Free Ride Bike Park

Today we checked out the Free Ride Bike Park, Oliver loves it and I was very impressed with it. Yesterday Tanya took Oliver out to the Free Ride bike park and Oli couldn’t stop talking about, so we took him there today. He has been riding a strider bike for just over a year now and he loves going to bike parks. Earlier this year we introduced Oli to the Cecelia Ravine bike park, which is really close to our house.

Location

The bike park is located just north of the Victoria airport, surrounded by trees, the little clearing is pretected from the wind. For us, the location stinks becuase it takes about 30 minutes to drive out there. The long distance also that we won’t be riding there like we do for the one at the Burnside Gorge bike park.

Park design

The Free Ride Bike Park has a number of differet paths/routes, which start with green and go up to double black. Each route is between 20 and 60m long and offer a combination of bumps, jumps and table tops. A couple of the routes are designed to work on your technical skills while others are build for catching air. There were two areas that are still under development, meaning that there will be more routes in the future.

the sign at the entrance of the park, shows the various routes.

The tracks looks like it is built with hard pack clayish material for the shape and that is covered with a silty fill for the routes. There is gravel for the walking path. You probably don’t want to see this place in the rain, I would imagine that it would be slipper and dangerious (think riding on snot).

the skill tuning section of the park, shaded from overhead trees.

There was a shaded picnick table with a water tap, so bring a water bottle. There is also a temporary outhouse there now, although it does look like they are building another structure, maybe this will be a washroom in the future.

More than I had as a kid

I don’t remember having something like this when I was a kid, although I did have easy access to a ski hill, there wasn’t a lot to do in the summer. Both Tanya and I are hoping that Oliver takes to the bike like a fish in water, and so far he seems to love riding his bike, especially the bike parks.

Posted from North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada
This entry was posted in Cycling and tagged , , , on by .

A coffee bicycle club

84343669

Cycling and coffee go great together, and it looks like a group in Portland has a group that rides early in the morning to make their coffee, outside.

I couldn’t think of a better way to start a morning.

The end of the big T

Tanya cycling through India

T is for Thailand, but it is also for Tropics. As our time here in Thailand end, so does our trip. For the past 10 months we have spent all of our time in the tropic, from the northern Thailand, northern Vietnam and middle of India. We have also been in the far south, in Singapore nearly straddling the equator. We have seen the season (hot, hotter and wet), and although hot season was hot when we arrived, it is now cold. Hotter is still hot and wet is wet. Torrential downpours have caused small streams to fill paths, make roads more like river instead of roads, and have transformed the landscape from yellow to bright green. The lethargic hot weather makes any task difficult.

Learning at the PDC

Taking our PDC in Malaysia during the hot season was tough, I remember laying on the cement trying to cool down. I also remember working on Grassroots farm during this hot period, hoping for rain just to keep cool. I also remember when it would get cold at night in Hampie and Dalat, having to wear a sweater and a toque (who knew?)

New tastes, Durian, the King of Fruit

We both embarked on this trip in hopes to see something different, and experience something different. Riding a bicycle through India was a great way to achieve this goal. We also wanted to get inspired, thanks to places like Sadhana forest and the Panya project we are inspired. But also to our PDC teachers and everyone else we have met along the way. We have learned so much on this trip. We have learned:

  • How to build with mud

  • How to make kimchi

  • How to make wine

  • How to live in a community

    Learning about biodynamics

  • The best way to find ones way around rural India

  • How to grow food

  • How to cook without a cook book

  • How to cook for a hundred people

  • How to make various Biodynamic perperations

It was damn cold in Dalat

I know there is so much more as well. I never thought that I could get sick of traveling, and although I’m not sick of traveling, I am ready to come home. There is so much I want to try, there is so much I want to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.

SE Asia is full of culture and history

I want to thank all the loyal readers of this blog, we appreciate you dedication and patients. The last couple of months have been pretty inactive (in terms of blog posts). Since the beginning of this trip there has been more then 16,000 views on grannygear, which is pretty amazing, so we thank you all for your support. For those that we met on the road, maybe one day our paths will cross and we can catch up. For the rest of you back home, we are looking forward to meeting up people we haven’t seen in about a year and just chillin. See you soon.

Chiang Mai

For those of you that have been check often, I thank you. We have been lazy these past few days, not seeing too many sights in Chiang Mai, and as a result, not blogging too much. I’m sorry to report that it will probably be more of the same in the coming months. We will be heading up to the Panya Project on Saturday. We will be spending about 2 months there volunteering at the permaculture project. I expect that the posts will slow down even more. We will be coming back to Canada at the end of September, which means we are on the final leg of our journey.

Enough of that though, Chiang Mai is great. This city is pretty small, somewhat historic and filled with good food and many temples. Since we have been here we have seen a handful of Buddhist temples (they all look pretty similar to me now), went to the Sunday night market, rented a tandem bicycle, got our visas extended, I had a 24 hour bout of food poisoning, and Tanya has been going to some yoga classes.

The food here has been great, from traditional Thai food to modern pizza, you can have many tasty meals here. One of my favorites have been the ripe mango on sticky rice. The mango is sweet and ripe (they don’t taste like this back home), and the rice is slightly salty, slightly sticky. It’s a great combination, combine that with an orange juice and a coffee, it is a great way to start the morning (only 1 Canadian dollar, perfect). There is lots of other food in this town as well, too many to name, all are cheap and tasty though.

Mango and Sticky Rice

The Sunday night market is not an event to be missed. A couple of intersecting streets, about 1km long each all provide thousands of people with something to do on Sunday night. Hundreds of stands lite by bright compact fluorescent lights sell all sorts of stuff. From trinkets to t-shirts there are stalls selling almost anything. The real treasure is the food however. For 10 bhat (25 cents) you can get a big spring roll, or Pad Thai, or fresh juice or any other number of great fare. The food is spicy and the atmosphere is electric. It was great fun, and after walking the market Tanya and I wondering why our grocery/big box/small box stores give us such an un-inspiring bland experience.

Tandem Bicycle

One day we found a tandem bicycle that you can rent. If you remember, we rented a really old, poorly made one in Da Lat, Vietnam. The one here was much nicer then the one in Da Lat. We rented it and headed out of town. We first had to get out of the city though and that was somewhat stressful. Although Thailand traffic isn’t the worst traffic around (like India or Vietnam), maneuvering a tandem makes everything a little more challenging. We did get out of town and it was great, the scenery was filled with green fields, a brown river and smiling faces. As many people would wave, smile or honk their horn at us, we felt that same feeling we felt back in India. It was great, and it really made us start to miss our cycle touring days. By the looks on the faces of the local Thia’s we passed, they don’t see tourists very often, never mind two on the same bike, pedaling in perfect sync. To me, that is what makes traveling great, making someone smile.

After a tiring 3.5 hour ride we headed back. We walked back to our hotel, tired and stiff (we haven’t been doing much exercise lately). Renting bikes are great, seeing the rural area is great, doing both at the same time is perfect. After spending the last couple of month backpacking, I know that having your own two wheeled mode of transportation is the best. You get off the main track, you see things other don’t and you have a great time. Although our trip isn’t done yet, I feel I have learned a great deal in the past 8 months: bicycles are fun, rural areas are nice (especially in the morning), having some meaning to your traveling makes things much more rewarding and 99.9% of the time, people are nice and helpful.

Posted from Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , on by .

Best of India

During our mulit-hour wait to catch the bus to Mysore, we came up with a list of some of the “Best Of” our trip:

Best Scenery

Riding into Hampi (image above)

Best Riding Day

Cochi to Alleppy

Best Dal

Hotel Raya’s in Kumbakonam

Best Temple

A taste of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Trichy

Best Pizza

New Creation Pizzaria in Auroville

Best TV show

No Reservations

Best Ice Cream

Richy Rich in Auroville

Best Indian Food discover

Parotta is amazing, white flour covered in oil and fried, great for eating right there or saving for the next day.

Best shot from inside a temple

Inside the Pattadakall temple

Best Photo taken

Us, taken somewhere along to the temple route.

Best Cycling equipment

Brooks saddles

Best Weather

The cooler weather at Kumily hill station

Best value accommodation

guesthouse in Mysore around Lakshmipuram

Best cycling energy food

peanut chikki

Best Entertainment

Open Stage nights at Sadhana Forest

Best fresh juice

Grape juice from Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

Best city not in the guidebook

Belgaum

Best Masala Dosa

Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

These were amazing, I probably had at least one a day for 30 days.

Best City

Pondicherry

Best Luck

No flat tires

Best Chocolate

Baker Street – Pondicherry

Best cycling road

The road Into Pudukkottai was quite, calm and enjoyable.

Best 10 Rs ever spent

A massive bag of basil at Nilgris market in Mysore

Best TV commercial

The Diet Sugar commercial

”Aba dabi di be” (we have not idea what this means or how to spell it but we say it all the time because it’s always stuck in our heads)

Best newly acquired skill

Discovering the very efficient way to get the seeds out of pomegranates

Best season

Mango season

Best State

Kerla with its backwaters, chilled out scene, rainforest, and diversity, it is easy to see why this is our favourite State (especially if you only have a short time)

Best Decision

To stay in India despite the terrorist attacks when we arrived

Kelly and Tanya vs. India Post

I thought I’d post about our experiences and time spent on the simple task of mailing home some from stuff from India:

Day 1 – Because of our new plans for the remainder of our trip, we decide it wouldn’t be feasable to continue to hall our bikes around with us and thought “hey – what don’t we just ship them home…no problem”
Estimated time: 15 minutes

Day 2 – Tanya does some online research to find out the process for shipping from India – and finds no information of any usefulness

Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 3 – Kelly and Tanya decide to go to the main post office to find out the info from the sources – and again receive some vague info about prices but no concrete answers

Estimated time: 1 hour

Packing, putting everything carefullly in the box

Day 4 – Kelly and Tanya thought “hmm…maybe using a courier like DHL would be a better way to go”. They take a rickshaw to DHL, explain a few times, to a few people, what we want to do and get an estimated cost that is much more money than our bikes are worth.
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 5 – Kelly goes to get packing boxes – despite our lack of information about mailing them. Kelly finds out that apparently boxes are worth something in India and nobody just gives them away…we pay 150rs ($4 – a lot for India) for 3 cardboard tv boxes.

Estimated time: 2 hours

We took our wheels apart to save weight.

Day 6 – Kelly decides to skip yoga, buy a beer, and take the spokes out of the wheels (to save space). He gets two wheels done instead of four (perhaps due to the beer…).
Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 7 – Tanya does a preliminary dig through all of our stuff to see what we want to send home. Kelly takes the rest of the spokes out.

Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 8 – Kelly takes apart the rest of the bikes while Tanya cleans each and every dusty, dirty bicycle part

Estimated time: 3 hours

Day 9 – Tanya and Kelly pack the bicycle parts into the boxes.

Estimated time: 1 hour

First attempt, but no room for the driver

Day 10 – Tanya does some research on customs requirements and ends up more confused that when she started
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 11 – Tanya realizes that they need a list of every item in each box, so Kelly helps Tanya take everything out of the boxes and bags to write these lists

Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 12 – Kelly and Tanya finally have packed and taped up boxes ready to go! They then realized that they have no idea how these very large and heavy boxes are going to get to the post office…it’s not like in Canada where you always know someone with a truck.

Estimated time(to figure out what the heck they are going to do): 30 minutes

Box on the roof, anything is possible in India

Day 12: Kelly thinks he’ll be able to flag down one of the water cooler delivery trucks and pay them to drive us to the post office, he goes and tries but comes home with just a regular rickshaw and a very confused looking driver
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 12: A small crowd of people gather to help do the impossible…get two huge boxes somehow into and on top of the rickshaw…I didn’t believe for a second it would work, but I realized that this is India…anything works!! What we did would never meet safety or legal standards in Canada.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: Kelly, Tanya, the rickshaw driver and the two boxes make it to the parcel wrapper-upper place…whew!

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Repacking our 2 overweight boxes into 4 boxes with weight restrictions

Day 12: We unload the boxes from the rickshaw and Syed, the parcel wrapper-upper guy and his two helpers, get to work. They weigh our boxes and realize that we are way over the weight limit…so our carefully packed boxes were thoroughly and completely dismantled
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: The parcel guys totally re-arrange the boxes (which have now become 4 boxes instead of 2) and Tanya realizes that she needs to write new lists with all the stuff in each of them
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 12: The parcel guy gives us the customs forms to fill out, we realized there is only a tiny little place to describe every item that is in the box. Tanya and Kelly fill out a total of 8 customs forms (2 for each box). Once completed, the parcel guy basically tells us we filled in half the things wrong and scribbles all over them. We need to fill them out again.

Estimated time: 2 hours

Altering our boxes, now smaller and within the weight limit

Day 12: While the parcel guys are preparing our boxes (every parcel needs to be wrapped in light cloth that is custom sized to the box…I think it is a make-work project to keep more people employed)…Kelly goes to get snacks and stops in at the post office…we find out it is too late to send a parcel today and guess what…tomorrow is another holiday…so have to wait.
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: Kelly and Tanya deliberate about whether or not we should keep the parcels with the parcel guy for 2 days or if we should find a way to get the now 4 boxes back home, and then back again to the post office. We decide to trust the parcel guy and keep them there.

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Sewing the package up

Day 12: After three hours with the parcel guys, we pay and we go home.
Estimated time: 15 minutes

Day 13: Kelly and Tanya take a well deserved rest day from dealing with anything related to the postal system

Estimated Time: None

Day 14: Tanya and Kelly head back to pick up our packages from Syed. Each box is intact and accounted for. Syed then pastes on our now fully complete, but probabley still inaccurate, customs forms.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

The Custom Forms

Day 14: Now four of us each pick up a box and walk the half block to the main post office. We were informed of the price by the postal clerk (which hurt the wallet but is still cheaper than brining them back on the plane with us) and paid up. We were then informed that the two largest boxes, in addition to the required custom tailored cloth covering them, also need to be in a special bag that we need to purchase.
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 14: We finally get a rickshaw home, Kelly buys a beer and we do nothing!

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Total time: 32 hours X 2 people = 64 hours

It’s a good thing we have more time than money!!!

Now all we can do is wait…and hope all of our boxes arrive into Canada and that we don’t get charged for import customs (which we shouldn’t because pretty much everything we’ve sent back was bought in Canada!)

All in all, this was a typical Indian experience we will never forget.

(oh yeah, and if anyone is in Mysore – we recommend Syed as a great parcel wrapper-upper (that is, if all our stuff makes it to Canada!)

Posted from Mysore, Karnataka, India
This entry was posted in Cycling, Travel and tagged , , , , on by .

Pondycherry

The rising Sun

Tanya and I are rolling over our boated belly’s reminiscing about the dinner we just had. We splurged (we have been doing that a lot lately) on dinner. A buffet, and it was very tasty (and only Rs400 each). Pondycherry has been good. The four days we have been here have passed quickly, which is surprising as there are no real sights to see here. There is however good food, great service and exceptional value.

The Beachfront of Pondycherry

Pillars stand tall surrounding the Gandhi Statue

Pondycherry is a union territory of India, and a former French colony. The result is a super clean town that holds onto its French culture with more automy then the average city. It is still India though, there are rickshaws and the smell of raw sewage still enters you noise. You forget about these realities when you are reminded of the cheap beer though.

Waves come crashing in

I awoke today to the sound of a Muslim prayer call. I was awake so I got out of bed to see what Pondycherry looked like at 6am. To my surprise, the ocean front was packed full of Indian tourists. There were hundreds of people, kids running around, people meditating, people doing yoga, and people sitting on rocks, facing the ocean waiting for the sun to rise. And it rose, quickly, leaving a orange reflection upon the choppy ocean. I snapped off a couple of pictures, and wandered down the heritage building lined steets. I stumbled across a bakery, I got a chocolate danish and some bread and headed back to our guest house. The baked goods were great (just like everything else you can eat in this town).

Posted from Puducherry, Puducherry, India
This entry was posted in Cycling, Travel and tagged , , , on by .

To Chidambaram and Pondicherry

To Chidambaram
Distance: 79km
Roads: great
Traffic: Light (except for the last 7km)

The day started as any other day, asking for directions out of town. Having thought ahead, I had our route writen out in Tamil so it was smooth sailing. Except for one thing, our Rough Guides map blows. Often incorrect and not detailed enough, we kept second guessing the directions that we were given. Luckily we also had an Indian Road Atlas produced by TTK’s Health division (I can’t figure that one out either).

The view of rural India

The TTK map has been correct everytime and has much more detail, it is just hard to use. Never the less we arrived at our destination taking secondary highways the whole way, and it was great roads. Tanya and I must be in pretty good cycling shape by now because we finished 80km by noon.

On Feb 4th (the day the events in this post happened), there was a general strike by everyone in Tamil Nadu. Until 6pm, nothing was open, except for hotels and the odd shop. This came to us as a shock, mainly because we were hungry.

The temple we didn’t see

We couldn’t get lunch, luckily we keep a couple jars of peanut butter handy in case we can’t find food. We also found some bread (if you can call it bread). We went back to our hotel and ate our peanut butter sandwitches (yum yum). There is also a temple in this town, but since we have see so many temples lately we skipped it, they are all pretty much the same anyway.

Like clockwork, everything was open at 6pm. India usually comes alive after the sun goes down anyway, and today was no different. We were relieved because it meant we could eat some dinner.

A big colourful statue

To Pondicherry
Distance: 69km
Roads: Moderate
Traffic: heavy

Along the delta is there is a lot of fog in the morning

There was no logical way to avoid a national highway, so we were stuck on it the whole way to Pondicherry. This was trying on our patients and made the day very difficult (especially for Tanya). Tanya even claimed this has the hardest day yet. We made it though and found a nice guest house, which was great value (A/C, free breakfast, free internet and a view of the ocean from their Cafe), all for Rs1200, which is a really good value.

The view from our guest house in Pondycherry

After settling and showering we headed out to find some lunch. Pondicherry is known for its French Influence. This was a coloney back in the day and it is nice to have a change from the same Tamil Nadu flavors. Lunch was very tasty, but it wasn’t until dessert that we realized just how good the food was here. Chocolate cake, done better then back home. After that we stumbled upon a liquor store (called wine shops here, but have mostly whiskey and very little wine). It cost Rs45 for a 650ml beer (sweet). Across the street there was a store selling French Delicacies. We went in and had some cardamon chocolate truffles. After trying this we knew that we at a special place, some of the best chocolate we have every had and cheap beer. Life is good, I think we are going to enjoy the next couple of days enjoying the Franco-Indian cuisine.

Posted from Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
This entry was posted in Cycling, Travel and tagged , , , on by .

Kumbakonam

Yesterday we took a rest day. We found a nice business hotel with room and checked out of our overpriced bad hotel and moved down the road to the nice AC room. The rest day was needed, as we were very tired  after having two days of intense temple trekking (life’s rough eh?).

Distance: 43km
Roads: Fair
Traffic: Moderate

We got on the road a little latter then usual, but we only had 43 km to go so we took our time getting going. We checked many hotels and none offered great value, not until we checked out the one in the Lonely Planet (usually the ones in the lonely Planet don’t have as good as value). The Raya’s Hotel is one of cleanest in town. I worked on the bikes for a while and Tanya got settled.

After a short nap we headed to the Airavatesvara Temple. In the past week we have seen so many temples and you would think that this one would be the same as all the others. It wasn’t, this one was more basic then most of the others, and more like the ones in Badami. It was also deserted, there was only a handful of people there which was enjoyable.

After that we headed back to town and checked out a couple of temples bathing in the late afternoon sun.

Posted from Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India
This entry was posted in Cycling, Travel and tagged , , , , on by .

Trichy

The Rock Fort Temple, up high on a rock in the middle of the city

We awoke to our alarm on our rest day, which is never really that enjoyable but we had a busy day ahead of us and we couldn’t spend it in bed. We got our sticky bodies out of the tent and put on our clothes. We ate some peanut jaggary snacks (kind of like peanut brittle) and headed to the train station. This was a first train on this trip and I was slightly excited. We had good luck, with 15 minutes before the train left we got a ticket (rs18).

There were no seat on the train for us, which was ok, so we stood for just over an hour talking to some Indians. You meet some interesting people on the trains, I learnt a little bit about Pakistan, Holy headwaters and cell phones. The time flew by and before I knew it we were in Trichy.

The view from the Rock Fort Temple

We headed to the bus station and got on a bus (rs6) to see the sights. There are four sights to see and we saw them all, starting at the lest impressive and making our way to the most impressive. The first was the Rock Fort Temple, which had many steps and you have to climb up in your bare feet. At the top you got a good view of the city. Next was an impressive neo gothic church.

We got back on the bus and said we wanted to go to the temple. Indian buses are an interesting affair. It takes two people to operate a bus in India. You have the driver and all he does is drive, which is harder then one would think (you have to get dangerously close to the cars/bikes/people in front of you, use the horn, shift and drive). Of course if you were doing this there would be no one to collect the bus fair. You have another person swimming through the packed bus collecting bus fare, which just might be more difficult then driving the bus. You have to walk from the back of the bus to the front of the bus remember who has paid and work hard at not falling out of the bus (there are no doors, just door ways). I would not want either job.

Elephant giving blessing

The fare collector told us that the temple was that way and we should get off the bus if we wanted to see it. Not totally sure if it was the right temple, we got out and headed towards the tall painted gopuram. Thinking we were at the wrong temple we still ventured in and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The temple was nearly deserted, we were the only non-Hindus and it was an extremely enjoyable experience. We walked around taking in the sights. It turns out we were at the right temple (Sri Jambukeshwara Temple). After seeing the temple we had lunch.

The goparums that guided us into the temple.

We got back onto the bus and headed to the last sight which was the Sri Ranganathswamy Temple. As we walked closer we were guided to the temple by the 73m tall colourful goparum. This is what the Madurai goparums will probably look like, but with new paint on them. A total contrast to the Sri Jambukeshwara temple, there were many people in here (including more non-Hindus) and it was very noisy. We paid Rs10 for a view point, and glad we did, you could see the 60ha grounds, the 21 gopurams and the main temple. The guy that took us up there turned out to be a student and a guide and he did his sales pitch to us. I was all for it and probably paid more then I needed to, but we got a guide.

It was well worth the price in my mind, Rs300 and he knew his stuff. He even said I asked a lot of good questions (just like University). I was learning, and it was great. I learnt a little bit about temple architecture, the Hindu Cast System, the word Sri means holy and so much more. The temple was build in the 10th century and many different dynasties added on the structure. The most interesting was the granite pillars, which were about 4m tall, and must have weight a ton. The granite for these pillars is from Hampi. Hampi is at least 800km away and the granite pillars came from there, before diesel engines, before smooth pavement. Elephants dragged this granite, and there were so many of these pillars. What an amazing amount of energy and resources were put into these temples. Even by todays standards this would be an expensive building, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like back then.

The packed train

We took the bus around the town and a train to get to Trichy from Tanjore. In total it cost us Rs40 for transportation for the whole day. Amazingly cheap. If we hired a car for the day it would have been around Rs1500, if we got to Trichy and took a rickshaw it would have about Rs500. But we took mass transit and it cost us $1. This is not without its cost though, you are stuck to the schedule of the transit and you often jammed in the bus/train. The train ride back home is a good example of when spending an extra few dollars would be well worth the cost. Our Rs9 each ticket got us a place on the train, but not necessarily a seat. We luckily found a seat for Tanya, I had to stand though. Until some of the locals convinced me to get on the overhead luggage rack with a sign that said luggage only (more then enough room, just no padding). Then when you think the train is packed full of people and no more could possibly get on, more do. I found it comical, there were an amazing number of people on that train. We were happy to get off packed train.

Posted from Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India
This entry was posted in Cycling, Travel and tagged , , , , , on by .