Ozzie (mis)adventure for intrepid trio

20 March 2015

Maddie Hansen, Hugh and Tim Chittock

Maddie Hansen, Hugh and Tim Chittock at the South Australia/West Australia border.

They were three University of Waikato students on three bikes cycling across one continent with a world record in their sights. What could possibly go wrong?

Challenges along the way

A crash, a fire, an LPG bottle explosion, almost being struck by lightning, poisoned by salt water, dwindling funds, nearly running out of water, rogue attacks by kangaroos, emus and bull ants were just a few of the hiccups the trio faced as they pedalled their way across Australia.

Tim Chittock, 24, girlfriend Maddie Hansen, 18, and brother Hugh Chittock, 19, spent 26 days cycling 5150kms from Denham, Australia's most western point, to Byron Bay, Australia's most eastern point, arriving on 26 February, hoping to set a world record for the distance. But right from the outset, there were challenges.

"We were on our way from Perth to our start point at Denham when our car three-sixtyed into a ditch," says Tim. "The car caught on fire, which set the bushes and our caravan on fire and we only just had enough time to get the bikes out before the LPG bottle exploded. Hugh lost all his clothes, his laptop and phone in the fire. If we'd lost the bikes, the trip would have been off."

Once the vehicle had been replaced, they set off again, but just as they were nearing Denham, the van was hit by a kangaroo, a collision that destroyed the radiator.

Meeting generous people

The rocky start was tempered by a chance meeting with a man on a beach who, once he'd heard their plans, decided he wanted to sponsor them on their adventure.

"We had no idea who he was," says Hugh. "He turned out to be a multi-millionaire who owns a tin and precious metal mine. He was the saviour of the trip."

Car and caravan up in flames before the start of the ride.

Car and caravan up in flames before the start of the ride.

The best part of the journey, according to the Chittocks, was the people they met along the way, most of whom thought they were mad.

"People couldn't believe what we were doing," says Tim. "We were given free meals, water, and places to sleep. They were just amazing."

To complete the crossing in world-record time, Tim, Hugh and Maddie needed to cycle at least 190kms each day and that meant cycling 10 hours a day for 26 days, from 4am-10am, and 3pm-9pm or as long as it took to clock up the kilometres, avoiding the hottest parts of the day. On their longest day, they covered 235kms, climbing 1500 metres and descending 1800 metres.

"Everyone, including our dad, said we couldn't do it, and we even wondered why we were doing it at times," says Tim. "That just made us more determined. We'd just grit our teeth and push harder."

Looking for their next adventure

The group lost up to 10kgs each and admit they didn't really have enough to eat, surviving on pasta, porridge, salami sticks and bags of lollies. It was a constant struggle finding enough water and at one point, they only had one full water bottle left.

Now they're safely home, Tim says they're thinking about what they'll attempt next summer: cycling across the US, cycling from Alaska to Chile or rowing the Atlantic. And they're still waiting for confirmation from the Guinness Book of World Records that they set a new record for cycling across the widest part of Australia.

Tim is studying for a Bachelor of Laws and Economics, Hugh has just started a Bachelor of Laws, and Maddie, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science, is from Levin.