Taking a great leap from the calm pastures of Wales into the picturesque valleys of the Alps, a Welsh woman starts a mission. In search for adventure and to prove her strength to herself, Emily Chappell has set out on her bike to ride around the world. As she cut through Wales, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and the rugged terrain of Iran, Chappell decided to enter Pakistan through Balochistan.
“I always admired people who would walk across Iceland and used to wonder how amazing it would be to do something like this,” says Chappell in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune. “When I thought about it, I realised that people going on these crazy adventures weren’t smarter or tougher than me and that’s when I decided to plan my journey.”
Although she has been cycling for years, Chappell got into serious biking five years ago and working in London as a bike messenger (also known as cycle couriers) helped build her stamina and sense of direction. “In the summer of 2010, I read a book by Alastair Humphreys who had ridden his bike across the world and it’s his story that inspired me to venture into this.”
After a year of planning and working four or five different jobs, Chappell saved up enough money and built up enough stamina to embark upon her journey. “When I first told people about my decision, I got a mixed bag of reactions — from ‘you are crazy’ to ‘wow’ that’s fabulous’, I heard it all,” she adds.
When she started out, Emily survived mostly on bread and cookies while journeying across the world. However, people have now started opening their homes and hearts to Chappell. “I was prepared to survive on minimal food but I’ve been very fortunate that the world is full of generous people who have taken care of me.”
Chappell had been tracking our local hero Moin Khan’s journey, whom she met while he was in Ankara, Turkey. Their instant friendship led to Khan inviting Chappell to stay with him and his family in Lahore.
A rough ride
While talking about her hardest and scariest moments in the last six months, Chappell says, “Bikers from across the world find Balochistan to be the most dangerous patch to bike through due to the fear of being kidnapped. I, however, decided to bike through Balochistan because it didn’t seem scarier than the passageway into Turkey.” She further adds, “Biking through a highway with moving trucks and cars flashing by is much scarier than the idea of being kidnapped.”
Once Chappell entered Lahore, she got a well-deserved breather, “I haven’t had a six-week off ever since I was 13. I am glad I have nothing to do for the next six weeks.”
After her stay in Pakistan, Chappell plans on cutting through the Karakoram Highway to China and then cutting across Asia and into North America. “I haven’t really planned out a concrete map; I take things as they come but I am super proud of myself for making it to Pakistan because I never thought I’d make it here,” says Chappell. “I feared I’d get bored or lose stamina a long time ago but I have made it this far and I feel a great sense of pride.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2012.