..Continent Conquering cyclist Ken Roberts answers our questions from the road..
Ken Roberts had a plan to cycle across the principal inhabited continents - Europe, Asia, Australia, North & South America and Africa. With the primary aim of raising money for The Outward Bound Trust his trip would cover over 45000 miles and last around 4 years. Ken is currently living this adventure! Taking two wheels and his refreshing attitude Ken is pedaling through some of the world's most fascinating places. You can read more about him and his journey on his website. He keeps an up to date blog and pictures/videos from the road. We'd also urge you to support his cause (and our charity of the month) by donating here or following The Outward Bound Trust links on our homepage.
We caught up with Ken in China and he very kindly answered some of our questions. Enjoy the read and be inspired to take on your own challenge!
1. Four years on a bike crossing the globe, does the length of time ever become an issue or does the ongoing challenge of it all override everything else? Sometimes the sheer enormity of the task does cast a shadow, at times struggling to grapple with the thought of years on the road. But then the daily necessities of life kick in, giving you something to focus on, things to do. A sense that, bit by bit, you’re getting there. Besides, if it were easy, where’d be the challenge?!
2. One of your aims is to raise awareness and funds for The Outward Bound Trust (our current charity of the month). When you were younger you also experienced one of their courses first hand. Do you think this ignited something inside of you and which other factors led to your decision to cross the world by bike? Definitely – The three weeks I spent with The Outward Bound Trust caught me at just the right moment in my life, helping me realise most people can do much more than they think they can. And it triggered a deep desire for fresh challenges – both intellectual and physical – that, far from waning, has grown stronger with time. Culminating in my present endeavor, and with it an opportunity to give something back, in some small way at least.
3. How much pre-planning went into your trip and do you find yourself having to do a lot of re-organizing? Lots of pre-departure preparations – route planning, cycle maintenance and medical training, a whole plethora of stuff – but never quite enough. But if you wait until absolutely everything’s done, you’d never leave. It’s a balance, judging the essential, determining what you can do on the road. Inevitably, especially for a project of this scale and duration, circumstances do change and plans need to be adapted accordingly – it’s as much about problem solving as pushing the pedals.
4. Has the route been a smooth one so far and is there anything you would have done differently with hindsight? Looking back Europe seems such a breeze, across France, following the River Danube east towards the Black Sea. But great experience for adjusting to life on the road, adapting to the enduring nature of this venture. Loneliness has definitely been the biggest challenge, and by a good margin. A few dark days and lonely nights along the way. Inevitably, glitches occur – odd bout of illness, closed borders – but you learn to cope, take them in your stride, just another problem to be solved. There’s always a solution.
And anything I’d have done differently, knowing what I know now? Bit more time spent in the planning stage on researching the often byzantine world of visas, perhaps securing a few more before setting off. And I’d be less concerned about language difficulties than I was at the outset – been quite surprised how far just a few words, a lot of patience, and unwavering politeness, will get you.
5. Which places would you say have been highlights so far? And are there any places in particular you look forward to cycling through? So difficult to pin down highlights. And as much about people as places. Which probably explains the attraction of both Serbia and Georgia – a certain rawness, a population trying hard to make their nation a better place, endless challenges to be overcome. Physically the toughest section so far, and in that sense the most memorable, has been crossing the Gobi desert in Western China. Bleak, foreboding, the frequent, unrelenting gale force winds often much more of an obstacle than coping with the heat.
Looking ahead, the Alaskan wilderness has a huge pull, the thought of being, at times, the only human being for hundreds of miles. And, New Zealand, because I’m told it shares a lot of similarity with the UK, both culturally and climatically.
Thanks to Ken and all the best for the next continent! The YAC 24/10/10