Just Exploring





Little by little we make small things big. Step by step we move forward. Following the right path, the Eightfold path, makes me calm, steady and happy. Did you find yours? Everybody has one, just some must look deeper or look for it longer. Just explore and it will unfold naturally.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Burma

Z cestovatelskeho hladiska sme v Burme (Myanmar) ani neboli. A to sme tam stravili mesiac, resp. presne 28 dni ako nam umoznovali nase viza. Kedze nas povodny plan bol 3 mesiace, z coho sme 2 chceli meditovat a mesiac cestovat, rozhodli sme sa ze si pozreme iba Yangon a zbytok stravime najuslachtilejsie ako si len vieme predstavit.
Panditarama forest meditation centrum, kde sme mali namierene, je vsak velmi zbehle v starani sa o zahranicnych meditujucich a tak nas z letiska zobrali priamo knim. Krasne a obrovske, kludne a velmi prisne, presne ako opisovali znami, ktori tu uz boli pred nami. Nachadza sa necelu hodinku od Yangonu. Obrovsky pozemok je plny jazierok s leknami. Mosty, cesticky, otvorene luky aj huste lesy. Rovnomerne roztrusene kuti (chatky) pre mnichov aj meditujucich. Obrovska meditacka a velka jedalen, prezradzaju, ze sem chodieva vela ludi.
Prisli sme a uz bol vecer. Hlavnej mnisky sme sa spytali ci mozeme ist zajtra spat to mesta, ze by sme si kupili vankuse a sarongi (sukne pre muzov). "Netreba. Vsetko tu mame, vsetko vam dame"
Na druhy den sme zaspali ranajky -rano o 3tej sme fakt neboli zvyknuty vstavat a ranajky o 5tej sme tiez "necakali". Este ze nas prisiel mnisko zobudit... Planovali sme den-dva porelaxovat, ale hlavny sayadow (mnich) nas uviedol zakladnymi instrukciami, ako pre skolacikou, do meditacnej praxe a oznamil nam, ze nepovoluju rozpravanie, prechadzanie sa... na meditacie vcas, nemozete odchadzat z meditacnej haly... Same prikazy a zakazy. To je co? Vazenie? Vedeli sme ze je to tu prisne, ale asi tie mesiace bezprostredneho putovania a totalnej slobody zmenili nase vnimanie volnosti. Toto je peklo! Nevadi zacali sme valit, vsak sme prisli do ciela!
Sed, chodza, sed, chodza... cely den, len o 5tej a o 10tej to trocha zpestria ranajky a obed. Uz sme si pred tym nieco odmeditovali takze presne vieme ako fungovat v takychto podmienkach. Panditarama je skvele centrum. Lepsie podmienky na meditovanie sme este nemali. Klima uplne idealna. Rano prijemne chladivo az kosa, ktoru som vsak velmi uvital, pretoze to bola aspon jedna cas dna ked sa dalo trocha schladit. Cez obed to bol cisty vypek, ale meditacka je dobre odizolovana, takze sa celkom dalo zvladat sprchovat iba raz denne. Co som v Malajzii, pred rokom nedaval.
Ale su tu aj zvlastne veci. Ten teror je fakt nezvycajny. Pokial clovek medituje tak sa to da zvladat, ale ked som niektore dni mal krizu a potreboval som trocha vypnut, tak som sa vela krat pristihol pri myslienkach ako sa zasit a skryt? Naco je to dobre? Iba vo mne vyvstavala averzia a iritacia. A tlacit sa do meditovania je horsie ako vobec nemeditovat. Tiez je zaujimavy ten paradox ako rigidne tlacia pravidla a predpisi a potom vam kludne zrusia interview s ucitelom alebo zamenia ucitela. Alebo nemozete cvicit tai-chi ani yogu, rozpravanie je uplne mimo ramec. A pritom nezmyselne oznami tykajuce sa jedneho ci dvoch meditujucich su neustale nahlas vyhlasovane do mikrofonu.

Asi vam je jasne, ze som tu prve dva tyzdne celkom zapasil, dokonca som aj chcel oddist. Uz som mal oprate veci, ale povedal som si ze to este skusim a zabojujem. Dobre som spravil. Zostal som az do samotneho konca a meditacie isli krok po krociku dalej.
Posledny den nas opat iba supli do auta a zobrali na letisko. Tentokrat bolo aspon svetlo a tak sme videli dedinky a mestecka popri ceste. Zaujimavi boli uz len ludia v autobusoch a pickupoch. Nemuseli sme sa na seba ani pozriet a bolo nam jasne, ze sem este urcite prideme, ale az ked dozreje ten spravny cas a mi budeme dobre pripraveny -ako meditacne tak aj vizovo.

India

NB: I switch back to Slovak. Sorry all you folks.
Prekrocenie harnice bolo magicke. Spominam si ako mi kedysi davno ludia hovorili aky je to kontrast, aka ulava prejst z Pakistanu do Indie. My sme boli v muslimskom svete nieco okolo 4 mesiacov a celkom sme si nanho zvykli. Najlepsi bol Pakistan, citili sme sa tam velmi prijemne a uvolnene. Ludia nas prilis netlacili, neokradali... To co prislo po pozreti si zatvaracej ceremonie na hranici vo Wagha, bolo neskutocne. Tato teatralna fraska kde sa vojaci oboch stran pretekaju kdo vypochoduje s vysie vykopnutou nohou (inac celkom yoginske vykony) je celkom vtipna a vystihuje patetickost celych Indicko - Pakistanskych vztahov.

Pre zretelnejsiu predstavu o rozdieloch medzi tym co sme zazili na ceste v poslednych mesiacoch a co sa vsetko zmenilo po prekroceni jednej ciary na mape ma napadaju dve prirovnania:
Pamatate si casy ked boli ciernobiele televizory beznostou? Nie je to az tak strasne davno. Prve farebne obrazovky este neboli uplne to co mame teraz a predsa to bol maly zazrak. Skuste si predstavit ake by to bolo pozerat filmy na CB obrazovke, na ktorej chytate iba STV1 a STV2 a potom zrazu sa dostat k LCD panelu s kablovkou kde je 100 programov!
Dalsie prirovnanie by sa dalo situovat do cias pred 89-tim. Ludia uz boli zvyknuty na to co maju, co je dostupne... Vsetko to bolo akosi normalne, nie? Ked tu zrazu sa otvorili hranice a hned prva navsteva Rakuska vam ukazala, ze svet dokoaze byt ovela farebnejsi. Vyber v obchodoch neporovnatelny. Moznosti ludi zdanlivo neobmedzene. S tymto samozrejme suvisia aj vedlajsie efetky.
Iran a Pakistan boli v podstate velmi cudne krajny. Ludia chodia zakryti. Zeny sa s cudzimi muzmi nerospravaju. Vsetko je jednoduche a preto krasne. Zatial co volnost a sloboda maju aj svoju odvratenu tvar...
Z hranice vo Wagha sme si zobrali share taxi do Armitsaru -putnicke mesto Sikhov. V taxiku snami isli dvaja indovia a jedna indka. Starsia pani. Cely cas sa veselo a akosi hlucne bavila priamo s nami!!!??? Dusan to skoro nerozdychal. Nieco neskutocne. Nebola zahalena od hlavy po paty, neodvracala zrak ked sme sa len pribilizili. Prave naopak. Vypytovala sa. Rozhadzovala rukami a co viac: smiala sa!!! Toto nas malo pripravit na to co prichadza. V Armitsare sme isli priamo do Golden Templu -najsvatejsi chram, kde denne ubytuju tisice ludi a nakrmnia este vacsie hordy. Vsetci sa na nas usmievaju, wow?! Ludia spia na zemy. Pre cudzincov tam sice maju separe izbu, ale je sezona, takze nas tam bolo celkom dost. Ludia z celeho sveta. Backpackery aj obycajny turisti. Mlade baby aj seriozny putnici. My sme posobili ako ludia co prisli zo samotky. Vobec som nebol zvyknuty komunikovat so zenami. Prislo mi velmi zaujimave, ze sme sa mohli bavit o hocicom. Nie len o nabozenstve, resp. islame. Nie zeby v Irane a Pakistane neboli cudzinci. Boli. Ale drviva vacsina to boli tzv. overlanders. Asi nikdo nemal Pakistan ako ciel. Vzdy to boli mesiace az roky co ludia cestovali. Ked tu zrazu ludia prileteli na dva tri tyzdne, co je dost velka zmena v style cestovania. Vsak to vidim aj na sebe. Na Indiu nam zostal tyzden! To som viac casu stravil v samostnom Islamabade ci Lahore... a tu sa hodlame prejst celu severnu Indiu z Armitsaru az do Kalkaty.
Dalsia velka zmena boli obchody, hlavne jedlo. Tolko moznosti a chuti. Rychlo sme sice zistili, ze vsetko je to brutalne prepalene chili a ciernym korenim, ale na zaciatku sa nam to pacilo. Povodne sme v Armistare planovali zostat iba jeden den. Hlavnym cielom bolo samozrejme Varanasi. Ale vlakova situacia -nam doteraz uplne neznama -je v indii velmi zvlastna. Listky si treba rezervovat dopredu. Najskorsi listok sa nam podarilo zohnat az o tri dni aj to iba na klimatizovanu triedu (3 nasobna cena, avsak stale smiestna suma...). Vzapati sme si vsak kupil listky s Varanasi do Kalkaty. Aj bezna trieda o 6 dni bola uz vypredana, ale existuje tu tzv. cakacy list, tak sme si kupili listky pod ciarov. My sme boli 10ty a 11ty. Zevraj dovtedy sa urcite niekto odhlasi a tato pozicia sa bezne dostane na radu. OK...
Nasledovali dva dni vo vlaku, co je zazitok a skusenost sama o sebe. Tu je zivo. Vsetko sa da kupit priamo s lozka. Krajna na vokol sama exoticka a ludia takpodobne. Do Varanasi sme prisli celkom sviezi a zrelaxovani. To bolo dobre, pretoze toto farebne a vibrujuce mesto na Ganghe ma najhektickejsiu premavku a vobec ruch ludi aky si asi ani neviete predstavit. Na cestach aj bocnych cestickach je to konstatny prud ludi, zvierat, aut, motoriek, bicyklov a kariciek. Stale sa na nas niekto lepil. Muchy dohadzovacky. Nebolo jednoduche si najst hotel samostatne bez toho aby si niekto neprilepsil tym "ze nas tam dovedie". Zlozili sme sa a hura do uliciek. Highlight cislo jedna bolo spalovanie mrtvol. Na ghate (schodisku) ktore sa patricne volalo burning ghat sme najprv nic nevideli. Tak sme sa len tak prechadzali uzskymi ulickami a vychutnavali vone a chute. K veceru sme smerovali spat k hotelu, ked tu zrazu ohienky. Hm... ale kde su tie mrtvoli? Aha, tam trci noha, jaj a na druhej strane je hlava! Tento obraz mi zostane v pamati asi trocha dlhsie. Skvariace sa maso a potiaca sa koza. Na niektorych bolo vidno kosti. Spalovaci chodili dokola a prihadzovali drevo. Niektore mrtvoli trebalo upravit tak im surovo palicami zlomili nohy a supli do hlavneho ziaru... Velmi dobre obrazy pred nasim zasedom v Barme.
Na druhy den sme sa plne oddali shopingu. Suveniry a darceky. Je tu toho na vyber neskutocne a ceny su prave indicke... zopar Ghandiov sem, zopar tam a ani nevieme ako "spusta" prachov v cudu.
Dalsie dva dni vo vlaku. Tentokrat vsak v beznej triede a stym ze na stanici nam dali iba jeden listok. Ten druhy sa nezmestil nad ciaru. Povedali vsak ze kludne mozeme ist do vlaku. Lozka boli celkom velke tak sme si s Duskom povedali ze ideme na to. Vlastne nam ani nic ine nezostavalo ak sme chceli stihnut lietadlo. Nuz ale dvaja na lozku bola naivna predstava. Na zaciatku sme tam boli styria. Dobre to este nebola noc tak sme sedeli. Ked uz vsak na nas prisla ospalost a chceli sme sa trochu natiahnut, tak vobec nebolo jednoduche nasich spolusediacich vyhodit. Jeden znich mal kalasnikov a tak sme to s drzostou nechceli prehanat. Par hodin sme sa tam tlacili traja. V polke noci sme vsak uspeli a na lozku sme boli iba mi dvaja, co sa uz celkom dalo. Spali sme az do rana.
Kalkata bola kupodivu celkom moderna. Kolonialna. Pozreli sme si iba vecerne ulice a rano sup ho na letisko.
Takto vyzerala India zvlaku... raz dva tri a bol koniec. Po mesiacoch pomaleho a kludneho cestovania to boli fakt fofri, ale tak co uz. Povedali sme si ze sa sem este vratime. Len som zvedavy kedy?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cycling to Asia, Dusan 5

Predchadzajuci clanok sa niesol v znameni velkych, dnes uz naplnenych, cyklistickych snov, o ktore by som sa s Vami teraz rad podelil.
Vzhladom na cas, bezpecnost a zaujimavost roznych usekov Karakoram Higway (KKH) sme sa zhodli na tom, ze najlepsie bude ak sa na sever odvezieme autobusom, kus pobyciklujeme a naspat do Islamabadu opat autobusom.
Neznajuc toho naco si treba dat pri volbe autobusu pozor, nasadli sme do prveho lacneho, ktory nam bol ponuknuty. Nasledovalo 26 hodin nezabudnutelnej jazdy v autobuse s nefungujucimi tlmicmi. Na polorozbitej KKH sme teda precitili kazdy kamienok a prejazd mensou dierou v ceste znamenal nieco ako slabsiu ranu do zaludka. No brutalitka:) Posledne dve hodiny sme prezili len vdaka balancovaniu v polostoji.. Nadsenie krajinou, ktora nas obklopovala vsak bolo intenzivnejsie ako utrpenie z jazdy a tak sme do prijemneho baltistanskeho Skardu dorazili bez vaznych dusevnych ujmov a po dni rekonvalescencie boli opat pripraveni nasadnut na nasich ocelovych tatosov, smerom do rozpravky..
Jesen v udoli Skardu tiahnucom sa asi 200 km vychodne od KKH bola vo svojej azda najkrajsej tohtorocnej etape. Strme skalnate himalajske stity, v upatiach lemovane pozlatenymi polickami, lesikmi a alejami, pomedzi ktore si svoju cestu razil dravy Indus, vyrazali dych. Cesta sledujuca divoku riecnu riavu obcas zachadzala do zabudnutych horskych dedin, kde sa dali pozorovat jesenne prace najjednoduchsich ludi, akych nase oci dosial uzreli. Obcasne zastavenie na presladeny caj zanechalo dojem zazitia stredoveku. Zivotu na ulici v Pakistane celkovo dominuje muzska spolocnost. Zeny mozno v horach zhliadnut len v doprovode deti, pri praci na poli alebo hrbiace sa pod obrovskymi kosmi plnymi zasob razdia na tuhu zimu. Marne pokusy zvacnit ich takto fotoaparatom vraj mohli skoncit aj horsie ako len nevrlymi pohladmi. A asi je to dobre, za niecim treba jednoducho cestovat dalej ako len na vystavu, prezentaciu..
Ako na najkrajsi moment cyklistiky v udoli Skardu spominam na chvilu pred opatovnym napojenim sa na KKH. Najpanenskejsia priroda bola uz za nami a ja som zacal stale inenzivnejsie prezivat pominutelnost prijemneho prezivania nadhernych scenerii. Niezeby som zrazu osmutnel, prave naopak. V jednej chvili som v mysli pozoroval tak nadsenie okolim ako i vedomie pominutelnosti tychto i inych krasnych momentov v zivote putnika. Skratka, akoby som to prezival tak nejak plnsie, realnejsie. Cele som to prezival a zdielal s Jancim, ktoreho prave klatila horucka a bolave hrdlo, co este vacsmi umocnovalo ono poznanie. ..na horizonte masiv Nanga Parbat v plnej parade..
Po troch dnoch cyklistiky nasledoval tyzden nutneho relaxu v meste Giligit. ..taka uz himalajska matematika:) Neskor sa autobusom presuvame dalej na sever az takmer k cinskym hraniciam, kde sa nasa stvorica rozdeluje. Kevin s Arjanom slapu az na samotny sever, spravit si v khunjerabskom priesmyku svoj osobny rekord. Prilezitost vyslapat do cca 4700 m n.m. sa hold nenaskyta kazdy den. My s Jancim sa pustame na juh, smer niekdajsie kralovstvo Hunza, legendarna oblast KKH. Nasleduju styri dni ozajstnej cyklistickej Odysei. S vedomim toho, ze toto su posledne cyklisticke kilometre nasej velkej cesty, slapeme velmi pomaly, lahucko. Uveliceni dokonalym prirodno-kulturynym divadlom sa akoby len presuvame z jedneho miesta s nadhernym vyhladom na druhe. Posedavame, obdivujeme, prezivame.. Vsetko v hlbokej harmonii nas samotnych s rozpravkovym okolim. Kralovska rozlucka..
V Gilgite opat nasadame na autobus, ktory nas po 20 "zaujimavych" hodinach prenasa spat do tepleho Islamabadu, kde si mame splnit uz len dve povinnosti. Poslat domov bycikle a vyzdvihnut barmske viza. Oboje bolo, ako inac, zazitkom. Navsteva barmskej ambasady tym menej prijemnym. Vsetko potrebne na ziskanie viz sme odoslali postou z Gilgitu a podla prvotnych slov Ubu (Ujo barmsky uradnicek) mali byt viza vystavene po 3-4 dnoch. Prekvapenie prve - Ubu nam oznamuje, ze nase dokumenty sice dostal, no nemohol ich odoslat dalej na spracovanie do Barmy, pretoze nevidel original nasho pasu. S usmevom na tvari nam oznamuje, ze mame vraj pockat dalsich 7-10 dni. Vravime si, dobre, tyzden volna urcite hodnotne zuzitkujeme. Nestihame sice indicky Himacal Prades, no Varanasi a Bodhgaja budu stacit.. Prekvapenie druhe - po desiatich dnoch nam Ubu oznamuje, ze ziadame o specialny druh viz a cely proces sa pretiahne o dalsich 10-12 dni.
To uz je trochu prisilna kava. Nielenze uz pozname kazde zakutie umeleho, nahle vystavaneho Islamabadu (predovsetkym sektory G8 a F10..), mesta bez duse, Indiu uvidime len z okna vlaku, ale zacina vazne hrozit, ze nestihneme lietadlo z Kalkaty do Rangunu..
A co sa s tym celym da robit? Po zvazeni hrstky moznosti si konecne uvedomujeme, ze jedine rozumne riesenie, spociva v zmiereni sa so situaciou a trpezlivom vyckavani. Prijat zmenene podmienky a prisposobit sa im, velka to zivotna vyzva. Tak teda budujeme neoblomnu trpezlivost, no zaroven nestracame nadej, ze sa na nas opat raz Allah usmeje a vsetko tak nejak priaznivo dopadne. Ved nie len o tom, co si v zivote naplanujeme a automaticky zacneme povazovat za to - pre nas - najlepsie, je zivot:)

Romantika, to je trocha stradania s velkym povznesenim, Priatelia!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cycling to Asia, The End

You know, everything comes to an end. Inevitable as sunset and maybe sad as broken heart, but universal.

So did our cycling part of this journey. But no need to be sad because we continue to move eastwards. We are merely just changing our way of transport. Bicycles -as beautiful and independent they are -have one disadvantage: time. Many would argue that this is not really a problem. Of course! All it's needed is plenty of it and all is fine. But planing is something that we don't like to do more than necessary so now we run out of this unique concept. We have simply no time to cycle from Islamabad to Kolkata. It's not only our fault. One thing is that the Karakoram was to tantalizing to resist going there. Other reasons are that stomach problems are almost inevitable in dirty country like Pakistan. Catching flue the same. And lastly but not the least is there the factor Burmese embassy. If we would like to blame somebody, than they are the easiest victims. But we try to take everything as it is and as it comes. So all we have to do is to adjust to this situation. Good for keeping flexible.

Section Backpacking is starting. First get rid of all unnecessary stuff. Get a cartoon box, disassemble the bicycle, clean all the parts, pack it, bring the 25kg parcel to the post office. Here go trough tons of odd procedures -highlight is sewing the box into cotton bag and send your never tired companion home. OK, one thing done. Than decide what to take with you -not too much since now you're gonna carry it on your back, not too little since cold can be miserable. Now back what's not needed and send it home. Yeah so little things. No tent, no stove and cooking gear and no winter cloths... What for? India and Burma are going to be warm.

Dusan caught some bad cough. Nothing pleasant, but what time is better to heal properly than waiting one week (so far...) in boring modern capital of Pakistan? Packing and preparing for backpacking is surprisingly time consuming. So far we didn't have to deal with train schedules, bus time tables and hotels for shelter. Bicycle gives you lot of freedom. No hassle. No time stress. If a town is too far to reach in a day, no problem, just camp somewhere before it and finish the journey the other day. You cycle as much as you feel like. You are the manager of your time.

Now things change. Trains leave if we are late. Buses don't stop when we would like to have a break. Hotels might be full and camping is literally out of reach in India. No big deal, at least we can easily send the tent home. Good thing is that we can start focusing on other things. No fatigue from cycling. No need to take shower every day. Time to read. Time to meditate... Burma is behind the door steps so why not to calm down a bit. After a week we are ready. Now just pick up the so desired visa and GO!

NB: This is a big change. I thing next trip is going to be quite ordinary so I will most likely not update so many new articles. But India will be full of surprises so maybe not. Never-less the section "Cycling to Asia" is definitely over.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 15


Why? Why do people willingly undertake such hardship as: long train trips, discomfort in buses, food poisoning, almost a heatstroke from hot weather, catching flue in cold mountains, diarrhea, fever, dirt everywhere, fatigue etc just to see something or in the better case experience other things? Yes, the nature can be beautiful and calming. The cities are just the opposite. Is that temple worth it? Or is it the ancient statue? All is just impermanent peaces of stones or bricks... But I like it!!!

No, no traveling is awesome. The experiences are useful, knowing the cultures as well -just that the side effects can be shocking sometimes longlasting. After severe cold that took 8 days to get back most of my previous strength we finally left Gilgit. I still didn't feel much like cycling but I really had enough of lying around. We took a bus to Sost -just 80 km from the Chinese border. A journey in a small overcrowded peace of junk on the "best quality" gravel road is unforgettable -specially when it stretch from original 8 hours to 10 hours... The sardines in tin have better conditions... Sost is 2700 m high which is obvious from the first moment you stretch your legs from the bus. Cold and hostile -this was probably just due to another power cut, but still. Cold hotel room and freezing water -what can beat this?

Kevin and Arjan likes challenges so they decided to finish the whole KKH and cycle to the Khunjerab pass. Just a 80 km of pushing the pedals up the hill all the way to 4700m. Nothing for us. Me and Dusan don't have to experience everything. Riding down to the south is good enough. Finally just us two. Lads were fine, but riding in two and riding in four or five is another story. Well and me and Dusan got pretty well together... some easy riding followed. Except the first day form Sost. The sun didn't show up. The frost everywhere is real and the barren landscape around makes the whole scenery quite hostile. There are no trees just rocky slopes and gravel road, together with the wind it's a survival riding -OK, OK, with little bit of exaggeration. My sore throat doesn't help. The cold is sheer. I enjoy that, never less.
The next days changed a lot. Simply add a sunshine and you can cut the happiness from our faces. We ride trough the heart of Hunza valley -easily background for paradise stories. Autumn colored the whole scenery with extravagant colors. Sun pleasantly warms us up. The peaks are covered with white toppings. The sky is turquoise and the KKH is excellent cycle path (but horrible road if you plan to drive trough). We stop on every turning and take pictures of every valley. World like from a fairy tale is obvious statement, but I can't avoid it.
We camped in Aliabad, with the view of majestic Rakaposhi (7700m). The night is "fresh", but our gear is good enough. Minimalism is extremism. Not recommended!

More relaxed riding probably doesn't exist. The road copies the river, goes up and down, turns left and right and what's quite appropriated by us goes mostly downhill. But still we hardly do 50km a day! Record is just 28km. What can you do if it's so immensely beautiful? The only "problem" is hot water. After 4 days of cycling shower would be nice, but if there is no electricity then there is no hot water. Simple but cruel. Our saviors are local barbers. They always have hammam -nothing like the Turkish ones, but gooood enough for sweaty frozen riders.

Back to Gilgit, booking the bus ticket to Rawalpindi and hurray for souvenir shopping. Blankets, local hats, scarfs... beautiful stuff.
Next day another suffering bus ride. Nothing compared to the one we undertake to get up here, but still an experience. Totally jammed bus seemed like the only connection to Pindi -the driver stopped to pick up almost everybody, during few hours we ended up 4 on seats for 2 and a kid in European standards. How naive we were when we trusted the ticket seller, who promised that it will be just for us... lol! The bus averages 20km/h -bit better then bicycle... this can be understood since the road goes trough the highest mountain range in the world... Sounds good, ini? Not for Dusan who spent half of the journey with his head out of the window leaving the content of his stomach as a trace behind us. Somehow I did manage to sleep -how? Even I don't know. We were pretty chewed up when we got out, just able to ride to Islamabad and get some sleep in the Rose&Jasmin camping. All this just to get our Myanmar visas and get to India.

So you can imagine our disappointment when we got the the embassy. Eager to apply for our 3 month visas, suffered a shock after meeting the Ambassador. With all the respect a typical example of bureaucratic puppet. We have send him all the required documents from Gilgit, to speed up the process of application. All for nothing, since he didn't process our documents, basically didn't do anything -just because he didn't have our original passports. By the way he is not going to send them anywhere, or do anything else than stick the visas in them. Now when he has them he can send our documents to Burma and wait till they reply. This will take at least one week... HURRAY! What shell we do in this boring modern capital?
I let you know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cycling to ASia, week 14


Skardu is in a basin surrounded by 360 degrees panorama of snowy peaks, wide gorges and The Indus river. Wow! This is way different to hot Punjab in south, in fact is totally different to anything we came across on this trip. The locals looks more like Tibetans or Chinese, the landscape is picturesque and climate chilly. People speaks local dialects, they appear to be more indifferent when they see white faces like us, but never less warm-hearted when we approach them. From this perfect starting spot we decided to cycle to Gilgit and then possibly higher north.
After few hours of copping the flow of Indus with lots of adjacent villages, where wild and rough looking locals went trough they daily lives, we reached the more dramatic gorges cut by the river into the steep and rocky faces of the mountains. This remained unchanged for the following days ... just sometimes more scenic to previously more dramatic views... road is cutting here trough rocky slopes north of the river, sometimes reaching dreading heights, other times dropping almost to the sandy beaches on the shores. Climbs are interchanged with downhills, beautiful views with sharp and steep faces of the opposite peaks... it's just incredible and we are literally in rapture. We make only few km a day -not only because the road is demanding (even though not as much as we were dreading -it always looks more difficult from a bus!), but mostly because we take pictures and videos on every corner! Plus my throat is starting to cause me a trouble.
The camping places are rare, so we have to be careful not to ride too late into evening and than get stuck on a steep slopes, water supplies are also limited... and the weather can change dramatically in minutes as we experienced yesterday during the lake trip... this is a real expedition, no summer riding around Galanta... But we are lucky, camping on an abandoned government helicopter site is all right.
Just that I'm not all right. I woke up with sever sour throat, headache and running nose, nothing pleasant for biking in chilly air and up and down roads. But the surroundings are so extraordinary that I refuse to take a bus or pick up! I'd rather push the sickness aside and cycle it all. Easier said than done, but eventually I managed! Every climb I sweat like a pig, just to dress rigorously on the top and slide down cutting trough the cold air. Today we will do even less km than yesterday, but surprisingly is not just due to me -Dusan is in heaven and his camera too. (I hope you too -pictures will come soon) We found another superb camping spot -this time close to Indus, with hot spring pouring out of the rocks and magnificent peaks all around us.
Last day to Gilgit is like hell for me. My body is searching for the last bits of energy left somewhere... I don't even know where... coughing, sneezing and marveling at the sheer beauty around me. We reached the junction with KKH (Karakoram highway) and pushed the pedals to the regional capital of Gilgit.
The town is big and looks wild . We found the "bibles" no 1 hotel Medina and there I went straight to bed... waking up the next day with the worst sickness I can recall in recent past. Well but still the cycling was worth it, now I will rest and get well. In the mean time the lads can explore the surroundings -this will occupy them for a while so nobody minds that I'm stuck here for a while!
Guys planned to go hiking for 3 days, but Dusan woke up with sever sore muscles ofter their one day trip to 700 years old Buddha carvings in a near by rock face. So now we are two lying in the bed. The other two went for the hiking with one day delay... over all Gilgit is something like our base for almost a week... hopefully we recover fully! Back to our strength and lets go tackle the 4700m Khunjerab pass!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 13

What followed the next few days was unbelievable... Imagine 5 independent travelers, roaming around Asia for few months, completely free, totally open minded, extremists in a way -well I don't count my self into extremists but others might do - travelling anywhere, doing almost anything and than suddenly the local authorities decides to "protect" them! Yes they do make it safer but they acctually protect us from everything -even the experience of this country! 24/7 baby sitting is way too much for people who were used to be their own time managers. Suddenly there is always a smart guy asking us where we wanna go? What time we would like to go there? They think they give us all the freedom, but hey just the point that we have to think ahead and plan something is so much in contrary to what we have done so far. We spent two nights in Multan -supposedly a safe city -but never before anyone of us felt like a prisoner (well except of me, but that's a different story...). We went sightseeing -but they stole all the fun by constant patrol of our steps, we could go to Internet cafe, but with heavy armed fella next to you all the time... On the third day we run a way by taking a train to Rawalpindi -yes the place where just 3 days ago Elite police ended an overnight drama in a military headquarters, where 40 personnel where kept hostage by Taliban fighters -the dead toll was pretty high (17 people including 9 terrorist) but the media called it a success.
Train journey was an adventure on its own. We stirred some dust on the train station with our oversize bikes, trying to load the panniers together with bikes to the luggage wagon, but failed, so dragging them to the other side of the train, locate our seats, just to find out that they were taken, so politely kicking out the unlucky passengers, all this in hot and humid and jammed wagon. But eventually -as usually- we got what we wanted and managed to sleep for most of the night.
After the Multan police terror, we were fearing the worst in recent-terrorist-attacked Rawalpindi, but suffered a bit of a shock when we found our selves alone and could leave the station without the Kalashnikov guys! Wow! Freedom again! Cycling to Islamabad was short but the longest in Pakistan without escort. There we found a nice Rose & Jasmin garden where we could pitch our tents and go to find out how is it with our Burmese visas...
Now we are just waiting and chillin in the garden, thoroughly planing our Karakorum trip to the north. There are few other cyclists who came from Kirghistan and China, so they have all the valuable information about the must-to-do highway in Pakistan.

Islamabad is modern boring city, so we don't linger longer than necessary. Instead we took a bus from Rawalpindi to Skardu -capital of Baltistan in Karakoram eastern point. They told us that it's gonna take 25 hours... so we were expecting a bit of discomfort, but what was really ahead of us nobody would guess even in the worst joke! The bus ride was more like experiencing how a laundry feels in washing machine than actually appreciating the scenic mountains. Bone-shaking, stomach-bouncing and brain-numbing hell on earth ride trough the evening, night, morning and another evening was far beyond our level of acceptance. The last few hours I thought I will just give up, or I do something because my ribs were aching and my head was spinning...
It took us a whole day in fairytale Skardu to recover. We did a small half day trip to a near by lake -no panniers, just joy from riding. Unfortunately I underestimated my physical strength -still pretty much affected by the food poisoning and exhilarating bus ride and next day woke up with sore throat. Ahhhh!!! We are just setting out for our most memorable riding in the worlds highest mountains and as the locals proudly boast on the eight wonder of the world -the Karakoram highway... well sort of it, because the 136 km road that joins Skardu with KKH is not exactly part of the famous road.

Cycling to Asia, Dusan 4

Naposledy som pisal z Quety, odkial sme v ozbrojenom doprovode vyrazili dalej na vychod. Vsetci sme sa tesili na to, ze opat resp. konecne pride poriadna horska cyklistika. Prvy usek bol vskutku nadherny. Slapanie po nespevnenej ceste nehostinnou, no krasnou krajinou, bolo presne to, co sme po dnoch sedenia v autobuse a vyckavania v rusnej Quete potrebovali. Podvecer nas zastihol v zaprasenej dedinke Kach, odkial to bolo do odporucaneho Ziaratu uz daleko. Nas posledny policajny doprovod si kupil kocku hasisu, nasadol na motorku a vratil sa do neznama. Nas cakala noc na akoze policajnej stanici, na ktoru len tak skoro nezabudneme. Na veceru sme si zasli do vyvarovne cez ulicu, kde nam bol v ufulanych tanieroch ponuknuty tradicny dal (strukovinovovy privarok). Vsetci az na usmievaveho holandana Arjana a Janciho sme celu noc nacvicovali lahku gymnastiku - vyskok z postele zakonceny stastlivym dobehom kamkolvek za brany stanice.
Velkorysy pani policajti nam velmi jednoznacne naznacili, ze dalsiu noc uz by sme mali stravit niekde inde. Napriek tomu, ze Janci s Arjanom boli schopny pokracovat na bycikloch, museli sme si "z bezpecnostnych dovodov" do Ziaratu vziat pick-up vsetci pospolu. V horuckach, totalne vystaveny, natisany na korbe drziac sa cohokolvek sme dorazili do horskej dedinky Ziarat, kde nas cakali tri dni vyzdravovania.
Na treti den uz vsetko vyzeralo fajn a teda ze pokracujeme. Po par kilometroch sa mi vsak vratili teploty a po chvili navaly horka zacali striedat triasky - zle nedobre. Dalsia noc na zaprasenej zemi policajnej stanice (noclahy v hoteloch a volny pohyb nam boli nekompromisne zamietnute) len zhorsila moj stav. Slapanie v horuckach uz malo naozaj velmi daleko od nejakeho radostneho putovania. Poslednou bodku v tomto nestatnom useku nasej cesty mal stupidny policajny prikaz. V dedinke Mekhtar sme sa usadili na zemi ako tak na noclah vhodnej restauracie. Nasadil som Paralen a jedine, co mi chybalo k prezitiu noci bol pokoj. Asi po hodine sa prepoteny v spacaku prebudzam na hluk diskusie medzi mojimi companieros a policajtmi, ktory trvali na tom, ze sa musime presunut na ich bohumily stanicu - tak znie prikaz od nadriadenych, ktory si sedia niekde stovky kilometrov daleko. Po dvoch hodinach neprestrelnych argumentoch sme donuteni k presunu. Stanica ako inak spinava a zaprasena.. Nocujem teda aj s na prach alergickym Jancim na korbe policajneho nakladiaku. V najhorsej noci nasej vypravy, v dedinke do ktorej a z ktorej vedu len prasne cesty sa po prvy krat zdavam a na druhy den nasadam na autobus do asi 250 km vzdialeneho Multanu, kde konecne sa odovzdam do ruk doktora.
Doprovod mi robi svajciar David, ktory je na tom len o nieco lepsie ako ja. Zvysok nasej patice sa nepodava a pokracuje na bycikloch.
Pred mestom DG Khan nas z autobusu necakane vytahuju policajti a ze vraj do Multanu uz musime len v doprovode eskorty. Od toho momentu nas uz policajti nespustaju z oci a obaja sa ocitame v "bezpecnom zajati". Do Multanu dorazame v noci. Hladame volny hotel, no vzdy ked policajny nakladiak zastavi priamo pred hlavnym vchodom a vyruti sa z neho banda ozbrojencov doprevadzajuca dve doslova blede tvare, odpoved z recepcie je jasna - "Sme plne obsadeni..". Nejakym zazrakom sa asi na siedmy pokus ubytujeme a rano vyrazam za najvacsim dobrodruzstvom tychto dni - do nemocnice. Nuveritelne rusna nemocnica sa stava este rusnejsou ked sa tam zrazu zjavi beloch v doprovode patice chlapov vyzbrojenych kalasnikovmi. Ked doktorovi, ktory sa so mnou bavi ako s prezidentom vysvetlujem, ze posledny tyzden nevidim ziaden rozdiel medzi tym co zo mna vychadza pri velkej resp. malej potrebe, nasadzuje mi injekcne antibiotika. Postupujeme do miestnosti na to urcenej, kde sa ma sestra pyta taku cudnu vetu: "Want you share your bed?" A teda, ze preco nie. Ja som za kazdu srandu.. Usadzaju ma na postel, kde v ubohej polohe lezi niekto s infuziou v zile. Na posteli oproti stvorica chlapov pacifikuje niekoho v brutalnom zachvate, do toho stale prinasaju a odnasaju ludi na posteli v najzufalejsich stavoch.. Snazim sa neznepokojovat horucou atmosferou, no i tak pocitam kazdu kvapku mediciny, ktora z flasticky nado mnou prudi priamo do mojich zil..
Jedine, co mi tu polhodinu na nemocnicnej posteli premielalo hlavou bolo obrovske stastie, ktore sa ukryva v nasom obvykle dobrom zdravotnom stave. Nuz ale clovek je tvor nespokojny a k stastiu mu vzdy tak trosku nieco chyba. A tak i ja sa tesim na to, kedy to uz bude cele za mnou a zacneme opat slapat do pedalov.
Na druhy den uz doraza, v policajnom aute samozrejme, predcasne z cesty stiahnuty zvysok patice. V pondelok poobede, vsetci dostatocne zotaveny vyrazame do severneho Islamabadu - vlakom. Dva-tri dni vizove formality a vyzvedy o bezpecnostnej situacii na Karakoram Highway. Iste je zatial len to, ze nemaly usek bude v autobuse..
Taky je veru nas Pakistan - viacmenej autobuso - vlakovo - eskortovy.. No stale neuveritelne zaujimavy!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 12

Surprisingly getting the police escort to supervise us trough Baluchistan was smooth and easy. Riding on the famous Pakistan roads is a different story... and having a 24/7 police control is nothing of our interests. We are all very independent and pretty skilled travellers so having a babysitters all day long is quite annoying... but we tried to find advantages in this situation and the breathtaking scenery of wild Pakistan mountains is substituting all the disadvantages of our dear new friends... and there are plenty of them.


Just to get out of Quetta we had 4 different police cars driving with us literally from one major intersection to the other one... Few kilometers out of the city and we are testing our bikes: gravel road and dusty fields. Riding time is slow not just because of truly off road riding but also due to our individual needs. Picture here, pi break there... plus David seems like he caught some bad diarrhea in Quetta. All this caused that our original plan to reach Ziarat (only 90 km) failed and we had to stay over night in a very small village somewhere in the middle. Police gave us shelter on their filthy station, that was nice from them, but the food supplies were limited to one very suspicious tea house serving some food and shops with snacks. We were hoping to hitch a truck and get to Ziarat, but again failed... so OK, lets stay at the police station. In the evening we went to paint the "town" red and went for the dinner. This turned out to be the biggest mistakes of the entire journey...


video

The next morning more than half of our 5CC i.e. "five cyclists crew" woke up, or better to say finally saw the dawn of the day, into a nightmare. Dusan, Kevin and of course David have had a sleepless night, changing patrol each half an hour or so... Why? Their bowels urged them to do so. When I saw them in the morning I hardly recognized them, they were bleak and weak. Diarrhea completely exhausted them. Since there is no toilet in the police station, I suppose the area around must have changed into a dangerous mind field. Me and Arjan wanted to cycle to Ziarat and meet the sick there, but the police had a different idea about it all and jammed us all into a small pick up truck -five bicycles, 30 pieces of luggage, us five plus police man plus driver and for short while one other passenger -Pakistan no problem!

In Ziarat we were lucky to find a very reasonable refugee hut -the most important facility -the toilet- was right next to our rooms and the garden was nice for chill out. Just before the night came I felt a strong urge to go to The Room and hoops, I got it as well. What followed was hell on earth. Strong bone aches, cool chills interchanged by hot showers of sweat and of course fairly constant intervals of complete dehydration trough the buttocks hole! In the middle of the night the difference between the urine and the excrement was just the smell... So for the next two days we were all out of order. Surprisingly just Arjan survived. Between the rest of us there was quite a difference in timing of the inevitable, but eventually all of us got into the same horrible stage, only one miraculously escaped the evil bacteria that puts even the strong travelers to their knees... or squats...

After 3 days we started to be quite sick of just lying around so we set off. Still not perfectly fit, but eager to cycle. The 90 km from Ziarat to Loralai were spectacular -Junipers forest and rocky terrain resembled Jurassic era, the trees are dating some 2000 years but they are just few meters high. Fortunately it was mostly down hill otherwise we would not make it since our bodies are still very weak -well no wonder! We had completely evacuated our intestines and didn't have enough time to replace the fillings... In Loralai the police told us we have to stay in the police station because is allegedly too dangerous to stay in a hotel. There is nothing we can do about it, but we are convinced that the next night we will just directly go to a hotel... ha! how naive we are, we'll find out soon.

From Loralai we kept on cycling east, but Dusan is getting back to pretty severe stage -it was far too early for him to set off from Ziarat. The rest of us are not overenthusiastic, I still can't eat properly and what's coming out of me doesn't look to healthy either, but generally I'm fine. But Dusan is really having a long lasting nightmare. 6 days of strong diarrhea can be very dangerous. We have to stop in a small town. The gravel road shows that this is again just a pothole place. We checked in a hotel -well sort of a hotel, its just a room next to dirty toilets adjacent to restaurant for truck drivers -the price is funny 30 rupees ( 30 cents), but its really just a emergency shelter. Unfortunately the local police chief is blindly obeying his duty and that's too bad for us. His commander gave him an order that we have to stay at the police station and there is nothing what we can do about it. We have very sick person who is already lying in a bed and needs to rest, but no! we have to move him to a dusty police station on the other side of the town -it took us two hours of arguing and we would have achieved much more if we would have talked to a white wall than to these simple people. So we move the convoy and spend the night on the back of a pick up truck because the room is way too dusty.

We are bit fed up with our police guards, so next morning we ignore them quite significantly. Dusan and David are taking a bus to Multan, Dusan needs to see a doctor, the rest will meet them there in 3 days. So Me, Arjan and Kevin are still heading eastwards quite enthusiastically... not knowing what's ahead of us.

The gravel road didn't end few kilometers after the town as we were assuming, it didn't end after the strenuous climb that followed... no... it changed into the dustiest ride we ever encountered. I had to put on my mouth filter, because each time when a truck passed us we were lost in clouds of dust so thick that couple times I had to stop to avoid falling down from the bike since I couldn't see anything. It was hot, It was dry, It was bumpy and few times we found ourselves in a dust twisters. Eventually it took us almost all day to conquer 40 km of real off road riding. Interesting, but much welcomed was that my wheel survived... during the whole bouncing ride this cheap Iranian back wheel did a very good job, but right after we got on a good asphalt surface, just 2 km before Kingri I got another flat tire -I lost the count by now... This time we wanted to stay in the police station in the town, since we didn't have any energy left to continue, but no, the police are just doing exactly the opposite what we would like to... fortunately this time they saved us from a big hassle and allowed us to stay there.

The next day we planned to cover 150 km all the way to DG Khan so we woke up early and rode constantly... The landscape here is beautiful, probably the greenest since west Turkey so we were really enjoying the ride. Our police "friends" started to be much more sloppy and there were few miles that we drove without any escort. Yes! This is freedom... from Rakni climbing up to a mountain pass in 1800m and than down in definitely the most scenic gorge and valley I have ever seen, totally free... fresh air, loose from the guards and unbelievable views drove us to an edge of sanity, I felt like drunk from all the beauty around me. So when on the other side of the mountains an Elite police escort waited for us we didn't mind. They drove us all the way to Multan, because due to security reasons no foreigner can stay in DG Khan -Pakistan has its nuclear weapon factory there... we didn't mind at least they saved us a full day cycling in humid, hot and flat Punjab. Right at the foot of the mountains the climate changed dramatically. It will take me few days to adjust, but that' fine.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Cycling to Asia, Dusan 3

naposledy som pisal z Esfahanu, kde sme sa dozvedeli, ze asi kus vychodneho Iranu nie je mozne absolvovat na bycikli. Zostavajuce dni sme teda vyuzili na zachadzku do Persepolisu. Podobne miesta sme dosial ignorovali, no tentokrat sa "turisticky highlight" celkom oplatil. Par hodin stravenych v niekdajsej vykladnej skrini Perzie stacilo na to, aby sme dostatocne hlboko precitili pychu i pad niekdajsich mocnych. Z toho, co kedysi posobilo ako vrchol umenia, oddanosti vyssej moci, nedobytnosti, zostali len ruiny. Velmi dobra lekcia toho, kam smerovat vlastny cas a energiu..
Z Persepolisu sme si k severu stopli nakladiak, co sa neobislo bez dalsieho sklamania. Panko sofer sa od nas snazil za svoju velkorisost vymamit asi desatnasobok standardnej sumy.. Bola by to veru smutna spomienka na iransku pohostinnost. Nasledujuce udalosti vsak nastastie napravili nasu mienku o velkodusnosti Perzanov.
Pred prichodom do Yazdu nas trochu prekvapilo asi 50 km puste. Kolesa akoby sa lepili na rozpaleny asfalt tiahnuci sa suchou krajinou niekam do nekonecna, vody malo, sklamani z dalsieho pokusu o okradnutie, defekt.. No nic moc, veru. V tom zrazu pred nami stoji auto a pri nom usmievavy chlapik. Caj, igelitka stavnateho hrozna, usmevy..
Potom ako sme dorazili na okraj pustatiny, dostavam na benzinke dalsi defekt, nezalepitelny. Menim dusu, no postradam odtahovac ventilkov, ktory som si zabudol v Esfahane.. Vsimol si to panko, ktory bez opytania nasada na motorku a po chvili prinasa presne to, co potrebujem. Na nic sa nepyta, len daruje.
Ceresnickou na torte iranskej pohostinnosti toho dna bol nakladiak, ktory nam na znamenie spomalil a dovolil sa zan zahaknut. Zvecerievalo sa a my sme potrebovali prekrocit hory, za ktorymi bola voda. Bez jeho pomoci to bolo bez nadejne. To, co sme vsak doteraz nezazili bolo, ze nas vzdy po kazdom kratkom zjazde (v ktorom sme sa ho vzdy pustili) v horskom terene cakal, aby nas mohol vytiahnut do dalsieho stupaka. Nakoniec v sedle snad tritisic metrov nad morom len zatrubil a zmizol. Akoby sa zrazu vytratila vila, ktorej sme chceli podakovat za to, ze nas previedla cez tmavy les..
Komfortne sme si zjazdili no podhorskej dedinky a v orechovom sade reflektovali posledne celodenne cykloputovanie v Irane. Povestna iranska pohostinnost, budis zachranena!
Na druhy den nam zostalo uz len par prijemnych kilometrov do hlineneho Yazdu, kde sa opat stretavame s irsko-svajciarsko-holandskou trojicou cyklistov putujucich nasim smerom. Podla ich slov nie je mozne k pakistanskym hraniciam byciklovat a tak pekne pospolu nasadame na autobus, ktory na hranici menime za dalsi iduci az do pakistanskej Quety. 1500 km pustou krajinou nas teda vsakovake okolnosti prinutili "blafovat", no nevadi, neprisli sme si tu nic dokazovat.
Sme teda v Quete, kde sme mali na vyber z dvoch moznosti. Budto si vziat vlak/autobus na menej zaujimavy juh, odkial sa da pokracovat na bycikli alebo poziadat o vojensky doprovod na 500 km prechod krasnym horskym terenom. Zda sa, ze sme Allahovi sympaticki - dnes rano nam bolo vyhovene v ziadosti o pridelenie eskorty a tak v sobotu rano opustame tento ostrov relativneho pokoja v nepokojnom Baluchistane, smer vychod.

Opat som to trosku pretiahol, no pre tych, co to vydrzali az potialto este par riadkov o prvych dojmoch z Pakistanu. V prvom rade neuveritelna spina - vsade:) To, co v Europe ukryvame na skladky, lejeme do podzemnej kanalizacie je tu neustale na ociach. Niezeby som to u nas doma nejako postradal, no posobi to akosi prirodzenejsie.. I ten neuveritelny hurhaj je akysi iny nez ten bratislavsky, no objektivnejsi budeme po par tyzdnoch.. Okrem tychto menej prijemnych realii sme vsak nadseni zivotom prekypujucimi ulicami. Obrovska zmena oproti ustrachanemu Iranu. Na kazdom kroku niekto nieco predava, vyraba, opravuje, vari.. Neuveritelne pestry vyber jedal, napojov - vsetko podavane s usmevom a navyse za symbolicke ceny. Celkova atmosfera je fascinujuca. Zasiahlo nas to natolko, ze sme sa rozhodli trochu poupravit povodny plan. Co najrychlejsi prechod Pakistanom menime za zachadzku do kralovstva horskej cyklistiky - Karakoram Highway.. Ale o tom na buduce.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 11

Guns, Drugs and military coups... that's how most of the people perceive Pakistan. What we see in media is always highly concentrated information. It's usually true, it's just that it doesn't represent the everyday life. Even the 7 o'clock news in Slovakia will feed you with car accidence, thefts and political scandals... Our unique opportunity to explore and find out for our selves have just started.

After really relaxing days in Yazd we were ready for some bus overdose. First we took overnight bus to Zahedan. This was quite pleasant, the Iranian transport is very luxurious. The morning in the Border town was still pretty Iranian like even though the people's faces changed quite a bit, the landscape even more. This is pure dead land of rocks and sand. The people live here just from trade I guess. We took a share pick up truck to the border. There we had a brief introduction into Pakistani bureaucracy -just to tune us in for the following month. This is an ex-British colony and the Britons did leave some fingerprints here -one is their paper work!!!

Than some more busing. Another 14 h over the flat hot desert, the last bit was extra bumpy so this time we didn't sleep so well. First we were wondering why it takes the same time as in Iran, but the distance is almost halved? Well we've forgot to input the Asian factor: praying and police check... at least each half an hour we stopped for one of those... 5 am in Quetta was a shock but everybody was too tired realize it. The next day we got it in full power. So far we have been moving forward very slowly, step by step, or push by push, but this time we jumped a good 1500km eastwards and the change was more dramatic than anyone of us could imagine. Dirt, chaos, smog and stench. Oh is that really a sour floating down the street? Rubbish, cats and bagging kids! But wow nobody is harassing us as much as the Persian did!

Our plan is to get a permit to cycle from Quetta to Mulat via Ziarat and Mularay... everybody is saying that we'll need an escort so we are not really hoping to be successful, but let's give it a shot. The authorities are very relaxed as well as serious and accurate. Where will you stay? How many km you can do in a day? Be aware that's a hilly region... but yeah, we will issue the permit and provide you with a police escort and all of this for free!!! WoW and WoW. This is how they treat tourists here? That's nice! We all agreed that in Europe they would just simply say NO, you can't do that, take a bus, full stop.

So now we have two more days to explore Quetta. OK. Let's go shopping... so we all bought the local outfit. It's comfy and the people do give us a bit more slack, we don't shine like freshly arrived tourists anymore. Have a look and give feedback please.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cycling to asia, Iran

Hello Mr! What country? Hello Mr. What do you think about Iran?

I don't have to be specifically emphatic to know that everybody who traveled trough Iran have been asked these questions billion times. So what do I think after a month spent mostly by cycling?
Iran is great and it's definitely a travelers paradise... specially the shoe stringers will love it because there is no problem camping anywhere, eating everywhere (except ramadan) and traveling in cheap transport. Bum friendly cities allows you to sleep in park and other advantages. But it's not just fun. You also get a lot of hassle and must be prepared for rip offs. Generally if you don't ask about the price in advance you can expect cosmic numbers! If you do ask don't dream about big discounts by bergaining...

Iranians are very friendly and suffer by over hospitality, so most of the time one can enjoy ones stay. We received plenty of invitations of all of the kinds -from simple tea to few days of accommodation with all the care you could wish for.

We also noticed high level of fear in the locals minds. . They are very curios, many times even suspicious... everything interests them, so if two highly visible creatures, like us on bikes, show up on the street they get more attention than a King! It definitely reaches limits unbearable for almost everybody I would say...

It is a country of strict Islamic regime, but funnily they don't observe Ramadan as seriously as Turks do. We had no problem eating on the streets of Turkish towns, even though the restaurants were closed, but in Tabriz we've been send to a hotel, but we've bought the food on street! Officially there are strict rules for everything but in reality majority of the people neglect them. They do eat, but secretly. They hide! So if the public doesn't see you, it's all right! Isn't that ridiculous? It should be based on the relationship between you and God, not you and public! The women don't wear scarf on privet parties, but when we showed up in short pants we got all the looks and even few comments...
The political situation is even more ridiculous, when cca 3% of the population is manipulating the rest, but officially they have elections -worth nothing... everybody says that the new president is just a very bad joke, nobody voted for him and suddenly here he comes... they call him monkey. But politic sucks so I'm not going to write much about it...

How can I summarize all this? Probably by saying that the Iran has two faces: the official and the real. This schism is quite traumatizing for locals and requires some time for travelers to adjust to. But if you manage you'll have good times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 10

Here we go again! OH how good it is to feel the air in my hair, yes the wheels are turning, the legs are doing their job... we keep on moving east, well this time a bit more southeast. We decided to make a small detour and check out the biggest highlight of Iran: Persepolis. Our plan was to cycle down there, see the old Persian city and cycle back up to Yazd, but well we underestimated the Iranian distances (and the map we have... is really crap!). On the second day of cycling from Esfahan we have found out that we're not gonna make it. Because its more than 800km of cycling, plus sightseeing, plus catching the bus to the Pakistan border and all of this just in one week... impossible. So what we gonna do?
It's simple just let the karma work for it self, or let the Iranians do what they are best in: be hospitable. At the end of the second day, after cycling some good 100km there were these two guys with a truck having a rest on the car park area on the highway. They showed us to stop, as many of them did before... sometimes we do, sometimes we don't... depends on our mood. This time Dusan had a good intuition and we stopped... YEAH all the Farsi questions: "Where are you from?" and "Are you cycling from Slovakia?" and "Where are you going?" and "OH India!!!" as hundred times before, but this time we also told them we go to Persepolis and they eagerly said that they do as well... so here we go, we have a good 300km hitch in the truck all the way to the sight. Funny part was that after they have found out that our Farsi is really limited just to the basic five questions they wanted to kick us out... but hell no! You said you're gonna take us, so you gonna take us, full stop!
How was Persepolis? Imaginary, original, majestic, monumental, reveling, useful... just imagine how much effort they put to create this original majestic stone city just to find out that nothing last for ever. Even the biggest or strongest monuments are impermanent... What a trust the locals must have had in the King and it didn't last even two centuries... this is useful thought for everybody I ques...
Cycling back was probably the best cycling in Iran. There were nice towns, mountains, deserts, friendly drivers, stupid drivers, hospitable people and beautiful mountain passes... Since we wanted to see bit of Yazd we cheated a bit again and hitchhiked. This time it was proper hand showing process, just that we had to be really picky, since we could accept just pick ups or trucks... it worked after a while... why did the driver asked for ridiculous 50$ for a 100km ride we do not know, but well we gave him a fiver and wished him to recover from the stupidity... Generally the hospitality of the locals is incredible, but on the other hand quite a few tried to rip us off... so our feelings are quite mixed. The good ones definitely overwhelm the bad ones, just that the negative memories are more sticky...
Now we are in the mud-wall ancient city of Yazd, just chill in before some crazy 14+14 hours of bus riding all the way to Pakistani Queta... we met here the other cyclists and decided to cross the border together. So now we are 5 europians heading east...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cycling to Asia, Dusan 2

Zdravim vas opat,
pisem z Esfahanu, asi najkrajsieho iranskeho mesta, do ktoreho je to zo Sturova nieco malo cez pat tisic kilometrov. Sme teda asi v polovicke cykloetapy nasej vypravy.

..takto mi raz povedal kamarat: "V Irane to zacne..."
A veru, ze zacalo. Po prechode turecko-iranskej hranicou sme skutocne nadobudli pocit, ze vsetko je akesi ine, dokonca aj klima:) Ludia posobili dost jednoliato - umiernenejsie, veselsie a uprimnejsie ako ich zapadni susednia. Teraz, po troch tyzdnoch sa vsak nasa mienka o Irancoch trochu upravila. Zije tu niekolko narodov, z ktorych sme dosial lepsie spoznali Turkov, Kurdov a Persanov. Napriek niekolkym odlisnostiam maju urcite spolocne crty a to najma stadovitost a strach z vyssej moci. Ale pekne poporiadku.
V meste Tabriz sme mali na vyber z dvoch moznosti ako stravit nas mesiac v Irane. Ak by sme chceli prejst cely Iran na bycikli (asi 2900 km), museli by sme to struhnut priamym, frekventovanym tahom na Teheran - Esfahan - Yazd - Zahedan. Uz pred Tabrizom sme si nastastie skusili, ze valit po presmradenej hlavnej ceste nie je prave to prave orechove a tak sme si vybrali druhu variantu - z Tabrizu na juh cez iransky Kurdistan a pohorie Zagros. Znamenalo to sice, ze si niekde na vychode budeme musiet vziat autobus, aby sme neprekrocili vizovi limit, no bola to vynikajuca volba.
Zatial co v Turecku sa o Kurdistane nemozno ani zmienit, v Irane je to oficialny nazov jednej z provincii. Oboch nas zaujimalo ako sa iransky Kurdi lisia od tureckych. Nasa zvedavost bola natolko silna, ze nam do cesty priviala toho najpovolanejsieho cloveka - Azada, mladeho, neuveritelne energickeho a velmi priatelskeho kurdskeho patriota. Po stretnuti s nim nasledovali tri dni neustalych navstev u jeho znamych a s tym spojene nekonecne debaty o Kurdoch - ich historii a sucasnych problemoch.. Pocas iracko-iranskej vojny sa spolcili s irackymi Kurdmi, co im vlada dosial kruto odplaca. Okrem prenasledovania a vaznenia neposlusnych "poddanych", sustavneho vypalovania lesov (potencialne ukryty pre kurdske gerily) vlada dlhodobo nepodporuje tento region - asi patdesiat percentna nezamestnanost mladych ludi.Azad nas vzal na dvojdnovy (povodne stvorhodinovy) vylet napriec celou provinciou az k hraniciam s Irakom. Z toho, co sme dosial zazili nam nariek vsetkemu Kurdi zostali v pamati ako velmi priatelsky, pohostinny, vcelku uprimni ludia. I potom, co sme opustili Bukan sa nam dostalo este niekolko pozvani a vzdy sme odchadzali s podobnymi dojmami. ..tolko Kurdistan.
V meste Hamedan si na Janciho sadla choroba a tak sme uznali za vhodne, ze on si vezme do Esfahanu autobus a ja tam dojdem za nim na bycikli. Pocas piatich dni som si teda skusil, ake to je v tychto koncinach ist solo. Najskor trosku osamelo, krajina zacala byt zrazu omnoho zaujimavejsia, no clovek sa o to nemal s kym podelit. Za nedlho som sa vsak aklimatizoval a neskor zhodnotil, ze ist sam je sice trochu narocnejsie, no omnoho intenzivnejsie. Okrem ineho som si naplno skusil, ake to je neustale reagovat na prihovarajucich sa ludi. Niezeby mi to nejak zvlast vadilo, ale Janci predsa len komunikativnejsie a dovtedy som odpovede na do nekonecna sa opakujuce: "Helo, how are you? Whants your name? What is your meaning about Iranian people? Are you maried..?" nechaval na neho. Teraz som vsak bol na to sam. Sukromie je tu neznamym pojmom. Je uplne normalne, ze jeme, niekto sa pristavi, bez opytania si prisadne a zacne sa vas vypytovat tie ich super otazky alebo sa nevypytuju nic a mlcky pozoruju - ako jeme, odpocivame.. Ludia nas oslvouju neustale. Dokonca aj ked slapeme, nie je pre nich problem pristavit sa - spomalit auto motorku a klast spominane otazky. Pred Esfahanom som mal pocit, ze mi praskne hlava. Priblizne hodinu sa mi prihovarali najma motorkari. Ignorovat ich bolo bez efektu. Stale si mleli to svoje a opustili ma, az ked som vsetko zodpovedal. Striedali sa pri mne jeden za druhym. Krkolomna jazda nie je ziadna prekazka. Najlepsi si tu, co nevedia po anglicky a stale na vas vytahuju perstinu akoby to bola automatika - si v Irane, tak predsa musis vediet perzsky (farsi).. Je to jeden z mnohych znakov toho, ze tu ludia nie su na cudzincov moc zvyknuti. Je trochu narocne nebyt k nim nevrly. Zrejme si neuvedomuju, ze patria k tuctom dalsim, ktori kladu tie iste otazky.
Napriek tomu, ze bol ramadan (predvcerom konecne skoncil) bola iranska pohostinnost velkolepa. Pocas tych piatich dni, co som bol sam som si nekupil takmer ziadne jedno jedlo a mnohe z darovaneho som este doniesol aj do Esfahanu. I tu vsak musim povedat, ze nic nie je zadarmo. Ludia vas sice pozvu k sebe domov, na obed.. Na strane druhej sa vsak na vas pride pozriet cela rodina vratane bratrancov, ujov, pradedkov zo vsetkych kolien. Vzdy je to tak trochu zazitok, no vsetkeho moc skodi.
Iranci maju tak trochu problem s mobilnym sokom. Neviem, kedy tu prisli telefony s fotakmi, no ma ich uplne kazdy, dokonca aj pastieri. Nejde ani tak o to, ze ich maju ale ze si nas neustale fotia. Teda nielen ti, s ktorymi sa dame do reci - co je vcelku OK - ale i obycajny okoloidujuci, okolojazdiaci. Je uplne normalne, ze slapeme, pristavi sa motorkar, poprosi nas, aby sme zastavili, ze sa chce s nami odfotit... Na fotke to vsak vyzera tak, akoby sa stretli strari priatelia. Zhodnotili sme to tak, ze je to pre nich asi vec prestize - odfotit sa s europanom..
Kulturne zmeny nastastie neprichadzaju az tak prudko, aby sme sa nestihali aklimatizovat. Teraz sa uz necudujem ludom zo zapadu, s ktorymi sme sa stretli v Esfahane. Mnohi z nich zostavaju v lacnom hoteliku niekolko dni az tyzdnov a nie je to kvoli Esfahanu.. Putovanie na bycikli je asi najlepsim sposobom ako sa vyhnut kulturnemu soku.
Este som chcel o politike, ku ktorej sa v rozhovoroch s miestnymi dostaneme vacsinou az pri tych najhlbsich rozhovoroch. No myslim, ze to by bol uz tento email pridlhy..

Vyzera to tak, ze v Irane sa krivka exotickoskosti zacina vyvijat exponencialne - tesime sa na Pakistan..:)

Vas Dusan

Cycling to Asia, week 9 cont.




Esfahan wasn't just chill out in the hostel... even though this was probably the highlight for me. But there were other things as well. Like the Friday anti-Israel demonstration. We can't resist, it might be risky, but lets see it in our own eyes! Every major city in Iran is holding this propaganda backed up by government . The whole Emam square was full of strong and primitive statements like "Down with Isreal" or " Down with England!" making it a big fiasco... Who IS REAL? I tried to have a conversation but the fanatical crowd was strongly narrow minded. Innocent Palestine people are suffering. First I tried to be diplomatic and said I don't have any opinion on this matter I was told that I'm human I should have one! So I told them that the problem is more complicated and Palestinians are also harming the Israeli. You should have seen the tension I've created! Wow! I'd better backup... as Dusan have said: "one who has an opinion on this issue must have got already lost in it". The square started to fill up and the crowds started to be more load. Boasting all sorts of hatred... We didn't understand much, since it was in Farsi but just looking at it was quite sad. When we were leaving people were still marching into the city with flags and slogans, shouting out loud. Some guys told us that this is just a show, that they don't agree. We've found out that there is also an anti-government demonstration as a reply, but this one we've missed.
For the rest of the week we were just sight seeing the Esfahan highlights. Yes the mosques are beautiful and the tea houses spledid, but still it's the people that make the country interesting for us.