Enjoy the silence

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All I've ever wanted...
All I've ever needed...
it's here in my arms....
words are very unnecessary...
they can only do harm...

-Enjoy the silence - Depeche Mode

By the time I arrived at Vioolsdrif, the South African border post, all the landscape and atmospheric phenomena around me had been transformed; an extra-planetary sunset indicated my course: Namibia; and that multicolored sky of clouds stretched like thin silk fibers, over a rocky desert of dry shrubs and opaque colors, was the clear announcement that a new dimension and a unique space was lying ahead of me. I had heard many times about the beauty of Namibia, but I have also been in dozens of magical places in this world, so my difficulty to be easily surprised holds me quite skeptical when it comes to the words of others. Now it was my turn to find out for myself and draw my own conclusion.

Aus

 During the last months, with each push on the pedals, I have been waging an emotional battle in parallel. One that I refused to lose. With the same rigor and stubbornness with which I face all the adversities of the world, I set out to overcome the impossible. Since then I have been thrown to the ground again and again by the waves of a tempestuous sea that did not allow me to pass the break, while at the same time I watched with impotence that ship getting further and further, going out of my reach. The last and final wave came the night before I crossed to Namibia, and this time it threw all the way to the bottom of the sea, it beat me from side to side and it left me there, broken and lost.

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The first days in Namibia were so hard, that even when being surrounded by dreamlike landscapes and absolute silence, I could not see anything going on around me. In the second most depopulated country in the world where the emptiness is almost absolute, the solitude that I originally love with devotion, this time served as the perfect space for my mind in its most untamed state to unleash its madness. The hours would not go by, the landscapes that I no longer saw, the silence that stunned me; when I arrived in the small village of Aus in Namib, I contemplated for the first time the idea of quitting the trip altogether. The repeated failure of my continuous efforts not to lose Julia was finally starting to wear out the spirit warrior, who felt that if he could no longer enjoy what he was doing, then everything had lost its meaning. Now I had two options: let go or give up, and either decision required a lot of courage.
  
That frosty night in Aus camped in the dirt garden of a house, I was leaning toward the second when the last conversation on Skype marked the final execution; there I realized that there was nothing else I could do, I had finally been defeated. With my head down, accepting defeat, I called my parents to tell them that I now contemplated the idea of leaving this adventure for good; but once again I rediscovered that one is not a warrior for no reason. One is also a warrior because of the people that accompany one in this intense struggle that sometimes life can be. It was the words of both, but this time specifically, a long conversation with my mother that touched the precise keys to reverse a process that had been keeping me completely trapped. Letting myself fall, stopping resistance, reaching the bottom and surrendering eventually led me to let go, and after letting go the sun showed up again far on the horizon. In one of its meanings, "Aus" means "out (off)" in German, and it was in Aus, where once and for all I said "OUT!". I may have lost this battle, but I have fallen with the dignity and tranquility of those who have given everything of themselves on the struggle. *

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Have you ever been to Mars?

In the days following Aus, the veils that clouded my head got out of the way, my vision became clearer again, my mind increasingly freed up and finally, the dazzling beauty of Namibia was revealed before my eyes. I was cycling along a remote trail in the Namib desert, when a sudden burst of happiness invaded my body, Nico was reborn, it was imminent, he reconnected with his essence and once again, in the most beautiful of solitudes, merged with the world to find his place within it. The colors of the sky around me were mesmerising, the rugged textures highlighted by the setting sun gave brought back the third dimension to the flat desert plain. The herds of that magnificent antelope called oryx running in the immensity, made me feel fascinated as a child, and lastly, there was the silence, that magic silence, which was only interrupted by the creaking of the wheels against the stones. This was all I needed to immerse myself in the sensory experience of crossing Namibia.

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Days later, when passing through Helmeringhausen, I run into three other cyclists on the way, a couple and Niel, a South African guy. We decided to continue together for the rest of the day until camping, but I quickly realise that we are too many and we all have different paces, and I am not used to be in large groups. I need something else. However, Niel and I have spontaneously established a strong connection from the outset so we decided to continue together. We completely hit it off and that is not something easy to find. Niel's company proves to be invaluable to me at this point in time. Not only have I gained his pleasant company, but I have found in him a true companion and a friend during these days, where the roads of the Namib desert become increasingly hard but also increasingly stunning.

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With him, we continue to move side by side through the harshest parts of this desert, the Namib, the oldest in the world, where what abounds is the lack of people and loneliness is permanent. The sky is painted in immaculate light-blue makes me quickly forget that there once existed something called clouds. The climate is so dry that the sweat is not manifested in the form of moisture but in dry, showing in the form of brush strokes of salt tracing my T-shirt. In just a few days, the skin starts cracking open, and the nose is constantly filled with hard boogers that feel like sharp stones and hurt. Our bicycle roll for short stretches until they sink into the deep sand that often floods the road. We have to get off and push, time and again, a task that is not easy when I take several extra kilos in water and food for many days.

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We believe that we are alone, but we have the ungrateful company of thousands of desert flies. These winged tiny shits have the damn habit of aiming at the face and its orifices in search of moisture. They orbit around the head, almost always in front of the eyes, clouding the vision before charging into the nostrils, ears, and mouth, where more than once, when I inhaled I swallowed some up the throat. Luckily I have my most valuable possession, my head net, which I affectionately call my "burqa". It helps a lot, because even when dozens of flies still cling to it, at least I do not have to guide with one hand while I use the other to slap my own face just so I can smash the hell out of these shit bugs.

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As is almost always the case in the deserts of the world, its inhospitable beauty accompanies you the whole day, but the true magic comes at sunset. In Namibian winter time, the sun descends early but very slowly, extending dusk for more than an hour. It is precisely during this long transition between day and night in the Namib that phenomena make the senses go into overdrive. In this vast desert, there is so much room for camping that it becomes difficult to decide where to actually camp. We decided the best would be to stay away from the road and cycling a few kilometers deep into the Namib-Rand reserve. It is difficult to believe the supreme beauty that surrounds us as we move forward and the world around us transforms itself with every push we pedal. It's a circus of colors, a carnival, it's like being inside a kaleidoscope where every view is surreal, in a place where even Dalí would have doubted his own creativity.

The sky is painted in such extraordinary tones that it changes the color of the whole environment, it happens slowly and by the time one realises about it, everything around becomes orange, then pink, then red and then violet, then blue, and then black. While we were camped out there, sitting outside in absolute silence, we had trouble believing where we were, we did not believe what was happening. Niel and I agreed unanimously on a single term: dazzling. You could also add: extraterrestrial. Being there, I was thinking about how to describe the feeling later, the question that came to mind was: Have you ever been to Mars? I have not, but I think here, it's the closest I've been to it. I have never seen anything like it.

 This photo is pretty much natural, no filters added and White Balance is spot on.

This photo is pretty much natural, no filters added and White Balance is spot on.

Night falls but the sun remains reluctant to leave, even by the time the sky already is populated with millions of stars. The tones have turned to fuchsia, pink, yellow. It's the best visual show I've seen on my TV during the nights in a long time. I enjoy cooking and eating watching this TV Show

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The sun finally subsides, the milky way is now a brush stroke of stardust, that from one side of the horizon to the other, splits the sky in half. It's the perfect time for digestion, lying on your back, getting an overdose of beauty as dessert and counting stars until you fall asleep. The quietness is total, I would stay up outside all night but I reluctantly go back inside my tent, because every day in the Namib is very hard, and to achieve 65 km a day we need no less than 9 intense hours on the saddle. Resting well is essential, but the silence is interrupted abruptly when I hear a hyena roaming outside our tents. I can hear that famous sinister "laughter" they have. It's close, it surrounds us. I do not know what to do, I do not even have my Leatherman nearby, I do not know if Niel is still awake, but I'm glad to know that I'm not alone. After a while, it finally, leaves and I can let my heart go back to its normal beating.

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The days until Sesriem continued to be a continuous discharge of sensory stimuli. There is no time to think about the past, there is no place to speculate about the future. This is the present in its purest form, its beauty absorbs you and I absorb it like a sponge. Nothing else exists other than right now, this is ecstasy, it is a state of permanent meditation. I have been reborn from the ashes, I feel strong as a rock, and I find myself in bliss. I do not need words, all I want and all I need is right here. Words are unnecessary, I'm just here enjoying this beautiful silence.

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* Why did I get this far sharing with you the emotional side of this adventure? Because no matter how fierce an adventurer may be, he also has his fragile points. When one's trip becomes his life and one's life becomes his trip, it is impossible to separate the fearless person who lives off adrenaline from the weak one who is also subject to the vicissitudes of every day life. If we don't tell the full picture, or if we only tell one side of the story, traveling stories like mine run the risk of painting an idealised, and even wrong overall image of we realy are. In this way, it is easy to give the impression that many of us are some sort of indestructible heroes capable of facing the most extreme circumstances without breaking, but I certainly am not indestructible. If anything, I am very vulnerable and I'm not ashamed of it. So the purpose of sharing this more "personal" part of my story, is to show in the most reliable way everything that happens to me during an adventure, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, and not only what may falsely depict me as a superheroe.