The Road Travelled
Travel by motorbike from Europe to the East
After having greeted the Alps and having camped out in a mountainous apple field, we leave our homeland and cross beautiful Austria and the lowlands of Germany, where we are welcomed by our second “granddads”.
Then we pause in Amsterdam, the land of unbridled cycling freedom, coffee shops and the red-light district. We spend a few days here as guests of our friend Remy with whom we shared a delicious Dutch hot meal. We cross Denmark and in Sweden, we dive into a local beer festival then we continue with our journey until we reach our much-beloved destination of Norway.
We see its pure beauty in the woods, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and seas. Every corner offers a new and unique panorama, in front of which one can only be left open-mouthed. One glacier follows another, extraordinarily white.
Still, frozen lakes, deep layers of snow, over three metres deep…a wonderful, icy underworld. We meet some squirrels, fawns and moose, we cross the fjords and we finally enter the icy Arctic Circle, where at night the sun doesn’t set. A pale, opaque sun that accents colours yet does not completely reveal them. The atmosphere seems surreal
We reach our first stop, The North Cape and we finally reach the most northerly point in Europe.
Later, we admire the sober, elegant palaces of Helsinki. We hire an Indian canoe to visit one of the largest, cleanest lakes in Europe and we also have a chance to experience a real Finnish sauna. We come across the evocative works of Hiljainen Kansa, called the Silent People and having got to know the impressive silent people, we advance along the busy Trans-Siberian route which gives us a taste of the great Russia.
Signs in Cyrillic, drunken revellers, mad drivers, overturned cars by the side of the road, open-air dumps… We can’t help but feel uncomfortable when faced by the riches of the capital Moscow, compared to the dilapidated slums of the countryside. It is in the sleepy land of Siberia, on a steppe, where we encounter our first faces with amber skin and almond-shaped eyes.
Our paths cross with many travellers and the moment has finally arrived to discover Mongolia, left to its own origins, traditions and its own ways and where everything is still like it was long ago.
There are only unpaved dirt roads, without road signs and only entrusted to the use of a map. The impact is very profound.
Just like aliens from Mars, people look at us in amazement and bewilderment. As soon as we stop for a few seconds we are surrounded by men and children who investigate and scan every inch, every conduit and every cable which to them is new and unknown.
We meet a French guy, Baptiste, on his Transalp motorbike and we share with him the long and difficult road to the capital Ulan Bator.
Wild camels, sandy roads, scary falls and there are also problems with the motorcycle, quickly solved with the help of the kind people that we met who improvise blacksmith work when necessary.
We drink Kazakh Chai with the nomads living in a yurt, simple and smiling people with whom we communicate with gestures. We admire their children who, from childhood, are devoted to tending sheep/ animal husbandry. On horseback they take the sheep home. A curious people who own nothing more than their animals, but live happily, grateful for what they have.
We then set off for Japan, where we are immediately greeted with infinite care and a thousand bows and we are catapulted into a new world.
Signs with ideograms and manga cartoons, we know the land of Kaiten Sushi, Internet Cafés, colourful Buddhist temples and its welcoming and hospitable people. We visit crowded Tokyo with its skyscrapers above and below, its neighbourhoods illuminated by big screens.
After 2 months in the kingdom of sushi we land in Bangkok, Thailand, and everything changes: incredible traffic, tuk-tuk, rubbish everywhere, floating markets, fresh fruit and spicy food, real people and pristine white beaches.
We continue towards the untouched red land of Cambodia. We have the opportunity to visit the temples of Angkor Wat and there the poverty strikes us as it seems to really affect the boys of Battambang.
Once in Laos, the horrors of the Secret War leave us upset and shocked.
Despite being the most bombed land in the world, we are amazed by the beauty of the Hmong ethnic traditions, courtship rituals and its clans gathered in the huts of the small villages on the hairpin bends.
We end our tour of Southeast Asia with a visit to Malaysia, where we discover a mix of cultures, the first mosques and the destruction that is hidden behind the plantations of oil palm trees. Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, we are hosted by a wonderful Muslim family.