Monday, 24 May 2010


Between Montbeliard and Mulhouse on the Rhone-Rhein canal we had a whole day of rain, not too heavy but wet all the same. at five oclock I chose to keep on going past a decent camping spot because I didn't fancy a long evening in the damp.
Twenty km later no other spot presented itself until we saw an open hut with a couple of tables in and a campervan behind. Great, we could cook in the dry and there was even a patch of grass for the tent.
While we were still discussing our good fortune a leather hatted fellow rode in, sat down, took from his only bag a gas cooker, a tin of ravioli, two chocolate mooses and a packet of biscuits and said not a word nor looked in our direction.
Ah so! thought I, a real gentleman of the road, who intends also to shelter the night here and who seemed familiar with the establishment.

Reluctant to move on at this point in the evening I sidled over ant tried to open conversation.
By short bisyllabic answers I managed to draw out that yes he was going to lay his head here and cook his evening meal though with the locals being so tight and all, they had only parted with a few Euro's this day and his fare was pretty meagre, and that he had come from Allemagne that morning.

When asked if he would rather speak German a smile appeared in the mans eyes and he said this would be grand as his French was not so good. We had found our second piece of common ground.
I said we were staying here too, which was obvious, and was reccomended the patch of grass if we had a tent. He was going to sleep on the floor.
We invited Bruno to eat with us. Though what we had was not special we had at least enough and the ravioli might be needed in the future, depending.
With the invitation cautiously accepted the man was like a rusty tap turned on for the first time in a while. First a spattering of murky consonants, then a few coughed words reluctantly strung together, a clearish sentence and then a fluent stream of conversation rich in minerals of simple wisdom.

Fourty eight years on the road was our new friend, and though the timeline is, through his talking style and our inability to understand everything, a little hazy, most of this was spent on a bicycle. From Spain to Holland, Italy to Poland had our man travelled and he knew the best spots to sleep all through Western Europe.

I thought the Eurovelo 6, the cycleroute we are trying to follow from the Atlantic to the Black sea would be full of well equiped money in the bank types like us on holiday. The route however follows often long established paths used for years by foot and bike tramps to travel the continent without being pushed into the ditch by the ever increasing car traffic.

We had also met Frank in Dole. Three years underway with his cheap bike and tent who had just come up the Rhone from the south of France to try and earn some money in Germany before continuing on to Asia. Rainer also, 30 years underway, sadly we didn't get to hear many of his tales as we had to push on that day.

Bruno had stomach ulsers and found it hard to digest my spaghetti dinner. He took it with him the next day as he said it was a pity for food to go to waste though I think he was only beeing polite. The chocolate spread sandwich I offered for breakfast went down better, 'Anything with chocolate in is good!' said he with a smile. The banana and greek yoghurt went away in his pack.

'Do you find the cuckoos get on your nerves sometimes' we were asked.
You know, sometimes they do when sleeping out.
' I sometimes think I am like a cuckoo's child, I don't really know where I came from, my parents or anything and never seemed to fit in.'

At some point there was a woman and a tracktor and trailor and begging diesel. There was eating the lemons straight off the trees in Spain, 'better than oranges'. There was a night with new met friends and a fire and chickens and beer. Good times.

We talked alot about the price of food in Germany and France. Germany we agreed was cheaper but the winters were damn cold. We shared our bottle of wine (1.56 Euro, a litle bottle from ED supermarche. Red) and when Bruno produced a mouthorgan we sang the first verse of a number of songs and a good evening was had. I professed a longing to learn the harmonica as it would be good to learn on our trip and not too heavy.
'If you really want to learn it you can have one of mine' said Bruno
'I have two, a C and a G. I prefer the C so you can have the G. I only have one mouth so I don't need them both'.
Laughing eyes.
I said maybe when we meet again we could play a tune together.
'we won't meet again in this life my friend'
Something knowing in the eyes I cannot read. Perhaps alot of past and acceptance of not much future.
'This is my last trip, I'm headin' for the Cote d'Azur and staying there in the warm, maybe the Camargue, alot of Gypsies there, good people, I speak there language'.

We talk about Bruno alot Anja and I and laugh as we think of him happy in the south somewhere sucking lemons and rubbing margerine into his hat.

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