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Bloke Is Halfway to Cycling Six Continents

5966318639_eaa1be2e81_bIn January of 2010, when a quilt of snow fell over England and temperatures across Europe hit historic lows, Stephen Fabes headed east on his bike.

Fabes, a physician in his early thirties, had a vague plan. From Londontown he’d bump over the Alps, cut south from Istanbul and pedal Africa from nape to tailbone. Then on to the Americas, Australia, and Asia. He’d traverse six continents — 50,000 miles — in five years.

The first few weeks weren’t so bad, despite the fact that Fabes didn’t train for the trip (“I thought, ‘I have a lot of cycling ahead of me, why should I do more now?’”). But soon the spine of Europe appeared before him, and things got frigid. French motorists beamed incredulously as he ascended the mountains. One night a blizzard struck, hardening his gloves and turning his sleeping bag into an ice cocoon. He eventually breezed down to the Riviera and dipped into a tunnel that spit him out in a balmy valley east of the Alps. One thing he missed about the cold, he later mused, was the absence of “winged nasties.”

Soon he rolled into Italy and heard a clicking sound. This sound wasn’t coming from his bike. It was coming from his knee. “I could feel," he blogged, "a small curious mobile mass within the joint space which often got trapped causing me sudden pain.” Still, he couldn't turn back. He rode through the Balkans and Greece before an MRI revealed a bit of cartilage caroming in his knee. He stored his bike in Istanbul and hitchhiked back to London, where surgeons presented him the stray piece in a jar.

After a 12-week recovery, a jaunt to Sweden, and a Rage Against the Machine concert, Fabes flew back to Istanbul, biked to Cape Town, puddle-jumped the Atlantic, and started up the American continent. He was chased by dogs. He slept in a stable with water buffalo. He swerved around puff adders. He’s grown weirdly close to his companion, Belinda — a touring cycle by Santos. And he’s raised 20,000 pounds for Merlin, an international health charity (he hopes to raise a pound per mile. Want to contribute?). He crossed the Andes ten times. Right now, he should be somewhere in southern Bolivia.

7080269705_aea9ee0499Fabes’s toughest struggle is his mental isolation. “I’m on my own for long periods. I have to fill my mind. Sometimes I listen to music, think about the past, about my future, the people at home.”

Before his trip began, he was living in dormitory-like housing and climbing up the medical ladder, narrowing his specialty. He settled on the bike trip because his life “wasn’t enough of an adventure,” and he’d cycled the length of Chile years earlier. He plans to continue his medical work when he gets home. You can follow his blog here.

Images courtesy of Stephen Fabes

HS_JakeAbrahamson (4)Jake Abrahamson is the Editorial Assistant at Sierra.

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