ONE of the greatest things about cycling is the ability to explore.

I have always loved the freedom which two wheels gives me.

I know I have cycled through places over these last eight years that I would have never travelled to if it hadn’t been for my bike.

It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in racing, power numbers and medals.

But if I have learned anything through all my time in hospital, it is that if you spend all your time chasing medals you can sometimes miss the beauty of the sport you’re doing.

I have team-mates who have won medals yet never cycled an Alpine pass.

Before my paralysis, I was one of those athletes.

But since my paralysis in 2016 I have tried to get a better balance of competitive sport and exploring places on my bike.

Now when I say exploring, I don’t mean to the level of Mark Beaumont. It is more about just going out and finding new roads to ride.

I naturally have high levels of curiosity. It drives me to learn and about how much I can push both body and mind.

This same curiosity also takes me on adventures, even adventures which don’t always go to plan.

As the hurricane started to calm down this week, I was itching to go explore some new roads in Jamaica.

I had planned a route on Strava and it didn’t look too hard.

A loop that would take me past Edinburgh castle, the home of one of Jamaica’s first Scots, who I have mentioned in the past and was also their most prolific serial killer in 1731.

I set off avoiding the trucks on the one stretch of busy road before turning off to go explore some roads around the castle.

After riding for a few hours, I had reached the area of the castle and I could see why it would be preferred by a Scot.

Colder than Kingston and lots of rain. It is, however, a stunning valley which offers a surprisingly smooth road not often found on the island.

As I rode on, not really thinking of time or distance, I started to think 'do I turn and go back or try to find the road I had seen on the map?'

I am not a huge fan of turning and riding back the way I came. I always try to find a loop.

So I arrived in a small town with a split in the road, and after a random conversation with a local he assured me the best way back to Monique was the left turn.

It made sense as turning right took me into some rough places.

But within a minute I hit a hill that was over 25% and full of potholes. I should have turned at that point!

But I got off and pushed my bike up the hill.

At this point I had no idea what lay ahead.

But it 10km of constant steep hills with the road pretty much non-existent.

I was in deep bush, and once I knew where I was it was one of those moments where I had gone past the point of turning.

There was nothing here apart from the odd house and farmer waving a machete. I was pretty sure it was safe, but my only concern now was how accurate the map was on Strava.

After two hours of walking up steep hills pushing my bike with the odd sections of riding for a few minutes I was now feeling pretty broken.

This was definitely not what Strava showed - it was never ending, every hill just led into another hill.

By now the clips on the bottom of my cycling shoes were wrecked and I had sat down on a wall to have a rest.

A woman in her nineties appeared dragging a bag of wood in one hand and a machete in the other.

I had no idea what she was saying and I am pretty sure she had no idea what I was saying. But somehow through this language barrier we had a nice chat.

She then started tapping my prosthetic cycling leg adaption with her machete and I started to think I need to get on my bike and moving before it gets dark.

There are days where I think seriously about having my paralysed arm amputated, but in the bush in Jamaica is not the place to do that, and certainly not with a machete!

At 5:30pm it’s like someone turns a switch off and it instantly gets dark here.

I remember looking at my watch and it was 4:30pm and I was nowhere close to a main road.

I started to think I was going to be spending the night in the bush and with no phone service I couldn’t reach anyone.

My neural system was starting to get fatigued and I kept telling myself, there is no option. If I don’t want to sleep in the bush I have to keep going.

Just as I thought I was making progress I found myself at the bottom of another hill. I felt my spirit drop and plunked myself on a wall.

As much as I love exploring, I was now hoping a friend who knew I was going out for this ride might have sent out a search party.

Just as I was thinking about climbing up this next hill I heard the sound of a car horn and saw a friendly face.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. I was done and had nothing left so I had no shame in climbing into a car.