Archive for August, 2008
Huaco -> Villa Unión (private)
Distance (km) : 120
Time on bike : 6h 05m
Brutto time: 09.45 – 18.00
Avg : 19.6 km/h
Total (km) : 33.766
Altitude (end of day): 1.150 m.
Tune of the Day: Dear God Please Help Me – Morrissey. There are explosive kegs between my legs…(Sorry, but those words just seemed so appropriate)
It’s been quite sad to vaguely follow the events in Georgia the last weeks.
On a more positive (and, admittedly, less significant) note, the British newspaper Guardian Weekly has published an article about Georgia using one of my photos from my time in Georgia (August 2006)…
…and no, no money or even alms involved here. I’m a good boy sometimes.
Nicolai (leaving San Juan, Argentina)
Media Agua -> San Juan
Distance (km) : 55
Time on bike : 2h 20m
Brutto time: 10.40 – 13.00
Avg : 24.6 km/h
Total (km) : 33.446
Altitude (end of day): 740 m
I’ve seen it before and now I’m back in a world where people don’t feel overly disgusted by squeezing other people’s pimples in public spaces. Actually, they seem to enjoy it around here.
This is how they say the weather will be like the next 5 days here in the San Juan Province in the central/western Argentina…
But no one told me about the terrible sand storm yesterday from Mendoza to Media Agua!!! More to come in the diary…Stay tuned.
Mendoza -> Media Agua
Distance (km) : 115
Time on bike : 7h 09m
Brutto time: 09.50 – 22.50 (!)
Avg : 16.1 km/h
Total (km) : 33.391
Altitude (end of day): 800 m
You have to fill in the verbal blanks here. It´s not that hard. It was a terrible head/cross wind pretty much all day.
4 hours of waiting didn´t see the mad sand storm fade out so I, together with Mauricio, an Argentinean cyclist, decided to hit the tarmac again at 9PM. Late night cycling…
Los Amigos Sucios – The Dirty Brothers…
I felt slightly better than the photo below indicates…
My good old travel mate from my 1997-1998 Latinamerica journey, Christian Andersen, has made a little cyber interview about WT and what WT means to me. It’s all in Danish, I’m afraid. In the unlikely event that you might want to have a look, here you go…
Economically, this world can be hard to explain. An example:
Here in Mendoza, Argentina 12 USD gives me a dorm bed (comfy), breakfast, lounge with cable-TV and int’l people, hot water, and free internet 24 hours a day.
On Moorea in French Polynesia 24 hours of internet alone would cost me 480 USD!
Even after just 4 days of cycling from Santiago to Mendoza, my body’s found the “expedition mode” and this morning it stubbornly stays that way. “Gotta get Nicolai moving, gotta get Nicolai moving” is the mantra.
Somehow, I have to find the inner gear shift and put my body in the N(eutral) position or at least find the smaller cogs in the inner machinery. Freddie once said that too much love will kill you. I don’t really know about that, Freddie, but I’m afraid that too much up-and-go-energy (and caffeine in the veins as well, it has to be said ) will do the same…
At the other end of town (good for the excess energy) I find an extra bike tyre. I’m very picky when it comes to tyres (when it comes to anything that my bêbê is going to wear), but am quite relieved to find a foldable Specialized not-too-knobby tyre at a price so high that I’ve already forgotten.
(No photos and only Danish text…)
On Wednesday (20AUG2008) I’ll be leaving Santiago, Chile and head for Mendoza, Argentina some 380 km to the east on the other side of the massive Andes range.
I’ve stayed with my friend Paola (that I met in Indonesia last year) and her family in the Santiago suburb Peñalolen for the last 10 days. Many new faces, a lot of research about the upcoming leg of the journey (like Will the 3.800 m Libertadores Pass be open or not this time of year (mid-winter)?) from my cosy little room with all the internet access I could only dream about in Polynesia, sightseeing, taking the dog Niki for walks, practicing Spanish, chatting with the housemaid Roxanna, hanging out with my new friends (they are always “new” on this ever-moving crusade), and generally getting ready for leaving Santiago, which has been a delightful surprise to me.
A buzzling, yet very manageable city with a super-efficient transport system (metro & bus), interesting markets, beautiful colonial buildings, ramshackle back streets, lovely Chileans (and a BIG THANK YOU to mama Emma, father Pedro, brother German, sister Paola for letting me stay with you, for being a part of your family, and THANK YOU also to housemaid Roxanna, friends Macarena, Ricardo, Patrick (x2), Daniela, Carolina (+++) for being patient with me and my still very rusty Spanish, for answering all my stupid questions (almost exclusively of the “Como se dice…en Español”-type) that sound like I’m a 7 year-old boy lost somewhere in grammar school.
I’m very, very excited about the next leg of the travel. Can’t figure out if my shivering is only because of the cold weather here in Santiago. The last 2 months in Polynesia with hardly any cycling to speak of have left me hanging to get back in the saddle, out in the open spaces where now one knows me, where I see and know nothing but the strip of asphalt (or gravel) below and ahead of me. I just want to ride my bicycle.
I’ve been in this situation before. I know that this (being excited, slightly shivering, super-focused, rather unsocial) is how I prepare for the adventures ahead of me, how I mentally and practically cope with the challenge, how I do my things, and that it’s all normal, all good. Leaving Copenhagen, Kashgar (China), Darwin (Australia), Auckland (NZ) was emotionally similar.
The Andes are looming behind Santiago. Gigantic, steep as something you shouldn’t try to cross on a bike, and snow-capped. To give you an idea about what I’m dealing with here, I’ve just uploaded a little video clip from the other day.
Movie Clip from Santiago (with Los Andes):
Thank you all for the support, encouragement, advice, cheering, thumbs-ups and whatnot. Thanks for being there. It really helps me from feeling (that) lonely when the going gets tough and makes me more happy than you’d know.
From a seemingly endless list of things-to-do here in Santiago (or so it seemed a week ago), I just need to pick up my torn pants (big holes on the bum) that a kind lady is fixing for me next door, say goodbye to my folks here in Santiago, and then get the Koga rolling again.
Expect WT Update delays. Smile. And do notice that all comments are welcome. I still prefer the dialogue to the monologue.
Things on my to-do-list today:
Wash clothes (i.e hand the dirty clothes to Roxanna, the sweet housemaid), wash bike, wash myself, update iPod music library, download albums I missed along the way, recharge electronic equipment, clean camera lenses, cut nails, talk with Roxanna (= practice Spanish and trying to understand her rapid tongue), categorize miniDV tapes, update WT, check if the Libertadores Pass (3.863m) betw. Stgo, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina is open to traffic (it was closed yesterday because of heavy snowfall, shit!)…
…walk the dog, deliver my pants (full of holes in the bum) to the tailor woman next door, a bit of shopping for the family + dozens of tiny things I’ve already forgotten but that nonetheless make me feel really prepared for leaving on Wednesday.
As seen before, there will be both a smile and a tear on my face when leaving the city, saying goodbye to everyone. It’s become a part of being a worldtraveller…
I was hard to keep up with my diary in Australia where internet was either scarce (outback) or expensive (cities). I missed a few days here and there.
I’ve filled in the blanks now (I guess all of them, but please tell me if not) with photos rather than words.
Have a peek!
(The numbers refer to “Day #)
NB: Never mind the a and b confusion regarding the Day 862a and (tomorrow) 862b. In “real life” I have in a way travelled on more day than the counter on the WT front page shows, since I got an extra 5th of July when crossing the Int. Date Line on my way to Tahiti. But then again I lost that day, hour by hour, during the first 800+ days of travelling east.
By adding this a/b thing I’m now synchronized with the proper Gregorian calender and not my inner calender that, consequently, counts one more day. No one but me cares, anyway…
Santiago is a great city + it has a spectacular setting.
But now I just want to ride my bicycle. Up into the mountains…
Phew, that was a lot of photos. You made it to the end. Thanks.
Yesterday up to 130 mm rain fell over Santiago. Mad dog. The downpours reached the news level (it doesn’t really take a lot these days, does it?) and both the evening news and today’s paper made the rain head line stuff.
I spent most of 2 hours this afternoon cruising around in huge supermarkets here in the Peñalolen suburb. Walking down the aisles looking at virtually all the products is like an interactive language lesson for me:
Escobilla limpia, cocaditas, membrillo, nuez mariposa, palta are all new entries in my growing Spanish vocabulary. Thanks to Jumbo, the supermarket.
Paola, her friend Cony, and I drive into town and visit the Bellas Artes Museum, incl. an expo by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
It’s raining cats and dogs most of the day and in to the night here in Santiago. That’s fine with me – still have things to do on my website. Paola calls me and tells me to come over to her friend Maca’s house. There’s a party going on, is the message.
“A Party” isn’t exactly what I’d call it. The guys have been up all night and – quite understandably – they are all a bit sleepy. Some more than others…
La Fiesta continues…
I spent 8 days on Easter Island/Rapa Nui (from 31JUL08) and cycled a mere 107 km on the 166 sq km little island.
I loved the island’s remoteness, village feeling, mild climate, my Rapa Nui mama Anna Julia who took care of me during my entire stay, and yes, those stone figures are quite amazing – even after 850 days on the road.
I took 565 photos, 55 of which I’ve put in an album…
Nicolai (Santiago, Chile)
One thing that’s common for all the different street vendors that fill the streets of Santiago and (among other things) make it a very interesting capital city to me, is the love for the detail, the love for the things they do/sell/offer etc. Their world might be rather confined (economically or otherwise), but they do make sure that everything is clean, ordered, organized, made with love, in that tiny corner of the street where they daily put up their ad-hoc tienda. The way the mandarins are carefully selected and then put in the plastic bag with a movement that shows years and years of practise/doing the same thing all day, the shoeshine men that work the brush with such perfection and elegance, the man selling sugar-covered almonds in small bags that are neatly arranged behind the glass on his little four-wheeled wagon. It’s pure love and I love it.
Santiago has really surprised me positively.
Mr. Harry Müller is a true camera legend around here. In nearly 3 hours he removed every single dust molecule from the inside of my SLR camera. It wasn’t cheap, but it sure was an experience to see the legend in action. No more dust particle on the blue skies. Altiplano, here I come!
(No photos today – have been studying/reading/speaking Spanish)
After my Chile arrival a new world has popped up here in Camp WT: The Grammatical World.
In this, The Grammar World, I construct sentences all day long, peek in my dictionary every now and then, test my new vocabulary with my Chilean friends, ask numerous questions, watch Chilean telenovelas that I would normally never bother watching, and read virtually everything I can find in Spanish (newspaper, TV ads, subtitles from American kids series, the label on the jam jar, magazines, everything written).
In the other world, The Physical World, friendships are made, sightseeing done, photos taken, web updates fixed, research about the next journey done etc.
It’s to very different worlds and yet, strangely, they are both integrated in the same person. Me. It’s always about me here and for that I apologize.
If you do get bored with that, just click the red box in the upper right hand corner with a cross in it. It’ll help.
If not, I’m happy to be there, somewhere, out there, and that I can share a little of my corner of the world with you.
Tempting, tempting, tempting…Will go there soon…
Ricardo, one of Pao’s (and mine now) friends (the Hendrix guy) has a tandem. He’s invited me to go for a ride in Santiago. An offer I see absolutely no reason to reject.
In the San Diego area in downtown Santiago I’m happy to see a lot of well-stocked bike shops. My bike needs a few things changed before the Andes mountain range, and luckily I find most (apart from good tyres) of the stuff I want for my baby (I still refuse to give my bike a name. It’s just one way for my to (still) claim sanity after being on the road for so long now) (and I generally don’t talk to my bike, for the same reason).
After about 10 visits to different bike shops (finding spare parts for my bike is one area in life where you can indeed call me picky!), Ricardo and I head for the Cerro San Cristóbal (mountain) that dominated the nothern edges of the CBD.
It’s a stiff climb on the heavy tandem where finding the rhythm is not entirely in your own hands/legs.
…it’s worth the effort. As always.
Travel? Why bother? All you really have to do is to sit down, relax, put your right hand on the mouse and scroll down this page. It’s all there for you. Virtual traveling in Santiago.
As always, a little text box pops up when you place the cursor on the individual photos (said Mr. Teacher)…
(Now have a sip of your coffee…)
Creativity has many peculiar faces…Here’s one of them:
That’s it. Especially served for you. I hope you liked the @-dish. And please come back when you get hungry again.
Since my Santiago foster-family mocked me yesterday for taking the dishes (so obviously a job for the housemaid), I try a new tactic today to make myself a little useful. A walk with Niki, the pointer dog. Less harassment is involved this time. The Andes are still there, looming and tempting.
One of Paola’s friends, Ricardo Tampier, is a wizard with the guitar. He plays both classic and rock, acoustic and electric, solo and in a band. Tonight he and his band are recording a studio CD (will they be the rock ‘n roll stars of tomorrow?) in town.
The gig is followed by a private celebration party in a tiny apartment downtown.
In just 2 days here in Santiago my alcohol consumption has exceeded that of the last two months in Polynesia.
I’ve literally spent days looking at different maps of South America lately, researching possible routes, trying to find an approximate route to Central America without making too many detours and without killing to many darlings. There are endless opportunities (thank God) and I think I must have covered most of them mentally, with my find pointing at the colorful and enormously tempting SA map.
Anyway, I’ve tried to visualize the route that – sitting here in Santiago, Chile at the foot of the Andes (snow covered, yes) at the “new” beginning of a new chapter in the book of WT – seems most likely. Everything can (and most possibly will) change along the way (thank God again).
Route Map South America – August 2008(Original)
NB: And please let me do he worrying here. As always I do my homework in the world of route planning and would never enter a country or a region I didn’t feel comfortable with (either because of ugly road side guerilla bandits or aggressive Copacabana muchachas looking for blond Scandinavians). The world is so much nicer than it seems. Trust me.
Here I am, not even 20 hours after my Santiago arrival, in some suburban forest park with Paola and a bunch of new faces (soon to be friends – there’s no better social glue than cervezas!).
(no, I did not lose two cosmetically vital teeth lately. Must have been that red wine or something…)
I was surprised at realizing that having a BBQ in the park (all year – this is high winter now) is a great pastime here in Chile as well. How stupid of me to think that those BBQs was an entirely Australian thing.
Seeing the snow-capped Andes mountains virtually just behind the city is a very exciting sight for me, yet a bit scary as well knowing that in a little while I’ll be pushing myself and the fat Koga bike up that steep rock face.
Lots of conversation (mostly in (still) broken Spanish, plus German, English, and Portuguese. A bit schizophrenic if you ask me, but really entertaining. Everyone wants their own WT run-down from that blond stranger in the pack.
It’s a full-on South American beginning for me.
Just because I took care of the dishes today, I was immediately called Roxanna 2. Roxanna is not a bad name, but it is a girl’s name and also the name of the housemaid here. They all laughed a lot.
I think it’s not too difficult to figure out the outline of the day…
The 3.500 km flight from Easter Island to Santiago, Chile took less than 4 hours thanks to a strong tailwind of the sort that I, the one who badly needs them, seem to never experience. It’s an unfair world sometimes…
In Santiago Airport Paola, whom I met on Gili Trawangan almost a year ago, was waiting for me. A lovely rendezvous. She lives in a house with her family and brother in Peñalolen, a Santiago suburb, where I’m now installed in what seems like a comfy hotel room, complete with internet, a nice Santiago vista, and a sweet family.
Hanga Roa -> Ahu Akivi -> Hanga Roa
Distance (km) : 24
Time on bike : 2h 26m
Brutto time: 11.00 – 18.00
Avg : 10.0 km/h
Total (km) : 32.838
My last day on Easter Island. I still have a few caves and stone figures that I want to see.
Sadly, this bit of Rapa Nui exploring also involves a less wanted sight…
From the top of Maunga Tangaroa from where there’s a 360 degree super view of most of the island.
Tonight, I enjoy my “last supper” with Jaime & Anna Julia in Hanga Roa. They’ve taken care of me so beautifully.
…and yeah, tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll arrive in South America. Finalmente!
The internet in the café I’ve frequented most days here in Hanga Roa, Easter Island is not working this afternoon. A little walk, is what I decide to do. It’s drizzling though so I find the Catholic Church in town.
It’s gloriously empty, dry and offers a quiet and grandiose reading room for me. Instead of empty rows of benches, I see alternative exercise setups and alternate reading and impromtu sit-ups, the Holy Way.
What else is there to do on a rainy Wednesday afternoon?
I’m trying hard to catch up with the last 2 months of adventure here from an internet café on Rapa Nui.
Most of the diary entries are in Danish only, and I know it’s a bummer for those outside of the 43.000 sq.km that is Denmark.
Meanwhile, have a look here!
The mosquitoes here on Rapa Nui are both few and clumsy. They certainly don’t belong to the Premier League of Bugs. They are slow in the air and show no great interest in actually doing what mosquitoes are genetically supposed to do: annoy and suck!
With a few swift Daniel “Karate Kid” San hand movements my tiny, humble room is easily made bugger free, rest assured that none of them possess the intelligence of their French Polynesian counterpart who kept hiding until I entered REM land when they’d come out and suck their brains (and my precious blood) out.
Every fortnight I have a deadline with MetroXpress, the Danish newspaper I’ve been writing travel articles for ever since I left Denmark in April 2006. Today is deadline time. Today’s an easy day. 3 hours and no more work for the next 14 days. It’s an easy life out here.
Though it doesn’t make me rich, and it doesn’t even cover my expenses however careful I continue to be with my pesos, it does extend the reality of this much-loved nomadic bicycle life of mine.
And for that, I’m very grateful.
Watch it (and the other WT movies in case it is raining outside) right here!
Easter Island Round the Island Trip
Distance (km) : 54
Time on bike : 3h 30m
Brutto time: 10.45 – 17.30
Avg : 15.5 km/h
Total (km) : 32.814
Easter Island is just 171 sq.km (or 13×13 km had the triangular shaped island been square) and has a road (El Camino Costero, 50 km, mostly paved) hugging the coastline almost all the way round the island, cutting the rather mountaneous eastern and northern ends off.
It’s a magnificent, full-on day around the island on the bike. Weather’s perfect and it’s great to be back on the bike, all dressed in slick lycra, after (did I say too many?) weeks on Polynesian hideaway islands.
This tiny island in the middle of nowhere (3.500 km due east to the South American continent and 4.000 km going west to Tahiti (or 9.000 km to Australia)) has a lot more than just the mythical stone figures to offer. Caves, wild South Pacific coastlines, semi-wild horses (they are not wild at all, but I like to imagine them so), extinct volcanoes, craters, an interesting main town (the only one!) Hanga Roa (4.000 inhbt.), a great golden beach adorned with a coconut grove, rock art, super hospitable locals, discos and one bank (whose opening hours I never really figured out).
Vaíhu, Akahanga, Rano Raraku, Tongariki, Papa Vaka, Te Pito Kura, Ovahe Beach, Anakena, a long list of exotic South Pacific names is on the agenda today. The photos should do the talking.
The ecological highlight slash surprise of the day is the small pockets of gum (eucalyptus) trees scattered all over the island. The wonderful scent brings me straight back to Australia where – all the way from Darwin, via Katherine, Alice Springs, Adelaide suburbia, Mornington Peninsula to Sydney – these natural gems have been standing quietly behind the scenes generously sharing one of the greatest smells around while I was busy pedalling.
Below is a list of the WT countries (25 so far) that I’ve found most un-touristy. Un-touristy being a highly subjective term here. It’s a general assessment and counts such delicate parameters as the numbers of other tourists encountered, the general feel of being oh-so far from the beaten track, the level of the infrastructure, the (lack of) availability of some of the conveniences (supermarkets, libraries, pubs, internet cafés, accommodation) we often take all too granted.
Noticeable is that all the Central Asian countries that I went through are featured here. It’s no coincidence. That region is a true gem to the curious and not too pampered traveller. It remains one of my absolute highlights of the journey so far. Don’t hesitate, just go.
Some of the countries (e.g. Vietnam, Turkey) do have very well-visited pockets (e.g. Hanoi, Istanbul) but have made it on the list because of the general feeling factor. There are two sides to the coin and as a long-distance cyclist you always get to see both. It really is like having your cake and eating it, as they say.
01. Kyrgyzstan (2006)
02. Turkmenistan (2006)
03. China/Tibet (2006)
04. Azerbaijan (2006)
05. Uzbekistan (2006)
06. Georgia (2006)
07. Tonga (2008)
08. Turkey (2006)
09. Vietnam (2007)
10. Romania (2006)
Yes, you’ve guessed it, my favourite twins, Australia and New Zealand (a.k.a. The Lands of Conveniences) aren’t on the list! It is not a mistake…
I’m easy like Sunday morning all day. What else is there to do?
Read the newsletter from Tahiti here!