I'm Chris Bell, an engineer from West Wales. I cycled 3374 km (2109 miles) to the Straits of Gibraltar, on my own, hoping to achieve 5 things...
2. To raise money for 'Médecins Sans Frontières' (Doctors Without Borders - MSF). This humanitarian organisation provides medical-aid where it's most needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or gender. MSF is currently fighting the Ebola outbreak and has already won the Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness of the plight of the people it helps and for fighting the vested interests of the giant pharmaceutical companies. It's an independent, impartial organisation for which I have huge respect. But it can't do its work without money, so please donate as generously as you possibly can - thank you!3. To have some fun along the way! It was a tough trip but I know that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. I rode between 40 and 80 miles a day, camping wild at night, hostelling and staying with Servas friends.
4. To update this page with progress reports along the way, whenever I could access a computer.5. To raise further awareness of MSF after my return, by giving illustrated talks, including photos taken during my last 3 big trips : Greece-Wales (2010), Wales-Istanbul (2012), and Wales-Gibraltar (2014).
Please donate generously - Click on the Donate button at the top of this page to send money straight to MSF - it's simple, fast, safe and Gift Aid can be added.Many thanks,
Chris.PS. Why the Straits of Gibraltar? Well I'd already cycled to the other corners of Europe - this trip to the south-west would complete the picture.
PPS. My cancer has focussed my outlook on life and I've enjoyed the last 10 years, in its shadow, with a new appreciation of just how wonderful life can be. So please don't let the years pass YOU by - make the most of every precious moment you have!PPPS. You can read my notes about prostate cancer here and see the other long trips I've undertaken for charity here.
04 Sept 2014 : Cribyn, UK : 0 km (0 miles)
I'm setting off this morning and hope to reach Swansea by this evening. (No such luck - I only made it to Llanelli.)
08 Sept : Wareham, UK : 410 km (256 miles)
The first 5 days were much tougher than I expected, so I'm going to rest here for a couple of days with my Mum and sister Jenny before crossing the sea to France later in the week.
15 Sept : Genêts, France : 632 km (395 miles)
The beaches of the Cherbourg peninsula are wide,deep and beautiful and I camped in some lovely spots. The going remains painfully slow (sometimes literally so) and I still haven't got very far - BUT I'm getting faster and remain optimistic that I'm up to the task! My tent pole broke on Saturday - thank you Alain and Xavier for making me a new part in your workshop today.
22 Sept : Limoges, France : 1220 km (763 miles)
I cycled through beautiful countryside and quaint villages in the Mayenne, Loire and Vienne valleys, and particularly enjoyed the traditional hospitality of L'Auberge in Daon near the River Mayonne. And thank you Lewis for letting me relax and unwind here, near Limoges, for a few days before continuing on the next part of my journey.
02 Oct : Biarritz, France : 1748 km (1093 miles)
Bergerac was the highlight of last week - I met my schooldays friend Claude and we relived old times and went for a trip on the river. In Thiviers, by chance, I bumped into Agnes and Gustav, an enterprising couple who'd served me pork and chips at their stand at Lessay Faire 2 weeks earlier - small World! Then I went out of my way to visit Frespech where Di and I had swung scythes on an IVS workcamp in our late 20's, but the staff at the resultant centre for handicapped adults didn't want to know and told me to go away in no uncertain terms - SO disappointing.
09 Oct : Burgos, Spain : 2036 km (1273 miles)
I followed the 'Camino de Santiago' pilgrims' trail across the Pyrenees from France to Logroño in Spain and enjoyed the company of several pilgrims along the way. But then I cheated and took a train to Burgos to stay with friends Ana, Pedro, Lara and Sergio - and to rest in luxury for a few days to help overcome the pain and exhaustion that were beginning to get the better of me. (I eventually stayed here for 7 days.)
I'll be setting off again tomorrow, feeling rested and refreshed. Yesterday was my 64th birthday, a milestone I didn't expect to see 10 years ago - my sincere thanks go to all the kind and clever NHS people, too numerous to mention individually, who have got me here!
Thank you, also, to everyone who has supported and sponsored me on this ride to date. I feel really quite humbled by your generosity.
24 Oct : Cáceres, Spain : 2660 km (1663 miles)
I gave in, decided to miss out Portugal altogether, and instead headed south-west to join the 'Vía de la Plata' pilgrims' trail south from Salamanca. After enduring 2 days of strong headwind and a day of unbelievable heat, the route has rewarded me with some very lovely scenery and some very special architecture. The 1st century Roman bridge at Salamanca was particularly impressive.
Cycling across the middle of Spain was hard - I felt weak and progress was slow, BUT I MADE IT! I passed through some lovely countryside and villages and marvelled at so many buildings and bridges dating back to Roman times. Wild camping was often difficult as there were very few places to hide, so I stayed in a few hostels too.
07 Nov : Gibraltar, Spain : 3374 km (2109 miles)
The last few miles to Gibraltar involved a lot of climbing and even 3 short stretches on a motorway - yes, really!
I was given permission to collect money on the street in Gibraltar and a lot of people put money into my collection tin. Thank you Gibraltar!
Di flew out to join me at the end and, after exploring Gibraltar on foot, we hired a car to explore the south of Spain. We swam in the warm sea from an, as yet, unspoilt beach north of Tarifa, and drove through serious rainstorms and enjoyed some remarkable architecture in the hills surrounding Ronda.
Well, that's it! Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me, both on-line and on-the-street! Now I'm home, I'll try to raise even more money by giving presentations for MSF so, if you need a speaker, please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org Dec : Postscript
No wonder I felt weaker by the day as I crossed Spain - it turns out that my strength was being zapped by a new malignant tumour at the base of my spine. So I'm currently undergoing my 4th course of radiotherapy and am taking a new wonder drug which, hopefully, will keep my cancer at bay for a little longer. Thank you, NHS!