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Top of the world Why two cyclists embarked on an epic trip, dodging bandits and sleeping in the bush

Imagine deciding to leave your job, sell your house, split up with your girlfriend and cycle halfway across the world.

Andy Brown, above, and friend Tim Garratt cycled close to 10,000 miles round the world in 12 monthsPhotograph: Pichugin Dmitry/shutterstock
Andy Brown, above, and friend Tim Garratt cycled close to 10,000 miles round the world in 12 monthsPhotograph: Pichugin Dmitry/shutterstock

Across three continents and nearly 10,000 miles. Could you do it? And if you could, would you? Andy Brown and Tim Garratt decided to do just that, and Glasgow's Riverside Museum is honouring their achievement by including Brown's bike in its Adventurers exhibition.

Brown says: "I reached 30 and I was disillusioned with working for a big corporation and the whole suburban lifestyle. I wanted something different. I had read a few books about cycling adventures so I decided to have an adventure."

The pair were raising money for a charity, now called Practical Action, which works with poor communities worldwide.

They began their journey in August 1991 in Sydney and arrived at Valparaiso, Chile one year later. "We cycled across Australia, Africa and South America. We didn't have a support vehicle. It was just us, so no-one was going to feed us or give us water or look after us if we got sick or injured. We were out there in the wild."

Brown says the journey was tough going. "We cycled in 46C heat and quite often there wasn't water. We needed to drink about 10 litres of water a day but it was very, very hard to get that. In Africa it was all dirty and contaminated with typhoid and other nasties, so we had to filter it.

"In Zambia, we met bandits. They were all carrying knives and completely blocking the road in the jungle. We thought 'we've come so far, we're not going stop or turn around'. So we got up to full speed and just bashed through these guys.

"In Africa, if you are camping in the bush you are seen as fair game. If you're attacked, no-one is going to find out who did it. But if you are in a village and you have asked for permission from the head man to stay, they are duty bound to look after you. So in some of the more dangerous places we went into the villages and found the head man. Often those guys were drunk and said 'fine'. There was usually a lot of hoo ha and a lot of mucking about, but they kept us safe."

Generally, though, Brown says the African people were welcoming. "We always found everybody very lovely and hospitable, apart from the police. I think because we were on bicycles we were closer to them - you never see white people on bicycles in Africa. When you imagine a white person you think of them in big SUVs going about 100mph.

"One woman in Malawi read about our journey in a newspaper and she worked in this post office. When she realised who we were she came out from behind the counter and gave me this great big hug and said 'to cycle around the world, to raise money to help people in Africa. Wow, that takes a lot of love so I'm going to give you some back.'

Brown says there was a constant struggle to consume enough food. "We were burning up maybe 7000 calories a day and only able to put in about 3000 calories. It meant we had to search for food. We couldn't carry too much and often had to live off what we would find, and there wasn't much."

Both men had to carry everything they had on their bikes: "Tents, clothes, water, camping gear, cooking stuff, all that stuff. Everything was minimal but it all adds up."

Brown, who was born in London and now lives in Hong Kong, is pleased his journey, which he undertook 20 years ago, has been recognised.

"It's very nice of the people at the Riverside Museum to put my bike in their exhibition. I know I'm not a famous person. The bike was in a museum in Easter Island for a couple years and when they had to shift it they sent it to Glasgow.

"My dad was from Paisley and my mum lived in Scotland for about 30 years and I always think of myself as a bit Scottish."

He adds: "I hope the exhibition inspires young people. There are a lot of adventures in the world and you can have adventures cheaply, even in Scotland. It can change your life and your view of yourself and give you new opportunities."

Adventurers, a new display in the Riverside Museum, Glasgow, presents the stories of five modern-day Scottish adventurers, including Ewan McGregor and Mark Beaumont, told through the objects used in their epic expeditions. Visit glasgowmuseums.com.

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