London physiotherapist Rubina Soorty tells Cycling Weekly about her nine month journey to the Tour of Oman
Chris Froome is used to posing for photographs; even at the Tour of Oman he has been met by a surprising number of expatriate Brits waving Sky jerseys and photo postcards for him to sign.
One such expat at the end of the second stage in Oman was Rubina Soorty, a physiotherapist from London who had come to see the bike race in the tiny village of Quriyat.
It’s not unusual to cycle out to watch a bike race, but Rubina had ridden her bike to Oman from Northampton, having waved goodbye to her job and the daily grind in May of last year.
Her goal is to cycle around the world, travelling solely by bike and by boat.
Before she set off from Quriyat with a couple of Team Sky bidons (and a handful of caffeinated energy gels) from the Sky staff, and just as two members of her Omani host family appeared, she told CW about her 13,000km trip so far.
“My journey here has been: Northampton-London-Newhaven-Dieppe-Paris-Dijon-Switzerland-Lake Garda- Venice-Verona-Slovenia-Croatia-Montenegro-Bosnia-Serbia-Kosovo-Serbia-Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Iran-Sharjah-Dubai-Abu Dhabi-Oman.
“People keep inviting me into their houses for meals or to sleep. They see you as a girl on a bike as very vulnerable so there are a lot of people that just come out and show you support. I think on a bicycle is my favourite way to travel, people embrace it a bit more.
“I’m riding a Condor; I wanted a London-build bike. The handlebars are bespoke, but the frame was off the shelf. I bought the wing mirror because I felt I needed it after cycling through Istanbul. I went over the Bosphorus Bridge [Istanbul], which at the time I didn’t know was illegal for bikes.
“Iran gets a bad press for being a dangerous place but when you are actually there it’s been the most hospitable place I’ve been to. No-one will let you put your tent anywhere; they will make sure you come into their home and be safe in their home. The same is true for the Middle East as a whole; I think it is one of the kindest places I’ve been to.
“I was a physiotherapist in London. I was thinking that if I don’t go and do a challenge and see the places I want to see now, then when am I going to do it? This was my last opportunity for a bit of freedom, and I was getting a bit bored. I felt each month was indistinguishable from another and now each day is different.
“I thought I’d like to see the Tour of Oman because I might as well! I spent the previous night with an old man, his nine children and 13 grandchildren [see main photo]; we all slept in the same room. They had no idea that the Tour was going on, even though it was in their own village.
“Oman is amazing, I’ve only been here for a week but I’ve seen so many wonderful things. They’ve got all of the wadis [dry river beds] and rivers and lakes and just jump in to cool down.
“In Iran I was in -10*C and my hands got really cold. You don’t mind a flat tyre in the hot weather when your hands are functioning, but when it is cold you do get a bit annoyed with the world and sometimes question why you are actually doing it. But then you get to your destination and you get a buzz again.
“I think I’ll be back him in Northampton in a year and a half. My brother lives in Japan, which is my next target place. So I’m thinking boat to India hopefully, to Mumbai, then I might cycle from the around to Chennai and then possibly get a boat to Sri Lanka or go up through Nepal. Then I’ll work my way through Southeast Asia.
“Immigration laws now in India make it much more difficult to get on a cargo boat, and people don’t want to take their boats that way because of the piracy risk. There is one sailing boat I’ve heard of which might be going at the end of this week, so fingers crossed I’ll hear back from them.
“I hate electronics, but here a mobile phone is the most useful thing I carry. I sometimes use Couch Surfing or Warm Showers to arrange to meet up with a local person, and a phone makes it so much easier to meet up with them at the end of the day.
“I’ve read the Bible on a Kindle. I’m not religious but I thought when would I get the chance to read it? I’m now on Don Quixote, and before that was Jane Eyre. Often the people you stay with have so many questions or you want to learn about them and their community that there isn’t too much time to read.
“I miss family and friends. I do phone home once a week and they ask me when I’m coming home and I have to say that I don’t know when I’m coming home. That’s the hardest thing.
“I also miss breakfast cereal. The breakfast here is usually rice or bread, or sometimes curry.“
You can read more about Rubiana’s trip on her website.