Walk with me!

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Yes we camp!

somebody called me a cowboy nomad

Day 55 (3). Almost home, always home.

et voila
paris. last 5 km through the heart of it to join my comrades
a lot of trash on the road today to fold into boats
strange treasures
an ultrasound photo, a small house, a cheque for €400
people are taking photos of me
i got so used to my second skin that i forgot what i look like

Day 55 (2). The things that kept me safe.

I am about to start my last walking day, another 20+ kilometers to Paris. For 55 days I was accompanied by things that kept me safe and sound: souvenirs for the road, tokens, given to me by friends. They worked well.
Thank you all, also the people who sent me poems, texts, music, money, warm wishes, thought of me while wallking and all the kind people on the road who received me with open arms.

Day 55 (1). The walk is never over.

It is 5 ´o clock, I open my window to get some fresh air. The parking lot is dark, the lights of the playing hall have gone. Clouds, but some stars are visible. The Great Hunter is out of sight.
I laugh out loud. Not so loud the sound will reach the stars but loud enough for the first birds to hear it.
There is nobody out there, only the giant woman on the billboard in her black and white summer dress, advocating "unexpected shopping", whatever that is.
A thought crosses my mind. The thought that I should be sad that my walking is almost over. But I don´t feel sad. I feel like laughing. The walk is never over.
A first early car drives by. Then two more. I close my window and sit on my bed. I am still fully dressed, I fell asleep in my suit on top of the covers. In my Soft Armour.
It kept me save all the way and it will keep me save during the fight in Paris. A peaceful fight for a cleaner world with more attention for people, nature. A world where we take more time for things. 
I don´t think we will win in the long run but it doesn´t matter. As long as we can, we have to fight.


Day 54 (2). Magic stockings.

The new socks I bought the day before for €2,- served a different cause than I had planned them for. It wasn´t too cold but I put them on anyway, the three pairs I had with me all had a hole in the same spot, left foot, big toe. I had planned to repair them, just like I had planned to repair my suit, but I hadn´t found the time to do it. I mainly bought them to keep my legs from freezing though.

I walked along some highways, through a small city, took a break at a busstop and was quite keen on walking through the last forest before I would enter the cities spread around and stuck onto Paris.

Just before I entered the forest a man on a bike stopped me. I had seen him before when I was taking a break on the bench at the busstop and he had asked if I needed directions. Now he told me to be very careful because part of the forest wasn´t safe, not even during daytime. "Do you see how people only drive in that direction in their cars and nobody walks there? Not even on a Sunday afternoon?" It had indeed struck me and my last host had also warned me for this forest but he had only talked about not sleeping on its edges at night. "There are junkies and prostitutes out there," the man said, "and you wouldn´t be the first one that got robbed." He told me that although he lived at the other side of the forest and there was a straight road running through it, he always took the detour around it.

There was no way I could make a detour but I didn´t feel comfortable entering the forest. There was a lot of trash and indeed a big amount of empty condom wrappers. People passed me in cars, probably to drive to a safe parking area and stroll around from there.

I had already packed my solar panel and taken off my headphones and thought about the things that would really mess up my walk if they would get stolen. I imagined somebody robing me would take my small bag with all my valuable items and possibly check my pockets.

Then I remembered my warm winter stockings, reaching up all the way to my knees. I put my small wallet with my creditcard, bankcard and the biggest part of my money in the left one, leaving some money and the bankcard for the account I never use and has little money on it in my pocket to convince a possible bad guy that there was nothing more to search for. My passport and the few jewellery items I am always wearing - a necklace with a round glass ball and two rings, a silver one that has been there for over 30 years and a golden one that has been on somebody else´s finger for more than 60 years - in the right one. I took the SD card from my camera and stuck it in one of the stockings as well.

It wasn´t too uncomfortable and even when I reached the part of the forest where happy families and single women with small dogs were comfortably wandering around, I left things the way they were.

There was no possibility to sleep outside anymore this close to Paris. I had sent out some couch surfing requests but hadn´t received any answers.

The man behind the counter in the Lemon Hotel didn´t blink his eyes when I reached under my trouser legs to find my passport and money.

Day 54. Laughing out loud.

It is the small things that make me smile. 
And I shouldn't write now, I should walk, the day is short and there are many kilometers to go but sometimes it is important to share here, to take the time, grab it. 
I am in a busstop, I always aim for a bench to take a small break, to rest my tired shoulders, to eat. Three kids ran by on the other side, talking, playing. They came back on my side of the street, they walked over to me and the smallest one, maybe 6 or 7, told me that there would be no busses today. A simple act of kindness. I smiled and told them it was ok, that I was walking anyway. They ran on, enjoying each others company and I found myself laughing out loud. It happens now and then and I should do that more, we should do that more.
Shortly after a man on a bike stopped because he thought I was lost and he wanted to help me. 
Most people on the road are kind. Not always. The man I talked to earlier - an official guard at a barred entrance - when I had to walk through a holiday park to get to the small track just outside the park, denied me access, even when I told him it would mean a big detour along the highway, because there was no other way to cross. I told him I had been walking for more than 50 days, that my bag was heavy, that I was doing it for a good cause. He didn't care so I walked the same way back I had walked yesterday in the dark when at 6 I decided it was too cold and I was too tired to enter the forest and look for a place to put up my tent. That meant a detour already but also the promiss of a shower and a soft bed.
Those highway hotels are strange places, but they are a good choice when you try to live with little money. Here, closer to Paris, it is more expensive though but I've been so careful with my money and I had so many gifts from people, that it was ok for one night. Ibis or Campanille? It was tempting to choose the Campanille hotel which was a little more expensive but offered more and had water cookers in the rooms so I could make tea and coffee and noodle soup. Normally I ask for a discount when I check into a hotel but this time I didn't. It didn't feel right and it is difficult anyway with big hotel chains.
The lady behind the counter had a smile as if she enjoyed her life. I smiled as well, being happy to sleep in a room. And when she gave me the key, when I had told her I was looking forward to be warm and clean after another tough day, she asked me if I had eaten and she brought me tea and apple juice and a sandwich. She was curious about my walk, about my cause, she asked what was the biggest environmental issue and I told her that at the COP21 they focus on global warming and CO2 emission but that the real problem lies deeper, is about people in power, people with money, but also a lot of people on the street, not caring about each other, not caring about the world.
The room was great, I tried to watch some news on tv but the commercials were everywhere and I had a lot of administration to do. It is also because of that, that I pay for accomodation now and then. In the cold dark nights outside I can do nothing but hide in my sleeping bag.
When I checked out the woman with the smile was there again. Tricia Robinson. She gave me a special discount on the room and asked the cook to make me a sandwich for the road. A big one.


Day 51. Another good day

I smoked a cigarette in the small frosty field in the middle of the forest before I left. My fingers in the fingerless gloves were too cold to tipp of the ashes. I changed to proper gloves when I finished it. My bed was packed. I took a last look at my shelter under a big pine tree that had kept me warm at night. I tried to post from there earlier when I woke up in the dark, but my internet was too weak. I'll attach it under this report.
I proceed slower than I want, Paris is calling but I also want to spend time in the world I am walking through, with the people I meet. The Fontainebleau forest was beautiful and asked for some proper attention. Old trees, massive rocks. I spend some time with a big group of hikers who shared their tea and cookies with me. Hot tea! 
Yesterday I walked around in the gardens around the enormous chateau in Fontainebleau. It took me a while to find an entrance that wasn't locked. Extra security measures, I guess because of the Paris attacks. A guard came after me to ask if he could check my bag. I smiled and said yes. It contains food, plastic garbage bags to pack my things in at night and lots of dirty paper McDonalds bags and empty cigarette packs I will use to fold into paper boats.
Today I walked through Barbizon, where many painters lived and worked, Millet among others. Apparently Robert Louis Stevenson was there as well. A fancy hotel in the entrance of the village had his name painted on its wall, saying he had stayed there to make his forest notes. Two years ago I walked in Stevenson´s footsteps on the road he walked and wrote about at the end of the 19th century in his "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes". I walked in to ask if I could drink a coffee there and I could but the waiter, who had taken a careful look at me, warned me that it was €5,-. I laughed and told him it was a pity that somebody who travels on foot like Stevenson had couldn´t afford drinking a coffee in the place where he had stayed. I asked for traces of Stevenson or books, but they didn´t have anything, just a small photo of him on the wall. They apparently didn´t really care for Stevenson, just for his name to attract the attention of tourists.
The coffee was expensive everywhere in Barbizon so I drank a small one. To be able to sit down in a warm place and write this. Before I get back on the road on this beautiful autumn day. Cold but beautiful.
(same day, 7 a.m.)
I am writing this under the morning moon in the Fontainebleau forest. I slept under a big pine tree on a soft needle bed. It is too cold for my hands to type in the morning air so I use my sleepingbag as a cave, pulling it over my head, typing inside. Paris is getting closer, only 4 or 5 walking days left. Just in time, my body is getting tired of the walking, my back doesn't like all the paper boats and dozens of stones I added to my already heavy bagpack. My arms don't function well and my knees are protesting but I will rest them once I arrived. People write me they worry about me but they shouldn't, worrying is a waist of energy. I am safe and warm and tired and happy.
I will wait for the light to pack and thank the forest for keeping me safe. I will eat the fruits a kind host gave me yesterday after she made me lunch, a couchsurfing host who invited me the night before to sleep at her place, but since I had already found a bed - I slept well and ate a wonderful pasta and talked until late with my other host - I had to decline her offer. She was still on my route though so she invited me for lunch. She told me I could come back any time, also at night if I wouldn't find a place to sleep in Paris.
My wonderful Paris accomodation in a bookshop in the centre fell through, but I will join the activists in the tent village not too far from the centre. A straw bed in a cold tent, warm showers, a heated communal space, warm meals in the evening. That is luxury already. And there will be many people to talk with, walk with, act with, fight for awareness and change with.
But first I have to get up and walk through the forest. It looks like it is going to be another good day.


Day 49. Goosebumps. (A meeting with Albert Camus).

I bumped into Camus when I walked out of the cafe in Villeblevin. I wondered what he was doing there. It was a tiny village where nothing happened and I couldn´t image people would even read Camus there. There should be a good reason why he was there.

There wasn´t enough time to think about a translation for the sentence on the monument since I had decided to catch a train in the next village and I was late already. I wouldn´t be able to cover the more than 38 kilometers to my couchsurfing host today and my tired body needed a proper bed for the night.

I took some quick photos, rushed along the road with my heavy backpack, fast cars passing me. A man driving into the other direction stopped to ask me if he could take me somewhere. I thanked him and told him I was travelling on foot.

I was in time to buy a trainticket and catch the train but I forgot to stamp the ticket. Nobody was checking tickets in the train though and when I got out at Saint Mammès to walk along the Seine for the last stretch, the ticket was still unused in my pocket, valid for another week. I wondered if I could give it to anybody but I didn´t find anybody who wanted it.

I walked, the Seine was comforting, big boats, old houses. I crossed the bridge to Champagne-sur-Seine, walked along the water again, entered the industrial town, metal industry, old factory buildings, and sat down in the cafe where the workers were gathered. I had almost forgotten about Albert Camus already.

My couchserving host wouldn´t be home until seven so I did some writing and then Camus came back to my mind and I googled him. This is what I read:

"Camus died on January 4, 1960 at the age of 46, in a car accident near Sens, in Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin. In his coat pocket was an unused train ticket. He had planned to travel by train with his wife and children, but at the last minute he accepted his publisher's proposal to travel with him."

The text on the monument is a quote from his hand. I read it carefully now and checked if my translation was right. It was.

"La lutte elle même vers le sommets suffit à remplir un coeur d´homme."

"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a human heart."