zaterdag 25 oktober 2008

And then...

From Moscow the train dropped me in Kiev, Ukraine. the first time without the nessesity of a visa, and to be hounest, I was a bit anxious at the border...but they let me through! After one luxurious (thanks to Damian) but rainy day in Kiev , the train continued to Warsaw in Poland. Again I found myself being spoiled by the hospitality of Damian and his family. This time the sun brightened my last day abroad.

On tuesday I came back to Holland where a 3 day cycling trip through the flat,rainy and very organised Dutch coutryside brought me to Mayo. Seven months ago we left Amsterdam on our bike, now we are both back where we started (ok, Mayo is in Breda and Julie is back in Amsterdam, but we are both back in Holland...)

And now the end of my trip is here. The last few weeks of my travels without Mayo, I've been thinking a lot about our big cycling adventure and everything we encountered and experienced. I think it is one of the best things to do somewhere during your life, to see some of the world. Of course I am a lucky bastard that I had (and took) the opportunity to to do such a brilliant trip, but if I could,I would send everybody for at least a few days to a completely different culture. Just to experience how things can be,just to make us aware of our own world and space.

Travelling is addictive, and it only makes me want to see more of the world. Meet new cultures, talk with the people and have a glimpse of their lives. It is amazing to experience and I think that by cycling, you get to see most of it.

So in the future, I really hope that I find a way to go out on my bike again. For now we would like to thank everybody who supported us one way or antoher during our trip, not just our sponsors Vaude, Koga Miyata and the Vakantiefietser in Amsterdam, but specially our friends and family. We had so many good winds and cups of coffee which made our trip far more easy. It was great to notice how many people enjoyed our column on the NRC next site and our stories on our own site.
The columns we wrote for the NRC Next site will hopefully find a way to our weblog sooner or later, and eventually in a paper version, together with some of the best pictures of our trip. (interested? send us an email!:

vrijdag 24 oktober 2008

donderdag 16 oktober 2008

The Great Ride

So there I was, settled with my 3 coupe-partners, ready for our 4 days train ride to Mocsow. Stanislaw was only there for the first night, Olga untill later that day, but Rimma stayed with me during the whole trip. In spite of all the crazy transsiberian experiences you read and hear about, Rimma was not the one to make my trip. Out of her bags there came no sausages, dried fish, cookies and bottles of vodka. No, Rimma just sat there quietly, enjoying her tea and staring at me...

But, one door down, in the other wagon, there were Natalia and Ira, who did live the true transsiberian experience.. Dressed in their 'we-are-on-a-4-day-trainride' outfit (which means leopard skin tights and zebra striped shirt for the one and silk pyjama-like shirt for the other), this accopanied by colourful socks and slippers. Since my own roommate could note provide with my so hoped transsib. exp, they did.
the vodka was opened at noon during lunchtime (which is in Russia a bigger thing than dinner) and if you had too much of it the evening before, you got a shot in the morning, vodka cures everything.

While the landscapes passed by, the nights fell and the mornings came. On our 10 to 20 minutes stops old ladies from the villages supplied us with home made potatoes, buckets of berries and other Russian specialties to go with my instant noodle dishes Thousands of kilometers of forest, riversa and villages with wooden houses and rural life, brought us in the early morning to Moscow.

Moscow is different kind of Russia. But with the warmhearted hospitality from Wasili, I am enjoying the Russian city life for the moment, until my trip continues further West.

vrijdag 10 oktober 2008

Far East

Irkutsk reminds me of the board game ‘Risk’ where it is one of the territories which you have to conquer to get Asia. On those Sundays when we played the game (my brother used to win this game a lot), it never occurred to me that I would ever come to this place, Far East in Russia. So for me, Irkutsk was never connected to beautiful (and apparently world known) lake Baikal, or cold Siberia or the transsiberian express, but to this board game called Risk. Even the mobile provider here in Irkustk is called Far East…just to remind me that I am still a long way from home.

After spending two days in town with my new made friend Sam from Taiwan, I went to Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal on Sunday (LB is the deepest and biggest fresh water lake in the world; I always love to visit the biggest, funniest, deepest, tallest, most remote, most impressive things in the world…). So there I was, at Olga’s guesthouse, together with Katrien, Fred and Klara, a family from Germany, and of course my bike, which is still with me.
I did a bit of cycling (did 90km’s on a day!) and wandered around on the island. In the wintertime the lake freezes completely that even trucks can ride on it. I think half of the people leave the island for the winter, so it was a bit deserted. But with a handful of tourist, a few cows and some locals, it made a good place to be for a few days; breathing in some fresh air and making another campfire just for the sake of it (which is definitely not as much fun when you’re sitting next to it on your own) and to prepare myself on a 4 day train ride to Moscow, and to say goodbye to the coutryside.

After 3 days of cycling and walking through beautiful nature, on the third day I found the garbage dump, just in between the trees, just behind the little village…ouch. I found out during our trip that garbage is one of the most difficult things to deal with. The further we got away from Western Europe, the more garbage we found on the way, just lying there. But I am not going to write an ideological thesis about the cause and effect this right now on my web log, we can discuss it later ;)

It seems kind of difficult to move ahead since I left Mongolia, is it because I am heading home? Initially I planned to come to Irkutsk at the first of October, but that turned out different since I had some problems leaving Ulan Bator. Then it took me another 2 days to get out of Irkutsk and to go to Olkhon. When I wanted to leave the island on Wednesday, the only bus which still worked was full. So I spend another day exploring, and took the bus a day later. A day later from the island, a day later in the train, a day later in Moscow…

But today is gonna be the big day, I am leaving for Moscow! I baked some cookies in the hostel to make new friends on the train, got a bottle of vodka and some noodles, so I should be all right. No I just have to pray that the rail attendant doesn’t get too angry about me taking my bike (it’s good to have a ‘friend’ with you, but a bike is not the easiest). By Monday night I will arrive in Moscow, spent some days there, and then continue to Poland, to see some ‘old’ friends which I found in the Gobi desert.

I am leaving the Far East, heading to the wonderful West.

vrijdag 3 oktober 2008

in Rusland

Strange, it is only a simple fence that stands between Mongolia and Russia, but the first view I had of this new country seemed like a different world. All of a sudden there were no more Asian people; I am in Russia. When we arrived with the train it was minus 1 degrees, by now the temperature increased a bit, but the winter is definetely on its way.

I still feel the urge to go back to Mongolia to join the Polish guys again who are still in the desert. Specially when I realized that I am actually on my way back to Europe, and being in a city with Russian people makes me realizes it even more...

Whe will my trip ends? What to do...