Claude Marthaler - The Yak

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7. 3. 2015

: How do you plan the trips. Do you at first plan your trip as far as the destination goes, or do you think of the purpose of the trip first?
Claude: It really depends, some trips I go ahead without any itinerary, like when I travelled for 3 years and then for 7 years and just go. Then when it’s time to get home, I just return. Now I do it a bit differently I try to link the destination to writing a book. Also I make shorter trips now a days. I like mountains so I  usually pick countries where I can cycle hills.  My parents are also getting older, therefore it is more difficult for me to leave for a longer period of time. Now I often go just for a few months.


CNK: Mentioning writing books on the road. Do you pick the theme before or do you decide on the road, what you are going to write about?
Claude: For years when I cycled, traveling itself was the main theme. Last time when I went on a longer trip frontier/border was the topic. I think it is a big theme not only from the geopolitical point of view but also for a man in life.  You can look at it from many different perspectives, how it divides people or brings them together. Also what is the border, just a place where to show your passport, mountain or rivers, etc. This topic is quite up to date, if you think about it, “Berlin Wall” basically just moved towards east and EU is kind of a fortress today.  What I wrote on that topic is called L’Homme Frontier  - Man Frontier.


Book which is about to come out this March of this year is about Cuba, where I took my bike and travelled for three months. I could never imagine myself in Cuba, but never say never. Unlike at the beginning I don’t write about the bicycle travel anymore though. Bike just helps me to get to people, but nowadays I write more about people, their lives and everyday issues they face.

CNK: And which book is in the works and we can expect to come out later on?
Claude: Right now I am writing a book about women and bicycle. I want to show how bike emancipated women, I am interviewing 30 women and talk about their role and relationship with the bike, film makers, writers, mechanics…etc.


CNK: based on all your travels where do you see the main benefit/potential of the bike from the local perspective.
Claude:Well the potential is unimaginable, but the bike is still not taken seriously by the politicians in general. But bike can have obviously many purposes, it can be healthy means of transport, but also what I am interested in is how bike is used as a working tool (Bike for Bread, Egypt, Cairo). You can still see that the main aim in general is at cars though. What is kind of ironic is, that everybody wants to have an easy drive home (ideally highway), but no one wants to really live near them, so where can this actually lead?


CNK: Is there still a destination you have been longing for, which you would like to discover more?
Claude: Oh, several onesJ. I am more attracted by destinations, where there is little tourism. Also as you travel you see, that poorer people are more kind they are to you.  But yes, this summer I am really looking forward to Tajikistan and from there to very north of Afganistan, which is the only region, where there is no war so far. Looking forward to cycle through the mountains there.

CNK: From someone as experienced as you are, is there something you would like to say to people, who have been always thinking about going, but never managed to make the decision and go?
Claude: That is simple, I do not know any bike traveler who would regret his travelsJ. So if you haven’t done it, try it, because you will not regret such decision J. There is really no concrete advice to give, just go and make it your experience, it’s only valuable, when it’s your own experience, I can tell you anything, but you have to live through it, which is unforgettable.
Thank youuu
L'insoutenable légèreté de la bicyclette  is made out of 22 portraits, half of them being excentric bike travellers as Heinz Stücke, 50 years on the road,  crossing africa in the 30', an attempt to the north pole by bike, a bikeboat through the Amazonia, an electric and solar bike through Asia, handicaped cyclists from Marokko on the road, form Dakha to Delhi by rickshaw. The other half is about the bicycle as a working tool, as rickshaw drivers in India, South America, Cambodia and so on.
It's a small size book of 189 pages, few colour pics.
The author's rights would ne divided between me and my swiss publisher.
L'homme-frontière,du cap Nord à Istanbul, 10.000 km à vélo aux confins orientaux del'Europe is a 6 months zigzag ride along the eastern border of Europe, including  Kaliningrad, Belarus and Transnistria. What's a border? It's also about the Iron curtain trail, nowdays East-West geopolitics (as an echoe to today's invasion of Crimea and Mariopol), funny encouters, observations, testimonies and humour.
With few colour pics
I keep the author's rights for any languages apart from French
Confidences cubaines is a travelogue of a 3 months bike tour around Cuba. as I do speak spanish, I do relate many encoutners with Cubans and take a clearly critic point of view about the Castro's regime.
With few black and white pics
I keep the author's rights for any languages apart form French