I guess I’m no stranger to extreme adventures. In 2013, I cycled from my then home in Cape Town to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London, visiting every single country on mainland Africa en route. That was a two-and-a-half-year odyssey that gave me a self-belief I’d never had before. In 2017, I went to Mongolia with former Hong Kong rugby player Adam Rolston, where we hit a golf ball approximately 2,000 kilometers across the country, averaging 250 shots a day.

By the time you read this, myself and my friend James Owens – who works for the ChildFund Pass It Back charity – will be on our way to the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which kicks off on 20th September. We’re both massive rugby fans and will be cycling to the tournament from London to Tokyo to raise money and awareness for ChildFund Pass It Back, which is the World Cup’s official charity partner. By mid-June, we’ll have cycled through Nepal and should have reached the state of Assam in northeastern India.

We’re calling the trek “Race to Rugby World Cup” and it will take us seven-and-a-half months. It’s a very tight schedule: We have to cycle 600 kilometers a week for 33 weeks and, if all goes to plan, we’ll arrive in Tokyo the day before the World Cup starts. James is more than up for the challenge. He’s super adventurous and once spent three months cycling around Taiwan, living in a tent.

DHL will be supporting us as our dedicated logistics partner; and, with all the preparation we’ve done, I’m confident we’ll get there, but some of the journey will be out of our control. We could get sick, or a landslide might close a road in the Himalayas and force us to take a 1,000-kilometer detour. And I had a hip replacement last year! But we have to get there as World Rugby have entrusted us with delivering the commemorative whistle for the opening game.

It’s going to be physically intense. Cycling through Europe will be cold, and we have to cross the Himalayas – twice! We’re also crossing Myanmar in the rainy season, where the road infrastructure isn’t fantastic. But it’s also an amazing opportunity: For instance, I’m really looking forward to seeing Iran, where I’ve never been. Yes, there will be times when we’ll feel demotivated. But we’ll also keep each other going through this incredible shared experience. —  As told to Tony Greenway

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Published: June 2019

Images: DHL