Aboyne man cycling home from Korea

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A Deeside man is in the final stages of a gruelling challenge which will see him cycle from South Korea to Scotland.

Former Aboyne Academy pupil Thomas McConville set off on his bike in January alongside his friend, Peter Hoyle.

Both men had spent a year teaching English in South Korea and decided they needed a fresh challenge.

Thomas said: “Equipping ourselves was not as easy as it first seemed. Especially in a country where the average male height is 173cm, and rice and kimchi (spicy cabbage) are the staple diet.

“We both lost weight and found it increasingly difficult to find equipment, most importantly a bike which fit our size and needs.

“We’ve had plenty of time to think about what we want from this journey and we’ve been happy to take away an insight into culture, people, life and most importantly ourselves, as well as seeing some beautiful scenery along the way.

“Being on the bike is a fantastic way to take the whole world in at our own pace.”

Thomas and Peter left Korea to travel through China, where highlights included cycling past the Great Wall, but pollution proved an issue.

“The first full day of cycling we set off full of enthusiasm, only to be met with heavy traffic,” Thomas said. “The sun and sky could not be seen for the pollution. We passed through many villages with scenes of litter everywhere and heavy pollution, with visibility at about 150 metres.”

From China, the men travelled across Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan before crossing Uzbekistan where the constant heat made it extremely tough to cycle a great distance.

Both men had to contend with illnesses and Thomas was forced to stop while in Iran.

He said: “I felt terrible and had a really sore stomach with crippling pains. Eating only made the pain worse and I went to lie down in the shade on a patch of grass.

“A couple of passing students were very helpful and invited us to rest in their house.

“I slept for the rest of the day and all night. The next day I was no better and stayed in bed all day.”

After being checked over by doctors Thomas was able to get back in the saddle where they ventured through Turkey and into Europe.

Thomas said: “As we got closer to the Bulgarian border we couldn’t help being a little excited that we were entering Europe. It marked the final leg of our journey and a return to more familiar territory.”

Last month, while in Croatia the two men thought their journey might be delayed when they started cycling along the highway.

Thomas said: “As we approached the town I pulled off the highway and waited for Pete. As he got closer I noticed that he had a new friend following him, it was the police.

“They escorted us off the highway and seized our passports. Apparently it’s illegal to be on the highway.

“One of the policemen demanded 70 Euros each. We had no money and couldn’t afford it, we tried to reason with them that there were no signs and we’d just entered the country along that road and no-one had warned us.

“The other policeman crossed his wrists to signify handcuffs and said ‘two days’. I couldn’t believe it. Not one to miss an opportunity I enquired ‘Do you do breakfast?’ He tried to hide his amusement, but a smile broke across his face. He handed us back our passports, but not before reminding us that next time it’d be two days in jail.”

Thomas and Peter have travelled around 7,000 miles and are now nearing the end of their journey, having arrived in France this week.

Thomas’s parents Alex and Sandra, said it has been difficult for them at certain points over the last nine months.

Sandra said: “There have been points where we haven’t heard from Thomas for weeks because some of the places have been quite remote.

“However, it has been great when he has got in touch through Skype and we are now just looking forward to seeing him again.”

Thomas and Peter are expected to complete the cycle at the beginning of next month, where Thomas intends to travel to Edinburgh before finishing in the North-east.

Readers can check on the progress of the two men online at: www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1r4vFZo&doc_id=8142&v=VI where their weekly blogs can also be read.