This has been a three-year trip, mainly by bicycle, taking in all the continents. Throughout the course of our round-the-world journey we strove to live up to the values we believed in as we left France (some of them already inculcated much earlier): dreams, challenges and sharing.
We like to think that our actions demonstrate that the grandest dreams can be realized given the necessary degree of will power, determination and hard work. Many challenges were waiting to put us to the test on the tens of thousands of kilometers crossing the Sahara on our bikes; under sail to Antarctica; pedaling through the Andes at almost five thousand meters’ altitude; riding through the Amazonian jungle; ascending Mount Tom (4,163 meters) in California; descending the Yukon river on a raft built with our own hands; arriving in New Zealand; trying out the kite-bike during the crossing of the Australian outback; a trek through the tropical mountainous jungle of the Cardamom in Cambodia; an illegal detour into ancient Tibet inside China; and negotiating a way though the high cols of the Tian Shan range in Central Asia.
So much for the comprehensiveness of our project, none of which would have been possible without a considerable injection of solidarity; starting with the friendship that bound us together, but – of course – thanks to the countless families that welcomed us on the road (see the Solidhosts photo album); and finally thanks to help from donors and partners who sustained our globetrotting project with the necessary finance.
A FEW FACTS AND FIGURES AFTER 3 YEARS ON THE ROAD
- 400,000 meters of elevation gain.
That is to say, the number of meters in altitude climbed by bike. This is an estimated figure, equivalent to climbing Mont Blanc 83 times, which gives a general idea rather than being a precise calculation. But when you know what just a thousand meters of elevation gain entails, it makes you feel faint simply to read the statistic.
- 54,300 kilometers by bicycle, 7,400 of them on rough track
You can trace our exact route using this indicator. But far from being a target to be reached at any price the 50,000 kilometers involved a great deal more for us than just the business of turning pedals; from the outset they were our means of access to the depth and richness of the world we were out to discover and explore, rather than just a quantity to be measured in figures.
- 23,000 euros per person. Approximate budget per head for the trip.
With an initial budget set at 20,000 euros a head, the overspent incurred can be attributed to several factors: thanks to more backing than expected we had invested in new equipment (new lenses, SD cards, a higher quality microphone, computers for video montages). We also had to replace defective material and, finally, spent quite a lot extra in cybercafés and on internet connections everywhere.
- 1098: days the trip took
What is there to add? That time went by faster than expected? That would be the obvious easy answer when the trip was completed, even if it was indeed the feeling shared by most of us. For 36 months, although the sun was searing our skin and ageing our faces, our meetings with people of every kind broadened our experience of life and our understanding of humanity.
- 668: nights spent as house guests
We could have continued our journey without our tents and not worried about it. Without even needing to be asked, people everywhere appeared to be ready to welcome us into their homes to spend the night. This discovery demonstrated that generosity is not directly linked to the culture of any one country and that warm hospitality is a worldwide phenomenon. It would be a sad thing indeed not to dare to leave home on account of the fear of foreigners, don’t you think?
- 572: days spent exploring and sightseeing
These were days when we were not intent on pressing ahead with our overall journey. We had found a spot, shared memorable moments with our hosts, roamed through cities of legend and myth (examples: San Francisco, Bangkok, Valparaiso) or else taken advantage of finding ourselves by sheer chance in paradises on earth (e.g. Alter do Chão on the banks of the Tapajos in Brazil).
- 452: days in the saddle
With the group mentality of always pressing ahead the bicycle was, however, for us a means rather than an end in itself. Certainly we had a taste for cycling (if not we would have been dedicated masochists!) but it must be emphasis that only 45% of the total number of days on the trip were spent advancing towards our destination.
- 423: nights under canvas, in hammocks or under the stars
In short, these were the nights we spent sleeping in the open. Far from being a chore the tent had its good points, especially for us as a team. It provided us with the moment when we found ourselves “at home”. If putting up a tent in the outskirts of a town sometimes presents difficulties, watching as the sun never sets in the Arctic regions of Alaska is nothing if not magical.
- 258: maximum number of kilometers ridden in a single day
This record was achieved between Friedrieschaven in Germany and Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The reason: we wanted to arrive as early as possible at Bernard’s home at La Chaux-de-Fonds where he was waiting to greet us.
- 120 kilometers: our overall average on cycling days
The bicycle allows for a relatively big distance to be covered in a day. Starting slowly and gradually picking up the pace to reach an optimum rhythm turned out to be the best way for us to proceed. We are young, and enjoy the sensation of physical effort after a stop-over. This was our way of achieving a relatively high average for travelers equipped with heavy and much used machines. But, once again, note that distances covered daily have no connection with the riches of the journey and that it is only personal whim that drives us to go the extra mile… Between the sheer pleasure of being in the saddle, stopping for a rest, bouts of intense effort and easier going, everyone has his own preferred choice.
- 72: days at sea
These consisted in part of a 40-day Antarctic expedition aboard the sailing ship Ocean Respect, in the company of some old friends of Kim, who witnessed our first encounter with the Antarctic continent. In addition there was the cruise on the Amazon as far as Manaus, and a good week’s navigation on the Dérobade, under the captaincy of Alain, arriving in Panama from Cartagena in Colombia. From there, northbound progress by the Inside Passage in Canada on a boat belonging to Dan, casting anchor at Prince Rupert in the north of British Colombia. Finally we made a trip of 750 kilometers on the Yukon, that river of myths, a journey of eight days on board a raft constructed not far from Whitehorse.
- 62.5: euros per person spent on lodgings for the three year journey (!)
We had no choice but to pay to sleep in the rented refuges provided along the route of for our high mountain trek in southern Bolivia. The –20 (minus 20) degrees centigrade temperatures soon persuaded us to fork out a few extra euros to alternate between one night in the “heat” and one in the tent for a week. There was a further choice between a refuge which charged us, or sleeping in a restaurant at a cost of 1.5 € a head. Sometimes, we needed to work on our photographs, sometimes to provide relief for one of us who was sick (as was the case when Etienne broke his collar bone) and there was a single special occasion when we celebrated Christmas Day in Mexico. Apart from these exceptional circumstances we can truthfully claim that we completed the journey without paying for our lodgings. Suffice to say it was a not a major issue, but more part of the way of living we had adopted and appreciated, and made easier by travelling as a team.
- 44: countries visited (not counting Antarctica which is not a country but a continent)
More of a consequence than a cause. We were not aiming to visit as many countries as possible, but rather looking for colorful experiences. Paradoxically it was as a result of circling the globe that we became aware of the unlimited possibilities of our planet. The more one keeps on at it, the more one’s ideas increase and multiply, all of which is to the good.
- 10: the number of nights the team had to pay for lodgings.
Obviously the tight budget for lodgings allowed us more money for treating ourselves to good fare, and, looking back, we are glad we organized our priorities to make this possible! Certainly it was uncomfortable at times, but it enabled us, through our extended life outdoors, to multiply our contacts. This allowed us to function in a more or less “normal” way once we had arrived in town (to buy our hosts a beer, for example. at hugely increased prices compared with our nomadic life.)
- 8: euros spent per day person
For the most part we had kept to our initial budget of 8€ per day per person for daily needs (food, medicine, sundry mechanical, electronic needs). More than just a constraint to be respected to the letter, the budget gives an impression of our modus vivendi. Once in a new town we sometimes set a small sum aside to conform to the standard of living of our hosts who had so generously offered us their hospitality. We made an effort to compensate for these small extravagances once we were back on the road; sticking to pasta, eggs, salt, tuna fish… Life in Europe, North America or in Oceania is not that simple on such a budget. But it has to be admitted that in Asia (in general) or in Latin America (perhaps with the exception of Argentina, Chile and Brazil) such a budget is plenty for someone simply seeking to survive.
It should be pointed out that air tickets are not included in the figures for our living budget. These were in part financed by our donors and sponsors along our journey.
- 4: the number of countries where we were not able to drink beer
Out of 44 countries visited, only in the following ones was one of Solidream’s secret rituals frustrated: Mauritania (we were whacked through in a pickup truck without stopping), Honduras (we only spent a day and a half there); Uzbekistan (Siphay and Brian were both ill and Morgan did not want to drink alone; and Turkmenistan (nonstop transit by truck and train, giving us no time for a pause. So, to the next travelers to pass by these places, stop and raise a glass to the health of Solidream!
- 3: years spent on the journey
Our journey was carefully pre-planned, by deliberate choice. As a team, it is difficult to function on purely ad hoc decisions. The reason is simple: our whims as we went along would quickly have separated us from one another. Having a common plan kept the team together and all of us moving in the same direction. And in this way Solidream succeeded in spreading its values of dreaming, meeting challenges and sharing.
And you, what’s your #solidream ?