An 80-year-old grandfather hitchhiked 10,642 miles from Leicester to South Africa to scatter his wife's ashes in the country she loved. Mike Howitt said his final farewell to wife Diana at the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town, just 56 days after he set off down the A47. He completed his incredible journey by car, van, cargo ship, rickshaw and a horse-drawn chariot. The childhood sweethearts had visited South Africa together 25 times before Mrs Howitt died last year of lung disease. The grandfather of four has now raised nearly £6,000 for the LOROS Hospice, Leicester, where his wife of 55 years spent her final days.
Mr Howitt met Diana when they were teenagers and decided he wanted to pay a memorable tribute to the woman he loved.
The brave hitchhiker carried his late wife's ashes in a little blue container and travelled through the night for weeks to reach his final destination, but said he was never afraid.
'I never felt threatened,' he said. 'From the day I set off hitchhiking down the A47 from Leicester to the day I got to Cape Town. I’m not saying I’m particularly brave, I just never felt in any danger.
I believe in God’s protection and I read Psalm 91 every day.
Diana and I met when she was 15 and I was 16, we met at Melbourne Hall Church in Leicester and I was perhaps the one that didn’t run away fast enough.
She loved Table Mountain and actually it was only the fifth time that we went there that she plucked up enough courage to go all the way to the top on the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
'My work took me to South Africa often training people in the building industry so we had been there 25 times together,
we spent anniversaries there and both loved the country.'
Mr Howitt, who is a Christian, said he stayed in all sorts of accommodation at some of the most fascinating places in the world during his long trip in memory of his beloved wife.
'I visited Petra, the ancient city in Jordan, which was an amazing experience as I was taken there on horse-drawn chariot.
'When I got to Wadi-Haifa in Sudan I couldn’t find anywhere to stay so I just slept outside under the stars on an inflatable mattress, which is the only time I used it.
'I met a lot of different people but often language was a problem, from the southern Sudanese border I spent 22 hours on a cattle truck overnight to the Nairobi capital of Kenya.
'When we crossed the equator they stopped it especially for me and I was able to scatter some of Diana’s ashes there too.
'I had one journey where the driver only knew three words of English - "Winston Churchill" and "Tito" and would repeat them in varying order at regular intervals.'
He said: 'In the last few days my big toes began to swell, so like a fast bowler in cricket, I cut out part of his shoes to relieve the pressure.
'This has been on my mind for well over 12 months and when you’re going for an objective, you visualise its achievement.
'I’ve done what I set out to do. I feel like, "the journey is done, what’s next?".
'I’ve met many wonderful people and had many life-enriching experiences.'
LOROS fund-raiser Christian Wikert-Picker said: 'We are delighted that Mike has completed his journey. It is an amazing story and we are very grateful.'
Here are news videos with Mr Howitt before and after his poignant pilgrimage.