When I joined up with the Ecotopiabiketour, I was running on 2 hours sleep and a tomato sandwhich. The rest of the team was lazing about in a small village called Teovo in Macedonia. In the middle of the town is a 1000 year old Sycamore tree. We sang, and drank rakija with locals. It was a good introduction.
Constantly fluctuating, the group started at 10 and grew to 17. More than 13 countries, double that in personalities, and some really beautiful people.
I expected more of an ecotopia bunch than a biketour bunch, but there was a fine mixture of both. Actually, most people hadnt done much cycling at all, and although this was the 20 something tour, with no EcoTopia festival at the finishline, the motives changed a lot. It was as though everything was starting again, rebuilding itself. Only two prior participants, the rest newbies.
Together we cycled through Macedonia, then into Albania. Planned actions fell like dominos, one after the other as we neared them… but sleeping, eating and riding seemed to consume all of our time anyway.
Bapsi from Austria became a good friend. A 22 year old vegan who absolutely loves her bike and boycotts planes… we got along great!
Yarden from Israel slowly opened up and we flirted into friendship. He manages a youth project that inspires through mathematics. Our romance and laughter bridged our differences.
Joao from Portugal was an instant love. He peddled from Porto and plans to peddle back… eats vegan and loves mulberries. We picked wild fruit everyday and painted eachother purple with the juice. We shared stencils and laughed a lot. He sprouted lentils and we ate them in our salads.
With this group of people I pushed on through most of the ks. All the others made it what it was too though, and leaving them in Durres on the Albanian coast was tough. Group cycling is so different, and somewhat less efficient – if you are counting miles – but really a lot of fun. Even the hardest of climbs – pushing up 13kms of steep slippery gravel road – seemed a lot easier with such energy around. And flying down the mountains – 2 days of endless downhill after the border – was never more rewarding.
Playing with the kids, picking up rubbish on the beach, shouting “Breath Clean Air!” at an action in Elbasan… and just wild camping, eating fired dinners, sleeping under the stars and swimming naked in the rivers… we may not have achieved much on a global climate-change scale, but we surely changed eachother, and grew new branches together.