Laura Bingham: 7,000km cycle across South America, July 2016
What was the high point of your trip? When my sister joined me for a short while in Argentina. We’d been there for two days and a man stopped on the side of the road and began speaking to us. He told us how he’d cycled around Spain last year then offered us his place to stay that night. When we arrived at his home, his mum greeted us with open arms and fed us so much food that we ate like kings for the first time in months. The following day we met another cyclist who invited us to his home for lunch and made arrangements with his friend for us to stay a day later. After a generous lunch, we went to his friend’s place and were stopped in the local town by a man who gave us a large bag of oranges. He, too, offered a stay in his home … This level of generosity shocked me to my core. I think we forget how giving people can be and how a kind stranger can look after you without expecting anything in return. It’s funny how kindness and a warm smile can be the highlight of your day.
The low point? The moment that stands out was on day 16, just over two weeks in to my trip. I had been pushing my bike up the Ecuadorian Andes for four days; it was pouring with rain and I was extremely hungry. I had passed house after house of rejection: no one would help. Nothing. We reached a house and I fell to my knees in tears, begging the woman for help, even just her garden to put up my tent. She looked at me, looked at how desperate I was, the tears streaming from my face, and shook her finger. Nothing. I could do nothing and I felt like nothing. I dug deep to source any shred of energy or willpower to keep going.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to do a similar trip? If you’re planning a cycling trip, pack light. Very light. Weight will hold you back and you’ll be surprised by the amount of stuff you don’t need. Think practically and essentially. I would recommend Gore gloves and rain jacket as they are lightweight. I also loved my down jacket: it kept me warm and worked as a pillow too! Finally, it is important to keep positive. I was raising money for a charity called Operation South America and the thought of them got me through my darkest days. And download some motivational videos or podcasts. I liked to listen to Motivational Madness – it keeps you strong if you’re feeling low.
What was the high point of your trip? Stepping off the plane in Brazil. I had no money, no contacts, no solid plans and 7,000 miles of mystery and wonder ahead of me through lands I’d never set foot on. With so many of us on a quest for more stuff and more money, this is a perspective on Earth that few of us get to feel.