Some concluding thoughts after 2,5 years of cycle travelling

Authors: Alex & Jana

Simplicity is the result of maturity
(Friedrich Schiller)

There are subjects that were on our minds during the past (travel)years time and again. One or another have already been commented on in past blog posts. For other subjects there won’t be any room here either. Besides, it is important to mention that the description especially applies to today’s industrial countries.

Openness towards the diversity of the world
Our journey was a training camp, a ‘university of life’: We have learned a lot about other cultures, have studied different languages, have met people and got insights into many different living environments – and also into our own. Although all these living environments we encountered have been distinct and diverse, yet everywhere have we been met with a general helpfulness and hospitality.
The vast majority of the people on our planet (roughly estimated 99%) are good-hearted and peaceful. The parade example is Iran. A country that is displayed extremely negatively in the media, but the warmth and hospitality of its people stays unmatched.
We wish for more curiosity and openness instead of anxiety fuelled by the media.

Nature as our constant companion and the human source of life
Far away from the daily highspeed rat race of today’s modern society the Kyrgyz mountain lakes, the never ending Mongol steppes, the chirping in South East Asian jungles or the mere incredible Indonesian underwater world – all of those brought us ever tranquility and contendedness. Besides, being close to nature also includes some form of body work (hiking, dancing, yoga, …) and a health-conscious nutrition (best without industrially produced foods). This leads not only to physical, but to mental health as well.

Conclusion: It was the countless, touching human encounters and the awe-inspiring nature experiences which impressed us the most during our journey.

Fisherman in Italy

Frugalness
Besides, we were able to survive on very little for years. Our material needs could fit onto our bicycle racks. Doing so, we never had the feeling that we have to abstain from something. By a lower (material) claim and therefore a high concentration on the essentials, an invitation over night, a hot shower or a warm meal always caused feelings of greatest happiness in us.

Happiness is a choice
Life is too short to do things which you don’t like or which you only do because you feel obliged to do them. We are the captain of our ship (most of the time) and we can decide in which direction the ship is heading. Over the course of the journey a lifestyle evolved for us which is consumption free as far as possible, but at the same time appreciative. In many ways, this journey has shown us what really matters to us. For example
time for family, friends and idleness, openness, helpfulness, compassion.

Background:

Consumption and capitalism as the norm (and as a paradox)
We live in abundance and yet we see poverty everywhere. We have everything we need and yet we keep wanting more and more. We live in a democracy and yet we have little codetermination. There is more food but at the same time an undersupply of nutrients. Never have we produced so many food products, never have we thrown away so many of them (approx. 50%)
. We have more security, but more fear. There is more help, but more excessive demands. Unlimited communication, but still more and more loneliness.
Economical, societal, ecological crises. Crises as far as the eye can see. The supposed solution with no alternative is growth, expansion and carrying on regardless – in a system with limited resources.
The politics are only providing system maintaining emergency measures. There is only rescuing (banks, Greece, Euro). Neither the political elites nor the majority of the citizens have a comprehensive vision of the future. The question “In which society would we like to live?” is either only asked superficially or not at all. Into this vacuum the hated and loved capitalism is pushing in at full power, represented by economical elites who control the political system. The capitalism has levered out the democracy, because long since it is the big business lobby which decides about laws and not the governments. This has global social and ecological consequences. With both we have been confronted again and again during our journey.

Social and ecological effects
We, the privileged, the rich, the white, who can travel into almost every country on this earth – the ones, who have nothing to do with that. We were born in Germany by coincidence. On the other hand, the majority of the global population lives without health care, without educational opportunities, without advancement opportunities, without money, with poorly paid or dangerous work and finally without freedom of movement. It is the other side of a global imbalance. There is extreme social inequality, which will at some point lead to broken apart societies, forced migration, redistribution struggles and therefore to violence.
The extreme wealth is only possible because of the exploitation of other people (cheap labour) and the nature. The destruction of our source of life has been documented scientifically since decades: climate change, including droughts, floods, desert expansion, acidification and pollution of the world oceans, loss of biodiversity, ozone depletion, exploitation of soil, landfill and much more. These are the real costs of our lifestyle (paid for by people of other countries and all future generations).

The following short video (5 min) concerning this subject is worth to be seen:
https://vimeo.com/82227577

Less is more – about simplicity and happiness
Constantly there is carnival in our brain, constantly are we distracted by a flow of different information. In addition, advertisement with all psychological tricks, which is creating artificial needs in us. Consumption defines our personality – tell me what you buy and I tell you who you are. Besides the status, there is also the emotional aspect of consumption. When we buy something a moment of happiness occurs. But these moments are extremely short. Following this logic: a person who would like to be happy all the time, would have to consume never-endingly. The social and ecological consequences of consumption have been described above (background).

Small life, happy life
The answer to this relatively impenetrable and contradictory societal relations in which we live could be a simple equation: less = more. Less is more. Less consumption means having more cash to spare. Having more cash to spare means being able to work less. Working less means having more time. More time means more quality of life, more freedom, relaxation, balance, inner peace, tranquility, easiness, more physical and mental health. And ultimately happiness.
The separation of essential matters from the non-essential ones and therefore focusing on what we really need to live happily (and sustainably), is the crucial characteristic for the future sustainability of our generation.

Simplicity is the result of the journey
(Alexander Gabriel)

– THE END –

Kyrgyzstan

Links regarding the fields mentioned above and more:

Consumption and environmental pollution
The following short video (5 min) has already been mentioned in the text above and is a good introduction into the subject:
https://vimeo.com/82227577

Video: Story of Stuff (20 min, English):
http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff

Movie: Home (90 min, English):
https://vimeo.com/34689930

Scientific approaches from

  • Niko Paech (Book in English: Liberation from Excess)
  • Harald Welzer (Book in English: Climate Wars: What People Will Be Killed For in the 21st Century, Book in German: Selbst denken! Eine Anleitung zum Widerstand = translates to: ‘Think yourself! A tutorial to resistance.’)
  • Here is a PDF document that treats many aspects of Welzers German book ‘Think yourself! A tutorial to resistance.’
  • Hartmut Rosa (Book in English: Sociology, Capitalism, Critique)
    2 speeches from Hartmut Rosa in English:
    about acceleration (18 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uG9OFGId3A
    lecture about capitalism (90 min) https://vimeo.com/57907126

Global unequal distribution
Worldmaps which show the size of a country according to certain categories, e.g.:
Carbon emissions (map): http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=295
Undernutrition (map): http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=178
More maps regarding other categories: http://www.worldmapper.org

(Dept) Money system
The problems of interest, interest on interest, cash generation by private banks, hoarding of money, interbank systems (decoupling from the central banks), speculation, disentanglement from goldstandard and real values, etc:

Video “Money as Debt” (45 Min):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqvKjsIxT_8

Balanced diet
Movie: Hungry for Change (Trailer)
Movie: Food Inc
Movie: We feed the world (Trailer, German with English subtitles)

Exercise (and the positive effect on mental health)
Meta-analysis: Exercise and psychological well-being
(PDF: Exercise and mental health, English summary on page 3)

Mass media
A good article (unfortunately only in German),
lesenswert ab “Wie Journalisten an Informationen kommen: Informationsquellen”
= worth reading starting from ‘how journalists get their information: information sources’
http://www.bpb.de/izpb/7527/wer-journalisten-sind-und-wie-sie-arbeiten?p=all

Encouragement for sustainable ways of living:
Buy second hand, repair,
grow fruits and vegetables in your own garden, transition towns (video)vegetable box scheme, local exchange trading system, car sharing, multi generational house, living in a caravan, energy-plus-house, sustainable energy, ethical banking, credit unions

and a lot more, e.g. here at betterworldlinks.org


Minus Development
I collected,
worked,
saved,
accumulated
and created
material goods.
But my WEALTHINESS
did get lost:
the quiet leisure,
the fascination of nature,
the healing tranquility,
the contemplative seclusion,
my calmness.

(Kristiane Allert-Wybranietz)

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New Zealand – sweet as!

Author: Alex

Km 14903 – Nelson, New Zealand

‘Sweet as’ is typical kiwi slang. They are not talking about your bum, as you might think. It means something like ‘ok’, ‘all good’ or ‘sounds good’.
Kiwi? It is not only a name for New Zealand’s people and a rare native bird. It also describes the well known fruit, which was called Chinese gooseberry before the government changed the name for marketing purposes (1959).
If you want to learn more about cultural differences between Germany and New Zealand, we suggest to look these short and funny animations (our favourite is number 2):
http://webserieschannel.co.nz/webseries/lifeswap

West Coast

West Coast

Not until we cycle West of Christchurch for several days, do we see the real beauty of New Zealand. Near Lake Tekapo we climb Mount John and admire the strange turquoise-blue colour of the lake and the snow covered mountains on the horizon. Later we bike along the similarly coloured canal, which is blocked for cars and leads all the way to Lake Pukaki. We camp at the shorelines, jump in the water naked and look at the marvellous Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori), which glimmers reddish-white in the evening sun. Dinner at the pebbles beach and off into the tent.

Carrying on, we take a short cut via a gravel road until Hawea Flat, near Wanaka. Reyner and James live here for the summer in a small wooden shack each. It’s just a couple of square meters and a bed under the roof. There is running water, electricity and a lot of mountains surrounding the place. I instantly like the place – you don’t need much to live. We directly connect with the climbing enthusiasts, who consciously live their minimalistic way of life. We talk about ‘risk understanding’ and agree that most things are not dangerous as such (like cycling around the world), but there is a lack of comprehension to evaluate risks. A skill which seems to be lost in modern societies and is not taught in schools. The result: more fear. “Who is driven by fear, avoids displeasure, denies reality and misses out on possibilities” (Heinz Bude, sociologist).

Hawea Flat - Reyner's shack

Hawea Flat – Reyner’s shack

We start hitchhiking to meet Gisela, Jan and the little Joana. Later we sit together with our dear friends from Germany and talk as if we have never been away. But we didn’t see each other for more than two years. We set up a fire and plan how we are going to escape the ‘sandflies’. These little biting beasts, which look like little fruit flies and never come alone.

In the van with Gisela, Jan and Joana we drive towards Curio Bay. We enojoy the nice campground and to spot yellow eyed penguins. Next morning I experience my personal highlight since weeks: Porpoise Bay is home to the Hector dolphins, the smallest sort of it’s kind – up to 1,50 meters long and only living in New Zealand. They don’t migrate, live in the bay and come towards the shore often, while they spectacularly surf in the waves. I jump into the icecold water (no water inbetween Antarctica and myself) and swim with the dolphins in the wild. Just beside me one pops up out of the dark water, another jumps out of the water in front of my face and dives underneath me. A unique heart-throb.

Lake Crucible - a glacial lake

Lake Crucible – a glacial lake

A lot more nature experiences wait around every corner in this country. We follow a small river in a cave, work our way through the partly hip deep water into the earth. We stand on a couple of summits, surrounded by Keas, the green mountain parrots. We admire glaciers, huge valleys, fjords and untouched nature. Multiday hikes, including adventurous river crossings, bring us to far away waterfalls and mountain lakes topped with ice floes. This country is an adventure playground for adults.

Fjords of Shallow Bay

Our friends from Germany left and we want to savour the summer and hitchhike zigzagging the South Island to reach different trail heads.

One evening we set camp in a riverbed, because it was the only spot, where nobody would see us. When we come back from a day trip full of rain I walk faster thinking that our tent could be drowned or swept away. But in spite of all the rain there is no sign that the dry riverbed could fill up with water. In the mountains nature is constantly changing. Possibly the water just flows somewhere else now. The rest of the day we stay in the tent, it is raining all the time. When the sun sets, we are ready to sleep, but suddenly hear a gurgling sound in front of the tent. A look outside reveals clear, cold water running half a meter away from our tent – the tupper ware, we put out to collect rainwater, have been swept away already. OK, no panic!? In minutes we pack our gear, faster than ever before. The water rises extremely fast and touches the tent already the moment we bring our equipment to a higher point on the shore. It is dark and still raining. Then we rescue the tent and set up the outer tent on a save spot. Sitting inside I laugh out loud about so much foolishness and so much luck. We should have known better and learned a lesson for life.

Mt. Cook Valley

Huge valleys – this is Mt. Cook Valley

In the meantime we arrived in sunny Nelson, in the North of the South Island. We take a couple of month time out to digest our journey and make plans for the future. After 22 countries and 30 months on the road we declare the end of our trip (for now).

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

Stories which didn’t make it into the blog:

  • How Jana could not sleep after our early morning arrival at Christchurch airport, because security wouldn’t let her lay on the floor.

  • The story of the Maoris and the “discovery” of New Zealand by the Europeans, which had similar but less severe consequences than in Australia. The situation is far from perfect, but the Maoris had a better standing back then and nowadays than the Aborigines in Australia.

  • The never ending fences, which make it difficult for touring cyclists to find camping spots.

  • The atmosphere between cyclists. A lot of them are just travelling for a short time and seem to be less interested in exchange.

  • New Zealand is Mecca for German high-school graduates. A trend we didn’t know so far.

  • New Zealand is Mecca for hitchhiking. A trend we like very much.

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Australia – Spirit of Tasmania

Author: Jana

Km 14801 – Nelson, New Zealand

TASMANIA

  • There are places on this earth whose sound has settled in one’s soul at some point. Besides Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, it was Tasmania for me as well. And in terms of cycling it is more manageable anyway: Tasmania corresponds to just under 1% of Australia’s landmass. Nevertheless, we spend 50 % of our visa time here (= 6 weeks).
  • The island South East of Australia, also lovingly called “Tassie”, can be reached by ferry with the name “Spirit of Tasmania”. If the ferry is named like that, because the islanders have such a good spirit? Towards us at least the Tasmanian inhabitants show themselves at their best with their good-hearted, outgoing and noble spirit.
  • During the first week we do something separately for a change. We each go to a different host of the Help Exchange Network and after 9 days we meet up in Launceston again. Alex’s hosts Duncan and Cassandra invited us for x-mas lunch, where we have a cordial and laid- back feast with heaps of delicious dishes.
Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s East Coast, which we admire thanks to our host Pip in St. Helens who is so kind to drive us there

  • From Launceston we cycle towards the East Coast at first and then towards the South. Along the way, there are not only beautiful landscapes, but hearty human experiences as well. That’s how we arrive in Swanick – a small village mainly consisting of holiday houses. We had an address and a description where the keys were hidden. A little moment later we are in a beautiful house, right next to a lake. Graham, Cassandra’s uncle, had invited us to his “shack” on Christmas day – two minutes after he got to know us and although he knew that he and his wife wouldn’t be there. A wonderful present: to have a little refuge to ourselves over the turn of the year.
  • Exciting departure from Swanick: to avoid cycling all around the bay again, we take Graham’s rowing boat and paddle it approximately 25 metres to the other side of a small canal. The strong currents suck us towards the open sea, but we do manage to get dryly to the other shore. The original plan was that Alex rows the boat back alone and then swims. But destiny sends two teenagers with a jetski to the beach. The rowing boat is attached and the two girls pull him across. For the way back they even offer him another ride. Brilliant! The whole operation saves us 50 kilometres detour and presents us a calm, hardly used road which leads us to…
  • … Donnalee & Pete in Swansea. These two receive us just like old friends, and they let us participate in their lives. At night some friends come for dinner and everyone is making music. The next morning we practise some yoga together, brunch with more friends and swap life philosophies. Absorbed by this harmonious microcosm we stay a night longer than planned.
  • We find a shelter for our bicycles and hike along the spectacular cliffs in the South East of the island (Eagle Hawk Neck to Fortescue Bay, then Cape Huay). An outgoing family who lets us camp with them on the campground, has heaps of local knowledge for further hikes on the islands (e.g. which huts and summits to go to). There is a vast array of unspoiled nature on Tasmania. Alone 38% of the land are protected by National Park status.
cliffs close to Eagle Hawk Neck

Cliffs close to Eagle Hawk Neck

  • On our way back to our bicycles, Angie stops for us – and she really is an angel (not only because of her name). She does not only offer to drive a detour for us, but also offers to take our bicycles in her station wagon (!) for the missing 90 kilometres to Hobart. It is pouring with rain and we accept deeply thankful. Here it also becomes clear how our way to travel has evolved over the past two years: a combination of cycling, hitchhiking and hiking.
  • In Hobart, Angie even drives us to a lookout point and gives us shelter, tea and veggie burgers until our hosts are back from work. She then brings us to Jacqui & Brett, who – together with their children Savannah (18) and Dylan (21) – live a fascinating family life because it is really laid-back. They have everything magically work out. Dylan cooks for us, then we cook sth, then Jacqui, etc. We stay for a couple of days and participate in their everyday lives. We manage to get organized a bit and are happy to inspire each other. Now that their kids are adults: Jacqui & Brett are planning to cycle tour through Europa for six months ad have many questions. Jacqui even writes a post about us on her blog: http://jacslifeontheroad.com/warm-showers-experience
  • We decide to spend the remaining two weeks of our time in Tasmania in the nature and go hiking again. That’s why we store our bicycles in Devonport and hitchhike towards the trailheads in the National Parks (Walls of Jerusalem and Cradle Mountain). The recommended huts are very handy – not only to leave our backpacks there during the day (base camp), but also to hide inside of them when it’s raining. There regularly is sunshine as well though, which allows us to climb the surrounding peaks (Mt. Jerusalem, Salamon’s Throne, Barn Bluff, Cradle Mountain). We were lucky, because in this region of Tasmania, there are 250 rainy days per year.
  • An uncountable amount of people take us for a little bit. On our way back – our last ride in Australia – the woman who took us for only half an hour, gets out of the car and gives us a giant hug. She is only one of the many communicative, helpful, open-minded and generous people of Tasmania. Thankful and grateful we sit on the ferry to Melbourne and look back.
Graffiti in Melbourne

Graffiti in Melbourne

MELBOURNE II

  • Our last week in Australia is spent in Melbourne again. This time we stay with Lucy & Stephen whom we got to know in Launceston (Tasmania). During our second visit, the metropolis is shining again: with graffitis, botanical gardens and cultural initiatives. You can find everything from urban gardening to bicycle kitchens to several restaurants called “lentil as anything” where there are no prices on the menu and “where guests contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their own financial ability.”

  • Goodbye, Melbourne. We could have imagined to stay here longer. But our flights to New Zealand are booked and thus we strap the huge bicycle boxes to our rack and off we go to the airport.

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

 

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Australia – Outback, Southern Coast and Great Ocean Road – impressive animals and nature

Author: Jana

Km 14797 – Nelson, New Zealand

ALICE SPRINGS

  • We are lucky with the weather and the desert sun is hidden behind clouds so that we have cooler days for some cycling. We make a couple smaller excursions into the desert surrounding Alice Springs (East and West MacDonnell Ranges).

  • Because of our experiences at the gas station in Tennant Creek, we decide not to continue hitchhiking, but to do a “car relocation”. For a car rental company, we therefore drive a campervan 1500 kilometres to Adelaide. Unfortunately, we only receive a little bit of the fuel money. It’s only an ok deal, but at least half as expensive as a bus ticket.

with Florian and our "washing machine"

with Florian and our “washing machine”

ALICE SPRINGS – ADELAIDE

  • Our motorhome feels like a huge, white washing machine which we – to save some fuel – drive with 90 km/h through the desert.

  • Then all of the sudden: a cyclist appears – in the middle of the desert. Finally, we can help someone as well! Florian doesn’t want a ride though. He tells us, “It is my thing to cycle everything”. So we agree on meeting at the next rest area where he would like to stay for the night. We spend an enjoyable evening, cook something together and exchange cycling stories. By the way, Florian has been in Bandung as well, with Java’s touring cyclists.

  • Because of a problem with our credit cards and the time we spent with Florian, we only drove 130 km on the first day of our car relocation. So from now on, for us it is: driving, driving, driving. For 2 ½ days we rustle through the desert. Of course we also stop at times: for emus, for a huge dried-up saltlake and for the mining town, Coober Pedy, where time seems to stand still. Some houses are built into the hills and others even underground, so that it stays wonderfully cool inside.

Lake Hart – a dried-up saltlake in the desert

Lake Hart – a dried-up saltlake in the desert

ADELAIDE – MELBOURNE

  • It had been one month that I had not been really fit and miffed (2 weeks of that with sinusitis – probably the most challenging illness between the two of us). On time for our departure to cycle from Adelaide though, I am healthy again and we tackle the almost 1000 km to Melbourne. In the Coorong National Park which is close to the coast we regularly have to fight against head winds. The region is scarcely populated. As we ask for water and a hint for camping at a farm, Grant spontaneously suggests us to camp on the lawn in front of his parents’ house. Visitors are rare here and we are kindly welcomed.

  • Just a couple kilometres further, in Kingston, we are warmly received again. This time from the employee of the tourist information office. We can use the free internet and she even makes us a coffee. While we check our emails, she prints us some information about the region – a retreat. We are thankful for these small experiences.

  • In Mount Gambier, more or less in the middle between Adelaide and Melbourne, we stay with Sandy for two nights. He is our host from the cycling network called warmshowers. Sandy is wonderfully easy-going, generous and helpful and even helps us to shorten my handlebar. After so many days of cycling – exposed in the nature and to the weather – being able to stay in a house, with a hot shower and a coffee; this really makes our day and gives us a feeling of well-being and warmth. Especially since along the Southern Coast it has not been so tropically warm anymore and we never stay in hotels in expensive countries. There is a small tempest outside, with rain and hail – exactly on the one day that we take off – we are so lucky!

  • Because of the demotivating headwinds we try to hitchhike while pedalling. We are lucky and Matt stops his pick-up. He gives us 100 km – great! More plus factors for the Australians.

  • In the next district wild camping is forbidden. Thus we knock on the next door and are positively surprised yet another time: modestly we ask for the barn or the garage, but Greg spontaneously invites us into the guest room. He is a milker for a nearby dairy farm.

  • Ahead we bike, still with regular head winds. Wild camping is legal again, but it starts to rain and a little bit of wind protection wouldn’t be bad either. So we approach the next house. Dick opens the door – in underpants. A moment later he comes back dressed. The 65-year old immediately tells us about his disease: Parkinson. He struggles to find words, which don’t seem to cross his mind. But his heart speaks a clear language: “You can stay here. And if my wife doesn’t agree, she has to kick out the three of us!” But Rita agrees, welcomes us warmly, even puts chairs and a table into the garage for us and shows us the toilet and the shower. We learn about the family’s dairy farm. Jersey cows (brownish) give less, but better milk (more greasy and more calcium) than Friesian cows (black and white).

  • Their youngest son Anthony (27) arrives as well and promises to prepare breakfast for us the next morning. And we are not deceived: toast with avocado, tomato, egg and bacon. Yummy! Afterwards he shows us his favourite rock formations along the cliffs and even drives us 40 km to the next village – another couple of kilometres less against the wind.

  • We cycle further inland through Cape Otway National Park with its tropical jungle. Fat raindrops crackle onto the warm road. Again we would like to ask for a roof. But this time we are turned down twice. One time pretty harshly (quote: “Look, I don’t care what you do! Help yourself!”)

  • So we camp and the next morning everything (!) is wet. To be able to dry our equipment, we ask for a garage’s roof again the next evening. As Pete suggests to move the tractor in the garage out of the way a bit, his wife says: “Pete, you are not really going to do that, are you?!” He does do us the favour, but besides that the two of them don’t seem to be interested in us – we never see them again.

  • So we are deducting some of the Australian’s plus factors again 😉

  • We slowly approach the Great Ocean Road – the top tourist destination of the region. We just didn’t realise before, how famous this area was. The landscape is picturesque. In the meantime rather with tail winds we cycle into the bay, out of the bay, into the next bay, and so on. We also take our time to admire the stone formations along the cliffs. At the site of the most famous rocks (the 12 apostles) bus loads of Chinese are dropped off.

Rock formations along the Great Ocean Road

Rock formations along the Great Ocean Road

MELBOURNE

  • Welcome to Melbourne, a huge city: green (also politically), bicycle friendly, multicultural, hip. We stays with the warmshowers hosts with the beautiful names Alex & Jana 😉 They really have the same names as we do. Jana is from Slovakia where the couple got to know each other more than a year ago. The atmosphere is relaxed, we can rest for a couple days. On Sunday they take us to their friends for a barbecue get together and before we know it, we are already on the ferry to Tasmania...

Melbourne – view of the port and Melbourne’s skyline as we leave with the “Spirit of Tasmania” ferry

Melbourne – view of the port and Melbourne’s skyline as we leave with the “Spirit of Tasmania” ferry

ANIMALS & NATURE

  • In Australia, there are many landscapes and animals which we had never seen before.

  • Australia’s “Outback”, that’s how the huge red centre is called, impresses especially with it’s unending vastness (and the solitude connected to it), but as well with it’s red coloured soil. Jungle, coastal, rock and mountain landscapes in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are charming as well.

  • But especially impressive is Australia’s wildlife. Of course, many kangaroos and their relatives, the wallabies, jump through the countryside. Huge bats hang from trees, emus sprint through the desert and dingos shyly peek at us behind a bush. Salt water crocodiles, sharks, water snakes and poisonous jelly fish can be found along the North coast of Australia. That’s why by no means you should go and swim there. All in all, Australia is indeed known for it’s many poisonous animals, but the risk to get harmed is quite low – especially if you follow the security measures and warning signs.

  • As we lie in the tent one night, we hear an ear-piercing, undefinable grunting. If we didn’t know for sure that there aren’t any bears in Australia, we would be in fear for our life. We guess it’s wild boars and ask someone the next morning. The noise came from koalas, calling for each other during the night! These small animals make such a loud noise??? Unbelievable!

  • Another night time visitor is the omnivorous possum, which likes to look for our food. It has made sleeping difficult for us during three nights! Ahhrrrgh!!!

  • Remarkable and well masked is the echidna – some kind of hedgehog with a trunk.

  • Besides snakes which often quickly escape when they hear us while we are hiking, there is also slower and less dangerous saurians like monitor lizards or the bobtail skink – short legs, short tail.

  • Furthermore, the domicile bird life consists of an absolute diversity: penguins, parrots, cockatoos, pelicans,

Here are some animal pictures:

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

Wallaby

Wallaby

Bats

Bats

an emu in the Outback (the Australian central desert)

Emu in the Outback (the Australian central desert)

Possum

Possum

Echidna

Echidna

Koala

Koala

Bobtail Skink

Bobtail Skink

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

Parrot

Parrot

Cockatoo

Cockatoo

Pelicans

Pelicans

Here you find more PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

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Australia – all the same, all so different? Same same but different?

Author: Jana

Km 14753 – Nelson, New Zealand

Australia: an early end of our journey? This thought comes to our mind as we think about the past two years of our travels and what has impressed us most. We have spend a very long time in Asia (from Turkey to Indonesia: 21 months) and Indonesia has been and intensive and humanly wonderful ending of our time in Asia.

Now we are in the middle of it. Of the West. And that although we have cycled East the whole time! We are in the middle of capitalism. With expensive supermarkets and overweight people. With never ending product choices. With mega shopping centres. With huge houses up to the ceiling full with stuff. Almost no one expects us to take our shoes off when we enter a house. A lot more meat, wheat and milk products. Drinking water from the tap. Trash bins full of food. Hot showers in bathrooms with dry floors (in contrast to the Asian wet bathrooms). Individualism. Public toilets and barbecue stations as well as real tourist information centres. Bicycle lanes. Lowered kerbs. Service, the right to return your purchased good and quality controls. Big cars. A lot more naked skin. No more communication problems, because we speak the local language. And still – we have less touching spontaneous encounters with people. On the one hand, because we don’t look like foreigners any more – we could even pass as Australians. On the other hand, because it is not that unusual any more to travel by bicycle (even though most people just go for a couple days/weeks).

But mostly, because the people belong to a different culture. A culture where less people excitingly wave to us and spontaneously invite us for tea. A culture with more stress and more superficiality. Less time, to spontaneously have a chat with a stranger. Less smiling faces. The way to the smile seems a lot further. A culture of wealth and abundance, but also the fear to loose that. A culture where racist statements are made – publicly.

Australia is similarly „estranged“ (Erich Fromm) as today’s European culture. We therefore feel as if have arrived back home culturally. What we feel is called Reverse Culture Shock.

Most Australians have European ancestors who have settled here several hundred years ago. In 1606, at first the Dutch „discovered“ Australia. 1788 the British colonialised the country to bring convicts. The human history of this continent does begin 50.000 years before the arrival of the Europeans though. The original inhabitants of Australia, the Aborigines, suffered a lot from the arrival of the Europeans. They died because of new diseases, horrible massacres and partly where even hunted and shot like animals. Furthermore, there was forced adoptions (removal of indigenous children), assimilation programmes, suppression and discrimination. Not until 1992, plentiful land expropriations by the Europeans were admitted to be illegal. Not until 2008 did the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, issue an extensive public apology.

Later in Melbourne we see this political poster

Later in Melbourne we see this political message.

A return from the 21st century to the traditional (and sustainable) way of life of the Aborigines is difficult to imagine. Water sources are polluted or have totally vanished. Forests have been cut down, the environment of many animals has been destroyed and some of the cultural techniques of the indigenous population have been forgotten by now.

Ironically, the Aborigines, as well as their art, their mythology and way of life is used as a publicity to promote tourist destinations. That is the case, not only but especially regarding the Uluru National Park – also known as Ayers Rock. This small mountain is a holy place for the Aborigines and has been exploited as the Australian symbol for the tourism industry since.

Despite Reverse Culture Shock and more scarce spontaneous encounters as in other countries, we still find the open minded and helpful people – but often contacted them before through hospitality exchange networks. Therefore less spontaneous, but just as lovely: amongst other encounters we stay the complete first week with Giulia (Italy) and Sylvain (France) in Darwin. A super start in the new country. Especially since I am sick (sinusitis) and need to rest and acclimatise before we can continue. The four of us get along really well and Giulia and Sylvain take us to Litchfield National Park the next weekend – a real highlight with high waterfalls rushing down into blue pools surrounded by deep green nature. Paradisiac.

Litchfield

Litchfield National Park – watching the sundset with Giulia and Sylvain

Because of the summerly heat, my ill health and a booked ferry to Tasmania, we decide to hitchhike the 3000 km to Adelaide. We only have to wait 10 minutes for our first ride to Katherine (300 km). Beginner’s luck. For the next leg to Tennant Creek (700 km) we have to wait 3 hours until Ken takes us. Ken drives one of the notorious Road Trains – a huge truck with up to 4 trailers and up to 53 meters of length.

As we stand at the gas station in Tennant Creek, we just don’t get a ride – for the first time on this journey. From morning till afternoon (approximately 7 hours) we wait and keep talking to people – but nothing happens. At least: as I talk to some friendly people who would like to take us if their vehicles weren’t super packed and full, I receive 50 $ at first and then later 5 $. Just like that, from strangers. The Australians collect plus factors.

And then he comes – the long hoped for ride. A chaos team with a pick-up and a trailer. The trailer still needs to be fixed (approximately 3 additional hours), but from the beginning on we can count on Stuart’s and Chris’ word to make some space in the totally packed vehicle. Stuart and Chris are craftsmen, who set up and repair water tanks in the whole country. Soon we politely nod and smile, but don’t understand much, since Stuart’s accent is so difficult to understand. But his blue eyes which look at us from under the grey hair and the weathered face, tell us, that he is a good soul. Chris, the younger legworker, talks about an unsuccessful relationship, his children who grow up far away with their mother, his „biological father“. He can say „blood and honour“ in German which – together with his tattoos in German type writing (among others his family name across his shoulders) – doesn’t really imply that he grew up in an ordinary middle-class family. Prejudices are out of place here though. He is a kind and funny guy.

Alex with Stuart and Chris (from left to right) at arrival in Alice Springs

Alex with Stuart and Chris (from left to right) at arrival in Alice Springs

Since it is already evening as we start moving after the trailer has been repaired, we camp 100 km out of Tennant Creek next to a couple stone formations (Devil’s Marbles). The two don’t even think of paying the camping fee and early in the morning we leave towards Alice Springs. A tire is broken and has to be filled with air from time to time, with the help of a compressor sitting on the loading space. This is true hitchhiking.

Nevertheless, even more impressive for us is Australia’s nature and animal variety. We encounter animals and landscapes that we have never seen before. You can already see a couple of pictures here. We will write more about this in the next blog entry though.

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

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Indonesia – our last days in Asia on Lombok and Bali

Author: Alex

Km 14448 – Wanaka, New Zealand

This is it! Since Turkey we have been travelling through Asia (from a geographical perspective) and the two Indonesian islands Bali and Lombok are the last Asian ground we travel in (for now, at least). After almost two years in Asia we are about to travel to the third continent of our journey.

We travel really slowly around these islands. Often we go snorcheling and we even go diving two times. We really try to enjoy Asia one last time before we will be travelling in expensive Oceania soon. While snorcheling it is like from the bird’s perspective – everything can be observed from above and with some distance. While diving we suddenly are very close to the underwater creatures, fish and corals. Tiniest details are visible. Totally fascinating! There is such a diversity that it is almost impossible to name everything we see, even just right after the dive. Only three percent of the underwater world are explored. This short video shows (especially in the last scene) how unbelievable this world is.

After snorchelling and diving in Bali we escape from the global tourist epicentre towards Lombok – one island tfurther owards the East. Already on the ferry we feel the relief and we find what we had searched for: quiet rural roads, beautiful nature, friendly and curious people.

On the ferry to Lombok, Asians can sleep anywhere - so fascinating ;)

On the ferry to Lombok, Asians can sleep anywhere – so fascinating 😉

On the small island Gede in the South West of Lombok we discover a remote beach and an abandoned roof made out of dry palm leaves. A coconut grove behind us, the turquoise sea in front of us. Think of Robinson Cursoe. I can follow his example and improve the little shelter we had found. Later I climb a palm tree and come back with a coconut and several scratches. We snorchel again, cook semolina and enjoy our adventurous life. A campfire at night and above us the immense „tent of 50.000 stars“.

Gili Gede, Lombok

Gili Gede, Lombok

Back to Bali. Piter James is our host in Denpasar and the same age as us. Here his moving life story: It all begins as his mother from the far away Peru travels to East Timor (back then still part of Indonesia) to work in an aid programme as a nurse. Here she gets to know her future husband and James’ father. On the same day of James’ birth, his father dies of a heart attack. Seven months later his mother dies because of a serious disease that she caught. Piter James read all this in his mother’s diary. Little James ended up in an orphanage. The orphanage head, a Dutch guy, gave Piter James his name and his official religion „Christian“. On night a young boy ran into the bedroom and reported from the anal rape of the „Christian“ Dutch guy. In the same night Piter James and 6 further boys escaped from the orphanage. They ran to the harbour, hid on a boat and arrived days later in Jakarta, the country’s capital. From an orphan child to a street child.

The street forced him to be independent. He started to bake bread and to sell it as a street seller. You might assume that the story doesn’t end here when you know the title of his one man bakery „Bread Pit“. Piter James is a creative and smart person. With the other street kids, they asked in a school to be allowed in the class. Every morning before the school started he was baking the bread that was to be sold after school. Teachers and fellow students supported him. He fought for more and received a scholarship to study Anthropology. Through a friend he received a job in an enterprise for modern communication means (smartphones). Today he has his own enterprise and produces solar batteries (this is his homepage). From a street child to an entrepreneur.

Everyone can try to be touched by this story, to feel for Piter James and to then develop a feeling for other people’s life reality, what they have to go through. To then try and look at your own life and to realize how much luck you have and to not take privileges for granted. Thankfulness and humility and are two words, for example, that are rarely heard these days.

The taxi driver who takes us to the airport with our boxed bikes, seems to be touched by our story and hugs me as we say goodbye. Oh Asia, we will miss these human surprises.

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

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Indonesia – Java’s touring cyclists

Author: Alex

Km 13861 – Melbourne, Australia

BANDUNG

As we arrive in Bandung, we see several touring bikes in the courtyard of „community 108“. In two years, we didn’t meet such a community. Here, in the middle of Indonesia, on the island Java, a group of local cycle tourers is hiding. Every day, there is people in the community, meeting up, organising tours, making music, relaxing after bicycle excursions. Their travel reports cover many parts of Indonesia and some even have travelled abroad. One courtyard, a small café and even a room, especially for hosting visiting bikepackers. Here are a couple pictures from Florian Schmale , who also started cycling in Germany and whom we have „overtaken“ in Australia – but that is another story. 😉

In the same community we also meet Suci. She studies environmental engineering and tells us about a recent excursion to the city’s rubbish dump with her uni. Clearly can we feel the excitement of the 20-year old, she is struggling for words. What she saw there, is preying upon her mind. Every day 120 tonnes (one hundred twenty!) of trash are delivered from the city of Bandung. Every day! Suci says that this is the biggest problem that they have in Indonesia.

I am impressed, not only by the amounts of trash. But by her attitude and her involvement. She is starting a group right now, to search for solutions. She is a glimmer of light, a flicker of hope, a new generation. It will be a long battle, but Suci has started it, has done the first step. And because this development is coming from inside (not from Westerners with a wagging finger), I do have hope as well.

Bandung with Suci (right)

Bandung with Suci (right)

EAST JAVA

We are modest cyclists and usually don’t flow with the current of mass tourism. But sometimes our pathes cross and it can be difficult for us to be in the surroundings of splendour holidaymakers who would like to take the best pictures as fast and efficient as possible. Doing that they exclaim: „Everything is so cheap here, great!“, although they just paid ten times the normal going rate.

In the meanwhile we had some disappointing experiences with people (trying to) rip us off. In these places of the world the prices rise and – at the same time – the appreciation of the human counterpart drops. Just a couple days ago, people were constantly stopping us to take a photo with us. Here, no one takes notice, doesn’t shine unbelievingly, when we talk about our journey in the local language. How does mass tourism effect the people who live here? Do they learn arrogance and greed from the Western tourist?

At 6 am in the morning another :“Loom selvice! Coffee or tea?“ Aaarghh – when in this country will it finally be possible to sleep?

Bromo

Bromo

IJEN VULCANO

Since not too long ago a double pricing system has been introduced for entrance tickets. Foreigners now pay almost 7 times the price. We are sick of these methods. It’s not so much about the money. It’s about a global trend which gives every country (visa), every mountain, every beach and every water drop a price tag.

Would there be a sign at the entrance of the Ijen vulcano believably assuring that these massive entrance fees are invested into creating schools, education, social systems, pension funds and the improvement of democracy, I would pay with a pleasure. But these incomes vanish in the pockets of corrupt rulers. Riccardo, an Italian traveller, asked us at the top of the mountain as he saw the hard working sulfur workers: „Why do these workers still work under such conditions although all this money is brought here by the tourists? Why don’t they receive a small goods lift?“

The workers carry approx. 50-70 Kilos on their shoulders up to the crater rim and then down the mountain. I tried to lift one of those double baskets and couldn’t move the thing, not even a millimetre. I don’t know if I ever saw harder and such bizarre working conditions. At 2400 metres of altitude these men get up before dawn and work next to burning blue flames of gas, enwrapped by huge grey wads of smoke. They detach huge yellow blocks of sulfur with the help of a crowbar, then load up their baskets until they are full and start going down the vulcano.

Ijen

Ijen

BONDOWOSO

In Bondowoso we get to know Jongki. He has a bicycle store and has lived in Australia for a longer period. There, he had three jobs. Two as a dish washer and one as a cleaner in a hotel. All together an 85 hours working week. A migrant who is a burden to the welfare system? For Jongki this was a chance to save up money to then start a bicycle store in his home country. Now he smiles at us and tells us about his dream to travel the world with a motorbike. What Indonesians are for Australia is what Turkish people are for Germany. The economy grows and there is a big need for additional workers. People who lend a hand. People who give their sweet and blood and transform the country into what it is today. Did anybody ever say thank you for that officially?

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

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