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Around the world, cycling

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PEDDLING FRIENDSHIP Agnes and Gerard Perou posing with their custom-built bicycles and accordion
PEDDLING FRIENDSHIP Agnes and Gerard Perou posing with their custom-built bicycles and accordion

A French couple, on the last lap of a cycling tour around the world, share their experiences with Priyadarsshini Sharma

`All I wanna do... .I want to ride my bicycle', sang Freddie Mercury and the world rides high on this song. Never did the lyrics ring so true till one met Agnes and Gerard Perou. The French couple is on their final lap of touring the world on their custom-made, steel bicycles. They conclude their long, singular cycle expedition at Thiruvanathpuram on March 31. Recently they met other French travellers and had a small get together in touristy Fort Kochi. Twenty-four countries in two and a half years has been a story of adventure, fun and most of all a fantastic exercise in forging friendships across the world. "That's the reason we chose to cycle. It is the best means to connect with people. We can go to the mountains, to villages and see a different kind of life. The cycle takes us close to the people, to their homes and lives," said a happy Agnes for whom meeting people from different cultures has been the most satisfying outcome of this experience.

Music

And music strangely has been a part of this feat for Gerard is a musician and carries his accordion along. Invited into homes to eat, drink and even sleep the night, the couple has, in this journey, encountered only warmth except for a single incident in Peru when their camera was stolen. "We have had no problems with people in this entire world. Everybody has been kind and generous. It has actually been quite an incredible experience," chorus the two.And you will wonder how this extraordinary adventure began. "When we were young we had no time or money to travel, to see places and meet people. We were always keen on learning about different cultures. My husband who's a musician always wanted to learn new music and this was the best way," explains Agnes. So the two sold their house in Tours, France and began pedalling in August 2004.The route took them to Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Tanzania, from where they flew to Vietnam. The 2004 tsunami upset their Indian itinerary and so after completing the rest of the journey the two are back to India via Nepal."India has really been an incredible experience. In Rajasthan the villages are not so close to each other as in the south, so we had to cycle long distances to find a room. But people have been kind and homes always open to us," said Agnes. What has been a nightmare though for them is the traffic. "It is dangerous to bicycle in India and it's too noisy," says Agnes looking apologetic as cycling the Indian leg has been the toughest for them.

60-100 kms a day

Cuba was the most musical of the places where Gerard enjoyed playing his accordion. He always drew an audience as it did here in Kochi. For the 47-year-old music teacher, cycling with 45 kilos on his bicycle is easy task, while Agnes carries a load of 35 kilos on her cycle comfortably. The two cycle 60 to 100 km a day and choose to rest as they wish. In India the restaurants have been their dining rooms but they are carrying basic kitchenware and camping equipment. "We love Indian food and having it in France is not the same as having it here," they say.The only thing that they consider before they get on to their cycles is the weather. "We go to places that are having the best season. We avoid rain and snow as we have no shelter," says Agnes and does most of the talking as Gerard speaks only French. And as they come closer to the end of this unusual two-and-a-half years of their life Agnes plans to write a book sharing her adventures while Gerard wishes to make a CD with the different music of the world. "Now we need to start a new life after some rest," say the two who sold their house to live their dream on a bicycle!

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