Meet the woman who cycled 7,000km across South America with no money
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British adventurer Laura Bingham recently returned from a 7,000km cycle through South America with no money. During this (super)human powered journey, she relied entirely on her own resourcefulness and the kindness of strangers. Laura endured months of cycling through South America, taking in countries including Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and even ventured into the Amazon jungle and across the Andes. The National Student spoke to Laura about her journey. How does it feel to be back? Are you settling in okay? It feels a bit surreal, like it never happened. I was in the car with my fiancé the other day and I was like “did I even leave?” Every now and then I get flashbacks and I’m like “oh yeah that happened...!” Is it a bit overwhelming having all these material possessions back and being able to eat all the food you want? The food yeah, I’ve cried quite a few times in supermarkets… We went to Waitrose and I picked up a bag of carrots and I started crying, then I picked up some yoghurts and started crying again… There’s so much food readily available at my fingertips and I don’t have to beg or work or try and find it! And the material possessions… I find myself accepting what is of today rather than thinking about it too much, like if it all got taken away tomorrow it would just be like “okay, that’s what life is today”, and if it all came back the next day it would be like “oh okay that’s what life has today”. It’s more like an accepting attitude of what today holds. Considering you were essentially begging for food, then, how varied was your diet? Because the carbohydrates are so cheap out there my diet consisted of rice throughout Ecuador and Peru and partly Bolivia, and then as I got to Paraguay it became more meats and pasta. And stale bread – I got a lot of stale bread from bakery’s, and occasionally we’d get some biscuits or some treats or some coca cola. I also had to kill a chicken… A truck hit it and broke its leg. So it was trying to clamber outside of the road with its one good leg, so I was like “well that’s dinner!” I’m not sure many of us would have the guts to do that... You often hear that it is the people who have the very least that offer the most, did you find this to be true in your experience? The people with the very least, the indigenous people, tended to be more nervous of strangers so they weren’t quite as approachable because of that nervousness towards outsiders. But the people who had little shops or slightly more than a mud hut were very open to new people and very open to getting involved. But there were a lot of people less economically well off, very poor people, who really tried to go out of their way.
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