24 Trips & Counting: Why Pat & Jo Love Active Travel

Couple on the Camino trail | Pat Black
Couple on the Camino trail | Pat Black

24 Trips & Counting: Why Pat & Jo Love Active Travel

We're not sure there are many active travellers more well-travelled than Pat and Jo Black. Together they have been on 24 trips with UTracks...and have already booked in another 4 for next year. 
 
Read on to discover why Pat and Jo love being in the great outdoors of Europe and prepare to be inspired to get out there and explore.
 
Walking down from Ravello, Italy |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 

Why do you like active travel so much?


We live in Alice Springs, in outback Australia, and enjoy many outdoor activities, including hiking and cycling. 
 
Self-guided active travel fits us perfectly and we embrace opportunities to see countries up close. We have visited a lot of the big European cities and they are fun, but after a couple of days of the crowds, the traffic and the constant noise, the peace and tranquillity of the countryside really appeals to us.

We have done a couple of walking tours which have been fun, but the faster and more flexible travel by bike is what we like best.
 
Leaving Radicofani on a cycle tour in Italy |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 

What inspired you to take that first trip?


I had been reading a UTracks brochure prior to heading to Scandinavia in 2015 and we thought we would try one of the bike trips to see if we liked it. We picked the Sweden: Land of Lakes and Castles tour and were instantly hooked. The freedom to cycle at your own pace, stopping where you like, following maps, and exploring little country villages that you would never normally go to was just magic.

Since that first trip we have done another 23 tours, and have plans for another 4 in 2024.
 
Bike parked by a canal in Trosa, Sweden |  <i>Pat Black</i> Pausing to reflect on Sweden's naturaly beauty |  <i>Apelöga</i> Lake Klammingen, Sweden |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 

How do you choose your next trip?


We generally have 6 weeks, including travel time, as our time away from home. We prefer to spend minimal time in the big cities, so that gives us about 4 – 5 weeks that we can allocate to the tours. 
 
Cycling by a canal into Ghent, Belgium |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 
I then try to link the tours together so that they run one after another, generally travelling in the same direction so the in between travel days are kept to a minimum. This means that we have in the past signed up for tours that we were only moderately keen on as they made the logistics work better, but they generally turn out to be some of our favourites. 
 
You never really know what you are going to get and that’s the beauty of this type of travel.
 
Cycling Pas de Rolan in Basque Country, France |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 

How do you prepare for your trips?


Living in Alice Springs, we have some of the best mountain bike and walking trails in Australia, including the spectacular 223 km (138 mile) Larapinta Trail, so it’s easy to keep fit and active in our normal day to day activities. Leading up to our trips we may do a bit of extra riding, but make sure we keep up our regular gym sessions.
 
Hiking the Larapinta Trail |  <i>Luke Tscharke</i>

We have never used electric bikes so we choose rides that are graded 4* or less so that we know we can ride them without over-taxing ourselves.
 

What have been your overall trip highlights?


My two favourite rides were the first 2 stages of the Via Francigena, from St Bernards Pass, through the Aosta Valley to Siena, as the scenery was just fabulous.
 
Admiring the view over Aosta Valley in Italy |  <i>Pat Black</i> Cycling the St Bernards Pass on the Via Francigena |  <i>Pat Black</i> Cycle Italy's Via Francigena
 
The Ancient Venetian Empire cycle tour was another great ride through 3 distinct countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. 
 
All smiles on our Ancient Venetian Empire by Bike
 
 
The Cycle the Western Front was also really special. The Sir John Monash Centre was a highlight to get a feel for what our Australian soldiers suffered and did in WWI.

War graves, Villers Bretonneux, Belgium |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 

What is your favourite thing to eat and drink on tour?


There is nothing better, particularly after a warm day and a refreshing shower, than to sit at an outdoor café with a beer (big for me), a glass of white wine for my wife Jo, and some salty chips. The world is then in balance!
 
Indulging in the essentials in San Miniato, Italy |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 
 

What has been your favourite town (so far)?


Berceto is a tiny stone village located just before the Cisa Pass at 1,040 meters, a pass in the Apennine Mountains in Italy. We rode from the lovely town of Parma towards the start of the climb up to Berceto on this section of the Via Francigena.
 
View of the Apennines, via Degli Dei, Italy |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 
About half way up it started to rain and by the time we got to the top we were absolutely drowned. The lady at our accommodation demanded that we come in even though we were dripping everywhere. She took all our wet clothes, washed and dried them, dried our shoes and directed us to the adjoining bar while she did it all. 
 
She then cooked us a fabulous meal at her restaurant even though we were the only people there.

The next day we got to see Berceto as the rain had cleared and it was just a beautiful little village completely made of old stone buildings – very special.
 
The Berceto Cburch in Italy |  <i>Heath de Burgh</i>
 

And finally, your best advice for other active travellers?


Do as many trips and tours as you can AND – never stop!!!  
 
Happy couple in front of the church in Santiago de Compostela |  <i>Pat Black</i>
 
 

 
 
 

 
Are you feeling inspired? We sure are! Where in Europe do you want to explore next?
 
  
 
Travel, Active Travel, Traveller Tale

Comments (2)

Sunny

Wow! What a great idea stringing multiple tours together especially since they're flying in from the other side of the world. Thanks for sharing your inspiring adventure!

8 months ago
William from UTracks

We agree - it's a great way to make choosing your trips easier. Whatever links up, just do it! Thanks for sharing.

8 months ago
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