Around the world by bike
Alastair Humphreys spent more than four years bicycling through Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia.
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You had adventures – some funny, some dangerous. Which ones stand out?Skip to next paragraph
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There are so many, but here are a few. In Tanzania, I rode through the Mikumi National Park where a sign warned: "DANGER. Wild Animals next 50kms." Luckily, I only saw giraffes, zebras, warthogs, baboons, and impala – and no lions. But I pedaled very fast!
In Siberia, I was robbed ... by some ... men who then gave me directions to the next town. There is a bit of good inside everyone.
In China, I slept on the Great Wall under a full moon. I stayed with shepherds in their yurts in the Kyrgyzstan mountains, sharing horse sausages and boiled sheep heads with them.
You also met people from varied backgrounds. How did they respond to you?
The kindness of strangers was the greatest privilege of my ride.
Spontaneous invitations to stay came from Bedouins in Jordan, Sudanese families on the banks of the Nile [River], Maasai [a people in Kenya and Tanzania] ... Patagonian cattle ranchers, Colombian police, Baptist ministers, Yakut Indians, Russian village mayors, Chinese men in Inner Mongolia, Kyrgyz farmers, Bosnians, Frenchmen, and loads of expatriates all over.
In Alaska, a lady stopped her car and gave me her take-away pizza.
In Chile, I stopped to ask for water at a house, and the man invited me in, fed me, invited me to relax on his sofa and spend the night in the spare bed whilst he went out for the weekend.
In four countries, I stayed in orphanages run by my favorite charity, Hope and Homes for Children. Those were real motivating, inspiring experiences.
What did you find exhilarating?
Freewheeling down mountain passes, swooping down through curves for an hour or two was amazing – especially if the sun was setting, and I was ... looking forward to a well-earned supper in the beautiful quietness of a secret campsite in some far-off, exciting land.
Falling off my bike and putting up my tent in freezing Siberia, having bike breakdowns, and getting visas.
After four years of traveling, what did you learn about the world and yourself?
That the world is a good place filled with nice, normal people. It's not all filled with the terrible events we see on the news. I learned to trust more. I saw my strengths and weaknesses highlighted in the good and bad times: loneliness, self-pity, determination, an openness to get on and communicate with whatever kind of person I'm with, a stubbornness not to quit, a fear of failure. I came to really appreciate my friends, family, country, and good fortune.
What is your advice to someone who wants to follow in your tire treads?
Everyone has dreams. The hardest part is just the beginning. The rest is definitely easier.
• To find out more about Alastair Humphrey's bicycle journey, visit his website, www.alastairhumphreys.com.
Best and worst list
On his trip, Alastair Humphreys had many experiences. Here are some of his most and least favorites:
• Best: Iftar, the enormous feast at sunset each day during Ramadan in Lebanon.
• Worst: The cold and chewy squid or jellyfish he ate in salad in Japan.
• Most rewarding: Spending time in poor but welcoming and hospitable villages of South America and Africa.
• Most disappointing: "I don't associate disappointment with my trip," he says.
Places to ride
• Most interesting: Africa, in general. Specifically, Ethiopia.
• Most boring: Botswana, where he cycled hundreds of miles across hot scrub into a never-ending head wind.
• Most beautiful: Carretera Austral in the southern part of Chile.
• Least attractive: Old, crumbling towns in Romania and other Eastern European countries.
• Easiest: Highway 1 on US West Coast.
• Hardest: The Andes in Peru where he rode two days to the top, sailed down, and spent two more days going up again.