Olivier Delpech, backpacker traveler

the essential Professor of physical education and sports at the college of Mirepoix, Olivier Delpech is a tireless adventurer. This summer, he toured Corsica… in a kayak. An adventure that hides others.

Do not qualify him as an adventurer, “I find that this term is overused”, immediately launches Olivier Delpech. At 52 years, this teacher of physical education and sports at the school city of Mirepoix would rather be classified in the category of backpacking holidaymakers. This summer, on a kayak, he completed a tour of Corsica in 23 long days of 602 km. A solo adventure that he already dreams of renewing. In the projects that he nurtures, Olivier Delpech can already see himself descending the Loire from Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Nazaire. “That may be for next summer over a period of three weeks. I had thought about going down the Danube but I’m going to run out of time,” he explains with a smile.

Departure July 8

Having left Bonifacio on July 8, Olivier Delpech nevertheless believed he would never see his project come true. “After the confinement period, it was difficult to find a kayak,” he recalls. By dint of stubbornness, it is from a salesperson that he will find his boat that he will look for in Brittany, a month before starting his journey. This July 8, after disembarking from a ferry from Marseille, Olivier Delpech gets into the water. “I had a coffee at the Dorade bar and headed south”. Without specific knowledge, the sports teacher took steps, without being sure to maintain the pace. Well-versed in long physical exercises, Olivier Delpech only knows that he must not get into the red from the first days. “And then, the race against the stopwatch does not interest me”.

Trail enthusiast, football and tennis player, the Mirapicien has been building up for 17 years of singular escapades. In 1992, with his wife, he embarked on a tour of France by bicycle. “During the two summer months, we did 4 800 km through Lille, Strasbourg, Geneva, Monaco or even Perros-Guirec”, he lists.

On their bike, the couple took only the bare essentials, a few saddlebags, a tent and a stove. Two years later, they reoffend. From Paris, they will reach the North Cape after having traveled 4 100 km. “Always in autonomy, without planning anything, because for us it must remain a vacation”. Still, in the Baltic countries, the welcome and human warmth will not be what they will experience three years later when they leave Lima (Peru) to reach Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) via La Paz in Bolivia. “This trip was the antithesis of what we had experienced in northern Europe. The people we met were almost too welcoming.” After Latin America, it is at the antipodes that Olivier Delpech and his wife are offering themselves another great “vacation”. Direction, the island mainland: Australia. The objective is clear: to reach Darwin from Adelaide, in the south of the country. “It’s the equivalent of a Paris-Moscow”, emphasizes Olivier Delpech by way of comparison. But with the difference that the Australian bush is a vast deserted area only crisscrossed by road trains or motorhomes. “There, we were really alone in the world.”

In 2000, the year of the “big computer bug”, the couple launched a new challenge between Canada and the west coast of the United States. After acquiring a motorcycle in Montreal for a few dollars, Olivier Delpech crossed the Rockies before joining San Fransisco in California. From there, head north towards Vancouver (Canada) then Alaska to Anchorage. “We did an oil change in Vancouver, the bike had more than 100 000 km and the mechanic told us that we would not finish the trip “. The engine held up. The odometer showed 000 km additional. If the ancient 500 cc almost ran out of oil, Olivier Delpech has no shortage of ideas. The return to the old continent will be on a sailboat. “For fifteen days, he admits, we did not see the earth, it was a little oppressive”. Did this maritime getaway give him the desire to compete with the big blue on the coasts of the Isle of Beauty? “No, when I was stationed in Mayotte, I had already toured this island in the Indian Ocean”, he explains. But the circumference of Mayotte is only 100 km, Corsica is six times more! With the experience of Mahoran and a descent of the Dordogne, Olivier Delpech managed the efforts. At the rate of 55 paddle strokes per minute, “I took it easy at first. It takes about ten days for the body to get used to it “.

But the glitches that arise are not always what we expect. “After three days, I broke down with the solar panel,” recounts the kayaker. It is therefore impossible to recharge the GPS and the cell phone. “I never took any particular risks, estimates the maritime hiker. My boat was stable and sufficiently tapered, but I had to, one day, leaving the southern tip of the island, stop for a whole day. . There was too much westerly wind “.

A descendant of Christopher Columbus?

During this three-week journey, Olivier Delpech never failed to immortalize some singular encounters: like the dolphins accompanying him on his journey or this turtle “who took my kayak for a tree trunk”. Or this fox attracted by its food on a deserted beach which obviously had no desire to share it with the only human passing through. “Young boaters who had anchored a little offshore offered me to come on board. I immediately accepted,” says Olivier Delpech, thus abandoning the insistence of the too curious goupil.

It remains to be seen whether Olivier Delpech did not meet a distant descendant of Christopher Columbus. “At the Bravone, I met Victor Gerronimi and immediately he told me about Christopher Columbus and his genealogy and history book. I was stunned by his resemblance to the great 15th century navigator, a magical moment! “

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