WeLeaf travels again after having their plans interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Which new adventure is on their minds? Read more to find out!
In 2016, Olivier and Zoë started their journey by bike, sail, and foot. With WeLeaf they want to inspire other people to travel on their own and to discover nature. Since they are Europeans, they support bringing wilderness and adventure closer to the people that live in Europe, so they can travel with a smaller ecological footprint. This is why they support Rewilding Europe and The European Safari Company. We invite you to follow their journey with us through these posts.
We are preparing for a new human-powered travel method. A method that seems quite impossible. So far, we have cycled, hiked, canoed, skied and sailed a total of 37.000 kilometers.
That is more than we ever thought we would be capable of. It is just 3.000 kilometers short of the total circumference of the earth, a distance we can’t quite believe. We are more than eager to complete these couple thousand kilometers and this time we want to do that on skates.
We were are not so sure if we will be able to make it. Traveling by skates is not common at all. We want to skate from The Netherlands to Norway, but there isn’t any reference available. We will have to find it all by ourselves.
We had many questions to answer: How do we carry our luggage? How fast will we go? Is it possible to skate uphill with a loaded trailer? What about going downhill? How do we brake? We always say ‘the journey is the training’, meaning that we will learn along the way.
Our travel experience taught us that good preparation is key but it is never possible to be prepared for everything. Every trail brings obstacles, even if we are prepared .. In June we already have our gear ready, Zoë designed a brake system herself and we have practiced until we felt confident enough to start our journey.
We depart from the Netherlands in June and have planned to make it to Norway and Sweden. The two Scandinavian countries feel miles away. First, we have to overcome many other unknown obstacles. Just five kilometers out of our town we have to climb our first immense obstacle, a bridge over the highway.
By bike, it would have been nothing but a joke, but as unprepared roller-skiers, the elevation makes our heartbeat rise over 170 beats per minute. It feels more like walking, instead of skating.
On top of the bridge, we have to rest for five minutes to catch our breath. ‘How will we ever make it to Sweden?” Zoë says.
The Netherlands is full of surprises. It is wonderful traveling through our own county. We learn that the Netherlands isn’t as flat as we thought. There are actual hills, dikes and bridges. The Netherlands has unique landscapes. The farms, the small villages with beautiful churches, the channels, the windmills, and the excellent cycling paths. But our biggest surprise is when we find out that people still walk on wooden clogs nowadays.
Across the border, the cycling paths in Germany are quite a disappointment for struggling newbies on skates. There is a surprisingly extended cycling network, but the paths are often made of pavers. Our poles tend to stick between the paving stones and we struggle to move forward.
We skate our way further up north. We are satisfied with our new travel method. It is slower than cycling, but faster than hiking. We can travel the same roads as cyclist and that allows us to travel both cultural and natural landscapes.
Northern Germany looks a lot like home.
People speak the Frisch Dialect and the landscape is filled with agriculture. We visit many dairy farms and are invited for Sunday breakfasts at the farmers table.
Perfect to practice our German language. We have only been skating for three weeks when we make it to the Danish border. Wow!
In Germany we followed the North Sea cycling route, but now in Denmark the strong coastal winds blow us off our skates. We decide to move back inland. There we find our big fear: hills. We haven’t had a real test for the brake system yet, but they are about to get a real test on the Danish descents. It’s a little scary to let ourselves go for the first time. The only way to find out if it works is by trying it. We hold our brake firmly and learn that Zoë's homemade system brings us safely down.
Denmark is small and it feels like we are passing too fast. We take some detours from coast to coast to savor it. Denmark already gives us a feeling of what the Scandinavian countries have to offer. People like to sleep outside. Some people have shelters in their yard and sleep there whenever they feel like it. They also leave their babies outside for a nap so they get used to the cold weather. We make it one step closer to the life we like to have here,in either Sweden or Norway. The wild nature and the friluftliv-culture of being outdoors
From Denmark we take the ferry to Norway. We arrive in the middle of the night in Kristiansand. We are enchanted. Even in the middle of the night, it appears to be a beautiful city, but the real beauty lies around the city in nature.
In the beginning of August the days are still long and around four o’clock in the morning the sky colours red. We can see the fjords that stretch deep inland. Our legs know they will have to work, but we are eager to explore our new home.
The rainy days in Germany and Denmark make place for one month of sunny weather. We suffer going uphill, but are rewarded with beautiful nature and the perfect camping spots.
Norway is even more beautiful than we imagined. We can’t imagine that Sweden will be able to offer us more. On the last days in Norway we skate through Femundsmarka National Park. The plateau is home to the most southern Sami people, best known for reindeer herding. We don’t expect to see any reindeers, but suddenly a young male stands in the middle of the road. It’s Norways amazing show before we enter Sweden.
The steep climbs in the fjords change into gentle hills in Sweden. The roads are quiet, there are more lakes than we can count and the typical red houses are everywhere. Since Norway we see road signs warning us of moose. It’s not a warning, but more sign of excitement for us as we would love to see a moose. With our roller-skis and trailer, we make a lot of noise, and we probably scare them away from afar. Our hopes aren’t high and we often go on a self-guided safari in the woods to track moose, but without success. When we had almost give up hope, Sweden offers us the reward. A cow and a calf cross the street, climb up the hill and stare at us for a while.
We fell in love with the two countries and now that this adventure has brought us to the next step. Fulfilling our dream of living here in Sweden.
After three months on the skates our new travel method has been much more feasible than we thought. We learn that while planning three thousand kilometers sound like an impossible distance. But forty kilometers or more every day adds up quickly and suddenly we did three thousand kilometers. We traveled the circumference of the earth on human power, a distance we still can’t believe.
Right now, WeLeaf are working on a book that will be published shortly.
The book tells the amazing story of their human powered journey around the world.
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