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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Riding the Pamir Highway – The Impossible Dream

After all the bad news concerning my recent accident, I think a more positive blog post is required.

I’ve been told by friends and strangers that I’m an inspiration. If this is true then I’ve achieved at least one of my goals, which is to show others there is life and even adventure after being told you have cancer.

I’m no hero, but let me tell you the story of a Yorkshire lass (which explains her grit and determination) who was, and who became the single biggest influence and inspiration to me. Her name is Jane Tomlinson. Told she had six months to live, Jane had two choices: give up, or grab every moment and make the most of any time granted to her. She went on to raise £2 million for cancer charities, gained an OBE, became an inspiration to millions – and me.

A real hero – Jane Tomlinson

Jane had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26, but after having her breast and lymph nodes removed, she was told she was in remission. However, a decade later it returned, and in August 2000, a consultant told her she had six months to live (while the timelines are different, this is also what happened with my own wife Caroline).

Eighteen months after that diagnosis and various chemotherapy treatments later, to the astonishment of her doctors, she finished the London Marathon. That was just the start of her amazing endeavors and with her brother Luke, she completed a 1,060-mile bike ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End and then a 2,500-mile Rome To Home bike ride. In July and August 2006, Jane spent nine weeks cycling 3,800 miles across the United States, raising £250,000. This was to be her final cycling challenge.

On 3rd September 2007 Jane died peacefully in St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds, West Yorkshire. She had defied both the doctors and the odds for over seven years.

Just over 12 months ago I also was told my cancer had returned. I immediately decided I wasn’t going to bother with treatment, not really much point this time. I suggested that I’d like to go off and do some cycling and this was met with enthusiasm and the words “it will even be beneficial, where will you go?”

‘Oh, I was thinking of cycling across the roof of the world (Pamir Highway) and onto the Himalayas’

“Derek, you need to choose an easier challenge. In 12 to 18 months time you will most likely not be able to cycle at all, let alone ride in the mountains. What you are suggesting is impossible.”

‘That’s great, I like impossible and thank you for being so candid with me.’

After I’d completed the first part of the Pamir Highway, resting up in Khorog, I remember a conversation I’d had with Clive (who’s father sadly had only recently been diagnosed with cancer) and he asked me “do you think it’s possible to heal yourself?” to which I replied an emphatic ‘no‘. My illness is not going to go away and the chest x-ray taken after my recent accident clearly shows the damage caused by the cancer. The only thing I believe is that being positive helps and I think of Jane, who defied all the odds for a further seven years. I’ll ride until I no longer can, that’s all I can say for certain.

High in the Pamir’s – the Yamchun Fortress

I may not have completed the full Pamir Highway, but I rode most of it and this makes me very happy on a number of counts. Firstly proving that impossible is indeed possible if you have belief in yourself, though I have to admit to having some doubts as to whether I could actually pull it off. Next I know from the various messages I’ve received that my travels and fortitude in the face of substantial adversity is helping others, this for me is the most pleasing aspect of what I’m doing.

This is the actual 4×4 which hit me!

I now face my biggest challenge to date, replacing the kit damaged in the accident. The bike I’ve now learned is a total write-off and along with the additional kit listed in my previous blog, this will completely empty my meager fund pot. This is why I’m asking for help. Not where I wanted to be, but sometimes things happen that you just cannot predict. If you’d like to help, please consider making a small donation by clicking the button in the right sidebar, or the one below. Thanks.

If I do manage to continue, then I plan to ride across Canada and the USA without money as my funds will have almost certainly run out. I will call this trip “The Goodwill Tour” and every Canadian & American I’ve so far spoken to tells me this is possible – sounds like a good next challenge!!

More soon…



Patrick and Rachel Hugens
Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm

We hope to see you in Boise someday Derek!

    Monday, November 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I hope so too – stay tuned!!

Will Traubel
Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Hi Derek… Don’t have much money to contribute, but I had a thought… Sounds like your next challenge is across the USA. I did a cross US trip in ’93 and my bike and gear is collecting dust. Not sure if it would suit you, but I live in Massachusetts and it’s yours to use if you find yourself continuing. Trek touring bike and panniers, etc. in great working order. Please contact me if you think this would help or need details and we can make arrangements.. Best.. Feel better.. Will Traubel

Tim Cullis
Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Lot of support and good wishes for you from the UKGSer and AdventureBikeRider forums, so hopefully some donations headed your way.

Eric Sovern at Surley Bikes in America has very generously offered some free parts if we pay for the shipment from the States.

Don’t make any sudden decisions, you need to time to recover, so find somewhere to hole up for a couple of weeks whilst we sort things out.

Clearly you can’t continue from where you are as the weather is about to close in, so you need to decide where you want to go next and we can organise shipping to there. Kathmandu sounds cool, but I liked the idea of flying to Goa (or even better, Kerala) and then ride north to the Himalayas through the Western Ghat mountains.


Friday, November 15, 2013 at 9:51 am

What an experience! Take care of yourself and good luck raising the funds–we’re sure you’ll do it! As a little bit of publicity, we just nominated you for a Liebster Award. Read about it here: . xx Silvia and Danielle

    Monday, November 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Hey girls, great to hear from you! How’s your own trip going? Any help is much appreciated, so whatever you can do gets my vote. Keep in touch! x

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Hi Derek, I hope you are ok. I have been busy with the loss of my Father sorting out the cremation which took place today, but have also managed to keep abreast of what you have been up to via your blogs. I wish you the speediest of recoveries and hope that you receive plenty of donations of either money or bike parts to allow you to continue your journey. As I understand you now have a coordinator in the UK who is sorting things out for you, which is excellent. And from reading some of the comments it sounds like some bike parts may be on their way very soon. Are you still at the Pamir Lodge? I have sent you a small donation which will hopefully keep you going for a couple of days whilst you await for things to arrive and to allow your injuries to recover. Keep going and I hope that you will fulfil your dream. All the best. Clive

    Monday, November 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Hi Clive, I hope you are well with all that you’re having to sort out, as I know it’s a stressful time. Take care of yourself too!
    Thanks for everything, I’ve made it to Osh and found a nice hostel, so will spend a few days catching up and trying to decide what happens next – which because of your kindness I have no need to rush with. Seems to be good WIFI here, so I should be online regularly for the next few days.

Pete S
Monday, November 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Derek, Its Pete Sutton from a wet and windy Leeds, not missing much here mate…snow tomorrow and down to zero at night…just heard of you trials and tribulations…hope you keep going…sounds like you should have taken the Shogun as recompense!

    Monday, November 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Pete, great to hear from you!

    I would normally have sought recompense, but the Pamir family looked after me and did everything to make amends except give me money, which I wouldn’t accept because they are pretty poor. I feel I did the right thing and with the help of followers of my blog I’m sure I’ll get back on the road.

    How’s it going your end, still hard at work with BCY?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Hi Derek – keep at it mate. I’ve just sent a donation. I crossed The Pamirs but on a motor cycle – it packed up when I got to Khorug and Tim Culiss sent me a fix via email. Like you say – wonderful people in Tajikistan – they took me in and fed me/gave me a bed.

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Paul, I’m so glad you experienced the hospitality as it has left me with memories I’ll never forget. And Tim is simply awesome – If he can’t help, he’ll find someone who can! He’s saved my trip for the second time.

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