I'm in a work position where I will most likely be laid off towards the end of the year. I'm itching for another bike trip, possibly in January.
So I'm looking for suggestions for trips that can be done in January in just about any part of the world. I'm not exactly in fantastic shape but I'm doggedly determined and still go out on fully independent camping bike tours, including my most recent one of 3000km's along the Danube.
What I'm looking for is:
Warm weather (not necessarily hot), and I'm fine with high teens or low 20's ...or higher, of course.
Reasonably dry weather.
I'm not looking for an epic adventure with major calf busting climbs but don't mind hills in general.
Language is not an issue. I'm illiterate in a few and don't mind adding another one to the portfolio.
I'm flying from the Canadian West Coast so flight costs are an issue but not a deal breaker.
My preference is for paved roads (potholes are not a problem) or smooth gravel/dirt roads on occasion.
My bike is a Surly Disc Trucker with 26"x2.75" Schwalbe Marathon Tour tires and they can handle dirt roads but not mud and deep loose stuff.
I can always go back to Cuba for my 4th time but I've also considered Hong Kong to southeast Asia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, parts of Africa, South and Central America and even southern Europe.
I will probably take between 3 and 4 weeks for this trip.
Any personal experiences and opinions would be greatly appreciated.
All of your ideas are good ones. A tour of Tasmania or one of the islands of New Zealand could also be considered.
Thanks for the feedback.
I am actually quite intrigued by Tasmania. It may sound silly but it all started with the Tasmanian Devil in the Bugs Bunny cartoons :-)
I've heard a few negative views of the drivers towards cyclists in New Zealand but I'm still interested in that area.
So much to comment on. South Island of New Zealand is sooooooo beautiful. Lots of flat to undulating country .....but...... when there's a hill/mountain it's a beauty. This island has it all - great climate in January, snow-capped mountains, a couple of glaciers, friendly people, excellent campgrounds with great facilities. The biggest drawback I can see is that January is the peak holiday month in both New Zealand and Australia so there would be more traffic than at other times of the year. We had been warned about Kiwi drivers, too, but found they were no worse than Australian drivers. Truck drivers are generally not that patient and often there is little shoulder on the NZ roads we rode. Wow! Three weeks to get around the island! My wife and I, who were 61 at the time, took 5 weeks and we didn't go right to the bottom of the island. I suppose it depends how you like to tour. We like to cycle 60-90 km per day and have occasional days off to explore on foot, or even hire a car for a day.
Tasmania is also very beautiful, not as spectacularly as the South Island, but still very appealing. It has more undulating country and some challenging hills/mountains but not as tough as those on the South Island. There are good campgrounds with good facilities but probably not quite as excellent as the NZ campgrounds. There are some hostels and country pubs often have basic accommodation at very reasonable prices. You could do a basic lap of Tasmania in 2 weeks but if you wanted to go to a few excellent places that are not on that circuit, you could easily fill in 3 to 4 weeks. Both Australia and New Zealand are much more expensive to travel around than those countries you mentioned in SE Asia. Australians, too, are friendly and both countries have the advantage of being English-speaking.
I'm happy to give more specific advice and help as much as possible. Good luck with solving a most enticing dilemma.
Thanks for the further reply Joe. I'm starting to salivate just reading about it :-) It would be a bit of a different experience for me to ride on the "other" side of the road.
Yes, it is rather uncomfortable at first to ride on the 'wrong' side of the road. I remember my first ride in Vancouver and making a right-hand turn and ending up on the left side of the road with a car coming directly towards me. Thank goodness, the driver was aware and slowed down enough to allow me to make a quick exit onto the footpath/sidewalk. I found that if you concentrate really hard on the first couple of days you soon get used to being on the 'other' side. Once that happens, it becomes second-nature to ride on the correct side for that country.
Hi Michele. I haven't ridden Tasmania but have heard it is beautiful. If you don't mind a long haul out here , do that and /or do come to NZ. If time or money is an issue in NZ do the south island only. The North Island is way busier and can be "dangerous". All depends on your confidence. I did the south island in October 2014 and completed it in around 21 days - and I am old. Amazing scenery and you can avoid the big hills and just ride the tough ones. I got some cold weather on the passes in late October, but in the early N Yr it would be great. If you want to discuss options, email me at [email protected] . If you come and ride up thru the Art Deco capital of NZ (Napier) there will be a bed for you.
Thanks for the info Alan, and thanks for the invite. Everything is quite preliminary right now since I don't even know exactly when I'll be laid off. I'll probably end up getting a last minute ticket to somewhere once I get that pink slip :-)
Northern Thailand and northern Laos have perfect touring weather from December to February. It's the dry season there, and the temperatures are much lower than the rest of the year. I did a very nice loop out of Chiang Mai going along the borders of Burma and Laos. I took a bus to get in and out of Chiang Mai to avoid dense traffic. The terrain was mostly fairly gentle, the roads are pretty good, and there was a variety of things to see. Food and accommodations are very inexpensive. You don't have to bother bringing camping gear or a stove. Central and southern Thailand are hot and humid year-round. You can take a train from Bangkok to both Chiang Mai and Vientiane, and it was easy to take a bike on the train.
Laos is less developed than Thailand, and there was very little traffic on the roads, which were mostly quite good. The route from Vientiane to Luang Prabang has become a classic bike route. The scenery is gorgeous, but it is a challenging route.
I biked in Tasmania and NZ and liked both, too. I had no problem with kiwi drivers. There are parts of the North Island which are very nice, and make for a good contrast with the South Island.
The Yucatan of Mexico is a nice inexpensive escape from Canada and the US during January. The cycling is easy since most of the Yucatan is flat.
Neal, thanks for the suggestions. I'm curious what the traffic and aggressiveness of the drivers is like in Thailand. Do the roads have shoulders? I biked through Serbia and Romania along main highways. While it was doable, it wasn't very relaxing with the constant flow of trucks whizzing by my ear at times.
I never considered Yucatan or Quintana Roo even though I've been there twice. I'll have to look into it.
Major roads with more traffic in northern Thailand usually had a paved shoulder. Minor roads usually didn't, but they had little traffic. I don't recall drivers being especially aggressive. Driving is on the left in Thailand, but on the right in Laos.
My favorite part of the Yucatan was the Pu'uc hills area south of Merida. It has rolling hills and some traditional Mayan villages. Also lots of smaller archeologic sites as well as the major site of Uxmal.