A remarkable family of four, mother, father and two daughters aged seven and three, were camping at Madge Lake last week, having crossed Western Canada on bicycles, from the Yukon to here, which was the latest leg of a 10-year, 75,000-kilometre bicycle trip around the world.
Because they had heard that Duck Mountain Provincial Park was a beautiful place to visit, Xavier and Céline Pasche and their daughters Nayla, 7, and Fibie, 3, decided to camp at Madge Lake rather than at a roadside field or pasture en route as is their normal custom.
“The girls will enjoy the water,” Xavier said while being interviewed at the family’s campsite, containing a tent, four bicycles and assorted bags which contain everything they need on a trip around the world, from clothes and food, to computers and wrenches.
As Xavier busied himself with setting up camp and boiling water for tea, the girls, one dressed in a ballerina’s tutu, searched the campsite for tiny sticks they used to create a “fairy house” at the base of a nearby tree.
From Switzerland, Xavier was once a practicing architect, and Céline, an anthropologist. Ten years ago, the couple decided to become nomads on bicycles, originally intending to bike the land from central Europe to New Zealand. That quest satisfied, and included a five-year circuitous route resembling the sign for infinity through Asia, the couple later decided to continue their nomadic lifestyle by cycling “the great northern horizon” which brought them, now accompanied by two daughters born along the way, to Canada.
“We live simply,” Céline explained, adding that she is now a writer and her husband, a photographer. A book, Nomads in the Heart of the Elements, chronicles the first years of the family’s journey. In addition, the couple submits photographs and articles along the way to various publications, and there is a website that follows the family with stories and photographs.
“A Swiss newspaper prints an item from us every three days,” Xavier added. “In the articles, we talk about our experiences, the people and the culture as seen through our eyes.”
Xavier explained that the foursome travels about four or five hours a day, averaging 50 to 70 kilometres.
“This is a way of life,” Céline said. “Everything is an excuse to learn; we learn cultures, wildlife, geography and history. We learn together.”
Although fluent in French and English, they say that they have been able to “pick up” some languages as they travel, including some Chinese and some Turkish, among others.
“As a family together we live and explore the world and different cultures. We share experiences through our writing and photos and we inspire people as they follow us,” she said. “We plan to keep on doing this as long as we stay in balance.”
Regarding the first five years and 50,000 km, the website, www.ylia.ch, says the following:
“The route, drawn with a pencil only with the echo of the country names, has changed. It is expanded, shifted. It was transformed by the signs that guided us, the synchronicities and the encounters. The limited time reassuring us disappeared, the distances impressing us became tiny. And somehow, the path was mysteriously revealed... in the heart of Infinity. Nomads of the lights from beyond “les Lumières d'Ailleurs,” the symbol of infinity, that traces our journey, encircles the sacred peaks of the Altai and the mystic mountains of the Himalayas.
“In the heart of this infinity, bound to our path, our daughter was born. In this perpetual movement, she blossoms in the tenderness that unites us and in the magic of “les Lumières d'Ailleurs.” Experimenting worlds that changes daily, she engages in multiple discoveries driven by a powerful life force.”
“A thought transforming into a project; a project becoming reality; a reality reflecting our truth; a truth guiding us; nomads on the way,” says the website.
“Starting a fabulous escapade to reach New Zealand as a couple, time expanded. Spaces pulsate sometimes within tiny dimensions, sometimes they are gigantic, and the itinerary changes through our inner transformation.
“From an adventure to discover diverse cultures, it became a way of living, a way of being; being nomads on bikes. And in the celebration of this life, we welcomed our daughter, Nayla, born in Malaysia, in the heart of this initiation.”
Xavier and Céline had leftSwitzerland on August 1, 2010.
“The first metre on our bikes drives us in a new universe, the universe of our adventure,” says the account on the website. “We already dream about us crossing the great Asian Plains, Mongolian Plains, swimming in emerald waters in Thailand, meeting many amazing people along the way.
“This first metre was also very symbolic, it meant going from getting every details ready to living our dream, to living a nomadic lifestyle. It was also the moment to surrender on what we were yesterday, on what we considered our life and in a way our identity. It meant leaving our entire material well being to live in the nature, with the nature.
“Now the communication with our friends and the people we love will take a different path, a different way of communication and perception. But as we say goodbye, the emotion is intense and words are said that were never told before. We feel that the relationship will deepen through this separation.
“Cycling over the Swiss Alps bring us back to reality and to the present moment. During the effort, our spirit is entirely here, our mental thoughts stop circling and becomes calm. In a state of meditation, we climb each metre of heights to reach to top of the pass. We struggle with the elements, apart from the pouring rain and a few flakes of snow, the wind is violent and sometimes it prevent us from moving forwards. Under the tent, we suddenly realise, it will not be easy everyday.
“At the next pass, the Albula Pass, the light is stunning and it is simply magic. It warms us up, made us dream. The mountains around amaze us and made us radiate. We feel extraordinarily well in this environment, surrounded by mountains tops and a meadow of wild flowers.
“Free, we feel we are part of this world, part of this majestic nature.
“Nomads, the symbol of infinity that guided us took us from the Swiss Alps to the Southern Alps in New Zealand.
“We cycle in breathtaking landscapes on the virgin land of the South Island in New Zealand, in a sense of exhilarating freedom. Living intensely here and now, living intensely this nomadic life where everyday is a beginning, where everyday the unknown can take all faces.
“Every moment is so pure because it does not bear the weight of expectations. In this unknown, we can reinvent ourselves each day, following our intuition and our inner transformation. Everything is movement and change, and we are dancing on the flow of our creation.
“Nayla spent the first two years of her life, 15,000 km, lulled in her trailer, through the peoples of Asia and in the wild land of Oceania. She joyfully dives into worlds that are constantly changing, into cultures with diverse flavours, linked to the power of the Earth.
“We feel deeply guided in this nomadic life, following the melody of our heart, creating a magical way in the middle of this unknown. For months we have slept in our tent, living a simple life in the heart of the elements. We breathe with each light mesmerizing the sumptuous landscapes. We live the delight of the present moment, the silence of the night, the cool breeze on our skin, the powerful freedom in the heart of the wilderness. The intensity of this life is powerful. We feel deeply alive, vibrating a deep inner joy.
“We have learnt to live differently, in an inner transformation marked by a powerful necessity to trust life, in a path that takes us everyday towards a greater balance. Every day, we learn to live in harmony with who we are. Every day, we learn to allow the others to be who they are, in the powerful understanding that everyone lives his own reality. Our reality is part of a world of mystery, where we perceive its energy, a world of joy linked with the euphoria of the freedom to be, a world of abundance, which everyone can choose, a world of peace in our inner space, a world of love that unites us to the whole.
“The wild land of New Zealand still echos in us. They gave us a fabulous taste for pristine and wild lands, lands that invite us to join them.”
In a “spiritual movement,” the family decided to explore the “great northern horizon” and arrived in North America last year.
“Nomads, in perpetual movement we connect with the Earth, we connect with ourselves. As a small cocoon, our family bubble moves through the world, following our inspirations, in the wonder of discoveries and in sharing that brings us to meet human beings in their sumptuous humanity.
“And the Light is coming back... more intensely every day,” the website says of their experience in the Yukon, where the family spent the winter.
“From the long boreal nights, we gain more than an hour of daylight each week.
“One day, by the river, something surprises us, something different that awakens in us an inexpressible joy. For months, we have been living in a snow-covered world, white as far as the eye can see. Today, we perceive the flow of the water, we hear its song. The river has freed itself from the ice, from the constraint that stifled every sound. It has regained its ardour and its melody. It has put on its sapphire-blue hue. Our body seems even more joyful than the smile on our face. A powerful energy seems to flow through each of our cells, an energy of life. Spring is coming and we live it with the intensity that marked the long winter months.
“We experience every transformation. We experience the intense green of the leaves that are growing on birch and trembling poplar trees. We hear the birds’ symphony at 4 a.m. We observe the elegant patterns of lichens, the ones that allow the caribou to survive the winter. We hear the loud and surprising cry of a loon, the symbolic bird of the north. It emits a kind of hooting, a mysterious and inspiring spring song, the song of the Yukon. We are experiencing the return of the bears coming out of their long hibernation. They eat the wildflowers that now blanket the ground. These grizzly and black bears wander peacefully, covered with their thick fur, like big teddy bears. The mosquitoes are also coming back. This year, they're formidable, in their thousands; the worst in more than a decade. The woods are infested. Without a breeze, it's sometimes impossible to stay outside unprotected.
“Fibie loves to play in the water. At 10 degrees Celsius, she wades in the mud and icy water, while the lake is still frozen and the snowy peaks spread out in the background,” it says. “She rides around the tent with her balance bike and does yoga. She loves when Xavier throws her up in the air, "higher and higher!" she shouts.
“Nayla cycles in the Yukon. She rides through the vast expanses, along the boreal forests, past small dark-blue ponds and frozen lakes. She pedals with breathtaking views of the towering mountains. A radiant smile lights up her face. It is also in the Yukon that she celebrates her birthday. She is now seven. There, in front of Deszdeash Lake, she welcomed some friends to play in the sand, to run with a ball, to grill bison sausages on the fire and to explore the surroundings. Friendship was the centre of this moment of sharing, in this sumptuous landscape.
“With the springtime, we are taking advantage of new activities. We hike to the top of the mountains. We discover the Tors, these strange rock formations, gigantic blocks of rock at the top of a large plateau. We have the feeling of being somewhere else. Yet when we sit on the formations and look at the view, there is all the power of the Yukon in front of us. We breathe in the landscapes, the gigantic rivers meandering through the land like long snakes, the peaks extending in ridges, the rocky cliffs, the hanging glaciers, the slopes of pristine white snow.
“We go rafting and canoeing in front of the sumptuous Kluane Mountains. Rivers are the veins of the Yukon. They provide access to remote and wilderness areas. They allow us to fully immerse ourselves in this incredible nature and with the animals that populate these lands. We are carried by the current, carried by the energy of the water through the landscapes. The songs of the river and the birds underline the deep quietness and peace of the place.
“We ride fat bikes on the trails, we go fishing, we go morel picking but mostly we go camping. Here we are on a small open field. It is covered with wildflowers and offers a perfect place in the middle of the boreal forest. The view opens on the high summits. The panorama is impressive. We then repeat the gestures of our nomadic life and pitch the tent with the help of Nayla and Fibie. Then we light a small fire. We love these moments of sharing where nothing else matters but the present moment. These moments when time stops to give way to contemplation, play, laughter, simply letting ourselves be guided by the moment.
“We enjoy meditating and doing yoga in front of the purity of this breathtaking landscape. Sleeping in a tent allows us to reconnect with the earth, it gives us tremendous energy and a powerful feeling of well-being. As soon as we wake up, we feel alive and filled with deep serenity.”
After Madge Lake, the family was to head towards Winnipeg. Their Canadian visas allow them to stay in this country only until the end of September, so they expect they will fly from Winnipeg to Europe.
“We’re not sure where we will go, southern Europe or North Africa for the winter, maybe Spain,” Céline said. “We’ll see how we feel, how the people welcome us.”
Asked how they have been treated in the various countries, Xavier said that through it all “the people are great.”
“In the last 10 years, we never so much as lost our bags,” he said. “We trust people.”
“Fear of what may happen is far worse than what happens,” Céline said. “We’ve never been hurt.”
“We were amazed with our welcome here in Canada,” he said. “It is so huge.”
Persons wishing to follow the exploits of the Pasche family are encouraged to visit www.ylia.chwhere they may also purchase copies of Nomads in the Heart of the Elements for $35 a copy.
“To guide you in the heart of our inner transformation, we have chosen a particular path,” says information on the book. “This path is not linear but circular. The chronology of the journey is thus placed in the background in order for you to dive into the teachings of the lands and the peoples, through our truth. Time