Looking back over recent months, World Bike Girl, Ishbel Taromsari has come to realise that not only has she taken
an enormous risk, pushing herself well outside her comfort zone, by cycling thousands of kilometres alone, across
Europe and Turkey, she has also been on a personal journey of self discovery.
This experience has been amazing,” she says,
but it has been tough too. It’s changed my life.”
The ultimate feel-good story
While Ishbel’s heart-warming tale is one of compassion and humanity, it is also a test of physical
endurance for her and at times has been a steep learning curve.
This remarkable 34-year-old woman explains how it has already become a very different trip
from the one she originally envisaged, primarily because of one particular incident:
her meeting with the stray dog she now calls Lucy.
As Ishbel acknowledges, this continues to be a life changing experience for both of them
that will impact on both their futures.
A heart-warming story at the coldest time of year
Lucy is relaxing on the Çalış promenade next to the bike that now sports her smart carriage at the back.
Every now and then she stirs herself to greet a new friend.
Ishbel on the other hand, is sitting just a few metres away under a protective canvas awning, enjoying the
warming rays of the Turkish winter sun and tucking into a generous cooked breakfast.
Ishbel sipped her tea, as she related her fascinating story.
I was born in Manchester, UK but grew up in Scotland.
My mum is Scottish and my dad Iranian,
but when I was two we moved up to Stirling.
At five years old my parents split up my twin brother,
my younger brother, and I lived with our mum.”
Ishbel speaks with enthusiasm about her love of the outdoors, wild camping, hill walking and travelling.
When I left school I spent two years in Dublin, later studying holistic therapies.
I travelled some more after that but cycling, particularly road racing,
became my passion.”
Ishbel excelled at sprinting and began to compete at an international level.
But her love of travel meant that it was always to be a major part of her life.
The original plan
I tried to cycle around the world once before but was too scared”.
But Ishbel is strong and determined, so she eventually decided to have another go,
overcoming what she calls her ‘irrational’ fears.
Last summer, starting from the southern French city of Nice she passed through France, Switzerland,
Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Greece, before eventually arriving in Turkey.
At the end of the year she was cycling solo along the Çanakkale coast, near Biga,
when she had an unexpected meeting with a stray dog.
A surprise meeting
Lame and scared, the young dog tagged along with the cycling Ishbel.
The following morning she was still there and, concerned by how
far she had wandered from her town, Ishbel tried to take her back but was horrified
to see that wherever they were pack of stray dogs immediately attacked her.
The injury to her paw meant that she couldn’t run away and, as Ishbel explained,
She just rolled over and didn’t retaliate at all”.
She later learned that this, survival of the fittest, is often how groups of dogs treat
an injured animal.
To begin with Ishbel was scared of the dog packs but
after this had happened a couple of times, I spat my dummy and chased them away.
It was then realised I wasn’t scared at all!”
It was then that Ishbel took a momentous decision that she has never regretted.
I’d never looked after anything apart from myself until then …
but I knew something had to be done.”
Ever resourceful, Ishbel researched on the internet and found a place to take her.
However, that meant taking Lucy all the way to Marmaris.
Ishbel found a sturdy wooden box and attached it to the front of her bike, in which Lucy sat,
and continued her journey.
It was never going to be easy:
every time we heard a lorry coming she’d lie flat and wait for it to pass.
She was obviously scared.”
Their journey was more difficult that Ishbel had imagined.
By day four I was crying… after all I was cycling with a total of 18 stone.
It was tough and I was in pain, struggling with the extra weight.
All the time I was concentrating on protecting Lucy from vehicles and aggressive dogs.
I was taking the back roads when I could and they were tough.
Finally, 70 kilometres outside Izmir, on a steep hill, I realised I needed help,
so I posted a plea, a cry for help, on Facebook”.
Within hours it had gone viral, reaching 75,000 people.
A truck driver finally stopped and after Ishbel had persuaded him to let her put the bicycle and Lucy
in the back of the truck, they completed their journey to Izmir.
It was the middle of the night by the time they got there, so Ishbel, resourceful as ever, found a patch
of grass outside a petrol station, where she pitched her tent.
It wasn’t long before the press arrived: and at 3.30am she was giving an interview to the Turkish media.
British newspapers got involved too and the story took off around the world.
“Lucy must have a Guardian Angel!”
Following their incredible journey, Lucy and Ishbel have been given a fantastic and rather
majestic dog carriage that is now attached to the back of Ishbel’s bike.
I’m beginning to think that Lucy has a Guardian Angel.
She certainly seems to be getting everything she needs.
I am so happy for her.”
And it doesn’t stop there…
They have had some wonderful news
As a result of the huge interest in their story, Lucy has been offered a home in the UK.
A warm and loving temporary home is waiting for her with the Murfitt family,
who live near Sherwood Forest.
She also says:
These people at VoJo’s Hotel have been absolutely amazing.
When I first arrived, the weather was awful and if it wasn’t for
bumping into these guys I’d have ended up sleeping on the beach!”
But they did get some sad news too…
It seems that at some time in her past, Lucy was on the receiving end of something
Fethiye based vet, Serkan Tarım, recently gave Lucy a health check and x-rayed her,
to assess the injury that resulted in the loss of her paw.
While doing this he found another shocking injury:
Lucy’s body is peppered with 31 shotgun pellets.
Particularly during cold weather the metal pellets can cause her pain.
Ishbel had already noticed that something seemed wrong but until
the meeting with Serkan, she didn’t know what it was.
Lucy is now being kept extra cosy and hopefully pain-free
with a couple of customised woolly jumpers.
They will be staying in Çalış until March but, depending on the weather,
Ishbel hopes to be able to tour some of Turkey with Lucy.
Meanwhile she is continuing to use social media, this time to raise the
money for the costs involved in taking Lucy to the UK.
The best thing I did was to bring Lucy to Çalış.
She is now surrounded by warm, friendly people and has become
more trusting as a result.”
Lucy has just had all the inoculations she needs to travel to the UK,
so it’s now a case of waiting for the three months quarantine period to pass.
As Ishbel says, it is all about Lucy at the moment but she’s optimistic:
Things are still rather up in the air as far as I’m concerned
but they’re definitely going in the right direction for Lucy!”
To learn more
If you want to discover more about Ishbel and Lucy,
and support their continuing adventure, visit:
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