Leamington cyclist dodges danger on epic Indian journey

Mark Ellison on his cycling adventure around the borders of India.

Mark Ellison on his cycling adventure around the borders of India.

He may have been held hostage by vigilante villagers, battled through severe illness and had to face visa restriction after visa restriction.

But nothing was going to hold back Leamington man Mark Ellison from taking on the extraordinary challenge of cycling solo 16,161 km around the entire circumference of India.

The 44-year-old former Myton School and Binswood Sixth Form pupil believes he is the first person to have ever completed the journey on a pedal bicycle - and his adventures have captured the attention of an Indian film-making company, which followed him on camera for sections of his 23-month-long cycle.

Mark, whose mum Jan has been following his progress with baited breath from her home in Leamington, would have been able to complete his journey faster, but visa restrictions meant he had to cycle in six-month tranches - while he also had deluges of monsoon rains, the fear of being caught in the crossfire of terrorist activity and other hazards to deal with.

Jan said: “At one point, he was held hostage by residents in a village who suspected him of being a terrorist. They just kept pointing to his panniers, saying ‘bomb’.

“Another time, he was quite ill and villagers took him to hospital and looked after him.

“So yes, I have been rather worried.”

Mark, who at the beginning of his trip spoke no Indian languages, was well aware of the fact that India has the highest number of road deaths per year in the world and tried to stick to small roads, but this was not always possible.

Jan said: “In Rajasthan, he had to travel through all the traffic. His face was black with dirt.

“In some places, he had to cope with no roads because they had been swept away by heavy monsoon rains.”

Mark, whose first school was Sydenham Primary, caught the cycling bug when he moved to the Lake District as an adult - and then when he went on holiday to south east Asia, he fell in love with Cambodia and started a new life there, running a cycling holidays firm.

Having lived there now for nine years, he decided to take on this journey because, in his words, it was the culmination of “twenty years of dreaming, four years of planning and two years of cycling”.

Mark, who named his trusty bicycle ‘Dhanya’, is, through his cycle, raising funds for the Mijwan Welfare Society, to support people living in poverty in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Pyxis Pictures is making a film about his trip called India By Bicycle. To see a trailer, visit pyxispictures.com/production/television/india-by-bicycle-main and to for more on the Mijwan Welfare Society, see www.mijwan.org




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