A retired Rossland doctor has embarked on a five-month bicycle journey across Asia.
Dr. Brenda Trenholme is biking 13,000 kilometres along the ancient Silk Road route to help raise money for the education of students in Kenya.
Trenholme, 64, started her epic journey in Beijing about two weeks ago with 20 other adventurers, bound for Istanbul, Turkey.
“I am enthralled with this whole experience, but it is definitely an enormous adjustment to arrive in a foreign country, jump on a bicycle and ride all day with people you’ve never met,” Trenholme emailed the Rossland News from Sonid Youqi, a town 500 km northwest of Beijing. “My body is quickly adjusting to the physical and mental demands of this type of travel.”
And it will be a demanding journey, circling half the globe, going through countries like Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, across frozen plains and the world’s highest mountain ranges. The tour ends in Turkey in October.
She’s already been surprised by the “astounding wealth” she’s seen during the tour through western China.
“With its attendant high standard of living, extensive public infrastructure, modern transportation and beautiful housing complexes… the economy is thriving,” she writes. “It is mind-boggling and opposite to the western propaganda stereotype to see the extent to which free enterprise is leading development here in this communist country.”
The one difficulty has been the “appalling” air pollution associated with the economic development.
But Trenholme is used to hardship on the road. In 2016, she took a grueling trip from Cairo, Egypt to South Africa, travelling thousands of miles through the heart of the continent. Trenholme is pairing her love of cycling with fundraising, working with the Kenya Education Endowment Fund, which gives scholarships to bright but impoverished children in Kenya so they can get a high school education. (You can find out more about KEEF at http://www.kenyaeducation.org )
Like her last trip, she hopes to raise about $20,000 for KEEF.
But first she has to get there. She’s now passing through an endless prairie landscape now, but that’s going to change.
“My next challenge is to survive cycling in the colder climate and rough terrain in the steppes of Mongolia and Siberia,” she says. “My biggest challenge always is to stay upright and healthy!”
It’s remarkable Trenholme is able to make the journey at all. After riding safely through Africa, she was involved in a serious bike accident here in B.C., breaking several bones and damaging internal organs. She spent several months in the hospital, but has made a full recovery. She downplays how her accident has affected her on this trip.
“I have only gratitude and feel extremely fortunate to be able to participate in this tour,” she says. “This negates the relatively minor discomfort I experience as a result of my injuries of 2016. It does however make me very cautious!”
The Silk Road is steeped in history — it’s the trade link between China, the Middle East and Europe. Trenholme is following the same path travelled by Marco Polo and the Mongols under Gengkis Khan. Home to dozens of peoples, languages and cultures, the adventure will take Trenholme to areas travelled by few westerners — at least, retired western women on bicycles.
“These tours satisfy many aspects of my quirky psyche: being extremely curious about the geography and cultures of the world, being an endurance sports enthusiast with a generous dose of aerobic potential, thriving on spending all day and night out of doors off of the beaten track,” explains Trenholme.
“Cycle touring lets you visit people and places without feeling like a voyeur, while getting to know the other riders. Best of all, I can then give slide shows of my rides and share my experiences with others in the interest of raising funds for KEEF.”
Her next stop is Mongolia.
To find out more about Trenholme’s adventure, visit her blog at https://brendasride2018.wordpress.com/.