Interview – solo female cyclist
Mirjam Wouters – Cyclingdutchgirl
Born somewhere in the Netherlands on a sunny Sunday in December, a few decades ago. She has spent 13 long years on the road and cycled close to 60 countries so far. Mirjam doesn’t really count km’s but if she had to guess, it will be about 70.000 km.
I like beer and coffee. I have rolled into a life on the road. It wasn’t a consious decision I made back then. But it is now to keep going. I like being self-sufficient and move along on my own power. That it is on a bicycle is not because I’m crazy about sports…it’s all about transport.
1. What do you like most about cycle touring?
The Freedom. It is an addiction and many people (including yourself) will know what I’m talking about.
It even has a name: “Eleutheromania” 😉
2. I guess there are also times when you hate what you are doing. In which situations do you get to this point? And how do you cheer yourself up again?
Actually not. There has never yet been a time I hate what I’m doing… I do have days that I’m not feeling as wonderful as others.
But I only have to think about how fortunate and lucky I am to be able to live the life I choose to put a smile on my face.
The good thing about being free is, if you don’t like something, or somewhere, you can change it 🙂
3. You are in Iceland at the moment. You spent half of the winter there. This is amazing! Can you please tell us a bit about it?
Thanks, I was originally planning to be in Russia. But I could not get the visa I was after so I came here. It is lovely! Magnificent scenery and awesome hospitality. Because it’s winter people think I’m a little mad. But I’ve made some wonderful friends and the weather is only bad when you label it as such. It doesn’t get too cold. You just have to prepare to be slow (that is not at all a problem for me).
Always bring spare food in case you get snowed in. Keep checking the weather forecast. The most spectacular thing is seeing the Northern lights from my tent. I absolutely love them! I’ve been very lucky in that regard.
The only downside is that many roads are closed in winter… Oh, and the wind can get pretty servere.
4. Countries, people, landscapes, cultures….the world is very diverse. In which environment are you most happy?
I love big skies and open spaces. The feeling of being a tiny speck in a huge big world. I love mountains too.
But I’m happy pretty much anywhere as long as it doesn’t rain. I don’t like rain.
5. Please tell us your funniest travel story.
Whoa, that’s difficult! I don’t know if there’s one story I would class as ‘funniest’. But I love meeting and talking to people, it can lead to some funny situations…
I could be talking to a new person one moment, and the next moment I’m;
- Dancing on a Turkman-wedding in traditional dress
- Hiking a pilgrim-route with Tibettan pilgrims
- Sleeping in a brothel while the room you sleep in is actually used by a prostitute… At the same time!
(I was wondering if I should’ve been taken pics here, I know people pay lots of money to see this kind of stuff)
- Flying in a helicopter to a remote little island to go and catch (for medical examination) one of the rarest birds in the world,
6. What would you say was the craziest thing you have ever done in your entire time on the road?
Depends how you define ‘crazy’. I guess some people would find cycling across one country pretty crazy. (Specially if that country is, for example, 4000km wide and you avoid paved roads…)
Or building an Igloo and sleeping in it under the Northern lights. I don’t call that crazy though. It made perfect sense to me.
One time I left my bike for 4 months outside a hostel in Kathmandu and bought a motorbike in India. To ride around there for a while. That motorbike might still be sitting outside a guesthouse in Pokhara… Then again, it might not.
Or saying; “yes!” To people I only just met to leave my bike and take a trip into Australia’s most remote desert. Some might call that crazy. But hey, you’ve got to live a little!
Also being in the wrong season might be considered crazy. I just call it a lack of planning…
I cycled through Iran mid-summer and Tibet mid-winter. I rode in the monsoon in India and in Laos and I spend sweltering hot & humid summer in Japan.
And now, obviously, I’m in Iceland 🙂
7. What was the biggest disaster?
Running out of coffee on more than one occasion.
8. You spent a lot of time cycling through the desert of Australia. For a lot of people this sounds pretty boring. Can you explain what you got out of it?
Not boring at all! I only get bored if I have to stick to some highway somewhere with lots of traffic, ugh!
But the Australian desert is full of life and one of the most beautiful places in the world (in my opinion). You see little critters every day, lizards, snakes, emu’s, camels, kangaroo’s, dingo’s, spiders, flies, ants… (those last two are not my favourite) And wild flowers. Every place you put your tent is a perfect camp spot and with no light pollution you have the most awesome night skies!
9. Do you like cooking ? What do you cook while somewhere remote? What cooking gear do you use? Any recipes for us?
I hate cooking with a passion. I live on a healthy diet of instant noodles and multivitamins… No, it’s not (always) that bad…
If I don’t need to cook I won’t. If I do have to cook I usually make pasta with tuna & cheese. Sometimes just pasta with tuna,
sometimes just pasta…
I do have a wonderful recipe of my self-invented Eyafjallajokull-mash potato. You find it on vimeo.
10. What does a perfect cycling day look like for you?
Every day out there is a perfect cycling day! I prefer no rain. But either way, it still beats sitting in an office 😉
11. For the future. What are you planning to do next?
Every time I plan something it does not work out. But I’ve decided to stay in Iceland a few more months before making my way across to the America’s.
Have a look on Mirjam’s interesting website www.cyclingdutchgirl.com to read more about her great adventures.