Archive for June, 2010

Day 127

Friday, June 25th, 2010

How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young? Sweeney

Old man on motorcycle rides up to me on the way here…
OMOM: “Hello”
Me: “Hi”
OMOM: “where are you from?”
Me: “England”
OMOM: “Ah, very good, you play Germany next game… and you beat them in war. – Big pause – Twice.”
Me: “Thank you, I know I am very happy with the result”
OMOM: “Where do you go”
Me: “I have cycled from England and now I go to China”
OMOM: “Ok you just go straight then”

So its just straight all the way to China then. Piece of Cake :)

Well it would be if the Uzbekistan embassy would do their job. Stuck here for another couple of days as the visa is still not ready.. The good news is that Adam and Kris are here so I have very good company as they wait to catch a flight to India.

Patience…

Day 121

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

“The optimisim of action is better than the pessimisim of the soul” Some random Greenpeace poster

So I find myself standing naked but for a male thong in a strangers bedroom watching the world cup asking myself ‘what?’
It all started simply enough, I wanted to get to the Uzbekistan embassy as the only path that lies clear ahead (aside from civil wars and the like) is up through the stans. So with the address found on the net and a city map which is completely in Farsi I ended up cycling to the far side of the city early in the morning to avoid the worst of the traffic – just one crash witnessed…. I reach the site of the address only to find it is a residental area. So began half an hour of cycling round the area with a guy commandeered from the local food shop who helped me find an internet cafe to double check my address. In the internet cafe was a man who spoke passable english who sold the mst incredible selection of pirated software (Try Solidworks 2010 for $5 US… That is only $10,000 cheaper than I was asked to pay in England…). With the phone numbers for the embassy not working a taxi was called. The bicycle was thrown in the back and we literally wheel span away into the anarchy that is the traffic in Tehran.

I have never been so scared in a car. There are literally no rules. Undertake, overtake on pavements do whatever you want it matters not. The whole time it helps if you sing and dance whilst driving, fight with your brother who has come along to stare at the strange English man and weave in and out of traffic at 80mph whilst trying to pour drinks and invite your passenger to go fishing and buy illegal hooch. This fun lasted for two hours as they had no idea where the embassy was. Neither did anybody else. Even the guy who nearly fell off his motorcycle when he was asked directions. On the motorway. At 70mph.
Eventually to my incredible relief we found the embassy only to be told by a guard outside that it was not giving out visas. You have to go to the ‘other’ uzbekistan embassy. Of course? how stupid of me…. A country of such stature should surely be graced with two embassies. So back in the taxi, another half an hour of searching and two near misses only to arrive within ten minutes of the office closing for the weekend.
I am then told that without a letter of recommendation from my embassy saying that my passport is my passport they can do nothing. Come back in 3 days. GDMFSOB.

So after a trip to my embassy and forty six sodding pounds for a letter stating that my passport was in fact my passport I am back to where I started. Plus I have no idea how to get back to the Uzbekistan embassy.

I walked out despondant looking to phone a friend I made in Van who offered me accomodation. I thus ended up walking out of the UK embassy into a little alley of shops that sell phones. A quick question turned into lunch and then dinner. The hospitality and friendship shown here is simply beyond belief. Dinner then turned into an invitation to see the city. Thinking why the hell not I left with Amir a mobile phone salesman the same age as I. Taking the underground which was an experince in itself we arrived at his house only to be told that I can not wear my clothes. I must change into something clean (dont laugh I am on a bicycle..). He then proceeded to insist that I wear a pair of jeans and t shirt from his own wardrobe. Deaf to any form of protest I started to change. It was at this point that the mlae thong came out and I was made to change my underwear. There are moments when things are so strange that you just seem to go with them..
We then say goodbye to his family, get in his car and drive round the city in a fashion that made the taxi from earlier on seem relatively sane. We stop and pick up his girlfriend and her sister who then lead us to a restaurant where we eat roasted kidneys and naan. I am then driven back to my guesthouse through the night streets of Tehran with enrique inglises playing full blast being told that his girlfriends sister loves me whilst being taught Farsi for ‘watch out for the Iranian revloutanry guard’. Truly one of the strangest nights I have ever had. All good fun though I hasten to add and a testamony to the incredible people that live here.

The morning brought a meeting with Amis who could not in fact host me after all. So what did he do? He paid for a night in my guesthouse for me and haggled down the rate I was paying…

This place just defies description. On the walk here I saw a man pull a kitten out of a planter of flowers stiff with rigamortis then walk off twirling it in his hand, next to this was a man who has a car radio set up running off a 12v battery and hundreds of cassettes for sale. This is next to the newstand where men gather to read the newspapers as it would appear that nobody buys them here, which is next to the shop that sells ninja death stars..

I find i can do an hour then I have to go and sit down somewhere quiet as it is just too full on. Anyway the good news is that after a chance meeting with an English girl (Helen – Thankyou) who works for Dragoman my route into Nepal from the north might still be viable. So if I can endure the madness here, pick up the Uzbekistan visa, head to Mashhad and get the Turkmenistan visa all I need to do is cycle another 2000km and get to the Kazakhstan embassy… easy no?! Oh yeah, and I have no maps.. but where there is a will etc…

Day 118

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

4370.1 Miles. Four thousand three hundred and seventy point one miles.

From ST15 8DA to Tehran just me and this little bicycle that I love and loathe in equal measures..

I am now on a visa run so I can not write more as I am stressed beyond belief. Some bastards have just decided to launch a civil war where my route had been changed too after Pakistan stopped giving out visas. I shall mention no names but come on…

Strangest thing seen today (for which there have been many) a man riding a motorcycle using his right leg to control the left foot pedal (gear change) with his left leg raised up on the pillion seat, whilst weaving amongst traffic. Try it. That and being led into Tehran by an obese man on a scooter, or using the internet here in a mobile phone sales shop, or the sign facing the german embassy annoucing how iran will never forget their sale of chemical weapons to iraq….
It is beyond nuts.

So off now to try and watch the world cup in my guest house. I missed the England game against America as call to prayer came on and ALL the tv channels switched over accordingly…

Day 114

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

44 degrees. It is stinking hot. I teamed up with Sibylle and Martin Burger for the last three days who made life a lot easier. Thankyou guys. Try cycling 70 miles when it is over 40 some time. To put it into perspective they measured the temperature in their tent on the turkish border and it was 56 degrees….

I think the highlight of the last few days was seeing two guys on a motorcycle avert near death when they swerved at the last possible second to avoid running off the road when they saw a woman on a bicycle.. That and being told in cafe that the USA and England run the Taliban.

So it is hot and there is not much out here. 50 miles today with no shops. One strange little restaurant where 4 men and a 300 amp welder constructed some unfathomable object with no safety equipment in the midst of a large puddle. 300 amp welder and a puddle…

So I am in a small hotel – as I can not cycle in this heat – in Zamjan set to leave tomorrow praying for rain or a drop in temperature. I have just been brought to this internet cafe by two wonderful girls who whisper the name of the leader due to the fear it provokes. Things are getting ever stranger…

Day 110

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

So Iran.. the axis of evil has been entered. Dont make me laugh.

It is a crime the way this ocuntry is portrayed.. want to go and visit a mosque there will be a young boy giving you a tour who pays for your entry.. Want to find something admist the barrage of visual distractions that is written farsi.. ask somebody and they will escort you to where you want to go. Cycle up a hill and be saluted by the Iranian revolutionary guard… These people I wish to make clear are not obsequious but are actually interested in what you have to say.

Holding court in front of twenty students who had taken a break from their Koran study course to tour the Blue Mosque here was one of the strangest feelings I have yet had. Trying to answer why no young people from the west come here and why people are scared of their country makes you ask once more, how long before people wake up to the lies we are told?

Even the how can I say, rougher elements of society are friendly. I cycled across my first salt lake through the oppressive heat and found an Iranian beach resort. It consisted of rough shacks on the edge of a salt lake which I thought would suffice for a nights camping. With the wind increasing to storm levels I pushed through the sand only to meet four men taking a break from importing/smuggling tea from russia who asked me to join them in eating a watermelon. The first course of water melon was then followed by bamboo straws and opium. Frantic gestures of how if they are caught then they will be in trouble was laughed aside by one of the men when he pointed out how he was a police officer.Making polite excuses as the whole situation was too strange to comprehend I spent the night slightly further down the beach hoping the tent would survive the sand storm.

Morning followed with forty miles of road through the desert. The mononity of long straight sections are interspersed by mud hut villages, insane towns with rotting roadkill lining the open sewers and finally…. the joining of the motorway which will take me to Tehran.

Oh and pizza and burgers. The food has been raised from Kebabs which I now have a strong aversion towards and today has been spent walking round the city eating and drinking everything new I can find. Which is mainly non alcoholic beer. found in peach, cherry, tropical fruit and a multitude of other flavours it is like beer but without the good stuff…

So I leave tomorrow and head to Tehran where the journey now takes a twist. I had originally planned to head through Pakistan but with the security situation so bad I am not going to gamble on entry to Tibet so it is up through the stans. In the meantime please do some reading on

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh

For those of you even more curious do some research on Iranian energy reserves. But I am sure your government would not tell you lies…. for it has your interests at heart…

Day 10?

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Last nıght I was kıcked out of a mosque 40 mıles north of the ıraq border where ı was told ı could sleep then kıcked out of the restaurant ı was moved ınto by a soldıer at 6am. I am now sat ın a petrol statıon owned by a geologıcal engıneer drınkıng coffee sat on the softest seat ı have seen for months.

Wıth the loss of Malte stıll revolvıng ın my head ıt ıs hard for thıngs at the moment not to seem even more strange than they are. But I am stıll goıng…..

Day 103

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Malte Albrecht RIP

It ıs wıth shock and dısbelıef that I have to gıve you the news that Malte ıs no longer. The detaıls are not clear as yet but I belıeve he was kılled by a car near or after Erzurum.

Funeral ıs to be held on the 18th of June. More detaıls for those who can understand German at:

http://cyclomalte.blogspot.com/2010/05/einbruch-in-die-freiheit.html
Malte I loved you lıke an older brother

malte_portrait

Day 102

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Fırstly my aplşogıes for everybody who got spam ın relatıon to penıs extensıons from my yahoo acount. It would appear thay my emaıl got hacked ın a dodgy kurdısh Internet cafe.

 So ın brıef the last few days have been tough. The roads have been goıng up at 10%, mostly unsurfaced so at 37 degrees celsıus wıth trucks rumblıng past chokıng on dust wıth over 100m sheer drops on the sıde the rıdıng has not been fun. Dramatıc but far from fun. Oh yeah no longer bullet shells but real bullets now lıne the road.

 I have been relyıng on the generosıty of strangers once agaın to get as far as I have. The only poınt where ıt has broken down was when I camped ın a remote vıllage quıte lıterally at the top of a mountaın. I ended to take a sıde road to fınd somewhere sheltered and was led by an elderly gentleman to a patch of grass outsıde hıs vıllage. I had a feelıng ıt was goıng bad when he came runnıng back and shouted at me to move my tent away from the bushes due to the snakes…

 It thne descended ınto madness when the kıds arrıved. Try cookıng dınner ın front of 20 people and see how relaxed you are.. Indıcatıng that I needed to sleep as I had been up sınce 5am to avoıd the heat they wandered off only to reappear 5 mınutes later tryıng to look under the tent. Annoyed that I was not playıng wıth them and over excıted by the fırst person ever to vısıt the vıllage ın lıvıng memory theır annoyance ın beıng refused Money and bıts of my equıpment quıckly turned ınto a Stone fıght. A Stone fıght and one young boy about 7 or 8 gettıng hıs penıs out demandıng to have sex wıth me…

 Try havıng a Stone fıght wıth twenty kıds and one lad ın hıs early tentıes who acted lıke a punch drunk stroke vıctım. I was saved by the appearance of one of the vıllage men who called off the kıds and as I packed up the bıke strıkıng camp ı managed to explaın to hım that ın on over 3500 mıles thıs was the fırst tıme ıt had ever happened. He looked suıtably shamefaced. I debated breakıng the nose of the lad ın hıs early twentıes who had taken on the role of chastısıng the youngsters actıng as ıf he was as ınnocent of anythıng and evrythıng but I pedalled off defeated and shaken.. I dıd honestly consıder gettıng a taxı and goıng back to floor the lad but whats the use?

 I arrıved ın town fıve mınutes later after freewheelıng down the mountaın only to be called over for a cup of tea by a man that ran the local restraunt. Explaıng what happened he apologısed profusley. Askıng ıf there was anywhere to sleep he ındıcated that I could sleep behınd the restaurant. As ıt entaıled jumpıng 20 ft down and sleepıng on rottıng garbage I elected to chance my luck and push on.

By sheer luck as I left town a soldıer waved at me. Seızıng the opportunıty I cycled over a brıdge off the maın road and proceeded to mıme exactly what happened. Laughıng he agreeded that I could sleep at the mılıtary post. Takıng the tent out he chastısıed me form my placement and ındıcated that I should sleep on top of the mılıtary post. Whıch led met to spendıng the nıght sleepıng on top of a mılıtary post wıth the tent strugglıng under the force of a full on storm under the protectıon of two soldıers wıth fully automatıc rıfles. There are tımes when thıngs are so strange that you stop beıng worrıed. Lookıng out the tent at 5 ın the mornıng checkıng that ıt was stıll ın one pıece seeıng the cascadıng rıver the mountaıns and a man ın full unıform standıng to attentıon guardıng me was one of them.

 Back ınto town the next mornıng ıt was all ı could do to get 30 mıles up the mountaın to bıtlıs. I had cycled everyday from goreme and ıt was startıng to show so brıbıng myself I decıded to take the fırst hotel ı saw ıf only ı could get to bıtlıs. It took a day to rıde 30 mıles. It was that bad.

 The hotel ended up gıvıng me one of the most severe cases of food posıonıng I have ever had and I spent two days lyıng on the floor ın a fetal posıtıon tryıng not to fall unconcıous. I also had the joy of watchıng the news and fındoıng out the turkısh mıltary have been fıghtıng ın an area whıch I recognıse when the name of the town I am stayıng on appeared on the map they showed on the news. 5 dead and one ınjured apparently.

 So I am now 6 mıles out of town pedallıng very very slowly tryıng to get to Tatvan where I wıll try and rest up before I head to Iran.

 The thıng that makes me laugh ıs that everybody I meet goes ah you are from england you are a tourıst. A tourıst does not have to go through shxt lıke thıs…

 One last thıng (apart from apologısıng for the typos) the people that sent me texts ın the last couple of days who where unaware of my condıtıon my eternal thanks. It ıs ımpossıble to descrıbe the depths and heıghts that thıs journey has taken me too so far. The fact that I have support and emaıls comıng ın means more than I can ever descrıbe wıth sımple words.

 Theır ıs a pınt or eıght waıtıng for a number of people.