A CYCLIST on a charity ride from Switzerland to Edinburgh had to make a poignant mercy dash home to pay a last visit to his dying grandfather.
Ewen Hutchison, 23, who lives in Blackford but has been working in a Swiss boarding school, decided to take on the charity cycle after visiting the L’Esperance Orphanage in Rwanda.
Ewen hoped the funds raised on the 1243-mile cycle would help the orphanage stay open and become self-sufficient.
He had aimed to complete his feat in 27 days, and was on his way to the Scottish Border on Friday when bad news from home forced him to take a 100-mile detour just before reaching the finish line.
He explained: “My grandfather, Philip Toogood, was diagnosed with leukaemia last year and I got a call saying he had taken a turn and was in the Borders General Hospital, so I changed my route. I had hoped to surprise him, but he was deteriorating rapidly so they told him I was coming in the hope it would give him the strength to keep going.”
Thankfully, Ewen made it in time to spend a few precious hours with his grandfather before he lost consciousness. Philip passed away at just after 10pm on Sunday night.
Ewen said: “I want to dedicate my last adventure and travels to him. I know he would have loved to join me if he could have. He travelled a lot during his life and it’s safe to say we got our adventurous genes from him.”
Ewen’s family became involved in the orphanage after his father helped with an event to mark a decade since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Ewen last visited L’Esperance, which is home to up to 130 orphans, in June.
He said: “After the genocide many children were left with no family and new orphanages were opened all over Rwanda.
“However, now President Kagame is moving to shut them down, saying they are no longer needed, but many women who were raped during the genocide were infected with HIV and Aids, which is still orphaning children all over the country.”
He set off on August 10, travelling through Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland before finally making it back to the UK, having raised more than £4000.
He said: “I got lost quite a few times and the solitude also got to me a bit. The only time I ever spoke to anyone was to ask for directions and after a while I caught myself talking to my bike and to cows.”
Ewen finally made it to his finishing point at Edinburgh Castle on Saturday afternoon, where he was met by family, friends and a piper.
If you wish to add to the total visit http://www.justgiving.com/ewenhutchison
Half-time for Naomi
ANOTHER cyclist from the Capital has also just completed a mammoth cycling challenge – although she still needs to come all the way back.
Naomi Johnson, 38, has just arrived in Kuala Lumpur after cycling 12,427 in 12 months to raise money for charity The Homeless World Cup, also based in Edinburgh.
Naomi set off in Seattle, alongside John Chevis, of Buckinghamshire, who she had only met three times before.
She said she felt lucky to be given the opportunity to live out her dream, and said the scariest part was simply deciding to get started.
Five years ago, Mark Beaumont became Scotland’s most notable endurance cyclist when he pedalled his way around the world at the age of 25.
The then-Edinburgh based adventurer travelled 18,296 miles across the world by bike in just 194 days.