**** PART TWO ***
So there we were, on the side of the road in the desert of Kazachstan. With nothing happening besides this little interaction with this car driver for today and the memory of Chris and Dea, who we had happened to have met, four months ago on our way.
We were all cycling this massive mountain pass in Tajikistan when our roads accidentally crossed. And for all of you who have difficulties picturing a ‘massive mountain pass’… This is exactly where we met:
They had just managed to reach the top as they were now on their way down. We still had some six kilometers left to climb. So it’s not so hard to imagine, that we were really happy to have a little talk and some laughter on our way. As it was a very nice and pleasant distraction from climbing up all day. The most funny thing about this little encounter with our freshly made friends, is that Luke already knew of their existence. As this Chris turns out to be pretty famous and pretty good in writing about all that happens on the road. Just like, bumping into this girl by his side, who he had met in the steppe of Mongolia to be precise.
And it wasn’t untill we had reached the top of this major pass, that the little puzzle slowly came together, and I realized that I had also heard about their story before we had met.
Two years ago,
in Australia to be exact.
It was when I stayed with Catherine and Malcolm, my hosts for the city of Sydney, and cyclists too, that I was told about this little love story from this guy called Chris, who had bumped into the love of his life: this Danish girl Dea, as he was riding his bike. Little I knew by then that we would meet on our way. Two years later.
Besides this love-story, and my days spent with this fantastic couple in Sydney, the exposition we visited, the beer we drank, the marvelous food we shared, their cute little apartment in the centre of the city, with their bicycles stored on the top of their ceiling….
Besides all that there was…
As I think back about my first days in Sydney… I mainly remember what was missing….
who I had accidentally met on the roads of New Zealand,
and shared the road with for the past month.
Keith Millard from England, what a great time we had.
And I think back about our memories…
Of how we had managed to cycle this mountain pass together. Even though it counted only a small 781 meter, mentally this was the biggest one of all. As it was the first mountain pass this size. Without any experience, feeling slightly terrified, I cycled to the top with Keith by my side. And it was there, as we reached the top, that I not only found the confirmation that you are indeed able to cycle a pass like this! I had found myself a new friend by my side. One that would remain until today. One that would be unconditionally there, for all the good moments and the tough challenges to share.
And I think back about how Keith shared his love for cycling and the outdoor life. As he just finished his big journey towards India, and I just started mine. He was the best that could have happened to me, as we woke up camping in the wild, for the very first time of my life. With endless inspiring stories about his ride, and our communal friend Katie by our side.
Little I knew by then…
… that eventually I was going to have the balls to camp in the wild, completely alone, in the middle of nature, feeling comfortable on my own.
Nor could I imagine myself to be sleeping under bridges, thinking I had found myself a great shelter for the night.
Let alone, picture myself to be cycling massive mountain passes two years from then, without all the fear and intimidation of those baby-hills back then.
Thinking back about my time with Keith, I think about Owen and Peggy who became like our second family… They still follow my journey step by step. And I never forget those words of Owen when we said goodbye, looking me straight in the eye, saying: ‘If you were my daughter, he said, I would be very proud’.
And I think about all those people who popped into our story so accidentally. Like Rex and his family.
Like Bill and his wife.
And like John, one of the friendliest and sensitive old men I have ever met. He managed to describe my personality in the words that I would normally use myself, knowing each other for just a couple of hours. He managed to look straight through all the signals sent outside. He could see from within. And it was his story of life and his honesty, in all intensity, it was the way he said goodbye that touched me deeply. Little he would know by then, that I would be thinking of him until today, two years from then. Hoping that all is going well. And that life is treating him kind.
And I think back about that time, that I had to say goodbye to Malcolm and Catherine, and left their cosy little home, to get back in the saddle and cycle Australia on my own.
And how I arrived in Brisbane two weeks later, where I met Rose.
Rose would feel as if we were family from the start. She might be slightly too old to be my mother, but I tell you, way too young to be my grandma, so that’s why I would call her ‘my friend’. A close one, as I know that she reads all my stories, and follows my journey from the beginning to the end. I remember how she would open her door for me, even before she and her husband got home from a little trip. I never forget how she would introduce me to her daughters, who are both mothers themselves. How we went to tai ch in the early morning at the beach, where I met her friends. And most of all, I remember our endless conversations with all those cups of tea. Trying to get a little grip of our stories of life, unravelling our personal philosophy.
Speaking about a personal philosophy. I never forget how I met the fisherman and his wife, that took me into their house. They were without a question the most vital old couple I have ever met. Their life was everything except roses and sunshine, but they had their sense of humor to deal with it all. I never forget how he looked me in the eyes and told me before I went to bed, isn’t it something, that you and I, so different from each other, born on a different side of the world, feel like all of that is not of any difference at all. And I had smiled as I had thought; that’s exactly how I feel. If I can get old like that, I tell you, I’ll sign for it. Straight away.
And I think about Christine and her husband. On my way I meet many women of the age of my mum, that see me passing the streets and take me in. They all take this role of being a mum temporarily as they feel the need to take care of me. Others, like Christine, keep informed and follow my footsteps closely, even though the fact that I walked out of their door, two years ago from now. Christine who I still call my Australian-mum, sent me messages from time to time, just to make sure that her imaginary-adopted-daughter is doing fine.
And I think back about how I met Simon and Sue and how they touched me with their honesty and love for their farm-life. In those two days spent together on their farm, I could feel how this farm girl inside of me got back on fire and I had wished to have stayed so much longer. But it was the cyclist in me that knew that I had to move on.
Of course, not before I learned how to ride a quad, and would feel like a true Australian women, riding in the outback.
And I think back about how I had met Lill, and her husband Bill. She was part Indonesian and part Dutch, and now Australian. And she was the most full-on energetic and straightforward woman I have ever met. And I can tell you, in Australia the people are pretty straightforward anyway. She used to be a social worker and loved to go fishing and pig hunting in their free time. And lucky they did when I was there, as I joined them for some fishing we met Ryan on our way back. A cyclist too. And it turned out that we had cycled in each others’ wheel traces for at least the last 4.000 km! And just like Lill had taken me into their home, they now invited this boy over to make sure her freshly-adopted-daughter wouldn’t be cycling the Outback on her own.
Lill taught me how to fish, like an Australian. Where you use the small fish on the hook to catch the big. … The big barramundi, and you have to be sure you are fishing in a lake surrounded by crocodiles, and then say, no worries mate! As if we are afraid of crocodiles! Fishing the Australian way.
Speaking about fishing like an Australian, that’s how I remember this Irish boy, Ryan. No matter how hard we tried not too, cycling with this boy we always ended up camping right next to a river. And he would tell me with confidence, ‘crocodiles can’t climb up a steep riverbed’. And that’s what I would tell myself and repeat over and over again, as I was laying in my little tent surrounded by all those crocodiles crawling around in the water with their deep and intense sound when they cry, ‘they can’t climb up a steep riverbed’.
I will never forget how he left me a sign on the road, just to find him back. And how we cooked a freshly caught fish on a stone in the fire that night. I will never forget how he cycled over that big poisoned snake in the dusk of the evening, or got bitten by a frog as we set up the tent for the night. I never forget how we got visited in the night by those big bulls, and how he was about to climb a tree as I just realized there’s no way I could! Well, what to say, just some days spent together on the road but yet so much to remember.
Wherever he his, I hope all is going well. As he is the one and only from all these people who I lost contact with over the years. As I lost his number on that little note and I am pretty sure he lost mine. But without a question, with his strategy in dealing with wild animals, I am sure he is doing fine.
And that’s how the endless and open space of the desert in Kazachstan,
suddenly got filled with all those good memories,
of all those people who accidentally came into my life.
Just because of this little journey on my bike.
Talking about purpose.
I think by myself, as I continue my ride,
with all those friends for life,
and this American cycling buddy by my side.
For the past 10.000 km.
Yes that’s right!