A SOUTH Tyneside man cycled more than 3,000 miles across China in a gruelling challenge to raise charity cash.
Jerry Grey, who now lives in China, rode 3,063 miles from Macau to Khorgas, on the border of Kazakhstan, in 57 days.
He took on the challenge with friend, Phil Behan, and raised £30,000 for the charity The Sunshine is Beside You, which he set up with his wife, Ann Liang, to help families with a disabled member.
Mr Grey, 56, has returned to South Shields to take things a little easier as he visits his father, Gerard, 83, who lives in Broad Landing, on the riverside.
Mr Grey, who moved to China 10 years ago to teach English, crossed three mountain ranges and parts of three different deserts, as well as passing through the second lowest point on Earth during the journey, which saw him go up against almost every conceivable type of weather.
The father-of-two, who lives in Zhongshan, said: “I was planning on doing the ride alone but a couple of months before I set off, Phil asked if he could join me.
“China is so large that we came up against every type of weather from rain and snow to wind and sunshine.
“It’s all one time zone but really it should be three or four different ones. there are parts of China where it’s sunny at 11pm.”
The idea formed after Mr Grey had a picture taken next to his wife’s pregnant sister, Helen, and felt he should lose weight.
He said: “That’s how I saw myself at the time and I told my wife that I was going to lose weight by cycling to Tibet, and her answer surprised me.
“She didn’t say it was a crazy idea or that I wouldn’t be able to do it – she just said I didn’t have a bike.
“It turned out to be illegal for a foreigner to travel to Tibet on their own – you have to be in a group – so the plan changed to cycling across China and it’s something that I don’t think many people have done.”
Mr Grey, who now works for engineering company Star Prototype, added: “I needed to prepare mentally and physically as well as get all of the equipment ready, and we were actually really lucky because a mountaineering company called Vaude sponsored us and let us test out their new cycling gear.
“The challenge was harder than I thought it would be, but easier than I expected it to be, if that makes sense. There were points where we wanted to just give up on that particular day but we never wanted to give up on the challenge. At the end of every day, we were immensely proud of what we had done.
“The winds got up to 80 and 100km some days and if you were cycling against that, you just stood no chance.
“We went through sub-tropical temperatures, constant rain, cold days of 3C, the desert, snow, and from the cold at the top of mountains to the intense heat at Earth’s second lowest point. There was no way we could have prepared for that.”
Mr Grey has collected his memories from the journey in a self-published book called 57 Days Across China.
He added: “My wife and I set up the charity almost by accident. I’ve always felt lucky to have what I needed and this is a way of giving something back. Friends had pledged to donate £1,000 before we set off but then local TV got involved, and before we knew it, we’d raised £30,000. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved, but what can we do next?”
Jerry was born in Sunderland and lived in South Shields until his family moved to London when he was 12.
He spent time living in Essex and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1977. At 28, he emigrated to Australia, where he lived for 17 years, before taking a teaching job in China.
Jerry and Ann also regularly work with the Zhongshan Volunteer Youth Association to help young people in their area.