Day 397+2, Hamburg, 28.122 km

How do you put an end to a 13-month adventure? It is difficult. I’ve been delaying this article for the last two days, as if I wanted to extend the trip a bit, as if I could leave at any time, as if Hamburg was only a stop like the others…

In theory (or at least according to my theory), the trip from Leipzig to Hamburg should have been like this: 400 kilometers flat, with some small hills to warm up the thighs from time to time, a light breeze to keep the temperature down, a road through the forest and nice little villages, far from the cars so that the squirrels, the foxes and the birds could escort me, a kind of farewell tour after these 13 months of biking.

The reality was of course different. Completely different. On the way out of Leipzig I realize that my nice plan is already shattered to pieces. I had forgotten about the wind. Headwind of course, just to do things right. And not a nice little breeze that I can just ignore. We’re talking about a weather warning type of wind: « Be careful, there may be branches flying ». Great. And not a minute of respite, not a row of trees to protect me… And no beautiful view to take my mind off it, so that I can tell myself that it was worth braving this storm, only fields and windmills. I see in the distance windmills which do not turn. I tell myself that the wind is maybe less strong in this direction, at least not strong enough to make the wind turbines turn. In fact no, it is just the wind turbines that are on strike. False hope… To make things worse, it starts to rain and the bike path becomes a very unpleasant paved road. Cherry on the cake! I hesitate for a microsecond to take my phone out and look if there is a train that can take me directly to Hamburg, I’m fed up, I just want to go home. At least I’m not too sad to stop cycling…

Oooh, the beautiful fields!
Damn cobblestones

I have the misfortune to look at the weather forecast in the evening, the same thing is announced for the next day. And on top of that I want to go far enough to be in Hamburg around noon the day after tomorrow. The 125 kilometers that separate me from Hanover are a long way of the cross, yelling at the wind, the rain, the stones, the Universe, the windmills, the cars, everything that goes through my head. I don’t stop in Braunschweig, I just want to get somewhere and have the wind stop. In Hannover, I’ll branch off to the north and in theory (I like theories…) I’ll have the wind at ¾ back. That’s the only thing that keeps me going. Small pause in front of the town hall, the time to eat a piece and to drink a small Coke and I go back to the road again. Exactly 38 seconds after having started again, flood. I laugh about it, this time the wind pushes me. It can rain all that it wants it is equal for me. And then I realize that the address I just entered in my GPS is Hamburg, the last destination of this trip. The end. I have rain in my eyes too… I stop just after the Bergen-Belsen camp memorial, nice company for tonight ! Last night of bivouac, I make the pleasure last, I do not want to go to sleep. A pair of eyes passes in the beam of my lamp, blinks once, twice, and then disappears. The sounds of the forest seem different, more solid, more present than usual. Or maybe it’s just my imagination…

One of the elements of the Bergen-Belsen memorial
The last camp

Last day. Last kilometers. Last pedal strokes. Last drops of rain too. All this sounds a little too final for my taste but I feel with the road that scrolls the book of this trip closing. Sad? A little bit. Relieved? After these last days, yes. Happy? The idea of being back in Hamburg, in my bed, with my friends, is far from unpleasant. It’s hard to say exactly how I feel when I see a sign that says: « Hamburg – 50 km ». Then it’s Hamburg’s. It’s raining, the city welcomes my return in its own way. I have the right to a royal escort for the last 16 kilometers before going to eat in the same restaurant where we had eaten the day I left. Except for the weather, everything is the same. Or maybe the weather is rainy because it’s over…

Hamburg!
Followed by a horde of fans…

Finished. And like any good consultant, I really like numbers so here are a few:

  • 28.122 kilometers, or 0,70 times around the Earth, or a little more than a round trip from Paris to Beijing
  • 240,252 meters of positive elevation gain, the equivalent of 27 Everest climbs or 50 Mont Blanc climbs
  • 1,507 hours and 24 minutes of pedaling, or 63 days or 5,426,640 (five million four hundred and twenty-six thousand six hundred and forty) seconds
  • 115 nights in a tent, but 218 nights with friends or family
  • Almost 18 kilos of chocolate, 14 kilos of tuna and 30 kilos of pasta (at least!)
  • 4.574 photos, that is if I printed them all a 54 centimeters high pile or a 686 meters long frieze

Finished. But I have filled this year with more memories, encounters, sensations, joy, sorrow… with life finally, more than each of the thirty or so that came before. I hope to keep some of this energy that has accompanied me all this time when I have to make Power Point slides or Excel spreadsheets all day long. Or maybe I’ll use it differently. I don’t know yet, only the future will tell. A future where Jay and Bob will still be there traveling with me from time to time… I hope…

Finished. And thank you. Thank you for welcoming me, dirty, stinky, bearded, wet… And for those I didn’t stop by, sorry for doing my itinerary wrong… The next European tour will be adjusted accordingly… Thank you all for reading, commenting, writing or calling me. When the wind blows and the rain falls, one remembers the message of the day before or looks forward to the call of the day after.

Finished. But since I can’t finish, I …

I let you find the cities this time

2 commentaires sur «  »

  1. Thank you for letting us being part of the journey! And very much looking forward to see if the beard is gonna stay…;)
    Great to see that you had such a safe trip all the time!
    Welcome back Pierre!

    J'aime

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