“You grow up in a cult,” says Juliana Buhring, “and everybody thinks there’s something wrong with you.” Buhring is not damaged—not emotionally, she wants me to know—from her childhood in the Family International, the controversial religious group that she described in her bestselling 2007 memoir, . Her knees are scabs over scabs, and her forearms carry the scars of not-so-old asphalt burns.
The bike wreck that caused them occurred two weeks ago, while she was descending wet pavement around a hairpin corner on Mount Vesuvius.
At that point, Buhring was still riding a hybrid touring bike, wearing workout clothes, and using flat pedals. But already she had some very big aspirations for how far and how fast her bike would take her—specifically, around the world in record time. On July 23, 2012, she loaded her bicycle—this time a carbon-fiber race model she called Pegasus, donated to her just a week earlier by a local bike shop—with a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, some cash, her German passport, and not much else, and she headed west.
Buhring pedaled roughly 150 miles per day, up the shin of Italy, through Cannes, and down Spain’s Rio Ebro, which drains the southern Pyrenees.
Buhring had been in an on-again, off-again long-distance relationship with Coetzee for eight years when he was killed and eaten by a crocodile while descending the Lukuga River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December 2010.
(That story, “Consumed,” appeared in the March 2011 issue of .) Buhring and Coetzee had met at the Rock Garden night club in Kampala, Uganda, in 2002, where Buhring also worked as a dancer.
She had a one-way ticket to visit him for New Year’s 2011.
They were finally going to give their relationship a go.She doesn’t set detailed itineraries so much as general vectors.On her global journey, she says, “I’d make a list of towns that I needed to go through, but mostly I’d follow the sun.” That was the idea for the next three days.“ It wasn’t until Buhring hit India in October that she had any problems.Leaving Calcutta, she slammed into a pedestrian who was darting through heavy traffic, leaving Buhring with nowhere to swerve. Then, near Balasore, a city on the Bay of Bengal, she finally got sick.The cycling along the Amalfi Coast might be world-class, but the food—Neapolitan pizza, cured ham, raw mozzarella, and a range of olive oils—exists in a heightened realm and apparently can’t be reproduced in the U. “I didn’t become a cyclist,” she said, correcting me.