Kiwi carpenter en route from London to New Zealand on a bicycle
Adam Glover on the road in Tajikistan. Photo: Adam Glover
When was the last time you rode a bicycle home?
And how long did it take you?
Adam Glover has been on his way home on a bicycle since April 2011, and it could be sometime before he gets there.
Vietweek met up with 39-year-old Glover last week as he passed through Vietnam, biking from London to his hometown in New Zealand.
Glover had worked in London for five years as a carpenter before he realized one day that he needed to go home. So he set out on his bike and began pedaling.
He knew he could not bike all the way, so he compromised. He would take a boat when he had no choice, but would not use any another form of transportation.
Glover left some months before the famous London riots broke out and was very happy to leave the routine and stress of London life behind. He has since taken the legendary Silk Road that links Europe and Asia.
Before he reached Vietnam, he had passed through 20 countries in 10 months, encountering all kinds of terrain - mountains, deserts and passes.
Some of the countries he passed through after he left London are France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungari, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Western China.
After Vietnam, he will visit Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Timor and Australia.
Glover said when he started out he did not know if he could complete the trip so he did not ask for any sponsorship.
He said he saved a year's salary to prepare for 24,000 kilometers journey. He spent US$1,200 on the bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker), and $1,800 for all equipment including tent, sleeping bag, spare parts and insurance. All together, Glover carries around 50kg of essentials including cooking equipment, water and books.
Before and after
Glover's picture when he left London 10 months ago is of a chubby, very pale man.
He has since lost 10kg, become tan and carries the smile of a traveler who is enjoying himself.
Adam Glover during his interview with Vietweek in HCMC
On average, he bikes around 100 km per day.
"I cycled 210 km (in one day) between Sagan and Hutain which were on the edge of the Taklamakan desert, Xinjanj Province, Western China," he said.
He said he cooks pasta or rice with local vegetables for a simple meal. And very often, he is invited by local people to eat with them.
Glover said now he appreciates his life more. This journey has opened his eyes and the generosity of people he meets on the road has touched him.
The country that he has liked the most so far on his trip is Iran. "People were so generous. People who did not have anything gave me everything," he said.
In Iran, whenever he stopped biking and looked for lunch, people around would treat him as though it was the most natural thing to do. If he was looking for dinner, they would even take him to their homes for a meal.
Out in the open
Most of the time, Glover sleeps in his tent near the road, in fields, orchards or parks, and on the banks of rivers and lakes. Cheap hotels are a luxury that he treats himself to once in a while. And several times, he has been invited to stay with local families. Once he stayed in a villa by the Caspian Sea.
But life is not always beautiful on the road. During a five-day sojourn in Turkmenistan, Glover suffered a bad stomachache and headache in the 55 degree heat.
"I was in the middle of nowhere and I hadn't seen anyone for a whole day," he said. Fortunately, just as he was about to run out of water, he met some French tourists who gave him some.
Glover said another challenging road was in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan where he only could bike only around 25 km per day due to steep, sandy and rocky paths. There he escaped heavy snowfall over a pass 4,255 meters above sea level.
In Tajikistan, Glover was also put at risk once when he camped by a river in the Wakhan Valley next to the Afghanistan border. In the darkness, hearing the sound of the safety catch coming off a machine gun when the Tajikistan army tried to approach him, Glover saved his life by putting his hand up and shouting "tourist," "tourist."
Beaches in Vietnam
After he crossed the China-Vietnam border, Glover realized that he was getting something in Vietnam that he did not get in China.
"People here are warmer and they say hello to me," he said.
The global traveler told Vietweek that he has stayed for around five weeks in Vietnam, longer than he planned. He said he loves to bike along the beaches of Vietnam from the North to the South.
He said in Vietnam he camps on the beach as much as possible, even it means he has to go 10 to 20 km to and from the national highway.
"I stay (longer in Vietnam than planned) because I like the beaches," he said.
He said beaches in this part of the world were different from those in Europe, with Vietnamese beaches offering the added opportunity to watch people exercise and fish during the day.
He said he likes to camp near the sea to hear the waves at night.
"The real highlight for today was the fog lifting and the ocean appearing... as soon as I saw it I took the next available track down to the beach. I dipped my hand and the water was quite warm. The beach was very nice and I was keen to stop for the day and camp on the beach for the night," he wrote in his blog after he reached a beach in Ha Tinh Province.
Glover happily showed Vietweek photos with new friends who invited him to a special Tet dinner, and of his tent and bike on the top of Hai Van Pass where he spent the night. He has equally interesting photographs from the 20 countries he has passed through.
What happens after he reaches home in New Zealand?
Glover has bitten by the travel bug. He told Vietweek that the next journey he plans to undertake is to bike from North America to South America.
To catch up with latest development's on Glover's ongoing adventure, check out his blog at www.2011adamglovercycling.wordpress.com.