We’ve had a smooth landing: After almost exactly 1’000 km of elated cycling we have arrived on Hof Narr. Tired, sweaty and happy! We will tell you about the last leg of our journey shortly.
«Look, a beaver!» And a few hundred meters further along the Canal du Rhone au Rhin: «Look, there’s another beaver!» But when we come across yet another, particularly intrepid beaver keeping quite still in the water right in front of us, we quickly realise: This isn’t a beaver. The tail is all wrong! We cycle on an come upon a whole family grazing on the canal bank at dusk who are quite unimpressed by our advances.
Whenever you see a field with cows and their calves and maybe even a bull on it, you can basically be sure they are beef cattle. They tend to be fairly stout as their breeding has been working towards optimised meat «performance» over the decades.
It’s different with a field of dairy cows. They’re always the childless ones. Not that they don’t have any children, they have one every year to keep their milk production at a maximum. But their children are taken away from them at birth because the milk is chiefly intended for human consumption. From a human point of view, it goes without saying.
It is true: Numbers have never really been my cup of tea. This might explain the fact that I underestimated the overall distance of our trip by a good 200 km. As a consequence, last Sunday, we load our bikes onto a train in Koblenz and get on. The first thing we see getting off the train in Karlsruhe is a pigeon. She is only young, has some fluff left on her head and is sitting inertly on a metal grid on the platform. As I move closer and gently touch her, she doesn’t even flinch. I move away and wait at a distance – and wait a little longer. But no parents appear. No wonder, really, so close to the trains and with all those people getting on and off trains in a hurry.
On our way to Koblenz the Rhine is alive with ships. One of the freighters nails its colours to the mast: The Tibetan flag is a peaceful sign of protest against the human rights violations in Tibet according to the German Free Tibet movement and a symbol for an independent Tibet.
Be it on the sumptuous buffet on the ferry to Holland, on markets, menus or on supermarket displays along the coast, they are omnipresent: Fish and other so-called seafood. In fishing statistics they are only referred to in tons. The single animal doesn’t exist as an individual in this context. This may partly arise from the fact that water separates them from us and makes them appear different in kind from us.
On our way to Den Haag, on the edge of a residential area and wedged between two busy roads, a picture reminiscent of Noah’s Ark unfolds before our eyes: a patchwork of a group of animals grazes on a piece of land with a small stable. There’s a pair of (almost) each type: Chicken, peacocks, geese, turkeys, ducks, emus, sheep, goats, alpacas and – a cow. We are marvelling at the peaceful scene from behind the fence, when Noah appears and beckons us to come and join him and the animals. We shall call Noah Piet hereafter. He lives in one of the detached houses on the other side of the road.
It doesn’t take any kind of zoological specialist knowledge to recognise distinctly that even earth worms or spiders in danger will do everything in their power to get themselves out of harm’s way and protect their lives. Reason enough for us to try and support them in this endeavour whenever possible, in truly buddhist manner. Why don’t you try it!
The Lake District is a breathtakingly beautiful mountain area with quaint cottages and endless stonewalls criss-crossing the country and: sheep. Hundreds of thousands of them. You may walk up a mountain for hours and fancy yourself in a long forgotten world. All of a sudden a sheep and her two lambs will materialise from behind a rock, take as much of a fright as the walker and swiftly get herself and her children out of harm’s way.
This is it: We are ready to set off from Ambleside (2nd picture) towards the east coast – a day late. The reason: First of all, a boldface nicked Gabrielle’s bike saddle and front light in broad daylight. Not really noteworthy in a city context, the local police, however, considered it important enough to put a message in the «Westmoreland Gazette» asking for any relevant information allowing to get hold of the stolen saddle, seat post and light. It appears that in the placid Lake District the theft of bike parts qualifies as an act of unleasehd barbarism. René’s bike suffered, too and was brutally battered during transport by the British Parcel Force (nomen est omen) and needed a new fork as well as other bits and pieces…