Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Squats, clowns and garbage bins...

It seems like an age ago that I was peddling my way through Germany but I have only been in berlin 4 days. so much has happened that it's difficult to tell it all. I have somehow found myself living in a squatted old school building that has been turned into an alternative community project inhabited by artists, gardeners, anarchists and clowns. I still haven't really worked out who actually lives here as people are coming and going all the time. It has been really good to be part of a community again though, even if it has been a bit of a culture shock and language is only part of it. I have been eating pretty much vegan scince i got here and 80% of all the food here is collected from supermarket garbage bins. I had my first experience of 'containering' last night when some of the guys took me out. We loaded our bikes up full of vegetables friut and bread, all slightly damaged or just past the sell by date, it really was quite a shock to realise how much good food is wasted everyday. I am really enjoying being here although it's challenging at times. I feel a bit like an alien in a foreign place and it's difficult to really get to know anyone as there are people everywhere. I am starting to get to know a few people though and I have found myself a quiet spot beside a nearby lake just to be still for a while each day. The theatre group is coming together well though nearly everyone is has arrived now and we have been working together on theatre techniques and clowning for the past few days. Still lots more to do and to get ready before we leave though. We spotted some cracks that are starting to spear on my frame so it looks like I'm going to need to learn to weld.

Friday, 23 March 2012

I made it to Berlin!!!!

So after 800miles and 21 days on the road, through England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany I have finally arrived in Berlin! I set off from Hamm and waved goodbye to my last host Ossi 6 days ago now I think. From then on it was wild camping all the way (well except one night when I treated myself to a bed and breakfast.) I cycled for a few hours on the main roads and then joined up with the R1 bicycle route going to berlin. The first night out in the wild was the hardest. I found a great spot in a massive woodland, I set up my tent and even built a fire but it was hard being on my own again. I think one thing this trip has taught me is how important community is. We need each other, that's how we're made. I definately found this. To always be a passing stranger is hard work and very lonely at times. The next day I hit the hills and lots of them too. The route was really beautiful but the constant up and down was really tiring and demotivating. My pace slowed right down and to make things worse the roads were really windy. But that day was a turning point I had to stop counting miles like I was in a race. I knew the days on my own would be hard but I had to embrace them. After all had been praying a few days before "Jesus I just want to get to know you better..." And what better way than 5 days of wilderness. I camped that night beside a river (and I think just behind a sewage works or something, so decided not to drink the water.) The next day the hills got worse and as did the quality of the paths. My whole body was aching and decided I needed to stop short and that I needed avoid nights sleep in a bed. I found a great little guest house in a beautiful town called Goslar. I can't tell you how nice it was to have a shower, use a real toilet and sleep in a warm and comfortable bed! In the morning I had a very large German breakfast and then headed off on my way feeling refreshed and energised. I decided that the hills and cycle tracks were getting too bad and found a way to join up with my orriginal route and headed towards Magdeburg I covered nearly 100km that day and found a beautiful spot next to a lake. By now I had gotten my head around being in the wild and on my own and had a really nice evening beside the campfire reading and generally chatting with God. I had initially hoped I would find someone to stay with but i was glad to be here and I knew I wasn't on my own. The next day was another long ride and this time I stayed in another forest. It was with mixed feelings that I slept my last night out on my own, I was glad I was so close but also strangely sad that this part of my journey was coming to an end. I woke up to blue sky and sunshine and set off for the final 80km leg into Berlin. I had foggotern quite how much I hate cycling in cities but after many detours I finally found the old abandoned school which will be my home for the next 2 weeks. So the first part of my journey has ended, i still havn't got my head round it all yet. But what an experience, it's been a roller coaster of emotions and difficulties but I have been completely overwhelmed by God's goodness and care for me. Tomorrow we start running workshops and rehearsing music and theatre. I think I'm going to become a clown which should be fun! So now to explore Berlin!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Directions (and mechanics) from Heaven

My friend said to me before I left on this crazy adventure that I should "expect the unexpected." I don't think unexpected quite covers the events of the last few weeks. When I wrote last I had had some quite hard days, I had little idea before I left quite how lonely and stressful travelling alone can be. The past few days have been much better though, and really quite amasing at times. Before i left the guys in Hulshout I had managed to find places to stay for two nights so I set off on Tuesday morning towards Maaisk at the eastern edge of Belgium, there I stayed with a Dutch family. I actually slept in the wendy house in their back garden which was bezar but strangly cool. Everyday I am astounded by people's kindness and the provision of God - This was one of those moments... Jos, (the maker of the wendy house,)was planning a cycling trip to Berlin in four weeks time and had just that morning received in the post a detailed cycling map from Arnhiem to Berlin. I had been told about this map by lots of other cyclists on my route but had no idea how to get hold of it, and here it was! Jos let me buy it off him and so now I can follow small country roads and get off the big ones, I can't tell you how good that feels. Jos travelled with me for a while the next morning and sent me on my way to Wesel. I crossed from Belgium into Holland and then into Germany! There I stayed with another family in their beautiful home which was full of paintings and murals by paule who is an amasing artist. The next day on a beautiful days ride along the canal I was in high spirits, I was in awe of the way God had looked after me and lead me to amasing people but as I was riding I said to him "ok, I know you provide for me but I want to know you better not just for your provision..." and I think I even said something along the lines of "I don't care about provision anymore..." I carried on for the rest of the day enjoying the ride and the sunshine and looking forward to meeting my next host and then I took a sharp turn to fast and my back wheel literally folded underneath me. "shit!" I think was probably my first thought but remarkably it was only momanrty cursing. I was quickly laughing at myself thinking so ok maybe I shouldn't have said "I don't care about provision." I picked myself and my bike up and after asking for directions I wobbled my way to the nearest town to find a bike shop. Had this happened two days before I think I would have just burst into tears and given up but in my heart I new it would be fine, crazy I knew and I looked quite an odd side merrily wandering through town with my two wheeled trike. I managed to find a bike shop and the guy that ran it turned out to be a total legend. He couln't fix it that day as it was nearly 6 already. It he sent me on my way with fine German beer from his fridge. I left the bike with him and headed down to the canal to find a quiet spot to camp. And there I sat drinking good cold beer and eating German and honey, just me and Jesus! I was almost glad my wheel had broken although I think "surely there was a cheaper way of arranging this?" I woke up in the morning to find a policeman outside my tent, which was a bit of a shock but he was quite understanding when I explained what had happened. So now my trike has shiny new (and much stronger) back wheels and it turns out the funny noises I'd been hearing the past few days were my spokes slowly giving way. and it was a good job they broke when they did and not on the main road or in the middle of nowhere. So now I am staying in Hamm with a guy called Ossi who is an artist as well. He tried to feed me a whole chicken and we've had a great evening sharing stories and watching a film with his friends. Tomorrow I go on to join up with the route from my map for the last stretch of the journey.

Monday, 12 March 2012

In Brugge... and the crazy days after.

It seems i have lost track of all bearings... I started writing this 3 days ago sat in a quiet cafe in Brugge on my first proper day off since I started. its been a bit of a different story since then and my worry free days staying just out of brugge with an amasing couple called lucienne and chris seems like a world away now. Brugge its self was a bit of a let down. Its a beuatiful place but it has been completely taken over by tourism which is a real shame. I felt a bit dirty being there thinking I was another tourist polluting the true spirit of the place. I was really sad to leave Lucienne and Chris they had been really kind to me and it was good to feel 'at home' again for a while. I finally waved goodbye to them tho at the canal which would lead me onto Ghent (they had cycled with me for 10km so I wouldn't get lost.) The journey along the canal was really beutiful and it was great to get away from all the traffic but i was going to Ghent without any contact details for my next host. i spent most of my time in the city (which is actually really stunning) looking for WIFI but at 4pm I gave up and cycled out of town to find somewhere quiet to camp. It was actually quite hard to find somewhere but I finally found a spot by a lake to pitch my tent.
I woke up yesterday morning and finally the gnawing sensation of loneliness and isolation had set in. I had received a text from a potential host which lifted my spirits a bit, but I could still feel the stress of being on my own starting overwhelm me. It was actually a really beautiful day and most of my ride took me along the canal again which helped a lot, but I felt tired, not of cycling but tired of being alone, a passing stranger. I finnaly arrived in Hulshout at a factory where my host had told me he was staying. I was expecting a squat but it turned out to be a very cool factory 'conversion' rented by a group of belgium circus performers. I was warmly welcomed and greeted with offers of takeaway. These guys have been so amasing to me, I arrived quite stressed and generally low and to top it off my bike was broken and I had no more places to stay. But they really cheered me up with good beer, take away, fun stories and then we watched movies on the big screen. I had planned on heading off again today but they told me to stay the day and have given me tools to fix my bike and a computer to find places to stay and refine my route (to avoid cities which are not fun by bike)
Again and again i am blown over by the kindness of strangers and the faithfulness of God. We really are made in his image! I am still tired and a little stressed but I know God is good and he will not abandon me!
(and I actually fixed my bike! with tools and all!)      

Thursday, 8 March 2012

sorry its been so long...

Ok so a lot has happened since i arrived in London on Saturday evening... So here's the last ( days bullet point fasion...

  • Was finally found by Joe in starbucks and had a great evening hanging out.
  • May have broken spokes by pulling trike away whilest still locked up
  • Slept in
  • Went to apple store to get phone fixed
  • Went to bike shop for new spokes
  • Met up with my freind Luke for coffee
  • Visited a really cool squat my freind Bruno now lives in
  • Hung out with Joe and his brother Chris, drank whisky and watched 'Son of Rambo'
  • Said goodbye to Joe
  • wheeled trike to Bruno's place and he helped me change my spokes
  • New spokes didn't fit
  • Got more spokes - Bruno is a legend!
  • Convinced Bruno to come for a 'short' days ride
  • Follwed the Thames 'Cycle Route'
  • Carried bikes of lots of gates
  • Broke more spokes
  • Gave up on Cycyle route and headed for the Road
  • Carried bikes over more gates and got stuck in the mud
  • It got dark
  • It got hilly
  • finnally arrived in Gillingham at 9:30
  • Stayed with a cool guy called Sid from Inda who's a student there
  • Ate pizza
  • Said goodbye to Sid and Bruno at Midday
  • Right knee really painful
  • Lots of hills
  • Lots more hills
  • Prayed for knee
  • Knee alot better
  • More hills (Don't cycle in Kent)
  • Arived in Dover at 8pm
  • Stayed with a guy called Rob who lives at the top of the hill!
  • Gave up cycling and pushed
  • Rob cooked an amasing roast dinner and was forgiven for living at the top of the hill
  • Said goodbye to rob and headed for the ferry
  • Got ticket and qued up with cars
  • Statrted to rain very hard
  • Got soaked through and the hid inside a waiting bus for shelter
  • Hung clothes out to dry on the ferry which didn't work
  • Arrived in Calais!
  • Forgot which level I left my bike on so ran up and down lots of step trying to find it
  • Finally got off the ferry and onto dry (ish) land
  • No hills but lots of rain
  • Finally arrived in Dunkerque at 7pm and stayed with Zarko and his wife
Thursday (Today)
  • Got up at 7:30 and Zarko made an amasing breakfast
  • Set out at 9am with the sun shining and Zarko who is also a cyclist (not sure if i am one yet)
  • Had coffee and cake and Zarko had beer (was a bit early for me!)
  • Crossed the border into Belgium! and said goodbye to Zarko
  • Belgium is greqt for cycling, no hills and great roads
  • Had bread and honey curousy of Zarko for lunch sat on the side of a river
  • Got lost in a town i can't spell
  • Finnally found my way again and arived at Lucienne and Chris' House just south of Brugge
  • Talked Lots about Cycling and Cycling Maps
  • Had a wonderful Meal and was introduced to chicory
  • Talked more bicycles and about being oranised (or not)
  • Now writing my blog whilest Chris is looking up Tricycle mechanics for some repairs tomorrow
... So there you go i'll try and write more often now.   

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Day 2: Reading to London (44 miles)

So i have arrived in London! And my legs and unmensionables are still holding out! It feels like an age ago that I set out from Calne. Just watched a video my friend Jo took of me leaving the drive. It all feels quite unreal still, but it's actually happening! 100 miles down 700 to go! After quite a painful ride yesterday I have been trying to decide if I need to leave some things behind. Like my unicycle, because apparently it's not an essential item. But remarkably today was actually ok. So I think the unicycle will see another day! I have probably been lured into a false sense of security by sunshine and flat roads but hey optimism is a gift. I'm not sure if I have any great pearls of wisdom for today other than that London cycle lanes are a joke! And not a very funny one at that. So tomorrow is a day off I get to hang out with one of my best mates all day which I'm really looking forward to. And then on Monday on to Gillingham for my first couch surf!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Day 1: Calne to Reading (48 miles)

The journey has begun! After 2 weeks of crazy preparations At 10am this morning I set out from my home in Calne on my wonderful and very heavy Laiden tricycle complete with circus equipment (including a unicycle!) It was quite an emotional morning as many friends came to wave me off and some even brought some wheels and joined me for a few miles (thanks guys!) Today was the first time I had ridden with all my luggage packed up and I deffinatley felt the difference, I was ready to give up a couple of miles in when the first hill hit. Somehow tho I managed to push through and made it all the way to reading by 5pm. I've had a lovely evening spending time with some dear friends of mine sharing takeout and stories. So tomorrow is London and then a day off. Time for bed!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Walking in the Mist

My clock says 00:10 which means it is officially Friday and the day of my departure. After a long, busy and challenging week all the preparations are made, the trike is packed and i'm ready to go... I think?! 
Ready or not, in just under 10 hours i will set off on the 800mile journey from Calne to Berlin. I don't really know quite how i feel right now - excited, terrified, nauseous, sad, tired, hysterical, hopeful... 

This morning I went for a walk with my friend Dave and his wonderfully scraggy dog Lily up on the Cherhill downs, as we have often done over the years. I love those rounding green hills and know them well. The mist was thick and we could only see 100 yards or so in front of us but we made our way up to the top almost feeling our way and then sat at the foot of the monument staring out into a vast whiteness. 
As we looked out into the mist we were reminded of the uncertain journeys that lay ahead of us. 
One of Dave's favourite sayings is "just keep putting one foot in front of the other..." (a saying that sometimes provokes me to throw pillows.) I have know idea what will happen tomorrow, or the day after. The mist is too thick... But i do know this - like i know the downs i've walked 100 times. I believe in a God that knows the way, He won't let me down and he won't leave me. Yes i'm terrified, but I have no need to be... One foot in front of the other... bring it on!