Welcome to Elwyn's blog!
This contains a selection of my writing and photos from a number of trips I've made around the world.
A road trip along the south coast of Iceland in September 2022. Such an incredible place, it really does feel like the edge of the world!
Photos from our trip: https://elly.net.au/iceland-2022
Darwin to Broome, Gibb River Road 2021
The Western Australian state border was opened for a short while. We ventured into another state, the Northern Territory in June/July 2021.
A great road trip East to Broome over a few weeks. We hired a 4wd and enjoyed camping under big skies in the dry season. Highlights included Kakadu National Park, the Bungle Bungles, the Gibb River Road and the famous Horizontal Falls.
Here's our photos: https://elly.net.au/darwin-to-broome-2021
Pilbara (North West Australia) 2020
During the Covid global pandemic, the Australian national and Western Australian borders were closed. What else to do but a 5000km road trip to the remote north west of Australia. Good thing we live in a big state.
Plenty of red dust, flies and an early season heatwave. Great to really get away from it all.
Here's our photo album: https://elly.net.au/pilbara-2020
We managed a 2 week trip to New Zealand's South Island just before the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic descended and restricted our international travel.
Here's the photos from our trip: https://elly.net.au/new-zealand-2020
Southwest USA Road Trip
We had a fabulous 3 week honeymoon to the southwest USA! It was a great adventure to share.
Photo Gallery: https://elly.net.au/usa-honeymoon
Our time in the USA previously was limited. We got out a map, and figured out what we could do for 3 weeks. Rather than spend time flying between USA highlights, we wanted to get outside the cities and enjoy a road trip. We managed to independently plan and book a mixture of driving and hiking days. We brought our camping gear on the plane so we were prepared for some camping trips during our road trip.
It was height of summer so it was rather hot. Therefore we started early which meant it was both cooler and a lot less crowds. There was hardly anyone around the South Rim when we arrived around 7.30am. We did a couple of hikes down into the canyon: the Bright Angel trail and the appropriately-named Ooh-Aah point. It was all very easy walking downhill and also very deceptive of just how far down it is to the floor. Add a bit of heat and altitude into the mix and we were very wary of not going too far. That proved correct after we were all cowering in the shade for some cool as we hiked back up to the rim!
We could see the north rim of the Grand Canyon which was only about 11 miles but actually a 200 mile drive away. We took a day to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim on the Grand Canyon through some great variations in the landscape. We diverted to the north on the way to see the classic Horseshoe Bend, a popular lookout further up the Colorado River. The sheer scale of it was mind boggling, offset by the rafts below which themselves were very large.
We drove into Utah to the north, heading for Bryce Canyon National Park. We were a little confused by the time and then realised that Utah is actually an hour ahead of Arizona. Bryce Canyon is at a high altitude, at about 9000 feet the lack of oxygen is noticeable. We stayed just outside the National Park and did a couple of walks in the National Park to see the "hoodoos", rocks which had been sculpted by the weathering and freezing/melting over thousands of years.
Zion National Park
Next was west to Zion National Park. Again, this offered great changes in scenery as we drove between different valleys. The road we entered on was spectacular, through a long one-way tunnel into the main Zion Canyon.
Accommodation was difficult to book in Zion even months before our trip. We found a single camp site in an "RV Park" which proved a useful location for exploring Zion Canyon. Limited parking in Zion Canyon means it's best to catch a park bus. We caught the bus up to the top of the valley to the famous Narrows. In normal times, this is a waded walk up the river. Thanks to a very wet spring, the water level was too high so this walk was closed. We enjoyed walking around the top of the Canyon and enjoyed the awesome surroundings.
Some research on the National Park "permit" system. There are limited hiking permits available with pre-booking, plus there are "walk in" permits, available within 24 hours of the intended camping date. We visited the Zion National Park office, and were fortunate enough to find a permit for a private campsite high up on the West Rim trail in the national park. Limited buses to the start of this one-way walk meant that we were up at 5am for the 6am bus to take us to the walk start. We left our car at the National Park office and got the bus. We were at the start of the trail by 7am.
Our campsite was the first one on the trail, so we were there by 10am! We set up camp and enjoyed the little valley to ourselves for the whole day. It was on a site-track to a spring so we only saw 2 other hikers for the day. Quite a contrast to the crowds in the main Zion Canyon. We saw some rustling in the bushes which turned out to be a turkey. That was while we were careful to string up our food as the resident squirrel was keen to help itself to our food. We were enjoying a quiet late afternoon when all of a sudden a large black cloud had built up. Next were flashes of lightning and loud thunder. Quickly we cooked our dinner and finished it inside the tent as it started to rain. All cleaned up and back inside the tent while there were large claps of thunder all around us which is a little disconcerting when we were relatively high up. Torrential rain continued all night. Fortunately we were dry and safe in our trusty Macpac tent. It cleared up the next morning for the walk down to Angels Landing and into Zion Canyon to finish the walk. This day was 26km of "undulating" walking which was challenging as it got hotter. Plus there was some particularly muddy parts after the wet sprint. However it was spectacular scenery and we hardly saw anyone else until we neared Angels Landing which is a popular day trip from the valley below. We didn't have time to complete the Angels Landing climb but got a great view of the spectacular Ridgeline from our descent.
Plenty more descending and we were happy to reach the end of the trail and the Zion Canyon floor after a challenging but awesome hike. We caught the bus back to the base of the valley, a brief tidy up and drove down to Las Vegas, 3 hours away.
Vegas is a sight to behold. Most noticeable is all the signs advertising for lawyers on the interstate on the way in. Then all those huge builds on "the strip". We navigated our way along to our hotel and smiled at the crazy cars and people around. Such a different world from the peaceful hiking trip we'd just finished. We checked into the Bellagio still dirty from our overnight Zion hiking trip and with mud on our legs. After a tidy up of ourselves and our gear (the giant bathtub was great for cleaning all the hiking gear!) we ventured down to the ground level through the casino. This was quite overwhelming and we found our way to the buffet. Unfortunately it was full and we were rather hungry after all our exercise so we headed elsewhere. We found Walburgers and had the best. burgers. ever. Then we slept very well that night!
Up by 9am and we found a buffet that was open (nothing shuts in Vegas...). The breakfast buffet was great and quiet since it was "early" for Vegas. The Eiffel Tower opened at 10am and we were one of the first people up there so again had a great view almost to ourselves. We looked through various casinos and walked the strip.
We had a Grand Canyon helicopter trip leaving in the afternoon. This flight landed in the canyon itself and we enjoyed Champagne as we took in the awesome surroundings.
Landed back at Vegas and we headed for dinner followed by the "Beer Park" which had a great view over the fountains of the Bellagio.
LA / Disneyland
To be continued.
Here's some statistics for the whole trip:
Southern African Cycling Epic
A 3 week cycling trip across Southern Africa. Starting at Victoria Falls, through Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa into Cape Town
Photo gallery: https://elly.net.au/african-cycling-epic
A 14 day end-to-end walk on the epic Larapinta Trail in the heart of the Australian desert. Starting from Alice Springs, clear days and amazing views of the starts during our adventure.
Photo gallery: https://elly.net.au/larapinta-trail
An excellent 10-day adventure with the London Corinthian Sailing Club. We charted a number of yachts from Vancouver and cruised north along the coastline of the vast wilderness of British Columbia.
Photo gallery: https://elly.net.au/vancouver-sailing
Our Dams Adventure
I’ve been cycling semi-regularly since I was about three. Depending on how far my commute was, I’d cycle when I could. I even survived cycling to work in London as it was much nicer than crowded, unreliable public transport.
I moved back to Perth a couple of years ago after almost a decade in the UK and really appreciated the Australian climate which allowed me to cycle more regularly. I was keen to join a group so I could improve my cycling fitness. I’d seen a number of cycling groups around Perth around but felt quite intimidated to find myself out of my depth.
I’d seen a handful of “She Rides” cycling course ads on Facebook. I signed up for the “She Rides Together” course which suited my cycling ability. I could learn about riding in a group in a friendly environment. Our Kings Park She Rides Together group were quiet as we got to know each other. That quickly changed as we went for a few rides.
During our “She Rides Together” course, I quickly learned the techniques and benefits of cycling in a group. Our group of ladies were a terrific bunch. We often stayed for coffee after our She Rides sessions, talking for longer than we actually rode!
Our She Rides group kept in touch after the completion of the course and organised our own rides. We entered the 40km Armadale Grand Fondo the week after our She Rides course finished. Sally and I found ourselves up ahead of the group at a good speed while we were chatting.
I’d heard of the “Dams Challenge”, a single-day cycling event in the Perth hills. I mentioned to it Sally who promptly signed both of us up as a pair before we knew too much about what was involved. At that time, a “big” ride for us would be about 40km. The 3 Dams Challenge is 145km with about 1,800m of climbing. It was only three months away.
The first month of our training was consistently riding for at least an hour, three times per week, climbing hills where possible. We were very excited to complete hills ride of over 30km at the end of January with about 400m of ascent.
We intensified our training effort in February, mixing hills with flat rides to increase distance and time on the bike. Our first “big” climb was up Welshpool Road, around 250m of climbing taking about 30 minutes. We knew it was getting hard as we had to stop talking to breathe enough to complete the climb.
Sally’s partner, Adrian, completed the 3 Dams Challenge last year and took us on some tough weekend training rides he’d done to prepare himself for the event. We ensured we were out for at least four hours in different conditions. We experimented with what to eat, drink and wear for a long time on the bike. It was the height of summer so we’d be up before dawn to ride in cooler temperatures. Sally and I had our individual ups and downs during these longer rides but we worked very well as a team to help each other.
We also needed to manage rest time. We were honest with each other when we weren’t feeling well on a tough ride. We managed our training load to ensure that we didn’t get run down. Leg massages and were required to keep the legs relatively fresh along with the foam roller every day. We both have active lifestyles and made adjustments to our exercise routines to ensure cycling was our priority.
Adrian lead us on the “2 Dams” ride, our last big training ride, a few weeks before the 3 Dams event itself. A 5.30am start, and we managed 110km with 1,300m of climbing. Strava rated it as “Extreme”. It was hot towards the end so we jumped into the river in all our cycling gear to cool off!
The day of the 3 Dams Challenge finally arrived. Our aim was to enjoy it and finish comfortably. The first big climb was Greenmount Hill. We hadn’t actually climbed Greenmount Hill in our training but we felt good on the climb. Several other competitors commented that we weren’t trying hard enough as we were talking too much!
It was a great boost to see some of our She Rides friends supporting us along the route, especially at the top of the first climb. It was the hottest day for a few weeks. I was overheating so much that I felt cold. We pulled over to a service station, bought some cold water and poured some over our heads to cool off. I was seriously considering standing in the beer fridge for a while!
After that break we agreed to back off on the pace a little so we wouldn’t overheat. We continued the slog towards Canning Dam, where the road gets very rough. The “2 Dams” training ride had taken us on that route before so we knew what was coming and continued to successfully negotiate each climb. A lot of competitors were suffering in the heat and we saw a number of cyclists lying under trees to cool off.
We finished our last climb out of Wungong Dam and we were thrilled to reach Albany Highway and the descent into Armadale. Only 40km to go! The ride got really hard, it was early afternoon and we could feel the heat coming off the tarmac even more. We knew it was hard as weren’t talking much now apart from swapping the lead rider. We powered on. We had one last stop on the Kwinana Freeway and welcomed some ice and cold water poured over us.
Finally, we made it to the finish at Curtin University. We were elated to cross the finish line and all the pain disappeared with the adrenaline rush. Our supporters took a few photos with our well-earned medals and celebrated with us. It was a fantastic achievement.
Sally and I have enjoyed the journey of our training and the Dams Challenge itself which has cemented our friendship. Our experience of the She Rides Together course a year ago and completing the Dams Challenge has given us a terrific platform to take our cycling further. However, I’m not sure we’ll be signing up for the 3 Dams Challenge next year!
View from the top of St Pauls Cathedral
I finally did a tour of St Pauls Cathedral when I visited London on a recent holiday. This is after I never toured St Pauls during my time living near London for many years!
This panorama is from the top of the cathedral to the south towards the River Thames.
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© Elwyn Campbell
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