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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mark Dobson

Remember Jonathan Livingston Seagull



In the span of a mere 74 hours, a world can unfurl before your senses—a symphony of experiences. Tallinn, an ancient city, carries within its cobblestone streets a history that tantalizes the curious soul. Yet, to fully embrace its narrative tapestry, one requires the luxury of time. Alas, time is a commodity sparingly bestowed upon Ajmal.


His journey, you see, is not a leisurely sightseeing escapade. It's a physical odyssey, a relentless quest for more than just landmarks and landscapes. A fellow cyclist, currently tracing his own path through Scandinavia, recently remarked to Ajmal, 'I explore places, but you conquer lands.'


For Ajmal, this isn't about racing against the clock; it's about the endurance test. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Picture him on his bicycle, his perspective akin to lying prostrate on the ground, the world unfolding before his eyes in a way that defies the ordinary. Some might even say it's a more grounded perspective, as he witnesses the world's raw beauty from a vantage point few ever glimpse.


Sightseeing is a superficial pursuit; Ajmal is an athlete. His rides are a relentless challenge, a ceaseless examination of his own limits and the boundless expanse of his endurance. This is his canvas, and with every pedal stroke, he paints a picture of human resilience and exploration, one stroke at a time.


In the relentless pursuit of understanding where he's been and where his journey takes him, Ajmal sought a chronicle of his odyssey—a visual testament. Thus, he enlisted the services of a photographer. He who skillfully captures the interludes between sleep, sustenance, and relentless pedaling.



A seagull whirls before a brooding Baltic sky


This reconnaissance artist watches the journey unfurl before him, transforming the relentless motion into frozen moments, encapsulated in the form of carefully curated photographs. Each image serves as a visual digest, a summary of the day's epic voyage. For when Ajmal transitions from his hand-cycle to the confines of his wheelchair, time becomes sluggish and unwieldy, akin to a seal stranded on land. But atop his trusty hand-cycle, he transforms into something akin to those magnificent seagulls that pirouette like celestial acrobats in the Baltic sky.


And so, on the eve of their impending departure for Helsinki aboard the midday ferry, Ajmal's photographer embarked on a late afternoon survey of the ferry terminal, the bustling harbor, and the venerable Old Town perched upon the hill. As the sun descended toward the horizon, something magical and extraordinary began to emerge.



Tallin Port Terminal D


Later beneath the warm embrace of lamplight, he documented people strolling along the dimly lit streets, weaving stories through time—a timeless spectacle, artfully preserved for Ajmal and his family and for future generations to savor in diary form.



Tallin Old Town at dusk




Meanwhile, atop the city's historic parapets, spirited youth congregated. Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians conversing fluently in English, a bridge transcending their vastly different native tongues. In this universal language, they forged a connection, weaving dreams and aspirations against the backdrop of the modern age.



Conversation on the parapet above Tallin Old Town


Their discourse ventured into the challenges of navigating a world increasingly dominated by AI and technology. They spoke of the pursuit of fulfilling careers and chasing ambitions. In these candid conversations, one couldn't help but ponder what wisdom Ajmal Samuel, had he been among them, would have generously shared. For he knows that success, irrespective of one's physical attributes, is ultimately a game of the mind—a terrain where dreams take flight and ambitions find their wings.




Then a new day dawned. They come and go. All of them as exciting as the last. The time to depart for Helsinki had arrived. The air was fresh, the sky brooding. This was officially the second day of Autumn. 02.09.23.





Navigating Tallin Port, vehicle lanes and passport control


While waiting in line for vehicle loading, Ajmal seized the opportunity to engage with fellow travelers. Asko, an Estonian adventurer borrowing his son's bicycle, was bound for Finland on a brief sojourn. Amid the ebb and flow of conversations, they found a kindred spirit in their shared passion for cycling and the allure of the open road.




Estonian Arco Zirbik on his way to Finland.


Soon, it was time to board the imposing SuperFerry, a colossus with five sprawling parking decks and soaring leisure decks that seemed to touch the sky. Carol, Ajmal's wife, likened it to a floating city, a behemoth of modern transportation.


Meanwhile, the vigilant reconnaissance master remained ever watchful, anticipating those indelible moments that encapsulate the essence of this remarkable journey. And then, there it was—an iconic tableau etched in time. Ajmal, not using his legs, but rather the sheer determination of his arms, propelled his hand-cycle up the loading ramp.






'All aboard, all aboard!'



Ajmal Samuel and his wife Carol aboard the My Star Ferry, Deck 8, en-route to Helsinki Finland.



Smart and fearless, seagulls embrace the skies, even in tempestuous weather. As the ship left Tallin Bay amidst gathering storms, their nonchalant demeanor fascinated the photographer.



The sharp witted Herring Gull


He likened them to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, seeing parallels in Ajmal Samuel's life. Jonathan, an independent thinker among seagulls, craved flight's artistry. Ostracized for nonconformity, he persevered, achieving greatness. Content yet saddened by others' ignorance of flight's grandeur, he met kindred seagulls in old age, who offered to elevate him higher. Jonathan's journey mirrors Ajmal's relentless pursuit of purpose—an uplifting reminder that following one's unique path can lead to unparalleled heights.






A herring gull lifting off our ferry boat into a squall over the Gulf of Finland.




As our boat pulled into Helsinki harbour, after crossing the Gulf of Finland from Tallin today, we asked this gent if his name was Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. He laughed and said, 'no I'm Jack Oakley from Southern California'!




When the Helsinki ship dropped anchor, the Finnish skies had opened. The day's journey concluded at the Holiday Inn, and it rained cats and dogs. Ajmal Samuel sat patiently outside, waiting while his wife Carol checked in all the team in. It rained, raining cats and dogs. Ajmal waited patiently. A metaphor for his personality, reflecting his unwavering resolve amidst life's storms.


Arrival at the Holiday Inn Helsinki - West Ruoholahti



Distance Covered


Day 1 - Klaipeda to Sventāja 42.89Km

Day 2 - Sventājato Liepāja 62.11Km

Day 3 - Liepāja to Kuldīga 97.34Km

Day 4 - Kuldiga to Plieņciema kāpa 108.59Km

Day 5 - Plieņciema kāpa to Riga 60.14Km

Day 6 - Riga Rest and Recharge

Day 7 - Riga to Salacgriva 104.4km

Day 8 - Salacgriva to Pärnu 75km

Day 9- Pärnu Rest & Recharge

Day 10 - Pärnu linn to Märjamaa 64.1km

Day 11- Märjamaa to Tallin 72.17

Day 12- Tallin Rest & Recharge

Day 13- Tallin to Helsinki

Day 14- Helsinki to Turku



TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: 688.36Km


Join the expedition, follow updates, and tag along on this inspiring adventure."



ASF has carefully chosen Resolve to be the beneficiary for 2023: Resolve is a charity founded in 2017 that helps create change makers in our community to drive a more inclusive city. Their signature program is a Fellowship that has so far supported over 70 emerging community leaders from diverse walks of life. There have been five cohorts of the fellowship on racial equality, ending gender-based violence, disABILITIES and empowerment, wellbeing and health and (E)quality Education for all.


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