In late 1999, Chris Hatherly and Tim Cope (who we still know from his Genghis Kahn horse riding adventure) were on the fringe of Russia’s north-west contemplating their decision to ride together Across Russia to Beijing. And to add to the adventure they choose to do it all on recumbent bikes. Both were 20 years old, had abandoned their university degrees and had met each other for the first time in over a year. Ahead lay the forests of Siberia, the Gobi desert of Mongolia and the far away land of China.
Following the wisdom of Goethe imploring us to, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”, Tim and Chris decide to just go for it.
All in all, they knew the temperatures would drop to at least -40 below in winter, and had been told about the terrible Siberian mosquitoes of Summer. However the details were very few and far between. They approximated that it would take 12-18 months, and on that basis had a budget of around $3 (Australian) a day. A sense of overewhelming uncertainty washed over them: they had never ridden a ‘recumbent bike’ before, and they had no idea whether they had bitten off more than one could chew.
Preparing in Petrozavodsk, as their custom-built recumbents arrived in pieces in two boxes, Tim “realizes” he’s never ridden a recumbent before. As for mechanical experience with a regular bicycle, he had “patched a tube and adjusted a seat”.
Fourteen months and 10,000km later they rolled onto Tiananmen square!
In the time since they had departing the small city of Petrozavodsk they had endured frostbite, pushed 1000km along the world’s most remote railway (including an attempt to build a recumbent bike railway carriage), gritted themselves through the Gobi and even been arrested in China.
However, above all of this the jouney had been defined by the people and the land: they had met countless people and been priveleged to gain insight into the fabric of their lives and country. There was Baba Galya who had taken them in for 10 days after frostbite, the Chuginovs in Siberia who had repaired a smashed hub, and the nomads of Mongolia who, over and over again, invited them into their yurts with open arms.
This kickass journey has been covered in both a documentary (see below) and the book Off the Rails: 10,000 km in fourteen months – Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, and China
Despite many conflicts, Chris and Tim settled into camp every night realising that they were living their dream and not just talking about it over a beer!
Time to get a kick under your ass and go out exploring yourself….!