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.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 7 - Mechanical problem sets a challenge

Wednesday 11 February.  My usual morning ritual of loading up the day's route on to the Garmin didn't quite go according to plan - when I tried to look at it, the screen said I was in Libya.  Near the Egyptian border, to be fair. Of course this caused me some consternation - I had a good look around and was sure I was in the same place where I went to bed last night, and as there was only one junction on the whole day's ride today I reckoned I could cope without satnav!

I prepare to cycle to El Alamein
I went for some breakfast and found that Ken had already set off, concerned that the prospect of a long climb and gravel roads might make for a long day.  Leaving Deloraine on the A5 we passed road works and rode through fields before keeping left at the only junction and entering woodland where Cockatoos were squawking and Kookaburras laughing.

Those of you who've visited Lanzarote may be reminded of the Timanfaya emblem here
Don't think, just pedal
The road started to climb and then dipped briefly through the hamlet of Golden Valley (they do have some lovely names!) before settling into a serious ascent, not steep at 6-10% but relentless.  A left turn was signposted to Liffey Falls and a few riders decided to have a look, though it was quite a long rough detour and opinion was divided as to whether it was worth it.  When we had set off Richard said that he wouldn't recommend it, so of course who decided to go? - Richard, of course!

Grand Designs on the Central Plateau

One of only two monotreme species in the world - an Echidna, or Spiny Ant-eater
Quite a few of us were quite close together at this point, when Irene spotted an Echidna at the roadside and of course we stopped to have a look at this large, long-nosed, snuffly, egg-laying hedgehog-type thing.

L-R Irene, Sue, John Valerie, Steve
I expected the road to top out at about 1,000 m but it kept on climbing to an impressive 1210 m instead before levelling out in quite dramatic scenery with big rock outcrops and small lakes.  A gravel car park with information board and overlooking Great Lake appeared so we decided to have a lunch stop (bread roll and banana for me again!)  It was lovely and sunny now, and quite warm too.

Great Lake

At this point the road turned to gravel for about a mile, including some nice downhill hairpins, then back to tarmac as it passed through several miles of cabins, static homes and other generally shabby stuff a bit reminiscent of Dungeness.  Presumably lots of these were weekend fishing retreats, but others had a certain Bohemian appearance.

Further on the road reverted to gravel once more, this time for 19 km, but the surface was quite good, just needing a bit of concentration to keep away from the occasional stretch of 'washboard'.  Most passing cars slowed down, and the ones that didn't received a dusty curse! Then what was this strange feeling? A tailwind? Now that doesn't happen very often, but it was very welcome. In fact towards the end of the gravel I was spinning along at 20+mph which was a great feeling!

The only one of our group at the Great Lake Hotel on the outskirts of Miena was Helen, and she was quenching her thirst in the bar. I ordered a pint of lager shandy ($7.50!) and got 15 fl oz. On further enquiry from the bar person lady it turned out they only did 10 oz or 15 oz:  this was the first time I'd come across this practice, which I was to find is commonplace in Australia.  Now, I thought our Aussie friends were big drinkers, but if they're only quaffing these 'stubbies' it suddenly becomes less impressive!

Later in the evening I ordered "Three-quarters of a pint of James Boag's please". I don't think the bar person lady was amused.

Our rooms were quite small and looked rather like stables from the outside. I decided that my saddle needed raising by about a centimetre, so slackened off the pinch bolt, lifted the saddle up, tightened the bolt and "bang!" - it sheared. I realised this was going to be a problem, as without it the saddle not only drops 6 inches (much too low) but also there's nothing to stop it swivelling. And pinch bolts aren't the kind of thing you carry as a spare.

I went into the bar and asked if there was a hardware store in town. No chance. Someone said he could look in the back of his pickup, so out we went to have a route around. We found a bolt but no nut, then another with the nut almost completely rusted on. I nipped over to the little store by the petrol pumps and with the help of lots of WD-40 got the nut to turn. But then, back at the bike, the bolt turned out to be too short. Just then a couple arrived at a nearby room (stall?) and the husband asked what I was up to. So he had a route around in the boot of his car and found a coach bolt (and nut) which were a perfect fit apart from being two inches too long. Then he found a small hacksaw. Brilliant!  Five minutes later the job was neatly finished and to my relief I had a serviceable bike again. 

We had a jovial dinner at the hotel. I had the world's largest pizza, which the chef said he cooked himself and I don't believe a word of it - it arrived in a big cardboard box and was obviously put together in a factory. I'll accept that he re-heated it himself... Before dinner UK John had been totally frustrated by the bar person lady serving all the locals before him, even though he was there first. Both parties were getting a bit annoyed with each other. Later I spoke to her very nicely and got some extra Weet-Bix for our in-room breakfast. One needs the calories.

The end of another day, sunset over Great Lake
Total mileage now 155, with a run to Hamilton tomorrow that looks interesting.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 6 - What a Fruitcake!

Heading out of Sheffield towards Mt Roland

Tuesday 10 February.  I like to think I learn from my mistakes, and having run out of food on Sunday when I really needed energy, yesterday I spotted a fruit cake in the Sheffield Supermarket. Weighing in at 800g - almost 2lb - it looked pretty good value on the $ per calorie scale. But it's so heavy I think I've added 10% to the weight of the bike! I saved the clingfilm off everyone's breakfast slices of bread, cut it into four (and the fourth piece into three) then carefully wrapped them all up and stashed them somewhere near the bottom of the panniers where they could keep my centre of gravity low!

I wish!

Meanwhile Richard, not wanting to waste some red wine that he'd bought, was rinsing out milk cartons so he could take it with him, although not to drink en route, I presume.  Having bought a couple of bananas and a bread roll (reverting to my standard luncheon fayre!) we set off en masse just after 8.30, and after a short descent past fields and ponds (with Black Swans, Hoary-headed Grebes, Coots and Chestnut Teal), headed towards Mount Roland.

The very noisy and not-at-all musical Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were making an awful squawking din as the road once again swung upwards and started a long climb through woodland reminiscent of Delamere Forest in Cheshire. The eucalyptus trees, not surprisingly, have a wonderful smell, whilst the birds are loud and generally raucous, apart from the surprisingly musical song of the Australian Magpie.

Not Delamere Forest - wrong kind of trees
From the summit a great descent took me down to gently rolling fields again and for the rest of the day the roads were reasonably flat. But first of all I reduced that weight by having a delicious slice of fruit cake. Dry fields, hedgerows - some neat, some not so neat - and roadkills. Did I mention roadkills before? Well they are everywhere in Tasmania - mainly Bush-tailed Possums, Wallabies, Pademelons (another species of wallaby) but also the occasional Tasmanian Devil and other unidentified corpses. Whatever these animals eat, it doesn't decompose gracefully, because you can usually smell a roadkill before you see it - a really disgusting smell! I've read that there are more wallabies than people in Tassie, but surely this rate of attrition is unsustainable - there really are an awful lot of dead animals in the road.  Best to treat them like smelly roundabouts I guess.

Bush-tailed Possum. Dead. Not too smelly yet either

The ladies were having problems - Valerie rode by with her helmet on top of a pannier (overheating); Irene complained of a noisy pedal and Helen a noisy bottom bracket.  Was my bike behaving itself too well, or was it saving up a problem until later?  We shall see.

If this reminds you of Sylvester the cat, you're getting old
Spotted at Mole Creek

Bezzey's Cafe
Arriving at the very tidy Mole Creek, clearly one of Tasmania's best kept villages, I joined the others at Bezzey's cafe where the only person serving was coming under pressure. Just in time another lady arrived to help out, and said to me (at the back of the queue) "I guess you're the slowest ey?" to which I replied "That's a bit rich when you've just traipsed in half an hour late!" I think she appreciated my attempt at humour. Well the coffee tasted alright...

Our tour leader takes a break
I'd love to know the story behind this. And the ultimate insult - to mis-spell Patricia

I wish I'd taken a photo of the sign saying 'Unicorn Poo'
Past a very odd sign on a building (no clues, sorry), past a honey museum, then an easy finish to Deloraine, which, like several other towns in Tasmania, seems to have learned the knack of hiding its town centre. Whichever through road you take, you don't seem to see the centre, and roadsigns don't seem to help. You just have to ask, I guess, and then there it is, a reasonable sized centre that isn't on the road to anywhere!

Thought I was back in Yellowstone for a moment...
This is a Social Huntsman, though I don't think you'd want to get too social with it...
Message from Val on the other side of the world - "You've hung your cycling top the wrong way up!"
Having got over the shock of an enormous spider (dead) I got showered and changed, hung out my laundry on the rotary dryer and then went off to find the town centre. Ken tried ordering a sandwich for tomorrow, and got the American Twenty-Questions treatment which he didn't appreciate as he couldn't hear a word the girl was saying!

For those who remember Shoshone Lodge ('Complaints Department -> 300 miles' here's another one!
The dining room at the motel was quite interesting. Everything had the date 1818 stamped on it, there were photos of the old loggers sawing massive trees, and copies of the Launceston newspaper from 1818. Pity there was no one left from 1818 to ask what was going on. A hearty dinner, a couple of James Boag's draught and then another early night prior to a big climb and lots of gravel road tomorrow on the way to Miena.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 5

Monday 9 February.  We slept in a sort of duplex room, rather swish really - two en suite twin bedrooms with a living / kitchen in the middle.  Making his morning toast, Richard discovered that the smoke alarm was a bit on the sensitive side, and had to stand on a chair to knock it off.  Ken never heard it.  Note to self: if there's a real fire, make sure Ken's OK 'cause he won't hear the alarm.  Actually, now that I think about it, the twin rooms had one single bed and one double. I gave Ken the double which seemed to make up for the disappointment of the night before.

It was overcast and chilly. I nipped across the road to buy a sandwich (too much meat, like America), then Greg the bus driver arrived with his little bus to take us to Cradle Mountain about 40 miles away. The route included some pretty big ascents and descents which wouldn't have looked out of place on yesterday's ride. We went through a hamlet called Promised Land (Greg said "We'll go back via Paradise") and a large upland area called Middlesex where there were lots of dead trees.  Apparently these all died during a serious and prolonged drought a few years ago.

We arrived at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, paid our $16.50, had a coffee and then got on the Shuttle Bus which took us up to Dove Lake (photo above) , where there are superb views of Cradle Mountain itself (photo above). Black Currawongs - yellow-eyed crows - patrolled the car park ready to snatch any titbit. Most of the group opted to walk around the lake and then get the bus back. I worked out that I just had enough time to walk the six or seven miles back to the Visitor Centre, and Richard decided to come with me.

Black Currawong

The landscape was interesting, a different kind of upland compared to the UK, with rocky paths, small ponds, strange palm-tree-like plants, boardwalks with basking skinks (the sun was beginning to come out). It looks like it should be boggy but it's quite dry. We visited the reconstructed wooden chalet at Waldheim which pioneer Gustav Weindorfer built in the early 1900s. We had hoped to see Wombats, Echidnas and Tasmanian Devils, but they were all hiding.

I think this is a Mountain Skink

The Waldheim Chalet

Eastern Rosella
Forest Raven I think

At Snake Hill we looked at the map and Richard decided to catch the Shuttle Bus the rest of the way.  I reckoned that if I got a wiggle on I had just enough time to reach the Visitor Centre by 3.00 when the bus driver wanted to leave.  Nothing much interesting on the rest of the walk, and when I reached the Visitor Centre at 2.50 I found it was the Interpretation Centre and there were still another 2 km to go - Ooops!!

I almost ran the last 2 km and arrived at the Visitor Centre car park at 3.05, boarding the bus with those eternal words - "Am I the last?" I think I just got away with it.  We did indeed go through Paradise on the way back, and returning to the motel I helped myself to another doughnut, visited the nearby 'emporium' (they seem to like these big junk shops in Tassie, selling everything including toilet seats and memorabilia). I had a look at a few more murals and called it a day.

Go on, you know you want to lift the seat up....

Sheffield murals
As the Currawong flies we're still not far from Devonport, but tomorrow we head to Deloraine and start to travel south, eventually to Hobart in a few days' time.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 4

Sunday 8 February.  The motel doesn't do breakfast (not many do!) so it's a quick stroll along the road to the Bakehouse in Penguin for a coffee and a slice of pizza made, rather strangely, on a slice of ordinary bread. This and a coffee will do, I think, and I don't buy anything else to eat either, a decision I come to regret later as I underestimate the difficulty of the ride to come today.

Ken locks the door to our room and a split-second later realises that he's left his gloves behind.  But he can't get them back because the proprietor doesn't live on the premises, so has to set off without, looking a bit glum.

After a brief team photo alongside another big penguin, we get going to find that the road out of town is bloomin' steep! Lungs start to strain for the first time this week, chains drop off the inside of granny gears, whilst I try to stay detached from the chaos and pedal serenely, if slowly, up the hill into open countryside. Helen, who had been feeling under the weather, had decided to take the much shorter direct route to Sheffield, with little climbing but missing out the Wildlife Park at Gunns Plains.

It could be England, except I don't think we have so many cows any more
It's agricultural again, with lots of dairy cows - more than you'd see in England these days - and interesting to see that most farms have small lakes {or large ponds) all over the place, no doubt for storing  irrigation water.  Cattle Egrets, White-faced Herons, and smaller birds like Greenfinches are to be seen as we climb more gently now over the next few miles to reach 400 m above sea level and a very useful filling station / general store.

Time for a coffee and something light to eat.  Then the descent to Gunns Plains is incredibly steep and short, and I can't help thinking that it would have been a challenge in the opposite direction, to say the least!

Looking down to Gunns Plains
The sky was clear and blue, and the heat was building as we arrived at Wings Wildlife Park on Gunns Plains. After a bit of banter during which I failed to get the admissions lady to let me in for a concessionary fee, I went in with the others to look at the various animals kept in open air surroundings - a Koala (very sleepy), Tasmanian Devils (very creepy), Eastern Grey Kangaroos, a Wombat, Meerkats (African, surely?), Kookaburras, Black Swans, snakes, and so on.

The Tasmanian Devil has a bite which, pound for pound, is stronger than a Great White Shark,
Did you know there are three species of snake native to Tasmania?  All of them poisonous, potentially fatally - the White-lipped, Lowland Copperhead and the Tiger Snake.  If you get bitten by one, you need to be given anti-venom quickly, but what if you don't know what kind of snake it was?  The answer is - it doesn't matter, because the clever people in Tasmania provide a 'three-in-one' anti-venom with serum from all three species.  What a good idea!

Onwards and upwards...

I had a coffee and a large slice of carrot cake, but it wasn't large enough.  If I thought the next few miles of gentle pedalling were going to be typical of the rest of the day, I was to be sadly mistaken.  After following a very pretty wooded river downstream for a while the road kicked uphill and then went up, and up, and up. It seemed never-ending, and when it did end the descent was short and sweet, before a brief easy section - past fields of opium poppies (OPIUM POPPIES?!!) and then another long, long climb.  Followed by two or three miles of gravel road.  At one point a pick-up sped by in the opposite direction, not slowing down at all and churning up clouds of dust that had me spitting pulverised road for some time! Grrrr!

Do mine eyes deceive me?  Opium?!
There was still a long way to go and I was averaging little more than 8 mph. Nowhere was flat. Every downhill was brief and followed by a much longer uphill.  I'd run out of food - and energy, and was running low on water.  A short easy section took me to a bridge over the River Forth:  Richard caught me here and gave me an energy bar - phew!

WHERE is Richard taking us now?
Only 12 miles to go but... what a climb followed! A huge monster of a climb, past a dam and hydro-electric plant, up and up.  When this had finished and there were only 7 or 8 miles to go, there were still uphill gradients and now a headwind.  All I could do was look at my front fork as I pedalled away.  Eventually, after seven hours pedalling, I arrived at the motel in Sheffield, to a cheery welcome from the proprietors and a DOUGHNUT! Yummy!

I was one of the first there, and (almost to my surprise) the others eventually arrived, marvelling at Helen's wisdom in taking the short cut from Penguin.  A quick shower and laundry then across the road for a beer and crisps before joining everyone else at the evening meal.  Lots of pasta.

Sheffield is Tasmania's town of murals, but they would have to wait.  No cycling tomorrow as Richard has arranged a bus trip to the famous Cradle Mountain area, where we can use our walking muscles instead of cycling muscles.

56 miles today, making a total of 80 so far.