FIVE continents, 50 countries, 50,000 kilometers around the world on a bicycle – that is Polish traveller Maciej Wdowski’s goal for his epic three-year trip.
“I’ve always wanted to do something I haven’t done before, and a cycling trip like this was something at the back of my mind,” said the 38-year-old who worked in the marketing line.
“The timing then was just right as I’d just ended a relationship. I was unable to convince anyone to join me, but understandably so as that person would have had to put their life on hold for a few years and leave creature comforts such as a bed and television behind.”
Since departing his hometown in Warsaw, Poland, in late May last year, Wdowski said his trip has so far covered 18 countries in Europe and Asia, of which 18,000km was via bicycle.
“I also plan to cover North and South America, though I haven’t decided whether the fifth continent will be Australia or Africa.
“I keep my routes and itinerary flexible and spontaneous. I just go wherever the road takes me, though I avoid countries where it’s dangerous, since this is a fun trip, not a suicide mission,” he said with a laugh.
Wdowski has traversed through Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.
“This is my sixth time in Malaysia, as I crossed its border when I came from or departed for its neighbouring countries,” he said, adding that the states he visited included Melaka, Johor, Terengganu, Kelantan and Sarawak.
Wdowski said the biggest challenge for his adventure is the weather, with terrain coming in second.
“The humidity in Asia tires me out faster. A mountainous route also takes a longer time, such as when a 40km trip took me six hours, compared to two hours on flat road.
“I started my trip with a bicycle and trailer to keep equipment such as a tent and kitchen, which weighed 56kg in total. The trailer was cool when the terrain was flat, but hauling it on mountainous terrain was challenging.
“So I ditched the trailer in Georgia and tent in Kazakhstan, and now move around with a bicycle and bags weighing 17kg in total,” said Wdowski, whose equipment kit includes a camera, laptop and mobile phone for communication and social media update purposes.
Although he had a near encounter with a bear in Georgia and was bitten by a (non-poisonous) snake in Similajau in Sarawak, Wdowski has otherwise not had any dangerous encounters with animals.
Wdowski said he eats what locals eat, sleeps in a hammock or bench in the jungle, beach or village, and showers at campgrounds or upon getting people’s permission to use their piped water.
While food, transportation and other expenses come out of his own pocket, Wdowski said his Geobike trekking bicycle and replacement parts were sponsored by its Polish manufacturer.
“The Geobike is an electric bicycle but is powered manually,” he explained.
“The battery mounted onto it gives the bicycle propulsion power that is useful for mountainous routes, but I had the battery removed as it was bulky.”
Malaysia ranks high on Wdowski’s favourite places to visit, thanks to its natural landscapes and warm people.
“I found Malaysia and South-East Asia friendly and safe to cycle. There were people who didn’t have much but welcomed me to their homes to have a meal or drink,” he said.
“It was also the people whom I least expected, such as the cleaners and policemen, who were the most helpful. For example, I ended up sleeping at the police station on three separate occasions in Malaysia.”
Wdowski loves Malaysia so much that he plans to sign up for the Malaysia My Second Home programme and start a business here, upon completing his journey.
“I saw the potential for a business opportunity, which would be applicable to both peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak,” said Wdowski, though he declined to reveal what the business would be.
Wdowski will be flying to continue the next leg of his journey to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, then onward to Canada.
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