The Peak District – The Monsal Trail

The thing out nostalgia, is that it’s not what it use to be….

The Monsal way cycle path / bridal way is another cleaver use of a rather lovely Victorian train line which had fallen from the master of master villains, Dr Beeching. For 10 nostalgic miles the route cuts though striking scenery as you whiz through the rocky valley which hugs the foundations of the river Wye.

The ride itself is a very leasurly, even the least prepared (i.e. out of shape cycle tourists – like myself!) cyclist would only break sweat on a hot day. There are old railway tunnels – they are large, 160 year old and strangely the drips of water leaking though onto unsuspecting passers by taste like wet dog ears (note to self – best not to drink said leaky tunnel water).

Cycling though the tunnels you can see the smoke staines left by a eighty years of steam trains chain smoking there way through the Derbyshire countryside. A lot of man hours went into the construction of the line – it’s sad that the trains have gone but the line is fanatastic and worthy of a ride as a first step on a cycle tour of the Peaks.

Link to maps

Quick fit Chris

Quick fit Chris




Cycling North into Belgrade I met this exhausted chap on the side of the road, I could see that he had been there for quite awhile as he had had time to lay out several water bottles as traffic cones. As I got closer I could see a car parked on the hard shoulder, it’s boot propped open with a old stick, a spare wheel on the side of the road and this gentleman trying to remove the flat tire by unsecssesfuly wrestling with a rusted wheel nut. Just as my eye had traveled over the man’s work he caught my eye and I was happy to let him wave me down for help.

I said hi and (I don’t know why British people do this) but apologised, and explained that I was English, and then apologised for being English. Once I felt that I had apologised enough, he showed me how far he had got with the wheel change.

Right no problem, I thought I can do this in ten minutes for him and I can get to the Turkish ambassador in Belgrade before 12 to arrange the release of Boo (my father bike) from turkey.

But then I saw his accent jack would only expand 8 inches of the ground, and was operated by liberal wagging of an old screw driver shoved into the jack arm I could see that this would take longer than I thought.

Any how I though I would give it a go, as the guy was obviously tired and out of breath. So I got him to have a rest on the verge while I propped the jack up with some wood and am old lump of cement. I managed to get the wheel nut off with one big shove, once that was off the rest of the wheel removal was easy. I moved the flat to the side of the road and checked out his spare tire, which was as sparse of tread, as my head is as sparse of hair! I pointed his out to the man who insisted that this wasn’t a problem, i tried to explain that he might skid if he doesn’t get new a tire, he just kept saying “it’s no, problem”, “it’s no problem”. So thinking that he would just drive to the next closest garage I replaced the spare, and screwed in the wheel nuts tight. Then I helped him put the flat wheel in his boot, the guy opened and pulled up a bit of old carpet to give access to the spare wheel well. Carrying the flat in one arm I peered into the boot, only to see the concrete road below – I hadn’t noticed but the car was so rusty it had developed so many holes that you could see the road though the most of the boot and you could see the countryside through the side panels. Now, I understood what the guy ment now, by “it’s no problem” and I now agreed with him.

When your driving a car made primarily of iron oxide a bold rear tire is the least of your worries!

The pharmacyclist


The pharmacyclist

April the 9th was a day full of gusty, head winds as I cycled North from Novi Sad to Sombor. After cycling at a pitiful 6 miles per hour against my old enemy for a few hours, I pulled into a small cafe / bar in a lovely Serbian village called Silbas to warm up, rest and replenish my caffeine levels. Inside there was a mix of local people and young travellers chatting the day away or sheltering from the bad weather. Non of the inhabitance spoke English, but all were typically Serbian i.e. Very friendly, open and incredibly enthuestic about attempting breaking the language barrier with a game of “what would you like you drink” charades.

After “I would like a large expresso with milk and a glass water” was conveyed through the medium of sweeping hand gestures and clearing throat noises, two of the patrons (who looked rather like permeant fixtures) spoke to me in Serbian. I opened my coat and pulled out my iPhone and though the magic of google translate we entered conversation.

They where really nice chaps, who where on a day off from working on the Serbian railways, we had lots to talk about when we found a common ground – food. The conversation progressed and I just happened to mentioned that I was a pharmacist – at once, one of the duo asked if I could look at his “problem”. With some intrepidation I agreed – hoping that in Serbia, unlike the UK, that it would be a good idea to take a look at a strange man’s “problem” in some bar you’ve never been to!

No sooner as I agreed to have a look, then the man started to loosen his belt, and take off his jumper. With some relief I am glad to say his undressing stopped there! Once he had liberated his right arm from his jumper, he pointed with his thumb to a large lump in the centre of his back. Now, I have to admit, I work in a hospital, and I have never attend a general medicinal clinic so my practical knowledge of diagnostics is relatively poor – but what the man was pointing to was what looked like a large, non-infected, serbasious cyst. It was cold to touch, he had no history of weight loss, heamoptysis, pain and hadn’t coughed once in the hours conversation we had just had. I told him that I strongly believed that it was just a serbasious cyst, but he should visit his doctor (someone in a far better position to identify a cyst then me) to asses it. My ulterior motive for my topless friend was, in view of his heavy smoking, for him to get a general health check up. I said that I was pretty sure it was cyst and, if it was, the doctor would make a small cut in the lump and remove the fluid inside. My friend asked would it hurt – I said he wouldn’t feel anything as it would be done with some local anaesthetic.

He turned to his friend, with a nervous look on his face, he explained, with wide sweeping action of his hand – their going to cut me open with a sward at the doctors surgery! At this point I realised that this consaltation wasn’t going perticulty well! So, to try to allay his fear of “the sward wielding doctor” I showed him the procedure on YouTube (for those of you with a strong constitution click here). He saw that it was a small incision and quick procedure. He intensely watched the video twice, then started typing a response into the translation software. His allayed finger typed, corrected and retyped a message, then he handed the device to me with a message simply reading “can you please do it” – while pointing at the bar (which I assumed he was proposing to be a make shift operating table!).

Not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings, or let my profession down, I typed back a message to his explaining that I was a pharmacist not qualified to do a procedure like this and that anyway it would have to be done using anaesthetic. I handed my iPhone back to my “patient” and he pushed his lips together and nodded, said “no problem” in English and started to type a reply on my phone. Just before he returned the phone to me he said something in Serbian to his friend and the bar lady, who both laughed. He gave me my iPhone with the words “no problem – we have Serbian anesthetic!” – I looked up from the LCD display to be presented to an unlabelled, clear bottle of home brewed Serbian whisky and three large crystal glasses.

Before this descended into farce I decided that I really should make sure this chap went to his doctor, as there was no way I was going to cut open his cyst, on a bar in the middle of no where! So with my message back to my patient, I politely, but flatly refused to do it, but not before I tried a large glass of the local “anaesthetic” of course…..

If fact my patient was the sweetest man, as he explained said he though he had pneumonia and was really worried about his “problem”. In fact judging by the look on his face I think he thought his life was in danger. He explained that he didn’t want to go to the doctor because he was scared of what he would be told. Both of the chaps, where great company, and we shared food and insisted on buying me my coffees – a great memory of lovely people.

Thanks guys for reading


Gone (very slowly) with the wind

Gone (very slowly) with the wind

“Give me and my horse snow, rain, frost anything, anything but wind” – a Bulgarian Gypsie I met in a bar.

By the time I had met the man who spoke those words I had enough experience cycling in the wind to make it our common adversary!

Scientific speaking, wind occurs when air moves from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. The direction is dependant on where the high and low pressure is and the wind speed is dependant on the degree of pressure gradient. So wind can travel in any direction, at many various speeds.

A cyclist can really only go in one direction – forward, North, East, South or West – but always forward! Wind can principally come from North, West, South or East – and in often a mixture of two of those directions. So the way I see it, a cyclist has a 1 in 4 chance of the wind blowing them in the direction which they are heading (so called tailwind). However, Let me say now, that I have been cycling for about for the last few weeks and I have only encountered 20 minutes of these magical tailwinds.

So in conclusion, I believe the wind is out to get me – it’s strength or direction is not a movement of air due to variations in pressure, it’s a evil sentient being who is in collaboration with my saddle to confound my cycling at any opportunity!

The Danube River

8th April – The river run

Today was a success – The first big mile stone has always been reaching Europe’s second longest river – the River Danube. The river has been the raison d’etre for many European capital cites such as Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade. This monster of a river is so huge it’s tributaries start in the Black Forest and it’s tail exsits long journey into the Black Sea. As well as it’s size the Danube has historical significance in being the border of empires, it’s a feature of national anthems, home to diverse Flora and Fauna and is a recognised river highway. 

It’s all well and good to know that the Danube is mentioned in numerous verses of Bulgarian national anthem and is home to five unique species of sturgeon – but to me that behemoth of a river means one thing – flat land and flat lands means fast cycling*!

*As long as there is no wind of course! : )

9th April

Today is Windy….. : (

Saddle sores

This afternoon I reached Serbia and am spending tonight in Dimitrovgrad. This means that I have completed a cycle through my first entire country and a small part of two others. As the cycle tour didn’t start off as I expected; with a new bike, new wheels, new breaks, gears and a new handlebar. But as I cycled out of of istambul, I forgot that my beloved confertable Brooks B17 saddle, which has been loveling broken in cycling round London over the last few years. Was still firmly attached to my Dad’s bike and still firmly stuck in Turkish customs. 

After nearly 500 miles I have been very firmly reminded what it’s like to cycle on an unbroken hard saddle – more of a case of IT breaking me in, rather than ME breaking it in. And after these miles, I have been totally broken – I needed two days rump rest and recuperation and lots of sudocream in Samokov. I was going to take some NSAIDs and carry on cycling but then I read that some saddle sore have the potential to become so bad that they require lancing! Which was enough to convince me to take a few days of convalescence.

Apparently the advice given on bicycle websites when it comes to saddle sores “whenever you can no longer feel your penis, it’s time to stop whatever your doing” – I am not to sure about saddle sores but sounds like quite a sound life principle….


Top of the first four countries – Part 1

Best beer – Turkey

  • EFES – (dare I say better than German beer….) 

Best over heard sentence – Bulgaria

  • “Yes, but let no one else discover us comrade!” – What the heck!?

Best coffee – Vietnam

Best lost in translation moment – Vietnam

  • “May I have a coffee and an orange juice”
  • Was served with one pinakalada and whisky on ice – 8am in the morning! 
Best lamp post – Bulgaria 

What a motor vehicle horn means per country

  • Vietnam “what I am about to do will endanger you, me and everyone within stopping distance of my car/lorry/bus/donkey”
  • Turkey “God – look there’s a guy on a bicycle, woowaaa! I think he waved at me”
  • Greece “I’m to cool to wave – but your cycling in shorts and it’s snowing – I’ll give you a knod”
  • Bulgaria – didn’t hear anyone use there horn but I was once shouted heelllooo by a load of guys in a donkey drawn cart. I think that counts…
Scariest moment – Bulgaria Tuesday 12th March 10 miles East of Plovdiv
  • I cycled into (what looked like) a mock medieval castle family restaurant next to a shell garage. Here follows a brief transcript of conversation I had inside the “mock medieval castle family restaurant”:
Me “hello I would like a chicken wrap, an expresso coffee and an orange juice please”
Waiter “no problem”
Manager (well I thought was the manager) “come sit, tell talk to me all about London”
Me – “London is lovely – but you know Bulgaria has some lovely geography, a very interesting history and some lovely unspoilt landscapes”
“Manager” – “yes”
Me – “er – so you run this restaurant?”
“Manager” – “yes”
Me (trying to make small talk) – “have you worked her long?”
Manager – “yes”
Me – “I guess you must see a lot of people”
“Manager” – “would you like to wash your hands?”
Me – “I’m ok thank you”
Me – “your English is quite good!”
“Manager” – “thank you but speak German well”
Me – “ha deutschland”
Me – “I am afraid to say I don’t speak much German, the English school system is very poor with regards to modern languages – it’s such a shame really when the United Kingdom wishes to have greator integration with European economies and cultures that, as a nation we produce our own barriers to both cultural and economic exchange. Simply though our poor understanding of other languages”
“Manager” – “you want to F@ck?”
Me *cough* splutter of coffee “I, I’m, I’m a sorry?”
Manager “30 euros darling”
I was very promptly expedited myself from the “mock medieval castle family restaurant”. 
Will never vist a “mock medieval castle family restaurant” again – now mentally scared.
Oddest thing seen on TV – Turkey for the Turkish version of on the busses.
  • The Turkish authorities are trying to limit tobacco advertising – this includes glamorising smoking. So any program which includes actors smoking must be pixilated so that any smoking is obscured.
  • The first time I saw this in a Turkish pizza house where the staff and dinners where laughing at on an old rerun of the Turkish version of on the busses where about 20 actors where staging a strike with management. In the background most of the extras in the scene where smoking pipes, cigars or cigarettes and one even had a water pipe – so half of the background was pixilated. 
  • I was a little shocked as I assumed that this pixolated TV program was a 1970s mass orgy – Until the cheif, who was laughing at my shocked expression corrected me…
Best home comfort 
Best view  



bike guy – this guy! But so was the Greek guy 

Thanks guys

* = dong currency of Vietnam