november 2001


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Sunday November 25th (Brussels)

Dear friends,

19 novembre, à la frontière de Gibraltar ! After our return trip last Saturday, we are back at home, still amazed, but above all very lucky for having completed our project.

Europe is a beautiful continent, from the North to the South, whatever place you are you may find some paradisiac places. The bicycle has been for us the ideal way to join the nature in its splendors, amongst the wind and the birds cries. Fortunately, many countries have realized the ecological potential of the bicycle, and have set up a fantastic network of cycling paths, in the towns as in the open country.

The hospitality which has been offered to us during our journey, the encouragements, the smiles and laughters that we have exchanged foster us to the welcome, the openness, the respect for the others. We have experienced that every days.

Camping outside has shown us that a meal is still tasty even if prepared in battered pans, that the sleep quality is not particularly proportional to the dimensions of a matrass, and that the well-being may be hold in bicycle saddlebags.

Of course at home we have ten times more, but many others don't even have ten times less; the solidarity with the poors will continue to be a concern for us.



Living 24 hours per day between husband and wife allowed us to much better know and appreciate each other; in such circumstances you cannot cheat neither escape, and a direct confrontation was the only issue after a possible sulkiness or frowning face. After that we had a new start on the road, as lovings united by our common project.

What would be added to all this, but a lot of thanks to all these who helped us before the departure, and those who supported us during this long passage: our webmaster Roland, our translator Alain, all our hosts for one or more nights, those who have cycled with us, who have visited our web site, sent messages to our golden book, and last but not least, the sponsors of our two solidarity projects. We will give you more specific news of Aprobenir and "La Roue Libre et Solidaire" (the Free and Solidary Wheel) in a few weeks.

Finally, our journey has been protected by God. He has been our unobtrusive road companion, our guardian angel and our lucky star. From the norvegian to the spanish, we have been lucky to sing for Him in the churches that men had the good idea to build all along the way. Sometimes at the evening under our tent, we liked reading the texts of the day and pray, before falling asleep lulled by the breeze, the waves sound or… the mosquitoes.


"They had a long and lucky life and many children" : the good way to end a story, isn't it ? Adios !


Saturday November 24th (Malaga, km+78=10060)

This morning our tent was strongly shakened by the wind, and during the day we had to fight it to advance. We don't mind, this last day of bike10000 has been beautiful, and we have pedaled with enthusiasm.

Approaching Malaga has been less enjoyable, due to the high traffic on the roads. We went straight to the airport to check our Swissair booking for the following day. The complementary fee to pay for the replacement of our Sabena tickets turns to be exhorbitant, nearly three times what we had been told in Ronda, more expensive that a new Iberia ticket ! Fortunately, Neckermann has a charter tonight, at a very good price. Alas ! the flight is fully booked. We are on top of the waiting list, and prepare our bicycles: the chance is with us: three passengers don't show up, and at the very last minute we may embark.

We have been in such a hurry that we had no time to change our clothing : we are really good-looking with our cyclist equipment, and for me a three-days beard. Nevertheless, we are both delighted to be seated in this plane, while I am typing our last daily report…

Tomorrow we will address you a farewell message, let us say an "au revoir": why would'nt you attend the projection of our photos or videos, when they will be ready ? Let us speak more about that later on…


Friday November 23rd (Antequera, km+96=9981)

Yesterday night in a vegetarian restaurant we had a real good time with Vincent and Catherine, a young New Zealand couple met in Ronda. After a good night and an excellent breakfast in a churreria with the famous fritters, we have started a long and pleasant day. Two years ago we had been delighted to visit Antequera, this time we crossed it to plant our tent on a height, with a beautiful view on its castle and the Torcal mountain. See also the birdwatching heading, a laguna has offered us a few fascinating observations.

See also birdwatching.


Thursday November 22nd (Ronda)

In a travel agency here we could exchange our Sabena tickets against Swissair ones, with a supplementary fee. We will be back at home next Sunday November 25th !

While approaching the end of our journey, we are grateful to our Webmaster Roland: without his daily work, it would have been impossible for us to share our dreams with you, receiving your messages, and getting your support for our two fellowship projects. For his titanesque work, we invite all our readers to a standing ovation in front of their PC !


Wednesday November 21st (Ronda, km+57=9885)

For us, cyclists who have put an end to our journey, these days are rather a "baroud d'honneur", the final fight. Yesterday afternoon we have followed a pretty path alongside a calm river, then planted our tent before beginning the serious things. Today we have crossed several passes at a maximal height of 1000 m, under a threatening sky and figthing against a strong wind. We came in the beautiful Ronda through the bridge linking the two parts of the town. What a good luck reading all your congratulations messages on the Golden Book !

We have to leave the option DAT from Madrid, because we have no warranty to exchange our Sabena tickets and embark our bicycles on the plane. We plan therefore to cycle to Malaga and buy new Iberia tickets… The adventure is not yet finished, so much the better !


Tuesday Nov 20th (San Pablo de Buceite, km+54=9829)



During the morning in Gibraltar, we went to the Rock summit with the cable car, to enjoy the panorama and pay a visit to the monkeys... We went back to the old town center via Castle Steps before resuming our journey and riding to the North.



Monday November 19th (Gibraltar, km+75=9775)

GIBRALTAR!

Here we are, and lucky !

Today we have choosen little roads through the hinterland to avoid Algeciras and its highways. The arrival is much impressive with this huge rock more than 400 m high, and the great cliff boarding the sea, quite similar with some in the Far North.
The atmosphere here is very special, with an identity control at the boundary. In the Main Street we have met a real bobby, in the pub we had a bitter beer...

Since our start we had in our luggage a Nordkapp gas-lighter, I bought for him a little brother named Gibraltar. The owner of the tobacco shop asked us if we ride for a "charity", and if we had an interview on the local TV, which is the normal use here for such projects. No, we did'nt plan that, we are here incognito !

Unfortunately we have Sabena tickets for our flight back to Belgium on Sunday November 25th from Malaga. If we get a possibility to use these tickets on a DAT flight from Madrid, we would go up to Cordoba by bike, then catch a train or a bus to the chief town, otherwise we will maintain the initial project of riding to Malaga, and take a flight on another company.

But now it's time to rejoice, and tomorrow there will be perhaps two more monkeys on the Rock !


Sunday November 18th (Tarifa, km+57=9700)

We are in Tarifa, the Souterner point of Europa, the kingdom of windsurfing thanks to the winds which engulf themselves in the Strait of Gibraltar, here only 13 km broad. We see very well the Morocco coast, its mountains and towns; through my little binoculars I could spot the minaret of a mosque.

But we shall not cross the Strait (Tanger can be reached by ferry in 35 minutes), our route will go to Gibraltar, less to the south but more important than Tarifa. We came here early, and spent a classical afternoon: Internet, bikes maintenance, washing.
Today we have planned an aperitif patatas fritas Lays y cerveza Cruzcampo. Salud !


Saturday November 17th (Barbate, km+81=9643)

This morning we have walked in the old town of Arcos, built on a hill, with a splendid view on both sides. After a tiring day against the wind, with many ups and downs, we are rewarded when we reach the seaside: the temperature is mild, the camping place on the beach is charming, the noise of the waves is pleasant…

Our enthusiasm is raising: if everything goes well, we will be in Gibraltar in two days from now !

See also birdwatching.


Friday November 16th (Arcos de la Frontera, km+74=9561)

Another encounter with American cyclists: today we have chatted and got picnic with Laura and Benj, coming back from a 7-weeks trip in Morocco. They plan to cycle during 9 months, but before that Benj had cycled around the world from 1990 to 1995. His best recollection has been his trip to the Tibet, and he cannot think about another mean of terrestrial travelling, except by bicycle !

Fortunately we got up early this morning, because after our rest from 11:30 am till 2:30 pm, we had to pedal on a very undulating path, and facing the wind. It has been worth to reach Arcos because the old town, located on a clif
f, offers a striking view on the valley.


Thursday November 15th (Adriano, km+73=9487)

Our little walk this morning along the lagoon has been beautiful and outstanding from the birdwatching point of view. After greeting the Virgo in her splendid church, we leave El Rocio at noon with regrets.

We have modified our route, chiefly to avoid Sevilla by the south; we had previously visited this town, and its access by bicycle appears difficult.

After crossing the Guadalquivir on a little ferry, and a few coton fields, we have planted our tent in the shadowy ligth.

See also birdwatching.


Wednesday November 14th (El Rocio, km+61=9414)

At sunrise, as soon as 8:30 am we follow again this bad path, avoiding the biggest boulders and the deepest pot-holes; fortunately during one hour, no cars, what a silence…

At the end of our picnic in the public square of Almonte, two travellers come on their bicycles: Tom and Elsa are American, they have begun their european travel nearly at the same time as we did, but before that, they had traversed the United States and New Zealand !

We came in Rocio during the afternoon, outstanding village for three reasons:

First: the Pentecost pilgrimage : every year, more than one million pilgrims (1.300.000 this year, for 2.000 inhabitants !) gather from all parts of Spain, to worship the Virgen del Rocio.

Second reason: it is located at the boundary of the Parque Nacional de Donana, on the river Guadalquivir delta, holy place for the birdwatchers who come from all parts of Europa to venere numerous rare birds. We have chatted with a few swedish and english colleagues and could already make some outstanding observations: see tomorrow "birdwatching".

The third reason reminds us our previous visit in this place, two years ago, also in November; we had hoped coming back one day, and spend the night in a hotel that I had spotted; we could'nt foresee that we should come back on our bicycles, nearly at the end of a very beautiful and long journey…


Tuesday November 13th (Berrocal, km+62=9353)

This morning Benoît has been busy fixing a problem: the chain of Gaëtane skipped when she pedaled in a slope; some improvement has been achieved after a difficult work to fix it, but this problem has not completely disappeared. They have traversed during kilometers huge open-cast copper-mines, a quite mournful landscape. Then in the evening they have managed to follow a 30 km "short cut" which has been a very bad, rocky path, with many ups and downs…


Monday November 12th (Aracena, km+82=9291)

We have traversed a bit of paradise, specially three little villages to the south of Extremadure: Segura de Leon, Fuentes de Leon and Canaveral de Leon. The landscapes are often magnificent, but it becomes more and more rare to ride on roads which have not been widened.

Fortunately, the loops of the old sections are often still there and offer therefore potentially good places to set camp. We greet you from our tent entry. It is 7:30 pm and the temperature has already dropped to 2°C, we will have a freezy night…


Sunday November 11th (Zafra)

breakfast with churrosWhat a pleasure to spend a Sunday in a charming, little town as Zafra ! A good start: breakfast with churros. When entering at noon in the beautiful church of La Candelaria, we have a surprise: the nave is full, there are many children and young people, songs with guitar, and a go-ahead priest.

We have lunch on the Plazza Major with bocadillo, in front of the archways bathed by the sun. This afternoon we will visit the Santa Clara covent, connect ourselves to the Net in a sympathetic bar, and dinner in the same little restaurant as yesterday.

Tomorrow we start again for a long week till Tarifa and Gibraltar, then we plan to rejoin Malaga, either by train or by bicycle. We approach te end, more enthusiastic as ever !

See also birdwatching.


Saturday November 10th (Zafra, km+86=9209)

As our path was orientated today towards the south-west, we had to fight against a very strong lateral wind. Soon after our departure, Gaëtane had to wear her cap: she complained that the wind entered through her left ear and went out from her nose…

She missed to fail for the third times: when stopping, a squall put her out of balance; the bicycle falled into the ditch, but Gaëtane could disengage herself just in time, however at the price of a scratch.







Friday November 9th (Badajoz, km+80=9123)

A very strong wind from the north has pushed us in our back today. These Extremadure landscapes still fascinate us, but with this bloody wind the birds do not show up as they did yesterday. However the vulturs are still there, easily facing the wind. Gaëtane chooses this Western scenery for a 4th tire puncture, on the rear tire of course. We fix the problem, congratulating ourselves : only 4 times along more than 9000 km, not too bad.

In Badajoz we find a little, convenient hostel. A bad time for our Internet connexion, far from the center and very slow tonight. Tomorrow we will cycle to Zafra, more convenient for our weekly rest.


Thursday November 8th (Aliseda, km+89=9043)

Awaked at the same time as a joyous flock of Blue Magpies, we strike camp early enough for a safari day in the Extremadure savanna. Emotion when a small group of Cranes takes flight near the road, soon rejoined by others; finally about 70 of these majestic birds fly away. The Crane is a symbol for us, because in its european migration, like us she started from the North of Europe to come in this south country.

We arrive in the first village after cycling 50 km, hungry and with our water-bottles empty.


Wednesday Nov 7th (Torrejon El Rubio, km+46=8954)

This afternoon we have walked in the Natural Park of Monfragüe, and have been a bit disappointed, due to the renovation work presently in progress there. On the other hand, after the crossing of the Tage river, the Salto de Gitanes offers a landscape of impressive rocky peaks, covered with vultures, like in the Lucky Luke cartoons.

We have planted our tent in a typical landscape of Extremadure: vast expanse of stock-farming, dotted with holm-oaks and cork-oaks.


Tuesday November 6th (Plasencia, km+63=8908)

At our firecamp yesterday night, the Zwan sausages gave a good result, but not the potatoes which were either too much, or to few cooked. We had planted our tent near a little river.

Plasencia is a little and beautiful town: meandering narrow streets, old monuments with stork nests on top of them, human scale, cheap hostal, a pleasure…


Monday November 5th (Caminomorisco, km+74=8845)

A day of ups and downs through several hills.


Sunday November 4th (Los Santos, km+53=8771)

Yesterday night in Salamanca we had our meal in the restaurant… "Tintin", very well decorated, with paper napkins illustrating "The 7 Cristal Globes".

A start a bit late this morning, after oiling our chains and inflating our tires. The landscape is now very different, we cycle now along huge, dry grasslands.

See also birdwatching.


Saturday November 3rd, Salamanca

The beauty of this town is so fascinating that it seems magic. We have spent the whole day walking in the streets.

See also birdwatching (including a new list of observations).


Friday November 2nd (Salamanca, km+40=8718)

When striking camp this morning, our saddlebags were covered with hoar-frost. Our feet and hands take some time to get confortable, and after one or two hours of pedaling, we get the warmth of the sun.

We come in Salamanca around 11 am; our two contact persons are out of town during this long week-end, so we have to find where to sleep. A very large crowd walks in the streets, all hotels displays "completos", we wander about the streets for a long time, quite hungry, and finally find a brand new hotel outside the center, on the other side of the roman bridge.

After a good shower we appreciate much more the incredible marvels of Salamanca, that we both had visited before: Gaëtane ten years ago and myself at the opportunity of a cycling tour through Castilla, 5 years ago.
Tonight we have our meal near the hotel in a asado bar, with only a few spanish customers, a good contrast compared to the crowds in the Calle Major.


Thursday November 1st (Cantalpino, km+89=8678)

"Todos Santos", today is All Saints Day. In Tordesillas, we had a short rest, in the sunny Plaza Major: coffee, warm chocolate and reading the daily paper El Païs.

When coming in Tarazona de Guarena, the bells are ringing for the mass in the graveyard. All villagers are there, gathered by families, near the graves of their defuncts.

"Todos Santos" also offers Benoît a first observation, what french-speaking birdwatchers call "une coche": a flock of 15 Great Burstards, see the "birdwatching" heading of today.

See also birdwatching.


Wednesday October 31st (Cigunuela, km+71=8588)

As regularly in the mornings and evenings, we watch a herd of sheeps with their shepherd; but tonight they seem to go towards our camp site, while Gaëtane washes herself, naked… Fortunately they take another direction without noticing our presence…

See also birdwatching.