Interview: Cycling in Muslim Countries

Heike asked me for an interview. As always, I am very interested in her sort of questionnaire. This time over, it turned out to be an awesome post. Heike put a lot of effort into this very informative, great read.


Gerry about slow cycling

Gerry, 58 years, from the Netherlands has been cycling since her 18th and covered about 35,000 kilometer worldwide.


The Big Women On Wheels Book


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.

Well, never say never ; ))