Local young men take on 15,000 km adventure...Brothers Freddie and Arthur Gillies from Grey Lynn and friend Sean Wakely will have begun the adventure of a lifetime by the time this issue of Ponsonby News goes to press.
They plan to cycle 15,000 km through Asia and Europe to London.
The trip has been meticulously planned, and the three have been working long hours outside their Uni studies to fund it.
The germ of the idea emerged towards the end of their school days. Sean explains, “We said to each other one day at school ‘what the hell are we going to do with our lives.’ We didn’t want to settle for mediocrity. We also didn’t want to settle for the idea that those in need of help should go constantly without or be left wanting.”
Arthur takes up the story. “When our much loved uncle John was dying of cancer last year we had a long talk to him about his travels. We discussed his journey through Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass, and he told us "in life you have your shit days and your good days. It’s the shit days that build resilience." Uncle John passed in September 2016.
Cue - The Big Bike Trip. Three young men. Three bikes. Three jobs left behind.
The trio decided to ride for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand in memory of John, with the aim of raising $15,000, or $1 per kilometre.
So they had a double reason for taking on the challenge - a personal and gruelling adventure, and a desire to make a difference.
Arthur outlined the itinerary, or at least the parts that are firmly planned. Their route will be determined by visas, friendly countries, and avoidance of unfriendly people or beasts. They have had their jabs, including three against rabies. Wild dogs may well be a nuisance in places.
Their journey begins in Bali where they stay three days, unpack their bikes and then head west to cycle across Asia, into Europe and then across the Channel to finish up in London.
Freddie and Arthur’s older brother Tom, in London, will be expected to give the guys a luxury welcome after their long expedition.
I asked them how fit they were. They’ve done a short (if 500km can be described as short) warm up in the South Island without mishap.
Friends and family at home will be able to follow the saga pretty well. “There are internet cafes throughout Asia,” Freddie told us, and they will do a daily blog, and keep a diary.
The records they keep may well form the basis for a book on their return, with photographer Sean providing the pics.
Sean wants to pursue a career in photography and design when he returns, but Freddie and Arthur are unsure of their future. They’ll be world wise, I’m sure, and an asset to any employer.
The Big Bike Trippers have been grateful for sponsorship they have received.
The major sponsor is The Beauty Collective, who are providing travel accessories, some operational funding as well as charitable donations throughout the trip.
Optimus NZ has provided cooking systems, while Katadyn has supplied a state-of –the –art Swiss water filter and purification tablets. Macpac have also supplied rainjackets, long sleeved thermal tops and merino socks.
Sean developed the brand and produced the logos.
The boys have friends in many parts of the world, and hope to make many more as they travel around. They already have a message from a young Swiss woman, who lost a family member to leukaemia, "love what you do, come and stay with us in Switzerland - all of you."
So as you read this, the intrepid trio will be somewhere in Asia, on 16 kg steel bikes, with 20kg of luggage each, and a huge desire to succeed.
We want to explore, they say. Most importantly we want to live in such a way as to embrace ourselves, our friends, and the struggle so many of us turn a blind eye to on a daily basis.
To honour their late uncle John, they want to experience the extremes that are thrown at them on the road - ‘ the shit days’, the days that make them feel small and lonely - combined with the good days - the days where they experience and feel the joy and excitement of travelling remote corners of the world at a local day to day level.
These three young men are shining examples of the quality of so many millenials, so often maligned as lazy and wanting it all-now!
Good luck Freddie, Arthur and Sean - you are an inspiration to us all. Go well in the big wide world. (JOHN ELLIOTT)