I'm a double cancer survivor, cyclist and walker who does various challenges for different charities, mainly cancer-related.

My latest trip was a three-week tour of Tasmania in February 2015; amongst other things, I've cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (2003), Rotterdam to Lemvig (Denmark) (2005), walked the Pennine Way (2008) completed the ascent of all 214 'Wainwrights' in the Lake District in only 55 days (2009), cycled 4,500 miles around the coast of Great Britain (2011), cycled all 42 of the accessible Western Isles of Scotland in under a month (2012), twice abseiled 230 ft from the top of The Big One in Blackpool, cycled the WWI Western Front from London to Compiegne via Ypres and Arras (2014) and cycled 750 miles in the Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton (2014).

Altogether I've raised over £70,000 for my charities including The Christie, Cancer Research UK, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity) and I was mightily chuffed to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

I'm a Rotarian and give illustrated talks about my adventures in exchange for a donation to charity, so if you're looking for a speaker leave me a message. I am also Event Organiser for the Ribble Valley Ride Cycle Sportive, to be held this year on Sunday 14 June 2015 - more details at www.ribblevalleyride.org

You can also follow me on Twitter - @CancerBikeMan and on Facebook - just search for Bill Honeywell

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, whilst The Rosemere does fantastic work for patients in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Days 20 & 21 - The Journey Home

View of Dubai from the A380
Tuesday 24 February. A bit of a non-morning as we wait to be picked up and taken to the small airport at Devonport around 11.30. Not enough time to do anything in particular, but I did have a wander down to the beach where I did a bit of rock-pool hunting. I found a shore crab which was small but looked fierce!

I thought this flower looked very pretty...

...and this shore crab very fierce!
Greg, the bus driver, arrived with trailer attached, and once the bikes had been loaded up we were soon at the airport. I was pleased to learn when we checked in that I wouldn't have to manhandle the bicycle through Melbourne Airport - it was checked all the way through to Manchester. Which reminds me - I was only going as far as Melbourne with the rest of the group - those returning to the UK had a flight to Dubai, then Heathrow and finally Manchester. Having booked separately, I would be flying from Melbourne to Dubai via Singapore, then direct to Manchester (saving time and money!).

The plane was delayed by half an hour or so, which had John and Sue worried as they were already a bit tight for time for their connection to Sydney and this would cut down their margin even further. As soon as we took off, we flew directly over the Comfort Sunrise Motel and then out to sea, where I'm sure I saw a big whale far below...

Real propellors on the deceptively comfortable flight across the Bass Strait
The flight is nearly 250 miles so takes just over an hour. Transit through Melbourne was easy but I had a few hours wait for my flight, spent mainly gazing out of the window at the Boeing 777 I was on, and wondering how much more freight they could load on before it was unable to take off!

Once the flight was underway it was a question of keep turning my watch back and getting bedsores on my bum! Over seven hours to Changi at Singapore, where there was a 90-minute break, then another 7+ hours to Dubai. At Singapore I was allocated a new seat: I asked if I was being upgraded to business class and was politely told "No, but you're getting close!" And in fact I was, just behind the business section and luckily next to two empty seats in the central aisle, so I could at least stretch out a bit.

The Social Tree at Changi Airport, Singapore
We flew over India and it was daylight when we arrived at Dubai, where another wait was required before the next flight on an A380 Airbus left at around 0730. There's a bit more room on this one but still the worry that it can't possibly take off, it's so massive! Now we flew over Iran, Turkey and Europe for another seven hours before finally arriving at Manchester around 1130 local time on Thursday. The bike arrived by the carousel looking OK, although once I'd arrived home I found that - as last time - one of the gear shifters had been broken. I'm going to have to work on that problem next time.



And so ended my Tour of Tasmania.  Three weeks of fabulous scenery, plenty of hills (of course!), good companionship, and lots of wildlife and other interesting things to see. My first trip to Australia, first crossing of the Equator, and first pint of James Boag's beer. Now I have to catch up at home before setting off for the seas north of the Faroe Islands to try and catch a glimpse of the next total solar eclipse on 20 March. Will I be successful? Perhaps I'll write up the journey in this blog...

I hope you've enjoyed reading this on-line diary. Feel free to make any comments and if you're in my part of the world and looking for a speaker, let me know. In fact, if you're anywhere in the world and (a) want a speaker and (b) are prepared to cover travelling expenses, let me know!!


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Days 18 & 19 - Around Devonport by bike and on foot

The Spirit of Tasmania heading for Devonport
Sunday 22 February. It might be a rest day, but when the sun's shining and there's places to see, what do you do? - You get on yer bike, of course! Heading out towards Port Sorrell we found cycle paths along the shoreline of the Mersey which took us out of Devonport. I encountered a local cyclist who was out for a Sunday morning ride. He turned out to be from the Netherlands originally, and we passed the time chatting for a while until our routes diverged.

I just wish we could have looked inside!
Port Sorrell wasn't quite as interesting as it sounded, made up for the most part of retirement homes, but there were a couple of cafes and after a short coffee stop we headed for the beach. Deborah had even brought her swimming costume and was soon in the sea, which she reported as fresh! It certainly looked good, a deep blue under a bright sky.

The beach at Port Sorrell
On the return journey we headed inland for a while through lovely countryside before revisiting Latrobe. There's a visitor centre here - the Australian Axeman's Hall of Fame, apparently where the first-ever world wood-chopping championships were held in 1891. Today it seemed to be mainly sunday market stalls so - perhaps wrongly - I gave it a miss and headed back alone along River Road back to Devonport.

Masked Lapwings are everywhere in Tasmania
Platypus sculpture in Latrobe
In the evening we all went out for a meal together - a 'last supper' where Richard was presented with a Tasmanian cycle top in recognition of his fine job as tour leader, and I was delegated to make a short speech.

Perhaps it would have been easier with one of these...
The following day, Monday 23 Feb, we started the day by dismantling and packing our bikes ready for the flight home tomorrow. Well, some of us were going home - Richard was going to Geelong to spend a week with son Paul, Valerie was staying for a while in Australia where her daughter lives, and John & Sue were off for a week's walking in the Blue Mountains before they headed back. John H was leaving today to return to Nebraska, so only seven of us would actually be flying back to the UK.

Yellow-throated Honeyeater (courtesy of Flicker)
Once the bikes were packed, Richard and I headed for the town's cycle shop for a general look around, admiring the latest electronic gear shifters, and then after a quick bite to eat in the town centre we carried on out towards Mersey Bluff and Coles Beach on foot. Birdlife was good, with Pied Cormorants occupying their rock just offshore and lots of birds in the woodland including Yellow-throated Honey-eater, Fairy Wrens and Kookaburras, three of which posed beautifully.

Kookaburras looking like the Frys Chocolate boys

Fairy-wren
In the evening the ten of us who were left (Valerie had flown to the mainland today) ate at the motel. Having seen Chicken Schnitzel on every menu for the last three weeks, I decided to finally try it, only to discover that it's basically a very flat piece of chicken breast in breadcrumbs.

Tomorrow we start our flight home. It's going to be a long way...

36.6 miles on Sunday, making a final total of 632.3 for the whole tour.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 17 - Launceston to Devonport - 
with a (successful) Duck-billed Platypus hunt

Small Black Cormorant with Silver Gulls
Saturday 21 February. A sunny start from the Penny Royal in Launceston and on to an off-road cycle track almost immediately, running along the water's edge. Deborah is still suffering from an upset tummy which she thinks is caused by Campylobacter on some seafood or chicken.

Just before we reach the main road we pass a water outfall with Pelicans, Cormorants and Silver Gulls:  then it's on to a dual carriageway through the suburbs. Saturday morning must be the day for club cycle rides as we've never seen so many cyclists in Tasmania before.

Australian Pelican
After ten miles or so a quiet road turns off to the right to run along the edge of the River Tamar until we get to Exeter. I can just about cope with Launceston being on the Tamar, but not Exeter! It's another example of the somewhat random way that the early Tasmanians named their towns and rivers - Devonport on the north coast, astride the River Mersey, Sheffield to the south, and St Helens on the east coast - very confusing!

Kookaburra
This pleasant stretch took us to Exeter where we turned inland. The others raced ahead while I lingered long enough to catch sight of a fine Kookaburra in the higher branches of a gum tree. We all stopped at the cafe in Glengarry, where the generously-bearded owner told us he was born in Cornwall, although he was pretty young when he came out with his parents on £10 flights. He was very chatty and it was a while before I realised he was wearing some kind of skirt, rather like a Roman centurion. Mmm.

A long gradient followed and thankfully the sun went in for a while. The hill was blessed with many false tops, and along this wooded, undulating plateau the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were screeching while the Black-cockatoos flew lumberingly above like large raptors. At Frankford there was another cafe where most of us stopped for another coffee and lovely home-made cake, but on this occasion I kept on going, through woods and fields, until a long descent back towards sea-level.

They have some unusual letter boxes in Tasmania!
Having crossed the River Styx earlier in the tour, it was now the turn of the Rubicon, meandering lazily through a salt-marsh area - we couldn't have been far from the sea. Then another detour through fields and a particularly attractive avenue of trees, past an irrigation pump that was badly adjusted and threatened to soak me to the skin if I didn't get my timing right. Not much point watering the road, I thought.

No turning back now
Next up was the small town of Latrobe and another cafe stop. There are plenty of shops in this small town, including Reliquaire, a huge Tardis-like building full of bric-a-brac and junk. Richard likes this kind of place - this was the second one he'd brought us to, the first being in Sheffield. I prefer modern design but the sheer volume of old and antique items for sale was quite amazing.



Finally to Devonport along the scenic River Road, following and then crossing the Mersey, until we were back at the Sunrise Comfort Motel where we had started our tour about a fortnight earlier.

River Road, Latrobe
But in the evening we were in for a treat, heading back to Latrobe (some on bikes, some by taxi) where we'd arranged with the local nature reserve rangers to look for Duck-billed Platypus in the quiet backwaters and landlocked ponds by the river. After an initial mix-up on our meeting place we found our way to a quiet lake and, having waited for what seemed like ages, saw the Platypus emerge and go feeding. They dive for a minute or so and feel for their food with their amazing leathery bill which is packed with sense organs.

Platypuses are really unusual, primitive mammals - not far removed from reptiles but with fur. They lay eggs and the mother suckles the young with milk, although she lacks any teats: the milk is just exuded from the mammary glands and the youngster laps it up.

With the light failing it was difficult to get a decent still shot, but I took a video which seemed much better. Be patient, as I haven't edited it, but the bit where she rolls over to scratch her belly is rather cute! It's at

Back to Devonport and another first - a sandwich from Subway! - and then off to bed.

An interesting day. 59 miles, making a total of 596 so far.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 16 - Rest Day in Launceston

Looking downstream near the mouth of Cataract Gorge
Friday 20 February was to be a non-cycling day, and why not? There's plenty to see and do in Tasmania's second city, including an amazing river gorge which has a real wilderness feel about it despite being so near the bustling centre.  So, as the sky was blue and the day promised warmth and comfort, four of us (me, RIchard, Tony and Deborah) made our way by walking about 100 metres from the hotel to the path at the entrance of Cataract Gorge. A steep climb soon warmed us up as we reached the 'First Basin' where there were cafes and a chairlift which is almost horizontal and is in fact the longest single-span chairlift in the entire world.

On the way up to First Basin

First Basin is there behind the suspension bridge

On the way up to Sentinel Point Richard tries to dislodge this chock-stone

A little further on, not yet crossing the pretty suspension bridge, the path climbed again above the gorge to Sentinel Point. Looking down on the river, it was a bit reminiscent of the River Tees in the Low Force area, and indeed the underlying rock of both Cataract Gorge and the River Tees is hard, igneous dolerite. Skinks, brightly-coloured beetles and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos drew our attention before we reached the viewing platform and then headed back, crossing the suspension bridge to our first cafe stop.

Cataract Gorge

If this beetle has a name, I don't know it!

One of many skinks

Sentinel Point
Here were Peacocks, Peahens, and baby peacocks (Chickpeas?), and also a group of local Rotarians who were hosting a group of fellow Rotarians from Sweden, so we had a chat with them and discussed our respective clubs before having the compulsory coffee and vanilla slice. We were sitting under a Ginkgo biloba tree, which - if you didn't already know - is like a living fossil, a tree with no close living relatives anywhere in the world. The Ginkgo belongs to an Order all on its own - the Ginkgoales - most of which appeared in the Cretaceous period and became extinct long before the Palaeocene. There were also Sequoias and other specimen trees here.


Ginkgo leaf (Google images)

Ginkgo tree (Google images)

Sequoia
After getting back to the road and checking out the start of tomorrow's route, we wandered through the waterside area, had lunch at a cheap restaurant and then went back to the city centre. The Launceston Design Centre was a bit disappointing, being more of a showcase for furniture on sale, although there were a few rather clever ideas there.

They even have river cruises here!

As you can imagine these two machines caught Richard's eye

One of Launceston's colonial-style buildings
However, we decided to move on to the motor museum for a bit of (a) nostalgia and (b) a sauna. The museum is housed in a basic industrial unit: the reception area/shop is air-conditioned but the main exhibition hall isn't, and today the sun had been high in the sky for some time, so it was a sweat box. And the motorcycle mezzanine was even hotter! So after a wallow amongst the motor cars of yesteryear, we headed through the park into the town centre for a large ice-cream.

A Spotted Dove in the park
I also bought some factor 50 sun cream. The lady who served me said she currently had visitors from Hull who had brought some factor 15 with them. She was surprised because it isn't possible to buy factor 15 in Tasmania on the basis that it's effectively useless!

Once more we found restaurants pretty well booked up in the evening, although after splitting up we did all manage to get a table. We went to 'Sails' and Richard had the duck. When he went to pay on the way out, the girl couldn't understand his accent and only managed to grasp what he'd eaten when he said 'DACK'!

Back to the room, pack ready for a longish day tomorrow and a 7.30 start. A hot day today.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 15 - Scottsdale to Launceston - Erratics, Echidnas and Eucalyptus

The view from Myrtle Bank

Thursday 19 February.  I didn't mind the fact that my single bedroom last night was tiny, but the lack of opening windows made it difficult to get clothes dry. I think I decided to put on my spare pair of shorts for the first time, so I could 'peg' the damp ones on to the rear bike bag to get them dry.  Breakfast was a bit on the scant side, so when I set off I went looking for a bakery. When I drew a blank I called in at a cafe where the owner was happy to sell me a couple of bread rolls, a banana and a choccy bar.

Rush hour, Scottsdale
On the edge of town is the strange-looking building which houses the Forest Eco Centre. As someone once said, it looks like the Martians have crash-landed their spaceship in the paddock, and if I'd known more about it I'd have stopped to look around, except that we were too early and it wasn't open. There's an information centre about Tasmania's wood and woodlands. Now the road undulated steeply through pastoral scenery with lots of glacial erratics (boulders left behind after the last ice-age) and a pretty carving on a massive tree stump.  

Sottsdale Eco Forest Center

A glacial erratic the size of a small car

Too much spare time with a chain saw. Actually it's rather good.
The day's big climb started after about seven miles - over 400 m to the top of Myrtle Bank, and despite being reunited with those heavy panniers I climbed quite well, passing a few colleagues on the way up and almost (but not quite) keeping up with Irene.

This seemed strangely ironic as I passed it not far from the top of the hill


Near the top was an excellent lookout with great views of the NE corner of the island, plus very distant views of Cape Barren and Flinders Islands. After a strangely undulating top (the hill didn't seem to want to give up!) we eventually dropped, gradually, through woodland and surroundings with an almost moor-like quality, until we saw the Myrtle Campsite, and although no-one else had stopped, five of us (me, John, Sue, Steve, Irene) called in for a machine-made cuppa and a quick break, noticing how cheap overnight stays were (about $6 per night for a camper or caravan).

Sue spotted an Echidna by the roadside soon after. I hung on for several minutes hoping it would spring into life, but without luck as it stubbornly buried its snout in the ground and, apart from the odd bad-tempered shuffle, showed little signs of activity. When I set off again I was, as usual, a long way behind everyone.



But the countryside was really pleasant here, with a mixture of fields, forests and streams - a joy to cycle through. By the time I reached the next cafe stop, everyone had been and gone, but I wasn't bothered and simply carried on until I reached Launceston, Tasmania's second-largest city. Having navigated my way through the centre, I found the Penny Royal Hotel Apartments, and it being only 1 pm, was too early to check in.

I went looking for the rest of the party and found Tony and Deborah at a nearby cafe, bought a coffee and - as we were sitting outside - polished off my second bread roll and the banana (you've got to admit, I know how to live!) Back at the hotel the rooms weren't quite ready, and now everyone else arrived so we went across the road to a swanky restaurant bar on the water's edge and had... a beer! It was now very warm and the cold beer was perfect.

View from 'Still Water', our beer stop
Back to the hotel, checked in (excellent rooms, lots of character in a rare old building) then off for a wander around town where I bought three new inner tubes from the local MTB bike shop, and learnt the new Australian word for 'cool' which is 'prime', pronounced 'proym'. And a huge ice-cream, which was proym.

Penny Royal Hotel Apartments
The only niggle was the evening meal, just across the road, where over an hour passed between us ordering the food and it arriving on the table. Steve and Irene's main course arrived, to be followed some 15 minutes later by the chips they'd ordered with it, and it's fair to say that Steve was not best pleased. Nor did he appreciate the waiter's reply that 'Well, we've only got a small kitchen.' Surely they knew that when they took the order..?

A horrible way to go, but at least he didn't die of starvation whilst waiting for his meal
Never mind, overall an enjoyable day, pretty easy going and full of variety. Tomorrow we stay in Launceston to enjoy the sights before our last decent cycling day, returning to Devonport where we set off two weeks ago.

41 miles today, running total 537 m.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 14 - St Helens to Scottsdale - I make it a hat-trick of punctures on our longest day

That's 4,730', a bit like Ben Nevis on a touring bike
Wednesday 18 February.  It would have been an early start but the caterers were pretty slow off the mark so we didn't get away until 8.00. Our panniers were to be carried for us (see yesterday's post) and it's surprisingly tricky to remember to take everything you need on the day - spares, tools and so on. You'd be cross if you had a puncture if your spare inner tubes were in your panniers in a van somewhere (funny I should say that... read on!)



Mounted on our super-light bikes (!) we left through St Helens's suburbs, soon after which Richard was stopped, looking up at a large bird in a tree to the left, which turned out to be our best sighting of a Wedge-tailed Eagle.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle
Just before Pyengana we came across an Echidna, which Tony and Deborah had seen crossing the road. What I find puzzling is that we normally spotted Echidnas this way - crossing the road - and yet I never saw a single road-kill. Whereas I never saw a wallaby or a possum crossing the road, and there were lots and lots of them sprawled out, lifeless, on the tarmac. An enigma.



During coffee and Kit-Kat at the Pyengana filling station / cafe, I noticed a wooden plaque to the fallen of the two World Wars and was struck by the fact that of the eleven names there were only two surnames - Dobson and Nichols, simultaneously suggesting that this must have been a very tight-knit community and demonstrating the dreadful consequences of conflicts on the other side of the world.

Big ferns (2 metres high)
It began to drizzle as we left, and in fact it rained all the way up the day's longest climb, as we went from just above sea-level to an altitude of 600 m (nearly 2,000'). Along the way were lots of enormous ferns, like bracken on steroids, making you wonder whether you've stepped back in time to the Carboniferous era or earlier.  With a sense of recurring deja vu I noticed my front tyre deflating for the third day in a row, and at the top, where Irene was waiting for Steve and getting very cold, I pumped it up and carried on downhill for a while, into a drier and slightly warmer environment.

Luckily I'd borrowed a spare tube from Tony and stopped to fit it, concluding that my spare from yesterday was probably too small a section. To be honest, I'd probably been a bit blase when packing my spares, because I never get punctures. Now it was becoming a daily chore! Happily it would prove to be the last one (puncture, that is, not inner tube).

Not the pub, just a photogenic old shed!
Not long afterwards we came to a proper pub, at Weldborough. I say a proper pub, but it didn't have a proper welcome. Stopping for a coffee with Steve and Irene, we found the landlady to be cold and severe, and when I asked if I could eat some of my own food she relented only if I went outside with it. Well, I thought, I can eat my own food outside anywhere I like, so I won't be doing it outside your cold pub.

As we were leaving, she lit the fire.

Derby
Lovely house converted from the old town bank
By Derby (pronounced 'Durby' the sun had come out and all was lovely and warm again. More coffee, this time with carrot cake, at the 'Arts' cafe, where there were lots of paintings and other cultural stuff on exhibition everywhere.  Leaving this small town it appeared as though the route would be nice and gentle, but then it started to undulate until a big climb hove into sight - 345 m of Billycock Hill.



Stopping for a brief rest I was watching a bird in the trees which looked unfamiliar. I took some photos but they were against the light, and it was only when I brought them up on the computer and lightened them up that I realised that this was another new bird for me - a Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Finally, a gut-wrenching climb just before Scottsdale, where I got on to Irene's back wheel as she 'towed' me up to the top, only for us to see a long descent and an equally horrendous second hill to the town itself. I went in front expecting to return the compliment but Irene dropped off on the downhill: for some reason I got stick from John later on, who said I was being un-gallant, but I did my best honest, Irene!

I arrived at the hotel in a state of complete knackeredness, to find that the bags had all been left around the back, but mine weren't there. After a brief panic it turned out that Ken had taken mine, thinking we'd be room-sharing when in fact we all had our own individual (tiny) single room. Ken was relieved as he wasn't sure how he was going to swing a cat.

Another early dinner and early night. Tomorrow we head west for Launceston, Tasmania's second city. 61 miles today, grand total so far 496.