Meaux – Eiffel Tower, via Montreuil (58km)
21 riders. Average speed 13.4km/h. Time pedalling 4h22min
We made it and it feels amazing. Our ride to Paris is done and we´re incredibly happy to have made it the whole way safely and having bonded as a group in a special way!
An extremely early start to the day meant a breakfast table short on conversation, but despite slow talk, we succeeded getting packed, fixing an overnight slow puncture, cleaning the accommodation and getting on the road well before the sun had come up. We were in high spirits rolling out of Meaux and enjoyed the scenes crossing the Marley overlooking the town. As we left the town we escaped a main road to take a slightly longer route with less traffic. We were treated to a gorgeous sunrise to our right, which lit up frosty fields and began warming our chilly fingers and toes.
We made it to the Canal de l’Ourcq, which was our path into the capital. We´ve noticed in France that we don´t see too many other cyclists, unless they are out for the leisure/sporting purposes. The Canal it was busy with sporty cyclists, almost exclusively men, going slightly quicker than our group´s pace. With less than 10km to go we couldn´t resist copying a Tour de France tradition by drinking something sparkling on our approach into Paris. So along the Canal we sipped fizzy wine purchased for less than €1.50 a bottle from an incredibly random assortment of receptacles. Classy and hilarious. It was barely 11am and who knows what the locals thought.
Group energy reached crescendo as we entered Montreuil, singing, chanting and holla-ing loudly over the last few km. We had a couple of difficult junctions to navigate and some road closures forced detours, but our early start granted us ample time to arrive at the People´s Climate Summit for midday. And what a sweet moment (literally, there was cake) our arrival was, as a band – who were about to set off on their parade but had been commandeered by BUND Jugend played “Oh when the saints go marching in”. Sheer joy and not many dry eyes. We relished our common satisfaction and achievement with hugs all round and high fives. People gathered around to hear our story and offer their congratulations.
We ate lunch and checked out the incredibly diverse, interesting and well organised event in Montreuil. The People´s Climate summit / Alternatiba Global Village is a weekend conference and fair that has 11 thematic zones on climate issues and over 20 parallel sessions of talks and workshops. The program is staggeringly jammed packed with a whole load of the biggest names in the international climate movement and we´re excited to participate in it.
After a couple of hours in the Alternatiba Global Village (with plans to return on the Sunday) we went onwards to the city centre so that members of the group could part ways. We bid farewell to lovely Ulrich at the Bastille, before riding on the Eiffel Tower for pictures and to wish Issac very warmly on his way. Under the Eiffel Tower was a suitably sentimental place to part ways, and we relished the peculiar dissonance between our purpose and this phallic homage to industrialism…
Looking back, it certainly feels epic: Over 22 days we cycled 1400km through 5 countries; We ate meals together in settings that ranged from squats to church halls; We intimately shared our lives with each other, bonding as a team both on the road and emotionally; We connected in solidarity with local activists, enthusiasts, stalwarts, professionals and mavericks; We showed opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure; We met so many people who have shown us such enormous generosity; We got sick and tired, and then cared for each other; We laughed so much our ribs were sore and sang till we couldn´t breath; We planned, organised, checked temperatures, proposed, voted, indicated, changed plans, briefed, navigated, scouted and detoured; We sweated our way up big hills, with those who had reached the top first running down to give the trailers a push up; We felt an “unconditional comradeship” with one other; We smiled, hugged, high-fived and winked; We made pedestrians stare, children gawp and cars honk (a single truck driver spit..); We symbolically connected the failure of COP15 with the hope of COP21; We saw that this world is a beautiful place and showed that we care about it; We showed that the commitment to change is strong and that alternatives are possible, if we choose to work towards them…
We´d like to take the opportunity to thank our readers for taking the time to follow these updates and for being with us along the way. To date, the content of this blog has essentially been a travel diary with little, if any, bearing on the COP or climate issues. This reflects the Cooperide itself as an all-consuming experience for riders. If the scope of writing has been insular, perhaps even trivial, then it´s because we wanted to create a shareable blog to keep our friends and family in the loop and to have a detailed record of our trials and tribulations for ourselves.
This trip is over but our journey is only getting started. And ours is only a tiny part of a much larger, more important and increasingly trepidatious story about the struggle to save the future of this place we humans call home. Now that we´ve arrived in Paris, our attention as a group turns outwards to what´s going on in Paris right now and to what needs to be done if we´re to avert the climate crises turning into an all out catastrophe. So over the coming week we´ll be posting pieces on this blog in relation to climate policy and the COP process. We are eternally grateful to all those who enabled us to make this trip and hope to carry the positivity of our ride into Paris and beyond.