A COUPLE from Caversham have embarked on a world cycling tour.
Richard Mason, 51, and his partner Kat Wilkinson, 44, left their home in Nire Road with just their two bicycles, a tent, some clothes and a camping stove as they set off.
They took the ferry from Dover to Calais and then cycled north through Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany following the Rhine and Main rivers to Wurzburg, where they are currently staying.
Their route will then take them through Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and finally to Turkey, where they plan to remain until the winter.
When the temperatures are low enough they will continue cycling through the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
They have not yet decided where their journey will take them after that but options include Morocco or cycling from Canada down to South America.
They expect their travel adventure to last several years.
The couple have Thorn EXP touring bikes and aim to cycle 80km a day, using a GPS system to navigate. At night they sleep in a two-man tent at the side of roads or in campsites, cooking on the camping stove and sitting on lightweight chairs that they carry during the day.
Mr Mason said: “It has been really good so far. We haven’t had any flat tires or major issues with the bikes but the weather hasn’t been too kind.
“We took a day off in Cologne to sightsee but it ended up tipping it down.
“It has been a different experience cycling through each country. Whoever said Belgium is flat is telling a lie — there were so many hills.
“The Netherlands was pretty but filled with lots of rivers and streams you had to cross. Germany has been my favorite so far.”
The couple have lived in Caversham for 22 years and ran a garden and grounds maintenance service together. Mr Mason was also one of the founder members of Keep Caversham Tidy, a litter-picking group run by Reading borough councillor Jacopo Lanzoni.
In March the couple sold the business and they are renting out their home and using the money to fund their journey.
They embarked on a similar trip in 2006, cycling from Caversham to Beijing and raising around £8,000 for charity.
Mr Mason said: “The first trip really got us into it and ever since then we’ve had that bug to do it again.
“We thought that if we didn’t do it now then we never would. You hear people talk about all the things they almost did but we just wanted to take the plunge.
“With covid and everything, you just don’t know what’s around the bend.”
Ms Wilkinson said: “I’ve wanted to do a massive cycle again ever since our first one and I’m not getting any younger.
“I think it’s the perfect way to travel. You could do it in a car but you’d only see the world through glass. When you’re on a bike, you can get to places you couldn’t with a car. You hear and see everything.”
On their previous trip, the couple narrowly escaped being chased by dogs while cycling through Turkey.
Ms Wilkinson said: “In Turkey they have these enormous dogs which guard the flocks of sheep. They are massive — I’m 6ft tall and they came up to my hip.
“They started chasing us with a definite intent to bite. Luckily, they stopped once we reached the end of their territory.
“We are going through Turkey again but have brought a little device with us this time called a Dog Dazer, which emits an ultrasonic sound that warns them off.
“It’s not painful to them, it just acts as a deterrent.”
Despite that close call, Mr Mason said that Turkey was where he was most excited about visiting.
He said: “The hospitality there is amazing. People who are complete strangers will just take you in and give you food and water.
“I can’t wait to get back there. If only we could cycle faster!”