Dirtballing it

We have been cycling for over 7 weeks now and no longer is it something for us to get used to but is the way of life. I think we are even getting  used to cycling 100km per day in the Balkan heat which is constantly above 35 degrees, and are used to sleeping almost anywhere.

The worst place we have slept so far was in Croatia. We were on a ferry coming back from cycling on one of the many islands there, it was a 6 or 7  hour boat ride so we prepared ourselves each with a few 2L bottles of cheap beer and put our feet up. As the sun set we passed out and were woken around 2am when the ship reached the shore in the city of Zadar. We were pretty groggy and didn’t really feel like cycling 10-15km outside the city to find a good camping spot so we went with the first thing we saw… a little 2m spot between a fence for the shipping yard and the on-ramp to the motorway. We quickly fell asleep in the dirt, dreaming about being back home sitting on the couch watching films and eating junk food. In the early morning (around 6:30am) when we woke to the noise of big trucks driving to the shipyards blowing dust from the road on us, and the rancid smell of dead animal, it was already 30 degrees. Soon we realized the smell was from a big seagull that was ripped to shreds all around us and we were laying on its feathers and meat chunks. Yummy. We then got ready to cycle another 120km.                                                                                                                            Anyway… I think that was the worst place we slept so far.

On this trip, like many other trips, I have really come to appriciate  the little things in life that most people take for granted and don’t think twice about. Here is a little list of some of those things

  1. Clean underwear – It is easy to get used to wearing the same underwear for 7 days in a row (or longer) but when you get a fresh pair on you feel brand new and ready for anything the road has to throw at you.
  2. Daily warm showers – After about only 3 or 4 days of cycling in hot weather without a shower, even washing in the sink of a dirty gas station bathroom gives you a fresh, clean feeling.
  3. Cozy bed – As much as I love sleeping outside in random places, it is always relaxing to have a nice big bed to roll around in. But still nothing really beats a hammock.
  4. Sleeping in late – When cycling in summer it is always best to wake before sunrise and get lots of km’s in before the afternoon when it really gets hot. It’s hard for me as I am a lover of rolling in bed all day long.
  5. Hot meals– Since we aren’t traveling with a stove we rarely get a warm chew in us, when we do we enjoy it more then most people. Normally we are eating plenty of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, yogurts, tortilla chips with canned beans, and breads.
  6. Washing machines– Although washing machines are huge wasters of energy and people should try not to use them too much, it is nice for us to use them once every month or two since our normal hand-washing in rivers and public bathroom sinks doesn’t always get the nastiness out. We are serious dirtballs and it’s only going to get worse (or better if you enjoy bad smells) as this trip goes on.
  7. Cold tap water– When you are drinking your re-used bottles of water that are hot from baking in the scorching sun, and you need something just a little bit more thirst quenching, you really come to appreciate cold tap-water from a public bathroom or garden hose to refill with. We are not at all fans of buying cold bottled water in the shop since the countries we are traveling through (and most countries in the world) have poor recycling programs (WARNING…I’m about to go on a rant). All the plastic goes in the trash, eventually ending up in the waterways and into the ocean, broken down into small editable plastic particles over decades and end up in the food chain. The chemicals in plastics (especially Bisphenol A which is used to make all water bottles, baby bottles, medical and dental devices, dental fillings, eyeglass, CDs and DVDs, and basically anything plastic you can think of) are largely responsible for many of the serious diseases found in the world today including diabetes, birth defects, obesity,neurological issues, breast and prostate cancers, and heart disease. I’m not making this up, this is really dam serious and when I think too hard about what we have done it honestly puts tears in my eyes. The big problem is that, Bisphenol A is also a synthetic estrogen (that means it’s a man made female sex hormone), and plastics made with it can break down, especially when they’re washed, heated or stressed, allowing the chemical to get into our food and water and then enter the human body. That happens to nearly all of us! The Center for Disease Control (a U.S  agency that works to protect public health and safety) has found BisphenolA in the piss of 93% of surveyed Americans over the age of 6. Let me say I believe almost every single person in the entire world has this chemical in their body! You should really know about it if you don’t already so please please research it!! If you don’t have this shit in your body, you’re not living in the modern world.  Even in countries where plastic bottles are recycled, the lids for the bottles can not be and will pollute our planet for thousands of years. The plastic we have made will be here longer then us! This year more plastic will be produced then last year, and next year even more!! In western countries there is usually no difference between bottled water and tap water anyway, it is just an obscene money making scheme. Wouldn’t you think it’s crazy if people started buying bottled air that is the same as the air the can breath for free? For example, in Holland the tap water is actually better then most bottled water. Bottled water from Pepsi co and Coke companies (such as Eva Water, H2OK, Aquafina, and Dasani) are mainly from the tap anyway (seriously, look it up!). Please don’t buy bottled water if you can help it!
  8. Clean underwear– I know I already mentioned it, but we appreciate clean undies so much it is worth saying again. I guess the only good thing about dirty ones is that when we are starving and will do anything for food, we can always go mushroom picking in our underpants.
  9. Regular contact with friends and family – Don’t take for granted your ability to talk with your friends and family, one day you wont be able to. It’s important not to forget to tell the people you love that you love them!

This list can go on and on, these are just some of the first things that come to my mind.

We are relaxing down in Greece now and soon we will be leaving Europe and heading into Asia. Although it has been a lot of hard work and suffering, we are still full of energy and excited for what lies ahead!


Sweatin up those mountains

The Alps are the first mountains we have encountered so far, but they sure as hell wont be the last….or the biggest.

I knew we would be in for a real work out, it may have even been harder then I expected because of the scorching hot sun and +30 degree weather, but I guess that’s better then cold wind and rain?

We encountered our first real mountain and after cycling up a steep road for 5 min non stop my legs were pretty pissed off at me, I told them to calm down and we just had a little more to go. Then after 1 hour of non stop burning pain and exhaustion my legs really couldn’t believe what was happening to them, nor could my lungs and heart. Over heating and dehydration can become a serious problem when working that hard but we were prepared with about 4-5 litters of water each to drink and poor over our heads.

The first and smallest mountain we cycled up took about 1hr to reach the top. As cars would pass us I could see faces inside that looked at us as if we were crazy. We are not the crazy ones! Crazy is to put all your money into a car. Crazy is to think we can all go on living the way we do. CO2 emissions show a 99.5% correlation with World Industrial Product  over the last 100 yrs.  95% of the energy used by us humans (including transportation) is from burning fossil fuels. If there are more greenhouse gasses in the air then ever before, isn’t it crazy to think we can go on adding to it? It is not just a coincidence that the more money we have, the more we consume and destroy the environment. 20% of people living in rich countries consume 86% of the worlds resources!!!

These are my thoughts that gave me reason to keep my legs pumping through pain and exhaustion over those big ass mountains!

We had about three and a half days of cycling over the beautiful alps and flying down into the valleys below at insane speeds. Yesterday after cycling up 16-18% elevation non stop for almost 4 hours straight, we reached the top of the pass at 1600m high and soared down the other side at our top speed so far, 91km/hr!! It’s not that fast in a car but on a fully loaded bicycle my eyes were watering from the wind and I was praying I could execute all those hard corners without slipping on loose stones, hitting a truck coming around the bend, or flying over the edge of the mountain. At the bottom I thought to myself  `maybe I should spend some money and finally get insurance´.              I guess cycling can be dangerous sometimes but that is mainly because of all the cars and dangerous drivers on the road. In most countries there are not a lot of cycle paths, if any. Here is a little example of we how humans have been investing.

Comparative World Bank   investment:

– roads                    98%

– rail                           2%

-cycle track       none!

Now think of all the people that would love to cycle to work and kids that would love to cycle to school but don’t because the roads are not safe for it.

It is past the time we should make some real changes, lets all tackle our own apathy! There is hardly a soul on this planet who is unable to make a contribution to a better world. One million small contributions make one million changes!

Sometimes I have to remind myself that instead of cursing the darkness, I should  light a candle.


Why travel by bike?

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they are, while in a motor car only a high hill will impress you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of a country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bike.”  Ernest Hemingway

Some people might think that traveling long distances by bike is a bit crazy or unpractical. Why travel by bike when you can take a car, cheap bus, relax on a train, or fly and get there in an afternoon. In a car, bus, or train it will only take 5hrs to arrive at a destination 600km away, or just a few hours by plane, but cycling there will take you a week so you better be prepared for your plans to randomly change and expect the unexpected to happen. But this is something that makes cycling so attractive, not knowing what or who you will run into a kilometer up the road. You will meet the most amazing, kind, hospitable people who will invite you for a cup of tea or something to eat in return to hear about your trip. Strangers will offer you somewhere to put your tent, a barn to sleep in, or even a couch or bed in their home and a warm shower. Taking other forms of transportation it’s not often you even say hello to the people around you or learn about their stories.

Its almost like we live in our own small bubbles these days, going from the t.v in your apartment, to your car or public transport, to your workplace or school, back to your car, etc..  never really crossing  from the boundaries of routine and comfort into freedom. Traffic jams on the motorways are really just thousands of people stuck in there little bubbles beside each other, going the same direction and not even able to say hello to each other. Our only communication is from the advertisements on billboards and radios.

As for backpackers or long term nomads, looking for escape or adventure traveling by bus or train most of the time can really burn you out. Sure they are fast but they go from one noisy city or town to another and don’t leave much opportunity to explore all the little hidden secrets in between, the places where the buses and trains don’t stop. Traveling by bike gives you that, under your own steam you can go almost anywhere you want when you want. Sometimes you can go to places that busses and trains don’t even go at all, places you can’t get to by car or even by walking but only on a bicycle.

With cycling, traveling is the adventure before your destination. You get to see everything, hear everything, smell and touch everything, like when riding through a fresh forest in the morning, feeling the breeze on top of a mountain, or the scent of the ocean along the seaside. This is much more rewarding then what is possible from the window of your vehicle, it allows you to be spontaneous. And when you have camping gear and food with you it becomes your home and way of life. Absolute freedom. It brings you back to the roots of traveling and surviving and makes you realize how alive and full of energy you are.

And on top of all that cycling is perfect for living a healthy life. It is great exercise and makes you more aware of eating well, getting plenty of liquids, and feeling good. With wars being fought over oil, rising gas prices and a rapidly decreasing world supply of fossil fuel, it only makes sense that our future needs more people traveling by bike. In cities, cars and busses create a lot of smog, noise, and pollution, and usually you can’t even find a parking space and are stuck in traffic. Bikes are a quick, clean, healthy way to get where your going, and you don’t need to pay a fortune for insurance and maintenance.

It was Louis J. Helle Jr. who once said “bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own.”

Cycling offers you the trip of a lifetime. Across a country, continent, or if you have the time even right around the world!   It’s irresistible.


About the bikes

Shaun is riding a night blue Santos Travelmaster, with a custom built cromoly steel frame. It’s a derailleur bike (can’t afford a rohloff speedhub) with 26inch wheels – hand built  rim with 32 spokes, shimano XT hub, schwalbe marathon extreme tires, shimano LX shifters, 29 speed shimano XT drivetrain and XT derailleur, brooks B17 saddle, tubus rear rack, and bad ass mud gards. She is a lovely lady and her name is Dervla aka old blue.

Maarten is riding a black Santos Travelmaster 2.6 alu, custom built aluminium frame. Unfortunately i ain’t won the lottery yet so its also a derailleur for me and dreaming about the rohloff speedhub.  Features are all the same as Shaun’s lady.  Grace Jones is a bike one can count on..  She already showed her dedication by getting me to Barcelona last summer.

Where are we going?

We are 2 bike freaks with the ambition to cycle all the way from The Netherlands to the Far East. Starting from Amsterdam, cycling through the middle east, and ending up in… We don’t know yet! There is no fixed itinerary nor a tight time schedule we have to stick to. Boundless amounts of pure freedom!

While enjoying our high about having that freedom, there is one thing we have committed ourselves to; returning a favor to the people we meet along the road. Unfortunately we can’t return it to everyone so that’s why we decided on picking one project we wish to make an effort for.

Boys school in Pakistan

Now you may think: “Ok guys, sounds cool but what does a cycling trip have to do with a boys school in Pakistan?” Well, nothing really… We just like to cycle and thought it would be a good way to highlight some of the problems of one of the countries we are passing through, and help the people. We are not the first ones doing something like this, by no means do we dare to say that we are doing something totally original, but that’s not really the point is it?

In a tiny village, not too far away from the hectic city of Lahore, there’s a school that can’t really be called a school. It’s a group of kids sitting beneath a tree in tempatures up to 40-45 degrees with no facilities at all. Their old school collapsed a couple of years ago and nowadays they’re left with nothing at all.

In Pakistan, especially on the countryside, illiteracy is widespread and so is child labor. Many children don’t have the opportunity to go to school and receive some basic education. This can also lead to a life of crime and drug abuse as Pakistan has a high number of young people addicted to heroin.

There is a Dutch/Pakistani Foundation that really cares for the fate of these children. Already they took care of building a school for girls (boys and girls go to separate schools in this region) that now offers education to some 250 girls. The boys are still waiting for theirs!

Let go of your image about what a school looks like in our countries.. We are talking about a tiny building with a little toilet section next to it. Nothing too special from our point of view but a blessing for those kids and a huge improvement that will make a great difference.

We believe that education is the most important attribute to development and making people stand on their own. The cycle of poverty has many different causes and may not be easily done away with but basic education is definitely a big step forward towards a better future.We want to help and hope you will to!


We are looking for people willing to sponsor our bike trip. ANY amount is welcome, even the price of having one less cup of coffee from starbucks or one less pint of beer from the bar on the weekend, it won’t make any difference in the quality your life but it will improve the lives of these kids in many ways! Each penny will go directly to the project. No bizarre overhead costs such as a director with a 5 number salary or expensive office equipment. Also your bikers promise they won’t buy any cold beers down along the road with your money. All will go directly to the boys in Pakistan!

How much do we need?

The total sum of how much it would cost to build the school would come down to some 18.000 Euro. However, the amount we can come up with will be doubled by a few generous organizations and so that would leave us with some 9000 Euro to collect. It is a lot of money but we will fight.. ehhmm.. bike for it! Let’s see what will happen……..

Can't Wait To Go!

We can’t wait to get moving. Today we are headed to a bike-shop where we are having a hands-on workshop on bike-repair. The guys at the shop where we bought one of our bikes were friendly enough to offer us some time in their workshop to see first hand all the stuff that comes along when you have to fix your bike.

Could come handy when we are somewhere in the middle of nowhere stuck with a broken handlebar.