April 28, 2008 GMT
Rad wech: chinesischer Drache wird zu französischer Biene
Also, bin ich angekommen in Europa. Paris. Hat mich gleich wunderbar schmerzhaft in die Arme genommen, ordentlich zugedrueckt und mir in wenigen Tagen klar gemacht, dass die Uhren und werweisswassonstnochalles ab jetzt wieder anders ticken.
Die Kaelte und eine Fieberattacke mit anschliessendem 6-stuendigen Krankenhausaufenthalt konnten mir noch nix anhaben, auch wenn die Prozedur der Blutabnahme bei mir ueblicherweise den Verlust des Bewusstseins, dieses Mal aber nur der Gesichtfarbe nach sich zog. Resultat: Sterben muss ich noch nicht, Malariatest negativ. War mir eh klar aber Sandrine, die ich noch aus fruehen Studententagen kenne und deren Couch ich fuer ein paar Tage mein Zuhause nennen durfte, hatte darauf bestanden dass ich mich checken lass. Mit ihrer moralischen und übersetzer-unterstützung und den netten franzoesischen Schwestern und Doktorinnen war das Ganze sogar ganz lustig - auch wenn ich am meisten ueber mich selber und meine Spritzenphobie feixen musste. Das Lachen ist mir aber ein paar Tage spaeter wirklich fast vergangen...
... denn obiges Bild bot sich mir auch und zwar noch extremer. Am letzten Abend in Paris traf ich mich nochmal mit Torben und Barbara, die zufaellig auch gerade dieses Wochenende hier waren. Das war natuerlich ein gluecklicher Zufall, denn so konnte ich ihnen meine fast 10kg schwere Motorradkiste mitgeben, die ich ja Aurelie im August in Kirgistan mit auf die Heimreise gegeben hatte. Auf dem Fahrrad haetten die sich im Schweizer Huegelland sicher negativ ausgewirkt... Anyway, wir haben gut gegessen und geratscht und uns um ca. 11 Uhr verabschieded um nach Hause zu gehen. Die beiden verschwanden in der Metro und ich wendete mich meinem Fahrrad zu.
Torben und Barbara in einem Kaffee im jüdischen Viertel von Paris
Manchmal parkt man ja sein Fahrzeug nochmal um, kommt zurück zum alten, leeren Parkplatz und erholt sich nach der ersten Schrecksekunde wenn man sich an den aktuellen Standort erinnert. So auch meine Hoffnung im ersten Moment. In der zweiten (Sekunde) war mir aber klar:
Dat Ding is WECH. Grande Merde!!!
Da, wo ich nämlich vor zwei Stunden meinen roten chinesischen Drachenflitzer hingestellt hatte, war nur noch dessen aufgebrochenes Schloss zu finden. Der anschliessende Besuch bei der Polizei fiel denn auch ernuechternd aus. Auf die Frage wo ich denn jetzt ein guenstiges Fahrrad herbekomme meinte die fuer mich zuständige Polizistin ich solle mir doch wieder eins stehlen. Die mit einem Laecheln ausgeteilte Ironie schien mir aber nicht ganz hundertprotzentig. So entging meiner Aufmerksamkeit für die folgenden Tage kaum ein Fahrrad, besonders kein Rotes, und auch nicht die Tatsache, dass eigentlich alles von geringstem Wert mit massiven Buegelschloessern von wahrscheinlich hoeherem Wert gesichert ist.
Letztes Bild mit dem roten Drachen
Den Versuchungen mir ein neues Fahrrad ohne den Einsatz finanzieller Mittel zu organisieren wiederstehend, kam ich dem ersten Tipp fuer gebrauchte Raeder folgend am naechsten morgen bei den verrückten Schraubern von 'Cyclopede' vorbei. Die hatten zwar nur Rennraeder da, aber ich wollte mir sowieso früher oder später eins zulegen und die Strassen in Europa sind ja auch so gut, dass man ohne Probleme mit den dünnen Reifen fahren kann. (Und zwar um einiges effizienter).
Aber die Raeder bei Cyclopede waren nochmal was ganz Besonderes. Naemlich mit starrer Nabe, fixed gear auf Neudeutsch. D.h. die Dinger haben nur einen Gang, keinen Leerlauf und so kann man durch Entgegenhalten der Pedale die Fahrtgeschwindigkeit verlangsamen, notfalls das Hinterrad auch blokieren. Deswegen sind die Jungs der Meinung man brauche eh KEINE BREMSEN!! und versuchten mich von dem Konzept zu überzeugen. Ich muss zugeben, das Rad ist echt leicht und hat Nullkommanull nicht unbedingt zur Fortbewegung notwendige Teile. Und das Fahrgefühl ist ziemlich geil, vor allem wenn man sich daran gewöhnt hat nie zum Treten aufhoeren zu koennen. Ich bin ja in ganz jungen Jahren mal Bahnrad gefahren, und kannte daher das Konzept und wie man es fährt. Aber dass es mittlerweile in den grossen Staedten der Welt eine Szene gibt, die diese Radraketen mit reduzierter Bremsleistung (das Vorderrad wird ja zur Verzögerung nicht benutzt) durch den krassesten Stadtverkehr (San Francisco, London, LA, Paris, Berlin und wohl auch München) zu jagen, das war mir unbekannt. Aber verrückte Ideen find ich ja von jeher reizvoll und hatte somit schon fast den Erwerb eines solchen Rades erwogen. Abgehalten hat mich schlussendlich die Umständlichkeit mein doch recht schweres Gepäck (jetzt wieder mit Zelt und vor allem 100m Halbseil - gabs grad im Sonderangebot :) auf einem Gang quer durch die Schweiz und die österreichischen Alpen zu bewegen. Und der Preis.
Aber die Jungs waren auf jeden Fall cool drauf und haben mir gut geholfen ein taugliches Fahrrad für Billig zu finden. Sie und einige andere symphatische Pariser die ich bei meiner Suche während der naechsten Tage getroffen hab, haben mich wieder aufgebaut, denn zeitweise war ich schon ziemlich demotiviert.
Fixed Gear Fahrrad. Bremsen? Fehlanzeige.
Nach zwei weiteren Tagen und Besuchen in unzähligen Radgeschäften war ich dann endlich wieder 'on the road'. Und zwar mit einer nicht unsympathischen Neuen - der recht robuste chinesische Drache (gekauft in Kirgistan, aber 100%ig Made in China) wurde also zur eher grazilen französischen Biene, auf der ich mich pudelwohl fühle. Ist nach meiner italienische Ape auch schon die zweite Biene in meinem Besitz und ein hoffentlich gutes Omen für eins meiner Projekte für diesen Sommer: Hab ich doch in Nepal 3 Wochen lang einem Imker über die Schultern geschaut, und den Entschluss gefasst es diesen Sommer mal mit ein paar Bienenvölkern zu probieren...
Marschrichtung? Immer noch Osten!
Doch bevor es richtig losging wollte ich trotz unwirschem Wetter noch dem weltberühmten Bouldergebiet Fontainbleau, ungefaehr 80km südöstlich von Paris einen Besuch abstatten. Drei Tage lang hab ich mir die Finger an den Sandsteinbloecken langgezogen. Danach war mal wieder die Haut auf den Fingerspitzen extrem dünn, das nasse Wetter wurde kletteruntauglich und ich startete am 20. April 2008, genau ein Jahr nach meinem Start in Rosenheim meine letzte grosse Etappe: Paris-München. Soooo gut hat es sich angefühlt wieder unterwegs zu sein und auf dem neuen Rad Richtung Horizont zu rollen.
Bouldern mit den Franzosen in Fontainbleau
Bei Regenwetter gings also los, quer durch die sehr sehr ländliche Burgogne. Meistens hab ich in meinen in Paris gekauften 20Euro Zelt übernachtet, welches so ziemlich jede Nacht auf Wasserdichtheit getestet wurde; diese Tests aber 1a bestand. Viele Leute getroffen hab ich in den 5 Tagen bis ich hier in Bern angekommen bin nicht, aber die Ruhe der vernieselten, aber frischgrünen Landschaft hatte trotzdem seinen Reiz. Hab nochmal die Zeit genossen, die in Paris auf einmal schon so hektisch und schnell geworden ist wie für mich schon lang nicht mehr. Eine kurze Zeit verbrachte ich mit Pimelles, der dieselbe Richtung wie ich eingeschlagen hatte. Allerdings war er sehr langsam unterwegs, in der Tat sah er aus als wär er schon da seit es Asphalt gibt. Ich hab also kurz für eine Brotzeit angehalten, etwas getrunken, Foto und dann gings weiter.
Das Ende jenen Tages wurde dann doch noch mal etwas sozialer. In Quingey hatte der Campingplatz geschlossen, aber eine Frau mit Kinderwagen sprach mit an, hatte schon vermutet, dass ich Deutscher bin, weil kein Franzose im April eine Fahrradtour machen würde. Sie war selber aus Stuttgart, hatte aber einen Franzosen geheiratet und beiden wurde der 1000 Seelen-Ort etwas eng. Sie haben mich also spontan eingeladen und so kam ich zu einer schönen warmen Dusche, einem weichen Bett, eher deutsch anmutendem Abendessen mit ordentlichem Vollkornbrot. Hab mich sehr wohl gefühlt bei den beiden und wir sind noch etwas länger gesessen und haben geratscht.
Endlich kam ich der Schweiz auch näher, was sich in häufigeren und steileren Berg- und Talfahrten zeigte. Es galt das Jura-Gebirge zu überqueren. Schöne Kletterfelsen zeigten sich am Strassenrand, aber es regnete sowieso. In meiner billigen Regenjacke wurde ich von innen genauso nass wie aussen, kurz vor meinem frühen Endpunkt für den Tag hatte ich auch noch eine Reifenpanne. War ganz lustig mit den klammen Fingern.
Kaum in der Schweiz wurde das Wetter aber schön und bei Sonnenschein fuhr ich am Donnerstag zu Cyrille in die Schmidiwäge (WG am Schmiedweg). Ich hatte sie ja in Tonsai kennengelernt und ausgemacht das ich vorbeikommen würde. So hab ich die letzten Tage versucht ein bisschen Schwitzerdütsch zu verstehen. Schwierige Angelegenheit, aber mit bayerischem Vorwissen ein erreichbares Ziel denke ich. Klettern war wir auch ein bisschen in der Halle und gestern am ersten Sonntag mit schönem Wetter dieses Jahr. Im Klettergarten gings zua wia am Christkindlmarkt.
Klettern im Jura am Bubikopf
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 10:16 AM
September 10, 2007 GMT
Medresas, Mosques and Cops
The first week in Uzbekistan I stayed in the famous Silk-Road-Cities of Bukhara and Samarkand with their many, many places of muslim worship. One wouldnt believe it, but there are quite a few tourists here, especcially french, that admire the grandeur of past days. But after a while the Medresas (islamic schools) and Mosques look a little bit alike and enough pictures are taken. So I was quite happy, that after the exhausting speed-run through Azerbaidshan and Turkmenistan, I had some time to hang out with fellow travellers and do some fun stuff like checking out the nightlife at Uzbek Diskotheks.
Uzbek and Swiss friends in the back of a Lada en route to the Bukhara Disko
In Uzbekistan it proved also to be quite difficult to get money. Because the biggest bill is not even worth one dollar, the aquivalent of say 50$ means a 1-2cm stack of banknotes. Since the loading capability of an ATM is limited though, they are most of the time out of money. In addition I have found ATMs only in Taschkent. Other than that I had to go to a special bank, where it was a one hour procedure to withdraw money with my bankcard.
Sometimes I resorted to the few traveller cheques I carry, but even that proved troublesome as in the afternoon some banks just didnt have any money left. So they would change maximum 50$ at one time. Which is reasonable, because it's just very unpratical to carry any more. I have seen people coming with plastic shopping bags full of money to pay for something worth a few hundred dollars.
The Registan, Samarkand
After 3 days of sightseeing and having found the right bank in Bukhara I left for Samarkand, even though I had not entirely recovered from my turkmen diarrhea yet. In Samarkand I went to a hostel recommended by other travellers, apparently a pretty chill meeting place with good people. I turned out to be just that, frequently we were sitting late in the night, exchanging the latest visa info, travel stories, life philosophies and whatever else. There were japanese, french, swiss, german, italian, dutch, belgium people travelling from all kinds of direction, with all kinds of transport, like hitching, quite a few cycling, motorcycling, by bus or by train.
Dinner in the Bahodir Guesthouse, Samarkand
There I met also Massimo, an Italian guy on a XT600, who had the same plan of selling the bike and travelling on with a bicycle in china. We didnt make plans together, but met in Taschkent again, slept in the illegal japanese guesthouse, and went together to the Tadjik embassy where we faced kind of a mafia, pressing more money out of us to get the visa. I refused to pay, but he did and went on to Tadjikistan doing the Pamir Highway. A high mountain road leading over mountain passes up to 4600m this would have been the ultimate test for my Rengtengteng but I decided to spend more time in Kirgistan instead. For this country the visa process was easy, took about 5 min.
But back to Samarkand. I found a few people together and we went for a daytrip in a minibus to the town of Shakrisabz. This is the birthplace of King Timur, the national icon of Uzbekistan. Since it was Sunday there were many wedding parties having their pictures taken in front of the Timur statue. It was quite interesting, although groom and bride always had quite a stale look on their face, not really showing a lot of excitement. But I think I'd look the same if I were married to a girl that before I had just met for an hour so.
The trip was quite an experience, since for the first time I actually travelled somewhere not by bike but in Daewoo microbus. How complicated! First of all you have to find the right "busstation", then haggle about the price, and finally trust your life into the drivers hand. But at least this one went slower when there was police on the street. Police meaning either real roadside stops or alternatively cows, donkeys or whatever else got into our way. It turned out to be a fun trip, not so much for the sights, but the people we met.
Dressed up girl in front of Timur statue in Shakrisabz
Men on their way to work, not appreciating the famous Registan, Samarkand
After a few more days in Samarkand I moved on to Tashkent to apply for visas for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and also to pick up my second passport that had been sent from Germany to a travel agency. The passport wasnt there yet, so I stayed for a few days in the cheapest accomodation possible, an inofficial homestay in concrete block appartments recommended by japanese travellers. The kids around there though that all foreigners speak japanese and we were constantly greeted with a nice konichiwa.
The funny thing in Uzbekistan, and traditionally all former soviet central asian countries, is that you have to register with the police where you stay. Usually the hotel will do this for you, but of course not a non-registered homestay. And since Tashkent, the "green city", is bursting of idle policemen that just look for an excuse to make you pay a "fine", having no registration is not something that adds to you comfort level. The requirement by the family we stayed with was thus not to go out after 9pm. We broke this rule violently one night when I went with Massimo to the best discothek in town. Unfortunately we were refused because my sandals werent good enough for the bouncer and so we resided to a cafe nearby. There we could watch the upscale prostitutes trying to find work with the rich looking guests. None of the girls ever sat down with us...
Uli from Berlin and Massimo from Genova
After waiting for a few days in Tashkent for my passport to arrive I got sick of the city, the lazy family of our homestay, the bad food, and the f...ing police everywhere. I decided to leave for a short roundtrip but it cost me a day to get my ass moving an pull out of the city. I went to the northeast of the country where the foothills of the great Tien-Shan mountain region start. It was considerably cooler there than in the hot city and a day hiking trip up the bolschoi Tschimgan (3309m) was good for training the body and relaxing the mind.
New looks for the Emmie in Tschimgan
Actually I wanted to camp, but a woman working in a roadside kiosk offered me her home and food for 5'000 Sum (~4,50$). It was interesting to see the house, the way they cook, live, work together and survive on a 200$/month budget for a family of 8. Especially one of the sons was interested to talk to me, which helped to improve my russian very, very slowly. But when I left there was a very irritating argument since my payment of 10'000 Sum, I stayed two nights, was not accepted. Instead I was suggested to leave my mobile phone as gift. Despite the poverty, the daughter was sent to university in Tashkent the next year and for that of course needed a nice phone with an MP3 player. It took me a while to talk my way out of it, since the next thing suggested was I leave the 50$ bill I had.
Overall, despite the Uzbek being generally nice people, I had a lot of experience where people tried to rip me off, or played dumb when I ask for directions or whatever.
To a non-positive feeling added the next roadside stop, where the police hassled me for an hour to pay a bribe. I resisted and eventually was allowed to drive on.
lotsa melons in Uzbekistan
Yummiee.. meat outside butcher stall
Back in Tashkent my passport still didnt arrive and some research showed, that I had obviously told the visa service in Germany to send it with normal mail instead of courier. I'm a bit mad they didnt reassure themselves if I really wanted this (it's madness to send anything important in the normal mail) but in the end I cant do anything about it. I was still hoping that the packet might arrive late and so I asked the Uzbek Travel agency to forward the packet to Bishkek once it arrives (not by mail of course).
Slowly I was done with Uzbekistan and Tashkent in particular, so after another night in the ugly but cheap japanese guesthouse I left to the Fergana valley on the way to Osh, Kyrgyzstan. This valley is the breadbasket of the entire country, a lot of farming can be seen. I stopped in Margilan to look at a traditional silk factory, fixed a blown tyre there and talked at length to a dutch software engineer who had bought and electronificed a landrover for his once in a lifetime trip. His homemade GPS-navigation kit had the big advantage that he actually had mapping information for this part of the world, which companies like Garmin cannot provide. The technology fascinated me enough to know that I still might want to go back to work in my profession on day.
Bikes for work
Silk rug fabrication
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 11:28 AM
August 09, 2007 GMT
"Flying" to Uzbekistan
Not only did I want to stay in Georgia, but Georgia didn't want to let go off me either! When I showed up on the boarder to Azerbaidshan the Georgians demanded some obscure blue paper I didnt have and sent me back to the customs terminal in Tbilisi where I got the extension for the bike.
So after another last night with the Nina, Julia, Sascha and Soika, the next morning saw me off to the much disliked fortress of bureaucratic madness on the outskirts just on the wrong side of town. I spend there again four precious hours, this time not smiling as much because in the back of my mind was the 5 day transit visa for Turkmenistan with the fixed starting day on the 3rd of August. Today was already the second and between me and Turkmenistan still lay the blue paper, two corrupt boarder crossings, 600km bad road and a hardly predictable ferry across the caspian sea.
After good progress in the morning I got stuck in one particular room, where Nina and I had spent a few hot and emotional hours - of the unpleasant type!!! - about 10 days ago. After patiently waiting for a looong time I finally demanded that something happens and learned that nothing will right now, because their server crashed. Grrrrrrrrr! After half hour the server was still dead. The same after one hour. One guy gave up and said he comes back the next day. To make my impatience bearable I went in the canteen and got some lunch (which doesnt compare to any of the food I had in Georgia) but that worked wonder! I soon had my blue paper - and about 10 more pages of dubious other forms in georgian transcript. I kept them for now, only needed the blue one at the boarder but later found a perfect alternative function for the rest - tuwalietnaja bomaga! Gaadschui Miss customs!
So at 1:30pm I came out of the hell of GIT Terminal, jumped on the bike and went straight to the boarder. Leave Gergia, no problem. Enter Azerbaidshan, more so: an officer wants 10 Euro bahsheesh, I gave him 5$ (he did use his mobile to get somebody speaking german to help), used all my by now increased boarder crossing skills and the diverse bits in turkish language that I have gathered (Azerish is very similar to turkish). So I managed to get over the boarder in under 2hours. A pretty good time considering other people I met spent there 5 hours and about 40Euro)
The rest of the day I spent riding down very bumpy roads, waving to the most motorcycle enthusiastic people I've seen so far. Almost all kids, boys and men thought I was a hilarious sight and smiled and laughed and waved at me. I stopped only two times, and thus managed to cover half the country until sunset. Once for eating a melon, with dozens of people surrounding me and the bike like in Syria, and the other time for talking to a cop and my way out of buying him wodka...
Somewhere after passing the Kura river I went sideways into the fields, put my tent up because of the moscitos, and fell asleep just in my undies, no blankets or nothin. Only in the morning I woke up because it was a little cholodno, pulled the bike jacket over me and fine. Man, I'm such a tough bugger by now :-).
Entering Baku, Caspian Sea in the distance
Sunrise, pack the crap and hit the road again. Unfortunately it, the road, deteriorated into a mud piste very soon, because of road construction and a truck sprinkling the sandy piste with water, so it doesnt become so dusty. Still I managed to be at the port in Baku before 12, with no idea when the ferry leaves. I found out quick though because a bunch of western looking guys cross my way. Apparently until 2pm the ticket booth is closed, afterwards things may get moving. The guys it turns out are from the Mongolia Rally who are driving cars smaller 1000cc to Mongolia for a charity project. I happen to be with a bunch of them on the boat, of course some germans were also involved, however they do their own thing called www.Mogelrally.com.
My favorite Mongolia Racer: A Trabbi! (but with 4stroke engine)
In the meanwhile I send a message to Rachman, a friend of Julia from Tbilisi and meet with him for lunch. He's lucky enough to work in the local Devon branch (Baku means oil, oil, oil!). He drives a pretty new SUV, in Baku I also see lots of other nice cars, but also many beat up old Lada's and the like. The gap between have and not have seems to me pretty wide in Azerbaidshan. I try to find out some more info from him, but he's not very talkative. Very nice, though, comes with me for the last shopping and then stays for about 3 hours until we're through with the ticket buying process. Seems he has a pretty laid back job at Devon...
He also helped out some of the british Mongoliaracers, who had some problem with the hefty price of the ferry (it was about 150$ for me and bike) and thus got into an argument with the guy at the ticket office who was definitely not impressed. (At one point he just left for 40min). Anyway, by the time the sun set all cars, bikes and travellers were loaded on the ship and we departed Baku. The sea was clear, no seasickness anticipated, so the bottle of vodka I had bought made the round and some interesting stories too.
Rachman, helping out as translator
The ideas of Mongolia Rally or Allgaeu-Orient Rally sound like pretty cool things to do, but it definitely means not stretching the budget over as long of a period as possible. Still, the challenge to drive a Nissan Micra or the like, that has cost 200Euro, across half of the world and have the good conscience of it being for charity might be the right thing for you (the organizations usually help with visas and such), so see if you want to join the mania next year...
At some point not too late in the night I was ready to go to my little cabin and sleep. I woke up a lot, because it was so damn hot - my cabin had a window, but the hot air was going out of the ship instead of cold one coming in. So I woke up at sunrise, was fascinated to be on a ship on the sea and got on deck and read a book. The cook in the meanwhile was doing his 5 mile run around me, up and down the ship. After two hours I could make out land at the horizon, soon we were close enough to see the desert landscape and the town of Turkmenbashi, that the great leader of Turkmenistan (who died last year) just named after himself. But for now, we just anchored in the harbour.
Sunrise on the caspian sea
So I read, and slept, and read, ate a little, read and slept again until all of a sudden it was nightfall. I had heard of ferries taking 3 days sometimes, which to me was unclear how, since the passage could not take much longer than 12 hours. I talked to some apprentices on the ship and apperently they closed the harbour due to high wind. Hmmm, there was a good breaze that day, but nothing that would bother a ship I would think. Who knows, I could not change it anyway. I also found out the wage of the people on the ship. For the apprentices it was 11$ per run, for proper sailors 30$!!! And, apart from the people working directly for american oil companies, they probably had a decent income for Azerbaidshan.
Turkmenbashi, Port and desert rocks
Fortunately the wind died down the next day and we pulled into the harbour early morning. On the ship all the passengers underwent a health check (a quick look and some forms filled out by a "doctor") and apparently I was in best condition. That changed in the next hours. First I thought it's just the missing breakfast and no water during the waiting for the boarder process, but when I was finished (120$ for now 3 days TM) and ready to leave Turkmenbashi around 1pm I couldn't because some fever was kicking in. God knows where this came from again, but I had to deal with it. For a while I was contemplating sleeping on the bench at the boarder, but no, that way I would never cross Turkmenistan. And the facts were that from the 5 day visa I had only two and a half left to cover some 1200km in the hottest of the central asian countries. So I tried and verified a new healing method for spontaneous, diarrhoea accompanied fevers. It's very easy, just follow these steps:
1. go to a central asian desert in the middle of the summer
2. drive your bike until you drop of exhaustion (hopefully in a shady spot)
3. drink water, take a shit, sleep 10 min and repeat 2.
Ideal rest stop
Believe me, it works. In the beginning the intervalls were at 50-75km. But by the middle of the next day they were ever increasing to 100, in the end 150 km. Getting up at the 3rd (and last) day in Turkmenistan I felt a little dizzy because of having eaten almost nothing for 2 days, but the fever was almost gone and the appetite slowly came back. This way I successfully managed to cover alle the way to the boarder to Turkmenistan on the evening of the 7th of August, the exit date on my visa. Only to discover that the boarder was closed already - Jandaba! is the georgian word for what I thought. I'm sure you can figure out the meaning... Turkmenistan is really not the place to bust your visa! As some of the Mongoliaracer were told in very sincere words by the british embassy: "If you overstay your visa, your belongings are confiscated, you are put in jail and afterwards deported home!"
Revolving Turkmenbashi statue in Ashgabat
The problem why I was late was actually the hospitality of the Turkmen people. As it happenend I couldn't avoid to stop being invited for some tea at the town of Bajram-Ali (which is very close to the ancient city and great historical site of Merv), but the big mama of the house soon tried to sell me their suppossedly 2000 year old coins of gold, silver and copper, which they found while digging around in the area. I don't know anything about this kind of thing, but the coins looked pretty fucking real. There were forms and figures on them, that they can't just make up themselves - unfortunately I didn't take pictures. Anyway, one should never buy these things to not encourage the people. So I used boarder problems as excuse and wanted to go, but no I had to stay for the food they had extra prepared - kuschai, kuschai - eat, eat! It was paprika filled with rice, very yummie, aubergines and mixed salad with very tasty herbs. First I was reluctant, but then, my body needed some food and it was tasty. So I dont care if my body drops it in an hour - which it fortunately didnt. It took two hours :) Things were definitely improving.
Fatal delay at Bajram-Ali
Where from? Where to?
I did actually know that the boarder would close at some point, but as you can imagine all the ride through Turkmenistan I was a bit lightheaded - by the way, did I mention that the first night I was taken into quasi custody by the local police natchalnik of the small town of Gumdag? That came like this:
It was almost dark and I was at the end of one of the 'drop of exhaustion' states of my treatment, when I asked a guy on a russian Isch-motorcycle if he knows a gostinitsa. He didnt, but invited me home and it didnt take me long to agree to that. Well, on the way to his house over the sandy village-roads, a big, dark BMW overtakes us with high speed and makes us stop. Then arguments in Turkmen are flying and I gather it's the police (although later they only drive a fucked up Lada) and apparently they are pretty mad about a local taking a foreigner home. Turkmenistan is said to be still locked in Soviet times, where western tourists were not really allowed to have contact with the people and had to stay and register in government owned hotels. Now that may have eased up even in Turkmenistan, but that might not have trickled down to this police-guy. Anyway, I have to show my passport and then have to follow the police car, leaving the other guy behind. I really hope he gets no further problems, you never know with these shitty regimes.
At the time I didn't care for anything except a bed though. My head hurt and I could hardly get of the bike without dropping it. So at the police station (where he changed into his police-Lada and the BMW+non-police driver were left behind) he decided that I'm his "gost" tonight. To be a guest means actually being able to leave when you want, but I think I didnt have that option. Another officer followed every one of my steps, but wouldnt really answer to whatever I said. I didnt care at all though, because for me this situation meant a bed, and more important a toilet + supply of toilet paper, because I had already run out of the georgian customs forms. The night was then a memorable one. The fat officer slept and snorred with me in one room, positioning himself strategically in front of the door. My fever-dreams were interrupted by quick escapes to the dunny, including banging the officer every time to make sure he doesnt think I try to run away. Early morning, as I demanded, we left together and they escorted me about 20km out of town - probably to make sure I wouldnt get lost on the one and only main road through Turkmenistan...
Make thing from nothing, selfmade-boys with their enterprise
Don't be such a camel! Roadkill in the Karakum Desert
Now, back to the point. I was still in Turkmenistan, how to get out a day late without paying money or more severe consequences? I would like to say Hummus, but it was actually vodka!
Just before the boarder there were a few little shacks selling snacks, water, cay and even warm meals. The turkish truckers were hanging out here, and, as I found out, also the chief-customs-officer was currently having his dinner here with part of his crew. After locating the right place, I walked in with the best muslim-russian Salem, kak djela? greeting I could come up with and found myself welcomed by the, surprise, surprise, english speaking officer. Immediately now came the vodka, not that I brought it, I only had to drink it. They gave me a 200ml glas full, which I portioned carefully. I said a toast to Turkmenistan, the hospitable Turkmens, and how sad I'm to leave after such a short time, leading slowly to my case of being late due to nice people holding me up.
In addition to the vodka I was also fed, with probably the best lamb I've ever had. On a little boarder shack somewhere in desert-stan. Even though before I denied all the meat I was offered, I felt so good and strong (and hungry) again, that now I thought I won't have a problem with this heavy food and alcohol. And I didn't. I talked for about 15min with the officer in English, who really was quite nice, and probably proud of being able to show off his english skills to the rest. He said he would try and make todays stamp in my passport, so when I cross the next day there wouldn't be a problem. I didn't see my passport until the next morning, but it happened exactly like he said and this was really one of the fastest boarder crossings in a long time.
Moneychanger on the Turkmen-Uzbek boarder. Even the biggest bills here are worth less than a dollar
Now, I'm actually in UZBEKISTAN! It was still morning, about 10, and since I was the first through the boarder for a while I was almost the only vehicle on the street (still in the desert). I could relax now, since I have a 30 day visa here and about 5-6 weeks for this and the next country before moving on to China. I will do some recovering, write my stories and take things easy... a song came to my head that I associate with a very happy and content experience I had on a day maybe 5 or 6 years ago, after leaving camp at 6 in the morning and riding the wonderful roads through the morning fog of the Schwarzwald region in Germany. Pure freedom!
Fahr gerade ueber Land es wir grade mal hell,
spure Freiheit in mir, denk das ging aber schnell,
bleibe besser in mir, denn es gibt kein "Zurueck"
Und alles was ich brauch ist mein Mopped und Glueck.
Ich packe meine Sachen und bin raus mein Kind,
Andi N. ist auf der Reise und hat Rueckenwind.
Ich sag es euch auf diese Weise, alle die am suchen sind,
Sind mit mir auf der Reise, haben Rueckenwind.
Und wir fahrn auch ueber Wasser wenn da Bruecken sind,
Ey, der Typ hat ne Meise aber Ruckenwind.
Wir betreten neue Wege die wir noch nicht hatten,
Und ich nehm euch mit 'n Stueck in meinem Windschatten...
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 01:50 PM
July 20, 2007 GMT
Andi of Arabia
Hello all, I'm still alive and riding. Arrived yesterday in Tbilisi, Georgia.
On the way, I again browsed through Jordan in only one day and extended my visa in Syria, because I had such good time in Damascus. After visiting some more historical sites I returned to good old Turkey, where I stayed in Orfa (birthplace of Abraham) for a few days.
Now, after some time in the kurdish east of Turkey, having almost climbed the Suphan Mountain at the Lake Van in eastern Turkey, and 2-3 days pretty rough riding in rain, mud and on offroad-tracks, my head is somehow devoted to getting accustomed to the georgian way of live. The arab mentality suddenly vanished, I try to remember my russian and I somehow cant be buggered to write about things that are two weeks in the past.
I notice, that I'm travelling fast, which on one hand is exciting because of the ever new adventures, but on the other hand it's a bit tiring. I notice that I don't spend as much energy getting behind things and that is a bit unsatisfactory. Of course that was foreseeable and I'm still happy to have done the detour to Israel, but I hope I'll be able to take it a little easier from now on. Unfortunately the the Georgian custom guys have give me only 10 days permission for the bike, before I have to leave to Azerbaidshan. Not a lot for my ambitions in the caucasus, but lets see...
Ok, but to not skip my recent travels altogther, I still put some pictures and maybe a little description.
The covered market in the Damascus Souq. Notice the bullet holes in the roof the french put some time in the 1920's
No doubt about who runs the country>
Little Roof-Party with beer illegally smuggled past the hostel reception
Impression from the syrian desert
The damn beast wont go where I want! Camelride in Palmyra, one of Syrias highlights.
Last night in Syria. Since my clothes were taken to wash I received my new dress! Feels good, except I had trouble not flashing my underwear to everyone :)
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 02:03 PM
July 08, 2007 GMT
Hummus makes the world go 'round
As the picture implies, I managed to get myself and the bike to Israel. I was so happy and still couldnt believe it worked. Seeing road signs to Jerusalem just felt unreal.
The crossing involved getting an exception for riding the bike over the Sheik Hussein Bridge (usually forbidden), surviving the very, very sincere security check of the Israelis (they feared my second battery is a bomb!), avoiding both Jordanian and Israeli stamp in my passort (otherwise the return travel through Syria would be rendered impossible) and flirting with the cute chicks at the Israeli passport control. I'm telling you, it was hard work :-) ! And more of this kind was to come.
But first I had some very relaxed days.
From the boarder I went to the next bigger town to get money and food. A phonecall to Nir (Afula? What the hell do you do in Afula?) revealed that I managed to go to the least desirable spot in Israel. Anyway, I found out that my close friends Sigi and Tanja were nearby in the port town of Akko. So I headed there and we had a merry get-together and looked around the old arab center. In the evening we went to Nir and Irenes place in Tel Aviv.
This and the following days I enjoyed the luxury of feeling at home, just hanging out. The hardest thing was shopping for shoes with the girls and recovering from that at the beach. Tough life!
Chilling in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv Beach
One thing that is hard getting used to is the fact, that hebrew is read from right to left. Since I cant decipher hebrew anyway that is usually not so much of a problem, but when you sit on a computer with a hebrew operating system things get weird. Click on the picture below and try to locate e.g. the START-Button or the back button in the browser or where to click to close the program?
These things really make me feel that I'm somewhere else now, even though the lifestyle in Israel is very western and I naturally felt much closer to home than in neighbouring Syria. Since the military service is compulsory for females also, another sight getting used to are the young girls, some of whom I first met at the boarder, dressed in military uniforms, carrying around a fucking machine gun everywhere! (e.g. when shopping in town or sightseeing Jerusalem). At the same time they're quite cute, some of them incredibly hot, as are the Tel Aviv women in general. (Unfortunately they are well aware of this and stick their nose pretty high in the air - not that I want to generalize...)
My remark about the decoletage many girls are proudly showing off provoked one of Nirs friends to share some common knowledge with me: "Israeli girls have big tits - they eat a lot of hummus!".
Hummus! Not only is it a nutritious food source, also it later helped me a great deal with my boarder problems and will, according to Eldad, a very spiritual friend, be THE solution to peace in the middle east!
For the interested reader, find out here what this magical stuff actually is. Try it out, spread the word (and the hummus) and use it in any situation, for whatever problem comes up!
After 6 days in Tel Aviv, or more correctly on the couch, I got my crap together and left to go to Jerusalem and from thereon south, through the Negev desert to Eilat on the red sea, where I would cross back into Jordan. One thing I did achieve in Tel Aviv was to paint my originally black helmet white. I was glad for that in the heat of the desert - 44 degress Cesius read a thermometer on the dead sea!
Jerusalem! This city has so much history, it's very, very fascinating to see and feel some of it. On the other hand it's also frightening that the ever prevalent conflicts are still going on. I didn't know what I should feel in this town. Since I'm a fairly unreligious person, the significance of all the churches, mosques, synagoges and all the other sacred places are not that vivid to me. So when I came to Jesus (supposed) tomb and listened into myself what I felt (as advised by Gabriel, the romanian monk) all I could find was that I'd propably be travelling for some time longer. A more spiritual experience came later at night. As I lay on the roof of my hostel with a view all over the city, looking at the stars - I found mine I think.
Jerusalem: Dome of Rock and Jewish Cemetry on the Mount of Olives
Muslim women and orthodox jews outside the city wall
The sightseeing also brought me to the western wall (Klagemauer), the holiest place for the jews. An entire company of soldiers was just there. They were having a good time, quite relaxed, joking around. When I think of soldiers I do not think of people smiling. But this picture was different and I wanted to keep it so I asked for it. This is what I got, very mixed feelings believe me:
Female soldiers and little Andi in front of the western wall, Jerusalem
Contrary to what I thought, Nir assured me it's no problem for me to drive in the westbank as long as I avoid towns like Hebron or Jericho. With a bit of a funny feeling I did and was alright I guess. In Beer Sheva, the town on the fringe to the Negev desert, I couchsurfed a night at the place of Dan and Scharon, two of Nirs friends. They study politics and it was very interesting to hear what they think. I would have liked to stay longer, but I went to Masada the next day.
Masada is like a castle, built more than 2000 years ago on a mountain in the desert, close to the dead sea. It's one of the most important places for the Israelis and it's history very cleverly used for nationbuilding. The story is, that at the time of the romans there was a revolt by the Jews. It was ended with brute force by the roman army, but 973 people (zealots) held out at the Masada castle against a superiority of 15.000 roman soldiers. The castle was impossible to take, so the romans built a ramp up, on which they could bring battering rams and other war machinery close enough to finally break through the walls at the top. Now comes the heroic stuff: The zealots decided they'd rather kill themselves than falling into the hands of their enemies. Not everybody played along though and two women and 5 children (according to Flavius Josephus) survived to tell the story.
Nowadays a common phrase used to justify whatever Israel has to do to defend itself is "Masada shall never fall again!". Whichever way one thinks about that, seeing the ruins of Masada, the ramp that is still there after 2000 years and looking down to the stone squares of the roman legions on the desert bottom makes history feel like yesterday.
In the Negev
Slowly it was time for me to leave Israel, so I drove through the rest of the fantastic desert landscape to Eilat. Rightaway I tried crossing into Jordan, but the israel boarder post indicated trouble: "They won't let you in on the bike!". I had to try anyway, exited Israel and went over. I was quite persistent, but nothing helped, I was refused for bikes were not allowed in Jordan. End of discussion! So I reentered Israel, of course enjoying the complete security check again and also the sympathy of the boarder staff.
A bit of research (with support from Nir and friends, thanks a lot again!) showed four possible options of how to go on:
1) cross to egypt, drive down the Sinai to Nuweiba, take the ferry to Jordan. Others have succeeded that way.
2) try to get special permit for riding in Jordan
3) take the ferry to cyprus and from there to Turkey
4) try other boarder crossings
The weather was so hot I slept the next night on the red sea beach without clothes or cover. I started the boarder process at noon and left, unsuccesful, at 8pm back to Eilat. Short History:
- Exit Israel
- Enter Egypt
- Egypt Security check
- Refusal by Egypt custums due to missing tryptik (carnet de passage)
- Possible solution: get tryptik on Israeli side of boarder
- Exit Egypt
- Enter first gate of Israel
- Discover Egyptians kept my bike registration
- Back to Egypt gate
- Egypt security check
- Retrieval of bike registration (thank god!)
- Entering Israel without bike (stays in nomansland) passport check takes the longest 2 hours of my life
- Uncertainty about egypt regulations, cannot get tryptik
- Exit Israel
- Another unsuccesful try at egypt customs
- Retrieval of bike
- Enter Israel
- Security check
- Passport check
- 3rd time: WELCOME TO ISRAEL!
That did me in! I decided no more boarder crossings without proper research and went back to Tel Aviv the next day. A visit to the jordan consulate revealed: If I applied for a permit in Tel Aviv it would take 3-4 weeks to get one. I could go with bus to Amman and maybe get it in 3 days. Or entrust a jordanian travel agency to do it for me.
After a good Thursday night party on the beach I decided for a last try at the boarder where I came in. If that failed I'd do the bus trip to Amman. Last resort would be the ferry.
Camping in the Ramon Crater, Negev desert
On Saturday morning I packed my stuff again, said goodbye to Ene and Nir, pretty sure I would see them when I return at night. My hopes were high but realistically I gave myself a 10% chance. The day before I had talked to Eldad. He said to me: "Go to the boarder and buy some hummus. When you get to the boarder just hand it over to the people and you will succeed!". Since it was saturday (shabbat) everything was closed, but I managed to get two small boxes of hummus from the last petrol station before the boarder. It was processed and packaged stuff. But I guess that doesn't matter.
At the boarder the israelis tell me again I would be refused by Jordan. I went on anyway. Next, Passport control. Officer: Naomi Campbell
Naomi: "Where do you go?"
Me: "To Joran and on to Turkey!"
Naomi: "Can I come with you?"
Me: "Aehh, I have a free seat. How long 'till you packed your stuff?"
Naomi: "Just a minute. Did you pay the exit tax?"
Me: "Ahem no, hang on."
I went to pay the 67 shekels for the third time! Back at the office:
Me: "Ok, paid the tax!"
Naomi gives me the exit stamp. Two more girls are in the office.
Me: "Ok, lets go! Are you still coming?"
Naomi: "Where else do we go?"
Me: "To china, in the winter to India. Do you have your Syrian visa ready?"
Naomi and the other girls: "SYRIA???"
Naomi: "I cant go to Syria!"
Me: "I know. What a shame! Bye"
I'm starting to get the hang of these boarder crossings!
I get back on the bike and stop on the bridge over the Jordan again. The barrier lifts, I drive to the first Jordan gate. Passport! The guy checks, gets on the phone. Waits. Gets a response. Waits. In the meanwhile we talk little. I get off the bike. He gets another call: I can't enter! Wait! I explain my situation more thoroughly, show him the insurance I already paid. He gets on the phone again. I'm thankful he's actually trying. I get out a box of Hummus, ask him if he'd like it? He makes me sit in his office. I put the Hummus on the table and wait for the response. 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes. A call. I can drive in, go to captain Yussuf, the the chief of custom. YES, I thought triumphantly, that was the first barrier! But keep cool, anything can happen yet.
The captain confirms everthing. No problems. Again I get my stamp on a piece of paper. In all the crossings I have managed to not have a single trace of Israel in my main passport! The road is paved now, the security check and customs are only a formality. I simmer with excitement, joke with the officers. They are just having lunch and make me eat with them - I get my second box of Hummus out and put it on the table for everybody. I enjoy the situation, eating with the officers. I have no hurry now because I know I'm through.
I'M BACK ON TRACK!
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 04:01 PM
June 28, 2007 GMT
Course: Holy Land
After recovering from whatever made me sick so much I left the now unclimbed Mountains of the Ala Daglar. I guess I have to come back one day!
My new direction was south, heading over Antakya to Syria, stay there for the 3 days my transit visa allows and then cross to Jordan. From there things would get interesting getting into Israel, avoiding the stamp problem and all the others that turned up...
Rice fields in the southern Ala Daglar?
But first I had to get out of the Mountains and of course I tried that little "shortcut" on the map (120 instead of 150km). Read on to find out how short it really was.
I got a hint of what's ahhead when I stopped to ask for the right turnoff. The people all shook their head as I insisted to take this little road instead of the highway around. They dont know what an MZ can do, I thought.
First the road went up, giving very good fews over the surrounding countryside and what looks like rice fields to me. I dont know what they grow there.
The road conditions got more and more difficult, the rain lately turned it into a mud piste at times. It slowly wound itself into a gorge with rocks, a river and pine trees around. I was happy to go slow - with the sun pretty low it was a very idyllic sight.
I still used my front brake only, which is pretty hazardous when the ground is slippery. So I slowed down to 20-30 kmh. Or came to a halt to have a closer look before crossing puddles like this one.
How will my street tires deal with this? Just fine!
One turn came after the other, but on my map I was not making any progress. There was suppossed to be a village after 20km but it just didnt come, even after seemingly hourlong driving. There were no turnoffs so this had to be the way. I didnt worry much and it all was a challenge anyway. I only wondered if I had to turn around at some point because of an insurmountable obstacle.
When I saw a digger on the road I though this is it. They are just builing the road an this is the end. But it turned out that they just moved some big rocks that had fallen onto the way. Somehow I squeezed by, but not without kicking some rocks with my orange tubes. They still hang onto the bike, but I'll have to tighten them at some point otherwise I will loose them. Maybe somebody really thinks it's a bomb then.
Not the end
In the midst of the forest there was an intersection leading all 4 ways, all looking possible and a sign with print so faint, that it was not readable anymore. I didnt know where to go and had not seen any houses since I entered that road. So I was pretty happy to find one close to the intersection. There were at least 20 young men there, all curious what the hell I'm doing here. I thought the same, but didnt ask much longer after they set me off in the right direction.
Finally the first village was coming, as was the dark. I camped out, cooked some food cowboy style and couldnt believe it was only this morning that I woke up in 3000m height next to a snow fed lake.
On the next day I finally came out of the long valley, the temperature was much warmer here and the vegetation plentyful. I'm sure my imaginative female pillon enjoyed the ride a lot.
Riding pleasure for him and her
The "Rose of Ceyhan" served me the best Kebap I had in Turkey (and the cheapest too). I also waited for some heavy rain to clear. Further south, almost in Antakya, I turn into a highway-like road, accelerate, only to realize that the truck in front of me is braking. As I was going already 60 or so I also brake, still with the front brake only, the wheel blocks and goes sideways as the back lights of the truck comes closer... Shit!
I release the front, use the fucked up back brake and am happy that a rush of adrenalin is the only lasting impression this situation leaves on me. The brake has to be fixed! Now!
I stop on the next roadside garage. It's for tractors, but they sure could do the job. Nobody takes business it doesnt belong to them it seems, so I'm guided through town to the masters of mopped fixing.
I have a different idea of how to fix it, but the master mechanic looks at it for 3 min, while quietly giving one word orders to his armada of helpers. They jump and bring the tools and he quickly makes up his mind. He nods at my proposed solution, but knows it better and the kids carry out his fix. I have no choice but to look how it's fixed much easier and faster than I would have done it. After 30min I pay 10 Lira (5 Euro) and am off with perfect brakes. Should have done that long time ago...
Rose of Ceyhan
Somehow it's taken me from 8 in the morning till 5pm to cover the mere 250km to the Syrian boarder. Reason for this are frequent stops to sit down drink tea and have a chat. The last was one was with the wife and the keeper of a shop where I wanted to buy some bread. He didnt have any, but his wife had some selfmade pita bread. Again, I was not allowed to pay for the three cups of cay, the yummie cookies and the bread they gave me.
But I was set now and could go for the first "real" boarder crossing of my tour! Leaving Turkey was already different from coming in, with lots of people swarming around the little windows of the checkpoints, all trying to get their stamps first. An "agent" takes care of my stuff, of course in exchange for some baksheesh. Not too bad though.
On the Syrians side it's a different game. You park the vehicle and then start running around different offices. Takes ages until you figure out what to do. There are many people around, one doesnt know who belongs to the boarder, who is an "agent", or just people hanging out. Almost none of the officials wears a uniform. In the office, there is one guy sitting on the window dealing with the people, but plenty of other people behind him chatting about this and that. One guy is lying in his underwear on a bed. He turns around, pulls the blanket over his head so he can sleep (later it turns out that this is the boss!). A table is full with used tea glasses, dishes with food half eaten. The place is a mess! I have to learn being assertive to get anywhere.
When talk comes to the carnet the passage, which I dont have because it costs a lot of money I'm faced with the procedure to get a 'triptyk'. I knew it would be costly, in fact I paid 70$ for it. Plus 25$ for one month insurance. Plus baksheesh. And I have to consider myself lucky, because one boarder official took care of me and guided me through the process. He told me that in the 80's every week he read an arabic magazine about east germany and he learned about all the cities, the great socialist system and Erich Honecker. He said Erich Honecker at least a dozen times. His voice sticked to my brain I can still here him. Erich Honecker!
Well, because I was riding a MZ and am born in eastern germany and knew who Erich Honecker was (it was new to him that he doesnt live anymore) he liked me, which is why he helped me out quite a bit. After three hours or so I finally was in Syria.
This is not especcially long I hear, but for me it was the first time I underwent this process. Many more to come...
On accident I did find a secure campsite in a small village and happily paid about 3 Euros for it. I dont know the customs in Syria yet, so wild camping is postponed until I do.
Heading south I got about 30 km when I stopped in a small town to get some food. Immediately I was surrounded by curious people. Nobody speaks English. I understand they want to know where I'm from. My answer "Almanya, Germany" is greeted with the raised arm of the Hitlergruss by one of the guys. I shake my head. He's surprised and shows me that Hitler really was fantastic guy because he wanted to kill all the Jews. I'm very iritated and want to leave the scene when another guy on a little mopped pulls up and starts talking in German to me.
It's Abdo, who in the 80's has studied in eastern germany. He invites me to his shop and we talk for 3 hours straight. The Hitler-guy comes with us, but when he raised his arm again, a few very harsh arabic words of Abdo shut him up.
Talking to Abdo was very interesting. Mainly about how good he lived in Germany when he studied there (in opposition to the german students). He earned 600$ a month (truly a fortune in these times) had a car, a motorcycle (MZ!!!), lots of girlfriends...
He was shocked how much the people of eastern germany feared saying or doing something wrong because of the government spy system (Stasi). I asked him how things are in Syria and he tells me that since Bashar al-Assad has the power (and not his father Hafez anymore) it's really good. Syria would be even a democracy now, since they just had a vote on Assad. He won with some 95%. I ask him about a counter candidate, the reply is 'we dont need that here'...
Before I leave I have to promise him to look for two of his ex-girlfriends when I'm back in germany. He gives me names and the city they used to live in. That should be enough, considering his own address is just his name and the town Idlib. I'll do my best, hoping that there are not so many Konstanze Damm in Chemnitz :)
On the road again I feel weak. It's a hot day. After a few km I stop, fall asleep on a stone right next to the road where heavy trucks are rumbling by. A bit later I get up, make it to the next town, dont find the right way. Ask a guy in a shop and cant avoid being invited for dinner. Since I'm so weak that's probably a good idea. The man speaks decent english and I feel better after a while in the cool house. We also talk a little politics and I ask him what he thinks of America. "We love the people from all over the world, everybody is welcome in Syria" he says. "Just the governments we hate, but the people we love." What about Israel? "The same, just the government we dont like." And he means it, he's a good guy as I see it. A family father of nine children. More to come.
Shopowner with the youngest of his nine kids.
After a long riding day I finally arrive at the historic site of the crusader castle "Krak de Chevalier". It's too late to go in, but a restaurant nearby has camping spots. I spend the night with an older german couple who have travelled the world for the past ten years in their camper van and a girl and two guys who came from South Africa in their landrover.
While we sit, I hear a sound like a thunder far away. But a thunder is actually more a longish grumbling. This one is a boom only. Nobody says anything, but when I read the news on the internet next day I realize, that the Lebanon town of Tripolis was only about 40km away and it might very well have been the bombs that the army used against the Fatah al-Islam camps. I aint going to Lebanon!
The next morning I again have the turkish bread with turkish Nutella for breakfast. I didn't strike me yet, that the bread being in the hot sun all day might be responsible for my weak moments the day before. When I get up from the table I have Schwammerl in the knees already :). I don't think much about it, want to go look at the castle. Well, to cut a long story short, I didnt enjoy the castle much. After three hours of suppressing my gag reflex I made it back to the restaurant and ask for a bed to rest. Two hours later I still feel no better, but force myself on the bike because my transit visa is actually running out today. Fortunately it's a straight highway to Damascus, but I fight with the strong sidewind (and the ongoing gag reflex) while halfway lying on my tankbag because I'm so tired. Another sleep in a shaded bus station makes me feel a little better. I decide to stay in Damascus, but while searching for the hostel get horribly lost in the wildest souq (arabic market) I have seen so far. But I felt much better at that time, so it was actually kind of fun to ride through passages so narrow, two people cannot walk besides each other.
Crusader Castle Krak de Chevalier
The impressions I got from Damascus where somewhat overwhelming. I cant grasp and describe them yet, so I really want to go back. But first my way lead me over the next boarder to Jordan. The crossing here was similarly chaotic as into Syria, but luckily I only had to pay about 40 Euros for tax and insurance.
Only 10min into Jordan I already get to feel the "Welcome to Jordan" hospitality. People invite me, and this time there's a woman talking English. The rest doesnt understand me, but the woman does not stop talking. And so I learn about the two wifes of the house; the brother that tried to kill himself because his love got married with another man; that girls are married with 15-23 years, if older nobody wants them (I was offered the 18 year old daughter, but, ahem, thankfully declined and argued that a girl in that age is too young for me. They answer with a twinkle in the eye: "She knows everything a woman needs to know...". Huaaa); the men marry older, 28-45 maybe; in the first night of a married couple the parents stand by the door and want to see the blood, if there's none, the girl is as good as dead; if a girl is pregnant without being married -> same fate!
The woman tells me all that and really thinks it has to be that way. Sort of proud, how rough the life is or how strong the people abide to the rules.
I still hang around for some time, get their phone number and promise to stop by when I come back.
Originally I wanted to make it to Israel that day, but after the talk I decide that one boarder crossing a day is enough! I go to the historic site of Umm Quais, where Graeco-Romans once build a city. I try to camp there, but have to register with the "tourist police". At night I wander around the ruins and find an old guy who lives there very, very basic. In his room is a bed, a gas stove and a cat. Thats it. No furniture, no bathroom, nothing. I sit with him outside, he makes tea and we quietly enjoy the stars above us, the view down to the sea of Galilee and the town of Tiberias on the israeli side.
When the muezzin calls he gets the prayer rug out and does his praying. I use the time to make this shot. I like it because it really captures the atmosphere of the moment.
View from Umm Qais to Tiberias and the sea of Galilee
Tomorrow I'll go down there and I'm a bit nervous how the crossing will work out. Will I be able to avoid the Israeli stamp? Will they demand to see my main passport? What will they do to someone travelling with two passports?
I guess they wont send me flying over the Jordan so I should be alright! Alright?
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 08:01 PM
June 18, 2007 GMT
I know I'm quite a bit behind with my blog. This is why I'll keep this one short. Hopefully...
Waiting in Ankara for the visas was a bit boring. The only thing impressing there were the taxis I thought. So on Monday evening I happily left for Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is a very picturesque region, where people since ancient times built their houses into the domes and cliffs of the sandstone rock around. There are even entire underground cities, complete with churches and everything (I didnt find the underground pub though). I cant remember why, when and how the Cappadocians built their "living caves" so if you're interested have a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappadocia.
I drove and hiked a lot and took many pictures of the place. Soon I got a little tired of all the postcards shots, so I also tried a bit black and white photography.
In an underground city
Famous phallic rock formations
Who knows a good name for this picture?
One day I met two germans, Stefan and Christine, who are cycling the world as part of their project: http://www.radfahren-gegen-krebs.de. I feel really bad, since my trip has no charitable intentions at all. So to salve consciences I ask you for the following:
If, while reading my stories, you are not bored to tears but find my writings interesting or even smile sometimes, you MUST go here and donate a few bucks. Thank you!
Stefan and Christine
In Nevsehir, the major town in Cappadocia, I met Azlan at the tourist information. Last year he guided my mom up Mount Ararat. He gave me information about climbing the Erciyes Dag, the biggest mountain of the area. Since it is 3917m high I was happy when Azlan first suggested a tour up the Hasan Mountain, about 3200 m high. This would give me a good opportunity to test my fittness and get acclimatized. An older german couple came along but was out of power after the first hour, so I finished the ascend with Azlan only. It was quite strenous, but rewarding since it's an old volcano with a very interesting crater.
Hasan Mountain, 3256m
When we were coming down the mountain I was again attacked by beetles. This time not as big as the may-beetles in Romania. Also I was less at unease, because they obviously had no sting. I had my bright white T-Shirt on and thought they must like me because of that. Finally I found a rock where they were having their party. The surface of the rock looked like moving because there were so many of them. Doing all kinds of stuff. Just look at these three swingers!
I was shocked and stumbled down the rest of the mountain, picking off beetles from all over my body. I wont get specific..
At the bottom I met again the nomads, that already invited us for tea when going up in the morning. Fortunately their dogs had no issue with me, so I sat down and laughed with them for a while. Such kind people! And I really liked that little girl that was blowing bubbles with its gum. Not only because she's so cute, but for the fun she had when the bubble popped and everyone got sprayed with her spit. She couldn't get enough of it.
At that time I was actually alone, but the car was only a few hundred meters away. Everybody was waiting there. Not at the car, but with some other people that had invited them for Cay. You cant go 5 minutes without having to drink tea in Turkey. It's horrible!
We sat there for a while longer and everybody was enjoying the rock, the view and the talk. And the cay of course. The guy in the middle of the pic is Azlan.
Cay on the rocks!
Eventually the woman of the german couple got a bit nervous, because they mainly came to see the remains of some old byzantine city. It was hard to say goodbye even for Azlan. But we managed and drove to the city. It was really big, but mainly only the foundations of the houses were still there. The families from the nearby village used it for their sheep and goats. When we got there they just released the young ones of over 2000 to get to their moms and suckle. That was a a happening, I'm telling ya! The valley was full of cries from the little and the big sheep/goats. But everone finds their mom. The women and girls run around and take care of deseased ones or help with the feeding. Sometimes they even carry them around, looks quite funny. In the end the young ones got separated again until the evening of the next day.
During all that time the men just sat with us, enjoying the show and talking. But they are the ones that wander around with the flock all day - the herders. This one here, like many others, just came up to me with the warmest smile you can imagine, takes my hand with both his hands and greets me hello. You would not believe it.
But this time we rejected the food and the tea and got going, because a big thunderstorm was about to unload.
We drove home with heavy, heavy rain, even hail sometimes. The people in the fields didnt seem to notice. They just keep working.
Back at home Azlan invited us for a yummie dinner, but the german lady did not stop to complain. All day she didnt smile much, I dont know why. Everything was good, we agreed to split up on the mountain a long time before. They saw their city and even got the sheep show. But even though they were in Cappadocia for 6 weeks in total (they have a house there) she couldn't get rid of her everydays life attitude of complaining.
I dont know I dont know. These germans sometimes...
Anyway, we had good food there and I also stayed the night. I talked a lot with Azlans younger son, who was just studying for his final college exams. He did speak English quite well, which is not so common even among young people. I'm sure his father being in the tourist industry stressed the importance of a foreign language and was also happy for me being there and his son getting some practice.
But all of them couldnt quite understand why the hell I want to drive the "moto" to Turkmenistan or China. What do you do there? Why? I tried to explain, but the worlds are different. Just the fact that I travel just by myself. The turkish are way too social to do that I guess.
Before I set off to Kayseri and my next project, the Erciyes Dag, I did another loop through the Cappadocian villages. I wanted to find the point where there is a view of the Erciyes and in the foreground some of the colourful rock formations. I didnt want to walk much and found a rough dirt road going up a mountain. In the beginning it was ok, but later came a very steep and rocky part. When I failed the first time, I went into myself. Is it worth it? Will you give in?
NO, not after the first try!
After the second crash the same question. And the same stubborn answer. I offloaded some of my luggage and went again. Starting faster and thrashing the bike over the rocks hurt a little inside me. But it had to be! Whats a MZ good for?
A lot, I must say, I got it up that fucking hill.
Of course, the view was less then impressiv. The air was very hazy and I could just guess where the Erziyes was. But what the hell, that doesnt mater now. I made this hill, yeah!
On the way down I noticed the back brake not releasing and had the faint glimpse that this might be directly connected to the way I drove up. Back on the tar I stopped and looked. I didnt see what the damage exactly was, but found out that I could release the brake manually. I had a hand brake on the bike now :) For the next few hundred km I used the back brake only in emergency situations, because afterwards I had to stop and release it. That lead to some almost crashes and before I went to Syria I finally got it fixed. In half an hour. Cost 5 Euro.
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 01:11 PM
May 26, 2007 GMT
I had a pleasant start in Turkey in the town of Edirne. It's not so touristy but big enough to have some sights and I was able to wander through a typical turkish city in full swing with market, the food, mosques, the call for prayer and so on. I also got a haircut, which was quite an experience and learned my first turkish words.
But when I returned to my campsite (admittedly pretty late) I found an angry manager and the police did already search me. I must be thankful though, because they were just worried I got into an accident or something. I guess my behaviour was a little too unpredictable. On my way to Istanbul I thought I would be stopped, but the police never found me...
Knowing I had to wait for my Azerbaidshan visa for a while, I got myself situated in a nice cheap hostel (Mavi), staying in a dorm on the rooftop. Check out the view from my bed as the Muezin call wakes me up at 4.30 in the morning:
After pretty much constant moving for the last 3 weeks I was happy to relax and take it easy for a while. Istanbul is a really pleasant city for that, partly it has small town feel, some streets are really bustling but without being too hectic. For nighlife there's the Taksim area where you have party folks on the street in an amount I havn't seen before. No wonder in a city with 20 Mio people though!
Paradoxically, I was out with a bunch of german Soz-Päds (social science students), accompanied by the turkish manager and workers from the hostel. We danced Salsa on the roof of a club - there was beer, smoke and girls enjoying even my unskilled lead. Andi's grin lasted well into the next day :)
Night out in Taksim
After 5 days I finally got some sightseeing done. I went to the overwhelming Aya Sofia, once the biggest church on earth, then a mosque and nowadays a museum. Standing in front of the world famous mosaic of the 'last judgement day',
Last Judgement Day, Aya Sofia Istanbul
I could hear a deep and powerful voice asking "HAVE YOU DONE ENOUGH TRAVELLING?". Since I couldn't honestly answer with YES, I would probably go to hell if this were the end right now. So instead of waiting in Istanbul any longer, I made up a new plan, which was to head to Ankara the next day and apply for the Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan visas there. While waiting for them I would do a loop down south to Antalya where I expected to find some good climbing. and beaches of course.
I crossed the Bosphorus (it's Asia now!!!) and after a long, long search to find the right way out of Istanbul (driving in this city is like a racing game, only problem is if you hit something --> Game Over!) I was finally heading towards the black sea. This is not the direct way, but who cares. The road got very windy, trees all around, rarely a view of the hilly landscape possible. Thus the riding took some (very enjoyable) time and it was already late afternoon when I pulled up on the shore of the black sea near Karasu. This was one of the memorable moments that before I had in Siebenbürgen and in Istanbul standing at the Topkapi Palace looking at the Golden Horn.
Whoooohoooooooow! I'm on the black sea! Cant believe it...
And then a little adventure began: As I'm standing there a few fishermen get interested, start asking questions about who I'm, where from, what, with a MZ? The faces showing an expression like 'are you nuts??'.
Before I knew, I was on their boat with an incredible loud diesel engine heading for their nets to pull in todays catch.
Abdullah and Semir on the black sea
Of course I shortly thought about the fact that my bike on land was unprotected now and it needed just a little kick to get rid of me, but before I went I looked into the guys eyes, remembered all the good things I heard about the turkish and generally had an ok-feeling. I decided that if I'm afraid and say NO now, I will never be able to live up to what travelling offers to me.
So there I went and everything was ok as long as we were moving. But I didn't drink enough water that day, the sun was quite hot and the cigarettes the turks constantly offer are pretty strong. So when we stopped at the nets I felt weak in my knees, started sweating, feeling awful. I didn't get it until Abdullah made a gesture like puking ... of course I was seasick!
Pulling the nets in seemed to take an endless time and in case you wonder, Yes I finally did feed the fish ..
When we were back I was invited for cay (tea), later to stay the night. From about 5pm to almost midnight I sat "with the boys" on the central place of their little village, chatting, and getting to know everybody who has been in Germany or whos uncles wife has a cousin that was once there... I was very entertained though as well as I was entertaining them - little boys following every move I make, chuckling about the awkward way I crack the Hazelnuts (a local specialty) with my teeth. But I really wonder what they talk about all the other days, when no german on a motorcycle comes by. Seven hours to kill, every evening...
The night I stayed with Semir and family,
Semir and Family
a very humble and religious man. He showed me the mosque, made his wife cook dinner, she even washed my clothes. I felt strange, especcially since I got the best chair/place while his wife had to eat on the floor. But these are the customs I guess and she didnt seem unhappy or anything. In fact, I'm sure Semir works a lot to provide a good life for his family.
Later I asked him about the meaning of the little necklas, many men are constantly fiddling with. Apparently a muslim should after each prayer, praise Allah another 99 times with 3 different formulas. Semir gave me his 'Tasbih', so I'm now travelling with signs of three different religions (a cross and a budda are the others) - I like to believe that this increases the chances of god helping me three times more also. (Yes, I'm still an engineer :)
After saying goodbye early morning I was headed for Ankara, got the visa applications going and left the same day to Konya on the way to Antalya. On the way I met frienly people everywhere, all happy, chatty and curious, inviting me for cay or even food. Travelling in this country feels really good.
Lunch with Truckers
On the way to Konya, the religious center of Turkey and birthplace of the Dervish cult (the ones that turn themselves like crazy in order to gain unity with god), the countryside opened and allowed wide, wide views. To the left I could see a white line on the horizon for the next 50km, a glance in the map reveals this must be a huge (salt?) lake. Above it loomed a black sky, but to my right there was sunshine. I felt like riding (not walking, hear Johnny Cash?) the line between good an bad. I was deeply touched by this situation - a sensation of freedom and greatness overcame me.
At some point I stopped to take fotographs of some old buildings that were brightly lit by the almost setting sun in stark contrast to the still almost black background. Just when I finished the storm suddenly started. It brought no rain, but everything loose blew sideways over the street. Dust, pieces of plants and rubbish came flying. I slowed down to 70-80 being afraid the wind would take me off road. The left side of my tires now have slightly more wear than the right :).
Dust Storm approaches near Konya
In Konya I got hopelessly lost in the market in search of a Pension. When I saw a MZ, I pulled up and waited. It didn't take long and the owner appeared, walking around my bike, shaking his head in disbelief. When I asked him for the way he made me follow him through the tiniest lanes of the currently closing market. It was a wild ride through One way streets (of course the wrong way), on the sidewalk, whatever it took to avoid cars, bicycles or people blocking the streets.
Helpful MZ rider
On the next day I unexpectedly found the beard of the prophet in a museum. Or rather the box it's suppossed to be in. I found this strange, because in the Topcap, Palace in Istanbul they also said they have the beard. Well, maybe the prohet shaved from time to time and there are multiple beards preserved nowadays. Who knows...
Beard of the Prophet
In the afternoon I set off to cover the next threehundredsomething kilometers to Antalya. The countryroad was a bit boring, so I took a little road (sometimes dirt) through the mountains even though this meant nightfall before I would arrive. I didnt regret though, because what followed was one of the best roads I've been on in my life. Up and down, corner after corner, with views over big valleys, rocky hills, mountains, deep gorges ... it was a 160km motorcycle riding orgasm. I cheered in my helmet and still was hiper when I arrived at the JoSiTo Climbers camp about 10 at night.
A bunch of goats want to be fotographed
Fantastic Riding in the Taurus
I stayed for one week to climb the fanstastic rocks in Geyikbayiri (extra blog about that follows soon). Then ventured further south to the old site of Olympos, nowadays a backpackers paradise, getting even more climbing in.
In a rush I went back to Ankara (450km until 10.30am) to collect my visas, but unfortunately I still have to wait till Monday for the Turkmen visa to be finished.
The first night in Ankara I stayed in the common room of motorcycle couriers that I met the first time I was here. All fun guys, but really nobody speaks English or German so it's very hard to communicate. Yesterday afternoon I went to Ulus, the only area in town with cheap accomodation. It's, ahem, about 500m away from the place where 3 days ago a suicide bomber blew himself up.
There's not much to show what happened anymore. The windows of the builings are repaired, only one shop is closed, other than that it's business as usual. The only things noticable are the many turkish flags around and people frequently looking at the site.
So tomorrow, Monday, I'm outa here, heading towards Cappadocia. Later trying to climb the Erziyes Dagi (39xx m) and still later meeting up with turkish climbers in the Ala Daglar Mountains to do some alpine climbing and, if I understood right, maybe get involved in a first ascend. As you see things stay thrilling...
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 08:58 AM
May 08, 2007 GMT
Through the Carpats and Bulgaria
This time pics only about the way from Transylvania to Turkey...
Road near Georgheni
Countryside in Transsylvanýa
Suppossedly Draculas Castle in Sighisoara
In Tinus yard
Castle at Rasnov
The mean beast of a watchdog
Old Women in Busteni
What a nice crocus
Trying to avoid the snow on the way up
The Hobo stove, made from a fish can
Vlad and the routes 'Ini' and 'Mini'
... 'Maini' and 'Mo'
Me failing on the crux of 'Power Flower'
Wıth Adrıan on the Franz Joseph lookout
Susi and Bernhard coming back from their 19 month trip
Awesome rock but no climbers in Drjanovo, Bulgaria
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 01:41 PM
May 02, 2007 GMT
Asai Viata (c`est la vie) in Romania
So, lots has happend since I left Budapest a week ago. I partied with students in Eger, got attacked by Maikaefers (Maybeetles) in Romania, dropped my bike the first time, sought for enlightenment with the Monks in northern RO, climbed with chief alpinist Voicu, pholosophised with a pension manager, explored the roots of my ex-gf in Transylvania and have still a few more days to come in Romania.
After a day of sightseeing in Budapest,
Hero Square Budapest
I wanted to meet the MZ-Racing guys for a scooter race in the evening. Unfortunately it rained a bit and since I had quit my (too costly) room i decided to go to Eger straight away, even though I would arrive there in the dark. I had two contacts there so I didnt worry about finding a place for the night. In fact, Peters parents gave me their entire old house that they`re currently selling. That worked out again, took me half a year of travelling to achieve that in Australia!!!
I think I also found the reason why they live somewhere else - across the street was the college and some pretty good party was going on (as probably often). I joined right in, and after the language barriers were removed (washed away with guess what..) I had a fun night till almost sunrise.
Partying with the students in Eger
Next day a had a look around romantic Eger, and in the evening Peters parents took me to the "Valley of the beautiful girls" where there are lots of wine cellars. I had to take a 2l bottle of the so called bullsblood-type with me. Peters father also explained the background of the city and its castle in the time of the turks from which the Minaret is still left over. For me this is a sight I`ll get more of soon...
Minaret in Eger, notice the half moon next to the top
After another short night in the college-bars I set of for Romania, which I entered near Oradea. I was welcomed with smells of everything possible to burn (garbage and rubber), smells of decay, lots of dirt, scruffy looking people, old cars always full with people, horsecarts and so on. Thus I was struck at how poor the living conditions actually are. I decided to take a small road through some village and especially here I saw people working very late in the day, with very basic, mostly manual tools. Lots of old people. Travelling by foot.
horse and cart
A man walking his probably only cow to graze at the road shoulder
Slowly the day took its end and I started thinking about where to sleep that night. The roads were so bumpy I had to go below 50kmh and realized I wouldnt make it to the next town (Dej) where I planned to go to a pension. The startled and not really friendly faces off ALL the people that saw me riding through their villages didnt encourage me to ask somedbody for a spot to camp. I doubted that these old people speak a word in english let alone german anyway. So I rode on, but kept surpisingly cool, somehow knowing that something good will come up. When the sun set an old guy stopped me somewhere on the road in the middle of nowhere and asked me to take him down the road a bit. Of cursee I did (the bike suspension didnt like it) and set him off where he wanted it, far outside a village, to see him wander of into the hills. He didnt understand my question, if he had a place to stay for me so I rode on, but not far.
Found a nice spot to camp, not in view from the road, far from the next villages (with barking dogs) right between some blooming cherry trees. It was a really idyllic place and I was so happy. Cooked my spaghetti, drank some of the wine and noticed what I thought were hornets flying around me. After a while they became so many, I started getting worried. They came from the cherry trees and went into another tree right behind me. I thought I was sitting in a beehive. Sometimes they bumped into me and I slowly got afraid of them stinging me. I waited it out though, maybe the`ll fall asleep soon... which luckily happened. To me as well.
So after a good nights sleep I opened my eyes to this...
Morning view out of the tent
... and after getting up and looking if the hornets are still in the tree I found out, that YES they are there, but NO, the are May beetles. Since I had to spend the night alone I was kinda jelaous at this sight:
May bugs snuggling
Riding through very pleasant countryside, sometime around noon I looked at the map where I was actually going that day. Found out, that one of the climbing spots I had researched on the Internet was pretty close and decided to go there. The road went up a mountain, got pretty bad, and when I read a sign "Manasteria Rarau" I thought that's my place. Well, turns out, that Manasteria means Monastery and I found myself talking to the monks, asking them if I could stay the night. After answering the important questions, confession? married? how old? alone? father Gabriel showed me my bed and told me how things were going. He was very kind, as were the other monks, but the only one who spoke english. I had good conversations with him.
I also went to the midnight service, but left early (it went till 3am). Nobody minded though and next morning the working monks were eager to have me help them with wood splitting an finding out more about me. I really enjoyed their company and was happy with them at how content they were with their simple life.
Father Gabriel an me at the Monastery Rarau
Blessed still life
Before I set of, I had dinner with the monks. I spent the wine I still had and heard a lot of `muzu mesk` (Thanks a lot) for that :). Father Gabriel also gave me the tip that every weekend (it was saturday) a guy named Voicu, head of the Alpinist rescue troop, was up at the mountain and I should ask for him. He also mentioned snow on the road, but I didnt believe it because we were only 1500m high and that winter there was no snow anyway, right?
Well, I was wrong again and had some fun:
First drop, it had to come!
At the hut at the end of the road I asked the people around for the climbs, but nobody understands me. When I finally say the word "Voicu" the hut manager takes here mobile phone, dials, and I have a guy telling me he`ll be here in 10 minutes. Half an hour later we were at the base of our first climb:
A bunch more came, I was really happy to climb again. It went pretty well, taking into account I havnt been on rock for over 2 month now. We even did a 7-.
The night I spent up on the mountain in a wheather station. A lot of people were there for the weekend and I got to know more Romanians. Old and young ones. Socializing, drinking, having fun. A favorite pasttime of the romanians, not so much working they tell me...
Students from Jas fooling around
I also found out more doubtfully featurese of (some) romanians, as fighting when drunk (i guess thats international), being VERY proud to be romanian, hating Hungarians. The gipsys being proud of trading, and screwing people. Or stealing. Hmm, I watched my shit, but I think it was never in danger. Everyone was actually very open to me and likeminded regarding my travels on the cheap.
After a cloudy morning it started pouring rain and I got ready to go, first ride in the wet. Made the snowy part down without any more falls and got to Piatra Neamt, where I philosophized with the manager of the pension I was staying in. Was good, but he didnt quite get my search for simplicity. Thought if you have money, spend it on cars, girls and whatever luxuries. Family also! Hmmm
I`m getting kind of tired now, so I finish up. I went to Grossprobstdorf, a village of the Sasches, near Medias. My first girlfriend Elfi was from there and I was always interested in the ways they lived here. So I went to their old house was welcomned by the guy that lives there now, but unfortunately, my knowledge of the romanian language is so poor that we couldnt talk that much. It was a pleasant time nevertheless, he showed me the house, his three pigs, the chucks and little turkeys, the wine cellar and so on.
The next day I had a extended look around in Medias which I liked a lot with its middleage feel. Also, the other siebenbuergen towns like Sibiu and Hermannstadt are like that, but much more touristy.
So from Brasov, where I sit in the Internet-Cafe now, I still want to go a little into the mountains - Busteni - in order to get some hiking, maybe climbing in tomorrow.
Gotta hurry, its getting dark outside. Already 7:23.
see ya, Andi
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 03:25 PM
April 24, 2007 GMT
Hallyho from Budapest
So last Friday I finally managed to leave Rosenheim at 4pm. I didnt even make 200km before finding a nice spot for my sleeping bakg right next to a farm house near Bad Goisern.
First overnight spot
I opted for not putting up the tent, but at 5 in the morning I learned, that sunny days do not mean dry nights! The downs of my sleeping bag were soaking wet and so it got quite chilly at about 5 degrees outside. I got into my pants and threw the tent canvas over me. That fixed it.
In the morning I was glad though, when the grandma from the house invited me for a coffee to warm up. We talked for quite a while and she revealed some of her worldly wisdom to me. Among it the fact that one shouldnt marry earlier than when 30-40 years old because that only creates problems with breakup and such. See mom, I'm on a good path still...
The wise grandma
so when I left it was almost lunchtime and the wonderful twisty roads through Steiermark and the Gesaeuse together with an extended lunchbreak at a nice riverside didnt let me get to Budapest as planned. In eastern Austria I then went to a campsite, a little worried, because the bike has repeatedly "coughed" when going uphill on high revs. Also the front brake is always dragging a bit. And regarding engine sound I seem to be paranoid because I always imagine new funny noises developing. A beer and talking to the couple who run the campsite relaxed me and so later that night I even tried to do some star photography.
Nightsky at my camp site
Riding a straight road but enjoying the nice countryside I made it to Budapest on Sunday. Here I met Peter from the Hungarian MZ Klub (www.mzklub.hu) who showed me a student dormitry I could stay at. Though not really cheap, I at least had safe parking in the hallway (theft, even of bikes like mine seem to be a big problem in Budapest). Imagine that in Roncalli (my dorms in Munich)!
I had to get up at 6 in the morning though, because the Fuchtl (other word for rigid manager :) ) of the house still shouldnt see the bike inside.
Safe Parking in Hotel Martos in Budapest
Peter was thrilled by my bike, took lots of pictures, apparently they dont have that model here in HU. He then showed me around the city. When I told him about the bike coughs he immediately called some friends and got me a date with the mechanics and members of the hungarian MZ-Racing team (www.MZRacing.hu) at their repair shop.
When I went there at 9 the next morning I didnt know I would spend the entire day there. They welcomed me, immediately started taking the bike apart, which went a little too fast for me. The translator guy was not there yet and they just talked to each other in hungarian what might be the problem (which Peter only briefly described on the phone). Finally the didnt have a good idea about the "coughs", if it was ignition failures or fuel problems. The only suggestion was to change the ignition system again (which I had just done a week ago, after the old one broke and I stopped suddenly - another reason for my late start). I didnt want to do that, since its not a big problem but we did some other work - changing the head gasket, new bearing for the front wheel and fix the brake problem.
Since I had to wait for the paying customers being served first this procedure took all day. But I had a good time, the guys were very friendly, nobody minded me running around in the garage all the time. In fact most of the customers stayed there for a few hours, watching the mechanics work, making fun, having a good time. Sort of a hang out place for motorcyclists.
MZ Racing team from Spirro KFT, Üllõi út 202, Budapest 1191
In the picture on the left is Mr. MZ or Bambi, Oldtimer Champion 2001 and 2002 on a ETS250, then me, then Kutrin Zsombor (the Space) 2005 champion on a ETZ250, then Semi who is the one to call (+3612810535) in case of problems and to the right my favorite mechanic Hegedda, very funny guy.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day we couldnt get a part needed for fixing the brake. I had to order it from Germany which would take 2-3 days. Bummer, I didnt want to stay here that long. As last resort, Semi called his brother to bring by the brake of his BMW K75. He thought it might have the same rubber in it and was willing to give it to me so I could go on while they wait for the part from Germany to arrive. When his brother came I couldnt believe it, that thing fitted perfectly. That made my day!!!
Coming back to my room I realized how tired I was, fell asleep till 11pm. Couldnt sleep afterwards, so I took my camera stuff and went up the Gellert hill to take some nighttime shots of Budapest.
Castle hill and the danube seen from Gellert hill
Ok, this blog got kinda longish and it's only about my first 4 days. I guess I will keep myself shorter in the future.
After all I'm really happy how the trip is going so far, because I'm moving, stuff happens and I make interesting encounters everday.
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 12:29 PM
April 19, 2007 GMT
Getting started, finally
So I want to go around half the world on a motorcycle! Hmm, plenty of reasons to do that: experience strange cultures, meet interesting people, see beautiful places... Well, there are more convenient and safer ways to do that than travelling on two wheels to the middle east and crumbled ex-soviet countries. So why am I still gonna do that?
Here are some thoughts on the whys, the hows and the whereabouts.
Have you noticed my trip title? Originally I didnt want to name my tour in order to not make such a big deal out of it. I wanted to keep expectations and the pressure low, especially within myself. In the end, not having to give in to certain pressures is part of the freedom I want to have during the trip.
But, somehow the title I chose above made it into my mind. Partly for obvious reasons - I'll be travelling SOLO plus I should be FREE as a bird! But there's more:
In climbers terminology "free solo" means to climb without a rope, which means if you fall, you go all the way to the bottom... As a climber I must admit though, I'm too much chickenshit to actually climb any difficult route without a rope. But the mindset and philosophy behind free solo, the maximum responsibility for your own actions, the need to use all of your abilities and the very intense feeling of life which results from increased risk (no matter if perceived or real), is a big part of my motivation for the trip.
By starting from home and gradually going to more and more remote places I hope to get accustomed to being with less "rope" than in normal daily life. And I know, as probably everbody does at the HUBB, that it will feel soooo good once I get going, once I'm on my way.
So after all this writing one thing becomes clear. This journey IS a big deal for me, the pressure in myself has built up in the past weeks (especially since I wanted to leave about 10 days ago) in a way I havn't experienced before. And I think that deserves a title and me rambling about it. I'm ready to go. Tomorrow I will start!
- Germany to Turkey via Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria (April, May)
- Sidetrip to Israel via Syria and Jordan (May, June)
- Carry on from Turkey towards central asia over Georgia, Azerbaidshan, Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kirgisistan (June - September)
- Then maybe China, KKH to Pakistan, India, find Nirvana - stay there (Oktober - ...)
click for larger image
- MZ ETZ 251 Saxon Tour
- 21 raw two stroke horse powers
- cheap, easy (to fix), light and reliable (lets see...)
- fitted with Alu-Boxes and very solid toilet paper dispensers :)
- sheepskin from my grandparents sheep. feels so good!
I'm not gonna list all the things. It's lots, but reduced to fit into the two boxes plus tankbag (which is actually a converted backpack - I still want to hike/climb a lot).
... all packed!
Ok, that's it for now. I'm gone! The first leg goes to somewhere in Austria, en route to Budapest. Yeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaw!
Posted by Andreas Naumann at 11:56 PM
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