Matt Hinkley hadn’t owned a bike since he was 14 when he made the decision to cycle across the globe.
Matt and his partner Jasmin took off from Jasmin’s hometown in Switzerland a few months ago and have pedalled across Europe and into the Middle East on their cross-continent adventure that will end in Cobden – Matt’s home town.
Currently in Iran, the couple are averaging about 50 kilometres per day and will cross 50 countries over 500 days to put them in Cobden by December next year – roughly 20,000 kilometres to go.
So far, the couple has explored countries like Italy, Croatia, Romania and Azerbaijan, camping each night and enjoying the hospitality of the locals.
Matt says cycling is the perfect pace to take in the countryside.
“Not too fast that you zoom past towns and waving, smiling faces in towns on your way to the capitals, not too slow that you can still cross the country before your tourist visa expires.
“In short, it’s a continuous interaction with the people when we ride. We are never too fast to miss that invite for tea, to hear their story and to wave back.”
Matt, an engineer who has worked in Victoria, the US and Germany, met Jasmin, a project manager from Wattenwil, Switzerland, when they were both travelling in Portugal in 2015.
The pair kept in touch and soon realised that, while they wanted to be together, it didn’t mean they had to stay in the one place.
“We both wanted to travel. As long, as far away and as adventurous as possible,” Matt says.
”I was young, fit as a fiddle… Now was the perfect time, not in 30 years time. In 30-40 years I’m not sure I will have the stamina to ride a bike every day and sleep in a tent for a year or more straight.
“I have heard that for some that they learnt so much about themselves and developed such independence and a great perspective from travelling. Why wait until I’m 60 and retired to learn so much?
“I didn’t want a holiday, I wanted an adventure. I wanted to experience the struggle just as much as the elation. Days when the chips are down, your lost, hungry, tired and simply over it. To find a way through this all and to keep your spirits high. To come out the other side, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Among the highlights so far have been the mountain passes of Georgia and incredible alpine lakes.
“We certainly earned these views, climbing and climbing for days on end. Rewarded with remote towns that have never really laid eyes on a tourist and amazing wild camping pitches,” Matt says.
“Iranian hospitality has certainly been incredible. Quite possibly the friendliest people on the planet. We rode into a town in Iran, and within an hour with have three offers to stay the night and more food than we can carry given to us.”
Matt describes the freedom of the open road as “energising”.
“Jasmin, myself, the bikes and our tent. From here we are dependent on the help of strangers and sometimes a burden upon them. But… I have a lifetime to return the favour.
“The challenges are frequent. From muscle cramps, upset stomachs from water. Mountains of 2000 metres plus to pass. Trucks in Georgia and Iran and very narrow shoulders of road to cycle. Finding a safe place to pitch the tent. Keeping your spirits high when you are tired, hungry and still need to find a place to rest. But we always find a way and have trust in this now.”
Matt says he and Jasmin are living a simpler life.
“Ride your bike, find a place to rest, eat twice as much as our normal lives and go again,” he says.
“From this trip I will have memories forever, memories that will continue to inspire me in the future to take that risk or adventure, whatever that may be.”
Follow the journey at pedalpromise.com