Contributors: Iris Joschko and Zuri
Cycling round a beautiful country full of rolling hills, shimmering lochs, dramatic mountain ranges and breath-taking views all with your best friend – my dog Zuri. The most beautiful way to travel and truly embrace a country and its unique people.
As travelling companions, Zuri and I could not be more different. Whilst I am shy, reserved and describe myself as an introvert, she is the exact opposite. Bounding over to strangers wagging her tail, she has a wonderful ability to capture the heart of anyone she encounters. Her wolfish smile and big brown eyes could melt even the coldest of hearts and I challenge anyone to not fall in love with her pure dog soul.
We made a great team travelling through Eastern Europe in 2019. Zuri has magical way of opening doors and ensuring everything slots into place – something very much appreciated when cycling in unknown areas. For our UK adventure I hoped it would be much the same, but the consequences of the pandemic were never far from my mind. Would strangers turn their backs on us? Would cafes and restaurants be open? Would there be places to stay? We were about to find out.
It was my curiosity that had brought us to Scotland. I had heard the tales of the stunning mountain ranges and wanted to separate the myth from reality. But here’s the secret, its’s all reality. Even on those rainy days the scenery was breathtaking. Dramatic, rugged mountains, vast unspoilt coastlines, crystal clear rivers, shimmering lochs and charming little villages. The beauty of cycling makes for a slower pace and a chance to truly absorb and breathe in the landscape; the only way to fully experience the Scottish beauty. With a fully charged battery (6A quick charger from Bosch 500W charges in 3 hours) my e-bike with dog trailer covers 40-70km depending on terrain. In our 5-week adventure we had covered 2300km!
By only planning a rough route we relied on the world, our intuition and Zuri’s gift for attracting human kindness. Flashing her wolfish smile and wagging her tail Zuri charms her way into people’s hearts, often resulting in good food, warm showers and a comfy bed and for Zuri lots of massages! This proved helpful as most nights it was just Zuri and I wrapped under the vast blanket of the night sky.
The journey came with its challenges, many restaurants were forced to shut through COVID and those open often had a ‘no-dog’ policy. As a recent vegan I was shocked to discover the lack of options as even the ‘safe’ fries were cooked in beef fat. Zuri did not have this problem, instead relishing in the local food I purchased and gifts from friendly strangers (freshly roasted chickens!) once the 2-4kg of dry food I started the journey with had ran out.
The people I met by chance (or Zuri magic) in the year of COVID added an extra layer of kindness to my trip and were the only chance we got to not sleep in the wilderness and enjoy some modern civilization. The ability to take a hot shower, do my laundry, enjoy a warm fire and to fully charge all my electrical appliances has never been more welcome when you are battling the Scottish elements.
Both Scotland and England have so much to offer. Besides all these amazing and beautiful people living there, I dived into incredible spots of natural beauty and stunning landscapes. It is not hard to see why for so many people, Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world.
Zuri and I dipped into so many lives, heard so many stories but the common connection we both saw was kindness. Coronavirus, with its contrast of both overcrowded and closed restaurants, no campsites made cycling much more difficult. Yet this in no way diminished the compassion, hospitality, and generosity of the people. We were welcomed as friends everywhere. Far too often people are absorbed through work and everyday life, I found through what Zuri and I were doing, people were encouraged to get back in touch with their own dreams and desires.
These same people questioned how I have the confidence to travel alone as a woman. I always respond, travelling with my best friend I can never be alone.