Eat, sleep, bike, repeat… For the past four months, this has been the daily mantra of Paul Snuggs and Leanne Pemberton, a couple from Suffolk, England.
Paul and Leanne are two people who have undertaken a seemingly impossible mission. From their home country England they have left to Sri Lanka – not on a flight but on their bikes. The journey is a total of 12,000 kilometres, most of which would be covered on their cycles except the oceans which they will cross on a plane.
They rise with the sun and after a quick breakfast, they jump would on their bikes and set off. They only stop their journey for quick breaks and light meals. Until the sun disappears and they can no longer ignore the screams of their sore muscles, they continue to cover mile after another on their cycles. After a hearty meal and a good night’s rest, they are back on their bikes to take on the next day.
For those who cannot even stay upright on a bicycle, let alone bike for kilometres, this is a challenge of incomprehensible magnitude. However, it is safe to say that even a professional cyclist would agree that the travelling across countries on two wheels, with nothing but your own energy to move you forward, is a Herculean task.
Two people attempting to bike 12,000 kilometres is intriguing on its own, but the reason behind their ambition makes it even more interesting. It is not very often you find individuals who want to extend a helping hand to strangers in foreign lands, but that is exactly what Leanne and Paul are doing.
The aim of their gruelling trip is to raise money for the charity Paul co-founded two years ago with his friend Haran Thurairajah; ‘Kick Start.’
‘Kick Start’ aids Sri Lankan children who are left without parents or family protection after the long and devastating civil war. It helps to create a safe and friendly environment for children and is a unique charity which focuses on providing fun and innovative ways to improve their lives by teaching many life lessons through sports and education.
It is Paul’s childhood friendships which inspired him to start the charity. He grew up in West London with many Sri Lankan friends, with whom he shares many fond memories. Even though Paul has never visited the island, he feels a strong bond with the nation and its people.
Starting the charity was only the first step in a much bigger initiative. Leanne and Paul took on the bike challenge to marry their passion for cycling with the desire to help the youngsters in the country they hold so dear to their heart.
As Leanne explained, neither Paul, who is a carpenter by profession, nor she, a dental nurse, are professional cyclists. However cycling and travelling are passions they both share. Paul and Leanne said enthusiastically.
“We are not professional bikers and we have never biked such great distances. Cycling is a hobby and we have cycled with friends but not more than 15 miles at a time so obviously this is a challenge for us. But we are ready for it as we prepared for this over five months; and we are excited about the mission! We believe that anything is possible as long as we set our hearts to it.”
Paul and Leanne have certainly come a long from the days when they biked for a few miles with friends. Now every day they rise with the aim of biking about 100 kilometres a day, hoping to reach Sri Lanka in a couple of more months. Their route has taken them through France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and several other countries. With more than two-thirds of their journey completed, they are now on the last leg of their journey which will take them through India and finally bring them to Sri Lanka.
However, their journey has certainly not been a ride in the park.
As Leanne pointed out, finances are a problem in countries where food and lodging are expensive. Since they are financing the trip with their own income, they survive on a daily budget of £13. Leanne explained:
“Especially as we were travelling through European countries, we came across many temptations such as chic cafes which are expensive, but we have had to be thrifty to be able to manage. Most times, we would buy a big bag of mussel which is cheap, healthy and would last us for a few days. But we did allow ourselves cheat-days, one day a week when we savoured an indulgent meal,”
However, sometimes their financial troubles are upstaged by the physical challenges they face. Cycling such a long distance every day does take its toll on the body, no matter how hard they try to ignore it. Aches, pains and sore muscles have become a constant in their lives now. When combined with the diverse weather conditions and the tough terrain, the duo certainly need willpower – and bodies – of steel to continue without simply throwing down their bicycles and giving up.
Recalling their experiences over the last few months, Leanne said that when they reached Albania, they had not cycled for a few days.
“I dreaded getting back on the bike because the last time I biked before that I was exhausted. The sun had beaten down on us mercilessly to the point that I could not bear the heat. I felt so down that just the recollection of that incident made me feel sick. But I got back on the bike and continued and it was much better”
No matter what obstacles come their way, Leanne and Paul are always able to have faith in their hearts, an unrelenting positive attitude and a smile on their faces.
“We believe that going through so many countries, and areas off the beaten track, and experiencing different cultures and communities will give us a new perspective on the world. The message we carry across 15 countries is to help those in need, enjoy life and inspire others to do the same. Finally, we are beyond excited to visit Sri Lanka for the first time and meet everyone who has been working tirelessly to support our cause and make a difference in the lives of others.”
To learn more about Leanne and Paul, their journey and their cause, and to donate online, please visit www.biketrip12000km.com