Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Cycling back in the old days

“You couldn´t have done that in my days on the bike” , I said to my daughters.
They looked stunned. They had just finished a video call with their mother in Tassiliaq in Eastern Greenland. We were sitting in the shadow of some bushes just next too a busy road just outside Efes in Turkey.
“How did you talk to your mum, then?” Eva asked.
Then I explained that during my 7 years and 90 000 km of riding, I could only call mum from a phone center, always located in a bigger place. At times I had to wait for hours for them to put the call through to mum. And it was always full of stress, since it was quite expensive. For mum. I always did collect calls.
Yes, the girls looked at me like a dinosaur. After this “incident” they asked me throughout our two months in Turkey about what was different today and back then in the world of cycling touring.
I guess the biggest change is the mobile phone and Internet. It certainly makes life so much easier. You can find hotels just 10 min before cycling into a town. You can read up on a place at the same time of arriving. You can book a restaurant of you want to celebrate something. Call your doctor. Or use it in case of any emergency. And of course, find your way through either Google Maps or an app. I had an app called Topo GPS who actually planned our trip from Izmir to Nevshehir. And did a superb job!
Basically, with these new Tech changes the last 25 years you can spend a whole trip with only worrying to run out of battery for the phone! And not having too much contact with locals as you had to have to survive back in the days.
Just take all those times when the 1.500 000 map didn´t give any help at all on this specific off road you wanted to take and you had to stop an ask a local. These situation I miss a lot. And some times not. Like that time I stopped completely lost on a dirt road in Guatemala and asked I local extremely helpful fella. Conversation was something like this:
“Hi! Is this the road to Chichicastenango?”
“In this direction?”
“Are you from here, my man?”
“Thanks man, much appreciated. What is your name?”
The most amazing answer I ever got was in Malawi, when my friend Steve Jewell and I wanted to get down to the lake, which I could see in the horizon. I stopped on the dirt road, stopped a local fella and asked how far it was from the road to the lake. He answered:
” 3 74th of a kilometer.”
Now, you don´t get these answers nowadays.
By the way, it took us over three hours to force through a swamp to get to a village just next to a lake. As always, they expected entertainment in the village. And got it. So much that the local chief who hadn´t been able to walk properly for years, now started running. But that is just another African story.

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