Two wheels better

Ian MACARTNEY has cycled hundreds of thousands of miles to get to Galashiels.

The Scottish traveller will be speaking to the Borders group of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society next week.

Ian rides into town with the dust from places all over the world on the wheels of his mind.

Ian, a Scottish former geography teacher, has been cycle-touring the continents since 1997. Now, after more than a decade of extensive biking, Ian is hanging up his cycling helmet and returning to Scotland to discuss one of his favourite, and perhaps less well known, travel destinations: Uruguay.

Ian was born in the Clydecoast area during the baby boom after the Second World War. In his home environment he was exposed to items that planted the seed of travel in him from an early age. His desire to experience different places over the globe was heightened as he peered at exotic stamp locations, and a junior atlas and listened to stories of exploration.

After completing his university degree in geography at Aberdeen and post-graduate work in Latin American studies in Liverpool he broke out of the shackles of academia to indulge in overseas travel.

He said: “By bicycle and boat I made the 10-month journey from Scotland to Buenos Aires, arriving in May 1979, and thereafter settling into teaching in international colleges in South America, Africa, Switzerland and Colorado. Wherever I was based I explored near and far by cycle.”

He continued: “Work ties and an American lady restricted the persisting wish for sustained travel. However, I made the break from Denver in April 1997, undertaking a five-month ‘clear-the-head’ bike ride through northern Scandinavia. It was great fun. Rather than seeking out another teaching position I quickly returned to the road, combining New Zealand and the American West over a 10-month period. Any thought of returning to the classroom had gone!”

By the age of 50, Ian had truly caught the bicycle tour bug and his escalating tours saw him wheeling through six continents involving 3,780 road days and covering 150,000 miles on tarmac, gravel, sand and cobblestones.

His most rewarding places include some remote stretches of China, Patagonia and Alaska. However, being brought up in the winds and rains of the Scottish coast his favourite country is Iceland.

Ian choose 2010 as the final year of his extended tours and despite his wanderings reaching the remote corners of the world his tour finale was spent on the Western Isles of Scotland.

It is not surprising that someone raised on Scotland’s rugged coastline would finish his grand excursions with the smells of the sea, the hills and the heather of his homeland.

He said: “Day 3,780 came on September 30, 2010, with a terminating ride from Blackwaterfoot (on the Isle of Arran) via Cumbrae, of course, to an unfamiliar finishing line … my own home doorstep in Largs. Now I am having my first full winter in Scotland since 1977.”

His home cycle tours have included some of our country roads in this region. Ian last spoke to the Borders group in 2002 about a two-wheeled trip through Patagonia.

Ian will give his talk, Uruguay – Cycling in a Windy Wonderland, on Tuesday at 7.30pm in the Scottish Borders Campus, Netherdale, Galashiels, TD1 3HF. Tickets cost £8 for adults, free for students, RSGS members and under-18s. Tickets are available on the night at the venue.