Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Americycle and the Oniricycle....getting ready for the American roads

The curious piece of twisted metal visible in the photograph belong to the embryo of the Americycle, the vehicule in which I hope to complete the next leg of my round the world trip. Starting point will be Mar del Plata, my hometown in Argentina, with the goal flag waving in remote Alaska. The expedition is thought to last at least a year and a half.
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I began this round the world trip in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May, 1st 2005, the day I hitched a ride in a sailboat to Scotland. The first leg of the trip lasted 27 months, in which I exclusively hitch-hiked 70,000 km, encompassing 37 countries, and finished in Bangkok, Thailand. The aim of the first leg of the trip was to meticulously travel the Islamic World, with emphasis in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The consequence of that experience was Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, my last book, available from my online bookshop at http://www.acrobatoftheroad.com/ The book mirrors hospitality and everyday life in a region often described as evil by the establishment media.


I got back from that trip on July 20th, 2007, and today, almost two years later, I am Reddy to hit the road again. I invested all the time in the meanwhile in writing and publishing my first book professionally. Finding a publishing house for the Spanish edition was not easy, but I managed after the self published edition became a best seller at the 4th Mar del Plata Book Fair. Also, I travelled a bit in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, but not at the slow pace I am used to.


Now is time for big trips again. The plan: to travel America from Argentina to Alaska, starting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and roughly following Uruguayan and Brazilian coastlines. At some point, I envisage a detour into the Amazon region, before somehow taking in Suriname and the Guyanas. Venezuela and Colombia come naturally afterwards. From there, the obvious step would be to sneak in Panamá. Instead, Ecuador will be calling us from the South. I have a special and dear feel for Ecuador, a country for which I have developed an intuitive fraternity. Then it will be Central America’s turn, a strip to of land to discover while I climb up to Mexico, the U.S, Canada and Alaska. This time I will not travel alone. Juan Manuel will be riding his Oniricycle…

Hitch-hiking will not be the only mean of transportation involved this time. It is a hybrid trip! Movement along the main South to North route will happen in the Americycle. I will ride this fabulous machine between main cities dotting or itinerary. From these cities, I may unleash the fury of my thumb. Hey man, you can’t put an end to ten years for hitch-hiking just because you built a bike that looks funny! Briefly describe, the Americycle is a tall bike, a bike which height doubles that of a standard one. People ask us why are they so tall. They hope to find a practical reason for its weird shape, but truth is the Americycle is closer to a poem than to a mean of transportation.

The basic premise is: if a simple morphologic change in bicycle produces such astonishment, what can we expected from the alternatives to conventional society? If this is a bike, then imagine other revolutions… The variation in the outline aims to profit from the revolutionary potential of the absurd. From village to village and city to city thousands of eyes will be exposed to our mutant bicycles. In a way we are telling the,: hey, you know, things can be different! You don’t have to wait for the world to be changed; you can become active designer of your present day. Despite Hollywood cinema has trained us to believe that only the spectacular can withdraw an individual from his boring nine to five routine, simple awakenings can be more fruitful. The reordering of the same simple elements into a different figure is an act of insight. Look at the bike or look at society, the result is the same: discovery. Thus, the Americycle becomes a metaphor over wheels, a poetry powered vehicle. Besides this, the intriguing shape of the bike will deliver smiles as the continent unfolds, helping us therefore to make friends everywhere we set foot –or wheel- on.


Even though the Americycle has an exclusive design, the idea of tall bikes is almost a century old. The British are said to have invented them, as a gadget to train their colonial cavalry in camel races. Personally, I stumble upon this design in Capadoccia, Turkey, where I met the Cyclown Circus, a troupe of nine musicians and circus artists from different countries. The Cyclowns travelled the world performing their shows in streets, parks and bars ans selling their music in CD. I met them again in Kunming, China, and followed their steps onto Laos and Thailand, where I spent some time with them and even read some of my poetry in their shows. Back in Argentina, I decided to build my own tall bike, and there you have my Americycle!



This trip has diverse dimensions. Besides the objective fact of travelling and its derived pleasure, I always tend to elaborate cultural products based on each trip, such as this blog, the book and the pictures. Now, the project is to bring an itinerant photographic exhibition from village to village, from town to town, across the continent. An exhibition based on the everyday life and hospitality of the visited countries. We hardly oppose centralism in the matter of cultural divulgation. Big cities have always concentrated the arena for cultural activity in Latin America. Thus, our idea is to bring the exhibition to villages, small cities, and peripheral spaces of big urban hubs, such as humble neighbourhoods, suburbs, etc.

Bringing the world’s diversity to locations with scant access to cultural output is only one side of a coin. We are not philanthropic heralds of culture in a charity trip, not at all. There is an exchange going on. When I make a photographic exhibition about, let’s say, Middle East, in a village of Amazonia or a suburb of Caracas, I also expect to be able to photograph these people’s lifestyles. At some point, I may end up organizing a photo exhibition about South America in Middle East. The traveller becomes a bridge between the nations that host his steps.



Bringing the world’s diversity to locations with scant access to cultural output is only one side of a coin. We are not philanthropic heralds of culture in a charity trip, not at all. There is an exchange going on. When I make a photographic exhibition about, let’s say, Middle East, in a village of Amazonia or a suburb of Caracas, I also expect to be able to photograph these people’s lifestyles. At some point, I may end up organizing a photo exhibition about South America in Middle East. The traveller becomes a bridge between the nations that host his steps.



Well beyond the pragmatic, both the Americycle (my tall bike) and he Oniricycle (Juan Manuel’s tall bike) are provided with poem launchers. What is that? Even if the bikes themselves are urban interventions, we are planning to emphasize this aspect by shooting poetry from our bikes. We are currently designing some sot of device able to hurl a rolled poem several meters away. So far, several Internet searches have only shown us artefacts that shoot bullets and missiles, not poems. Here must be a million patented machines to shoot death, and not a single one that delivers poetry.



The other well kept secret about our weirdcycles is that, well, they are also postal vehicles! We propose a free inter American mail service, for anyone wanting to send a letter to any point in our itinerary. We are indeed in the process of designing our own stamps.



How are we planning to finance ourselves? As usual, I will be selling my self published books, containing travel stories. In this case, the star book is the fresh “Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan”. The exhibited pictures will also be, as usual, for sale, in 20x30 (A4) and 10x15 handmade postcard formats. Juan Manuel has not discard he possibility of charging curious a small fee for riding his Oniricycle, and may as well produce and sell his classic bonbons. In this sense, the striking appearance of the bikes is a good sales platform and a god starter for making friends. At this point, aesthetics become a junction where the philosophic and the pragmatic meet.

The blog will provide a systematic account of this adventure, both of the cycling and the hitch-hiking stages. As always, your complicity through comments and emails will be most appreciated. Those buying the book, of course, will become real sponsors of our vagabonding….

2 comments:

ümit said...

it was a great writing! i like all of your toughts, especially "the poet gun!" it is wonderful that you are able to finance your travel by selling books. i became an addict to this blog since i found it. i really wish that i would know spanish...
it may sound crayz a little bit but i wanna be on the roads just like you, and i will be, at least i hope so...

Best Regards.

Juan Villarino said...

Thanks a lot Umit for your words...
I promise there will be alot of action in the blog from August on... when I continue travelling...

I am still designing the poem gun.... Great you also think it is a good idea!

we keep in touch Arkadash,

Gule gule,

Juan