Olivier and Nadège: the world by bike, kite and sail
When friends Olivier Peyre and Nadège Perrot decided to take an eco-friendly trip around the world, they weren't about to do things by halves. Not only have they pedalled their way from France to Australia via Africa, South America, Polonesia and New Zealand but they have sailed the oceans in between. And when they're not riding their bikes or on the water, they're up in the air – not in an aeroplane, but paragliding, making it a 100% carbon neutral way of travelling. So far they have cycled more than 32,500km, sailed 17,500km and paraglided in 160 spots, and the journey continues. Cycle Traveller caught up with the nomadic French pair as they rolled through the highlands of Bright, Victoria.
Olivier described by Nadège: Olivier is a 33-year-old with a mechanical engineer degree, experience in aeronautics and 12 years experience paragliding. He had no touring bike experience apart from this trip and no open seawater sailing experience before either, just some leisure sailing when young. He travelled a lot from 21-years-old.
Likes: Cheese on potatoes above all, waking up and sleeping with the chooks, walking with a bivouac in the mountains, a good glass of wine at a good table with some friends, flying like a butterfly.
Dislikes: Noisy cars, the word “impossible”, being blocked, when I read late at night in the tent, when I want to carry a second T-shirt (apparently too heavy!!!), a persistent headwind.
Nadège described by Olivier:
Nadège is a 32-years-old hydrogeologist engineer. She started paragliding when joining the trip in 2009. She had no touring bike experience apart from this trip, no sailing experience, and hadn't travelled abroad much before.
Likes: Reading late at night, carrying extra weight T-shirts, going for a nice hike and a fly early in the morning with the paraglider, sleeping in the middle of Mother Nature, eating boiled veges, being pushed by a strong tailwind all the day.
Dislikes: Honking trucks in South America, the question: “where are you from?”, facing a computer instead of a proper member of her family and friends, when I want to carry another camera to have another (beautiful!) angle of the bicycle.
CT: What motivated you to travel the world using just your legs and the wind?
OP: I started dreaming about a world bicycle tour when I was 15 while reading a book about two guys having done it. Since this was proven possible, then I would have to do it. Sailing came after some years as an add-on to the original idea, as a world tour on bicycle should also include crossing the ocean by fair means. Meanwhile, getting into paragliding was addictive and new equipment had been released that was extremely lightweight with little volume. This made it possible to carry one on a bicycle! And since it was possible, why not do it? So it became a zero carbon world tour project.
The world is using its reserves of fossil fuels at an excessive speed and increasingly ruining our habitat. This is consciousless. Many don't think it's possible to change the system – their system! We want to show that a great thing such as touring all around our planet can be achieved without petrol and that it is even more fun!
Before leaving, Nadège was already involved in ecological and sustainable projects. When I told her about fly’n’roll, she saw a way to enter into a more independent and eco-friendly life.
CT: How easy is it to find a sailboat to hitch a ride on? Does sailing experience help?
OP: The most important thing is to be at the right marina at the right time of the sailing season. The Jimmy Cromwell’s cruising guide can be a first help and then don’t hesitate to get advice from sailors about the crossing seasons. You cannot simply go anywhere from any point at anytime. For example, because of the Trade wind along the classic sail routes, it is very unusual to go from West to East. One who wants to cross oceans efficiently must follow these winds. Then, of course the more experience you have, the easier it will be to get a crew position on board. But when you are not very experienced, it is easier to get into a non-professional crew position like on a family boat. We both started with very little sailing experience. Most of the time, if it is not a professional crew position, you will expect to do some work as a night watch, cook, cleaner and sometimes help in the maneuvers led by the captain. Make the deal clear with the captain beforehand.
CT: What do you like about the world from the air?
OP: Independence, freedom, wild flying spots! This is also a place where your decisions are the most important; if you make a mistake, you and you only will take full responsibility for it. Paragliding gives a feeling like you are totally in control of your life and that you are able to do so many great things.
CT: Which country has been your favourite to cycle in and why?
OP: Australia of course! Because of the smell of the Eucalyptus, the exotic animals everywhere, many wild camping opportunities, the easy going spirit, many remote roads to ride (sometimes dust roads, but not so often), and so much more. So far we have met so many kind people. Let’s also add here Bolivia for which we have a special feeling. We love the desert, high altitude and the great South Lipez province was an extreme pleasure to ride through.
CT: How do you plan your cycling routes?
OP: Our itinerary is roughly planned a year before depending on the paragliding spots, a few places we want to go through, how long our visas last and from where and when sailing boats leave for the next country. We like to plan our own travel. We don’t like to get inspiration from travel guides or books because it keeps you on a delimited path of travel and it feels like someone makes the choices for you. Travelling by bike allows us to see so many things so we don’t feel it necessary to pass by the “must see” spots. For example, when we were in the Andes, we biked through so many beautiful scenes that when we passed by the famous Cuzco we didn’t follow the crowds to Machu Pichu.
We don’t hesitate to modify our cycling route plan if necessary; we like to stay flexible in the way we travel. Keeping our eyes open to the world around us creates opportunities, leads us and offers us many original adventures.
CT: What sort of bikes are you riding and are you happy with them?
OP: Our bikes are made of solid steel with components that are available worldwide, comfortable and handle well. That’s why we choose 26” wheels, v-brakes, very strong tyres (Schwalbe), combined SPD/platform pedals and SPD cleats, very large handle bars, the strongest racks we could find (Tubus is the only one which doesn’t brake apparently), leather Brooks seats, two pairs of large rear Ortlieb classic panniers, handlebar panniers and no trailers.
We carry much of our equipment to be self-sufficient and to also produce pictures and movies on the way. Our gear is quite heavy, even if we try to be fussy about what we're carrying. Most of the time, including the bike, our equipment weighs 50-60kg each, including the paraglides, which are less than 10% of the overall weight.
CT: What's one thing you can't travel without?
OP: Our paraglides!!! Even when we go for a walk for one or a few days, we carry them.
CT: Where will you be cycling in Australia?
OP: We started in Newcastle, NSW in September. We're currently around Bright, Victoria and will be in Melbourne by the end of December, where we will ride to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road. From February to March we'll head to Perth using the kites to pull the bikes and between March and June we will be making our way up the West Coast to Darwin using the kites.
See where Olivier and Nadège's end up next and read about their past adventures on their website Fly'n'Roll.
Images from top: 1. Olivier on his bike being pulled by his kite at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. 2. Olivier and Nadège cycling in Ecuador. 3. Nadège steeling a sailing boat near Vanuatu. 4. Cycling in Queenstown, New Zealand. 5. Paragliding in Mokau, New Zealand. 6. Olivier cycling in South Lipaz, Bolivia.