July 31 2014 Latest news:
Lizzie Dearden, Senior reporter
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
For many couples, the idea of an ideal honeymoon is two weeks of sun, sea and sand but newlyweds Kat and Steve Turner chose to cycle 30,500km around the world instead.
n Days on the road: 674
n Countries visited: 20
n Distance cycled: 30,500km
n World record for distance on a tandem: 38,143km
n Elevation gain: 249,365m
n Time in the saddle: 1,585 hours
The tandem adventure took them through 20 countries over two years, almost breaking a world record.
Spending much of their time pedalling through the Australian outback, great cities of China and mountains of eastern Europe, they carried what they could in a trailer on the back of their bike.
They are now adjusting to life out of the saddle back at home.
Steve, 34, left his job at South Park Primary School in Water Lane, Seven Kings, and Kat, 32, left the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for the adventure.
“We originally thought we should get away for a while and got a bit carried away,” he said.
“We just thought it would be fun.”
Preparation started after they got married in August 2011 and they set off eight months later in April 2012.
Leaving their family and home behind in south-east London, they took a one-way flight to New Zealand and started the long ride home.
The journey took them through extreme landscapes and seasons through Australasia, Asia and Europe and put them in the path of several natural disasters.
Steve said: “We were in an earthquake in China which was really scary – people died.
“There were a lot of big storms where entire villages got washed away.”
The couple made it back in one piece but not without health trials from stomach upsets to heat exhaustion.
Kat fractured a knee cap when she hit a railway track and was bitten by a dog in the Australian Outback.
In some places, the authorities were not too helpful either.
Kat said: “In China we were staying in a hotel and suddenly the police were knocking on our door asking for our papers.
“They moved us because they said it wasn’t suitable for foreigners.”
The three months spent crossing the huge country was the hardest time for the couple, who said they were often stared at and furtively photographed.
Steve said China was “like being in a science fiction film with extremely modern cities exploding with new people and very rural village where people were doing the same thing as 200 years ago”.
One friend they met introduced Steve and Kat to her grandparents, who had never met anyone from abroad.
Apart from the shock of seeing two Westerners towing a trailer on a tandem bike, Steve’s long hair and beard made an impression in parts of south-east Asia.
He did not cut his hair for the whole journey to help raise money for charity.
So far they have given £2,400 to Practical Action, which uses simple technology to help impoverished communities.
Steve said: “I don’t know what difference the hair made – it probably didn’t help, especially in countries where facial hair isn’t normal.”
But despite the cultural differences and language barriers, they found friends even in the remotest of places.
Steve said: “People were really welcoming – we often had people offer us food or drink and let us stay in their houses.
“Although we had natural events to be afraid of we were certainly never worried about the people. We never had any problems.”
To get around they learnt “three or four” words of every language, usually “hello”, “thank you” and “beer”.
“It’s amazing what you can convey with sign language,” Kat said.
The couple chronicled their adventures in a blog called the Tandem Turners and kept in touch with family using Facebook and Skype.
Kat’s mum came out to visit every Christmas and Steve’s family came met the couple in Vietnam and France.
With an array of stunning countries including Thailand and Georgia to choose from, mountainous Kyrgyzstan emerged as a surprise favourite.
But how was it spending 699 days straight together? Surely a good foundation for married life.
Kat said: “We’ve been together 24/7 for two years and not even been apart for more than an hour.
“Some people have asked us if we argued and I said Steve was my only friend on the road – why would I argue with him?
“We had our moments when someone was hungry or tired but we always knew why it was.”
The couple are now living with Kat’s family in Penge and are deciding their next move, although travelling may be on hold for some time.
“We have been looking forward to staying in one place,” said Steve.