AFTER nine months, 19 countries and about 18,000 kilometres, Matthew Blake cycled into Phnom Penh on Friday on a mission known as Project Bike.
In an effort to raise money to build a primary school and orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, for the global charity SOS Children's Villages, the 22-year-old set out from his home in Banbury, England, on a route that has taken him through Europe, former Soviet states, China and now Southeast Asia.
"I had never really cycled before but I wanted to travel, and cycling is a much cheaper and more interesting way to do it," Blake said.
Besides some necessary boat trips and one forced train ride in Kazakhstan due to visa time constraints, Blake says he plans to cycle the whole way, camping roadside in rural areas and staying in hotels or with generous locals in the cities and villages.
He said the response has been overwhelming, particularly in Turkey and Kazakhstan, where local hospitality surprised and inspired him, and Blake cited numerous examples of families welcoming him into their homes.
"I met this family at a truck-stop in Kazakstan," he said, displaying a photo of five smiling faces. "They were on their way to a wedding and couldn't stay to eat with me but insisted on buying me a meal."
Blake says the response in Cambodia has also been friendly, particularly in rural areas where families have offered meals and a bed for the night despite being obviously poor. For more information about Project Bike, visit www.projectbike.co.uk.