Sunday, 28 June 2015

Wahahey! La Belle France!

We made it! We transibericed!
We made it up and over the Coll d'Ares, one of the little passes of the Pyrenees, a doddle at only 1513m.
Adventurous going down on the extra steep French side in the rain, sheltering in fruit stands by the road side, passing overturned cars...

At the bottom of the hill we stopped in Ceret. Here once upon a time Pablo Picasso and his friends hung out, The Grand Café, is still operating today, This is the old museum of modern art.  We prefered the old one to the new one. Neither were accessible. The old one was more interesting as art. 
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We had to cycle past three dangerous Robo Geishas! We know they hide chainsaws and samurai swards in their kimonos.

We made contact with Ceret en Transition. A bit last minute so not much happened, but they're there, they just opened a little organic cafe as part of the association and they're in the process of overturning the local government. Go go go!

Then a little further down the hill we went to visit our old friends from Energie Citoyenne in Perpignan.

Energie Citoyenne

And of course visiting old friends we made, encore plus new friends.
The Energie Citoyenne velo division is working on opening a Maison du Velo where people will be able to fix their bikes and have access to cheap bikes.


And then it was time to meet the cyclists from the  TOUR ALTERNATIBA 66


They cycled for four days, from the top of the mountain, meeting people who do good things, organising little events. We joined them in Perpignan and cycled together to Calce where we spent the evening in the company of many lovely people and Le Professeur Boum Boum.

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Le Porfesseur Boum Boum  explains in simple words and with funny musical interludes the ecological and economical state and affairs of our world. Ici a little youtube clip part 1 la haut.

It was an epic etape the next day - 92km with 50km/h winds straight in our faces!
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In a massive team effort and with some music playing on Kevins bike to keep the legs going round, we made it to Narbonne well in time for the Velorution with Velo Cite Narbonne and Le Tour Alternatiba.

La reine de la velorution Narbonne en porte bagage !

In Perpignan we saw this recumbant bicycle that someone had made themselves out of bamboo... very nice!
And in Narbonne this beauty of a mini racer hung upon Gilberts garage wall... aaah!

On our first leg with the Tour Alternatiba we stopped for lunch at the refugee welcome center in Bezier. Here we met the president of Velociutat Bezier. Later on that day we met Hubert who is part of the festival du Roc Castel, which this year celebrates slow travel for a whole week.


At lunch in Bezier we also had a demonstration of wood gas stoves and another beautiful solar cooker, along with a degustation of yummy pizza and aubergines....

And a couple of days later in Arles we found the answer to our question, whether there is anything like a table top solar cooker....
The Hot Pot Solar Cooker, known as “Tilenafa” in Mali, and “Olla Solar” as it is known in Mexico folds up into a nice little square and isn't all too heavy either. Just need to find some shiny shiny things now...

En route with

La solution est la!

In the evening in Sete we made some more friends...


...and decided to stay another couple of days to witness the birth of the Sete Cycling Campaign....and pique-nique avec Sel en Sete.
Sète en transition est heureuse de vous annoncer la naissance de sa première association : 
La Roue Libre de Thau,1179486.php
H.G. Wells was right more adults on bicycles - the future is here and now, it begins.

We cycled fast as the wind, against the wind again, through the Camargue... der Wind, der Wind das himmlische Kind in the boiling heat to catch up with the Alternatiba in Arles.

And again we made more friends, l'Association Convibicy...

... l'Association Arles en Transition....


.... and The Orange Velorution who cycled all the way from Berlin to Arles on this very heavy Surrey bike to stay here at the Longo Mai community until she finds a new co-velorutionaire who is brave enough to take on the next voyage.DSCN8898
We had lunch at the Mas de Grenier farm, a Longo Mai Co-op, and had a tour of their farm and co-operative canning kitchen...

Here we say good bye to Le Tour Alternatiba for a little while and take a short cut straight north to Montelimar where we meet Chantal and Gilbert who are part of Montelo Velo.

 Montelovelo - Montelimar
Montelo Velo has a new Bike Kitchen since last year, opening their workshop to the good people of Montelimar to come and find a cheap bike, make themselves a bike or simply come and fix their old bike. 
Tres bien! 
Onwards to Le Drome!
Contemplating about cycling slower... here a little bit of wisdom from Ziggy Marley and a dragonfly...
 Tune of the moment....

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Le petit tour Alternatiba Transiberica

We made it across Spain! Hurrah!
It took us two months, slowly, with some stops to visit old friends  and with time to spend with new friends. Pedalling fast across the big, vast, empty spaces between.
Before we left we were full of hopes that this time our crossing would be easier. Yes, the days were longer, the weather was nicer, sometimes too nice in the 30*C.......

But still, again we were puzzled by the way things are discarded, abandoned, thrown away and the litternot just physical things, it felt like whole social networks, along with the villages and the people had been thrown away.
In many places the countryside has become nothing more than a giant factory of industrial uglyculture. Miles and miles of Tomato plantations around Miajades, with housing estates, lodgings for the workers plonked in the middle of them, sad little places, crumbling away. Then corn and wheat, the fruit trees, then something else, and always the olives. They are making a desert in Spain that's for sure, we saw it with our own eyes and then we read some facts which we shall share with you here:
About 40 per cent of agricultural soils around the globe is currently classified as degraded or seriously degraded. Seriously degraded means that 70% of the topsoil (the layer of soil in which plants grow) has already disappeared.
Every year, we lose 100 million acres of farmland and 24 billion tons of topsoil, and we create 15 million acres of new desert around the world.

UN says 12% of Europe at risk of turning into desert. Between 30-60% of Spain is at inmediate risk from desertification ,"desertification" is a  process where land in arid, semi-dry areas becomes degraded, soil loses its productivity and vegetation thins because of human activities and/or prolonged droughts/floods.
Climate change will further deteriorate soil fertility through a loss of carbon from the soil

You can find an ongoing review of news on drought and desertification in Spain here: 

 And then we crossed Catalunya again. immediately the smell of pig and the sight of lorry loads of pigs on their way from (Holland ! and other countries )to the slaughterhouses ( in Sardinia !) accompanied us every day for nearly two weeks.
It causes us sadness cycling past these imprisoned pigs, hearing their squeels and seeing them beeing ferried around on motorways and it is terrifying to hear about the impacts intensive pig farming has on the people we met who live here. Some of them can't afford to rent land for growing food on, because landowners can ask higher rents from pig farms who need a place to dump the pig slurry... the ground water that comes from the many springs here in the foothills of the Pyrenees is poisonous pretty much everywhere you go. Here is a link for further reading on Industrial Factory farming, manure and pollution:

So once agian for us it raised the question of  diet and many more questions about our whole system of food production...
On the positive front, what we can do...
Support small sustainable farms and help reduce the impact of industrial farming and promote the use of environmentally friendly farming methods!
We came across a quarterly publication which also has a good webpage with positive answers to a better way of farming. It is called Soberania Alimentaria

 'una agricultura contra el cambio climatico'

We spent a couple of weeks in Aragon. Here in the mountains we enjoyed ourselves, nature, the birds, the mountains are untouched and just awesome. There are many little national parks and plenty of clean spring water to fill up our bottles with, and little roads to cycle on undisturbed....

It happened to be the XVII Día Nacional de las Vías Verdes when we arrived in the region of Teruel, where a great Via Verde rolls down the mountains from Ojos Negros or thereabouts all the way to the sea just north of Valencia, well nearly all the way to the sea.
“Vive la Vía: ¡muévete!”

We did three shows in three nice little places, two of them old mills, El Molino Bajo in Monreal del Campo and the Molino de Burbaguena in Burbaguena and the third el hostal Allucant in Gallocanta. Here we spent a week, by the lagoon where the common cranes, Grus Grus, come for overwintering. We learned how to cook on a parabolic solar cooker and with solar ovens!


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mmmmh! The most delicous, moist Cuban bread and butter pudding....

We made a mini Alternatiba event with solar cooking, our little show and a kamishibai story making workshop.

Javi our host on the pedals!

We went back to visit our friends del Ciclismo Ridiculismo in Zaragoza in La Cicleria.
Everybody was very occupied with the elections, so we didn't do much this time round. Only a little afternoon, upcycling rubbish from the bike workshop...big inner tube balls and little caterpillars

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Everybody was begging for a change in the government. To the relief of everybody Podemos gained a lot of seats in Zaragoza. The spirits are up and there is hope again.

We met a few giants here and there and everywhere...

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And in Belianes, Catalunya we had a chance encounter with La XXXI Marxa Ecològica i per la Pau
We just caught the end of the ride and were invited to join everybody for lunch. It was a great encounter, the whole village hall full of people who had either cycled or helped with the ride, or both. About 300 people, in a little village, celebrating ecology and peace! All organised by the local scout group Terra Plana, Molt be !

Yeah! The bicycle! People!

We have to demonstrate irrevocably that the age of fossil fuels is over – Leave the carbon IN THE GROUND! ( Naomi Klein: )
Here a little interview with Naomi Klein, on climate change and capitalism:
 'This changes everything'

In Manresa we spotted a poster for the film Bikes vs Cars which is currently being shown all around the world. We have been following the making of it and are hoping to screen it one day. We haven't seen it yet. Manresa was the closest we got to it...
The bicycle, an amazing tool for change. Activists and cities all over the world are moving towards a new system. But will the economic powers allow it?

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And on the subject of climate chnage....
Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, bluntly put it: “The door to reach two degrees is about to close. In 2017 it will be closed forever.” 


"...our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life......we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet’ Naomi Klein 

Finally while we were wondering about all this, our culture, our current way of farming, living, the destruction.... It wasn't supposed to turn out like this!
How did it turn out like this?