My Top 10 Places in the World to Ride a Bike (so far)

With some forced downtime from travel due to Covid-19, I have had some time to reflect. I have cycled in 21 countries covering approximately 37,000km around this beautiful planet. While I have only been to maybe 10% of all countries, here is a list of my 10 favourite places I have ridden my bike. The order of least to most favourite changes often!

Where have I been on my bike?: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Canada, USA, Chile, Argentina, Greece, Nepal

These are routes that I cycled from 2011-2019 so obviously some of the information will not be up to date, but I hope it gives a decent overview. 


1. Mongolia (2015)

Why?: In my mind, Mongolia just may be one of the last frontiers for adventure travel. Wide open, vast and fenceless – it was a journey that for me, defined freedom. The landscape ranged from wide open steppe, pine forests, desert and mountains in the west. Being a nomadic country, the people are also incredibly welcoming and accustomed to travellers, because it is ingrained in the culture. I was often invited to stay with families in their gers (yurts). They fed me homemade noodles and suutei tsai (a milky, salty tea).  The country also has one of the lowest population densities on the planet. So, if you like space and remoteness – a trip across this amazing country is probably for you. 

Routes: I loved the ride from Tsetserleg to the North side of Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake and from Ulaangom to Ulgii

Camping: Without a doubt, one of the best places for wild camping. With not a whole lot of private land, you can pretty much pitch a tent anywhere. Sometimes, I asked to pitch my tent next to a ger, but I was often invited inside to stay with families as a result.

What bike?: The majority of Mongolia (in 2015 at least) was made up dirt roads and horse tracks. I had my Thorn Nomad mk2 with panniers and 2.15 inch tires. It did the job well. A mountain bike or a touring bike with a minimum of 2” tires will work. 

Dangers and annoyances: Unfortunately I have heard of more than a few women who have faced sexual harassment crossing Mongolia. Alcoholism is a big problem in some of the towns, and I generally wouldn’t hang around very long for this reason. I was groped by a drunk man on the outskirts of one town, but this was luckily the only incident. The families living in gers were amazing and I always felt very safe. Harassment can a real issue, however, so solo women should take this seriously and take necessary precautions. 

When to go: I travelled in Mongolia from early May until late June and I really enjoyed this time of year. It is still chilly, and snowed a few times, but the weather was pleasant overall and there were no mosquitoes! Travelling East to West, I often had strong headwind, which is common in spring. To see the rich green of the steppe and grasslands, summer is a better time to go. There is also the Nadaam cultural festival in July. Travelling outside of May to October you will likely have very cold weather and snow. Some brave souls have done the crossing in winter!

My Stories HERE


2. Australia (2016)

Why?: In many ways, the Australian landscape was like an alien planet for me. There are many plants and animals there that can be found nowhere else. It always exciting to be in such a foreign environment when you were already fairly well-travelled. The red dirt roads of the outback are the places to head for, if you don’t mind remoteness, carrying a ton of water (20 plus litres) and hoards of bush flies (luckily not the biting kind). Outback sunsets are truly unforgettable as is the feeling of absolute solitude. The bizarre and interesting wildlife sightings are always a highlight, such as kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, echidnas, wombats and thorny devils – the desert dwelling lizard that can collect water simply by touching it with any parts of its body. Australia is also much more than just desert – there is also stunning coastline and mountainous gum tree forests. 

Routes: The Great Central Road (dirt) from Laverton to Yulara and Uluru.  Mereenie Loop from Alice Springs (dirt and paved). Grand Ridge Road in Gippsland (dirt and paved), Barry Way in New South Wales to Victorian border (dirt and paved).

Camping: Very easy in the outback. On classic paved routes like the Great Ocean Road, it is much more difficult due to fences and private land. Wild animals generally are not a problem, though I would often keep my shoes inside of the tent due to snakes and spiders. 

What bike?: If sticking to the dirt roads, a tourer with 2” tires or bigger is recommend. The roads in the outback can be quite sandy and washboarded.

Dangers and Annoyances: The main issue will be traffic on the busier paved routes. I was warned about the road trains in the outback, but they were not as frequent as I expected on the Great Central Road. It is best to pull off and stop to let them pass and they will usually give you plenty of room anyways. Carrying a mirror is not a bad idea. There are obviously more than a few poisonous snakes, but they are often timid and with slither away. It never a good idea to wander through tall grass. because you may not see them!

When to go: Australian summer runs from November to March and can get crazy hot. Crossing the outback at this time is not recommended and is potentially dangerous, especially due to the lack of water. Tasmania would be fine this time of year. If crossing the outback, May to September would be ideal. I cycled in September, October and November when things were just starting to heat up. 

My stories HERE

3. Karakoram Highway, Pakistan (2015)

Why?: Pakistan, unfortunately is one of those countries that suffers from an image problem. Before 9/11, tourists flocked to the mountain paradise in the north that is the Karakoram Highway, a true marvel of engineering. As a solo woman, I was treated with non-stop kindness and respect. Locals were constantly trying to assure me that they were good people and would offer any help that I could possibly need. The Hunza Valley that the road passes through is absolutely spectacular and is rumoured to be an inspiration for “Shangri-La” in James Hilton’s “Lost Paradise” novel.  This road is unique because instead of climbing up and over high mountain passes, it sits low in the valley while giant mountains tower on all sides. On the way, you can hike to Mt. Rakaposhi Base Camp and see a spectacular glacial field. 

Route: The Karakoram Highway actually begins in the town of Tashkurgan in China. In 2015, no cycling was permitted from Tashkurgan in China to Sost in Pakistan via the Khunjerab Pass. The only way was by bus. From Sost, the Karakoram Highway officially ends in Islamabad, but I only cycled to Gilgit and took a bus to the city from there. 

Camping: I camped in some hostel backyards for a small fee, but never wild camped. It is generally not advised to wild camp, especially for a solo woman. 

What bike?: The Karakoram Highway is a paved road, so any bike will do. In 2015, I had heard that the road conditions worsened south of Gilgit, but I would say that a lot has changed since then.

Dangers and Annoyances: From Sost to Gilgit, I felt very safe and welcomed, even as a solo woman. I always covered my hair and wore long sleeves and pants. I was told by some in that part of the country that it wasn’t even necessary to cover my hair. I always did so out of respect. South of Gilgit, it is much more conservative and it is not recommended that women travel solo. Also, there were some security concerns at the time. I would strongly recommend taking a bus for the Gilgit-Islamabad section. 

When to go: May to October. I think spring or fall would be ideal. I was there in July and it was very hot in Gilgit and further south. 

My stories HERE


4. American West (2019)

Why?: As a teenager, I always dreamed of visiting the American West – especially the Southwestern desert with its spectacular red rocks and canyons. In 2019, I ended up following the newly created Wild West Bikepacking Route with some further detours into Utah. I passed through very interesting small towns and saw spectacular scenery. Even though the USA has a decently high population density, I cycled through large tracts of wilderness. Utah was an absolute highlight of my journey and is now one of my favourite places in the world. The American people were always friendly and kind. I didn’t pass through any town without someone coming to chat to me to give me their support or offer help if needed. 

Route: I followed the Wild West Route through Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona to the Mexican border. I also did some detours in Utah via Bears Ears Loop and Plateau Passage. 

Camping: Wild camping was very easy along the Wild West Route, as a lot of it is on public lands. It was notably more difficult in southern Idaho and northern Utah due to all the private land. Montana and Idaho in particular had a ton of free and well maintained state campgrounds.

What bike?: I used my trusty Thorn Nomad Mk2 with Schwalbe Marathon Extreme 2.25” tires (now discontinued). It worked well. I would recommend a fully rigid bike or hardtail with 2.2-2.5” tires. The ride is not technical, but there are plenty of very rough and rocky roads and ATV trails. I have not ridden a plus bike before, but the route creators mention  tires larger than 2.5” are not necessary for the route. Tubeless tires are also recommended for Arizona, but I used sealant in my tubes (added in Moab, Utah) and had no flats for the whole trip. 

Dangers and Annoyances: Montana and parts of Idaho are in grizzly bear country, so it is recommended to carry bear spray. There are also black bears in Utah and parts of Arizona. Never keep food in your tent and hang it high in a tree, especially in Montana and northern Idaho. There is very little traffic on the Wild West route. 

When to go?: I started in the Canadian Rockies in mid August and arrived at the Mexican border in early November. I found this to be perfect timing and had very little rain. It is a good idea to be out of Southern Idaho by late September before the snow comes. I had some very cold nights in Northern Utah in early October, one night at -10C in Soldier Summit. By this time of year, snow can return to the higher elevations in Utah. Starting the Southern Arizona section is unwise between May-early September and temperatures can exceed 100F.

My stories HERE


5. Indian Himalaya (2015)

Why?: Like the Karakoram Highway, the Manali to Leh highway is one of the most famous cycle touring routes in the world and rightfully so. It is epic and colourful mountain scenery at almost every turn. The Indian Himalayan region is also one of the strongholds for authentic Tibetan Buddhist culture. During China’s Cultural Revolution in the 60s and 70s, this part of Tibet was spared. While centuries old monasteries were destroyed in China’s Tibet during this time, many on the Indian side were spared. Another highlight (and massive challenge) for a cyclist is the crossing of the Taglang La pass at 5328m, the highest I have ever ridden on a bike.

I biked these routes with British round-the-world tandem team Marcus and Kirsty of I met them on the road in Amritsar.

Routes: Manali to Leh, Spiti Valley. Srinagar to Leh – taking the high road above Lamayuru is highly recommended. Check out Laura Stone’s Himalaya by Bike for route inspiration. 

Camping: On the Manali to Leh highway I did a combination of camping and stays in parachute tents. These tents are set up temporarily in the summer months. Here, you could order meals and snacks and sometimes sleep. I was travelling with a British couple whom I had met in Amritsar. I am not sure if it would be best for solo women to sleep in these tents because of the truckers passing through. In the Spiti Valley I mostly stayed in guesthouses which were plentiful and cheap. The same goes for the Kinnaur Valley region. On the Srinagar to Leh road in Kashmir,  camping is not recommended due to security concerns and military presence. 

What bike?: It is an ever-changing mix of smooth paved road, very rough “paved”  road and rough dirt. I think a sturdy touring bike is fine, with 1.75” tires or larger. Again, I had my Thorn Nomad with 2.15” Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires. 

Dangers and annoyances: 

Traffic: There is a fair bit of truck traffic on the Manali to Leh road. Think cliffhangers and hairpin turns. When a truck is coming, it is best to get out of the way. In India, “big is boss” – no one is yielding to pedestrians or cyclists, but it is the other way around. This can take some getting used. The Spiti Valley had very little traffic. 

Altitude: You will cross several passes over 5000m and acclimatization needs to be taken seriously. Know the symptoms of altitude sickness and do not ascend higher if you are not feeling well. 

Stomach sickness- India is unfortunately know to give travellers many stomach bugs – dysentry is a common one. I recommend carrying an electrolyte solution like ORS (oral rehydration sachets). Hard one to avoid.

When to go: Late June to late September for all routes. After this, the passes will be blocked with snow and the roads will close. 

My stories HERE


6. Carretera Austral, Chile (2013)

Why?: I have heard that in recent years, the experience of cycling this road has changed considerably. More and more of it is being paved and some have complained of “heavy” traffic. This is hard for me to imagine, because in 2013  I maybe saw a few cars per hour on most of the route.  I guess with its increasing popularity, it may be losing its charm. But in 2013, it was paradise. Lush forests, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls  and the odd estancia (ranch), the Carretera Austral was an amazing dirt road ride. It was rugged, lonely and remote. Built in the 1970s, it connected a number of remote communities in Chilean Patagonia that were previously only accessible by boat. I biked this route with my dear friends and world cyclists Marianne and Heidi of Danish World Ventures.

Route: The road runs 1240km from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. There are several ferry crossings along the way. 

Camping: Lots of wild camping opportunities and some paid campgrounds. My friends are I were invited in by locals on a few occasions . 

What bike?: Although the route is steadily being paved, there are still some significant dirt sections. In 2013, under 200km of the route was paved. I would recommend a sturdy touring bike or mountain bike with 1.75” tires minimum. I had my Thorn Nomad with 2.15” Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires. 

Dangerous and annoyances: I can’t really think of any.

When to go: Patagonian summer from November to March. I went in March, which seemed like an ideal time of year, because fall colours started to come out and there were fewer tourists. Be prepared for rain.

More photos HERE


7.  Friendship Highway, Tibet and Nepal (2011)

Why?: This was my first bike tour overseas, so it will always have strong sentimental value. This was a supported trip as it is not legal for foreigners to travel this road without a guide and driver. I remember seeing a photo of the piercing blue Yamdrok Lake in Tibet (shown in photo) in the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook. I then knew that I had to go to Tibet. I got to see the iconic Potala Palace where the Dalai Lama once lived, many beautiful monasteries and magnificent vistas of the Himalayas. There was also an exciting side trip to Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side (this may be closed off now). Sadly, the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) is heavily controlled, with several police checkpoints and locals living under constant surveillance. Encounters with the Tibetan people were very special and this is probably one of the most spectacular roads I have ever cycled. There is also a famous 4000m decent from the Tibetan plateau to the lowlands of Nepal, supposedly the world’s longest. 

I also met two of my dearest friends and world tourers Marianne and Heidi from Denmark on this trip. We met over Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, where I was in search of a group to ride this route to lower the cost of the mandatory support.  

Route: 1100km from Lhasa to Kathmandu. At the time, it wasn’t possible to cycle the route unsupported. 

Camping: A combination of wild camping and inexpensive guesthouses

What bike?: The road is paved, except for the side trip to Everest Base Camp, so you don’t need anything too rugged. I had a Trek 520 with 700X35C tires, which worked fine, except when it snowed after leaving Everest Base Camp!

Dangers and annoyances: High altitude. There are five passes over 5000m on this route. 

When to go: September to early November is a good time to avoid Monsoon season in Nepal. 

More photos HERE


8.  Pamirs, Tajikistan (2015)

Why?: A definite classic in the bike touring world. Spectacular mountains, remoteness and the wonderful hospitality of the Tajik people. These people eke out a harsh existence in an extreme environment. You get an an insight into a unique culture where mass tourism has not yet hit. In the summer months there will be many cyclists.

Routes: Dushanbe to Khorog and through the Wahkan corridor, which follows the border with Afghanistan, just across the Panj river. You traces the curves of the river through the narrow and deep valley, with views of the mountains. Travelling in the fall is especially colourful with the trees that dot the roadside. The remote Upper Wakhan Valley was a highlight. I also really wanted to ride the Zorkul route, but had to turn back due to sickness. I have heard this section was a highlight for some cyclists in the area. For an easier, paved option take the paved Pamir Highway from Khorog to Osh.

Camping: Wild camping is possible in this areas, with many options for local homestays along the way. I used this option when the weather turned colder in fall. Meals are often included in the price – in 2015, room and board was around $10 or less.

What bike?: A sturdy mountain or touring bike is recommended with at least 2” tires due to the rough roads that are a mix of dirt and paved.

Dangers and annoyances: In 2018, there was a brutal attack on four foreign cyclists in this area by the Islamic State. When I cycled there in 2015, I had heard about the risk of possible civil conflicts, but that it was generally a safe area for foreigners. The 2018, story was truly horrible to hear. The area had a somewhat heavy military presence when I was there, but I never felt unsafe. I was stopped at military checkpoints, but mainly for selfies with soldiers. I was asked the usual questions of the whereabouts of my husband and children (Tajikistan is a Muslim country) but I never felt threatened. I almost got bribed at one checkpoint, but I acted confident and nothing happened. 

High altitude is also a concern, as a large chunk of the route is over 4000m. Proper acclimatization is very important.

I had stomach issues on a few occasions. Like in India, this can be a tough one to avoid with the local food, which is normally of low quality.

When to go: This is definitely a summer route. Late June to early October is best. I got caught in a heavy snowstorm in late October tying to cross the Kyzyl-Art Pass into Kyrgyzstan and had to hitch a ride across the border. 

My stories HERE


9. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Canada Section (2019)

Why?: I have always travelled far and wide for my bike tours, never really taking the time to explore my own country. In 2019 I cycled from Canmore to the USA border via the Great Divide Route, where I connected with the newly formed Wild West Bikepacking Route. This section passes through a spectacular part of the rockies, with very low traffic. The Elk Lakes FSR and Flathead Valley road were two of the most spectacular and exciting roads I have ridden in North America. 

Route: The Canadian section of  route nows starts in Jasper and runs all the way to the USA border. In 2018, I biked the section from Hinton to Banff before I had to quit my planned Great Divide ride due to an injury. The majority of the route is off-road, following forestry roads and some non-technical single track. 

Camping: Lots of opportunities to wild camp, but this is bear country, so it is very important to take the necessary precautions. Around the Spray Lakes and Kananaskis area there are lots of paid campgrounds that are very busy in summer. I avoided these and chose to stealth camp instead near some MTB trails. There are a few free cabins to stay in in the Flathead Valley section. Due to the high concentration of grizzly bears in the area, I think this option is best.

What bike?: Touring bike or mountain bike with at least 2” tires. I had a hybrid bikepacking/touring set up and this worked well for me. I think packing light is the most important. 

Dangers and annoyances: Bears! Many of them. It is very important to not leave food in your tent. Hang your food at least 100m from your campsite and in a tree high off of the ground. It is highly recommended to carry bear spray. When riding occasional yell or make some kind of noise so that the bears are aware of your presence and you are less likely to surprise them, which could trigger a defence attack. I came across a grizzly bear with 2 cubs on a powerline trail. I got off my bike, backed away slowly and found another route around the bears. 

When to Go: In summer/early fall from late June to early October. Before and after these months the route can be covered in snow. 

My stories HERE

10. Myanmar (2016)

Why?: For years, this country was largely closed off to foreigners under the  rule of a military dictatorship. Biking through this country was an absolute joy, mainly due to its incredible people. I have never encountered so many smiles and so much enthusiasm from locals. Almost everyone seemed to be super excited to see me, all the time. There are some incredible sights to see, such as the temples of Bagan, but for more the highlights were getting off the beaten track and into the smaller villages. 

Routes: To be honest, a lot of the scenery in the country wasn’t particularly exciting except for the ride through mountainous Chin State. This was a particularly exciting ride because it was technically off limits to foreigners without a special permit and guide. I ended up sneaking my way in before eventually being politely escorted out (after an invitation to spend the night and have dinner with a local politician and his family). Story here.

 Chin state was definitely was of the most off the beaten track places I have ever travelled, where few foreigners have gone. 

Camping: Wild camping is illegal in Myanmar, but I ended up stealth camping a few times. Foreigners (in 2015) were only supposed to stay in hotels. I ended up in the home of a local once, where the police seemed to turn a blind eye. Some cyclists stayed at monasteries. This is trickier for solo women, who are not permitted to stay with the monks. I did hear reports of some finding nunneries to stay at. 

What bike?: Most bikes will be fine, other than a road bike. The roads in Chin State were very rough, so 2” tires are recommended. There are quite a few paved roads in the country. 

Dangers and annoyances: Landslides in Chin State during the rainy season. Other than that, I can’t think of any!

When to go: December to February is the dry season and the cooler time of year. I was there in March and found it to be pleasant in the mountains, but unbearably hot in the lowlands. 

My stories  HERE


Where I want to go next…

-Peru’s Great Divide 

-Puna of Argentina and Chile

-Namibia (I haven’t been anywhere in Africa before)

-Georgia (country, not the US state)

-Great Divide USA (I loved cycling across the USA so much that I would probably do it a second time!)

-Baja Divide, Mexico



Australia’s Summer Plant: The toughest thing I have ever done

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Taking a break in the intense heat. Photo by Sarah Dilley

Trapped in a suit of my own sweat, I scan the tree line, looking for an escape. My body is dragging, sinking towards the earth and I start to panic. My breathing has become desperate and laboured. In the extreme heat and humidity I feel like I am locked in closet full of bulky coats collapsing in on me. The sun is a hellish cyclops staring down at us, unblinking.

I trudge slowly through the tall grass, three calculated steps at a time, before I plunge my spade into the parched soil. I reach for the tray attached to my left hip and pull out a lone pine tree seedling. I bend over, slide it down the blade, kick the hole closed and do all of this again – almost 2000 times per day.

I am walking through a clearcut – a gaping hole in the lush gum tree forest that surrounds. Rolling green hills tower above – powerful and imposing. A thick mist starts to spill over top, like a  science lab beaker billowing steam.  Here in far North Queensland, Australia it is the summer and the wet season.  When the rain comes, it is sudden and furious. We crave it like a drug, desperate for a hit. It is our only reprieve out here while we create handmade plantations. When the dark grey clouds approach, all eyes turn to the sky, hopeful. Then, we feel that first drop and all senses become heightened. Suddenly, the skies open up and the rain falls heavily, gradually building in intensity. Over the deafening sound I can hear one of my co-workers let out a primal yell. Others echo him, like a pack of wolves. We hold onto these precious minutes before the shower dissipates and we once again become prisoners of the sun. Life out here is intense, hard fought. This is summer tree planting in Australia – the toughest thing I ever done.

I am no stranger to tree planting. I have worked in the Canadian forestry industry for 10 years and spent six seasons as a treeplanter. It is a production job – meaning you are paid a set rate per tree that you plant. I have made anywhere from 6 to 28 cents per tree, planting anywhere from 1500-5000 per day. I started planting in Australia in the winter season from May to August in 2016 to help fund my future bicycle travels. Despite a four year gap between my last contract in Canada and the current one, it was a success. After five weeks cycling in New Zealand I decided to try Australia’s summer planting contract. I had heard many stories from past planters that made me apprehensive, to say the least. This ranged from the entire crew suffering from foot rot with the constant rain to staph infections that required hospitalization. And of course, the heat and humidity which became unbearable after 10am. I also knew that I didn’t perform so well in the heat myself. I was nervous, but I figured that I would eventually adapt.

The crew begins to arrive at our accommodation in Lucinda, Australia. I have driven up with my foreman, Sarah from Brisbane – about 1500km south. We are a multinational group, with the majority from Germany and Canada. This includes two 10-year veteran planters from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. I hear that one of them has a personal record of 8000 trees in a single day.  I am also happy to see some familiar faces from the winter planting contract. It is a big, airy beach house. There is one unfortunate condition – we can’t swim in the ocean because it is box jellyfish season. We are also warned against walking along the beach because of saltwater crocodiles that have been seen occasionally in the area. A general rule for wild swimming in Queensland is not to jump into any body of water unless in has been determined to be croc-free. Of course, there are also deadly snakes and spiders. Out there though, this turned out to be the least of my concerns.

The heat seemed like it was inescapable even when I wasn’t working. Sometimes I would jump into a cold shower at night fully clothed just to be cool enough to fall asleep. Eating also became a struggle – all I wanted and craved was fruit, despite the fact that I was probably burning about 5000 calories per day.

Every day the weather attacks me like a sort of demonic force. Each day out on the “block” feels like a feat of survival. We begin work around 6am in attempt to maximize our production before the real heat sets in. Even at 6:30am I am already soaked in sweat. Every bit of my skin is covered and I wear a large straw hat to protect me from the oppressive sun. I am also donning two pairs of socks to stop the friction and prevent blisters, thus preventing a possible staph infection. I go full force in the morning, because it is the only chance I have to make money. Right around 10am, things start to deteriorate rapidly. The sun starts to come out and my body becomes weak and heavy. I feel like I am dragging chains. I start to feel nauseous. I am drinking electrolite sweetened water constantly, but my state continues to worsen. The heat becomes trapped in the tall grass that I push myself through. Every time I plunge forward into it I feel like I’m drowning. Now I am walking in slow motion and my spade feels limp in my hand. Then, I start to experience what I later realized was a bit of a panic attack. I am having trouble breathing. I can see a truck in the distance and start to walk in that direction as fast as I could. I get to my foreman, Sarah feeling scared and desperate. She tells me to get in and takes me to a creek where I lay still in the cool water and let it run over me for about 30 minutes, motionless. She gets me some more electrolites and slowly the life comes back into me. I eventually return to work.

I am not only one struggling. When the heat becomes too overbearing, I hide out  in the trees with a few of my workmates. We share fruit and salty snacks amongst each other. Our bodies slump lifelessly against the stifling bark of some small gum trees. Out there, I watch facial expressions twist and contort into pain as tired bodies toil like slaves in the noon day hell. Sometimes this turns into vomiting, sometimes tears emerge. But, they press on – motivated by the handsome pay check that we have all come here for.

One afternoon I took a break in one of the utes (Australian for truck) with the air conditioning blasting. Fifteen minutes later, my co-worker Gabe stumbles in. His lips are pale and he is coated in sweat, his eyes lifeless. Gabe has been a tree planter and crew leader for 10 years in Canada. When I watch him plant, he moves through the land like a well-tuned machine with barely a break between movements. Now, he sits in the front seat completely drained and in shock. “This is crazy,” he says, “I have never needed to take breaks like this… when I plant, I don’t stop. Never in my life have I had to do this.” He repeats these phrases several times over the next half an hour in frustration while trying to comprehend what is happening to his body.

On one of the hottest days we worked I walk past several of my co-workers on the ground slumped over from heat exhaustion. I take off my wide brimmed straw hat and start to fan them. Our tree runner Rhys stops by and dumps some water on their heads. At this point, I have forgotten that I am out there to make a wage – work has become secondary. I am here to help others survive. We are here for each other. It was a profound feeling to finish the day with and it was the most unforgettable of my time spent out there. We went to a fantastic swimming hole afterwards, which were plentiful in this part of Queensland. We waste no time, jumping in fully clothed, some with work boots still on. As soon as I hit the water, my body immediately forgets what it has just been through. The toils of the day are washed off and drift away with the gentle current. I stop and look around at the beauty around me. This elegant, pristine river closed in by a motherly embrace of eucalyptus trees. This is my Australia – a country that has made its way deep into my heart.

With these joyful moments that I have with my crew, it becomes apparent that we are all in this together and are there to support one another. On many days where anger and frustration started to take over, my wonderful foreman Sarah would pull up beside me in her ute. Her giant and warm smile immediately shattered those emotions that I had built up around me like a glass cage. And I was often given reminders by crew mates who were there to support me and remind me: hey, it’s just a job.

So, if you, the reader are looking for the ending of how I persevered, overcame adversity and finished the season, you may be disappointed to find out that I quit. I gave it everything I could – five weeks of it. It took a heavy took toll on me mentally and physically and I saw no improvement. I also had financial obligations that I wasn’t able to meet.

This was a very tough thing for me do – to realize that I had reached my limit. I have spent my entire working career outdoors in all four seasons in Canada. I have worked in every condition imaginable – even at the opposite extreme of -40 degrees celsius. For me, this was easier than working the summer in Far North Queensland with 38 degrees celsius and 80% humidity.

I believe that bravery doesn’t always come in the way of perseverance. Sometimes you have to embrace doubt and accept failure in order to come out stronger. But I don’t necessarily see this as failure. I learned a lot about myself out there and understood what it meant to reach my limits mentally and physically. Sometimes it is important to tap into that primal instinct to survive in extreme conditions – something that the modern world often shelters from us. And at the end of each day, planting trees in an Australian summer, a remarkable thing happened. The day’s hardships were quickly forgotten about and smiles emerged. We looked to each other and without words we acknowledged what we already knew.

We got through.

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The crew (minus myself) Photo By Sarah Dilley

Thank you to Sarah, Hutch, Rhys, Joe and all of my incredible crew members for being so supportive and such awesome human beings.

On Solitude


Mongolia. A land so vast, empty and silent. Where earth joins sky in a endless horizon. Where the only sound to disturb my thoughts is the rhythm of my breathing against the crunching of my tires through forged tracks of sand. These wavering lines stretch endlessly in front of me, swerving in unknown directions towards an indefinite goal lost in the steppe.

It is a cold morning in May and I am loading the last of my panniers onto the bike before continuing towards the salt lake of Khyargas Nuur. The early morning sun starts to reveal itself, creating a play of shadows and colour across the landscape. It will be three days before I see any real human settlement. My main company are a large heard of goats and sheep strewn across the steppe. The odd time I encounter local men in traditional robes on horseback or motorbikes, who stop for a brief chat that is mainly carried out through hand gestures. Riding a bicycle through Mongolia can be a lonely existence. But this feeling of loneliness is not detrimental to my state of mind. Instead, I feel a powerful and spiritual connection to the land. With so much silence and so much space, it allows for a pure, uncluttered mind.

I am often asked why I have made the decision to cycle solo. When you are solo, I believe that travel becomes more challenging, more raw, more real. Without someone by your side to provide a sense of familiarity you are forced to give yourself 100% to the the unknown. In this way, I believe that deeper connections are made with the local people, even without a common language. But one of the biggest myths of female solo travel is that is simply isn’t safe.

In many places of the world, a solo female is often seen as vulnerable and this way more people want to be there to shelter and protect you. In Mongolia I was often invited into yurts because the locals feared that my tent and my clothing wouldn’t be warm enough. In Pakistan I was taken into a family home as a stranger and within minutes I became a “daughter.” And in Tajikistan I was fed and given endless cups of tea to comfort on a cold night. For me, safety was never a large concern with my decision to travel alone. On the road, I have encountered a much more powerful demon – loneliness. Not the elevated kind that I experienced in Mongolia. Sometimes you meet people on the road that you develop strong connections with. These encounters are fleeting, leaving you satisfied or creating a longing that you hadn’t felt before. It is then that I start to feel real, unwanted loneliness.

I can remember one beautiful, crisp day riding the rough sandy road of the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan. I was tracing the outline of the Pyanj river and on the other side was Afghanistan and the towering, spectacular Hindu Kush. For me, this was adventure cycling at its best – it had everything that I wanted to experience. But my mind was as far away from the present as it could possibly be. I had met someone months ago, when I had least expected it. When I was reminded of the beauty and warmth of companionship, I suddenly struggled to be alone. It really started to hit me in Tajikistan – and I loved and hated him for it.

That night, in a low state of mind, I started to search for a homestay or a place to pitch my tent. I pushed my bike down a small dirt track and saw a woman standing outside a square block Tajik style home. I approached her, making the gesture for “tent”. With a warm smile, she beckoned me into her home and pointed to a room where I could stay. After unloading my stuff she took me into the main living room and sat me down on a mat in front of a table. She then took off her jacket, put it over my shoulders and propped up some pillows behind my back. Next came bread, butter and a pot of steaming hot green tea. Even though we couldn’t communicate through words, there was something deeper. This woman brought me more comfort than she will probably ever know.

While I didn’t speak Russian, she continued to talk to me as if I were fluent. For most of the night, she didn’t leave my side and I was warm and fed. Soon I met her husband and little boys. They put on some traditional Tajik music and started to casually dance. This was a family that had so little and was willing to give so much to a total stranger. Without a common language, it is difficult to make deep connections with someone, which leaves you longing for familiarity. But that night, in that little home in the Wakhan Valley, I was reminded of the beauty of travelling on my own. I temporarily felt like a part of that family as I gave as much of myself as I could to this new and strange world. At that moment, I no longer felt alone.

Loneliness is a being that lives inside all of us, suppressed by the noise around, waiting to be woken in the silence. When you give into this silence, immersed in your own thoughts, you really begin to discover your true self. For me, meditation is riding my bicycle along a deserted road through the mountains, through only space with not a soul in sight. I am happy, at peace. But then more serious thoughts begin to emerge – how long can I continue this life on my own? Will I ever meet another to share it with? These are questions that have no immediate answer. So I ride on, and let these thoughts temporarily escape from my mind, throwing themselves into wind that pushes my wheels forward.