One inspirational Irish cyclist’s round the world trip in numbers and emotions

Posted on: November 21st, 2017

Irish cyclist Dermot Higgins around world trip bke

Breathing a major sigh of relief having scraped across the border from Thailand into Malaysia. The Dubliner had, unknown too him, entered Thailand illegally which he only realised when he tried to leave. On his entry into the country from Myanmar, the border guards were closing up the crossing and didn’t bother to stamp his passport. It meant his entry into the country wasn’t recorded, making it illegal.

 

Irish cyclist Dermot Higgins around the world trip by bike

 

Now half away on his around the world cycling trip, Dubliner Dermot Higgins has 16,000km by bike under his belt.

A 55-year old Rush native, Dermot Higgins officially retired from his school teacher job on Friday, July 30th, last.

But because the school holidays came a bit sooner than his official retirement date, he was able to make an earlier getaway.

He’s now sporting a rainbow beard. And he weighs an astonishing 15kg less than he did when he left home back in June.

But while the physical changes he’s undergone are clear to see, he says he’s also changing as a person.

And in this insightful and honest update he talks us through his trip so far; incorporating his physical and mental journey on the roads across the world.

He’s made it all the way to Java in Indonesia. And he begins his update with his trip in numbers, before getting into the more personal parts of his trip.

 

By Dermot Higgins

Let’s start this update, at 16,000km of cycling and halfway on my around the world journey, with some numbers so far.

  • Days on the road: 143
  • Bike days (including half days): 120
  • Rest days: 23 (including 13 days of “forced rest” in Astana
  • Estimated distance covered using all modes of transport: 20,000km
  • Distance travelled by bike: 16,125km
  • Average time spent cycling per day: 7.25 hours
  • Average speed: 21 km per hour.
  • Average distance per day: 147km
  • Fastest speed: 52km per hr
  • Longest distance in one day: 210km
  • Replaced tyres: 3
  • Wheel replacements: 1
  • Other parts replaced: fork, derailleur, brake pads and cables, block and chain
  • Nights camping: 82
  • Nights in paid accommodation: 42
  • Nights in non paying accommodation: 20
  • Average fluid consumption per cycling day: 5 litres
  • Estimated average calorie consumption per day: 6,000
  • Weight loss: 15kg.

Changes to my physical appearance over the past four and a half months are easy to detect. I’m much thinner, more muscular, slightly wrinklier and an awful lot hairier than I was when I left Ireland on June 30th.

My fitness and general health have improved significantly also.

Almost every other ‘Round the World’ cyclist encounters some major illness, en route.

I don’t know if I can attribute my good fortune in this regard simply to good luck, genetics or training.

But I think it’s phenomenal that I haven’t suffered as much as a headache since July.

I recovered remarkably quickly from a broken rib while in India and a single bout of diahorea while in Yangon was the only other sickness I suffered.

This is despite the fact that I’ve no immunisation against tropical diseases.

It’s something I can’t comprehend at all and believe it to be linked to a series of other major changes which have occurred deep inside of my consciousness.

At this point, I’m getting very close to an area of heightened seismic volcanic activity. Krakatoa.

It is the scene of the biggest single volcanic eruption in recent history is looming just east of Java.

Another dormant volcano in Bali has shown signs of activity, necessitating the evacuation of many resorts.

This seismic activity deep underground is mirrored in strange rumblings taking place deep inside my consciousness as I approach Java.

It’s quite frightening to think that I’m becoming a very different person on so many levels.

I’ve been a hardened atheist for all of my adult life. While in India, I began to question my faith or lack thereof.

Then a series of deeply spiritual encounters, both with people, places and the natural world have led me to be able to say with conviction that I was wrong for all those years.

For me at least – there is indeed a God!

My awareness of the social, political and cultural issues facing humanity has been heightened enormously on this trip.

Like most people, I knew that inequality, hunger and poverty were real.

I’ve had many probing questions in late night bars and snatched conversations in the homes of ordinary people over the past four month.

They have taught me how much these issues impact on people’s daily lives. But they’ve also ignited a moral imperative in me to do whatever I can to bring about change.

The ‘rainbow beard’, which appeared in Bangkok, was the first outward sign of this change.

I don’t know if I can maintain a rainbow beard for the rest of my life. But one thing for sure is that I’m never going to ‘sit on the fence’ ever again.

When I was in the Trocaire office in Yangon, waiting to give a presentation, I was struck by the veracity of a quotation on a poster on the wall:
“If you see an elephant standing on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your position” – Cardinal Desmond Tutu.

In some small way, I believe that I’ve already done something to raise awareness of the important issues facing humanity.

But now, I can say that my experiences on this trip have led me to the decision to commit what’s left of my life continuing this work.

Finally, and this is the most difficult change to describe, I’ve come to realise the importance of truth in my life.

A quotation from the poet John Donne keeps going round in my head:

“Beauty is truth, Truth, beauty. That is all there is to know on earth. And all you need to know.”

If we are honest, we will all be aware of the lack of truth in some parts of our lives.

I for one have no problem admitting this. I’ve become aware that being untruthful to oneself and to others is the single most damaging thing we can do.

Gogodermo was only supposed to be a cycle trip around the world. For whatever reason, it turned into something much more important than that; a quest for truth.

Many, many long meditative hours in the saddle have brought me to the belief that truth is the only thing that matters and it is in this spirit that I intend to live the rest of my life.

I know that many of you will appreciate the honesty of what I’m saying.

I suspect that many also will consider it foolish of me to bare my soul in such a public forum. That doesn’t bother me anymore.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I am so much looking forward to meeting you in person, if that is possible when I return in April.

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