Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Almost forgot…

February 18th, 2012

And almost 1,800 blog posts, 2,000 photos and 700 videos…



Final flurry of statistics

February 18th, 2012

Miles ridden Almost 20,000 (about 30,000 kilometres) – so, by any measure, quite a long way…!

Revolutions (of the wheels) Sixteen million

Continents Four – Europe, Asia, Australia, North America

Countries 17

Border crossings 31

Visas 10

US States 12 (including night in Hawaii – no time to surf!)

Coldest -15 oC in New Mexico

Hottest Forties in Kazakhstan and China’s Gobi desert

Cyclones One – Yasi – Northern Australia

Highest point Over 8,000 feet – Emory Pass – New Mexico

Lowest point Turpan – pronounced Turvan – Basin, Western China – below sea level

Favourite nations New Zealand, North America, Serbia, Georgia (also the friendliest)

Most expensive country Australia (cost of living about 2-3 times that of the UK)

Cheapest countries China and the Republic of Georgia

Most corrupt nation – Azerbaijan – if you don’t pay a bribe you’d never leave. Ever.

Detentions by border guards 2 – Kazakhstan (shorter of the two!) and Australia

Uprisings (just missed) Bishkek, Capital of Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan, and sporadic (unreported) ethnic civil unrest in Western China

Toughest challenges Loneliness – especially in China – and tropical humidity in Northern Australia

Lowest point Few hours after drinking kumus – fermented mare’s milk

Most bizarre moment Tearing around Republic of Georgia in a police car (sightseeing courtesy of a local Mayor!)

Most used words Nee-how – Hello! – and Sh-e, Sh-e, nee – Thank-you – in Mandarin

Least heard expressions Have a nice day! (in US – rarely said) and It’s free! (in (expensive) Australia – rarely heard)

Favourite foods Stack of pancakes with maple syrup – US – and stuffed dumplings – China

Favourite places Camping amongst wild bears in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon, and nights spent in Chinese truck stops – for less than 20 yuan – about two pounds

Bikes Just one – my trusty Somerset built two-wheeled steed

Punctures 10 – with just one in whole of North America

Spokes broken or loosened – not a single one, and wheels still look pretty true

Most elusive wildlife Wild bears in North America – saw just one cub – and deadly snakes in Australia – two in the wild

Most common wildlife Wallabies – like a kangaroo but smaller – in Australia

[With especial thanks to Tim for the encouragement to compile these…]



Alaska… a few facts

September 11th, 2011

A few facts about Alaska… some quite surprising…

It’s BIG – about one fifth of the rest of the US

But with a small population – just 600,000 people, half of whom live in Anchorage

Which isn’t the Capital – that’s Juneau. Despite electing Sarah Palin as Governor, Alaskans are clearly a shrewd bunch, choosing to put their politicians on an island. One you can’t actually drive to directly from Anchorage, instead having to travel through Canada.

Alaska is also the northern-most, western-most and eastern-most State. And has over 100,000 glaciers.

The State bird is the willow ptarmigan. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the mosquito…

Barrow, in the far north of Alaska, doesn’t see the sun – at all – for almost three months of the year. 18 November – 24 January. And, between 10 May and 2 August, it never sets.

Alaska’s State flag was the result of a school art project. Eight gold stars.



Australia – a few statistics…

August 27th, 2011

A random selection of dubious statistics… strictly for amusement.. Enjoy

Most ironic TV programme – "Conviction Kitchen" – those with a criminal past battle it out for a fresh start…

Distance ridden – Close on 4,000 kilometres. Which is about the same as London to Istanbul. Hardly surprising as it’s not just a country, it’s an entire continent.

Cyclones encountered – Just one – Yasi – but it was the largest, most fearsome to hit Australia’s mainland in living memory

Favourite spot – Mary Valley, north west of Brisbane

Premiers met – One – Anna Bligh

Days lost to flooded highways – Two – trapped for a few extra days in the small but likeable town of Bowen

Local TV and radio interviews – Two TV news pieces, one spot on Talk Radio, and a newspaper article

Prostitutes – Just one, for coffee and a chat – strictly research, and I paid only for the drinks

Cheapest paid pitch – $8 – about five pounds

Best camp kitchen – Innisfail – at a site managed by Maureen

Easiest job – Weather forecaster, Far North Queensland, during the wet season – hmmm, rain today?

Miscreant drivers reported to the Police – One – errant truck driver who seemed to think it amusing to try and, quite literally, run me off the road

Detentions by Public Officials – One – albeit briefly, by an Immigration Officer querying why I’d returned to Australia from New Zealand – errr, because I’ve a multiple entry visa that allows me to do so…

[Ed. That’s quite enough stats for one continent]



New Zealand – a few fuggers

July 24th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "McKennock". Fixes cars

Sheep spotted very few

Hobbits – even less

Naff cups of coffee nil – absolutely none

Wet days – very few

Glaciers visited – one – Franz Josef

Cyclists met – one – Caroline

Time spent at sea – about six hours (didn’t want to overdo it)

French military tourists met – nil

[Ed. That’s quite enough statistics for now…]



Measuring the miles

January 30th, 2011

16,028 kilometres – 9959 miles

Distance cycled. So far. My own, reasoned, estimate had been about 10,000 miles. But now I’d got a much more accurate figure from all the GPS fixes I’d collected over the past five hundred or so days.

You’d think there’d be some nifty software to calculate the distances between fixes. But no. Not that I’ve been able to find. Rather, you must devise your own. Or ask your webmaster to help.

Enough statistics. Early morning here in Cairns. Might have to go and do a couple of loops of Cairns. Bag another 41 miles. Hit the magic 10,000.

[With especial thanks to James the webmaster for devising the software to calculate the distance ridden]


China – a few statistics

January 1st, 2011

A random selection of statistics, some serious, others just to amuse, chosen by the author after a particularly strong coffee… There’s quite a few, but it is a big country, and I’ve been here a while. Enjoy!

Population of China – Over 1.3 billion, 51% of whom now live in cities

Most surprising discovery The sheer amount of construction – infrastructure, offices, shopping centres, housing – true nation building

Biggest myth about China – You can see the Great Wall from space – no. Why should you be able to? It’s about ten metres wide, mostly earthworks and so the same colour as the surrounding terrain. More chance of spotting Hadrian’s…

Second biggest myth about China – Rice is the staple. Not exactly. Much more noodles in the west. Probably because rice grows in the more wet, humid south eastern part of the country.

Greatest Chinese invention – Toilet paper

Nicest city Xi’an, central China. Probably best known as the home of the Terracotta Army

Most distasteful sight – Spitting in the street, particularly prevalent in eastern China

Second most distasteful sight – Overweight men rolling up their shirts, exposing their midriffs, to try and keep cool in hot weather – city of Urumqi, western China

Most irritating discovery – Talking Chinese calculators

Second most irritating discovery – Blocking mainstream websites like Facebook, video hosting services such as Vimeo or YouTube. And The Outward Bound Trust’s own site.

Most intriguing discovery – The often low standard of English practiced by those who teach it in State schools. Especially their oral ability

Distance travelled from UK – About 16,000 kilometres / 10,000 miles

Longest (most epic) day – Riding into Kuytun, western China – 162 kilometres / hundred miles across the desert

Hottest day They blur. Somewhere in the Gobi desert, western China. Into the forties

Highest point Road tunnel east of the provincial town of Jingning, central China. Close on 7,600 feet. Second place goes to Lake Sayram Hu, in western China, near the border with Kazakhstan – about 7,000 feet. Quite beautiful

Lowest point – Turpan Basin, western China. Few hundred feet below sea level. See also medical dramas below…

Most photographed object – Me. By the Chinese

Most useful item carried – Letter of introduction in Chinese – one of four things that never leave my side – the other three being my wallet, passport and phrase book

Most novel (for a Westerner) place to spend a night Heavy Goods Vehicle cab, somewhere in the Gobi desert, western China

Item I most wish I’d brought with me – Phrase book with more than just ten pages devoted to Mandarin

Item I brought but probably shouldn’t have bothered with the phrase book I actually had…

Favourite food – Stuffed dumplings, similar to those found in much of Central Asia

Best coffee Hotel Ibis, Xi’an, Central China – not the free stuff included with the breakfast buffet, the one you have to buy from the bar

Best pseudo-full English breakfast – Fat chance. But did find some lovely tuna sandwiches and fruit scones in the city of Nanchang, eastern China

Stops by the police – Once – en route to Turpan in Western China – by traffic officers concerned for my safety in by then gale force winds

Most dangerous place to cycle – Chinese towns and cities

Most common TV advert – Breast enhancement lotions – not a jot of evidence they work….

Medical dramas Copious – if that’s the right expression – amounts of travellers diarrhoea, western China. Oh how we laugh about it now…

Number of manual workers eligible to take the Chinese Civil Service entrance examination in 2010 – Less than 200 – but, if successful, they’ve a 1:14 chance of a job, against the norm of about 1:1,000

Favourite Chinese language film – With English subtitles – Fourteen Blades – released 2010

Number of Chinese visas – A staggering four – a sixty day one from Malta (not used), two ninety day ones from London and a zero entry thirty day one obtained in Xi’an, China

Favourite white lie.. Asked by a border guard if my phone would work in China, I explained I really wasn’t sure, hadn’t had chance to try it…. It’s a satellite phone. Works anywhere on the planet. So probably ok.

And finally… Even the CIA – yes, The CIA, have their mugs manufactured in China. Bet they x-ray them….

[With thanks to Tim for suggesting I put some statistics together, and Claudia for encouraging me!]


Ken’s vital statistics

September 8th, 2010

A few facts and figures about life on the road… strictly to entertain and amuse


Greatest weakness – decent cup of black coffee – on a mission to find the best…

Second greatest weakness – my razor – nothing comes close to a good wet shave – not a huge fan of beards, indeed, never dated a woman with one, and no plans to start now..

Third greatest weakness – fluffy towels and a hot shower – it’s not a crime you know – dreaming that is!

Fourth – and final – greatest weakness – cotton boxer shorts, one pair carried, special occasions only. Along with my deodorant.

Favourite television programme – Shoestring” – early 80s drama about private eye Eddie Shoestring, filmed in and around Bristol and Bath, lead played by Trevor Eve – three episodes available on – am almost word perfect now!

Favourite internet radio station – UK’s Absolute 80s – – fortunately without a ’no repeat’ guarantee!

Food I miss the most – rum truffles, the proper ones made from old cake, laced with essence, or even the real stuff

Favourite weather – nothing beats a nice temperate climate, just like that in Blighty…

[Editor: That’s enough for now.. Back to the Gobi]

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