The world through the eyes of a cyclist: lessons learned – Catalunya

Somewhere on a north Italian railway station
Somewhere on a north Italian railway station

“I never lose: either I win, or I learn.” – Nelson Mandela

Dear future me,

this was all very well, but next time you go, take my your word for it and do things a bit differently…

You’ll have ideas you want to try out and you’ll read tons of articles about it: that’s great! Learning, experimenting, honing skills and growing is a big part of these kinds of trips. That said, do try at least the most important ideas out in advance. Buy or (preferably) borrow everything you need, ahead of time, pack it up and go for a weekend somewhere. See how everything fits together, how it sits on the bike. How you handle it. How it works during night and day. What would happen if it rained, got cold, how you’d manage if you lost something on the way…

You can do 500 km/week, no problem – you could probably do twice that – but Continue reading “The world through the eyes of a cyclist: lessons learned – Catalunya”

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The world through the eyes of a cyclists: going home

Costa Brava from Cerbère
Costa Brava from Cerbère

Cerbère. Inhabitants: 1363. Elevation: 0-643 m. The place that probably left the strongest mark on this trip. Ivo and I reached it and dismounted next to its tiny main square on one windy, sunny afternoon. We had just crossed the border into France and I felt like the language barrier suddenly erected around me could easily stop winter from coming. A local twenty-ish-year-old girl serving fast food in a coastal town didn’t know enough English to even attempt to sell a sandwich. Go figure.

Ivo and I planned to go to Can Decreix – the degrowth experimentation farm/property/place where I slept over on my way into Catalunya a week and a half earlier – and ask if we can stay the night again. Imagine my surprise Continue reading “The world through the eyes of a cyclists: going home”

The world through the eyes of a cyclists: Catalunya

The Via Verde going through the Dels Ports nature park
The Via Verde going through the Dels Ports nature park

5 PM, Lleida, a city I’ve only heard of the day before. The place my cycling trip was about to start from. I went south, aiming for a camp site in Mequinenza I had previously looked into on-line. I started fairly late in the day and have progressed rather slower than expected, with lots of stops to check position, direction, occasionally going back, trying out a gravel road too difficult for my bike…and at about half past 8 I realised there was no way I would reach Mequinenza before well after nightfall. Another stop to look at the map and I found another camp site some 10 km closer, in the village of Massalcoreig. I turned from the main road onto a side road, than to a smaller and poorly maintained one with a few rabbits and myself the only animal life around. As I progressed I grew more and more uneasy. I was supposedly just a few km from the camp site, but there was absolutely no sign of the camp site at any intersection and it was almost night. I finally entered Massalcoreig and as I reached the point of the supposed camp site just outside of the village, it was completely dark. I was in a forest, swarmed by a million mosquitoes and as I pointed my light to the left, the only thing I could see was a large gate with a single sign – camping prohibited. And as if that wasn’t enough, Continue reading “The world through the eyes of a cyclists: Catalunya”

The world through the eyes of a cyclist: inland Dalmatia

Taking in the noon sun where the Kozjak and Mosor mountains meet, where the fort of Klis (now known as Meereen) stands
Taking in the noon sun where the Kozjak and Mosor mountains meet, where the fort of Klis (now better known as Meereen) counts its centuries

Getting going is always a pain. You stumble out with your bike through the narrow train door, hurry back in for your bags, get out, close the door and before you turn around, the train is already on its way. The air outside is different and your dreamy, hazy mind can’t tell if it’s chilly because you’re sleepy or because it really is cold, what it’s going to be like riding, what kind of terrain awaits you, so you guesstimate how to dress. You hang your bags on the bike, set up the lights, camera and cycling computer, turn left and right for the 3rd time checking where the exit from the station is and push off…for about 20 metres or so, until you realise you haven’t put your hose clamp on. Then again after 50 metres, stopping to eat a few bites of the first of the sandwiches, to have something to go on for the next hour. And so you start again, only to realise shortly that your gloves are too thin, so you stop again to dig out warmer ones, to check once more the order of villages you plan to pass through, count the number of times the road will cross the train tracks before you take the shortcut you had in mind…it occurs to you it’d be a good idea to stop at a petrol station somewhere to check your tire pressure, but it’s no good: it’s pitch black, not even 5 AM, nothing will open for hours, the tyres’ll have to wait. Probably for the best, too: Continue reading “The world through the eyes of a cyclist: inland Dalmatia”