What can happen when you are traveling over a long period of time on a strange means of transportation and through the largest strip of land on Earth?
“When you travel by such bicycles “- Piero continues with the story “you’re forced to learn something of the local language, as very few people speak English.Even the brain adapts and speeds up the learning process. I carried a paper notebook with me, which I gradually updated at every border, so each time i could translate at least the basic words. And if anyone spoke English I kept him there for three quarters of an hour to learn as much as possible on the language of the place“.
How do you manage with food on a trip like this? – We ask him. He says, “You get used to the food, because flavors change gradually each time you cross boundaries. To refuse the food you are offered is a great offense, according to the hospitality rules of these places, so much that the only problems occurred when we had to find a way to harmonize the choices of a vegan guy from London, who had been part of our group for a while, with the sense of hospitality of a friendly Laotian offering him some of his meet. That was all he had… In those years I have eaten snakes, marmots, and of course dogs and cats – with a preference for the first. I did not dare try monkey brains. I’ve eaten fried insects, a lot of sheep and vegetables of all kinds“.
It seems inevitable, at least for many of us, to think about security issues when traveling around the world in such a way. But we had something to learn also in this respect : “There was never fear, because we moved without many valuables, we just paid much attention to our passports, which I actually managed to have stolen. A critical point speaking of safety was Georgia, where at about eight o’clock in the evening there was nothing and no one around, and you were often at risk of being attacked by some drunk. For more than two-thirds of the trip, however, I met incredibly friendly people, often in places where a white man had never been seen before“.
“After all that time traveling I was afraid of not being able to relate with people, once back. I was profoundly changed. Just think that for about a year and a half I had lived with the same bottle of 1 liter and a half for my water.In plastic! Because that was my water bottle and I didn’t ask for anything better.And consider that even today, as it is done in two-thirds of the world, I do not use toilet paper, but only water.Just to give you a couple of examples“.
Examples of a kind of tourism totally different from what we are accustomed to. A “tourism on the contrary“, as defined by the same Piero, who explains the concept, and introduces the next post, where we start getting into the details of this cathartic journey between Europe and Asia: “While the classic tourist comes and takes what the resort offers, going away with his little packet full of souvenirs, the bicycle and the circus meant that we were the first who had to give, always, in every place, reversing what is perhaps the saddest of the rules of modern tourism.
We were storytellers. If we asked, we always asked after our show. And often our audience was able to grasp the poetry at the very core of our journey, while here we are too spoiled to realize how many beautiful things we have around“.
“The people understant poetry”, sang the italian group Mercanti di Liquore, without forgetting to add “provided that there is any.”