From West Van to West Papua
The presence of the traveller, the suitcase wheeling, duffel-bag slung ferry rider is as much a part of the Horseshoe Bay landscape as Sewell's Marina or the wood-pannelled Boathouse Restaurant at water's edge.
And, more often than not, it's island travel that brings traffic to the bay — Bowen Islanders heading to and from work or North Shore residents relocating to sunnier climes for the weekend. Rarely is it cyclists preparing for a three-and-a-half month, 5,000 kilometre fundriasing trek to Newfoundland.
Except for one day this week, that is. As the sun blanketed Bay Street and the patios filled Wednesday morning with coffee drinkers flipping through the morning paper, Bowen Island's Jeremy Bally looked east, way east, and pondered the long journey ahead.
"It is the call to adventure. But adventure can suck sometimes," says Bally, thoughtfully.
"It can be extraordinarily challenging. But that makes life worth it. And, a lot of work went into this, more than I ever anticipated. But when I finally got to this place and everything was organized I just said 'Hell yeah. I'm biking.'"
It all started about two-and-a-half years ago, when Bally was an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria. He had a friend approach him about joining her club, Rights and Democracy, and Bally took her up on it. Not the most engaged student at the time, Bally took the opportunity to learn more about human rights and social justice issues around the world. It was, as he calls it, the time when he "started caring and become part of a cooperative global community."
Through his membership in the club, Bally began learning about West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled half of the island of New Guinea. He explored the human rights injustices and subsequent rebellions of the West Papuan people against the Indonesian military and learned of the rich environmental aspect of the culture, as the area is home to the third largest rainforest in the world.
Then, he travelled to West Papua to meet and interview people on both the troubles they face and their hopes for the future.
"Some of the interview were amazing and some of them were horrifying. Some were first hand tales of torture," says Bally.
"But they have a determination for freedom and self-determination."
From his experiences studying and visiting the country, Bally has cobbled together a multimedia performance that he is taking on the road with him as he rides cross-country to raise awareness and money for West Papua.
The performance comes in three parts: a movie with a hip hop piece written by Bally performed overtop, a storytelling portion where Bally recounts entries from his travel journal and a shadow puppet film with an audio recording of one of the interviews Bally conducted during his travels.
On the trip Bally says hopes to raise $18,000, which he will donate to West Papuan community leaders to pay for English classes. He expects to reach St. John's, N.L. by late August.
For those interested in following his trip or donating money, more information can be found at pedalling.westpapua.ca or Facebook.com/pedallingforpapua.