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It’s a long way home from Hong Kong...especially by bike

PUBLISHED: 17:50 03 November 2011

Archant

Many people have experienced a point in their lives where they wake up every day and go to a job that they no longer have a passion for.

But few will have dealt with that personal dilemma by jumping on a bicycle and cycling more than 10,500 miles across the world.

That is exactly what 34-year-old Theo Brun has just done.

Mr Brun rode from Hong Kong, where he had been living and working as a lawyer for more than a year, to his parents’ home in Great Massingham.

He travelled through 19 countries before arriving in England and his 10,685 mile journey took saw him dance at a wedding in Kazakhstan, almost collapse in a state of disorientated exhaustion on a Chinese mountain and give people in a remote town in northern China their first contact with a European person.

Mr Brun arrived in Great Massingham, the village where he grew up, last week and was joined for the final few miles by some friends, his brother and his brother’s child.

He was greeted by a party of around 20 people and his parents’ angry dog who attacked and tried to bite him.

Mr Brun said: “I have travelled through remote parts of China and potentially dangerous places in the Middle East; I’ve been through Russian Mafia hot spots in Odessa, Ukraine, but the only attack I endured on my whole trip was at the very end, by my parents’ dog! It doesn’t like people on bikes.”

Mr Brun set off from Hong Kong in October last year.

He had been working as an in-house lawyer for a biotechnology company.

But after five years of training and working in this field he decided a law career was not for him.

He said: “It just didn’t interest me, and when I’m not interested in something I’m not very good at it. I’d rather not be a lawyer at all than be a rubbish one so I quit.

“I want to become a writer. I had a conversation with a friend in Hong Kong about setting off into the heart of Asia and walking home. I had the idea of going beyond writing into becoming the story. She said to me: ‘What’s stopping you?’ I couldn’t give an answer. I had nothing to tie me down, no job, I wasn’t in a relationship, no mortgage. There was literally nothing stopping me.

“It was after this conversation that I started to take the idea seriously and put everything into place. But walking would have taken too long, so I cycled instead.”

The trip took a lot of planning, from working out the route, arranging visas and buying the necessary kit.

Mr Brun also took Mandarin classes.

He said: “I didn’t do any fitness training. I had been doing exercise fairly regularly but was nowhere near as fit as I had been in the past.

“I burned out on the second day and had to rest for a day. I hadn’t prepared for the heat and the amount of food and drink I would need.”

Early in his trip he tore his Achilles, an injury that nearly led to him abandoning his adventure all together.

But after a week’s rest in Enshi, in Hibei, China, Mr Brun was back on the road.

He stopped for four months in X’ian, in central China, where he worked teaching English, before continuing his journey into the famous Silk Road trading route.

Mr Brun says one of the most surreal parts of his adventure was in a remote town called Xinglong, in northern China.

He said: “I set up in my hotel and then went out to dinner. In the town square couples were dancing and there was a DJ and a loud speaker system. I was self-consciously hiding behind my video camera, filming it when people started to look at me. I was the first European person some of these people had ever seen and the children, in particular, were getting very excited. I was significantly taller than anyone else in the town and an elderly man broke the ice and asked me how tall I was. Soon 30 people surrounded me, hanging on to every syllable. I could take only a couple of minutes before I had to stop.”

Mr Brun’s journey saw him travel from Hong Kong across the whole of China through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, western Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, southern Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Holland before arriving back in England.

Mr Brun is now planning to write a book about his trip.

He also raised £1,300 through sponsorship money.

He is donating this to the Harry Mahon Cancer Research Trust, which was founded in 2001 to recognise world-renowned rowing coach Harry Mahon’s wishes to continue his fight against cancer, the disease that eventually took his life.

Mr Mahon was one of Mr Brun’s rowing coaches when he rowed at Cambridge.

He is also donating money to Wellspring International.

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