domingo, 18 de octubre de 2009

A Storm

This slow pilgrimage on two wheels exposes us to Mother Nature’s will. On top of Port Akbaital, at 4655 metres altitude, we dare to stop and take some pictures ignoring the weather forecasts that warned us of imminent snowstorms. The road is slowly getting worse as we make our way down and the weather is deteriorating. A freezing cold wind begins to blow and the snowflakes are becoming more and more copious. The situation becomes critical and we look for cover as we do not know how long the situation can go on for. The glacial temperatures immobilize our hands, face and feet while it accelerates our hearts while our minds are agitated. In the middle of strong winds and a strong snowstorm, we set up our tents and look for heat inside our sleeping sacks. Outside, the storm is still to go on for another hour. A short spell of good weather allows us to come out and contemplate the breathtaking landscape. After our ordeal, comes calm and some unexpected help. Two couples from Cataluña, expert drivers in their 4 wheel drive appear as if out on nowhere, they bring exotic Spanish goodies such as lomo, chorizo, hot coffee with a few drops of brandy and what is most important, their smiles and their most sincere friendship and understanding. Cris and Larisa, our most recent and temporary travel friends, were both surprised and pleased. We shared jokes, stories, and hopes under the freezing cold embrace of the mountain. We are offered everything they can offer so that we can spend a more comfortable night we, however, refuse their tempting proposal so as not to abuse their kindness. Machus is able to ring home for the first time in months thanks to their satellite telephone.
In the blink of an eye our metallic carriages are a mere memory of the past, we must simply await our reencounter in a less inhospitable place, perhaps over a nice fabada or some Catalan crème.
Night falls and the snow begins to draw an artistic work of art yet again. Our wet and tired bodies search for heat that is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to find. Tonight will be a cold night. Tonight, the hungry wolf howls accompanying the wind in a deadly duo because he knows that he is also a part of the landscape in the complete darkness.

lunes, 21 de septiembre de 2009

We're in Khorog

After eight days of difficult cycling and close to 540 kilometres along unpaved paths, mined fields, military controls, heat, steep hills, dangerous slopes, rocks and more rocks, mechanical and stomachic clatter we have reached Khorog. It is the last village before arriving at Murgab, another essential stop in Pamir.
It’s been eight days, eight days we have had to go without showering and have slept wherever we were allowed. The views are incredible, high peaks in the distance, deep valleys with fast-flowing rivers, some blue some a sadder greyish colour. The Afghan border, in this area, is at peace and people wave hello from the other side of the river with even more incredulous faces than their Tajikistani neighbours.
Roads on the other side of the border are even worse and in some cases they simply end at a cliff. At this point, one just gets off and prays to Ala that he will be allowed to pass one more time.
As far as we are concerned, spirits are still high. Our only worries are that our bicycles break, that we may get ill and imminent glaciers. We have been told that temperatures can drop to -10 degrees at night. Do we have the appropriate equipment? Perhaps we do, or perhaps we don’t. Only time and the distances we travel will say.
For now, this is all. There are no photos but we will try again this afternoon.
If the gods above permit it, we will be in touch again in 15 days when we get to Murgab. For the moment, we’re off to have some hot soup which is practically our staple diet these days.
Love to family and friends.

viernes, 11 de septiembre de 2009

We're off

After a few very hectic days in which we tried to get the spare parts, get the permits for the Pamire region and the visas for China, we’re off. Time is running and the spare parts will take some time to reach us so we have decided that they should be sent to Khorog, the last town of any importance before we actually enter the real wilderness. The Chinese visa is impossible in Tajikistan and we already have the permit for GBOA. Tomorrow, 12th September we start moving our pieces in this difficult game. Extreme weather and road conditions await us. Riders and camels are ready although not in optimum conditions but if the gods are with us and the tea dregs are correct, this is the last chance we might have to finish this part of the route.

Last days in Tajikistan

It’s been eight days since we left Samarcanda, five of which have been spent pedalling along very difficult Tajikistani roads. They are so difficult that our equipment has started to notice the tear and wear as well as ourselves. Autumn is settling in and we can appreciate its presence in the light, the contrast in the intense colours of the landscape. At last we are, once more, in charge of our steps. High mountains can be seen in the distance and our souls are widening in the immense sky above us. We have become a part of the scenery. Slowly, very slowly, we are noticing the rough, uneven skin of the old mountain. Millions of years have moulded the mountain as well as the people who inhabit it. Nomads, continuously on the move, looking for a way to survive.
Dushambe, its capital is a large village. Here the urban dweller coexists with the farmer and the nomads who might descend from his village in order to sell some of the products produced.
We reach this small capital and the tough part begins. Expensive permits, Chinese visas that just do not come true and a consul who is presently in China.
We have asked for spare parts that will take too long to reach us, but what is time? What does being in a hurry mean? Aren’t we on the trip precisely to forget the hustle and bustle of our lives? Yes, but winter is coming and we cannot spend it in high mountains. Perhaps from these small drawbacks I will learn a lesson, I’m sure I will.
For the moment, all we can do is to spend a few days taking it easy in the company of two cyclists, Ana and Charlie. They also have stories to tell. Many.
Patience, health and peace for your souls. At the moment, I’m having problems with two of tem. Which two?

jueves, 27 de agosto de 2009

A Telegram from Tashkent

We have been stuck in Uzbekistan without being able to move for 10 days. In Tashkent we have been 4 days and will probably be here until Monday, 31st.
We are having many problems with the visas for India, Pakistan, Kyrgizistan but the most difficult is the Chinese one. We already have the Indian visa but the dates are wrong. On Friday we expect to get the one for Pakistan and if a miracle occurs we may ask for the one for China. If another miracle occurs, on Monday, we may get the one for Kyrgizistan and if a third miracle happens we may get the Chinese Visa.
These days have been very trying for us, psychologically, physically as well as economically. Otherwise, we are fine … if you can call this being fine.
We looking forward to getting on our bikes and getting away from the city.
Peace, courage and may the sun shine in Asturias.

A few curious facts

Kilometres seem to accumulate together with our tiredness, the heat and the personality of the Uzkebos. All this is slowly leaving traces in our state of minds. Our legs seem to know what they have to do but when you pedal at 47º C and you can’t find all the water you need, your head is not all there. With regards to the Ukbekos, one could write volumes about them and very little would be in their favour. In summary, I will say that they are jealous, distant, selfish and like to take advantage of foreigners. Of course, I am referring to those who have a business or some kind of relationship with foreigners. There have been times when we have been asked to pay three times the normal price and they didn’t even twitch an eye. When visiting some of the monuments you need to pay as much as 10 times the price and often they do not give you a receipt so they can keep the whole amount. To get a train ticket has an extra-official price of 500 soms, approximately 20 cents. I admit that it is not much but enough to get on one’s nerves. Some actually prefer not to sell than to have to sell at the legal price.

I won’t go into too much detail about historical treaties and about our daily adventures. To satisfy some of the curious followers, here are a few technical facts:
• Flat tyres in Emilio’s trolley – 3
• Flat tyres in Machus’ trolley – 1
• Machus’ flat tyres - 1
• Mili’s flat tyres – 0 one of the wheels simply disintegrated
• Broken radius (Emilio) – 7
• Days that have camped in the open – 8
• Diarrhea (Emilio) – 2
• Diarrhea (Machus) – 2 though less severe
• Sunstroke – not sure but some days our heads are VERY sore
• I have got rid of the toilet paper and now I have bottle of water as my faithful friend in my most intimate moments. Soap is also a must. Machus is still having problems with this and continues to use the sandpaper they use as toilet paper here.
• Litres of water per day per person – 5 to 7
• Problems with Karro – 0
• Problems with CarryFreedom – only one althou it is recurrent
• Number of times we have repeated the word Ispania - not sure but over 1 million.
• Times we have had to talk about our trip – almost as many
• Times our bums have peeled – Emilio 2; Machus -0 (mine is like a little baby’s)
• My worst nightmare – to faint in a toilet. The most horrific are the Uzbeko’s. In more than one toilet we have had to use the floor surrounding as the toilet had been overfilled.
• Average kilometers per day – approximately 75
• Wear and tear of bags and clothes – good to excellent
So as not to traumatize the Uzbeka population we have adopted our niece Natalia and from now on she is our daughter at university. Here, the average number of children per family is 4.
Our next entry will be about Bujara, Khiva y Samarcanda, Some of the mythical cities along the Silk Route.

domingo, 26 de julio de 2009

ALI, a true friend.

Today is our last day in Qazvin and our last day with our new yet unforgettable friend, Ali. We have already mentioned Ali on various occasions. Today is the day when something new becomes old. Not as an object would become old but as affection does. True friendships are those that are considered old regardless of time due to the intensity and the experiences lived and shared.

Those people who, no matter how long it’s been, you know will always be there to support you unexpectedly, a light in the dark, a friendly hand to hold on to in times of need. A friend who, no matter how tired he may be, will always listen to you until your soul is at peace. A friend who is courageous enough to tell you that you are wrong even he thinks that you will get angry because he knows what is best for you. Time doesn’t matter because one cannot measure time in aspects as vital as these. Our friendship with Ali has lasted, so far, 18 days, a trully short time to be able to call someone a friend but, what do you call a man who has given us a bed, has fed us, has opened up to us and has shown so much affection, love and sincerety? I don’t usually use the term friend easily as I have often made mistakes will probably continue to make them, that’s for sure, but this time, this sad-eyed man with a broken heart and a wise spirit has shown more friendship that many I have considered to be friends. We have spent hours together talking about an endless number of topics: love, philosophy, politics and culture. We have always conversed with the utmost respect and understanding. Without him, our trip through Iran would have been incomplete as it was an enigma for us and one does not know a country in 45 days, you know it trully when you have lived and have met people and that is what we have doen with Ali.

He might one day visit us in Asturias, we will be waiting for him and I hope I can be up to his standards and that in return, my friends can also be his friends. In current times, it is the only way we have of breaking barriers and of trying to avoid wars and suffering amongst people. It is not the people who declare war but politicians who poison the minds of the wary.

Yesterday, we met a member of Hezbola, today we had a snack with him but that is another story. I could also make a short list of good friends I am thinking of but I would rather they include themselves in my list as I hope they are all considered included in it.

This short story is dedicated to Ali and all those who have considered themselves our


and to those who have real friends.