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Cycloscope - Travelling by Bicycle with Daniele and Elena

21 Jun

Daniele and his partner Elena have crossed nineteen countries so far in their wonderful pursuit of traveling by bicycle.

They have found themselves in Koh Phangan, as many people do, so Phanganist invited Daniele in to find out more about this exciting travelling project...

Hi Daniele so what gave you the idea to make this trip?
Do you want the long version or the short? I left Italy initially looking for a better job and I ended up living inside a bike repair store in Amsterdam. I knew nothing about them before.

The guy who owned it wasn’t just a repairman but also a collector of pre second world war bicycles.

I started riding an antique bike there and fell in love with it.

I went many kilometres in Amsterdam and realised that with a bike I could make distances I never before imagined, so I wondered if it was possible to make long trips with bikes.

I googled it and found that many people were doing it so thought why not?!

So now I am riding a bicycle from the year 1936, the same one I was using in Amsterdam. Of course I have modified parts, it is not all original but forty percent of it is.

What was it that caught you about antique bikes?
Basically they are beautiful, the way they made them was completely handmade. The details and care are amazing.

It is a very sturdy bicycle as they used to make things to last forever, now after three or four years you buy a new one but once upon a time it was for life.

What route have you taken?
We started in Italy, went through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria then got the ferry across the black sea to Georgia.

Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia and Borneo, Indonesia then into Malaysia again and Thailand. If you want to know more check our travel journal.

What do you do in these countries, do you stay for a certain amount of time or does it depend on what you find?
We had no fixed plans when we began, we had a sort of route but we change according to what happens and the people we meet.

In the beginning we went fast but once we were out of Europe we stayed longer, especially when we got to Georgia.

Now we stay at least one month in every country, sometimes even more time when it is an easy visa regime.

What do you enjoy about this kind of travel?
There are a lot of things you can enjoy, one of the main things is that it’s the cheapest way to travel, there is no cheaper way.

You are your own transport and you can camp, once you’re on a bike you can take random roads and camp overnight in places which is harder to do if you’re hitchhiking, this is what we do sixty percent of the time.

I like the slow pace and rhythm. You see every metre of the road and pass places where normally people don’t stop so you can enjoy the real culture and locals.

The people are amazed to see us as they don’t get many tourists and they can be even more kind and curious about the bikes. We get invitations for meals and to sleep sometimes, with very very poor families.

It’s also good for the body.

What are the main problems that can arise?
Alright, the most difficult is the language barrier as some countries are different to others. You can find more english speaking in Thailand than in Japan for example so sometimes it can strain the contact with locals, even to order a meal.

Sometimes the road is tough because of the temperatures, sometimes it gets too hot, there’s a narrow band of temperature where cycling is ok, above ten and under twenty five but you’re usually lower than or over, the hot weather is very hard.

We like rainy season here in Thailand. Sometimes people think we have many dangers but we haven’t experienced this, we have met some crazy guys and you should be aware of this but it’s a matter of attitude, you can meet crazy people anywhere, you don’t need to travel for this!

Do you get involved with projects along the way?
Our idea when we left was to try to make short documentaries about countries and specific issues especially related to environmental issues or oppressed minorities and political stuff.

We realise it is pretty difficult whilst on a bike but we still do it.

We get in touch with the local NGO and if we have specific topics then we find the right people, get in touch and interview them and visit the place involved.

We try to make short films and write. We’ve had a chance to see some uncommon places for tourists.

In Borneo we were involved with a big dam construction, they want to flood areas of the jungle so are having to relocate the people there and they’re used to living in the jungle.

We’ve been in an already resettled area, ten years ago these people were resettled and now they’re helping the next people that have to move.

We visit tourist spots of course but also try to understand the issues of the country. We basically document the trip and find what’s interesting on the way.

How have you ended up in Koh Phangan?
While we were in Indonesia we felt it was time for a short break, we wanted to rest for one or two months and the next destination was Thailand so we started looking for volunteering opportunities here.

We are now staying to help build a project and we can relax and enjoy the laid back lifestyle of the island.

What would you say to people about cycling for their travels?
I would advise you to do it, I would really like to state that I don’t think you need physical preparation, it’s not true.

I’m a heavy smoker, I drink, I’m not a healthy guy and I wasn’t doing any serious cycling before but if you start slowly and keep doing it every day then your body will feel it, you just need to try and be a believer.

It’s a very cheap way of travelling, we are travelling on a budget of 3600 Euros per year including visas, cigarettes and beer with occasional transport.

Most people burn that money in two weeks but if you want to see the world then I can tell you it can be done!

Where do you go when you're finished here?
Ok, so after here we will head to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and back to China. Maybe we will look for a job for five or six months and then go to Myanmar and through India back to Italy.

We’ll be on the road for two more years but we won’t go back for good. We’ll stay maybe for six months and then travel again, we would like to travel for the next ten years.

Life philosophy?
Don't say you can't.

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