Four girls, 400 days and 16,000 kilometers on two tandems. Lidewij Ponjee, Carlijn Bettink, Sophie van Hoof and Monique van der Veeken Rode from Indonesia to Holland on two bright red tandem bikes to raise awareness for Women’s Rights around the world. This is their kickass story.
The idea for Ride for Women’s Rights (R4WR’s)
At the start of the trip the four girls were no strangers to each other as they have known each other since primary school going on regular trips and holidays together. They all graduated from University the same year and thought that would be the perfect moment to do ‘a different kind of trip’.
In on of their holiday trips together they realised that they themselves, being students in Holland, had all the possibilities and options for self development and study they wanted. “Women in many other countries don’t have these opportunities that we take so for granted in the Netherlands” they said.
The final inspirational push for their trip came when they attended a presentation by two guys who had cycled from Alaska to Patagonia to raise awareness for clean drinking water. “What about a cycling trip”, the girls thought.
They decided they wanted to raise awareness for women rights around the globe and – all found being very sporty – to add an active element to the trip. To make it even more adventurous they opted for two tandem bicycles and their trip was born.
Preparing for a 400 day tandem cycling trip
To prepare for their mammoth cycling expedition the girls went all out. They took up bicycle repair workshops in their local bicycle shop, had to save up a big chunk of money covering flights, food and accommodation expenses for over a year and they even took self-defence lessons.
The idea to ride two tandems was given in by a couple of factors:
“We chose the tandem bicycle because they are actually quite practical. If someone would get slighty injured or sick we could still keep on riding. A bit slower but it would enable us to keep moving. Also they are the ultimate teamwork bicycles as the front and back pedaller really have to work together. Last but not least was the fact that bikes like that are quite rare and therefore get a lot more attention. It would make us and the trips stand out as something really unique.”
After scouting the internet for suitable tandem bike the girls’ eye fell on two bright red models. They bought them of of the Dutch Ebay. Each tandem could only carry 30kg per tandem bicycle which meant a real struggle packing the right things. “We decided to basically only carry cycling gear and clothing. Each person only brought one normal (going out) outfit and we are all sharing toiletries to not double up on anything.”
The four best friends were very sure they wanted to make this trip. But before they finalised their plans they agreed upon a really important part of the trip: No boyfriends along the way!
“We all really wanted to make this trip. Key was that we stayed focused on the cycling and the women rights issues in the countries we visited. For that we could not get distracted by potential boyfriends. No one should get homesick so no boyfriends at home either the months before the trip. We all agreed to this and it has worked out wonderfully.”
The girls wouldn’t disclose if one-night stands were included in this deal……
Visiting female empowerment projects
All along their cycling trip the four BFF’s would visit female empowerment and pro-emancipation projects run by local non-profit organizations Plan International and Care International.
In these countries, the four will participate in local projects run by non-profit organizations Plan International and Care International, as well as hold low-key projects and events of their own. In Nepal, for instance, they plan to organize a girls-cycling tour as well as visit schools to chat to students and community members, taking in stories and the perspectives of the local residents
Starting in Jakarta
In September 2014 the four girls took off from Jakarta slowly pedalling their way towards the Netherlands passing 30 countries along the way.
The girls cycled around 80 km a day which, in the blistering Asia heat, seemed more than enough. But they persisted and slowly made their way from Indonesia to Singapore and Malaysia one pedal stroke at a time.
Sleeping in Police Offices and Fire Departments
Safety was a major concern for the girls so they came up with the brilliant idea to knock on the door of the local police station asking if they could stay there for the night. And it worked.
“When we arrived in a new town we would ride straight to the local police station. Each of them was very welcoming and let us sleep in an empty room. With our sleeping mats and sleeping bags this was a perfect solution. And it got easier along the way as each police station we stayed at wrote us a recommendation letter. And whenever there was no police station or so we would knock on the door of the local fire department.
All of them loved trying to ride the tandem bicycle themselves.”
The countries the girls were most interested in were Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as they had no idea what to expect there. Turkmenistan only issued them a five they transit visa so they had so speed through the country and unfortunately they did not have any time to dive into the local gender inequality issues.
When they entered Iran they had to start cycling while being completely covered up from tip till toe. This proved to be a bit cumbersome at first but along the way it became a normal daily habit.
Arrival in Holland
On the 31st of October 2015 the girls arrived at their destination: Amsterdam. They had covered 16,000 kilometers in just over 400 days!
This was one day after having reached their home town of Oudenbosch where they were given a grand reception by the press, family and friends.
A kickass trips girls. That’s some real girl power!
For more kickass Girl Power trips check our girl power travel gallery!