THE BIKE'S JOURNAL | A CYCLING STORY FROM THE NETHERLANDS TO INDONESIA

THE BIKE'S JOURNAL | A CYCLING STORY FROM THE NETHERLANDS TO INDONESIA

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No, I'm not a talker really. I've never have been one. You know, people don't really know my story and I'm fine with that. But, now that I'm spending most of my time waiting here in the garage I feel like maybe this is a good moment to share my story with you.

So yes, for once a bicycle this bicycle is a storyteller. And this is my journal. Let's see, where should I start. You see here...

Marlies and Diego have this plan to cycle from The Netherlands to Indonesia. Just like any other couple they have the urge to do something exciting. Very typical, right? So, they decide to see everything in between their home cities with bicycles. They have been saving for this journey for quite a while and they bought me and my orange friend completely brand new.

Well, actually Diego convinced Marlies to buy new bicycles so, they would know the history of it from zero. The truth is, Diego doesn't know how to build one. They both don't know anything about bicycles except for how to ride it. Well, at least Marlies knows that she always wanted an orange bike. and she got one. Despite their zero knowledge they have all the excitement in their blood, now that I can tell.

So, we start in the beginning of spring. It's me, my orange friend, Marlies and Diego from now on. The four of us with 15.000 km ahead. Here in in this meadow you see us somewhere in the second week.

While they have their breakfast With their matching outfits I can hear Marlies talking about a “strategic place to go”. That's what she does. But, man, it's too early for me. and I can tell from his look that Diego feels the same. -And this campsite is before Leipzig. -After Leipzig? -Before. -Oh, before Leipzig.

-But... actually, it's good, because let's say here is Leipzig and... ...ummm Dresden is a bit here. -(Marlies continues explaining.) -(Diego zones out.)

-(Marlies checks Diego if he really pays attention.) -(Diego totally zoned out.) (Marlies continues explaining.) -Under Leipzig? (Marlies continues explaining.) -(Diego acts as if he follows it by saying "Hmhmm".)

(Marlies continues explaining.) -Okay. So, we're going to camp? -Well, I thought it was a strategic place to go because it's a bit it's not fully in Leipzig but if we have a place to stay in Leipzig is also fine but we have to cycle more... but, yeah... it doesn't matter, let's just see if we can find something.

Diego seems to agree with the plan. So, off we go! -See you later! -Bye! -It's beautiful. It isn't birds anymore that wake us. It's frogs.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with frogs. I just cannot understand them, really. It sounds like, they're trying to sing something but in a frog way, you know. Frogs. Anyway the European breeze days are gone now.

Over here, our days begin early to make some kilometres before it gets too hot. Well, June in Turkey is hot, I'm telling you. And Marlies, she's not used to this heat. She burns easily. We have to find a place to cool us down.

You see how hot it is? Look at that fish it prefers to stay in the water. Even these cows are waiting in line to dip themselves in the lake as well. Marlies is ready. On to the next camp spot! -No! -What? -No, you didn't eat the whole thing! -I thought you didn't like it anymore. You want some? (Marlies cries.)

I thought you didn't want it anymore. I tell you what those are real tears right there. -No! (Marlies continues crying.) Man, I would cry too if I lost the last bite of my favorite chocolate bar especially after a tough day like today. -Sorry. -I'm already burned.

Oh, it was so delicious. -Why did you give it to me? -It was so delicious. My favourite wafer chocolate. I kept it for so long and I found it in my bag you ate the last part, like you could just take a small bite. So far, I've learned this: not a single day will pass without a little bit of cry a bit of sorry and a bit of smile.

By the end of the day the wind is still blowing the river is flowing and if we're lucky, A rainbow is showing. Different than most days when Marlies and Diego pick the spot to camp today you see that Mount Erciyes on the background? That mountain picks the spot for us. It is the mountain telling us where and when to stop, stay and camp. Our camp spot seems too good to be true.

It's a large field only for us with flat and fluffy grass. It is too fluffy, too good. Strange things will happen I suppose. And I'm right! For the first time of my life... I see a turtle running, like really fast. He runs towards our tent and he tucks his body under it.

Strange little turtle. [Marlies]Oh, we have to do something. Oh, no. It's really not practical.

And it's raining and we cannot do anything and the turtle is over there. (Diego laughs.) [Marlies] Oh, it's moving to this side, Diego! I don't like it. [Diego] Ya, I'll get it. (Diego laughs.) -Why he's not going to the other side? But then, later I realised that this strange little turtle tried to tell us something.

He wanted to say that 400 water buffalos are coming our way. [Marlies] Damn, Diego, I really don't like this. Are they coming really close? [Diego] No.

[Marlies] No? But, they're running? [Diego] Ya, they're curious. [Marlies] Oh, why we always have this? Man, it is exactly 400 buffalos. I counted it well. While Diego is having the time of his life Marlies she's already long gone. She ran to the hill behind our tent. She doesn't want to die, “not today,” she repeats.

Hassan the shepherd arrives eventually. Along with his horse and dogs. Since horses and dogs are Marlies favourite animals she comes closer with a smile.

Hassan is telling us that from this point to the next border is downhill. (Woman on the video explaining foreign language.) (Marlies repeating the woman.) (Marlies practicing foreign language.) We meet this boy named Yashar. He's a cyclist too! And he takes us to a special place on a hill.

We stay there for the night with a pretty view over his city. Even though we only have been 3 days here in Iran I can already tell you that if people are peppers and the kindness is hotness the Iranian we met so far are the hottest peppers. And the next day...

Yashar's friend named Hamed picks us up and shows us around. Now, he's one of the most talented person I know. It seems like he can do anything.

[Hamed] When I was 15 I learned Tae Kwon Do. And I learned how I can survive in the national water. Sometimes we go to Caspian Sea swimming maybe for 6 hours. -Really? [Hamed] Three hours go to the inside of the sea and come back. -Seriously? [Hamed] This place is a very calm place. [Marlies] Ya,ya! [Hamed] To sit.

Having some relaxation. Tai-Chi. Wait! Did he just say Tai-Chi? Well, he did say Tai-Chi! -I started to learn, from my friend...

Very impressive, right? But I wonder if he can sing, though? Well, of course, he can sing. -Salam. Khoda hafez! -Good bye! -Good bye! Traffic in Iran is interesting. Completely different with Nijmegen, Marlies' hometown where pedestrian, cyclists and cars have their own lanes. Over here, everything is in one lane. You cannot go left? Simply take right. Or even take the sidewalk.

Ah! You see the watermelon and the spare tires on the back of my orange friend? Well, here's the story... Marlies got flat tires three days ago. Long story short... this dynamic duo, Shayan and Mehdi helped us fixing it. Shayan, who loves to see English speaking movies was shocked himself that he can actually speak English to us because of that. So,they show us around.

We pick some melons and watermelons. We even go to see the Caspian Sea which actually is a big lake. The biggest one in the world and that's why nobody seemed to be bothered with the label “sea” on it. And they also take us to a place that Shayan, Mehdi and three other best friends visit every year. It's a pilgrimage place to hang out.

I gotta say, it's indeed so peaceful and beautiful here. Now, you see the guy on the right? That's Mehdi. He is super fit. He does kung-fu and all. And out of nowhere he challenges Diego to run up the cliff. “The winner”, he said, “gets a full body massage.”

Diego seems ready for it. [Marlies] One, two three! (In Persian.) [Shayan] Do you want to bet? [Marlies] Yeah, Mehdi. You? [Shayan] Mehdi. (Marlies laughs.) Of course. Every single road is a surprise for us.

But not this one. We know that this road leads us to a desert. Not even a single tree to spot.

We don't need a restaurant or minimarket, really. We just need one tree with leaves on its branches, to rest under. We got a chance to ask a truck driver if he knows such a tree. Well, the truck driver answers that he knows only two trees in the next 20 km or something.

And this is one of them. It's not the best tree we've ever seen, but it's good for now. So, we decide to wait here until the weather gets cooler. You must know that time goes very slow when you wait for something. And in this kind of situation you tend to look back and enjoy little things in the past.

Man, it takes too long, right? Can we just skip it? Well, hello, Turkmenistan. Ah, we only have 5 days visa here. Let's move on then! People in Uzbekistan like to sleep outside. I thought at first, they do that to accompany us because we use their garden to pitch the tent. You know, to comfort us.

But then they explain... that the heat during the day turns their houses into stone ovens. So, they prefer to sleep outside. Understanable. The temperature here is reaching 50 degrees Celsius.

It's the hottest ever in this journey. Even a new born calf thinks it's too hot inside her mother's belly. Well, this extreme heat sure makes us stumble.

Here in this restaurant... you see Marlies mispronouncing the basic language skills that she has learned. Instead of asking “Do you have something to drink?” she asks “Do you have something to dance?” Surprisingly, they do have the dance. Well done, everyone. I'm so glad I couldn't join. Thanks for the dance people. (Man speaks Tajik.)

[Marlies] Viskent. (Man speaks Tajik.) [Diego] Viskent. (Man speaks Tajik.) [Diego] Salam. -Salam.

-I already had it. (Man insists in Tajik.) -Thank you. Spasiba. (Man offers dried fruit in Tajik.) [Diego] Uzbeki... Tajikistan is good.

(Man continues in Tajik.) -It's beautiful. (Diego tries his Tajik.) (Man continues in Tajik.) (Man asks in Tajik.) (...) [Diego] Sorry? [Tajik man] Dushanbe? [Diego] Dushanbe, ya! [Tajik man] Iskandar Kuh? [Diego] Iskandar Kuh. [Tajik man] Dushanbe, Khorog, Pamir. [Diego] Pamir.

[Tajik man] Kyrgyzstan. [Diego] Kyrgyzstan. If we would trust people saying “do not trust strangers” we wouldn't get anywhere. Really. No one will sing a song for us. And no one would invite us for their family dinner.

No one will dance with us. And so on. Strangers are not that strange, I suppose. Strange, huh? Just when I thought it's going to be a nice day my orange friend got three punctures.

I was expecting a nice crisp morning ride here in this astonishing valley. I know, I shouldn't expect things. I guess. But, these typical things like this remind me of a song. Sina, the yoga teacher we met in Tehran, sang the song for us. It's a song about something that will pass.

Because in the end, no matter what, all things will pass. [Diego] Heavy, huh? It's going to be a big day today. We will reach the highest point of this journey. It is somewhere in Tajikistan. We climbed mountains before...

So, I believe we can do it, right? We can just take it slow. Slowly. Like very slow. Like really slow.

[Diego] Is this the peak? Nice. [Marlies] I'm not sure, but I think this is it. [Diego] I think so, Paych. I know you would probably think... "Ah! it's downhill from here!" "Nice rolling." I thought the same thing.

But, no! No nice rolling. Let me introduce you to the “washboard” road. It's obvious why they call it like that. Look at it. I cannot go faster or slower.

I'm bound to ride at this annoying speed. We go bumpy all the way. [Marlies] And the river is really far. So, I think we walked...

I don't know, almost a kilometre maybe to get to the streaming water to wash your face. I think the temperature now is maybe 5 degrees. Luckily is not so windy. It was windy when... [Diego] It's quite windy now. [Marlies] The moment I say it, it's windy, of course. [Diego] Be careful! - Ya.

So, yeah, hopefully tomorrow we have tailwind... and no storm. Oh, my head feels really cold now because I just washed my face. Is there still sunscreen on my face? [Diego] Ya, a little bit. -Really? [Diego] Ya, here! -But, I washed it so well. [Diego] Ya, it's gone. -Everything?

[Diego] Ya. -Oh, cold! [Diego] Okay, so, hopefully you will have a... good sleep tonight.

-I think I will have it. But yeah, we're at 4100 meters. It's pretty high for a Dutch person. [Diego] Yeah, I can see a mountain behind you and there's an icy mountain over there. -So, hopefully no headache or worse. Maybe I'm going to run to the yurt.

[Diego] Ya, go run! With the power of Yak milk and the fact that the wind granted Marlies' wish We ride hard to the next city Karakul. On the map... Karakul is written in bold capitals. This place must be big. Right? “Big” meaning minimarkets are available. Or some cappuccinos, you know.

Or some fresh juices. Too bad, guys. No mini markets, no cappuccinos, no fresh juices. Where's everybody? -I really hope we can just... pass the pass today. And pass the border also.

What day is it? Weekday, huh? - Thursday. -Yeah, that would be nice. Sounds like a nice plan, right? But, next thing we know... It's another up hill. It's another walk. Another hail.

Another head-wind. Let me tell you one thing about the wind. The wind doesn't always grant our wish. The wind is busy. It goes here and there. From the mountain to the sea.

Through the forest. It sings. It goes up and down. And it spins. And sometimes...

it storms with snow and all. Today, we're so lucky to spot a shelter... before the wind brings us that snow and all.

-We're going to see if we can ride down the bike in 20 cm of snow. Well, until here, it's more than 20cm. [Diego] Okay. Are we gonna use your bike? -Yeah, am I going to ride mine? [Diego] I think so. (Diego laughs.) [Diego] Do I have to lower the saddle? -Yeah, it's not possible to cycle.

It's gonna be painful on your ass. Okay, Diego just tried it and I saw him falling over there. And I think if I'm going to ask him, he will say “Oh no, it's doable.” Probably, it's not doable. It's really not doable. [Marlies] And? -Yeah, it's difficult. [Marlies] Difficult?

-But, it's doable, though. [Marlies] Ya? (Marlies laughs.) I think it's very irresponsible. - Ya? [Marlies] Ya. -We wait then. [Diego] It's been 3 days here, Paychi.

-Ya. [Diego] And how's the snow today? -Bad. [Diego] Really bad? [Marlies] Goodluck Digo! Diego is going to try if we can bike...

in 20 centimetres of snow. Okay, looks good! -And I like cycling but I've been cycling the whole life back in the Netherlands... and actually, I think it's pretty heavy. But, I hope after we get out of Central Asia... it will get easier.

To China and then roll to the South. To Nasi Goreng... and so on. Travelling so far makes me see the world differently. I used to be amazed by how high birds can fly. Now, I know...

that the ones which fly the lowest are the skilful ones. And I also realised, that this tropical land actually is on the same ground with the Turkish mountains long time ago or even farther away, the Dutch dunes. I see things gradually changing along the way.

And finally, we reach the most east part of this big land the coast line. I can hear the waves calling from here. I know guys, I know it's fun and romantic...

but, we have to move on. This salty water starts making me itchy. It feels like we are almost there at our finish line, Jakarta.

The map shows that... after we pass some ancient temples... and cross the land of elephants....

we can just go all South. But, one thing that you have keep in mind... the map is always easier to read than to ride. Never forget that! Well, as long as you keep pedalling, you'll get there, eventually. You know... Cycling is living a life.

Or something like that. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. But, hey! Don't quote me. It was some genius named Einstein who said so.

Just right before we reach the finish line... I get a flat tire. The one and only flat tire I have during this journey.

After all those bumpy, muddy, snowy, washboard-y. Oh, my! I break as well. Only one tiny spiky thingy slipped into my rear tire. What a bad luck.

Diego has to fix me here. I'm sorry, but... I cannot imagine a worse place than this to fix a puncture.

However though... he has done it 18 times before to my orange friend. So, he can do it. For sure he's not the handiest person I know but, he figures something out.

Well, on the surface... he seems very calm and ready. But, he gets upset with himself, sometimes. He does that. Big time. Especially when we ride uphill.

But then, he later forgives himself and forgets the mental battle while going downhill. And I noticed that he talks to himself too. Things that I don't really understand.

But, I bet he himself doesn't understand it either. Things like... many things don't make sense... and that actually make sense. We cannot really enjoy moments. Because we are the moments.

We are all the moments. We get upset because of obvious things. But, we get cheered up most of the time... unobviously. The coldest places we ride...

are the brightest. Just when we think rain is bad luck... locals say it's a blessing. All those bumpy roads. But, look at those smooth roads! Some places where we trust strangers.

Some places where strangers trust us. We do try to avoid all the bumps on the road. But some bumps... they're just unavoidable. Sometimes, we consider doing things that we shouldn't do. In the end...

we know that... either we are glad or learned. We ride in dark if we have to. We communicate, at least we thought so. We ride slow. We struggle.

We got humbled. We are ahead. We are behind. All the greens And all the sand.

We are all free yet we check the time time to time. It feels heavy. But it feels so light. We just cannot really stand still. Things are moving.

We are moving. And then we feel the space. It's the space we don't see. The space that we need.

The space ...we rarely talk about. It's everything in between. (Diego laughs.) (Pak Didik, Diego's father) Who did you come with, Go? -How are you? -I'm fine! -Brown! -No! It's still the same. Ari & Marwan "Bewok": Ancur! (Lovely crowd of people cheering.)

2021-08-16 16:27

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