“It was fantastic – all I hoped it would be,” writes Sally Gillespie.
So said Kelso-born Chris Strother this week after cycling 3,000 miles from Athens to Edinburgh in just under two months.
The self-funded, independent Parthenon2Parthenon ride with friend Stuart Doyle was to raise money for the Scottish capital’s St Columba’s Hospice. This week the total stands at £3,400, with a further £600 expected.
“It was just amazing going through all the different countries, the people we met and experiences we had,” said Chris. “It was all great.”
Even being “annihilated” by mosquitoes on the third night in Greece did not dampen the cyclists’ enthusiasm.
The 2,850-mile journey took seven weeks and two days, with the pair cycling an average of 67 miles a day.
“The highlights were reaching Calton Hill. Also cycling up the coast of Croatia and passing through Provence where the scenery was beautiful,” said Chris.
“And in Montenegro we were put up for the night by a family who saw us setting up our tent and invited us in. It was something we didn’t expect, but it was very welcome.”
The Edinburgh-based friends, who both play for a city Sunday league football team, completed their challenge through 13 countries with punctures the only hiccup.
The only other low moments were when they struggled to find places to wild camp on a couple of occasions – and the Albanian roads.
“Some were really bad. We were worried about our own safety and the bikes breaking down,” said Chris.
“We were really fortunate with the weather – we only had a couple of afternoons with rain.
“I would have thought over two months one of us would have got injured – maybe nothing serious, but aside from sore bums we were fine – or maybe that something would go wrong with the bikes, but we were just really lucky.”
Friends, family and other supporters cheered the pair back to Calton Hill in last Tuesday.
“Coming up to Calton Hill we were both a wee bit nervous, I don’t know why. There were more people than we expected, it was quite strange that they had made the effort to come and see us. It was very touching.
“My parents are very proud as you can imagine. They were at Calton Hill to see us arrive. I don’t think they doubted that we would complete it which is nice. They have always been really supportive. They were dead chuffed for us.”
This week Chris was returning to work as a coffee barista in the city after visiting his parents, May and Neil, in Kelso at the weekend.
“Since I’ve been back I realise what is on our own doorstep. I’m going to get myself out and see more of Scotland,” he vowed.