Cycling through a Bosnian mine field. It’s my second day of cycling with Pablo and Ilze from thecrazytravel.com. Until now I’ve always cycled on my own. So as well as cycling through land mines, having other cyclists for company is a new experience for me too. Well into our ‘short cut’, along a narrow track of stones and rocks, we notice signs alerting us to the mine fields to each side of us. We have commited many miles already to our ‘short cut’ and so continue on. Having spent much of my life on bicycles for fun and for racing I know the possibility of falling down on such terrain is high. Especially on road bikes. I’m cycling with the same concentration as being in a track race, millimetres away from the other riders. But this time a mistake could result in death, not a broken bike or collar bone. Chat turns to our action plan should one of us fall and land on a mine. A conversation I never envisioned having in my life and one I do not wish a repeat of.
That night’s wild camping is ingrained in my memory for all the wrong reasons. Another experience in life I never envisioned having. Still in Herzegovina, we set up camp with 20 km to go until reaching the border of Croatia. From there we can continue through Montenegro, Albania, Greece and then on into Turkey. It is advised not to wild camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the undetonated land mines from the Bosnian war. We choose a small grassed area which we can tell is used by shepherds and their flocks becauseof all the animal poo. So we figure it must be safe.
Pushing our way into the field through the bushes, we are stabbed many times by thorns. Then are faced with horror as we realise the field is seething with mosquitos. The reality of being stabbed again so soon makes the possibility of leaving unattractive. We choose the action plan of putting on as many layers of clothing as possible and cooking dinner with nets over our heads. We look ridiculous and our sight is limited but are afforded some protection. Tonight we don’t eat together, the mosquitos are in charge and we retreat into our tents. Within seconds of getting into mine, an almighty panic begins to get the layers of clothing back off before I self combust. Dressing and undressing is quite a sight in a one man tent. Doing this at speed is a circus act.
It’s night time. I’m in tragic need of a wee. Tragic because I’m listening to the mosquitoes buzzing outside. This is not what I want to hear. I’m trying to ignore my desperation. I can last until morning. An intellectual argument with self ensues, “I can hold it, no you can’t, I can hold it, no you can’t”. I accept reality. I’m going to have to wee. I’m weighing up my options because I’m refusing to go outside to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes. There is a water bottle inside my tent. I’m looking at the size of the top of the bottle and I’m thinking, 50/50 chance on this being an epic fail. I decide to take the 50/50 chance over going outside with the mosquitoes. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have chosen the mosquitoes. Pablo and Ilze’s tent is next to mine. and they would hear me for sure. I call out, “Guys I’m going to pee in a bottle in my tent cause I’m not going outside”. It never once crossed my mind in my life that I would call this out. Not once. I flip my sleeping mat over to rest against the side of my tent. I get myself and my only light into position. Then I realise I need more light. So my iPad is pulled over, which is still at the page I had been reading on my kindle book. I imagine the possible conversation with the Apple store technician should I get this wrong. Myself, bottle, light and iPad are in position. I pause to pray then proceed. Damn it. Fail. I throw wet wipes down. Okay again. Concentrate Ishbel concentrate! Damn it. Fail. More wet wipes. I wonder if any other woman in the world is in this position just now. Again I’m weighing up my options. Then I’m past caring and I fail. I fail dramatically. Then I’m cleaning and I’m wondering how my life got to this point.
A day in the life of a girl cycling around the world.
As always thanks for being a part of the journey. WBG. xxx
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.