Exactly three years ago, two young Czech cycling enthusiasts, Michal Jon and Lucie Kovarikova, set off to conquer the world on their bicycles. As planned, they returned back home on Sunday, having pedalled almost 69,000 kilometres in all continents. The couple are the first Czechs to have cycled around Greenland, the first Czech cyclists to have ridden into the Antarctic and Lucie Kovarikova is the first Czech woman to cycle around the world.
Radio Prague stayed in touch with them during their trip and Pavla Horakova joined the crowd that welcomed them on Sunday in Prague's Hvezda Park.
Michal and Lucie looked just the same as when I spoke to them three years ago - except for the deep tan they acquired on their travels. But three years is a long time: when Michal and Lucie left in May 2002, Vaclav Havel was still Czech President; the couple never saw Prague under water when it was hit by a devastating flood later that year, and since the two former teachers set off, the Czech Republic has had four prime ministers. But those were not the only reasons why their triumphant return to Prague was a bit of shock.
"For me, personally, it was really emotional at the entrance to this wonderful place. It was something wonderful to see so many people with bicycles and without bicycles. I think there were about 250 people travelling with us on the last day. It was something very special to come to the finish line, to cross the finish line."
How does it feel - that everybody around you speaks Czech?
"It's really something! For the last five or six stages we've been speaking Czech and Slovak, and it's really something being able to read all the Czech signs along the way."
How did you manage to stay healthy all the time? Did you ever have to see the doctor or dentist?
"No, no, no. We never had to see the doctor. Everything was fine and we never had any problems with health or with the bikes - I mean problems that would stop us on our route or make us stop cycling."
Did you go to the hairdresser's or did you cut your hair yourselves?
"I went to the hairdresser's twice, I think, and most of the time Lucie did the haircutting for me and she had her hair done by some friends maybe four times."
"For breakfast we had some cereals or cornflakes with dried milk and that was our breakfast, I think, for most of the way and for dinner we usually had noodle soup, like Chinese instant noodle soup - which is one of the thing we would like people not to give us for the next twelve or fourteen months, maybe."
Was there ever a place that you liked so much, that was so beautiful, that you just thought let's stay here, let's not go anywhere else?
"Yes, there were, I think, two such places: Australia and Argentina. And if some time in the future we would like to live in another place, then it would be Australia or Argentina."
And what are your plans for the near future, or the immediate future?
"We would like to go on holiday, with our bicycles, but without the panniers..."
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