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LONDON (Kyodo) A young British woman rode out of London April 1 on an epic pony trek from London to Tokyo following ancient trading routes.

Becky Sampson, 25, and her faithful pony Bertie departed from a stable yard in south London and will ride down to the English port of Dover before heading through Europe, Central Asia and China. They are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo in summer 2012. Her feat will span 15 countries and cover more than 15,000 km.

After initial uncertainty, Sampson is delighted because she thinks her 10-year-old pony will be able to accompany her all the way to Tokyo after he was granted his own animal passport.

But Sampson realizes she will face many challenges on her adventure and has prepared herself for deserts, mountains and all kinds of deadly wildlife.

Ever since she was 10 years old she has wanted to ride around the world on horseback. Following one of the Silk Road trading routes was the ideal choice. Centuries ago, these ancient routes connected East and West and were the channel for trade between the two regions.

Although several people have ridden parts of the Silk Road on horseback, it is thought Sampson will be the first to travel the entire route from London to Tokyo.

She had planned to leave last August but had to delay her departure when a traveling companion dropped out.

Traveling mainly on her own, Sampson will spend this summer trekking through Europe and into Turkey, where she will spend the winter working as a teacher to earn some money.

In 2010, she will move into Iran from Turkey and travel through the Central Asian states, where she plans to winter in Kyrgyzstan.

The following year, she will proceed into China and ride to Xian before reaching Shanghai. In 2012, she expects to leave Shanghai by boat for Osaka.

From there, she will ride to Nara, one of the terminal points of the ancient Silk Road, and then to Tokyo via Mie, Aichi, Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectures. She aims to arrive in Tokyo in summer 2012 and expects to spend a year in Japan teaching English.

During most of her trip in Europe, Sampson will be able to follow clearly defined trails, but the farther east she goes the more she will have to rely on her navigational skills.

Sampson has all the latest technology to help her along the way, which also means her progress can automatically be plotted on her Web site.

Nights will be spent in a tent and in the winters she expects to find local work teaching English to fund the next stage of her trip.

She may have to use guides for some parts of the trek and use camels where the terrain is impossible for a horse.

She realizes it might not be possible to take Bertie through all of the countries. Turkmenistan and China could prove tricky and she might have to hire local horses instead.

But her pony will be transported ahead of her if that is the case and a company has offered to bring Bertie home from Japan free of charge.

Speaking in London before her epic adventure, Sampson said: “I have always wanted to travel on the Silk Road and I love horse riding. I have always wanted to do it before mortgage and marriage.”

Sampson will be raising money for the SOS Children’s Villages charity.

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