Resilience, passion and frustration / 5
The voyage, by its nature of FREQUENT, necessary pauses for charging, generates plenty of encounters.
Except for Patrick, who solved my one and only brake down (cfr. article /4), I will meet no other mechanic or electrician on this trip. A pity that is, for I hold the fondest memories of oil changers in India, bike cleaners and blacksmiths in Iran, valve adjusters in Yemen. While electric motorcycles do have super high tech parts aboard, they need no oil, no coolant, no valves, no air filter, no gearbox, not a single hot element. It's basically a pack of batteries, a rotor (thank you, Nikola Tesla) and a charger, hanging in a frame with wheels.
But the voyage, by its nature of frequent, necessary pauses for charging, generates plenty of other encounters. I discuss with an imam in Banja Luka and with a Serbian ex-soldier of Sarajevo. In the leaden heat wave, I spend days with youngsters of Srebrenica, on the banks of river Drina. In Tarlabaşı, one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Istanbul, I take to the streets with twelve year old journalists who are collecting stories for their neighbourhood newspaper. I pass unforgettable hours with activists in Thessaloniki who fight the crisis on a daily base, with a mixture of resilience, passion and frustration.
I listen to Bulgarians, Albanians, Bosnians who want but one thing: to leave their poor, futureless destinies. On top of that, during the madness of the emerging refugee crisis, I happen to travel along their paths for most of my return route. At every border crossing taking me five minutes, I ask myself: “And what exactly is my merit to own this European passport!?”
During the entire journey I was curious: what does she do when the battery is totally empty? Now I know: she slows down to half of her speed. For how long? Not the faintest idea.
I leave from Slovenia and aim at a hamlet in Austria. I know it will be a close call, but I presume I can break my own record of 275 km when riding slow enough. On top of that, I'm in Austria and lodging should not be an issue. It gets colder and colder but we're nearly there, only 25 km to go. But I ascend steadily. The percentages decrease frighteningly fast on the dashboard. I continuously calculate. “Once over the pass she'll recharge,” I reassure myself. I come across a village with one bed & breakfast.
I never made it. Far from it even. Two tunnels later with 3% on the counter, Xena abandons me. She doesn't go above 25 km/h any more. “That's impossible, you still have power, I can see it!” Nope, she says. The dashboard is precise but not só precise. U-turn and back to the last houses. The road is steep enough and at a smooth 70 kmh I whiz back down. I even regenerate some power. I ring the doorbell of the guesthouse where all windows are dark. In my best coal miner’s German, I ask for a room.
We're hauled in, and installed at our respective schnapps. I get a real one, Xena gets a plug. We're saved.
ERT television station during the closure by the government. // March 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Nevena Medic is another friend I interviewed for my Master project in photography. She spent a year in Budapest doing Nationalism Studies, and a Master about the saviours in the war she lived as a toddler. // Bratunac/Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina
[ NOTE: all images in my articles have captions, giving more details about the story. In the upper left corner you can click show/hide. Unfortunately setting the captions on 'show', then hides the top of the image. Oh well... ]