Two teenagers trace Genghis Khan route on bike

Two teenagers who set off on their bikes to retrace Genghis Khan's longest invasion route from Mongolia to Georgia have had to abandon the 8,500 km ride for the time being due to illness.
Nineteen-year-old William White from Whatley and university friend Matthew Grinham planned an attempt to retrace Genghis Khan's route and raise funds for the charity Mary's Meals, a charity that aims to provide every child a daily meal at school, ensuring they achieve an education and also get fed.
Overall, this would entail cycling 8,500 km through seven countries over four months, living in a tent for the entirety and carrying their equipment, weighing around 20-30kg.
The pair planned to cycle across Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Their plan to cross Mongolia seemed straightforward, according to William.
"We would cycle from the capital on the only road heading South West for as long as the tarmac would last. We would then follow one of the many desert tracks skirting north of the Gobi to the remote border crossing at Bulgan Gol, where, according to its insignificance on the Foreign Office page, foreigners are not allowed to cross. As we headed deeper into the interior of Mongolia, the terrain and weather turned harsher and harsher, and the people more nomadic and hospitable. It started to dawn on me that this was going to be very difficult and potentially very dangerous."
The map of Mongolia conveyed numerous lakes and rivers, however they soon discovered that these were dried out and any other remaining water was heavily polluted by the herds of animals. After a day cycling in 40 °C heat, they needed more water than they could physically carry on the bikes and were forced to stop every vehicle that would pass for water. When they didn't stop, they had to purify puddle water.
In contrast, some days included periods of torrential rain from which, there was no escape. This meant that at times they resorted to cowering inside drainage pipes beneath the roads.
William recalled: "Despite such adversity, the use of humour helped to keep us sane. This meant that each day we would develop mechanisms to counteract the monotony and physical grind of cycling ten hours each day. Such mechanisms included the creation of the term 'TIM' (This Is Mongolia) for everything that would go wrong, a hot cup of coco every night and our daily iPod session each day at three in the afternoon; a time which was termed 'death hour' because that was when our bodies, and more importantly minds, struggled the most."
Due to the harshness of Mongolia, the teenagers' survival greatly depended on the help of others, this form of help came from the Nomadic people.
William said: "Every day we were using up to six to eight litres of water per person due to the heat, and so we would approach a Ger and ask for a refuel of water. The result each time was one of sheer generosity. They would give not only water, but endless amounts of food. In return for such hospitality, we would show them our map and we were amazed to find that they had never seen a map of their own country. The most special encounters were when we would ride their Mongolian ponies in return for them riding our bicycles."
Disaster struck five days from the border with China, when William started to vomit and had uncontrollable diarrhoea.
In the end, Matthew saved the day by stopping a car in the middle of the night and, with no common language, arranged for William to be taken to hospital where after treatment they continued their journey..
William said: "The feeling of reaching China was one of euphoria. Crossing Mongolia had taken such a toll on our bodies, with both of us pushing ourselves to the limit and therefore, suffered greatly. While the nomads helped us to stay alive by supplying water and food, it was a sad sight to see the effects of alcoholism on their society, which was becoming increasingly urbanised."
Once in China, bad luck continued when Matthew collapsed with heat stroke and was forced to abandon the trip.
William cycled on his own for a further two weeks, making it to Kazakhstan before his illness became even more serious .
He said: "I realised, that in a place as hot and remote as the Karakum desert and Pamir Mountains, the trip had become too dangerous. Therefore, I had to make the heart wrenching decision to come home after two incredible months.
"Ultimately, my trip was not about pushing into the extremes but was about the people. Without the support from family, friends, and most importantly the nomadic people of the Steppe, this journey would not have existed and we would have never raised the three thousand pounds we did for Mary's Meals. This in itself was life changing and I take comfort from the thought that it is sometimes better to be a Shackleton than a Scott."
William hopes to continue the ride after university next year. Both boys raised £2,762 for Mary's Meals.




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