Sometimes life is full of surprises. For Malaysian cyclist Peter Yoong, he would have bade his newfound cyclist friends goodbye after their first encounter but, in some cases, they bumped into each other time and again.
In one case, Yoong met a cyclist abroad and, many months later, his hosts turned out to be the cyclist’s parents. Both of them only found this out when Yoong met the parents.
Here are the friends Yoong made along his maiden world solo cycling tour:
Alexis, Nicolas and Brigitte Mercat
In February last year, Yoong met backpacker Alexis Mercat in Mandalay, Myanmar. Alexis had brought along his uni-cycle to cycle very short distances only.
Then, in October, Yoong was hosted by Alexis’s parents, Nicolas and Brigitte.
“I never imagined that my hosts in Le Bourget-du-Lac, France, were Alexis’s parents,” he said. “I mentioned to them a young man with a unicycle similar to the one in their living room. To my surprise, it was Alexis, their son!” he said.
Nicolas works as a transport plan counsellor while Brigitte is an administrator of a recycling centre.
Many years ago, the couple took their three very young children – Maylis, then nine, Alexis, seven, and Cyril, five – on a world bicycle tour. Their journey was well documented and published into a book.
Ed Holford Walker and John Horsfall
Yoong met the Brits in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, while staying at the same hostel. Yoong was supposed to take a train across the desert from Nukus (Uzbekistan) to Aktau (Kazakhstan). However, he was lucky to hitch a ride in Walker’s Toyota Hilux.
Walker is an ex-army sergeant while Horsfall plans to pursue a career in video and photography.
“We shared some amazing adventures together as our vehicle crossed the desert in search of the ancient Silk Road fortress. We camped at some remote campsites which offered beautiful sunrises. We travelled about 2,000km on the Hilux and sailed across the Caspian Sea together before we parted ways in Baku in Azerbaijan,” he said.
They also camped beside Amu Darya River and an ancient ruins. In bygone times, the river was regarded as the boundary between Greater Iran and Turan.
Said Yoong: “We celebrated our arrival with a good swim before cooking dinner. The next morning, I witnessed my first most vibrant sunrise in Uzbekistan!”
Owain Llewellyn and Kristine Petrova
Yoong first met Llewellyn, an English teacher, and Petrova, a Bulgarian kindergarten teacher, on July 29, 2014, in Malaysia while they were touring with their three-year-old son Philip. He hosted them for a night. When Yoong was in Sofia (Bulgaria), they hosted him in return, for a week.
Corentin Felten and Violette Pignon
Felten and his girlfriend Pignon had just finished their university education before embarking on their cycling tour. This Belgian couple was on the road for over nine months when Yoong first met them in Lagodekhi, Georgia.
Subsequently, he met them again a few times in Georgia before they decided to cycle together, heading west towards Batumi. They camped together, visited some amazing places like Vardzia, an ancient rock-cut city (or a cave monastery site) in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of Erusheti Mountain. The caves stretch along the cliff for 500m, and up to 19 tiers.
After cycling over 500km together, the trio bade farewell.
“The couple crossed over to Turkey and I headed off to Batumi (Georgia) but surprisingly we met again in Albania after 41 days and even stayed with the same Warmshower host,” recalled Yoong.
Raymond Guyader and Christine Marie Rannou; Michel Grall and Danielle Kerneis
These two couples were on their camper van adventure coming back from Greece when Yoong first encountered them in a Montenegro (in the Balkans) campsite. Coincidentally, they continued to run into one another along the way a few times before Yoong was offered a ride to France when they met for the third time in Croatia.
Guyader is a vegetable farmer and Rannou, a housewife. Grall worked briefly as a teacher, then dairy farmer and gardener before retiring early last year. His wife, Kerneis, was a former social worker.
“I was running short of time and needed to be in Europe earlier so the offer was timely. It’s another new experience for me travelling in such a manner through Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and France together,” Yoong said.
“Travelling in a camper van was my most laid-back form of travelling on this entire journey. The only routine was to set up my tent at night,” he said.
“I was happy to cook some meals along the way, as a way to thank them.”
Richard and Stani Velomad
This French couple was Yoong’s fifth Warmshower guests in Malaysia back in 2012 when he hosted them for a month. He considered them as their guru for teaching and sharing their vast experience of cycling around the world over seven years.
“My coincidental arrival in Grenoble, France, was great with them hosting me in return,” he said.