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|Top → Poland → Ukraine → Russia I → Russia II → Russia III → Russia IV → Russia V → Mongolia I → Mongolia II → Mongolia III → China I → China II → China III → China IV → China V → China VI → China VII → Laos → Thailand/Malaysia I → Malaysia II → India I → India II → India III/Pakistan I → Pakistan II → Pakistan III → Iran I → Iran II → Turkey → Italy I → Italy II → Germany → Epilog|
the first month is over and it is time to shower you with our experience and impressions. But first of all we would like to thank you for your feedback of the first travel report. We were really happy. (So, please dont stop sending your feedback!) But unfortunately we cant answer every single mail of you. The number of mails makes it impossible for us. We hope you will understand and we try to answer your questions in the now following 2nd travel report.
Now you can also find our travel route and reports on the web. At www.lomo-expedition.de you will find all infos chronological listed by our webmaster Steffen (thanks a lot!) Just have once a while a look on this page.
And now we start: After a short period in Poland we stayed from May 8 until June 4 in the Ukraine. It is a fantastic country with wonderful experiences and adventures for us. Its starts already at our first accommodation in the Ukraine. After we passed the border on the polish side, it got a little bit more bureaucratic on the Ukrainian side. A paper here, a stamp there, by that way we went slowly from guard to guard. Finally, we also needed a stamp for our international motorcycle certificate and that made the confusion perfect. After a longer discussion with the officer, we finally left the border area at around 7 pm.
It gotting dark soon, so wee needed urgently a nice place four our tent. By accident we came to Oleg and his family. His wife is studying in Germany and his mother, aged 74, is still teacher for German language in the near by border town Rawa Ruska. We were lucky than by that way it was for us an easier communication and for her was it also a luck, because we were the first Germans she ever met. And was the stay there first planed for one night, it finally turned out to be 2 days were we enjoyed there hospitality.
After the excellent Ukrainian start we went further on direction south via Lviv, Kalusch, passing Ivano Franzisk in to the Karpatian mountains. This mountain range , with almost no tourism, was so impressive for us, that we stayed 3 days in a sleepy valley. Here, like every where else in the country, we got supplied with many food. Almost every farmer has 1-2 cows and some chickens. The wealthier ones have additionally some times pigs and horses. And so we got showered with eggs, milk, potato and preserved food. Sometime it seemed to be not enough for our host family and we had to try national dishes like "Borscht" (cabbage soup) or "Gretschka" (millet).
Nevertheless at all solid dishes, the Vodka should not to be missed. It seems to be, it doesnt matter for the Ukrainian: pre, during and after lunch - the vodka taste always. But how can you polite to refuse to drink without hurting the host or ending up always drunk? Not easy, but so far we got to handle it.
In the valley the whether didnt mean it good with us, it started for longer periods again and again to rain, that was for us the time to take off direction east to reach more sunny areas. At this time we still had as travel high light in mind Kiew and the Krim. But the situation changed finally in Kamenz Podilski.
For some days now, Mos motorcycle was in poor health and after it gotting more and more difficult to start it every time, it needed a 4 days ambulant hospital stay. We were up to now only 2000 km on the road, the tools we took with us got already rusty, lets start handicrafts (repair) - yoopy yah! The car mechanics, they were extreme competent, probably worked for their first time on a Yamaha, diagnosed after a first horror scenario: battery, starter and starter relay defect, only a broken battery and starter relay. We organized a new battery (it is without saying that Yamaha used a special type) and implemented it into the motorcycle. The relay was repaired by the mechanics and worked only some seconds again (sorry guys, but it is no Russian big size technology). An import from Germany was extremely expensive (thanks to our German expert Sven for his fast info concerning the spare part distribution to the Ukraine!), the relay got bridged and since than we are cruising without it through the country. The enforced stay ended with an autograph session for the mechanics and a change of the route for us: Kiew can not be visited, otherwise we would run into time problems with our visa. After Kamenz our focus and way was now the Krim.
An idea, that was not always easy to follow. Street signs are rare and quiet often only the way of asking the people was helping us. What a luck that it not always, like happened in Kalusch, comes to a tumult, where a minimum of 5 people were fighting to each other which way might be the better, faster or nicer one. But at the point "better way", the opinions are separated. First we thought behind the Ural (Урал) there are no existing sealed roads any more, but we got tought, it starts already in the Ukraine. For years they didnt do anything on the roads and so it is without saying, that you cant almost not drive on these streets. Pot woles and tracks as deep that you can hide yourself in them, lead quite often to a second path beside the road. This path is quite often much better than the original road. If this doesnt work, main roads will be detoured over kilometers over fields and madow paths. In the villages are often existing only washed out sand paths, which, when we were not already sweating by the sun, brought the sweat to our face. But so we challenged the route without many fall overs and went on via Tomaschpil, Balta, Mikolaec and Xercon to the Krim.
The north of the penisula is still relative untouristic, the south cost are lined up with hotels over and over from Yalta until Aluschta. That Lenin announced the Krim as holiday resort can be seen here clearly. Here, like in the rest of the country, you find many shell sides of hotels, industrial complexes and houses that never got finished.
And now probably one of the most interesting questions: how do the guys communicate there? By luck we went to school in the former GDR where the Russian language was a must. But that also didnt stop the process of getting rusty and that means now daily learning and training. In addition it is difficult for us, because the countries language is ukrain, that is still 70% equal with russian and except the autonoumus Republic Krim, every body is speaking it. Also every Ukrainian had and has Russian in school, but they dont like to speak it. Are for a talk not enough words, than we use hand and feet. At the end the sympathy wins and it needs without saying no words.
At all contacts with different persons it happens, that we also got to meet the police. But besides the standard expression "documenti please" were our motorcycles most of the time more interesting and so we could always carry on our tour after some minutes with them.
Sometimes missing meetings are becoming a real problem. One day we wanted to send a parcel and the opening ours told us, we were right on time. The woman told us, she closed already every thing and we should come back tomorrow. We thought she might doesnt like to work anymore today. But a short while later it turned out, that she was totally right. Only our watches went still after the old time. So, we discovered, by accident, after 10 days in the country that for us unusual change of the time, while traveling via land within Europe.
After 2600 km in this fascinatic country we leave on June 4 by ferry the Krim. But before, the Ukrainian immigration department had to work hard. I guess one border control doesnt know what the other need and so they needed a document which we didnt have nor ever have seen. And without this document we were not allowed to leave the country. Long discussions, waiting and the ferry "behind" the officers, let the ferry finally - with us - one hour later leaving the port.
30 minutes later the adventure Russia began.
Till the continuation
Mo & Lo
|Top → Poland → Ukraine → Russia I → Russia II → Russia III → Russia IV → Russia V → Mongolia I → Mongolia II → Mongolia III → China I → China II → China III → China IV → China V → China VI → China VII → Laos → Thailand/Malaysia I → Malaysia II → India I → India II → India III/Pakistan I → Pakistan II → Pakistan III → Iran I → Iran II → Turkey → Italy I → Italy II → Germany → Epilog|
Now, more than a month has passed. We have to admit that we dawdled quite much in Poland and in Ukraine following the motto: the way is the goal. Especially the ukrainian hospitality made it always difficult for us to pack our stuff and ride further on. Now our travel plan shows a new country, that makes you already by it's size and vastness curious about it.
The border formalities at the russian side need again quite some time and by the time we can leave the border area (including several times the unpacking and again the packing of our luggage) it was already deep dark outside. Mmh... so that is Russia! As you see, you don't see anything. Just 10 km on the road the first police control in the night. Nice prospects! No problem, we are allowed to keep going.
Tired by the late search for a sleeping place during complete darkness, we finally find a suitable spot. The next day we have to smile a bit, we just camped 300m away from the sea - great job. The new day will loosen our tension. Now we can ride relaxed on russians roads. The quality of the asphalt is in comparison to ukrainian ones excellent. In vain we are looking for the to us well known fountains at the farmers ground or in the centre of the village. Here every thing is a bit more luxurious. Pumps bring the essential wet from the depth. Also it is impossible to have a look at the yards. High closed, view obstructed fences border the yards on the street side. And here we have much more traffic. Where you able to count the cars in the Ukraine, like Lada, Moskwitsch or Saparosch, will you find here much more western cars on the road. At least the outer west of great Russia has a much better developed infrastructure, than always thought.
Early the evening we start the search for a sleeping place. A turnpike, crossing the street, stops our ride. Undecided whether we should turn around or not, we are talking first to Ivan. He is the forester and guard at the forest in front of us. We explain to him that we are only looking for a place for our tent and suddenly his suspicion is gone and he shows us a nice and small clearing in this mysterious forest. It doesn't take long and tent and motorcycles stand side by side. During our daily evening cooking tells us Ivan about himself and his magic forest. The whole forest is fenced. In earlier days it was a hunting area for different heads of different states. Today there might only come wealthy tourists to shoot here. Later we get also th know Ivans friend Fjodor. Both quite fast completely drunken want to warn us to visit the Kaukasus (Кавказ).
At the moment there is one problem that we have to take seriously. It belongs still to the russian imigration policy to register yourself within 3 working days. We give it a try and asking in a hotel in Krasnodarsk the reception girl to give us this stamp in our passports. A registration is only possible when sleeping in the hotel. But we are not allowd to set up our tent here and so we return without having achived anything. The next day it is highest priority. In Maikop we try again a hotel with the same result. After this we are searching for the residents' registration office. And here we are sent from one room to another, but nobody want to give us this stamp.
A little stressed we take now care about more important things. On the street in the city center we get stopped once again from the countless police posts. Especially in this area is the presence of the police extremly high. In Maikop every junction is guarded by these mans. While inspecting our documents Mr. Important seems to have a problem with our international motorcycle registration document. Stressed by the unsuccesful registration procedure our calmness dropped and we flipped out. In this country it seems to be that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand does. We are learning fast that these russian police controls are not have to be taken too seriously and sometimes we feel even sorry for them.
Cities are dreadful strenuous and so we breath deep after leaving this city behind us. Some days later we cross a white line and at its end there are again 2 persons in uniform waiting for some cash. Now packed with enough police knowledge we pass our ja nje panimaju show through. The advantage at this point is that we without doubt understand what they want but we leave them with their believe not to know their language. Beside this we are also very dense and so we have really to hide our amusement as one of the policeman gets out of his car and like a drunken man at the middle of the street crossing his silly white line. Also here our pity is not enough for a little pocket money for the two guys. Really - what a shame. Slowly we get fun with this kind of meetings.
We ride further into the Kaukasus (Кавказ) and enjoy the wonderful mountain world. Hill ranges covered with grass changing with isolated forests untill we see our sleeping place within an expanded hill landscape. This spot is near a sand path that brings as further away from the main road and deeper and deeper into this endless green madow carpet. We just parked our motorcycles and a large cattle herd with its shepherd passed by. We asking for taking a foto because the 3 guys on their horses seem to be real Kaukasian. While talking to us in russian, they talking to each other in a for us strange and hard sounding language - so sound kaukasian.
During the exchange of the address, to send them later the pictures, we are totally surprised, that only one of them is able to write. The piece of paper gets passed to him and he scribbles with troubles and errors the address on it. Instinctively we have to think of Kessy and Dunja (2 pedigree kaukasian shepherd of good friends of us). They would feel here really happy. We decide to show these two dog ladies later their real home country through our fotos, that they haven't never seen.
The sun has just 10 cm left to set, I climb the highest peak in the surrounding to see whether our kaukasian guy was right by saying that way lead directly to the Elbrus (Эльбрус), the highest peak at Kaukasus (Кавказ). The map shows us still a long way up there, but after reaching the summit I can't trust my eyes. In front of me rise above a very straight outstrech mountain range the majestically snow covered Elbrus (Эльбрус) with its 5642m. A fascinating, respectful and breathtaking sight. The red evening sun dyes the snowcover around the mountain in a deep rosa. Right away i have to think of the Monte Rosa in the italian alps and was overcome by a deep sadness, not to share this moment with my better half. To be alone here, this moment counts just the half. We decide to get up the next mornign at 6 o'clock, to take some pictues of its majesty.
Unwilling we struggle hard to get out of the sleeping bags and looking already forward (while walking to a peak) to a hot pot of coffee afterwards. The pictures will be perfect and so we leave satisfied the Kaukasus. A view on our russian map shakes us awake. We have to be at the Baikal (Байкал) on August 1st. To make these thousands of kilometers in only 45 days means stress pure. Now finally we recognise that year will be something ales, but no holiday.
Yours Lo & Mo
The Caucasus at its outer west of Russia impressed us deeply. Especially the event with the Caucasian will stay in our mind. But our time schedule is pushing us. In 50 days we have to ride 8000 km. That sounds at the first view not much and easy to make. But besides riding on the motorcycles there are also other tasks to be done, e.g. create the travel reports for you and type it into the computer. The tough time schedule gives us always the feeling of "having no time" and that's the reason why you receive this report now, while we are already in Mongolia. Said with other words, we didn't kip.
After leaving the Caucasus we pass less interesting flat country side. Large fields, divided by bushes and trees as far as the eyes can see. Decided by time and money saving steps, we don't drive through Kazakhstan. That's why our route leads forward north. Again and again we try to find "farmer Horst" for the night, but it seems to be impossible to find an open minded person to lent us a piece of its yard for one night.
Further north we pass by very close to Kazakhstan, where we get even on Russian ground a very good impression of the Kazakhs steppe. The fields end and you only see the grass of the steppe. Till the horizont there isn't even the smallest elevation. It rains here quite seldom, but our assumption, there might be no life left and right besides the street will be negated. With a watchful look into the grass you recognize a crawl, creep, buzz and a hum like in German meadows. Just before we had watched a basking snake on the asphalt, but some days later while searching for a sleeping place, I have to stop my motorcycle. Just 5 meters in front of me lays a 4 headed snake family on the sand path in the sun. Disturbed by the vibration of the engines one after the other disappears in the grass of the steppe. 500m further on the path we pitch our tent.
In the beginning I still have to think about the snake experience and by this, I watch carefully my steps in the grass. A short time after this event we have to work with much more worries. During our daily cooking a small thunder storm comes with unpredictable speed nearer to us. While Lo is cooking, I put all unnecessary stuff in the tent. The well known silence before a storm is this time quite bad. We can't see as fast as the storm starts. Accompanied by hail stones, like the size of cherries, we fear about our outer skin of the tent. The wind blows from the unprotected wind side and press with brutal power against the wall of our tunnel tent. Crouched in the tent, while holding the tent poles. The first shock passed, we see to late that the sleeping part of the tent looks quite strange. The walls get pressed together and water comes into the tent.
Lucky the thunder storm disappears as fast as it came. Outside, we examine the damage. By the enormous pressure one of the anchors against the wind has torn apart. That's the reason why one pole is broken. The sharp edges of the pole cut also a whole into the tent-pole-flap - the disaster is perfect. We like to thank you the tent manufacture Tatonka and we learn again: what will be expensive doesn't have to be of a high quality.
We patch out tent up and keep going. Very soon we pass the city of Wolgograd (Волгоград) (former Stalingrad). The city is only 4 km wide, but stretches more than 75 km along the Volga. I develop a respectful association by thinking that the former German mania leads until this city. And my sympathy just grows when talking to the Volgograds on the street. Despite the same history, they are very friendly and are wishing us luck for our journey.
With the Volga comes the rain and trying not to leave the rain area, we follow some days the course of the powerful river. But after some rain days we don't get the fug and the humidity out of our clothes and so we ask for wind. That could dry everything - and we got wind. We got much wind. Bridges are rare in Russia and one day we wait at the river bank for the ferry. We wait the whole day. We have wind, much wind, but we don't see any ferry. The one excludes the other.
And so we choose the 300 km detour. The Russians forgot to put asphalt on the roads. Our thinking we have Enduros is ok and so we make it quite good on the sand path until, our for two days missed rain, starts again. The easy riding on the 20 km sand path ends with a mud battle. The rain makes the ground soggy and we get the feeling to have soft soap under our wheels. That's not enough. The ground has a very strong loamy character. And so some time we step on the gas (actually turn the gas :-)), but nothing happens. The complete wheel sector is filled with loam. With a stick we clean the motorcycles and the sweat runs into our eyes.
That is Russia. And what can we than expect in Mongolia?
Yours Lo & Mo
Why we didn't fly to Sahnghai? Whos stupid idea was it to make this distance by land and then also do it by motorcycle. When I take the map in the morning into my hands and see the stage from yesterday, always marked by Lo with date and day route, I got the feeling, I never will arrive. Russia is a huge country. When I open the Europe-Asia map the distance till the Baikal (Байкал) is incomprehensible far. The distance back home would be much shorter.
After the first experience without asphalt, were we could with ease test level 10 of the difficulty scale, we are standing now, more likely, before a small stage. The city Samara (Самара) greets us with rain. After one month of sunny-boy weather in the Ukraine, we loose constantly our enthusiasm for the cool wet from above. But somebody has compassion with us.
In the centre f the city we get to know Alexej. He is some years younger than us. After everybody took stock of each other, he invites us into his nostalgic and charming apartment in a block of flats. Now, the rain isn't as grueling as it was. The following day our new friend shows us his city. By this, we get a much better impression of the city as only riding through it. The centre looks bright, busy and friendly. Some small construction sides are showing improvement. With its river bank, the city on the Volga shows itself light and carefree. On many benches there are sitting party people drinking beer and vodka. They know how to amuse themselves. Russian pop-music roars from the speaker of the promenade pubs. Everybody is in great form, it is a nice Saturday evening in the middle of the summer.
When we pack the next day our stuff again, Alexej invites us to visit his parents. His birth place Buruguslan is situated along our route, so we can't decline it. Arrived there, the Russian hospitality drives us into deep surprise. Also Alexejs family is extremely friendly and kind to us. First we should test the Russian banja (sauna), afterwards we eat together with the family supper. It is difficult for us to say goodbye the next morning, grateful to be welcomed so friendly far away of our own home. In Front of us is waiting a new, big adventure: the Ural (Урал).
After Samara (Самара) and Buruguslan we pass constantly more remote villages. It seems to me, that we get deeper and deeper into the Russian soul. Now the first birch forest announces itself, lushy meadows compose their fresh green to the white birch trees. In a shallow valley there is hidden a typical, original Russian village in the fog. Yes, it seems to be that from here comes the Russian Babuschka with its colorful head scarf. Here we will definite find the Russian wooden houses with its typical blue-white shutters.
We leave the main road and riding on always smaller paths further on until with a matter of course the paved roads ends. Sure, how should here, at the end of the world, still exist asphalt on the roads? With the sand paths the first foothills of the Ural (Урал) can be seen. Huge forest cover the mountains. The path is suddenly quite difficult. A small river wants also, besides us, a share of the path. The natural selection takes care of the vehicles on the path. Some kilometers further on we get now only passed by trucks bursting with horse power. In the evening we use the Russian birch for our almost daily, small campfire, that reminds us of the Luisenstreet 11. Bear and wolf must feel great here. Nevertheless the night is peaceful. That is important to start the next day with new power.
That will be needed to concentrate, to have energy and patience. In the beginning we make good progress on the dry, loamy looking path. Big thunderstorm clouds are showing us, how small and helpless a stupid motorcycle tourist can be, if the great one up there feels like to do so. One thunderstorm comes after the other and our path gets changed into our already joke fully predicted mud scenery. Like in the last episode we get slower and slower. From the inside makes us wet the sweat, from the outside the natural rainfall. At the end we only make small steps to make progress. In contrast to the last mud bath the level gets increased by some numbers, because the vehicle that were spared from the natural selection left deep lanes in the ground. Sometimes there is a path around, but sometime there is the only way through it. And it happens, that our side boxes touch the edges of the deep lanes, which will bring our motorcycle out of balance.
A especially difficult passage downhill we hope to ride around, because just before a path fork made us thinking this. First we help a Russian tourist family to get their Lada, that slides always from the lane, up the hill. After this we go step by step on our motorcycles down the hill. On the half way down we turn again helpless our gas. The number with the wheel section seems to be coming. With a stick the mud from the wheel scraping, the sweat is running. I have to pinch my eyes together that the running sweat drops don't fog my view. The situation seems to be hopeless, but sometime we made it. The path gets better, the rain stops and with the evening ends the amateur torture.
It is already late when we find a small, sleeping Basken-village, the village store closed. We take our last energy to explain to the around standing, drunken farmers that they should get the salesperson here to open the shop. In our despair the shop opens, but all we can get are noodles and water. No problem - it can happen to every one. Exhausted we cook our nice noodles and after the meal we only fall into our sleeping bags. The next morning starts with a short prologue. Without breakfast we take off, hoping to find soon a village to make up for our meal. After the 2nd attempt we sit in the middle of the Ural jungle on two wooden blocks and eating fish with rusk. After that, one thunderstorm after the other waits again until we arrive. And so we fight day by day 50 km further through our first training area, named Ural (Урал).
Yours Lo & Mo
On July 1st we are standing at a big concrete obelisk beside the street with the inscription Asia. We almost missed it. It marks the continental border between Europe and Asia. Strange, the vegetation on the other side of the yellow line doesn't look like Asia. I have a look on my speedometer: 8000 km! For approx. 9 months we will leave our familiar Europe. A try to get with this temporary situation a dignified awareness fails. But somehow I'm happy to made it up to this point with my Yami.
After taking some photos as proof, our way goes further on, leaving the last foothills of the Ural (Урал) behind us. Very soon we are again surrounded by flat land. In the Ural we could still use unpaved small roads, now, the reduced to the necessary infrastructure of the Russian traffic network forces us to take the only one transit route, that connects the west with the east. The now coming Siberian vastness presenting itself on the left and right side along the street with its full beauty. A nature freak, who always is looking for new, interesting plants and who might get here, would be bite very soon into the Siberian grass by despair - so convinced are combined monotary with monotary. I didn't know that there are existing so many birch trees on this world. It seems to be they all have their home in Siberia. In any case and with supreme effort I can't find any further kind of tree. Also now, I find the answer to our old question, why there where so many thunderstorms while crossing the Ural (Урал). The water for this is available in mass here. As far as you can see there are mourn birches beside their dead fellows, which you can recognize with ease by their leafless trunks. Despite warnings they ventured to far into the surrounding swamps.
But not only birches are a distinguishing mark of the Siberian swamp. Much more smaller, almost invisible, able to fly, very troublesome representatives of the fauna like to live here. Without knowing we search at the first evening in this landscape for a little emergency place, because around us the swampy ground makes it impossible to pitch a tent. The approach path is very soft from the rain. While I'm checking by food the way for us through the forest, I get greeted by many, many mosquitoes. Despite wearing a helmet the really attack me. I have proper to flee out of the forest to escape from their aggressiveness. In the dusk we pitch unwilling our tent in this forest. Our meal gets enriched by small, down falling meat pieces - actually it was supposed to be a vegetarian dish today. My worried view goes to the side. The sleeve of my motorcycle jacket is filled with mosquitoes - it is impossible to recognize the color of the jacket any more. If somebody wants to tell me after this journey, we have a mosquito plague in Germany, I will buy him voluntary a ticket to Siberia.
Our luck, a shepherd shows us soon after his secret weapon against these extreme bloodsuckers. We stock us with Kamarex and by this we can spent the one ore other evening without a mosquito net in front of our face. Now I understand, why in earlier days the bad guys got send into the exile to Siberia and we come here by our own.
One day we pass again an area of the for us well know thunderstorms. In front of us is a rain curtain that seems to be unpenetratable. Shortly after, a strong wind, combined with heavy rain, lash against our helmets. All over you see lightnings coming down. The puddles on the road get changed into torrents and the suddenly bad view forces us to slowest speed. The situation gets so unclear, that I tell my self not to stop right now or to take a food on the street - you never know. The last brain current of this thought is not gone yet - there the unbelievable happens: an undescribable bright line lights up the dark sky and forms at its bottom end an amazing bright shining light ball. A part of a second I'm thinking that might come towards me, but shortly afterwards a very loud crack shakes my body. I understand that 100m in front of me a lightning strucked a power pylon, that where standing on the field. Every thing happened within a second, but I had the feeling, that time stopped for a short moment.
Our enthusiasm for this experience can't be described. I feel like an ant compared to this endless power. The human being is megalomaniac to tangle with the power of nature. I'm overwhelmed with what kind of sovereign easiness, elegance and perfection God has shown us. This experience was really enlighted. In days of intensive monotony such an event is really special.
On our way to Siberia we never met any globetrotter. This fact should be changed quickly. First of all a bicyclist from Swiss, than a Czech couple on a motorcycle and at the end stops a strange car beside us on a parking lot. If I wouldn't be in the middle of Siberia, I had thought that is an old "duck" (2CV). And it is true! A "duck", lead by the two Germans Sylvia and Gisbert, stands in front of us. Surprised to talk in German, we find out very soon that the couple is made from the right wood. The persuade us to finish this day and camp together with them. And by this we ride 10 km back again to set up a 4 headed campground beside the street.
A campfire, made from birches lights the evening up. A lot of information, humor and sympathy make a long discussion until late night. Next day at breakfast the same. But nobody likes to start their journey again, too pleasant is their acquaintance and presence. We decide spontaneously to stay another day. At the evening we sing and play guitar and the next morning brings us again in embarrassment. Our irresolution ends in a further German camping day between Omsk (Омск) and Novosibirsk (Новосибирск). The couple is already for 2 years on the road and they do like us. They write down adventures and events that can be seen together with pictures at www.sylviaundgisbert.de. This kind of holiday with them is like a piece Germany. But the next day we say "good bye and see you again" and hope, these words come true.
Yours Lo & Mo
The incomprehensible vastness of Russia reveals itself to every visitor on a very simple way when travelling through Siberia. There is nothing sensational, outstanding or worth mentioning to see, but this region cast a spell on you by its huge distance and its monotony touch. Nevertheless it feels good to recognize just shortly after Novosibirsk (Новосибирск) hills. Forest mixed with pines and birches are now to see. After weeks of straight roads, we can now ride again through curves. Deeper and deeper we get in to the east. Where we once bored by birches, swamps and meadows, we see now powerful forests in the vastness of the Taiga. A impenetrable labyrinth and a deep green fill up the panorama until the horizont. Partial it is difficult for us to find off the road some square meters of grass to set up our tent.
Sometime with this earthy nature the paved road ends and road metal and unpleasant corrugated iron tracks are showing up. Every evening we try to figure out, how in the world the tracks are coming from. With a lot of patient and supreme effort we reach the Baikal City Irkutsk (Иркутск).
Several time consuming task such as motorcycle check, alu-box repair, purchase of some equipment, make us stay a little bit longer in this city. After parking our motorcycles in front of the central square with its Lenin statue a mop of fuzzy hair is asking me: "Where are you from?" My answer "From Germany" gets replied in a German slang "Than we can also talk in German". Andreas comes from Dresden. Together with his girlfriend Annette they purchased in Mongolia an old motorcycle with a sidecar, a Russian made Ural. They are now on their way back to their saxony state.
Unbelievable, because we know this couple already from the stories of Sylvia and Gisbert (see travel report Russia IV). Still talking to them, there stops on the opposite side of the road a van. Purposeful there are coming five young people towards us. Tom, Thomas, Claudia, Hagen and Sandra are also coming from Saxon and they spent their holidays here every year around Lake Baikal (Байкал). Their engagement in the deepest Russia can be followed at www.baikalplan.de. Now, everybody talks to everybody. Attract by the Berlin-Saxon slang, there are joining our group two girls from Berlin. The situation gets really funny. Ossi meeting (Ossi = former GDR inhabitant) at the Lenin statue, 8000 km far away from home.
We appoint us for the evening at the riverbank of the Angara, to practice communication. In the mean time we had to shop a little bit. Just as we want to take off again a young guy hops in front of us while taking photos. Tobias and his friend Oleg introduce them self. When Tobias finds out, that we passed the same distance on our motorcycle like he did mainly on the Transsiberian Railway, he gets very excited. "By this, I still have to take one photo again" he answers. We have to laugh, but feel be honored to receive such an appreciation.
The next day belongs to our motorcycle. The second big inspection challenges our car-mechanical skills. Under Lo's expert leadership the change of oil, adjustment of the valves, cleaning of carburetor and air filter, checking the spark plugs and checking all screws are no problem. But nevertheless, it still takes us a whole day for this work. By the vibrations of the last corrugated iron track my left alu-box got a cleft around one of its four holders. This tricky problem we fix on the 3rd day. We drive to a recommended factory outside of town. There, Nikolai has an eye on our problem. He is aluminum welder and a real expert. My box is equipped with an exact welding seam and both boxes get an additional sheet of aluminum as strengthening. As payment it is enough for him to see the shine in my eyes, because I'm happy to have this problem solved. But a picture of its workshop he also will receive from us, not now - in approx. a year.
Packed with this experience we leave the city and 60 km further east we reach our next adventure, named Baikal (Байкал). A pearl of nature, a symbol of beauty, a devine present is seen by our eyes. The clear water is recognized first. By ferry we cross the river mouth of the up flowing Angara to ride on the southwest side, 100 km besides the little used rail tracks to the most southern point of the lake. In the beginning our intention works well, but after some kilometers the way becomes a small path and finally it disappears completely in the brushwood. Our pioneer spirit gives us a possibility to ride still further on. If it is not possible to ride beside the tracks, than we just have to go in between them. One in two pieces cut board helps us to get over one track and now our heavy motorcycles roar over the sometimes good, sometimes bad filled sleepers.
Worse then the corrugated iron tracks the mechanical stress works on motorcycle, luggage carriage system and equipment. After sometime in between and sometime besides the tracks we now made only 20 of the 100 kilometers. To treat our motorcycles with care we decide to turn around. We got the secret tip of a route besides these tracks with almost no tourists (what we can't confirm) by Andreas. Thank you Andreas! Thank you, thank you! :-)
To be fair: with joy we think about this adventure now. We accept the detour via Irkutsk (Иркутск) and searching on the east side of the Baikal (Байкал) for an excaptable place, where we could stay with our tent some days. Almost desperated we ride up and down along the shore, but the Russians where very clever and build the rail road along the shore. And also every interesting spot is littered with trash, left by Russians tourists during their Baikal visit as a sad heritage. Further north we stay between trash, shore and street.
Unfortunately the weather is not good. It is quite cool and mist makes our live hard for three days. Daring the night to Saturday our meadow becomes a small campground. Friendly Russian people spent here their weekend and with their warm hospitality we can for a moment forget the trash problem.
It's now time for us to chance our direction to south. The wheels running towards south, very soon, we are in K'achta, the russian-mongolian border. It is already dusk and the border gets closed in the moment we arrive. A second try on the next morning opens for us the 1st gate. Our passports get stamped and our dokumenti will be checked. A kind of custom declaration paper for the motorcycles shows an invalid date, that we didn't recognize before. The document is already expired for three days. The problem will be discussed in the head office - not forgetting to mention very soon that this makes up a fine of 1000 Rubel, together for us. We explain our innocence and point to their colleagues at the other end of Russia. The Officers show themselves calm and - typical russian - hard. We demonstrate time, which we have enough. After a while of doing nothing we get sent back to our motorcycles, to wait there. A stupid turn. By this, we can't go on their nerves any more. After five minutes we are back and pester them. This time a woman in uniform is taking care of us and the problem and now she trys, mother like, to get our money. But again we express our version of the story and so, finally we sit eight hours together with the officers and discussing the problem.
Not to bad, by this I have a little bit time to complement my diary. Lo uses the time to eat something and so we go on their nerves quite long. Than the first sign of understanding: the 1000 Ruble will reduced to 600 and finally they disappear by an signature of the protocol and our fault statement, that written in German is not understandable by any one of them :-).
Now the guys hurry, because the workday finished already and the spare time is also a holy thing for the Russians. And by this we get sent with all our documents stamped to the Mongolian border gate.
Yours Lo & Mo
"Hey guys, where you come from so late?" That are the greeting words of the mongolian customs officer, who closes the gate behind us and announces the border crossing finished for today. Entailed by our late arrival on the mongolian border side, most of the officers are home already. Only the "gate closer" and his colleague are waiting for us to stamp the official entry stamp into our passports. Unfortunately we can't register our motorcycles today, and so they recommend us the near by hotel.
We explain the officer that we aren't able any more to speak the word "hotel", because since the beginning of our journey we are sleeping in a tent and whether this might be possible here somewhere. No problem, than just camp here, here on the border area. We can't believe the impossible and set up quickly our tent on the stone like hard ground. Much of the daylight we can't use anymore during our daily cooking session. But to take out the torches isn't necessary, the whole area is bright lighted up. The on-duty soldiers are stopping by ones after the other, bringing us a little bit to eat or asking for help with the start of a computer game, which I comply with joy. And so we will at the end of a problem sit out day rocked into sleep by a marching in steps and singing patrol troop.
On the next morning we have to get up early. We don't want to wake up by the first border passengers. We get the stamp for our motorcycle, which we receive here without any problems compared to Russia, and roll out into the mongolian steppe. It still looks similar to what we saw in the neighbor country. Very soon you see the first gers, the first stores with cyrillic signs but hardly to read. Trees are getting rare and the russian Taiga is now far behind us.
In a new country you always need some days to find one's way around. And so our discovery starts in the first mongolian town, named Sühbaatar. We have to find out which bank is here changing our travellerchecks, where you get groceries (in the store or at the market), how is it working with the petrol stations, how open minded is farmer "Horst" concerning a place for our tent. After we are supplied with the necessary things in Sühbaatar, we are going straight to Ulaanbataar on one of the three paved roads in the country.
The weather is still summer like warm and with its grandiose landscape you just begin dreaming. But latest in Ulaan Bataar, the only village with city character, you get brought back into reality. It is not only the always sounding horns and the chaos like traffic that requires attention. This city is our address to organize our further travel to China. The by the Chines officials required things, like chinese driver license and license plate, a guide and prebooked (only for foreigners suitable) hotels, could be organized in Germany only to very high costs. And this, we hope to get cheaper here.
Our first task is to find appropriate travel agencies. That what sounds very simple, can be realized in Ulaan Bataar only with supreme effort. Nobody can tell you where to find such agencies, search books, like Yellow Pages have to be still invented here. When you finally find an agency you get ask the question: "When was the great wall build?" And after my answer: "around 210 BC" I get to hear: "You see, and since than we don't like the Chinese." What can you say, if you hear such an expression? But by luck, not every thing is as hopeless as our search game. We get help by Tsend and his son Namsrei, which we meet spontaneously on the street.
Tsend invites us into his ger, five minutes away from the city center and offers us a shed where we can stay and a parking lot for our motorcycles on his small property. We are more than happy, because by this we can follow our search without any worries. While Tsend is giving us further addresses, his wife Marta is preparing a noodle soup, that tastes excellent. But also son Namsrei, who will start going to school in September, likes to offer us something and so he challenges today me on another day Mo for a chess game. The game ands 1:1 and so I will have to come back one day.
After four days we are leaving Tsend and his family. Not to spend our time only with the China problem here in Mongolia, we start today to a 19 day round trip through the country. Before we leave the city, we hand over our documents to a travel agency. So far they haven't organized such things before, but they are, at the first impression, willing to help us. So we can start our roundtrip without any worries, knowing they will organize everything. If we wouldn't have to buy groceries the following event wouldn't fill our diaries.
Despite all precautionary measures it happens while travelling that things get lost. For example one of my pant pockets shows a red seam. There, at the market, somebody tried to steal my money by a calculated knife cut. By luck - unsuccessful! But today, while Mo is shopping and I stand with the motorcycles they steal my helmet in my presence. At first I can't believe it and I'm thinking I left it in the last store. No, it is gone! By my helplessness the around standing people also point into the direction like they want to say: sure we've seen it. It takes some work to convince some of the guys to follow the thief, and some minutes later they return with my helmet. Pooh, now only out of the city.
We still have asphalt under the wheels that follows us until Karakorum (the ancient mongolian capital at around 1200 at the time of Gingis Khan). Unfortunately there is not much to see of the old city, only a temple area and some excavasions. Here we meet again some tourists and their questions becoming more and more funnier. "How did you get the motorcycles to this place?" "By riding them." Both parties look to each other and have to laught.
Then it gets quiet, no tourists, no asphalt - only a hilly countryside covered with grass. In between again and again you see white dots - that are the fascinating gers. We are riding directly to one of these dots and set up our western ger beside the two mongolian ones of the family Malgyn. Here we get again to know mongolian hospitality, but this one is not as warm as it had been with Tsends family. The reason might be, that the Mongolians, if we stop somewhere form not only very quick a cluster around us, they have also to touch everything. During the time we got used to it, but if they try again and again to sit on the heavy motorcycles without asking - that is to much. If they fall over with it, the damages will not be fixed with a simple "sorry".
So we also fight with the persevering mans of the Malgyn family to make them understand the problem. A full loaded XT600 is not an Isch (russian 350ccm motorcycle, that is driven here almost by everybody). But nevertheless we get to taste the for us habituation needed mare milk, we see very close how the sheep herd will round up, how cows and mares will be milked and of course we have to ride on a mongolian horse back the next morning. Whether this will be on a camel back also so funny? The forthcoming dessert Gobi will hopefully show it.
Yours Lo & Mo
Ulaanbaatar is now behind us. The first offroad tracks we past brilliantly and now after Avaiheer we get deeper and deeper into the desert Gobi. If you imagine a desert, you always think there are no trees or bushes, there is only sand, lots of sand. And especially the sand we didn't see, even a part of the Gobi should be covered with it, we got told. The ground changes between sandy, stony or loamy and is covered with different plants. Partially the ground is only covered sparsely with thin grass, but sometime there are hart leave plants and coniferous like bushes that cover the complete earth. The water that can be found in many lowlands irritates us in the beginning. But later we pass several thunderstorms and so this mystery gets also solved.
To find the right way in the desert is quite difficult, if you can ever say there is a right way. Road signs are not know here, two slowly separating tracks are a crossroad, which you most of the time recognize only 20 km later. Despite sun and compass I've never thought, that keeping the orientation is so difficult. The few, single gers, that we pass during the days are always welcome for us to ask for the way. Three days riding around like being lost in the Gobi, never knowing whether we find during the day at least one village with a store that still sells some food - so we decide to follow the Ongi. It is the only one river in the desert. The way splits into paths and these paths finally disappear in the desert.
For us the time to change to the other side of the river. My map shows there a main way. Unfortunately, the Mongolians forgot not only the asphalt in the road and the road signs, also bridges. By this fact we walk several time through the kneedeep water to find the best section for crossing. Without luggage we cross with our motorcycles one after the other the river. Despite its strong current we reach safely the other side. Here we set up immediately our tent. The manager of the related ger camp invites us for supper and is still wondering, where we come from, because on the other side of the river thee aren't existing any paths. How right she is!
She studied in Irkutsk (Иркутск) and speaks fluently Russian. By this it is easy for us to talk with her and we spent a nice evening with many new information together. Strengthened and rested - on the next day the Gobi needs our complete attention. To ride 20 km through a dry and sandy riverbed takes a lot of your concentration and makes you sweat. So we are happy when later during the day the road conditions will change to sand, to rock or to "corrugated iron". We have to pass small mountains and again it follows vast country with soft hills. And suddenly there they are, our camels. Without shooting some photos and taking a ride we can't go further on. Wedged in between of the two humps we are trotting one after the other around the camels owner ger. It is amazing how curious these animals are. We don't have to go to the next herd, they are coming to us to let us make pictures.
Dalan Dzadgad is our most southern point of our round trip. Mo is giving there for the 1000 readers of the local province newspaper an interview. The following photo is shot in front of one of the many statues, that are existing in town. Most of the province centers are coming from the same drawing board and so it is easy for us to orientate.
Five days later and 500 km of worse "corrugated iron track" we knock again on to Tsends gate. Now it will show what will be with China. And it shows! After 14 days, our big kindergarden-travel-expert got the information I gave him already with our documents. By this, we would not be in china within the next three years. Therefore, we take the problem into our own hands, to solve it. The time was in the meantime going further on an so our mongolian visa will expire the next days. That means, before we apply for the chinese one we have to extend our mongolian visa. Said, done - so we hold three days later with some difficulties our passport with the appropriate stamp in our hand. The chinese embassy is there more relaxed. A personal talk with the ambassador brings us the confirmation for a three month visa. The waiting time of one week we spend outside of town near a river.
After a chilly night I come out of the tent and can't trust my eyes. The meadow is completely white of hoarfrost. Also while preparing the water for the morning coffee we notice the night temperatures. The water in the bottle is almost completely frozen and we can get it into the pot only with difficulties. We are writing September 17th, and the winter just knocked on our door. Now it is really time to go south. A last night at Tsend and we are sitting again on our motorcycles, this time in our pocket - a 3 months "China hope".
The street to Zamyn Uud, the mongolian border town, is still under construction. While asking for the right way, we met the first chinese forerunners - construction workers. The potter here about on 150 km to give the country its 4th paved road. The orientation is easier than thought. We always ride between road construction and rail road. The railroad winds good through the country, in Saisand the speedometer shows 70 km more than the map. By luck we calculated our petrol broad-minded and so we reach easy the city.
A last petrol stop and we are on our way of the last 200 km. The Gobi with its partially difficult to ride paths has us back. In the middle of the desert we meet 18 city buses. How bad was their map, that they got here? But everything was planned. They transfer these buses from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. Whether they recognized the nearby rail road as alternative? We wish them luck and hope that after reaching Ulaanbaatar these busses will be still recognized as new.
At evening time we see at the horizon the border town. For a border crossing it is already to late and so we camp here hopefully a last time on mongolian ground. Beginning with tomorrow we have two days left to organize our border crossing, before the mongolian visa expires again.
Yours Lo & Mo
After a bag full of travel experiences that brought us the one month stay in Mongolia, we are now faced with our last adventure here. In a distance of 10 km we are recognizing the shape of the small border village Zamyn Uud. According to our map, behind, there should beginn the "Empire of the Middle". In this city the dices will cast, whether we can reach directly through the "Hell of the Lion" our target city Shanghai, whether we have to take unwilling the detour via Wladiwostok or whether we will see the "City above the Sea" on a opposite detour via Central Asia.
Thanks to the mongolian help we can't fullfill, exept for a three month China visa that shines in our passports, the chinese immigration requirements, we now resolute to use trick 17. We want to look for a mongolian truck, that will carry our motorcycles, declared as transit goods, through the border. By this we can, like normal tourists, cross the border.
Just arrived in Zamyn Uud we start our job. We're asking several truck drivers. The price for our transport varys very much. Finally we get the price from 200 € down to 20 €.
While still talking to the last truck driver a jeep stops beside us. A suspicious middle european, better said german-like looking person talks to us. We get to know Heiko, who works together with his german colleagues on a nearby construction site. When he hears from our plans, he immediately sends us to his fellows Albrecht and Roland on the site. To find the way to them is quite easy. Two big, white cisterns show us the direction. On the construction site we get greeted by Albrecht. We tell again our plans and prompt he starts to telephone like crazy.
It is lunch time and with a empty stomach it is impossible to cheat any Chinese. And so every body tells its story at the lunch table. The three Germans are supposed to construct here a petrol - diesel refilling/changing station, because the tracks of the mongolian and chinese rail road systems are different. After lunch we get an exclusive inspection of the german-mongolian construction site. Our visas will expire tomorrow, but we are astonishing calm. Patiently and happy about our strong interest, Albrecht and Roland answer all our questions about their mongolian child in the middle of the Gobi. With a lot of humor, but also with despair in his voice, Albrecht explains us the principle of "child soccer", that is a good description of the mongolian work force.
We see about 15 mongolian workers standing on a cellar ceiling between the steel construction and are trying clumsy to distribute the concrete, that runs constantly out of a pipe. Like at a child soccer game every body is hunting for the ball. Half of the guys are standing so or so allways at the side, watching. Yes, we notice the aspiration of helplessness in the efforts of the german engineers to finish the constrction just in time. Even as amateurs we understand the deplorable state of affairs that occures, when german and mongolian working mentality should work hand in hand.
Oops, we almost forgot something. Left leads to China. We have to go! And so together with our new friend Albrecht I hunt in his Jeep over sand dunes to some truck drivers. We collect some telefon numbers to be good prepared for the next, last visa day. We keep Albrecht quite busy, but our presence seems to be a welcome change beside his daily routine on his despair construction site.
Than we have a nice and social evening in some bars of the town. By getting to know our german fellows we understand what it means to work here. The next day we really have to go. One appointment with a truck driver will be cancled. Others call off by telephone. One of the drivers like to meet with me, but maybe the meeting point wasn't described properly. Lo trys already the whole morning to find a truck. At the moment when I leave the construction site to guide another driver to this palce, Lo is coming back with a truck behind him.
Now we have to hurry, because at 5 pm the border will close. Together we load the bikes by using a small sand hill as ramp on the truck. After we said good bye to our enthusiastically helpers and leaving the last corner of the construction site, we see Roland standing on a sand hill longing looking after us. There are moments, that can not be described. At this moment we don't want to go to China, but important numbers force us to do so.
Our mongolian truck driver drives calm back to his home to have lunch. The border has now a lunch brake and so we try to turn down our excitement. Now it is 3:30 pm, 90 minutes are left. Now, finally we take off. A last time we drive through the border town. We look back and in the distance shine the two cisterns, like saying us good bye. Then, the last houses behind us, we reach the first turnpike. At the horizon we see a huge arch in the colors of a rainbow. After Albrechts explenation - this is the gate to the "Empire of the Middle". Will we really make it? Maybe the first checkpoint sends us allready back? Will they play ping pong with us in the no man's land. We don't know. The next hours will show it.
Yours Lo & Mo
Never I've understood the sense of a border. Why are numbers and stamps on a sheet of paper are so important? Borders and the border crossing make me every time nervous. I can confirm this feeling especially in this moment. The first turnpike opens and we stop in front of the mongolian custom building. The truck driver is crossing every day the border and knows probably every male officer (and every female officer...) by their names. While our young mongolian guy is flirting with the uniformed girls, we get our papers done in the building. We can't see as fast as our visas get stamped. Super! We solved our first problem: We can't go back in to Mongolia. Our truck driver is already waiting and further on we go. Nobody wants to see our motorcycle documents and so we also don't ask any silly questions.
In the no man's land the line of trucks is unusually long. On the chinese side is a power failure and we still have 60 min until the border will close. We are waiting and looking forward. Nothing happens. Then, finally the first trucks get started. Still a half hour to go! Slowly we come closer to the chinese checkpoint. Far before the turnpike a first officer comes straight to us. So, the game seems to be over! Her will probably now gesticulate, that we have to turn around. But he smiles and sends us in front of the line. Like on the mongolian side, we have to go into the custom building, while the truck driver is waiting at the checkpoint. The completed forms will be excepted withour any complaints. Than, they solve our next problem by stamping our chinese visa. Furtive and triumph we look to each other. Now, we can't get send out of China anymore.
While I'm waiting for Lo, somebody touches my shoulder. It is our mongolian truck driver, who tells me, that he is waiting for us - on the chinese side - near the exit. How? Where? He points to his in a distance standing truck, where our Yamies are still brave standing on it. I think, I'm getting grazy! How did he pass the chinese custom with our bikes, where he even had no documents for them? We can't believe it. I go into ecstasies. We go an additional step and get our international motorcycle documents stamped, to avoid future broder-crossing problems. Even this stamp we receive after some back and forth. After this, we are sitting again in the truck and leaving the chinese border area. No, that is not true! War are in China, we are really in China!
Close to the border we find a construction site, where we unload unseen and with the help of some chinese site workers our bikes via a sand hill to the ground. We say good bye to our mongolian guy, hand him over some tip for his great help and a friendly slap on his cheek. He has no idea how big his service just was, that he has done for us. Circumspect we ride on a bypass around the border town. We don't see any police. Also the look in the mirror does not show any unpleasant pursuers. Than we can't control our selfs any more. At once all our tension drops. We have tears of joy in our eyes. Like two little childs we are jumping high-spirited on our bikes. I take a deep breath of the mild evening air. Today it is especially nice to feel it. The sun is standing at the horizon and smiles, like as she wanted to say: "Hey guys, you realy made it? You see, it wasn't too difficult." One sentence from the book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coello comes into my mind that says: "If somebody wants really to achieve something in his life, the whole universe will support him, that he will reach his goal." I can't add anything to this phrase.
During the next days we move especially carefully on the chinese asphalt. Our heartbeat almost stops every time, when we see a police car. Every moment we expect to hear the police sirene, but all uniformed guys just stare at us, like aliens just had passed them. To buy food and petrol we have to stop compulsory in the middle of the cities. Every stop is accompanied by a crowd of people. Guys, where you all come from? The regularity of such crowd has to be a chinese law. In no case we want to attract attention, otherwise the police will become aware of us, but we have no chance to influence this chinese phenomenon.
Inner Mongolia shows still a strong desert character. And so we find always a 'out of view' site for our tent. Slowly we are getting more calm and our tension on the road dissapears. Our new goal named Beijing. From there it is only a stone's throw to Shanghai. The city was never bevor so near within reach to us and full of exitements I'm writing into my diary: Shanghai, we are comming!
Yours Lo & Mo
Hurrah - we are in China!!
How did we break our heads before to find a way without getting poor to travel by motorcycle in to this country. And now? Now we are riding on chinese asphalt like it would be the most normal thing in the world. Single fields beside the street announce the most southern end of the desert Gobi. The traffic grows. It is difficult to spend all our concentration to the road. All over you can discover something. Everything is different. On the contry roads we pass tractors and motorized tricycles, over loaded with bricks, to brake almost apart. A police car over takes us . We stop breathing. Nothing. They probably didn't identify us as 'long noses'.
Our views got stuck in the cities at the houses. An unbelievable, busy doing is seen in every street. In the outskirts of the villages or towns, there, they are assembling, repairing, building and producing. Every house consist of an open garage, faced to the street. In this garages are different shops, repairs or street kitchens/restaurants. On top is mostly a second floor, a little bit wider, used as canopy. There are the living rooms for the little small slit-eyes. Left you see a motorcycle repair shop. Next to it there is another one. In the third garage they are welding a steel gate. One Chinese hammers the pole bars of a grid straight.
In the city centre can be seen more street restaurants and shops. Even in front of the shops are little stalls, where you can buy everything, really everything. It is impossible to see it all. All over we get passed by bicyclists. If we don't pay attention for a moment, one will cross, without anouncing, our way. They have to be weary of life! Traffic rules can not be seen. Tricycles, bicycles, even rikscha drivers and cars come towards us on our lane. Pooh - until Shanghai we will never make it. Left turning cars are just turning without signal flashing, doing a right swing over our lane to go left. There, you don't even have time to brake or hit the horn. Also pedestrians that want to cross the street stop like in trance in the middles of the road to just walk further on, but without watching the teribble traffic. Insanity, insanity this traffic chaos.
Than we come closer to a street blocking toll gate. Shit! Now we probably will get the first problems. We drive slowly to the turnpike. A look to the uniformed guy opens the gate. Nonplussed we are passing slowly the barrier. Directly after the toll gate is a parking police car. Also nonplussed he looks after us. Now keep going. That was close, but the police car gets smaller and smaller in the mirror. The high street quality surprises us again and again. Sometimes a very small country road becomes suddenly a 3 lane high speed way with an extra bicycle path at the side. Slowly we get used to the chinese surrounding.
Nothing seems to be familiar anymore to us. When searching for a camp ground we have only the chance to camp on a harvested cornfield, because as far as you can see there are only fields. Since the border I couldn't recognize any meadow for our tent.
After one of the many cities, that seem to go hand in hand into another, we come onto a transit route, that shows as a good foretaste of the comming traffic fight. The hell can't be worse...! One truck after the other pushes with its last breath up the mountain. Stinky, smoky, sounding the horn - these monsters are behind, beside and in front of us. Twowheelers are hardly considered and accepted here. A clear horn concert behind me tells me: you have 5 seconds before you will lose the game. OK. It happens to every body. I give way.
Than, traffic jam at the beginning of the mountains. A broken monster truck is the reason. Just as a second one wants to pass him, there started a coach from the opposite lane its overtaking manoeuvre. The battle of the giants can only be documented by us by shaking our heads. The Chinese are able to form a normal road into a 4 lane highway. Just before, in the middle of the desert, where everybody is calm and has all the timne of the world, we got catapulted, like in a time machine, by our immigration into China into a complete different world.
The difference between Mongolia and China is so strange, that the extreme change of the surrounding seems to be unreal to us. But step by step we adjust us to this situation, adjust our travel speed and the kind of living. By this we use much less energy for daily tasks and have more power to discover the beauty and admirable with all its details. Beijing is now in front of us und it will take the next days our complete attention. We are proud to made it so far and grateful to know the possibility so close, to get our dream come true.
Yours Lo & Mo
Before you are allowed to read our 13th travel report, I have to make an interjection.
Today is December 11th, and we are somewhere in Asia. More than 7 month we are now on the road, in different surroundings that have little, most of the time nothing, to do with our home. It always gives us new energy, when we receive emails from home. We like to say thank you to all of you who gave us a feedback. Even if we can't answer every single mail, we are happy about every new one that reaches us. A special thanks belongs to one person at home, that works hours for hours behind the scenery at his computer. Actual it is his own fault, because he gave us the idea. Our friend Steffen Sledz craeted by his own initiative our website. Who hasn't seen it, might get his own impression at www.lomo-expedition.de. For this our Adolf Hennicke earns a special praise. Since some time there is also somebody else working hidden in our own ranks. With her fabulous graduation as qualified interpreter, one little italian girl just convinced us. She's translating at the moment our site into italian. Thank you, Guily!
Longer we don't want to let you wait. We know how unbearable it might get, if the suspense for the next travel report gets to big. And now here we go.
During the first days in China we had alomost no breather. The unusally fast pulse of the country takes some time to get used to it. We learn the meaning of the phrases: silence, quiet, lonelyness and privacy to define new. Qite often we recognise that our european thinking does not match with the chinese art of living and think philosophy. Still a long way to Beijing, but the already high numbers of inhabitants increases rapidly. In many places the traffic brakes down. For us it means shut your eyes and go! One city changes into another. Place signs are nonexisting. Sometime the adverts, partially displayed in english at walls, cars or bill boards, show us, we are in Beijing.
Mrs. Rose Tian, a business patner of Lo's former company DResearch accommodates us for more than a week in her contry house close to the city. Her indescribable hospitality shows us a different China. Many times she invites us into restaurants or is helping us when ever possible. By this we can once breath deeply before we are off to our final destination, now only 1600 km away. When we say good bye to Rose our faces show gratitude and also unbroken motivation. The last kilometers we will make at once...
The traffic on Chinas roads gets us brutal back into reality. Here you see vehicles, it is unbelievable. The inpredictable behaviour of the Chinese on the roads, the high volume of traffic and the still for us difficult to handle slowly and leisurely moving of all vehicles make us very soon to understand: An adjustment of our behaviour to the cinese one is strictly necessary to make the distance untill Shanghai without any knockouts. With our new attitude our traffic flow improves at once.
Like allways during this travel after the solution of one problem a totally different one will occur. Rain makes the view and the street contact difficult. Why does everything in this country has to be so extreme? Without stopping it rains the complete day and the complete night. In the morning we get waked up by the rain drops of the tent tarpaulin. The fields are totally soaken. By this, the ride to the save asphalt mutates into a mud battle, but we don't have another chance to camp on the harvested corn fields. Also the second day of rain does not show any changes. The deep hanging rain clouds seem to merge with the thick fog over the fields. The high humity beggars every description. Our motorcycle clothes with the inspiring convidence inscription "water proof" disappoint us already during the first hours of rain. Especially the pants get first wet at the most sensitive spot. Not one chance to dry our clothes, we have to see how set by set gets wet and more wet.
On the 4th day of rain in a row we put on our last dry set of clothes. The grey collor of the sky doesn't show any nuance of different collours. Today, besides the monotony of the rainfall, it gets severe cold. Wet to the skin, thanks to our waterproof equipment, our limbs chill through. At evening this day the pathes to the fields and especially the fields are impassable. No chance to find even the smallest spot for our tent, we search unwilling for a hotel of lowest standard. When we hear the price for a twin bedded room, it isn't difficult for us to say yes. Tonight for 2 Euros we allow us a little bit luxury. The motorcycles are parked in the reception hall, we warm up our clammy hand on our camping cooker, the word 'heating' doesn't seem to exist in chinese. Joyful we greet the 5th day of rain in a row. We put on our "dryest" clothes. Fact is, we have to reach Shanghai today, otherwise we don't have any dry clothes for the next day.
In the afternoon a miracle happens. Our thought, to ride the rest of our journey under rain will be disappointed. A dry breeze blows into our faces. Already slightly warmer, our mood rises. Still 150 km till Shanghai. The traffic in some places makes it impossible for us to get through. Our biggest grudge is against the big trucks and busses. Sometimes a threatening distance of some milimeters seperates us from their metal walls. Every body is pushing and tailgating. Now, keep calm, Shanghai ins't far! Again and again crazy drivers crossing our lane. Pooh - this went good again.
But suddenly in the biggest traffic it happens. The traffic jam, almost standing, pushs itself imperceptible forward. Like a child is everybody happy to made some milimeters. One truck behind Lo is honking and goes 1 cm to far. Boom! In the mirrot I just see the falling over motorcycle. Shit! I run towards him. We are fallen over already quite often, but today somebody wants to teach us a lesson. Lo's right leg is jammed under the side box. I draw the truck driver near to me and together we get the bike back into the vertical. I seeth with rage, but this doesn't help us. The foot hurts and must be x-rayed. The diagnosis of the nearby hospital gives us courage. No fracture, only overstreched ligaments are the reason for the still lasting pain. We reason out the situation and dicide still to go the last 150 km to Shanghai.
The dusk makes us nervous. The dark figures on the street can be recognized only very late. We force us to calm down. Now it is dark and the speed doesn't matter any more. Kilometer by kilometer we come closer to Shanghai. The suddenly starting euphoria makes us impatient to see our final destination. Than the first streets are lighted up. The city character doesn't break off. The speedometer conuts still 30 km. The street signs show already the famous "People Square". Still 20 km to go and we get caught by the eleveted road labyrinth of this huge city. First skyscrapers anounce the centre of the city. The last kilometers we let us drift.
Than we turn into the parallel street of the 'Bund', which is normally closed for 2 wheelers. Half the 'Bund' along we search for a place on the sidewalk and dismount from our bikes. We finally made it! Our dream came true. Shanghai is reality. Only just, we took off in Wildau, now our motorcycle boots step on Shanghais ground.
Yours Lo & Mo
If you take the distance, that a normal car driver drives during one year and go east, you finally will land in Shanghai. Via Poland, Ukraine, Russia until lake Baikal, Mongolia with desert safari, it took us 19300 km to get to Shanghai. Now, when we finally made it, the distance doesn't seems this far. Day by day the riding and the complete traveling becomes a way of living attitude. Only by the daily evening view on the maps you recognize the considerable distance of the day. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast the landscape changes from fields to forests, from mountains to plain and from swamp to desert. Artificial lines, like borders are an unnatural fraction within these process of changes. The last and biggest one catapults us onto a different star.
All familiar things can be discovered new in China. Shanghai, as a world metropolis is especially interesting. Western modern age and Chinese traditional way of living of the millenniums meet here with brutal sobriety and matter of course. Still, like taken root, we are standing besides our motorcycles in the middle of the centre of Shanghai. Unbelievable, like many events during this journey is also the fact, that we will met here a friend from Germany. The academic quarter didn't past too long, he suddenly is standing in front of us. The little, little Norman Pötzsch, the most of us will probably know him from the annual Whitsun festival, is shining in black, uncrease and unfluff suit as a huge contrast to our dirty motorcycle clothes. After our excitement to meet him here came down, he is sitting in a Taxi and is leading us to his modest luxary apartment on the 23rd floor in a hotel like skyscraper.
Like jumping out of a frying-pan into the fire, that is what we feel like after having taken off our motorcycle clothes - infinite happy, with a cold beer in our hands we sink into the soft sofa. We chat with Norman until late night. Actual he is also as crazy as we are. Like exchanged, the in front of us sitting Norman is different from the old Whitsun-Norman. He is telling us with self-confidence and strong spine his story and we ours.
The next days are for relaxing. We write many travel reports in the hope to catch up one day, update our diaries and enjoy the half time in this fascinating city. Norman is a member of the working population, but besides this, he is organizing all the time. As result we spent an amusing weekend together with some other Germans in Hangzhou, situated south of Shanghai. Some members of the yellow travel group, camouflaged as student of the Shanghai Tongji-University, win quick our sympathy. Through this we spent also some other evenings together. A noodle evening, a tricycle excursion, a Shanghai pub-crawl and a barbecue evening with original german Bratwurst (for Michael & Karin: Of course from Peter) high above the roofs of the city. The normally in Zwickau enrolled students are not really unresponsible to have our stay made a great highlight in this by the Chinese called "City above the Sea".
Some moment will last for ever and so I will keep this city in pleasant memory. After two and a half weeks we finally make it again to take our stuff and continuing our modern nomadic life. On the last day, by the help of Thomas (one of the students) we do a photo session on the Bund (the striking river bank of the Huang Pu) in the centre of the city. Afterwards we are saying very reluctantly good bye to the city. Once again we push our way through narrow roads. Street kitchens are tempting with their promising smell. Tricycles of all kinds are passing us. From speakers roars hopeless overmodulated Chinese pop music. Cross road guards in brown uniform, equipped with whistle and megaphone, are shouting the colour blind Chinese into order. Fists with thumb up are pointed towards us out of winded down car windows. A view up shows in the most modern design glazed skyscraper walls. Exact underneath at street level you see complete stalls, fixed on tricycles. Even a bicycle mechanic repairs every thing possible and impossible at his mobile workshop.
Slowly the skyscrapers shrink to apartment buildings and further to normal sized houses. Street kitchens and grocery shops are replaced by car garages and spare part shops. The elevated roads are changing to earth level highways and finally to normal roads. We don't get far today anymore. The sunball gets red and more red. In the outskirts of the city Chinese stroll slowly, like always, back home from work. Hidden in a artificial forest, we find three square meters of driest and hardest ground to set up our "tent town", which we haven't used for some while. After having supper, there are coming today some more sighs over our lips. But some anticipation seizes us. We will see Norman, who we owe now a lot, fortunately at Whitsun again.
Yours Lo & Mo
Now Shanghai has past, we see our journey with different eyes. With new power und confidence we are ready for the second half of our Eurasia tour. Our doing during the first six months was focused on the goal city Shanghai. Now we blink with one eye already towards Italy, resp. Germany.
The traffic shows us the meaning of driving a vehicle in Asia by yourself. We are already happy, if we can make 200 km per day. While searching unsuccessful for a place for our tent, we get lost at dusk in a narrow valley. First we pass a small village, after a while the path gets unpassable and we have to camp right at the spot.
It doesn't take long and the complete village is standing around us. We get greeted like always: friendly and helpful. While cooking the last dinner of the day, we are surrounded by 20 mops of fuzzy hair, which are very much amused. Sure - 2 long noses in their valley - that will make a discussion for years. But we have difficulties to put on a brave face. The evening is still quite social, but when at the next breakfast the zoo opens its gates premature, our laughing faces are drying up. We stay one day. We get always visited by children and adults, which give us tangerines that are growing all over the place.
Sometime our patience gets lost. 20 kids are jumping already the whole afternoon around us, watching us enduring while writing travel reports, so we can't concentrate at all. After we told them very clear to go back to the village, they now have even more fun to make us angry.
Like always during this journey, we jump from one problem to another. On the following day we cross the Yangtze Kiang and are moving 350 km towards west. Suddenly the temperature drops by 15 degrees at once. Also the next days the temperature is going straight towards the freezing point. Raindrops moisten our visors and other body-close parts. Dressed like Eskimos, we are still looking towards our in front of us laying goal. The Three Gorges Dam, that will change the Yangtze by different stages into a lake, gets today our visit. The complete street network around the dam, that is still under construction, is closed for two wheelers. Nobody has pity for two trembled and soaked motorcyclists, which came extra all the way from Germany. That will mean, we have to use plan B. Without seeing and hearing, we are passing several guards.
While the first one is still wild gesticulating, almost loosing his balance, the reaction of all others getting soft and softer, until nobody is taking notice of us anymore. Now it is standing in front of us, outsized huge, approx. 2000 m long, big and fat, a powerful concrete line is going from one end to the other end of the gorge, Water, like at a waterfall, is gushing out in a big arc in the middle of the dam. The right side is still under construction and covered by many cranes. Beside the wall there is a 2 lanes floodgate over 5 levels. The lower river follows its natural riverbank and gets finally picturesque lost in the distance, like nothing had happened. My impression is divides into two. On the one hand I see in a true sense an edifying, enormous panorama, created by fascinating engineering power. On the other hand I'm frightened by so much human being collected naivety and arrogance, facing such a nice piece of nature here. How can a human rape a by god created work? But probably my hypersensitive sense is responsible for such exaggerated view.
As brave tourists we shoot photos of all possible views, until we remember again, that we are cold. Our program of duty at the Yangtze is overdone, nothing else will now hold us anymore at this latitude. Our map offers us two ways towards the warmer south. For sure, we decide for the wrong one.
A sympatical small street leads into a clear valley, surrounded by pretty towered rock massifs. I'm still thinking how nice it looks, when the rocks disappear in the clouds. But when the ribbon of asphalt starts to climb up into the height like serpentine in the Alps, I finally understand. The road leads via the clouds of fog over a pass.
Considerable colder, the cloud climate draws our last heat out of our body. I start quivering. Than the road goes down to go shortly afterwards even steeper up again. How much longer will this last? Half an hour we fight with a view less than 20 meters, suddenly the asphalt stops. Only a small, wet and slippery path is continuing its way around the next rock wall. By luck, our common sense and humor are not frozen yet. So we bite into the cold apple and turn around.
In front of a abyss, that shows only nice, white fog, we stop for a photo session, but have to be carefully, that the pictures doesn't get shaken. Than we have a brake in a kind of a restaurant to get our heat back. Stoves are not known by the Chinese, but hospitality is. Very soon both of us are holding a plastic cup, filled with hot tea, in our hands. That means, Lo is holding his in his hand. It is an interesting travel experience not to be able to control your body anymore. I spill most of my tea, because my hand is trembling so much. I put the cup back onto the table without haven drunken something. To float on cloud seven I always imagined it would be different.
After heating up a little bit, we escape the fog and ride back into the valley. My thoughts are already south. How many more kilometers to go, to reach a warmer area? And at the same time I realize: that day will stay in our mind forever.
Yours Lo & Mo
Our foggy ride through the clouds seemed to be the most extreme situation concerning our perception of coldness. The next days we try hard to make as many kilometers as possible towards south, but temperatures still around freezing, again rain and the Chinese traffic are working hard to minimize our travel speed. When we stop, we stop mostly at large petrol stations. Often we get there a cup of hot water. We eat a sweet tasting bread before we move our rigid limbs onto the motorcycle seat again.
While riding, my view is often stare and dull. Partially the wind is so piercing, that he goes under my clothes. The clothes of the Chinese don't differ much from the ones they war during much warmer days. The sales person are standing trembling behind their counters. Some of them are crouched down on the sidewalk. The garage like apartments are always open at the street side. The coldness makes its way unhindered everywhere. I haven't ever seen stoves here. But every where on the tables you will find the oversized chinese thermos flask. The motorcyclists in their colorful rain capes are riding trembling through the rain. Often the pillion rider trys unsuccessful to hide himself behind the front man. Sometime the cape is a little bit bigger and you will see legs from children are sticking out. On one motorbike I see a father and his ten year old son, who without any helmet has his legs on the footrests. And instead of holding tide, he is carrying in each hand a big shopping bag. Misunderstandig for such observation seems to be wrong in this world.
After days, the mercury column is going step by step up into a more acceptable region. The Chinese world of mountain has now caught us. Once a while the hill view changes and provides us every time a totally different and interesting panorama. The scenery varies: shallow vast hills, that are covered by carefully planted terrace fields will remind you of the bustle of the many mops of fuzzy, black hair. Further there are steep mountain slopes, that leave only small room in the valleys for villages and fields. And also there are strange looking karst mountains which even with very steep slopes are still covered by dark green forest. Now, here are growing more and more southern plants. Bamboo und banana are standing beside palm and pine trees.
The striking appearance of many different majorities is fascinating for us. Many mountain inhabitants are wandering along the streets like goblins, dressed with a lila or blue cap and carrying a binded basket on their back. The costumes cover rich embroidered ones and also simple two color dresses. It is impossible for us to write every single thing, every difference in our diaries. Too different and too manifold is this foreign world.
Like always we camp out of view on terrace fields. The us always besieging Chinese are now belonging to our daily life, like the travel itself. Our way goes via Kunming. Here we stay some days to organize our next visa for Myanmar (Burma). After this we go further west. Not one day is like the other. Some will stay in our mind forever, like November 26.
The evening before we found at almost darkness a space four our tent on one of the many terrace fields, surrounded by mountains. On the filed there seemed for us to grow grass. After breakfast the daily zoo opens again and two farmers are standing in front of us. Both of them don't understand, that we are not willing to speak any Chinese at this early time of the day. We try to ignore their disturbance of peace. But today our ignorance becomes our problem. Farmer Li doesn't like it to be ignored. It seems to be, he is angry about the broken grass, done by our food steps and the tent. For sure understandable, but the little Chinese has no clue how difficult it is every day for two poor German motorcyclists to find a piece of land for their tent. When he steps by his clumsiness onto our cooker, I get annoyed. Again and again he explains us to leave. Yes, Sir! We will do so! While I'm packing inside the tent my sleeping back together, I hear a "zip" - "zip". What's that? Lo jumps quick to our weary of life Chinese. I hurry out of the tent and see the problem. Farmer Li wanted to play the hero and had cut by using his machete two of our tigten lines of our small, but daily used accommodation. I can't believe it. The master is one and a half heads smaller than we and is making such stupid things. Now we are riding roller coaster. Lo is playing the mediator. I'm in rage want to give this rascal a spanking. We disarm our farmer and try to pack our stuff as fast as possible. Until the departure the conflict with Li doesn't end. When we finally make it without any further damages, we take a deep breath. The mistake was undoubtful our behavior. The circumstances we get confronted every day by traveling through China are quite often extreme. By this, two knots in the tigten lines of our tent will remind us always of this incident.
Yours Lo & Mo
The travel never gets boring. Now there is almost an invisible law, that we get confronted in predictable regularity by problems, that are never the same. At one time the air of a rear tyre disappears, at another time we have to fight against armed rice farmers or again at another time we get shaken by the coldness until we face a new problem, unaware of its name and its solution.
Reaching the Chinese-Burmese border town Ruili, we are standing like in a computer game in front of the next higher level. We know by our investigations, that the border crossing will not be easy at all. We buy food for the next 2 weeks, just in case we have to sit out any disagreement. Our confidence is build on former border crossings. Plan A, plan B, plan C programmed into our heads, we are standing in front of the first border officer. Our visas are shining in our pass. Every thing seems to be OK. Unfortunately we meet again an officious officer, who wants to get approval by his Burmese colleague first, that we are really allowed to enter their state. He is leaving his office going through a gate and returning shortly afterwards pointing to us, that we should follow him. We register with unease that this checkpoint doesn't has a no-mans land. We step through the grey stone gate and are already on Burmese ground.
Dressed in long skirts, different officers are coming one after the other to us. We have a hard time to take them seriously, because of their sandals and their general appearance. The discussion ends by the strict requirement of a special permission. "No have" would now say the 3 word speaking Chinese. 200 dollars and 2 weeks waiting time and all this is no problem anymore. But than, we start to speak about our bikes, which are waiting at the opposite side of the gate. But nobody of the "VIPs" can't guaranty us an immigration with our motorcycles. The special permission is only valid for persons. Back on the Chinese side we have to put our A, B, C scenario, without using it, into our pockets.
Three days we are thinking and investigating and finally find the solution: plan D. The immigration after Burma to India has similar problems, so we decide to go south. Laos should be also an interesting travel destination... :). The Chinese immigration successfully fooled, we now have to give up by this Banana Republic. We need some time to get our motivation back. Than we take off again into the Chinese world of mountains.
The unbelievable Chinese road constructions are getting again on our nerves. The flora now changes to jungle shapes. It's getting darker and darker. The sunbeam gets only sporadically through the roof of leafs. Hugh, giant trees put their trunk up into the height. The big tree-tops are marching with its neighbors. Deeper and deeper we ride into this paradise. Lianas are hanging over the road. During the ride I just could hold on one and go up into the branches. Latest at the next curve my Yamie wouldn't know where to go - so I stop that idea.
Like a tube runs the asphalt ribbon shy through the impenetrable labyrinth. It is a miracle that the road doesn't loose itself within this green mass. Every centimeter is covered by trees, brushes or high grass. Some trees have such big leafs, that you could think, you are in a fairy forest. All over branches, lianas, hanging plants, big trunks and indescribable many leafs make an integrale whole. I'm surrounded by a strange magic. Forest isn't equal forest. What I formally described as forest is here now incredible. Again I realize that every thing is an integrale whole. The human being should play its part like it is supposed to be during its short stay on this earth. But why has the phenomenon human being to step out of line? With this thought I follow Lo. My head is rotating like a signal lamp. And by this we are riding through the absolute fascinating jungle, close at the border of Laos.
Yours Lo & Mo
With our travel through China, a large chapter of our journey has finished. From the mongolian - chinese border, via Beijing to Shanghai, from Shanghai to Wuhan, from Wuhan via Kunming to the chinese - burmese border and than to the chinese - laotian border - our Yamies carried us crisscross through the "empire of the middle". Already now, we have the feeling, that our China travel will be the highlight of this journey.
The departure of China is as simple as the immigration. Until the last kilometers we get accompanied by the chinese peculiarity. It doesn't matter where you are, Chinese crossing your way - curious and very friendly, like always. They remind us all the time of characters from kids. ... and now after crossing the border we are still surrounded by this impressive jungle, but we are missing the many small asian people. It is impossible that they all hide in the jungle.
No, the population in Laos is compared to the one in China only a drop in the bucket. Only many kilometers of winding roads we pass the first Laos village. Always after a border crossing we get beamed into another world. The huts of the here living mountain people get mostly erected on stilts. The walls are made out of woven bamboo mats, the roofs are covered by carefully bind reed layers. In front of the entrances are sitting children on a spacious platform. By their nice, deep dark complexion, their eyes seem to shine even brighter when they look at us while passing by. Old and young are standing at the side of the street and waving like mad. All the time we are trying to respond their greetings. But for this we probably needed to pass in advance a course called: "riding you motorcycle one handed"...
As further we get into the country as less gets the jungle carpet. We already see empty slopes, which in earlier time where covered by this big impenetrable green mass. Like often during my observation, I feel sad besides my excitement. After a long time we meet here again the first foreigners and like always they are from Saxon. The area around Dresden should be deserted. The guys are strolling around in the world, it should be impossible that there is still somebody at home...
We get told of sporadic shootings between the cities: "Don't remember anymore" and "what was the name again?". In the mountain villages you see on public places safe guards with shouldered guns. But we see this matter with ease and coolness, that we actual should take serious. But as further we are moving, we see signs, that the guys here like to play wild west. We get carefully while searching for a tent spot.
One last night and we would already leave this area of danger. This time we find early enough a nice hidden place. During twilight we get shocked, that we almost drop our bottles of beer, resp. the sentence gets stuck in my throat. We hear close by several times after another machine gun fire. Afterwards we hear single shots. In China I would immediately think of an military exercise or of an little playful Chinese who like to much New Years Eve. But here in the mountains of Laos the meaning is different from my thought. We lower our voice while talking to each other. I suggest as precautionary measure not to use today our cooker, that always is as noisy as a taking off cruise missle rocket.
We just recovered by the first shock and are trying to overhear the still existing single shots, when suddenly somebody, equipped with a torch, is climbing up a hill, that seems for us to steep. Guys - now we had enough cinema! We now avoid any noise and are crawling back into our tent to be quiet. The night passes without any incident, but we had also waived for the laos edition of "reality TV".
We follow our route unhindered. But in some villages we see chalk drawings on the asphalt that remind us very strong of shapes of human beings. Finally we come to the more civilized flat countryside of Laos, where we already one day later cross the border to Thailand.
Yours Lo & Mo
When do you ever get the opportunity to explore Thailand by motorcycle? This is very easy. You only have to cross Russia and turn right to Mongolia, load your motorcycle onto a truck, ride via Beijing and Shanghai to the burmese border, and than pass only the border of Laos. If you didn't get lost until now, you have to go straight at the last traffic light. Afterwards you take the videotape "Thailand" out of the cupboard and sit comfortable in your armchair.
Large squares of large school complexes passing us. Oversized pictures of the acting Thai king are proudly standing on the middle part of the road, which is now unusually for us on the right hand site. The Thai people repudiate any possible influence of close-by former British colonies, but driving on the left side of the road and using the colors blue, red and white in their flag ...
Actually, the complete surrounding looks quite civilized. The asian "slowly going" and its aimlessness gets lost beside showy Pick-ups, huge villas and oversized shopping malls. But small streets, some street sides and remote villages kept their Asian face.
At noon we stop at a food stall. While eating we get threatening by the first Thai tiger. He is sitting besides Lo on the bench. But every time he trys to put one of his paws on the table, one severe view is enough and the well raised animal stops its doing.
For the first time we reach here the shore of the Indian Ocean. We ask a guards in a port whether they have here ship traffic to India. But the word India doesn't appear in his job description. And by this we have no other chance just following the coast south. But non of the "at the sea" cities seem to be big enough to afford an international harbor. Like being on tenterhooks we are searching for useful information at the internet cafes. At German pages commercial Christmas adverts can be seen. Oops - yes, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. But at 30 degrees Celsius in the shadow, palm trees and sun burned skin it is difficult to think of Christmas.
Since our zoom through Thailand we try every evening to find a tent spot at the beach under palms. But huge hotel resorts don't give us access. Today of all days, at Christmas Eve we are riding at dusk through a palm plantation, that is directly situated at the sea. A thick hedge is blocking the view. Suddenly the hedge disappears and we see a beautiful paradise panorama with palm trees, a white and endless lonely beach and turquoise colored water. Like little children we are happy about this Christmas present. Our tent city will be erected on the grass. Very close beside, but already on the sandy beach, they placed extra for us bench and a table there. A dreamlike place!
Now I'm only missing one thing. I know, that my girl friend always surprises me. That's why I'm convinced, she is hiding herself somewhere around here. Enduring I'm looking behind every brush and every palm tree. Also the in the grass laying coconuts I pick them up on e by one. She is petite enough for such a hiding place. But after I had also looked at the shallow water and digged in the sand, you can see my disappointment in my eyes.
Tonight we light up one small candle, are playing guitar and are singing our songs (for sure, no Christmas song). We enjoy the fairytale like place so much, that we spent here these two holidays to relax properly. We fight against stubborn coconuts, get a sun burn, watch the shrimps how they dig their holes and are trying to realize that we just have Christmas and that we made it with our motorcycles up to here.
The holidays finish too early and already at December 27 we are on the road again to find our ship that will bring us to India. On the touristic developed Island Pukhet, there are only ferries to close-by island. And now it is sure: We have to go again one country further south.
Malaysia greats us even more civilized than its neighbor. The speed of the traffic can't be compared with the Chinese ones any more and is similar to the one in Europe. Normal passenger cars replace the in Thailand existing Pick-ups. The Malays have actually a quite high standard of living. At the densely populated west coast a fast highway brings us quick down to the south.
Our first hope named Penang. A really civilized country has also international vessel routes. After one day of investigation that brings us crisscross Penang, our information grow stronger. This port has international vessels, but all of them go first to the harbor close to Kuala Lumpur.
OK! No problem! We are here for traveling. We spend the New Years Eve on a lemon tree plantation and instead of noisy fireworks, like we would have them in Germany, we get lulled into sleep by the down falling lemons. At New Year we reach the capital of Malaysia and thus the "Northport" of the country. It will bring us a new chapter resp. a new adventure of our journey.
Yours Lo & Mo
Malaysia - that sounds like tropical sun, jungle and far away. Indeed, the sun here is tropical. Night and day are similar concerning heat and sultriness and only bearable under a cool aircondition. Plenty of jungle still exist in Malaysia. It still stretchs its deep, thick and impenetrable ribbon from the east to the west of this country. Simply I'm not able anymore to say what means far away. But one thing I can say for sure: The layout of the states on normal globes represents the reality. After Laos there comes Thailand and after Thailand towards south Malaysia.
To display the earth as a ball shows once more the courage of weird people. Never did we recognize during our daily routes any earth bend. The street always led us straight until the west coast of Malaysia. A boat will come - sang ones also weird voices. But where is the boat? A lot of things could be discovered on the shore of Thailand. Also the west cost of Malaysia shows its best side, but a ship going to India can't be found at all.
The geography drives us slowly into a corner. Since we try now every day at the "Northport" (close to Kuala Lumpur) to convince a captain to take two despaired Germans and their bikes on board - the days are just flying. The so called shipagents refuse us a personal talk with the captains of the almost daily departing container vessels to India. We can move unhindered at the port area, for us the reason to ignore the ship agents and try our luck personnally with the arrivel of the next ship. On bord of the "Border", a vessel under turkish flag, we get a cool welcome by Irrfan, the young captain of this ship. After a while he gets interested in our story. Together with his ship engineer Ahmed we sit in the lounge. The guys offer us one beer after another and so after some time the soft "up" and "down" of this big container vessel confuses our stomach. From time to time the complete ship gets shaken by the hard loading of new containers. Both are more and more interested in our adventure, but finally the captain can't jump over his shade. Too strict are the rules on board by the owner resp. his turkish company. Just befor midnight, when the Border is departing again, we say good bye to our very friendly hosts. Ahmed is giving us as a sign of his true intention a jar of turkish jam and some bread. Sad are looking our Yamies, which are parked at the wharf, when we come back without having achieved anything. Maybe they thought we will take off with out them.
The next days are hard for our motivation. The answers of the captains are allways the same. Either we get a clear "No!" to hear or they sent us to the appropriate shipagent. Since 9-11 nobody will take extra passengers on bord. We are forced to change our strategy. After 2 weeks of unsuccessful search the Border runs in again. When we left Irrfan and Ahmed the last time, the captain offered us that he would take the next time only our bikes - without us. And now we hope that his 2 week old offer is still valid. But when we see Irrfan and Ahmed again oddly enough the don't have time for us. No answer is also an answer and disappointment can be seen in our faces. Again we change our strategy and decide now for plan "C". We give order to a forwarding agency to crate our motorcycles and ship them to India.
When we camp tonight near to the port we get to know Adela and Yeo, which are inviting us for supper. In a fish restaurant we tell them our story. The hospitality of these two is unbelievable. First we get the offer to sleep in their garage appartment, than we should move into one room of their appartment in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and also use their Van as we like to. That's a bit too fast for us. We search for clever excuses to refuse their great offers. Untill the bikes are packed into wooden boxes we stay in their garage appartment near the "Northport". Now we have nothing to lose at all and we move to their main residence in KL.
The undiscribable hospitality of these two Malays makes our stay in Kuala Lumpur very convinient. The departure of our motorcycles is delayed by one week, so we use the time to write further travel reports. We take the Van of Yeo and Adela and are driving to the east cost. By this we see a little bit more besides the ports of this country. But the milage of 7 km per litre of this 'monster' will shorten our Malaysia round tour. After 2 days we are sitting again over our diaries, travel reports or postcards.
Also the best time will not last forever. At the early morning of January 31 we get waken up by the wild monkies, which are jumping and climbing like made over the roofs. We allmost got used to them. At dawn Adela is driving us to the train station. From here we get to the 60 km out of town international airport. We say a last time thank you and are just overwhelmed by so much unselfish hospitality. Then we are sitting allready in the plane to Chennai (in earlier days: Madras). The thrust is pressing us into our seats and shortly afterwards we take off.
Yours Lo & Mo
Since we failed at December 5th last year at the border of Burma on our way to India, 2 month have passed. The plane is landing hard on Indian ground and the following shocks are shaking us heavy. We really made it. Finally we are in India, our 9th travel country.
Our first step out of the small airport building can be compared with a push of the button on a VCR in which a film is waiting to be shown. Like at an Oscar award celebration people are standing right and in front of us crowded behind a railing. Curious, dark eyes are starring at us. Some are holding sings in theirs hands: "Welcome to Chennai, Mr. Baja!" or "Welcome Mr. Samuel!" or you only see names on these signs. On our way to the bus stop we get accompanied by many taxi and rikscha drivers. Strange figures come us very close. A merciless heat hits me. Walking along the street urine strench is biting my nose. Garbage is laying there, where normally the sidewalk is. A foreigner, who is not using a taxi doesn't seem to exist for Indians. The little pursurers are showing a hard endurance. By a bus, that seems to be made out off one piece, that rattles and squeals almost louder than the already heavy engine noise, we are going into the city centre. Like sitting in front of the TV, our eyes are stuck at the street scenes. Every thing, which has feet or wheels is on tour here. Big bus giants, without any glass in their windows, are pushing also besides the big monster trucks through the bursting street. The tricycle taxis, rikschas, cars and bicycle lines are looking in between small and unimportant. Here you see again vehicles, which are not existing. Unbelievable what is moving here on wheels. Pedestrians are jumping in this crush from one gap to another. Reaching the final stop the bus let us go into the impressive fairy world. I the harbour district of Chennai we are passing streets, that are getting smaller and smaller, in search of the address of our forwarding agency. Piles of rubbish are besides food stalls and garage apartments. Mothers are washing their babies directly on the street. Their big blown up bellies are definetly signs of malnutrition. The smell of rubbish, of cooking food and of rotting groceries are giving an explosive mixtures in the air. Suddenly we are standing in a airconditioned, clean office at the 3rd floor of a apartment building.
The thought to see our bikes before weekend is more then illusion. The motorcycles are still at the custom at this moment and the meaning of this fact is more than we ever would image. A second company, specialized for customs clearance gets the order to do the job. But Friday afternoon is close to weekend and we should come back Monday at 10. Again we are walking through the heat and the slums of Chennai. After visiting several overcrowded guesthouses we find a good room at the Mannady Street. Reaching our room, we drop our heavy lagguage, are falling on the bed and turning off the video "India". We were the last hours surrounded by too many people, too much chaos and too much poverty. And besides this we always think about our bikes. By luck our 3 month stay in China helps us a lot to file and archive the many, many impressions. By this any sign of a culture shock vanish almost unseen. We use the weekend to turn on and off (as we like) our fairy film. As soon as we walk down the narrow stairs of our hotel and make one first step outside, a new adventure of thousand and one night begins. Sometimes I can't even make this first step, because a begging child is standing with open hands in the door frame.
The next days we wander around from custom to several institutions - back and forth. Our impatience grows uncontrollable. We only want to get our motorcycles!!! Slowly our file is filled with more then 20 documents, but a pick up of the bikes, which are waiting in a sad mood in a hall at the port, is not in discussion yet. Since Malaysia, where we had to wait several days and not to know what's coming next, our odyssee, our fight just to travel as a free person is continuing here. Once more these days are showing our determination and our working hand in hand and if sometimes are 4 hands not enough, you get proud if you can count on a invisible 5th and 6th hand.
After the Indian bureaucracy exceeded all expectations, there comes a next problem. The forwarding agency, without them we have no chance to get our bikes, is presenting us one bill after another and most of the costs were never mentioned before at all. But we have no choice. A walk to the police would first of all start a new file of bureaucracy and independent from its result we would had to pay first. Unwilling we pay the main bills, but leave us one door open. We will pay the last bill of USD 175 when we will have received our bikes.
Now, finally after one week we are standing in front of the harbour gate. Rules over rules keep an administrative machinery artificial alive and at the end nobody knows what is allowed and what not. The port police refuse the entrance of the female custom officers, who are belonging to the same institution. Sometime we are standing in front of our motorcycles in the warehouse. When I take a photo of our bikes, a big discussion starts, because taking a photo in this high security area is strictly forbidden. After the uncrating of the motorcycles the custom officers are checking every centimetre of our boxes contents. Than we think we have made it, but one can be mistaken. We have to argue with our forwarder, because he claims the USD 175, but we are not at the gate with the bikes yet. He has all documents and with this the rights. He just disappears and we can change from motorcycles clothes to normal once again. Every thing stays further in bond. The only chance we have is waiting for tomorrow.
Our pigheaded forwarder sents the next day his employee. Again we are standing in front of the bikes. He understands that without the documents we can't leave the port area. Before we are ready to go, our reval today leaves us with the comment he will wait at the gate and for an additional USD 6 per motorcycle we will than can leave the port. Under tension we wander around at the port. Now we recognize, that the port has many gates. We get sent from one gate to another but our money greedy guy can't be found. When we go to gate number 8, far away from the warehouse, we just show them obviously our port pass. They show us to go on and the unbelievable comes truth. By their own mass of rules the Indians have confused them self. And by this within minutes we disappear into the traffic jungle of Chennai and they never saw us again.
Yours Lo & Mo
We are free! Finally we are free again!
Nobody kept us as prisoners, but we had to stay at one place the last weeks. First we fight the complete January in Kuala Lumpur to find a way to get to India and than it takes another week in Chennai with unbelievable bureaucracy, just to get our motorcycles out of the indian custom. With unbelievable cleverness the Indians set up by this a new record. In only 7 days they collected more minus points then any other contry in its total assessment during our journey.
While leaving Chennai towards west, we are still happy about our final triumpf, that we could play a nasty trick on our greedy rival. It helps us to forget the last week at the moment an now we have to concentrate on our surrounding. The indian traffic is worth to get experienced. It really challanges our concentration. Chaos like and honking every possible vehicle pushes itself congested through the city. The excellent 3 month driving experience in China prepared us uncinsciously for the now following traffic chaos.
We even have time to look around. At bus stops are standing several dark, grim looking faces. Only the Saris of some women - the typical indian clothes consisting of a 5 m long cloth width - are shining in a bright red, orange or yellow. Most of the shops at the streetside carry oversized advertisment signs with spartan contents. Sayings or cut out pictures of persons are looking like mounted on it. One advert shows Indian women standing in a line, wearing very different and colorfull gaments. The inscription "Chennai Silk Store" is symbol for one of the striking branch of indian industry.
In this country you find garments, that is unbelievable. By a walk through sari strores I get overwhelmed by so many patterns, colors and materials. The range goes from bright shinning yellow scarfs to transparent colorful veils until dark garments with gold borders. Flower patterns, batic design, unicolor cloth, color combination of two matching colors, silver or gold bordered designer scarfs in dark green, bright red, shining white, strong orange gloomy black or relaxing beige (-pooh-) are letting grow my interest for the undiscribeble manyfold of indian garments.
The next days our Yamies are bringing us quick towords north. Again the old travel rythm determines our daily life. Like in China, crowds of people around us and the motorcycles, belonging to our life. Even if in such crampy moments the atmosphere is not as warm and kind as it was in China, the meetings are nevertheless peacful and sociable. The mentality of the Indians is of course different from other nations and should not be scaled relatively. But it seduce us to make comparison, when we get to meet one evening 3 unpleasant contemporaries.
This time a fallow field provides the spot for our tent. While we are cooking at the light of our headlamps, some passers-by are taking notice of us. When we already are on a dive into the deep sleep phase, I get waken up by a slowly louder getting, permanent hum. A headlight flits sporadic over the tent canvas. Than I have the feeling at every moment a truck is driving through the tent. Suddenly the engine stops and unfriendly, gruffy voices urge us to get out of the tent. The ignorance, which we used successfully in China, doesn't seem to work here at all. Lo, who returns only now back to the living, has to boot himself first, while I struggle hard to get out of the tent. 3 Indians talk to me and their voices are not sounding good. Friendly and by watching their reactions I try to appease them, but I can only make gestures to make express myself. Than, the guys are getting threatening close and before I realize anything, I get a havy slap in the face.
OK guys, that's enough! Slaps will only be distributed by Papa and I seize him by the collar. During the fray Lo's voice from the tent is criticizing me and shortly afterwards he stands beside me. He is right. It makes no sense to beat the guys up, even if they deserve it. And at the same time I realize that my bigges concern is about our equippment. We have a hard discussion with the 3 headed village delegation, but even drawings with clear symbols don't change their opinion. Every of their gestures symbolize unpredictable stupidity. Strange, suddenly they stop the discussion and are leaving, inlcuding the monster truck. Now we use the time to pack our stuff before they might return and are leaving the "danger zone".
Without any ideas we are riding stubborn through the cold and dark night. In front of the houses are burning neon lamps which are giving the whole scenery a sterile and cold character. Trucks are dazzling us from behind and overroll us allmost at their passing over manoeuvre. Finally at all, my rear is dancing "Schwanensee". My tyre announces rapid loss of preasuere. By luck and by force we find at another path a small piece of meadow, where we can spent the rest of the night.
On the next morning we tell us each other about the same nightmare, but a view at my rear tyre proofs the truth of the hours before and shows us also that we have to do homework today. Since the Indians used all their credits of our minus scale, the rest of the days in India are peaceful again. We are admiring garments, taking photos and looking after shopping tours for our crowd of people -ah- I meen or motorcycles, are riding 3 kilomtres and enjoying nevertheless this faszinating world.
India lives by its manners and customs. Many things are here a result of a turbulent history. You can love this country, you can be enthusiastic about it or you just can disassociate yourself from everything. Concerning us: we probably can be find some where in the middle. But in any case, we have decided to travel further on.
Yours Lo & Mo
Every by us visited country adds an individual colour dot to our journey. And now an especially big and colourful dot stays in our memory. Maybe it is because of the fairy like colourful garments or of the different religions or of the extreme different manners and customs compared to Germany. For sure, these days will stay like a treasure in our memory.
Our route goes almost through the geographical heart of India from Chennai via Bangalore, Hyderabad, Nagpur and than straight towards west around New Delhi. The Indian-Pakistan border in our reticule we reach on February 20 the border point Fazilka. Only a small asphalt ribbon winds along the fields until we finally come to a turnpike. The border soldiers behind it with shouldered guns, are showing us to turn around. Only their boss is speaking English and he describes us the 200 km away, only possible, crossing point. Here it is impossible to cross the border.
Not having any Rupees left in our pockets, only few kilometres are left in our tanks and the watch shows 2cm until dusk, we are excited about so many possibilities. At twilight we set up our tent out of view behind a bulwark. Nobody has seen us. The light-up border line looks like a bright mark in the dark night. Dogs are barking. We avoid any noise to attract no attention. Even our noisy cooker is not allowed to burn today. The Indians and their Pakistanian neighbours have for a long time communication difficulties, to play the whole problematic down. Fortunately nobody discovers us. Also the night passes quietly. Only when we ride in the morning back to the small border street, we get stopped by a military jeep.
The guys are friendly, but determined. We should follow them. Against our will we do so but are showing our resentment. In the boss office a important one is explaining us the sensibility of this problematic. Only now we are able to make him understand, that we did not came from Pakistan, we only wanted to go from India to there. At once the situation gets eased off. Than our military Indian writes down for him important figures out of our documents and we have at the end to drink a tea together. The whole time we are sitting like on tenterhooks, because the coming 200 km are meaning a further day of fight through the Indian traffic. After we are equipped with money again and the arm of my international globetrotter guitar knocked down in the traffic of Fazilka a dreaming scooter driver, the following kilometre count quick backwards. Of course, we are only 30 minutes too late and so we start the border crossing the next day.
On both sides of the border a boring like looking cosiness is symbol for the sporadic check-in of the border crossers. On Indian side we get invited to tea, while on Pakistanien side, the desk is moved outside in to the sun, in discussion with us, they are forgetting to stamp our passports. Also the officers like to have a chat and by this we dont recognize, that it takes us almost 8 hours for one kilometre border crossing. We get greeted in the evening sun by the first , us already used to seen, chaos-like, but busy streets of the Pakistanian city Lahore.
Metal workshops, car repair-shops, fruit sellers, food stalls, small grocery shops and many more can be discovered along the street. In between are parking without seeing any system of order the different vehicles. Donkey carts, ox-drawn vehicles, scooters, bicycles, some old cars, mobile sales trailers and every thing is standing crisscross beside the street, on the street and we are right in the middle of it. Dont stop, otherwise the 5 m wide driving area in front of us gets filled with pedestrians again.
Already after the city dusk starts again. A dead end of a field path is today our sleeping ground. When we like to take off at the next morning, we get visited by the property owner. Excited, that we choose his ground for our short stay, he invites us for tea. Undecided to find one opinion we denide, because we like to ride further on. But when we check in the next village our tyre pressure, the next too kind and too friendly Pakistani appears. He is to warm, too humorous and too determinded.
And by thus we are sitting some minutes later in a small telephone-call shop and get swamped with cookies, oranges and sweet and milky tea. The few furniture of the only 10 sqm small shop consist of a table with a big black telephone and our tea service on it. Some chairs are complementary the furniture scenery. The rest of the room is filled by curious looking Pakistanies. My view is checking their clothes. Without exception every body is wearing a long, long shirt that is made out of strong cotton and reaches their hollow of the knees, and are also wearing wide, long pants in the same colour. The small cute feet of the small cute Pakistanies are put into casual strapped sandals. Very nice looking are the clothes which have always a pastel colour. Brownish, greyish, bluish and sometimes greenish, the Pakistan mens wear shows its own elegance and casual nonchalance.
After we had a nice chat with our hosts, we have to ride on. Whole Pakistan is in front of us and every step resp. turn of our wheels are giving us new fascinating impressions of this country, which is up to now in our general knowledge underexposed.
Yours Lo & Mo
I swear, I'm telling the truth and only the truth so help me god!
But Pakistan is dangerous - it is sounding in my ears. Which Pakistan? Are there two of it on this globe? Yes, to be honest, now I also know 2 countries of this name. One, that I know from the media, that I hear about or read about or search by my finger on a globe and the one that just now became our 10th travel country. Of course we are not travelling through Austria or Denmark, and maybe also our kind of travelling is different from others. But in any case I have to change my opinion about this country.
As compensation we have to give our small Pakistanies an even smaller minus point. In the east of Pakistan there are fields as far as you can see and the borders of the fields are always consisting of earth bulwarks that are erected tidily and meticulously. And there we are searching quite often helpless for an out of view and romantic spot, which could give us enough space for our small tent. One evening we are searching like mad on every path for a suitable spot and are standing finally completely exhausted at the side of one path to relax. Just in this moment a Pakistanian police car is stopping besides us.
"Guys, that's just what we needed." In broken English they convince themselves about our harmlessness and then the must have read our thought of hope, because they offer us their police station for our tent tonight."Alright" and some minutes later we camp behind big and high walls, the safest campground during our complete journey. The guys are undiscribable hospitaly, but also curios - but we answer with pleasure all their questions. Till late night we are sitting between tent and police building and every body is telling stories from his world. Then, for the night we get a personal bodyguard. By this we can sleep and dream in peace.
The next morning there are always approx. 10 police men around us, which want to be entertained. At their strong request I play for them extra on my guitar and then we pack our stuff to go on. A police jeep is escorting us until the city border. Ones again we raise our hand to greet them and speed up. But only moments later a new, unknown police car is stopping us. The personal interest of the car driver for bike and rider is the only reason for this action. Annoyed at this I'm asking about this forced stop. A very dedicated employee is drivelling something about dangerous and escort. We just let him stay where he is and are riding on, but he seems to be a very tough contemporary. Absolutely, he wants to escort us into the next city Multan. Ok, if it has to be...
We give in and follow the jeep. With its almost invisible light flashing and his wild gesticulating hands out of the side window, our over dedicated guy is causing confusion on the asphalt. Then he is almost making an accident, because he can't take over a truck with trailer, while at the same time the same monster comes from the opposite side towards him. At once I see scenes from "Police Academy" in my mind, but this here is produced thousand times more professional. When we reach the city, the traffic situations are getting even more dangerous. The respect of almost invisible light flashing and wild police gestures is going against zero. One truck driver is only stopping when a second police man is pointing his gun towards his cockpit. A pizza boy on his scooter is taking by accident a side street when getting suddenly and unexpected confronted with the same argument. We only can take this situations with humour. A farmer on its ox-cart gets upset that he has to stop and that we can follow unhindered the police car.
Our too funny looking escort stops in front of a bank. While Lo is fighting inside to get cash, I start to a little shopping tour, because our Yamies are guarded by dutiful gun-fanatics. After some meters I'm surprised. The people are looking strange and with respect, yes almost frightened. When I turn around I think, I'm dreaming. I'm not Whitney Houston. One police man, grown too thin and too tall, of our comedy series is standing behind me, his gun shouldered. Guys, John Wayne is dead already for a long time! I'm sorry, but live is hard... I show him undiplomatic to leave, but Papa said I should protect you. Only a clever left-right combination through the crowds gives him a weird expression on his face.
Lo comes some time back from the bank, of course without money. Finally now we are sure: after the end of our journey we have to have a good talk with our bank advises. Traveller Checks are such an safe "getting cash" thing, that even we don't get any. We have a hard discussion with our police guy and urge him to leave us alone. The only existing danger is coming from him. We follow him to another bank but then we are fed up. Without discussion we get on our motorcycles and within seconds we disappear in the street and traffic jungle of Multan. Our police guy wouldn't have any chance to follow us. With easiness we would give him the slip.
Today was cinema day in Pakistan and like always the cinema hall was crowded. But with the only difference today: all viewers were allowed to join the film.
Yours Lo & Mo
If you travel such a long time in different countries it happens, that you are getting nuts. For sure, I wouldn't say in certain moments, that our behaviour is still normal. Since the temperature drop in China we can't handle cold anymore. Because of our travel experience in China and India we are afraid of crowds of people, that count more than 4 heads. If we camp once a while in the near of a border we are afraid, that maybe a tank is driving through our tent and since the experience of the desert Gobi we always carry more water than needed. And since our adventure in Multan we always suppose if the police stops us, that they like to escort us. But fortunately we can enjoy the rest of Pakistan without any escorting.
In the southern part of the country our route goes towards west. Quick disappear the green and cultivated fields and the infertile and stony ground doesn't show any sign of agriculture effort. Very soon we are surrounded by desert. Different to the Gobi, the pakistanian desert shows its own character. Desert is fascinating, like it always was. Every time it captures me like a wizard. From time to time different sceneries are forming up in front of my eyes. Flat vastness is changing slowly to bigger hills, which are then changing again step by step into fairy like gold-yellow sand dunes. In the distance black rocks can be seen. Strong jagged and with sharp edges they remind us of volcano scenery. Mountain ranges in a light brown skirt accompany us for hours along the road. Like drawn by a ruler and high polished, the high quality asphalt ribbon is going straight towards west.
The sun is standing to hands width over the horizon and is still strong enough, that we can still feel the desert like heat. In the distance is shimmering a truck, coming towards us. I blink in its direction and stare at it by my eyes, because right now there is nothing where you could hold yourself optically. Only vast plain and a straight forward going road emphasise the present monotony of the desert. The dry heat is oppressive. Without resistance I lean back and listening to the beat of my Yami. Lines of poems are running through my head. Once a while I read a line from my learn sheet, that is buckled on my bag and helps me to bridge boring passages. I'm falling into shuggishness and becoming victim of the monotony, that infects me already too much. My thoughts are running away and abstraction carry me into undiscribebable spheres. Where I'm? I'm caught in a dream? This unending vastness suggest that in my awareness there seems only to exist this road and the surrounding desert. How far away at this moments are my memories. Did they really exist? Is not everything of my being illusion? I'm taking a deep breath of the desert air. We go further and further, but only my mileage indicator shows, that we are really moving. The wind goes over the plain and there is nothing that offers resistance. Sand gets raised up and gets blown into my eyes.
Suddenly a monster truck comes from behind, passes me and is disappeared again. The resulting enormous air suction is getting me almost out of my seat and is stopping abrupt any weird sphere-thinking. Welcome back into the toughable reality. And at once I remember: My name is Rayko Moritz and I have always to hold tight my motorcycle handlebar. Oooh! These truck drivers are always having a wag in their neck.
Some days later we reach the border town Taftan. Here in the city chaos we have to search for passport and custom terminal by our self. It is already late, when we cross the border. The Iranian border officers notice now, that they have to work and it is already quite late. The end of the working day is close and by their ignorance we get left behind lonely on the border area. We could use the border hotel, but we insist of a permission to use our Mongolian-border-area-proofed tent. No problem!
The next day after all paper work is done, we get accompanied by one officer to the next town, where he got his boss out of the bed, because he is the only one, who is allowed to sign the documents. After this, the officer is going with us to the only one petrol station in town and is asking us whether we have enough petrol. Right, to day is Sunday and ATMs are not invented here yet. "No, petrol and money we don't have so far." Even though, we told our patron that we have no money, he is filling up our tanks, pays by his card and disappears. Lo has the same strange look in his face like I have. We don't look long. Our provisions still last for several days, our tanks are just filled up with petrol and a new country is waiting to get explored.
And so it doesn't take long and besides the grey asphalt ribbon and our Yamies we are surrounded again by lonely desert. Bus this time it belongs to the territory of Iran, which welcomed us already very friendly.
Yours Lo & Mo
Which of the capitals Theran or Bagdat belongs actual to Iran resp. Iraq?
In earlier days I had have lost points at this tricky question in geography class. But at least with our journey I recognize, that my geography knowledge, at least of the countries we travel through, gets better and wider. And also now I'm able to assign different scenery to different states more exactly. I've never had known, that e.g. in Iran many areas are looking desert like if not even already declared as desert. The south of this country inspires by its vast land, where rock ranges, long mountain ranges or stony hill scenery gives you enough diversion. Maybe the season is responsible, that the always barren and deserted vegetation can't no where get through. More dominating are the light brown and rock like colors of sand and rocks. It doesn't matter, where we are, this pastel panorama is relaxing for body and soul.
The behaviour of the Iranians fits without exeption into ist surrounding. Always very friendly, there can't be even seen any sign of resentment. Like several times before, we step one day again into the holiday trap. All stores in the city are closed. Without orientation we are looking for an internet-cafe. "Intellectual?" "No, internet-cafe!" "Internat? (boarding school)" "No, cafe, internet!" "Aah, cafe!" ... Many of this kind of answers we got to hear so far, but this time our young Iranian guy doesn't let up. He knows better the word computer and he is leading us crisscross through the city from one internet or better computer cafe to the next one. When we find also the last one closed, we get into discussion with our keen helper. His name is Ali and he lives and studies here in Kerman. Very interested he is asking us questions over questions. Then he is taking his mobile phone out of his pocket, is calling his brother and is holding Lo the phone on his ear. And by this Lo is talking quite a while with the good english speaking, but completely unknown, brother of Ali. When we say good by, our new friend is giving us a big bag filled with iranien pistachios. Once again we are amazed about so much hospitality.
Our way is leading further towards Theran. Since the departure in Chennai, we are siting day by day on our motorcycles. Already in Kuala Lumpur was our decision fixed. For both of us it is more important to be back in time, than following the original planed route. We saw already in Malaysia, that it would be impossible to make it back until first of May 2004 via north Africa. Versions fom Tunesia to Sizilia or Kairo to Sizilia kept us busy for a while, but problems with the immigration of different countries and the non exisitance of ferries over some blue areas of the globe, brought up allmost by its self the only possible route towards our lovely home country. Via Theran to Turkey and then to Greece, Italy, Austria and finally Germany we will hopefully be back on time on the international labour day to take maybe part on one delayed evening demonstration, after old traditions. But up to now we are still surrounded every day by the faszinating desert of south Iran.
One impressing event will probably stay for ever in our memory. When we after some kilometers reach the outskirts of a town, several appartment blocks along the street are completely destroyed. What's this? Guys, why you don't put your construction rubble where it belongs? Some other rows of houses are deserted. Clefts in the walls, collapsed roofs and fire trails are giving me the impression of a gost town. It seems, that the people here don't care much about their surrounding... But when we reach slowly the city centre, destruction can be seen everywhere. There is almost no house that is not laying in ruins, has clefts in the walls or is standing cockeyed. First we have war scenarios in our mind, but here are no bullet holes. Of course... and suddenly scales are falling from our non existing hair: here had to be some time ago an earthquake.
We are shocked. Only now we look closer. Cars with oversized dents or completely unrecognizable are standing along the streets. Everywhere are rising steal skeletons towoards the sky, which were embedded into the brickwork to avoid even this scenario. In some still standing houses are walls missing and so you can see its interior. Bricks, whole piles of ruins, rubble and junk are blocking the side walk and street borders. Out of one stone pile are still looking arm and head of a Teddy bear. In empty pedestrian areas and on all roundabouts, which are in Iran mostly quite large, standing tents of every size. Washed clothes are hanging on a clothline between two evenue trees. The every day live has got normal again for a while. Some streets are cleand already from its rubble and in some streets are trying catapilars to claen up the chaos and to give it a temporary order. The people seem calm and relaxed. Children are laughing. Mothers and kids are getting photographed by us, even with a smile in the face.
Two month ago the ground was shakin here and many have now only a tent and some belongings. In the outskirts are large camps errected by Caritas or UN. At this moment we are happy to see how these organisations provide in such cases professional and urgent needed help. A godd experience for me to have more faith for such organisations. The visit of the city Bam on March 4th 2004 moved me deeply. Never before I have seen such destruction and helplessness. Having still these terse pictures for my eyes, we keep on mowing.
After passing Theran we are standing in front of the next, also us much influencing, experience. But of course we don't want to take your anticipation and also don't want to tell more than absolutely necessary.
Yours Lo & Mo
Desert climate is super!
Now we are looking back with heavy heart to the last weeks, where we could have, besides the riding, at the morning a nice sun bath. Almost motionless we got baked by the still pleasant sun beams. But already in Theran we had to take out the sweat shirts and now in the iran-turkey montain world are pants and jacket lining after a long time needed again. Already the first white spots of the mountains far for us can be seen. Without any other chance the aspalt is bringing us higher and higher.
The last night we noticed already that our sleeping bags lost their isolation since our stay in the tropics and a washing machine run. We are unbelievabel happy when we reach the snow line. The evening sun is almost gone and the prospect for warmer temperatures we just run it over. Very soon we are surrounded by a closed snow cover, which let us forseen the worst. Yes, yes - today we can play hero again.
After a slide through snow and ice our tent is very soon standing on a white ground. Only the light brown camouflage color of our tent, which is perfectly suited for the iranian desert, looks a little bit to loud. With a dark feeling in our limbs we are preparing our cooking ritual. The warm meal starts an engine in us. Quick into the "expedition sleeping bags" in the hope, the heat doesn't get lost. But at the next morning I'm searching for it in the tube of my sleeping bag and afterwards in the tent. Well, where is it? No heat, nowhere! Then it doesn't matter where we spent the morning, inside or outside of the tent.
Now the next problem gets our attention. How do we get the frozen water out of the bottles? One of the bottles was allowed tonight to share the sleping bag with me and fortunately the liquid is enough for our morning tea and coffee.
After we slid back to the main road we get greeted by the first snowflakes, which are ending up soon in a fairy like snow storm. The empty asphalt still gives us enough grip but very soon we grope our way over firmly snow. By luck the road is going down the mountains and precipitation and bob run have an end. Once a while we use the iranian tea rooms to get warm again. Then finally we cross the iranian-turkey border. In Dogobayazit we change at the moment tent against hotel to ralxe from being hero. We use the first day off since our Chennai disaster to explore our surrounding.
The shelfs in the clear grocery shops are filled up with goods until the ceiling. Every thing is blinking like in a former Intershop. Cheese, Salami, Nutella in different copies (by name: Bisella, Sorella or Nusella) chocolate, caned meat and different types of coffee suggest cockaigne like pictures. An always control look to the prices gives us an uncomplicated "come back to reality". Even calculating back and forth we notice, that the price level is much higher than in Germany. Somehow the Turkian have misunderstood their preparation for the wished joinment of the EU. We are shocked. Were in Iran the petrol cost 6 cent per liter, we have here to pay for the same liquid Euro 1,20. By this we probably reach early insolvency and have to learn turk and stay foreever at the Aegean Sea. But probably we even don't get there...
Straight forward are running our wheels towards the warm mediteranian see. But the turkey mountain world has still for us a nice titbit. The road winds stubborn towards the next snow wall. Like Michelin doolls wrapped unmovebale, this time we can enjoy the beauty of the snow world. When we reach the peak of another pass we see another faszinating panorama. On a high-plateau several hill and mountain ranges are lines up behind each other. Only the small ribbon of the pass road cuts a grey line into this white shining scenery. Excited we are dismounting and are romping through the snow.
When I want to get back on my seat to ride further on, I don't fit on it any more. A snowman is sitting as blind passanger on it. He thinks we would fit both on the seat and he wanted only once in his short life to have a ride on a motorcycle. Unfortunately I have to leave him behind at the side of the street. Now, deep in this snwo scenery we are astonished from time to time about new rock ranges. In valleys are laying dormant dreeming turkey villages. The always recogniseble top of the minaret towers are shining in the sun. Here are still greeting each other fox and snwo bunny. Every thing seems to be here in peaceful harmony. Like many other regions of Asia the eastern part of Turkey is also a fascinating pearl of nature. But the optimal living conditions for european missing motorcycle travellers are definitely warmer regions. How about the Turkian? Do the have also warm? No Izg[c3][bc]r is telling us the weather forecast. And so we have only the hope of warmer days at the Aegean Sea.
Yours Lo & Mo
May be we write after our odyssey through the continents a book over different climate zones of the world, e.g. the cold would be a nice topic.
In China there is in October the revolting wet-cold cold with surprising temperature drops. In Mongolia is existing in September the "oh, I don't like to get out ouf my sleeping bag" cold, that disappears fast during day time. In Turkey there comes the "snow storm and sliding cold" which can be completed by the "How do I get the frozen water out of the bottle" cold. But at most we like the " I don't know anymore what's cold like" cold. It seems like, that someone heard our unspoken wish and after days of freezing or excitement about a snow paradise we come quick by a down winding road to a warmer region. Warm wind is blowing into our faces. It is an interesting experience, when frozen motorcycle boots are starting to thaw.
One by one we take off our layer of clothes. Lively spring activities can be seen in the towns of the small mountain valleys. Men are sitting in and infront of the tea rooms and have probably to discus a lot. Besides the store entrance are standing small wooden framed glass cupboards, inside is laying fresh bread that is atracting for turnover. The people are walking here already a bit faster on the side walk than the case in Iran. But the watches are still going slow enough to stop and watch our disappearing behind the next curve. Every day is giving us some more degrees until one day we have a camp ground with sea view.
The Mediteranian See is spoiling us the last weeks. From a steep coast we are looking to strong turqoise water. The ironed like surface doesn't show any wave at the morning. The rustle of the pine tops is whispering: soon, soon your are in Europe, soon your are home again... Just where our arse was freezing, now the same part of the body is getting brown in the sun. One doesn't has to understand it and also should not critizise it. We follow the shore road and behind every curve we see a new faszinating panorama.
Shortly befor Antalya onother reality is getting us out of our dreams. Hotels are fighting against each other for the shore line. Restaurants, bars and discos attract by lluminous advertising. Clean beach promenades are inviting for a walk. Sunglasses are passing us. Here, you have to bee cool. Here in the touristic mania we feel us unnecsessery. High polished cars are honking us off the street. I watch our motorcycle silhouettes in the completely glass covered street store. No - we are not belonging to here. That is not Asia anymore.
We change our shore ride and going into the middle of the country. Anatolia shows again interesting sleepiness, like the villages in in the east of Turkey. It's getting colder, but the scenery and the here living people are giving us a deep saticefied feeling. Then we come in the enorth to the main transit route which will carry us the last kilometers ouf our Asia tour. Soon, traffic and houses are getting crowded again. Houses are having suddenly many storeys and are numerous.
The street network gets dense. Here, just before Istanbul and in the last gasp of Asia, there seem to be only existing 4 lane highways with planted laterns on the central reservation. With our strange vehicles we are looking like coming from another time periode. Everything is rushing by. There is no time any more to greet or nod the head. I got the feeling of a big whirlpool. Like an oversized magnet attract the opening to Europe every thing and vacuums it through the small bottleneck of the Bosporus. Asia is saying good bye, without waving us a last time. Not even a relaxed trotting donky cart has to be passed by us, no dreaming Indian, who jumps suddenly on the road. Instead, big billboards show quality, made by european designers. Cool looking faces 10 X 10, appealing product photos, absolutely made professional, suggest the gate to another world. Our normal travel speed of 80-90 km/h is now a traffic hold up. The looking into the mirror gets a new meaning again. The road is winding around some last hills. One curve, then another, Gilette razor blades advertisement and than one from Coca Cola and Heineken beer is passing our heads. And finally a last curve and there it is: The Bosporus bridge!.
Big, massive and bosporussy is it hanging heavy and unmovable between the two continents. Already on the other side, I look back a last time. I feel gratitude. We learned a lot from this for us foreign world. Some events and experiences will stay in our mind forever. I probably will have a dry and a wet eye when I will recount adventures of this time. But so far we are not at home. We pass Istanbul and one day later we are standing in front of our last border with a proper check-in. I feel a longing tingle, now so close to the EU. How will we get welcome by Euroland and also by Italy and Germany?
Yours Lo & Mo
Euphoria is going around.
By crossing the turkey-greece border we had our last important border and now we are standing in our "beloved" Euroland. Since the Iran, now step by step are coming back small european characteristics. First the crowds around us disappeared, then the traffic lost its danger. Later in Turkey we are missing the permanent honking of the trucks and already before the EU border the price level reaches EU standard. The supply in the again existing super markets looks like being in cockaigne and the temperature were coming back to european figures.
And now we notice very positive in Greece the currency, which we recognize well from earlier days. The Euro has us finally back. A breeze is blowing around our noses, while cruising on the first greek asphalt. What should ones document here? The scenery is very like the one in Germany and also the villages are looking european like. But with a closer view we see some characteristica. Many houses on the country side are built on a square ground plan and are shining in a bright white. And quite often a pastel like red roof covers the house. Also in many villages there are on almost every second power pylon a stork net and often the still childless couple can be seen too. What a wonderful view. For me it seems to be a sign of peace and harmony with nature, if you can see the couples on the net, on the fields or during their flight. The circle gets shut for the first time. Almost a year ago we could admire the countless storks in Ukraine and now they remember us how fast the time went.
Drafty we ride towards west. The temperature lack any hospitality. And when we again in the mountains get heavy rain we get carried only by one thought: How many kilometres still are until the hopefully warmer south of Italy? Fortunately the east-west distance of Greece is not too large and so we are boarding on April 4th a ferry that carries us from Igoumenitsa to Brindisi. My hart jumps higher when our wheels are rolling from the ferry and seconds later are touching italian asphalt.
We are really in Italy. As completeness we have to say, that for some inhabitants of this globe Italy is not equal Italy. No, some sympatic contemporaries do not only count olives, parmesan cheese or tasteful whine when mentioning this country. Italy - That taste after much more! The first words I'm catching are sounding like music in my ears. Here they are not talking, they are singing. The towns are not just simple towns. No, these are italian towns. By the flair of the small alleys in the harbour city Brindisi we have to take out our cameras. Clothes are hanging on the balcony. Nagging is coming out of the small alleys and aged senior citizens are walking in early day time on the small places. Newspaper sellers are just putting their advert-board on the sidewalk and small shops are just opening their doors. My little heart is still jumping from left to right and back again. Finally we understand again what people are telling us. We really enjoy the first moments in the for us almost second home country. As a sign of welcome a Signore at a vegetable market is inviting us to a Cappuccino. To a normal Cappuccino we had probably said "Thank you", but to an original italian one we can't say "no".
The day passes quickly. In a nice olive plantation we make our home for some days. Now, we have 10 days time before we get escorted (already ordered in earlier days) towards north. But there is also a lot to do. We spend the days to write the overdue travel reports, to do the overdue inspection of our bikes and also a lot of other overdue important things.
One evening we get unexpected visit by two extreme cool representatives of the species Humanus Erectus. An Italian and a Swizer are introducing them self. The two are extreme strenuous. First they are telling is in monolog from them self, god and the world, then one of them is riding in a strange way back to the village to get beer. During his absence the Swizer guy Andrea is telling us, why he is not living any more in his home country. One night after the disco he mixed up shortly with the forward and backward gear of his car and was later wondering, why the police is standing in front of his door to accuse him of" hit-and-run". He had run somebody over, which he is denying in our presence. And to look even cooler he is telling us the story of his just taken off friend Enzo. He had the them kind of nice evening and some dispute with somebody and he just shot him. Two murderers? And this on our lovely olive tree plantation camp site. With purpose I haven't watched in earlier days any thriller. And who had thought, that I maybe would play one day a part in it. With consent on both sides we pack at the next morning our stuff and are disappeared before our friend Andrea is coming back to show us the 5 km away laying beach.
We are riding further toward Bari, where we will meet our escort which we had this time really needed earlier.
Yours Lo & Mo
We have spring in south Italy. The fruit trees are in bloom and the dandelion is shining in a dark butter yellow from the green meadows of the olive plantation. A mild breeze is spoiling our noses. Together with our security guide Steffen we are riding straight towards north. At evening we tell stories over stories and during daytime we admire the beautiful scenery. From Apulia via Basilicata and Campania we get to Lazio. It doesn't matter, where we go, the scenery is just fascinating. A soft hilly countryside with planted olive trees like on a grid, nice and compact cities, that stick on mountain slopes and natural old mountain huts on green meadows are giving the surrounding a strong Italian touch.
Unfortunately the weather is not too good to us and so we have to leave our photo equipment in our backs, because the dark rain clouds are dimming the day light. Very soon the clouds are switching to continuous rain and so the feeling of fascination changes quick into resignation. Also the next day we get weaken up by heavy rain. By this you better turn ones more around in your sleeping back and dream of hot days in the Iranian desert. Nevertheless we ride further on, but the rain doesn't stop at all. At evening we camp on a meadow in the near of a small river. Only for cooking we are leaving our protecting tent walls. Slowly we begin to doubt whether we are really travelling through Italy.
To bring a little change into the weather we get greeted at the next day again with rain. This time we just stay lazy in our sleeping bags and are waiting for better days. Sometimes the rain gets so heavy, that we are worried about our dry "home". Suddenly something unexpected happens. The paddles in the forest are creating one big paddle and the water level is rising extremely within hours. Normally this can't be happen. Where does all the water comes from? Still some minutes we are thinking about this phenomenon and already the water level reaches our tents. We have no chance, we have to move further up the soft hill. First we move our tent city only by some meters, but when the water reaches also here our tents, we have to move far up. Our clothes and equipment is soak by rain. Then finally we made it.
But something is missing. - The motorcycles!!! In this chaos we didn't take care at all of our faithful bikes. Now they are standing already knee deep in the water. We can only wheel them. When every thing is again at its place we watch the whole situation and notice, that the water level of this small river must have risen by almost 1 m. I could imagine this in the jungle of Malaysia, but here in Italy?
The fourth day in a row gives us a bad weather scenario. After we feel the beautiful wet motorcycle clothes on our skin, we are going further towards Toscany. The roads are covered by a fog of water. Behind the trucks we get almost covered by water falls. During the stops we show each other our compassion and so we get new motivation for the next kilometres. When we search at evening for a camp side we are a little bit at a loss. All field or forest paths are impassable now.
There again something unexpected happens. Lo is trying to think and by this he has a great idea. We just passed an autobahn tunnel, that was not open for the traffic yet and seconds later 3 German motorcyclists are disappeared and strange noises can be heard out of the tunnel. I believe that is probably our most extraordinary campsite. After we wear dry clothes again, we can bear this strange Italian weather much better.
Fortunately the next day the weather gets better again. At ones I forget the last days and enjoy the mediterranean scenery. Again the Toscany inspires by its charm and sovereignty. Nice planted olive plantations are covering the small hills. Now we see again the for the Toscany typical country houses in its pastel beige colour and its light rosa-orange roofs. The small, thin and tall coniferous trees can't be missed in this area. With a lot of love and care every farm is a feast for the eyes. Large flowerpots are standing clearly besides the entrances. Tulips are grooming in the gardens. Nothing happens here by accident. Signs are advertising whine purchase directly from the producer. And now it is getting notable warmer. We ride through whine production areas and are taking here and there ones a while a photo. Then we are leaving this fascinating area and are going further to a also very nice one.
Liguria enchants by its region around Cinque Terre. There are standing 5 small villages at the coast of the mediterranean sea, built on rocks. This coast line has its own flair. Later we cross the Appenninen and get inspired by the Italian Po. Rice fields can very soon be seen all over. Like a big area of lakes we are surrounded by rice fields. Italy has many faces. Every panorama is worth for a journey. We are happy to include this fascinating country into our travel reports.
And now we are standing threshold toward our home country. How will Germany welcome us? Will we accept this actual old surrounding again?
We are riding further toward Bari, where we will meet our escort which we had this time really needed earlier.
Yours Lo & Mo
Now, our journey is in its last breath. The dream Wildau → Shanghai → Wildau is up to some kilometres over.
With different feelings we are riding through the last days of an extraordinary year. Italy is showing itself ones again from its charming side. The pass road over the Brenner shows us the Alps from its fascinating side. Nature can be so simple and charming. Small sleepy tirolian villages can be seen in small valleys. Behind them there are always the huge mountain massives. The peaks are covered by snow and between the mountain ranges green May meadows can be seen and somewhere in a village you here the song: "Heidi, Heidi, your world are the mountains". Motorcyclists are passing us fast, BMW drivers are showing us, by using their flasher, that Germany isn't far.
Then we have to say: Good bye Italy. Only a dark blue sign with a yellow star circle on it gives us the information that we just entered our last travel country. Austria is greeting us with sunshine and a cloudless sky. Cows from the picture book and farms like in a travel brochure - here doesn't seem to exist even first signs of a chaos state.
Then, finally after one year we are crossing the last border of our journey. In the EU-circle we are reading two well know words. Our Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is still existing. Many might have a problem with this country. But after a year in a different world, I now see my country with other eyes. For sure, even after Shanghai I will not be happy about some history sections, but nevertheless I carry now a healthful national pride in my heart. Yes, I'm proud to be a German. The people here are speaking our language again. The letters on the sign are forming german words, which are not always making sense.
At a construction site a construction traffic light is standing on the side walk. Underneath you can read: "At red, please stop here!". A little bit unsure and wondering about such nonsense, we are willing to follow german rules again and are riding with our bikes directly on the sidewalk to stop in front of the sign. Sure, we are Germans and have now to integrate us into this society again.
Suddenly all up and down of the mountain world stops and we are cruising again over vast land. German villages are still the nicest. Red roofs over red roofs are standing around the thin church towers. German property is always fascinating with its clear court yards, strategic planned gardens and its love for details. The german way of living with its beer gardens, terraces and inviting pubs it the one I really like. The life style of other countries might fascinate me and might hold me tide some moments, but my roots are german and this I notice on every last kilometre.
We pass the former border of east and west Germany and already 15 years have passed since than. The houses have now a modern face and the faces of the cities have changed enormous, but nevertheless I notice with joy the east german cosiness. Two Trabants (the east german car) are stopping beside me at a cross road. Maybe they are thinking I'd like to take the mickey of them, because I always stare at them. In the air is a flair, difficult to describe, that gets you, if you cruise through the streets of east Germany.
Slowly, the scenery gets more and more know by us. The first, small, but well know villages can be read at the yellow signs. By accident we are meeting a friend, that is living here around Jüterbog. Even we don't know his family, we get greeted german like friendly and warm. At once we have the feeling not being foreigners any more.
And then, just before Jüterbog we meet two impatient motorcyclists. Only because we would had reached our meeting point with an almost not mentionable delay of 2 hours, they just came towards us. Our old rocker Ulli, who was probably the most faithful travel report commentator is standing now alive in front of us. The excitement is big of both sides. Also our friend Sven greets us. Both are joining our tour for the last kilometres. And so we get escorted by Steffen, Christoph, Karsten, Sven, and Ulli and we have the feeling to be already home.
From Jüterbog there are only some kilometres until Wildau. Every things seems to be so well known to us and also the far away. Suddenly I have the felling, that I don't belong to here. It seems, that I don't fit into this world again. My thoughts are going 20 thousand kilometre far way. It seems to me unreal that we hade be just 6 month ago with our motorcycles in Shanghai. I'm not able to realise past and presence. What happened to me. I feel like being in a fiction world. Guily is not Guily anymore and Germany is not Germany any more. Yes, I have the feeling to be empty. Aimless and without a plan I get carried by my bike. Does Lo has the same thoughts and feelings? I force myself into the real moment. I take a deep breath and enjoy every curve, every acceleration and every new panorama. I'm still free. The travel wind is still blowing around my nose.
The 'Märkische Heide' has us back. Pine trees in the sand are standing on both sides of the street. Sure, here is my home, but I feel contactless and without roots. We pass Zossen, then Mittenwalde. The last kilometres are just running to fast in front of our eyes. Königs Wusterhausen hasn't changed. It seems, that we just took off yesterday. The A10 shopping centre is shining in the dusk like on Christmas.
The Wildbahn is deserted. Maybe with intention we didn't make to much noise about our arrival. We also couldn't give any guaranty, when we will arrive. And so, nobody got lost to here. It is a strange feeling to be here again. A quick welcome photo and than we go on to our last stop on this journey. The Luisenstrasse 11 in Schulzendorf was always a address of warmest hospitality. The intensive hit on our back during our hug of our friend Kow is almost destroying our strong back bone, but we survive it. Sandra is standing in front of us. We also missed her much. The hugs are more stronger than normally. Also Yvonne and Andre are here. After this we have to greet the dogs. Cessy is waving her tail and beside there is ... - no it is not. I remember the photo in the Internet of the ball of wool. Aunja had hurried to become bigger. She will recognise us only from photos;-). Only when we go around the house onto the terrace, I see that there two more persons, that wanted to welcome us. I'm seeing Matze and Christoph.
At this moment I realize how important it is to have friends. It doesn't matter, how I will digest our return, it doesn't matter, how many starting problems will make our life difficult. I'm happy to be here again. They didn't forget us and some how I have the little feeling, that they even were waiting for us. And besides all the good and bad while travelling through Asia and Europe I can say for sure 367 time: Here I'm human, here I want be!
Yours Lo & Mo
So!!! Here we are again.
The LoMos have successful finished their expedition on May 1st, 2004. Germany is now laying like a soft mother lap to our feed. Lovely, considerately, crushing, stifling everything surround me, that was buried in my memories.
The everyday life doesn't has lost its routine. On the contrary, every thing seems to me even more ordinary and more regulated than ever. Like looking through a wall of plexiglass I watch my surrounding. During our journey we had a clear aim: riding, riding, riding. A just arisen problem had to get our complete attention, to get it solved as fast as possible. And from this we had plenty, so that every night there was no problem for us to sleep fast and deep. And now? A big, black hole is in front of me. When I get out of my warm, dry and too soft bed, look into the day and ask the question what I have to do today, I just slide exactly into this hole. Our long practised scheme F doesn't fit anymore into this new situation. On every corner Germany punches me into the stomach. This country is laying under such a big artificial foam layer, that I have difficulties to recognize the reality around me. I have the feeling, that the people here are working on too many unimportant things, so that they create an artificial world around them. The advertising leads everything and everybody. Perfection is non existing, but all over it is suggested. The people forget to greet each other at the street, insurances and banks are having a fool licence, a woman is upset about a satellite disc that is installed on the balcony of my sub-tenants. At this, I don't even notice the threatening flasher in the mirror.
I force myself every day to except the things around me. And I see how good this therapy is. The first fine for my motorcycle can only documented by me with shaking my head. In other countries I also could except all specialities. Yes! Only by this is an integration possible. The Germans with their kinks and peculiarities are for me the most loved contemporaries and slowly I notice, that step by step a little bit more home is coming back. I'm not arrived yet, but with a recipe in the pocket we will make it.
For the future we made big plans. A slideshow will be the next step. With our large slide gallery we like every body, who is interested in our story, to give the chance to open the window to the world and experience a little bit adventure atmosphere. Further on, I like very much to write travel reports and by this I came up with the idea to write a book about this journey. Today every idiot is publishing a book and so I thought that my one should not be missing. When there is still some time we like to produce a CD with music appropriate to the mood of the slide show. One for sure, the next time there is more then enough to do. Thanks by the modern communication stuff it is now possible to provide you further with information. From time to time we like to distribute via this email list a kind of newsletter to inform you about our work and about dates of the show.
But before we finish our series of travel reports, we like to thank all of you, who helped us before, during and after the journey:
And now to come finally to an end, we also like to thank all of you, who are not listed here. We didn't forget you! We see us latest at the slideshow.
Until then, all the best
Yours Lo & Mo