Vale Krista Bernard: adventure cyclist dies

The AG Society’s 2000 Young Adventurer of the Year has died in northern NSW. She was a passionate cycle tourer.
By Stephenie Cahalan May 18, 2012 Reading Time: 3 Minutes Print this page

Krista Bernard, 1971-2012

A SPONTANEOUS DECISION TO join two friends cycling across the Nullarbor Plain in 1994 sparked a life-long passion for pedalling in Krista Bernard. Difficult terrain, isolation and rotten weather were no deterrents. However, spectacular views and vast nature were essential criteria when Krista planned the rides that led her across the globe. 

When Krista’ s love of freewheeling – under her own steam and in her own good time – led the 24 year-old to dream up a ride from Australia back to England, her friends were suitably impressed and utterly unsurprised. What ensued was an epic adventure covering more than three years, 19 countries and tens of thousands of kilometres through remote, extreme, sometimes hostile but always wildly beautiful parts of the world.

Starting in Indonesia in 1996, Krista’s ride took her through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand (twice), Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. When Krista’s much-loved bike was stolen in Egypt, physical and financial fatigue saw her board a plane for England.

Krista was a prolific writer; letters, articles and blogs always accompanied by her beautiful photographs and often adorned with her signature flourish. She received sponsorship for the ride from the Australian Geographic Society, and her adventures were chronicled in the Australian Geographic journal. On her return to Australia in 2000 she was named the Society’s Young Adventurer of the Year. It gave her quiet pleasure for her monumental efforts to be recognised.

In 2008, Krista joined her partner Daniel Coward and completed that unfinished ride, starting in London and working their way back across the globe to the Himalayas. This time raising funds for Rainforest Rescue, a forest conservation and climate change campaign organisation, Krista and Dan rode 15,000km via Turkey, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, all the way writing, photographing and sharing their incredible stories with a world of readers. In 2010, Krista and Dan did it all again in Sri Lanka with a team of novice riders, once again raising money for rainforest conservation.

Krista’s tales of epic endurance and determination were truly marvellous. Her stories told of near misses like being pelted with rocks by sweet-faced children, having her way blocked by suspicious men with linked arms, a five-day stint in an Iranian jail while she awaited trial for being in the company of non-familial men (the sentence for which would be 60 lashes), and the relentless hours spent fixing broken bike parts in downpours and dust. She also told of humbling, open-hearted hospitality from desperately poor villagers, an escort by tribal chiefs and blanket-clad henchmen on motorbikes through an unsafe region and the free night in a luxurious Indian hotel at the top of a particularly excruciating ascent. Her private audience with the Dalai Lama and participation in a 480km Peace Walk with Cambodian monks were among her favourite experiences.

If there was colour, sound and movement afoot, Krista was always in the midst of it. Her love of music, art, singing, dancing and yoga won her countless friends around the world, including Melbourne, northern New South Wales and Tasmania, where she lived between adventures. Her activism and devotion to environmental and social causes won her global respect. She helped finance her travels by working in advocacy organisations such as UK Greenpeace, Rainforest Rescue, Guide Dogs Australia or teaching yoga and writing.

Krista’s seemingly indomitable strength and determination helped her through the onset of depression that rivalled the toughest of headwinds in intensity and relentlessness. Her death in a northern New South Wales national park at the end of April was a blow to her devoted family and fiance. There’s some little comfort in the knowledge that her life ended among the peace and natural beauty of a protected place.

Krista is survived by her fiance Dan, father Clency, mother Mary, siblings Luc and Anna, and several nieces and nephews. Tributes continue to flow from friends and admirers across the world: London, India, Tasmania and an Antarctic station.

Krista and Dan’s cycling adventures can be seen at www.ridehimalaya.com.