Mantova • Campo Canoa
7-9 giugno 2024

Mantova • Campo Canoa
7-9 giugno 2024

The Andes Trail with SoulBike

mercoledì, 17 Maggio, 2023

Francesco and Giovanni, biking through the Andes between landscapes and mirages in support of 3 initiatives. Soulfoodforestfarms for the environment and the planting of trees in Milan, La Cordillera Experience to provide a job opportunity for young people in a local Bolivian community in Peñas, and L’Alveare che dice sì which says yes to create a network of people who are willing to critically choose what they consume.

The idea is everything: When was yours first born?

We have long been bicycle touring enthusiasts, and among our dreams there has always been the dream of embarking on a lasting journey by bicycle.
From being a dream to reality has come a long way. First we were joking, chatting and speculating about the various routes, now we are living the daydream.
In fact, at the end of September 2022, after a day of work followed by our time in the workshop (we always met on Mondays in our small cycle workshop in the basement, where we had fun fixing bikes and doing small woodworking jobs), we actually wondered if a trip to South America would be possible.
It is said that “where there’s a will there’s a way,” and from that day, between research and requests for cooperation, we structured the outline of the trip.
We also organized the bureaucratic part to be done (passports, vaccines, medical checkups, health insurance, airline flights and customs,…) and collected the equipment we needed to bring. From the beginning of October to the departure we then alternated between our old jobs and the preparation of “The Andes Trail” without stopping.
On January 21 we were on the plane ultra enthusiastic and still in disbelief, ready to embark on this adventure starting from the Colombian Andes.

SoulBike: where did the name come from?

Our project is something more than an extreme ride in the South American Andes. Aware of the fact that with this long and ambitious enterprise we could have attracted the attention of more people, we decided to give visibility and support three realities through a fundraiser, whose objectives reflect our ideals. The very first social enterprise we talked to about the project was soulfoodforestfarms, with the primary objective of planting trees in the Corvetto area of Milan. Soulfood therefore inspired us to call ourselves soulbike, because in the end, after years of “normal” work, the bike won! The fun feature we wanted to give the name soulbike on social media is the addition of Exp, which stands for expeditions: soulbikeexp. In fact, a further dream would be to be able to organize bicycle trips to show people that traveling under one’s own power is the most inspiring way to learn, meet new cultures, and get out of one’s comfort zone. If this is done on an independent basis, that’s when it really feels like freedom.

In your opinion, how do you reconcile work, prospects, needs and dreams?

Complex question. We would all like a job that reflects our passions, meets our needs and leaves room for future prospects.
We started out with a curiosity to see a world that was different from our own, with the dream of turning this journey into a possible future job as well. Right now we live by the day: with what we have earned in the past years, we meet the basic needs that in the end are the only ones needed on a journey of this kind. It is still difficult to define a direct link between our trip and a stable job, but our perspective is to find the missing link so that the trip itself can become a source of work.
There are plenty of ideas, and the fact that every day is different from one another stimulates us and opens doors we didn’t even know existed. We started with a dream and pursued it to make it a reality. The efforts are paying off and now there are people following us and supporting us and the project.
A message we would like to convey is precisely this: if you really want to achieve a goal, you have to believe in it but above all, you have to take action. With the passage of time and through perseverance, work, perspectives, needs and dreams will find the right balance by themselves.

“We bring our passions, music and art on our two wheels”: music and art… How?

We are well loaded, our bikes weigh about 60 kg each. Among all the indispensable equipment, we also carry with us all the necessary tools to cultivate other passions that we have had for years. We are equipped with a guitar (bought in Bogota, Colombia) and a ukulele (bought in Quito, Ecuador), which follow us everywhere ready to be played. This is how we relax, we mentally detach from pedaling and live happy moments among ourselves and with the people we meet.
We also have a mini watercolor kit to paint and immortalize in our sketchbook the various landscapes that we encounter daily. The collection of pictures is growing day by day forming an illustrated album of the most incredible places with an artistic perspective.
During the trip, thanks to an encounter with an Argentine bike traveler, we also started making and selling small handicrafts-bracelets, necklaces, earrings, totumi (very hard round tropical fruit). Everything is created through use of materials encountered on the route, such as typical Amazonian seeds, various types of wood, ultra-colored bird feathers… In short, art in general is always in the foreground even in our life as cycle tourists.

The projects you want to support: why did you choose them and how did you learn about them?

We support 3 realities that have long been present in our lives. In fact, the organizers/collaborators are our friends! We thought that realities that are small, young, and aiming for a greener and more sustainable future should be valued. Knowing for a long time the modus operandi of these social enterprises, we did not hesitate to choose them and build with them a tailor-made project to realize a small step toward a more sustainable future, all together.
In fact, with Soulfoodforestfarms, a social enterprise dedicated to the creation of regenerative agro-forests, we would like to plant about 400 trees in Milan’s Vettabbia Park.
With La Cordillera Experience, a local tourism development association in Peñas, Bolivia, we would like to plant trees and help financially for the improvement of tourism-related infrastructure, such as their adventure park.
Lastly, we would like to support with a cargo bicycle, L’Alveare che dice sì, a reality that seeks to break down the distances between producers and consumers by providing greater quality of 0 km culinary products and creating a community of people willing to consume food in a critical way.
The project is public and contains a lot of additional information also regarding the 3 realities we support. You can find it on the GoFundMe website at:
https://gofund.me/e0877493

An expectation you have and hope to bring home.

One expectation we believe in is to find that famous missing link that will allow us to continue traveling with greater economic stability in the future. It would be exceptional to be able to pass on the passion for bike traveling and the determination to turn into a lifestyle what you truly enjoy.
The journey is long, the miles we are traveling give us time to think, share and come up with ideas and solutions to this great expectation.

An expectation you had that turned out different from what you thought?

Before we left, and also during the beginning of the trip, many reminded us that South America is a third world country and that violence and crime are very high. We were initially very influenced by these warnings, so much so that we decided not to depart from Cartagena (far north of Colombia) and instead opt for a “safer” Bucaramanga.
Many advised us to consider on budget the possibility of being robbed several times given the length and danger of the countries to be crossed.
With great happiness we can say that, after almost four months since our departure and two countries crossed from north to south, also passing through particularly inadvisable areas, none of this happened.
We were, on the contrary, charmed by the generosity and hospitality of the people we met on the way, who always treated us like their own children by offering us shelter and typical food to refresh us after our rides. The people are very open to discussion, curious about our culture, respectful and polite. We leave behind us friends we look forward to seeing again. We cross our fingers hoping that the journey can continue safely and in the best way as it has been so far.

How is it going?

Thank you for asking! Everything is going smoothly, we have been going through the ruta de los vulcanos, crazy sized canyons and Amazonian forests rich in nature and local communities. We are learning a lot about the culture of the places we visit and also a lot about ourselves. We are seeing the world from different perspectives, sharing knowledge with wonderful people and learning soft skills everyday that will be useful for our future.
Right now we are almost at the border between Ecuador and Peru, near Loja specifically. We are answering these questions camped in the rain but overlooking the Andean cordillera. We are thinking about Bam and how many people who share our passion exist and how great it would be to meet them by joining you with our loaded bikes from South America.
We are as pumped up as ever and ready to explore our third South American country crossed by bicycle.