• Clotaire Mandel

Half a year in Auckland.


What the hell I actually did of my life for the past six months. Six months in the same city. To work and faff around. To go around in circles and needed some quit time to realise it.

Everything started when I came earlier than expected in NZ. Too soon and too unexpected. I struggle to manage my frustration if decisions are nothing entirely coming from me. And this time, I actually did loose control.


So I did land, a bit lost. The messy quarantine, who finally changed my life much more than expected at first.

A few days earlier I was faffing in underwear somewhere under the south east asian’s heat. And brutally, after a wild race being chased by border restrictions, I ended up in a small room in quarantine, from where the only way to breath and see the sky was after climbing a small window to access the rooftop. Which also was the only place we could cook as well. Nothing was really ready or made for us during this messy quarantine. Not blaming anybody tho. It was a general mess.

Not even out of our self quarantine, the country was under lockdown restrictions.

For about 2 months, what I’ve seen from here it’s roughly my miserable dorm, my financial issues and a world who was turning mad. And a proper lack of futur perspectives.


What the fuck am I doing here. I’m so stubborn that I keep on fighting to stay here even tho I realised that would have been way more clever to fly home, considering the lack of job and the money struggle.

And one day the phone rings : “Could you work tomorrow ?”

I’ll never forget the name of this girl who pulled me out of my hole.

And the next day I was labouring for the first time of my life. But well, why not.

And that’s also a lesson. I understood that the simplicity I was offering myself as a lifestyle pushes me sometimes to deal with a certain complexity to reach this actual level of simplicity.

Anyway, I found myself in a total new world, in which I actually don’t belong at all.

I was brushing pavements, and walkers had not even a single glance at me. I wasn’t existing for anybody, even tho I was pretty visible with my bright orange jacket.

I had to accept this new condition. Not being any special for anybody, and this for a minimum wage.

Our system can be pretty brutal. It grinds you.

It’s not new at all isn’t, although I grew up with the idea that I would not face this option at anytime. That I would never step into this very mechanical process of destruction, ruining humans, their body and the poetry every soul encloses.


But at least I had a little bit of money. Was working a lot, but at least I was decently surviving. The country did slowly open up and I found myself back in an occidental and sedentary context.

I used to assiduously frequent pubs, and mostly feast. I stuffed food down. And through a motionless new life, I tried to make y journey keep on living and existing. I roamed around the world when gobbling worldwide food up.

I had to keep on travel, in a way or an other. While sitting around a fair amount of tables, I did a savoury voyage. Which did actually results in a serious diet change.


An open door to a new world then. For the first time since a faire while, I was earning more than spending. So I took the best of it.

Living in Auckland and having access a crazy range of shops again. For once, I was able to find pretty much everything I was looking for. Things I didn’t have the need at all, but just simply access.

So when I started to get some money from work, I also started to consume. Which was at first a simple application of the way too use latin sentence Carpe Diem quickly turned into an absurd situation.

I got that a couple of months later, when I realised that I had saved not a single euros for future. I offered myself a proper slap, and I was back in the right path.


Cause New Zealand has something seducing. Despite the apparent occidental facade who could make me feel home, is some sharp differences, which did seduce me, and by there, comforted me on my comfy life.

Knowing some people and being known by them. Having habits. Living in a country where people are way more relax. In 6 months in here I can count people who’ve been running in the street, or even just asking fast !

And a certain respect towards others, for what I’ve seen. The feeling of being freely myself, helped by an apparent lack of judgment. Feeling that differences are lighter to carry here than in my own country. Something sweet, and soothing

Having a roof, friends around, a work, money coming every week. Easy to feel cosy in this world who cover us by the warmth of a city life.


Until it don’t feed my soul anymore. Until the reality shows up.


Towers are tall, and the sun struggle to reach my skin. I try to collect some flowers for someone and only find some concrete. I blame the whole country which appeared so cool in photos.

People annoy me, and I rarely have the energy to talk more than 5 minutes, and not at all talking of myself.

It took me the first 2 months to open my mouth and start talking, giving my name in exchange of someone else one. And I’m slowly going back into this hell again.

Don’t want to talk anymore. Barely any envy left. Well, still the hunger for travelling and keep on crossing borders


I keep a constant eye on the international opening border rules. Nothing moves. The world is still incredibly stuck.

I’m worrying right now for what’s gonna happen in 6 months from now.

I become what I always execrate on others. I don’t exactly know who I am anymore actually. A deconstructed mess of fear and apprehension.

I struggle to answer to anybody, to keep on giving news we usually give when we care about each other.

I eat cause I have to do it. I go to work and I read, a lot.


Is everything becoming clear now.

To crack on, I might work at first. So live here, surrounded by noise and crowd.

By the cerebral storm, worries and uncertainty, I understood the weight of such a project when suddenly something go wrong and shake everything upside down.

I apparently got some white hair now. Not because of worrying being sick, but afraid of having to potentially give up this long journey, which is maybe the longest I could handle time wise.

Years are piling up, and what was a long and sweet river now suffer from the few stormy streams melting up with. We have to live sixth anyway. Keeping on fighting with myself.

Brutality of my souvenirs, struggle to live in the actual present.


I can barely move. I can’t recognise myself anymore.

I rarely if not get out of the city center of Auckland.

I can see those trees further away. this nature spreading from a fair distance. Look like an endless patch of green. But I can’t move, numb as I am. I’m now part of the people who believe in the existence of impossibility. It helps to find excuses for my stagnation.


I measure the weight of every single of my choice. I understand what long term travel means. Far from the words poetry, I get that reaching my aspirations, particularly in this period, means as sacrifices.

This long journey undertaken which is my actual kid’s dream. A journey we can undertake when loneliness weight more like a kilo of feather than a kilo of plumb.

A journey who’s above the notion of distance of destination. Far from what I thought I was engaging myself in.

We can’t go around anything else than ourselves. And still not sure at all.

So this journey find itself in a notion of time mainly. As a sort of masochism, flirting with absurdity.

For a long time. Long long time. But why ?

Question for what the future only can bring any sort of answer.

But I’m not as addicted to answers as I am of questions anyway.


Because this is clearly what I’m fighting for. To keep alive the absurdity of a journey where time and frontiers are non existing. For the love of a journey where paths are endlessly following each other. Those paths I have no choice to follow, guided by my insatiable curiosity and love for this planet I’m living on.


But where I spend most of my time, work place, I don’t get much. Times are rough for everybody and the time is incredibly slow when alone behind the counter.

I seek refuge in books. I understand as well that reading that much means that I’m trying to live through someone else’s glaze and emotions. My life is boring, dull. Why should I keep on writing and sharing ? Why should I keep on talking ?

Souvenirs are too heavy too cary. My past 28 years have been so perfect and intense that I struggle to flirt with the bottom now. What our modern society call depression.


But fuck sake, I deserve better. All those memories who burn my eyes from their intensity, I did build it, I did provoke it, I fought for it. And is so many more fights to come.

Just need to swipe this layer of boredom.

I slowly step out of my numbness. Even tho a bit dark, my thoughts are not false. But nor a fatality either.

I just kick my own arse. I just decide to be back into this happy person I was before.

I grab a map and let the country rolling down south through a succession of paths.

Tent, bike, stove, sleeping bag. They just wait for the departure day to show up.


I struggled to accept what was for me absolutely unbearable, the possibility of leading an actual wrong existence. Although it’s the case. I’m not getting anything at work, where I spend 6 days each of my precious weeks. Or, to be more accurate, the place I’m working in doesn’t bring me anything. This place where I trade my precious and sacred life time. And anyway, the city brings me no pleasure or joy anymore.


We can take pleasure in a certain night life or roaming in shops and exploring the surroundings.

But it’s all lies. Just trickery.

Although I did my best. Bought some new shoes and cloth. Wear cool socks and funny underwear. I go out and talk to people. I pick up the phone and I’m on time at meeting.

A very normal person.

But why is the fight for ? It’s just a layer that I know being pretty fine under the nail.

Is everything about surface.

But I want the deep filth under this surface.

I exhaust myself being almost clean and washed every day. With my casual and fancy urban air which disgust me actually more than anything else.

This feeling of wearing a costume, of playing someone else’s role to match in this city life.


And things irremediably tarnish as well. I was living two steps away from some luxury shops. Luxury, what a concept. But why not after all ? Those shops, I imagined them sad and empty. They were packed and healthy. People were queuing in front of each after each of the lockdown. And in the meter of pavement who were separating them, hobos were sitting patiently.

The wold was swinging around them, walking in a cold and straight glaze. Suites and dresses. Laugh and wealthy gestures.

I reckon I have way too much empathy to handle living in society. Too much empathy to keep smiling and talking when every effort I make to do so cost me a lot.

I don’t understand anything of this world surrounding me. Although I try, I swear.

I just feel myself in a wild place. Where the sky is my church and where the movement my anchor.


Here is the portrait of myself a couple of months back from now. Sad and disillusioned, not at the right place, and not even being the right person.


One day I’m cycling along the coast and found a spot I’ve never been yet. From there, I only some green, then sea, soaking on its calm. And further away, some sort of Chinese engravings. I can touch this horizon in a glance, but it’s not enough. That will never be enough. Never.

I have to go, for sure. I know it. I feel it. I fought, trying to play the safety card. But no. I have to go. I need the sweet intracity of endless and meaningless days.

I refuse any sort of plan. No alarm, no obligation. No responsibility either. I don’t want people excepting to see me. I hate that. What’s worst than being predictable ?

But I have to, cause tomorrow I work.

Then a got this message : “My season ends October the first, we catch up further south ?”

Ok, I’ll be there.

I sell all of the useless craps I accumulated, quit my job, draw lines on a map. I’m getting back to life.

For sure, in a month from now, I’m out of auckland. No matter how much I saved. I decide to to care about it anymore. About it, and the rest either. Borders and future, it’s in half a year from month that I can start think about.

And about this idea I kept in mind to save enough to have at least two more years of free cycling after NZ, I’ll find out.

I reach the point where I tell myself that I would rather live even more simply, with less, than having to deal for longer than expected with work and shifts and schedule and alarm and early wake up. I don’t want to suffer anymore to reach my goal, which is ironically simplicity. I don’t want the simplicity to be so complex to reach.


A long way to reach this point, two steps away from the departure. I take it as a lesson anyway.

I might leave.

Damn the financial safety, or even any kind of safety actually. Anyway, the future looks like nothing at all as blurry as it is right now. Hence, better make the present as sweet and beautiful as it might. And for that, I need to find myself back.

Find myself back by giving sens to any movement, any actions. By understanding what am I doing here.


However my decisions were made, and I just had to wait patiently for the departure day to come, a girl suddenly popped in my life when entering my dorm.

By that, I met someone who had same convictions are mine, but were pushing those even further than I never did. I was waiting for this departure day to come to reborn.

Patiently, she brought me in the most beautiful spots around Auckland to open my eyes upon this beauty which was surrounding me since months and months.

By her side, I’m slowly getting back to life.

I can see perspectives opening up. When the nights were about to come, I had no envy at all to drive back downtown. I want to forget this urban notion of time. Stay there as much as wanted.


I was born again, sooner than expected.

No question, I got to go. Flirting with the outside to find back my inner paradise. It’s time to crack on. Time to find back my circadian rhythm, only guided by natural treats.

My simple life.

I can already have a glimpse of New Zealand. It’s beautiful. I already love it. Can’t wait to see more.

Big changes often come by a detail.


So here I leave Auckland behind me, in a last glance. I have nothing except excitation for this life to come. A life of uncertainty, of pure and perfect uncertainty. Feel much safer like that than by knowing where the hell I’m gonna head every single morning.

City is to live in a blink. Above, it’s just about forced repetition of the daily needs.

We cover the boredom with a artificial happiness blanket.

Sometimes I dream of not having understanding that, and leaving serenely a well sewn life. But it is what it is. And happy is the one who has for only key the big open spaces one.

By seing a mascarade in the logic life unfolding, I run away. And I even run away from people who are afraid of this notion.

I run away from any noise who’s not a bird’s one. I run away from the people unable to understand what I intent to express.

I run away from the big city life, surrounded by the heigh of those all mighty towers who let me get from the sun one what the windows reflect.

The world is draw in those offices. A world I don’t necessarily recognise and accept. A tangle world of drowning in concrete while the simplicity and beauty can be so easily found in the big outside.


So from there a new start. And overall all of this up and down made me maturing as a human and as a citizen.

And it’s for the best. Tomorrow he sun will comes up, and horizon will open wide arms.

le pedalistan www.lepedalistan.com lepedalistan clotaire mandel bikepacking biketouring voyage vélo traversée afrique

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