Earthlings Through The Eyes Of A Wandering Biker



  • dlplumerdlplumer Registered Users Posts: 8,081 Major grins
    edited October 26, 2009
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited November 1, 2009
    What was left of Banda Aceh, Sumatra. (A few months after the Tsunami)



    It was so difficult to imagine that a city once existed here as aid workers, journalists and a wandering biker knelt in what used to be the downtown center, reeling total shock. It was though a nuclear bomb had exploded.




    Tossed around and crumpled in the waves



    Three miles inland this boat came to rest


    In search of stranded villages



    The only way out was a low tide ride



    Heading into Java


    More tire repairs crossing Java

  • IRUKANJIIRUKANJI Registered Users Posts: 10 Big grins
    edited November 3, 2009
    WOW! I had no idea you were out on this journey SV. Thanks for sharing!! The photos are something we don't see too often. clap.gif
  • PackMulePackMule Registered Users Posts: 24 Big grins
    edited November 3, 2009
    Giddyap! clap.gif
  • dlplumerdlplumer Registered Users Posts: 8,081 Major grins
    edited November 11, 2009
    I just reviewed Glen's latest book on Amazon if you care to read:

  • DoctorItDoctorIt Administrators Posts: 11,951 moderator
    edited November 12, 2009
    dlplumer wrote:
    I just reviewed Glen's latest book on Amazon if you care to read:

    Well said thumb.gif
    moderator of: The Flea Market [ guidelines ]

  • CrossbarphotoCrossbarphoto Registered Users Posts: 89 Big grins
    edited November 12, 2009

    Got mine! Great read so far!! Thanks Glen!!

  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited November 13, 2009
    dlplumer wrote:
    I just reviewed Glen's latest book on Amazon if you care to read:

    Hey amigo thank you and thanks to everyone else who buys my book. And double thanks for writing reviews. Please remember that we donate 100% of the royalties to Room to Read, an organization that builds schools in developing countries. Our planet and inhabitants are still worth saving and it is through our collective efforts that we gain power to overcome hatred, ignorance and war.
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited November 16, 2009
    Stumbling Through the Clouds
    November 11, 2005
    Airborne Over Madagascar

    From five miles up, I drift into a sensation of whirling displacement, staring out the dual-Plexiglas window of a roaring jet missile. While suspended in motion among idle puffy clouds, a muted fiery sun rises against the curve of the earth. Trapped in the disorienting daze of the continental-hop, while on a precarious slide into the role of uneasy alien, I wrestle to contain images of primal cultures I’ll soon invade. <o:p></o:p>

    In 1988, when first returning to California from living in Asia, culture shock did not strike me until re-encountering familiar surroundings. Even promptly barging back into old routines with lifetime friends, social adjusting took a year. No one but other long-term travelers understood the misalignment that occurs when attempting to return home. Similar feelings intensified in 2002 when completing my South American ride, resulting in an about-face from Palm Springs for a four-month retreat to Central America. After that, still restless inside, I embarked on another extended visit back to Mexico, only to return to California long enough to organize the present journey. So where does all this wandering lead? <o:p></o:p>

    There is a psychological line that long-term international travelers cross that marks a point of no return—that is when we surrender to the lure and take the expatriate plunge by deciding to live in a foreign country. I grapple with these sentiments daily, often by the hour—what to do once back in the US or where to finally settle and grow old. This morning, when boarding a plane crowded with package-tour Europeans exiting Bali, culture shock exploded like a series glaring light bulbs. One would assume that with time spent in sociable Indonesia, these tired tourists would have adopted some friendliness and lost the unpleasant frowns. <o:p></o:p>

    To smooth jagged edges of a harsh life in the Developing World, no matter their circumstance, everyone smiles. As learned in Tsunami ravaged Banda Aceh, not even the horrors of nature’s ruthless rampage could smother the local’s heart-spun smile. If by chance I encounter a native not smiling, I fire one first and immediately that little brown face erupts into a mouthful of sparkling pearls. But smiling at strangers causes suspicion in the West where it signals attempts to manipulate, or becomes a cocktail waitress’s favorite tool. The most dreaded effect aboard this hurtling capsule is being trapped in the awkward chill of subdued spirits. <o:p></o:p>

    Since most hotels in Bali were empty, it was an annoying surprise encountering partitioned rows of emotionless Caucasians with sunburned faces and worn expressions. And how is it I can be so uncomfortable with my own kind? Have I become the dog who has played with the ducks so long, he thinks he is a duck? In thirty years of wandering seventy countries, from Mongolian nomads to Amazon Indians, I have interacted with almost every major race and culture except Black African. And now, to the dismay of those at home, that questionable exploration awaits when this 747 lands in Cape Town. <o:p></o:p>

    When first explaining to friends and relatives wild ideas of continuing my global ride after unfortunate events in Colombia, there were long faces with forced smiles. They may share the splendor of adventure reading these journals but they also suffer unfairly worrying about the pitfalls. Even though the South American adventure turned out for the best, the horrendous hell my loved ones endured for five weeks not knowing if I was dead or alive took its toll, probably more on them than me. Announcing I was subjecting them to a second round of grating anxiety had a price. <o:p></o:p>

    Although everyone appeared positive and feigned excitement, no one but my closest brothers really understood. Cracks and distances between rock solid relationships widened in the deepening gloom of an approaching departure date. None of us could stand the strain of another emotional train-wreck. India, first of the two biggest risks on this route, has passed with only a stomachache and frazzled nerves. Now, a glowing African sky pulsates with forbidding images of genocide, famine and disease, jabbed with sporadic states of civil war. But somehow, I know it is going to be different and the Dark Continent will welcome this curious Gringo. <o:p></o:p>

    When first committing to embark on this odyssey, I told Brad that I would only be gone a year with no intentions of leaving the pavement. I aimed to confine the ride to developing nations but also to sidestep even the most remote hazards. And today, with recent pledges to be home by January, my course has veered again. So far, I’ve been a traveler without an established itinerary, just a general direction around the earth that was subject to change by political barriers or weather patterns. Originally, Africa was not an option, but a lengthy conversation with a fellow traveler, stimulated further consideration. “Glen you have to do Africa, life won’t be complete without visiting the Masai of Kenya.” <o:p></o:p>

    That very same afternoon an experience while questioning a cashier in a Seattle convenience store cemented my determination. While paying for a tank of gasoline, hearing a shiny-black-skinned girl’s unfamiliar accent sparked my curiosity. “Okay, you’re not British or Jamaican, where are you from?” <o:p></o:p>

    In a laughing voice behind sincere brown eyes, she answered in a series of soft jingling bells, “I an fron Eet tee oh pee ah.” A homely girl with a happy face--she flowed lithe as a hand-carved ebony figurine and during twenty minutes of dialogue between attending to customers and answering her cell phone, she spoke of a distant homeland. “I con to Ahmeerica to be weet my famalee but I mees my contree so much. I an goin back to there soon.” Her comment caught me off guard. From the security and affluence of America, how can anyone miss the suffering of Ethiopia? What could cause such yearning for the tragedies reported about one of Africa’s poorest nations? <o:p></o:p>

    As of that moment, the solution was simple, I had to go and find out for myself. Now when meeting black Africans while traveling, I startle them by boldly announcing “I’ll be in your country next year.” But I am not proceeding blind--this time I am protected by omens. <o:p></o:p>

    Is there such a thing as prediction and prophets? There had better be. While standing in line transferring planes in Malaysia, an Indian Sikh sitting in cross-legged meditation suddenly opened his eyes to wave me closer. With his bulging head layered in a white linen Turban, he radiated a sage’s wisdom. From behind a scraggly beard framing a tan wrinkled face, he stared direct into my eyes--uttering simple words “Many great things lie ahead for you.” As abruptly as he surfaced, he cast down his gaze and retreated to where he had been journeying, and I, with no further apprehension, took another confident step ahead toward the immensity of Africa. <o:p></o:p>





    Yes that's a bird's nest




    And how does one escape an empty desert with a six inch slash in a rear tire--complicated by not having a spare?

    After a few days pondering and running out of water, the solution became simple. Just use the same sharp volcanic rocks that originally ripped the gash to pound the locks off of a security cable and fashion a tournaquet.

  • 20DNoob20DNoob Registered Users Posts: 318 Major grins
    edited November 19, 2009
    Just ordered both your books and I'm looking forward to receiving them.

    5D2/1D MkII N/40D and a couple bits of glass.
  • 150mph150mph Registered Users Posts: 2 Beginner grinner
    edited November 19, 2009
    Epic trip! I ordered your book.
    Wow! Just happened into this forum and this thread, got drawn in to the colorful photos and heartfelt writing and stayed to read the entire post, which motivated me to buy the book and register for this forum to offer my appreciation for this extensive post. As a fellow aficionado of (fast) motorcycles and adventuring, you really connected me to the people and places, tragedies, hardships and triumphs you encountered. Thanks Glen

    -Larry in Los Angeles
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited December 2, 2009
    Approaching Namibia from South Africa



    After near extermination of the indigenous tribes, southern Africa developed from European stock in a similar time-frame, though on a smaller scale than the US. Roads, terrain and architecture look the same except that cities are further apart with less development in between.


    Entering the Namib Desert north bound.



    In Namibia, when I am not camping in the desert, scattered remote farmhouses established by eighteenth century German immigrants provide soft spongy beds in hundred-year-old, but polished clean wooden bunkhouses.




    Overnights with old-time homesteaders are refreshing upgrades with outdoor stone bathrooms and communal kitchens to cook fresh butchered lamb chops that farmers sell.



    But the repeating scenery grew old as roads toward the coast remained washboard gravel with endless miles of beige colored sand. <o:p></o:p>


    Then suddenly Africa erupts into the glory of geological splendor.







    Approaching the celebrated Red Dunes of Sussusvlei, diesel truckloads of young European overland voyagers rumbled in for their share of tourist gouging. Prices are shockingly high. With southern Africa lacking a competitive industrial base, most goods are imported and heavily taxed while greedy merchants also take advantage by exploiting budgeting travelers who have no choice where to shop. Compared to Asia, this region is unreasonably expensive, so trucking overlanders spend most of their trips camping, with occasional evenings in Backpacker hostels for hot showers and Internet connections. Before the rampage of civil war in Sudan made it too risky to traverse, the common route for these hearty adventurers was through Eastern Africa, beginning from Cairo and ending in Cape Town.


    But recently, combined with the open banditry of Northern Kenya, the new course has become Nairobi to Cape Town. (Now the genocide in Darfur can continue with fewer witnesses.) <o:p></o:p>

  • rontront Registered Users Posts: 1,473 Major grins
    edited December 2, 2009
    Simply phenomenal!!

    Thanks so much for sharing this!! I am looking for your book!

    "The question is not what you look at, but what you see". Henry David Thoreau
    Nikon D600, Nikon 85 f/1.8G, Nikon 24-120mm f/4, Nikon 70-300, Nikon SB-700, Canon S95
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited December 14, 2009
    Zigzagging Africa
    With two thousand miles left to Livingstone, Zambia where fresh tires are scheduled for delivery, timing is going to be close. Anyway, the newly paved double-lane Trans-Kalahari Highway beginning from the coast is easier on rubber than the previous long stretches of sharp gravel road. Riding east out of the hot desert sands leads into a cool, pleasant plunge through a heavily wooded landscape. <o:p></o:p>


    White African cities were interesting but departure was a welcome relief as the last one, Swopkupmund, disappeared behind me into foggy ocean breezes. Once back into the countryside, among the occasional leaping gazelle and black masked Oryx, herds of three hundred pound demonic-faced warthogs stood their ground staring while grazing roadside. Rippling with thick shoulder muscles, and coarse haired swaybacks, double rows of upturned tusks make them the ugliest beasts of the jungle. With every mile, Africa now displays its wilder side.


    As warnings and concerns of robbery and murder in South African cities faded, the time had come to see how simple jungle villagers live. Swirling orange-purple flares during a primal Namibian sunset signaled that the moment had arrived to seek black Africans in their tribal environment.



    Riding the first suitable footpath through a tree studded thicket led to a sprawling enclave of random mud huts reinforced with wooden poles. With a worn-out sign painted in English words, one building stood out from the rest. Mbeyo Baptist Church.


    At the sight of an invading alien, twenty of forty lounging natives fled as the others watched warily from a campfire. Eventually, a hesitant yet curious, tall scraggly elder approached to investigate. Holding forth my hand with a mighty Viking smile eased the barriers.






    “Greetings from America. Is it okay if I camp with you tonight?” <o:p></o:p>
    Answering in British accented English, he sounded so proper, “Yes, of course you may sleep wherever you please, all visitors are welcome in Mbeyo.” <o:p></o:p>
    “So, why then have those people run away?” <o:p></o:p>
    “When some of us see white men, we are afraid that you have come here to kill us.” <o:p></o:p>
    “No, I am only a friend who has traveled around the world for one and half years to learn from your village.” <o:p></o:p>
    “But you are from a great country, what can we teach you?” <o:p></o:p>
    “We are both from great countries and can learn from each other. Maybe you can remind me of what’s been forgotten.” <o:p></o:p>
    “We are the Kavango and this is our church. We are Baptists but others here are Catholic and Evangelicals. Can you help us contact American Baptist missionaries?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Well, I don’t know any but if you write a letter, I’ll photograph the page and post it on the Internet. Why do you want to contact them?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Because the missionaries will come and make electricity for us.” <o:p></o:p>
    “Why do you want electricity?” <o:p></o:p>
    “So we can have computers and Internet.” <o:p></o:p>
    “And televisions and stereos too?” <o:p></o:p>
    “Yes, yes, of course, we want everything just like American people.” <o:p></o:p>
    Pointing to a single room mud hut, I ask, “But if you acquire those things, you’ll need a bigger house and an extra job to pay for it all.” <o:p></o:p>
    This confuses him. “But if the missionaries come, unemployment will end and everyone will have lots of money.” <o:p></o:p>
    Pointing to groups of idle men standing next to women busy tending fires and stacking wood, I ask “What do you do all day now?” <o:p></o:p>
    “There is nothing to do for many months while we wait for the rains. Then we will plant seed. Anyway, you are in time to hear our choir practice.”









    The Mbeyo Baptist Church was built with the same mud and pole materials as the rounded huts, only bigger and square with a hard-packed dirt floor and rows of uneven sawed wooden benches. Inside as two young boys warmed up on goatskin drums, the low humming choir began to shuffle with gyrating hips, matching the rhythm of a hollow barrel beat. <o:p></o:p>

    Between powerful harmonizing vibrations and subtly stamping bare feet, a fine dust filled the air, almost obscuring the undulating slow-motion dance. Clear, alternating octaves from converging voices gave me tingling goose bumps and shivers with hairs on end. Although airborne swirling particles made breathing difficult, it was impossible to rise or resist the hypnotic lure of entrancing upbeat hymns. As the Mbeyo Baptist Choir erupted into spellbinding synchronization of explosive melody, I found myself sucked into layered extremes of primordial life emerging in African song. <o:p></o:p>





  • dlplumerdlplumer Registered Users Posts: 8,081 Major grins
    edited December 14, 2009
    I just read these passages from your more recent book, and I must admit that I love it even more with these photos.clap.gif
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited December 29, 2009
    Exiting Namibia for Zambia196937999_NLwmq-L.jpg


    As one of Africa’s poorest countries, Zambia still holds its head up from primitive villages accepting roving strangers who happen by. Lacking the fanatical friendliness of Asia, acceptance here requires explaining this journey with photographs through fire-lit evenings winning hearts and hesitant smiles from wary natives. Histories of slave trading and genocide may be old to Westerners but not to Africans. Over the centuries, during lulls in exterminating or enslaving each other, colonialists arrived to take up the slack. Today, if not soldiers, other foreigners in Africa are aid workers living here to tie assistance to converting to new religions.
    Africans should be grateful that thirty-seven separate Christian and Muslim sects landed in time to explain to them that for the last ten thousand years, they have been worshipping the wrong Gods. Yet, less populated and poorer than other African countries, Zambia’s future is promising.



    Still underdeveloped in hotels and lodges, two main asphalt roads connecting borders east to west make it possible to cross the country in any weather to discover what is in between. Run by European ex-patriots, backpacker hostels continue as the slums of adventure travel with greedy owners exploiting the unsuspecting.
    Cramming tiny rooms with rows of narrow bunk beds and one hallway-broken-down bathroom for twenty or more, these pitiful hoaxes appear at first as bargain accommodations for ten bucks a night. Lacking private transportation, a captive audience of trucking overlanders gets hoodwinked into paying over-inflated prices for food, Internet and laundry. Vagabond motorcyclists dodge the gouging by venturing around town to determine where locals eat and shop services.

    It has been over a year since encountering another long-rider so I was surprised to meet a trio of bikers touring Southern Africa. No matter the nationality, motorcyclists share a common bond. Just as these German bikers had assisted in my parking lot tire mounting,

    we noticed a missing bake plunger pivot bolt. Never mind, a metal pin dug from of their spares along with electric tape made a decent substitute.


    Benefiting from Mugabe’s chaos in neighboring Zimbabwe, tourists exploring Livingstone have stumbled onto superior views of Victoria Falls and less commercial game parks much richer in animal life.










    Still on target for following the sun, southern hemisphere rains have begun with ferocious evening thunderstorms lasting until midmorning. Crossing the equator again next month in Kenya marks the beginning of dry-season and a clear, although rugged journey north. Even occasionally drenched, the ride across Zambia was pleasant with sporadic stops to chat at dilapidated roadside produce markets.


    Across the road, licorice-skinned women in colorful long dresses balanced reed-woven baskets high on their heads while they chattered and bargained for shriveled vegetables. Vivid patterns of blues and reds contrasted with their shiny black skin.


    After quizzing loitering truckers about their homes and families, I asked for a picture and received an unexpected reply. “How much are you going to give me?”
    Surprised because cheerful natives are usually first to ask for photos, I countered, “How much is it worth for a memory of meeting a friend?”
    Embarrassed with head hung low, the barefoot young man clad in ragged, brown shorts shuffled away only to return moments later with handfuls of soft yellow fruit. “I am sorry, please take these mangos and always remember the people of Zambia.” In the heat of an afternoon tropical sun, we joked about life on the road and shared sticky succulent pulp.



    Unlike Asia, camping in Africa has been convenient and economical, but wildlife threats on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia now made that questionable. At night, the jungle is an aggressive world of predators battling up the food chain. Survival is the only given. Although strict herbivores, in Africa, more unsuspecting people are killed by hippopotamus than scorpions, snakes and lions combined. Standing between a hippo and its water refuge results in a stomping, crushing or tossing into the air. With that in mind, it was better to sleep in a farmhouse campground while deciding where next to proceed.

  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited January 12, 2010
    Wandering eastward across southern Africa from Zambia into Malawi, lush tropical fields waver in warm afternoon breezes.


    Wary natives greet me with mild suspicion, wondering about this strangely-dressed foreigner's intentions--am I there to convert them to a new religion, to kill them or feed them?





    As usual, curiosity prevails amongst the youngest.



    With English spoken as a first language, communication everywhere was easy. After selecting a dirt road entering the forest leading toward the mighty Lake Malawi, I sought refuge for the night.



    Villagers seldom refuse a stranger shelter for the night


    But there are always questions first. Who am I? Where do I come from? And why am I there.


    After explaining that I've come a long ways to meet them and to learn from them, the mood changes.




    Relaxing along magnificent Lake Malawi for a few days was the perfect way to recuperate and study maps revealing the route north into Tanzania.

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    At dawn, with a last glimpse backward at an east African sunrise scene to be remembered, I bid farewell to new friends who I will never see again.

  • KianKian Registered Users Posts: 56 Big grins
    edited January 13, 2010
    awesome. its always been my dream to drive around the world.
    Visit my smugsite:
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited February 17, 2010
    With its sharp rise in socioeconomic status from Malawi, eastern Tanzanian countryside became a worthy distraction bursting alive in vivid natural colors and wild animal life. From a half-mile away, women were easily visible, reflecting sunlight off soft cotton fabrics of brilliant ruby reds and dandelion yellows coming into focus from distant blurs across the canvas of African savanna earth-tones. <o:p></o:p>










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    In a scene out of Star Wars, silhouetted against the pale blue glow of an early sunrise sky, towering, long-necked giraffes paused to consider the intruder. Once violating their safety zone, a half dozen magnificent spotted beasts casually stepped across the meadow into graceful slow-motion strides, vanishing into forests of Camel Thorn Trees. <o:p></o:p>


    Animals accustomed to the rolling thunder of speeding diesel rigs panic at the sight of any slowing vehicle. Even when cutting the engine to coast in silence, herds of grazing gazelles with sweptback corkscrew horns immediately bolted in methodic sprints for the security of faraway tree-lines.


    With hairless pink butts thrust high in the air, roving families of arrogant baboons sauntered fearlessly back and forth across the road. Roguish creatures known for unpredictable behavior, they are a force to reckon with. Sinister dog-like faces baring sharp curved fangs confirmed warnings that close-up encounters could go either way. <o:p></o:p>


    Curious, black and white striped zebras grazed in nearby fields but always at safe distances, warily eying a two-legged trespasser on a shiny rumbling machine. After spooked into short dusty gallops, they stopped to return my gawking amazement.


    Every hundred yards, more wildlife scenes commanded a halt, yielding either to trumpeting bull elephants trampling highway shoulder grasslands or wondering at the groan and growling from within quivering underbrush.


    Back in the cities.

    Nearing the eastern coast, traditional Islamic garb replaced Western pants and button down shirts for all but Africa’s most noble tribesmen.


    Evidence of past invading cultures contrasts with traditional Masai, erect in royal postures clutching trademark long-handle herding sticks. Tall and thin with beanpole legs sprouting from beneath baggy Roman-style tunics, these princely, jungle warriors now contend with tourism and twenty-first century technology while battling to survive government relocation plans.









    Between pressing cellular telephones against gaping, pierced earlobes and controlling vast herds of cattle, they hold an eye to maximize any circumstance.


    All my suspicions are confirmed—this mighty landmass is more a separate universe than just another continent. With a day left before Christmas, a mesmerizing plunge into Africa continues in an evolving alternate saga a million years old.
  • VayCayMomVayCayMom Registered Users Posts: 1,870 Major grins
    edited February 17, 2010
    Holy COW! What a treasure trove I stumbled on today. Thank you for all the work it takes just to share this with us. Incredible stuff.wings.gifwings.gifwings.gif

    NIKON D700
  • MooreDrivenMooreDriven Registered Users Posts: 260 Major grins
    edited March 7, 2010
    Congratulations Glen on completing another book. I received your first book for Christmas this year and really enjoyed it. As a rider myself, I thought you really captured the feeling and freedom of riding. My rides are much less "adventuresome" than yours. However, I'm envious of your courage and desire to face your fears and to explore the world in ways most of us would never do.

    Good luck on your future travels.

  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited March 26, 2010
    Congratulations Glen on completing another book. I received your first book for Christmas this year and really enjoyed it. As a rider myself, I thought you really captured the feeling and freedom of riding. My rides are much less "adventuresome" than yours. However, I'm envious of your courage and desire to face your fears and to explore the world in ways most of us would never do.

    Good luck on your future travels.

    Thanks amigo. Adventure is relative to our last experience and really just begins when things stop going as planned.
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited March 26, 2010
    VayCayMom wrote:
    Holy COW! What a treasure trove I stumbled on today. Thank you for all the work it takes just to share this with us. Incredible stuff.wings.gifwings.gifwings.gif

    Thanks and please stay tuned for China.
  • HomerHomer Registered Users Posts: 48 Big grins
    edited April 3, 2010
    I'm not usually fond of reading and came to view a few pictures but after reading the first few post I was hooked. I found myself choosing to spend my entire afternoon traversing through this thread visiting the hidden treasures of this Earth from behind the screen of my computer. If only my teachers taught like you; I just might choose to do what I so dread to do and read one of your books. Thanks.
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited April 19, 2010
    Homer wrote:
    I'm not usually fond of reading and came to view a few pictures but after reading the first few post I was hooked. I found myself choosing to spend my entire afternoon traversing through this thread visiting the hidden treasures of this Earth from behind the screen of my computer. If only my teachers taught like you; I just might choose to do what I so dread to do and read one of your books. Thanks.

    Thanks and remember if you do buy one of those books, you automatically contribute to the educational systems in Nepal, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited May 20, 2010
    Ali Hussein<o:p></o:p> December 24, 2005<o:p></o:p>
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania<o:p></o:p>
    After visiting a few mostly white enclaves and small African towns, Dar es Salaam was my first predominately-black, major city heading north. Aside from decaying old European-era buildings, because there is not much to see, the drab capital of Tanzania serves mainly as a commercial center and transit point for tourists visiting the offshore islands of Zanzibar.


    A small contingent of foreign aid workers and businessmen are hardly noticed alongside African born Indians busy managing hotels and stores. From dusty, congested street-markets to grimy corner cafés, Dar es Salaam has become pure African with little Western influence and no Western franchises. In matters of race, it’s a reversal of roles now being a minority judged by a suspicious majority. <o:p></o:p>

    But passive Tanzanians lead simple lives and don’t require overbearing authority to keep order. Except for scattered unarmed men in worn-out, blue polyester uniforms directing traffic, it’s hard to find a cop.


    With rougher edges than villagers, city folk are always harder to approach, but even when idle young men stand staring from street corners, most are happy to talk if acknowledged properly. Swahili was easier to learn than I first thought and like everywhere, greeting in native language buys instant acceptance and conversation. “Jambo! Haguri gani? Jina langu ni Glen. Nimekuja kutoka amerce kuku tembelea” Hello, how are you? My name is Glen and I’ve come from America to visit you.<o:p></o:p>


    By five o’clock, I had made my first Tanzanian friend, a tall, heavy-set motorcyclist, who, although a third generation Indian, considers himself African. Preparing to meet his family for dinner, the unshaven Ali Hussein was closing his motorcycle workshop when struck with an unexpected vagabond’s wish-list for repairs. Shiite Muslims are strict family men and staying late to work on some distressed foreigner’s faltering bike was the last thing on his mind. But once hearing my situation, he offered, “Since you are traveling such a long way, me and my men will work tonight.” But wrenching in the dark leads to errors and lost parts so we agreed to wait until sunrise.<o:p></o:p>

    In the morning, uncomfortable with his non-English speaking crew, when an overly concerned Ali Hussein suggested disassembling the entire drive section for inspection and cleaning, I argued that the rest of the motorcycle was fine and all that was necessary was to unbolt the rear swing arm to replace a worn chain and sprockets—a one-hour job with the correct tools. Fluent in Swahili, Hussein turned, yelling words to his men that made them laugh aloud.<o:p></o:p>

    Curious as to the joke, I asked, “What’s so funny?”<o:p></o:p>

    “I told them that you are afraid of their skin.”<o:p></o:p>

    Embarrassed because he was right, I tried to deny it, “No that’s not it, I just prefer not to take things apart unless absolutely necessary. You never know what can break or get misplaced in the process.”—Still, the truth was, I foolishly questioned their competency because they weren’t Germans in white smocks.<o:p></o:p>

    “You worry that they won’t remember how to put it all back together?”--more comments and more laughter.<o:p></o:p>

    But Hussein is forceful and to my dismay, wins our debate, directing two young black men with callused feet, to disassemble the suspension mechanical arms for further inspection.


    An hour later they handed me two sets of rusted bearings—the same ones we had just replaced in Borneo.


    After riding the washed-away coast near Banda Aceh, saltwater from low-tide beach-runs had leaked past protective rubber seals, corroding hardened steal balls and needles designed to spin free. Had this damage gone unnoticed, they would have disintegrated and left me stranded on the most rugged section ahead in Africa.<o:p></o:p>

    Hussein continued, “See, you don’t have to worry about my workers, they know their job.” Thirty minutes later, a winded errand boy returned with new bearings and fresh oil while another prepared a homemade arc welder to remove a stripped-out drain plug.


    Annoyed at my constantly questioning each maneuver, Hussein takes me by the arm, “Come, let’s get out of their way so they can make everything new for our traveling brother. You need to see my empire”<o:p></o:p>

    Importing a dozen shipping containers a month, except for South Africa, Ali is the largest motorcycle parts distributor on the continent. This will be good news for Internet linked international riders who until now, have been unaware of his presence. In a Developing Country with limited industrial base, I am amazed to see a warehouse stocked with hundreds of tires and engine re-build kits. Yet skilled labor remained questionable.<o:p></o:p>
    A one-hour chain and sprocket swap had turned into eight with a lengthy list of replaced parts, but by the end of the day, a minor job turned major repair was complete. Preparing for the worst, my meek request for the bill was met by Hussein’s stern gaze. “There is no bill for you. My shop is absorbing the entire cost for our traveling brother.”<o:p></o:p>

    And he wasn’t listening to steady objections—even when insisting that I at least pay for parts only made him angry. “I have made up my mind, this is between Allah and me.”<o:p></o:p>

    Convinced of his determination, I made a final demand. “Okay but I’m taking you to dinner.”<o:p></o:p>

    Every big city has good restaurants but for travelers to find them unassisted requires extensive exploring with more misses than hits. Hussein knows of the best, where only black Africans go to eat. In north Dar es Salaam, an empty block normally jammed in daytime traffic becomes a nighttime bazaar of street barbeque kitchens and temporary dining rooms of uneven wooden tables and flimsy plastic chairs. Hussein is well-known among crowds of jabbering patrons—even cooks and waiters shouted back and forth as we approached. <o:p></o:p>

    At first, ordering food was awkward as he issued commands to the cook without asking me what I wanted. With fierce expressions and aggressive verbal exchanges, both men dickered as though in serious confrontation about to turn violent. Suddenly, each was laughing and clasping hands while shirtless waiters in baggy shorts set down huge platters of sizzling lamb and chicken. Hussein translates. “I told them that this is my motorcycling brother who knows Judo and if the food is not good, he will kick your ass.” When the bill arrived for far more than two men could eat and drink, the scribbled numbers on a piece of torn paper only amounted to a fraction of a tourist area price.<o:p></o:p>

    Two days accompanying Hussein on his daily rounds of slapping countertops while shouting negotiations ending in laughter, was a fascinating side-journey into the business culture of Dar es Salaam. Even the briefest glimpses into the lives of those in distant lands are the ultimate prize of adventure travel.<o:p></o:p>

    But the sourest moment of this unforeseen detour neared and after reminding Hussein of the sacred coin he promised, the time had come to say goodbye. As he closed his eyes reciting an ancient Shiite prayer, a hundred-shilling Tanzanian coin carefully folded in a printed handkerchief became a belief from the both of us that continued safety lay ahead. “When you reach Ethiopia, you must stop and give this coin to a poor man and Allah will guide you the rest of the way.” As he shuffled his feet while looking down, I noted that Hussein also disliked goodbyes. With two sets of watery eyes, we touched cheeks Muslim-style with an enormous American bear hug. Tomorrow is Christmas and a long ride toward the northern plains of Serengeti.<o:p></o:p>

  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited May 24, 2010
    John Borland
  • telefotoguytelefotoguy Registered Users Posts: 52 Big grins
    edited June 2, 2010
    simply amazing! thank you for sharing your journey with us. you, my friend, walk the talk.
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited September 3, 2010
    Deserted deserts
    When it Rains, it Pours<o:p></o:p>
    January 5, 2006<o:p></o:p>
    Northern Kenya<o:p></o:p>


    Guidebooks are correct when claiming the beaten path terminates in Northern Kenya. Since first entering South Africa, except for riding smooth graded tracks the length of Namibia and a few subsequent, intentional dirt detours, all roads have been lightly used, smooth flowing asphalt that wound through lush tropical jungles or spectacular desolate plains. As all good things come to an end, a wanderer’s pleasing dream has just concluded at the equator. <o:p></o:p>


    In Africa, crummy food doesn’t matter, vagabonds don’t eat for pleasure or even health, only to minimize hunger. Up until now, meals and accommodation had been understandable, though unsuccessful attempts at Western standards---yet at the frontier town of Isiolo, Africa abruptly turned bare-bones-basic, reverting to a sandy meshing of old and ancient.<o:p></o:p>
    In the animated jabber of a garbage-strewn market, arriving in Isiolo was a return to Islam with colorful veil-shrouded women bartering with Masai tribes-people for withered fruits and vegetables. A sundown visit to the town center mosque yielded questioning from worshippers after prayers.

    “You don’t worry when traveling so far alone?”<o:p></o:p>

    “Why should I? Allah protects me.”<o:p></o:p>

    “Ah, so you are Muslim?”<o:p></o:p>

    “No, but Allah still blesses my journey and keeps me safe.”<o:p></o:p>

    “So if you believe in Allah, you must become Muslim.”<o:p></o:p>

    “Maybe, but I’ll hold off making decisions until returning to my home.”<o:p></o:p>

    “All right, but in the meantime remember that Allah protects us all.”<o:p></o:p>

    With a hard day ahead, just before dawn, imagining the misery of riding in a dust storm of commercial trucks in convoy, I skirted the final military checkpoint requiring foreigners to travel under guard. As the last chance for supplies and fuel drifted by in a reluctant haze, a starker image of Africa emerged.


    Fashion statements became blade scarred faces above elaborately beaded neck disks and pierced bodies against deep midnight skin so black it was almost blue.<o:p></o:p>



    Walking sticks morphed into bows and arrows as wary herdsman stopped to eye a trespasser traversing a parched and drought stricken land. If disregarding a long pale strip of mangled dirt track, this was an evolutionary step back into primordial survival, with nature prevailing. Everyone is thirsty. Only a single river contained enough shallow pools of trickling water to supply scattered villages for twenty miles. The rest were dried sandy creek-beds with stooping women digging barehanded in fruitless searches for traces of underground streams--and as a two-year drought continues, there was little left to find. <o:p></o:p>


    During unpredictable bursts of desert struggles, there is no backup plan, just faltering beliefs that when masses begin to die, a world community will again, send more aid. Africa is a cruel and unrepentant provider that challenges humanity to contend with its whims. But as the newest species on the planet, only man considers himself a higher form more deserving to live. <o:p></o:p>


    Other than indigenous natives, the empty, rocky desert is only traveled by occasional caravans of aid workers, and the odd, determined adventurer transiting from Cairo to Cape Town.


    There is no other reason to pass through an environment so hostile to life. Armed soldiers may fend off roving bandits and murderous warlords but there is nothing to protect even the hardest tires from slices and punctures punched by razor edged volcanic rock.

    Directly after re-securing a gushing high-pressure fuel line, a dreaded rear-end sway signaled the first flat tire of the day. There may be only four hundred miles to the southern border of Ethiopia, where a paved road leads direct to Addis Ababa, but wretched conditions stretch that into a miserable three-day event. Severe washboard turning unexpected soft sand and back, to deep gullies of fist-sized stones defy even the best of suspensions--but since mine was rebuilt ten thousand miles ago, hard rubber seals should have weathered the strain. They did not. <o:p></o:p>


    Mind-numbing jarring and bucking was so intense that more gas spilled through the tank breather-vents than was burned by the engine. Even sloshing battery water slapped high enough to drip from an overflow tube. And that was the good news. Normally when shock absorber fluid begins seeping past worn seals, lack of oil shouldn’t cause a compression lockdown. Treated liquids and pressurized gases regulate rebound action and without them, handling deteriorates into a tolerable, bouncing, pogo-stick ride. Although a blown shock should not remain compressed, mine did, resulting in zero vertical travel to relieve explosive jolting from a jagged road. And that guarded convoy so carefully avoided, was several hours ahead.<o:p></o:p>


    Even at ten miles per hour, vertical forces generated were difficult to endure with the rear section kicking up and slamming back down. Ridges on a deep-cut washboard surface turned spine-snapping slaps equally destructive to metal frame welds. With nothing but thorn-tree desert ahead, the only solution was a ten-mile retreat to relieving shade of the last tribal outpost, with a hope that the natives were friendly.<o:p></o:p>

    Competing for resources in the midst of a drought, water is too scarce for washing. Barefoot in filthy ragged Western clothes, Muslim Kenyans coexist in détente with spear toting Masai tribesmen festooned in sparkling metal trinkets. Only a few offered greetings. Language barriers kept most from understanding each other but the message resonated, one angry woman did not want a foreigner to linger. Her reasoning was valid. In a robbery-plagued region, I could draw unwanted attention and they had no protection against marauders with guns. Absent governing authority or troops to keep order, violence and murder is the law of the land. Cattle rustling and cross-border reprisal raids have resulted in retaliatory slaughters of entire villages.<o:p></o:p>


    And a traveler in their midst was a legitimate concern considering news of a treasure-laden American could draw roving cutthroat Somali bandits eager to pillage his precious cargo. In a heated exchange of English and Swahili, a verdict was returned that the alien be sent on his way. And who can blame them? Why should they fret for the plight of white man with more riches in his wallet than they earn in a year? Still, it was early evening and after a long hard negotiation, my desperate plea for sleep was considered. A simple bribe of four hundred shillings was sufficient incentive to conceal my bike in a straw hut and allow a four-hour rest, if promising to be gone by midnight.<o:p></o:p>
  • strikingvikingstrikingviking Registered Users Posts: 99 Big grins
    edited December 11, 2012
    Chalbi Desert, Kenya

    Since the whole village was asleep, I probably could have dozed until sunrise without anyone noticing, but once awake it was best to avoid potential hassles and roll for Marsabit, the last small Kenyan town with electricity. Yet even if I reached there, the next long stretch to Moyale at the Ethiopian border is the fiercest section. The only light at the end of this tunnel was knowing that eventually an asphalt road at the frontier would lead to Addis Ababa and hopefully to a set of mechanic’s tools to repair a broken suspension.

    Out of fear and common sense, no one drives after dark in Kenya, but I hoped that also meant any bad guys were likely fast asleep dreaming of daytime plundering. Attempts to convince myself that a night ride under the stars would ease the misery were quickly squashed when I recalled, the previous day’s events. A few optimistic test bounces in the saddle confirmed that no divine healing had occurred during the last four hours, and there was no telling if the shock absorber would last another day or another mile. I was beyond the point of no return in every direction.

    Unlike blazing desert days, midnight air was crisp and clean. The push of a button made the motorcycle grumble to life. But my confidence faded as yesterday’s brutal jarring resumed even worse than I remembered. There would be no escape in a first-gear crawl, easing over every ridge and rock. With zero travel in a frozen shock, violent kicking and bucking made simply hanging on to the handlebars a challenge.


    At 10 miles per hour without rear suspension, I tried to calculate how many hours it would take to ride 300 miles. Maybe throttling up to 15miles per hour would shave an hour or two. Either way, between robbers and vicious terrain, one of Africa’s worst roads was ready to bang and test the limits of both my internal organs and a thoroughly abused motorcycle frame.

    At least riding slow allowed me a chance to evaluate which bumps and gullies to dodge to minimize impacts. Standing on the foot pegs with bent knees was temporary relief but became too tiring, requiring rest stops every 30minutes. With fatigued arms and legs, a creeping desert dawn glowed into a bursting orange sunrise.


    By noon, the last carefully packed apples had shaken into mush and the fragmented shells of hard-boiled eggs had ground together with the yolks into gooey paste. Combining the concoction together to swallow in lumps was still better than the foul-tasting local fare. But the smelly combined proteins were nutritious, and there was still a gallon of water left to last the day. My need for intense focus on the road meant that stunning savanna scenery passed by in a jiggling peripheral blur. By noon, there were still no other vehicles in sight.

    Finally, just after the 20th straight hour of rolling misery, a two-room dilapidated structure appeared with barely legible, grime covered words above the tilting doorway — Marsabit Medical Center. Even though I knew more of the same still lay ahead, arriving on the town’s outskirts felt like reaching the finish line at an Olympic event.


    Marsabit town is a scene out of America’s Wild West — scrawny cattle being driven past windowless ramshackle wooden cabins and clouds of red grit swirling down stony clay avenues. Nothing has been maintained or repaired since it was built decades before. Few buildings had electric power, and none had running water. Hand-painted weathered letters on broken signs described what was offered inside.


    In Magic Marcie’s Fashion Design, piles of musty used clothing donated by international charities were ready to be illegally resold. Marsabit General Supermarket was a doorless shack selling milk in cartons and canned meats with labels reading “A Gift from the People of New Zealand.” What wasn’t crumbling was rusting or sat gathering dust while no one seemed to care. As in many developing countries, men stood drinking afternoon tea and cheap beers by night.

    From disordered, debris-strewn markets, subservient women in lace headscarves trudged under heavy loads of vegetable baskets and bundled firewood. Engaged in their share of the labor, caped young boys in worn sandals tugged on ropes, leading bleating goats to pasture. What little water there is must be hand carried or lugged in lopsided wooden wheelbarrows wherever needed or to those who can afford it.


    Jey-Jey Center is the only hotel secured by barbed wire and with a deteriorating underground cistern servicing a filthy squat toilet — at five bucks a night, the single cement cubicles were a bargain. Cleans sheets stopped mattering to me months ago, as long they don’t stink and are not overrun with fleas. At least the two-year drought had eliminated mosquitoes and the threat of malaria.

    For boring evenings, a beat-down honky-tonk built of splintered planks provided economical entertainment as one strolled past broken saloon doors hanging off rusted hinges. With African rap music blaring through crackling metal speakers, the ear-splitting throbs were a deafening assault as I wandered. Safe within steel-barred cages, middle-aged, chubby Indian men peddled rotgut whiskey and warm local beers while drunks slobbered on themselves in darkened corners.

    The scene was made complete as potbellied hookers with long, drooping breasts flashed forlorn smiles through decayed teeth and puffy maroon lips. But late nights in Marsabit are for partiers with more determination than me, and other than this exclusive freak show, there was nothing else enticing enough to keep me awake.

    In the afternoon, the moment I ventured outside Jey-Jey’s, throngs of unkempt children crowded around me, yelling “Sweets, sweets, give me money, give me pens!” Although it’s clear that the foreigner’s role in Africa is strictly for giving, all that I offer is bumpy rides on a limping motorcycle.

    Having trained their children to beg, scowling parents glared as giggling youngsters abandoned rehearsed scam-lines and jumped with delight, lining up to be next for a spin through town. Sometimes you just have to let kids be kids. With one eager child on the front and two on the back, appeasing the crowd still required a whole afternoon. Following the Pied Piper back to Jey-Jey’s, the trailing troops assured me they would stand guard as I swatted away the last of persistent horseflies and tried to forget the situation while spiraling into sleep.


    No matter how good it feels, ignoring problems will not make them disappear, but leaving the bike parked for three peaceful days allowed me enough time to quit peeing burgundy and relieve an aching back. Still, the question of reaching the border returns with a confirmation by locals that bandits are active again. “They don’t tell you to stop, they shoot the driver and then attack passengers.”

    Pulling off his shirt, one truck driver says, “Here, look at my body. I’ve already been shot five times.” On that thought, it’s likely the road ahead is to become more interesting still.

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