PHOTO: Matt Wallis
An incredible trip saw two university graduates cycle across Europe in aid of a charity.
They have cycled 4,000 gruelling miles and completed some of the most punishing mountain climbs in Europe. Now Matt Scott and Matt Wallis, 22-year-old university graduates from Bournemouth are home after their amazing adventure to tell their story.
They travelled through France, Spain and Italy from August until November last year to raise money for Mustard Seed Communities. This organisation, which operates in Jamaica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Zimbabwe, cares for children and adults with various physical and mental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, as well as those affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I had always wanted to travel after university, so I asked Wallis whether he fancied joining me on a cycle ride round Europe.
“Not thinking he would say yes, I suddenly had to stick to it after he agreed,” says Matt Scott, who before starting his university degree in Sport Management at Loughborough University, went to Jamaica for six months in 2009 as a volunteer sports coordinator.
The experience of working with the organisation was, as Matt admits, an inspiration for the trip. “The children of the charity are just amazing and really talented. The sport gave them an opportunity to express themselves which was very moving for me.”
The Matts, who have been best friends since the age of 11, set out with a plan to travel for a full ten months across France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and the rest of Europe, planning each day as it came.
“The target destination was changing pretty rapidly due to the cost being a bit more than we expected,” says Matt.
The two ended up going from Bournemouth to Gibraltar and back to Rome, cycling through the west and south of France, and the whole of Spain. On the way, they visited such cities as Nice, Seville, Toledo, Lucca, and Turin, and cycled up some of the toughest mountains in the Apennines and Pyreness, including 2000-metre high Tourmalet and 1500-metre high Col d’Aspin. All this on two Surly Disc Trucker bikes, which including the repair equipment, cooking tools, clothes, sleeping bags, tents and medical kits, weighed over 30 kilograms.
“Climbing the mountains was the hardest thing to do but we managed it,” says Matt. Their biggest problems came in the Pyrenees where Matt Scott’s bike chain snapped, putting out the rear mechanism and bending the back of the frame of his bike, while Matt Wallis’ bike had a broken rear break. But they were met with kindness and openness of the local people.
“The people who helped us to get off the mountains were amazing. They wanted to look after us and hear our story.”
Instead of renting hotel rooms, the Matts spent most of the nights camping in order to save money to keep going. “Camping and cycling is just such a good way to see the world, instead of whizzing past in cars. You get to see everything, and camping means you meet a lot of people,” says Matt Scott. After four months of cycling, Matt and Matt finished their journey in Rome at the end of November last year.
So far, they have raised more than £1500 for Mustard Seed Communities, and both plan to further raise awareness for this organisation by going into local schools to deliver talks and presentations.
“The trip was a great opportunity to raise some money for the charity, and hopefully inspire a few people and make them realise that anything is possible.
“Now we need to make sure we carry on this mission,” added Matt Scott.
Their trip is documented on their blog: http://www.wheeldealtour.me, and you can donate money for Mustard Seed Communities at: m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=Tour_Of_Europe&un_jtt_redirect