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??

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


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)


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)


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.


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