Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's monday so this must be Spain...

Got back to Edinburgh on 12th January after what has to be one of the most boring flights ever. Maybe I am getting old or something, or perhaps it was the shitty seat I had (middle seat - hate it) but it did seem worse than usual. On the way out is always much more tolerable as you are going on holiday. Although I was impressed by the bladder control of the window seat woman next to me, didn't get up once on either 12 hour legs of the journey. I was up and down every 10 minutes, and still couldn't get aisle seat woman to swap with me. She must have been peeing sand by the end of that.

Day and a half to change bikes for the road bike, and flight to Murcia. Lots of driving about in the dark to find the villa. (Must remember to write to the mayor of Fuente Alhamo. Went through it 8 times in two weeks, got lost 6 times)

Cannondale Chris came over for the weekend from Switzerland. He is in training for L'Etape du Tour 2006 so I got to bore him with lots of chat about endurance training, hills and nutrition. He will ride 110 miles on the day with a finish up Alpe D'Huez. Chapeau !!

Spent two weeks doing lots of road riding, with the occasional day off to go for a run along the beach. Murcia and surrounds is a great spot, although the wee town we were in was a bit minging. It was a brand new English and German ghetto. There were lots of nice villas but there were also lots of building sites and bits that looked like concentration camps. Nice. And all the pubs had English football on the tele and english karaoke. Classy. I can see why people want to live there though, the weather was brilliant, only one day of rain and a couple of days when we sat out in shorts and t-shirts.

My friend Petra was over, by chance her sister stays in the same town. Was good to hang out, although the trip to the Hot Springs wasn't such a good idea, Petra fell over in the mud and broke her wrist and spent the rest of her holiday in plaster bad luck.

Julie and I got to do some mountain-biking yippee. We stopped at a cafe one sunday and I saw some guys with mountain bikes speaking English. Went and chatted to them, and they were from Glasgow and staying in the Hotel we had been sent to for bike hire, and agreed to let us come out with them and their guide on monday. Result !! We would have been pretty lost otherwise, masses of great tracks, none marked on the map and absolutely no sign-posting. So big thanks to Callum, Stevie and Dave for a great day out. The bikes we hired were hilarious. Fully rigid with hydraulic v-brakes that were on the wrong hand (but had surprising stopping power) and flat pedals. Once I had got over my initial fear of death and figured out how to stop my feet sliding off the pedals it was excellent fun. Am inspired to finally at last finish rebuilding my hardtail (OK get one of my friends to do it in exchange for dinners and cakes) with flat pedals just for fun.

The picture at the start of this post is L-R, Jenny Wright, Julie Cartner, Pippa Handley and me. And it isn't a perspective trick, I am a foot shorter than them. Hazel Sutherland was with us too but it taking the picture. I of course am stuffing food in my face, but this was the top of a 10k climb so I deserved it !

Sunday, January 08, 2006

5 hours to go....

It's my last day in Wellington, I can't believe how fast it's gone !!

Spent most of this week hanging out with friends and family, and getting in some last minute training on the bike while I had the good weather. Have been dead lucky, it has only rained once the whole time I have been here, and that was overnight. Today is a bizarre weather day in Wellington, scorchio and not a breath of wind. Keeping a close eye on the airport in case the mist comes in but its all looking good so far. Went for a run up in the Tinakori Hills this morning, hanging around Wellington has definitely improved my hill running.

I land at Edinburgh tuesday afternoon, unpack, change bikes, pack again then I'm away to Mazarron in Spain with Hazel, Jenny, Pippa and Julie thursday lunchtime. Will take the laptop and try and get some pictures posted.

Didn't manage to get to Dunedin for the first NZ XC series race yesterday, it was too close to when I am flying out to the UK and I couldn't get a seat on a plane out later. Shame cos even as crap as I am it looked like I would have managed a top 10 placing due to the small field. Cheating I know. Looks like if I want to ride at Fort Bill World Cup this year I will have to qualify the hard way, or perhaps realistically not bother. Will see how I go, have kind of decided I fancy the enduro races at NPS level in UK this year anyway - but we will see !!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Driving in the Third World & New Years Eve

Having driven in the USA, Canada, France, Spain, Italy etc, I can now confirm what I have always suspected, KIWIS ARE THE WORST DRIVERS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD !!!! You take your life into your hands every time you hit the open road. I have had more near-death experiences on the bike around Wellington city in two weeks than I have ever had in Edinburgh in 10 years.

Got the Ferry over to Picton on friday and picked up a rental car and drove to Christchurch. Terrifying. Single carriage way all 400 kms, and lots of very impatient drivers. The rental car was a Nissan Shito, about 1000 ccs with automatic transmission and 171,000 ks on the clock. Go well it did not. The Kiwi answer to that is to drive about 2 feet from the back of the car in front, then overtake on a blind corner, or even better a blind summit. Got stuck behind a couple of camper vans, and when we finally got to one of the 4 (I was counting) overtaking lanes between Picton and ChCh they sped up !! About 3 of the 200 cars stuck behind them got past, while all the other cars passed each other in the queue. No wonder people take such risks. The road toll between Christmas and New Year in New Zealand was 20 deaths.

Arrived in ChCh somewhat traumatised late on friday afternoon, and went to visit my friend Kim's bro Steven who has just bought a house there. Even by Kiwi standards it was huge, could have hidden a whole rugby team in the place.

On saturday Alistair and I went for an excellent mountainbike ride around the Port Hills, was a great day for it, and found some superb tracks around the hills. Long hard technical route on the last descent to Sumner beach, had a bit of an Overconfidence Incident on some rocky steps. Alistair had stopped but I thought "what a big girl, I can ride that" and nearly made it but for the last step and my forks being a bit sha**ed cos they leaked oil on the plane. Straight over the bars and some new scars to match the rest of them on my knees. Oops.

Stopped for coffee and bagels in cafe on the beach then rode back along the road to Shirley. Quick BBQ then out the door and uptown for NYE. Alistair wore his kilt and got plenty of attention from the laydeez which pleased him greatly. Did the rounds of a few bars, many wines and possibly some beers, maybe even dancing, I don't even remember getting home I guess we must have got a taxi. Woke up on the floor in the morning feeling very unperky. Have decided that was the end of drinking now for me until the end of the racing season this year, have drunk my quota !!

Next day went to visit my cousin Donna who has an even huger house up in the Port Hills for a BBQ, and saw nearly all my aunties and cousins and their various children. Had a brilliant time, was great to catch up with everybody, not sure when I will get the chance to again. Stayed the night with my auntie Judy and uncle Don then left at 7.30 to drive back up to Picton and try and avoid the traffic.

A few words on Tuatara. They are very shy. Spent hours trying to find them at the wildlife park in Karori and eventually spotted one sticking it's head out of it's cave. And they are much smaller than you think. I thought Tuatara meant "big lizard" but it means "terrible lizard" so there you go.

Off to see King Kong tonight with my sister (the movie that is) and Te Papa Tongarewa (museum of New Zealand) on thursday. Got some great pics of the Port Hills on saturday, but still toiling with technical problems.

Only 5 days to go in NZ now, as always it has flown by.

Oh, and forgot to mention last time, I had a job interview on the 14th before I left, and was offered the job that day. Sometime in early february I will be the new Records Manager for West Lothian Council. Tres glamorous !! Hell commute to Livingston, so might have to take my bike as much as possible. Can't say I am looking forward to being a wage slave again, but glad I know where my next mortgage payment is coming from. Although it was kinda fun being unemployed when it was summer and I still had plenty of money it was kinda grim over winter and I was getting depressed and fat. Maybe I'll try and save my money and take next summer off !!