I do not expect him to say yes – and even less, so enthusiastically. “That sounds brilliant, I’ll come along! I’m shifting my schedule so I’ve got all weekend free and available!” A little while later, I get another text message. “I also took Monday off, I’m stoked, im psyched, let’s go!” A whole day later, I get another text. “Went on my first training run!” I gawk at the text. “….first?!” Well. Looks like I’ll have a social start to a solo expedition after all. That’s new.
I met Daniel (@querfeldberg) at a science communication conference last year, and we had orginally planned to go mountaineering on 4000m peaks. The pandemic came in the way of those plans, like it did for so many others. But Daniel’s enthusiasm for outdoor sports couldn’t be curbed, and I saw him rack up insane mileage on his bike as his main lockdown sport. “600km on a bike in 48hrs!” I saw him post one day.
Naturally, I got in touch with him whether he’d be keen to join the running team for a bit. He definitely seemed the right kind of crazy.
We join forces in Hamburg, and head on out to the Low(est) Point of Germany.
Arriving at not a hole in the ground, as I had expected, but instead just some very, very flat fenced off land was as anticlimactic as you might think. I’m fairly certain that this will end up being the Low Point Of The Trip.
But that’s alright. After all, it’s all uphill from here.
“And when you measure the area of th chaos pyramid and divide it by pi, but then take the distance of the South and North Pole to the Nascar Lines in South America, you know what you get?!” – “Ummmmm…..” “THE EGYTIAN CUBIT!”
And he seemed so normal when he invited us over to the campfire with his kids.
But first, let’s recap.
Daniel and I began running at peak heat, because that way, you don’t have to warm up first – saving precious time. Damn straight, we’re that smart. The sun is merciless, cooking my brain as well as destroying my morale. “THIS SUCKS!” I yell at Daniel at some point at 4PM. I wish I had a bow and arrow and could shoot Helios down from the sky, Herkules-style. Maybe, he’d be so impressed with my stupid running idea that he’d take me on his chariot and drive me the next 30km… oh dear. I think the hallucinations are starting already.
Daniel is frightfully chirpy, chatting with me about mountaineering, his new baby – and how he’s teaching to to say “SNACKS!” instead of the word “BIRDS”. “It’ll be hilarious when he’s in kindergarten one day, points at a bird and says ‘SNACKS’!” – But you won’t even be there to see him do it,” I reply. “Oh, but if it works well, I’ll hear about it.” He grins.
Daniel is definitely cut out for these kind of shenanigans. Even though the man hasn’t even run a single half-marathon before, he’s now ploughing on, with 10kg on his back, as if he does this every day.
I must admit, it bugs me a little how easily he can drop me when we run.
But he doesn’t have to save himself for another three weeks of this.
And his legs are also longer than mine.
Also, I’m a proud snail.
We end the night on a small beach, slashing our way through reeds and towards a small fire in the sand. Two boys are playing with old newspapers throwing them as kindling on the flames, their little eyes aglow with fascination. It takes their dad about 3 minutes to figure out that we’re scientists. And barely a heartbeat longer to unload all of his seemingly painstakingly acquired knowledge of Ancient Science upon us.
It’s past midnight when I interrupt his monologue on the suspiciously linear assortment of pyramids across the globe. “How did you get into this in the first place?” He stops for a moment. “Well, I used to be a farmer. And then an engineer, and then a farmer again. But I got cancer and then… I had a lot of time on my hands and I wanted to know more, you know?” He looks at the fire. “I just wanted to make sense of everything I knew from scratch, I guess.”
They leave us with the embers of the fire, and we settle into our sleeping bags.
Monstrous transport steam past us on the river, the waves they create slapping loudly against the sand of our beach. The North Star shines brightly in the night.
Not bad for a first day on the road.