, and this seemed a small price to pay for the rolling hills and river valleys on show. Indeed, Algeria is more fertile than I ever imagined – men lined many roads flogging crates overflowing with ripe tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), beans and capsicum (peppers). 

    We once again proved the star lunchtime attraction – todays lucky host, the town of Ain Kuchera (photo below). With an audience mainly consisting of children, we found it a little easier to escape without the earbashing of yesterday.

    King of the Kids

    Now freshly showered, fed and photographed for our moustache competition, it is with satisfaction that I report our arrival in Skikda a day ahead of schedule – the result of 3 long days on the bike. As I have left Jon to examine his ‘battle scars’ the vital question will be: at what cost?

    Scrotometer: The nagging headwind and long stretches of rough surfaces could have made the day a lot worse if we weren’t blessed with a 2nd successive day of cloud cover – and for the fact that we virtually rolled on all downhills to placate Jon’s screaming upper thighs. Still, they were screaming: 3.8/10

    Sean

    July 10, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

    Monkey Business

    Target: Algiers – Azazga (122kms)

    Status: Exceeded (Actual 151kms) – 782kms remaining.

    Report: 70kms in and coasting, I allowed myself the following indulgent thought – well today’s been fairly uneventful, we’ll cruise this one in – and within minutes the following sequence of events kicked off, reminding me, once again, not to take anything for granted:

    Large, unrepairable puncture, front tyre; loud, unrelenting torrent of expletives; sobered by coming across a serious road traffic accident; temperatures continue to climb to near unbearable levels; skull pounds with spliting headache; smaller, repairable puncture, rear tyre; louder, reprehensible torrent of expletives; long climb to finish in target town; target town does not have a hotel, so climb extends the best part of another 12kms until we reach a hotel.

    On the plus side, the final stages of todays climb flattened to a nicer gradient, allowing relatively pleasant final kilometres through heavily forested hills, with a few cheeky monkeys thrown in for good distraction.

    Scrotometer: Late climbing and extended distance (initial distance estimate had been inaccurate as well, compounding our pain) in the afternoon heat saw the scrotometer plummet from a relatively high position: 5.9/10

    Sean

    July 8, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

    Team Cycopath: a National Security Threat?

    Target: Khemis Meliana – Algiers (121kms)

    Status: Achieved (Actual 121kms) – 916kms remaining.

    Report: Let me begin where Jon left off: “my bum is screaming at me to go back to the Team hotel and lie face down in a prone postion on the bed for the next 12 hours.”

    What he failed to mention was his intention to do this on top of the sheets, starkers.

    Several hours later, having managed to get to sleep – despite the perturbing surrounds – I was shocked to be awoken by a loud banging. Stumbling for the door with a bedsheet wrapped around me I am met by a large Algerian man who states he is with the Secret Police. When I ask to see some ID he flashes his walkie-talkie and says “this is my badge” to which I naturally respond “that’s not a badge”. He then waves a uniformed officer (until then obscured from view) over and demands to see our passports. Trying to ignore thoughts of reports I’d read about militants dressed as police officers slaying people on roadsides at night, I retrieve the passports and wedge even more of my body behind the door.

    The officer looks taken aback when I refuse his request to enter the room  – with homosexuality severly punished in Algeria I didn’t fancy trying to explain the reason behind either Jon’s resting pose or the dodgy moustaches we are both sporting! Thankfully it all ended quite tamely with 3 men pouring over our passports – for such issues of national security as our dates of birth – whilst I attempted in vain to maintain a disapproving glare as Jon flashed various parts of his anatomy in my direction from behind the door.

    Our subsequent early departure had an inauspicious start – I snapped the valve on my tyre tube and then when I went to replace it realised the spares I had picked up in Almeria did not fit my newish, deep-rimmed wheels. Using my only compatible tube, the early climbs were then marred by me staring at the rear gears and trying to work out why I felt so sluggish: is a brake rubbing? do I have a leak? is it the poor sleep? sub-optimal carbohydrate intake at breakfast? No dimwit – you’re climbing on your highest chainring. Phew, back to worrying about what happens when I wreck another tube…

    Of note, Jon reckons he would have had the land speed record today if it weren’t for the trucks descending in first gear. He is charitable enough to concede that I may have “pushed him for it”.

    End result is arrival in Algiers a day early and the luxury of 2 rest days before saddling up again.

    Scrotometer: After a pretty amateur start things picked up with wide motorway shoulders and tailwinds ensuring high speeds and us reaching Algiers before the early afternoon inferno. 7.7/10

    Sean

    July 4, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Further into Algeria – 1332km to Tunis

    Target: Oran – Chlef (208kms)

    Status: Achieved (Actual 216kms) – 1124kms remaining.

    Report: The day started normally enough – some fruit for breakfast, Jon determinedly searching for anything to give me a caning about, and a random stranger requesting a photograph with us on the street. Despite earning the right to shave off my mo – by virtue of the mighty Hawks (my AFL team) thumping the Pies (Jon’s team) on Sunday – I decided not to for the sake of the competition we are having out here. Not that I’m entirely sure how one wins a moustache growing competition.

    Good winds and decent surfaces saw us sailing past beaches, huge piles of watermelons and hay bales stacked to look like haybarns early on. The only limit to progress were the queues at regular army checkpoints.  Hospitality again was high with several rounds of drinks picked up by generous locals and regular hoots, toots and wails of encouragement. Alas the wind turned at the death with 60km of headwinds tarnishing a fine days cycling.

    216kms a pleasing achievement. A quick check with the Statistics Department places this on the podium as our third longest day (for distance), 6th time over 200km and 17th time over 150km.

    Scrotometer: Fine sailing early on but closing headwinds extended the time in the saddle to 7 1/2 hours, leaving both boys saddle dimensions firmly imprinted on their nether regions – Jon in particular discomfort. Temperatures forecast for 32°C – felt much hotter. 3.1/10.

    Sean

    July 2, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

    Team CYCOPATH vs The RIF

    28th June 2007

    With time on our side we headed to Marrakech for a few rest days before beginning the 2000km final charge from Tangier to Tunis. Marrakech represented everything we knew of North African cities – vendors, beggars, hagglers, dealers, charmers and scammers all plying their trade in a vibrant tangle of sights, sounds, smells and tastes – the latter sense receiving perhaps an oversupply of stimulation. Thankfully excursions into the clamour could be interspersed with relaxation in various refuges – our breezy hotel terrace, the fountain-filled courtyard of a medieval Islamic building or simply watching very well dressed prostitutes working the crowds in Marrakech’s swankier bars.

    Alas, there were only so many Aussie girls we could rescue from the advances of local men, and before long we had to pack our bags and face our destiny – the biggest cycling challenge of the journey so far – Morocco´s Rif Mountains. Like any epic struggle – the challenges of Hercules, the Mon-Fri working week – this encounter would be hard fought over numerous stages. We liked to think of it as a boxing clash between 2 Heavyweight Contenders…

    Round 1 – Headwinds from Hell

    Tangier to Tetouan: 58km

    After cycling into prevailing headwinds for most of Western Europe we were looking forward to having the wind (the type not self-generated) behind us. But the Rif came out swinging hard. With very strong head and crosswinds forecast I knew that we would have to rely on some pretty desperate measures: I opted for dance music.

    Limping across the line into Tetouan 60km later, having sustained a tyre blowout, being sandblasted for over 3 hours and physically blown off the road a handful of times each, we were happy just to have survived the first round.

    Round Result: The RIF – Opening Blast

    Round 2 – Shocking Surfaces

    Tetouan to El Jebha: 138km

    We decide to take the coastal (scenic) route. And so began the following sequence: a steep, long climb from a standing start; a mist obscured view of mountains plunging into the sea; a manic descent dodging all types of surface irregularities; a grind to a standstill as the lowest part of the road has inevitably been washed away; repeat; repeat; repeat, ad nauseum … and so it continued, TC and the Rif trading punches all day.

    Now we hadn´t come into this bout blind – we knew the Rif were no lightweight opposition. But in a crime against cartography our Michelin map noted 5 chevrons (indicating steep climbs) for this leg. We, however, were unable to distinguish these 5 from a group of at least twice that number. It made me think of our hard days in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains. Except significantly longer, and with worse surfaces.

    Round Result: The Rif – Repetitive Assaults

    Round 3 – Altitude Sickness

    El Jebha to Targuist: 115km

    At El Jebha we learn that Plan A, to continue our coastal route, is not feasible due to further deterioration in the road surface (is this even possible, we ponder). Likewise for Plan B, our escape route to the main highway. Having well and truly backed into the corner we now face Plan C (which, knowing us even vaguely, you will immediately realise there was never a Plan C). 

    And so begins the slowest 46km ever recorded by man on bicycle. Over the next 3.5 hours we ascend from sea level to 1600m without even the mercy of the previous days cloud cover. Despite stripping to the bare minimum of apparel (no, not quite like Valencia) and drinking our own body weight in fluid, our thirst is insatiable. The sweat which is pouring off us threatens to reopen riverbeds that dried up long ago and still the locals are puzzled at our declinations of their multiple offers to smoke some ‘kif’ (this region is one of the biggest hashish producing areas in the world). Shattered men, the round again goes to the Rif but, with Team Cycopath valiantly holding on, all hope is not lost.

    NB – After this round, in (seperate) bathroom inspections, it becomes apparent that the Rif has inflicted some surface wounds with both boys sporting saddle-shaped crescent welts. Due attention is prioritised in preventing these opening and ending the fight prematurely.

    Round Result: The Rif – Opening Rifts

    Round 4 – Road(work) Rage

    Targuist to Driouch: 157km

    We begin strongly with morning sunshine, tunes pumping and the exaltation of 50km of predominantly sweeping downhill cornering. What a comeback! But the Rif is a long way from being down and out. First, 10km of continous roadworks and a flat tyre sap our momentum as we hit sea level again. Then a massive haymaker – another 1000m climb. But it doesn’t quite have the sting of yesterday’s battery. We float over the summit and launch into a full throttle descent – the land speed record very lucky to still stand. Carrying this momentum we extend our days target by 40km to combat tomorrow’s predicted headwinds.

    Round Result: Team Cycopath – Comeback Flurries

    Round 5 – Running away with it

    Driouch to Melilla: 80km

    Yesterdays work has broken the back of the Rif. We start early, go hard and despite some rearguard action (more appalling surfaces, light headwind) the round is over before it began. The Rif has been defeated and we hit the Melilla ferry a day ahead of schedule.

    Result: Team Cycopath – Knockout Blow

    Sean

    June 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

    Dashboard – Week 22

  • Days Cycled – 4
  • Distance Covered – 553km
  • Cumulative Distance – 11203km
  • Cycopaths guilty of dodgy late night dance moves – 3
  • Females attracted by dodgy late night dance moves – 1
  • June 25, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments