CYCLING over the Andes is the next challenge for a North-East woman now mid-way through an epic 9,000 mile charity quest.

Susie Stephen started her journey from her hometown of Darlington in February and ran the equivalent of a marathon a day to reach Southampton in 13 days.

From there she flew to South America and took a short break before continuing her quest by bicycle.

The final destination will be Easter Island as Mrs Stephen is retracing the route made by Darlington Quaker and archaeologist Kathryn Routledge in 1914.

Her efforts are raising thousands of pounds to buy a BioMax sewage unit for the islanders.

Writing to The Northern Echo from Argentina, Mrs Stephen said: “So far the cycling has been over fairly flat agricultural land, which has enabled us to average 60 miles per day but the topography is now starting to change and we’ve encountered a few rolling hills.

“The real test will be the route from Mendoza into Chile over the Andes, which is going to be exhausting and my legs are already tired!”

Carrying all their own equipment in panniers, Mrs Stephen has been accompanied on the bike ride by her husband Jesse Stephen.

Difficulties they have encountered so far have included navigating through the busy city streets of Buenos Aires, avoiding the snapping teeth of territorial street dogs, and listening out for heavily loaded trucks, or ‘Camiones’ on the highways.

But chance encounters with friendly Argentines have also led to Tango lessons, a complimentary steak dinner, and a night’s camping on an ‘estancia’ or ranch.

Mrs Stephen, who lives in Hawaii, hopes to reach Santiago by early May before flying to Easter Island to take part in the island marathon on June 1 - the final stage of her challenge.