Anne Mustoe, ex headmistress turned cycling adventurer and writer, hadn’t been on a bike in thirty years when she decided that she wanted to cycle around the world. She was in India at the time on holiday and describes the inspiration which made her cycle around the world twice and undertake many other long trips: “In January 1983, I was taking a holiday in India to recover from the rigours of the long autumn term. Somewhere in Rajasthan I looked out of the bus window and saw a cyclist, a solitary European man, pedalling across the immensity of the Great Thar Desert. I was seized with sudden envy. I wanted to be out there myself on that road, on a bicycle, alone and free, feeling the reality of India, not gazing at it through a pane of glass.
LIFE BEGINS AT 54
Anne Mustoe was born in Nottingham, England in 1933. She read Classics at Cambridge and met her husband, Nelson Edwin Mustoe, QC, while working for him as a PA in London. They married in 1960; sadly he died in 1976. Anne finally became headmistress of a prestigious girl’s school and during this time that she decided that a cycling trip across India was her destiny. Anne said that she hadn’t been on a bike for thirty years, could not even mend a puncture, hated picnics and living rough, but the idea of the freedom of cycling grew in her mind, and her trip across India grew to a round the world trip. In 1987, Anne Mustoe was finally able to put her plan into action, and was given a Condor bicycle as a leaving present from the girls at her school. She took the bike to a shop in the Old Kent Road and had it customised with panniers, a leather saddle, a speedometer, 10 gears and two sets of brakes. Anne took this bike on all her cycling tours and together they clocked up over 100,000 miles, (160,000 km).
31ST MAY 1987
On 31st May 1987, Anne set off from St. Paul’s Cathedral for her West to East trip around the world. Her panniers were full of clothes, including a silk suit, dictionaries, maps, Horace’s Odes, Clinique makeup and lots of nail varnish, which Anne said was to hide the inevitable dirt under her finger nails. If it had been today, she would probably have found room for a reflective cycling vest and a reflective belt. Anne’s first book, ‘A Bike Ride: 12,000 Miles Around the World’ (1992), tells of this first adventure and is full of humour, wit and true indomitable British spirit. Anne’s love of history is obvious in all seven of her books. She made special cycling journeys to cover historical routes such as Che Guevara’s motorcycle road from Buenos Aires and the trail of the Ramayana, the Hindu epic poem. All of her trips are delightfully relived in her books and tell of floods, heat waves, robberies, blizzards and much more, but told by a woman who was not going to let anything get in her way of the enjoyment of her trips.
Anne Mustoe’s last cycling trip began in May 2009 and she sadly died while in Aleppo in the November. The cause of her death is still unknown but it was apparently a short illness which needed hospitalisation. At least she died doing what she loved, even though she was only 76.