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  #16  
Old 22 Mar 2009
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Originally Posted by BlackBeast View Post
My wife and I are planning a C.America, S.America and Africa trip to leave in 2010; so hopefully we can meet in Mexico.
I always have a spare room for long-riders.
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  #17  
Old 22 Mar 2009
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While traveling across Siberia on the plan-of-no-plan, a thousand miles down the road, I decided to take a quick southern detour into Mongolia. Once in the capital of Ulaan Baatar, the Gobi Desert seemed so close that I opted for a twelve hundred mile offroad loop into nomad territory.

The last outpost at Mandal Gobi before entering the Gobi Desert.










It's a tough life in the Gobi where winter winds thunder in at forty below zero. To survive, all must share.









The last road into the Gobi



Only two SUVs appeared on the road today, one passing, the other oncoming, both with enthusiastic occupants leaning out windows waving. Vast herds of goats and camels roam the empty plain, scattering at my approach. This is where wanderers seek to be, where emptiness fills the soul. Enveloped by thousands of square miles of gently sloping desert, devoid of civilization, my only companion is the barren Gobi. Swallowed by the desolation of a billion years and giddy with newfound freedom, I am awed by the thundering silence while vanishing into the glory of obscurity.
Although the pink parched soil is coated in sharp-edged stones and small clumps of desert grasses, it’s level enough to ride across. Like circular domains, white felt Gers of distant Mongolian nomads sprout like mushroom patches on the skyline.



Waving herdsmen dressed in blue hand-woven clothing coax me to stop, but each visit requires an explanation in sign language and accepting gulps of foul tasting fermented mare’s milk. After a few fake sips, I pass out raisins and slip back into nothingness.



Not much out there, or so I thought, When dozing off to sleep with nothing alive visible on the horizon in any direction, the blackened overhead dome of the August midnight sky became a dazzling symphony of shooting stars crissscrossing in simultaneous arcs. A mile up from sea level, absent the pollution of burned hydrocarbons and blazing lights of civilization, the cosmic illumination of a thousand distant suns was powerful enough to permit reading a book.



It is in the Buddhist karma of the Mongolian nomads to care for a stranger so every morning, outside of my tent someone left an offering of dried yoghurt.



Although I seldom saw them during the day, early evenings, sometimes curious nomads would visit my camp where we would swap samples of my dried fruit for their dried meats.



Some of the more progressive nomads rode late-model Russian motorcycles



While others carried on more ancient traditions



Involuntary Wandering (Lost)
August 15
The Gobi Desert
The two major manufactures of GPS units each sell a CD with downloadable data revealing the main roads of the world. Assuming they used the same sources, it seemed logical that mine would display the same information as Brand X. It didn’t. Primary roads in Mongolia are merely frequently used tire tracks over dirt that became roads. There are thousands of these throughout the country with countless forks constantly dividing them into separate directions. Brand X marks a few of these routes, mine does not. Although mine is an easier unit to operate, except for the black triangle indicating my position near the border with China, for identifying roads it was useless in the Gobi.

Asking for directions has little value either. If the nomads understand questions, they just point to a series of tracks and say, “That one.” It makes no difference which I select, a mile down the road, it forks into several other tracks making gradual enough changes so that by the time the compass registers I am moving in the wrong direction, it’s hard to remember how to return to the original fork.

Fortunately, a friend provided specific GPS coordinates for important landmarks in the Gobi. Since the terrain is flat with no fences, theoretically, it should be possible to ride in a straight line to the intended destination. If there were no washes, sand dunes or low mountain ranges, that would have worked. And getting lost in the desert is common. Even with one eye on the GPS and the other on the horizon, it’s easy to become disorientated enough to question if the GPS is malfunctioning.

On a lightweight bike with knobby tires, sand dunes are fun—with street tires on a four hundred pound motorcycle lugging two hundred pounds of extra gear, it’s a tiring battle. Three hours of spinning through soft sand dunes leads back to where I started--except, now there are no nomads to consult, only numerous herds of foul smelling camels that hopefully belong to somebody. Maybe following their tracks will lead to humans who can point to the right direction. Anything is better than this.

Two hours later the animal tracks scattered but there was a wash at the base of a small mountain range emptying into an alluvial plain. Loose gravel of the widening bed was firmer to ride than rolling dunes but according to the GPS, the wash was leading opposite of the proper direction. It was hard to recall how long it had been since the low-fuel light blinked on, indicating two gallons left. That should last one hundred twenty miles, but it’s unknown if there is somewhere to buy fuel even if finding a main road. Supplies are adequate--a dozen protein bars, canned sardines and three, two-liter, plastic water bottles wrapped in socks. Still, the jarring has broken two of the bottles leaving one full container and an aluminum saddlebag holding the other two. At least they are still drinkable.
Between a hand drawn map provided by one of the nomads and the GPS, it appears that I’ll eventually hit a main road that’s supposed to be recognized by tilting old telephone poles without wires.

Even so, there is still another twenty miles of spinning across the desert. At this point, my own judgment’s in question and since sunset is two hours away, it’s best to setup camp and tackle the situation in the morning with a clearer head. I often seek remote locations to venture, wondering if there is ever enough distance from civilization. Today there was. Wrangling to sleep with concerns over punctured tires and running out of fuel, the Gobi remains unchanged in the morning. Unzipping the tent reveals a half dozen camels sniffing around about to dine on my gear. But before they can discover the taste of canvas and protein bars, I shoo them away.

It’s time for a new plan. The best solution is to program the waypoint into the GPS from my current position and then add an estimated one approximately to where the main road ought to be, based on the nomad’s map. It should be easy to follow the thick black line drawn on the screen. Seven arduous hours later, slightly north of the programmed waypoint, tiny vertical lines appear where a blue sky meets a pink desert. This is not the home stretch but merely where the contest begins. The orange low-fuel light is a steady reminder that the game has plenty of twists ahead.

Realizing that it can be several hours without seeing another vehicle, it’s better to wait for someone to flag over for confirmation that this is the appropriate road. Halfway through a can of sardines and stale bread, I am suddenly aware of a presence at my side. Looking down to the left, I am startled to see a four-year old girl staring up holding an aluminum pale and porcelain bowl. Scanning the surrounding terrain reveals no sign of nomads or their Gers and it’s impossible to determine from where she came.



“Sain ban noo.” I say. Hello. Her smudgy face is frozen in an emotionless gaze upward at the Martian that someone in her family has sent her to assist. Because of a deep Buddhist belief in Karma, it’s in the nature of the nomads to feed and care for strangers. This is a training mission.
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Last edited by strikingviking; 2 Mar 2012 at 16:30.
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  #18  
Old 22 Mar 2009
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Originally Posted by Caminando View Post
Interesting blog Glenn. Terrible that you were captured in S. America. Great you are OK. Terrorism really is a curse, whether it comes from Pakistan, Europe, the US or some of the countries in South/Central America. The Monro Doctrine really has caused problems all over that continent.

You were right to go back on the road, and pick up the pieces again.

Buen viaje.
Agreed. And thanks.
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  #19  
Old 22 Mar 2009
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I would like to compliment you on your writing skills. You have done a good job writing and it makes it hard for a regular guy to step up and communicate. However, that should never stop anyone.

Thanks for the detailed introduction. You did a great job of summarizing what has taken me years to read (and view). I read your book before I rode to South America and have kept up with your posts in other areas including your detailed and documented past.

I feel priviledged to have had the opportunity to get to stop by your Mazaltan location and have dinner with you (on your birthday). It was very heartwarming for you to welcome us into your home and share your personal time with us. It is very much appreciated.

Additionally, the most impressive of all is your attitude about everything in general and especially toward the people of all the other countries. It is inspirational for all. Keep up the great work.
Gracias amigo. Ya'll come back now!
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  #20  
Old 30 Mar 2009
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Returning north to finish riding across Siberia toward Moscow, in small towns scattered a hundred miles apart through vast forests of towering birch trees, Russians continue to invite me home to eat and sleep. At every opportunity they bring out their finest dinnerware, organizing elaborate feasts with steady offers of local vodka.






Russian motorcyclists, using their national Internet chatrooms, pass the word across Siberia that a lone American is attempting to cross their nation on the Trans-Siberian Highway. Not knowing my exact arrival time, often teams of local boys were waiting on the outskirts of city limits, prepared to escort a wandering brother back to their clubhouses.




And Russian women, curious as to the means and methods of an alien vagabond...








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  #21  
Old 8 Apr 2009
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Reaching the relative comfort of Moscow was a significant relief but after only a few days, I realized that I still missed the wilds of Siberia and the warmth of Russian country folk. The majesty of Eastern Europe was only temporary because I knew that the real adventure would begin again once crossing into the Middle East.









Shortly before departing California for Japan, a failed surgical attempt to remove all four over-sized kidney stones resulted in these plastic stints being placed inside my organs. Although uncomfortable to the extreme, they were supposed to keep channels open (ureters) to allow relatively normal body functions until reaching a Western hospital four months later. Trouble was, I did not consume the recommended massive amounts of water and they calcified, actually growing into my body. Little did I realize that by the time I reached Germany, the reason that the pain was so intense that I was hanging onto walls, was that I was near death due to kidney failure.



But sight-seeing through Eastern Europe became a sufficient distraction to forget about medical issues. Still, icy rains and cheap, impersonal hotels in majors cities only increased the longing for experiences in the rural countrysides.

Budapest





Bosnia






Serbia


Albania



Bulgaria






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  #22  
Old 8 Apr 2009
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Glenn
Totally agree with the recent comments about your writing skills - truly inspiring.
I'd also like to comment on your photographic skills - they capture more than the moment. Each photo seems to write its own story - fantastic!
And all these pretty women - what aftershave do you use?
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  #23  
Old 12 Apr 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monsieur-to-go View Post
Glenn
Totally agree with the recent comments about your writing skills - truly inspiring.
I'd also like to comment on your photographic skills - they capture more than the moment. Each photo seems to write its own story - fantastic!
And all these pretty women - what aftershave do you use?
Gracias amigo. Every picture is supposed to tell a story and one thing for certain everywhere in the world, if approached respectfully, women love being photographed. You will see this soon, even with the Arab girls.
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  #24  
Old 28 Apr 2009
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Turks



On the threshold of the Middle East, running from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Channel not only separates Europe from Asia but also divides Istanbul and the world of Islam from Christianity.



For the last five thousand years this dramatic city has served as the crossroads of ancient civilizations. Vying for admission into the European Union, cosmopolitan Turkey steers toward secularism as a symbolic bridge from Eastern to Western cultures. Contemporary tolerance thrives between conservative and liberal.









Stranded in Istanbul for a month applying for and eventually denied a visa for Iran, also provided opportunity for deferred motorcycle maintenance and a little social activity.



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  #25  
Old 28 Apr 2009
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Fantastic!

Hey man - when are you coming home?
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  #26  
Old 29 Apr 2009
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Fantastic!

Hey man - when are you coming home?
That's what my family in Bardufoss has been asking me for twenty years. These days though, it's hard to tell if my home is Mexico, California or Norway. But my parents ground into my head since birth to never forget that I am Norwegian--hence my old handle when competing in Martial Arts... the Striking Viking.
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  #27  
Old 30 Apr 2009
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Have you ever been to Bardufoss?
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  #28  
Old 2 May 2009
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Have you ever been to Bardufoss?
Yes. Once in 1962 and then again in 1978. Lots of changes since then?
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  #29  
Old 2 May 2009
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The Middle East

Since Saudi Arabia was denying Westerners post-Haj transit visas, the only overland route to India via Pakistan was Iran. But childish government saber-rattling through posturing in respective legislative bodies, and despite the pleas of Iranian Embassy personnel in Istanbul, officials in Tehran denied my several attempts for a tourist visa. After a month of delays, the only alternative was a mid-December crossing over the 9,000 foot passes of the Anatolian Plateau, descending into Syria.





As advised by numerous backpackers also touring the Middle East, Syrian Arabs greet strangers with invitations home for bread and tea followed insisting to stay overnight in their clay-block homes. With the current world media hype, I waited for hostilities that not only failed to materialize, but only encountered hundreds of friendly city folk wanting to know of my journey.







From the stunning architectural grace of the domed Muslim Mosque to vibrancy of colorful souks (markets), few outsiders can comprehend the depth and sincerity of all religions in this biblical region.














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  #30  
Old 3 May 2009
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Riding north to the well-preserved Roman ruins at Palmyria, deserted for fears of terrorism, except for a wandering unemployed tour guide, I was a lone traveler reeling in ancient splendor.





Nearing the Iraqi border, American fighter jets screamed overhead, unnerving docile Bedouin goat-herders tending their flocks.





With very basic skills in Arabic, I managed to accept a humble offer for tea and a thick wool carpet for the night.



With numerous reports of heavily armed insurgents crossing the northern border, California license plates on a shiny blue BMW were sure to draw unwanted attention. More experienced than most at the hands of a terrorist army, I take no more chances and opt for an as-the-crow-flies GPS route across the hard-packed Syrian Desert directly toward the glistening Mediterranean .

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