Part 1: Each country cycled through; one best photograph
A pity that in the beginning of the trip I focused more on cycling than on making photo’s. Making a good photo takes time: you need to get off the bicycle most of the time, you need to take quite a few to have the exact right frame setting -although often the first picture is the best- furthermore it’s important to have patience because the best photo’s are those where people, vehicles or animals are part of the composition. It also is quite important to make contact with people, or to really intrude in their lives, or daily ongoing. In short, the best photo is often the one taken with care and honestly, as a cyclist that’s not the priority. Yet, this collection is not too bad ; )
Another difficulty -but a plus for mobile phone photo’s- is that on a SLR screen you can view and judge your photos only after you found shade. The sun is often too bright to see anything on the viewer screen. Checking of your photo’s often make you see what you did wrong and what you can do better, but that’s too late once you’re in camp or in a room.
I have all photo’s on the blog going through Picasa 3 to enhance them. On the Samsung smart-phone I use Instagram or Picsart.
I use a Nikon D90 with a Tamron lens 18 – 270 mm, and a Samsung smart-phone
Being in Georgia I decided to go by in Armenia. Although I wanted to cross into Iran from Iraq I wanted to see the churches from the Armenian which I discovered long ago in Kurdish Turkey and in Iran. Armenia is a country to go back to, the colors hovering over the nature are remarkable stark. The people are very friendly and hospitable and the food is good, kind of starter to Iran.
When I found a place to have breakfast this boy came to hide. While other children walked past in their crisp school uniform this boy fell asleep. It’s a simple composition with a matte effect, of a boy’s probably unfortunate life situation.
Slightly more South than the Netherlands… The trip just started and upon seeing this you know spring is in full swing! With a friend I was searching for a typical Bangladesh river fish. It took us hours but we found it. This was on our (wrong) way towards the Indian section in Brussels.
My bicycle broke down; bottom bracket almost destroyed. In trying to have this fixed by ‘mechanics’ who’d used an iron hammer the back wheel got bended. To such an extend that with every turn of the wheel it got stuck against the lock. In trying to remove the lock I noticed the huge bend better be trued. But this is a huge job for someone not a mechanic. I realized in order to cycle I had to true the wheel. This took me two afternoons, and meanwhile I had a dog accompanying me. While the wheel was quite straight the brake refused working, and I couldn’t use it anymore. That was a minor issue I decided… and it was. Cycling on to the capital the bottom bracket got completely ruined. No mechanic with no iron hammer could help me!
I didn’t come far in Denmark yet the colors of the sky and the clouds are very different from the colors and shapes in the Netherlands. It’s way more open and not so overly congested as the Netherlands. I feel I could breath better here.
6) Emirates I
I looked so much forward to sleep in the desert on my way to Oman. Then this!
Cycling through Dubai was a highlight! The country where this big unnatural city is situated was an absolute eye opener. I liked it a lot, and this photo shows a bit about it: a natural disaster, a tromp-l’oeil, an optical illusion.
Pleasant with its cheese and remarkable few bakeries where I could get fresh bread. I stayed on camping’s all the time as I was still a novice in wild camping. This was a view near one of the camping’s. With the document I carried from Focus on Education I often got discount or free stays.
Another very pleasant country. Beautiful scenery, great food and lovely happy people. I made a kind of adventurous decision when I rode up a mountain without knowing anything about it. That’s where I met this old man and his donkey, the donkey was carrying its own food down the hill. I didn’t know the road would soon become gravel and that there weren’t houses where I could ask water or shelter. I ended at the top of the mountain (about 2500 meter) in a thick fog where I couldn’t see a hand for my eyes, neither where I placed the tent. That was a wonderful way to wake up!
Gambia was a joke! Walking on the beach was unpleasant due to the ‘bumsters’, searching for sexual adventures. I did walk on the beach together with my parents, who came over. We changed our perspective and we had big fun with the diverse people trying to get in touch with us. Gambia was a joke, and a lovely one. These man catching fish in huge nets were working hard, my dad pulled the line for a while too. I liked The Gambia but more for the work that I was doing then for cycling.
I did not have peak moments in Guinea Bissau, but right before the border with Guinea Conakry I was elated by this kitten. As soon as I cuddled and played with it, a group of children came over and we had a great time together, playing with the cat. But notice the expression of the cat… it’s not happy. And that’s not strange as those children were rough with an animal as silly as a baby cat!
11) Guinea Conakry
A fresh born calf. That was the only animal of any size I’ve seen in wild wild Africa… Nonetheless I was completely amorous with him, a pity he never had seen humans on bicycles.
Guinea Conakry II
I was cycling with two Irish brothers and French guy. We formed a magical little platonic family and the French warned us not to cycle from Liberia straight into Ivory Coast as rebels were active. So I got myself a second expensive (€100) visa for Guinea (one the border officials -4 different people- never checked as they all checked the first expired visa) and we entered a corner of Guinea. We had a magical ride through real, almost the last existent dense forest in West Africa where we climbed a hill overlooking Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea
Early morning cycling on the beach, as there was no other path known to me, just after crossing the border. That was a hassle: first, a border guard with gun shot into the air to get my attention. Second, there was no stamp available. Third, pushing bicycle back and forth between the two borders. Forth, to find out the Ghana border patrol wanted to be paid bribes for not having a stamp. No way!
No need to say I cycled here on my to somewhere else. Yet I was surprised by the big parcels of land the farmers have. It was easy (and not allowed) to find a stealthy camp spot. Even in Hamburg I managed very quickly to find a spot on a hill in the woods.
Not a country but definitely different from anywhere else in India. Besides I can’t think of a country I have been starting with an ‘H’. I made quite many photo’s (yet not enough) and this one shows the grandness of the Himalaya. Cycling in Spiti and Lahaul valley is, as anywhere else in such area’s, a constant falling down of stones. I was ‘cycling’ towards the Kunzum La, at 4550 meter altitude, more struggling than anything else though. Rocks as big as half a bale of hay fell down, a truck nearly crushed me against a rock-wall, cars and buses couldn’t pass as there were floods…
14) Ivory Coast
Another very comfortable country to be in, I liked the people, who are very relaxed. Yet I find it often difficult to ask their photograph to be taken. It’s all so graceless: I step of the bicycle sweaty and stinky, barge in a coffee shop, drink two tea like I am all dried up and ‘oh, by the way, can I make a photo of you?’ Countries like India are the opposite, where I sometimes have to reject people’s photo’s to be taken… I had my eyes on the girl in the background. Girls in Ivory Coast have their heads shaven remarkable often, and I think this only enhance their beauty. I found her so pretty that I asked her for a photograph. Unfortunately, she turned out to be very shy and all I got was a pose way too stiff. The guy, on the other hand, was a natural poser. This way I got both while the girl stood comfortable and natural again.
Not to be mistaken; this is Kurdistan, part of Iraq. I cycled through some time before the troubles with IS started and boy oh boy, this was a slice of heaven! People were genuinely happy with their president, with their lives and with their freedom. I have seldom seen such happy people! This road stands for the hope the Kurds had, the hope which turned into reality. A road leading to a better future, once again…
Photo made with Samsung phone. I have made thousands of photo’s in India but I can choose one only. This one came to mind because it’s strikingly special: with a lot of patience everything turned out as I wanted it. Or actually, much better! This photo IS India! And uh… do I need to say how much I LOVE India?
How often did I not curse the men in Iran? In not any other country did I wish the men would merge into nothing. Instead waiting for this to happen I needed to beat, curse and shout at them. I needed to hand them over to the police and come up with inventive idea’s to chase them off. Yet, this man stands for Iran: surprisingly different, kind, a bit rough, curious and incredible interesting
Not a country cycled through but I couldn’t find a country starting with a ‘J’ I did cycle through. This photo is special, even though it is of the main attraction of the country Petra. And precisely because it is Petra it is special! Why? Do you see any people on the photo? Right! That’s the reason! Horrible crowded and I managed to make a photo without half-naked, loud, careless tourists on it.
Not a country, perhaps one day? People deserve it, but I wonder if they can manage on their own and have no fight about which president to choose. If I can choose one I go for Kurdish Iraq. The people are happy, unlike the Kurdish in Iran which are mostly oppressed. The Kurdish in Iraq have horrible stories to tell about Saddam and when they tell them they do sometimes in Dutch. I was searching for bread when a man beckons another one. He’s talking a bit Dutch and says: ‘Whatever you need, I can take care for it.’ I got to sleep in his sister’s room, got dinner, breakfast, a SIM card, a stay at his family further down the country and extra food.
An exciting photograph is one where something’s happening. Can I say something is happening here? The hand holds a mini crocodile which is for sale. If we want to carry a crocodile on our bicycles? What I like in this picture is the minimal action along with the Rastafarian colors in the back ground.
I made quite a lot of photo’s in Morocco, this one is like a window into the Sahara. Endless land, only one road and very few villages. This photo invites you into a magical unknown fairy tale. Not seeing where the road leads to is utterly dramatic: over the hill or around it. A classic example of a road you nééd to follow. Cycling is addictive indeed!
Universal! I was here with a friend who wanted to get out of Mauritania as soon as possible while upon arriving at an oases I wished I could stay here at least a week. The local people I met, the men in their beautiful bright blue boubou kaftan’s, and this little girl. She sat quickly down on a chair after I’d asked her father this was a school. There were many mini chairs standing but no children and no teacher. A teacher would only come in winter season, that is, if any tourist was willing to teach. So the father gathered all his kids and they all took place on the chairs. This girl took her doll with her and suddenly the class was ready, including a plastic white baby.
I was trying to make a photo of a river when a man out of the bush came to me. He overpowered me by standing too close, towering over little Cindy. He asked me what I was doing, and I felt recalcitrant to answer him. He came even closer than he already was, and for a moment I got a bit worried. It turned out he wanted to be in the photo, and not something like a river! By the way, the people of Nigeria might look impressive and fearful, yet they are one of the most friendly, funny and relaxed people of all West Africa I have come upon.
Oman is an incredible beautiful country. I made thousands of photo’s but I had to choose only one. As the photo might give away, Oman is a heavenly country to be in. People respect each others privacy, are friendly and calm. I spend the night stealthy in the center of Muscat, behind a giant Hilton hotel (I tried the garden and the helicopter pad from Hilton but found it too obvious). The next morning I needed to pack my bicycle on a cargo load to India, so I started to cycle early, after a good breakfast of porridge, apple, cinnamon, sugar and chai. I peddled myself over a moderate hill, sweat start to break out, dripping on my legs, needed to get off the bicycle and push! I thought ‘what is wrong with me?’ I needed more food and fueled myself like the students did: paratha and Lipton tea with milk.
To fill in the ‘P’ Pakistan plops up immediately, one of my favorite countries. I did not feel I absolutely hád to cycle through because I have been plenty of times to Pakistan and don’t like to be transported on a private vehicle with escort. Besides, I wanted to see something new and choose for Oman and the Emirates. I lived for almost a year in Pakistan, this girl is one of the -hopefully not going to disappear- indigenous people of the Kalash valley.
R can’t come up with anything starting with a ‘R’
Rwanda, Russia, Romania haven’t been there.
I was not really fond of Senegal, and thus I didn’t make much photo’s. I remember this photo is connected to a good feeling. I was on a long stretch of road where was no one to be seen. For the first time since the Sahara it was pure bliss to be alone and not being screamed ‘toubab’ to. These birds stand for how I felt; at ease, content yet on my guard.
24) Sierra Leone
A very powerful portrait of a very strong woman, no doubt. She must have experienced the war, yet her expression speaks, maybe because of the brutal war. I can read sadness, proud and a big hurt. Previous to this shot, she was laughing hard with her friends, and here she managed to keep serious. Funny detail, I came upon a group of women, where she was part of, dripping blood and in desperate need of food. I just had fallen hard and didn’t want to bother with dressing the wounds yet. The women were anxious and I remember that I wondered about that, women who had lived through a horrible war!
I have been to Spain quite a few times and never did I find it this beautiful and pleasant. I was most impressed with the Extremadura state.
I liked riding through Turkey mainly because of the great hospitality, fantastic simple food and tea. I haven’t seen dramatic landscapes but the Kurdish people I was hosted each night did it for me!
Togo was cycled through in a day, was it not if I’d to arrange a visa for Benin. Meanwhile I needed to replace spokes, wash all my laundry and take advantage of being in a city where I could eat well. Time for strolling around and making photo’s was not on my to-do-list.
I’ve made thousands of photo’s in the USA and I took time out to focus on details. I had to pick only one photo, an impossibility. But this one shows quite well what freedom, quietness and space means in the USA. After India I longed for this and here I got a fair amount of it! It’s not an obvious USA photo but rather a soft romantic idyll.
Okay, one more photo of the United States as we say in Dutch, the Verenigde Staten. As I can’t come up with country starting with a ‘V’ traveled through (although Venezuela counts but I used an analog camera back then). A detail photo because of the stunning colors in a desert.
29) Western Sahara
Not the obvious photo but the Sahara is so full of beauty that another fantastic feature often is ignored: fresh fish! And let’s be real, after a day in the desert, after at least 130 kilometer day after day, after escorted by a different protector daily whose job it was to put us off at a gas station (no camping permitted!) this plate of food is HEAVENLY! Way better than my own cooked meal! And isn’t it just a beautiful pile of food!?
To fill in the ‘Y’ I have to go back when I was using public transport. Back to 2007, to Yemen, one of my favorite countries. I was thinking of cycling here, so I contacted a police friend and he told me: ‘No way! You will be escorted on a private vehicle. Too dangerous nowadays’ When I was traveling by public transport I stayed here about 2 to 3 months and being one of the most beautiful countries on earth I made thousands and thousands and thousands of photo’s. Hard to choose one, but I think this one says something about the country: incredible surprising. The people, the food, the variety, the architecture, the nature, the drama, the fierceness, the grandness, the traditions. The country is absolute magic!
Part 2: Each country cycled through; one best photograph
On the European tour I wanted to stay close to the Netherlands, close to my family. I cycled together with someone else from the Netherlands to Istanbul and back. We did so between May and November 2015. Here we go:
I am pretty sure I could have taken this photo in the Netherlands, but I took it a day away from the Dutch border with Germany. Wild camping in the Netherlands is difficult as there are very few thick patches of woods without trails going through. Once in Germany it becomes much more easy, yet this is a day away from the Netherlands.
Germany has plenty of good wild camp possibilities, although it can be a manmade forest, like here. It’s almost impossible to be unseen with such even planted trees. Yet it makes a very nice photo when the sun is setting. I played with the lens and got this as a result.
There are good parts of woods to be found in Poland, although many manmade. The setting sun again makes up for another boring plantation: the woods look like they’re on fire!
3) Czech Republic
Coming near the end of a day and finding a village below on the end of a downhill: that’s great. In Europe there are shops and villages about everywhere, so this isn’t too much of a surprise, but I like it anyway. What I like as well is the view of flowing, rising and sinking lands in front of me.
Maybe because I am an artist, I see lines. In any case, if I do see such a strong linear pattern, especially in ‘nature’, I need to stop. Something like this is only possible in West European countries, although the flows in this particular photo are unlike the flatlands in Europe. I wonder who decided about those few trees?
I was only a few days in Slovakia and as soon as I crossed the border, I felt far from organized Europe. This man and his bicycle are a clear evidence. He waved us enthusiastically goodbye while I was not planning on photographing him. But I got him!
The evening light is good for some contrast. I didn’t see much overwhelming, or just simple, beauty in Hungary (except for Budapest) and here we were heading for the wrong border crossing when I saw how contrasting the colors were. I really wanted to have a few decent photo’s of Hungary, so I had to stop and take this one.
The place where camp was set up. It was a spot we found in a rush as the day came to an end. There were people who would see us walking in a field with the bicycle, especially since the bicycle path was high above on a dike. No one spotted us. It wasn’t until I squatted down to pee that I saw this beautiful view. Time for a photo!
Romania, there are many things to say about this country. I liked the people. I liked the high factor of (forced) self sustainability of the people. I liked the simplicity of living, although most people probably don’t. I liked the horse carts too, even though it might not be the best way to threat a horse? What a huge differences there are within Europe…
Bulgaria did not catch my attention. It must have been the route we took. On this particular sandy stretch I followed my partner through sunflower fields. I did not like this unnecessary trail and as a result I wanted to yield one good photo. Not easy as my bicycle doesn’t have a kickstand anymore and the fact that I didn’t want to hold up my partner too long. I had to take this photo with my bicycle hold up between my legs, hugging the field. It was worth the unnecessary trail : )
10) Turkey (into Istanbul)
I tried to make a photo where my partner would cycle past a mosque with in the foreground two tulip glasses filled with chai. Since we were cycling towards Istanbul there was so little beauty to be seen that I dedicated myself to make ‘a picture of the day’. I could not find the right setting so I decided the concrete boardwalk with bathing Turks in the background would do.
11) Turkey (out of Istanbul)
Suddenly it was wedding season in Istanbul, and so I could place myself behind the official photographer and do my thing. I found this photo special, gentle, as the groom looks like he has never really admired his fiancée so closely, but now she is his wife, he is allowed to ‘open’ her. Like a precious gift, as I hope she will turn out to be. Her look says it all.
While the beachfront hosted many rather poor dressed sunbathers, this man needed fish. He just sat down with the most simple gear and started fishing.
An upside down photo, this way the dog is reflected upon its feet in the pool of rainwater. I tried to perfect the composition but the dog had found a bone and was not willing to cooperate anymore. I think the dog didn’t realize how original the photo of him would have been?!
This country gave many opportunities to camp where we wanted. This was at a beach, far below the sandy track leading all around a pointy outcrop near Durres. We were pretty sure we had the beach for ourselves that evening. We took a nap and were aroused by soft voices: 1 bride, 1 groom, 1 photographer, 1 boy who threw rose petals and 1 assistant who positioned the bride better… I wanted to join the photographer but decided to keep a low profile.
This is such a fresh photo, not the average image of mountainous Montenegro. The autumn has arrived and to wake up in camp with the sun shining bright, drying the dew and nighttime wetness is a very pleasant start of the slow day.
A pine cone with the ocean in the background. Looks simple but took enormous patience to have it like this. I have not used any photo program to change the photo, this is original. The reflections of the water with its constant vibrating waves gave the pine cone its shakiness. A wide lens opening and maximum zoomed in caused the dots in the background.
This spot was the highest point of Piran. From here it was a steep downhill to get to the backside of the village and go over and up more higher points. The old town is really old and unlike some other old towns, this one feels real and alive. I always admire the tiles on the roof, so differently done than in the Netherlands. Fire baked tiles are the best, and the most beautiful.
This is written with the full moon. It seems easy but it takes a lot of practice. It helps that the name is short. If I had to do my own name I would never succeed. We were camping along the river Po, completely covered by kudzu bush. Not one hunter spot us and I can go crazy with photographing the moon in all possibilities.