A cyclist from Oxfordshire who planned to use his redundancy settlement to spend two months riding much of the route from London to Sydney, Australia has finally returned home after three years in the saddle and 37,000 miles.
Former IT worker John Harwood, who combined intercontinental flights with spells on his bike to get down under, enjoyed the experience of cycling across continents so much that he carried on pedalling in a trip that took him to countries such as New Zealand, Japan and the United States.
But there was disappointment for the 49-year-old when he arrived back at his home village of Combe, near Woodstock, and decided to treat himself to a well-earned pint of real ale only to find that his local pub, the Cock Inn, was shut.
Mr Harwood, who embarked on his journey in May 2007, told the Witney Gazette: “I didn’t really expect to be gone for more than two months. But I decided that if I was still enjoying myself when I got to Sydney I would carry on.”
Restricting himself to a budget of £20 a day to make his redundancy settlement last and also renting out his home to help fund the trip, Mr Harwood averaged 60 miles a day in the saddle and camped in the open or stayed with people he met while on his travels.
During his epic journey, he caught a virus in Delhi, was bitten by a paralysis tick while in Australia, and even had £800 stolen while he was in Burma – although the newspaper reports that he was so shocked by the conditions the suspected thieves faced in jail that he tool them food and water.
Highlights of the trip included the United States, Bulgaria, Nepal, Australia and Japan, and Mr Harwood intends to write a book recounting his expedition.
He told the newspaper: “I used to work in IT and I didn’t particularly like the day-to-day routine of it. While I was cycling I loved what I was doing and I loved the people I met.”
He continued: “Australia was the hardest place, because of the immense heat. At the end of the day I was totally exhausted and almost passing out. The USA, though, was having its worst winter in 50 years – and at times the snow was 3ft deep.”
An avid Norwich City fan, Mr Harwood said that while he was on his travels, what he missed most were “Match of the Day and real ale.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.