Entertaining account of epic charity cycle challenge

By Farnham Herald in Community News

BACK in June 1987, friends Neil Robertson and David Depledge and their chum Chris Mattock, from Beacon Hill, made headlines in The Herald when they embarked on a charity cycle challenge.

Haslemere’s then Tory MP Virginia Bottomley was there to wave them off from Holy Cross Hospital, which was the beneficiary of their fundraising bike ride to India, and prayers for their safe return were said by a Catholic priest.

In an entertaining trip down memory lane, Neil, from Grayshott, has just posted an online day-by-day account with photos, recalling their eventful 1987 journey during Europe’s “wettest June ever”.

Unlike today, communications back home relied on the phone. In Istanbul, while trying unsuccessfully to get a visa for Iran, Neil called his family from the post office and enjoyed five minutes of fame.

“I went at around 8pm to the post office to phone home,” he said. “It took several attempts before there was a connection.

“The loudspeaker in the waiting room announced ‘Scotland calling’ and I went to the cubicle.

“As I walked over, the post office employee called out to inform everyone I was the Bobby Robson, a well-known English football manager.”

Barred from cycling through Iran, the trio flew to Karachi, in Pakistan, where they were given a heroes’ welcome by 900 schoolgirls at St Joseph’s Convent, run by the Daughters of the Cross, the same order of nuns they we were raising money for back home.

Finally, they crossed the border to India in November and made their way to Delhi, confounding a German cyclist they had met earlier and who insisted they would never stick together.

“Well we were still friends then and still are now,” Neil said, concluding his historic travel blog.

Recalling their marathon trip, David, who was also from Grayshott, said: “We got on so well, and are still best of mates 30 years on.

So many memories of our time together and of lovely people met and countries seen, some of which are very different now – the ’old’ Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, even India.

“We raised some money for a great charity and I am sure we all still feel a great sense of achievement.

“Young and fearless, what great days they were and so much simpler in some ways with no mobile phones or email or internet.”

• You can read about the trip at www.crazyguyona bike.com

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