Across Continents

Ken's Blog

A very diplomatic message

The following is reproduced with kind agreement of HM Consul, Belgrade. Love the humour, and Sean Moran, the author, is such an astute observer. A Serbian language version appears on Serbia’s influential B92 web portal.

CYCLIST TEACHES DIPLOMAT ABOUT USING THE PROPER GEAR

A couple of days ago, in my role as HM Consul, I met a British chap by the name of Ken Roberts. Ken had been in touch with Consular Section because he’s decided to spend 4 years of his life cycling around the world, and his route was bringing him through Serbia. "Blimey", I thought to myself, "a real, live, Great British eccentric". (That’s a euphemism for ’lunatic’, just in case you’re wondering.) And if you judge a book by its cover, when he initially turned up in his bright yellow waterproofs it did nothing to dispel the myth. But then a group of us spent about 45 minutes talking with him and found out what a genuinely nice, sensible, interesting man he really is. Briefly, he’s taking 4 years to cycle 45,000 miles around the world, and aiming to cross Europe, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and Africa. All the while, he’s raising funds for, and awareness of the Outward Bound Trust, an organisation that helps young people to realise their potential through challenges and experiences in the great outdoors.

I think what struck me most of all was the type of preparation he’d put into the venture. For example, there was no point in getting a passport full of visas before departure because they’d mainly expire before Ken gets to the relevant border – he’ll be visiting around 60 countries in total! By contrast, there was every advantage in taking bicycle repair courses, and talking to people who’d visited some of the more remote regions he’ll be going to. How about this for advice – he’s heard that in Africa, lions don’t realise that they can rip open a tent but assume it’s much more solid, and hence a good form of protection. (Rather you than me on that one, Ken.) We couldn’t compete with that for local knowledge, but my Serbian colleagues were able to suggest some good stopping off points on his route into his next port of call, Bulgaria. Best of all from a consular perspective, Ken confirmed that he’s got the Holy Grail – comprehensive travel insurance! It’s no mean feat, getting a four year policy, but he’s clearly a resourceful fellow.

The following day we saw Ken again, this time at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery for the annual Remembrance Day Service. By now, and as a cold rain blew into our faces, I’d grown to rather envy his yellow waterproof, especially as I was protected only by a thin raincoat. Ken told me that he usually attends this service high up in Britain’s Lake District, so unlike me he was prepared for the weather. And he’d managed to get hold of a bright crimson poppy, symbol of remembrance, which stood out on his jacket like a strawberry in a bowl of custard!

As we parted for the second time in as many days, it was a pleasure to shake Ken’s hand and wish him safe travels. It really is a fascinating project and a fantastic journey he’s on. If like me, you want to know more about his travels and his aims, please visit Ken’s website www.acrosscontinents.org. And finally, wherever you are in the world in the next 4 years, if you happen to see a chap in yellow waterproofs, pedalling hard but looking as if he’s actually quite enjoying it, give him a wave and a smile – it just might be Ken.

Sean Moran

HM Consul, Belgrade

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One response to “A very diplomatic message”

  1. dentice says:

    Not as cosy it would seem in the East,but it sure makes better reading.Good luck

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