Around the world in eighty days…

Well it’s 84 days actually and in exactly one month’s time we’ll be stepping off the plane in Rio, on our way to Guapiassu bird lodge in the Brazilian atlantic rain forest – the first stop on our big world birding adventure! Absolutely no cycling and very few medieval churches involved either!

Our trip, which has been built on a ’round the world’ air ticket with a number of supplementary internal flights, takes us from Brazil to Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Chile – for the wedding of our son Joe, and then on to Australia and finally Thailand. Most of the itinerary is ‘self-guided’, with a little help in the three tropical destinations in South America, son Dan in NSW and the assistance of our good friends, Neil & Eunice, in Thailand. I’m not really sure what to expect in terms of birding totals – could perhaps be up to 1200 in all, but having been to a few of these countries before, I guess that the number of new species might be in the region of 450? I’m taking plenty of photographic equipment so hope to come back with a good record of our adventures and provide some interesting images to illustrate this blog along the way.

In planning and preparation terms we’re 95% there – just a few more transport details to attend to and then the meticulous packing process. Twelve weeks away without some ‘essential item’ doesn’t bear thinking about! Mind you, my packing list doesn’t look any different than when we go away for a fortnight – am I missing something?

Must go now – trying to get my existing world ‘life list’ into shape before the ‘tsunami of ticks’ descends! I’ll let you know how the preparations are going before our grand departure – after that it’ll be down to the vagaries of the world wide web…!

A taste of things to come……

Scarlet Macaw

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Violet Sabrewing

Collard Aracari

Magellanic Penguin

Superb Fairy-Wren

Go Wiggo go…!

Having missed out on the Olympic Road Race – I did my first cycle ride to the historic churches of Norfolk (HCoN) instead, we  decided to catch up on some ‘live’ Olympic action by going to the men’s and women’s time trials at Hampton Court. Not having tickets for the start/finish – well there’s a surprise, we had to find a decent spot along the route. The men’s course, being longer than the women’s, had extra bits added at the start and finish, so figured that the closest place to see the combined finishing sections would be Kingston bridge. We set off early from Peterborough to secure our place – well not as early as we had planned and as a consequence missed our booked train! Two new (full price!) tickets later and we were on our way. We arrived in Kingston about half past ten, two hours before the start of the women’s race and nearly three before they were due to arrive. The town centre was already busy but we managed to secure a good spot, on the bend, at the beginning of Kingston Bridge. By the time my brother and his family joined us we were three deep at the barriers and the pre-race atmosphere was beginning to build, aided through the afternoon by a steady supply of ‘bubbly’ – thanks Stig & Kate! The women’s race was a great prelude to the men’s event, where we realistically  had our best medal chances. In the event Emma Pooley came 6th and Lizzy Armitstead came 9th – Well done girls! The race was won by Kristin Armstrong USA, second was Judith Arndt, Germany and third, the Russian girl Olga Zabelinskaya.

Lizzy Armitstead  – 9th place

Emma Pooley – 6th place

In the men’s race hopes were high for a medal, after Bradley Wiggins’ success in Le Tour and after the crushing disappointment of Mark Cavendish, in the Road Race. In the event, we were not to be denied..Wiggo was ‘on fire’ and got gold, with only Tony Martin, Germany, separating Brad from bronze medal winner Chris Froome. What a day for British cycling…!

Go Wiggo go…..!

In second place, Tony Martin, Germany

….and in bronze position, second in the Tour de France, Chris Froome

Well done Team GB…just brilliant!

In the beginning…

Last Saturday I did a ‘test ride’ for my next cycling adventure – visiting and photographing all the historic churches of Norfolk. I set off early morning to make sure I was back home in time to enjoy the finish of the Olympic Men’s Road Race and hopefully see Mark Cavendish sprint to Gold medal success – I should have taken my time! But see my next blog from the Olympic Time Trial.

I’d planned a circular ride, starting with my home church of  St John the Baptist, Aylmerton, heading north to Beeston, east through Cromer and out along the coast to Trimingham, then turning inland through Trunch to the outskirts of North Walsham, west through Erpingham before finally heading north, through Alby and Roughton, to home. I visited 22 churches in total and covered 42 miles in a time of about five and a half hours. Lessons learned on this first outing:

*   Always take a back up camera – first, my battery started to die and then my lens broke! Fortunately I was within the last few miles and I could amend the route and revisit the missed churches without too much effort. That wouldn’t be the case if I was down on the Suffolk border.

*   There are many fewer cafes in remote rural Norfolk than there were on our John O’Groats to Land’s End epic, so take a flask and a supply of flapjack!

*   If you start off too early, many of the churches are still locked. Actually I was surprised at the number that were open later in the day – it’s nice to be able to see inside as well as snap the exterior.

*   It’s surprising how easy it is for churches to ‘hide’ once you get into the villages – so I need to research the route more carefully to avoid constantly getting the map out.

*   Unlike the End2End rides, it only a couple of miles between each stop – this is a different kind of cycle ride. Things will obviously change once I start visiting locations further from home though.

*   I like it – it’s nice to be back on the bike and the prospect of visiting almost every community in Norfolk over the next few years excites me!

Here are a few of the photos I managed to salvage from the broken camera and a copy of the route. I hope you enjoy these excursions to the historic churches of Norfolk as much as I intend to!

Finally, a list of the churches visited:

Aylmerton, Beeston, West Runton, Cromer, Overstrand, North Repps, Sidestrand,  Trimingham, Gimingham, South Repps, Trunch, Swafield, Bradfield, Antingham, Suffield, Colby, Erpingham, Calthorpe, Thwaite, Alby, Roughton and Metton.

If anyone out there has done a similar thing or can see that I’ve missed out on an historic church somewhere on my travels, do please leave a comment…See you next time.