Wild West 2009

In June and July 2009, the third-ever Otesha UK cycle tour made their way around the wild, wonderful coast of Wales.

Read about the team's adventures as they travelled from Machynlleth to Merthyr, visiting beautiful beaches and undulating hills, and inspiring thousands along the way to live more sustainably.

Watch videos of the tour performing the world-famous Otesha play (each scene is a separate youtube clip)

Read their tour journal or check out their photos on flickr

See where they went

Meet the cycle tour team

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Tour journal

Journal 5 – at the end of the road

Here's the team's last tour journal, written by Kirsty

PHEW! what a final week! The last four days have been absolutely awesome and I am buzzing with positive energy and excitement for the schools here in Merthyr. Today was our last school performance and I really think we went out with a bang! When talking to the students in the classroom workshops, I was mightily impressed with how well they had listened to our play, and how much they had remembered; especially when they were able to repeat (almost verbatim) some of my lines. They seemed to have remembered the parts about ethical investment particularly well, which I think had something to do with the fact that my 'super-banking-hero' costume consisted of wearing a pair of bright pink knickers on the outside of my leggings!  

In the admania workshop we really enjoyed watching the classes acting out their favourite adverts- they were so professionally performed. It was particularly exciting to see them 'revamp' their adverts, after some discussions, and perform their new and honest adverts. One of my favourites has to be the group who acted out a chocolate bar advert, which involved a gorilla, and making the gorilla go hyper after eating all the sugar in the chocolate bar; or when another group changed their credit card ad to use information they had learned in the play about ethical investment. 

It has been amazing to spend this time in the valley and to be surrounded by the rolling hillsides that are covered in beautiful trees. Some of the schools have been fortunate enough to start up their own vegetable gardens and the students were very proud to show us around these and offer us nibbles of their treasured lettuces, as well as showing us their prized strawberries and apple trees. 

The school today had previously been serving up these delicious home-grown veggies in the school lunches, however rather sadly, they have to stop because there have been some strict regulations imposed on them for fear of e-coli poisoning. It really is such a shame that such a wonderful initiative has been halted, because there is nothing more healthy than home-grown food! I hope they overcome this hurdle so that the school can start serving up their delicious veggie garden food again. 

We are looking forward to making plans for future Otesha projects, so watch this space. We have come together as committed and determined individuals who are fired by our shared passion of being the changes we wish to see in the world. I and I am sure that together, and with our other growing groups of friends, colleagues and family, we will alter the course of history. World, here we come!

Until next time,

The Wild West team – Kirsty, Felicity, Fleassy, Gemma, Action Andy, Dr Andy, Sylvie, Charlotte, Lisa, Nic, Georgie, Tom and Calu 

 
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Journal 4 – from Cardiff to the Gower

Wow this last week has been jam-packed and amazing. We began at Caswell Bay in the Gower, at Tom's Roundhouse. Our Caswell Bay performance was to a school group in an unusual setting: on the beach. So there we were; with sand in our toes, wind in our hair and Otesha in our hearts! (Cheesy but true.) Wow, to see a group of kids engaging and listening to us when they could so easily be off playing in the sand was amazing.   Other Caswell Bay highlights include staying in bell tents, learning about roundhouses, doing a work exchange with Tom by cutting back bracken for thatching and visiting Three Cliffs Bay. Beautiful. I feel confident in saying that if you have never considered holidaying in Wales then we all encourage you to try. It's truly breath taking and comments like "wow it reminds me of the south of France" are common amongst us.

“But what of the rain!?” I hear you cry. Well… indeed the sun did finally give way after oh so many weeks of beautiful weather and it rained and it rained and it rained, but I can honestly say unlike our tents, sleeping bags and bicycle saddles our spirits were not dampened and if anything it became clear how much greener and alive Wales is because of the rain. We also had a few guests come to visit from back home – so many thank you’s to Haley, Sonia, Greg, Mike and Pete for coming to say hello. It was lovely to meet you all after hearing so much about you.

After Caswell Bay came our dreaded "longest ride" to Cardiff – over 50 miles in one day, with 3 trailers and loaded racks. Unfortunately we were informed our first Cardiff school had cancelled, but as always in every disappointment there is a hidden gift. Ten miles outside Cardiff we found ourselves cycling into our next home for the night, Coed Hills. Wow – breathtaking is not the word, inspiring is closer to the truth I would say. Coed Hills is a "Rural Art Space" with a sculpture trail and permaculture garden, solar panels, wind turbines, stone circle, 180 acres of beautiful welsh land and a community of ever giving, friendly and inspiring people. It's open Wednesdays to Sundays for visitors so if you find yourself in the area CHECK IT OUT! We found ourselves helping out there with gardening, planting sweet corn and cooking. Again many thanks to Coed Hills!

Next up was a visit to Birchgrove Primary school in Cardiff, which was a joy. They have a breakfast club where we met some of the students before school started and had great fun getting to know them before we’d even performed. The play was by far our best performance so far. After rigorous re-assessing, re-writing and rehearsing, we entered with more shazam than ever, debuting out new introduction, which includes a white rabbit (played by Felicity) and a spinning earth. There's also a final rap in the pipeline, and we're feeling confident it will be nailed before Sunday. 

The kids were great! They were full of knowledge and a passion for the environment, which was further expressed during our workshops. We even had a few kids asking if they could join Otesha themselves – a highlight for all of us! This school was also the first to introduce us to their Eco Clu” which was exciting. We had an informal chat with them at lunch about what actions they were planning to take to improve the school's environmental impact. The meeting finished with them planning a clothes swap party and discussing the possibility of a school allotment on the unused bit of playground. Exciting stuff. 

wild west, otesha, cycle tour, bike maintenance

Currently Otesha is at Oakfield Primary School which is also in Cardiff. If the Birchgrove kids weren’t inspiring enough, then Oakfield would fill in the gaps. A Platinum Eco School, their classrooms are covered in creative expressions of how much they treasure the environment, and a notice on their staff room timetable announced “Friday, Otesha Eco Warriors arrive!” This sent a giggle through us as we sipped our bedtime drinks and settled into our sleeping bags. During their breakfast club, the Eco Club pupils came directly to us to introduce themselves showing their enthusiasm and pride in their Eco School status.

wild west, otesha, wales, machynlleth, CAT

The play was our best performance yet for audience involvement – it was met with whooping and cheering and booing in all the right places, sending goose pimples downs my arms. Our revamped fashion scene, with "Wardrobe's Got Talent" in place of Blind Date, went down a treat. Action Andy does such a funny Simon Cowell impression, and everyone loves Tom as "Little Timmy" singing "Want you back for good". 

With one more week of schools to go in Merthyr Tydfil we can only wonder what more we are going to learn and how many more inspiring people we'll meet. It's sad to think that 5 weeks have passed us already but we’ll be sure to make this last one, one to remember.

Many smiles and spokes,

Fleassy, Dr Andy and the rest of the Wild West team  

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Some mid-tour tidbits:

400 – 500 audience members
140 workshop participants
22 free loaves of bread
11 punctures
6 days of rain
4 days of work exchange
2 birthdays
1 superhero day
and a partridge in a pear tree 

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Journal 3 – Mud huts and youth clubs

Today we are writing from cob roundhouse in the middle of a magical wood just outside Swansea.  Tom, the warden of this beautiful space, has welcomed us here to share with us his self-sufficient ways of living. Imagine the elves's abode in Lord of the Rings…. We get our water from a nearby spring, food is cooked over a fire, and entertainment at night involves long talks over fires and playing music and sometimes the pub up the road!  

The last time we wrote we had arrived in St David's. So much has happened since then. In St. David's, we spent an inspiring few days of skill sharing with TYF learning about the various ‘DO' Projects that the Emmas and Adam have been working on. To see the kind of things they ‘do' go to www.dolectures.co.uk. We also enjoyed an outside performance and an afternoon of coasteering with Tom and Lou. They taught us all about the marine life as we clambered across huge rocks and through dark caves. Meeting Andy, owner of TYF, was incredibly inspirational, especially hearing about his involvement in climate change issues. His ideas and enthusiasm have continued to be a motivating force this past week as we cycled up steep hills to new destinations!

After St. David’s, we headed back to Llanrhian, only 6-8 miles from St. David’s, for our midterm retreat. We spent a productive weekend of ‘craft-er-noon’, skill-sharing, discussions, and reassessing our goals. It allowed us time to refresh, free from hectic bike rides and performances.

We also performed our Fairtrade scene from the play at two of Revd. John S Bennett’s Church services and received such a warm and engaged response from the congregations.

A big thank you to those who donated generously! We have been seriously overwhelmed by Welsh kindness. Everywhere we have been we have been donated food. People have offered shelter, been extremely helpful with directions and information, and not to mention an incredible tour by Dewy. He took several of us along a scenic route to St. David’s, and showed us a beautiful lime rendered house from the 17th century. He also took a bag full of dirty washing and returned it clean!! We have named him the kindest and coolest dentist in Wales.

Our next destination was Pembroke, some 36 miles of cycling with a performance in the evening to the Tanyard Youth Project. Tom, cook for the evening, recruited a few teenagers to help him peel the local veg that we had bought, all the while giving stories of where the food had come from. It was a fun evening, the play was such a joy to perform and we all felt we gained a lot from sharing our workshops with them afterwards.

From Pembroke to Swansea we spent two days cycling- some of the most incredible cycling we've experienced so far. Steep hills, long distances, heatwaves, rain. One night was spent at Carmarthan with Jeff and Sheena. They were wonderful hosts, allowing us to use their showers and take over their kitchen without complaint.

In Swansea we were given shelter in Cwm Primary School. It was so exciting to be there and hear about their holistic ideals for the school. We were shocked to discover that the school has been threatened with closure. We thought to mention this issue to the Mayor of Swansea when we performed on Saturday at Dunvant carnival (which was super)! His response was not reassuring.

We all feel in peak fitness after cycling many miles along the most beautiful coastline this week. We are rested and ready now for week 5! Ahhhhh time has flown so quickly! Plus we've just had our bicycles fixed up and been adorned with new t-shirts from Antony at ReCycle in Swansea!

Peace and bicycle grease,

Charlotte and Lisa on behalf of the crew! X  

P.S. Oh, and if you are wondering why there is the ‘flowery palace' tent in the middle of  a dock, we've been having photo challenges. One was to put up a tent in an unusual place….!

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Journal 2 – Aberystwyth to St David's edition…

wild west, otesha cycle tour

We were all overwhelmed by the kindness of our hosts in Aberystwyth – especially to Anna and Nathan for the use of their home and kitchen!! We had a wonderful evening spent on the beach with some delicious food prepared by the Saucy Knaves cooking team, and were even lucky enough to spot dolphins playing – perhaps a good omen for the rest of the tour?! A successful first school performance at Penglais High School and some great workshops really got the ball rolling well.

A blustery day on the road took us to Aberaeron, where we spent the night in the local church hall, and ate possibly the best meal so far. The group also used the space for some well-needed stretching exercise!

The sun came out the following day, and we enjoyed the longest but most beautiful cycle ride so far to Newcastle Emlyn. The magnetic attraction of the pub at the end of the ride was too much for some of the tour members, particularly due to the mountainous climb to our home for the night. The Dyfed Permaculture Farm was a little piece of paradise that was well worth it! We stayed in a huge barn complete with bucket shower, log burning fire and compost toilets (with a lovely "thanks for your contribution" sign!) Philip, Michelle and little Eva were wonderful hosts. We enjoyed working for them on the farm, and having a really informative guided tour. In the evening the local community came together for a food share and an Otesha performance, and were a fantastic audience!

Although we were sad to leave the farm behind us, the luxurious showers and toilets of the Fforest campsite were a welcome sight. Illness unfortunately hit the group, with a couple of tour members being struck down. But what made individuals feel weaker really seemed to make the group stronger, with everyone pulling together.

At Fforest we celebrated midsummers around the campfire in Aussie style. Howies was a great learning day, and the guided tour of the factory prompted some fruitful discussions. A well-deserved rest was had by all on our day off, followed by a late-night screening of "The Age of Stupid". If you haven't seen it yet, see it.

And here's Tom's update from the last couple of days:

Two days of post-Fforest reality and yet this still feels like a holiday. The posh eco-camping with its free cider, free food, milling Audi drivers and Age of Stupid screening has left a merry mark on the group. The journey to Trefin top-trumped every landscape that we’ve cycled through so far and allowed for a guilt-free evening of discussion and gluttony. That journey also saw the debut of superhero day, which took south West Wales by storm, with underwear-on-the-outside clad cyclists soaring through Fishguard and Trefin.

Today we awoke to another perfect morning and arrived at Mathry primary school for a performance at 9:00am. We didn't want to predict how our performance would go or what the reaction from the audience would be. But the school today was incredible. Our group ad-libbed changes to most of the lines in the play, pitching it directly to the kids who responded afterwards with wild, intelligent and hilarious solutions to all the questions asked in the performance. During the fashion workshop my group solved global consumerism with a wall across the Atlantic and an army of recycled floating mannequins. It was great to see a reason to dream converted into a fully formed dream world.

Sitting on a rock in a sunny cove this afternoon it finally settled on me that this approach is quite exciting. It seems certain that each of the kids we met today will be spending the next few days obsessing over winning themselves an Otesha choco bar, which one person every month will get for sending us in a postcard with an action they've taken written down. Perhaps for a few of them creating a recycled necklace may now be more appealing than pleading for the newest Hanna Montana lunch box. 

Until next time,

The Otesha UK Wild West Cycle Tour (Andy H, Lisa, Charlotte, Felicity, Nic, Andy L, Georgie, Tom, Sylvie, Fleassy, Kirsty, Gemma and Calu)

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Journal 1 – An update on our adventure so far…

We're just coming to the end of an fantastic first week of the Otesha Wild West tour. It's quite incredible to think that's it's only been a week, because we've packed in so much and we already feel like we've known each other for years. There is a fantastic spirit and team bond within the group.

otesha, training week, machynlleth, wild west, cycle tour

The training week has included bike maintenance, a making video workshop, a trip to the Centre of Alternative Technology, numerous deep and meaningful discussions, games and rehearsals.

We only looked at the play for the first time on Monday, but yesterday we did two full run throughs which went wonderfully well – which is fortunate becasues the first performance is tomorrow! Everyone is having so much fun being creative with the script – which is more of a guideline than it is presciptive – and every time we rehearse we have more ideas and more humour is added. We're all really looking forward to the first performance.

Since being here I've talked to people back home about the fact that our diet is almost entirely vegan, meaning that we eat no meat, eggs, cheese or yoghurt (we've had a bit of milk in our tea) and their reaction is almost always a combination of shock and pity. They can't seem to imagine how you can eat well without such things in your diet. The truth is the food, prepared by three highly dedicated volunteer chefs, has been amazing. Varied, delicious and nutritous!

WW journal 1 photo 2

Tomorrow the chefs are leaving us and my cooking team is going to the the first within the group to cook. We've created a 'food mandate' which states that for the first week we will not only be vegan but also not eat wheat, as one of our number is intolerant to it. We may eat eggs if they are organic and we can see the chickens and we're only going to buy honey if the bees look happy! We're planning a chilli ginger stir fry with cashew nuts.

The weather has not been great so far but today the sun is shining for our 'day off' and we're all planning to cycle off for a swim. Tonight we're having a BBQ and we'll all be showered and wearing clean clothes. Wonderful! We can't wait to hit the road.

Until next time,

The Otesha UK Wild West Cycle Tour (Andy H, Lisa, Charlotte, Felicity, Nic, Andy L, Georgie, Tom, Sylvie, Fleassy, Kirsty, Gemma and Calu)

WW Journal 1 photo 3

Where they went

Take a peek at a map of the route here. The team made their way through:

  • Machynlleth
  • Aberaeron
  • Aberystwyth
  • Newcastle Emlyn 
  • Cardigan
  • Fishguard
  • St David's
  • Pembroke
  • Carmarthen
  • Swansea
  • Mumbles
  • Cardiff
  • Merthyr Tydfil

Who came along

Say hello to these fantastic tour members:

Georgie Burr

Georgie and friends, cycle tour liaison, wild west, otesha

Hallo Hallo! I'm Georgie! Last summer I was a tour member on the Wild West tour and we rode about the lovely areas of Wales. It was so good, despite the 6 weeks of rain, that I wanted to do it again! Currently I live the life of a shipmate aboard my bateau 'Crazy Diamond', whilst wiling the days away working in the hospital… I can't wait to be back on the bicyclette and meeting all the new 'oteshites'!

Felicity Crabb

Felicity tour liaison, cycle tour, Otesha, wild west, wales

Felicity started performing at a very young age and after completing a diploma in performing arts, she went on to study Circus Skills, learning everything from Trapeze to Tight-wire! Felicity is always looking for new adventures, be it trekking through the Jungle, stilt walking or trying another extreme sport. When she does finally sit down, she can be found making costumes and cycling around on her 80 year bike! She has one motto in life and that is to live it. She believes strongly in educating the next generation on environmental issues and is hugely passionate about preserving the rain forest, amongst many other issues! Currently in India volunteering, she is hugely excited to be joining the Otesha Project and thoroughly looking forward to inspiring and encouraging great things.

Kirsty Schneeberger

wild west, tour liaison, kirsty, wales, otesha, cycle tour

A few years back, Kirsty left the sunny shores of the UK for the sunnier shores of Sydney to read Government, IR and Philosophy. Here she had an environmental epiphany while experiencing firsthand the serious impacts that climate change is already having on the great barrier reef and drought-prone areas in Australia. Upon her return to the UK, she interned for a Lib Dem MP in Westminster before branching out into the charity sector, where she began volunteering with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. Having greened her fingers in such grassroots activities, Kirsty then interned at the Environmental Law Foundation. Here she discovered how hefty a tool the law is, and decided that she should try and sling it in her environmental toolbelt. Kirsty is a determined London cyclist and her favourite colour is green.

Tom Lafford

Tom Lafford, wild west, wales, cycle tour, otesha

My main interests are books with pretty covers (to read not to collect) and lycra-clad cycling. My life consists of enjoyable literary drudgery and little else for the moment. I'm coming to the end of a degree in English literature and arriving at the start of a year involving lots ofOtesha then holidays, and hopefully an MA the year after. I am, so they say, tall. 

 

Kristin Green

Kristin, tour liaison, wild west, otesha, cycle tour

I'm Kristin, nickname Tin Tin, hailing from the Rocky Mountains in the US. I got into cycling last summer when a friend and I cycled over 300 miles, since then I fell in love with long distance riding. I came to London last year for graduate school at King's College London where I'm studying Environment, Politics and Globalisation. I cycle to Uni everyday and although I've come to love the weaving in and out of London traffic, I can't wait for some countryside cycling. I love the great outdoors, photography, writing, and have recently become a fan of beans on toast and ribena.

Gemma Timmons

Gemma, tour liaison, wild west, wales, cycle tour, otesha

Hi there, Orginally from Kent and now living in Bristol I have decided that it is time to suck myself out of the city and run away to the country with my bike. Luckily I found Otesha! I am a keen cyclist, both tootling around the lanes or being a well 'ard mountain biker, either is fine by me – I just love being in the big outdoors. I feel like Wales is my second home so looking forward to being there for more than just a weekend. After the cycle tour I am continuing my escape with a trip up to Scotland to do some Wwoofing (also on my bike) so I am looking forward to a very sore bum this summer!

Claudia Lema

claudia lema, otesha, cycle tour, wild west

I’m Calu, a half British half Colombian intrepid cycling enthusiast and graphic/web designer. I returned to the UK in July 2005 to pick up where I left 24 years ago. Have I found what I was looking for? I’m much closer to it. London has presented itself like a child that knocks off your chessboard just when you were about to finish the game. What’s left? Emptiness. Is it scary? Initially, then it’s just like a white canvas with tons of possibilities. After my arrival to the UK, I got into cycling the day I walked into a shop and asked for the price of a monthly travel card. I cycled LEJOG last summer and I’m off to Finisterre via Santiago de Compostela (800kms) next week. That sounds like a good preparation for the Wild West tour. Afterwards I’ll be wwoofing near Glastonbury for a month and then, who knows. I’m interested in permaculture, organic farming, yoga, meditation, ecovillages.

Andy Lulham

Andy Lulham

I'm Andy, from Staines but living in Stroud (via Bristol). I'm currently doing part-time work whilst I finish writing up my research on Computational Neuroscience, but am also involved with various community volunteering projects. I love cycling, running and baking, and I can't stand cotton wool.

 

 

Fleassy Maynard

Fleassy Maynard

Hi I'm Fleassy. Upon my birth i was gifted/blessed with traveling feet and a red nose. I've spent the past four or five years hitch hiking and traveling round the world, performing poetry, making music and bending silver wire and crocheting. I'm passionate about our planet and how we treat her, and wish to give her the love she unconditionally returns. I love learning new skills and in prep for this tour I learnt to pretty much build my bike and then cycled it to Coed Hills community in South Wales from Brighton. ..if words were weapons, I'd have shot myself in the foot by now. 

Lisa Perrett

Lisa Perrett

Hello hello, I'm Lisa, half Dutch, from Kent. I´ve spent the last few months in Granada, teaching English, learning Spanish and enjoying little adventures. Before my escape to Spain I spent four years in Edinburgh studying Religious Studies and when it came to leaving, decided to do so on my bike. With a tent and lots of home made vegan flapjacks I set off to Newcastle, up and down and along the coast. It was amazing and, after raving to others about the joys of cycling, I began to hear the word Otesha pop up in inspiring conversations. Other than cycling and wanting to engage more with environmental and social issues, I love reading, drawing, and making things… and finding nice trees to climb.  

Andy Hix

Andy Hix 2

I'm pretty passionate about the planet. Everytime I went to cricket practice/piano lessons/friends' houses when I was a youn'un I would flatly refuse to be driven and got on my bike! I love learning languages – I started learning Spanish in my gap year and went to Spain and Cuba as part of my degree. I'm very obsessed with food. I always plan at least two meals ahead which should be quite useful on the tour I would have thought! I'm currently inbetween jobs, but I'm starting my second proper one after uni straight after the Otesha Project. It's a small company called Student Switch Off. Look them up on google. I think they are brilliant!

Nic Seton

Nic Seton, Otesha, wild west cycle tour

I am recently British and historically Australian. I came here as part of what I like to think as my journey to conquering the self-deprecating world (with minimal flying). I was working for a prefectural department in Japan, then I travelled and lately I've been working for Spanner films who produced "The Age of Stupid", which has been quite a lot of fun. Insert interlude: Wild West Tour. One day I'll make it to Cuba. Before, or after that, I want to pilot a zeppelin.  

Sylvie Winn

Charlotte Bishop