Author(s): Bronwen Wall
Louise was a small woman with a big heart. She knew virtually nothing about bicycles, except what really mattered, and so became a cycling legend without winning a single race. Instead Louise Sutherland planned her own route - one that was far longer and rougher than any Tour de France. She was the first person ever to cycle right across Brazil, through the Amazon Jungle. The day she arrived in Brazil in 1978, government officials told Louise that her plan was "Quite impossible!" The Trans-Amazon Highway, connecting one side of Brazil with the other, had just been bulldozed and passed through remote areas inhabited by "primitive" people and wild animals. The idea that this petite woman from New Zealand could ride a bicycle slap bang through the middle of such wilderness was "absolutely crazy". But Louise wasn't any ordinary cyclist. She had already pedalled through 50 countries and solidly believed in the best of human nature, especially in indigenous peoples - around the world she had found them to be the most hospitable. In fact, she was sceptical of modern civilisation. Travelling alone, her small stature and humble mode of transport presented no threat to anyone. And loneliness didn't worry her: "I was never lonely while I was cycling. I had my bicycle to talk to."