Wells duo brave snakes, a wild boar and mice during Australia cycle expedition
After a year in the saddle and with only four days left on their visas, a pair of daring young Wells cyclists have just completed an action-packed expedition of a lifetime.
Stout-hearted duo Will Masters and Dan King have spent a year cycling the circumference of Australia, in aid of Cancer Research UK.
Along the way, all 10,000 the pair had to deal with snakes striking at their ankles as they pedalled, an assault by a distinctly peeved wild boar, a mercifully peaceful encounter with a freshwater crocodile and attacks by spiders, bees, leeches, mosquitoes, magpies, mynah birds, all manner of insects – and then there were the mice.
The small furry beasts were regular infiltrators of the lads' sleeping bags, so that on one startling occasion Dan woke up with a rodent attached to his lip, while Will had one nibbling at his ear.
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Less traumatically, the travellers swam close to pods of dolphins, found themselves staring into the calm eyes of a curious baby seal and generally embraced the natural history aspect of their colossal adventure.
The self-financed expedition, which has already raised more than £6,000 for Cancer Research UK, began last September in Sydney, and has just terminated outside that city's magnificent Opera House.
After a bit of a sprint on the last leg to ensure that the visa deadline was beaten, the two former Blue School pupils opted for an unfussy celebration.
Will, 25, said: "People on the way round wanted to know when we'd be arriving so they could welcome us, but we didn't really want that.
"We just wanted to soak up the moment without having to be overly sociable.
"So we uncorked a bottle of champagne, lit cigars and just savoured that moment."
The statistics of the trip, as they made their way clockwise around the giant country's coastal roads with all their cooking and camping equipment aboard, are mind-boggling.
Will and 27-year-old Dan spent 166 days riding – they stopped frequently to enjoy many of the places they travelled through, and there was also a month of rest and recuperation in Bali when fearsome winds were raging along their route – and they averaged slightly under 100 kilometres per day, the longest ride being 203 km in 11 hours.
They endured temperatures of 43 degrees -in the shade – and often drank about ten litres of water each in 24 hours, barely having to answer calls of nature as a result.
The longest distance without the chance to replenish their fluid supplies was 300 km, which was followed by another 280 km to the next blessed watering hole.
At times in the particularly arid North West they became nocturnal as the searing heat and powerful winds in the hours of daylight became too much to bear.
Looking back on their remarkable journey, Will said: "The trip has been a success, full of learning, emotion and persistence.
"I wouldn't change anything about it, even the moments that were difficult, unenjoyable and stressful.
"We were definitely over-prepared, but rather than wishing to change the past I'm just going to use the lessons learned to make future decisions. It's fair to say that the 'bad' times put the better moments into a clearer perspective."
As their formidable trek unfolded, did they ever get on each other's nerves?
Occasionally, Will admitted, but couldn't remember a single argument – mind, they were pretty sure of each other, being old friends who had spent five years together as flatmates in St Cuthbert's Street, Wells.
Now, with all those miles behind them, will they ever climb on their bikes again? Too right, they will.
Dan, who used to be part of the maintenance team at Wells Cathedral School, has already flown to New Zealand, where he intends to work, save money and then hit the road once more.
As for electrician Will, although he has sold his machine to a young fellow from Weston-super-Mare whom he met near Perth, and who intends to ride from Australia to Somerset in 2013, he is already missing the on-the-road lifestyle.
"I don't have any solid plans at the moment, but I'll be coming back to Wells around Christmas-time and will take it from there. The trip hasn't put me off cycling at all."
Anyone who wants to add their support to Cancer Research UK by sponsoring Will and Dan can still do so by visiting www.justgiving.com/navigate oz.