Mont Ventoux Cycling Adventures

Cycling Adventures up and around Mont Ventoux

The Ride and Seek operations base is in Provence in the shadow of the iconic Mont Ventoux. It’s no secret that Provence offers awesome cycling across all disciplines from road cycling, gravel, enduro and mountain biking. It’s also a beautiful part of the world, from the mountains to the sea, through lavender fields, gorges and vineyards. So it was a natural choice to base the Ride and Seek Headquarters here when we moved to Europe 7 years ago.

The Mont Ventoux Cycling Club (MVCC) is situated in the village of Mormoiron in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. It serves as the base for Ride and Seek Bike Tours and doubles up as a cafe, workshop and shop. As a club, it is also from here that we run a series of curated tours that capture the mystique of our local surroundings. In June, we have a range of offerings that embrace the amazing cycling opportunities. We think it is a winning combination combining the local knowledge of MVCC with the tour template that garnered multiple awards for Ride and Seek.

Mont Ventoux Cycling Adventures – June 2024

 

TOUR START END DAY/NIGHTS COST (€)
Mont Ventoux Weekend 23rd May 26th May 4 (3 nights) from €350
Provence Gravel Explore 5th June 11th July 7 (6 nights) €2,950
Mont Ventoux to Alpe d’Huez 13th June 19th June 6 (5 nights) €2,300
Alpe d’Huez to Mont Ventoux 19th June 25th June 6 (5 nights) €2,300
Mont Ventoux Weekend 27th June 30th June 4 (3 nights) from €350

The discounted rates above are only available to Mont Ventoux Cycling Club members. Join the club by clicking below.

FREE MEMBERSHIP OF MVCC


Tour Overviews

 

Mont Ventoux Weekend

Embark on an exhilarating weekend cycling adventure. Day 1 introduces our soul ride – a time trial up the breathtaking Gorges de la Nesque. Day 2 is dedicated to conquering Mont Ventoux, offering the challenge of ascending one, two, or all three sides of our local iconic hill. On Day 3, enjoy a more leisurely social ride through the scenic Dentelles. Choose from three packages – a simple ride fee, standard accommodation, or indulge in a luxury option.

Provence Gravel Explore

This immersive experience involves circumnavigating and ascending the iconic mountain, revealing its diverse terrain. Along the journey, discover the distinctive charm of Bedoin, Sault, and Buis-les-Baronnies with stays at three of our favourite local hotels. In Bedoin, indulge in comfort amid the vibrant local atmosphere. S

ault offers a tranquil retreat amidst lavender fields, while Buis-les-Baronnies provides a rustic haven. Each hotel promises a blend of local hospitality and cycling enthusiasts’ needs, enhancing your Mont Ventoux gravel adventure with unparalleled comfort and regional authenticity.

Mont Ventoux to Alpe d’Huez Loop

A legendary loop ride that unfolds in two mesmerizing parts or as one unforgettable epic journey. This historic adv

enture traces Hannibal’s trail from Mont Ventoux to Alpe d’Huez, immersing riders in a narrative of ancient conquests. Revel in the challenge of two iconic cycling landmarks. As the route winds through Alpe d’Huez, soak in the triumphs of cycling legends before tracing the Route Napoleon back to Mont Ventoux. This ride of historic proportions seamlessly blends the tales of ancient warriors with the modern glory of cycling, offering an unparalleled and epic cycling experience.

Self Guided Provence

Timeless adventures with our non-date-specific self-guided tours, meticulously crafted to showcase the best of our region. The Tour of Mont Ventoux spans 7 days, allowing cyclists to conquer the iconic mountain at their pace. Immerse yourself in a 5-day culinary adventure, savouring local flavours and culinary delights. Alternatively, our 4-day Lavender Route unveils the picturesque landscapes of lavender fields, providing a sensory journey through colour and fragrance. Each tour offers flexibility, enabling you to choose when to experience the beauty of Mont Ventoux, indulge in gastronomic delights, or wander through lavender-scented vistas at your leisure.

If any of these itineraries spark your interest, please click below to express your interest. We’d love to host you at the Mont Ventoux Cycling Club in 2024.

SELF-GUIDED EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST


The Club

Established in 2022, the Mont Ventoux Cycling Club, nestled in the village of Mormoiron, serves as a dynamic hub for cycling enthusiasts worldwide. Beyond a retail space and workshop, it encompasses a bike rental hub, a cozy cafe, and a global cycling club. Proudly hosting the European base for Ride and Seek Bike Tours, it offers weekly club rides and curated bike tour options. This vibrant community space welcomes riders eager to explore the beauty of Mont Ventoux and its surroundings, fostering a sense of camaraderie among those passionate about the exhilarating world of cycling.

Join us for a coffee, and let the aroma of freshly brewed beans accompany a generous exchange of local riding tips. Our friendly community of cyclists is eager

to share insights on conquering the iconic local hill and exploring the myriad of breathtaking riding options our region boasts. Whether you seek the thrill of ascents or scenic routes, our cafe is a welcoming haven for riders passionate about discovering the best of our cycling haven.

Located a mere 6 km from Bedoin, the Mont Ventoux Cycling Club in Mormoiron is perfectly situated to tackle Mont Ventoux and embark on our favourite soul ride through the Gorges de la Nesque. For those seeking a more tranquil atmosphere away from Bedoin’s hustle and bustle, Mormoiron provides a relaxed base. Join us here to unwind, plan your adventures, and experience the joy of cycling in a serene and welcoming setting.

 

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Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

In Search of Japan’s Spiritual Origins

What is the Kumano Kodo?

The Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes in the Kii Peninsula of Japan, leading to the sacred Kumano Sanzan shrines – Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha, and Hayatama Taisha. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo has been a spiritual journey for over a millennium, offering a profound connection with nature and the divine.

The pilgrimage routes wind through dense forests, across mountains, and along scenic coastlines, presenting pilgrims with a variety of landscapes. The trails are not just a means of reaching the sacred sites; they are an integral part of the spiritual experience. The Kumano Kodo is more than a physical journey; it is a mental and emotional exploration, fostering introspection and self-discovery.

Pilgrims can choose from several routes, each varying in length and difficulty. The Nakahechi route, starting from Tanabe City, is the most popular and historically significant. Along the way, walkers encounter Oji shrines, traditional ryokans, and onsens, immersing themselves in the local culture.

The Kumano Kodo reflects the synthesis of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, blending spirituality with nature worship. It encapsulates the Japanese concept of “shintai,” where natural elements like rocks and trees are considered sacred manifestations of divinity. The Grand Shrine of Kumano Hongu Taisha, nestled in a pristine forest, embodies this harmony, inviting pilgrims to experience a profound connection with the sacred.

As modernity encroaches upon tradition, the Kumano Kodo remains a timeless pilgrimage, preserving Japan’s cultural and spiritual heritage. It beckons those seeking a physical journey and a transformative odyssey through the heart of Japan’s spiritual essence.

Our cycling itinerary in the Kii Peninsular embraces the essence of the Kumano Kodo with our route intersecting the pilgrimage route on many occasions. The Kumano Kodo is integral to our travel experience in this stunning area. Below is a map showing the different routes that make up the Kumano Kodo. Our cycling itinerary crosses paths with a number of these routes and temples along the way as we cycle from Wakayama to Ise.

 

 

 



Soul Ride: Solvær to Reine (Lofoten Islands, Norway)

One of our highlight rides from the Norsemen Tour in Norway is on the Lofoten Islands. It comes early in our tour but really serves to set the scene for the riding ahead. The ride from Solvær to Reine truly is one for the ages!

As you pedal away from Svolvær, you’ll find yourself engulfed in a symphony of mesmerizing landscapes. Majestic mountains stand tall, their snow-capped peaks seemingly touching the heavens, while deep fjords glisten like jewels under the endless Arctic sun.

The coastal road gracefully winds along the rugged coastline, revealing one stunning panorama after another. Passing through the quaint fishing village of Henningsvær (below), the picturesque charm of colourful houses against the backdrop of vast blue waters will leave you spellbound.

As you venture further, Reinefjorden comes into view, a stunning masterpiece of nature that beckons you closer. Arriving in Reine, you’ll be welcomed by its iconic red rorbuer perched on the water’s edge, mirroring the grandeur of the towering mountains.

The journey is not just a visual feast but a spiritual experience too. The crisp air carries the salty scent of the sea, while the gentle whispers of the wind become your constant companion. Each pedal stroke becomes a communion with the untamed nature surrounding you.

Embrace the adventure and explore hiking trails leading to breathtaking viewpoints like Reinebringen, rewarding your efforts with panoramic vistas that resonate deep within your soul. Along the route, friendly locals welcome you with warm smiles and captivating stories, making you feel at home in this remote corner of the world.

This cycling odyssey between Svolvær and Reine celebrates nature’s magnificence, a harmonious blend of serene coastal charm and awe-inspiring wilderness. It’s an unforgettable voyage into the heart of Lofoten’s enchantment, leaving an indelible mark on your memories and forever igniting the wanderlust in your spirit.



Simón Bolívar – ‘The Liberator’ of Colombia

An introduction to the ‘The Liberator’ of Colombia, (New Granada)

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios was a Venezuelan military and political leader who led the countries, now known as, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia, to independence from the Spanish Empire. He is known colloquially as ‘El Libertador’, or the Liberator of South America.

Born on July 24th, 1783, in Caracas, the capital of the Captaincy General of Venezuela, Simón Bolívar was the youngest son of one of the wealthiest families in South America. His father died when Simón was only two years old and custody was passed on to his mother and her father. He was raised separately from his siblings and as was custom at the time, was cared for by Hipólita, an African house slave.

In 1792, his mother died of tuberculosis and the following year his grandfather died. Custody of Simón was passed on to his uncle Carlos, who Simón loathed, as he believed his uncle was only interested in the family inheritance.

Simón had a troubled upbringing and was described as being a difficult, unruly child. In June 1795 he ran away from his uncle, to the home of his sister and her husband. They took him in and tried in vain to have his new residency officially recognized. Simón was instead ordered to live with Simón Rodríguez, who ran the school where Bolívar was educated. Rodríguez became a mentor to the young boy and was probably the main catalyst for Bolívar’s political leanings. 

In 1797, Rodríguez was linked to a pro-independence conspiracy and was forced into exile. The teenage Bolívar was then enrolled in an honorary militia force. He was commissioned as an officer after a year. His uncles, Carlos, and Esteban Palacios y Blanco, decided to send young Bolívar to join the latter in Madrid. There, Esteban was friends with Queen Maria Luisa’s trusted advisor, Manuel Mallo. However, in February 1800, Mallo fell out of the Queen’s favour. Members of Mallo’s faction at court were arrested on pretence, (including Esteban) and Bolívar was subsequently banished from court, (for wearing diamonds without royal permission).

Around the same time Bolívar fell in love with María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alayza and the two were engaged. They would have to wait several years to be together, as individual duties kept them apart. Bolívar and del Toro, aged 18 and 21 respectively, were married in Madrid on 26 May 1802. The couple then boarded the ship ‘San Ildefonso’ in A Coruña, on 15 June and sailed for La Guaira, (Venezuela) where they arrived on 12 July. They settled in Caracas. María fell ill and eventually died of yellow fever on 22 January 1803.

Bolívar was devastated by del Toro’s death and swore never to remarry.

By July 1803 Bolívar had decided to leave Venezuela for Europe. He witnessed the coronation of Napoleon in 1804, but he was not sympathetic to French imperialism. After travelling with Simón Rodríguez through Italy, Bolívar had seen enough to declare his intent to see the Americas free from Spanish rule. He sailed back to Venezuela in 1807, where he began to meet with other creole elites to discuss independence from Spain. He discovered that he was far more radical than the rest of Caracas high society. 

In 1807-08 Napoleon invaded the Spanish peninsula and gained decisive control. After much political manoeuvring in Venezuela, (and the dissolution of several governments), the country eventually came to be ruled by the ‘Supreme Junta of Caracas’, which rejected French rule, as well as the Spanish regency, (under the control of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte). The junta acquired Simón Bolívar’s services as a diplomat and Bolívar was sent to Britain to request their support in gaining Venezuelan independence. However, this bid failed and Britain could offer no concrete support, citing their Anglo-Spanish relations as being more important.

Bolivar returned to Venezuela in 1811, where the country was debating whether or not to declare independence. Bolívar helped to create the Patriotic Society, an organisation dedicated to gaining independence and he campaigned passionately. After a vigorous national debate, the Venezuela national assembly declared independence on the 5th of July 1811. Bolivar was overjoyed. To mark the occasion he freed all the slaves in his family and called for the end of slavery in the western hemisphere. 

The declaration brought about a state of war between the Republicans and the Royalists in the new country. It was to be a prolonged and brutal war. Bolívar played a prominent role in the military at this time. Despite early Republican victories, the Royalists achieved victory. This was partly due to a huge earthquake that shook the country, specifically in Republican areas. The populace, on both sides, believed that the natural disaster was God’s retribution for Venezuela declaring independence. Republican forces finally capitulated and Bolívar fled. Aided by friends, he managed to escape Venezuela, across the border, into the ‘United Provinces of New Granada’, (Colombia).

In New Grenada, Bolívar wrote ‘The Cartagena Manifesto’ in which he called for renewed efforts for Venezuela to regain its independence from Spain.

With high-ranking contacts, Bolívar managed to secure a position as the commander of a 70-man garrison in a small town. New Granada was an ally in the fight against Spain, and Bolívar managed to secure permission to launch an invasion of Venezuela in 1813. 

His army quickly swept through the country and his forces captured Caracas within six months. He was able to enter Caracas on 6 August 1813 and was named ‘El Liberator’ and the Dictator of the Second Republic of Venezuela. 

His initial success did not last however. Many Venezuelans were nervous of the radical revolutionaries and preferred the stability of Spanish rule, (which they were accustomed to). Venezuela was not completely unified and was financially devastated. Many people of colour remained disenfranchised and refused to support the new government. Bolívar also had a powerful Republican rival in the east, Santiago Mariño, who was unwilling to subordinate himself. The newly installed dictator faced insurrections and war from multiple directions.

Spanish led forces succeeded in driving Bolivar out of Venezuela again and he fled to New Granada for a second time, where he was tasked with subduing the rebel territory of ‘The Free and Independent State of Cundinamarca’. The conflicts at this time were characterised not only by Republicans fighting against Royalists, but also by conflicting ideals of centralised and federalised governments. Cundinamarca supported centralism, while New Granada had a federal structure. This posed an ideological problem for Bolívar as he was a centralist. He captured the Cundinamarca capital of Bogotá, but made a truce with the Cundinamarcans, following which he resigned from his post in the New Granadan military and fled in exile to Jamaica.

Bolívar travelled to Haiti, after surviving an assassination attempt in Jamaica. 

In Haiti he met the country’s president, Alexandre Pétion and they became good friends. Pétion agreed to help Bolívar with financial aid and supplies, providing that Bolívar agreed to emancipate all enslaved people in Venezuela. Bolívar agreed and sailed back to Jamaica, where he met with Republican leaders to formulate a plan. 

In a letter from Jamaica in 1815, Bolívar wrote:

“A people that love freedom, will, in the end be free. We are a microcosm of the human race. We are a world apart, confined within two oceans, young in arts and sciences, but old as a human society. We are neither Indians, nor Europeans, yet we are a part of each.” 

Supported by Pétion, Bolívar returned to Venezuela with an army in 1816 and won limited victories. However, his army was defeated and scattered. In July he was forced to return to Haiti. Other Republican troops in Venezuela fled into the jungle and waited for Bolívar’s return.

Pétion again agreed to help his friend Simón and so Bolívar was able to return once again to Venezuela. Upon arrival, he issued a call for the new Third Republic to be created. The Republican military forces united under him, but there was much jostling for power. He was able to unite former Republican enemies and achieved a string of military successes against Royalist forces. Although Venezuela was not fully under Republican control, Bolívar was declared supreme leader of the Third Republic.

On the back of these more permanent military successes in Venezuela, Bolívar then decided to split his forces. Leaving his generals to complete the victory against the Royalists, he marched with 2000 soldiers into New Granada territories and met up with Republican allies across the border. Achieving a decisive victory at the Battle of Boyacá. Royalist forces then abandoned the capital of Bogotá, allowing the Republicans to capture the city treasury. 

Bolívar designed a constitution for what historians now refer to as ‘Gran Colombia’. This was the beginning of independence in Colombia.



What Does the Future Hold for Ride and Seek?

Greetings from a snowy Provence. As the snow fell earlier this month at our base in the shadow of Mont Ventoux we were being sent photos from sunny Australia where our Strzelecki Tour (Sydney to Hobart) had just embarked from Sydney. Life is full of contrasts and in that context, there was a sense of the surreal to think we are back on the road again – the 2023 season for Ride and Seek is a go! Indeed, the group has just wrapped up the tour in Hobart, Tasmania after a tour for the ages.

With this being our shortest ‘off-season’ to date, I thought it would be an opportune time to share with you our thoughts on moving forward as a company. With the pandemic seemingly behind us and demand for travel booming it would easy to simply jump back on the hamster wheel but we are trying to be more measured in our approach. Your appetite for exploring the world by bike is undoubted and our zeal for creating new itineraries is unabated. However, if 2 years of Covid reflection taught us anything it was the importance of maintaining perspective and identifying what we consider really important. 

Strzelecki group at Bondi Beach, Sydney
Snowy Provence

As such, we are keen to offer you a road map for what we are trying to achieve with our tours both in terms of the seeming paradox of consolidation and growth. Our in-house mantra has always been that you are ‘only as good as your last tour’. This lies at the heart of our striving to offer the world’s best cycling adventures with every tour we run and will continue to be the rationale that ensures we will never rest on our laurels.

Last year was our 10-year anniversary of running bike tours as Ride and Seek. I have actually been leading and designing bike tours now for almost 30 years so it is fair to say it is a vocation. From the inauspicious beginnings of running Hannibal for the first time in 2012 with a motley crew of family and friends, we celebrated the 10th edition of our signature tour with an awesome group of fideli and newcomers in September 2022. It was a proud occasion to reflect back on what we have achieved.

Hannibal – 10 years and counting!
10-year Anniversary Hannibal Group

Reflection has been a theme for us as we approached the 2023 season both in the context of how busy we were through 2022 and with the hindsight of lessons learned through COVID. Obviously, from a commercial perspective, the pandemic was not helpful to put it lightly. Like many in the cycling tour business, we went from having had our best year to date in 2019 to two years of roadblocks and uncertainty.

Rather than batten down the hatches though, as a team, we sought to seek out the ‘road most optimistic’ and constructively prepare for the future. The support we received from many of you who left tour monies in the business and in some cases, simply sent us money to keep us afloat was both humbling and confidence-building.

Through the pandemic, we looked to keep the team together by planning for the future and running tours that made little commercial sense. Hannibal with 2 riders was a all time low! The offshoot of this though is that we kept the proverbial wheels turning and were ready to roll once the travel became viable again. Unlike many companies post-pandemic we have not been impacted by the exodus of guides from the industry. All of those in the video remain in the Ride and Seek family, which we are very proud of. The only change is the kids have all grown up significantly!

We also trialled new initiatives such as a complementary weekly laundry service, coffee vouchers, more gourmet picnic lunches, and smaller group sizes. All of these were confirmed for 2022 and will remain in place for the foreseeable future. We also made plans for a range of new Epic Adventures that we will be launching over the next two months. 

The smaller group size commitment in particular made little commercial sense but was deemed important by us in our quest to run the best tours we can. To ensure the personalised nature of the tour experience we provide, we felt that we need to cap the Epic tour group number to 20. Whilst this runs counter to the general trend in the A to B cycle tour space where groups of 30 plus are common, we are committed to consolidating on the ‘full service’ epic historical cycling adventures we pioneered all those years ago.

More Epic Symbols to Come

It meant that an inaugural tour like the Conquest of the Moors sold out in record time and had a waiting list of 20 at one point but the result was a better tour as a result. With a return booking rate of around 75% we believe the long-term returns merit the short-term losses that we incur by adding more value to the tours through limiting numbers and adding more ‘frills’. Optional room upgrades, more massage options with our tour soigneurs, and the new titanium bikes are among the improvements for 2023.

The less is more approach has also been central to our aim of consolidating Epic Adventures as our core business. In this space, we have created our own cycling tour niche, and it is what we do best. As such we will be running fewer ‘Local’ adventures than before. 

We also plan to avoid too much crossover with the Epics that now run from February through to November. By this, we mean that even though we have a number of new tours, the calendar will not be too busy to ensure we can focus on one tour at a time. So while the Epic map has a few new symbols to be added, we will not be overlapping too many tours as a result. Rather, more tours will become bi-annual as a result.

Our 2022 Season Collage

Returning to the theme of reflection it is fair to say that these decisions are not only steeped in quality control though but are also focused on creating a more sustainable business model in terms of work/life balance and our environmental footprint. 2022 was a huge year for us in terms of tours run and guest numbers, but the team fatigue at the end of the season suggested we needed a reassessment.

There is a fair amount of lamenting one hears about some of the circumstantial positives that people experienced through the pandemic, such as more time with family, a slower pace of life, and a chance to explore other interests. Even though our business came to a standstill, we recognised at the time that getting off the hamster wheel was no bad thing. As we move into the future, the team and I are keen to heed those lessons.

That team is now made up of Ben manning the fort as General Manager and a new position being created for Benjamin as the Logistics Manager in Provence. Tiffany, Sarah, and Raffaella continue to manage the office, accounts, and hotels respectively. 

Design-wise Dean continues to work his magic, and Megan is focused on the customer experience. As stated previously, the guide team remains as solid as ever, and we now have more clearly defined Trip Specialist roles. With such a strong and capable team managing the day-to-day elements of the business has allowed me to indulge my passion for creating and planning new itineraries, which I have been doing with gusto! 

We feel well-positioned to grow in an organic and effective manner in the coming years.

Meeting the new 2022 Guides in Provence

So whilst you might end up cycling with us to the place pictured below in 2024, it won’t simply mean that we will add this tour to the calendar in addition to all the others – we already have 12 Epics to choose from – but rather it will slot in place of another tour.

Indeed, we have 6 new Epics to announce, so get your diaries ready for the upcoming ‘Braking News’ launches. Following the 2018 poll on ‘Where To Go Next?’ we think you’ll be pleased with the tours that have been chosen.

The first person who leaves a comment below with the country where the photo was taken will win a prize and a bonus for naming the city itself.

Our plan over the next couple of months is to set out our stall through to 2025, which will hopefully help you with your cycle adventure planning. With a clearer road map, we will also be able to develop our sustainability strategies which we have been working on both in-house and with Beatrice, who has taken on the role of our sustainability consultant

Mystery Destination – Where is this?  We’ll be here in 2024!

We presently cycle in 30 countries and plan to make that 38 by the end of 2025. We look forward to inspiring you with our new tours in the coming months. And we’ll also reveal more about our plans for the Mont Ventoux Cycling Club (MVCC), which is our logistics base, and so much more. As a club, workshop, and rental hub, we are excited to see how it develops over the coming years.

In part linked to MVCC we are pleased to announce some other improvements that we are delighted to announce. The bike fleet has been upgraded, with all bikes now running disc brakes. We’ve stayed with titanium but have moved across to Van Nicholas as our core road bike. In addition, we have also partnered with Merida and have a range of road e-bikes available.

Mont Ventoux Cycling Club

Continuing on the technological side of things, we also have the larger screen Garmin 1030’s as our standard GPS unit and have incorporated a number of digital elements that are geared towards improving your customer experience without compromising the personal touch. We look forward to introducing them.

And finally, whilst this is what we have in store, we will never forget that we are running tours for you, so I would be very grateful to hear from any of you that have any feedback on how we can improve your experience with us.

Onwards and upwards with the rubber side down we are delighted to have you along for the ride with us. The Epic List is in the process of being updated. We’ll keep you posted.

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face.

See you on the road soon!

Dylan

 



Who were the Norsemen?

 

Who were the Norsemen?

While all Vikings were considered Norsemen, not all Norsemen were Vikings 

This simple question requires a slightly complex explanation.

A simple answer can be summed up in this way: The term ‘Norsemen’ indicates people who came from the Scandinavian countries, (modern-day Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). However, the Old Norse word ‘Viking’ is not so much a name of a people, but a verb, meaning to pirate, (to plunder, steal, rob via sea routes).

While all Vikings were considered Norsemen, not all Norsemen were Vikings. However, the Vikings were a significant and influential subset of the Norsemen, who left a lasting impact on history through their exploration, trade, and conquests.

The Norsemen were a North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, during which time they spoke the Old Norse language. During the late eighth century, many Scandinavians embarked on a large-scale expansion in all directions, giving rise to what is known as the ‘Viking Age’. Norsemen set sail, (to go Viking).

The word ‘Viking’ comes from the Scandinavian term ‘vikingr’ meaning ‘pirate’. Contrary to a popular belief, the Norsemen did not constitute one unified nation back at that time. They were initially organised in small earldoms, each ruled by a local earl, (or jarl). The term ‘Viking’ does not, therefore, denote a population, or a particular race of people for that matter, but rather a profession; seafaring pirates.

 

5 Things you might not know about the Norsemen

1 – Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings. In a scientific paper published in Nature, (2020) scientists analysed more than 400 genomes from Viking burial sites. After DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons, from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland, they found evidence for a major influx of Danish ancestry into England; a Swedish influx into the Baltic; and a Norwegian influx into Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland.

2- Many Norsemen actually had brown hair, not blonde hair.

3 – Norsemen identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

4 – Who is the most famous Norseman? The name most associated with the Viking attacks and raids on the British Isles is that of Ragnar Lothbrok, (sometimes also written as ‘Lodbrok’), who has gone down in history as a fearless leader and unstoppable warrior.

5 –The genetic legacy of the Viking Age lives on today, with 6% of people in the UK population predicted to have Viking DNA in their genes, compared to 10% in Sweden.

‘To go a Viking’

To go a Viking meant that a Norseman would set sail on a body of water, (from open seas and oceans, to rivers and even lakes) in search of new, fertile lands to farm and subsequently permanently settle on, as well as trade with the neighbouring civilisations and cultures, ensuring social, political and economic links overseas.

The term ‘Norse’ generally refers to Norsemen, from the north of Scandinavia. They were full-time traders and accomplished seafarers. Norsemen settled in the islands north and northwest of Britain, Ireland, and western Britain, whereas the Danish ‘Vikings’, principally invaded and occupied eastern Britain. These Danes were not actually farmers but were part-time warriors, led by people of noble birth. They had a reputation for being more violent and ruthless than the Norsemen, (or Northmen) from the far north.

The majority of Norsemen were farmers, craftsmen, and traders who did not engage in seafaring raids. They were more interested in peaceful trade with other nations.

Modern descendants of Norsemen are the Icelanders, Faroe Islanders, Norwegians, and Swedes, who are now generally referred to as ‘Scandinavians’ rather than Norsemen.

 

The Vikings

The Viking Age generally refers to the period from A.D. 800, a few years after the earliest recorded raid, until the 1050s, a few years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The Vikings changed the political and genetic course of Europe and beyond. Cnut the Great became the King of England. Leif Eriksson is believed to have been the first European to reach North America, 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

However, the British conception of the ‘Vikings’ origins was inaccurate. Those who plundered much of Britain actually sailed from the land which is known as Denmark today. The border between the northern Norse regions and the more southerly Germanic tribes, the Danevirke, is located around the current border between Denmark and Germany.

Most of the earliest Viking settlers in Ireland were Norsemen, but circa 850 AD, a large Danish contingent arrived. In 875 AD, Danes and Norsemen were competing for control of Scotland. Antagonism between Danes and Norsemen reached a peak in the mid-tenth century, as they battled over control of York.

Norse mythology

Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources, (from both before and after the pagan period). The source texts mention numerous gods such as the thunder-god Thor, the raven-flanked god Odin, the goddess Freyja, and numerous other deities. The cosmos in Norse mythology consists of Nine Worlds that flank a central sacred tree, Yggdrasil.

The afterlife is a complex matter in Norse mythology. The dead may go to the murky realm of ‘Hel’, a realm ruled over by a female being of the same name, or they may be ferried away by valkyries to Odin’s martial hall ‘Valhalla’, or they may be chosen by the goddess Freyja, to dwell in her field ‘Fólkvangr’ forevermore. The goddess Rán may claim those that die at sea.

 

Lofotr Viking Museum


Lofoten Islands – 10 Things You Might Not Know

Lofoten Islands

 

Protruding from the northwest coastline of Norway, 1500 miles below the north pole and 100 miles above the arctic circle, the Lofoten Islands rise from the icy, blue-green waters, as a wall of gneiss bedrock. The height of the mountains here reaches 1000m and the islands themselves are bordered by a white sandy coast. The Lofoten archipelago is known for its remote, rugged beauty. Painters and authors have long drawn inspiration from the islands. Intrepid cyclists are now being attracted to these islands, for a bike tour of epic proportions.

The landscapes are magnificent, with flocks of seabirds scattering the air in search of food and picturesque fishing villages nestled into protected bays. The population of the five main islands is 25,000.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Lofoten

Number 1: The archipelago took its name from the island of Westwogey, which was formerly called Lofoten. Lofoten is translated from Old Norse as ‘trot leg’. Probably, to the inhabitants of that time, the shape of the island resembled the foot of a lynx. 

Number 2: People came here relatively recently, around 6000 years ago. In those days, the conditions for life on Lofoten were very favourable; a cool, but generally mild climate, with a huge amount of fish in the sea and game in the mountains. The rocky islands of today would have been covered in coniferous and deciduous forests.

 

Number 3: In Svolvær, (midway up the archipelago) the sun is seen above the horizon continuously from 25 May to 17 July. When the midnight sun is seen in the Arctic, the sun appears to move from left to right.

 

 

Number 4: Approximately 70% of all fish caught in the Norwegian and Barents seas use the waters around the Lofoten islands as a breeding ground. The islands have been the centre of great cod fisheries for more than 1000 years, especially in winter, when the cod migrate south from the Barents Sea and gather in Lofoten to spawn.

Number 5: The world’s largest deep-water coral reef, The Rost Reef is located 60 miles west of the island of Røstlandet. The reef was discovered in 2002, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of the island of Røstlandet. 27 miles long and 4 miles wide, the reef is generated by the coral Lophelia pertusa, and is the world’s largest known Lophelia reef. 

Number 6: Lofoten has a high density of sea eagles, cormorants and millions of other sea birds, among them the charismatic puffin. It boasts mainland Europe’s largest seabird colony. Puffins mate for life. Every year, during the breeding season, pairs separated by thousands of miles, for months on end, somehow reunite at the same burrow. Puffins have special glands behind their eyes that filter excess salt out of their blood and excrete it through their nostrils. This adaptation allows them to remain indefinitely at sea with no reliance on freshwater sources.

Number 7: ‘Operation Claymore’ was the name given to a British commando raid on the Lofoten Islands during the Second World War. The islands were an important centre for the production of fish oil and glycerine, used in the German war effort. The commandos achieved their objective, of destroying fish oil factories and some 3600 tonnes of oil and glycerine. After the raid, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill issued a memo “to all concerned … my congratulations on the very satisfactory operation”.

Number 8: The first fishing houses, or Rorbu, were built here in 1120 by the order of King Oysten. Most of the Rorbu belonged to feudal lords at that time, who rented them out, along with tackles and a supply of food. Fishermen paid for the use of Rorbu with almost all of their catch. These days Lofoten fishermen are very wealthy people, and almost everyone has their own Rorbu, (often more than one). The houses are usually rented out to travellers in summer. The price for an overnight stay in a Rorbu is an order of magnitude higher than in an ordinary hotel.

Number 9: In Norse cosmology, all beings live in Nine Worlds that centre around the cosmological tree Yggdrasil. The gods inhabit the heavenly realm of Asgard, whereas humanity inhabits Midgard, a region in the centre of the cosmos. Odin is a one-eyed, raven-flanked god, holding a spear in his hand. Odin pursues knowledge throughout the nine realms. The most popular god among the Scandinavians during the Viking Age was Thor. He wields a mighty hammer called Mjölnir. Thor is associated with lightning, thunder, storms, sacred groves and trees, strength and the protection of humankind.

 

Number 10: The ‘Lofoten Insomnia’ is a summer bike race held each year in the archipelago. The 234 km race starts from a place called simply Å. This is the most westerly point in Norway. The race begins in the middle of the night and is illuminated by the midnight sun.  

+1 : The Coastal Route between Trøndelag and Bodø

Next-level outdoor adventures await in this cycling paradise. The Coastal Route between Trøndelag and Bodø, was voted one of the world’s most scenic roads.

 



Our first foray into Africa (Morocco) – 14 years in the making!

Morocco is now on the tour roster with the Conquest of the Moors

Some of our tours move quickly from conceptualisation to design and execution. Our Caesar Tour from London to Rome, for instance, went from being discussed over coffee in June 2015 to planned, scouted and on the website by September of that same year. We went on to run the inaugural Caesar Tour in May of 2016 with a turn around of less than 12 months for a 34-day Epic. It still holds the record for our fastest Epic Tour creation.

The creation of that tour though was aided by the fact I had already been running bike tours in Europe for 15 years. In addition, we had done a family bike trip back in 1988 from Cambridge to Cognac that incorporated much of the route we chose for Caesar as well. In a nutshell, the tour design had been done before we even came up with the idea of creating the tour. All that remained to be done was join the dots.

Joining those dots took rather longer with respect to our new tour that incorporates Morocco and marks our first foray on to the African continent. In this case, the tour idea dates back almost 15 years.  Back in 2006, I took part in a charity hitchhike with my sister, Anika, from Brighton (England) to Morocco and it was then that the idea was born.

The hitchhike itself was a wonderful experience to share with my sister and felt like a throwback to a more innocent time. Our parents had hitchhiked around Europe in their younger years but by the time we felt our own wanderlust bubble up, it was no longer considered a ‘normal’ way to travel. The chance to do it together though, and as a charitable endeavor convinced us to give it a go. Over the course of 5 days, 2500km and 12 lifts we crossed the English Channel and travelled down through France and Spain.

As an experience, it is one I’ll never forget and it left me with the lasting impression that it is a very hospitable world out there. There is a lot to be said, within reason, for leaving your comfort zone, just hitting the road and following your instincts. The hospitality that was extended to us on that journey and the great conversations we had along the way were a testament to what happens when you take on a challenge with a smile. Taking on challenges and smiling at those we meet is the bedrock behind the Epic List we now have!

Morooco hitchhiking

The undoubted highlight of the whole trip was Morocco. Our final lift got us to the enchanting city of Almeria in Andalucia (Spain) where we hiked up to the top of the Alcazbar castle -the second-largest Moorish fortress in Andalucia after Granada’s Alhambra. It was on this day that my interest in the Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula began, an occupation that was to last over 700 years from the year 707. In this context finishing the hitchhike in Morocco was an apt way to complete the journey. Until this trip, I had little idea of how great an influence the Moors had wielded over modern-day southern Europe.

Not that our initial arrival into Morocco wielded too many clues having caught a ferry from Almeria to the Spanish enclave of Melilla. In effect, we travelled from Spain, across the Mediterranean to once again arrive Spain! Melilla, alongside Ceuta, form the European Union’s only land borders in Africa and was an inauspicious start to our post hitch hike holiday in ‘Morocco’. It caused a fair amount of confusion when we disembarked that’s for sure 🙂

Once we got out of Melilla though we embarked on what, to this day, remains one of my best ever trips. There is something amazing about travelling with limited expectations about what you’ll see and experience. Back in 2006, the opportunity to tap into online travel review sites was limited and certainly not something I was familiar with doing. As such, I felt like I was travelling ‘blind’ and every new place we visited seemed to blow me away. Bumping into a camel in the tight alleys of the Fes Medina, seeing the ‘Blue City’ of Chefchaeun from afar and seeing goats in Argan trees were just three standout moments. From that point, I was hooked and determined to ride my bike in Morocco and run a tour there.

Riding my bike there was the easy part though and indeed, I did that the next year with a mountain bike trip through the Atlas mountains. Setting up a tour there was a different matter altogether. At that point, the tours I guided were all in Europe and my then employer had little appetite to venture any further south. Since that first trip to Morocco, I’ve been back 11 times and it never ceases to enchant me as a travel destination. Setting up Ride and Seek back in 2011 marked the point when I seriously started planning it in my head as a real possibility.

It was at the end of 2017 that we finally committed to running a tour in Morocco and the first round of scouting was a true family affair. I would like to thank our youngest guide Luka – my son- for his sterling work in helping to put this tour together! Here he is below getting into the spirit of things with his headwear in the knife quarter of the remarkable Fez Medina.

Morroco will be the 30th country that we have cycled in and from a personal perspective, it is the one I am arguably most excited about, particularly as it has taken more than 14 years to make it happen! The inaugural Conquest of the Moors Tour will run in October 2020 and I am delighted to be one of the guides on the Moroccan stage.  Through many wonderful hours of ‘scouting’ with the family, and now with the guide team, this tour is one we have waited a long time to realise!

Fez medina



FAQ CORNER: Do I have to ride in a group?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions we hear from prospective riders?

Riding on Korcula Island on Marco Polo

The answer is a categorical no! We pride ourselves on enabling you to ride at your own pace. Our van and bike guide support is structured to this end and with meticulously researched routes uploaded onto GPS units, we are very adept at managing a broad rider spread.

Picnic lunch at Lake Trasimene on Hannibal

We find that with designated coffee and lunch spots throughout the day the spread will ebb and flow but we are well versed in riders coming in at different times and actively encourage that to be the case. Whatever your ride style and ability we will facilitate you riding the tour at a pace that suits you.

Checking the Espresso Gradings

If you do like riding in a group you’ll typically find other riders in the group that roll at a pace that you feel comfortable with. That often becomes your own mini peloton during the course of the tour. One of the undoubted joys of these group tours is the opportunity to meet and ride with others but that choice is yours to make.

The Road Less Travelled through the Dolomites on Caesar

Another element of being able to ride at your own pace is that you don’t have to wait for your fellow riders. You are free to go as fast as you see fit and there is no requirement to stop at the top of cols for the backmarkers which some companies insist on. Grab that ‘col’ photo and then keep rolling.

Looking back towards France at the top of Col Agnel (2744m) on Hannibal 2013

Our tours are imbued with a sense of discovery and as such we actively encourage you to ‘smell the flowers’ along the way. Whether that means you are an avid photographer, a gourmet who wishes to take your time over one of our picnic lunches, or a coffee connoisseur the choice is yours as to how to negotiate the A to B of any given day.

Lunch stops to savour or just a grab and go



COVID-19 Self-Testing Kits for USA Travellers

Since the CDC issued new guidelines on he 7th May, anyone travelling back to the United States can now use certain self-administered tests to satisfy the requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test result. The test need to be taken within 3 days of the return flight. We’re currently recommending the Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag At-Home Rapid Test Kit , and would advise ordering a pack of these self-admnistered tests at least two weeks before departure.

How to purchase and use a self-administered test to satisfy testing requirements on return to US.

BEFORE TRAVEL
Order your test kits before leaving the USA:

We would advise ordering your tests at least a week before your planned departure date, as shipping will take around two days within the US. A pack of 6 tests costs around $150, and allow around $15 shipping costs. You will need to bring your own test kit on tour with you.

When ordering, you will fill out a brief form giving your reason for ordering tests, for which you would select the option “To obtain pre-departure COVID-19 test results for re-entry into the United States as mandated by the CDC“. The site will approve the prescription – individuals only need prescriptions to purchase a pack of tests, but results are valid with or without a prescription. The tests will have an expiration date, but usually have a 9 month shelf life.

You can pack your tests in your carry-on or checked luggage.

Download the App
To take the test during your trip you will first need to download the NAVICA app, which should work on almost all iOS and Android smartphones. Downloading the app and creating an account can be quite time conusming, so we strongly recommend that you do this before departure. Once you have taken your test, the NAVICA app will save the result and create a timestamp, whch you will then need for departure check-in. Everyone in your group will need their own account in the NAVICA app.

DURING YOUR TRIP
Taking the Test

You will need to take the test within three days prior to your flight home.

To take the test go to the eMed website and click “start test.” You do not need to make an appointment, and the service is available 24/7.

Two devices are required to complete the test – the first is the smartphone with the NAVICA app installed, and the other will need a webcam and browser so that you can connect with a doctor. The second device can be a phones, tablets or laptops – we can help with this, so do ask us.

A doctor will connect with you via video chat to confirm your identity and to validate your test result. Anyone with their own personal NAVICA app account can use a self-administered test, and verify their results via eMed website.

Travelling back to the USA

Simply show your NAVICA app at the airport to confirm your certified negative test result.



Guide Soul Rides – Mt Buffalo (Australia)

Dave Moore lives in the country town of Cootamundra in NSW, Australia. He guides on our tours Down Under and co-led the inaugural Strzelecki Tour in 2021. His soul ride is from the spectacular Victorian Alps and is a legendary Aussie climb – Mt Buffalo. This climb features as an extra loop option on Strzelecki.

Mt Buffalo was Australia’s first ski field with the Chalet opening in 1910 and is approx 70km round trip from Bright in the Victorian Alps.

The start of the climb and NP entrance

Mt Buffalo National park toll booth signifies the start of the climb, with the road sheltered by tall stands of mountain ash and thick undergrowth, providing protection from the scorching sun and the buffeting winds.

Not long into the ride you pass the car park for trekkers walking the 20kms Big Walk trail to the Chalet. With smooth road surface following the ridge line, multiple hairpins, altitude is quickly gained. Mackeys’ Lookout has views towards Bright and brings a stark change in the landscape with The Font on the left, a rock face of striking granite that seems to rise upwards forever and valley views on the right.

View from the top

A short descent to Mt Buffalo plateau is where I turn left past the cricket pitch, several sharp ramps and just under 21ks you arrive at the Chalet with stunning vistas, making the hard work worthwhile. The joy of the ride can turn to momentary disappointment if the coffee van is closed, ask Cathy who I rode the mountain with on Strzelecki :).

Instead of turning left, you can ride straight on past Lake Catani, lined by smaller snow gums, subalpine grasses, and bogs to Dingo Dell, named due to resident Alpine dingos and onto The Horn, with the final 3kms gravel.

A well earned beer at the end of a legendary climb

A cracking descent followed by a refreshing ale at the Porepunkah hotel or the Bright Brewery brings my soul ride to an end.

Dave Moore


Guide Soul Rides – Provence (France)

Dylan Reynolds is the founder of Ride and Seek and is based in Provence, France. His chosen soul ride is a 75km(46 miles) loop ride with 1400 metres (4593 feet) of elevation – with an optional out and back from Chalet Reynard to Mont Ventoux!

A soul ride with an iconic out and back option 🙂

My go-to regular soul ride is an out and back up the Gorges de la Nesque which takes around 2 hours to complete. Whenever I’m short of time and need to clear my head this is my ride of choice. It combines all the elements that I consider important for a soul ride – great views, low car numbers, and not overly arduous. I have a nice warm-up on back roads to the Gorges to warm up the legs and then the climbing begins. The profile below confirms my comment regarding it not being too tough though.

Gorges de la Nesque elevation profile (credit Cycling Cols)

With Mont Ventoux in my backyard though it would be amiss to not include the ‘Giant of Provence’ on my choice of overall soul ride. I have taken the liberty of making the ride to the top an option though which is in keeping with the idea that a soul ride should not blow your legs off :). The ride I profile here is also my favourite loop ride when I have a bit more time on my hands. It incorporates the Gorges de la Nesque, a ride from Sault to Chalet Reynard, descent to Bedoin and then home to Mormoiron. The 6km climb from Chalet Reynard to the summit is an option!

View from the top of the Gorges de la Nesque (738m)

This loop ride is shown here on Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/5018922115/embed/c5c0b00b3ce553253ab7aeb5e5334c9f00b8a48b

The first part takes us from our village to the start of the Gorges de la Nesque via a series of back roads. Once on the gorge road, the great thing is that there is a trunk road that is more direct to get to Sault and so most traffic avoids it. In the summer the tourist traffic can be a little annoying – camper vans and motorbikes in particular – but if you ride it out of season or early in the day you have to yourself.

View from the Gorges with Mont Ventoux in the background

One of the surreal things about this ride is the boar you often meet at the top. For those who aren’t expecting it meeting a wild boar on arrival is something of a surprise. It is a common feature given the unofficial boar sanctuary that has been created by an American couple at the top though. Sadly Bill, who was an ex-Marine and member of the Foreign Legion, passed away in 2020 but his wife continues the project.

Meeting the locals

From the top of the Gorges, we ride towards the town of Sault. You can pass through the town for a coffee if you wish, or can turn earlier on to avoid the climb up. There is plenty of climbing to come so any respite is welcome although a pre-climb coffee can also hit the spot. The ride up Mont Ventoux from the Sault side is continued the ‘easy’ one of the 3 ascents. It’s all relative though! The profile below shows the whole climb.

Mont Ventoux from Sault (credit Cycling Cols)

You can see from the profile that the ride up to Chalet Reynard is fairly gentle in terms of gradient and hence the option to head down from there. The extra loop option to ride to the top of Mont Ventoux is more challenging and hard to resist if you’ve got as far as the Chalet though. I tend to do the final out and back climb to the top 50% of the times I do this ride. The ascent to the top is always emotional no matter how many times you have done it.

A 12km out and back up to the top – hard to resist?

Whether I go to the top or just call it a day with the climbing at Chalet Reynard I always grab a bite to eat or at least a drink there. The snack bar does a mean pizza and there is plenty of choice. From here it is time to put on the wind jacket for the super quick descent back down to Bedoin – the most celebrated side of the mountain as it is the classic Tour de France route.

Neapolitan pizza at the Chalet Reynard – anchovies anyone?

At this point, the climbing is done so enjoy the descent! At the bottom there is an option to cut the corner to head more directly back to the village in which we live – Mormoiron – or if I’ve got a bit of time on my hands a beer in Bedoin always welcome. I have hesitation in presenting this ride as an all-time favourite soul ride with or without beer and pizza.



Ned Kelly – An Australian Icon

Our Australian Cycling Tour has the explorer Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki at its core but it would seem amiss to overlook arguably Australia’s most (in)famous cultural icon – Ned Kelly. We love the messaging that Sarina from Cycology has presented for the upcoming tour with the life of Ned Kelly providing plenty of cycling inspiration.

Whilst the story of Ned Kelly is well known to most Australian’s the notorious bushranger is not as well known around the world. We thought we’d provide a bit more background about him and look at some of the myths that have built up around Australia’s folk hero

Edward (Ned) Kelly (1855-1880)

The infamous bushranger, was born in June 1855 at Beveridge, Victoria, the eldest son of John (Red) Kelly and his wife Ellen. His father was born in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1820 and sentenced in 1841 to seven years’ transportation for stealing two pigs.

He arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1842. When his sentence expired in 1848 he went to the Port Phillip District, where on 18 November 1850 he married Ellen, the eighteen-year-old daughter of James and Mary Quinn; they had five daughters and three sons. Ned was the eldest son.

After earning his freedom, Kelly’s father settled in the state of Victoria and married his employer’s daughter. Ned Kelly was the third son of this union. The Kellys were a selector family, meaning they had traveled to Victoria to claim land given to them by the Crown.

However, by the 1850s, much of large tracts of land in many parts of Australia had already been claimed by squatters — settlers who had reached the land earlier and had made large profits off of the land they claimed.

The conflict between these two groups would define much of Australia’s social problems for the ensuing decades.

In Victoria, the Kelly family were heavily targeted by the police due to Ned’s father’s past, as well as their status as selectors.

Ned Kelly’s father was given six months of hard labor in 1866 for unlawful possession of a bullock hide and drank himself to death shortly after he was released. After his father’s death, Kelly became the breadwinner of his family and quickly turned to a life of crime to support them.

Ned Kelly – The Making of a Bushranger (Gabe Paoletti)

When Ned Kelly was 16, he became the accomplice Harry Power, an already infamous bushranger and outlaw of the Australian bush. Under Power’s tutelage, Kelly learned how to be an accomplished bushranger. However, he was eventually arrested with Powers and served a short stint in prison. When Kelly was released, he went back to his old ways of crime.

He was finally forced to go on the run after he and his brother shot a police officer who had come to their house to arrest them for horse theft. The two of them retreated into the hills around his family homestead in Victoria. While the brothers hid in the bush, the police searched for the outlaws but were unable to find them due to their superior knowledge of the region.

Three officers were ambushed by the brothers while searching for them in the dense forest. When one of the officers reached for his gun, Kelly shot him.

The brothers took one police officer hostage and happened upon another two, that they killed when they would not surrender. Though, their hostage grabbed the horse of his fallen comrades and was able to flee the outlaw brothers.

To some, he was a folk hero but to others, he was a vicious and remorseless cop killer – to this day, Ned Kelly divides opinion in Australia. The quote from his Jerilderie letter though gives an idea of why he has been embraced by many in Australia for standing up to perceived inequality though.

5 Quick Facts About Ned Kelly (History Revealed)

SACRED SASH

When Kelly was a boy, he risked his life to save a friend from drowning in a creek near his home in Victoria. The boy’s family were so grateful, they gave him a green sash as a present. Kelly treasured the humble gift his whole life – he was wearing it during his final battle with police just before he was arrested in June 1880.

IRON-CLAD OUTLAW

While on the run, Kelly and the other members of his gang built themselves bulletproof armour. Thick plates of iron – almost a centimetre thick – protected their bodies and shoulders, while helmets with narrow eye slits kept their heads safe. Each set of armour weighed around 44kg. Some of the police officers who faced Kelly clad in his armour later said they were terrified that he was a ghost.

FOLK HERO

Kelly’s reputation as a hero grew after newspapers published what is known as the ‘Jerilderie letter’. The 8,000-word letter, which Kelly dictated in early 1879, justifies the actions of the gang and attacks the police for unfair treatment and persecution of people all over Australia. The diatribe gained Kelly many sympathisers who came to see the bushranger as embodying a spirit of independence and anti-imperial rebelliousness that they admired.


FINAL MOMENTS

The day before his execution, Kelly asked for his photograph to be taken. The images (one of which you can see above) were then given to his family, as they didn’t have any other image of Kelly. In a full-body shot, Kelly is seen standing against a wall looking calm, despite the heavy shackles visible on his legs. His calm demeanor lasted right up until he was led to the gallows when he was told of the time of his execution, he allegedly replied: “Such is lif


KELLY’S BODY

In 2009, a skeleton believed to be Kelly’s was exhumed from a mass grave near where the jail stood. It was confirmed to be his and the Kelly family reburied it in 2013. The skeleton, however, was missing the skull, the location of which is still a matter of speculation. Some reports say it was kept in a police station for a few years and used as a paperweight!



Tour Specifics – APPALACHIANS


PREPARING FOR YOUR ADVENTURE

Appalachians – Maine to North Carolina



GENERAL TOUR INFORMATION


CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL DETAILS OF HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR UPCOMING CYCLING ADVENTURE




MEETING POINTS & TOUR SPECIFICS


STAGE 1 | BETHEL, ME to GETTYSBURG, PA

(Sunday 30th May – Saturday 12th June) 

For Stage 1 the official start point is at the Bethel Inn in Bethel, ME at 1400 on Sunday, May 30th.

From the airport, we can also pick you up from downtown Portland on the way to Bethel if you arrive earlier. Our recommended hotel in Portland is the Hampton Inn Portland Downtown – Waterfront . The travel time to Bethel is 90 minutes.

Bethel Inn
Bethel Inn MN

The nearest airport for the tour is in Portland, ME, and we have a pick up from there at 1200 on May 30th. We’ll meet you in the baggage claim area.

The stage end is in Gettysburg after breakfast on Saturday, June 12th. Our final hotel is the centrally located Inn at Cemetery Hill. We have a shuttle to the Dulles International Airport on the morning of the 12th. The journey time is around 90 minutes.


STAGE 2 | GETTYSBURG, PA to ASHEVILLE, NC

(Saturday 12th – Saturday 26th June) 

The meeting point for stage 2 is at the Inn at Cemetery Hill at 1500 on Saturday 12th June. We have a pickup from the Dulles International Airport at 1200 for those that fly in on the day. The journey time is around 90 minutes.

Please note that whilst we suggest bringing lights for the entire tour they are imperative on the Blue Ridge Parkway which has a series of tunnels that we need to pass through.

Inn at Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg PA

TOUR CONCLUSION | ASHVILLE, NC

(Saturday 26th June) 

The riding part of the tour ends in Cherokee, NC around lunchtime. From here we shuttle you back to the vibrant town of Asheville for our final night. The last hotel is Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Asheville. After breakfast on Saturday, June 26th we will have a shuttle to Asheville Airport which is around 30 minutes drive away.

Four Points by Sheraton, Asheville NC



Dalmatian Peka with a glass of Dingač

Setting up our Epic Adventures is very much a process that evolves over the course of time. Generally, it starts with a conversation about how cool it would be to follow in the footsteps of a particular historical figure to then poring over maps as to the feasibility of doing it on a bike! If the idea strikes a chord we then find ourselves conceptualizing a route and then trying to join the dots between places of interest along the way. Before we know it the trip specialists are searching out the road less travelled, visiting possible lodging options and searching out eateries that give a sense of the place we are visiting.

With our Marco Polo Cycling Tour the process was very much assisted by the fact our trip specialist Marcello had been running tours down the Dalmatian coast for many years and had studied in Venice over 2o years ago. The tour was very much a realisation of a personal dream to create a tour with Marco Polo at its core and we were more than happy to make it happen. However, there was still a need to test some of his recommendations before we added them to the roster. This was the case with a family-run restaurant in an abandoned village on the island of Hvar that Marcello thought would work well on the tour. It is fair to say Dylan didn’t object too strongly when asked to try it out when on a family holiday in Hvar!

The test run was a resounding success and everything about the experience fitted with our desire to sample local fare and get a sense of place through doing so. Our host and chef Berti took the time to introduce us to his family and explained how he ended up running a biodynamic restaurant specialising in ‘peka’ in an abandoned village on the island of Hvar. It was clear that this dining experience had all the ‘ingredients’ to be added to the list of culinary highlights across the tours we run and our visit there in September proved that to be the case. The meat and seafood peka dishes served up were sublime and so we thought we thought we’d give you more of an insight into what ‘peka’ actually was.

The peka is a traditional dish from the Dalmatian region of Croatia. It’s a relatively simple dish of meat and vegetables, placed in a large pot or pan with a metal lid called a cripnja, and cooked for several hours in the embers of a fire. Much of Croatian cuisine celebrates cooking over the fire, with its grills and skewers, and the peka is part of this great tradition. What appears a fairly rudimentary cooking method produces the most succulent results, and over the generations, the process has taken on its own ritual, with many older homes having a specific place where the peka is prepared. It is often served when there are guests in the house, and restaurants in the area will typically have several versions on the menu, with different choices of meat and fish.

The Peka recipe

– Light the fire at least an hour before starting to cook, and place the cooking pot near the fire to warm.
– Cut the meat or fish into large pieces and place in the pot. Lamb and veal are often used, as is fish and octopus.
– Cut the potatoes and any vegetables you wish to use into large pieces and nestle them in the pot along with the meat.
– Season with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little paprika.
– When you have plenty of embers in the fireplace move them to one side using your fireside shovel, and place the peka pan directly onto the hot stone, making sure the lid is securely fitted.
– Then shovel the embers over the top of the pot and cook until the potatoes are golden and the meat tender and juicy, which will take an hour for fish dishes, and longer for tougher cuts of meat.

The right amount of seasoning and perfect cooking time comes with experience, like so many things in life!

As is often the case the best accompaniment to a dish that is very much a part of its local culture, is a local wine. Here are a few of Croatia’s most fabulous reds and whites. We were very lucky to have our newly qualified sommelier Marcello on the tour to manage the wine kitty 🙂

Dingač is known as the ‘King of Croatian wines’. The Dingač region is on the Pelješac Peninsula in the Dalmatian region and was the first wine-producing area in Croatia to become a protected zone in 1965. The Plavac mali grape, that grows on its steep southern slopes, creates a wine that is dark red, full-bodied and generally strong, typically with an alcohol content of 15%.

Pošip is a robust white wine, golden in colour, and a great accompaniment to fish Peka, including the fabulous octopus peka. The grape is grown mostly on the island of Korčula, and also goes well with the light cheeses produced in the area.

Plavac mali is a ruby red, rich and velvety wine. Its excellent quality has made it one of Croatia’s most exported wines, and a popular choice to pair with game and meat dishes.

Faros is another a top-quality wine produced from the Plavac mali grape. The grapes used to create this dry red are grown on the island of Hvar, the variety having been originally cultivated in the area by the ancient Greeks.

Bogdanuša is a variety also grown almost exclusively on the island of Hvar, producing a dry greenish-yellow white wine. It has a fresh taste, with fans detecting the presence of the lavender that grows alongside it on the Stari Grad Plain.

Prošek is a sweet dessert wine produced in the south of Croatia, predominantly Dalmatia. Because of its production method that requires seven times more grapes than other wines, only a few hundred litres are made each year, making good quality versions more expensive. In Croatia it often makes an appearance on special occasions such as weddings and christenings, but don’t fall into the trap of confusing it with Italian Prosecco!



Was Marco Polo Croatian?

The fact that Marco Polo was Venetian is widely accepted, indeed both the Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica entries cite Venice as his birthplace. So why is there a small house in Korčula, Croatia, claiming to be where Marco Polo was born?

Home of Marco Polo

With its dramatic tower overlooking the roofs of Korčula old town and the sparkling Pelješac Channel, this charming house would certainly make a fitting start to a remarkable life. But is it really Marco Polo’s birthplace, and if so would that make him Croatian rather than Italian?

The house in question was once owned by the Depolo family, and it is claimed that Depolo, a Dalmatian name, is a variant of Polo. Other records also show that Marco’s father Nicolo Pilic (another variant of Polo) was from Sibenik in Dalmatia, and later moved to Venice. If Marco had been born on the Island, which was under Venetian rule at the time, his nationality would indeed have been recorded as Venetian, even though he wasn’t actually born in Venice.

Sadly we have very few facts about Marco’s childhood, but we do know that his father, along with his  uncle Maffeo, were successful merchants, trading silk and jewels along the Silk Road through Asia. We also know that his father and uncle only met Marco for the first time at the age of around 15 when they returned to Venice from their travels in Asia, having left when his mother was pregnant. In theory it seems feasible that Marco’s mother gave birth in Korčula and moved with her son to Venice during the 15 years in between, but there is simply no evidence.

The issue has long been debated, and hit the news in 2011 when a museum dedicated to Marco Polo in Yangzhou, China, was opened by the former president of Croatia, Stjepan Mesić, rather than an Italian dignitary. Controversially, during the ceremony, he publicly claimed Marco Polo to be Dalmatian, and a Croatian. A flurry of headlines ensued with an Italian journalist writing an article cheekily accusing ‘Zagreb’ of ‘kidnapping’ Il Milione, (Marco’s Italian nickname). The journalist argues that even if Polo was born on the island of Korčula, he was born a Venetian, and trying to reclaim his birth as Croatian would be an ‘historical extravagance’ .

Marco Polo travels

It seems his birthplace will remain a mystery for now, and while his nationality may be susceptible to the various changes in politics and national boundaries over the centuries, we’re fortunate Marco Polo didn’t let these man-made borders stand in his way during his lifetime.



The story of the folk hero James McKenzie & his dog Friday

Born in Scotland around 1820 McKenzie emigrated to Australia in 1849. He bought himself some bullocks and started to earn a living carrying goods to the gold-digging sites. His plan obviously worked as he was able to save up enough money to get himself to New Zealand, disembarking at Nelson. His aim was to acquire some land to call his own. He worked his way south, buying more bullocks along the way, eventually applying for a land grant in the Mataura District.

It was rumoured that he would travel north to ‘obtain’ stock, and in March 1855 some 1,000 sheep were found to be missing from Levels Station, South Canterbury – they were tracked over the low passes and on to the plains, now known as Mackenzie Country. His pursuers, reportedly a Mr J.H.C. Sidebottom and his two Maori companions, caught up with him on the 4th March, but McKenzie somehow managed to escape. He fled and covered the 100 miles to Lyttelton, before the law caught up with him and he was arrested. In April 1855 he was sentenced to 5 years hard labour, but proved difficult to contain, managing to escape twice, in May and June that year, each time being recaptured within a few days. After another failed escape attempt in September he was placed in irons and monitored closely.

But all was not lost. It is said the Sheriff of Lyttelton, H.J. Tancred, believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and closer inspection showed significant flaws in the investigation and trial. There was a talk of an ‘unknown man’ who employed James to drive the sheep from Canterbury to Otago. He was eventually pardoned in January 1856 after spending only 9 months in prison. He didn’t stick around and the last we know of his movements are that he paid passage and sailed from Lyttelton to Australia that very month.

Over the years Mckenzie’s story became surrounded by mystery and legend and he became a local hero. He was subject of myths and stories, many of which included his dog, and he was even immortalised in a folk ballad, Mckenzie Song by Mike Harding. More recently, he was the inspiration for the 2008 novel Chandler’s Run, by Denise Muir – a sweeping romantic epic set in New Zealand’s southern mountains, in which the heroine is torn between her dependable consumptive husband, and the swarthy Scottish drover, James McKenzie, and his faithful dog Friday.

The Mackenzie Basin, the area of New Zealand’s South Island that still bears his name, sits between the sprawling plains of Canterbury and the Southern Alps, and is home to beautiful glacial lakes and Aoraki/Mount Cook.



Our Lightened COV19 Terms & Conditions

Dear Ride and Seekers

With the COVID-19 -coronavirus still dominating the headlines I wanted to reach out to let you know our thoughts on the situation and attempt to assuage any concerns you have. Like you we have been watching closely to determine what impact the new virus means for our families, friends, and businesses.

From our perspective, we are committed to running any of the tours on the Tour Schedule in 2020 that we are permitted to, and our medical committee deems it safe to do so. At this point in time, we have given the green light to 3 tours in 2020 – Hannibal – Across the Alps, Marco Polo – Venice to Athens, and Strzelecki – Sydney to Melbourne. We decided to defer the iron Curtain and Conquest of the Moors Tours to 2021 under advice from the committee.

With regards to the tours due to run we appreciate that this is a dynamic situation that is changing daily though. After months of changing plans, we are not naive about the changing nature of this pandemic and are fully accepting that we might still need to cancel these tours. Indeed, our revised terms & conditions are geared to provide flexibility to change plans up until 14 days prior to departure this year and beyond.

In terms of proactive measures we have taken, the points below relate to tangible changes we have made to the tours. Our COVID19 ‘On Tour Health And Safety Protocol’ also provides more details about some of the specific measures we have in place and the references we have used to put it together.

  • Creating new route options for bypassing the most ‘at risk’ areas that the tours travel through if required.
  • Taking provisional hotel bookings along the ‘new’ routes until we can make a definitive call on the situation.
  • Putting in place clear protocols on tour to reduce the risk of contamination with a particular focus on snack and lunch stops.
  • Revisiting our risk assessment strategies in terms of dealing with illness on tour and the emergency procedures we have in place.
  • Researching the information available from health authorities about COVID-19 and keeping abreast of updates from governments, airlines, and insurance companies.

In regard to the tours that will run in 2020 and into 2021 we believe that offering increased booking and cancellation flexibility is key and we invite you to read our updated Terms and Conditions that designed to this end.

At this point, it feels like we need to take some time to see how the situation will play out, and hopefully, our revised terms provide both reassurance and a practical approach in this context.  My ‘glass half full’ side also believes that the upcoming tours will benefit from fewer crowds in the places we visit, as was found by our cyclists on the  Maori tour in New Zealand back in February.

For now, it is important to keep abreast of the information from our most trusted sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-  https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ – and World Health Organisation are a good place t0 start – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

I hope this position doesn’t come across as making light of this serious situation but rather offers a practical approach for both those who wanted to both postpone tours and those determined to be on the tours they are already booked on.

This situation is very much top of mind for all of us at Ride and Seek, as well as yourselves,  so I invite anyone who wishes to tee up a chat with me to send me an email to dylan@rideandseek.com. Please do not hesitate to reach out anytime.

Here’s hoping that this situation will calm down sooner rather than later and we can all go back to doing what we enjoy most and ride our bikes in amazing places!

Kindest regards to you all,

Dylan

Dylan Reynolds
Founder & Director at Ride and Seek
P  +33 66 696 3431 (Office GMT+1:00)
E  dylan@rideandseek.com
W  www.rideandseek.com

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