Blog | James Ketchell’s World Cycle: Part I

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In June Hampshire Scouts Ambassador and adventurer James Ketchell embarked on his latest challenge: an epic 18,000 mile-long cycle ride through 20 countries, including India and Australia, to raise awareness of Scouting and funds for charity ELIFAR.

Since overcoming a serious motorcycle accident injury in 2007, Basingstoke-born James, 31, has conquered some formidable physical challenges. Once his current six-month adventure is over, he’ll be the first man to have rowed the Atlantic, climbed Everest and cycled around the world.

James was waved off by family, friends and Scouts from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London – and said he’ll be channelling Scouting spirit to get him through the trip. 'This is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I can’t wait to meet all the different people, see different cultures and make the Scouts proud to have me as their ambassador.'

'The top bit of Scout wisdom that I take on my adventures is always having determination to get the job done.'

We’ll be following him throughout – and here’s his lowdown on the first two months…

July 2013
I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome in Poland. In one town I was greeted by the mayor and cycling associations met me in every city. In Gliwice, I was surprised to see that the oldest bikes in Poland were on display! 

It was quite tricky getting into Ukraine from Poland. In my tired, dazed state, I cycled to the wrong border point. The correct one was at least 40 miles further south. Luckily, the guard pulled a few strings to let me through.

In Bulgaria I had the hardest day of my trip so far. The temperature was around 35 degrees and it was extremely hilly – then I got a puncture! I cycled overland to Turkey then took a flight to India, ready for a 4,000 mile leg around the country. I certainly looked out of place as I flew down the Indian roads on a bike, overtaking mopeds and tractors.

August 2013
I had an experience in India which really shook me. I was cycling on a remote road with no obvious places to stop and sleep. I just used my roll mat and sleeping bag and was woken by two men who I assume were patrolling the area. I quickly realized that I needed to get away fast.

The adrenaline rushing through me was immense. Looking back, it was a breakdown in communication that made the situation so difficult - had I been able to speak Hindi I’m sure they would have been very reasonable.

Luckily I came across a truck stop where the owner spoke English. I told him what had happened and he let me stay on a makeshift bed in his garden. He also cooked me some rice and dhal, which I really appreciated!

From India, I flew to Sri Lanka and cycling there was an absolute pleasure. I followed the 700-mile coastal road around the island and the scenery was beautiful.

I cycled with a local guy who works as a tourist guide and is a road racing champion. It was fantastic as he was able to show me places and explain things about the island. The sound of the waves crashing reminded me of my row through the Atlantic. I also had a go driving a tuk tuk which was good fun!

After Sri Lanka, I flew back to India. I was invited to speak and stay at the Sri Aurobindo Memorial School in Bangalore. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the pupils and staff. I could have carried on speaking for hours to them, as they were such a great audience.

On 15 August it was Independence Day and I was lucky enough to witness the school’s celebrations. It was a magical experience with amazing dancing and costumes. Then I cycled the 85 miles from Bangalore to Mysore – great scenery and mostly smooth roads.

I’d like to thank everyone for their messages of support and my sponsors for believing in me. Also, a big shout out to all the Scouts in Hampshire who are working hard to gain their Captain Ketch challenge badges and aiming to cycle 18,000 miles as a County!

Find out more
Support James Ketchell at
For more details and photos, read his full blog at:
Watch the video below about his cycling adventure.

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