Saturday, June 22, 2024

‘I cycled 18k miles from India to UK – this was unfriendliest of 36 countries’

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A man who cycled through 36 countries in 450 days has revealed the one country he felt uncomfortable in.

Fayis Asraf Ali, 37, from Calicut, Kerala, India decided to take on the massive challenge of riding his 50kg bike 18,000 miles from Kerala to London.

The father-of-two tirelessly pedalled through rough terrain and drastic weather conditions to raise awareness for multiple causes including “End Polio Now” of the Rotary Mission, promoting conflict resolution and peace building, and Go Green by focusing on Zero Carbon emission and anti-drug campaign.

But he shared the one place he felt uncomfortable in was Armenia.

Fayis said: “I was disappointed with Armenia, and did not feel comfortable there, people were not that friendly.

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“I camped by the river and road in other countries I visited and it was fine, but I was shouted at multiple times in Armenia and I did not understand why.”

Despite the negative experience, Fayis said the rest of his journey was pleasant and restored his faith in humanity as he was surprised by how lovely and welcoming people were.

“I’ve been through many dangerous countries like Iraq and Iran and I was really afraid,” he added.

“Many people asked me to change the route, as it was not safe to travel through.

“But when I entered I realised people are very friendly, it was very safe.”

Fayis was grateful to the families who took him in, offering him food and shelter during his trek.

He travelled through Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium and France before reaching London.

Amongst the 36 places he travelled through, Fayis was quick to identify the Netherlands as one of his favourites.

He was impressed by the cycle-friendly infrastructure throughout the country and the warm welcoming nature of people. 

“It is full of canals, and it is very beautiful with a lot of greenery. 

“I’ve been through many countries, and that was my favourite.”

Fayis was offered a place to stay by a local family and he was touched by their kindness.

“They didn’t know me before but they invited me into their home, I didn’t expect these things from them,” he said.

“That’s the beauty of this journey. The world is a very positive place, it was a warm welcome everywhere I’ve been.”

Other significant places Fayis was in awe of include Skopje, North Macedonia, where he visited the birth place of Mother Teresa, salt mines in Poland and the ancient city of Persepolis in Iran.

During his 450-day ride, he had to make two trips back to India to renew his visa, as it was impossible to do so in a single stretch.

The former Network Engineer resigned from his job in order to travel and raise awareness for causes he believes in.

He has already spoken at multiple schools, universities and colleges, and is hoping to keep doing so.

In 2019, he cycled from India to Singapore across 7 countries, cycling nearly 5,000 miles in 104 days for “Rotary Connects the World”.

The next feat he intends on taking on is the American continent, but he is on the look out for sponsors as he anticipates issues obtaining visa.

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