William Bennett, a twenty-seven year old cyclist from Limerick, last Saturday reached the end of his three year attempt to cycle around the world.
His journey took him across five continents and through a total of fifty-eight countries, where he completed his aim to travel the length of each of those continents solely by bicycle. Along the way he battled tropical diseases, breakdowns and multiple robberies, yet was left with an overwhelmingly positive view of the world.
Bennett, set off from his hometown of Limerick in January 2015 after five years of planning and saving for his three year ride. His route would first take him across Europe, where he endured days of sub-zero temperatures as he traversed both Poland and western Ukraine during their harsh winter months. This steep learning curve would serve him well as he crossed the Bosphorus Strait and started his long cycle across Asia which would take him over a year to complete.
During his cycle across Asia, Bennett passed through Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, countries which have always held dangerous reputations. On the ground however, Bennett found that the people here were some of the most welcoming in the world, “During my crossing of Iran, not a day went by where I wasn’t invited for lunch or welcomed into a family home to spend the night. And In countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the biggest danger was accepting too much vodka from the friendly drivers who would pull over and demand that you eat and do shots with them before midday!”
After a memorable cycle through the stark beauty of the “Stans” of Central Asia, Bennett did face an unfortunate encounter on his first day in Mongolia when he was attacked by a Mongolian bandit, “After receiving seven punches to the head, and with no way to escape I had no choice but to fight for my life, throwing a punch so hard that it shattered my knuckle and broke my attacker’s jaw, dislodging two of his teeth and knocking him unconscious in the process.”
Bennett underwent surgery on his hand in a Mongolian hospital before restarting his journey again two months later, crossing the length of China in winter before reaching the more relaxed, easy-going countries of South-East Asia. Upon island hopping across Borneo, Sulawesi and Flores all the way to East Timor, he boarded a flight to Darwin, Australia. Here, he crossed the red centre of Australia, traversing regions of the Outback with 200 kilometre gaps between water, “At one stage I had no choice but to carry fifteen litres of water and close to ten kilograms of food with me. My loaded bicycle was heavier than me which made for some pretty slow progress on the dirt tracks of the Outback.”
From Sydney, Bennett flew across the Pacific to South America, restarting his journey in Colombia, traveling south from the lush jungles of the Amazon to the heights of the Andes in southern Ecuador. His journey through South America would take him through some of the most remote regions and dangerous roads in the Peruvian Andes, to Bolivia where he would leave the Andes behind as he crossed the plains of Paraguay and the steep forest highways across southern Brazil.
Bennett’s final continent would be the most challenging of all: Africa, “Africa ended up being by far, the hardest part of my cycle. Between the vast, silent deserts of Namibia, dodging the roaming elephants of Botswana, the bandits of Northern Kenya, the stone throwing teenagers of Ethiopia, the howling headwinds in the Sahara and the armed police escorts through Egypt, Africa proved to be a fitting final challenge to the journey.”
After a final 4,000 kilometre winter dash across Europe, Bennett arrived into his hometown of Limerick on Saturday the 13th January, completing his 58,000 kilometre bike ride, 1,105 days after leaving home. Despite the robberies, Bennett was left with an overwhelmingly positive view of the world, “On a journey this long, it is inevitable that you will meet some bad people but from my experience, those make up less than 1% of the people you will generally encounter. The vast majority of people I met around the world, were hard-working decent people just trying to raise a family and live a good life. I lost count of the number of people who would offer me food, buy me dinner, would come to my rescue when I became badly sick and who would invite me, a complete stranger, into their homes to spend the night. It has been an eye-opening and enlightening experience and one that I am so happy to have had the opportunity to undertake.”