Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas in India

Slum
(Click for more pics - professional ones to follow)
Tears were rolling down my cheeks, I had my hand over my eyes to avoid peoples gaze as they looked on awestruck, my spanish friend had her arm around me to comfort me, they think I'm sick.

I was in the biggest slum in Asia.

I'd met some photographers here for a shoot for the national press and had had to leave my bike as the paths between houses narrowed so much the handle bars were just pulling down corrugated houses. My senses were on overload, incense mixed with raw sewage, banging house music deafened all conversation but you turn another corner and the music dies and you can just here the kids playing cricket on the rubbish dump. Squealing and arguing whether it was LBW or not, saris flash past you and kids dirty colourful toys are hugged intensely.

We're invited into a house which is no bigger than a store room. Anything from 5 - 10 people can share a room. Kitchen, storage, beds are all in a space about the size of a queen sized bed. A girl lies in the tiny bed. She is so skinny she looks like the mummy in the British Museum. Just skin and bone. A tear rolls down her cheek with the effort it takes to look up and see the aliens that have entered her home. Angela has a bright tattoo down her left arm and piercings, with the looks of a well practiced model, I obviously have the brightest ginger beard ever and blue eyes that can only be associated with something from another world and a stupid grin on my face.

But this is the only low point of the whole trip - the charity have really tried to give an insight into what life is like in the slum. I'm impressed how well they live in these buildings (if you can call them that - they look like a strong wind would flatten the lot (luckily I'm able to handle curries a bit better now so my wind wasn't going to be a problem!!)) the children are all happy and enjoyed climbing on me like a climbing frame and chasing the balloons that I fired all over the slum.

My tears are falling because I'm back in the office of the charity and they are telling me how the money I have raised is being used in the slum. Abi translates what the women are saying piece by piece. Part of it funds a trade union run by women for women. Initially i hear graphic stories of how the women were beaten and verbally abused by their husbands for joining and creating such a thing. Bano (the team leader) is speaking again with emotion I can feel. Abi translates "These women stuck with it and kept working and then the results came..." - it feels like a movie... I know what is coming next and burst into tears. all the emotion I felt from the trip rips through me. I'm uncontrollable. I try and pull it together because i want to hear the rest.

The results came and the people realized these women were getting far better results than the men ever had and the husbands changed there tune too. They would stay at home with the kids on the days the women needed to work. There status in society is sky high.

Tears are still blurring my vision - I am sorry but i can't put into words what I was / am feeling. The squalor these people live in, the disease, the lack of education, the way children and women are treated in India, and what a difference the charity are making. What a difference we have already made through donating money to Action Aid - I pound here travels 100 times the distance it does in the UK. 5 pounds is enough for a months wage for one of these workers.

It's after Christmas, everyone is skint, but if you do find a pound under the sofa please think about the children and women in this slum, and think what a small amount of money can do for them.

www.justgiving.com/dannybent

PS Will try and get a computer than is strong enough for pics soon.....

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Long and winding road

Bundi - Udaipur
(More india pics - click and enjoy)

‘Show me the real India’ I call to the new quiet road I have taken from my last town filled with foreign tourists, Indian tourists (“domestic tourism is very popular these days” – said with lots of waggling of head in sing song voice), and locals who would sell their own mother to a tourist for the right price (“best mother in all of India – I give you good price” – with more head waggling)

First there’s the dusty red roads cutting between rock formations that wouldn’t look out of place in the Australian outback. Somehow bright yellow rape seed (Canewdon’s finest export) manages to flourish here leaving a wonderful smell and contrast with the red rocks. The red turns to bright lush green as agriculture kicks in – extensive and complex irrigation streams are cut into the earth to make it possible. A friend camped in one of these fields – at two in the morning his tent was floating in half a foot of water :o) he just lay back down and enjoyed his waterbed – us cyclists get tired you know. It then turns to palm tree jungle bejeweled with pink and red flowers.

I stop to get coke and crisps (this constitutes my breakfasts after recent bouts of sickness of the ‘oh no, how do I get to reception to call the ambulance without leaving a nasty trial’ variety) and all business in the village stops. Grown men simply stop in the street and stare, motorbikes pull over with anything up to 4 additional passengers, children practice their spattering of English – these villages don’t see westerners very often. You can normally tell how long it is since a foreigner has been around by the age limit of the children that burst into tears at the sight of the ‘white devil’. Normally 3-6 yrs. “TV?” You ask. “Money is for food, time is for working in the fields”, I respond – yes, unfortunately the kids too.

For someone who loves children and often finds their company more appealing than adults I find this experience surprisingly rewarding. I’m the only white man these children have EVER seen. Normally a few massive smiles and songs can prise them away from behind their fathers legs but any fast movements on my behalf sends them scuttling again.

Whilst I chat to the kids the gathering gets bigger and bigger. By now I can’t see anything other than eyes peering at me. If I eat lunch it remains this way until I pick my bike back up and push my way through, being as polite as possible in my basic Hindi. Having people watch you eat – not the nicest thing normally – if they weren’t there I’d be lonely nowadays!!

On one occasion in a very small shop in the middle of nowhere I’d made friends with the girl and boy (after the crying stopped by giving them both polystyrene aeroplanes). I was sitting back enjoying watching them play nicely in the quiet when a man appears on my right. He’s staring at me but in a slightly different way. He seems to be looking in my ear. ‘Dirty?’ He pulls out his little wooden box and before I can say ‘Please don’t put that painfully long needle into my ears he has already pulled out his first potato. After several more potatoes – it’s been a good harvest this year – he says I need medicine, pours it into my ears and then shakes my head one way and then the other – tweezers are then extracted and he pulls something looking like my ear drum out. Repeated procedure in the other ear has given me 20:20 hearing :oD – now when the bus hoots it’s horn it hurts my head even more – great! All the while the kids were throwing planes at me and the ‘super long needle near my eardrum’ man.

At another I stop for a quick rest a cow in front of me does the dew right by my feet. I woman whips out of the nearest hut and scoops it up and makes it into what can only be described as a huge chocolate button. It’s then left on the house or road side to dry and used as fuel in the houses. Particularly keen gatherers have villages that look like something from Hansel and Gretel – chocolate button houses!!! They look good enough to eat!! (Dad, when you come out you are forbidden to try and throw one as a discus – you (or unlucky bystanders) won’t be so lucky the second time!!

Then (7 or 8 days later) I find my way onto a highway again. 6 lanes of traffic. The outside lane normally for the speeding vehicles is filled with cows (with horns as big as there legs) – it’s a cows life here in India – if they want to hang out in the fast lane they damn well do it and no amount of hooting of horns will budge them. The next lane is fairly normal – for an Asian road. Just very fast moving traffic swerving left and right. The third and outside lane is the most interesting. Really I should say there are 8 lanes, the outside lane is used as two way traffic. In one direction (one would normally say the wrong direction) you can see herds of cow / goats / sheep, bikes, tuktuks, rampaging buses, trucks, motorbikes, industrial vehicles, camels, the odd elephant and carts, in the other direction (the correct direction) is the odd tuktuk, banished from the faster lanes by a careering bus, and a lone English cyclist fighting tooth and nail for his little strip of tarmac, and his life. Kicking, pushing, and punching other motorists to keep his pathway clear. Then you have the boys throwing stones, the loads falling from trucks, the trucks themselves toppling, people jumping into the road on pan fueled craziness (these guys normally get a very fine hand-off or shoulder in the chest (bike rugby is big in India)). Yes, this is the main highway between Delhi and Mumbai.

I’ve got a good spot and I’m charging ahead at about 30k – I’m feeling great. Coming in the opposite direction a guy on a motorbike pulls over. ‘Stop Stop Stop’ he says. I drop my shoulder ready, but no this sounds serious. ‘Stop stop please’. I pull up – ‘Has someone been hurt? Can I help?’ A pause for a moment…….. His voice is no longer high pitched and panicked but turned a little meek and mild………… ‘What country?’ What friggin country? – I’ll box your ears boy!!! And get back on the bike.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Boring art lesson

Another quick link to keep the smiles on Year 3 (now 4's) faces

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=281239&id=593540073&l=b6d0cdf3a1

Colour of India

Colour of India
(Remember to click on all photos to see more...)
India continues to keep me on my toes. I sat for a moment in Agra only to be greeted by a holy man who blessed me, kissed my hand then went to kiss it again and bit it!! Drawing a little blood. Before I could even begin to decide whether to be cross or thankful a monkey jumped from high above onto a electric power pylon. The pylon exploded sending lightning all around and 3 very large explosions (luckily the monkey scampered off) and when I looked around the holy man had disappeared. A group of school children dressed in beautiful blue uniforms caught my eye and we walked up the steps near by to the school taking pictures and conversing in separate languages. When I got up there a group of men 5 metres away beckoned me over but I was too busy with the children and monkeys to py them any attention. The school had a wonderful view of the Taj Mahal, I thought how lucky these children were, but on closer inspection they also had a great view of the men injecting heroin into their crutch and legs. The above happened within the space of about 2 minutes.

One minute India is beautiful, A Ma Zing, magical, tantalising, the next its nasty, repulsive, vile, angry but before you know it it’s back to being mystical, tender, wonderful, breathtaking.

Men on motor bikes think it’s fun to ride into my handle bars and wheels, buses play with our lives like a baby with a ragdoll, children throw stones at our heads, men make dirty homosexual hand gestures towards me.

These men grow up surrounded by men, starved of female attention, then are forced to marry a women they don’t even know, who could end up being a bit of a minger, or not your type at all. Totally different interests they end up despising each other. Is it any wonder they turn to each other for affection and love? And I guess a white, milky bar kid is a new delight.

In fact we’ve noticed an inverse correlation between the number of women in a village and the levels of aggression in the men. More women less aggression and visa versa.

In Pakistan the women were not allowed to leave the house. In India they are forced to do all the work. They mix cement, they carry huge burdens on their heads (whilst men walk along side), they work in the fields (whilst men sit and chat reprimanding them now and again for not working hard enough).

A super attractive girl blew me a kiss today. What a highlight. It was my closest encounter with the female form in months and it felt GOOD!! I was ready to settle down, get married and have kids within the month :o) Kevin (irish guy cycling round the world) dragged me away (be it kicking and screaming) and got me to our current destination Bundi – I’m glad he did. A bustling town drenched in colour, surrounded by a ancient palace in the hills and a putrid lake on the other side.

We went tiger hunting yesterday. Shooting only with cameras. We saw monkeys, all sorts of birds, deer, a leopard kill, crocodiles – but no tigers.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled except when I’m camping. If I hear a roar when I’m in my tent I’m going to hide in my sleeping bag and hope for the best. (After kung fu chopping the little blighter and then giving him a judo throw to the ground of course – I’m a tough guy, you know that).

Never put your camera down, never take your eye of the road – India is very much alive and not afraid to show it.

The sickness....

I stop at a café. As soon as I do the flies descend upon me dragging themselves away from the cocking pots and utensils. Birdlife freely pecks at the food lying around.

During the day I’d seen the meat hung from pegs in the midday heat. Do they wrap it in flies to preserve it? I’m suddenly vegetarian again.

After washing the pots with the brown water, the cook brings over my food with his thumb in my dal. He removes it and wipes it on his ‘never been washed’ apron.

There’s nowhere to wash your hands and my soapless spray mum bought me is deep in my panniers, buried beneath everything I own. As I dip my hand into my food to take my first bite I think of the hundreds of hands I have shaken since waking today and the number of people I have seen doing number 2’s by the side of the road (no toilet paper – this is a hands on approach). I’m repulsed for a second but my hunger from a days cycling gets the better of me.

A mouse scuttles from beneath my chair and a swollen pussing rat lies in the gutter along with the rubbish, that is also covered in flies, which is being eaten by the cows that are also covered in flies.

It’s hard to believe I know but I’m sick.

What is even harder to believe is it’s not vomiting and diarrhoea. I have man flu!! How? Why? When???

Monday, 7 December 2009

Last border crossing and India so far

India so far
The Pakistan / India border is a very fragile one. Both countries claim Kashmere as there own, killings are common, fighting is continuous and both refer to the other as ‘the enemy’. There is one border post on a 2000km border for crossing from one country to the other.

You can imagine the tension that a traveller feels when he approaches this border. The adrenaline that runs through his veins, muscles tort, eyes watching every move, ears listening for the trigger being cocked……

It’s the feelings I experience when watching horror films…. waiting for the blood to flow. What one doesn’t expect when you get to the border is a carnival atmosphere and circus enacted with school boy competitiveness. It’s more like a Disney cartoon.

It’s nuts!!! Who can kick the highest, who can make a single note without breathing for the longest, who can put up the flag the quickest. It happens every day. And it’s so friendly you’d think the two sides were best buddies. But underpinning all this frivolity is a deep undercurrent. To the North especially people are being killed in gun fights and both sides are blaming the other for explosions in cities – it’s a nasty situation.

So through border control you go and when you pop out the other side you a greeted by green lush foliage, birds flying - i wanted to go back and see if the grey Pakistani side had changed too? One thing remained the same – the friendliness of the people. 5k down the road we were at a wedding singing and dancing with the locals. The colours of the mens turbans intoxicated me, or was it the whisky they plied us with? Men wearing colour – I hadn’t seen this for some time now and it felt wonderful.

We then stayed at the golden temple for a night, I had to wear my first turban today. Thousands of people are welcomed to this temple every day. It doesn’t matter what your faith is, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, it doesn’t matter what colour you skin is. You are fed, watered (all prepared by volunteers), allowed to wash in the holy water (that others then choose to drink??) and then invited to sleep there. This is my kind of religion.

That feeling that I was in love reappeared – the country is sumptuous. One day later you can see a totally different side. Getting to the cities you pass through the slums where people are living in huts erected using sticks and polythene bags, sifting through rubbish to find food, or to collect enough plastic to sell to earn enough money to get food. People lying in the street sleeping – it’s getting warmer but it’s still very cold at night here. These people take hours to stop shaking the following morning. (Please please help by giving any spare change to ActionAid so they can help these people www.justgiving.com/dannybent)

The previous night we had a rat in the room which clambered up the curtains and jumped from point to point. Then there was the bed bugs. Biting and savaging our bodies. We’ve also had lizards which we welcome to keep the mozzies at bay and mould of the scariest nature – it’s tentacles could grab you and drag you to your doom??! Ergh…

You then enter the cities and the smog is unbelievable – it was like sucking an exhaust. Maybe worse. You could perhaps see 5m ahead and make out shapes up to 50m. Cars lights are like lazers in discos cutting through the smog like light sabers. The setting sun was snatched into the mist like a fish catching surface flies. I have a gas mask which is now blackened, we wore then all night… we even tried poking cigarette filters up our noses to filter the air.

This night I couldn’t sleep. The bugs were bigger than ever (everything is big here – the cows are frighteningly large like dinosaurs – truly, no joke. They are huge!!), they kept jumping on my face (the bugs not the cows), landing in my eyes sockets, into my beard and hair. I would grab them and crush them between my fingers with tremendous force making sure they didn’t bother me again. I guess I was a little used to them and i was sharing a room with Sander (my buddy from Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and now again India), Nisa (Gorgeous Turkish girl with enough energy to power an India city – with no power cuts) and Aron (an Estonian who maintained the most caring and happy nature even when projectile vomiting) – so I didn’t want to switch on the light.

The next morning I dashed to the loo and then on the way out caught my reflection in the mirror. I had maggots in my beard and hair and on my face. My pillow and bed was covered with them. They had been dropping from some rotten woodwork just above my pillow. They hadn’t been jumping they’d been falling.

On a lighter note, when biking it is also typical for the people to stop and stare. They don’t speak. Eyes on us, they just stand there and watch. It made me a little uncomfortable as though we were supposed to entertain them. So that’s exactly what I did. I’d do a little jig, some juggling, whisk Nisa off her feet with some ballroom dancing, sing a song – then take Sanders cap and ask them for money. There reactions were hilarious. Some fled, some crossed there arms to protect themselves. But the majority just kept watching. We tried a second method of getting rid of them – swine flu. Bursting into coughs, sneezes, wiping our nose whilst apologising for bringing the flu into their country. It worked a treat!!! :o)

Explaining that Sander and I are Albanian brothers from the circus has also been fun. Sword swallowers, knife throwing (I only sometimes make mistakes). Or escaped criminals - bank robbers and murderers. Sander never fails to remind the local people that if the monkeys start falling out of the tree it’s too hot.

All in all I’m really enjoying India but am looking forward to cycling through the nature reserves in a couple of days after Agra and the Taj Mahal for some clean air and some peace and quiet.

Music and nature (few videos)

A few videos for your perusal.

The beauty of Northern Pakistan, and then a couple of videos of the Sufi music that is so famous across the country. Note the lesson in turban wearing, a grown man crying, raining money, a very handsome man in a striped chalwa camiz, and some friggin awesome tunes.

Few videos from Pakistan

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Bikes in India

There are hundreds of cycles in india. The majority being the 3 wheeled Rikshaw. Hence there are lots of bikes shops - not quite Bicycle standard or Sigma sport but they do the job (welding, adhoc screwing etc).

We took a ride with a rikshaw driver in one of the cities but it was too much pain watching him struggle with Sander and I, so I made him stop and to his bewilderment pushed him into the seat at the back and jumped on the pedals. Chaos ensued as people fort to watch the idiot in a skirt with a bad hair cut cycling a local bike. But no different to normal road conditions really!!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Big cities, little danny

Lahore and border ceremony
After the media frenzy of Islamabad it was real nice to get out of town and down to Lahore and the cultural capital of Pakistan.

One rule in the cities of war torn Pakistan: stay out of crowded areas and be careful at night. My first night I found myself surrounded by 1000's of people in a passionate mood in the pitch black.

I had an invite to a Gypsy festival, only one hour away. Why not? 3hours of driving later I am still on a bus squeezed onto 3 seats with 8 people, our legs and knees entwined. If the bus had decent breaks and had tried to stop it would have been 'goodbye dans future children and hello agonising pain!!' - luckily the buses breaks didn't work so it just swerved left and right round any obstacles.

(I've got a lively Pakistani next to me who's singing at me and talking to me none stop in Urdu - it's really hard to concentrate!!)

I was given prime positioning to the right of the spiritual leader as the singing and drums started (dad you would love it!!!!) - my hair stood on end and my body convulsed with the energy and passion of the music!! I can see how it plays a massive part in the religion. I was given a wedge of 5 Rupee notes to throw over the singers before the big guns got involved and threw them into the air - falling like rain all around me!!!

Yesterday we went to a Sufi night of music with additional dancing - if you can call it that. The music wasn't a touch on last night (still awesome) but the dancing was out of this world. The Sufis are religious icons and relax and become the music. The most prominent feature being the wobbling of the head - they started slowly and then increased in speed some the features blurring to make them look featureless - occasionally making your eyes feel as though they have faces on both sides of their heads. I had to look away when they really got going coz it looked like their heads were going to fall off. The music went on to have a real 'drum and base' feel and the Sufis danced very similar to the big 'house' nights of my past.

One person in the whole crowd was asked to get up and dance with them. Who? That's right. Little Danny. So i did a bit of spinning, then tried the head wobbling. they were impressed with my head wobbling - relaxing all muscles and throwing it around whilst keeping shoulders still. I had a head ache for 1 hour afterwards and felt a little sick. The pressure they put on the Brain can only be compared with whiplash in a road accident or going a round with Mike Tyson. Is it any wonder some of them were losing their hair in chunks and seemed a little brain damaged.

I'm off to India today - the final country of my trip. It feels like I'm almost there but I still have a quarter or a fifth of my miles to go!!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A bit of 3B action....

I thought I'd liven up the blog with a bit of 'stop frame animation' from the legendary 3B and 3C.



Whilst we're at it I'd like to say a congratulations to Olivia Moore for breaking the record for the number of Bushy Park 5k races completed. How did the school Cross Country go? Did you and Holly kick some butt?

And a belated happy birthday wish to 'cheeky chap', Kasper, and an early bday cheer for the 'terror', Charlie B.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Big guns - and I'm not talking about my Biceps (this time)

Long and dirty road
(Click on photo for rest of pics)
Soon after M&D left my poo started exploding again. Which was quite nice timing as election fever really took hold, with accusations of rigging and bribes fervent. Tires were set on fire to block streets and there were a few minor clashes. These clashes between the Shiites and the Sunnis had got a little out of hand a month before – with a grenade being thrown into a shop and then, in retaliation, someone opening up with a machine gun into a packed mini bus. On my final day in Gilgit the results were announced by the government, we were locked into the hostel (a good excuse to get us to spend our money there) as bullets flew through the air. We were assured they were in celebration but I couldn’t help feeling some of them screamed with malice.

The next day I set off south with Sander, a Dutch guy I’d met in Kyrgyzstan months before. That night it started to get dark which was a bit worrying due to the fact that the area is well known for bandits and the police guard foreign workers in case of Taliban attacks. Again the police (who I have always found lovely) welcomed us into their camp, feeding and watering us and telling us all about life in the area. Women are not allowed to leave the house, if you have a lover without marriage you will both be shot, one man in the area has 4 wives and 25 children.

The following morning I was allowed to fire off an AK47 into the air without any bullets and use the officers revolver. Neither touched me in any way. Guns are common here and having it in my own hands was neither exciting nor scary.

Next day was very slow going, Sander was already sick and with the rough road with rougher traffic he was left coughing blood due to the diesel and dust. We finally made it to Chilas – our last stop before the police bundle you onto a bus – the next 200k are real tribal and bandit country. In Chilas itself a bus had been hijacked leaving the driver with a bullet hole in his forehead and all the passengers without belongings and the bus, smouldering in pieces on the road.

The bus ride was typically Pakistani – a few seats with a huge amount of people. My legs were horribly twisted, my shoulder was embedded in my lung and my other arm was coming out of my behind. Surprisingly I managed to drop off once or twice in our 12 hour journey, but it was punctuated with primitive tire changing using rocks to jack the car up, meals stops where human sewage decorated the floor and also a delay caused by a crash at the end of the swat valley (Taliban area) – the delay was partly due to the 100’s of police that had arrived just in case it was a trap.

We arrived in Mansehra where me and Sander parted ways – he’s still there now and not allowed to leave the hostel unless he has police escort – gun fights are common in the street.

I took the road to the capital Islamabad. 2 lanes for traffic are filled with six – with the outside lane – your usual cycle lane used for traffic coming in the opposite direction. 50k away a dome of smog started to show on the horizon – it got bigger and closer and soon I plunged headlong into it. The mountains disappeared as did the cars in front. Dust and diesel coated me inside and out. My boogies are still coming out solid and black, whilst I have to cough up the muck each morning.

Despite this Islamabad (or Pindi – where I’m staying) is quite beautiful and colourful in it’s own special way. Flocks of eagles swoop left and right, whilst Pan is spat colouring whatever it hits red, cars hoot, goats casually graze on the piles of rubbish in the street, Tuktuks swerve round the traffic, calls for prayer are drowned out by break beat Indian tunes emanating from the shops, beautiful material is used to cover the women and the men chatter round burning rubbish to keep warm. What am I doing? I sit in the juice shop. That’s it. Drinking in the sweet sweet fruits whilst everything around me goes crazy. Mmmmm juice.

Oh oh oh, I have spent a lot of time in the juice shop but I did make time for a press conference organised by someone I met up North and was on TV constantly last night on all channels. People across Pakistan have been contacting me to say they saw it. Awesome!!! This celebratory status kept the hotel owner turfing me out on the street. My visa has expired again and the offices are closed till Monday. I was told avoid the police :o)

NB On an off note the guy who organised the press thing picked me up from my hotel and looked into my room and almost vomited. I hadn’t really looked at it in a critical way but it’s pretty gross – the walls a coated with dirty finger marks and stains, the floor covered with dust and unidentifiable stains has never been cleaned, smoke has stained the roof, whilst mould hides in every corner, holes punctuate the walls, the stench of sewage penetrates every fibre of your body, the curtains are torn netting, and the door is held shot with a single nail. But at less than two quid a night in a capital city you can’t complain.
M&D pay a visit
(Click on pics for more)
Mum and Dad’s visit didn’t start off too well. A sleepless night on the plane over followed by a sleepless night in a disgusting hotel in Islamabad, and two days of cancelled internal flights to the north due to the weather meant that they had to brave the 20hr sleepless journey over unmade roads to the North and Me!! :o)

3 days without sleep – I was imagining the sorry state they would arrive in. Miserable, tired, grumpy. They’re not 20 anymore – 3 nights without sleep isn’t easy. But Oh no!! They arrived looking fantastic (life without me has been good to them), full of love happiness and laughter. Raving about their adventures so far. Defying 50m cliff drops in the car, police escorts, coloured trucks full of blue eyed buffalo, making friends, women locked away in houses etc etc

They arrived and the hostel I was staying at was gripped by their presence. Mum and I took a short walk round town and I was like a parent on a childs first day at school – so so so proud to have my mum by my side in such strange surroundings. But we couldn’t stay, we were heading up North to the big mountains and the beautiful scenery.

After arriving at night, I woke early at first light and peaked out of the curtain. I’d been doing a no cloud and blue skys dance the day before and ‘YES’ it’d worked. Blue blue and more blue sky. Not a cloud in sight. Mum was next to wake and I made her pull the curtains ASAP revealing a glass wall looking out over the 7000+ peaks with the autumn reds, and golds all around the hotel. Awesome!!

After trekking, glaciers, lakes, a few mountains, defying death on a rickety old wooden suspension bridge, drinking tea surrounded by panoramic white peaks, views that blow your mind Mum and Dad were intoxicated with Pakistan and had intoxicated it’s people.

We found ourselves invited to a local home (one room – kitchen, bedroom, dining room, lounge all in one small concise package) – something not many people experience due to social restrictions. It started very politely sitting cross legged, talking of work and studies as our meal was cooked in front of us on a wood stove and then eaten off the floor with our hands. But it soon turned ‘Bent’. First the girl sang, then dad, then the mum danced and sang (only after the dad had been sent to the bizarre for something), then I sang, then we all sang, then we all danced. The finale was the dad, who’d finally relaxed, teaching my dad to dance Pakistani style. 4 children, 2 mums and I were in hysterics. Not coz dad was rubbish – he’s a groover – but because of the surrealism of the situation. 2 families, poles apart enjoying a night of culture and education together.

Then before we knew it, it was time to go – but not before the elections got a bit out of hand. Stones were thrown at our jeep onto the road and mass groups of men marched up and down the road in trucks or by foot with a huge police and artillery presence. The police threw us in a cell for our own safety (bringing us tea). M&D looked very much relaxed in the new surroundings – I’m sure there’s a lot they’re not telling me!!

They then took their flight to Islamabad – swerving round mountains and then generally brightening the days of anyone they met.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Some wedding pics:

I was witness and chief photographer. Not many of the womens side obviously!! :o)

Sue's Pakistan Wedding

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Few extra pics

OK more than a few sorry!!

Pakistan Northern Area

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Competative? What me? I'm not. I can prove it. Twice.

When I arrived at the hostel here in Gilgit, Pakistan, people were discussing how long it takes to get from Sost (Chinese Border) to Gilgit and the hostel by bicycle.

Some were saying 3 days, others said it could be done in 2. I couldn't help it - it just fell out. I tried to keep my mouth shut. Honest. "I reckon it can be done in 1". People ignored me and continued discussing. "Seriously I reckon you can do it in 1 day".

"It's 200k of the worst road ever imaginable. The Chinese are blasting big holes in it. Land falls are smashing it to pieces. There are climbs that take a day to do. There is perhaps 20k or tarmac. It's frozen in paces. Other parts are sand. The rest is boulders and rocks and stones. It can't be done in 1 day. Get real."

My eye twitched. The corner of my mouth curled.

NEVER SAY 'CAN'T' TO A FEISTY DANNY

So to cut a long story short. A bet was made and I was going to be taking the brunt of it. I then went down with food poisoning of the Asian variety. 24hrs on the toilet with little sleep and then two days of regular visits. The perfect preparation for a big ride. I could barely walk to the toilet by the end - all energy gone. As soon I was able to sit on a bike, without a cork, I set off up the road back to Sost.

Taking it easy and taking in the views. And refueling.

Click the link now for extra effect....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKhnmUdmz74


At Sost I arrived latish and got an early night. In the middle of the night I popped to the loo and who should I see in the mirror behind me when I was washing my hands but Stevie Bell. My greatest enemy on the bike, rival and best buddy. He was whispering in my ear. "You're not gonna do it Danny. No way. You're too weak."

In the morning he'd gone, but when I got outside he was there with his Time Trial Bike and aero helmet, stretching. He wanted a race.

So off we went - I took the first part fairly easy judging how much the sickness had taken out of me. I felt good, gritting my teeth, covered in dust, mud and oil, but Steve, by my side, was drifting along as though he was gliding over the stones - he had that big cheesy Baby Bell smile on his face. I knew there were some big 50m cliff drops coming so I put a spurt in (muchos matches burnt) - Steve has been known to do nasty things to his rivals and I didn't want to be near him at that point. (What? Did someone say "he pushed his good mate off a cliff just coz he was passing him on a climb", that's sick!!)

So I kept pushing on and to cut this story short I managed to make it back with time to spare and with Steve well gone by the end. I felt like a monster (great news for next season - much stronger than when I left blighty!!). A monster which perhaps I was after all the shaking and bumping - my organs have swapped places, my bones have been ground down and my fingers are having problems moving. Does anyone know a good doctor to put me back together? Ro? Do you know one? :o)

One good thing is that in the mix up my brain replaced my 'Bravados' in the top spot and I now understand what a totally and pointless bet it was!?! I'll never do something like that again. Until the dreaded C word is mentioned again that is. (That's 'can't' by the way.)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

In chains:


When we arrived in pakistan the border guards had somehow lost the key to the visa cupboard so we had to wait some time. To entertain themselves the border guards put me in handcuffs and dragged me around the yard.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Close call for Mr Bent (something I forgot)

I was hungry and tired on the way out of China and was told by a local to go to a small village for food. On my arrivals there was a lot of fancy dressing up going on but I was still welcomed in in my licra and smelly gear. On my way in I passed a women dressed up to the max and then three very disgruntled men.

What seemed to be the mother and father asked me lots of questions as I stuffed my face with whatever was on the table laid out again all nicely. Nodding and smiling seemed to get me so far then they turned there attention to the other men one by one.

it wasn't until i was leaving that I realised that the parents were looking for a suitor for their daughter!! i was first in - no wonder the other guys looked a bit cheesed.

As I left the father said something along the lines of 'don't call us, we'll call you' so i suppose all you ladies are in luck. i haven't been married off yet.

Three new folders of pics - just click on the pic and you'll enter the depths of the folder

Pakistan:

Pakistan


China:

China


Osh - Kashkar:

Osh - Kashkar

Mr B is back and kicking (the cat that keeps sleeping on my pillow)!!

Long time no chat - China having a lock down on internet (none at all) and calling (outside of the country - which includes hong kong strangely) can do that!!

So Kyrgyzstan continued in the same vain - I was cycling up one of the passes about 4000m and a bandit riding a horse in a balaclava (and other clothes) decided to attack me with his horse whip. Luckily a truck came past at the same moment and I was able to outstretch my hand grab the back and fly up the mountain leaving the bandit with a look of shock in his eyes!! I've been doing that quite a bit - sometimes on the flat too!! (It's not cheating - I'm still in the saddle. No it's not, OK maybe just a bit!!)

Barring that Kyrgy is an amazing country with Pamir mountain range on the right hand side. Up one of the higher passes my front pannier fell off. Nice and cold fixing it. The other then fell of and my seat snapped. So when I got to Saritash Shirley was screwed, banged, poked with a red hot poker, nailed - the list goes on... it didn't last...

We were flying down a totally unmade road and the same pannier fell off again but this time got stuck in my front wheel breaking spokes and stopping the bike in it's tracks - obviously catapulting me over the handle bars landing at the feet of a police officer with the bike landing on top of me some time after. "Asalomalicom" - hello.

What else?? Cycling through snow and ice - skidding out. Nice pic.


Then China opened it's borders after 12 days and let us in...

First night at a restaurant - no Chinese between us. We pointed to two dishes on menu and waited. To our delight chicken legs started and then the head was for main course. Yummy.

After that we could eat anything and the sheep's head floating in soup was delightful. The tongue was tasty, the rain was like cream cheese and the eye ball was like meat flavoured chewing gum that you've picked off the bottom of a chair from school.

With the chinese lock down this year in an attempt to squash the passion of the Uiga's - the indigenous people to the Xing Jang province it was impossible to get into Tibet - the area where the Chinese had previously brought destruction and ruin. So I was faced with a question. What do I do? Pakistan or fly? A few people were heading into Pakistan and seemed to think it was OK but remember we had no contact with the outside world for 2 weeks.

On our first day out of Kashkar it got colder. I woke with a frozen sleeping bag and my tent frozen inside and out. Thanks again Cotswald - I was super warm!! The silence made me feel like I was in one of the balls you get at Christmas with a beautiful winter scene inside. Totally silent. Then I touched the top of the tent and it was like the ball had been shaken, a blizzard inside. Snowing inside. Or at least the frost all falling in tiny pieces slowly. We heard on the radio about the Pakistai offensive against the Teliban. Oh dear I thought - but every else was more relaxed so we continued!! (needless to say when we passed a mining place where they were using explosives I cycled a bit faster than normal not knowing whether I was a target!)

Thank goodness we did. The road into Pakistan is the most beautiful place on earth and the people have the most wonderful welcoming smiles and hearts! I cycled for 2 miles and was almost in tears. I thought I'd found what I'd been looking for... I almost felt like I fitted in?? Which is something special for someone who has lived 30yrs feeling like an Alien in this world. (Or Angel, huh? Gergana??)

(I'll post some pics and make you jealous soon - I took 1000 pics in 5 days (but did lose all my pics of Kyrgyzstan and some of china when I accidentally hit delete all - hoping a techy can get them back??!))

So mum and dad are hoping to come out in week or so to see some of the amazing scenery here and feel the love of the people. So excited. Meanwhile I have made a bet that I can cycle the hilly road from the Chinese border to here in one day with the hostel owner. It's an awful unmade road over many hills, and 190k. The chinese are mining rock and sometimes just though massive bolders onto the road for lorries to collect later when they feel like it. Closing the road and at one point taking my pannier off. (Also had to dodge some football size rocks on a night time trek to the celebration fires as goats passed over head!!) Maybe we'll be dining out on my funds!!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Into China

Quick note to everyone that I will hopefully be entering China in a few days (after cycling to border) and once inside, the province I will initially be in has a 'China Wall' stopping people calling outside the country or emailing.

So I'll be quiet for a bit - no need to worry - I'll be busy eating insects and trying to get my visa to Tibet?? Sounding doubtful.

I do have a new mobile for the next 4 days till China as English one has finally said 'no more'. My number is 0996771427177 - I haven't received any texts on English number for past 4 days or so coz no reception so sorry for not replying.

Big love, Danx

Monday, 5 October 2009

Massive thanks

I quick blog to say a massive thankyou to everyone who has sponsored me during my trip. We're getting close to 5000 pounds now all added up. If you haven't yet then feel free to click on http://www.justgiving.com/dannybent/

Special thanks to the children of St John's. (And mums and dads). Jude in answer to your question your horn is still entertaining everyone I meet and helps me when cars are trying to run me off the road too!! When I can't communicate with locals a squeeze of the horn says everything there is to say.

Tatty - when I was supposed to be packing my stuff at midnight the day before I left I was busy sewing your star onto my yellow shirt. That yellow shirt is much less yellow now as it is being faded by the sun. But I wear it as often as I can purely becuase of the star. It really has brought me good luck.

As have my ribbons that I am still wearing on my wrist. Emma, your thread of cotton with my initials on in pink is still there too. I had no idea a bit of cotton could be so strong. But where clothes, cameras, watches, bags have been ripped and damaged by the desert, mountains and weather a single string has stayed round my wrist for almost 3 months.

Joe, your socks are still with me but have got a bit smelly. When I get back you can have them back as a souvenir if you want?

Holly, Carina - my hat will be coming into use in the next 2 days when I have to climb to mountains with snow on top. The biggest being 3600m - 3 times higher than Ben Nevis - the highest peak in the UK!! And I've got to cycle it!??!! Oh dear....

Thanks so much for all your emails - everyone makes me feel so special!!! My email is dannyjbent@googlemail - let me know what you are up to!! :o)

I'm a bit behind on 3B birthday wishes - Happy Birthday to Maisy and Olivia E for September and Zoe for earlier this month, Ami for the 9th.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Some of my best I think.....

Samakan - Osh

DanGer

So I've been a bit quiet recently and there are good reasons for this!!

Barring some beautiful sites and people met along the way the real story starts when I get to Tashkent (a city that rivaled Bagdad in its prime).

When you stay in Uzbekistan you need to get a form called your registration filled in each day. If a hotel in Tashkent realises you don't have it they don't let you stay and call the police who slap you with a $1000 fine. I've been spending a lot of time in Chai Hanners (tea houses) and my tent. So bit nervous when looking for places to stay.

First hotel looks and gives me my passport back and tells me to leave. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, are all full. The next one lets me in and I'm celebrating in the shower when there's a knock at the door. "Mr bent? Problem". Here we go again. But no.....

My visa was only for 10 days!! I've been in the country for 19 already. That pretty much puts me in a very bad position. If the police catch me I'm in for all sorts of trouble - I'm illegally in the country. So first plan is to get off the street which is littered with bribe hungry policeman at the best of time. But no hotel will have me.

Luckily I have a Serpie contact on my side who just so happened to know the Russian Mafia. After a few calls we pull up a dark alley and a bear gets out of a car ("the Russian") and squeezes into the back of our Daewoo Matiz. We then drive to his safe house. 2 steel doors with numerous locks later and I'm in my home for the next 2days. It's a Palace.

Now how do i continue to stay inconspicuous in the Stans? That's it - get hammered on vodka and eat kebab. The people we met had been waiting for us for some time by now and vodka bottles littered the table. Several more were added and then we went dancing!!

Back at the safe house the following morning I sat for 5 hours scared to leave, eating yesterdays cold kebab left overs and coke, waiting for my friend to pick me up.

Maksud (Serpie contact - thanks Derek!!) picks me up on the second day and drove me through all the police checks in the city to the road I'd come in on and dropped me off. I just had 3 days and about 10 police posts and some big mountains to get through!!

3 days - 3 more chai hanners - it's only getting worse.
Mountains - fine and dandy. As ever attacked from the bottom and was wasted by the top!!
Police - no problems - they were too interested in having their pictures taken, playing my ukelele, asking for presents to pay attention to the passport. I even manged to hold onto the window of a police car whilst it dragged me up the hills. Just like in old mega drive games - I held down the fire button and blasted my way through with my finest smiles. But still there was the border - they have computers and all sorts - I was bound to be caught.

Massive crowds of both Uz's and Kyryg's trying to get through. They parted like the sea for Moses I was pushed to the front. The guards were ahead.

I turned on all the charms again.

Before I go on I need to mention that everyone in Uzbekistan thought I looked like wayne rooney!?!? "Come on - give me some credit here... please".

The guards were looking at the fine details of my passport - comparing them with the things on screne. Not looking happy. So I pulled the wild card out - and introduced myself in Russian as Wayne Rooney. Everyone laughed a lot and wanted to come and shake my hand. So the documents were stamped and given back to me with smiles!! :o)

Awesome!!

DanGrrrrrrrrrr

And it continued.......

Last night out on the tiles we had some drinks to celebrate being in a town and getting through borders.

Now whilst in the restaurent there was a big fight. Knifes, blood and bottles everywhere. It was messy.

Quite a lot of vodka and beer later we were in a club being plied vodka by the locals. There's just me and an Afro French guy left. Someone drank his drink and he got really angry.

This all cooled down and we ended up in a taxi with 2 locals. The taxi stopped and we were asked for our money politely. Oh dear. Cut a long stroy short the french guy ended up in a big fight and when their reinforcements arrived I got a good smash in the face. Little bit of swollen lip.

I was trying to break things up but eventually had to leave to get the police.

Crazy days...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Some beautiful pics

You can see the school ones, the pilgrimage crew, and some other beautiful sites. Still no mountains but I'm working on that!!

Последние обновленные

Pics of Ukraine - man with two bikes!! :o)

Mum posted them onto her Picasa - I hope you can see them??

http://picasaweb.google.com/angela.bent1/UntilMNDComeOut?authkey=Gv1sRgCNHM3K-Q-NWzmAE#

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Someone said something silly....

I have an email saying 'we love the singing keep it up'. Oh dear - you asked for it. Watch this space......

Roller Coaster

After the high life in Nukus with my VIP friends and visiting Uzbekistans finest school I set off again.

Day 1

I was joined by 2 Kazaks and 1 Uzbek (Caragalpaghistan (sp?)) on racer bikes who didn't speak english. I thought they were visiting a friend. They wanted to race me up every hill and that competative streak hasn't diminished. I fought for every one. Legs were wasted.

Cutting a long story short - I was taken to the Mecca of Caragalpaghistan as a pilgrimage for the end of ramadan. (I should have known better than to think these guys were out for fun??!!). I was an offering to the gods!! :oD I suspect I was the first westerner to visit this holy of holy places and enjoyed praying, eating (I was offered the chickens neck as the guest!!), and the architecture was beautiful.

Day 2

Invited into workmans caravans to celebrate 56th Birthday of one of the workers. (Let me note here that at 56 he had outlived the life expectancy for a male - but was trying very hard to drink his way there during the night). Awesome evening. It entertains the local people so much to see a westerner down vodka that i tended to do it a bit too much - but obviously not as much as the locals. I sang happy birthday and gave a speech in his honour - brilliant!!

The great man I met here told me he loved his family. "It's a national custom in Uzbekistan" my heart melted. Fantastic to hear after 'girl' offerings of late. All rejected whole heartedly I might add!!

Day 3

The powers that be decided too much ying and threw me a curved yang. Really bad stomach all day - imagine having diarhea in bib shorts, surrounded by deep deep sand that gets everywhere. Now times that by 10 and you can imagine how misserable I was. In fact I was still OK at this point and memories were keeping depression at bay.

Day 4

Whilst eating breakfast at a Chai place surrounded by locals a 40yr old man sexually assaulted a girl. People shook there heads and smiled. The worst of it was that the performance was for my benefit i am sure. He looked over at me, and you know what I smiled a meek smile and looked away. I hate myself for that. But what right have I (a westerner) to interveen in something that I have no idea about. In customs practised thoughout. Man is man here. Women are looked upon about the same level as the farm animals. She WAS laughing but it was the laugh of a school child being bullied. Terrible. It still haunts me and I know it's happening everywhere. (NB since writing I know this isn't always the way but it is in some places and some families and I don't like it)

The same guy had offered his wife to me the previous night and shown me her assets in no uncertain way. This wife and the girl in question above had both stood as if it would be quite normal for me to choose them for the evening??! Mucked up!!

If you happen to come across Alex in a chai house just before the police station half way between Nukus and Bukara and accidently spill your boiling Chai in a place no man wants to be burnt then i owe you a drink!! :o)

I took out my map as i left to see if there was a way to get out of Uzbekistan now. Silly I know - the people in this country and amazing and one person shouldn't change my thoughts.

(In later tea houses I was pleased to see women bossing the men around - I guess that was a bit of yang for the man too)

Day 5

I'm in Bukara now and have been for a Hamen - steam room and massage. I'm sorry Roberto but I think you have competition. One hell of a massage - amazing. Men and women go in seperate houses, get naked, get steamed, then rubbed to remove dead skin, then washed, then massaged in a manner that is out of this world. I was cracked squished and beaten to a pulp in a way I have never known. He walked along my body - it was fantastic!!! They then rub ginger onto your skin with honey. It burns like acid!! But as soon as you are out of the hot rooms you feel amazing. like you could cycle up mountains and through deserts (lucky huh!!)

Surfs up dude

Car surfing that is....

So you pedal like crazy when you see a suitable wave (truck) approaching, then as it passes beside you you pop up (behind truck) and enjoy ride as it pulls you along with little to no effort. Hanging five and all that gnarly stuff. Avoid wipeouts - I've not yet, but am sure they suck in a '100ft reef break' sort of way!!

Talking of gnarly I got bored waving at people and decided to give a gnarly, surfs up hand signal (finger and thumb extended) to the bus drivers who all hoot their horn. I was totally amazing when i started out one morning to have a coach driver give me the gnarly sign before i even waved. It's catching.

This started in Russia when a aged couple in a Lada (not many teeth, many wrinkles - tghe people not the car - well the car as well) noticed my struggle against the wind and were obviously keen cyclists and knew the benefit of the draft. They stopped and told me to get behind them and dragged me about 3km. Awesome. I then had a tractor pull me about 10k the other day. Double awesome.

I got behind one of the old russian trucks and it then decided to vomit diesel all over me. I was lost in a black cloud. Eyes stinging and throat burning. Not so awesome. Double not awesome in fact.

Uzbekistan apology

Just a quick note of apology. When the people in Russia and Kazakstan told me 'take, take, take' when talking about the Uzbek people whilst pretending to take things from my bike I wrongly assumed this was what they meant. That stuff would be stolen.

How wrong. They meant 'take take take' but 'taking of pictures with me', 'taking me to dinner', 'taking me to tourist places', 'taking to places tourists never go'.

Sorry - what a giving nation.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Border to Nukus

14 days of cycling, including probably 4 of the hardest cycles I've ever done, it was no wonder I was starting to take longer and manAge fewer miles, I needed a rest.

I'd been 5 days sleeping in my tent, cleaned a sheeps anus, cycled 500km, been blasted by sand, diesel fumes, etc and hadn't had a shower. Dehydrated, starving, malnutritioned. To help against the wind I would tuck in behind big lorries that went by. my pace almost doubled but I could feel the fumes in my mouth from the trucks (the slow ones I could draft had the dirtiest fumes) i could feel the smog clogging up my lungs and feel it mix with my spit to form poison which swalkled left you with a very sore thoat.

During the off road section it was as though my bottom had been paddled for 8 hours a days. It was bruised and sore, as were my hands, arms and legs, back etc...

I arrived here in a Nukus and was so excited I was bouncing off the walls and ceiling. They had showers, they had western faces, I could hear english... they had no rooms :o( But they did have a Ute in the garden - A round tent like structure with woolen walls and ceiling. Friggin brilliant. I almost screamed with joy - in fact I might have done!! In the shower I sang, danced, and then again when I got out smiling faces and amazing people.

Gorgeous people here and yesterday met the owners nephew (after giving a little englisdh lesson to the college boys) who took me out all over town to the best spots teaching me so much about life in Uz!!

He is like a IP in town, he walks into restaurents people fight to grasp his hand, doesn't have to pay a thing for food etc, he knows the 'IPs' (Ie the gangsters) But has fought long and hard to keep his homeland on the map. Helping charities, and businesses alike. His ideas have helped keep business's above the black during the hard times of the current recesion. His family depend on his skills at businessHis interlect made me feel like an eneber. It was huge. He knew politicsm history, languages. A feel like a new man after taking in all those facts and figures. He works for aids projects who's doctors confessed to agreeing had no affect on aids. But he would give everything up and wants a 3rd world war so he can die for his country.

The school system out here is amazing. I got taken round a seniour and junior school today meeting teachers and pupils and taking a few pics along the way. Their schools are amazing. 4 computer rooms, all the science stuff you can imagine, 3 gyms. I was so surprised!! I think 96% of the country can read anbd write - how does that compare with the UK - I reckon it's higher. Something the Uz's put down to the Soviet years -they brought education. In fact the Uz's look back with great fondness to those years.

Learning loads, getting fat, talking none stop, smiling, playing games, laughing, hugging (oh the hugs have been wonderful!!). How fast you can forget your struggles and regain enthusiasm!!!

On the road again tomorrow.....

Pics from Uzbekistan

Notice the "Where's the wolly" pics with the bus load of Uzbeks

From Uzbekistan


Uzbekistan

Tan Lines

Esp for Rich - here's some pics showing the best ginger tan ever!!

From Uzbekistan


From Uzbekistan

Desert or Coral Reef?

From Uzbekistan


From Uzbekistan




From Uzbekistan


From Uzbekistan

24 Hours

So I was leaving Kazakhstan for Uzbekistan and the people in my hotel didn't know the road I was talking about.

(Note: when I talk about hotels - these are buildings built out of mud bricks that have one room to eat drink and sleep in. Sleeping on the floor with a pillow and a blanket. Please remember how much people like to drink and party here - not a lot of sleep!!)

Anyway, set off. the road was horrific. massive holes in the concrete road with bits of wire sticking out that once held the slabs together, ready to stab, trip you!!

then it got woorse. the road basically dissapeared and left sand, gravel and rocks. I filmed myself on the road but can't load them here - I will update in a bigger city. I had to walk some bits where the sand was so deep and pulled muscles in my back, neck arms and shoulders trying to keep the bike upright at other times.

I came across a big snake in the middle of the road that was determined not to let me pass. It would hiss and jerk towards me agressively whether I tried to pass on the left or the right.

A lot of pain later I managed to get to the border and another 'hotel'. I was so pleased I was almost crying - so hungryu thirsty and tired.

that night I went for a look around and I saw the women out the back washing what I thought was sheets in a tub. Further inspectio showed it was a stomach of the sheeop hanging close by bleeding all over the floor. I decided to try and help and was pouring the water into the intestine and other bits which I didn't know what they were. the man had just ripped the sheeps jaw in ahlf and the bbabushka (Grandma) was hacking out the teeth with an axe. the teeth were flying at me as were the sparks from the axe!! Weird.

One of the sons noticing my eagerness to help brough something over for me to clean. I rinsed it in the water like the women had done and began squeezing it a litte. Before I realised the other was shouting no I'd squeezed a load of sheep toddle into the cleaning water. He'd given me the anus to clean. the were all rolling around laughing all evening!!

I wanted to know if they ate everything and with some hand gestures and my almost fluent russian now managed to ask whether they ate the brain. yes. I really wanted to ask about the sheeps more private parts but didn't want to ask the women 'Do you eat Penis' due to the sexual inuendos and was worried about asking the man as they are very homophobic here and he had an axe in his hand.

Got back to cafe / hotel and shared the night side by side with 9 Uzbekistans who althoughdrinking into the wqee hours seemed really nice.

the next day I headed out early for the border and although there was a basic stop sign for cars I thought I'd be ok to go on. I'd almost made it to Uzbekistan with oput seeing anyone when a guy came out waving his gun. the border was closed. "Are you crazy" he said waving his gun.

A bit later it was opened up and I met the first uzbek soldiers who I'd been very much warned against as usual. I was detained for some time but not for any bad reasons. they all wanted their pics taken with me and I had to get out my USB to put them on their computer!! Fantastic!! Loved it!!

It was 24hrs of where I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. ou'll note in one of the fils a moment whem it is very close but luckily comes as an insane laugh!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A long way without much food

(1st video still to come)

I HOPE THESE OTHERS ARE IN THE CORRECT ORDER AND THE CORRECT ONES -I CAN'T WATCH uTUBE HERE







Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A boys adventure

I spoke with people before I left about the lack of adventure in modern life. I think it has left a void in mens hearts all over the country. How do we prove ourselves? Life is too easy.

Some people are satisfied by showing money and power. But neither of these feature too high on my list of things to be proud of. When I had a high flying job in the city I would have been embarassed to have to impress people splashing the cash and talking of the high class hotels my PA booked all over Europe for me. Does that say anything about me? It just says I've been lucky.

Someone liking me for what's in my wallet??? Is there anything more insulting? What'sd in my heart, brain? That's more like it.

Anyway, I digress... no adventures. I think WW1 and WW11 satisfied the urges in past generations - signing up for something you really believe in (not like modern wars about money and oil), people being proud of you, putting your life on hold to better the lives of others.

Now comes my next tenious link...

I think for me this trip compares with going to war. (I actually considered it for a time - but don't want to kill anyone or get killed - so prob made best decision not to!!) Perading through the streets to Dover in my uniform endorsed by the great Cotswold, Nakd and Bicycle. Having friends and family cheer me off knowing they are proud, worried, even envious. A step into the unknown that you know is a step in the right direction. Of course war offers far more dangerous situations but my trip has it's fair share. My trench foot isn't so bad, my continuos marching is similar, kit (more technical from the wonderful people of Cotswold / Bicycle) but equal in weight. Rationing is crutial every day in desert, my talisman from school sitting behind me on the bike. I write home as often as I can - trying to make it sound like one big adventure, when at times it is horribly dull, scary, depressing. The people you meet make it, or break it.

I'm on the border of Uzbekistan, I think I have made it to the front line without too much of a hitch. i think I just dig in for a while now and hope for no surprise attacks!!

it's not war, but it is testing mentally, physically and emotionally. I know I'm making my loved ones proud and can feel a change inside me. Am I becoming a man? What me 'Peter Pan'? Am I realising how fantastically lucky I am? I always new that. I can't tell if something is being ignited or extinguished. Either way it's a feeling like a big air pocket rising from the depths of the ocean getting bigger with each rotating.

Someone mentioned I might appreciate life more after this trip. That comment drove me mad. What?? No one appreciates life like me? But now I think about it there is a difference between making the most of life and appreciating life. We'll see.

All you can do is keep putting your feet in the direction that feels right with a smile on your face and a tingle in your heasrt.

For now 'live life, love life' but maybe that's changing?!

Keeping it real in Kazakhstan

Few new pics from Kazakhstan

Kazakstan (and little bit of russia on border)

Kazakhstan!!???


So having been warned about the stans all along the way - I had a final warning on the morning I was about to set foot in the country as i was led to the gun shop by Mike and Diane. Another 'Pulp Fiction' moment ensued and I left with a little bag with mace onside. It'll be good for bears woilves, wild dogs, lynx if nothing else.

With the warnings ringing in my ears I stepped over the border. The border control, although very friendly liked to stop you with a barrel of a gun in your face.

Having cycled on for another 5 mninutes a blacked out jeep pulls along side. The window winds down and I feel the fear as I see the metal in his hand from my side view. 'Oh dear' I think - or something along those lines. I see a flash and then another flash. I'm starting to weonder here if my batfink wings of steal are working coz no affect!! I turn my head again and see enought people for a football team hanging out of the one window all with cameras and, phones, video cameras in the hands.

I didn't say in previous mailk but this crazy camera happy people also contributed to my slow going. Every person I passed tried to flag me down and I was happy to take a rest from the continous wind. A guy who'd pulled up on the side of the road with a beer in one hand and his manhood in the other peeing was able to pull me over. It's really helped my russian and I can freely talk about family and friends now!

So 100's of Kazaks have my picture on their phones and forward them to friends and family. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a person in Kaz who hasn't seen my face - esp. after I was told afterbeing run off the road by a jeep that I was on TV for 10 mins the other night!! :oD

Something else I forgot to mention (by the way - I have updated Astahan post coz I left out so much). I did get quite mad at the wind and threw my bike to the floor at one point. I'd been listening to my Ipod qiuetly as I was the only vehicle on the wide and smooth road. As I sat down to sulk what comes on but 'Gonna fly now' Rockies training song. I couldn't have written it bettert. I was able to not only get back on the bike but grabbed one of the lorry tires that litter the highway dragging it along behind me as I went off road in the deeo sand just to make it a little tougher - no hands shadow boxing.

Rich - you would have been so proud!! (Attached a pic to show you how I felt in wind!!)

The big question

When people hear what I'm up to they can imagine the adventure, they see why I'm interested in the countries, why I might like riding a bike. The question everyone asks though is simple. Adin, one, solo?? Why am I doing it alone. Good question :oD I simply say that it's because I don't know any people mad enough - but you all know that's a lie!!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Astrihan to Atirau

So feeling like a king again and with my head in the clouds I set off. Leaving many friends, who I will definitely see again, behind.

The first day I managed 80k in 8 hours - that's not good. Then the second and third day were no better. The "winds of hell" we playing a sound game against me.

Then yesterday I realised I'd only been playing the reserve team. Beelzebub had a broken metatarsal and the devil himself had been sitting out a two match ban for eye gouging in a pre season friendly were both back in the team.

Barbed wire, tumble weed, sand, it was all flying down the road and it was like an old Spectrum game - I had to dodge left or right to miss the obstacles.

But I'm here now and yesterday was treated to a guided tour by Rina (local girl) who wanted to help me and pratise her english. Awesome!! :oD

Continueing straight on today though - no time for rest. Might not speak again to Uzbekistan. Love ya!!

PS Camels all over the place!! :o) Their pert humps blown to sagging sacks by the force of the wind!!! :o)

Being rude

As you can imagine my jokes don't translate too well into Russian (not very good in English) with my 50 or so words I know so I learnt to say the word Joke. I'd being saying it a bit when I said to Mike "you joke" When he was making fun of me.

He looked wounded and asked why??

I'd be starting the word with a s rather than a sh - so had been calling people a rather ride word rather than joke!! Ooopss. No wonder I got a few fierce looks. Even my jokes aren't that bad.

Astihan

So on coming into the town I had another slip on the bike. The back tire flipped out and my bike ended up in a puddle of the deepest darkest mud - I had a narrow escape. So I'm riding through this gorgeous part of town (Astrahan and LViv are two of my favourites - neither destroyed by the germans during the war - very few were left)trying to find a hotel. Who pops up - Mike.

Mike spent time in America and on his first day was held at gunpoint and robbed of everything then had his face smashed in with the butt of a gun repeatedly. Rather than go home straight away (I would have) he huing on strong and began to meet people who righted all the wrongs. In response he vowed to be a gaurdian angel of people in his own country.

So he found me a hotel and then took me on a tour of the city after I'd cleaned up. Now at this point I was still thinking maybe it was too good to be true. He invited me to his family home the next day, he knew a hair dresser - I desperately needed a cut - anything I could possibly want he could handle. Then meeting his parents in their country house (frequented by the communists in times gone by) I realised it was all true. I met his dad forst and whilst Mike picked up his mum we had a few 'quiet' vodkas. We had about 4 or 5 and then he washed up the glasses and put the vodka way. The said shhhh don't tell my wife. DON'T TELL YOUR WIFE - I can hardly stand up!!! I was shown everything from Kremlin to lake - to lotus flowers - only exist in a few places Astrahan and India both having them as their symbol. Rowing, swimming, great food - amazing!!

His Dad was once proud to be Russian telling people he met in his ships how great it is. Since 1997 though this feeling has dulled and now he has a bitter taste in his mouth about how his country is governed. Over dinner I watched a tear slowly roll down the big mans cheek as he told us of his country!!

All through my trip I have seen groups of young people hanging out, drinking beers socially, and felt jealous that I wasn't involved or invited. This all changed. I met about a zillion russia people who could all speak English and even went to a house party the night before setting off again. Lime beers - I could be a 'Russain Alcoholic' on these!! When we went to the store we had a kitty - notlike an English one - everyone puts in what they can afford and share the produce equally - really amazing to see the trust!!

A beautiful resident artist was going to give me a painting but the party led her elsewhere and I never received it. I am definitely going back to pick it up one day.

One of the best times of the trip - absolutely high as a cloud!!

Play list

I've had this play list in my head for some time - I think it describes the trip quite nicely!! Even a little moving - but thast might just be me!?!?

Sign of the times - prince
Man in the mirror - MJ
Lust for life - Iggy Pop
Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi
Bonkers - Dizzy Rascal
Do you speak English - Fabri Fibra
Beautiful - athlete

With bonus song of "In for the Kill" - La Roux - just coz I like it!!!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Volgograd - Astrahan

Some new pics... (with some odd ones thrown in for good measure) - click to see all :oD (Mum!!)

Just had most wonderful few days with Mike and his family and friends!! Full blog coming later!!


Volgograd - Astakan


Sunday, 30 August 2009

Life in Asia

As I crossed the Volgo river I'd finally crossed our whole continent. Europe is no longer and Asia rules.

It was a shame to leave Europe with such a foul taste in my mouth. I was still feeling very lonely even if the grey cloud had past. But one step can make a lot of difference.

I cycled for a day just watching the scenary change - it got greener even though I was heading into desert lands. Go figure.

After my ordeals with the dark skinned gypsies I wasn't feeling too confidnet around people. I hate to say it but anyone with darker skin made me jumpy. There was no intention there - it was just how I felt.

So when i stopped for the first time in a town and people started to gather round methe adrenaline was pumping. My senses were on full alert and I could even feel the droplet of sweat running down my cheek. They drew closer, and drew rank. There was no way of busting past them. Too many. People were laughing at my, I knew that. Was it sinister - i couldn't tell. Then all of a sudden the people formed an orderly queue and each demanded to have their picture taken with me, shaking my hand vigorously and slapping me on the back, telling me I'm crazy. Awesome!!

Fantastic feeling - that threw me out of my rut and got me all excited about the trip ahead again!! Then people started giving me fruit again. A sure sign that they are top banana (pardon pun) people!! :o)

Wild Life



As I crossed the river Volgo the place has come alive. Whether it's grazing horses or cows, spiders, snakes, birds (esp. Bee Eater - bright gren with torquoise belly - beautiful). Here's a few pics.


Finally a video - you thought your job was ####!!. This beatle rolls a piece of poo 3 times his size along a road with 10 ton trucks rubbling by.



Posting a comment

Simply click on '0 comments' and then a page should load that has a box in likea Facebook message. Fill it in. It's as simple as that!!

If it continues to be a problem I might start cutting and pasting the funnist ones off FB.

x

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Russia

I was thinking yesterday after 3 or 4 days in Russia I wouldn't have much to write about. A bit of camping rough again. picking better spots and starting to feel more comfortable with darkness :o)

Then yesterday happened. And not in a good way. The day started with the wind behind me and on a fantasticly smooth hard shoulder. I've had stomach upset for a week now and so not the strongest - so attempting 180k with no money might have been a mistake. It ended with me having defied death for 4 hours along a busy road, having fallen into the road on a particularly bad bit, and then as I was getting into a particularly unpleasent and smoggy volgograd I had two attempted robberies of stuff on my bike!! Gypsies. I ####### hate pikies!! - to quote a line from one of my favourite films!!

I was chased by 2 dogs and then each house I went past 2 more dogs came out - by the time I'd gone about 100m it was like the pied piper of Hamelin - but nasty dogs that wanted to eat my legs rather than rats or children. I'd tucked the whilstle under my shirt and couldn't take my hands off the bars to get it out. I won't make that mistake again.

Got to city centre - no hostels, found hotel - very expensive. Asked for cheaper one so had to cycle long way into slums of city to find a hotel with more Pikies outside wanting to have a go on my bike!!? Same price!! arrrggghhh. cycled back and took nice hotel for lots of money but slept like a king.

Last night I was seriously asking WHY??? Is it like this from now on???? And if someone had confiscated my passport and put me on a plane home I would have been overjoyed. Sleep, food and a pleasent trip to the toilet has made me feel hugely better and optimistic. And seeing my emails this morning has made me feel really happy and ready to take on the world again, literally!!

It's getting steeper!!

Watch out dogs


It was like the scene from Pulp Fiction. I was choosing my weapon of choice. Chainsaw? Too heavy. Baseball bat? To awkward to carry. Samurai sword? Might chop at legs. Gun, man I'd love one of these but might not get through border crossings. Then I looked up and saw it. Shining. Beautiful. Oh yes, it's the high pitch whistle!! Watch out bitches I'm armed and dangerous!!

Few pics from M&D

Kiev - Donetsk (Ending with a hug from mum and dad by the coast)


Managed to save the pics of guy with two bikes etc to PC M&D brought - then they took it home again. Mum is going to try and load them though. Keep an eye out!!