Brussel – Mons (68km)
14, became 13, became 12 riders and another group behind of 5. Average speed 13,1 km/h. Time pedalling 4h41
After I [Petra] waved the Cooperiders goodbye in Copenhagen two weeks ago, everyone was full of energy and physically in good shape, happy to finally start this journey. When I met the riders again in Brussels, I could notice a difference. Not in regard to the great and warm energy they carry with them, but I did notice a difference in the level of feeling physically exhausted. I could read tiredness on the faces and bodies of the riders. However, I also see the dedication and the energy that people still have to make this ride all the way to Paris!
But, the physical exhausting also meant today some people had to make the decision to listen to their bodies and take a rest. There is no point ignoring sickness or physical injuries and by taking a day (or two) of rest we hope they´ll be able to join again on a later stage. Not an easy but wise decision. Probably also the right one, as it was for sure not an easy ride today.
We started the day by saying goodbye to two of our fellow riders: Ronja and Sebastian, two great and dedicated companions, who have been of great support for the group. After an emotional goodbye, we had to get on our bikes. Five of us left to do an action for the Climate Games (see below) and fourteen of us directly hit the road to Mons. Rain was falling out of the sky heavily as we left and the drizzle stayed with us throughout the day. Before we´d made it more than a couple of kilometres, Christoph´s knee let me him know that should also take the day off, so he wheeled around to make those remaining in Brussels a group of 3.
The rain, headwind and rather hilly landscape made the route challenging. Luckily we were warmly welcomed with soup made from vegetables out of the garden at our lunch stop by an old couple. This delicious meal filled us with renewed energy to make it all the way to Mons. They also incredibly kindly offered a lift to one of our group who felt the afternoon´s distance was beyond their available energy.
We had to face some challenges during the second part of the day. A flat tire and lost glasses on the way provided some delay, meaning that we had to cycle the last part in the dark. But we did it with good energy! Around 18 we arrived in Mons where we stayed overnight at the university. We were welcomed with a great dinner and a screening of the film “The Age of Stupid” with some of the students connected to the Belgian Green Party . We ended this with a good discussion and were once again amazed at the level to which people are willing to host us.
Taking part in Climate Games, 5 of our riders spent the morning in Brussels doing a spot of Brandalism. We choose to target the automobile giant Volkswagen, who have been caught red handed cheating their emissions test. On the premise of helping out the advertising campaign for their latest product, we visited a couple of their dealerships and helped them out by distributing some of their posters in the city. For a really good explanation of how the automobile industry lobbies to dilute regulation on emissions, we´d recommend you see the documentary Bikes vs Cars.
Not leaving Brussels till after midday, we had to ride extra hard to catch up with the rest of the group. Fortunately there was still food left when they made it to Mons!
Thank you to all those who´ve been in touch with messages of support and concern regarding our recent difficulties on the road, it feels great to have you behind us! Our perseverance continues despite the weather in Belgium being against us and our collective fatigue. No-one of us entered the Cooperide thinking it would be an experience lacking intensity (good luck thinking about climate change for a couple of weeks straight and not getting intense!). So it might be a bit of a roller-coaster and we are certainly facing challenges, but we´re pulling together to support one another, having incredible experiences along the way and, above all, prioritising each other´s well-being and safety.
Special shout out to all those who made it on a Climate march over the weekend! Pictures from all the events were super inspiring.
And welcome into the world baby Kaj, our newest friend in Copenhagen. We´re doing this for you little guy. Huge congratulations Anna & Jeppe!