I'm a double cancer survivor, cyclist and walker who does various challenges for different charities, mainly cancer-related.

My latest trip was a three-week tour of Tasmania in February 2015; amongst other things, I've cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (2003), Rotterdam to Lemvig (Denmark) (2005), walked the Pennine Way (2008) completed the ascent of all 214 'Wainwrights' in the Lake District in only 55 days (2009), cycled 4,500 miles around the coast of Great Britain (2011), cycled all 42 of the accessible Western Isles of Scotland in under a month (2012), twice abseiled 230 ft from the top of The Big One in Blackpool, cycled the WWI Western Front from London to Compiegne via Ypres and Arras (2014) and cycled 750 miles in the Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton (2014).

Altogether I've raised over £70,000 for my charities including The Christie, Cancer Research UK, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity) and I was mightily chuffed to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

I'm a Rotarian and give illustrated talks about my adventures in exchange for a donation to charity, so if you're looking for a speaker leave me a message. I am also Event Organiser for the Ribble Valley Ride Cycle Sportive, to be held this year on Sunday 14 June 2015 - more details at www.ribblevalleyride.org

You can also follow me on Twitter - @CancerBikeMan and on Facebook - just search for Bill Honeywell

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, whilst The Rosemere does fantastic work for patients in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Walking in the Axarquía area, Andalucía  – May 2015

Day 2 – Málaga to Cómpeta

We had breakfast in the square near the old town – lots of orange juice and coffee, then showed John, Susan and Roger the way to the Cathedral and the Picasso Museum before heading up to the Castell Gibralfaro – a stiff pull up the path but worth it as the view got better and better towards the top. Yesterday a huge cruise ship had been in the port; today it had been replaced by just a very large ship! The passengers were tendering ashore, and many of those not on organised excursions were going the same way as us – onwards and upwards. The weather was fine and warm and an entrepreneurial local was selling bottles of ice cold drinking water half way up.

After enjoying great views of the port, the bullring, and other features of the city from our vantage point, it was a disappointment not to have enough time to go into the castle area, but as we were being picked up at midday we reckoned that we’d probably have to leave only a few minutes after going in, so we made a gentle way down again, encountering two black (or at least very dark brown) squirrels on the way.

I’d stopped at an ATM to get some money out, when an Englishman, probably from the cruise ship, asked me if the machine was English-friendly, but I misheard him and thought he’d asked if the English were friendly. I was tempted to say something like ‘Not where I come from!’ but thought better of it, then helped translate the Spanish instructions for him. So the English are friendly then.
Back at the hotel we picked up our bags and went to the nearest cafe to wait for our minibus. The idea was that Spanish Steps had arranged to pick up another group, coming from Gatwick earlier this morning, then collect us and take us all to Cómpeta together. The Gatwick group, later known as the ‘B’ group (we were the ‘A’ group of course!) were to walk the Silk Route, staying in three or four different places including Canillas de Albeida and Frigiliana.

Through the outskirts of Málaga, then along the coastal motorway towards Nerja before turning off at Veléz Málaga and heading inland into the mountains. The road snaked up through Algarrobo and Sayalonga, heading higher and higher with many a twist and turn (Linda feeling more and more queasy) until we arrived in Cómpeta’s tiny square – the Plaza Almijara, to be welcomed by Peter Strange, the proprietor of Spanish Steps. He and his wife Sue know Ian and Jackie well – Ian has helped them with baggage transfer in the past as a kind of extended holiday – and soon we were shown to the house which we would all share. It’s a very Spanish house with over 20 rooms, lots of places to bang your head, and about 18 bottles of wine in the wine rack to keep us going through the week.

We were soon allocated bedrooms, then off to the Bar Perico in the square for a late lunch before having a free afternoon to explore the village. The streets are narrow (most only wide enough for pedestrians and mopeds) with the houses almost touching at roof level; very, very steep and of course, very white. The Moorish influence is strong here (even though the last of the Moors left around 500 years ago) making Cómpeta a real pueblo blanco,  looking like it could slide off the side of the hill at any moment.

In fact the village has experienced two devastating earthquakes, destroying the church tower each time, as we learnt from an information board by the main square.

Cómpeta is now so popular that 43% of the population is non-Spanish. Peter told us that when he arrived in the early 1990’s there were very few outsiders, but understandably its popularity has grown and grown, as our exploration of the surrounding area would show over the next few days.

In the evening we ate in the Square again, with Peter, Sue and their son Andy for company, learning about the area, their business, and the walks we would be doing during the coming week. It sounded so good, we all had to finish with a Benedictine!

I’ll tell you about the first walk in the next episode.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Walking in the Axarquía area, Andalucía  – May 2015

A week’s walking and getting to know a quiet corner of southern Spain

Life isn’t all about cycling. There’s plenty of walking to do too!  Every Christmas our friends James and Jill arrange a day’s walking in Lancashire, almost invariably in wet and windy conditions - although last Christmas was a welcome exception.  Last autumn another couple in our little group, Ian and Jackie, suggested being a bit more adventurous and going to Spain for a week. They knew a couple who run ‘Spanish Steps’, a walking holiday and accommodation business based in Cómpeta, not far inland and about an hour from Málaga airport.

Keen to sign up, in addition to ourselves, were James and Jill, John and Susan, Peter and Linda, and Roger, making a group of 11, and so we booked with Spanish Steps’s proprietors, Peter and Sue, who have been running the business for over 20 years,  making them probably the most experienced people in this business in the entire area.

We were to stay in an authentic country ‘town house’ in the village, left to our own devices but with meals provided by friendly bars/restaurants in the village square and guided during the day by Peter or his son Andy.

The holiday started with an early morning flight from Leeds Bradford on a typical cold, wet and windy morning. The contrast with southern Spain, less than three hours later, couldn’t have been more marked. Blue skies and a light, warm breeze welcomed us to the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. We’d arranged to travel a day early so as to have an afternoon and evening in Málaga, so instead of the usual airport transfer we headed across the concourse to the modern railway station.

The automatic machine was a bit of a challenge but nine of us got our tickets from the airport to Málaga Centro-Almeida station at the bargain price of €1.55. John somehow got at cross-purposes with the Spanish instructions and ended up with two tickets to Sobra-somewhere at €8.00 each. I managed to find out how he could get a refund but it was so complicated, and would probably have taken so long, that poor John decided just to write the cost down to experience.

When we arrived in the city centre we found our budget hotel in quick time, then parked our bags (while we waited for the rooms to be got ready) and went for something to eat, along the harbour front. James and John had spotted a place that hired Segways and after a bit of haggling about four of us (excluding me!) had about half an hour on them, with James threatening to kill some poor pedestrian in no time.

Val and I went to have a look around the Cathedral. The turrets on the right hand side look unfinished - apparently the local population left them that way and sent the money they saved to help the residents of Galveston, Texas, buy their town, but whether or not that's true, I can't say.  It's pretty impressive inside though.

Ian had booked a table for 11 in Málaga’s wonderful old town, full of character and not far from where we were staying, but on the way we called at a traditional bar where the wine was served in small straight glasses straight from the barrel and the tab was chalked up on the bar with real chalk. At €1.05 for a glass it wasn’t the best wine in the world but it was great fun!

We had a great variety of tapas at the restaurant before making our way back to the Hotel Sur for a well-deserved night’s sleep. In the morning we’d have time for a bit more exploring before being picked up by minibus and taken the hour’s drive to Cómpeta. More next time...

...BUT - before I go, can I just point out that this blog now had ADVERTS! Please don't just ignore them, because the more click-throughs I get, the more money I make to send to the Rosemere Cancer Foundation - so would you be kind enough to check out the adverts AND share this blog with your friends? Thank you!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Days 20 & 21 - The Journey Home

View of Dubai from the A380
Tuesday 24 February. A bit of a non-morning as we wait to be picked up and taken to the small airport at Devonport around 11.30. Not enough time to do anything in particular, but I did have a wander down to the beach where I did a bit of rock-pool hunting. I found a shore crab which was small but looked fierce!

I thought this flower looked very pretty...

...and this shore crab very fierce!
Greg, the bus driver, arrived with trailer attached, and once the bikes had been loaded up we were soon at the airport. I was pleased to learn when we checked in that I wouldn't have to manhandle the bicycle through Melbourne Airport - it was checked all the way through to Manchester. Which reminds me - I was only going as far as Melbourne with the rest of the group - those returning to the UK had a flight to Dubai, then Heathrow and finally Manchester. Having booked separately, I would be flying from Melbourne to Dubai via Singapore, then direct to Manchester (saving time and money!).

The plane was delayed by half an hour or so, which had John and Sue worried as they were already a bit tight for time for their connection to Sydney and this would cut down their margin even further. As soon as we took off, we flew directly over the Comfort Sunrise Motel and then out to sea, where I'm sure I saw a big whale far below...

Real propellors on the deceptively comfortable flight across the Bass Strait
The flight is nearly 250 miles so takes just over an hour. Transit through Melbourne was easy but I had a few hours wait for my flight, spent mainly gazing out of the window at the Boeing 777 I was on, and wondering how much more freight they could load on before it was unable to take off!

Once the flight was underway it was a question of keep turning my watch back and getting bedsores on my bum! Over seven hours to Changi at Singapore, where there was a 90-minute break, then another 7+ hours to Dubai. At Singapore I was allocated a new seat: I asked if I was being upgraded to business class and was politely told "No, but you're getting close!" And in fact I was, just behind the business section and luckily next to two empty seats in the central aisle, so I could at least stretch out a bit.

The Social Tree at Changi Airport, Singapore
We flew over India and it was daylight when we arrived at Dubai, where another wait was required before the next flight on an A380 Airbus left at around 0730. There's a bit more room on this one but still the worry that it can't possibly take off, it's so massive! Now we flew over Iran, Turkey and Europe for another seven hours before finally arriving at Manchester around 1130 local time on Thursday. The bike arrived by the carousel looking OK, although once I'd arrived home I found that - as last time - one of the gear shifters had been broken. I'm going to have to work on that problem next time.

And so ended my Tour of Tasmania.  Three weeks of fabulous scenery, plenty of hills (of course!), good companionship, and lots of wildlife and other interesting things to see. My first trip to Australia, first crossing of the Equator, and first pint of James Boag's beer. Now I have to catch up at home before setting off for the seas north of the Faroe Islands to try and catch a glimpse of the next total solar eclipse on 20 March. Will I be successful? Perhaps I'll write up the journey in this blog...

I hope you've enjoyed reading this on-line diary. Feel free to make any comments and if you're in my part of the world and looking for a speaker, let me know. In fact, if you're anywhere in the world and (a) want a speaker and (b) are prepared to cover travelling expenses, let me know!!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Days 18 & 19 - Around Devonport by bike and on foot

The Spirit of Tasmania heading for Devonport
Sunday 22 February. It might be a rest day, but when the sun's shining and there's places to see, what do you do? - You get on yer bike, of course! Heading out towards Port Sorrell we found cycle paths along the shoreline of the Mersey which took us out of Devonport. I encountered a local cyclist who was out for a Sunday morning ride. He turned out to be from the Netherlands originally, and we passed the time chatting for a while until our routes diverged.

I just wish we could have looked inside!
Port Sorrell wasn't quite as interesting as it sounded, made up for the most part of retirement homes, but there were a couple of cafes and after a short coffee stop we headed for the beach. Deborah had even brought her swimming costume and was soon in the sea, which she reported as fresh! It certainly looked good, a deep blue under a bright sky.

The beach at Port Sorrell
On the return journey we headed inland for a while through lovely countryside before revisiting Latrobe. There's a visitor centre here - the Australian Axeman's Hall of Fame, apparently where the first-ever world wood-chopping championships were held in 1891. Today it seemed to be mainly sunday market stalls so - perhaps wrongly - I gave it a miss and headed back alone along River Road back to Devonport.

Masked Lapwings are everywhere in Tasmania
Platypus sculpture in Latrobe
In the evening we all went out for a meal together - a 'last supper' where Richard was presented with a Tasmanian cycle top in recognition of his fine job as tour leader, and I was delegated to make a short speech.

Perhaps it would have been easier with one of these...
The following day, Monday 23 Feb, we started the day by dismantling and packing our bikes ready for the flight home tomorrow. Well, some of us were going home - Richard was going to Geelong to spend a week with son Paul, Valerie was staying for a while in Australia where her daughter lives, and John & Sue were off for a week's walking in the Blue Mountains before they headed back. John H was leaving today to return to Nebraska, so only seven of us would actually be flying back to the UK.

Yellow-throated Honeyeater (courtesy of Flicker)
Once the bikes were packed, Richard and I headed for the town's cycle shop for a general look around, admiring the latest electronic gear shifters, and then after a quick bite to eat in the town centre we carried on out towards Mersey Bluff and Coles Beach on foot. Birdlife was good, with Pied Cormorants occupying their rock just offshore and lots of birds in the woodland including Yellow-throated Honey-eater, Fairy Wrens and Kookaburras, three of which posed beautifully.

Kookaburras looking like the Frys Chocolate boys

In the evening the ten of us who were left (Valerie had flown to the mainland today) ate at the motel. Having seen Chicken Schnitzel on every menu for the last three weeks, I decided to finally try it, only to discover that it's basically a very flat piece of chicken breast in breadcrumbs.

Tomorrow we start our flight home. It's going to be a long way...

36.6 miles on Sunday, making a final total of 632.3 for the whole tour.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 17 - Launceston to Devonport - 
with a (successful) Duck-billed Platypus hunt

Small Black Cormorant with Silver Gulls
Saturday 21 February. A sunny start from the Penny Royal in Launceston and on to an off-road cycle track almost immediately, running along the water's edge. Deborah is still suffering from an upset tummy which she thinks is caused by Campylobacter on some seafood or chicken.

Just before we reach the main road we pass a water outfall with Pelicans, Cormorants and Silver Gulls:  then it's on to a dual carriageway through the suburbs. Saturday morning must be the day for club cycle rides as we've never seen so many cyclists in Tasmania before.

Australian Pelican
After ten miles or so a quiet road turns off to the right to run along the edge of the River Tamar until we get to Exeter. I can just about cope with Launceston being on the Tamar, but not Exeter! It's another example of the somewhat random way that the early Tasmanians named their towns and rivers - Devonport on the north coast, astride the River Mersey, Sheffield to the south, and St Helens on the east coast - very confusing!

This pleasant stretch took us to Exeter where we turned inland. The others raced ahead while I lingered long enough to catch sight of a fine Kookaburra in the higher branches of a gum tree. We all stopped at the cafe in Glengarry, where the generously-bearded owner told us he was born in Cornwall, although he was pretty young when he came out with his parents on £10 flights. He was very chatty and it was a while before I realised he was wearing some kind of skirt, rather like a Roman centurion. Mmm.

A long gradient followed and thankfully the sun went in for a while. The hill was blessed with many false tops, and along this wooded, undulating plateau the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were screeching while the Black-cockatoos flew lumberingly above like large raptors. At Frankford there was another cafe where most of us stopped for another coffee and lovely home-made cake, but on this occasion I kept on going, through woods and fields, until a long descent back towards sea-level.

They have some unusual letter boxes in Tasmania!
Having crossed the River Styx earlier in the tour, it was now the turn of the Rubicon, meandering lazily through a salt-marsh area - we couldn't have been far from the sea. Then another detour through fields and a particularly attractive avenue of trees, past an irrigation pump that was badly adjusted and threatened to soak me to the skin if I didn't get my timing right. Not much point watering the road, I thought.

No turning back now
Next up was the small town of Latrobe and another cafe stop. There are plenty of shops in this small town, including Reliquaire, a huge Tardis-like building full of bric-a-brac and junk. Richard likes this kind of place - this was the second one he'd brought us to, the first being in Sheffield. I prefer modern design but the sheer volume of old and antique items for sale was quite amazing.

Finally to Devonport along the scenic River Road, following and then crossing the Mersey, until we were back at the Sunrise Comfort Motel where we had started our tour about a fortnight earlier.

River Road, Latrobe
But in the evening we were in for a treat, heading back to Latrobe (some on bikes, some by taxi) where we'd arranged with the local nature reserve rangers to look for Duck-billed Platypus in the quiet backwaters and landlocked ponds by the river. After an initial mix-up on our meeting place we found our way to a quiet lake and, having waited for what seemed like ages, saw the Platypus emerge and go feeding. They dive for a minute or so and feel for their food with their amazing leathery bill which is packed with sense organs.

Platypuses are really unusual, primitive mammals - not far removed from reptiles but with fur. They lay eggs and the mother suckles the young with milk, although she lacks any teats: the milk is just exuded from the mammary glands and the youngster laps it up.

With the light failing it was difficult to get a decent still shot, but I took a video which seemed much better. Be patient, as I haven't edited it, but the bit where she rolls over to scratch her belly is rather cute! It's at

Back to Devonport and another first - a sandwich from Subway! - and then off to bed.

An interesting day. 59 miles, making a total of 596 so far.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 16 - Rest Day in Launceston

Looking downstream near the mouth of Cataract Gorge
Friday 20 February was to be a non-cycling day, and why not? There's plenty to see and do in Tasmania's second city, including an amazing river gorge which has a real wilderness feel about it despite being so near the bustling centre.  So, as the sky was blue and the day promised warmth and comfort, four of us (me, RIchard, Tony and Deborah) made our way by walking about 100 metres from the hotel to the path at the entrance of Cataract Gorge. A steep climb soon warmed us up as we reached the 'First Basin' where there were cafes and a chairlift which is almost horizontal and is in fact the longest single-span chairlift in the entire world.

On the way up to First Basin

First Basin is there behind the suspension bridge

On the way up to Sentinel Point Richard tries to dislodge this chock-stone

A little further on, not yet crossing the pretty suspension bridge, the path climbed again above the gorge to Sentinel Point. Looking down on the river, it was a bit reminiscent of the River Tees in the Low Force area, and indeed the underlying rock of both Cataract Gorge and the River Tees is hard, igneous dolerite. Skinks, brightly-coloured beetles and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos drew our attention before we reached the viewing platform and then headed back, crossing the suspension bridge to our first cafe stop.

Cataract Gorge

If this beetle has a name, I don't know it!

One of many skinks

Sentinel Point
Here were Peacocks, Peahens, and baby peacocks (Chickpeas?), and also a group of local Rotarians who were hosting a group of fellow Rotarians from Sweden, so we had a chat with them and discussed our respective clubs before having the compulsory coffee and vanilla slice. We were sitting under a Ginkgo biloba tree, which - if you didn't already know - is like a living fossil, a tree with no close living relatives anywhere in the world. The Ginkgo belongs to an Order all on its own - the Ginkgoales - most of which appeared in the Cretaceous period and became extinct long before the Palaeocene. There were also Sequoias and other specimen trees here.

Ginkgo leaf (Google images)

Ginkgo tree (Google images)

After getting back to the road and checking out the start of tomorrow's route, we wandered through the waterside area, had lunch at a cheap restaurant and then went back to the city centre. The Launceston Design Centre was a bit disappointing, being more of a showcase for furniture on sale, although there were a few rather clever ideas there.

They even have river cruises here!

As you can imagine these two machines caught Richard's eye

One of Launceston's colonial-style buildings
However, we decided to move on to the motor museum for a bit of (a) nostalgia and (b) a sauna. The museum is housed in a basic industrial unit: the reception area/shop is air-conditioned but the main exhibition hall isn't, and today the sun had been high in the sky for some time, so it was a sweat box. And the motorcycle mezzanine was even hotter! So after a wallow amongst the motor cars of yesteryear, we headed through the park into the town centre for a large ice-cream.

A Spotted Dove in the park
I also bought some factor 50 sun cream. The lady who served me said she currently had visitors from Hull who had brought some factor 15 with them. She was surprised because it isn't possible to buy factor 15 in Tasmania on the basis that it's effectively useless!

Once more we found restaurants pretty well booked up in the evening, although after splitting up we did all manage to get a table. We went to 'Sails' and Richard had the duck. When he went to pay on the way out, the girl couldn't understand his accent and only managed to grasp what he'd eaten when he said 'DACK'!

Back to the room, pack ready for a longish day tomorrow and a 7.30 start. A hot day today.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Cycle Tour of Tasmania – February 2015

Day 15 - Scottsdale to Launceston - Erratics, Echidnas and Eucalyptus

The view from Myrtle Bank

Thursday 19 February.  I didn't mind the fact that my single bedroom last night was tiny, but the lack of opening windows made it difficult to get clothes dry. I think I decided to put on my spare pair of shorts for the first time, so I could 'peg' the damp ones on to the rear bike bag to get them dry.  Breakfast was a bit on the scant side, so when I set off I went looking for a bakery. When I drew a blank I called in at a cafe where the owner was happy to sell me a couple of bread rolls, a banana and a choccy bar.

Rush hour, Scottsdale
On the edge of town is the strange-looking building which houses the Forest Eco Centre. As someone once said, it looks like the Martians have crash-landed their spaceship in the paddock, and if I'd known more about it I'd have stopped to look around, except that we were too early and it wasn't open. There's an information centre about Tasmania's wood and woodlands. Now the road undulated steeply through pastoral scenery with lots of glacial erratics (boulders left behind after the last ice-age) and a pretty carving on a massive tree stump.  

Sottsdale Eco Forest Center

A glacial erratic the size of a small car

Too much spare time with a chain saw. Actually it's rather good.
The day's big climb started after about seven miles - over 400 m to the top of Myrtle Bank, and despite being reunited with those heavy panniers I climbed quite well, passing a few colleagues on the way up and almost (but not quite) keeping up with Irene.

This seemed strangely ironic as I passed it not far from the top of the hill

Near the top was an excellent lookout with great views of the NE corner of the island, plus very distant views of Cape Barren and Flinders Islands. After a strangely undulating top (the hill didn't seem to want to give up!) we eventually dropped, gradually, through woodland and surroundings with an almost moor-like quality, until we saw the Myrtle Campsite, and although no-one else had stopped, five of us (me, John, Sue, Steve, Irene) called in for a machine-made cuppa and a quick break, noticing how cheap overnight stays were (about $6 per night for a camper or caravan).

Sue spotted an Echidna by the roadside soon after. I hung on for several minutes hoping it would spring into life, but without luck as it stubbornly buried its snout in the ground and, apart from the odd bad-tempered shuffle, showed little signs of activity. When I set off again I was, as usual, a long way behind everyone.

But the countryside was really pleasant here, with a mixture of fields, forests and streams - a joy to cycle through. By the time I reached the next cafe stop, everyone had been and gone, but I wasn't bothered and simply carried on until I reached Launceston, Tasmania's second-largest city. Having navigated my way through the centre, I found the Penny Royal Hotel Apartments, and it being only 1 pm, was too early to check in.

I went looking for the rest of the party and found Tony and Deborah at a nearby cafe, bought a coffee and - as we were sitting outside - polished off my second bread roll and the banana (you've got to admit, I know how to live!) Back at the hotel the rooms weren't quite ready, and now everyone else arrived so we went across the road to a swanky restaurant bar on the water's edge and had... a beer! It was now very warm and the cold beer was perfect.

View from 'Still Water', our beer stop
Back to the hotel, checked in (excellent rooms, lots of character in a rare old building) then off for a wander around town where I bought three new inner tubes from the local MTB bike shop, and learnt the new Australian word for 'cool' which is 'prime', pronounced 'proym'. And a huge ice-cream, which was proym.

Penny Royal Hotel Apartments
The only niggle was the evening meal, just across the road, where over an hour passed between us ordering the food and it arriving on the table. Steve and Irene's main course arrived, to be followed some 15 minutes later by the chips they'd ordered with it, and it's fair to say that Steve was not best pleased. Nor did he appreciate the waiter's reply that 'Well, we've only got a small kitchen.' Surely they knew that when they took the order..?

A horrible way to go, but at least he didn't die of starvation whilst waiting for his meal
Never mind, overall an enjoyable day, pretty easy going and full of variety. Tomorrow we stay in Launceston to enjoy the sights before our last decent cycling day, returning to Devonport where we set off two weeks ago.

41 miles today, running total 537 m.