An adventurous mum-of-two celebrated her 50th birthday by cycling 20,000 miles around the world – on a bike with a wicker shopping basket.
Astrid Domingo Molyneux visited 28 countries during her two year solo journey, which cost #£4,000 in accommodation, food and travel tickets.
She cycled through Europe and the Middle East before pedalling across India, China and Japan.
After catching a freighter ship to Canada, she cycled through America before returning to Europe by sea and pedalling through Portugal and Spain.
After a final boat ride from Santander to Plymouth, she finally rode back into her home village of Almondsbury near Bristol on May 2nd after covering a total of 19,931 miles.
During her epic ride she cycled over a 5,200m pass in the Himalayas, was kidnapped by a lorry driver in Iran, and was knocked off her bike in Greece.
Astrid made it the whole way with the same trusty wicker basket attached to the handlebars of her touring bike.
The divorcee said: ”It was really good idea to bring that basket. It was spacious and I kept all my essential documents and cards in there because cycling with a backpack can get uncomfortable.
”Then I could stretch out my map and spread it on top of it when I needed to. It lasted for the whole trip, and it’s still attached to my bike now.”
The journey – which saw her camping in the wild as well as staying in mosques, churches, and the homes of strangers – was inspired by a book about a round-the-world cycle ride she bought in a charity shop.
Astrid said: ”I could cycle, but I’d never done any touring. I’d never gone away for more than a day trip.
”On my 50th birthday I announced I was going to do this ride at some point in the future, but a request to take a sabbatical from work was agreed so positively that I had no excuses.”
Astrid, who works as an executive assistant the Centre for Deaf Studies at Bristol University, spent a year planning before waving goodbye to friends and family in May, 2008.
Her first leg took her to Poole, Dorset, where she caught a ferry to Cherbourg in France to begin the first European leg of her tour.
She then travelled through Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Syria, reaching Turkey in December where she spent her first Christmas away from home.
From there she cycled through Iran, where she was picked up by a lorry after getting stuck on the open road at night.
But the driver refused to let her out of the truck in the next village, telling Astrid he was taking her home.
She said: ”I had only wanted to go five kilometres, but when we got there he said, ‘No, no, no, next one, next one.’
”He said he wanted to take me 450 km to his home town – I don’t know if he was trying to keep me safe, or whether he had other ideas. It was really terrifying.
”Finally after 300km I managed to get him to drop me off in a town. It was dark and that’s when I ended up staying in a mosque.”
From there she travelled through Oman, India, Nepal and China before catching a freighter ship from Japan to Canada.
She spent seven months in North America before taking another freighter from Miami to Gibraltar and heading back home through Portugal and Spain.
A ferry to Plymouth from Santander in Spain saw Astrid touching back on UK soil at the end of April.
She was greeted at home by her daughter Jessica, 24, and son Daniel, 21.
Astrid estimates the trip cost about £24,000, including buying her Thorn Raven touring bike for £1,200, paying for transport where she could not cycle, and food and accommodation.
Along the way she suffered 20 punctures, the first of which was in Israel.
She had to replace her front tyre once and her back tyre three times, but her first set of breaks remarkably lasted all the way across Europe and Asia until she reached Japan.
Astrid carried a spare set of spokes for the entire journey but never had to use them, and only had to replace her chain once.
She added: ”So many things happened along the way, and there were times when I had some unpleasant experiences and had periods of feeling lonely.
”But never once did I ever feel like giving up. Going up the Himalayas was stupendous, as was seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
”I’ve seen some incredible things. I saw a grizzly bear catch a salmon in Alaska.
”The world is beautiful, and the people – the vast majority of people in this world are very kind.
”I really hope I can use the experience in some way or another, to encourage other people to do what they want to do.”
Astrid was inspired to undertake her journey after reading a ‘A Bike Ride’ by Anne Mustoe, who cycled solo around the world in the 1980s.
The adventurer, from Nottingham, made several round-the-world trips on a bicycle while aged in her 50s and recorded her journeys in a series of books.
Astrid said: ”She was about my age and at the end I thought I would like to do the same thing. I thought if she could do it, then so could I. It literally went from there.”
Astrid, who promoted the Leprosy Mission and the Deaf Studies Trust during her trip, is now planning to write a book about her experiences.