We are in the process of preparing for our return to France.

  • We are looking for places to sleep in between Madrid and Paris (we only need a little corner of land to pitch the tent!). If you can help us out, please follow this link.

  • We already have a couple of conferences lined up along the way. To see the schedule, follow this link. We would be happy to met with you!

We are also looking for an apartment in Paris or the surrounding area, starting in mid-May 2010. Any help or suggestions would be most welcome!

Sweet France

Since leaving France, we’ve had a few problems, and we are doing the best we can to continue to bike home.

The first day Sébastien had difficulty changing gears. Some weren’t working at all and we took a closer look. The derailleur looked a little strange to us but we couldn’t figure out what the problem was. We took it in to a bike shop and the mechanic told us it would take 2 weeks to fix. We continued on our way… and that night the derailleur got stuck in the spokes. We tried to pry it out and ended up frustrated. We tried to figure out what to do. The next morning turned around and headed back to Guadalajara, a small town north of Madrid. The detour meant an extra 30 km, but the old guy who owned the bike shop was pretty passionate about his work. He spent a long time looking at Sébastien’s bike, asked million questions about our trip, and didn’t believe us that we’d biked more than 21,000 km through the Americas. In the end, the derailleur hanger seemed to have got dented during the voyage across the Atlantic. He straightened it out with a wrench and said that it should last until Paris. We crossed our fingers as we set out, heading through the back country of Spain, far from any bike shops.

That might have been the only mechanical problem… but it wasn’t. Sébastien’s chain started acting up again. While we were going uphill, the chain fell off. Sébastien swore – another broken chain! We looked for a place sheltered from the wind to try and fix it. But naturally, one of the links broken off again.

Wind? Yes, there is wind. We’ve had a lot of wind, actually, mostly a tailwind. We’ve been making good progress, pushed along by the wind. But as you all know, the wind can be the worst enemy for cyclists, and certainly for campers. Since Madrid none of the campsites have been open. So we’ve been bush camping, with showers in the frigid rivers every other day (we can’t always find rivers, or else it’s too cold to shower). Once, we got lost following a road on our map that doesn’t exist anymore. Tired, we found a good place to camp for the night. The wind was pretty strong, but we expected it would go down with the sun, as it normally does. Normally, but not this time! That night, the wind got stronger. Our little tent shook like crazy and we were worried it wouldn’t hold. So at 5 am, in the middle of the night (the sun doesn’t rise until 8), we packed up camp. The road went down to a little village, where we spent a couple of hours in the only bar that was open. The TV was on and we found out that there was a storm in north of Spain. The waves in San Sébastien were more than 5 metres high, to the delight of the surfers, but to our great consternation. The women standing in front of the map of Spain assured us that the storm would soon calm. We were sceptical at first, but in the end it did die down. Phew! The next night we were deep in the forest, protected from the wind and rain (but not the damp), and we slept like logs for 12 straight hours!

Since our return to Europe, we have had to deal with consumerism. Everything comes in family-sized packages. What are we going to do with 36 rolls of toilet paper?! The smallest packs of 6 are still too big for us and our little panniers.

The last couple of days of biking, there was a lot of traffic on the roads. It was holy week, and a lot Spain was on vacation and headed out of the city. But even though there were a lot of cars on the road, they were still very careful of us cyclists.

We haven’t really been trying to meet people along the way, but neither has anyone spoken to us. We get a certain feeling of indifference towards us, a new sensation.

After 7 days and more than 500 km, we arrived at the foot of a wall, at the bottom of the Roncal Valley, in the middle of the Pyrenees. It wasn’t as impressive as we expected! After 3 hours of solid effort, we arrived at the top of the Pierre Saint Martin pass, 1760m high, disappointed that there was no sign to welcome us back to France. The glacial wind helped us in our climb, pushing us up part of the way and chasing away the black storm clouds that threatened snow which would have damaged our tires. Folding up the still frozen tent was enough winter for one day! Wearing all our warm and wind-proof clothes, we began our descent towards Béarn in the Barétous Valley. Guillaume met us there and biked with us the last few kilometres of this symbolic leg of our journey. He and his wife Rachel had biked through the Americas a couple of months ago, and they welcomed us warmly into their home. We had a great time sharing stories and got lots of good advice about our return home and the conferences we are planning.

Sara & Sébastien

[Drapeau de France Heather | Le 03-04-2010 20:27 | Add a comment]

News from the front line

We’ve had a few difficulties as we head towards France: some mechanical problems (the derailleur got stuck between the spokes, chain links broke), a storm while camping which meant we had to take refuge in the middle of the night, and our stove seems to be quite temperamental. 

Tomorrow, Friday, we are crossing the Pyrenees through the Pierre Saint Martin pass (1760m high). What do you think are the odds of a snow storm??

We will tell you the whole story as soon as we are warm and dry with Rachel and Guillaume, two cyclo-tourists and our first hosts in France.

Sara & Sébastien

[Drapeau de Espagne Heather | Le 01-04-2010 17:25 | Add a comment]

Back in the old world

Our flight across the Atlantic went well, despite a little bit of turbulence at the end. Our bikes and bags arrived safe and sound.

When we landed we were met by Gill and Séverine, Sara’s dad and his wife. It was so lovely for them to come and meet us after almost 22 months of travelling outside of Europe. They spent two days with us and helped us readjust.

We have been rediscovering the complex flavours of more elaborate cooking. In Madrid we became reacquainted with euros, and the narrow, windy roads of the downtown. It was a change from the gun-shot straight roads of the new world, all arranged on a perfect grid pattern. As we walked around the city, we could feel the richness of history which infused the atmosphere and rhythm of the daily life. Although the inhabitants of Madrid seemed more stressed than those who live in Buenos Aires, the city itself was less busy.

In the roads, whether we were biking or on foot, we felt more respected by the motorist. They even put on their blinkers to pass us!

The accent, pronunciation, vocabulary and rhythm of the language in Spain is very different from what we learned in South America.

We are also learning to put toilet paper back in the toilet instead of in the garbage. Since Mexico, the poor plumbing means that toilet paper always has to be thrown in the little garbage cans beside the toilets.

Our requests to visit Microfinance institutions were not answered, but we have lots to do, preparing our presentations and going through all our pictures!

Lots of differences here, that we are enjoying re-discovering from a new perspective.

Sébastien

[Drapeau de Espagne Heather | Le 24-03-2010 19:23 | Add a comment]

Nearly back in Europe

We really enjoyed our last few days in Buenos Aires, taking advantage of its unique offerings. We watched the tango dancers in the streets of San Telmo and went to a polo game in Palermo – not something to miss since Argentineans are the best polo players in the world. We ate our last steak and our last ice cream cone, both delicious and much cheaper than in Europe.

We also visited a microfinance institution and followed Amanda for a whole morning, one of the credit officers, as she went about her daily routine. She took us to see micro-entrepreneurs around the Argentine capital, places that no tourists would ever get to see (where even the microfinance visits are done in groups). These are the areas called favelas in Brazil and villas in Argentina. Cities within cities: only a few hundred meters away, the roads are regular and paved, but in the slums, the laneways wind about, the light is dim, and the windows and doors barred. The houses are built of whatever materials can be found and there is garbage everywhere. Amanda knew where she was going. We followed close behind her in this maze, and she waved hello to a couple of people we passed. We met with Lorenza who makes jeans in a room just off her kitchen. She sells them as her own brand in the nearby markets. She was so proud when we asked if we could take a picture. We met a couple of other micro-entrepreneurs like her, making clothing in their little houses, and working 7 days a week to make it work. Far from the stereotype that one might have of people who live in slums.

Remember the article we posted on June 9, 2008, more than 21 months ago now, announcing our big departure:

The bags are packed

The bikes are loaded

The fuel for the stove is bought (we forgot about that one!)

We are ready to start are great adventure!

We could pretty much write the same thing today!

The bags are put away, the bikes are packed in their boxes, and the gas canister is empty. We are ready to head back to Europe to continue our great adventure!

See you in Madrid!

Sara & Sébastien

[Drapeau de Argentine Heather | Le 20-03-2010 18:21 | Add a comment]

Rest? Vacation? Never !

We have spent a lot of time in the last couple of days in buses… 16 hours between Iguazu and Florianopolis; 22 hours between Florianopolis and Montevideo, including a little break in Porto Alegre; and another couple of hours of local transportation as well as getting back to Buenos Aires, where we are now for a few days. Phew!

In Florianopolis, Brazil, we stayed with warmshower members Ana and André. They were wonderfully welcoming and showed us all around their region. In order to be more efficient in our sightseeing we rented a scooter, which was a lot of fun! We were able to get easily from beach to beach (the water and the waves were perfect), and from sight to sight. We knew this wasn’t the most eco-friendly way to travel and we felt bad about that, so we compensated by learning how Ana and André make their own paper at home as well as all sorts of other useful things using recycled materials. From their website,(http://www.pedarilhos.com.br/) they design (Ana is a fashion designer), make and sell t-shirts using recycled plastic bottles. They invited their friend Duan over, and the three of them asked us all sorts of questions about our trip. They are planning their own trip through South America. We had a lot of fun with them – thanks!

We only spent 4 days in Uruguay. Susan, Doug and Jessie had already welcomed us into their home in Mexico, and then they moved to Uruguay where they once again invited us to stay with them in their new house. They even hosted a very convivial asado (a barbecue). From the little that we saw, Uruguay seems like a pleasant country, and we really enjoyed its relaxed attitude and quiet atmosphere. Might that be because of all the maté that the locals drink?

During the past two weeks, we might have taken it easy and just had a good time. We might have… but didn’t. Every day we spent many hours on the internet, trying to sort through our pictures of the last 21 months. And believe us, it isn’t easy to try and pick 30 or 40 of the best pictures out of more than 40,000! We are also working on the presentations that we have to give when we get back.

Only a couple more days now on the American continent. We are at once impatient to see our friends and family and nostalgic as we look through the pictures from our trip. We are excited to be biking back home and also sad to be leaving behind so many memories of a simpler life, so full of meaning…

PS: We know we are a little behind getting the most recent pictures up. Be patient, they will be posted soon!

Sébastien

[Drapeau de Etats-Unis Heather | Le 15-03-2010 20:06 | Add a comment]

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