Text us your news! Start your message Warrington News and send any photos or videos to 80360
A man on a cycling mission
ADVENTURE has been part of Andrew Wright’s life for 20 years. For the Pickmere man has enjoyed nearly 50 cycle trips seeing awe-inspiring sights across Europe, America, Egypt, Israel, Tunisia and Morocco.
Andrew was first inspired to get on his bike as a way to escape the rigidity of the nine to five life and find himself.
At the age of 21, he bought his first touring bike and rode to Chester and back. Then he went for weekend trips to Shrewsbury and York.
But it was not until he went for a nine-day journey to London and back at the age of 24 that his interest became a passion.
Andrew, who attended Barnton Primary School and Hartford Secondary School, said: “The London trip was the culmination of discovering the freedom of cycle touring and youth hostelling, which is a great combination.
“I discovered it was a great way of escaping mundane life for a time. I worked in a drawing office all my life from the age of 16 and I lacked some self confidence.
“Also I find trips are a great source of inspiration and new ideas. When I return from a good trip I generally pick up an idea or two for a new trip.”
Now he has clocked up 23,000 travel miles and is not a man who takes the easy route.
Basic rations, wild camping, hard uphill slogs on his bike while being soaked to the bone or baked in the sun are nothing new to him.
He said: “It’s the desire to see the world – the famous places and sites. There’s a certain style with cycling and a sense of achievement through setting goals and completing them.
“Some do not work out but it’s a reason for living, seeking out these quests. It’s also a good way to stay fit.”
One of his latest adventures, which he finished in five weeks, involved cycling a total of 1,800km as part of the Trans-Iberian Express Adventure, navigating Spain’s tourism cycle route from Irun to Tarifa.
When he spoke to Limited Edition, he had amazing memories from the journey and the people he met.
“Trans Iberia is littered with great moments. A special time was staying at the pilgrim refuges on the Camino de Santiago and meeting the pilgrims. I was very impressed by their spirit and character,” Andrew added.
The 46-year-old also joined cyclists from all across the globe and even found a new friend.
“I found the idea of meeting the other cyclists exciting and new,” he said.
“It was great to get to know the American Randy Castle – great company. I am in regular contact with him by email now and I may tour with him again in the future.”
Andrew also had to endure some treacherous weather conditions from day one when the party met at the campsite at Hondarribia.
“It soon began raining and the winds steadily whipped up to gale force. The wind became fierce – too dangerous for cycling.
“I was forced to make a wild camp by the coast behind a dilapidated farm trailer for shelter.”
However, on two more fortunate evenings, he found an idyllic spot at the La Jimera campsite where he was able to pick and eat oranges from the trees on a deserted hilltop surmounted by two windmills at La Mancha.
“I was alone and at peace,” Andrew said.
“Great views across La Mancha, the feeling of being truly free. I likened it in my mind to being like a cowboy out on the range. It was windy but real fun to be there.”
Other highlights of the trip were visiting the area around the city of Jaen, which contains the endless olive groves that produce 10 per cent of the world’s olive oil and touring the famous Plaza de Toros, the oldest bull ring in Spain.
“I have an admiration for the life of Hemingway so I have a curiosity about bullfighting and bull running.
“It is possible to get some feeling for what the spectacle must be like from standing on the clay dirt in the middle of Ronda bull ring with the sun beating down and circular galleries all around.
“It must be quite a lonely place to be during a fight,” said Andrew.
Andrew, who used to work in the construction steel industry, funds his travels through savings and keeps to a strict shoestring budget.
He estimates that he has spent around £20,000 on his adventures.
Andrew often prefers to cycle alone – this way he can keep going until he gets tired without having to keep the pace of others.
This was the case in June and July when he dashed off for a cycle trip from Pisa to Sicily, although he did admit it was a more lonely experience.
He had to wave goodbye to his parents, John and Brenda, sisters Jackie and Angela and many friends and colleagues.
“When you’ve gone it’s not so much of a problem but at the start of the trip when you’re saying all your goodbyes, it can be hard.
“Email has been a big help as it allows me to stay in touch wherever I am,” said Andrew, who works as a volunteer youth hostel warden.
Armed only with a few essentials like cooking equipment, a tent, maps and guidebooks he set off and 13 trains and plenty of peddling later he reached Palermo on Sicily.
“I was anxious when I arrived but I got there in one piece. I had been wanting to see some bits of Italy for a while but it was a tough trip, particularly in Sicily with the heat,” he added.
One of the highlights of the journey was seeing the Etna volcano.
Andrew said: “It was much too hot to climb but I saw the big mound with the smoke billowing out.”
Over the years, Andrew said one of his toughest trips was in Iceland in 2000 when he had to carry six days worth of food in his backpack as he travelled across the sparse, isolated glacial desert.
While one of his fondest memories was in 2001 in Sri Lanka when he followed the cricket team around as they toured.
Andrew added: “ I have lots of fond memories from Sri Lanka. It was a wonderful experience. Drinking with a straw directly from coconuts. Smiling friendly people.
“I saw five days of the test match in Kandy for £2.50. The match in Galle I watched from the ramparts of the fort which overlooks the cricket ground.
“I was cycling down a country road which had 3ft monitor lizards wandering in it. Another time I stopped for a rest in the shade of a tree and in the corner of my eye I saw a 5ft green snake slithering away from the tree, I nearly sat on it. Sri Lanka was the best.”
Next on the agenda is his 50th adventure – 'Le Raid Pyrenean' – a classic challenge to cross the Pyrenees mountains from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, a distance of 800kms to be completed in 10 days.
Still on his ‘to do’ list is Pakistan, South America as well as Syria and Jordan, where he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.
“I hope to keep making trips for as long as I still enjoy them, maybe into old age,” said Andrew.
“The thrill of the trips is a drug that I am addicted to. Also I would like to be remembered for something special and I think it would be for my trips and expeditions.
“It would be nice to be well known and respected for something.”