Two friends took their first bike tour together and cycled from Germany to Norway. They experienced many mishaps but also great moments of joy.
Arthur Baum (33) and Sándor Fuelep (32) are two friends living in Leipzig. They have dreamed of taking an adventure trip together for a while. But the mood was dampened by the pandemic. They were determined to find a way to make it work, though. One day, they sat on a park bench near the university, and one of them said, “Come on, let’s break loose!” And then they contacted Jack Wolfskin.
The friends spontaneously decided to embark upon a trekking tour by bike. Together, they looked at a giant map of Europe and quickly chose Norway as their destination. They could hardly have guessed that they were about to experience one mishap after another. And on top of that, they faced torrential downpours of rain. At the start of our interview, they revealed with a grin, “It was unbelievable! We were at our limits and yet have rarely felt so alive.” Perhaps every adventure begins with a dash of naivety.
Arthur, you are a producer and a cameraman. How did you connect up with Jack Wolfskin?
A: I first came into contact with Jack Wolfskin some time ago through photographer Anna Heupel, who has worked a great deal with the brand. A few years ago, a large tour operator solicited bids for a group trip to South America, for which I had to submit a short video trailer. On that trip to Peru, I also met Anna. And to win over Jack Wolfskin for our bike tour to Norway, I created a presentation and sent it to the company. Needless to say, we were delighted by the fantastic feedback we received.
Sándor, you are currently finishing your master’s studies in political science. What is the source of your love of adventure?
S: I’ve always been attracted to alternative travel, including bike treks, hitchhiking, and, of course, the classic option of camping. The main thing is to be out in nature. That being said, I’ve always preferred to take the more difficult path over the easier one. And when it came to the outdoors, Jack Wolfskin was usually there in one form or another.
How exactly did you come up with the idea of going on a bike trek to Norway?
S: This was Arthur’s first bike trip, while it was already my third or fourth long tour. I had already surmised what might be in store for us. Arthur had almost no cycling experience to speak of. But I knew that physical strength isn’t the decisive factor, but instead determination and having fun. “Are you up for it?” I asked him. “Sure, but I just don’t know if I’ll be able to go the distance,” was his honest answer. But as long as you have your heart into it, you’ll somehow be able to keep going.
Many borders were closed during the pandemic. How did you proceed?
A: It really was a game of chance. Just two days before departure, the border to Norway was closed. Then fortune shone on us, and the border crossing suddenly opened again. We started cycling right away. Luck is part of life.
What were the first obstacles?
S: We only had a rough plan and wanted to choose the route that suited us best each day on the fly. And right off, we almost missed our train from Leipzig to Flensburg, as our bikes were too heavy from the enormous amount of baggage we carried. Arthur took along his camera equipment. The whole adventure almost imploded right there in the train station. But the first serious problems began in Denmark. The further north we traveled, the darker and rainier the conditions became. We hadn’t foreseen taking a bike tour under continuous rainfall. Perhaps every adventure begins with a dash of naivety. This is what makes the magic in every trip.
There was even a toilet adventure… Can you elaborate?
A: That’s right – I had already suppressed the memory (laughs). The situation became clear to us in Norway. We were not cycling towards the sun; it poured day and night. As it gradually became dark one evening, we saw a small wooden cottage on the far side of the road as if from a fairy tale. We looked at each other and decided to pedal closer. It turned out to be a toilet cabin divided into two parts. The thunderstorm was raging, so we had no choice but to spend the night in the toilet facility. There were, after all, two cabins, but they were a little too short. This meant that our legs stuck out of the cabins. We originally intended to camp out in our tents, but that wasn’t easy because of the infrastructure in Norway – there is a lot of private property, and large areas are even fenced off. And, of course, this is not how we had imagined things would be.
What happened next?
S: We had a weather app but didn’t dare to look at it. We already anticipated what the weather forecast would be. In any case, we continued to cycle on and managed to cover quite a few miles per day. The best part of every day was reaching our destination. The first gulp of water, the first piece of chocolate – what a treat! For almost one whole month, we prepared noodles with tuna fish and onions on our mini stove. The tension and exhaustion of the day were suddenly gone once we began cooking and eating. These hot meals always fortified us and gave us the strength and morale needed for the next day.
How did this situation affect your friendship?
A: We could always speak, laugh, and even keep quiet with each other. It was truly a fantastic experience. Sándor also helped me to improve my cycling. It was not uncommon for us to cover up to 75 mils a day. He gave me some tips on breathing and maintaining the right mindset. Your mind plays the most crucial role. I had never thought that I would have gotten so far. And in the end, we could always laugh heartily about ourselves and the whole situation. We got up in the rain, we drove in the rain, and we set up our tents in the rain each evening.
Can cycling in the rain also be fun?
S: Once you’ve set off and already gotten wet, there’s nothing left to do but keep on going. Otherwise, you’ll get cold. “Gotta go now!” was our motto. In a strange way, this tenacity turned out to be great fun. We were not giving up, simply moving on. Somehow, we always managed. And although we were alone, there were still the two of us.
Did you have a tangible goal?
A: No, we often decided upon particular stretches for our route that same day. We also received many recommendations from locals – people who were intensely curious and viewed us with a certain degree of pity. These were spontaneous decisions influenced by random encounters. Our philosophy could be summed up as: “Hey, it looks nicer on the right than on the left! Come on, let’s go right.”
Then at some point, I got sick. My body simply got run down. I just couldn’t go on. We had to take the train from northern Norway back to Oslo. As we later found out, Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe.
What were the highlights of your journey?
S: Our journey wasn’t defined so much by goals. But we did set ourselves daily tasks that we had to master. We had to solve the challenges we were immediately facing as best and as creatively as possible. It was like a game, and it was gratifying. Not only this, but it freed us from the worries of the pandemic for a month. And I am thankful for that.
Arthur: We once planned on carrying a 26-pound bike to the top of a mountain to take some fantastic photos and video shots. But it proved to be a completely absurd idea. We had to push or carry the bike for 5 hours because it was impossible to ride for even a yard. We were full of bruises, but we still managed to take all the footage. Once we arrived at the peak, we suddenly burst into laughter about the whole situation, and we forgot all our concerns and efforts. What a moment!
The journey ends
Towards the end of our journey, the sun finally appeared. It was as if nothing had happened, and suddenly all the struggling disappeared too. The two travelers knew in their hearts that their journey through Denmark, Sweden, and finally Norway was ending. “Suddenly, it was all over,” said Arthur. “The nice weather somehow seemed boring to us. We wanted to get back home.” The return trip ended – how could it be any different? – in a final mishap. During a short train stop, Arthur quickly went out onto the platform to get some drinks. But the train departed earlier than scheduled with Sándor and the two bikes on board, leaving Arthur alone with only 2.80 euros in his pocket.
A few days later, Arthur and Sándor met again on the park bench near the university. They looked at each other and smiled. Would they ever undertake another outdoor adventure? “Anytime!” the two adventurers and friends answer simultaneously.
Find more information about Arthur Baum here: https://arthurbaum.com/