Sean Maher graduated in the middle of the worst recession for several decades and found there were no jobs. Unperturbed, he decided to ride-out the recession, literally: cycling 12,000 miles from Cornwall to Capetown.
How did the idea for the trip come about?
Before I decided to do this trip I was a student at Exeter University. I graduated this year with a high 2:1 in Politics.
My main activity at university was Rugby and I played for the University 2nd XV in my final year.
I decided to do this trip because no matter who I applied to I couldn’t get a job! I thought this would help me boost my skills without having to do another year’s study or wait tables like some of my other graduate friends.
How have you been preparing?
I really started cycling to get to a summer job in my first summer of university. It was 10 miles there, 10 miles back and I did it on my brother-in-law’s old bike which I took the rear brake off, because it was rubbing on the back wheel!
I’ve been planning and training for this trip since the beginning of June, when I should have been revising. I tend to do around 30-40 miles, three times a week on the bike, plus running and walking a lot.
I’ve prepared for the trip by reading every book I can find about the continent and by following other expeditions. Particularly the Listen to Africa expedition. Continue reading
James Bowthorpe is currently cycling across the USA, 19 days from returning to London at the end of his round-the-world trip.
If he hits his target, he will do it faster than anyone in history. He took some time out to talk to me for an article in the Guardian, but here’s the full transcript.
How long have you been on the road?
I left London on the 29th of March, I’ve been away five months. Sometimes it feels like a lot longer…
How soon do you expect to finish, and how much are you hoping to beat the record by?
I’m hoping to get back to London mid-September. The current record is 195 days all in and I’m hoping to beat that by around two/three weeks. Anything less would be ungentlemanly!
What’s been hardest part of the trip?
Physically, probably the first three weeks – which were still a part of the training. In general, headwinds are the hardest thing to deal with – they’re so soul destroying. It’s an environmental and physical hardship that becomes an emotional hardship – you just can’t beat them and it can really grind you down.
Getting sick after India was really hard. I couldn’t leave my Thai hotel room for nearly three days, let alone get on the bike. It was a pretty dark time and I did think about getting on a plane home. But eventually I could keep enough food down to fuel the cycling and I just got on and did it. Continue reading
By the morning we’d accepted that there was no way to get to Barcelona by bike from where we were. We were within an easy morning’s ride on almost completely flat ground, after traveling hundreds of miles over a mountain range, but there was a motorway in the way.
It turns out that our map was out of date – by several decades – which is how it had managed to sneak up on us. Continue reading
Being out in the open, we woke up early, ludicrously early. We were both very sore, tired and grouchy at this point, which could explain how we ended up cycling for 11km on a motorway instead of the road we aimed for. Later we found out that the police are pretty strict about this heinous crime, and tend to hand out 500 Euro fines. Continue reading
We woke up in Spain, and I had a quick wash in what we later found out was called the “River of Death”. It was actually very refreshing, and not at all poisonous/doomed.
Dave speaks wonderful Spanish, so we set off to find some people to speak Spanish at, and hopefully buy breakfast from, having wolfed down the last of our supplies the night before. We stopped at the first place we saw and ate rabbit for breakfast. Wild rabbit has virtually no meat on it, and we discuss the fact that I once heard (from Stephen Fry, so it must be true) that you die of malnutrition if you only eat rabbit meat. We decide to eat several chocolate bars each, just in case. Continue reading
I woke up in a comfortable bed and promptly forgot to continue the previous night’s whinging where I sleepily left off, so we had breakfast and set off for the Col d’Aspin – nothing compared to the previous two day’s hurdles, but a mountain nonetheless.
It was an uneventful climb, and the harsh, exposed landscape of the previous day was replaced with a sheltered route through forest. At the summit were a smattering of tourists and cows, the latter of which tried to knock Dave over. We ate, took in the scenery and looked over The Map for what seemed like the thousandth time that week. Continue reading
By day four we were starting to ache, but the largest mountain between us and Barcelona was still on the agenda.
The Col du Tourmalet stands at 2,115 metres (however they work these things out), which is more than two kilometres, straight up. If there had been a nice, flat cycle path all the way back to London town, I would have taken it at this point. Continue reading