‘WHERE AM I?’
‘Why am I naked?
‘What have I done?’
Simon Hutchinson is a long way from home.
He’s lying in hospital and, as his eyes regain focus, he remembers the country: Australia… Perth, he’s only been here a matter of hours but it all comes flooding back.
The nine hour flight, re-assembling his bike: nut by nut, bolt by painstaking bolt. He’s cycling round the world and that routine has been worked into a fine art, if fine art were a monotonous necessity of travelling from A to B.
This little scrape is not even his first trip to hospital. Those first few weeks traversing Europe now seem comparatively easy – a little roughing it at night, a wrong turn here and there – it was only once he hit India that things really got tough.
His girlfriend, Nicola Fox, received the worrying call: “I’m really not feeling well,” the next morning she was headed for work when the update came, ‘I couldn’t put up my tent’. Hutchinson had found himself dehydrated and was forced to sleep by the roadside. The merciless Indian sun had maimed another victim and he will fret on those lost racing days until the finish.
It’s easy to accentuate the strain, and that is why most of us could never accomplish such a feat. More often than not, Hutchinson is focusing on the perks and is rewarded for that.
Rewards can take the smallest form, something as humble as a banana tossed his way, or much more reassuring offers of accommodation. From strangers such as Raghuvir Rathod (who now top of a list of Facebook friends) to the friends of friends and family. Overnight acquaintances, many of whom only too happy to provide the pit stop.
Hutchinson has been lucky. Many people have, not only taken him in, but offered the reddening cyclist a bed for the night, even when it was the only bed in the house. Some, like Bryan Jones in Singapore, even waited until their guest had found sleep before taking the bike away to be serviced, ready for action again at sunrise. These are his highlights, these are the acts that make you believe in the virtue of human nature again.
In case you missed our instalment last year, Hutchinson is undertaking the feat in aid of epilepsy charity, Brainwave Ireland.
Packing his entire of kit into four panniers – which hang from the frame making his mounted silhouette look more like a postman on Christmas week than an endurance athlete – he has already set out across three continents. The fourth (America) will be on the way next month, all part of an 18,000 mile trek by the kind of person who just cannot say “can’t”.
Riding alone can take its toll. The 24-year-old has found himself being irritable, agitated. Every stop makes him feel like an obstruction, as if his purpose were now solely to ride 170 kilometers per day.
There are not enough calories to sustain his weight and the skin on his face is stretched tight as a snare drum from skull to jaw.
Before leaving, the plan had been to include rest days within his schedule; two hospital trips have done that for him. Underweight, Hutchinson powers on for as long and as strong as he can. His Facebook page, had been alive with updates in text, picture and video, but after landing in Perth and assembling his bike he took to the road. Jet-lagged, he crashed.
“It just seemed like it was one thing after another,” added Nicola, the dutiful girlfriend waiting patiently in Ireland, acting as secretary and administrator. Living through every whir of the wheel, her recollections are the ones filling the screen. After Simon’s crash his everyday pannier was stolen from his hospital bedside.
Of all the luck
Being the one bag he took everywhere, it contained all his valuables. The money he could care less about. Within the pack was his passport, the tracker which updated his progress to Trackleaders.com and, crushingly, his phone full of pictures and a dictaphone crammed with messages of support from home.
One thing after another: Hutchinson discharged himself early (again) itchy to get back in the saddle and headed south along the coast and on round to the Nullabor Plain, 1100 kilometers of hot, arid limestone. No place for an Irishman on his way to Adelaide.
Yet, just to keep a promise, off came the clothes. Just as he had sworn to cycle around the globe, he was cycling across the desert, naked as the day he woke up in Perth. Promise fulfilled; he quickly stopped to re-attire, pale skin is soon burned.
So it’s back on the bike and on he goes. Every revolution of his wheels now bringing him closer to home.