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Spartacus & the Pied Piper of Hamelin

The power of imagination

· Inspiration

When I was finishing my long planned blogpost about water yesterday, I saw the weather forecasts becoming more grim every hour. Lots of rain and a serious storm building up for today. I decided to cut my planned stage into two, because 110 km with a heavy sidewind on a bike with bags is too much.*

I was writing in a comfortable village hotel and googled ‘bringer of rain’. It appeared to be an apocryphal story about Spartacus, the Roman slave-gladiator, who defeated an opponent with the impressive name ‘Shadow of Death’ (You can find many bloody scenes on YouTube). When Spartacus defeats him, it starts to rain, after a very long, dry period. This coincidence -of course- needed a meaning and Spartacus became seen as the cause and worshiped as the ‘bringer of rain’.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel half as heroic as Spartacus, but today that changed. My shadow of death was the 60-85km/h south(western) wind and rain itself. The shadow was assisted by bad unpaved mud, roads where at some moment I had to wade up to my knees through the water. It’s that kind of road that I already learned to distrust when I see it, but GPS points me to go, and the alternative road meant 30 km extra, partially against the wind. The first kilometers it are just a bit muddy. Then the puddles become bigger and bigger, making my low-rider front wheel bags touch the water. My laptop is inside. The bags are supposed to be waterproof, but you never know…. For the next puddles I stepped off and tried them walking and wading first. When I found a crossable path, I returned for my bags and later once more for the bike. While doing this, I constantly thought, should I go back or is the redemption ahead? To persist, it helped to identify with Spartacus, a less violent one though.

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The second thought that kept me going was this one. In old times people might have believed that the coincidence of the arrival of a crazy Dutchman and the rain in this arid region is a divine message. There may even have been farmers praying for rain for months and now see their prayers answered.

And would that be a good thing? Probably not! They may have thanked God but usually continued their bad practices. That reminded me of the fairy tale of the Pied Piper (rat catcher) of Hamelin. Once the pied piper has solved the rat plague, the citizens of Hamelin don’t want to pay him. As a punishment for not living up to their promises, he lures their children away. The analogy here could be: now the water is ‘brought by the crazy Dutchman’, the farmers just enjoy it and do not adapt their way of working. As a consequence, their children will suffer…. Or can humanity learn from fairy tales?

Biking -even in terrible weather, on mud roads or alternatively on dangerous semi-highways, with sidewind and big, water splashing trucks passing with 100 km/h at just a few meters- is wonderful to free your mind. At least mine!

* Did you notice that every time I write something, the next day it is counterfeited? Straight roads in France, women farmers, roaming pigs in Spain, and now rain the area that suffered from droughts for a long time.

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When I arrived in Llerena this afternoon and I saw this 'wind-plow' at a roundabout, I thought all the struggling today was to stimulate and celebrate the power of imagination.