From London to Belfast, via The Rest of The WorldCorrespondence Friends Bicycles Travel & Adventure Cycling
After returning from a 59 day tour of mainland Europe, I never envisioned taking on the world on two wheels. But 13 months and 2,000 miles later, I found myself in Istanbul, Turkey far from my home in Ireland once again. With the right support behind me I continued on through 41 countries, covering 30,000 miles on bicycle, and 20,000 by boat. Relying on the kindness of strangers, I lived for two and a half years on the finer things in life, while raising over £5,000 pounds for Depaul Ireland, a charity tackling homelessness on the Emerald Isle.My journey started as the London 2012 Olympic Games came to a close, I cycled out of London on my trusty 20 year old Dawes Galaxy frame, fitted with a Brooks Flyer Special. Come the end of day 1, my tent was hidden behind roadside bush on the outskirts of Dunkerque, France. The quick pitching two man tent quickly became home, as I chased the summer to the beaches of Dubai via Turkey, Iran and the Arabian Sea.
Keeping my feet on the ground at all times, I jumped ship for the Philippines. For almost 4 weeks I sailed with an all Filipino crew acquiring Asian customs, before beginning my 6 month adventure in the Far East. After failing to acquire a visa upon arrival, and questioning from Police and border control, I spent Christmas 2012 on a boat filled with bananas with my crew-mates at sea, before disembarking under a full moon in Singapore.
The Great Wall was just that, a fine way to cap off an incredible time on Asian soil. Setting sail once more, I lived the high life, cruising luxuriously to South Korea and ports of Japan. Two weeks were then spent at sea, carb loading until our arrival in Anchorage, Alaska. Unpredictable weather in May 2013 did nothing to slow down the rebuilding of my ailing ride. Come the early days of June, me and fellow Irishman and good friend from home, Brendan Barnes, were conquering the infamous Dalton Highway for the Arctic Ocean. As a sign of victory, we stood barefoot over the frozen ocean, ready to part ways once again.
The extremities of North America continued to its borders with Mexico, from the wilderness of Alaska and British Columbia to the bicycle haven that is the Highway 1 and the 101. Ticking off natural wonders, from the Redwood Forest and Grand Canyon, I was reunited with family at the manmade spectacle that is Las Vegas, before venturing into the unknowns of Latin America.
Be it for different reasons, along with Iran, Mexico and its people remain misrepresented. The hospitality and good times shared there remained unmatched. Its no surprise I left 4 months later with a lump in my throat but craving more of the same beautiful food, women, colonial towns, and rich culture from the rest of Central and South America. Arriving on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I sailed once more with cargo, this time with Russian crew to Santa Marta, Colombia and the unbroken Pan-American Highway for Ushuaia, Argentina.
With the Caribbean coast and humid tropical temperatures long behind me, I climbed The Andes for the first of many times. On the flat planes of Peru alongside Lake Titicaca, I crossed the altiplano for Bolivia then Argentina, in tour record temperature lows of minus 17. But the Argentine people were ready to see me fit after the disappointment of their World Cup final defeat, with mountains of cheese and fine black stout rivalled only by Ireland. Prevailing southern winds of 80 miles per hour on the Atlantic coast, almost ended the tour but yet somehow, come September 2nd 2014, I stood bare arsed at ‘The End of the World’.
Objective complete, I made the return journey north with friend Patrick for Santiago, Chile, before being left to my own devices for the final leg. Plus 200km days were completed daily via. 2 and 18 wheels through the Desert of Atacama before the final Latin frontier with Peru, and the heights of Machu Pichu with girlfriend Lily. As Lily returned to Mexico once more, I made tracks for my final destination in Latin America, unsure when we she and I would meet again. After almost two and a half years, I was ready to return to the white cliffs of Dove, yet still, there was the Atlantic sea to sail.
Friends awaited at the official start line of New Cross, London before returning to my immediate family home in Belfast, Ireland decorated with flags of the world. Christmas 2014 was extra special for the Downey family, not only did I return, but Dylan, my 7 month old nephew, enjoyed his first Christmas and quality time with his new Uncle. As I continue to share my journey with the world, I plan another… its not an addiction, its just what I want to do for now.Find out more: www.influenceanaudience.com