15 01 2014

The smell of trees and damp earth after a light rain in the evening.

What a pity there is no way to record it. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy it.

 





Laos, China and Kyrgyzstan

3 06 2013

The current bike trip is well underway, from Laos to Kyrgyzstan. I did get my passport back in time (just).

I had plans to update this blog along the way, but for various reasons I’m using a crazyguyonabike blog this time. So far there have been almost daily updates – sometimes it takes a while to get to an internet connection to upload them though. Feel free to check it out and leave comments!

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/LaosKyrgyzstan2013





New keyboard!

15 04 2013

I just got another package in the post. Always exciting when one of these turns up. Actually, today I managed three – a final (hopefully) order from wiggle, an order from bivouac (some more camping gear – and there I was thinking I had everything I needed), and now a mini keyboard. Two of the boxes are in Adelaide, so the only one I can play with is the keyboard. Gone are the days of going shopping in a store…

And as I expected, it’s too small. But still better than the on screen keyboard on the nexus 7. I’m still going to take the tablet, but longer blog posts might need a computer. When it is set up as a laptop, the whole thing looks ridiculously small, smaller than the old 7inch eeepc. And I think it is even harder to type on. Although the screen is now far better than the eeepc. Touch screen and high resolution beats the nasty resolution of the eeepc. And battery life of this thing is much better. Either way, this one is going – with the tiny keyboard. I’d be much happier if it had an sd card or usb port. Perhaps next time I’ll have to look at a proper tablet. By then they’ll be everywhere.

Other things. The camera has recently died. Which means a new one has to be bought. Which isn’t a big problem until you look at the selection available now. Ridiculous. I had to narrow to one brand I already know. So, hopefully this weekend I’ll make a final choice, and get another new toy.

The trip is organised. Well more or less as organised. At least as organised as it’s going to be. The time is flying though – only 3 weeks left. The count is for the number of days left that are not work days. That makes it seem very close! I just hope the passports come back from the Chinese Embassy soon. Preferably with a nice shiny visa in there somewhere.

Right, the keyboard has proved it will work. I might get frustrated pretty easily, but it’s better than the android on screen keyboard.

The formatting got all screwed up for some reason. WordPress? What happened there?
I just tried to add a photo. Now that will be a real challenge. Will definitely need a proper computer for that, or… Another toy?





Next!

16 03 2013
Poor blog has been ignored for too long. Again.
 
As the last post alluded to, there’s going to be another trip! Yippee! I never finished writing about the last trip. I still think I should write something more but it’s been a year and a half and I still haven’t got around to it. Looks like it’s not going to happen. So… A quick summary: Pakistan seems to be full of great scenery and people. Because of the (perceived) danger, the tourists seem to huddle together and you end up with a great experience. India couldn’t be more different, and if I was in a different ‘head space’, I may have even enjoyed it. As it was I was at the end of my trip and the end of my tether, so I ticked a few of the tourist must-sees with my father and headed home.
 
*Blink*
 18 months goes by
 *Blink*
 
There must be a different time scale in operation when travelling. I can hardly believe how fast time goes past in ‘normal’ land. I just had to check my calendar (yes, at home I need a calendar…) – I’ve been in the west for two weeks. That really flew past.
 
Anyway, the upcoming trip. When I came back to Australia, I convinced myself that I would be back for about six months, then back to India to resume where I left off. Then more work came along, and the Pamir highway looked inviting. Then, for various reasons, I decided to stick it out in normality and see how it went.
 
It was good for a while, but I couldn’t shake the idea of getting back out there. Again, for various reasons, I decided to try a shorter trip. The one year was quickly reduced to six months. Now it’s four months. See how a shorter length trip goes (maybe it’s too short?). And the starting point changed from where I left off in India to somewhere in SE Asia. Mostly so I could build a route that finished in Kyrgyzstan so I could ride for a month with Stefan an Sabine. They’ll be there in August, but they can’t wait that long for another trip – they’ll be in Jordan over Easter.
 
So, a one way ticket has been bought. To Thailand at the start of May. Quickly leg it over to Laos, then ride the length of Laos, look around China (assuming the Chinese authorities give out a visa). Head over the desert to Kyrgyzstan for August. Do a lap of Kyrgyzstan and fly back. I don’t know if there will be time to ride all the way. Since the trip has an end date, it makes more sense to skip any boring bits with a bus.
 
Looking forward to starting now!




Test from tablet

2 01 2013

So I went and bought a new tablet.  Hopefully I can get away with just this on the next trip. At least that was the plan – it’s really just a new toy 🙂

Edit: 3 January 4.5billion and 13

More on the toy later.

I forgot that people who are following the blog would get an email that it’s alive again. I was only trying to test the WordPress Android app (which seems to work pretty well, but the on screen keyboard leaves a bit to be desired). Woops. Not to worry. As John has reminded me, before I talk about future trips (which I hope there will be one) I should ‘complete’ the last trip. I’m somewhere in China or Pakistan still – a year later, I still haven’t looked at some of the photos I took in India…

It’s a bit embarrassing that I haven’t made a single post in 2012. Not so much Adventure, but plenty of work.





Still alive

11 09 2011

I appear to have forgotten about the blog. I am still alive, and at the moment I am safely back in Australia. Not exactly home, but Frankenbici is parked up in my parents shed, and I’m several thousand kilometres west of there. I’ll try to write something about Pakistan (a great place) and India (a less great place) before I forget about it, or get overwhelmed by the day to day. The latter may have already happened…





Asian Internet

12 07 2011

Iran filters it’s internet. In country, it has been dubbed the filter-net.

China does the same thing. It seems that Iran uses the Chinese technology to filter the internet. The China version is aka The Great Firewall of China.

Pakistan uses a slightly different approach. When you get online, nothing appears to be blocked. Or perhaps that should be “If you get online…”. Especially in the north, where I have just been.

I haven’t worked out just why, but Pakistan is having all sorts of problems with keeping the electricity on. I thought this was just in the north, way up in the mountains, but it is all over the country. I’m in Islamabad (the capital) now, and just now the power has gone off (Laptop + battery = power independence + I didn’t lose what I just wrote). The fan stops, and instantly it feels 10 degrees hotter. the locals tell me they are rolling blackouts, which implies it is due to a lack of generation capacity. This from a country that is proud to have nuclear weapons. Priorities?

So, when the power is on, there should be internet. Well, I found one satellite connection in Hunza… except the power was never on. And a few days later, a connection in Gilgit, and when the power was on, the internet didn’t work. At one point the stars did line up, and we had both, but it was so slow that it made dial-up look blazingly fast.

And so with no trickery at all Pakistan joins the last two countries I’ve visited as internet black spots. The problem is I could geek out and find ways to get around the filtering in Iran and China, but having the power pulled really makes things difficult…





Loss of a friend

30 06 2011

As I wrote a little while ago (yesterday if you believe the posting date), I decided to ride back up the road to the pass to the Pakistan / China border to see the road, mountains, etc. After all, that is what I came here for.

2011_07_01 08_15_28Everything was going well, the construction crews were friendly and the scenery jaw-dropping. On the second day, at almost exactly 4000m I came to a slight problem on the ‘highway’. Right where the Chinese were constructing a bridge to go over a glacial stream, the same stream had washed out the road dirt track that passes for the KKH.

So I did what cyclist do in these situations. I jumped off, took all the luggage off the bike and carried it all over. In several trips. Simple. Not so simple for the trucks and cars that were lined up the next morning.

It seems I may have not put it all back on perfectly, because when I stopped to say hello to yet another construction crew only a few kilometres later I noticed that Ojo, my little purple misnamed bear, who had been with me since day one of the trip in Spain had jumped off.

2011_06_30 12_10_13

Where’s he got to now?

I’d recently lost my ‘Oia Cycling Club Angel’ to a thief in Yazd, and was fairly cut-up about that. But at the same time, Ojo had been gathering charms – prayer beads in Esfahan, a hair tie in Yazd, and most recently a bracelet in Tehran. I wish I had a photo of him all blinged up…

2011_06_30 19_20_17I knew roughly where he’d jumped ship, so I went back to look for him. Roaming around looking for something isn’t a trivial task at over 4000m. I rode back and forth on the road where I knew he must have jumped off. I enlisted the help of the Pakistani road construction crew. They thought I was a little crazy, but searched anyway. I asked everyone who came along if they’d seen him, but no-one had (or would admit it). I stayed the night in the area, looking until dark but to no avail. Only the Chinese crew didn’t help (because we couldn’t speak to each other).

It appears that Ojo (eye) – who should have been named Osso (bear) if only I knew more Spanish – has decided to stay and help out with the construction of the KKH at 4000m altitude. 11 months and 19,000km of being together and he leaves without saying good-bye. I hope he enjoys it up there.

Later on, I saw some Yak, a family of Ibex and a tribe (?) of Golden Marmots at around 4700m. And the odd mountain. All is not lost.

yak

Marmot

2011_07_02 09_07_24





Pakistan, Day 1

29 06 2011

About 3 hours into Pakistan, I was ready to turn around and go home. I haven’t had such a disappointing entry into a country.

I had climbed out of China the last few days, with the Belgians I met in Kashgar. They finally decided to avoid any visa / monsoon hassles and stay in China and so we split at lake Karakol (which was a bit of a disappointment after 2 days cycling uphill). I know I wasn’t much company for them – day one I had some digestive problems, and day two I had had altitude problems. At around 3000m – I’m getting worse at this.

The high pass in China is only 4072m. I survived that, without even a headache, and rode hard to get into Tashkurgan in the mistaken belief that I might learn something there. I didn’t, but I did spend the last of my Chinese Yuan on an expensive (for my standards) hotel – and arrived too late to buy something to eat.

What I failed to learn, until the next morning, is the Chinese Police wont let you cycle out of China. You must take the bus. I had been expecting this, so everything went well (except I didn’t have any Chinese currency left to pay for the bus). I had also been led to believe that I could get out of the bus as soon as we hit Pakistan. The Chinese Immigration people agreed, and even helped me by asking the bus driver to let me out as soon as we’d left China (since I couldn’t talk to the driver myself).

KKH on the China side is a little dull, so driving along it didn’t stress me out too much (although I would have liked the challenge of going to almost 5000m again). What did get me stressed was just across the border the Pakistani police wouldn’t let me off the bus as I’d planned. Despite my pleading, and then begging. And the road goes from tarmac to horrendous dirt track literally on the border, so not only was I sealed in the bus, but it was bumpy as hell. Then the bus broke down (which I had to help jerry rig a fix). Then the scenery got amazing, and I was flying past in a bus. And the scenery got better, and I couldn’t even take a decent photo, we were bouncing around so much. The final insult was a check point where they demanded we pay a park entry fee. I might have lost my cool for a while there. I was seriously entertaining the idea of just bussing straight to Islamabad to get the hell out of this country.

Then we arrived in Sost. I was still fuming at the waste of coming all this way to just see the road from a bus. Immigration turned out to be fairly simple – I got a visa on arrival as I’d hoped. And it was cheaper then I’d expected. Although the Immigration guy must have caught wind of my bad mood, because he did offer to deport me. More than once. Perhaps it was something I said. But then the police / customs / immigration people allowed me to ride back up the ‘highway’ to the pass. And the Chinese bus driver offered to even take me back there and drop me off (tomorrow). And I found some good, cheap bread (a rarity in China). Suddenly I was riding around in the mountains, and everything was right with the world.

Could I be so superficial, that just forcing me to sit on a bus could turn my mood south? And it can all be repaired by letting me ride my overloaded bike up a dirt track? What is wrong here?

The people I met on the road are super friendly. Many of the Taliban-bearded, dark looking evil Pakistanis (which we could all recognise thanks to the propaganda we get fed in the West) broke into some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen when I rode past and gave them a grin.

Maybe I’ll give this place a second chance. Hopefully I get to the pass tomorrow – otherwise the immigration people might start to worry about where I’ve got to.





Hair loss

24 06 2011

I’m still in Kashgar. Mentally preparing for what’s coming. Well, no, I’m waiting for a Belgian guy to turn up so I can ride with his mate. I think a small group for the next bit is a good idea. (See? I am sensible, after all).

This seems to be a hub for travellers. Yesterday there were 9 cyclists in the youth hostel – and I know of others. And a few ‘traditional’ back packers. And they are all French. Something strange is going on here. Maybe Sarcosey has sent them all away for the elections.

So I went out to eat with some of the French. For a lot of the time, they were speaking English, just for me. In amongst all the other traveller conversation, for some reason the girls started talking about how their hair is falling out. They came to the conclusion that it was the diet and altitude that was causing it.

Eureka! I’m sure it’s not true, but I think I might have to recycle that excuse.





Massive Cheat

22 06 2011

When I started this little ridie thing, I had a crazy idea that I might be able to cycle all the way home. Except for the obvious bit that was frequently pointed out to me in Europe – the last part between about Singapore and Darwin.

I was doing pretty well until Greece. Every kilometre had been peddled. Then someone turned on winter and the plan started to get a bit wobbly. I tried pretty hard to work out a way to get out of winter without flying, but it turned out to be damn near impossible (without making some rather absurd travel arrangements, such as going all the way back to Venice to take a boat via Syria to Egypt – with accompanying visa dramas). As you probably noticed, I had to cheat to get to Egypt and start the ‘Revolution Route’ side trip. Riding though Egypt during a revolution, which, it has been pointed out to me, it took me a week to notice.

And then the problem of what to do post Iran became a reality. I like the idea of riding through Central Asia, and probably will do it one day. But I couldn’t stand the idea of making a plan, and then arranging all the visas around this. It just didn’t fit (and another reason has surfaced that will become evident in September). So I looked at going through the other options, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some crazy people are travelling in Afghanistan, but I’m not that crazy. I couldn’t get a Pakistan visa (without flying back to Australia to organise one – and that seems rather silly to me).

So I stressed and bit my nails, read lots of things on the internet and finally decided that one part of Pakistan didn’t sound too dangerous, at least relatively. And it sounds like it is possible to get a Pakistani visa at the border with China. So I crossed my fingers for the Pakistan visa, got my Chinese visa in Tehran, and tried to work out how to get to the far west of China. I failed to find any decent option on the internet, but through blind chance (while at a diplomatic function at the Norwegian Embassy) I was told about a direct flight to Urumqi on a Chinese airline (by an Italian Architect).

Long, long, long story short I got a plane ticket and enjoyed my last few days in Iran. Louis and Lysanne, a couple of Quebecois cyclists doing something similar to me, helped me out no end by arranging a (very small) bike box and a place to crash in Tehran – while I watched lunar eclipses and ate watermelon and ice cream, although not at the same time, in Yazd.

L, L & I spend the better part of a day and a half solving the puzzle that is packing three bikes into boxes that are far too small for them. Some cursing, much gnashing of teeth and at least one stupid mistake on my part when removing the pedals and the bikes were packed away. Poor Frankenbici had all manner of bits pulled off him for the packing. It’s the first time I’ve had to remove the forks (and pretty much everything that can be removed) to put a bike in a box.

I tried to send some winter clothes home but at the post office I had a change of heart, when I decided I didn’t have any confidence in the post and besides they wanted to charge me an arm and a leg to post 3kg home. So L, L & I had a final kebab and I re-packed my bags one final time.

A taxi, which had been generously arranged for me by our host, Sasan, came to pick me up to take me to the airport. The driver took one look at the bike box and the big bag holding the panniers and decided he didn’t need the job. There followed a comical few minutes while the bike was loaded into the ute, unloaded, and we stood around while the Iranians, err, discussed the situation. The bike was again loaded into the ute and we drove around town for a few minutes. I was at  loss as to what was going on, but there was much shaking of heads and it appeared I wouldn’t be getting to the airport this way. Sasan had come with me, and somehow he arranged another taxi which did take me to the airport. I’d left plenty of time, so there was no stress – at least for me, but I did end up leaving Sasan somewhat stranded. Thankfully the last few minutes in Iran didn’t go smoothly, otherwise I might have taken away a different impression of the country. Although the check-in at the airport went far too smoothly, they took my bike and allowed me my 35kg of luggage (while I was almost bent double with my carry on bag).

And then the massive cheat began. I flew from Tehran to Urumqi in far North Western China, leapfrogging 4 countries, several serious mountain ranges, and a whole bunch of cyclists who are more hardy than myself. Somehow a 4 hour flight took from 11pm until 7am – that’s what you get when China is on a single timezone.

I got to Urumqi, a new country, a new language and a new currency without a Yaun in my pocket. I tried to get some at the airport, but the money changer was closed. I couldn’t take a bus or taxi, because I had no money (there’s a hole in my bucket…). So I took the obvious option – put the bike together. I had quite an audience of Chinese taxi drivers, but I managed to get it all back in one piece (despite it being 4am in my own personal timezone, and having  slept for about an hour).

I rode into Urumqi city, blearily looked around, had breakfast and then tried to find the train station. A gazzillion people had the same idea. One of the harrowed ticket agents managed to tell me that there was no train today, the cost of the train, and indicated by a surprised expression that the bike wouldn’t be welcome. So I went off to find the bus station. Found it, and despite only really being interested in the timetable, found myself on a sleeper bus about 15minutes later.

25 hours on the bus later and I’m in Kashgar. The end of the world – at least the end of the Chinese world. To the south is Pakistan (and then a left turn to India), and a border that all reports say is open and issuing visas on arrival. All non verified, unofficial reports. But I’m here now and I’ll go ride up the ‘hill’ and check it out in a day or so. I hope they let me in, there are some big mountains to see between here and Islamabad. Some really big mountains (I can’t wait!). Karakorum Highway, here I come!

The next case of visa stress will be India before another cheat – there doesn’t appear to be any way of getting out of India without flying…

Now, aren’t you glad I didn’t have time to write a blow by blow account of Iran?





Iran

22 06 2011

Lets just forget about writing blogs about Iran, shall we? The censor-net didn’t help, and most of my censornet time was taken up trying to find an airline that would take the bike to China and then making the same airline take my credit card. It is not a trivial task when you’re trying to use a credit card in Iran. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.

I did met some amazing people. A few will be extremely difficult to forget in a hurry.

And I don’t want to write anything that might really upset the authorities. Who knows, I might want to go back. So I guess I could just write:

Iran: Censored





Yazd break

15 06 2011

ok I have been slack again….blame the heat. Yazd is one of the driest city in Iran. So I got stuck in a charming hotel, famous to operate as a vortex for foreign people crossing the Iranian desert, especially tired cyclists. You can find there Dutch, Canadian, French and many Australian people, lying on the couches in the pretty courtyard, chatting for hours, especially in mid-day, which here is from 10 am to 6 pm. My days are very busy, I swear. Among my main activities you can bet I am talking with people about Iranian newspapers –interesting opinions about the world-, having a watermelon, playing chess, helping other travellers with their computers, climbing on a mosque roof to watch the sunset or desperately going out for one or more ice creams. I have to taste every flavour before leaving the town. I know, my average speed has been dramatically reduced since I have been there.. and I am about to cheat, flying from Tehran to China. Bad boy, I am not a hero, I don’t have to be a hero, as a French girl told me. A few days more like this and I may decide to become a Zoroastrian worshipper and settle in Yazd forever. Fortunately the Pakistan mountains are too attractive, like a magnetic spiral, I cannot resist the temptation to go there and breathe their air, if I don’t fall in a black hole on the way…





Rooftop talking

14 06 2011

This is  good way to pass the time in Yazd. Talking about Alexander the Great (since when have I been interested in ancient history?), waiting for sunset, overlooking the oldest city in the world. Somewhat confusingly, I have now been to the oldest continually inhabited city in the world three times: Damascus, Aleppo and now Yazd.

 

Yazd rooftop





Mt Ararat

7 05 2011

IMG_8264

This ain’t no Mt Arapilies. It’s where Noah, allegedly, crashed his overloaded ark after 5 months of floating about. And it’s big.

Tic….

What? What do you mean I can’t tick a mountain unless I climb it? Ok, well, I’ll conceded this one, but we might have to talk about a change to the rules when I finally get to the Himalayas. Soon.





East gobble gobble gobble

4 05 2011

This is a bit out of date, but to keep everyone back home up to date with what’s been going on…

2011_04_29 17_51_19I left Cappadocia and rode like crazy to meet Jurg and Rahel in Erzurum. That was where the hotel from the last post was located. I bummed about there for a few days, because I was too fast. J&R arrived, but the following day it rained and was utterly miserable, so we talked a lot and then did the only sensible thing – bought a big cake and celebrated Rahel’s birthday (which is in June). Why not? – we just needed to have an excuse to scoff a cake – and Jurg and I had already had birthday cakes in Santorini.

2011_05_01 11_11_58Jurg and Rahel had decided to go around Iran (via Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea), since they couldn’t get an Iranian visa, so they were heading north, while I should have been continuing east. But I couldn’t let them escape that easily, so I took their route for a few days. It was good to be riding with friends again, and this makes 3 continents that we’ve ridden on together (random fact of the day). The rain let off, and came back agian, the roads were not so busy, but somehow they picked some big hills to go over. It was very pleasant riding for a few days.

The day we parted I was sorry to see them go. So I put on an audiobook, and put some energy into going a fair way. Over a pass and through the biggest town in the area. I probably should have stopped there for the night, but I kept on and as I climbed over the next pass I was watching several storms raging all around me (lots of lightning). One 2011_05_03 13_17_15of them came my way and drenched me just on sunset so I pulled in at the next small town (Dağpinar). I asked a soldier if there was a place to stay. There always seems to be a soldier around, the number of army seems to be increasing the further east I go. He didn’t speak any English, but indicated there was not. He pointed me to the bus station and townships council offices, which were closed for the day. This brought me to a very small shop, where I met the owner who spoke a few words of English. Somehow, with the help of Google Translate (which I’ve used a few times, with varying degrees of success, to have conversations), we established that there was a place I could put my tent out the back, with the cows, horses, mud, rain and cold. Or I could come to stay in his house.

Well… what could I do? I accepted and Hakan and I drank tea and chatted using the computer until 11pm (still raining). By then I was dead tired and didn’t have much energy to have a conversation with the rest of the family when I got to his (as it turned out) parents house. I was put up in the ‘spare’, ‘guest’ bedroom, which also happened to accommodate Hakan’s brother. We agreed to go back to the shop at about 7am (early for me with such a late night).

2011_05_04 08_03_37So at 6am I woke to Hakan pulling away my blankets, and about 60 seconds later we were walking back to the shop. I hung around the shop for a while, being a celebrity and (I’m sure) earning Hakan some kudos by being the one who put this strange foreigner and his bike up for the night. We ate some breakfast, had tea, took photos and the morning rush happened. It could be that most of the sales from this shop are sweets and chips for the children. The school was right next door. I talked and messed about with the kids until they cleared off for lessons. The day had finally warmed up and I was thinking about making tracks when a group of girls came out of the school, approached me and asked me to come in and teach them English. The teacher had asked them to come and get me.

2011_05_04 11_01_48But I can’t teach English! I was eventually convinced and was brought in to find the teacher. I realised that I haven’t been inside a school for many, many years – and this was a primary school – apparently the secondary school was down the hill in the city. I’m not sure if the teacher really did send for me, but she brought me in and I spent the next 2 hours being displayed to several of the classes of older, hyperactive, kids. I’m not sure I taught them any English, but it was fun to talk about what I’ve been up to and at least they now know where Australia is!





Finally a foto

28 04 2011

I blame Windows 7 for the dearth of fotos. It started BSODing on me a week or so ago, and it took me a day with a good internet connection to work out what was going on. It turns out Win 7 isn’t entirely to blame, but that won’t stop me.

Anyway, I have rarely stayed in hotels on this trip. Hostels in the Middle East, and a few in Europe, but mostly camping or when I get an invite, in someone’s home. In fact, I had made it until Erzurum before staying in a hotel in Turkey. After such a long stay in Cappadocia, I was more than happy to spend a few nights in the tent.

Kible

So I was a little surprised when I looked up to find this on the ceiling.

A green arrow with something written on it.

I still know less than a dozen words in Turkish, so it could have been anything. Could it be “Emergency Exit”? I did entertain this idea for a few seconds, until I worked out that if it was, it could only be for cats. The arrow appeared to point to a storage area of blankets, on top of a wardrobe. Even I couldn’t crawl through there.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me in the tent.kible in the cupboard

I scratched my head for a further few seconds until the metaphoric light bulb came on. It’s roughly south… Which means it must be pointing to Mecca. Ah ha! another word to add to my vocabulary, although I suggest I won’t be using this one all that often.





New High Score

23 04 2011

Well! After 5 days of hanging around in Cappadocia, I must have recharged or something. Yesterday everything seemed to work well, and I pulled off a new high score. 220km in a day. That beats my previous best in South America of 209km (which was the first day in Argentina, where you come down several thousand meters from the altiplano of Bolivia), or 190km in Egypt. I must admit I had a tail wind for some of the day, but I was climbing overall (1,500 high meters).

You don’t have to be impressed, but you should be. It took me almost 11 hours riding time, 7 chocolate bars, and 2 packets of muesli bars (that I was given by Abdullah when I left his place). I left in 6°C, it dropped to 4C and the high was about 15C. It rained twice, but by then I was on a mission and didn’t bother with the rain coat.

I listened to most of an audio book. The scenery is quite nice, but even though it’s almost 1500m altitude it’s surprisingly flat. Almost like the Bolivian altiplano (although it’s much easier to breathe at only 1500m). Needless to say I was quite tired after a day like that, and couldn’t find a great place to camp, so I stayed in a small clump of trees by the road. Too tired to cook, I ate a can of beans and passed out. And only woke up when it started to rain (always fun having a wet tent…), and then again quite late (09:30). I managed to get away by 10:00, but because of the late start, and more rain today I could only back up with 110km. But tonight I’ve found a great campsite. Right next to a rather large river, just outside a small farming village well off the main road. If only it would stop raining!

I have a bit of a target to achieve – Jurg and Rahel will be back in Erzurum in a few days and I’d like to meet them there. They are threatening to bring chocolate back from Norway. I’m sure I can help them eat it as a belated Easter.





Cappadocia

23 04 2011

Some one in Damascus recommended I should go to Cappadocia. Jurg & Rahel  rode through a few weeks ago and also recommended a visit. I looked at the map, determined where I was, where Iran is and thought that going west a few hundred kilometers to see more rocks would be a silly idea. So I went.

I rode through the land of Petrol stations, which was handy as they gave me plenty of places to sleep. Then I turned north and rode up into the heartland of Turkey. Up. It was great to be back in the mountains, but it is cold up here, and apparently unseasonably, it’s raining quite a lot.

So, in the rain, I passed many towns, set on reaching the region of Cappadocia. I was so intent that I very nearly rode straight past one of the attractions, the underground city at Derinkuyu. But I was intrigued by all the tour buses, and pulled in to have a gander and discovered the caves. I went down, and was amazed by the amount of digging that had gone on down there. It is not an underground house, it really is an underground city. I followed the tourist trail down (8 levels, 45m or so) and then started looking around. I found a half closed ‘door’, the original inhabitants used to roll huge millstones across the passageways to seal them in case of invasion. Someone had pried one open just enough, so I crawled around in a part of the city not so many people see (lucky I always seem to have my head torch with me). I found a few other blocked tunnels that clearly went somewhere. All I needed was a shovel…

Eventually I dug myself out of the hole, and rode on (in the rain) to Cappadocia. I got there toward the end of the day and looked up Abdullah. Jurg and Rahel had met this Hotel owner in front of his hotel a few weeks previous and suggested I stop by to say hello. So I did, and although I didn’t expect it, he invited me to stay. Not in the hotel, but in his house! Great! So I left my bike in the hotel and I stayed at his place.

I then had a few day working holiday away from the bike. There is always something to do around a hotel, so I tried to help (although I may have got in the way more than helping) by doing some painting, went on a few trips into town with the hotel manager, Emel, and got in the way in the kitchen. I initially hung around the hotel (which I must say is a far classier place than I would normally be allowed to hang around) because that was where Abdullah brought me for breakfast and I was avoiding the bike (after having ridden 600km and 5000+ high meters in 5 days from Aleppo). The next few days I was avoiding the weather. Finally I was pried away from the place and had a look around Cappadocia.

Very interesting. Not piles of rock, but big rocks with holes in them. Holes that people lived in. Some phenomenon (which I understand but can’t be bothered explaining) caused these chimneys to form in the valleys all over the region, and people came and carved houses in them. Some of the caves have been turned into hotels (like the one Abdullah owns http://www.kalekonak.com) but many (most?) have been left abandoned as they’re a touch unstable. Strange, and well worth a few hundred kilometer detour.

I hung around as long as I was welcome (hopefully I didn’t push it too far and Abdullah takes in another cyclist – he’s done this before for some other travellers, notably Biciclown who he talked about a few times). I was going to make my exit on a day when it was forecast for rain, so I allowed myself to be convinced to stay another day. I took advantage of a nice, dry place to sit, and did all sorts of internet things (except update the blog or photos), and then went for a short ride in the arvo. Of course it started raining when I was as far away form the house as I had planned to go. All the photos I’ve seen of Cappadocia show lovely blue cloudless skies. Why can’t I see it like that?





Some things change

23 04 2011

I’ve found myself eating eggs. And sometimes cheese. I started because that was the only option if I wanted breakfast in Damascus. I reasoned that since I’d paid for it, I should at least try it, and it turns out I can stomach eggs, a little cheese (although the texture of that stuff is still off-putting). I’ve now gone so far as to (once mind you) buy 4 eggs in the evening to hard boil – two for dinner and two for breakfast. And tea – I started to tentatively have the odd cup of chai in South America, because it was the only drink that I could be sure the water was boiled. Or at least slightly heated up, for what ever good it did. I seem to be swimming in the stuff here, and all of the Middle East. I don’t mind to stop and have a chat (when I can find someone who has a common language), but I’m still getting used to all this (sickly sweet) tea.
Yes, this is the same Stephen. (for anyone who doesn’t know me that well: my diet is a little strange. Low fat, and most complain that it’s low on taste.)
But I still won’t eat the olives that seem to be everywhere, or the Turkish coffee. I did bump into some Turkish Delight the other day – I think it’s best I steer clear of that stuff, or I might end up staying…