intrepid travel writer achieves 43,000 mile trip on a second-hand bike

The man’s name is Charlie Walker, but he is no ordinary man. Just last week, intrepid explorer calked off 1,606 days and 43,630 miles from his bike trip. A travel writer with initial intentions to cycle from the Dead Sea to Mount Everest, but after some thought and then some more thought, the route just seemed to continue to expand, and in doing so became four times longer than originally planned.
Bicycles stacked on pirogue descending the Lulua, DRCCharlie ultimately ticked off 61 countries on his cycling adventure, covering a distance equivalent to that of going round the planet not once, but twice!

Walker’s voyage begins in Wiltshire, on Thursday July 1st 2010. “The route will take me to three capes and will be linked with whimsical, wiggly lines through whichever countries most spark my curiosity.” Charlie wrote as he began to document his trip.

Working only on a fiercely restricted budget, Charlie would normally camp and cook for himself to get by. His steed for the voyage was no top of the range brand new bike by the way, it was a second-hand bike in fact, affectionately named “Old Geoff” which sustained over 250 punctures, roughly works out at a puncture every 174 miles.

Walker described the physical side of the challenge was constantly altering.

“There were times when I was fast and those when I was slow. Weather, length of day, visa expiry dates, mood, interest in region all contributed to how much I cycled each day and how many rest days I took. I had no system in particular.”

Remarkably, Charlie did no training whatsoever for his epic trip and he described the start as being ‘a baptism of fire’. “But in about a month one can be at pretty peak physical fitness,” he said.

He cycled in Afghanistan; was questioned at the Iranian border under suspicion of being a spy; and was even charged by an elephant in Botswana. “I pedalled hastily away and didn’t look back.”


Charlie even committed himself to evading the police and army to try and cycle 2,000 miles through Tibet – in wintertime no less. This involved him getting through five checkpoints – sneaking through in the wee hours and at some times found himself cutting through fences. His great escape-esque ‘mission’ finally came to an end at the sixth checkpoint in a rather amusing fashion, stepping on his bike’s klaxon,  and therefore drawing the attention of a guard.

While travelling through Tibet, Charlie took on the cold and went over various mountain passes, some of which were more than 5,000m above sea level. “My problem wasn’t so much getting enough air but remembering to breathe out. I would suddenly realise I had subconsciously been sucking hard at the thin air and had a painfully packed pair of lungs, fit to burst.”

On the steep climbs, Walker explained that he would eke out speeds as slow as 2.5mph and on the highest pass of all – higher than Everest base camp we should note– he was forced to get off and march through snow drifts.

Tibet was also the country where Charlie developed a series of saddle sores from riding on substandard surfaces. As a result Walker came to experiment with riding on a frozen river. “The smooth surface was a delight for a short while until I began slipping over every hundred yards and then got stuck on the wrong side of the unfrozen stream in the middle.”

A highlight of Charlie’s adventure was an experience he enjoyed in a dugout canoe in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“My friend and I bought a hollowed out tree trunk, loaded in our bikes and set off on a river with no maps. There were plenty of waterfalls and rapids and then, later, crocs and hippos became a threat. I got severe malaria and Typhoid at the same time at the end of that leg, so that was hard to recover from – especially in the middle of Congo.”

Of the 61 countries Walker visited, Mozambique, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Rwanda.

But while the man himself is back home, his blogs have thus far only made it as far as the Republic of Congo. “I am a little behind on blogs but will continue until they are up to date,” he promises.

Charlie says he is in no rush to get back in the saddle and cross continents. “But I imagine I’ll find another way to appease the wanderlust before too long,” he added.

Would you prefer to stick to a luxury glamping UK trip instead?

You can check out his time-lapse video here: 

Related Categories

Here's a list of other related categories that you may wish to discover.

Articles and Reviews