The first Colombian Days

After 6 days on the boat, one more than expected, due to some technical issues on the boat, we arrived in cartagena, Colombia. Most of the activities during the last few days were done together, so I was happy to have some time on my own again and it felt like a deliverance as I finally could move around again without a time to meet up again.

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We arrived in the evening when the immigration office was already closed, so that the captain handled everything during the next day, while we could spent some time in Cartagena as illegal immigrants. I took the chance to see the castle San Felipe, a big fort which served the Spanish against the attack of the Britons in 1740.

After two hours in the castle I went on to the old town of Cartagena, which I loved a lot. So far Cartagena can be called the most beautiful town on my path, but I have to admit that I just saw some part of the town. Later on I got to know, that some parts of the city are inhabited by very poor people and that this parts cover most of the city.
On my way to find a Hostal, a Brazilian guy recognized me and my bike and asked where I come from. It turned out that he is travelling on his bike as well, for 5 years through the whole south American continent. So I spontaneously checked in in the same hostel. He told my about the critical mass in Cartagena which was taking place the same evening. So I joined him and around 300 other cyclists for a tour along the coast and back. Although it was a great experience I missed the cohesion of the group. Some of the cyclists seem to mix up the excursion with a race. At the turning point there were 10 minutes between the first and the last cyclists. Anyway, I liked the the idea of the tombola, where different bike articles were given away to the participants.

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The next few days in Cartagena were somehow determined by the „reparation“ or destruction of my tablet, as well as some other things in a chain of bad luck. I visited the lovely old part of Cartagena, the library and the gold museum, met again the crew from the sailing boat to have some beers on a roof party and celebrate the birthday of the Brazilian Cyclist. I had a few interesting conversations with a guy from Norway, who was staying in the hostal as well.

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Equiped with a new tablet, it was time to leave the town. The accommodation for the next two days was already settled, a warmshower girl in Puerto Colombia and a Couchsurfing Couple in Rodadero, near Santa Marta. In the middle of the first stage I visited a „volcano“, full of mud. Due to the hot weather I already felt as a pig and so I enjoined a bath in the pothole on the top of the volcano. With 120 kilometers, the high temperature and headwind this day was really hard as well as the next one. Around noon I used to make a break to avoid cycling in the hotest time of the day. On my way to Rodadero there were no houses along the street, nearly people and even more no village for a couple of kilometers. In addition hardly places to hide from the sun for a nap. I finally found one and directly fall asleep. As I woke up suddenly two men with their bikes were standing right in front of me, fishermen who catched shrimps the whole night long. They were hard to understand in comparison to the people from Cartagena. After they passed I decided to go on but I parked my bike on some plants with prickles, which resulted in a flat tyre. I fixed it in the usual matter, while another fisherman arrived and helped me. Ready to go, the tyre was flat again – another hole in my inner tube, a new task. The fourth fisherman arrived and after some minutes a guy from Argentinia, who stopped his car to see if he can help. He invited me to come to his apartment and so I did one day later, cause I already demanded a couch for that night.

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As civilisation approached again it was a very sad picture. Not comparable to the trash I had seen in Panama or Costa Rica. The amount of waste exceeded all my imagination, a poor village drowning in plastics and other kind of rubbish.
In Santa Marta I took the day to relax. Besides two hard days of cycling an infection started to drain power from my body. In the evening I followed the invitation of the Argentinian guy, who stayed together with his girlfriend and a friend in an apartment of a hotel. A holiday resort with a pool on top of the roof where I enjoyed the fresh water, before we cooked some Spätzle together and spent an pleasant evening.
The next days the infection robbed more power and so I’m forced to recover some more time. Hopefully I will regain my power again to go in south to Medellin, where I will meat Tobias!

About the motivations of deceive people

I guess some of you might know the situation, where you have signed in for something without actually noticing that you did or you haven’t realize that there are costs which are linked to the action. The fine print is often not noticeable or costs are hidden in the long text of terms and conditions. Sometimes just one mouse click can lead to a contract. The motivation behind this method is to gain money by taking advantage of gaps in the laws or even by doing this with full awareness of the unlawful act. Most of the time organisations, which use their intelligence to rise their income, are acting this way.

So how does this look like in a country like Colombia? Just an example what happened to me in Cartagena: I couldn’t charge my tablet anymore due to a loose electronic contact. So I gave it to a repare shop, where I had to pay half of the prize in advance. The next day I went back to the shop to get back my devise. I checked it and noticed that the SD card was clamped in the case of the tablet, so I made the man aware of that. He directly went back to his colleague, who opened the case again to fix the problem, but due to the pressure my SD card was broken and unusable. He was totally aware of what caused the broken SD card, but told me that he didn’t know if it was broken before. Concerning the repair of the loose contact we remained that I will try to recharge the tablet with my own cable, although they had the same cables in their shop. When I came back to the hostal the recharger connection didn’t work as it was before. So I went back and although my trust was lost and my expectations were gone, I gave them a second chance.
Next day the display of my tablet wasn’t working at all, cause they destroyed another internal connection.
But the important question of that story is: What was their motivation? Did they use their intelligence to rise their income? I don’t think so. Some of them just work to survive. It’s not the greed to get more money but rather the fear of not been able to feed their families. Paying me a new SD card is not a small amount of money for them an worth more then their whole tried service.

In both cases the humanity is not in the foreground. When money comes into play, egoistic thoughts determine the situation. But who would you blame more? The one whose motivation is the greed to get more money or the one who has to fight his whole life to survive?

Thwarted to readjust (Ausgebremst um sich neu zu orientieren)

It took quite a long time until I finally have the peace and time to sum up the last two weeks. The story starts on my way to Portobelo, where I arrived at around noon. On my way I met a couple of Canadians (Shift happens), riding their bicycles as well, giving myself some advices for the trip on a boat, what I was in search of to get to Colombia. On my arrival in the hostal Captain Jack’s I bumped into a group, who where just about to visit a sailing boat to Cartagena, Colombia – perfect timing. The tourist guide, who took care of several activities took us to the pretty Calypsa, a sailing boat made of wood with two masts. The captain a Italian with some years of experience, so that I had a good impression and good freling that I will not drown in the Carribean Sea. The departure delayed by one day, so that their was plenty time to discover the small place Portobelo, which was discovered by Christoph Kolumbus in 1502 and whose name means beautiful harbour. A canoe tour to the nearby rivers with the tour guide Franscesco, and a two Swiss was a beautiful experience, especially the calmness and the presence of local birds. We saved a falcon, which was unable to fly and seemed to be very weak. So we took him to the village, where an animal doctor arrived one day later.

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The first few hours on the boat: I never had been on a sailing before, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I definitely not expected was the intense swing. And I was lucky that I choose the bed in the front of the boat, where there the moving was so intense, that had the feeling of falling down after a steep rise. Waves up to 5 meters hugh let me feel to be on a rollercoaster 24/7. Although I didn’t feel that bad, I had to feed the fishes twice. But later on I got used to it.
On our way we passed the San Blas Islands or KunaYala, which are controlled by the Kuna,  indigenous people, who were able to defend their territory against the Spanish invaders and still are an autonomous region as a part of Panama. The islands can be called Paradis because of the beautiful beaches and the clear water. We stayed there for three days and enjoyed swimming, snorkeling and just the beautiful atmosphere. The day we went snorkeling and we were just walking along the beach to find a good spot to discover the sealife, suddenly the crew, who remained on the boat screamed something. Due to tan upcoming thunderstorm, we though they wanted us to come back to the boat. But that wasn’t the message they wanted to transfer to us. They saw a shark and wanted us to stay out of the water. Fortunately we got to sea something big moving close to the beach, so that we finally got the message.
One night, after having a barbecue on the beach, I decided to stay on the island for the night while the others went back to the boat.

I was told to be picked up the next morning, but nobody appeared. I had no water, no breakfast no place to go a lavatory, but I had plenty of time. So, what to do on a lonely island which is as big as a soccer field. Throwing stones in the water, taking pictures,  observe little creatures on the beach, walk around the island, pack my stuff, think about some stuff, throw more stones in the water. After three other guys from the boat came to the island to snorkel I decided to swim back to the boat in my normal clothes. Just 4 hours alone on an island gave me a glimpse on the life of the Kuna. They maybe fish, produce some clothes or wristbands for tourists or pick coconuts but I guess there is not much more. I guess most of them don’t even read books, but still they seems to have a happy life. So what does a human need to be happy? For me it seemed to be pretty boring, but maybe just a thing of habit.
Some more hours we spent on the open sea, nearly 50 hours, surrounded by the sea, 10 people on the boat. I read a lot and could reflect some of my experience I gained over the last days. One thing,
which conquered my mind was the importance of people affecting the time I spent at certain places. People can inspire you and this gained inspiration is the basis of my motivation. Some people really have a big character, they can tell you something what really matters and which I never heard of. Some days later in Cartagena I deepen this thoughts by having several conversation with a guy from Norway. 
Time is passing fast sometimes and so now. I will leave the fancy Café Lulo in Santa Marta to meet a group of Argentinos, which invited me yesterday, while I was fixing another flat tyre. But more of this and more about my first days in Colombia with a new run of bad luck in the next entry.
More pictures on Flickr and Facebook.

Panamá City and the National Park Soberania

The loud noises of the city accompanied my in the city. Although Panama City is just as big as cologne it seems much bigger. Several skyscrapers dominate the picture of downtown. But this is just one face of the capital. The areas just behind the big bridge  are very poor. Some of the buildings in these areas are still quite high but not with much glamour. People were trying to sell sweets or drinks along the inner city highways, carrying their stuff in buggies. And then there is Casco Veijo, which carries the history of the colonial time in their streets, ruins and churches, museums and narrow streets. About 4 years ago, it was the part of the city, where artists and creative people lived. But with the renovation of this district, rich people came to settle there. The rents rose and the former inhabitants moved to other parts of the city. We know this by some other German cities like Berlin or Hamburg. In Casco Veijo, the charme of this areas remained and the difference of the former and the new center of the old time is pretty interesting within the time of change.

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After too many days in the city, I went on to go to the Caribbean Sea. From this day on I’m cycling alone.
Early in the morning I went a second time to the Mirraflores Docks, cause there weren’t any big ships during the first time we went there. (You have to know that the switch the direction for the big container ships in the middle of the day and that it takes a while until they passed the whole path between the two seas). The second time I was pretty much 2 hours to early, and so the security whistled back myself. I went on to the next docks in San Pedro, where there was no entrance for visitors but still a spot where I could get s glimpse.

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2 kilometers further I stopped in the bridge to observe the big container ship goin through the canal.

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At around 9 I arrived at the border of the national park Soberania, where I left my luggage to do a hole in the camino de plantación, a path trough the jungle, which was build during the construction of the canal for the transportation of goods. It ended a the the camino de crises, which was one of the major path during that time. I enjoyed my walk in between the big trees and the diversified vegetation. Along the path I could see various animals, like monkeys, lizards, frogs and some more which I couldn’t define.

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The next day was the first day full of rain. Before there were some days with some more or less heavy showers, but in this day it was raining all day through. On the way to Portobelo I met Jeff and Roselind from Canada ( Shift happens) . After a short but nice conversation with sharing some tips, I arrived in
Portobelo in the middle of the day. Perfect timing, because just after I had taken a shower, I went on a sailing boat which will bring me across the Caribbean Sea over the San Blas Islands to Cartagena. When everything works fine, the Calypsa (calypsatours.com) will leave Monday afternoon.

Dogs, Garbage and Streets

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This entry will just be about three topics, which are worth to mention during the transition of Costa Rica and Panamá: dogs, because you will meet a lot of them; garbage, which seems to be a big problem, and the streets.

Already on my first day on my bike, I got in contact with the „best friends“ of the human, the dogs. There are small ones and big ones, some of them our around and others trot around, but there are the others, whose hunting instinct is still alive. And when you are the rabbit on the bike, they will chase after you. So what to do? We have been told different strategies to get rid of them and so we tried them out. Sometimes a single loud noise like a HEY could be helpful, but in some other cases the rabbit had to pedal faster to throw of the threatening barking haunter. From a german woman, who rides her motorcycle, we got the hint to throw stones and so I did. I put some stones into my bag at the handlebar and on an another uprising of the hungry dog the rabbit took its stone, threw it and put the attacker to flight. I had the impression, that the attack of the dogs are more likely at roads besides the main roads like the Panamericana, but just today there was another beast directly next to the two-lane motorway, waiting for the rabbit to come. Don’t get my wrong, I like dogs, but I don’t want to be a rabbit for them.

I have been to Singapore, where you will have the impression that someone have licked the streets like a plate full of your favourite sauce. But here in central America it seems as if just everything is thrown away without any sense for the environment. Along the Panamericana there is a sea of garbage next to the road, combined with gummy from broken wheels.

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And if there are some dark clouds soar up to the sky, it might not be a house, which burn down. No, it is the garbage, what the people try to get rid off. We slept in our tents on the property of a young couple right next to the border between Panama and Costa Rica. Very friendly people. I asked them, where to put our garbage and the cute son pointed to the garden, but I couldn’t find the garbage can. And so the boy showed me a hole in the corner of there garden full of all sorts of garbage. I was a bit surprised. At least I got to know that around one year ago they started to collect the garbage in some regions, although this might be burned as well.

In Panama they put a lot of effort into the extension of the aorta, the Panamericana. Two lanes for both directions and quite often a comfortable edge line, which I really appreciate as a cyclist. So there are long parts of the main motorway which is under construction. Under the heavy sun we greeted the workers and gave them high-five.
The street sign, which were showing the distances to the next towns in Costa Rica, are gone along the streets in Panama. Therefore a lot small crosses can be found next to the streets, as well as painted blue hearts, symbols to keep awake the memory of the people, who died on the streets in accidents.

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From Garden Eden to the big town Panama City

Some days ago I uploaded some pictures of the Garten Eden without telling you about this place, whee we met Patrick, who lived in Leipzig and owned an organic shop before he left Germany. Finally he settled down in Uvita, a little village at the Pacific. After managing a hostel, he began to build the Garden Eden. Two German girls and one american guy stayed at this place as well and because of having a nice atmosphere at this place and inspiring conversations, we stayed there for three nights. All the guests helped him during the morning to build up a roof in the front of its house, clean up the house, water the garden and do some other tasks. Therefore we could it ate and sleep at his place. During our stay we only ate raw food, so vegan and nothing cooked. But we always conjure tasty stuff like Guacamole, hummus, smoothies and different kinds of salads. The house itself was an open house, so most of the „rooms“ had no walls around. I slept in a hammock for the first time and felt quite comfortable. On our last afternoon the visit of the nearby waterfall was beautiful as well and refreshing compared to the temperature of the warm ocean.
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The trip had to go on and we went on to pedal down south. The next two nights we slept in the backyard of locals, whose hospitality is amazing. They offered us juice as well as fruits and water. Using their bathroom seemed to be the most common thing on earth. Well, this is how it should be, right?
In between we had to cross the first border and so we were curious if all things will work. After we had to pay the exit tax, we had to get the exit stamp on the side of Costa Rica. With this we went to the border, where they wanted us to show them a proof, that we will leave the country. Neither we had a flight ticket, nor any other proof. So they wanted us to show them our credit card or 500 $. We were prepared and so we could pass to Panama without any bigger problems.
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One of the highlights in Panama, were the stay in Gualaca and the visit of the surrounding area. We stayed at a german woman, who one lived in Remscheid. She took us on a tour to her favourite places. A little canyon, a waterfall and two suspension bridges as well as a resort with rented houses and a tree house, operated by an old American guy with his young well-trained partner from Panama.

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The next day we slept in a police station right next to the Panamericana, and as a present we got a pineapple right according to the motto of the police „protect & serve“.
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One day before reaching Panama City we asked again at a police station near Coronado and again the served us. A policeman drove through the town to ask for an accommodation for us, returned and escorted us to the place. What a service.
Today we reached Panama City and it was really amazing to cross el Puente de las Américas, very impressive and one of the highlights so far.
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The next days we will spent in the city before we will go up the channel to Portobello, where we want to catch a boat to Cartagena.

Well, how is it goin with my tyres, I got asked. One day after I wrote my entry about all the breakdowns, it became better,BUT it was not the end of this episode. A thunderstorm was going to show up and so it was the perfect time to have another flat tyre. Unfortunately Paula also didn’t realized that my misfortune pounced on me again. This time nails of a stapler wanted to have a look into my outer tyre to greet the tube. I found three of them stucked in the outer tyre. And although the procedure of getting out the tube, close the leak and reset my tyre became a ritual during these days, the rain came faster then I could get back on my bike. But I was lucky, cause I found a shelter before an intense rain in combination with thunderbolt began to rage. So, I needed a new repair kit and from that day on the fortne find its way back to me. 🙂

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I updated the map with the marks of our night stops, which you can find here.

More pictures can be found on my Flickr Account.

Stadt, Land, Fluss, Meer

..or also San José, Puriscal, Rio Parita, Pacific and so much more inbetween. A week passed and I don’t know where to begin and where to end my Post.
For the flight everything went totally fine, no problems to enter Costa  Rica and my lovely bike didn’t get hurt. I rebuilt my companion and was navigated 30 kilometres through San José to my first destination in the eastern part of the town. The Ticos call their town Chepe, which is the nickname of José and a term of endearment. I really enjoyed the time with the people I met and I got rid of my jetlag. The town itself I didn’t like that much, a lot of traffic coming with dirty air, rather less beautiful houses and not many green parts. And although the appearance of the town couldn’t give me anything, it wasn’t easy to leave this place. A first Goodbye of many that will follow.
I got warned of the altitude of my trip to Mastatal and so I took the bus, yeah I really took the bus in my actually first day of cycling. Well, this decision was maybe the best I took in a week. Although I only  had to cycle around 40 kilometres I was out on my feet reaching Mastatal. The heat and the mountains, belligerent dogs, gravel roads and two flat tires withdrew a lot of power and concentration. After one night at the eco-farm, the tour went on through the mountains, down some roads full of stones where it was hard to keep the balance. After reaching the Rio Parrito we were pedaling down towards the ocean, but it would take one more day before we could see the waves crushing on the beach. Another flat tyre was so cheeky to show up, yeah number 3 in 3 days. In the afternoon it came to the point to find a place for our tent for the first time. Not that easy, as I thought before. But at the end of a street in a small village we got offered a place in the back of a house, or let me say, rather tin shack. And although the owners were quite poor, they provided us their place, gave us some cold juice and offered us their bathroom to take a shower.
The next day the Pacific was getting closer, but before that I got really stressed by my back wheel. Day 4 and some more technical presents kept ready to approach. Another 3! Times a had to stuff holes in my inner tube, always somewhere else. After the analysis in the strong heat of the sun didn’t came to conclusion about the reason, my spare outer tyre came to its first employment. 6 flat tyres in 4 days! Unbelievable. Some cold water and a bath in the ocean brought back the good mood. We met two guys from Argentina who will cycle home all the way down. Seems as if it’s high season for long way cyclists, cause I know from another group of four Germans and one Russian guy, who are around somewhere. As we had to move on, we told them that we will definitely meet again on our way south and maybe could watch the upcoming semi final of the champions league together, cause one of them was a big fan Barcelona.
We reached the garden Eden in the evening, where it is raining like standing underneath a waterfall. Before I will write more about this inspiring place, I will leave you with some photos, I uploaded on Flickr:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskanZKST

Muchas Cosas

After I extensively enjoyed a last shower at home, I will let you know about my last days before my departure. It was full of different preparations, encounters and thoughts.

Yesterday was the first day during the last week, where I felt a little bit stressed and therefor felt tired at the end of the day. This was caused by the luggage, the entry requirements to Costa Rica and some equipment, which is not easy to find.  Its definitely good to exactly know what are the weight restrictions for the flight. At the end it will all work, but instead of 65 kg (35 bike+23 luggage+7 hand luggage) I just had 56 kg (30+20+6) and caused by the 5 bags, which will decorate my bike, I had to find a big old suitcase to fit in some of the bags. First my idea was to put most of the bags into my bike carton, but with around 23 kg weight of my bike, I couldn’t pack much more into the bike carton. Now everything  is being well locked.

In case you want to fly to Costa Rica and continue your journey by bike, your task is to approve at the airport, that you will leave the country again. There are two practicable options, how to solve this issue: you can by a ticket for a flight, which at best should be fully refundable or get a bus ticket to Panama or Nicaragua. A bus ticket can only be purchased from there, no direct online possibility. On costaricabustickets.com you can contact a service, which will take care of the bus ticket, but they charge you more then the actual price. So I choose the path of asking my kind Couchsurfer Karol, who bought the ticket for me (copy of the passport necessary). Furthermore I got to now that the ticket includes a commission for leaving Costa Rica and an entry fee for Nicaragua. Well, today she sent me a photo with the necesary ticket, really kind and so this issue is solved.

Concerning to get a ground sheet for my tent and/or a tarp is nowadays a challenge, if you want to buy it directly in a shop. Some weeks ago, I also tried to get carbon brushes to repair the washing machine- impossible in local shops. I have the feeling, that this time is up in which you could get these things in specialized shops. The online market has won its crusade – really sad. I called around 10 shops along the way to the airport and only one could offer me a something similar to what I need.

I got asked a lot of questions in the last few weeks about my journey. And due to this I will answer the Top5 now:

1. When will you start your journey? Today, at 21:50 my airplane will leave from Frankfurt.

2. Are you already excited? It keeps within limits. I tend to get really excited some hours and minutes in advance. But I’m looking forward to.

3. How did you plan your route? I haven’t planned. At least not so whole way to Patagonia, impossible and against my idea of this journey. I checked the route to my first destination trough San José and roughly the way to Paula, who will accompany on my journey.

4. Will you travel alone? No, I will travel with Paula, who I met „on the internet“. Later on Tobias will join us for a couple of months.

5. What are you taking with you and how heavy is your luggage? I will have a couple of things which I will carry with me. Some of my equipment is already listed here. I will add some more in the next days/weeks. I never cared about the weight until I had to check my luggage weight for the flight. My bike should be around 23 kg and the equipment around 27 kg. So roundabout 50 kilos should be the overall weight.

 

Well, it’s time to carry out some final stuff. In 24 hours I will sweat in the heat of Costa Ricas sun while finding my way to the center of San José! Adios Alemania!

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Die deutsche Version kommt bei Zeiten. 🙂

 

Vom Ländle an die Nordsee

StuttgartHamburg

I never cycled more than 1000 km a month and so far I did all my tours with my road bike and just a few kilos of baggage. So I will ride my new trekking bike from Stuttgart to Hamburg at the end of march to check my equipment and to get rid of redundant stuff. Some cyclists already said to accompany for some or some more kilometers. If someone else would like to join, fell free to do so. The route is only draft. The daily length will be between 70-120 kilometers in a moderate speed, it is not a race, its pure passion.

Ich bin noch nie mehr als 1000 Kilometer mit dem Rad gefahren und bis jetzt auch nur mit dem Rennrad ohne viel Gewicht. Daher werde ich mit meinem Reiserad Ende März von Stuttgart nach Hamburg radeln um meine Ausrüstung zu testen und herauszufinden was davon überflüssig ist. Verschiedene Radler werden mich den ein oder anderen Kilometer begleiten. Wenn noch jemand mitfahren möchte, gerne. Die Route ist lediglich ein grober Entwurf. Die Tageskilometer werden so zwischen 70 und 120 Kiloemter liegen, also kein Rennen sondern reine Leidenschaft.