Robertson resident Frank Chetchuti's solo, 7800 kilometre trip

When competitive hang gliding became too demanding for Robertson resident Frank Chetchuti, he set himself a new challenge.

The 65-year-old embarked on a solo 7800 kilometre cycling trip from Munich to Iran, and returned to the Highlands on Saturday.

Over a period of four months Chetchuti travelled to 12 countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Istabul, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, as well as the Black Sea.

Chetchuti was no stranger to a long cycling trip, as he completed a 3100 kilometre trip from Bordeaux to Italy in 2015.

The traveller said he “didn’t do much planning” for his most recent trip, which was in the pipeline for eight to 12 months.

Chetchuti said travelling on a bicycle took him to some countries that many tourists missed out on.

He also met a lot of interesting people along the way, and found that the poorest people were often the friendliest. 

“I find poor people in little towns interesting. It’s a living museum,” he said. “They’re still running herds. To get up in the morning and see it, that to me is better than Paris.”

Chetchuti immersed himself in different cultures by living with the locals.

“I lived with an Iranian family. You learn more about their culture, frustration and politics,” he said.

“You laugh with them and cry with them. You step in their shoes and feel for them.

“What we don’t realise in this country is freedom of speech and freedom to travel is very important to them.”

A local media outlet in Azerbaijan heard about Chetchuti’s journey and interviewed him.

The reporter found Chetchuti’s story unique, as many 65-year-olds in Azerbaijan spent time sitting and smoking. The cyclist was asked what his message was to people in Azerbaijan.

“You spend your lifetime working to put a roof over your head and have a family. You retire, get to 65 and have aches and pains. Exercise is so vital,” he said.

“Getting old is a privilege. It comes with pain but it’s a privilege.

“If you’re active, the pain disappears. That’s the message I gave.”