Making a radioshow from a tent. Adventure radiobroadcasting at its finest!

There are many ways to cover an adventure. Take a camera and make an awesome motion picture, to leave people flabbergasted in the cinema or anywhere else. To write a book, write down your deepest thoughts and take your audience along with the trip. Or make the most colorful and beautiful pictures. But how about radio? Like, live radio from a tent in the middle of a natural park?

To have a look how this comes about I teamed up with Maud van Maarseveen, underground radiomaker from Groningen. We decided to cycle to a nearby natural area, spend two nights in the tent and listen to the sounds of adventure. Here you can hear the radioshow, and listen for yourself how adventure sounds. We had to replace a wheel, fix a flat, find a spot for two nights, endure hail and eat pancakes. And we had an encounter with the local bird watchers, all to make a fine radioshow about the sounds of adventure, with a phone and a recorder.

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A journey through the hidden and dark history in the Netherlands

Every country has it’s black pages in the history books. Sometimes all evidence is erased, sometimes statues or memorials remember us from these dark times. In our case the history is hidden. Small pieces are found here and there, even though they are hidden under a thick layer of sand. This is a journey into the dark history of The Netherlands.

A month ago Eveliene asked me if I wanted to go on a trip with her. A journey where we would go on a search for pieces of WW2 history; a search for bunkers built by the Germans during the occupation. The Netherlands was part of a project called “The Atlantic Wall” where a chain of bigger and smaller bunkers was built to stop an allied invasion. Plans where made, dates where set, but sadly in the end Eveline was busy with other awesome projects. (Check her website, she gives some great tours in Haarlem!) I decided to pack my bag, load up the bike and go on a little solo adventure!

The start of this journey was at the “Hoek van Holland”,  about 80 kilometers southwest of Amsterdam. Around two kilometers landward there was a place hidden in a forest close by that I was eager to see. Cycling trough the sunshine I approached the forest. Birds where singing, old people where riding their E-bikes and I was exciting for the history to unfold itself. The first bunkers I encountered where two small ones hidden in the sand. It has been 70 years ago they’ve been built and nature is taking over. The structures where built in a way they could stand the most tough weather conditions for years on end. But these where not the ones I was so eager to see.

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I cycled further into the forest,  not knowing what to expect. While cycling and searching for the dot on the map in the book I previously bought I saw it. It was enormous!

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I counted two, three, four, five… I think there were about 15 bunkers made out of armored steel and concrete, standing there, looking at me, silent and breathless. 70 years ago there were two headquarters of a regiment of infantry and one artillery bunker. There was a hospital bunker, two ammo storages, an eating quarter and more housing units. I can’t imagine how the people must’ve been living there. A concrete brick as a house, cold and practical without any form of decoration. For me, it felt like alien spaceships landed and turned into stone.

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All of them where closed down, so sadly I could only check the outside of these giants. These blocks of concrete are now the houses of huge colonies of bats. Next to this there are certain types of endangered and specific mosses growing on them. Without knowing, the Germans made a great habitat for flora and fauna.

Strong headwinds made sure I wasn’t going north too fast. Because of this I found some bunkers hidden in the dunes not too far from The Hague. When checking them out one thing popped in my mind. “This would be an awesome place for the night!” And so it was. When the sun had set, a small bunker on top of a dune became my roof for the night. With a full moon shining trough the broken concrete and my own little Atlantic wall for my candles this was the blueprint for a great night of sleep.

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Next morning I would search for a whole line of bigger and smaller buildings. Maybe ten, maybe 50, maybe just five. For some I had to climb over fences, go trough forbidden zones or crawl trough small holes in the concrete.

On the south side of The Hague I found the first one, hidden in the dunes. It was closed but a little stairway into the ground revealed some hidden rooms.

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The rooms and hallways where filled with trash, beer cans and other shit. Nothing left of their spirit. It was exciting to explore these dark and damp rooms but sad as well. It showed my how people deal with importent things from history. When there is no wall around it, people come and use it as a dumpster.

With dark skies around me I peddled to the north of The Hague, to see some real fat basterds. The Hague was an important town; many high placed nazi’s took residence over there. With this information, the town had to be hugely defended from an upcoming invasion by the allied forces. Therefore a line of huge structures was set up. Some of them had radars within, others canons. Now the biggest colony of bats in Europe lives in these concrete buildings.

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In February 1944 a small group of six French commando’s came ashore deep in the night. Their objective was to go inward and scout the landmarks and dunes for a future invasion. An English ship left them with a rubber boat close to the shore and would pick them up next morning. In the night the German patrol saw there was activity on the beach or in the water and fired some red and green flares to see what was happening. At sea the English ship sees the flares, but doesn’t act, afraid of being spotted. There was shouting and screaming and they see German flashlights on the beach towards the landing place of the six. Next morning at dawn the six are not at their meeting point and the English ship leaves back to the U.K. without the six. When darkness sets in again, the plan was to go back for the six commando’s. The weather was very bad and very stormy so the ship was unable to sail out. In the darkness of the  morning, the German patrol hears screaming from the sea once again. They go onto the beach to only see a rubber boat with three dead bodies. Later that day the other three bodies of the French commando’s would drift ashore. This was later called: “Wassenaarse Slag“.

Other bunkers didn’t reveal themselves as easy as the ones in The Hague. Or where behind a fence, but I guess a true bunker-explorer doesn’t get get stopped by something as small as a fence. The Germans also knew this, but in stead of bunker-explorers in the future they where thinking about allied tanks. To stop them you’ll need a wall. An quite long and thick wall. Here and there remains of these walls are still visible. For me it’s a weird idea; a wall trough a national park, almost dividing the nature.

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Straight trough the national park “Zuid Kennemerland” the wall is built. Many of these walls remain because they are hard to clean up. I guess they would do a pretty good job holding back tanks, if they even stand today.

After all these discoveries it was time to find a place to rest my head again. Although there were no more bunkers to be spotted, and all the bunkers I previously saw where closed or incredibly dirty. Cycling trough the treeless dunes I knew this was going to be a challenge for me and my tarp. Rain was suspected so a covered sleeping place was desired to spend the night kind of OK. And best a place with not too many people. By now it became dark, so I decided to use the good old tactic of just going into a small road that leads away from the big road. Within a couple of minutes I found myself surrounded by small trees. When I walked into a random flock of trees my eye fell on something. It was not a bunker, but it was the perfect spot for me, my tarp and some good dreams.

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This little hut was probably made by kids

During these days I’ve learnt a lot about the history of our little country. I’ve seen leftover pieces of these black pages, slept in them, felt them and seen what they mean nowadays. I can only imagine how it feels when your land, your home is invaded by others. Rules are pushed upon you and your old way of life is forbidden all of a sudden. You find yourself at war, you can’t trust your neighbor and “police” are coming for your friends. This is still happening everywhere, and we can just be happy that we live in freedom. I’m glad the bunkers are still here to remind us of our freedom. They will slowly fade, but the memory will not.

"Back to the silent beach; side issues blow away. Sea flows trough the dunes; surf rustles in the crown. Here is space; to love.

“Back to the silent beach; side issues blow away.
Sea flows trough the dunes; surf rustles in the crown.
Here is space; to love.

Have a look at my Facebook page for other journeys and plans!

Your next door adventurers – Part one

You know that guy living next door? With his motorbike? Yeah, the one who is never at home in the summer. Also he is gone during the winter vacations. Actually he is gone during most free days. Setting off towards exotic destinations. Or maybe the national park around the corner, who knows? This is what I call “The next door adventurer”.

In this piece I’ve interviewed your neighbors. People like you and me, who made journeys of every kind. By bike, by motorbike, with and without backpack. With a camper or with a transport van. They talk about their journeys and give you some tips ’n tricks on travelling. This is part one, enjoy!

Isa (26)

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Erwin: Hey Isa, what kind of journeys did you make?

Isa: During the years I’ve made different journeys; of course the random vacations towards France (edit. every Dutch person does this). I also joined a friend for a photo project in Bosnia, but my big trip was in 2013. That was a journey to Australia and New Zealand. This journey took nine months in total.

E: What did you do during your journeys?

I: Well, I always try to link a goal to a journey, in stead of just going somewhere for the sake of going there. The project in Bosnia was the first journey with a goal. Together with a befriended photographer we tried to give a positive impulse in the country. It was totally ripped during the war over there, we tried to add some positive impulses by photographing positive things. We went to a all-girl soccer team, but also to a political cafe for the youth. They tried to fight the corruption on their schools for example, where you can buy good grades. By making journeys this way, you meet totally different people and get to special places you’ve otherwise wouldn’t meet. I want to meet people that inspire me, and where I’m able to learn from.

E: How did you get around during your journeys?

I: Hitchhiking, cycling, hiking, renting a camper, renting a car, camping, basically everything.

In New Zealand a lot of people go round with a campervan, it gives you loads of freedom. Way more then with public transport or even with a car. With a car I’ve noticed you tend to stay on the big roads, and with a campervan you’ll be able to find some more awesome spots. Cycling is a bit too slow for me in New Zealand, with a campervan you’re able to see some more of those sweet spots.

E: And you’ve also been travelling on a bicycle?

I: Haha, yeah! I did a tour trough the Netherlands with a 40 year old bike, still with the original tires. After 32 kilometers the gears broke down, so I had to walk to a bike fixer. Luckily there was a camping spot next by so the next day my bike was fixed and I was ready to go again. I really liked this; just grab a bike, ask your neighbor for a cart and go!

Netherlands tour - picture by Isa

E: Is this your style, low budget and take what is available?

I: I would say it’s more impulsive, I just do what I want at that moment. Just following an idea. Maybe this makes me a little naive too, though. For example, when I was cycling in the Pyrenees I had totally wrong gear inches, so it took me all my energy to get up that mountains! But then again, it was kind of funny to get in a situation like that, and find your way out of it.

E: Do you have a tip for other travellers?

I:  Well, I believe very strongly in intuition. If you want to do something, just do this and don’t let yourself be distracted by your own thoughts, surroundings or even your family. If you have a certain feeling that you want to do something, something comes your way what makes it doable. If you follow your feeling, you’ll find something good on your path. It will always be OK.

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Creatures in New Zealand – Picture by Isa

Remco (42)

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Erwin: Hey Remco, what kind of journeys did you make?

Remco: Well, it started with a couple months of backpacking trough South America. Then Eastern and South Africa. And from Egypte trough Syria to Turkey. I went to India and some other countries in South East Asia. Then I went by motorbike to the Sahara desert. But before motorbiking I was backpacking, and travelled with public transport. Always in between the locals, that was great!

But travelling by motorbike was the best. I wanted to make a really long journey, but decided to make a “short” journey at first, to see if I liked it. I left a week after I got my motorbike license, to ride for Marocco. It was so different then the backpacking I did before! Hostels, carrying around all your stuff on your back, getting taxi’s to airports, I didn’t like that too much. And when you’re dependent on the public transport you mostly miss the great nature area’s like national parks. Basically, you’re less free.

E: So you chose for a motorbike

R: Yeah! Backpacking costs a lot of energy, sometimes it costs a lot of time to go to a nice natural area, with a motorbike its way easier!

E: Yeah, but you can also do this with a campervan, right? Why did you take a motorbike to make journeys?

R: Well, my original idea was to cycle round the world. At some point I got two Couchsurfers over, and they came with their motorbikes, touring trough Europe. I saw this, and thought: “damn, this looks awesome!” The prospect of ploughing for days on end trough the hot desert, or cycling up huge mountains didn’t really appeal to me actually. I’d rather take those roads with a motorbike, that’s way more fun in my opinion.

Travelling in the Atlas mountains - picture by Remco

E: It seems you’re not really searching for something extreme or finding your limits.

R: No, thats right, I think you can see way more when you’re on a motorbike then on a bicycle for example. You can just take a 80 km detour to see a nice site and follow your planned route later on. With a bicycle this is a bit harder, so I think you’re more route dependent. With a motorbike you’re more flexible.

And next to this, I love being on a motorbike! I had no clue what I started when I got my drivers license, but after a week of tiny tours I knew I was ready for a big one!

E: Do you have some tips for people who want to explore the world on a mechanical horse?

R: For sure! There are loads of forums and online communities for motor travellers. One of the most important forum is “Horizons Unlimited”. It’s from two Australians who started in 1987 with motorbike travelling. They travelled for 12 years around the world. They started the forum to share their knowledge and now they organise (especially in the summer) monthly meet ups around the world. At these meetings long distance motor bike travellers come together. I’ve seen people in Germany coming all the way from New Zealand with their old rusty but trusty bikes. Sadly these meetings don’t find place in the Netherlands, but they do in Germany, Hungary, the UK, the USA, Australia and more.

And I have an extra tip! If you have the idea to make a journey, be it on a motorbike, on foot or by any other mode, just go for it. Don’t let the idea float around in your head, really go for it! If your idea sounds awesome to you, it will be.

This is in Iceland, where he took his iron horse for a ride - Picture by Remco

This is Iceland, where he took his iron horse for a ride – Picture by Remco

Remco currently is on a little tour again, from his hometown of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, to Mongolia. Of course with his beloved motorbike. I will try to interview him now and then about this awesome journey.

In the meantime you can like my Facebookpage and keep track of this space for the next part!

Walking 300 km’s trough my backyard in February

Is adventure only found far, far away, in unknown cultures? Where you don’t speak the language of the locals? Where signs always look foreign and the food does too? Maybe these things add a certain layer to the trip, but adventure is even found in our own backyards. Even the local culture we live in might have remarkable stories and hidden treasures for us to find out.

This is how Groningen looks like (Picture from Wikipedia)

View of Groninger landscape, no mountains or anything adventurous (Picture from Wikipedia)

I’m 29 years old, and since my birth I’ve been living in the same province, namely Groningen. It’s a area with not too many people, in fact it’s the 4th least densely populated area in the Netherlands and 80% of the province is used for agriculture. About nine years ago I decided to  move from the countryside to Groningen city, 30 kilometers further, so you can say I lived my whole life in a circle of 30 kilometers. Of course I know the province as one of the pockets in my pants, but sometimes I find something interesting in my pockets! To search for these interesting things, I will walk the whole border of the Groninger province.

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I will not do this alone. Trudy, a friend from my hometown will join me. Together we will walk a distance of 300 kilometers trough-out  our backyard, collecting stories from the people we meet. Stories of their village, region or from their families to see how the province really is.

Following the precise border will not be an easy task. The border goes trough muddy meadows, cold rivers and  other peoples backyards. Fortunately Trudy has good map and compass reading skills, that will help us find our way trough the meadows. We will do everything with paper maps and compass, without modern GPS or navigation systems, picking up a craft that is lost by the increasing dagree of people using electronic devices to find their way and pinpointing where they are.  Dragging ourselves trough muddy pastures, passing small rivers and hopping over fences we will walk these 300 kilometers in 12 days. We’ve both been hiking here and there, but in our own province, trough the thick mud? Not yet! Groningen is known for it’s thick clay and I can imagine how our shoes will look like after three days of blasting trough the clay. During these 12 days we invite people to walk along for a couple kilometers, a day or camp with us to show them how adventure in your own backyard can be.

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We have to cross small rivers

Right trough muddy meadows

Right trough muddy meadows

We are now in the preparation stage; sorting out gear, planning how we can walk the route the best and training a bit. The 3rd of February we will embark on this adventure from the town of Stadskanaal, in the south of our province. From there on we will walk East, towards the Dutch – German border.

From February the 3rd I will write a daily update on the Raw Sleep-out Facebook page, and if you would like to tag along, get in touch with me!

Check out the route with compass (Foto by Thomas Grootoonk)

Check out the route with compass (Foto by Thomas Grootoonk)

Following a blue line on a different planet

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I woke up on a different planet. It was a long ride that took us here, in an large, yellow iron worm flying with 80 km/h trough my familiar planet. Now I found myself in a bed and even before I opened my eyes I could hear the blue line roaring away. Fully dressed for the expedition and zipping on white cups full of  black liquid, we were talking about what would be the best way to begin our journey. My friend Renee and me where in high spirits even though it was still dark outside. Next to this, it seemed the weather on this planet was wet. A constant drizzle of cold rain came out of the dark clouds. While it was time to go, the darkness faded away.

Renee has an addiction for maps. Maps of our world, maps of seas or maps of other stars. She has a skill to perfectly read every map that comes to her hands and I was happy to bring her along this expedition. Her green backpack carried the food for these days, whereas mine was filled with the canvas that we would call home for the coming time.  Another iron worm was waiting for us that morning, taking us to the place where the blue line would collide with another lines on our maps. That would be our starting point. From there on we would walk upstream until we would find the source of this roaring blue line.

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Our journey took us towards the east of this foreign place, where 90 kilometers further would be our destination. Although we had maps, and Renee had an eye for them, we had no clue what to expect 90 kilometers further. We had four days to figure this out, talk, dream or fantasize about it. The first steps where on a type of hard soil next to the roaring water. The blue line was wild, it probably had something to do with the all that cold rain that came from the air the last couple of days. We carried on over the hard soil for a few kilometers.

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We noticed other creatures where living here too. Their houses where close to the hard soil, and sometimes a creature would pass us by in an iron box with four wheels. They went fast, maybe towards the same destination as we would, but our journey took more time. We saw everything the environment threw at us; big and beautiful trees, flying creatures in the air or tiny yellow flowers in green grass. We followed the white line that accompanied the hard soil and when it became dark we finally got away from the creatures with their loud iron boxes. With our bottles filled with water we searched for the perfect place for our camp for the night. It seemed a slanting slope had to do for the night.

The sound of roaring water awoke us in the morning. Our friend directly presented himself by letting us know he was still wild and roaring. We had no other choice then to follow him. We kept walking trough forests and over muddy paths till our shoes where wet and soaked. The rain had stopped but the sky still looked like a grey woolen blanket laying over this world. After walking trough forests, jumping over small rivers and trying to avoid mud puddles we decided it was time for a warming tea. After asking water from a creature who lived in a brick house next to this big forest, we got more information about the area. Rejuvenated by the hot drink we made our way, again over hard soil.

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Not too much later we saw a tribe feasting on food next to the road. While we walked past, one of them invited us to join their feast. Gladly we walked up, had conversations while they shared their food with us. They where not locals, but travelers like us, in a different way. While we walked and followed the river, they drove in iron boxes, researching great battles that have been fought in this area. They were warriors from a different place, a tribe of men gaining knowledge from history. With a filled stomach we continued our walk on the hard soil.

Soon we found ourselves in the forest again. Now the soil became softer and softer, and more muddy until we hardly couldn’t walk in it anymore… The tiny trails where swallowed up by the ferocious river. Till our ankles we walked trough the swamp; we decided this was not the way to go. We had just two whole days left to get to the source, and we knew it would just take a couple of hours when the sun would be setting and darkness would close in. We made our way back trough the swamp, and quickly found ourselves in the forrest again. Walking uphill constantly, but never losing the wild river from our ears or eyes. The map reading skills of Renee led us trough a small settlement where we refreshed our water supplies and with the setting sun we found a beautiful place for our tent.

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The tent nights where fresh and cosy. We always followed the same ritual without even thinking about it. When the tent would be up, we laid down our heads and closed our eyes to rethink the journey of the day, relax and almost fall asleep. In our sleeping bags we felt warm and comfortabel, and after 30 minutes of drowning in thoughts or listening to the unknown sounds around us we started our simple dinner; baked salami pieces with onion and carrot, topped with loads of couscous. The hot food made us smile night after night, feeling the warmth of the dinner going trough our bodies. All warm and cozy we read, wrote, listened to music or just closed our eyes and listened to our surrounding. Just before we would fall asleep we would share a big piece of salami, the proteins would give us slow energy and keep us warm during the night.

The cold nights would let us crave for hot, black or green liquid in the morning. With a red blush on our cheeks from the fresh air and hot liquid we would start the day with cold hands from folding up our canvas house. The third morning we did this while the sun came up, because we had kilometers to make, trough this strange and foreign world. A thick mist was floating  trough the forrest, making this world even more mysterious. Walking trough this mist, we realized there were more settlements coming, and with this maybe an encounter with creatures living in that area. We saw beautiful houses with tiny rivers floating in front of it, but no creatures. Just before we wanted to go back into the forrest, we heard a roaring sound coming from this forrest. A creature in one of these rolling iron boxes came up to us. He spoke a language we wouldn’t understand, and even though he seemed to know, he kept trying to communicate with us. His face was wrinkled and rough, all his clothes where green and his hands looked worked up. Eventually we understood him. This was his territory, we were not allowed whereas this was his time for gathering food with weapons. We decided we didn’t want to anger his tribe, so we followed a different trail trough the safety of small settlements.

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Because of the straight ways in the settlements we made our way fast. We had to choose between speeding up or enjoying our surroundings. We chose the latter, but in a fast pace. Naturally we got lost. An old inhabitant of a small forest settlement helped us find our way again. He was old, but even showed us that he was able to dance all night long with the women of his planet. We offered him some of our sweets for showing us his dance, but he declined. Maybe that’s why was still so vital at his age.

The sun went down and trough the darkness we made our way over big roads where now and then the big iron boxes would pass by at an enormous speed. I felt unsafe. With lights on our heads and backpacks we would try to mimic the iron boxes so we would not crash. It was also harder to find a good place for  our tent, but a piece of dark forrest would facilitate our means.

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Cold wind was blowing, and our canvas house was not strong enough to keep the cold wind out. With my clothes around the sides inside the tent, I was able to keep the wind out. When we woke up in the morning we realized the weather turned on us again. It was drizzling like on the first day and I had made a very stupid mistake the night before. My clothes protected us from the wind, but now they where all wet and extremely cold… When I put them on, the only thing to do was to walk faster, keeping my body warm. Rain poured down on us the whole morning, and to keep our spirits up we sat down every hour to eat a small piece of candy. These moments gave us energy to defy the weather, the cold and the pain in our feet.

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But then we saw a sign. A sign telling us we got closer and closer to our main goal. We also saw it on the roaring blue line we followed from day one. It was not roaring and wild anymore. It became more gentle, more calm. After a stop where also Renee drank black liquid (she made it light brown and sweetened it with other substances) we got on our way with an energy boost. Trough beautiful forests, but on hard roads. We could enjoy the nature around us and make speed.

Although we got closer at a fast pace, we noticed the sun going down fast too. It was a beautiful sight; a orange blanket over green meadows, accompanied with a purple sky above. In the darkness we knew we got closer and closer, and finally we found the place we were looking for on the map. It seemed there was a house next to it, and the spot we thought was the source of the river was in the backyard of this house. Carefully we walked towards the house, and fortunate the lights of the house were off. With a little caution we approached the house, but the swamps around the structure made it almost impossible to get to the place we pinpointed on our maps. We decided it was better to go there in the morning, with a new sun, giving us light to see the source of the river.

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The next day we saw the river was longer then we expected; our journey was not over yet! Walking into the next small settlement we found a sign of our blue friend. This was the place. This was the time and place we were looking for since the beginning of the week.

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We came onto this planet to experience the nature, feel the fresh air and see how we would cope with the unexpected situations that come across journeys like this. Candy, salami and our longing for a tiny adventure got us trough it. We were smelly, dirty and had a red blush on our cheeks. We got used to the cold, fresh air and a simple way of living, even if it was just for four days.

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Now it was time to return to our own world, but not before we got into one of these iron boxes we encountered so many of. In this world there was a way to do this: put your hand out and thumb up. An iron box will stop. There might be old ladies in it, or young men, but eventually you will get back to your own world. In our own world life quickly gets back to normal, but our memories of the expedition in the other world will stay and not fade away.

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What did I learn from cycling 2500 km’s without GPS, paper maps or electronic navigation?

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An excerpt from my diary: ” After I cycled into France my own drawn map stopped. Now I’m just going from village to village and I just hope there is a map of the area. I’m just cycling south until I find a roadmap. The feeling of doubt where I’m going really starts to grow now. It’s hard when you don’t know where you’re going, because how can I ask people for help? “Sorry monsieur, do you know how to get to the Mt Blanc? Or maybe to the south?” By the way, my French is totally “terrible”, so I’m not even able to ask such a question. Maybe I have to change my strategy and actively search for maps.”

Now why did I try to cycle from Maastricht to the Mt Blanc without GPS, maps or any type of electronic navigation? When I was looking at the most important possessions you have while traveling, a map is one of it. When I get to a town, the first thing I do is to get a map of the town. You can see where you are, and how to get to the place where you want to go. Nowadays it’s made easier by GPS, smartphones and navigation devices. These devices tell you where to go, or when to go left for example. So actually you don’t need to think at all anymore. Just follow the device and you’ll get to your endpoint. But isn’t part of an adventure finding your way in places you don’t know? For me it is. Also I got used to google maps when I have to find a place but I decided to ditch all maps and electronic navigation to see if I still knew how to navigate myself. The only things I allowed myself to use were a compass and drawings from locals or maps I found. Could I rely on my own skills to get to the Mt Blanc and back?

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Yes I could. I managed to cycle from Maastricht to the Mt Blanc and back on my own drawn maps, the compass and eventually I learned how to use the sun. But it was hard. Especially in the beginning, because my drawing skills kind of suck. I had no clue how to make a map, and the first couple of days my maps contained only lines, circles and names from cities. This was wrong, I had to make more detailled maps, with road names, crossroads and rivers. Next to the crappy maps I had to navigate on, there was the constant search for roadmaps. Every moment I had to be sharp and search for them. Every map I came across I had to stop at, have a look and maybe draw the missing piece on my own maps. I think this was the hardest of all. Constantly keeping your eyes open, and all this while it was 35C.

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Almost all the maps I came across I drew in my little “Mapbook”. I would also ask people, but the locals wanted to send me on the easiest way. And the easiest way were the big roads. Full with trucks, busses and cars. I didn’t want to take these roads, but being as it was, I had no choice. A couple of times I ignored the advise and went my own way, but I mostly ended up going back or cycling 20 kilometers more then necessary. Sometimes advise is there to take and stubbornness is there to ignore.

kaart2 kaart3During these five weeks I learned how to navigate on the sun. I learned how to draw maps that are ok for me to use. But the most important thing is how I learned how to deal with frustration and to trust myself. On one day I cycled just 60 kilometers. Of this 60 kilometers 20 where a detour. So actually one third of the day I was just cycling for nothing. Going wrong ways, and going back. This leads to frustration; why can’t I find the right way I just drew!? Or the moment when I saw a little tiny road going trough forrest on a map. I wanted to take this road, so I did my best to find it. In the end I ended up at a big traffic road, again… This happened multiple times, and multiple times I scorned myself for this. But this just happens when you cycle without a map. It’s part of the journey. When I realized this, I was more relaxed about detours. I mean, they still suck but now I wasn’t so frustrated about them anymore. But also I had to trust myself. Roads in real life look different then roads in my mapbook. I had to trust the maps I’ve made, and stick to them.

In my opinion it’s a good idea to cycle without a map because it gives you a new way of looking at your environment. If you’d like to do this too, let me give you some tips:

  • Make your maps detailled; put road numbers in there (D64 for example), crossroads and villages or cities.
  • For camping you can also put forrest area’s in there, it helped me a couple of times.
  • Don’t forget to write down a lot of villages you find on the maps you will draw from. It happend to me more then once that I had no clue where I was because the name of the village was not in my drawing.
  • Learn how to use the sun.
  • Find rivers, mountains and other landmarks.
  • A compass doesn’t work as good in the mountains as on flat land.
  • Let locals make a drawing in stead of telling you where you should go.
  • Don’t put camembert in your bag when it’s +35C.
  • Trust your gut and yourself.

Did any of you make journeys without maps, GPS or electronic devices? Let me know in the comments!

You can check my articles about this, films or follow me on Facebook!

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Types of music to listen to when traveling

When I go on a journey, one of my close friends is my Ipod. Music is very important to me, and it can guide me trough hard time, as wel as trough the good ones. During my last trip I found out that every type of weather screams for certain kinds of music. Lets see what it is and have a listen!

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calls for slow and full music. Music that is like syrup but also a bit pushy. Pushing you trough the heat of the moment. Just keep going while the blanket of heat surrounds you.

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Imagine: you’re totally soaked, everything is wet and the rain just keeps pouring down. You can take shelter somewhere, but you still have 60 kilometers to go. And next to this, it will rain all day long… What do you do then? Well, you can put your mindset at rain, and your Ipod on some repetitive loud music.

Or put on some “Aquabass”

fogSo there you are, riding on your bike trough foggy forests or down a mountain enrobed by a thick mist. Now there is just one thing you can do, put on some mysterious music.

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Mostly I try to take the roads that are hidden. But traveling without a map might push you on a huge road. A road that is filled with cars, or a road that is for sure not made for cyclists. What to do? Go back and search for another road, or take my Ipod and listen to some of this…?

Actually there is nothing else during dangerous roads. Just Black Sabbath. (When the road gets really dangerous, its better to take the music off and concentrate on cycling and not getting into accidents)

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At some points you will find these beautiful roads you’ve been searching for. The forest paths. Small, rough, curvy and full of surprises. Best taken downhill and with a pinch of wildling music, like Korpiklaani.

uphillSometimes you just need that little extra energy to get you there. When you go uphill and see a sign saying 19% for example. This is when I turn up the volume, take an extra zip of water and go!

gooddayRain, heat, fog, uphill, downhill and forests. Mostly this stuff is not there. It’s just a nice day, you’re cycling along and nothing special is happening. It’s just a good day. And a good day calls for good music. Really good music, that might lift you up and makes you sing while you’re cycling.

Of course there is way more music out there, specific for all the types of experiences, emotions or phases you go trough when traveling. But the most important it to know when to lose the music, and just listen to the things around you. Nothing sounds better then the crackling of a fire, not even music!

Follow me on my facebook page for more updates and adventure stuff!

Cycling to the International Cycling Film Festival

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When I looked outside my window it was foggy and it cold. Vague colors of the trees would shine trough the fog, and I already saw myself in the middle of the forrest with my tarp. Red, brown and yellow leaves would be all around me, while I was making a fire or drinking coffee in the morning. Getting ready for the ride towards the Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival and the International Cycling Film Festival in Herne, Germany. But I was not there yet, from where I was looking out the window to Herne was 220 kilometers. And traveling to an adventure and cycling film festival should be done in style, with a bike and a tarp!

The first couple of hours where messy. My odometer didn’t seem to work, I nearly lost my lamp, almost fell down and injured myself a little and did a 10 km detour. But soon I was on my way trough the colorful forests. The fog was still there, and this made everything look as mysterious as Grimm story. While it was getting dark around 17:00 I decided to cycle on in the dark. My phone didn’t work anymore since I was in Germany now, but I knew what road to take. It was a long road. A big road with a small cycling path next to it. No traffic lights, just darkness. I made my way over the 20 kilometer long road. Nothing but farmlands and an occasional headlights from cars. Eventually I found a beautiful spot for my tarp somewhere in a small bush.

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The next day the weather became better, I was even cycling in my t-shirt! And this in the end of October! Needles to say I was enjoying the trip very much. The smell of autumn, colors of the trees and soft temperatures made everything perfect. At 20:00 I arrived in Herne, just in time for homemade pizza and beer with the guys from the film festival.

Last year I got to know the people from the festival. I’ve sent my very first adventure film and it was on the program. They also invited me, and there was a click, so this year it was time to push things a bit further.

I was asked to program the Friday evening, the day before the main event. The idea of the Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival was born, and it was my task to make a selection of films ending with my own film “Why we go out” as an answer to the question: what does adventure mean? We had 8 films in total ranging from cycling till swimming till rowing. But an adventure is a story and these can be told in many ways. Making the festival a bit broader then just films I gave a talk about the rollerblading trip I took last February to show that normal people like me are fit for an adventure too. More films came, and before the main film we held a discussion with the audience about what adventure means to us, and what the films ment to us. This discussion was held from a rubber boat on the stage. Perfect!

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Saturday was the day of the main event: the International Cycling Film Festival. The whole thing started with a 50 man strong Critical Mass starting in Dortmund, I joined in Bochum. A while later we arrived in Herne, where the Dortmund Velo Kitchen waited for us with delicious banana curry, good for the leg muscles! At 17:00 the afternoon program started. While eating my curry I saw a very cool animation about Albert Hofmann his cycling “trip” back home from his laboratorium. I wondered how long the road back home would’ve been for him.

Around 19:00 the hall became fuller. At 19:30 all the chairs where taken. At 20:00 everybody was sitting and standing everywhere! 300 people where here to celebrate  cycling culture! Loads of pannier bags, click shoes and cycling shirts. The films sucked up the attention of the audience and between the films the was a real race. Cyclists can’t go without a race, thats a common fact. But since we where in a hall, the organizers came up with a great idea. Make a digital race! With record-players hooked on hometrainers. The faster you cycle on the hometrainer, the faster the record plays and the faster the image moves on the screen. From two people, the fastest would go on, until there was only one left.

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More films where playing, from documentaries till short animations. But all with bikes in them. People cheered, were amused or thrilled. There were 16 films to show, but only one could be the winner of the famous “Goldene Kurbel”. This was the Dutch film: “De benen van Amsterdam” (The legs of Amsterdam) from Wytse Koetse about a bike repair man from Amsterdam. His job is not only repairing bicycles, but more helping people when their “legs” are broken. The audience award was also for a Dutch film: “Groen” (Green) from Lucas Camps about a guy standing before a traffic light. I think all the people could recognize this situation.

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For me it was a great weekend full of cyclists, cycling-films and banana curry. It was a celebration of adventure and cycling culture. A day where cyclists and adventurers from the Ruhr area in Germany meet, talk, make plans and drink a cold beer together. Who knows what kind of journeys where inspired by this weekend.

On Sunday it was time for me to return home. I would take the train, but not before I cycled from Herne to Oberhausen, trough the last sun rays while the most colorful leaves fell from the trees. In the end I took the train back to the Netherlands. In the train I had time to reflect and knew this cycling world was a good world. Crazy events are held, people are active and motivated. Im glad I will be hosting the festival in 2016 in Groningen. Groningens first cycling film festival will be a fact and maybe we will have a swim first, like this year.

Gernot-alex-erwin2Also check out my facebook page if you like adventure and films!

The egoism of my adventure talks

Is it egoist to talk about what I do? Is it egoist to make films where I am the leading figure? Isn’t this a form of self-aggrandizement? I don’t know yet.

Last weekend I was at the Nomads Gathering in Amsterdam. I offered to talk about the inline skating trip I did last winter, and offered the Amsterdam premiere of my last film about adventure. During the festival a weird feeling overcame me; everything I told about on the festival was done by me, or was about me. Wasn’t this hardcore self-aggrandizement? Look what I did! Let me tell you what I did, and have a look at this film I made. It’s about adventure, and it’s MY personal view on adventure. I don’t like this so much. I’m not more important than other people. I don’t want to put myself on a socket and say: “Look what I’ve done, how cool is this!”

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But what happened? After the talk I gave people started to come up to me telling me they were inspired to make a trip as well! A girl who was a rollerskater came up to me and told me: “Wow, i’d never thought about traveling in this way, and I’m gonna have a look into doing a trip like this on my rollerskates!” I gave her some advice and I could see she was really excited about the idea.

During the screening of my film the same thought came up: “Shit, I’m way too many times in the picture! Again I’m telling what I think, and I’m showing MY thoughts…” And guess what happened, people came up to me again, saying how much they liked the film, and how it made them want to go on an adventure too. It made me realize, that by sharing my own accounts, I could inspire people to go out, to go on a little adventure or on a big trip of a lifetime.

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So by telling my stories of adventures, showing pictures of me on skates, a bike or knee deep in water, I can show people adventurous ideas that might sound crazy are possible. By showing myself, my thoughts and talking about what I did, I can inspire YOU. It makes it a bit easier to talk about the trips I make, and to see my face on the screen over and over…

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Next week I will start a new adventure; cycling from Maastricht to the Mt.Blanc and back without a map! If you’d like to follow that trip, you can like my facebook page here

Without-a-map: Maastricht (NL) – Mt. Blanc (FR)

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When I passed by the little bus shelter on my bicycle I knew there could be something precious in it… And I found it! It was a small map, the three letters of the tiny village read COO. This was the place I wanted to go. It was the first day, and I quickly took out my pen and paper and started to draw how to get there, this tiny village 60 km’s away, because I went “Without-A-Map”.

Last September I found myself in Maastricht with one goal: getting from there to Coo and back in 3 days, without any form of navigation, GPS, mobile app or map. The only thing I allowed myself to do was to draw (and I can’t draw at all…) my own maps of what people told me, from the maps I came across and take what people drew for me. It was by times quite hard, but overall very do-able. I think this is because it was 160 km, only going south and just 3 days. You can read the story of last year here.

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This year will be a little different. A little bigger, and I hope a little more challenging. This year I will go from Maastricht (yes, yet again) to the Little St. Bernard Pass, close to the Mt. Blanc and back to Maastricht. This will be roughly 1600 km’s and my endpoint will not be on a map I will see somewhere in a bus shelter the first day. But the same rules will apply:

– Only make drawings from maps I see along the road

– Make drawings from what people tell me

– Let other people make drawings of maps

I will try to navigate with the sun, stars and make my own needle-compass. This means I will be delivered to the kindness, navigating skills and map drawing skills of the french and belgian people. Oh yeah, I don’t speak 3 words french and I feel totally awkward when I try…

But the question is, why in the hell would I do this? Things are so much easier with a map or with a GPS! Yeah, that might be, but I strongly believe that when you take away your pre-planned route, you have to observe the area around you way more. And by observing the area around you, the surrounding becomes more part of you. Details become more visible and stick more in your memory. Almost everybody uses some kind of navigation when traveling, with a little blue cursor saying: You are here. I do the same, and sometimes it comes in mighty handy! I got used to it quickly, now even when I go into the city, the little blue cursor tells me where I am, and within a couple of minutes I’m at my destination. Now it’s enough. I will remove Googlemaps from my phone, take a Dutch – French translate dictionary and a pen and paper. I will get lost, I will not go the fastest way, I will not take the best or most scenic route, I will just go where people tell me to go, or where my own drawn maps tell me to go. And hopefully I get to the Little St. Bernard Pass and back in 4 to 5 weeks.

Next to all these anti-gps things it’s just damn exciting, I have no clue if I’m able to go really without a map, where I will end up and how it will be in the mountains. How will I find places to camp with my tarp? What if people talk really fast French and I will understand nothing? I will just let them make a drawing… 🙂

The 27th of july I will leave, and hope to be back in the beginning of September. Trough this blog and my facebook page I will keep you updated!