People come to Slovenia for many reasons, some more unusual than others, and “en route to Mongolia” has to be one of the more interesting. Even more so when done on the back of a bicycle and with the aim of collecting good news about tackling the climate crisis on the way. So when we came across the story of Mike Elm we had to find out more, and sent along some questions that he kindly answered in between time in the saddle.
What brings you to Slovenia?
I’m currently on the “New Story Ride”, an epic bike-packing adventure that started in Vienna on 24th November 2019 and is heading towards Mongolia over the next two years. The New Story Ride was inspired by my partner Rosie Watson, who set off from the UK in August this year on the New Story Run [see more about that here].
Through the ride I’m finding and telling stories of how people are living and creating businesses and systems that make for a happier, more cooperative, compassionate and fun world whilst tackling the climate crisis.
E(lectric) mail in Cerkno
How are you getting around?
I’ve been lent a Ridgeback 603 GS Mountain which is a sturdy steel-framed mountain bike, with 26 inch wheels. It’s got chunky but slick tyres, so it can handle a decent amount of off road.
With Rosie at Hotel Park
Where have you been so far?
I entered Slovenia over the Ponte Victoria Emanuelle III near Breginj, and was kindly taken into a house for the night in Homec. From there I went to Slap ob Idrijici where I was again generously hosted after I asked if I could camp. Then because of a closed road I ended up with a big snowy cycle to Škofja Loka along the incredible rivers, with a swim in Soča. Then from Škofja Loka I went to Ljubljana in the snow, and stayed there four days. I met Rosie there and we were generously lent an apartment for three nights and then the very eco-friendly B&B Hotel Park hosted us for the final night.
From Ljubljana I went along the beautiful Krka valley, camped one night just at the start of it. Then was hosted in Novo Mesto before going to Zagreb.
The creative use of bikes in Ljubljana
What are your impressions of the country?
This was my third visit to Slovenia – I’ve only ever come on bicycle. I think it’s a beautiful, understated country. I love seeing the vegetables growing outside people's houses across the country. I hadn’t appreciated how impressive Ljubljana's people-friendly, car-free, city centre is before. This time I really saw how special it is, and how much others should learn from the city!
When I knocked on a door in Homec at 6pm it was dark and cold. I asked if I could camp in their garden, and they quickly agreed, but then asked wouldn’t I rather sleep indoors?
This was the third time I’d ever knocked on a stranger's door and asked if I could camp, but the first time someone had taken me in. The couple were so kind, and their house was absolutely beautiful, it was a really special experience and I left with such a warm feeling, and many treats for the road!
This started off a string of generosity from people right across the country.
Urška my host in Homec
On the way to Škofja Loka I’d stopped in Cerkno for a coffee recharge and got chatting to a friendly guy in the café. He’d told me about a natural heated pool somewhere past Podpleče. I couldn’t resist trying to find it, instead of going along the more direct road to Škofja Loka.
The road where I thought the pools should be had a sign saying it was closed, I guessed maybe that was only for cars. I’d already gone up and down over a big hill so I wasn’t about to turn around. The road was closed, though, with a huge mound of rubble and diggers blocking the way.
I backtracked a kilometre, and found the road leading to Mrovljev Gric, which was very uphill, and as I started up it began to snow. By the time I was at the top of the hill there was snow covering everything and then: The first ‘crash’ of the New Story Slide… I mean Ride.
The hour and half of penguin-footed pushing the bike down the snowy hill in the dark was one thing, but the final 20km on a road proved the biggest challenge.
The relief of being off the hill evaporated, or was smothered by the slippery new snow, and the dark reality of a road populated by obnoxiously fast cars. Driving is one thing, but doing so close to a cyclist and occasionally beeping is very unnecessary. It was almost with tears in my eyes I met Rosie at Ziva and Matej’s house outside Škofja Loka. Accompanied by Prince’s “Purple Rain” blaring out of my coat.
How can people help or learn more about your project?
The most important thing is for people to start creating and telling a new story, one that makes a better, happier, more fun world that isn’t going to end in climate catastrophe. What that means is going to be different for everyone. People can help the New Story Ride directly through offering places to stay, a meal, or contributing to the GoFundMe page, and reaching out to share stories that could be visited along the way.
Where are you going next?
I’m now in Croatia, on the car-free island of Silba. I’m looking for pieces of the new story as I go down the coast, intending to visit other islands too, and then I may go to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia if the winter isn’t going to be too hard. I also plan to go to Albania, as the mayor of Tirana is doing interesting work to make the city bike and people friendly. Then maybe Greece, before Bulgaria to take the boat across the Black Sea to Georgia, Azerbaijan and then most likely across the Caspian Sea, if it’s not possible to visit Iran. Then intend to travel through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, back to Kazakhstan and then either through some of Russia or China to reach Mongolia. Simple, right?