KINROSS couple Kelly Sheldrick (28) and Michael Cowgill (29) are more than three months into their 10,000km bicycle trek from France to China to raise awareness of the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
The seven-month adventure started on April 21 as a short cycle trip to see how the pair liked the idea, with the plan to cycle across Canada next year.
“This obviously turned into a rather long, epic cycle tour but what can I say – if you are going to do it, you may as well go all out,” Kelly said.
“I actually used to be a runner and hadn’t really been on a bicycle since I was at high school but I was in an unfortunate ski accident in France and tore a knee ligament and I haven’t been able to run since.
“As cycling is low impact, I could still cycle, hence the cycle trip.”
They bought two secondhand bikes from a shop in France and have made their way through eight countries – France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey – so far covering 4400km with no support crew.
“We have all our equipment – tent, sleeping bags, clothes, food etcetera – with us on the bikes,” Kelly said.
She said though Michael’s biggest challenge had been tyre punctures, the biggest challenge so far for her had been finding somewhere to camp each night.
“Recently we have been cycling through some very desolate areas that aren’t necessarily suitable for wild camping and villages and towns are few and far between,” she said.
“Usually the kindness of strangers means we find somewhere to stay whether it be out the back of a gas station or in the library room of a mosque.”
She said the hot weather was also a challenge and she expected it to get worse as they travelled through Iran.
While on the trek, Kelly and Michael have been raising funds and awareness for WaterAid – an international non-governmental organisation that aims to improve access to safe water, better hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.
“I have read a lot of articles about sanitation and hygiene, particularly about the conditions and issues that girls and women face in some developing countries when menstruating, like not having access to clean water or toilets and the feelings of embarrassment and lack of privacy forcing many girls and women to wait until after dark to visit rivers or streams to wash, putting themselves at risk of rape and abuse,” Kelly said.
“Most of these issues stem from the lack of safe, private and hygienic toilets.
“Sanitation and toilets are still taboo subjects and I want to help break this taboo because talking about sanitation is the first step to finding a long-term solution.”
Kelly aims to raise $10,000 for WaterAid and is already a quarter of the way there.
To follow their journey, visit www.facebook.com/ francetochinabybike.
To donate go to give. everydayhero.com/au/france-to-china-by-bike.