Louise Sutherland

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Louise Juliet Sutherland QSM (11 June 1926 – 24 December 1994) was a New Zealand cyclist.


Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, she was the eldest of five sisters. At the age of 19, having grown-up with cycling as a primary means of transport, she moved to Oamaru Hospital to begin four years of nursing training. To visit her parents in Dunedin required a 7-hour, 100-kilometre ride;[1] this was the beginning of her taste for long-distance cycling adventures.

In 1945, the Otago Daily Times reported that Louise Sutherland had completed a 700 kilometres ride from Dunedin to Invercargill to visit an uncle and also cycled back, all at the beginning of a bitter Southland winter. By the age of 21, Louise Sutherland was enjoying regular cycling holidays, such as a 6-day ‘Mount Cook trip’.

In 1949, working as a nurse in London, Louise set off to cycle to Land's End, Cornwall. However, this journey was only the inspiration for a much bigger and longer trip through Europe and into India. All of this was done on a bike bought in a jumble sale for £2.10s.[2] Later she received bikes for her trips from Raleigh (1950s and 1960s) and then Peugeot (1970s).

In 1978, despite still knowing relatively little about bicycle mechanics, even how to fix a puncture, Louise Sutherland set out alone on a 4,400 km ride through the Amazon jungle. The self-planned trip was far rougher than any Tour de France, and something one Brazilian official publicly considered "Quite impossible!" especially considering that much of the Trans-Amazon Highway had only recently been completed. She was the first person to cycle the route and wrote a book about her trip, aptly titled, The Impossible Ride.

In her lifetime Louise Sutherland cycled over 60,000 kilometres through 54 countries. During her cycling travels and nursing career, Louise Sutherland demonstrated a belief in the best of human nature, especially of the indigenous peoples she met. She spent many years raising money for medical assistance for people living in the Amazon Rainforest and these efforts were officially recognised. In 1991 Louise Sutherland became the first foreigner to receive the Golden Fish Award for services to Brazil, and in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours she was awarded the Queen's Service Medal[3] for her efforts in raising aid for people in Peru and Brazil.

Louise Sutherland died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm on Christmas Eve, 1994 at the age of 68.


  1. ^ Wall, Bronwen (October 2010). Cycling Legends 6: Louise Sutherland - spinning the globe. Wellington: Kennett Brothers. ISBN 978-0-9864641-0-2.
  2. ^ http://cycleseven.org/louise-sutherland-around-the-world-before-i-was-born
  3. ^ "No. 53334". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1993. p. 39.

Andrew, Pat. Life with Louise. Dunedin: The Southern Cross Press, 1964.

Sutherland, Louise. I Follow the Wind. London: Southern Cross Press, 1962.

Sutherland, Louise. The Impossible Ride. London: Southern Cross Press, 1982.

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