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Photo of Ali Burke in southern Ecuador.
Photo courtesy of of Ali Burke

Breaking Away

For most of us, 27,000 km would be an unbearably long flight. Ali Burke is cycling that far

“Owning a bike has always been as essential as owning a pair of shoes,” says inveterate cyclist Ali Burke. And in April 2012, Burke (MSW 2009) began a two-year biking adventure: she and her partner, Glenn Rivison, quit their jobs to cycle from Anchorage, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina.

In July, the couple was in an alpine region of Ecuador, nearing Peru – roughly two-thirds of the way through their 27,000-kilometre journey. “Ecuador is the land of the mountains, and not a day of cycling has gone by here without a big climb, or two, or three,” says Burke, a social worker who is raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The journey has been filled with awe-inspiring moments, such as cycling along the Stewart Cassiar Highway in northern British Columbia – an almost 900-kilometre stretch of road with plenty of bears and scenic mountains. Perils have included the scorching temperatures of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, which rose above 40 degrees Celsius on most days. “My brain felt like it was melting,” she says. Burke marvels at how they’ve been treated by strangers along the way. She recalls a family stopping to give them directions in Honduras; several hours later, the father returned to take them to their home for the night. “I might spend the rest of my life paying forward people’s kindness,” says Burke, “but I am very OK with that.”

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