Monday, March 31, 2008

Photo 31/03/08

I post a photo of me in this entry. I will try to make a photo of me every Monday while I am travelling, no matter where I am. This way you can see me growing my hair, getting a sun tan and loosing weight. Well, at least this is what happened during my last hikes.
This photo is taken in my empty apartment and you can see me sitting in front of the freshly painted wall sporting a new short hair cut. I try to look optimistic despite the fact that I really don't know what I have gotten myself into now! Wish me luck - I will need it in the next year!

It is done!

Last look out of my apartment
I still can't believe it, but I think everything is ready now! My apartment posed the biggest problem. If you leave your apartment, it has to be renovated. I am not good in renovating anything. My apartment has a height of more than 3 meters and the thought of spending days on a ladder painting the ceiling gave me vertigo and made my arms ache. So I hired a Polish guy to do that for me. It took much longer than I thought but made me realise that it was way better to let him do the renovation than doing it myself. For the last 3 days we were working together. He painting and me cleaning. I had to realise that being a cleaning woman is not my dream job. I hate crawling around on my knees and scrubbing floors. Cleaning is hard work, especially if you have not done much cleaning in your apartment for the last couple of years.

But today it is over - I passed the official inspection today and will spend my last night in Berlin in an empty apartment. It is pretty spooky -there is nothing left in the rooms so the accustics are pretty weird now.
Tomorrow at 8.35 am I will fly to Paris with my bike. Of course I have all sorts of nightmares now about my bike being damaged or lost on the flight. I have never flown with a bike. But it is packed into a cardboard box and hopefully nothing will happen to it. Cross your fingers for me!

And I do hope that I will eventually master my new gadget, a Nokia N95 cell phone. Actually, I don't need a cell phone at all on my trip, but it has all the other functions I need. It has a camera, an MP3 player (I will take 17 days of music and books on tape with me and Micro SD cards), a GPS and you can surf the internet with it. And you can make phone calls with it, but I don't really need that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Preparations Part 4 - How to move out of your apartment

Who needs heavy gear?
I always thought I don't have many earthly belongings. Moving out of my apartment proved that idea wrong! There is more and more junk coming out of every corner. I found clothes I had bought when I was 15!!! The problem is that I don't have a car any more, so I have to transport everything on my bicycle. Have you ever tried to transport a washing machine with a bike - forget it.

I knew I had seven sleeping bags but in fact I had  ten! Of course the old ones weigh about 3 kilo each (this was before my ultralight hiking days) so they will now go to a charity for homeless people. I even managed to get rid of my washing machine - I sold it on Ebay. Luckily I didn't write on Ebay that  you have to lift the really heavy washing machine over half of my bathroom installations. Bad surprise for the buyer who will come with two strong men tomorrow and get it. I already moved half of my stuff to a self storage place and it is really amazing how much stuff fits into 8,4 square meters. Unfortunately, I feel like I am running out of time. I have 10 days left before departure and 5,000 things to do. But this always happens before a big trip...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Preparations Part 3 - How to move out of your apartment

I have travelled a lot before, but I have always kept an apartment while being away. This is the first time I give up home and put all my stuff in storage. I have only 2 weeks left before I have to be completely out of my apartment and panic starts to set in. There are card board boxes all over the place. I discover junk I haven't seen in years and I don't want to see now because I don't know how to get rid of it. My neighbours start hating me because I fill up the trash cans as soon as they have been emptied. I know all sorts of charity organizations now: My old clothes and books have gone to church bazaars for street kids, neighborhood bookshops for the unemployed and Humana for projects in Africa.I just do hope that all that is left in the end will fit into my 8,4 cubic meter self storage apartment... Cross your fingers for me!

Preparations Part 2 - How to buy a bicycle

My new bicycle
I must admit that I do not have any clue about bicycles. And what is even worse: I don't know how to repair them. Going on a 2-months bike trip without knowing how to fix a flat tire is a bad idea, so I decided to join my local bike club (ADFC Berlin) and do a bike repair course. Dinking around in the bike club's workshop I had to realise that my 20 year old bicycle is not the latest in bicycle technology any more - big surprise. And when I started shopping around in bike shops I was robbed of the illusion that you just walk in, choose a bike, pay for it and walk out WITH it. I was confronted with all sorts of technical details I never even heard of before and learnt that you have to wait up to 2 months for a customized bike!

I decided to act quickly and started asking everybody who has ever ridden a bike about their opinion on what to buy. I really want to apologize to everybody who was tortured with my stupid questions, but I think it was worth it. I am proud of my new bicycle like a mother of her new born baby. (Don't get me wrong: I have nothing to do with babies, just with bicycles!) There is only one slight problem: My new bike was so expensive that I hardly dare to use it in Berlin out of fear it might get stolen... Hopefully it will soon start looking dirty and less appealing!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Preparations Part 1 - How to learn Japanese

Our Japanese language course
My trip will bring me to Japan - so I thought learning Japanese might be a good idea. Luckily, I found a Japanese intensive language course taking place here in Berlin in February. Our little group of 16 language students was successfully tortured with 4 - 6 hours Japanese lessons every day for 2 weeks plus lessons about various aspects of Japanese life. We were even having a nice Japanese dinner together one night. These 2 weeks were rather demanding, but also great fun. I don't speak fluent Japanese now, but I think I will survive - if I don't forget everything in the next year.Sayonaara for now!

The big trip

How it all started:

I have always been travelling a lot, but in 2004 a new chapter of my life started: I had been fired from my job and instead of working I decided to fulfill a big dream of mine: thruhiking the PCT. (www.pcta.org)



After 5 months + 1 day and 2,650(= 4.300 km)
I had become a northbound thruhiker and seriously addicted to long-distance-hiking.



I came back to Germany, found a new job, worked too much and couldn't get hiking out of my mind. So I tried hard and finally made it true in 2007: I got leave of absence to hike the CDT (www.cdtrail.org)!






This time it took me 5 months - 1 day and about 2,750 miles (= 4.400 km) to complete my southbound thruhike.

While hiking the CDT something else happened: My employer was finally fed up with me and my hiking plans and fired me. When I received the news at a public phone at a gas station in Wyoming I was incredibly happy. Beside receiving a nice severance pay this would enable me to do more hiking! Being fired was the best thing that could have happened to me in that situation.

I came back to Germany, collected my severance pay, cancelled my apartment and started making plans for the big trip. And that's the plan now:



The plan:

April and May 2008:
Cycling across Europe on the Eurovelo 6 (www.eurovelo6.org)

I wanted to do something else beside hiking so I decided to try cycling as well. I have never done such a long bike trip, so I wanted to do my first trip in a "civilised" environment, where technical problems can easily be fixed. Also I wanted to stock up on culture before embarking on the rest of my trip.

The Eurovelo 6 connects some of the main river bike pathes of Europe. It starts at the French Atlantic coast and follows the Loire River, crosses Burgundy and joins the Rhine river at Mulhouse. It then follows the Rhine up to the Bodensee, where it leaves the Rhine to join the Danube river at its source. It follows the Danube all the way to its mouth in Rumania, but I will just go as far as Budapest, from where I will try to somehow work my way back to Berlin.

early June 2008:
Paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (www.bwcaw.org)

Again, this is something new I want to try out. I have never done an extended paddling trip and I don't have much clue about paddling either. But luckily an old PCT friend of mine volunteered to come along and so we will be paddling in Northern Minnesota for 2 weeks.

mid-June 2008 - mid-November 2008:
southbound AT thruhike (www.appalachiantrail.org)

This is a must: After thruhiking the PCT and the CDT already, I just have to do the AT to complete my triple crown. In order to avoid the crowds and accomodate my other plans, I will be going southbound.

December 2008:
thruhiking the Bibbulmun Track in Southwestern Australian (www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au)

It's winter now on the Northern hemisphere so I have to go south to go on hiking.

The Bibbulmun Track is Australia's AT: It is about 1.000 km long with AT-style shelters and water tanks all along the way.

January 2009:
thruhiking the Australian Australian Alps Walking Track
(www.australianalps.deh.gov.au/parks/walktrack/)

This is a 650 km hiking trail in Victoria and New South Wales.

February 2009:
Cycling the Giro de Tasmania (http://www.biketas.org.au/giro.php)

I will spend any time left in Australia cycling around. I have not finally decided on where exactly to cycle, but a good choice seems to be this trip across Tasmania.

March and April 2009:
Cycling across Japan:

After spending so much time in Western countries like the US and Australia I want to spend some time in completely different culture. And as Japan is a relatively expensive country cycling and camping seems to be a sensible and cheap way to get around. I have already attended a Japanese language course and got more and more excited about Japan: It seems to be a very fascinating and also extremely safe country.

My plan is to cycle the 88- temple pilgrimage in Shikoku. This 1.400 km pilgrimage is traditionally done on foot, but because 90% of the route is on paved roads, I will cycle it.
(http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/)

Any time left in Japan I will be cyling "Length of Japan" (http://www.japancycling.org/v2/cguide/part1/).
By the way: I will be there during cherry blossom time...

April/May 2009:
Back to Germany!

Now I will have to decide: Do I continue travelling or do I become a responsible German citizen again and start working?
If I decide to continue travelling I will probably attempt an European thruhike from one of the
Westernmost points in Europe (Cape Finisterre) to the Easternmost point Istambul. The route is inspired by Nicholas Crane's book "Clear Waters Rising". I will just give a rough outline as this is far in the future and a lot of things can happen in the meantime!

May to October 2009:
Western Europe

Starting in Cape Finisterre in Northwestern Spain I will follow the Camino de Santiago all the way to the Pyrenees. I will then traverse the whole length of the Pyrenees either on the French (GR 11) or Spanish side (GR 10). The route then continues through France through the Cevennes and the Provence (GR 4) where I will join the GR 5 from Nice to Lake Geneva. I will cross Switzerland West to East on the Alpine Pass route
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_Pass_Route).
The rest of the summerseason I will be traversing Austria on the Zentralalpenweg all the way to Bratislava.

Summer season 2010:
Eastern Europe

My route would then continue through the Tatras in the Slovak Republic and Poland, then crossing into the Ukraine and following the Carpathian mountain range through Romania. It continues south through Bulgaria and the Rila mountains from where I can either
continue on the European long distance hiking trail E4 (www.era-ewv-ferp.com) through Greece to Crete or follow Nicholas Crane's route to Istambul.