Day 4. 42km. Köln – Bonn.

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Cycling
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Today was a day with friends in Bonn with a short ride in the sun first to get there. Talking, eating, walking, haircuts, and collecting a new webcam in Bonn.

Friends in Bonn

Friends in Bonn

My trip is feeling more like a big holiday than a serious bike trip. And, it will stay that way for another 3 days as my friend in Giessen that I want to visit will only return then. (Giessen is really only 2 days from here, I think.) Still, there is plenty of time, and it’s quite nice hanging out in the city with good friends I won’t be seeing for a long time. The first part of my trip is a farewell tour, after all.

It was 42km to Bonn along the lush, green Rhein River.

Along the Rhein River

Along the Rhein River

And a warm Bonner welcome,

followed by a nice ferry ride into the city.

The ferry in Bonn

The ferry in Bonn

I had a much needed haircut, and collected the new webcam (GoPro) that I ordered. (My other webcam (Ion Pro) was crashing constantly, and couldn’t be reset – you needed to wait five hours for the battery to die before a reset was possible. Due to this technical problem I have not been able to take any action videos thus far, including on the first day with all my friends joining me to the Belgian border.)

My new gadget

My new gadget

Day 3. 87km. Aachen – Köln

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , , ,

An eery silence standing above the empty freeway, a lone bird squawking in the distance. Standing under the ever impressive twin peaks of the Cologne cathedral, waiting for the journalist to arrive. And catching up with old friends, in Aachen and Cologne. Kölle Allaaf!

Der Kölner Dom

Der Kölner Dom

The cycle path passed next to a freeway. But, there was something different about this freeway. There were no cars. Three lanes in each direction, and nobody there. I climbed up a bridge crossing the freeway and looked. There was a light breeze, and no other sound. In both directions nothing. Then a bird squawked in the distance, before the blanket of silence returned.

The empty freeway.

The empty freeway.

A man pedalled up the bridge from the other side to join me in the silence. We stood there gazing into the empty distance.
‘Why is it empty?’ I asked.
‘This is all new,’ he replied. ‘It is 18km of new freeway to replace some of the old A4 freeway from Cologne to Aachen.’
This stretch of road is finished, and will be opened in the next few days. It cost 170 million euros, and later in the day, I was shown all the technical difficulties that were addressed in the construction.
‘But, why?’ I asked.
‘Mining.’
Brown coal mining. This will be one of the biggest holes in the ground for coal mining in the world. The old A4 and some towns will all become part of the new big black coal mining hole. This has been planned since 1975. The plans continue until 2035. Now, that is planning. So, we are locking in further massive CO2 emissions. *Sigh*

Then a train passed. Bringing coal from the mine to the power plant.

Coal transportation

Coal transportation

The man joined me cycling towards Cologne. We cycled next to the new empty freeway and the new train line made especially for coal transport. He showed me the constructions to ensure proper drainage and other technical elements. It is not all bad news, though. We also passed 2km of solar panels.

Solar panels

Solar panels

Thanks, my friend, for joining me, sharing all this knowledge, and showing me the way when the signposting wasn’t adequate.

2014-09-15 14.34.04

I had an appointment with a journalist from the Kölnische Rundschau newspaper at 17:00 at the Cologne cathedral, and my timing was perfect. The cathedral impresses me every time. It is just so massive, rising vertically upwards with its amazing ornateness from the ground. The base is buzzing with tourists (like myself). The photographer from the newspaper took some photos with me in front of the cathedral, and then I sat down on one of the benches to talk to the journalist.
‘When did you live in Cologne?’
‘From 2007 to 2010,’ I replied.
‘And did you like your time in Cologne?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘It was a fun time here! I like Cologne.’

Most importantly the day was one of catching up with friends. I caught up with Hien – a friend who worked with me at Philips in Aachen, and Arnd – a friend of many years who now lives in Cologne. Good to see you both!

Hien

Hien

Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light

Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light


The pressure and stress of the last week was released like air escaping from a balloon. A short ride through familiar territory with Ed and Frank to Aachen before a relaxing in the beautiful thermal baths in Aachen.

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Relaxing in the thermal baths in Aachen, I slipped in and out of consciousness. Lying in the pool, the dome high above my head, which changed colours from blue, to green, to yellow, to red. The pattern of the waves was overlaid, putting me into a trance. In the hot bath I lay, what seemed like hours, in a kind of eternal dream. The light shining from below refracted around my hand, forming a red tinge on the top of my hand, and a blue tinge on the bottom. I felt the stress dissipate. I felt at one with the universe.

Frank Thiele, a cycling friend and colleague from my time in Aachen had cycled to Schimmert to return to Aachen with Ed and me. Ed was on an old bike from his grandfather with 3 gears and the saddle way too low. And, after a few kilometres, only one brake.

Farewell at Schimmert

Farewell at Schimmert

We passed the castle where I was a witness at Ed and Judith’s wedding many moons ago.

Ed's wedding castle

Ed’s wedding castle

And we made our way up to the Vaalse berg – the highest point in the Netherlands. What better place to part ways than at the border – the border with Germany and Belgium?

Then it was downhill with Frank into Aachen, through my playground for 12 years – the Aachen forest.

Aachen Forest

Aachen Forest

And passed the old Philips Research labs in Aachen.

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Looking through the familiar gate, nothing seems to have changed. But, much has changed. That was a different time – my time in Aachen. A fun time that has, with other eras in my life, been banished to being fond memories.

Thanks very much Frank and Danielle for letting me stay at their place. It was great catching up!


 


The day was surreal. Escorted by a mass of friends to the Belgian border, we sat in the sun, fearing the moment of our ways diverging. Then welcomed by more friends on arrival in Schimmert – with the Dutch flag and a glass of champagne. I still haven’t fathomed everything. That will come.

Departure in Eindhoven

Departure in Eindhoven

 

I guess it must be the excitement. 2 years in the making, the day arrives, and I have a cold. Not a bad cold, and nothing that a bit of fresh air, and 30 people with waving flags can’t fix. I walked out of my front door, and soon, the people amassed. Lots of friends, people from work, and even people that I didn’t know that had read about my departure in the newspaper. Really cool. After flying the flags of the 32 countries I will pass through, the moment came: not only am I unemployed, but I am also homeless. I handed over the keys to my apartment to the new tenants. And then the trip began – with 30 followers on their bikes. The Pied Piper of Eindhoven.

All of a sudden, cycling through the forest, I hear ‘Advance Australia Fair’. A string of flags crossed the path, and Rufus Driessen – a friend from Philips – was cheering us on. He was set up there with his stereo in the forest. How cool is that? As my webcam had decided to crash again, I wasn’t able to capture this.. But, it is stored between my ears.

The sun came out for us as we sat in the cafe just over the Belgian border. The 2 hours there was punctuated with hugs and tears between the eating and drinking, and some magic tricks by Dhemie. The time for the departing of ways finally came, and I turned towards Belgium as the friends returned into the Netherlands.

A pleasant and familiar trip along the Belgian canal followed, before my very warm welcome in Schimmert.

Welcome in Schimmert

Welcome in Schimmert

Welcome dinner in Schimmert

Welcome dinner in Schimmert


First it’s a year. Then it’s months. Then days. And then the emotional rollercoaster ride really starts. You say goodbye to friends, one after the other over a period of a couple of weeks. You go to familiar places for the last time – constantly. And random emotion wells up. While running along the canal in Eindhoven yesterday, I thought of my mother. She died of cancer 9 years ago, but she is still here with me. I squeeze her hand, and she smiles back.

My colleagues at work gave me a lovely farewell. I now have a video of them and where we worked, for when I feel lonely, a long way from home. My close friends have been with me a lot in the last weeks. Tomorrow will be my last day with them. My father and family in Australia are there, supporting me on my trip back home. I love them.

This morning I woke up in a new life. And it is amazing! I was at the Green Pedals kick-off at the Willemspark school in Den Haag. It’s like seeing kids at Christmas – running around – looking at my tent, my bike, and my stuff – my only possessions for the coming 2 years. I look at their excitement and curiosity – how they are open to experiencing a world that is magic. And they know and want to live in a sustainable society. They will inherit the planet, and it will all be OK.

Tomorrow morning I will leave Eindhoven. I’m already unemployed. Tomorrow I will be without a humble abode. I’ll be ‘op de fiets’ – cycling. I have a lump in my throat. It’s really happening – now.

Farewell at Philips

Farewell at Philips


See below for English.

Vandaag hebben Mansi Jasuja en ik (arctic-cycler) aan het eerste Green Pedals activiteit deelgenomen – een leuke, interactieve sessie over duurzaamheid en wereldfietsen op de Willemsparkschool in Den Haag. De kinderen waren tussen 10 en 12 jaren oud, en waren fantastisch. Ze hebben echt goede ideeën gehad hoe ze kleine dingen in het dagelijkse leven kunnen doen om het milieu te helpen. We hebben de kinderen gevraagt om hun ideeën op de Green Pedals Facebook pagina te delen, klaar voor de pre-cycle kick-off volgende week vrijdag. Wij zijn allemaal benieuwd naar hun ideeën!!

Today Mansi Jasuja and I (arctic-cycler) took part in the first Green Pedals activity – a lively interactive session on sustainability and world cycling at the Willemsparkschool in Den Haag. The kids were between 10 and 12 years old, and were fantastic. They had some great ideas about little things they can do in their own everyday lives to help the environment. We asked the kids to share their ideas on the Green Pedals Facebook page for the pre-cycle kick-off next Friday. We are all keen to see their ideas!!

 

In front of Willemsparkschool in Den Haag

In front of Willemsparkschool in Den Haag

Mansi at Willemsparkschool for Green Pedals

Mansi at Willemsparkschool for Green Pedals

Talking about the trip

Talking about the trip


Last week I was interviewed by @SimonRood from the Eindhovens Dagblad (newspaper), and today it appeared in the paper. There’s a bit of a party atmosphere at work today. Really nice!

Article in the Eindhovens Dagblad

http://www.ed.nl/regio/eindhoven/australi%C3%ABr-fietst-vanuit-eindhoven-36-000-kilometer-naar-huis-1.4513483

Here is a pdf of the article in the Eindhovens Dagblad