Cycling Cindy in her very own wonderland vs. the rough India-mode
‘Are you on a trip around the world?’ asks an eighty year aged man who’d come sit next to me on a wooden bench. Not so difficult to answer but without trying to form an extended answer I reply ‘yes’. I am on a trip around the world, even though that is cycling over destined cycle paths to Germany and a little into Denmark.
I am back in the Netherlands for about 5 weeks now and need to get out. Desperately. I have plenty of energy after the North Indian amoeba parasite is out of my system but my sudden come back to the Netherlands is one of complete uncertainty, so I decide to cycle in order to have the mind settled.
I am like a holy cow
My mind is still very much in in the India-mode, I miss the variety of chai stalls yet notice how my adaptivity is swiftly and smooth: odors are at times exactly the same, like the smell of bats. There are other things that confuse me, like a swastika sign, or whirling leaves that I mistake for a lizard, while branches on the cycle path are seen as snakes. In my observance I see even elephants and monkeys, perhaps the two weeks heavy dose of antibiotics has left traces. I forget to cycle on cycle paths, instead peddling along the road where cars honk at me. I forget our Dutch kindly towards pedestrians and I whiz, barely a meter between us, past them over the zebra. I doubt whether I am appreciated? My eyes shoot all directions, intersections, exits and crossroads are all possibilities for collisions. I register the surrounding I am in fully and with complete Indian observance, ridiculously unnecessary in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands bicyclers are like the holy cow in India, they won’t hit you. Later on the leaves and twigs change for mushrooms and beer cans and acorns and grassy grounds.
And I am full in the woods.
Forests are naturals not seen for a very long time, and I feel a strong desire to be in God’s natural abundance. I was planning on cycling to Australia when the turning wheel of events changed and being in a Dutch national park where wild camping can costs me as much as €300 fine -I am told by three kids- I take the risk.
Risks? Stress is everywhere! In cycling most definitely too…
Talking about risks, cycling is not without stress. I have come to definite conclusion that stress is about to be everywhere. Stating I have a stress free life is non-sense: I need to find the correct route (ridiculous in the Netherlands), I need to find a supermarket in time (even more ridiculous), I keep looking out for camp-spots, long before I start camping and I get stressful when I do not approach a forest around 17.30 PM. I even get stressed about the dead slow continuation in the Netherlands (because we have too many cycle paths and too many directions, too many roads, too many red lights, too many crossroads, too many of too much). Yet cycling frees the mind, even on a pathetic stretch of 10 kilometers.
My mother finds it scary that I am camping in the woods, but it is far from. Stealth camping is safe: who knows I am there? Will a rapist really start searching his victim in the dense forest? I choose tracks grown with grass and moss, I leave the fresh trotted tracks behind me and am only half a kilometer away from the road yet far into the woods. People walking with their dog think they’re into nature but hardly ever leave the beaten track.
The simplicity is bliss. Stay with me.
To hear the wind shifting over the leaves above me, to hear the church clock through the buzz of silence, a mother ant carrying her baby over the handmade paper where I write upon. The endless purple fluctuation of the moorlands into the distance, until the green woods keep her from doing so. As if the woods say ‘stay with me’. While I listen to the crashing of acorns underneath my wheels many tiny a flashbacks to other parts of the world flow through: Benin, Nigeria and, no wonder, India. I start to wonder whether it matters where I cycle? Of course it does, but it occurs once more that cycling is reliving and reviving, besides a perfect quietening of the mind, easing of the senses, stabilizing of being, an ultimate meditation.
‘Where do you sleep?’ ask a lovely enthusiastic child when I have lunch at the purple moorland.
‘Here, outside,’ I answer
‘But, that is not allowed,’ he fills in.
‘There’s so much not allowed,’ I trow in.
The kid thinks about it, hold it in his mind and nod in recognition…
Do I need to ask? ‘Why am I cycling?’ No!
Dreaming one night about the decry of my arm, the other night about breastfeeding makes all sense in the world. First stand for limitations in my actions, loss or troubles while the breastfeeding stand for the bounding with mother, maternal, preservation of life and nutrition. I need cycling to deal with the enormous changes in happening: from being at high altitude in India to a sudden come back to the Netherlands to an aversion against the abrupt shutdown of a nomad. Not to speak about the perhaps undeniable reintegration into a life I don’t want to be… cycling is my only refuge.
Seeing wooden clogs, herons and storks I am mostly surrounded by quietness. Children smiling at me ferociously, I feel a traveler once again. I sleep in the woods each night, my hair greasy of Nivea cream, smelling of exercise, a wonderful sweaty smell. I go 9 days without shower and I notice the facial expression of well dressed soapy people in the supermarket, a look that makes me feel a weird, funny dressed other human being. That’s what it is precisely…
Hip beautiful Hamburg shocks me
Having no map with me, nor being prepared in terms of knowing which cities and towns to follow, being without a charged smart-phone nor having sun to charge the solar panel, I am hopelessly pedaling around in Hamburg to find my way out. I didn’t have to come through Hamburg at all, but that’s where I end up after taking a few ferry’s, who miraculously set me off at the right side of the river. In my huge disorientation I cycle past business man in meticulously suits eating fish at the fish market, past alcoholic men knocked out in the sun, barely having food in their stomachs to make it comfortable to the next day. I am shocked to see these big groups of homeless people, so open and visible I haven’t even seen this in India. Not to such an extend.
The Magic of a Home
Sneaking into the woods gives me a feeling of safety, a sense of interacting with nature. Being able to make your temporarily home anywhere feels magic. To sleep with an underground of insects and moss, to be quiet and hear the rodents run around the tent sheet, to have grunting swines sniffing at my tent and deer jumping over the pegs.
The roads in Germany are annoying me at times, they are -not so logically- placed away from the highway while in Denmark I can finally again cycle on the highway. Denmark has long, straight roads, wavy landscapes where farmers harvest in circles to avoid the dips and depressions in their fields. In Germany the woods are magnificent, it cost me no effort at all to find a hidden spot. Passing Maria statues and hairdressers a lot more, avoiding to be misled by the diversity of integrated cycle paths and opposite directions to cycle in, I like cycling in Germany, exactly for this reason: more diversity. It’s really more playful and easier due to lack of the many rules, as the Dutch like to imply.
The homeless-effect in a supermarket
Cycling in these parts of the world can not be called adventurous, neither is it about meeting people. The Netherlands are just packed with cycle paths so it takes me hours to do a stretch which would costs me half the time and no effort in finding the correct direction in comparison to Africa. My co-supermarket fellows are watching me, trying hard to hide their oversuspicious-looks, like people often do when they are eye to eye with a homeless person. Being different often is viewed as worrisome. Not as if I were a drunkard or a drug-addict but as in a dirty farmer or an ethnic minority (I recognize it from when I was living among indigenous people). When I fill up my water bottles, usually in a bakery, they are handled as if they were covered in shit.
Disliking the lofty ways of European drivers
I miss rivers to wash myself and my clothes in, like I did in Africa. I miss sunlight to dry my stuff would I have been able to wash things in a river. See, there are many things different about cycling in Europe, though I am annoyed about the hordes of mosquito’s, slimy slug-corpses dangling on my racks, and the rodents biting holes in my Ortliebs. What I really dislike is the gallantry of car people when they think they do me a favor in car ruled traffic, while all I do is trying to maneuver through the cars. I pass cars exactly like I do in India, passing from behind while both being in motion. Except I am not in India, thus my cycling technique is heavily dishonored. I feel like a clown in a normal world. Especially when cyclists and people on a bicycle stop for red lights when there’s literally NO ONE in a car approaching from afar nor from visible distance. Just everybody stops. They stop for nothing. They stop for a pole with a red light while there’s no one else on any of the roads connecting the one where they are waiting. Waiting for a red light to turn green. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I find it puzzling and since I am an Indian by-cyclist, a clown in European traffic, I bang right through them all.
Germany is wide open. The farmers are blessed to be able to be a farmer. Their fields are never ending, their cows deliver tasty milk, the people might not be able to speak English, some things are clear from a distance, like the caravans with a fluffy, heart-shaped red pillow in front of one of the filthy looking windows. People point me the correct direction and an elderly woman who apparently pities me comes over and embrace me.
Some people dislike selfie’s, I don’t: it’s just another expression…
I cycle wrong a lot, take immense compulsory detours and make big cities my connecting points while would I have a map or a plan I would cycle much more directly. Cycling back takes me three day less and thus avoiding the complexity of the big cities. The sky above me soon start to become different in appearance, the clouds are shaped non-Dutch and I admire them. I take my lunches in fields, the sun shining on me (the photo’s speak for themselves) where I let my tent dry and I jump around in plain happiness.
Sleeping in the woods is different each time, the sounds differs and the animals present vary too. I am hardly worried about people seeing me although a spot in the middle of a town is not greatly chosen, and I am seen. I love the soothing sound of mice bumping against the tent-cloth, the silence in which I drink chai in the mornings and the knowledge I gain in recognizing sounds.
This is all to give the mind space, eating in fields, camping in woods, cycling, where confined to a house with walls there’s little to no mental space for a nomad forced to be none. All this cycling and camping is so much about releasing the child in yourself, that even I almost feel ashamed for it. Maybe mostly because people react thunderstruck, or in horror, or in disbelief ‘all alone? On a bicycle?’ Yet, being depended on woods can be anxious like an animal would be, or worrisome, or simply simple. In all it forms: to choose this with consciousness, pattering in the woods is something I won’t see many people doing. It’s all much more pleasant when the sun is out, once it start raining the whole story changes.
Greatly appreciated about traveling are the unknowns which I can’t place
Cycling back is ruled upon two norms: I can’t stop before 18.00 PM and I can’t stop before I set a 100 kilometer. This may sound little pleasant yet I am aware what’s happening around me: I spot each single cat wondering in the grassy fields, I notice tiny mice crossing the path, I pass huge moor-fields and see that the harvest is in full swing throughout Germany. Pheasants fly away from my passing bicycle, while airplanes leaves tracks behind like a tractor-tire in a cloudless sky. I pass the Elbe river and my eyes follow a bird flying low in front of the ferry. I notice the simplicity of a bird flying and can’t help thinking this is their purpose. What is mankind purpose?
The most remarkable change is yet about to come, though it starts to set in right here. I am fully aware that I am not going to fit in European society anymore. I don’t want to stand in front of my wardrobe and decide an hour long what to wear. I don’t want to wear high heels anymore. I don’t want to go shopping for more. Sure I keep vain enough but I have enough of all this superficiality and closed surroundings. I need sunlight, open skies and nature. Where beneath my soles I feel the cracking of decreased wood, the soundless of stepping on moss.
Cycling a bit of Europe feels like a warm blanket to keep me warm through the uncertainty of life. A brownish masala dodi-pathi color -spiced up tea made with pure milk- made up by oak leaves on a friable earth. Pure and a little dirty earth, keeping me warm after an infernal ride through India. Right now I am bending like a river. What comes will be welcomed.