A 14-year, 90,000-kilometer bike ride just to get here

  • Aug. 28, 2015 6:00 a.m.

By Evelyn von AlmassyHaida Gwaii ObserverWhen Mirjam (pronounced Miriam) Wouters left Holland at the age of 21, she did not have a driver’s license. Her family had no need of a car, as the Netherlands has an excellent infrastructure for bicycles. Her first trip was to Morocco on her first bike in 2003. She has travelled 90,000 kilometers since then over a 14 year time period-that’s the equivalent of roughly two laps around the planet, or one quarter the way to the moon.She is now 35 years old and will be spending the next few weeks on Haida Gwaii. Ms. Wouters has had various interesting jobs during her travels. She worked on big farms in Western Australia, driving big tractors, and this in spite of never having driven a car. She took her driving test while there, and although she hit a tree, she passed the test. She also worked in an iron ore mine for five months at Mullewa. She spent a total of three and a half years in Australia: “The space you have there!”When the Observer first met up with Ms. Wouters she had just left Harbour Day in Masset, and was on her way to Port Clements to stay with a new friend that she had met on the ferry. She bicycles about 100 kilometers a day when she is doing long-distance traveling, though on the ice road from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik, she made a 133-kilometer day with her studded tires. A Dutch company, Multicycle, gifted her with her first bike, while she was in Indonesia in 2009. The company contacted her and she returned to the Netherlands to pick it up. She gave up her old bike to a family she had stayed with in Bali. She received her second bike from them in 201, which is her seventh bike.When asked the obvious question of what her favourite place was to travel, the response wasn’t so obvious.”My favourite place is usually the last place I’ve been.” Ms. Wouters has had many memorable adventures, but one that stands out involves a giant wolverine running towards her on the road, in Northern B.C. (there are photos of it on her website) and being bit by a multi-coloured centipede in Australia.For someone who has traveled 90,000 kilometers on roads, she is not content with smooth pavement. “A really good road means it’s boring.” She prefers a bit of a challenge in her travels.She has also seen the rarest bird in the world in New Zealand. There are only 125 of the nocturnal kakapo, classified as “critically endangered,” and is the world’s only flightless parrot. As of 2012, the surviving kakapo are kept on three predator-free islands in the country. “These encounters are very special,” she says. Ms. Wouters has been invited into classrooms from India, Indonesia, to New Zealand, as she talks with students about her life. She has a positive outlook on her travels; when she looks back on her experiences so far she feels good about everything.”The way you think and act is what you experience.” She also points out that “it makes you see what you don’t want to be.” Ms. Wouters’ Canadian visa runs out in November, and she’ll probably head south to Mexico and Central America. “I am just living on my bike. My tent is my house.” The weight of her gear depends on how much food and water she has to carry. The high-end Swedish Hilleberg Tent Company has just offered a tent to Ms.Wouters, which is a real coup; they came to her, rather than she to them. Check out her blog and other traveling stories on www.cyclingdutchgirl.com

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