We arrive in Siberia by train. We spend two days in Irkutsk and leave to the Baikal Lake. I know it is the deepest lake in the world and that it has largest freshwater reserve of the planet. But, to tell the truth, I don´t care about this. We get into a van and once again we are on the road. We are always on the road. The Baikal awaits us and the radio is playing a kind of reggae chorus which seems to say “there is love here, there is love here … Argentina Jamaica”. We laugh and at the third chorus we are already singing it. A few days later we get to know that it is a Russian hit that speaks of a football game between our national team and the Jamaica team when we won 5-0 (in France 98). “Oh what a pain, oh what a pain. Argentina 5, Jamaica 0 … Oh what a pain”, the original words say.
Finally we arrive to the Baikal, specifically to Olkhon Island, a “power source” according to the shamanistic beliefs of the area. The dRummer gets excited, throws a stone into the lake and repeats its creed: “everything depends on the vibes”.
In Olkhon we stay at Sergei´s home. He is a Russian, who, after traveling a lot and study as much, decided to settle on the island and manage the only Russian Orthodox Church of the place. To return the good treatment received during his travels (“all are vibes, are all vibes”), he puts up every traveler who arrives. Free, completely free of charge, the only thing we have to do is to listen each day the on time bells and search for our water in the lake.
Right there, on the second floor of the Orthodox Russian complex we meet the Pascal Jenny. They are a family like any other who in 2012 changed the sedentary habits of the modern world for nomadism a la carte. And this carte, like ours, made us meet. At Sergei´s we share one of the largest rooms. Isabelle and Henry, the adults, speak perfect Spanish. The language or who knows what makes us friends. And as days pass by, the routine turns us into a family.
After Olkhon, we take the ferry to Olkhon Ust-Barguzin. There are no hotels, only forest and the lake. And thanks to dRrummer’s creed (good energy attracts good energy …), the Pascal Jenny offer us to share their tents. We accept and sleep right there in the middle of the Siberian tundra that seems endless. With the days we go to a village, then to another one and finally we share an apartment at the border of Mongolia. The same curiosity that joined us now separates us. We must continue to Mongolia by bus and they must prepare their bikes. It will take me some time to get to write this chapter. But for sure, I say to myself, I will write about them.
Henry Pascal married Isabelle Jenny many years ago. In ’97 they spent some time in Beijing, China. Then, they wandered around South America (they have relatives in Mexico), and finally settled in Toulouse, in his native France where their four children born: Jacob (13), Anne (11), Claire (6) and Bartimé (4). After fifteen years of stability, they decided to undertake this trip. Henry asked a year off and packed. Several bags, many school books (the boys will also take the year off), and bicycles for everyone.
The objective: Pedaling from Toulouse to Beijing across Europe, Russia and Mongolia. From time to time – Henry points out- we take a van, a boat or a train (5000 kilometers between Moscow and Baikal is not an easy matter). His story is completely crazy, but they tell it so normally that I wonder if my surprise is logic. We don´t do anything extraordinary -Henry says- no big deal. They left France in April, toured Berlin, Scandinavia, Estonia, St. Petersburg and in Moscow they boarded a train. “What I like most is to feel that I’m always rolling, rolling on the bike and rolling over the world. Even when I sleep, I feel that I don´t stop rolling,” says Isabelle, and then she shouts to Bartimé, which is about to strangle a cat. “I also like that, as we travel with tents, we almost always sleep where. Not having a house, not having a roof gives you an impressive freedom”, she says later.
And Henry (Quique as his friends call him), looks at her when she speaks, when she thinks and even when she looks at us. Isabelle talks a lot. She likes to say things and enjoys writing. She likes to feel young, she likes to be young. And from time to time she likes to write everything in the family blog (www.sixtette.blogspot.fr). Instead it seems to us that Henry only likes her. Assembles and dismantles bikes with an expertise of years. Washes the dishes with sand on the shore of the lake (he teaches as the technique). He lights the fire, cooks, and fixes the back brakes of one bike or other. He rests a minute and a half, sometimes two. If he has time left, he also fixes the brake of the bike that will be broken tomorrow. But always, no matter how exhausted he is, he has time to look at Isabelle and put that face that can only be explained in nonsense, that face so in love that envies.
Jacob, Anne, Claire and Bartimé are their children. Jacob speaks as he is thinking each letter. You can see his confusion in his face: he doesn´t know what his life will be with so much traveling. He is intelligent, too intelligent. And his mental speed combined with his young condition looks fantastic. He is not flawed by snobbery or social form. Probably that´s the reason why we become friends so quickly. Drummer teaches him Spanish, he teaches French to Drummer. He makes a portrait to each of us, he says he will be an artist and we do our first interview about his career. Jacob wants to go with us, he doesn´t want to keep losing people all the time. But he doesn´t say it, for what point… He just handles us a book to write three things without which we could not survive. There, in our responses, saves all possible memories.
Anne is shy. She likes to put up the tents and drives the bike as she was born on it. She doesn´t speak much. Draws well and plays the piano. She laughs slowly, without attracting too much attention. Isabelle tells that in the road she is always concerned for not leaving anyone behind, even at the risk of delayed herself. When we leave she kisses us and goes to sleep without even whistling softly. At 11, I believe she understood this transience.
Claire and Bartimé are pure childhood. Claire questions everything. What time is it? What time was it? What time will be? Asks and listens. That’s weird, she listens very much. And when she’s bored or sleepy she sucks her thumb. A 6 years old girl who pedals over 30 kilometers a day in Siberia and at night sucks her thumb. How will it be the rest of her childhood, back in Toulouse, when asked by her companions why she doesn´t know such a thing of the program or why she is behind schedule? Will she explain that she knows the world or just state the trauma: in 2012 I did not go to school? … With Hipólito we wonder how this will impact on their lives, but before reaching a conclusion Claire interrupts me and asks me to lift her. She falls asleep and I leave her on the bed. Isabelle looks at her. Before leaving, Claire calls me and says goodbye. Then yes, she goes back to sleep with her thumb in her mouth.
And Bartimé? Bartimé is -I firmly believe this- the reincarnation of a former incorrigible convict, one of those who organize riots and go back again and again to his suburbs prison. Bartimé of course is only 4 years old and -luckily- he is not enough old to be imputed. Besides, this is the main threat, is one of those pretty boys who will not need too much to get what he wants. If he would have been of my age, I would have hated him. But circumstances made me adore him.
After Beijing, says Henry, they don´t know where they will go to. Maybe they leave the bikes in China and continue on foot. Maybe they stay with the bikes and travel to South America. Maybe they go to India and try to reach the Tibet. Or maybe … who knows. As of today, September, they have already crossed Mongolia. They’ll be a year in physical movement. I doubt that when installed they achieve to stay quite. One Monday, after a week of traveling together, I tell Henry that I thought our trip was long and impressive, but his was truly monumental.
He laughs almost silently and tells me the story of a Belgian couple who traveled for sixteen years around the world. They went from town to town always walking or hitchhiking. On their way their children were born, they briefly fell in love of others, learned languages and were occasionally hospitalized. Finally they returned to the place of origin, also walking. We keep silent, Henry and me, and before I leave the table I understand him. There will always be someone doing our same trip. And that, far from fashion-called, is an inexhaustible source of encounters and coincidences. In addition, every trip is the germ of many other trips, and every travel is minimal and every travel is huge and ridiculous and funny, and tedious, and magical, extremely expensive and extremely priceless, extremely unique and peculiarly intense. If not, how would I explain to myself, that only after two weeks shared in Russia, the Pascal Jenny family have so great dimension in my memory.
Text: Joaquín Sánchez Mariño
Video: Expreso a Oriente
Music: Argentina-Jamaica 5:0 , Chaif / Le Long De La Route, Zaz