Manchester To Egypt By Tandem in 1983

We married in 1981, impulsively, enthusiastically and joyfully. Adjectives which have ultimately defined much of our lives together. For various reasons, mostly the practicality of my completing my degree, we found ourselves settling down to married life in Manchester. A culture shock for Dudley, especially as the winter nights set in, but we were undeterred. We discovered a joint love of novelty, adventure, and travel. We took up diving and revelled in the incredible range of life and wreckage off the English coast. Also cold and dark but you can learn to appreciate even the darker side of adventure.

But that’s another story. We had an interest in people and places which challenged our own experiences and habits. In a nutshell we were curious. Having both spent many years qualifying ourselves for our life careers in medicine, burning the midnight oil over books and journals, we still yearned for the freedom of time to explore other lands and cultures. Preferably warmer climes! I wanted to introduce Dudley to the many places in Europe I had travelled and enjoyed with my family, he wanted to show me that no preparation was needed.

A tandem has a driver and a stoker. Dudley drove and Christine stoked (sometimes).


The driver (Dudley)

Sitting on the steps of our house, in Kenya, when I was very young, and looking at what appeared to me to be a forest in the distance, I clearly remember thinking I must go there and see what is there and beyond. Somehow that has always been a need, to see and explore. A medical career and a flat was great, as a temporary scene.

I could not find a better companion than Chris, who has never appeared afraid and has been up for any adventure. Despite her diminutive size, she has a huge intellect and steely heart. She would enjoy the meander and I would push to move up and on, a bit frustrating at times but we both learnt that you need to savour the moment AND keep moving.

First House Farm Kenya with Mum Kelbe

My mum outside our first home in Kenya. Clearly living under canvas is in my genes.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

The Era

A plan was sparked when a tandem was seen in a cycle shop window in central Manchester, on the way to work on a miserable grey rainy day.

Although neither of us were cycle enthusiasts, we settled on a plan to cycle the length of Europe on a tandem. England to Egypt and beyond. No schedule, no bookings, no fixed plan. We would pedal where the wind blew and let fate decide. Any disparity in physical skill would be equalised by the sharing of wheels. Apparently.

This was 1983, a very different world to the one we live in now. The world contained only half the population. Adventure travel was much less wide spread and definitely less well organised. The rand was just under 2 to a pound. (dream on!) No cell phones and no computers. Cameras with film, no digital technology at all. We saved up just under £3000 to last us for a year and we took a bunch of cash sewn into our underwear, some travellers cheques for insurance, and planned for money to be wired to us in cities we would nominate as, and when, we needed it. A touchingly naive belief in the world order.

The Kitchen Sink

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Christine inspecting the aluminum chassis during construction

The challenge of transporting all your worldly goods on a bike was met by the ingenious building of an aluminum trailer which attached to the tandem with a swan necked clamp to the back seat. 2 extra bicycle wheels completed the design, and we packed in enough equipment to ensure a well stocked and luxurious journey.

The contents included a 2 plate cooker, a 10 kg gas cylinder, clothes, shoes, books, games. Windbreakers, rain slickers and gaiters. Boots, shoes and sandals. You name it and we had it.

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The palatial 4 man tent which housed us, the trailer, contents AND the bicycle. Chris carefully cut the inner sleeping compartment in half to fit the bike. You could cook in it and stay dry. Took a lot of effort to erect and even more to pack away

A couple of dry runs through the countryside of Cheshire and Derbyshire revealed a few stability issues and an alarming wobble on the downhills, threatening a high speed crash. The weight made it nearly impossible to stop on steep downhills without putting your feet down for added friction, the brakes and feet overheating. We decided we would probably need a lot of shoes. Even worse, the weight of the trailer made pedalling uphill on more than a mini gradient nearly impossible. What the hell, we felt confident.

The Departure

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The Departure Party at our friend Dereks house. Dive buddies and working friends.

Once proposed, the plan grew with remarkable speed. We resigned our jobs, held a huge and alcohol soaked going away party with all our diving buddies and friends.

We set off south sporting the mother and father of a hang over. Exactly the sort of behaviour you may expect in the year that Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, and Air Supply rocked the charts. Not quite the summer of love but close. John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova aced Wimbledon and the cause of HIV was first reported. Something which would occupy a big part of our working life to come.

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Leaving Calbeck Avenue Much Later Than Anticipated.

The Driver's Comments

There were boots for walking the streets of Paris and dresses for dining out with the rich and famous (total budget 3000 pounds for the entire trip). I was a willing accomplice, luxury and perceived needs over pragmatism and common sense.