Cycling for Stars was never planned, it just happened. I used to be a football player and started cycling because I can’t play anymore (knees). Why cycle around the world? Cause we’re living a miracle and not only I wanna see it and feel it for myself, I also want everybody to realize it so we build a better world. And personally, I like it at the comfort zone but it’s too bad nothing really grows there.
In this journey, I want to discover what binds us and discover the connection with nature and myself. The tough part is I won’t see my loved ones for quite a while. Sacrifice.
Born 1974. From Eindhoven, The Netherlands.
Fear has taken over my zen
I have been cycling with a friend in Iran and we thought that these trucks were pretty sweet. They honk their horn, the driver waves, it spits out a cloud of gas and that’s basically it until the next truck comes by. Unfortunately, this was just the case in the remote areas of Iran. The more populated regions and especially cities are crazy full of cars, trucks and whatever fits in. Respect for cyclists? None whatsoever. This means that they actually hit you when you are cycling if they want to pass. Frankly, I love the Iranians off the road, but I have shared my fuck you’s to many of them on the road. The vulnerability of a cyclist is immense and the most primary fears come boiling up when you think it’s end of story. When these crazy guys start their traffic chaos you are part of it and better blend in by going mad as well. Stress, anger, and fear have taken over my Zen cycling spirit several times. Accepting it isn’t always easy. But it is what it is so I guess it takes more practice to keep my cool and just let things happen. Just keep in mind, cycling in Iran is one of the best experiences you’ll ever get but be careful!
Dozing off is not an option
In the Iranian heat, the air was dry and the wind was blowing right in my face. I’ve had 4500 km of tough headwinds in my face in Brazil last year so that pretty much makes me resilient. Still, it hurt and with my delicate freckled skin, I also had to protect myself from our beautiful sun that was a dangerous friend that day. I have used sunblock factor 100 ones and I use the sleeves to give me the protection on my arms that absorb the sunlight all day long. This day I hadn’t been drinking enough, didn’t sleep well and my head started pounding. Doing 150 km at 40+ degrees you have to be careful. You can’t lose focus because there are still cars passing by occasionally doing 90 km an hour. Dozing off is not an option. I guess in the end it’s also a test, a test you will pass if you keep your head clear and a test to be grateful for afterward.
Connecting with different cultures
The local mayor of a town in Capadocia gave me a present. In this geological treasure, where you have the feeling that you are cycling on another planet, he gave me a balloon flight. Besides that, a 4-star hotel had been arranged for me. Including food. Lots of food. The mayor liked the fact that I was cycling around the world and that I want to ‘connect’ with different cultures. Especially since I wanted to show how beautiful Turkish people are. The balloon flight was stunning and it showed me how cool the cycling roads are actually shaped from a totally different perspective. After all, it’s all about perspective. Arriving in there I expected nothing and got everything in this marvelous place. Go there if you can.
Many times people ask me about how much my bicycle cost. Especially in Central and South America, they want to know bad. Then I think about their monthly income and I lie about the value of my bicycle. Not cause I’m afraid they’ll steel t but because it just doesn’t feel right to cycle on a year income bike. Also, it’s not the first time that people ask me to change bicycles. “Hey mista, like you bike!” Then I tell them I like their bike as well and then they get all serious about leaving my bicycle there so I can take theirs. Obviously, I’ve tried, I’ve tried many times but somehow their bicycles just don’t seem to fit.
Read more about Mark and his encounters with people and cultures around the world: Cycling For Stars.
Photo credits: Mark Koelen
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