|CEO Struan Robertson will be in Sydney on May 23 and wants to meet with former and future SpiceRoaders. It’s the perfect time to ask questions about a tour you have been thinking about and to find out about our new tours! Please drop by the Barbarian Room of the Sydney Rugby Club between 6 and 8 pm. Drinks and nibbles are on SpiceRoads and Struan will also be bringing some swag to giveaway.Directions: The Rugby Club, 31 Pitt Street, is conveniently located at Circular Quay. It is accessible by rail, ferry or bus. (2 mins walk from Circular Quay or 5 mins from Wynyard.)
Tel: (02) 9247 3344
Our first bicycle tour to Kyushu island in Japan proved to be very colourful indeed. Our tour started off with a fabulous meal in Kumamoto. We dined on too many courses to count and for some of us it was the first time eating raw fish! We have a new sushi convert in the group! Our first taste of Sochu was also had! A distilled drink, in this case made from rice that is 25% alcohol. After dinner we took a stroll to see the famous castle that still dominates the city. Its origins date back to 1467 but it was burnt down during the during the Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, also known as the last samurai. The castle was rebuilt and truly gives you a sense of what life would have been like during the Edo period. The next morning we were up early and ready to face the chilly and windy day. Bikes adjusted and off we rode through a quiet city. It didn’t take us long to reach rice fields and open countryside. We quickly found ourselves along the shore of the Yatsushiro Sea and saw the islands in the distance that we would be crossing via bridges across the Amuska Archipelago. The area is also well known for citrus and lucky for us they are in season! A 70 km flat ride was a perfect way to start our tour.
Days 3 and 4
A very quiet road took us through the heart of Amuska Island on this warmer day. The wind was kept at bay but the temperatures were still chilly. Along the way we came across two methods of rice planting taking place side by side — the traditional manual method and a very clever rice planting machine. The road took us up and up and again we were in citrus country, but this time they were giant Tangelos growing. In almost every village we came across we saw flags at at least one house. Signifying that a son lives there these are in preparation for Boys Day on May 5. Once we arrived at our Onsen (hot spring bath) for the night, there was an option to do an extra 20 km ride along the Sunset Line to see a 130 year-old Catholic Church. The hot bath at the end of a ride is a great way to end the day and loosen up those sore muscles! To leave the Amuska Islands we took a ferry to back to the main land and here the landscape was flat as we rode along a dyke and reclaimed land. The day ended with a tough hill up to a tea estate where we spent the night in the home of the farmers. A long day of cycling means an early night!
Day 5 and 6
Waking up in the peaceful tea estate we enjoyed breakfast with very fresh eggs from the farm and went for a visit to the tea processing center and to see the natural weed eaters for the tea bushes – goats. We bid farewell to our hosts and it was a nice downhill start of the day towards the city of Kagoshima. We had many stops on the way, including to a cold spring with shocking pink flowers, a waterfall and we saw the old road to Tokyo. Seeing the size of those cobblestones we were very glad we weren’t riding on it! Hugging the coast of Kinko Bay we had nonstop views of Sakurajima, an active volcano. One last climb to end our longest cycling day – 97 km – took us to our hotel with a fabulous view across the bay to the volcano. After our epic day we were looking forward to an easier day with a ride around the volcano. We left Kagoshima via a short 14 minute ferry to Sakurajima. This one-time island is now connected to the mainland due to lava flows. There have been 300 eruptions this year, but the last major eruption was in 1947. Though puffing a bit during our cycle we never felt in danger. We had to be more careful of the slippery black ash that was on the roads! Was a great day riding and seeing how the locals live at the base of an active volcano!
SpiceRoads is well represented at the Tour of Friendship 5-stage road bike race with two teams in competition. The first stage was a 7 km time trial and the heat was on with temps at 38C. The start is a bit intimidating for first timers as you are clipped in on your bike with somebody holding you up until it’s time to go. Then it’s just you against the clock. The overall winner rode 7-km in 9:02 and the GOTP-SpiceRoads team did very well placing 3rd and 4th in the 40s men category with times of 9:25 and Hamish Keith, founder of SpiceRoads, garnering a 9:34. Patricia Weismantelel, Product Manager,Damian Mulligangan, Northern Thailand Regional Manager, Guides Aum and Ant, John Doyle who flew in from Dubai to compete as well as longtime SpiceRoader Brian Merfield from the UK all had respectable times.Stage 2 won’t be so easy, 146 km!
Stage 2 was a 146 km relatively flat ride with a short hill at the end. Some very fast speeds in the pelotons, with the open men going up to 60 km/h! The groups stayed together with breakaways waiting for the hill and then it was full on to the finish! Stage 3 is intense with two different distances depending on your age group, with open, 30s and 40s going 170 km and women and masters 115 km. Lots of hills in store!
New strategies were in play for Stage 3 of the Tour of Friendship. A hill just 4 km after the start proved to be a separator, breaking up the pelotons quickly as most of the age groupers started fast hoping to do just this. The course was 170 km for the open, 30s and 40s men and 115 km for women and masters, with lots of climbing! When we had time to look around, was beautiful, with flowering trees of yellow and red lining the course and nice views out over the valleys. Very proud of guides Aum and Ant for finishing their epic distance and 2000 m of ascents! Brian Merfield and Patricia Weismantel also finished with respectable times. John Doyle felt the heat and smartly called it quits after 120 km. The GOTP-SpiceRoads team also did well with all members finishing. Hamish Keith did his team proud with a 2nd place finish in the 40s men. He held onto an intense sprint 3 kms from the finish line to earn his spot on the podium. He is also 2nd in the overall standings! Stage 4 offers no reprieve with another tough route awaiting us!
Stage 4 of the Tour of Friendship proved to be another hot and hilly day. A slow start by all the categories meant no early breakaways, even though there was the King of the Mountain title at stake at 55 km. But with distances of 164 km and 109 km ahead, the pelotons decided on an easy start. Team SpiceRoads was down two members due toa crash and the heat, but guides Aum and Ant both went the distance! Brian Merfield and Patricia also both finished and are ready for the the final stage of 84 km! Team GOTP-SpiceRoads also did excellent with all team members crossing the finish line and Hamish Keith again placing himself on the podium with a 5th place for the stage! He is moving up in the overall rankings and tomorrow will see if he places 1st or 2nd! Here’s Aum climbing up the hill that he had to do 3 times today!
Stage 5 of the Tour of Friendship was thankfully a shorter distance of 84 km, but the hills were still there to be climbed (1200 m!)! Two laps of the hills and then a 5 km descent to the finish led to some exciting sprint finishes to the Tour of Friendship. All the SpiceRoaders are just proud to have finished all stages of the race, which was quite an accomplishment in itself! In the overall rankings Hamish Keithproved to be quite a force to contend with as he finished under 5 seconds behind the winner. After more than 16 hours of racing 547 km it came down to just 5 seconds! Overall a great experience racing and pushing yourself to the limit, both physically and mentally!
Carmela and Colin Pearson had some unusual guests at their wedding and they brought them along on their honeymoon as well! Biking is an integral part of their lives and they couldn’t do without their bikes at either their cycling-themed ceremony or on their honeymoon ride from Bangkok to Phuket. Along the way Carmela posted photos daily and commented that “our honeymoon is full of interesting culture, good food and great Thai hospitality.” Check out some of their photos below. It is a truly special couple that can spend their honeymoon cycling more than 850 kilometres and we congratulate them both!
Kristina Isberg and Peter Fenczik had this to say about their recent bicycle tour through Kerala – “We highly recommend it as a fantastic way to see beautiful Kerala!” Check out their great blog about the tour here: http://www.peteandkristinaroam.blogspot.com/2013/02/kochi-to-munnar-cycling-from-sea-to-tea.html