Tim’s on his bike... for 21,688 miles

This Breathtaking World by Tim Doherty
This Breathtaking World by Tim Doherty
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THE enormity of his journey perhaps first struck Tim Doherty when the Himalayas came into view.

“I remember getting off my bike and taking them in,” he says. “I remember thinking: ‘Blimey, I’ve cycled here from Sheffield’.”

Later on, when the Rockies appeared in sight as he pedalled through Canada, he had a similar mountain-based epiphany.

“It suddenly felt like I was on the home straight,” he says. “I had more than 3,000 miles still to do – and that included all Ireland – so it was a long home straight, but that’s how it felt.”

Thus, Tim Doherty passed by two of the main landmarks on a two-year 21,688-mile adventure which saw him cycle from Banner Cross Road, in Ecclesall, and back again – taking in some 20 countries and circumnavigating the entire globe in between.

His mission – via Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, North America and the Peak District – took in some of the world’s most incredible sights. The Taj Mahal in Agra, San Marco Piazza in Venice, Olympia in Greece and Durbar Square in Kathmandu were all on his route.

But it was also a journey – undertaken for no other reason than, to paraphrase George Mallory, because “the world was there” – fraught with danger.

There were robberies, near deadly illnesses, close encounters with some of the globe’s most deadly predators, an earthquake and, perhaps most terrifying of all, the Indian traffic.

“The scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” notes Tim.

It was a journey, undertaken between 1997 and 1999, but described in a fascinating self-penned book, which started in far calmer surroundings: Banner Cross Road.

That’s where Tim, a former Abbeydale Grange School pupil, grew up. After falling in love with cycling and spending hours biking around the Peak District during his adolescence, he decided he wanted to see the world by pedal power.

“It was after university and it was something I wanted to do before settling down,” says the 43-year-old father-of-two today. “I guess it was like a gap year thing – but a lot more effort. I’d originally arranged to go with five friends but, one by one, they dropped out.

“I thought about not doing it but I couldn’t not. Besides, going alone meant there would be no compromise. When I wanted to cycle the Syrian desert through the night I didn’t have to think about anyone. I could just do it.

“My mum said she was sure I’d never get home again and when I think about doing things like that maybe she was right to be worried but I loved every minute.”

Which is some claim when those minutes included such dangers as an earthquake in Adana, Turkey, which killed 144 people.

Tim had been spending some time in the city enjoying sightseeing when the 6.5 monster struck.

“I was waiting for a bus when it happened,” he says. “There was a crash which shattered the silence. It was like waves in the ground. The bus station wall cracked, scattering rubble and glass.

“The strange thing was the bus was only an hour late and I got back to the campsite where things were okay. I had no idea how bad it was. The campsite was largely unaffected and I set off the next day for the Iranian boarder.”

Turkey was somewhat unlucky for him, as it happens. There, just south of the capital Ankara, he had his bike stolen too.

“This chap asked me if he could ride it,” says the car designer who married Austrian girlfriend Verena in 2002 and moved to Graz shortly after. “I’d had a bad day and for whatever reason I said yes. He rode off and didn’t come back.”

The army came to the rescue. A friendly shepherd sent Tim to a military base where he explained what happened, and then spent the rest of the day with five officers searching for his bike.

“I remember they almost bundled me into this van,” he says. “They were saying: ‘When we find this guy’ we’re going to string him up’. And I was saying: ‘No, no, just the bike is fine’.

“Luckily, we ended up finding it – in this little village – but not the guy. I spent the night at the barracks.

“The officers insisted I write a letter to their chief explaining how they’d helped which I did, and then... let’s just say we celebrated finding the bike very well indeed.”

Indeed, it was such friendliness which made his troubles – which also included suffering with tropical disease dengue fever in India and having a snake rise up at his bike in Thailand – worthwhile.

“In Syria, everyone I met wanted to have me over for dinner or put me up for the night,” he says. “They don’t see strangers very often, I guess, and they wanted to show they were hospitable and talk. That was so touching. And it makes the news coming from the country now very hard.”

He suffered homesickness – he flew back to Austria to see Verena before returning to the exact same road to resume his journey at one point – and he had to bypass Iran.

“I couldn’t get a visa,” he says, “which was disappointing”.

Yet for all the problems he insists those sights, that friendliness and the fact he raised £1,400 for charity made it worthwhile.

“It’s funny, though,” he notes. “One of the most beautiful sights was back in England. I remember crossing the Peak District on my last day thinking, ‘you know, there’s nowhere more beautiful than this’.”

This Breathtaking World by Tim Doherty is published by Lulu. It is available on Amazon.com now.

The Countries

England, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Banglasdesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland.

Danger zone

PERHAPS one of the scariest moments of Tim Doherty’s life came when the earthquake struck in Adana, Turkey.

He still remembers it vividly now.

“I’d been doing some sightseeing and was waiting at the bus station,” he says. “There was a colossal crash. It was like waves were in the ground. The bus station wall cracked, scattering rubble and glass. People were petrified, running, trying to escape the building.”

Yet, despite this being a 6.2 monster, his main memory is how the bus arrived only an hour late.

He got back to his campsite unscathed. There, his temporary base was largely unaffected. And the next day, as planned, he cycled out of Turkey unaware of the extent of the destruction.

It was only later he found out the earthquake he had been in the middle of had killed some 145 people and left 1,500 others seriously injured.