Loretta is a Canadian woman on wheels and cycled the world. I came in touch with her about 2 years ago via social media, after I announced myself on her Wall Of Women; WOW. She collected stories of lone women on bicycles touring the world or a part of it. Instead of writing her own adventure in a book form, she made an informative book in PHD format -we want to travel as light as possible-.
It is intended for those who need that extra bit of confidence, and it is stuffed with tips and information, also for the experienced among us.
I liked the way Loretta asked me personal questions, really pointed to my experiences. I won’t publish all of her questions, just a few, as I want you to buy her book. It’s only $ 8.50
Another very interesting fact is that Loretta wrote this book in a self-made yurt! She stayed warm through winter while writing away on, I image, a solar powered laptop.
This is how it started:
Cindy, you and I first got in touch way back when you were touring India for half a year. We spent some time chatting on Facebook. I was in Patagonia, you were on tour in India. India is one of those countries that has a huge tourist draw but India also is known to be a bit tricky for solo women, especially those on bikes.
Question 1: What was your favorite part of bicycle touring for half a year in India?
I cycled in 4 months from the far South to Delhi, and another month in the Himalaya. It was tough yet I enjoyed áll the lunch-breaks at truck stalls, as the men left me in peace and the food was incredible good. I enjoyed each aspect of the daily craziness, the connection with other ‘outcasts’ like saddhu’s, holy men, homeless or the crazy. I was thankful to people offering me water or the occasional place to sleep. I liked cycling 30 kilometers through a national park as it was finally silent. If you mean my favorite part as in region: Nanded, a city below the heart of India. This is a Sikh pilgrimage town where I stayed in a kind of ashram alike lodging. The stalls outside had simple tasty paratha’s (fried flat dough) and excellent chai (tea with milk and spices) which I could drink without being stared at. In fact, I could sit outside and be unseen, enjoying cup after cup, a rarity in India when you are a solo female cyclist!
Question 3: Oh boy, oh boy, the male attention in India can be a bit too much. When I was there, cycling at 17500 feet, I sometimes camped inside guest houses. Did you ever experience any problems inside a guest house. What sorts of things did you do to make sure nobody came in?
I avoided camping since a few raping/killings happened recently amongst cycling tourists. I was on my wits. I have enough experience with ‘different-thinking’ Indian men (I have been over 15 times to India and had to fight off a few). Funny thing is, not one man even touched as much as my arm. I think I show strength and confidence together with my bicycle. Perhaps men think that a woman on her own is not to mess with, ‘she must be strong, and crazy!’ Yet, sometimes I barricaded the door with the bed, or would not react to knockings on my door. On the other hand, I was often refused a room and had to be assisted by police to get a room. That way I had a kind of protection. Maybe my stern approach to men might have avoided unwanted attention or encouragement. The downside of cycling alone as a woman is that you need to be less friendly and less smiling than you usually would, to avoid boosting man’s thoughts.
Question 8: I know you have cycled solo as well as with a partner, what are the main differences?
Overall, cycling with a partner feels safe. However a contradiction that might seem because on my own I never felt in danger. But on my own there is always the nagging knowledge that I am vulnerable. Generally, men don’t ‘ask’ me for sex anymore (an exception was in Iran where I cycled for 7 weeks, whereof 2 weeks with a man, where I was still sexually harassed almost each day). Cycling with a partner makes it half as hard, as tasks are divided. Naturally, with a partner, unwanted attention is hugely reduced. Camping stealthily is now completely free from any worries. With my partner on my side I feel I am reduced to the ‘lesser important/respectable wife’, which is actually a great relieve.
A short part in Africa I formed a group of 4 which was very nice but usually cycling with somebody else had always been troublesome. It would result in a heavily disturbed balance on my side and so I decided: never cycling with a man again.