Here comes our last blog entry relating to our current project for the time being (with a flu-induced three-week delay). On Saturday, 12 September 2015 – it was one of the last splendid summer days – sponsors, friends and family came to Hof Narr. We took the opportunity to thank all our supporters for their fabulous help, to look back on our trip with a slide show in the hayloft and to answer questions. The day also offered the welcome occasion to meet all two- and four-legged inhabitants of Hof Narr from close up.
Ever since Rotterdam we want to get on board one of the freighters and travel upstream for a while. However, the opportunity never arises as it is not so easy to get close to these ships. This is why we use the last possible opportunity and get on board your average passenger ship, which takes us the roughly 20 kilometres from Basel to Rheinfelden. We pass two locks (a real experience for the passengers) and the chemical plants Schweizerhalle.
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.
Strasbourg is great. We behave like proper tourists, ask for vegan food everywhere and take pictures of foie gras and chicken with their heads still on in shop displays. There is a square called «Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait», the «Suckling Pigs Square», which of course does not refer to Flying Piglets. Despite such irritations the city exudes both a wonderfully relaxed and stimulating atmosphere, a place to live.
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.
We have heard that some people want to have the Flying Piglet logo tattooed. SUPERPENG will gladly put the logo at your disposal (just let us know). However, we can’t tattoo, but we can screen print for you!
On our way upstream we come past the chemical plant Dormagen, the former Bayer plant. Since 1917 chemical factories have established themselves there and nowadays 10’500 people work in some 60 companies on an area of 360 hectares. We immediately think of the thousands upon thousands of laboratory animals, dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, mice amongst others who suffer in the labs of the chemical industry.
Ever since our departure from Ambleside (cf. picture above) we’ve had a bird in our luggage whom we are getting out now – with a fair bit of nostalgic memory of the beautiful landscapes and the wonderful encounters with animals and humans – as a little quizz. Who knows what this talented bird is called? If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to post it as a comment below. The first three to get it right will get an extra chocolate muffin on 12 September on Hof Narr… ;-)!
After England and Holland the change in the communicative climate in Germany is rather noticeable to us. Never since the beginning of our trip in the Lake District have we come across so many grumpy faces. People tend to be curt and our smiles are seldom returned. On the big square in the town of Rees an elderly couple crosses our path. Hinting at our loaded bicycles they enquire about where we’re heading. Both of them have travelled to Switzerland before. The man remembers an episode on Lake Geneva: At Chateau de Chillon an American apparently declared, shaking his head, that he really could not understand why they would have built the beautiful castle so close to the motorway. Some Germans do have a sense of humour after all…
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.
We don’t want to keep this to ourselves: Take a look at this lovely thank you video the Hof-Narren (court jesters) have made with the help of Superpeng:
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.
After our arrival at the port of Amsterdam we make our way out of the belly of the ferry amongst huge juggernauts, cycle on past halls in which fish is traded. Later on we fly through peaceful, partly wooded dunescape. On our way, we come across a herd of highland cattle freely walking the paths and grazing on the surrounding fields. On the horizon, a westerly wind sweeps the sand across the dunes.
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 last leg on the Coast to Coast Route takes us from the hamlet of Rookhope in the North Pennines up a steep hill to Stanhope Moor and past the sparse remains of the highest ever railway in the UK which, from 1846 to 1923, transported lead from the local mines to the Tyne river, amongst other things. The tracks have long been removed and the former line now provides a superb gravel cycling path.
We want to spare you all the cycling nerd’s talk, but nevertheless share some of our impressions over the last few days with you.
We set off from Ambleside at the northern end of Lake Windermere and, after tackling the most challenging ascent yet, Kirkstone Pass, left the Lake District heading for Penrith.
Along the way we admire a herd of young, black and white speckled bulls. After a little hesitation, on of them dares to approach and sucks on Gabrielle’s hand. It appears that they are being fattened for meat. Opposite their field we discover the vehicle fleet of a livestock haulier’s company…
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…
We would love for you to follow us on our charity cycling trip from the North of England back to Switzerland. We are setting off some time in the last week of July. From then on and for about a month, you will find intriguing, beautiful as well as interesting (so we hope) inputs for your mind, ears and eyes – and not least for your soul – on the Flying Piglets’ blog. Read more about the idea that fuels the Flying Piglets.
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