A CYCLING fanatic has made the gruelling trip home from Thailand – on her bike.
After four years working in south-east Asia, Abi Wingate, 33, decided to return to Scotland the hard way.
Abi finally returned home to Edinburgh on Saturday after completing the gruelling 11,000km cycle which took in 11 different countries across Asia and Europe.
The epic journey took Abi seven months to complete – battling harsh road conditions and painful injuries along the way.
In the course of the adventure – that took her across China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Europe – she survived baying packs of wolves and a potentially catastrophic brake failure 16,000ft up a Chinese mountain range.
Abi made the decision to return home on two wheels in a bid to raise awareness for suicide prevention charities after a close friend of hers took their own life.
Having suffered depression in the past, Abi is delighted to have raised more than £10,000 in fundraising to be donated to the Scottish Association for Mental Health.
Recuperating at her parents’ home in West Lothian, she revealed the greatest challenges of her exhausting expedition.
“Almost the whole of China was the most difficult part,” she said.
“The language, the roads, the pollution and being treated like an alien had landed from outer space by almost everyone who laid eyes on me was tough to get used to.
“I don’t think many people in rural China have ever seen a woman in lycra cycling though villages.”
She added: “The very high altitudes were another challenge. At one point we were cycling at 16,000ft with an inaccurate map when the road completely disintegrated and turned into a track with big boulders to navigate.
“It was snowing, freezing, the sun was setting and suddenly my cycling partner’s brakes failed and I had to leap off my bike and stop her hurtling down the hill.
“We had to pull off at the side of the road and put up our tent there. We didn’t know where we were because of the dark and we were suffering from altitude sickness, insomnia and anxiety.”
In Kazakhstan, Abi had to rely on the kindness of strangers to allow her to pitch up next to restaurants following warnings about bloodthirsty wolf packs roaming the terrain.
“They told us not to camp out or we would die,” she laughs.
She also had to decline the kind culinary offer of a pig’s penis – a delicacy in parts of China.
“The most difficult part was that you never knew what was going to happen,” she said.
“It never goes the way you expect because there’s so many variables: the road disintegrates, their construction, your maps are wrong, the weather closes in, your bike breaks down, you can’t find food, it’s a constant battle and nothing is as it seems.”
In the course of her arduous trip home she suffered a slew of injuries including a broken finger, trapped nerves and tendonitis in both knees.
But she said the thought of home comforts kept her spirits up near the end of the trip.
She added: When I was coming to the end I had really mixed emotions. I couldn’t wait to be home and have the comforts of western food and being able to speak the language but I was thinking how much I was going to miss this trip where every day is amazing.
“But ultimately I just wanted to see the people I love.”
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