How does cycling through drug producing Colombia or war torn Sudan sound? How about cycling in temperatures ranging from –40 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees? Being away from home for 4 years sleeping in a tent by the side of the road and covering 46,000 miles around the world on a bike. All along the way been told by people what you are trying to do is impossible. As if that isn’t enough doing it all on a tight £7,000 budget.
To me it sounds pretty hellish but to Al Humphreys, a man who seems to embody the “impossible is nothing” philosophy, it was an adventure of a lifetime. And you have to hand it to him he did not do it the easy way.
Take for example when during his journey he is offered to stay for free in a posh hotel with all the amenities you could possibly wish for and instead chooses to camp out in the open. He is either someone that is really trying to test his limits or just plain stupid.
Yet, it would be wrong to think of Al Humphreys as some kind of superhuman adventurer who knows no fear. Quite the opposite. The books Moods of Future Joys and Thunder and Sunshine, which can be considered part one and part two of the adventure are written in a very open way. The emotional struggles faced by the author are very apparent and you can trace the transformation throughout the book. At first there is much doubt and frequent temptation to catch the next plane home. But as the number of miles covered slowly increases, the self doubt slowly fades.
Both the books are filled with plenty of interesting stories from people he meets and mixed in with dry humour and well researched backgrounds to the cities and countries travelled through. The range of the experiences is huge from poor mud huts in parts of Africa to heated hotel swimming pools with underwater music and parties with the rich. Throughout, this contrast is striking and on more than a few occasions I ended up putting the book down to consider them.
There were two parts of the book that I found particularly interesting. The first is the kindness and openness of the people met along the way. It was pretty incredible to see the number of people that allowed Al Humphreys, a smelly bicycle traveller, into their homes and fed and looked after him. The second is the number of people that told him not to go, that it was impossible to cycle through countries like Columbia or canoe down a river with heavy rapids not far from a burning forest fire. Al Humpheys consistently proved them wrong and came out with amazing stories to tell.
Both the books were a fantastic read and I struggled to put them down and get some sleep. I’m very glad Alastair managed to get them published as they provided an amazing so called “armchair travel adventure” (I personally read from a warm comfy bed). It has definitely sparked a few dreams of visiting some of the places mentioned. I can highly recommend both the books to anyone.