Waouw, that is it! I am about to leave the US after a well used 90 days visa The past weeks somehow cut me off my writing as I focused all my energy on the outer journey. Firstly to fight the unusual - and therefore unexpected - very cold and windy weather, secondly to cover extensive ground and beat the tic=tac of my visa slowly running out. On top of that, my mind has been very busy with anticipating the logistics of transitioning between two worlds, going from cycling to hiking to cycling and a bunch of gears needing replacement. No much room left for creativity. Nonetheless I managed to really enjoy the very unique places I went through and the unforgettable experiences I lived.
It started with a crazy adventurous cycling itinerary of my own across Southern Utah’s most dramatic and jaw-dropping landscape. From paved backroads to mountain bike trails with some sandy washboardy dirt roads in the middle, I made my way through this remote and rugged beautiful country. To name some of the highlights I connected Fifth Water hot springs with the Nine Mile Canyon, the San Rafael Swell, Goblin State park, Capitol Reef NP’s backside, the Hell’s Backbone and Grand Staircase Escalante’s Storm Mountain, progressively getting used to the desert and the lack of water. The initial plan was to shoot straight down onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and carry my bike across it - wheels cannot touch ground below the rims. Despite it being a very appealing idea, the logistics of it and the very cold temperatures (-15C) made me be reasonable - for once - and ride around it. I still made the detour to get a glimpse of this grandiose natural feature from its south rim and with a quick day hike down its steep cliffs before saying goodbye to my bike and walk out of Flagstaff.
I had been contemplating the possibility of hiking a section of the Arizona Trail for a while but struggled with what to do with my bike until synchronicity lined it up perfectly for me, thanks to some more amazingly kind human beings. Both my body and mind were really happy to transition to the walking speed even if I only had two and a half weeks to cover the 680km to Tucson where I would reunite with my wheels and hurry up across the Mexican border before running into problems with the US immigration, which is probably not a good idea.
The desert has its own very particular energy and usually people love or hate it. I am from the first group and was really looking forward to wander through it despite the hassle of finding and carrying water. In this landscape one does not roam as he is pleased but calculate everything from one water source to the next one. The other obstacle to long hiking days was the shorter amount of daylight. It feels like the Arctic’s midnight sun was yesterday but it is not. Sun rises just before 7 and sets just after 5, offering roughly 12h of non-darkness, including dusk and dawn gloomy hours. But everything can be looked at from different view angles and in this situation it offered me the opportunity to daily contemplate gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Without really intending it, I often happened to be hiking along ridges at those times making it even more scenic. The very bright ascending and then full moon allowed easy evening walk with fairy atmosphere while traversing burnt forests before cowboy camping under the stars in the desert’s solitude and silence broken only by the crackling of the fire and the coyotes howling in the distance. With harsh sun, countless cacti, rocky-dusty terrain, blue sky, ocher earth, brutal climbs and spiky everything, the Arizona Trail delivered more magic that I fantasized and that can only be lived on foot. If I had to imagine myself some regrets it would be the lack of wildlife encounters. I did not have the chance the meet at rattlesnake this time or even better, the rare and mysterious ‘Gila Monster". However I saw numerous tarantulas, birds, rabbits and a family of Javelinas, a local small pig. But most importantly, I again and again met some incredibly kind people offering support to the hikers, stashing water , providing rides to towns for resupply and much more. The hiking community call them ‘Trail Angels’ and angels they are. Whatever once can say against the US politics and some american cliches it should be reminded that there are thousands of good people out there and we have much to learn from their genuine hospitality.
After stepping over the 10.000km mark into my trip and completing this little stroll along the AZT on time, it is time to cross my 38th parallel, the second country border or just to complete the next pedal stroke!
What motivates you to do this ? What inspires you to embark on such a trip ? Or simply, why?
That question burns on the lips of many people I meet along the way. And they often ask it. One could think that answering it is easy. It is not. Because the answer is intimately linked with the most precious thing I have, my deeper self, and it is hard to rawly expose it to people I met less than 20 seconds ago. But as I go, the connection with it grows stronger and therefore gives me more confidence to bring it up to the outside world. This is the first and most important part of this journey, despite if I even myself sometimes get too involved in the adventurous part of it. Don’t get me wrong, that is an important part too, but ultimately it is secondary. Maybe secondary is not the best way to put it. It is the tool, the vehicle, for the primary cause. Both the inner and the outer journey feed each other. They are interlinked, deeply connected because they aren’t actually two different paths but the two dimensions of a unique life, the one of the human and the other of the being.
Who am I ? What am I ? Who is I ? That is a question that humans have asked themselves for time immemorial times. According to my own experience, it is only once you truly decide to answer it, that you start walking towards happiness which is totally different than pleasure. It is only when I realized that what I had been looking for everywhere in the world with occupations, situations, possessions and relations, could only be found inside, that my restless unhappy mind started to grow quieter. Even if it took me into some very dark country, I am thankful to have that bond with deep introspection because it eventually allowed me to get a glimpse of the light I have been hoping to find for a long time, I. Everything I am doing now is just walking towards it, well walking and cycling along my very own route, the only route that leads to I. It is obvious to say that we all have a unique I, hence it means that we all have a different route too, that we can choose to follow or not. Most people are on parallels or even perpendicular routes, not knowing where they go, reading the wrong signs, or just following the herd, on the highway that leads nowhere, with fancy hotels and restaurants. Even if everyone’s path to his own I is different, they are similar in the sense that there is no one else on it, that one has to fully commit her.himself to it, that water and food might be scarce but tastier because wild, that there is no luxury hotel but you sleep under a thousand stars. For some it is longer and harder than for others, but for all it is rough and beautiful. Once one get in shape, s.he doesn’t notice the hardship anymore but just contemplates the beauty and is rewarded with tremendous, endless joy.
My own route involves to intrigue others and drop tiny seeds in their heart. At the moment, I have two tools for it. Writing and fully embracing my adventurous positive personality, by totally committing to my quest and leaving my door open to everyone I meet en route. Furthermore, my outer journey perfectly echoes my inner one and therefore feeds and facilitates it. By being detached from most materialistic superficiality, by being free of all social codes, I can focus more easily on the essential. Because in both dimensions I am following my very own route, off the beaten track, wild, rough and filled with beauty, it is harder to get lost. If I get lost outside, I remember that all that matters is inside and what is happening is what it is. Therefore, I am not lost anymore. If I get lost inside, the adventure reminds me the journey I am on, to step back, observe and get back on track. Because both are aligned, the mind creating pendular duality vanishes and I can stand still in the middle. At least for a moment, the road is still long ahead of me.
Putting words on the paths towards the I, the route towards the light is always difficult as it cannot be caged in words. But it is an exercise worth trying because it can always show a glimpse of it, it can always unveil a few rays of its light. Hard it is to see the light, harder it is to walk towards it. Wonderful is the light, wonderfuller it is to walk towards it. All I can say is that it is worth it.
Tramping, cycling, running, skiing, travelling, I keep exploring this amazing planet we live on. The following texts give an insight of my various wanderings. From poetry to trip reports or thoughts on particular subjects, this pages try to reflect how I travel through this modern world.