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Who is Joël Lodé ?
A naturalist adventurer ?
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Joël Lodé dans sa collection Joël Lodé enfant  

Joël Lodé was born on October 3rd, 1952 in Nantes, Jules Verne's homeland.

He is the elder of two brothers, Thierry and Lionel, and a sister, Yveline.

Joël growed in a rural village, almost without his father, but with his godmother and her husband, uncle Claude as well as his grandmother who give him all the necessary love. This tenderness from his godmother and her husband is due to the painful loss of their young child Yannick, died some months after his birth. Joël replaced him in their heart. A happy and blessed childhood, that we partially and rather faithfully find the history in Jean-Loup Hubert's film “Le Grand Chemin”. Only one person of the film whose true name was kept is the Dr Vilaine, the doctor who lived in front of his grandmother's garden. Eating baby eels (in winter, not in summer!), the church, the cemetery, fishing roache with Uncle Claude (played in the film by the actor Richard Bohringer), the quarrels, the kids playing the fool are also the reality of this childhood spent in the Country of Retz, west of France.

As a child, Joël Lodé was fascinated by Jules Verne's books and became at 10 years old  a member of the Nantes Museum of Natural History Association (the SSNOF, Nantes Natural History Society, section Prehistory, then Earth sciences, thanks to the historian Pierre Fréor.

At this time, Joël was part of the high-Breton traditional group St Jean de Boiseau's Sant Yann; he became organist of the church and continued the Prehistory trips, discovering one of the most beautiful fossil collection of the region, a Calamites cistii, giant fossil fern from Carboniferous.

At the age of 12, he decided that like Jules Verne, he would go around the World. On a bicycle!

At the age of 14, he went for the first time in a desert, the Sahara (1966).

After a difficult adolescence, he learned magic tricks, also theater, then turned out himself to the Dramatic art school (the Conservatoire), where he certainly did not leave a great souvenir, or maybe as a poor actor! Nevertheless, he played in a television serial: "Jack".

Then, he became as a simple bank employee, but not for a long time...

The National Service was made in... Mururoa (Pacific islands, French Polynesia) where Joël had in 1973, the sad privilege to attend the explosion of 6 Atomic bombs, sat on the bridge of an old passenger ship, the Maurienne... He practised submarine dive in the lagoon. Then, at the end of his National Service, he came back again in Tahiti, in a Magic show!

There is still a dream to be realized, and in spite of the opinion of his parents, Joël Lodé leaved on Saturday, January 18th, 1975, 4 days after resigning his bank work, for a world tour on a bicycle!

France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iran.... Joël discovered the first flowers in the Great Salty Desert of Iran, Dasht-i-Kevir. They were tulips! Then, a passion for the deserts and a long work began about plant adaptation to the arid zones...

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, then banned entering in Burma or in China. The journey continued towards Thailand by plane, the Philippines, Japan and Tahiti where he was nearly expelled for irregular arrival (no flight ticket back!).

1976. Employed at the Library Hachette-Pacifique, a too short friendship connected him with the singer Jacques Brel who surprisingly came to see him one day at the bookshop.

The journey started again, in the United States where he met his first cactus (not really the great love, because of flat tyres!) and especially the extraordinary flowers of these plants. He established a world record by crossing Death Valley on bicycle in August, 1976.

Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, where he fall in love with Rina, a Native Indian of the Pipils, a Maya tribe. Then, he went back home and began a collection of cacti and other succulent plants in the garden of his grandmother.

Back to France, he drafted a first book on his adventures (Le Tour du Monde à Bicyclette, Le Temps d'un rêve, ed. PAC). Back again to El Salvador where he got married in 1978. He met Philippe de Dieuleveut, Nicolas Hulot, Philippe Gloaguen (the "Guide du Routard"), Didier Régnier and many others, a whole team of adventure trip lovers, who often met themselves with Joël on television in adventure shows and series.

During the same year, Jacques-Chaban Delmas, then Prime Minister, honours him in Paris with the Prize of the Sporting Adventure. Before the end of 1978, we found Joël Lodé in the Kalahari desert in Botswana. Joël knowed the death of his friend Jacques Brel in the plane returning back to Paris... A decisive encounter would also be that of Theodore Monod who encouraged him about desert research.

Then, Joël began a series of lectures financed by the Ministry of Culture, the Region of the "Pays de la Loire and the City of Nantes. This would last 12 years.

1979. Rina followed him in an epic, incredible adventure through the deserts of the United States and Mexico. Joël wrote his second work: " The Guide of the bicycle around the World " (ed. PAC).

They discovered new plants, Coryphantha macromeris var. rinae among others, but arrived in full civil war in El Salvador and finally went back to France after many difficulties. Joël presented in Nantes the Walt Disney's film "Living Desert".

Fascinated by the audio-visual material and the contact with the public, a child came to all projection shows that Joël made in the region of Nantes. His name is Olivier Sauzereau. Also born in Nantes, lover of his city and great admirer of Jules Verne,  he would become astrophotograph and also a well-known writer

1980. The deserts of Australia, 4 months of an extraordinary journey on a bicycle, another world where Joël became gold-digger. A journey in the country of kangarooes and crocodiles, specializing on Australian reptiles, long time before Crocodile Dundee! With Rina, he crossed the deserts of Simpson and Gibson, went to Ayers Rock, living with the opal diggers at Coober Pedy in the centre of the red Australian desert.

1981. The Deserts of South America, in Peru and in Chile, the desert of Atacama, always on bicycle. Joël and Rina crossed the deserts of Lurin and Nazca. Encounter with the mummies of Tintin and tomb looters. Then, Chile, with the Valley of the Moon and San Pedro de Atacama.

1982. The desert of Thar in India with Rina, in tandem. Joël ended his Encyclopedia of Deserts. The correction of the manuscript was made at Théodore Monod's house, Joël slept at feet of his master's bed, on the Island of the Cité in Paris! Also, he also began an Exhibition "Bizarre Deserts" with the Community art centre of Nantes and  Loire-Atlantique.

1983. The Deserts and steppes of Kenya. Solitary encounter with wild animals. Joël cycled in many parts of the country founding succulent plants, some still unknown for the science at this time and which would be (particularly several Euphorbia species) described some years later by Susan Carter (Euphorbia Journal, n°6-7). Marcel Kroenlein, Director of the Monaco Exotic Garden invites him as a speaker for the fiftieth anniversary of the Exotic Garden.

5th of November: death reaps his younger brother Lionel.

1984. Birth of his first daughter, Karine. Solitary and very hard journey in the Deserts of the United States and Mexico, notably in Baja California where he almost touched the death and was saved by an American pilot, in the Mojave desert.

1985. Journey in the Jordanian desert, where he discovered the northernmost Aloe of all the genus, then completely unknown, and described 15 years later by his friend John Lavranos: Aloe porphyrostachys.  Petra reminded him one of the Tintin adventures. Later, Petra would be one of the famous location used for shooting the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".

Joël wrote his third book on his adventures with Rina: “ The Desert Road Runners” (ed. PAC, Paris). Great success.

1986. Last journey on tandem with Rina: the Nordeste of Brazil. 4 months of a long, hard trip in a region excessively altered by man, who was destroying forests and rivers, searching for precious metals and stones. He collected orchids for the Botanical Garden of Nantes.

1987. Journey in the Canary islands allowed the discovery of a fascinating world for Joël, always on bicycle. His passion for the canarian succulents is going to lead him to begin an Identification Guide.

1988. The American Deserts in winter! Cacti under the snow, a very different standard of which we are not accustomed with. Birth of his second daughter, Alexandrine and at the same time, creation of the Association ARIDES and the congress CACTUS in Nantes. Also, he created the quarterly journal Cactus-Adventures with a first free issue!

1989. Joël planned to cross the desert of Gobi and Ordos in China, but arrived at the worst time: tanks had taken the place Tien an Men. Everything was stolen, the bicycle and  his two cameras and lenses. Repatriated thanks to the French Embassy in Peking, however he was able to meet the successor of Pu-Yi, the last emperor (who did not finish his life as a gardener, but director of the Peking Botanical garden), and who was also fascinated by cacti and other succulents. His name was Xu Min Chen.

Of course, Joël was not able to make a report of the trip, moreover he lose his employment and his divorce was imminent.

Then he wrote an Encyclopedia of cacti and other succulents (Ed. Edisud), in the form of index loose-leaf cards that would be published until 2002 and represents nowadays the largest encyclopedia written in French language with approximately 2400 illustrated index cards.

1990. Joël became a Saharian guide working for the travel agency "Deserts" in Paris. Also he organized botanical trips in various countries. His Cacti and other Succulent seed catalogue whose seeds are harvested on his own plants became (and until nowadays) the most important in France.

1991. Everything went wrong, no more job, the war in Iraq prevented any tourist journey in Algeria.

1992. Joël developed his association and his Journal "Cactus-Adventures”, who quickly took an International fame. He was elected member of the IOS, a botanical Commission of the UNESCO.

1993. Divorce is pronunced, the journey for two arrived to an end and Joël had to find quickly solutions to his professional life, because he was unemployed. He managed nevertheless to invite famous people within the cactus and other succulent world during the congress CACTUS in 1993: Charles Glass, the Dr Alfred Lau, John Lavranos, Werner Uebelmann, never seen before in France and it would be never repeated!

Joël proposed to the Mayor of St Herblain, Jean-Marc Ayrault, a project of an Exotic garden in the former quarry of Pontpierre. The press wrote a lot about this, but the project was regrettably pushed aside for lack of funds.

1994. It was then necessary for Joël to leave Nantes with regrets, but also with his cactus and succulent collection (except some rare plants given to the Nantes Botanical Garden). A work was proposed in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, as Director of the Botanical Collections at Cactus-Park. Unfortunately not for a long time, the owner did not respect the CITES rules and imported plants, also animals illegally. Joël had to leave this dubious place and find one more time another work.

1995. Norbert Kropf from Canary Cactus, suggested Joël to develop seed production for his company. During all this time, Joël Lodé prepared a book on Succulents of the Canary Islands: An identification guide for succulent plants which would be finished after 11 years. The adventurer travelled through all the islands  to discover the vegetation, even from the sky in a paragliding experience.

1996-1999. Work at Canary Cactus, journeys in other countries, Cactus-Aventures International first publication in English, and the cacti and other succulent Encyclopaedia File Edisud growing: about 2400 index cards would be published. Another passion for Joël is flying. Sometimes, his friend Jesus and him fly away for a small tour in the South of Tenerife. Joël did not forget his Breton origin and played bagpipe in succulent habitat...

2000. Joël Lodé was sent to Spain for the creation of a cactus golf in Andalusia, Desert Springs. They asked him to stay, we knew the answer. Then, he moved to Andalusia. Several trips were done between 1999 and 2005, in Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, South Africa, Reunion, but this time not in bicycle! His daughters came to visit him regularily.

2004. New proposition of a Botanical garden, this time in Spain, at Cuevas del Amanzora. Joël Lodé planned to fit out there also a Museum of deserts.

2005. Desert Springs received the first prize for the Environment " Madera Verde ”.

30 years after his Bicycle Tour around the world  Joël still signed autographs!

2006. St Herblain's exotic Garden was created. The "Joël Lodé foundation" is created in Spain, in Cuevas del Almanzora, Andalusia. The botanical garden and museum should become a reality in the next years to come. Joël publishes Cactus-Adventures international in Spanish. Desert Springs asks him to make a survey of the exotic and wild species of fauna and flora on the golf resort resulting into three books in the future. Investigations, creation of a herbarium and wildlife photography for 4 years. 

2007-2008. Travel in Peru: discovery, then description of Agave cordillerensis.

2008. Joël began to tell his adventures at schools and colleges. First is in Cheste, Valencia.
Trips to 
Yemen and Socotra. Exhibition in the Castle of Cuevas del Almanzora on his adventures.

2008-2011. Expeditions to Yemen and Socotra for the University of Murcia: job of investigation on the origin of Phoenix dactylifera. 

2009. Several expeditions to Yemen and Socotra. Discovery of Aloe buzairiensis. Project of a book.

2010 : Joël edits "Succulent Plants of Socotra", whom copies are given to the Women Association of Socotra to help them and finance their projects. Return to Yemen where he allows to discover that Phoenix caespitosa of Yemen is in fact Phoenix arabica, and in Socotra. Official description of Aloe buzairiensis in Cactus-Adventures International. 
His book on the Succulent Plants of Canary Islands is published. Travel in Mexico searching for rare Agaves 

2011 Travels in the USA, Hollywood, where he meets again Patrick Boyriven, movie director and producer (of "V " and Incredible Hulk) who had helped him to cross the Death Valley, 34 years afterwards! Lesson of piloting with Patrick. Lecture at the Museum of Natural History in Nantes, France in March on "Adaptation of Plants to the Arid Environment ". Various lectures in Spain.
Expedition in Socotra for the University of Murcia. New discoveries.

2012 : new botanical trip to Socotra. 
Invitation for a talk to the Jardin Exotique de Monaco.

2013 : last botanical expedition to Socotra. Lectures in USA, Texas and California, also in France and in Spain.

2014 : birth of hi son Joel Alejandro. Botanical trip to the Canary islands.

2015 : Publication of a book in two volumes : "Taxonomy of the Cactaceae", +1400 pages,  +9500 photos, a lifetime masterpiece.
Recognized as an international lecturer, platinum member of the Red Mundial de Conferencistas. On the cover of the journal Conferencista. Lectures in France, in Belgium, in Italy.

2016 : Lauching the project "Taxonomy of the Cactaceae", volumes 3 & 4.

2017 :  Invitation to the United States in Arizona, to give talks, and to receive the "Fellow Award" awarded by the CSSA. 

2018 : 30th anniversary of the journal Cactus-Aventures, the association ARIDES and the Convention CACTUS in Tiercé, France (49). Lectures in France, Spain and UK.


The adventure continues...

Joël 5 ans
Le Grand Chemin
Joël et sa cornemuse Joël Magicien (Balianis) Joël à Mururoa en 1973 Joël en Afghanistan Joël chercheur de turquoises Rina le coureur du désert Joël Lodé en 1978 dans le Kalahari Joël et Rina dans le Chihuahua Olivier Sauzereau, astrophotographe et ami
Joël avec un varan australien Cimetière pré-inca dévalisé par les pilleurs de tombes Joël Lodé dans le désert de Thar en Inde Joël Lodé dans le nord du Kenya Joël perd 16 kilos en 4 mois Joël Lodé en Jordanie A la rechercher de Uebelmannia au Brésil Monument Valley en hiver 1988 Départ pour la Chine en 1989
Joël Lodé au Sahara en 1990 Joël Lodé à Cactus Park en 1994Joël Lodé à Canary Cactus Pilosocereus azureus à Desert SpringsJoel Yemen

Brésil 1986