A pair of newly-weds from Hungary couldn’t make up their minds how to go on honeymoon without adding too much pollution to the atmosphere. So they decided to ride around the world on recumbent bicycles. By Jeremy Torr.
Singapore, 2 June 2013. “At first we just wanted to go to India backpacking for our honeymoon,” explains groom Arpi. “Then we thought – hey we both like bicycles, so why not let’s ride there. And once we had started, and you know, realised that if you just keep going you get somewhere else, we though if we can make it to India we may as well carry on to SouthEast Asia. And then to Australia. And New Zealand . . .”
And they did. So far has seen Arpi and his bride Zita roll from Vérteskozma in Hungary; through Romania; Serbia; Bulgaria; Turkey; Georgia; Armenia; Iran; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan; Tajikistan, Kygyzstan; China. Pakistan; India; Nepal; Bangladesh; Myanmar; Laos; Vietnam, Cambodia; Thailand and Malaysia on their highly efficient recumbent bikes.
“We had got this far so we thought, oh these countries all seemed so close,” says Zita. “So we are going on all the way round the world. Why not?” Why not, indeed.
Now, some two years and 18,000kms later from their start in Hungary, they are passing through Singapore and still going, still heading south and east. And most importantly, according to Arpi, not adding any extra carbon to the atmosphere.
“We want to do our trip with an environmental message - without cars, buses or planes,” he says. Zita agrees: “I really like the slogan that says reduce, reuse, recycle,” she says. And they are definitely re-cycling. Up to 200km a day, and with an average of 80km on their Nazca Gaucho bikes, they have made it halfway round the world completely under their own power.
Relaxed on the Road
The pair admit it was a little unusual to ride recumbent (lying down) bikes instead of mountain bikes or other rugged long distance rides. “But they are great on rough roads, and much more comfortable,” says Arpi, “and they are really tough. We have just had punctures and one or two snapped spokes. Otherwise nothing at all has broken.” Made in Holland, the bikes come with suspension, panniers, a water bag or two and some pretty cool air horns.
Apart from the environmental plus of their bikes, the other bonus is the way they can be part of the scenery they are travelling through and not just another tourist in a tin box on wheels, says Arpi. “We are so close to nature we can hear, smell, see all the places – not be separated from the environment by a windscreen,” enthuses Arpi. “And we can really see and meet all the people.”
But riding around the world for several years – that must be a massive decision, it must be really expensive, and surely it takes a big chunk out of your life, we ask.
The two grin at each other and explain that deciding wasn’t really a decision, although from idea to commitment only took one day. “We thought about it, then just said yes, let’s do it. But the actual reality, the “we are actually going” moment only came the night before we left,” admits Zita. “Til then it was still a dream right up to the day we left,” she says, “it was more a process than a plan.”
In fact they did have a plan but as Zita notes, they just got carried away with too many interesting detours to too many amazing places to stick to it. “For example, we never imaged going to Bangladesh, but ended up spending two and a half months there,” she smiles. And once they had got as far as Pakistan, where the visas they had applied for in Hungary ran out, it was just the open road, and heading whichever direction they fancied.
One of the hardest things was leaving family and friends, but the people they have met on the road have almost made up for that. Pakistan, in particular, made a big mark for its warmth and hospitality. As for running out of money, well, says Arpi, it’s just another problem to overcome on the road, like a steep hill or a puncture or bad rain. “It’s just another challenge to be solved or found a way round, like crossing a border where there are no crossings. We know we will get there someday.”
One of the hardest days they have seen so far was in Nepal, where they covered a paltry 24kms, with both of them pushing each bike at once, in turns. “It was so steep, and so hard, we thought we were sweating blood” says Zita. “But it was worth it – Nepal was beautiful.” Both she and Arpi seem to have developed a love for the high mountains; they mention the Pamir Highway (up to 4000m passes) as being one of the real high point, literally, of the trip.
“It was so incredible. We want to go back some day with our children,” they smile. And was that the best experience of the ride so far, we ask?
“The best day is always today. These last two years have been the richest of our lives,” says Arpi. “They have been worth all the effort, 100 times worth it.
“If anybody else is thinking of doing anything like this, we say just do it. Just step over the door and go. The other amazing things will all happen.”
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