Grandparents cycle 12,000 miles from Cumbria to China to ‘challenge themselves’

When pensioners Chris and Peter Lloyd decided they wanted a bit more adventure in their lives, they ended up getting a little ­carried away…

The intrepid couple cycled from Hadrian’s Wall to the Great Wall of China, covering a gruelling 12,000 miles in 18 months.

They cycled every day and camped at night, enduring temperatures that fell to minus 15C in Northern China and rose to 45C in the deserts of Uzbekistan.

In some countries they struggled to find food and in Tajikistan had to survive on biscuits for three days.

Chris, 64, says: “Sometimes I really wanted to be at home by the wood burning stove with a glass of wine, but, apart from that, we didn’t miss anything.”

Peter, 66, chips in: “Apart from rhubarb crumble…”

The couple, who live near Hadrian’s Wall in Carlisle, Cumbria, first came up with the idea for the trip in 2015.

Chris says: “We weren’t unhappy but we were healthy enough – so we wanted to challenge ourselves.”

Although they had always cycled for fun, they were not serious about it.

Peter says: “We didn’t dress in Lycra and go out on our bikes every weekend. But all our lives, we’d cycled to work or the shops.”

They bought Thorn touring bikes, got a train to Greece and cycled back as a test run.

Chris says: “It was fantastic.”

So they began planning their journey to China.

The couple, who have two sons, and four grandchildren, set off in January 2017.

Chris says: “We had terrible weather . So when we got to Hungary, we went to a mineral spa to relax. But Peter tripped and broke his femur.”

He had surgery before they flew back to the UK but seven months later, on October 14, 2017, they set off again.

Chris says: “We had one change of clothes, waterproofs, a stove, pans and cutlery. It was three weeks before we reached our first country, France, when things began to feel more real.”

They travelled through Europe, the Middle East and Asia before reaching the Great Wall on November 25, 2018.

Chris says: “The weather was a bit unnerving sometimes. The wind was so strong in Northern China that we were nearly knocked off our bikes.

“The desert in Uzbekistan was 45C. So, having enough water and staying cool was a problem.”

They also camped every night and Chris says: “I have a sixth sense for finding good places.

“But sometimes we struggled and in Italy we had to camp by the side of the road and were visited by the police. In Turkey, we camped in a cave and lit a fire, just like cavemen. It was very special.”

Chris says seeing the Great Wall was “very emotional”.

She says: “I was happy and a bit surprised that we’d made it. There were lots of times when I thought we wouldn’t.”

They cycled on through Laos, ­Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, before getting on a container ship back to the UK.

Chris says: “We didn’t want to fly because it’s not environmentally friendly. It took three weeks.”

Chris and Peter finally arrived back in England on April 21 and got home on May 5 after cycling to Cumbria.

Chris says: “The sun was shining and our family cycled to meet us.”

Reflecting on the trip, Peter says: “People are great all over the world. If more of us got out of our armchairs and saw that, then the world would be a much nicer place.”

Countries they visited

They set out from northern England, then visited France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Then it was on to a shipping container vessel via: Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Somalia, Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar, Bay of Biscay.

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