Emily and Max are two EDGE champions who are cycling from London to China and trying to raise money for EDGE. Emily has written this blog to share their story.
We first got the idea to do a bicycle tour a few years ago. For a long time we’d been dreaming about driving overland to China, but on one hot summers weekend we took a long drive from our home in London to Northern France, arriving a few hours later cranky and stiff, unimpressed by the scenery and itching to get out the car. The following day we took our bikes out for a short cycle, and suddenly the place was transformed. We could hear the birds singing, smell the fresh forest air and feel the summer breeze. And with that, the idea of travelling by bicycle firmly lodged itself in our minds.
The following Autumn – a couple of years ago now – we set out on our first trip, to cycle from France to South Africa via Europe and the Middle East. This was quite an ambitious plan considering the longest we’d ever done on a bike previously was a few days in Scotland, we’d never ridden a fully loaded, heavy touring bike, and we didn’t know how to mend a puncture, but off we went. As much to our surprise as anyone else’s, we made it to Cape Town in one piece, without getting eaten by a lion, beset by bandits or just giving up and coming home.
Spurred on by how much we enjoyed that trip, and with our original plan of travelling overland to China still in our minds, we decided to give it another go and attempt to ride East across Europe and Asia. Six months and 11,000km later, here we are, sitting in Kashgar, China.
To get here we have had to endure some serious challenges. We’ve crossed 2000km of desert in temperatures in the 40s and no shade to be found. We’ve climbed six peaks over 4000m in the Pamir mountains. And possibly the hardest challenge of all – Central Asian food. Occasionally, when things are tough, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going. But ultimately these moments are few and far between, and the sheer fun of the trip definitely outweighs any hardship we experience.
One of the things we love the most about cycle touring, especially when compared to our ‘normal’ lives in London, is simply just how much time we spend outdoors. Of course, being so exposed to the elements can leave you with the occasional soaking, but it always pays out in the end. Watching how the world around you slowly transforms from one region to another truly impacts the amazing diversity and beauty of this world. And although towns and cities are important for resting and refuelling, nothing beats camping out in the wild – whether it be setting up camp in a damp, dark forest listening to the calling of birds and rustling of leaves, to sleeping out under the stars in the empty silence of the desert.
Some of my most memorable experiences from this trip are simply thanks to our incredible natural world – a sudden plague of giant dragonflies invading our boat in the middle of the Caspian Sea, rescuing the slow-plodding tortoises from traffic in the Balkans, watching the eagles soar in the Turkish mountains. Even in a place as barren as the desert, too harsh for human habitation, nature was our constant companion. We’d often sit having a biscuit break amused by the scampering of nervous gerbils or the small, darting desert birds. Herds of camels would lollop away in alarm as they saw us approach, and occassionally packs of horses would gallop alongside the road, creating a dust storm in their wake. All of these sights inspire us so much, and we feel privileged to see them.
This is why we chose to support EDGE. The beauty of nature is a constant source of pleasure and comfort to us, and the thought of the amazing diversity of our planet being slowly being eroded away is heartbreaking. Our natural world gives us so much, and we’d like to help do what we can to help preserve it for future generations.
To donate to Max and Emily’s fundraising challenge visit their justgiving page
You can read more about their trip on their blog cycling to China