We’re just about to set out on the final leg of this extraordinary trip, one which will take us home. Today’s leg involves a two day drive which will see us home tomorrow. Yesterday’s cycling trip was really amazing! We were as happy as cyclists on the Tour de France coming down the Champs Elysees in Paris. But we were all winners and congratulated each other as we arrived at our Antwerp hostel.
We had set out earlier in the day from the beautiful backdrop of Brussel’s Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Both ETB and EFE were there to cover our departure. It was a perfect leg in every possible way. We had great weather, beautiful weather and the biggest number of participants to date, sixteen in all. As well as the usual ones there were the two Flemish guys who had accompanied us on the first leg, Imanol and another couple, Leire from Gasteiz along with her ever-cheerful and friendly boyfriend Christof from Antwerp and finally Mathias and Kristel who joined us halfway through the leg in the beautiful town of Malinas and continued with us till the end. In Malinas, as well as eating, we had a small but moving act in front of the monument to the missing children. Alberto managed to overcome wind and gravity to place a picture of Hodei between the hands that had been chiselled out on that sculpture and so ensure that Hodei’s face was there with us. Kristel had brought along two South American street musicians to provide music for the simple ceremony and here again there was a lot of media coverage. Once again Mathias has discreetly done a lot of preparation beforehand We were able to see photos of ourselves in a couple of newspapers together with a report on our trip written in Flemish.
When we arrived in Antwerp all sixteen cyclists, including Superman Mathias, and our two helpers met up. Tired but happy, sad but proud of what we’ve done, the emotional moments we have experienced and the echo we have had in the media and the interest we have stirred. Everything worked out well, except for a few minor hiccups. Hodei has brought us together and his spirit has protected us throughout. It’s time for us to say goodbye.
We’re now in Brussels. Having left Ghent at 10:00 we arrived in Brussels at 16:15, having done 85 kilometres. A police escort of 10 officers accompanied us as we left Ghent on our bicycles. With the traffic being stopped behind us and ahead of us we made a right procession. After an hour and having completed 25 kilometres we parted company.
45 kilometres from Ghent is the town of Aalst and we reached there at 12:30. We gathered in the middle of the square facing the town-hall and displayed our pictures of Hodei. We stuck up some posters and handed out leaflets before eating the sandwiches that Nimbe and Pake had prepared for us. There’s nothing quite like a good sandwich when you’ve been cycling for a good bit. With renewed strength we set off again on the second part of the leg. Up until now the lie of the land had been flat but from now on we started to have hills to deal with.
Rain again accompanied us so we also got soaked. On reaching Brussels were faced with more than one problem:the rain, the traffic and unclear road signs. Luckily, nothing serious happened and we got to our hostel safe and sound. And just like every other day, there, parked in front of the hostel was our yellow van covered with pictures of Hodei. Once again Nimbe had done a magnificent job of driving the van to our meeting-point. Thanks a million! Without that help how could we have coped?
After a hot shower we sat down for our evening meal at 18:30, the Belgian time for eating. As we were starving it suited us well to start eating so early. Then we went to the Grand Place to put up some posters.
Tomorrow is our last day so let’s hope we end it on a high note.
After the emotion of yesterday today’s leg was a real pleasure: roadside farmhouses, animals, canals and here things are made easier for the cyclist. In fact, regarding mobility politicians from our country have a lot to learn. Today Imanol came along with us on the cycle ride which made things much easier for us as he’s from here and clearly knows his country well! The two girls in charge of provisions were fantastic as always and from their yellow-coloured van gave us all the help we needed. When we arrived they had a great lunch ready and waiting for us.
Two friends also joined up with us today on the bike ride, Maite and Ander from Galdakao and Gernika respectively. Up until yesterday they were doing the same thing as us but on their own but now they have joined up with us until the end of the tour and they have already done a lot to get our message across. Maite in particular is great at going up to people and getting talking to them about what happened to Hodei and what we are trying to do. Ghent is a beautiful, charming and eleGhent town. We’re in the hostel now and shortly after arriving we had a special visit from a man by the name of Manuel Mujika. Manuel is head of the Ghent police department and like Imanol is also a war-child, the son of a couple that got out of Donostia when the war broke out in 1936. But he didn’t come alone, he came with another well-known person, Alain Reme who is very well-known in Belgium as the person who coordinates the searches for all those who have disappeared. He spent some time talking to us and the one thing we won’t forget is how important it is never to give up hope in the missing person cases as sometimes the investigation throws up another lead which can throw a whole new light on the case. He spoke to us like a poet which reminded me of last night’s poetry: “Never say never and don’t say nowhere anywhere”
Tomorrow morning when we leave Ghent Mr.Mujica will be with us again. From eleGhent we will head off in the direction of Brussels where our journey will end where it started.
Yesterday was a very special day in our tour. Those of us who took part on the 20th August in the evening of songs to remember Hodei by won’t forget it in a hurry. Yesterday’s event brought an end to our tour of Holland and now we’re back in Belgium. This is what we achieved in Holland: We’ve succeeded in getting wide coverage of our demands thanks to our visit to the Belgian embassy in The Hague. We also believe that yesterday’s event achieved the same aim. The aim of yesterday’s event was two-fold. On the one hand we wanted to get good media coverage of the event itself and in that we were helped by ETB and in particular by Olatz Arrieta who was there once again to cover our cycle tour and they event itself. On the other hand, we succeeded in moving every single one of us, something acknowledged by everyone who was there.
We gathered together in the evening in an arena next to Antwerp’s river where local people like going to watch the sun go down on the other side of the river. Yesterday everything played in our favour! Beautiful weather, respect shown by onlookers and a warm welcome. It was clear that careful organisation had gone into the event beforehand (we suspect that Mathias had a hand in that). Kristel hosted the event and Imanol Mitxelena, our Flemish-Basque friend sang three songs for us in his clear, deep voice as he accompanied himself on the guitar and a friend accompanied him on the piano. He sang Lete’s “Xalbador” for us, putting, I believe, more emphasis yesterday than ever on the part of the song which asks “Where are you? ” Following that, a well-known Antwerp poet took to the stage to recite us a poem specially written for Hodei. Then Alberto recited it to us in Basque (he had translated it himself after the end of yesterday’s leg). “It doesn’t exist yet, nor never has existed, the day that will come sometime, somewhere which will become now and here. ” That’s just one example of the thought-provoking verses that the Flemish poet offered us, verses which brought tears to the eye of more than one. To round off the evening Inaki sang two verses after Kristel explained to the locals present what Basque “bertsolaris” were and what they do:
Antwerp in the evening
By the edge of the river
As the sun goes down
We are happy to be here
Though what brings us here
Is a terrible thing
But together with everyone here we can shout out to the world
Hodei, we want you home.
We’re here to find Hodei
And though there’s not many of us
We make a great team
Together with the people we have met in Antwerp
Good, unassuming people
We feel close to you now
It’s been a great tour
Thanks so much to you all
Now Ghent is the next place we are heading for.
The third leg of our trip was very important for us. Yesterday morning we were in the Belgian embassy in The Hague. Everyone was very nice to us and the one who received us was a Belgian who spoke very good Spanish. So there we were, the cyclists, our friends from Antwerp, Kristel and Mathias, and unbelievably the man who seems to be everywhere, like God himself, Jan (he was with us on the 15th in Galdakao, in Antwerp’s main square on the 16th when we set off and now here with us today in the embassy. Pablo and Koro were also with us today and accompanying them were Pablo’s sister Amaia and her husband from Gernika, Juan-Felix despite the fact that they had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get to The Hague from Dusseldorf in Germany to meet up with the Basques and Flemish here in the embassy. Good on you!
We continued to demand that the search for Hodei be continued. To help get our message across to the general public a crew from the mainstream Dutch television channel SBS filmed Pablo and Koro talking as well as the cyclists getting a send-off as they set out on the next leg of the trip. Then in the early evening we had the chance to see on TV in the hostel that they had given extensive coverage of our visit to the embassy. It was really nice to see that!
At midday we set off again quite late in view of the distance we had to cover. It wasn’t that easy to get out of The Hague and time and time again we took the wrong direction before finally getting going at a good pace which took us as far as the town of Vlaardingen where the van was waiting for us. Just as we arrived the skies opened up and it poured down with no signs of stopping so with the help of Imanol we did the last part of the leg in the van.
As we write this blog it’s clear that Alberto is exhausted and can’t wait to get to bed. He’s slept very little over the past few days between cycling during the day, being continually on the phone speaking to journalists, writing emails and looking over and arranging the next day’s schedule before going to bed. It’s not been easy for him!
Tomorrow it’s back to Antwerp where at 8 o’clock in the evening a lovely cultural event has been organised. There will be a poetry recital, singing, a “bertso” session (spontaneous Basque poetry) and much more to keep Hodei in our memories. If there is one thing that those of us who took part in this cycling trip have had the opportunity to do, it’s that of meeting some of the finest people who you could ever want to meet. Now that’s not bad in itself, is it?
http://www.npo.nl/opsporing-verzocht/19-08-2014/AT_2015678 (min 22)
It’s been a long day. We knew that it would be before setting off but we had to get here. Tomorrow we will be received in the Belgian embassy in The Hague where we will inform them of our demands which are the following: To ensure that whatever can be done to help in the search for Hodei is done, to make sure that he is not forgotten and to try and find clues as to how he disappeared. That’s what we will be asking in Holland too.
It’s been a long trip today and it wasn’t at all easy to get here as most of us are not used to such long cycle rides. As well as that, we have had all sorts of other problems: punctures, doubts about what direction to take and above all the weather with very heavy showers at times. But not only that! After one of the punctures we got separated into two groups and subsequently lost contact with each other. But we’re here now, tired but in one piece. Those of the group travelling in the vans made good the delay in arrival of the others by putting up loads of Hodei Missing posters in the city once we had booked in for the night. And while we were putting them up to our surprise we saw that one of the posters had already been put up by someone doing the very same thing we were doing. What a joy to see that!
The cyclists didn’t put up any posters but Alberto and Nimbe spoke on the phone to a good number of journalists who phoned up to find out how the trip was going.
We’ve now finished the first leg of the tour having gone from Belgium to Holland. We’ve already completed the first leg of our cycling tour. We set off from Antwerp and are now in Breda in Holland. There are no mountains here so it has been easy to clock up the kilometres. It’s been a nice ride, 75 kilometres in all, most of which by the waterside and passing farmhouses. But especially worthy of mention was our send-off. We met in Antwerp’s main square. There were a lot of us and when we arrived Olatz Arrieta, the ETB journalist, was there waiting for us. She’s a lovely girl, and one with a great sense of responsibility. She’s still on holiday but that didn’t matter to her and she was there ready to report on the start of our trip. What was really surprising was to see Jan, Hodei’s boss, there along with his wife and three daughters. The day before yesterday he had been in Galdakao’s square to see us off and here he was again with us in Antwerp. What’s more, they all accompanied us on their bicycles to do the first few kilometres of the first leg. Before setting off we ate some freshly-made croissants that Mathias, Imanol’s nephew, had brought us. This Flemish-Basque guy is really something, with an extraordinary gift for organising things. It was apparently he who had gone out of his way to get the local press here to cover our send-off (yet again there was a lot of media coverage of our send-off). Two of our youngest team members, Maddi and Ane, have taken a real liking to him. Not surprisingly Imanol was also there along with his wife Kristel. Both of them have really gone out of their way too. They both came with us on the cycle ride to Breda as well as another two Flemish, Kris and Kurt, who joined the group of cyclists from the Basque Country. Both of them have been of great help, especially at the roundabouts and their knowledge of the roads here has been invaluable. One of the boy’s surname is Marx and as far as I can see at least one of our group has become a Marxist. That’s cycling for you!
It’s been a beautiful day. You could see the great sense of emotion on the face of more than one of us at this morning’s send-off. At the square in front of Antwerp’s city-hall were some of Hodei’s Basque friends who are living here. It was a real surprise for us when we heard that all five of them were working here as computer software engineers. But it’s not good news to see that such highly-qualified young people have had to go so far away to get work but that’s the way things are at the moment! We’ll meet up with them again at the final event on the 20th in a street near the river where there is an arena that will be used for the event. I’m sure that it’ll turn out really well knowing that Mathias is behind the organisation of it. The van-drivers, Nimbe and Pake, told us that many people have come up to them to enquire about Hodei’s case.
We’ve now just finished our evening meal in Breda’s youth hostel and we’re ready for bed. We’re tired but not defeated. If Breda is well-known to us for something it’s for the Spanish painter Velazquez’s famous painting “The Surrender of Breda” but that’s not what we will be doing. Tomorrow we’re off to The Hague!
We slept in one of those Formula 1 hotels but it wasn’t at all racey, just nice and quiet. Later we’ll be going at a relaxing pace. A bicycle is more in tune with nature and the environment than other forms of transport, much more natural. On the way we saw the Le Mans circuit but it didn’t make us at all envious. Our plan is much better!
We passed Paris and from a distance we could see the Eiffel Tower beckoning us to come but we took no notice. A little later on the roadside we saw a sign for the Asterix Park and it also nodded to us to stop but we continue d on our way. We’re very clear about where we are going and why we are going there.
Shortly after that we arrived in Belgium. We are now close to our destination as we approach Antwerp. We stopped off at one of those motorway service stations for lunch. The weather was great and we had a nice lunch. It’s hats off to the ones who organised this trip as so much thought went into it before leaving the Basque Country.
After lunch it wasn’t long before we arrived in Antwerp just after four and we went under the river. It was only later that we found out that Antwerp doesn’t have any bridges. It’s got a large river but funnily enough no bridges. That’s because there is so much river traffic due to the fact that it is one of Europe’s largest ports. Many ships go up and down the river which explains why there are no bridges. That’s the reason and not because they haven’t heard of the Portugalete bridge.
It was a really typical Flemish man who explained all that to us. He was born in Antwerp where he married a local woman with whom he had four sons. He lives and works in Antwerp teaching Chemistry at the university and his name is Imanol Mitxelena Iragorri. But he explained to us that, not in Flemish, but in the Basque of Oiartzun which his parents brought him up with.
Imanol was waiting for us along with his son Mathias when we arrived. He spent the whole afternoon with us, accompanying us to our lodgings before showing us around the city and then taking us to a house of Jesuits where we had our evening meal. Both Imanol and Mathias are very important for the enormous help they have given us. They have been and will continue to be instrumental in the day to day organisation of the trip so we have a lot to thank them for. After a delicious meal we all sang “Hegoak” but now it’s time for bed as tomorrow is a big day for us.
Tomorrow is when our journey really starts, a journey that will take us towards Hodei. On that journey we hope to find some form of clue that will lead us to Hodei. We will lose nothing in trying to find him.
Mañana día 17/08/2014 salen nuestros ciclistas ha realizar los 500km que se han propuesto para impulsar la busqueda de Hodei e intentar encontrar testigos de lo que pudo ocurrir aquella noche o si alguno lo ha visto después.
La primera etapa es la de Amberes- Breda de unos 67km. Saldrán a las 9:30 de la plaza del ayuntamiento de Amberes, Grote Markt. Lo realizarán en dos tramos, por la mañana harán Amberes- Brecht, aqui tenéis el camino que seguirán por si os queréis sumar a ellos:
Por la tarde, sobre la 13:00 empezarán a realizar el tramo de Brecht- Breda: