Giving young people the opportunity to experience the biggest adventure of their life!
About 30 years ago, two zis scholarships helped me to broaden my horizon, expand my understanding of what is possible, and develop more self-confidence. zis is a non-profit organization that has been awarding scholarships for study trips to young people between the ages of 16 and 20 for more than 60 years. Today, the word we use for tenacity and grit is resilience - and I've made it my profession, to help managers around the world to develop more of this inner power.
In retrospect, the experiences I've had on these trips to Scotland and Iceland have been priceless for my development. After having had a childhood with some challenges, I learned that I could cycle 1,700km on my own and get wet every day without despairing. I have learned that I was able to get along with only 300 € for 4 weeks and still had a good time. I have learned what it's like to be threatened with deportation and how to get an interview with the President from such a crisis. I have understood that limitations are primarily constructs in our heads, and I want to make these insights available to as many adolescents as possible.
Today was another good day. The second day on this trip without severe headwind. And the sun was shining, too. Under this circumstances, 160km were no big problem. Great.
After an early breakfast, I turned straight North and had a little climbing to do. The rest of the day remained relatively flat.
I had lunch in Cullera, a pretty little town about 20 km away from the regional capital València which was obviously the highlight of the tour so far.
What is interesting about València is that it has in fact really pretty suburbs in contrast to all other Spanish cities I came through so far. And it has real bicycle lanes. And here I mean not the usual couple of 100 meters alibi tip of lanes which start and end abruptly. València is really the first major Spanish city I see which understands cyclists and how to invite them into urban circulation.
Another thing I observe, is that people are getting friendlier, more open to strangers and more cultivated in total, if I may say so since Alicante and Elche.
If you have a look at the bigger map you meanwhile can see the route pretty clearly.
Insight of the day: Don’t think too much. Just do it!
Today was a good day. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky the entire day and my left ankle was much better.
My wife had sent me Reiki and other energy stuff and I had rubbed a lot of school medicine creams onto it. Together it helped – much to my relief.
Today, I took it a bit easier. Less pressure on the pedals and a higher cadence. Also, I had more breaks.
What was interesting was that the landscape and the style of the cities changed since yesterday. Orihuela was already really nice with an old cathedral and not touristic nor boring at all like many other places before. Later today, this became even better with Elche and Alicante.
Oh, did I mention headwind? It was wild again, but somehow I have gotten used to it meanwhile.
My first stop was the very nice University town Elche. A very characteristic feature is a deep canyon running right through the middle of the town with high bridges across it. The bottom of the canyon is cultivated and their are plastered sidewalks running next to a creek. Very beautiful.
The next stop was Alicante where I had lunch. The seafront with the enormous beach and the yacht harbor was absolutely spectacular. The wind was so strong that I had sand between my teeth.
From there I continued Northeast, passing smaller towns from really nice to absolutely ugly.
After a short but hefty climb I reached the small town Calpe. I have picked a great hotel again. It’s called “Rocinante” which is a variation of the name of my bike “Rosinante”. The place is simple, inexpensive but just great.
Insight of the day: it is always a good thing to not give up hope!
Today was halftime day. Out of 21 planned cycling days, 11 are completed by now.
I had spent the night near Águilas, in possibly the most unfriendly Spanish trucker hostel there is or I am just not enough of a Spanish trucker.
My day started with a 10 km climb and then a pretty flat route through miles and miles of greenhouses and farms. Obviously, wild turtles live here. I found some crushed bodies as roadkill on the side.
Of course, it goes without saying that there was a strong headwind. Other than that the weather was ok.
I had a late lunch in Murcia. It was a yummy Pizza for a change.
Out of the blue, during the afternoon my left ankle started to hurt. I have had problems with my Achilles-heel on the right side for several years but this was a first. Consequently, I had to cut down my route and look for a place to stay nearby.
I found an apartment in Orihuela not far from Alicante for 20€ which turned out to be a kind of couch-surfing and it was all but easy to get hold of my host. Turns out, he is sharing the apartment with me. At least, I have my own bed.
I gotten all I need from a local pharmacy. Hopefully, the ankle will be better tomorrow. A little pain is ok but you want to make sure that you are not creating a permanent damage.
Insight of the day: The line between resilience and stupidity is sometimes a very thin one.
Today was an early start. By 8:30 hrs I was on the bike heading northeast. My family had send me this picture. It made me very happy 💕. It shows Carolin, my wife, Tabea and Samuel (Hannah and Kara are missing) as well as Fabio, our favorite Italian restaurant owner.
At the start, I first had to climb up to a very dry plateau which I had to cross over 60km. Towards the downhill part, I met to other cyclists and we chatted a bit. Once cyclists talk to you here, you can be sure that they are not Spaniards. Also here, it was an Englishman who started the conversation. He lives six months here during Winter. Seems to be a common and compelling concept.
Towards lunchtime I stopped in Carboneras. I was so tired that I almost fell asleep during the eating. So I went for a little Siesta under a tree and I indeed fell asleep immediately. Very refreshing.
Afterwards, there were only smaller climbs and rolling hills. A couple of times I was overtaken by a group of Swiss bikers. Then I caught them again when they were having one of their many breaks. Race biker are a very special group of people. If you want to belong, you have to comply with a special set of rules. If not, you will be ignored by everyone.
Insight of the day: When what you are doing is supposed to be fun – and it is actually not – then it might be time to change your approach.
Today was tough, really tough. Rain, cold temperatures, 2,000 meters in altitude and headwinds – as well as no new donations – were heavy on my mood and I was asking myself “Why am I doings this?”. One thing is for sure: I will be able to appreciate the protection, sense of belonging and luxury of my home, my family and my every day much more.
I am noticing a mood cycle on myself during most days. The first 100km are usually particularly hard. After that, it normally gets better. This was also the case today.
I had stayed in a little hostel in Almería and over breakfast I had a nice conversations with two single ladies from Germany who were there for vacation. Social interaction: check.
My route took me along the coastline with many great views on little villages and lonesome bays. Also, I cycled through many miles of greenhouses where the vegetables e.g. for Germany are grown.
I started listening to audiobooks to give my mind something to do whilst being many hours in the saddle. That was a good idea, although “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff on the presidency of Donald Trump was not particularly uplifting in itself. What a crazy world we live in.
In Almería, I took a hotel which had a bathtub to offer and room service. A little luxury at the end of a hard day.
I have received feedback, that it seems hard to find the “donation button” on the right side of the page. So I will add the link to my betterplace project into the blogs to come, just to be sure. Here it is: http://www.betterplace.org/p67064
Insight of the day: sometimes, hanging in there is all that is needed.
Today was a short yet important day. Because of my “cultural excursion” yesterday night, I needed to catch up on some sleep. Hence, I only started at 14:00 hrs. I was still a bit shaken, but strengthened by Mark’s great muesli which he had prepared from fruits which he had harvested in the garden minutes before. It can’t get more fresh.
I turned East to Malaga where I had to buy yet another power bank since the new one was already broken. Then I followed the beautiful coastline until Nerja.
On the way I crossed the 1.000km mark which means that I am well on track for reaching Montpellier in two week.
When I checked into my hostel it just got dark. There was a strong headwind on the way, but nothing compared to the miles approaching Tarifa a couple of days back.
Insight of the day: There is really no free lunch. Everything has consequences.
One little note before I tell you a fun story: If you read this blog, please do feel free to like and comment every now and then. Thank you!
Today, I had decided to do a break day. Via an Internet-Forum for long-distance cyclists I had met Mark who is living in Pizarra, a small place near Malaga. He had invited me to come by and stay when I am in the region – and I had accepted.
On my decline from the refugio I flew my drone through a very nice valley and up a little hill. Pretty spectacular scenes, I find.
Around noon, I arrived at his idyllic place which is situated outside the village at the bottom of a huge rock overseeing plantations of fruit trees. We sat down beside the small pool and started talking about life. We found out that we were of the same age and that we shared many other commonalities. From then on time passed by very quickly.
After a very late lunch – best Spaghetti Bolognese ever – Mark came up with the idea to show me “his” Malaga at night. At first, I was not enthused because I would be tired and so but at the end I know that these are pretty much the events that make such a tour unforgettable.
So we had a siesta, washed clothes, fixed Rosinante’s gears and then, at 21:00 hrs, took a train into Malaga. Who knows me a little will agree that this was vastly against my habits. Mark, who is also a tour-guide and knows tons about Spanish history, showed me some of the must-sees of the city, like the unfinished cathedral, a sign of the so-called Reconquista. This describes the period, when the Christians, after 800 years of being an Islamic colony, had finally in long wars regained control about the country and replaced all mosques with Christian churches.
What came next, was a serious pub-crawl from one bar packed with good-locking, friendly locals partying to the next one. The atmosphere was like nothing I have ever encountered in Germany. It was like carnival just without the costumes. And this happens here every weekend. Wow!
One thing led to the next and eventually we were as drunk as everyone around us. By 05:00 hrs in the morning we were back at Mark’s place. It was an unforgettable evening. Thank you for this, Mark.
Insight of the day: Sometimes, letting go of all discipline and going with the flow is the right thing – or at least leads to some really good stories.
This day was split into three parts, two of them being really positive and the other one, well you will see.
I was a bit traumatized from battling the storm the day before (yes, I am a good weather cyclist) and found myself procrastinating in the morning. I had stayed at a hostel for 30€ per night were normally foreign workers of the nearby petrochemical plant are staying. The host was a really nice guy who had been born in Germany and still spoke the language very well. Yesterday, I definitely cracked the 20 words threshold because of him. This does rarely happen if you stay in a regular hotel.
I finally got on the bike by 9am and the wind had indeed become much softer. Therefore it was cold and rained a little. First, I cycled into Gibraltar. On the way two local cyclists came by and we started chatting. I knew they could not have been “regular” locals because those fellow cyclists, if any, had ignored me constantly for the past five days. Indeed, one was a British pensioner and the other one was a retired policeman from Gibraltar. When they heard where I come from, they were apologetic for the weather and especially the wind. One said “You have to cycle up the Gibraltar rock. On a good day you can see the Sierra Nevada and a lot more from there “. They carried on whilst I stopped for pictures of this monumental freestanding rock in the sea which is a country by itself and even has a tiny airport.
The unemployment rate in this part of Spain is very high. 40% amongst young people. In Gibraltar in contrary, it is close to zero. As a result, many local Spaniards go there for work every day.
I crossed the border and there were in fact real bobbies checking passports and luggage. There were red doubledeck busses and London-style taxis. So funny. Right after the border, you have to cross the Gibraltar airfield which is closed when a plane lands. After that you get into the actual city which resembles Monaco very much.
I skipped the rock though because my legs were tired and instead turned North again, direction Marbella.
When I had prepared for this trip, I had heard in cycling forums that the coastal roads here were challenging for cyclists. On the other hand, the Eurovelo 8 cycling trail starts in Cádiz and goes all the way to Croatia. I had even downloaded the GPX data for my navigation system. So I felt in control and well prepared. This continued until my only option left was to cycle on the A7, a coastal highway, which looks and feels precisely like a very narrow and curvy German Autobahn. You have a space of about one meter to cycle on and the trucks pass you at 80 km/h or more. I was so scared and tense that I did not dare to press the “record” button on my camera. It was wild and lasted for 40km.
On my way, I got really angry about the officials of Eurovelo who market this route and it’s scenic beauty on the internet. Only by rechecking the site, I noticed in the fine print that the route was still “in planning”.
That part of the tour was very dangerous and this status “in planning” should be clearly spelled out by Eurovelo. It is irresponsible to propagate this part of the route further in the web.
I much rather cycle through the mountains from now on than repeating this experience. I did not stop in Marbella because I couldn’t stand any more cars and people. So I turned Northwest to climb up to Ojén where I had found a “Refugio” in a nature reservation area. Also, I want to visit Mark tomorrow, a fellow cyclist who I had gotten to know via a cycling forum in the net. He lives here and had invited me to stay with him.
The climb was rough but beautiful. Unfortunately, Rosinante had problems with her lower gears again which makes steep roads very challenging. However, I arrived at the Refugio in the last daylight – and I had a bathtub, the greatest luxury I could think of … until I saw the open fire place in the little bar. Life is good.
Over dinner, I started chatting with some hunters from Oregon who were here with a local guide to shoot a special type of Mountain Goat. They seem to be doing this regularly all over the world. That’s a different concept for vacation. Very nice people and I did enjoy the conversation even though my views on many things including politics will probably differ a lot. I find it always very interesting to meet people with a different perspective about the world. That’s way easier once you let go of mental categories like “right” and “wrong”. However, thanks to them and the cyclists in the morning I again easily cracked my 20 word threshold. And I had a good laugh. Mission accomplished.
Insight of the day: Believe the last person who has climbed a mountain more than the map.
Today was headwind day and by now I am absolutely toast.
From Cádiz I turned southeast and I had rolling hills and a solid headwind right from the start. However, the more I got South approaching Tarifa this developed into a real storm. I guess it is a surfing hotspot for a reason.
Most of the roads went straight through endless plains followed by soft climbs both with absolutely no protection from the fierce wind. I chose not to fight it simply because this takes away too much energy. I rather went slowly, made myself as small as possible but this still was exhausting.
Around noon, I ran out of water, a beginners mistake. It looks like I needed to go another 40km against the storm until I could refill. Yesterday, that would have been nothing but against this storm it felt like an eternity. Luckily, after 10km a gas station appeared out of nowhere and I could have a “lunch”.
When the wind came sideways, my inframe bags functioned as a kind of sail in a bad way. I was almost blown off the road twice. The storm lasted for about 100km until I reached Tarifa and later Algeciras.
The one fun bit, next to an unexpected call from my wife Carolin in the morning, was a nice drone video shooting of a herd of cows in a pittoresk valley shortly after the start. My first one on out-of-sight-distance under severe wind conditions. All went well, also for the cows 😎
Another great thing was finally seeing the mountains of Tanger, Morocco, i.e. the African coast across the street of Gibraltar. What a small world we live in.
From tomorrow on, I will only be cycling North.
Insight of the day: When you are ready to benefit from a tailwind, don’t complain about a headwind the next day. At the end, life gives us equal amounts of chance.