Nothing standing in way of intrepid couple's dream as they travel the world
A Fylde couple who dropped everything to cycle around the world were going to let nothing stand in the way of following their dreams – not even cancer.
Chris O’Hare and fiancée Gabriella Gratrix – affectionately known as Gabs – left their careers and home in Thistleton, near Elswick, behind to embark on a seven-year trek across the globe.
The couple were no strangers to travelling with little more than their bikes and a tent –but their preparations for this mammoth adventure were thrown off course when Gabriella was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.
Now 47, she underwent treatment, including a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, and the couple set off on their incredible journey in July 2018 from the Nightingale Centre, in Manchester, which supported her recovery.
The centre is home to the charity Prevent Breast Cancer, and the couple are raising funds and awareness of the cause on their travels.
They are now a year and a half into their trek and arrived in Vietnam this week after riding their way through Europe to Asia.
With China already among the countries sampled, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia are their next planned stops and the aim is to visit all seven continents, including Antarctica – more than 65 countries, covering some 100,000km.
They aim to finish in Madagascar in 2026 – and there is going to be a wedding at some stage yet to be decided, as the couple plan to tie the knot while on their travels.
It’s not the first time, Chris and Gabriella have taken to the road for a lengthy trek as, in 2016, they cycled more than 5,000km through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Burma on a tour of South East Asia,.
At the end of that journey, they got engaged on Bamboo Island in Southern Thailand.
Several weeks after their return home, they set off again on a European cycling tour, this time from Blackpool to Malaga in Spain.
The pair have spent much of their time travelling since Chris, 44, sold his business in the construction sector “to get out of the rat race”.
Now 18 months into the current adventure, they are living as frugally as possible to keep costs down with six years left before they reach the finish line.
Chris said his wife-to-be has bounced back remarkably from her cancer diagnosis.
“Gabs is good,” he said. “Still working on getting her fitness back, she still has prevention medication for 10 years.
“She had a couple of recent scares over Christmas so we had to go to a hospital in Vietnam, but she’s okay.
“Gabs has always been very fit from a child, from being a full -time professional dancer to cycling, running, swimming and fitness instructor.
“Our home was once a cottage in very sleepy Thistleton, but that was short-lived, as we decided to sell up and permanently travel.
“We have been together six years and have always both cycled long distances most days and also run, swim and done various classes at the gym.
“Gabriella’s cancer diagnosis at the start of 2017 meant we weren’t able to do our usual activities, so due to it being winter in the UK we decided to live in Spain so that we could work on getting back to full fitness.
“We lived in Malaga from our camper van and it was so enjoyable being able to train where the sun shines and there is little rain.
“Gabriella had to fly back to The Christie Hospital in Manchester for a couple of days every three weeks for treatment until June 2018.”
Gabriella’s late father, Roy Gratrix, was a professional footballer with Blackpool in the days of Stanley Matthews and also played for Manchester City.
Over the years, Chris and Gabriella’s cycling has helped raise funds for various charities, such as the Happy House in Kenya, founded by former Gazette journalist Elizabeth Gomm, and the Windmill Youth Group, but the yearn to travel always beckoned.
“Our favourite stop on our previous loop around Asia was Cambodia and we are very much looking forward to seeing it again,” said Chris.
“It’s wonderful to meet people and see some great sights but it’s just us, the bikes and a tent and we live as economically day to day as we can.
“At the moment in Vietnam, we are spending about £10 a day.
”As we go, we are raising both awareness and fund-raising for Prevent Breast Cancer, the only charity in the UK that’s sole focus is on the prevention of breast cancer.
“We have both sadly lost friends to cancer over the last few years, so the support for such charities is very important.
“The fund-raising is difficult – we’ve only raised just over £10,000 in over one and a half years – but we fly the flag for the charity and do lots of awareness in each country we cycle through with cancer societies, hospitals and.
“Every penny we raise goes to the charity as we are self-funding our tour, so this is our way of giving something back to this amazing charity, as without them Gabs would have a different story.
“We just get small donations made to our website which goes straight to the charity, we tried company sponsorship but never managed to get any interest.
“We also make lots of films about our experiences in each country, hopefully one day we will get that big donation.”
l Follow the couple’s progress at www.chrisandgabsworldcyclingtour.com