jeudi, août 16, 2007

Deux jours sur La Grand Muraille


C’est toujours plus joli quand personne n’est réveillé.

Une journée ou la nature s’harmonie avec l’humanité

Inoubliable marche sur la muraille au milieu de nulle part.

mercredi, août 08, 2007

Bike chains and border crossings

A husband and wife team cycling around the world is now riding through Korea.

So far they have covered 53,200 kilometers and crossed 38 countries in an adventure featuring mountains, deserts and hysterical gun-toting yokels.

The pair stopped off in Seoul last week before starting their one-month Korean segment of the tour. "It`s a huge city and we`re really enjoying the energy," says Frenchman Richard Ferge. "We can only come here once so we`re making the most of it."

Richard and his English wife Stani Marinkova arrived from Europe via Russia, Mongolia and China.

Stani says Korea is much less polluted than China: "The one thing we think we`ve noticed is how clean it is, and how polite people are. They really stand out a mile."

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Her first impressions of Korea have contradicted friends` descriptions. "They told us Koreans are really reserved, but it`s not been the case at all. People are really friendly. They come up and talk to us and ask us what we`re doing; they wave as we go by."

Stani first came up with the idea of a mammoth bike ride when she saw a map of the world. "It suddenly clicked in my mind that the Rockies, the Sierra Madre and the Andes were all one continuous mountain range, and I wanted to cycle it." When Richard discovered she would be away four years, he decided to join her.

Stani says her love of the region helped her decision: "South America is always the place I`ve wanted to go since I was a kid. I loved it, adored it. I want to go back desperately." But their desire to see the rest of the world spurred her on to further adventures.

On returning to London, they bought a house, extended and refurbished it and sold it at a profit. This financed the second leg of their world tour.

They passed through North Africa and Mediterranean Europe, confusing Algerian border security on the way. "Everybody said we were the first people to cycle independently through Algeria. They made us have a military guard, which drove me crazy because I didn`t like having someone there with us all the time. We asked them to stop but they were very concerned," explains Stani.

"`What if something happens to you?` they`d ask. We`d tell them something could happen to us anywhere. But they said: `You must understand, even if it`s an accident or it`s your fault, it will be in the newspapers that a French and an English person had an accident in Algeria. And people immediately think the worst.`"

Inconveniences aside, Algeria proved to be one of the highlights of their tour.

"It`s such a clean, unspoiled country. The people there are not used to seeing tourists, so they are automatically much nicer to you and don`t see you as a walking dollar.

"There are a lot of countries where the people are incredibly hospitable, but Algeria is way beyond anything I`ve ever experienced. I left the country feeling bad because I`d received so much. I felt I`d taken a lot more than I`d given."

Not everyone receives them so warmly. While traveling across the United States, Stani found herself looking down the wrong end of a gun.

"We had been invited by someone to stay at their home and it was in the countryside," explains Stani. "It was dark and we took the wrong turn. We saw a house in the distance. So I went up and knocked on the door and suddenly this woman stuck a gun in my face and started screaming hysterically at me."

Stani explained who they were and what she and Richard were doing, "but she just shouted `you`re lying!` She started swearing she was going to shoot me and chased me through the garden."

She did learn one thing from her ordeal: "It`s really hard to push a bike through gravel."

Do they ever get exhausted from all that pedaling? "We don`t get tired from cycling," says Stani. "What`s really tiring is every day trying to find somewhere to stay, going and buying food in the market in a different language.

"Every time you meet someone you have to introduce yourself and explain what you`re doing and try to make friends, or at least convince them you`re not a weirdo. It wears you down"

She insists that before they left there was "no preparation, absolutely none. When we first got to Alaska, Richard asked me where we were going. I said `I don`t know. I`ve got to go and buy a map.`"

That was in 1996. Now, nine years later, married and quite literally half a world away, Richard and Stani are still going strong. Does Stani know when they will stop?

"When we`ve seen everything," she smiles.



By Paul Kerry



(paulkerry@heraldm.com)