It’s in my head and it won’t get out. I want to challenge myself, search the pure life and not only the pure life close to me, but in the whole world. Actually I don’t care, I just want to go somewhere and experience it there.
Looking for another way of living and perhaps even experience another way of travelling. I don’t have anything written in stone, I just know I want to travel 40,008 kilometres. And travel by bike. I feel like it isn’t possible in any other way, to me cycling is part of the pure living. Just like hiking. Go into the world with just a few aids and your own common sense.
I love cycling, it’s a wonderful way of moving, enjoying nature, seeing a lot and challenging my body physically. Working hard during my way up the mountains and just gliding down the hills. Travelling by bike means you have to buy and pack everything in such a way that there is just enough room to bring everything you might need during your journey, but still won’t intervene with the cycling. I can peddle hard, enjoy the power it offers. I can keep going for days or weeks. Can I keep it up for 40,008 kilometres? I did New Zealand cycling on an old second hand bike in three months during the fall and winter period. I am capable of a lot, but this distance is a real challenge to me too.
I started cycling because I had a tough run-in with a goalkeeper during a football match. After going through three rehabilitations because of breaches in my foot it had only just got better again. My foot was okay and I was ready, this time I’d really be known and earn a spot in the best team.
I ran towards the goal, it was wide open, everyone was cheering me on, I would score, it was just between me and the goalkeeper. My shot was always straight and tight. I was ready, just waiting to aim.
The goalkeeper must have thought the same, as in that he just didn’t want me to make that shot.
And then in a split-second the world changed.
People told me later on they heard a blow that sounded like a car accident and some creepy crunching sound.
I just know I was on the ground. I had so much pain and didn’t realise what had happened. I was going to score, what went wrong? In such moments it is as if the world holds its breath. It was really quiet, the goalkeeper and I were laying on the ground. But what was happening? For those that were nearby it was clear. My leg was twisted in an unnatural way. No doubt it was bad. My mother who was there to watch, was next to me within a few seconds, pushing everyone away and keeping me warm until the ambulance came. I could only shiver and scream.
A few big doses of morphine, we had to reduce the pain. I screamed in an unnatural way when they returned my leg in the right position. Sirens and lights escorted us off the football field and as it turned out to be; the end of a dream. No more football, never again.
A double breach, tibia and fibula crushed and broken. It must have been a massive force.
I’m not a small guy, the goalkeeper was certainly bigger and heavier.
Like 2 bulldozers colliding into one another.
I can’t remember much from those first days. Friends came and went, family, well, what else is there to say. It’ll be okay. You’ll walk again. Football wasn’t mentioned, no one did.
A pin in my leg to strengthen the bone and make sure that I’d be able to stand on my own two legs. Of course it’s not a natural and pure solution, but I didn’t have a choice.
During the rehabilitation period that included over 4 surgeries in over a year time I tossed and turned in my head. And it wasn’t always positive. I did not reach the age of 22 yet, I had always only wanted to play football and wanted to do whatever it took to be successful at my level. Football was more important than anything and just like that; that path into my future was cut off.
I don’t really know how it happened and how the cycling came instead. I have always cycled. To school, long distances and mountain bike rides in the woods. Living in the countryside means biking everywhere anyway, even when you’ve been out in the town, your bike is the buddy that takes you home.
Somehow the bike was my rescue. The need to be active and feeling uneasy whilest trying to walk or play sports with that broken/crushed leg gave the bike a spot in my life. At first with my crutches on the side to just get somewhere when one isn’t allowed to drive just yet, then for longer distances in which you feel your leg regaining strength. And with my leg, so did I. Body and mind are one, when you get your physical strength back the blackness in your head vaporises as well. Driving those kilometres on the bike gave me the idea to go out into the world and leave The Netherlands behind. The one-way ticket to Australia was a flight forwards. Into the unknown, a new life, into new interpretations.
I did most metres on an old bike. New Zealand, the northern and southern island. In Australia I already figured out I really wanted to go cycling. Along the south coast for instance or right down the middle. But how about those long ends and those temperatures? How would I do that? Would I dare do that, just leave and see how it goes?. I ‘d had my eye on New Zealand before, it seamed wonderful to be there for a long time as well. Beautiful nature, nice roads, peace and quiet. And all this on a bike? The idea grew and shaped. New Zealand seamed like a clear journey to start with and to be able to finish. Because that is important to me too, I don’t only want it, I do it and I realise it.
There is something about me always watching my pennies. You have to when you start out backpacking and then work and enjoy life in Melbourne. There wasn’t much left to save up. But still I always managed and that made it somewhat of a sport to me. Looking for bargains, being economical with food and groceries. Starting my bike-journey to New Zealand also meant searching and comparing everything thoughtfully. I’d keep myself busy for weeks on end. Thank god for the Internet, I could find and buy my stuff everywhere, even Holland. But I had to feel and see the bike, so that had to be purchased in real live.
I stumbled into a bike in Auckland and instantly fell in love with it. Not too expensive, more like a bargain, a regular tour-bike, really ordinary, not overloaded with additional horns and blazers. This had to be the one. I had some materials delivered from Holland at a friend in New Zealand and then I was ready to start my first bike-journey.
My experiences in New Zealand taught me a lot. Especially regarding the material. Good materials are crucial. A Dutch saying is; een spaak in het wiel steken (literally: put a spoke in someone’s wheel, which translates to deliberately causing harm to someone) which has got a completely different meaning for me now.
Bloody hell, I couldn’t see any spokes and wheels anymore. My bike did the best it could, perhaps not really adjusted to my size and weight, it was having a hard time and I sure knew that at the time. A spoke, another spoke, several spokes, a new wheel and another new wheel. The bad thing about a broken or missing spoke in your wheel is you can’t cycle anymore, that spoke literally locks the bike because it causes the wheel to get crooked and with several spokes missing you’re damn sure you’ll be walking the rest of the way. Believe me, I experienced it proverbially. Walking in New Zealand means walking really long distances. Thankfully with really friendly people that pick you up, put you in the back of their truck and bring you to a village, home, bike-store.
A good lesson for next time. Needed; a well fitted bike, check, suitable for long journeys, check, not too heavy, check, extra firm spokes,check, good lighting, check, good water resistant bags, check. Better to spend a bit more and to have so much more fun during my journey.
I keep doing things my own way. I don’t want to pay a fortune and have everything new and shiny. Preferably not, it doesn’t fit my description of pure living. Pure living is not spending a lot of money and getting everything you want.
Finding the essence of pure living is what really matters to me, a basic life and not with all kinds of things attached. Pure living I think is about real contacts, being in touch with myself, my environment, with others. I am curious to know how others do this, why does anyone make a choice to do things differently. Stepping out of the rat-race and finding out what it will bring in life.
Actually I’m not really sure exactly what pure living is right now, I am looking forward to discover the essence of it. I have an image of pure living which is likely to change. It is about paths that turn out to be less passable which makes that you have to chose what you want to do. What do I want, what belongs to me, what am I looking for, in what way can I contribute?
I think these are wonderful and sometimes tiring questions, but still they occupy my mind.
My wheels keep spinning, how strong is the lonely cyclist that sits crooked on his bike and is finding his way against the winds, like the song “ hoe sterk is de eenzame fietser” van Boudewijn de Groot – a Dutch singer/songwriter – about what you want to be and why. I started because I had to stop something else, in my case football, but that doesn’t make this choice any less important. It’s a choice to go forward, to develop and to discover.
A flashback is nice to get a grip on the why,my why to do this. But cycling and developing are things to go forward in. I damn will cycle those 40.008 kilometres in the best and most pleasant way when I go forward and look around, enjoy what is happening. I feel blessed in a way, because the bike appears to literally take me further. On my way.