Round-the-World Bicyclists Stop in Berlin

Even if you offset the CO2 from your holiday caravan to Grandmas or flight to the islands, this report probably represents a guilt-threat level yellow. But if you want to be amazed at human tenacity and draw inspiration for what remains after peak oil, read on.

TreeHugger shared the idea behind warm showers in November: sign up to offer an overnight stay and take mutual advantage of this bicycling hospitality organization when you launch your own tour. Since joining warm showers last fall, with little expectation of seeing any bike tourists before the end of Germany's brisk and icy winter season, three hard-core winter bike tourists have knocked on our door: interesting people with adventurous stories gracing our dinner table before pushing on their fossil-fuel free journey over the horizon. Our very first visitors will be difficult to top: Keiichi arrived 6 years into a round-the-world trip. Ten months of his tour were dedicated to learning mountaineering, earning the chance to be one of only three people out of a team of 17 who reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 2005. Joining Keiichi is Tomo, who left Japan independently. They met up in Budapest, and decided to make Berlin a mutual destination.

Keiichi and Tomo dug heartily into our one-pot supper on the evening of their arrival. Realizing that the two had spent weeks eating meager camping stove portions while crossing the mountainous terrain separating Budapest from Berlin, the next night we pulled out all the stops. Keiichi and Tomo's contribution of a sushi rice dish with sweet marinated vegetables brought the menu to a total of five courses, hungrily devoured to restore expended calories. By the end of the meal, the wine cellar was nearly empty, in a close competition between the Japanese and a French guest for who enjoyed the collection more. Tomo earned eternal approval by the grin of appreciation with which he welcomed the meal.

Both guests returned the hospitality by sharing their stories, chief among them the tale of Keiichi's ascent of Mount Everest. Keiichi turned a piece of paper into a banknote in front of our eyes to demonstrate how he financed his journey from the southernmost point in India to Mount Everest (by magic performances, not by creating money out of thin air, unfortunately). He was able to gain a place on a team for the climb after studying mountaineering and demonstrating qualifications for the ascent. Keiichi showed photos of himself with Ken Noguchi, famous for his campaign to clean up Everest. Remembering, he shakes his head musingly about the trash problem, but reports that the teams are getting better about schlepping their waste out with them.

Keiichi's story should embolden anyone scrimping to gather enough cash for a decent bike and a trip. His one-speed granny bike suits him just fine. Its best aspect: it hasn't been stolen since he got it in Thailand after losing both the bike he started on and a replacement bought in Taiwan. He left Japan with almost nothing, and one photo shows him on the summit of mount Everest holding a placard on which the numbers "0 0 0" denote:


  • 0 = funding available when he conceived the idea for an assault on Everest

  • 0 = the altitude in meters at the start of his journey from the lowest point at the south of India to the summit

  • 0 = CO2 emissions due to his travel from 0 meters to the highest point on earth


The photo above shows both bikes, stripped for round-town touring. Fully packed, they are nothing short of steel donkeys.

Keiichi and Tomo's bicycles, awaiting their return from a short stint earning funds working in a hostel during the high season, still stand next to the bed as our next guest arrives. Alexis hails from the northwest coast of the USA, but she is fresh in from Malmo, Sweden, where she spent the holidays with family. She needs only a night's recovery from Germany's biggest new year's party before pushing on towards Greece via eastern Europe. A small inheiritance inspired her to buy her bike, a Rivendell Atlantis, and graduation forced the timing: golden handcuffs looming, go now or never. Adventure is not foreign to Alexis, whose stories include engagement to an East German to aid his escape before the wall came down and plans to learn arabic in Cairo, abandoned in frustration at the treatment she received as a woman.

We accompanied Alexis through the maze of streets out of Berlin on our Hase Pino. Happy to return to the warmth of our apartment after only 30 km, our thoughts are with all those braving the elements to follow their dream of seeing the world at a human pace. Good luck to you.

Tags: Berlin | Japan | Sweden