I arrive in Brazil after sailing across the Atlantic. I am invited to Brasilia, the capital, where the administration and politics of the country are located. Which is good since I chose to go to Brazil to study and document the changes with this new government.
Chance of things, I arrive just at the time of the ATL (Acampamento Terra Livre) the gathering of the natives on the esplanade of the ministries, which takes place every year since 2004 to demonstrate for their rights which have been violated since this land was invaded by settlers. It was during this first edition in 2004 that the APIB (Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) was created, which coordinates all the defense and indigenous struggle of Brazil.
So I was able to bathe directly in this reality. Touched by these injustices and this constant pressure they are living, I decide that with my time in Brazil, I will do my best to support their cause.
Beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease is spreading around the world and fear is spreading. The Embassy of France in Brazil invites the French to return, I choose to stay to live this difficult period with the Brazilians.
Soon after, the disease reached remote indigenous villages, brought in first by the government and then by employees of the mega-company JBS, the world’s largest meat producer. APIB launches plan “Emergencia Indigena” (Indigenous emergency) to deal with the situation.
On top of that, the government withdrew funds from IBAMA, the armed police that protects the Amazon rainforest and fights against deforestation and illegal gold mining (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources). Now it is these artisanal miners, cattle ranchers and soybean producers who are armed. They intimidate the natives, burn their houses, destroy their forest and murder their greatest representatives.
Beginning of 2021
Following the announcement that my little sister was pregnant, I reconsider my decision never to fly again and I return to France without announcing it to surprise her. When we met we both broke down in tears, it had been over 2 years since we had seen each other. Shortly after, the beautiful little Florentine arrived in the world to bring us a big change. Much wonder, of course, and a joy that cannot be described. But also a lot of responsibility and duty of commitment because we know today clearly that the climate is racing and therefore these children, despite the privileges they have of being born in France, will not know adults, the stability we know.
Shortly after the band Gojira, of international notoriety, which can be classified as “Conscious Metal” because they have been committed to humans and the environment since their beginnings (in particular support for Sea Shepherd which defends the oceans) launches its “Operation Amazonia”. With the production of a music video whose profits will go to the APIB and the launch of a crowdfunding campaign for the same organization.
They succeed in mobilizing the entire world metal community, musicians from the world’s largest groups offer their instruments which are put up for auction. They raise over $ 300,000 for the APIB!
Taken with emotion by the incredible beauty of this gesture and energized by the intensity of the music, I learn that they are currently in France and I decide that I would go to meet them, by bike, to be consistent with the environmental discourse and because to realize dreams it takes a little effort.
Their pot having ended, I decided to launch mine that I would also donate to the APIB:Participate in the pot
A friend lends me a bike, let’s go on an adventure!
Day 1: Niort -> La Rochelle – 90km
Knowing that the objective was to arrive at a strong place in energy, the beach of Ondres, where the members of Gojira grew up, with the power of the waves of the south of the Landes and the majesty of the trees, I decided to take the start of another powerful and beautiful place: the natural cemetery of Souché in Niort, the first natural cemetery in France. This is where my mother and my older brother rest. It is the only place in the world to which I am deeply attached. A perfectly exceptional place because it is a place that overflows with life, for the dead. Which has two very important aspects.
First of all, the human side. Our body returns directly to the earth and for the people who remain, the presence of trees, which have the virtue of doing us good thanks to phytoncides (study by the Tokyo School of Medicine), brings a very lightness. strong value in the face of the weight of mourning. Also, spending time in a cemetery like this allows us to realize the reality of death which makes us realize the beauty and value of life.
Then, the natural side. Instead of having a space of artificialization of the ground by concrete, granite and gravel paths. We have a space for regenerating the soil and maintaining local biodiversity through the diversity of trees, wild flowers, grassy alleys and areas of wild grass.
I spent a lot of time there and took pictures. I used this tool to communicate with my mother. I showed her the beauty that surrounded her, through my eyes. As I did before with my travel images. I have a book project with these images and reflections around the relationship between life, death and nature.
Rainy start, happy start!
Photos de Romuald Goudeau
For this happy start, I had the chance to have the presence of my father, my photographer friend who lent me the bike and an elected municipal official who participated in the creation of the cemetery and who has an interest in the defense of the environment and therefore of the Amazon.
To plan my route I used the Francevelotourisme website which shows all the cycle paths in France
The course was for me a deep moment of reconnection, because I passed through the Marais Poitevin, the region where I grew up and where I spent a lot of time when I was a guide taking people for a boat ride. So a lot of magical places that I hadn’t seen for a long time and that I discovered with a new look.
First day on the bike and already a big problem: It’s too beautiful!
I had to stop everywhere to fully appreciate the beauty in front of me and to take pictures. With the rain there was a very gentle atmosphere that prevailed and a deep liveliness of the greenery. I marvel at all these little details that make this region unique.
I accompanied my pedal strokes with music. For this first day I made the complete Gojira. I sent thoughts to make that I succeed in finding them in Ondres and thoughts to the indigenous peoples of Brazil who at that moment were struggling in Brasilia with the hope that my fund would be successful to support them.
Arrived in La Rochelle, it is pure joy. Review this city that I love, where I studied and worked for 4 years and where I have lived many stories. But this trip from Niort to La Rochelle that I have done so many times by car, this time I had just done it by bike and it is incomparable. There I had just had a wonderful experience, breathing the fresh air and discovering many treasures.
Rest in La Rochelle
I was greeted by a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a long time so I decided to spend a day enjoying his company and La Rochelle in the summer.
La Rochelle -> Rochefort – 35km
The weather is nice and I have to cover a short distance, so I put full throttle on. In addition, I have the sea air and the wind at my back. Of the cycle path all the way with the Vélodyssée with only flatness which means that I did not stop, except when I saw a book box with a bicycle
First night in Warmshower and direction the village near Cognac where my sister, my brother-in-law and my nephew are – ~ 100km
This meeting came to confirm all the good that I had heard from this community of cyclo-travelers. It had already been many years that I had experienced this magnificent phenomenon of being hosted by locals and welcoming at home thanks to Couchsurfing (which has lost its soul since the site became paid). But there I was going to discover the version where there are cyclists who welcome cyclists. And so, no surprise, it is a couple committed in their professional life as much as personal in the protection of the environment. We spent the evening discussing our visions of the world and our plans to participate at our level in the changes we want to see.
The next day, they accompanied me by bike to the Demoiselle radio station where I was expected for an interview.
I then continued my journey with always the joy of getting on the bike to spend my day pedaling
As I was making a quick snack stop, I noticed a gentleman who seemed nice and genuine to me, so I got to have a conversation with a local character.
I arrived in Saintes a bit late to find something to eat, but I was extremely lucky to find a small eco-responsible restaurant that was closing (Veg’eat). The lady agreed to serve me. They make vegan dishes with local and seasonal products. And in addition they provide packaging that is compostable! The top!
I took the road again and it is a few tens of kilometers further, while I was passing through a protected natural area that I had the right to a somewhat funny and adventurous situation. I was doing this route following the signs, but at one point I must have misunderstood and I took the wrong path. It led me to a path that was getting smaller and smaller. Until I cross a small footbridge and then arrive in a field of tall grass. I went all the way around hoping to find an exit that would bring me back to the track. Except that no, the field was surrounded by water and I arrived at the footbridge that I had taken. A little disappointed I leave and that’s when I discover that I had lost my headphones! I thought there was no way I could find them in those tall grass. But I found it so silly to fight against the use of plastic and collect the waste of others to leave waste in the middle of a protected area. So I went all around the field upside down. And I found the headphones!
Jour 5 – Rest with famille
Day 6 – Heading to Libourne – ~90km
After a good part on the departmental roads of Charentes where I was able to have a reminder of the difficulty of pedaling in full sun with some cars that are not careful, I joined the Scandibérique (the French part of EuroVelo 3 , connecting Trondheim in Norway to Santiago de Compostela in Spain).
On arrival on the track, it was like a heavenly motorway for biking. With trees all around which provide much appreciated shade.
I continued to collect waste, including a lot of surgical masks that tear quickly to spread small pieces of plastic everywhere, even on these trails which are only accessible by bike.
And in this very green context, I was able to have my mind carried by positive and inspiring thoughts thanks to a few episodes of the Emergences podcast.
Just as my stomach sang the call for the meal, I found a roadside restaurant that brought me a nice little dish with ease that allowed me to continue my journey until I joined my new Warmshowers hosts that I had contacted the day before and who had told me “We will not be there when you arrive, we will leave you the hidden keys”! It is beautiful the confidence in this community of cyclists.
Visit of a landfill and sorting center with my Warmshowers‘ host
My hosts did the Silk Road in tandem. On the Pamir road in Kyrgyzstan, they crossed paths with an exceptional bitch “Chop” who followed them to France!
They therefore returned to a more sedentary lifestyle, but with the tandem and the bikes always close for small and big adventures. And of adventures, they had just started one of the greatest that one can live, that of being a parent. Their baby was born shortly before my nephew. So I stayed in the baby too cute context.
She, working in the local waste management community, invited me to an event they were organizing for a citizens’ conference to rethink waste management. So I was able to discover the hidden side of our bins.
The day began with a presentation of the global context of the reality of waste with many statistics. The quantities are phenomenal and the costs are just as much …
Anything that is not recycled or composted, considered non-dangerous and non-recoverable, is “upgraded” by the multinational Veolia in a landfill center hidden away from view in the forest where there are gigantic basins. They receive around 120 trucks, between 1,500 and 1,800 tonnes per day. These racks have on the bottom a volume of clay of one meter, then a waterproofing geotextile, then an anti-puncture geotextile and finally at the bottom of the bin a layer of pebbles to bring back the water. There is a low point which allows the liquid to be pumped for further processing. Once filled, the bin is covered with earth and then they will install outlet valves on the surface to capture the “biogas” from the transformation of the waste. These gases will then be transformed into electrical energy which is sold then thermal energy which is used to heat a mega greenhouse of tomatoes.
Then we went to the Smicval sorting center, the waste management union for the Libourne region which is organizing this event and which is committed to a zero waste approach with a whole set of innovative solutions.
What emerges from this visit is that recycling does not work miracles, the waste that we proudly throw in the yellow trash will remain a pollution and a cost.
The best waste is the one that we do not produce
But for that, it’s a whole path of transition and learning, so the best solution is education. Through access to information, visiting these places and practicing with zero waste workshops. And the Smicval is doing a remarkable job with this conference and regular visits to schools.
It will also be noted that these professionals in the collection and management of waste have a profession which has the most work accidents in France. So it is in everyone’s interest to reduce our waste production.
Day 11 – Libourne -> Villagrain – ~80km
After a few days of rest, I am in great shape to hit the road. It will be a day with mainly departmental roads and a lot of intense sun. Lots of vines at the start, with big chateaux and roadside beer cans, then our inseparable friends, the masks. And finally I would find a part of Scandibérique with the forests of pines and ferns which will bring me a good dose of internal pleasure seeing that I approach my goal.
I will be greeted again by a gentleman from Warmshowers in his sixties with many life experiences including many ups and downs in entrepreneurship.
Day 12 – Gujan-Mestras – ~70km
I thanked my host for his welcome and I took again the joy of cycling in Gironde with mainly beautiful track. That day, I had plenty of time to stop and pick up the trash and I think I broke my mask picking record.
I passed by a highway with traffic jams. It was with a descent, I was in the middle of a burst of joy listening to great music and pedaling hard. Irony of contrasting situations.
Having arrived early, I took the opportunity to go see the ocean, the strong element around this project. With the Gojira who are connected to it and who are committed to its protection, then the connection to the peoples on the other side of the Atlantic. And like in many places, my crate calls out and provokes great encounters.
That evening I was going to be hosted by a Gojira fan who invited me to a Facebook group. It was the first time that she had welcomed a stranger into her home. We got along very quickly and she quickly became comfortable. A strong moment because we share the same admiration for these characters, the music they make and the magnitude of their impact with the message they pass.
Vielle-Saint-Girons – 120km
A very intense day. I decided to make a stop at the Dune du Pilat, a natural wonder. And it is a special day, because it is the date of the 3 years of the departure of my big brother. So I wanted to pay him homage at the top of this dune, facing the ocean. I had to make a little physical effort to get on the bike with very bright sunshine. But again I was energized by Gojira’s music. On the top of the dune I sang the tune of the song “The Chant” which is a kind of hymn of solidarity towards the oppressed peoples.
In this clip, they talk about the cultural genocide of the Nepalese people:
On the way, a little before Biscarosse, the track takes us through a magnificent piece of forest with small climbs and descents accompanied by bends. Big fun!
Arrival in Ondres! 60km
After a night spent with friends of friends I hit the road happier than ever. The home stretch before reaching Ondres Beach and the start of the Gojira Guys Meet Quest.
So I continued to descend the Landes through the forests on the Velodyssée with the good fresh ocean air and the sound of the waves.
In a gust of wind, I finally arrived at Ondres beach! She was waiting for me with very nice waves. I had just concluded this mini cycling adventure with only positive things to remember. The time to soak my feet in the water and recover from my emotions, I started talking to the locals to find out if some would know how I was going to be able to meet the Gojira.
I was recommended to go to PMU (typical local pub). From there I was given the information to go to the house where the Duplantier brothers grew up. I went there and I first discovered this place of which I had seen some images in the clip “Low Lands” which had fed my imagination.
I stopped for a moment in front of this view, these trees, this atmosphere, this universe in which the Duplantiers grew up. I took a deep breath, then walked forward. To find this house, where I met their father with whom we had a nice cordial exchange, I told him about the project behind my coming, without asking him anything, then at the end he explained to me that ‘he was instructed not to give out the contact details of his children.
What I obviously understood. I thanked him for his kindness, then I left. I stopped at the exit, because inside I was a little disappointed. I was hopeful that this meeting would bring me closer to my goal. After a moment of questioning, I told myself that it was by moving forward that things come true. So I got back on the bike and walked forward. Direction PMU, where a cold beer would bring me the good I needed. But just before I got there I saw the youth center which was open and I went to say hello.
I discovered that they were distributing food for young people in difficulty. After a moment when I was able to gather some information that would perhaps bring me closer to my goal, the manager invited me to follow him by bike to Bayonne where he lives in a collaborative habitat, from where there would surely be inhabitants happy to welcome me. We arrived and I met this amazing woman who left her apartment open for me as she was leaving.
The time that my investigation bears fruit and the stars align, I decided to go and discover the great initiatives of Bayonne. For that I took a look in the Guide Tao, which lists 2000 ideas and addresses for committed travel in France. A small business of which my friend Nicolas Breton is part of the team. He is an exceptional traveler who wrote a little book that I love: Hors des sentiers battus (French)
Txirrind’ola – Bike workshop
It is the incredible community of Bayonne that comes together in one place to promote the use of bicycles in the city by facilitating the maintenance and repair of bicycles.
Cycling is good for the city … Even for those who don’t!
They collect a bundle of bicycles, from which they take what can be used to make roadworthy bicycles. They recycle unused metal, sell bicycles to members at low cost, donate to associations that help migrants and other people in difficulty. Children’s bikes can be swapped out up to the 24 inch size. They offer student bike loans as well as bike tagging to fight theft. And they organize “vélorutions”, festive parades on bicycles decorated for the occasion, ringing bells, making it possible to claim the full place of cycling in the city, to show the joy associated with this gentle mode of travel. And they use the local currency Eusko!
In short, brilliant! Long live the bike. Well done.
Otsokop – The cooperative and participatory supermarket
A place to actively regain control of our consumption. By becoming a cooperator, we embark on a human and collective adventure. In full transparency, decisions are taken together on which products to sell and at what price. So we know exactly everything about what we are buying. They mainly favor organic and local products, then they have a few basic non-organic products so that they can also offer very low costs.
The minimum subscription to Otsokop is 10 shares of € 10, or € 100. This is a one-time investment, repayable if you leave the cooperative.
Beneficiaries of social minima, young people under 26 and people performing civic service, can subscribe for only € 10 / eusko.
Then the cooperators participate for 3 hours per month in various tasks of the store.
On this bike, for over 400km I sang, sang and sang. To the sound of Gojira, to make my support heard for the people of the Amazon and all those other people who are suffering.
My little birds heard me and went to whistle in the ears of the members of the group that I vibrated loudly thanks to them in the same sense as their commitments to defend the living.
I had the pleasure of living with Christian Andreu, the guitarist of the group, a moment of sharing and work on this organic market gardening land.
I was able to discover a little more about the human being behind this emblematic character who, with his colleagues, has been offering us for 25 years a music and a strong message that unites us and reminds us that we are part of a whole that we must protect.
I was delighted to see that outside of his life as a musician he is in the fight for food sovereignty as well as healthy and engaged eating.
I found a brother of heart in him. And the same for him in me.
We hugged each other and said goodbye.
I gave him the energy of those kilometers by bike and years of committed wandering for humans and nature.
He gave me the energy of those years giving my all on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
And we are going to use this conjunction of positive force to keep moving forward.
Back on my bike, I shed a few golden tears, of the beauty of what I had just experienced.
Continuez à croire en vous et en vos rêves.
Your life matters.