Well, I have a good excuse. Since March 26th, I’m on a break. After a gruelling 14-hour day, I arrived to my parents’ apartment in Buenos Aires and I’ve been resting ever since, gathering energies for the next part of my voyage: riding all the way to North America (voluntary vagueness here, don’t know if I’ll end in Southern Mexico or in Eastern Canada).
Meanwhile, a quick flashback. While I was in Thailand, I stopped for a few days at that awesome biker’s place called the Rider’s Corner in Chiang Mai, managed by Phil Gibbins (KTMphil, moderator at rideasia.net) and his wife Som, they offer cozy rooms, great Thai and Western food and a great place to meet other riders. One afternoon, I came back and Phil introduced me to motorcycle legend Dr. Greg W. Frazier, a man who has circled the globe on a motorcycle four times by himself and a fifth one carrying a blind woman on his bike.
He told me he was profiling motorcycle travellers for an article and he interviewed me and took some pictures the next day. Here’s the article: Dr. Frazier: Profiles of Adventure Travelers. Most of what he says about me is slightly inaccurate but having seen his handwriting while he was taking notes, I can’t blame him. Plus, it’s an interesting read. Enjoy! I’ll resume normal posting when I’m on the road again.
We have just received an email from our Chinese tour company announcing that our tour is cancelled, we can’t drive through China. This is very sad news and also a major turnoff. Our permit to transit through China in our own vehicles has been refused. We are now getting drunk with Chinggis Vodka here in Ulan Baatar while we consider the alternatives. A couple of ideas had been thrown on the table:
Get very good winter gear and ride to Vladivostok, then take a boat to Korea and from there somewhere else
Same but take a boat to Canada and forsake South East Asia
Ship the bike to Thailand and fly to Thailand
Same but backpack across China
Same but buy my Chinese bike, maybe I’ll finally get that Shineray 😉
Meanwhile, just a thought about abusive governments.
… chances are you are doing something pretty cool, told me Dan from the Eiffel Tower Hostel when I started telling him about the number of amazing people I had met only by getting out to the streets of Batumi.
This quiet beach city only 14km away from Turkey seems to be a mandatory stop for world travelers. I’ve met Iranians going around the world on bicycles, a Belarusian journalist going around the world with a backpack and a laptop, a young Ukrainian couple just starting their hike around the world, a French woman going around the Black Sea on her boat and her Spanish boathiker (or is it hitchboater?). It must be its position by the sea and so close to the Turkish border.
So, I went out on the afternoon of my rest day with the intention of resting at the beach with my book but it was too hot and the beach is a cobblestone beach so I took refuge at the little park behind the beach, which has benches and palm trees. There I was in that blissful state that is somewhere between reading a good book and taking a nap when I spotted a little group of cyclists that were laying their clothes on the benches and I decided it would be good to talk to them. I like cyclists, they remind me of when I used to travel by bicycle and make me want to do it again. We started talking and a very nice conversation followed, they were Iranians on their long way to Canada, two of them at least. The third one spoke little English. If I have ever complained about any visa issue, forget about it. These guys are Iranians, that’s about as bad as a passport can get and they had just been refused their Schengen visa, bummer. They were also having money problems and selling bracelets to get some money to survive for the weekend until their bank would respond to their message and unblock some funds. They have a nice Unicef flag on one of the bicycles and they are riding the world to remind people that dreams do come true when you get up and work on them. Something I can really relate to, if you know what I mean. They call themselves Dream Makers. Here’s a picture of us where they were selling bracelets and I was eating döner kebap.
They were taught how to make the bracelets and the basics of street selling by Roman, a Belarusian journalist also traveling around the world but as a backpacker, hitchhiker and general purpose freeloader. A pretty cool guy too but I think I have no picture of him.
I spent the whole afternoon and evening with them, sharing hachapuri and talks with police about the legality of street selling. Actually that last bit was handled by a Georgian teenager who had taken to himself (after buying a bracelet of course) to help them with police. Towards midnight, Roman suggested I should go to the port and meet this cool French woman that lives on a boat, that I wouldn’t be bored if I talked to her. And so I met Maguelonne and she invited me to share some Georgian wine on her boat with her and Xavi, her Spanish freeloader. Maguelonne works a few months a year for humanitarian projects (mostly in Africa) and then goes back to wherever she left her boat the last time and lives for as long as she can on the boat. It’s her home. Xavi, on the other hand is traveling with an undefined route to the East, preferring Muslim countries above others and makes documentaries about his travels. They didn’t give me any website address to share.
Back at the hostel, other world travelers were also to be met. Enter Anastasiya and Maxim, two young (very young) Ukrainians hitchhiking around the world and supporting themselves with their online businesses. They had just started their trip when we met and arrived by ferry to Batumi from Ukraine. As if they knew already that Batumi is such a place. They left the Ukraine with only 130 dollars in their pockets but I’m sure their industriousness will serve them well and their online businesses will support them during their trip. The last night in Batumi they also decided (like me) to go spend the night at Dan’s host family’s summer farm in the mountains, here:
At the farm we shared some tasty home-made food: vegetables, cheese, cream, hachapuri, bread. All of it home-made and delicious. Nastya and Maxim are raw vegans in normal time but they could not refuse the delicious food that we were being served. And it would have been impolite to refuse it too. The family that received us is a Muslim family so they ate after sunset while we had eaten just before. They were all extremely nice, albeit the difficulties in communicating: my Russian plus their English put together are not even at the level of baby talk.
And here’s a couple of bonus pictures until I upload the album.