How does one accidentally cycle the world, you may ask? “Well, once I got to the USA, it just seemed logical to cycle back home…” says Jonathan.
When Jonathan Kambskard-Bennett set off, his plan was to see how far east he could cycle. But once he got to Australia he realised that he’d embarked on a slightly larger trip than he had originally planned for. 3 years, 50,000km and 42 countries later, and Jonathan had accidentally cycled the world.
Elinor Abraham caught up with Jonathan to hear more about his trip and how and he successfully navigated across the globe.
Your initial plan was just to head off east. At what point did it transform into a journey around the world?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest! I think I probably started thinking about it just after I’d been on the road for a year (when I was in China). It was around that time that I realised I definitely had it in me to reach Australia and so I think I started wondering – ‘what next after that’? I recall Googling what counted as an ‘around the world journey’ but I didn’t commit to the idea just then.
What pre-journey planning – if any – did you do?
A large part of the appeal for this trip was about cycling the Silk Road and exploring Central Asia. The only road I really knew I wanted to cycle before leaving was the ‘Pamir Highway’ from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan, so much of my initial planning – albeit minimal – revolved around getting there.
When it came to planning routes, most of it was pretty ‘go with the flow’, but you’d be surprised how much of it makes itself up for you when you start looking at the map. For example: crossing from Europe to Asia isn’t straight forward for several reasons. Riding through Pakistan/Afghanistan isn’t very safe and you’ll probably be forced to take a police escort which means you can’t ride every metre of road, like I wanted to. Again, if you want to ride across Russia you’ll find getting the visa and freedom pretty tough. If you take the route ‘through the middle’ and cross the Middle East in Iran you need to get through Turkmenistan to get into Central Asia, but the Turkmen will only give you a five day ‘transit’ visa. As a result, you can only pick one road because you can’t do too much with five days – so your choice from Europe to Asia has been reduced to just one road!
The quote goes ‘difficult roads can often lead to the most beautiful destinations’. Did you find that to be true? Where did you enjoy cycling the most/least?
100%. The only part I disagree with is ‘often’ – I think it is ‘always’! The most rewarding roads I travelled were the hardest to reach and the most strenuous to pedal. They were always the lumpiest dirt roads in the most remote corners of the world.
I love the mountains. The bigger the better. Not easy places to pedal on a loaded bike but the most beautiful places for me. I particularly loved the Pamirs in Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan, the Tibetan Plateau in China, New Zealand’s South Island and the West of America.