A retired Rossland doctor has completed the bicycle trip of a lifetime, cycling the length of the ancient “Silk Road” from China to Turkey.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion and yelled ‘Yahoo!’ repeatedly at the top of my lungs,” says Brenda Trenholme of her 13,000-kilometre tour. “We all hugged and posed for photos by the sea.”
Trenholme, who turned 64 on the trip, started the journey with 20 other cyclists in May, though only 10 completed the trek. The marathon tour had her essentially circling half the globe, going through countries like Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, across frozen plains and the world’s highest mountain ranges.
“My first three weeks were tough, fighting a series of illnesses triggered by the pollution in China,” she told the Rossland News via email, a few days after her arrival in Instanbul. “After I recovered, I suffered no more issues, got stronger and felt great right to the end.”
Trenholme says the hardest part of the trip was dealing with the “insane” headwinds in Mongolia. But otherwise, it was filled with adventure — a mix of excitement and occassional terror.
“The exhilarating panoramic views at 15,000 feet and descents along the Pamir Highway, standing in front of the ancient Registan in Samarkand lit up at night,” she says of some of the greatest moments.
“[Then there was] the sobering terrorist attack two days’ ride ahead of us in Tajikistan that killed five cyclists, the endless packs of dogs in Turkey, the handful of creepy guys in various countries along the way.”
But Trenholme says she gained a new appreciation for the culture, geography and history of a part of the world few Westerners know about.
“I was smitten by both the natural beauty and modernity of Siberia, the nomadic lifestyle in the steppes of Mongolia and the ‘Stans,’ which persists today from ancient times,” she said. [Also by] “how sophisticated and huge ancient Asian cities were, how developed their arts and science and intellectual life, and stunningly beautiful their architecture while Europe floundered until after the Dark Ages.
“Perhaps my biggest realization was that the image painted by the media of places like Iran and Turkey as scary and full of religious fanatics is quite incorrect. In general, as travellers, we felt very safe, perhaps safer than in North America and almost all the people were kind and welcoming. Their mosques are as empty as our churches. There is real political and religious repression in many of these countries but the impact on travellers is wildly overstated.”
Trenholme and the rest of her biking group are planning to take a tour — by car — of a few of Turkey’s more celebrated historic sites, rest up a bit more, then head home to Rossland. When she returns, she’ll collect her photos and experiences into a presentation she’ll take on a tour of the area. The money she raises from that tour will go to help Kenyan children attend school through the Kenya Education Endowment Fund.
She hopes to raise about $20,000 for the fund.
But for now Trenholme is enjoying the thrill and feeling of accomplishment. But how do you top a road trip where you pushed yourself halfway around the planet?
“I’m not sure if there will be one,” she says of her next cycling adventure. “But maybe South America.”