This article first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
It felt like another world, crisscrossing Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asian republics just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was also the pre-digital era, before I reached Japan by winter 1996–1997. I’d been riding already for almost three years, with the deep impression that I could have gone forever. Time had somehow ceased to matter. Handwritten letters would punctuate the journey every three months. I would only discover all my pictures seven years after, once back in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2001, cycling meanwhile from Alaska to Tierre del Fuego, then through Africa, from Cape Town to Tangier.
I took only film, 36 exposures of Kodachrome 64 rolls with a single mechanical camera, the legendary and unbreakable Nikon FM2, equipped with two lenses, 24mm and 85mm. No zoom, no flash, just natural light. Simple and analog, like the bicycle itself. Each picture looks like a kind of matriochka, the Russian nesting doll. Pics of a forgotten world, documents from the Indian subcontinent and from Himalaya, as if the passage of time would improve their taste and intensity, like aged wine.
As I pushed the button of my camera, I felt sometimes that I had already known these people, visited these places. Looking at them today, they appear to me like a dream — Songwheels — reminding me of Bruce Chatwin’s book The Songlines, about the connection between Aboriginal Australian song and nomadic travel. Each day contains a life, each country a world, each person a destiny. The bicycle truly opens doors; it is a poem without breaks.