Cycling touring enormous distances, alien cultures and being out of normality does something to the mind.
While cycling through India I wrote a lenghty A to Z post. It contains everything I think is important or nice to know about India, starting with the letter A…
Very often I ask myself the question ‘why?’ This is tiresome, but I need to ask it in order to understand the country and its people. I need to ask it myself in order to get answers. A few posts:
Why Traveling is an older post back from 2013
A few posts are in Dutch only, the most popular ‘Apenland‘
Below are the many questions I received over the years while cycling touring, starting with:
Newly added questions from South America
‘Do you believe in God? Do you have children? Are you married?’
Asked Santiago who gave me a lift when I had said goodbye to dad whom I separated with at the airport in Calama, Chile. ‘How sober,’ he added when I said ‘no’ to the last two questions. His look was that of pitying a street dog without strings attached in any particular way whatsoever.
In Spanish I tried to explain that my life was actually full of beauty and connection. That I felt a wonderful bond with what’s surrounding me and with certain people. I didn’t tell the man, partly because I simply couldn’t, that children are not my source of happiness, they would rather add a lot of anxiety and worry. I would have liked to tell him that indeed I live sober but that soberness is exactly the source to happiness.
‘How do you pay for this?’
Is a frequently returning question, and a Brazilian lady asked me lately over Facebook. She’d paid for my toilet paper when I rode through the little town, apparently on a drugs route, she lives in.
Fact is, living on a bicycle is not that expensive. I have no taxes and bills to pay. Except for a health insurance, not one other. I only pay for food, bicycle gear and occasional a hotel. Another fact is that I am lucky enough to have money, either by work or family hand outs. WiFi is free, nights are free, water is often free, fire is free as long as there is wood and clothing I don’t change that often, and most precious, my health is optimal. I never had a car, children, a house nor do I drink or smoke. The only expensive hobby I have when I am back home is oil painting. Otherwise I can save incoming money from work real good, especially since I decided to move back in with my parents. A life on the road is cheaper than anywhere else I know so far. But yes, a fact is that there is absolutely no incoming flow -except happiness- and that one day I do need to work.
‘Why do you cycle through the desert and not in pristine forests, as every cyclist do?’
Asked a guy in the Atacama desert who just returned from Patagonia by car. He thought I was unaware of the beauty down south, and couldn’t fathom why I would voluntary plough through a dry desert, where really is nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Besides, he had seen so many cyclist at the Carretera Austral that I should be there too.
And that is exactly one reason I should not be there! I do like to meet like-minded cyclists, but not every other day, as the exclusive feeling of lonesomeness is gone. I don’t want to be on a massive cycle path, even though it might be spectacular in surrounding. I rather choose the unknown, or undesired roads and paths instead of the well-known roads, even when my choices are a little more boring, I choose exclusiveness over well trotted paths. I don’t need to be in utmost corners of land, highest mountaintops or most spectacular landscapes if that means ‘everybody’ goes there.
‘When will you stop?’
Asked a guy in Paraguay. I jokingly said: ‘When I meet the right husband.’ This is, of course, not true (though when I did stop it happened I met my husband!). I will stop when I have enough of this quality kind of life. When I feel I am too long peddling and straying from the track. When my money is finished I need to stop and work. I honestly think I will never stop the line of intention I am on. Cycling is a logic move towards a life way simpler and void of redundancy. I may end up somewhere someday, and hopefully that is as simple and secure as how I am living now.
‘What will you do when you are real tired at the end of the day?’
‘When I am tired I need Coca Cola and my own mattress to sleep on’, said Claudio from Santiago, Chile.
‘I need a chai or milky coffee,’ I replied. ‘No bed to sleep in?’ continues Claudio. ‘No, my mattress and tent are perfectly fine to get my rest, more so, I sleep best in the tent, in an open nature, I need no more’. I must confess that having liquid milk is a true luxury and having this self-indulgence at the end of the day is a real bonus for my tiredness. The absence of electricity (no WiFi, no congesting, no energies) is the best for good night rest. Besides, being tired each day secures automatically a good sleep.
‘You do not have some root in Holland? What are you looking for?’
Riding around the world, I was thinking about that, wrote Chilean Juan to me, who rides a motorbike. I like to travel but I could not be abroad for a long time. It is very nice for me to think that my cave is waiting for me each trip, although I have not any family ties.
Of course I do have roots in the Netherlands, that is where my family and friends live and where I am born. It is also a country I don’t feel any desire to live as it is congested, built up and artificial in landscape. I don’t believe there is one square meter which is not manicured by human hands. If there is it is cut by multiply paths: one for cyclists, one for walking, one for horses and one for mountain-bikers. Where I am looking for is openness, something which occurs when walls literally are gone. I look for contentment and a quiet mind, something which comes easier when I have no responsibilities, when I am not occupied with tertiary gaining such as trying to make a living. Owning a house or having to work to pay rent scares me. Indeed am I escaping life as many of us are leading it. What I look for is easy: a simple life. And my cave is my tent, which is with me at all times. As long as my tent is situated in an open natural surrounding I am really happy.
My friends live all over the world, and roots may be several, that is, when you are receptive. Dutch people are, at first sight, not the most heartwarming or open folks. I believe connection is more important than actual roots. And since the world exist of humans all over, it is easy to connect and feel home anywhere.
‘I don’t understand what you like so much about the desert?’
Says my dad. In the desert everything is clear, is my answer. ‘What do you mean, clear?’ dad asks.
Well, not so easy to explain but since the desert is an open space, without walls, boundaries and massive mountains, it is clear. Clear as in easy to see what is ahead. Clear as in no obstacles in the mind; that is when you know where to find water, where places to find food and groceries are situated. Every reasonable human cycling through the desert should know where places to stock up are, and thus it is clear. Clear because there is not much traffic and clear because the weather is often literally clear. In the desert there is not much, people don’t want to live there, animals have nothing to graze on trees don’t grow. Yet there is so much to see, when you are willing the desert shows you many opportunities, the most important of all: clarity in the mind.
Are you not afraid?
No, in general I am not afraid. I have learned that fear is based on thoughts mostly. Often, think about it, you are afraid because in your mind you start making up all kind of happenings and stories. Yet, none of this is actually happening. I usually become afraid if the situation turns ugly, and then I do my best to change the situation I am in. Luckily, this happened only once, as I can remember, and luckily too, nothing really frightening has happened ever.
Does nothing ever happen to you? (Asked my mom)
No. Being in India for 4 months, on my own, cycling from South to Delhi, 3500 kilometer, I had not one man, even trying, to touch me. Before I went cycling to India quite a few people told me maybe better not to go, and at least to watch out, to be very careful. Having been in India over a dozen times I did not believe I would be raped this time, so I went, but without the thought that anything bad would happen to me. That is my outlook on life in general: why would people harm me on purpose? It is not a war, and I am not provoking.
What is the connection between cycling and Focus on Education? (Question of a news reporter in Ajman, U.A.E. I could not answer her immediately)
While I cycle I need to ask people for help, a place to stay, food or other necessary things like where to find water or the correct direction. You are opening yourself towards them in this way. There is no barrier. When sleeping by people and you don’t speak their language, all depend on goodwill, intuition and the ability to connect; the universal language. I believe that when people speak the universal language -and I think the Emirates are quite a good example- there will be less problems and disruptions. These abilities will be activated by education, as I see education as a stable, honest and primary start in life.
Why do you cycle?
‘To give you another perspective of life,’ was an answer Irish Brendan and I made together when we cycled in Liberia. We got tired of many people’s -however understandable- constant asking and -again understandable- passive being that our cycling through their country suddenly made a lot of sense, not only for us, but for áll surrounding us!
A longer answer will look like this: cycling is slow enough to get a feel for the country, yet to make enough distance to get to the other side of it. I have chosen the bicycle because it gives you the opportunity to be in the nature where sitting in a car or bus, or even motorbike, you are capsuled and fenced off. Smells, views and feelings are not coming directly and fully. Being on a bicycle puts you on a same level as the -poorer- locals as there’s no direct obvious difference in financial wealth. Being on a bicycle is being fully and totally where you are. If you can look up from the track or road you’re on, you’ll notice you are right in that multidimensional television program, which is all real. Real? At least as real as you can touch it. Cycling is escaping the other reality which consist of dreaming it. Cycling is being outside and having a simple lifestyle. Cycling is feeling alive. Cycling is being in direct contact with the World!
What is your mission?
If this question requires a quick answer, it will be because it’s a good sport, keeps my heart strong and I get to see more of the country. The real answer is a lot longer… Simply put, I want to enjoy life. I don’t want to be a slave of our demanding society, I don’t want to work to be able to retire when my life unfolds. I want to seize the moment, I want to discover the Earth which is presented to us, I want to release the nomad in me, feel what freedom is. I want to be happy and emit this feeling to others so that, in the end, we are one happy world. I know this is childish, naive thinking but I also know it does work. I try to make clear to other people (not by pushing my will upon them though) that choosing what you love to do makes you most happy. When you dare to do what your dreams are, your life will turn for the better. It’s the energy unleashed! Perhaps this cycling is a bit like an out of control thing to do, ‘escaping responsibilities’ and ‘avoiding a normal working life’, but cycling is quite addictive!
Do you feel the need to be social when you are so often on your own? (Hannemarie, my cousin in India asked me)
Yes, I do. It depends in which way though. I was never really of small talk so when it happen I am in a very touristy spot (think Hampi in India or a resort-camping in Ghana) I am not keen on shallowness, neither am I happy with having to answer hundreds time a day ‘where are you from?’, ‘where are you going to?’ and ‘what is your name?’ But being alone I really need to air my thoughts from time to time, as it is a bit one way sided to have constant single conversations in my head. When I am cycling with some one my need for social behavior is becoming less as spending a whole day with someone sometimes takes energy. I can really, literally, turn my back on empty, shallow talk about ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘general bla bla bla’.
Do you have a message for us?
Try to do what you really want. Listen to your heart, it will inevitably say that you don’t need more things. When you are in tune with what your heart tells you to do, you will notice a simplifying of your demands, desire and needs, thus happiness sets in. Happiness lift up the spirit of people around you and when you can spark it on to some one, it will be given through. No, this is not coming from self-help books, you’ll find out once you start doing what you love most.
Is there a road in the desert?
Yes, a mighty good one! The Sahara fulfilled all my expectations and dreams, and gave me more. To follow the road is easy because there’s only one and every fork to a major town has signs so it’s impossible to lose track in the desert.
Are you sporty?
No, I am not at all sporty. Before I started cycling I never did anything about sport. Except that I cycled to and from work, an hour a day. I would roller skate on a windless, dry and warm day (about 3 times a year in the Netherlands) and when I start cycling I was a lightweight with my 48 kilo’s. This, obviously, balanced itself. I don’t consider myself sporty even at this point, because hauling 30 kilo’s on a bicycle is more donkey achievement than a sport.
How do you handle the heat?
If it becomes hot and humid I am slow and tend to get sleepy. I can manage heat very well, as long as it is a dry heat, like the Sahara in Mauritania where it was close to 50 degrees. I would drink many liters water, and pee very little. Humidity takes most of my energy, robs me from a good night sleep and leave me wondering: ‘Why am I cycling in this weather? Normal people sleep, or at least rest, at this hour. Am I such a lunatic?’ I guess that’s what cycling does to you… besides, cycling makes wind so moving in the same heat as where others are standing still or laying down, I am way better off! Furthermore, I dress up long-sleeved and ¾ length leggings, I’ll have a turban on my head to keep the heat (and noise) from entering my ears and protect my head against the sunlight too. My blouse is usually from cotton and wide, so the wind can play with it. We, Europeans, tend to say ‘lazy Africans,’ but being slow and taking it easy is the only way to life in a warm country.
Why are you panting so much in India? (Facebook friend)
It is not only because I like cycling, or that it is a mental practice, but also because once I start something, I finish it. See it as a painter creating a canvas, he start the painting from the beginning and even when he’s tired of painting, he will not leave the finishing touch to somebody else. It is his painting. And so cycling on in the summer in India with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, I want to cycle on, but I will do it at a slower pace… Yet arrive well within the given time, how curious is that?!
Do you use water to clean after toilet?
I do. Except when I cycle because I don’t want to have a wet bum while sitting on the saddle as this makes irritations worse. All the same, using a toilet in hotels or restaurants, I use water and get a wet bum anyway, leaving a lovely charming wet patch on the saddle.
Where do you sleep?
Where ever I regard it to be safe. A safe place is where people do not see me going to nor where I am seen from the road side. I try not to camp on a path or place that is used recently.
How often did you sleep in your tent?
I really don’t know. Have to count that. Perhaps I will when I am off the saddle for too long…
How do you find a place to sleep?
A place shows up when I need it. It never happened that I was utterly helpless. Besides, I have a tent with me, and while checking out good spots you’ll notice any spot is good when you have no choice.
Do you think it’s cheaper and easier to cook and camp for two people instead of one or is it about the same? (Pius asked me, a friend whom I met 14 years ago in China)
I think it is cheaper and easier to cook with two. And if you have a cozy cycle partner is nicer too. In the beginning I always ate a bit over the top, with lot’s of veggies and rice and beans and all kind of nutritious food. A much more experienced cyclist told me to eat well during the day and have a simple meal while camping, this saves you time and energy. So now I will have my camp meals as simple as possible, mostly noodle soup with lot’s of veggies. Or I try to eat just before I set up camp. Mornings are always porridge (boiled in water and corn wheat with some milk in the end) with apples or bananas, raisin, some sugar and chai. I do enjoy cooking on my own though, as the thought of food in an empty cyclist tummy is enough to make me happy. And yes, to answer your other question: washing dishes is part of camp cooking. You can avoid it by making strict rules about the other doing dishes as long as you cut the vegetables (or something else you like more than doing dishes).
How do you cook?
There are two ways of cooking, by stove or by wood and fire. I prefer the latter but this is most of the time not what it turns out. It’s more time-consuming and you need to gather wood, or dried cow shit before setting up camp, that is, when you doubt having a stock at arrival. All the times I cooked by wood and fire I was with company, as it is so cozy and a bit back to the stone age: cycling evokes our primal instincts!
Is that a motor? That must be a little motor? (Rohloff hub)
I point to my belly and say: ‘That’s the motor!’ A local man I met in Spiti, Indian Himalaya pointed to his head and said: ‘No, there’s the power,’ and I smiled…
What if you have a puncture?
Stop. Take the luggage off, turn the bicycle upside down and fix the hole.
What if your bicycle breaks down?
It did! A bicycle of this enormous amount of money broke down in Cameroon (only 15,000 kilometer) and after two men with two massive hammers knocked unprofessional onto my precious vehicle, I decided Europe would be a better place for reparation.
What do you carry with you?
For quite some local people this keeps a mystery. And that’s understandable, for a one-woman-show I carry more than many poor African or Indian stone-cutters families. I always explain that the left front bag is my kitchen, the other is electronics and writing stuff. The back panniers carrying my bed and clothing. On top of this is my house, a small two persons tent.
Isn’t it very dangerous?
Cycling is not dangerous. Traffic tends to look gruesome when you watch it from any form of transport other than a bicycle. Even I think how dangerous it is when I watch India from behind a bus window, but once in it, the whole perspective changes and you are suddenly part of it and not a watcher anymore, thus all danger is gone. Of course you have to watch out what you are doing but best thing is to be confident and not act doubtful. In India it’s best to do your thing and people will act accordingly. In Nigerian cities it’s best to watch before you are acting as space is often confined and traffic crammed. In Iran I found people were often very surprised thus paying little attention to traffic and that resulted in accidents.
How much do you spend in a year?
I don’t know exactly, but way, wáy less than someone who is not cycling or backpacking. The great thing is that the less you owe, the less you spend. I have no house, no car, no rent, no bills. Much money is wasted on things we don’t need or which doesn’t make us feeling better. A lot of money is spend on being able to have the job, whilst the job itself hasn’t been done yet: getting to work, dressed for work, socializing after work. I have no work -not yet- of course, I have nothing to fall back to, I have no retirement money, but those issues are not for now yet. When cycling, a good bicycle, some money and most of all, a splendid health is all I wish for.
Who is paying for you?
‘Myself. I have worked for this trip,’ not my parents nor the government is paying me. Especially Indians think I am paid by someone, doing some kind of research?!
Why are you alone?
‘Why not?’ or ‘I like being alone’ or ‘I have no friends’ or, when Heike asked me: I am going solo because I have always traveled solo. Perhaps that’s because I am very comfortable on my own. It could very well be that on your own impressions are undiluted. No one is disturbing my feelings with their comments or thoughts. Perhaps I find it easier to be alone too, as being with someone most of the times requires compromises or adjustments. The older I get, the less flexible I tend to be. Besides: I am very happy! It takes a lot (or actually very little) for a partner to keep the balance I have, thus keeping my contentment. In general, men want to give a lot, like a feeling or idea that a lone, independent woman have to be protected or something?
If there was the perfect partner I would surely let him join in my adventure, because I have experienced -by seeing couples who in my eyes have the perfect balance- that happiness might become more wholesome if you are with a ‘perfect’ partner. It is easy to be alone because of too many compromises and too big a difference in approach to life in general and cycling in particular a partner can cause. I cycled a bit together with two Irish brothers and a French guy and we had quite the ‘perfect’ marriage. One would cook (me), one would gather all the vegetables, one would cut the veggies and one would relax. It worked out perfectly well. The secret was none of us had the feeling to be compromising. And none of them tried to protect me neither, on the contrary, the 3 ‘husbands’ did their own thing and left me I peace when I needed that!
Why are you not married?
‘I will marry later, when I am older!’ And I did, when I was 45, with Geo from Germany who I met on a Paraguayan farm.
Why do people hate us? (Iranians asked me this regular)
‘First of all, no one hates you, but people have problems with the government and the way how Iran is portrayed in the news,’ and those people have never actually been to Iran. Iran is a country full of people with most hospitable citizens.
How can you find your way?
By asking, by looking at my compass, or the sun, by opening the map or map on the smart-phone.
Questions about the body:
You must have many saddle problems?
I do. I had a huge blister on my right bum-part, by trying to protect my bum for rash, I taped it with paper-like Indian tape, and I eventually teared the skin off. I have had many blood filled little blisters in the inner tights area. I had a big pimple in a very unexpected place and even a blister once, right there… Sometimes my bottom is so terrified by the rash it collected its burning like a hell fire and I can’t lay on it anymore. That means: rest!
Do you have callus on your butt?
Not that I know, it’s still soft and smooth (after a week off the saddle), but I do have on the inside of my thumbs which is rather annoying. Inside my hands it’s also hard -like a mason or carpenter- especially after some weeks in the mountains. Pulling on the handlebar produce callus.
What if you have your periods?
Than I use the ever touted, by myself, the Cup.
Do you sometimes need to go to a doctor?
Remarkably, since I cycle my health is in top condition. I drink and eat everything (from boreholes to river water, and all street food available, including ice, salads, peeled fruits and ice-creams) and hardly ever get diarrhea. I eat what ever the body needs, it’s asking what it’s needing, including an extra salt intake in times of heat. I drink enough and I eat like a pig. Yet, sometimes nasty little flies or mosquito’s are the starters for huge infections and if an itchy bite becomes an open wound transforming to a flowing crater… yes, then I need to go to the doctor. That happened a few times in Africa.
How much is your bicycle?
‘I don’t know, it’s a gift from my parents,’ in reality it is more than the price of a car, more than double the price of a motorbike in India… I would be regarded nuts would I tell the real price!
Can I make a photo of you?
‘Sure, but no embracing nor touching,’ except in countries where this is not an issue, like Nigeria, where I was lifted up in the arms of a very strong man. That’s quite nice, even though I might sound feminist sometimes, being lifted without a chance of opposition can be pleasant funny behavior, although most persons could not get away with it. Usually I keep an obvious distance between me and the one next to me.
Questions mostly asked by men:
Have you been asked to marry?
Yes, and I can’t keep track how often.
Will you marry me?
‘What do you have to offer?’ I think ironical, and always answer ‘NO!’
Can we meet in the evening?
Can I f**k you?
On one occasion I said: ‘Of course, let’s do it right here,’ and I briskly jumped of my bicycle, parked it against a truck and pointed my hand invitingly behind that truck ‘let’s go there.’ The guy was rapidly gone… surprisingly, not?
Can I be your friend?
‘No, I have already enough friends,’ a bit of a wrong answer, as this indicates that I have already many boyfriends, because that is what men means when they ask you this question. Once, in Iran, a man stopped 300 meters in front of me, came walking towards me and after some usual chit-chat he’d ask me whether he could be my friend. First it sounds rude to say ‘no’, it seems such a friendly, sweet request but I think being clear is good: ‘No, you can not be my friend!’ It’s not Facebook!
Are you only one?
‘No, we are with two,’ is my ‘funny’ answer while I point at Shanti bicycle. Usually when men ask me this question I most of the time answer that my husband is ‘a little’ in front of me. That is in the next sizable town. ‘He’s just so much faster than I am, I am slow,’ and preferable that husband is a cyclist from whom I know have passed a few days ago. This happened often in Africa, where I was blessed with 3 husbands, while in Nigeria only one of them was left, which is enough anyway. In all other countries I have an imaginary husband and since Iran I have little troubles making up stories. If it happens I am cycling with a guy than I prefer to have him as my husband, if plausible.
Questions by women:
How do you deal with annoying men?
Fortunately I have very little problems with men in general. One rule of thumb is that I try not to get too much attention. I (naturally) act rather withdrawn and quiet. You won’t hear me laughing out loud or talking loud when I am on my own. I won’t laugh too much to men and I am not overly friendly as we tend to be as Westerners. Usually I watch the local women and act as them. Overall it is more rough than feminine, my natural behavior anyway. We Westerners are always so polite with our ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ and reassuring smiles. In many countries general behavior is just more rough. So I’ll be rough too. Remember that every local woman traveling by her own would rather be reserved and watchful too. No woman alone act like a prostitute unless she is one. Women can not act the same as men cycling. We have to protect our dignity a bit. And yes, this means that we sometimes are void of social interactions. Smile to the women, wave to the kids and kiss the animals makes me feel very social and in touch. If men get really sticky, which happened often in Iran, I stop and note down their number plate. When a man touch me, I will kick his balls.
What if you get lost?
I don’t get lost. Getting lost is adventure and if it is not, then I curse myself. After a good night sleep I view things differently and seeing it on the scale of the world, what is 80 kilometers wrong? Usually, I don’t really follow a set out route, so going wrong is quite difficult that way.
The world is a dangerous place!
It indeed is if that is what you make of it…
To how many countries have you been? (Pappy, Couch Surf host in Ajman, asked me this on request of his friends at a party in The Emirates)
I really dislike (sorry Pappy) this question as it indicates that I am counting the countries I went to, like it is a game or something to acquire. I don’t count. I am not collecting passports full of visa and stamps. But when I was asked to write a story about cycling in Africa, they’d asked me how many countries I went to, so I had to start counting. The result of many years traveling is about 67 (I count India once, of course, but have been there more than 15 times, same with Pakistan, where I stayed almost a year and came back to 3 times, Iran too 3 times, Turkey 4 times). But actually, I am not sure of this number either?!
You must have lost weight a lot!?
I gained weight, not lost anything. I started cycling when I was 47 kilogram. It depends where I am and what I eat, but after Africa I was at my fullest: 55 kilogram, mostly from doughnuts, sweetened condensed milk and cassava twice a day. I thought all the scales I went on were broken, but if áll the scales tell the same number, than perhaps that’s the reality. A little bit of muscles and some more fat around the waist, bum and boobs are good for an average of about 4 kilogram extra. After India I lost most again, and am back in a pleasurable shape : )
Is there anything you miss?
Nothing. It dawns often on me when I walk through the aisles of super well stocked hypermarkets in the Emirates or Oman, that there’s nothing I crave for. Usually I want what is available, or what is available is what I want. Like pineapples in India, mango’s in Ghana, raw cacao in Ivory coast, chai and yoghurt in Iran. Fried items, even hand-made ‘chips’ in India, something I never eat back home. But funny enough, each time I come back to the Netherlands I rush to the supermarket to buy very selected: smoked fish, salmon, avocado, granola, seeds, nuts and dried fruit like ginger and a lot of dates! Oh, well… there might be one thing I can miss out on, the thing many more solo women miss out on, I have found out. It’s within reach almost each day, but that would be a very, very weak cup of tea…. not my cup at áll!
What do you do in the evening?
I drink chai and write my diary. I make photographs and embroider a bit. I could select photos for the weblog and beautify them or I can read, but more often I am just exhausted and crash onto bed!
What do you eat for breakfast?
Anything what is available, be it fried fish, idli, masala dosa, potatoes, tsampa, curry, lentils, kebab, fried meat, liver, soup or rice. Ideally it is chai with anything else, as long as it is food! Whatever the case: I NEED to have food in the mornings!
Are you not alone or lonely?
No. But I can feel the absence of a would-be partner, for example when I walk around a beautiful lake dotted with purple lotus flowers and many couples walking hand in hand, laying on benches, their hands entangled, their voices soft and sweet. Still, my face is outfitted with a big broad smile, because I think about love, and am just happy for all those couples. As I am for myself, because I know what it is to be in love. Besides, I am very content on my own, perhaps a bit overactive and not very laid back, but I like to be alone, as then I can focus on feelings very well. Being alone is often pure, void of comments not suiting your sensitivity.
Do you think you are ever able to life a normal life? (My very own question)
Owh…. before I answer, let me ask first: ‘What is normal?’ Then, right after it: ‘No!’ No, I am not able, neither do I long for it. Once starting to cycle and living like a nomadic woman, it is impossible to go back. Why would you want to have responsibility, paying checks, bills and accounts? Why would you be part of the rat race we’re living in? Why would you miss out on the planet’s beauty? Cycling the world, or half of it, is very addictive. The constant beauty, the high level of adventure, the quietness, the openness, the vastness, the constant fulfilled longing, the awareness that what you are doing is what you want to do most… One day, when I am exhausted or a fairy tale reason opens up to me, or when I am simply done, I settle, as long as there’s sunshine : )
How many kilometer do you cycle in a day?
That depends on the terrain. In Africa cycling on rough Fouta Djalon tracks it could be less than 50 a day, once the Sahara was good for 200 kilometers a day. Hilly Iran made me do maximum 60 a day where the Gulf I could make 140 easily. Hot India completely exhaust me with 80 a day. While cycling the Himalaya my average was a sad 35 kilometer a day…
How can you trust people?
That all depend on intuition… But in general people are good and almost always to be trusted. I notice very quickly when men are in for more than I’d asked for. I have found out that when asking something and the person is thinking a tiny bit longer than usually he’s making up something. Most of the time an answer comes immediately.
How do you choose your route?
I cycle very general, mostly in one direction, barely West though. I let the direction decided by people I meet on the road, but mostly I am going straight through a country so the direction is pretty easy.
You must be very strong?!
Yes, I am. People who think my bicycle is loaded according my body mass, are always in shock. Often they can not even lift the bicycle. Only when I came to India in summer, knowing that I had to climb a stiff hill, I decided not to deal with such a hassle. Would I carry 10 kilogram less, it would be doable, but since I carry camping equipment, cooking gear and a sleeping bag for minus 10 degrees, with a dense humidity and a blasting sun hovering around 45 degrees, I give in. Yet, I did have a very good feeling in going over 4000 meter passes later on in that year. Having cycled over a pass of 4550 meter I noticed that lack of rest weakened me! It’s always something! If it’s not enough rest, I am already tired by the beginning of the day. If I haven’t got a decent acclimatization, I will be worth little. If it’s too hot in the night, my eyes are puffed by the noisy fan. If I sleep for 12 hours I am too mellow. Thankfully I am not a Tour de France cyclist!
Can you wash yourself every day?
No, I can’t. And sometimes I just don’t bother. Then, when I think: ‘Hey, I am not stinking down there,’ after a week of not being able to have a (bucket) shower, I did notice a pungent smell coming from there. However, I do try to wash myself every day in the saddle region, just with a cloth and water and soap. This to eliminate bacterial growth, causing pimples. My overall cleanliness quickly vanished, there synthetic underwear doesn’t really help much either. However, it is no issue to stay clean. 6 or 7 days without wash is okay. Deodorant seems to be useful only in cities when you are interacting with other humans but other than that a (bucket) shower is really not so necessary, more refreshing. Cycling through desert, bush or rainy days doesn’t make the body stink (except for the feet!) Note that I always try to wear cotton and never wear clothes designed for cycling.
You must be good in solving problems? (asked Francesca)
Uh… I think I am, but often need a start-up from someone else. When I was without money in Iran I had many drastic scenario’s in mind until laid-back Henrik gave me better idea’s. Often I need a word from another to console me, to direct me. Being alone often is like a one way street of thinking and with someone else mind whole new thoughts will come up, thus leading me to another, often more simple or original, outcome. When it comes to solving practical problems I often do it myself, maybe with a bit stubbornness though.
Why don’t you dress up like a man?
Because by dressing like a man you don’t become one, neither do I want to be one. Being a woman has many advantages. And yes, sometimes not so much as well… I deal with it : )
I really can’t follow you anymore! Where are you?
Since I want to return home (family matters) more often it can happen I speed in 4 days from the border with Tibet to Amsterdam. Since my mom is having trouble with her health I have never taken an airplane so often.
How do you wash your clothes?
I’ll pull a little dhobi wallah out of one of the panniers and command him to wash my dirty, stiff, dusty, stinking underwear! I ask him friendly though : )
You cycle for áll those 3 weeks you are here?
I indeed do so, hardly try I tell to people I actually came cycling from home. Tourists on a tourist bus can not comprehend really…
Do you stink down there?
Uhm… I guess so?! Would you not after days of cycling and no decent wash?
Do you always shave yourself?
Yes, I did. And I stopped because I had much saddle problems. I always battled with saddle soreness. What worked for me was no shaving, cotton seamless fitness short and a Brooks saddle.
Are you not afraid of animals?
I have rarely seen a wild animal, and I suppose wild animals are rather scared of a human than vice versa. Cycling 30 kilometer through a national park in South India I noticed many chital, spotted deer, and just hoped the roam-free elephants and tigers would go for them instead of me! When the park ranger told me casually I was not allowed to cycle here, I thought it rather late to tell me this after 20 kilometer.
Do you like our food? (Indians asked me often in India)
Always! I love food and as a cyclist I eat double as much. However, Indian food is good as long as you stay away from touristy places (like Hampi or Delhi’s Pahar Ganj). The more local, the better!
What if your money is finished?
Luckily I have an eternal donkey in my garden, under a tree which blossoms money 6 times a year, and when this donkey poops, piles high, it turns to gold. All I have to do is trow this golden poop in the waterput a little further in my garden, a put which is full with coins by the way, and it turns automatic to cash, in whichever currency I want.
What is your goal?
To do what makes me happy…
Is the desert not boring?
Not at all. The desert is my favorite playground. It’s full of life, colors and shapes. Having cycled through the Western Sahara was a highlight, and I found each hour different from the one before. Smells are clear, rotting animal, as well as tiny precious herbs after a rare rain shower. There’s not a sound but the ocean rolling and the wind blowing. Distances are burned into vibrating heatwaves. The sight of houses become a mirage, and a feast when you do reach them. The flatness I love, so I am able to make many kilometers. The lines in Nature I try to capture with my camera, or the details like fossils. The desert has its little creatures and colors, but you need to have your eyes open for it. The semi desert in Iran made me happy too, and the continuation in Oman was a pleasant surprise as well.
Are you going to write a book?
I owe my friend Seth to do this, and frankly, I would like to. Not your average book for one time reading but something more colorful, thoughtful and useful.
How do you go to the toilet in India?
Same as I would do back home, sit down with a bottle of water. Or squat down, if it’s a squat toilet.
Do you mind covering up? (In Iran)
Not at all. To tell you honestly, I feel very comfortable in secluded societies. I prefer to sit behind curtains while eating rather than being stared at all the time, and wearing a headscarf is therefore no issues at all. I think I am more pretty with it. Besides, it’s a lot more easy as I don’t have to worry about my hairdo. Actually, I like to wear headdresses, whether it be a scarf, a turban or a hat, they all have their purpose.
Questions answered with ‘no’:
Do you carry a gun with you?
Do you have a television with you?
Didn’t you rather want to buy a car with the money you have saved?
I am curious to the questions you receive? Don’t hesitate to leave a response behind and perhaps make me laugh of leave me in wonder, because some questions are really good, or funny! But never, ever, a question is stupid…
Are you African? Are you having trouble differentiate colors?
Are you selling fish? Well, I think you smell me, I haven’t wash myself for about a week!
Said before, a good interview done by German cyclist Heike can be seen by clicking on the link. But uh… I am curious to hear what people have asked you for funny, remarkable questions : )
16 replies on “Questions?”
Without doubt, one of the best posts I’ve ever read on the subject of cycle touring.
When I’ve managed to described to people what wild camping is, sleeping in the bush, woods… etc. The look of horror… ‘what out there’? I’m looked on as some kind of feral being! LOL
How can you afford to spend months (6 + at times) on end out of work? The same as you Cindy. I look for work when I require it (generally though it finds me!), I have no home (property, I do have a tent though!), I own no vehicles (except 2 bicycles), I have no debt, I own everything I have and can survive very comfortably with what goes into 4 panniers and a bar bag.
Thanks Cindy 🙂
Good to hear from you again! When I first had to wild camp on my own (that was in Belgium) I was worried too: a man might come and rape me!
The second time I did wild camp on my own in Africa in the bush, I again was worried, for the same reason. But than, when you wake up and you notice you are actually alone, and when you step on your bicycle and notice once more no one has seen you, you feel so light! It is really one of the best feelings from cycling! Nature is the best place for a natural good night sleep.
What is feral?!
I agree that works find you, although I am a bit nervous, I must admit. I have never worked abroad but this time, I won’t come back to the Netherlands to work. I just do not fit here anymore! So my new challenge is now to have work find me in a country which can provide.
Where are you from Nigel and where do you work usually?
Isn’t it great: to have all you need in 4 (or 5, with a dry bag) panniers! And damn you have property: a bicycle and a tent! Hahaha….. makes me laugh good here!
Be well Nigel. Thanks for writing : )
Extract from Wikipedia… ‘A feral animal (from Latin fera, “a wild beast”) is an animal living in the wild but descended from domesticated individuals.’…. That’s me at times!
I so try and live off ‘The Matrix’ grid. That’s pretty much how I see the world we come from… everyone plugged in. Feeding the system!
Been English, like you, a European, when I return, to what is in-theory home (the UK). This never seems to last more than 6 to 8 months???? The call of the bike, the open road and a lust for adventure soon takes hold of me again.
Wild/bush/freedom/stealth camping really tops it for me, as it’s truly away from humanity and its material world.
Wild camping safety: I follow my tried and tested ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy. Works every time! 🙂 But, then, I’ve not cycled Africa (worked though in Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania) or India, where you’d be found out most times! http://nigelsbicyclejourneys.com/2013/08/10/new-zealand-tasmania/
My last big tour took me round New Zealand. In the few times I did find a place to stay indoors (weather was appalling!), I became friendly with owners of a backpackers. I helped out briefly (2012/13). 2013/14 I was invited back to run/manage the place for the season. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Catlins-YHA/561320793950634?fref=ts
A few other questions I’ve been asked: ‘why have you a fire extinguisher on your bike and a small trowel??’ Answer: I need the extinguisher to make fire! And the trowel is my toilet! From then on, they look on me as ‘Feral’ and no more questions follow because there’ve gone!
Hahahaha, you got me laughing there, as if talking about shit is not good?! Many people find that not neat or acceptable, let alone burying your shit! I think you do that very very neatly Nigel: carrying a trowel on the bicycle! I usually place stones, sand, twigs, leaves or whatever is close, to cover my poo. In India my poo was always the only one which was covered ; )
Funny, now I remember when I was in Oman, a Omani driver with his clientele, gave me a tip to use the toilet facilities would I be camping at the beach. I said $20 to use the toilet is a bit expensive, ‘I rather use the beach as my toilet’ and gone they were too! Wahahaaa!! Once it comes to wild crapping people turn away, but the best thing is (mind you, I like talking about these matters) camping free and toileting in Nature. Nothing beats such a natural living.
‘The Matrix’, a friend of mine introduced his views on it and I must say I recognize myself in it too, but once I am in the Matrix world -like now- I do like the advantages of a computer and free wifi flow. Traveling makes you get behind with writing and photo editing, something I like now I can not paint, because of traveling. I don’t get a SIM card though, but that is not necessary now I stay with my parents : ) no need to call them ; )
Out of sight is out of mind. I agree. If people do not know you stay in the bush, why would they start searching a victim out there, and kill it/rape it/rob it?! By the way, most people don’t have the intention to do that. Most people wants what you and I want: love, food, feeling of safety, a ‘roof’ above their head.
When I got more space around here, I am going to check your weblog out. Promised : )
Well, your the best looking man I’ve ever seen! And, in Africa, you’ll always have a small bum! 🙂
Regarding wild camping: if its hard for me to get to, you can guarantee no one else will be there or find you. Mans generally very lazy!
This is what a toilet and fire extinguisher looks like on a bike! https://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyusefulbicyclejourneys/12217034434/in/set-72157639822391435 Always good to talk shit!
I’m by no way a fast blogger. It can take months (a lot!) till I update my blog. Always got better things to do ie… ride my bike!
Oh… I love these African bums! Simply delicious! Of course, without cellulite : ) But I have no complains, while cycling the body adjust : )
Looks streamlined: your little shovel and fire extinguisher. You hardly carry any extra weight, it seems.
I am not a fast blogger either, I am behind months, average 3 months. But now I am home I got time, and love to go through the photo’s, relive it again : ) usually I don’t see my own photo’s, so now I get a relaxed chance to do that. Plus that I need to express my feelings, so I write often anyway.
Have a good day Nigel, or evening, depends where you are. I am off to cook (Chinese)
Be well, Cindy
Haha! Very good! And recognisable.. An odd question I got was : “What are you?” …
Hahaha….. What are you? Could they not see that you were a woman. Still, I guess. Yes, Miriam, what are you actually?!
You must have had a hundred funny questions, although I liked ‘are you African?’ too ; )
Be well out there, where ever that is. I am currently back home (family reason).
Thank you Brian : )
Very good Cindy !!! Love it !!!
The other day they asked me in China: Are you Japanese ? And I don’ t know how often they asked me in Iran: Are you man or woman ?
Heike, now you mention, how can I forget that question: “Are you a man or a woman?” They asked me too several times. In Iran and in India. So funny. Maybe they assume a woman won’t choose what we do. I always answer: “A man, I am a man” and than a bit quasi annoyed “can’t you see that?!” Hahaha 😆
Hi Cindy….oh nice to hear they asked you the same….I had even one invitation to stay overnight with a family and the other morning they still asked me: Are you man or woman ??? Yes, I think, they just can’ t get that into their mind that we are able to do it !!! It must be a man, it can’ t be a woman….impossible !!!!
Heike, it is not that you are the only one who looks like a man. Me too! But we have breast so I always wonder: Haven’t they noticed that? Usually men have no problems noticing breasts ; )
In Africa no one ever asked me whether I was a man! There I could dress more in tight clothes, and people know women are quite equal. Often I saw women on a bicycle there, but I did see them in India too, yet they asked me sometimes the same?!
Strange they asked you being a man or woman AFTER your night sleep?!?! You must have given them plenty of doubts, hahaha : )) What was your answer?
[…] ‘Frequently asked Questions’ are questions by people I meet on the road. Some questions are so funny that I doubt they are serious? This is recently updated; new questions added from the South American mind. […]
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