Happy Christmas

30 old and new friends Bollywood-dancing on Christmas eve.

Photo by Kristin Gaarder

What's happening?

We are now preparing for our (Christmas) Festival at Cherai Beach, Kerala, India. Complete with a decorated palm tree, rice porridge, grilled seafood, "special tea" (beer) and tons of old and new friends.

Hopefully, Nissen will also come.

The beach is beatiful, the water warm, and Attila the bus is happily resting it's weary wheels outside a small house we have rented, right next too the beach. People are reading books, cruising the winding Keralan roads on motorbikes and snacking on fresh seafood and fish.

We're having a great time.

Anyone want to come? Give us a call.

Everyone else:

Happy Hollidays og God Jul.

Ordliste til tilreisende

Shyrdak Opprinnelig Kirgisisk filtteppe. Nå brukt løst om alle slags tepper samt – og primœrt – suvenirer eller ting man kjøper som man sannsynligvis ikke ville kjøpt i gamlelandet. Eks. tekno-shyrdak.

Plokha Dårlig (Russisk)

Kharasho Bra (Russisk)

Bokstavkarakterer Refererer til tarmtilstand. Eks. "Hvordan har du det?" "Gått opp til en G+" Betyr "Jeg har fortsatt diaré, men nå er den mer forutsigbar, ingen fare for Indisk rulett..."

Indisk Rulett Når du har en tarmtilstand som gjør det risikabelt å slippe 
luft, for du vet ikke hva annet som kommer ut.

Pay money Er bare å betale, men grunnen til at vi sier det på en så teit måte kommer fra Chengdu i Kina.

Det reneste som finns Stadig gjenstand for diskusjon. Høyt rager slim, blod, Ganga – og aske så klart.

Hei kropp! Navnet på Guros opplegg for barn på Karlsøya. Vi hadde friske planer om å ha Hei kropp hver morgen på turen. Det har blitt to – 2 – ganger.
I stedet har det blitt mye Nei kropp, OK kropp, og Hold kjeft kropp!

Respekt (utt. RESPEKT som respekt i tazte priv) Muslimsk-orientert uttrykk for (mest mulig) skjeggvekst, (mest mulig) tildekket kropp og (mest mulig) halal – eller lokal – oppførsel. Eks. Respekt-bart, Respekt-dress, Respekt-land.

Two cuban cigars, some Norwegian coins and a sami-postcard

"My brother was too lazy to become anything else than a police man" Maxim tells me when we are visiting his home in Petrozavodsk in Russia when I notice a police jacket hanging in the hall way. If you don't know what to do in life after the military service, he tells me, you can always just become a policeman: your future is safe as you don't need any education except from the two years military service, you have a secure, but small income, and you can of course always get more money if you are just a tiny bit creative.

This is Russia, where you have a good reason to fear the police, where the police torture half of all suspects according to an article in the Independent and where corruption is more the rule than the exception. Drive through Russia in your own bus, and you can't but notice the police presence. Outside every city or town there are check points, and on top of that, they like standing along the road, stopping cars - and of course - us. They have even made fake police cars in wood and card board along the roads to make sure you never feel safe and to keep up the paranoia.

In Russia we were stopped five times a day quite often. This meant almost every hour, or maybe twice in a row within half an hour. We never knew what to expect, every time they wanted to see something new or different from the last check point which would give the police checkpoints a certain nerve; what could we expect this time?

On the road between UFA and Chelyabinsk the 29th of August we wrote in our bus blog:
Check 1. Vehicle documents, drivers licence, where are you going?
Check 2. They opened the back door, drivers licence, passports, vehicle documents, bus owner's documents
Check 3. Tachograph check (a system where the bus kilometres and pauses are recorded), everything is okay, smile, some Norwegian kroner as souvenir
Check 4. Vehicle documents and driver's licence
Check 5. Vehicle documents and driver's licence

Sometimes a "good day" and "we are only Norwegian tourist" in Russian would be enough, and they would let us go, other times, they would like a Norwegian souvenir, preferable a Norwegian coin, one even wanted our dictionary. Martin was gone for a long time and we started to get a bit nervous in the bus - what did they want this time?, but then he comes back to the bus with a big smile telling us that the policeman wants our dictionary as a present. We gave him a post card with an old sami man instead. But then we also had the police officers wanting our money. That was a bit more tricky.

On our way to the Kyrgyz border we stopped at a big truck station specialising in selling eels in every thinkable way. We were in a good mood and some of us had been drinking a couple of beers in the bus before checking out this big truck stop in the middle of nowhere. After a short while some of us hooked up with a man selling smoked pig in a small house. The man was in his fifties and was a former officer in the army. Now his bony arms were shuffling coal into the fire and his big grin revealed a couple of golden teeth along with some missing teeth. Soon we were all to become best friends in the way alcohol blur the human brain's conception of the world.

The next day some of us woke up with a hang over, except Anders who was the one to start today's driving. After a couple of kilometres we were stopped as usual. Anders went in to talk with the policemen and came soon back out again rather shaky. "They took an alcotest and it shows that I have been drinking. I don't understand. I only had to beers last night and it shows 0.8%. They will take my driver's licence unless we pay $2000." Quite a good try - some one had told the policemen about our truck stop party. If the policemen had been smart, they would have asked for less money and we would probably have paid to avoid any further hassle, but $2000 was just a too big amount. We told Anders to refuse to pay any money and that he should demand to be taken to the nearest hospital for a blood test. The policeman played with his gun for a little while until he said "okay, just drive". We won. They lost.

If one is persistent and patient, one can drive through Russia and Central-Asia without paying any bribes, but being patient doesn't help if the policemen are being too creative and actually destroys your formal papers. This happened in Kazakhstan:

Another routine stop and Martin has to go into the office. Soon he comes back out again telling us that some insurance papers are missing according to the police. Guro who was the one fixing the papers in Astana tells him that they are all there. Martin goes back in again with Guro. We are all searching in the bus, in the garbage, everywhere for the so-called missing insurance paper without any luck. Inside the police check point there is another story taking place as Guro understands what has happened. They have replaced the new insurance paper with the old one and thrown the new one away while Martin had to go back to the bus to search for the "missing" papers. Now they want money. But without our paper we can't continue driving - then it will be missing in the next check point, and it will be hard to pay our way out through the rest of Kazakhstan. "Fy faen" Guro shouts really loud and tells exactly what kind of policeman she thinks he is. They are not used to see angry Norwegians in a big, grey bus. We don't pay anything, but we have to stay overnight close by and drive back to Astana to get new insurance papers the following day.

The further we get away from the remains of the what once was a strong empire, the police tends to stop us less, but they still try every trick in the book to get some money from us. After two weeks in Russia and another two weeks in Kazakhstan, we never pay any bribe. What is going to be our first bribe on the trip actually happens in Kyrgyzstan as we are driving on the road for small vehicles instead of the new road for trucks when we are stopped by a policeman. If we give a small contribution in alcohol he will of course forget that we are driving on the wrong road. Being fond of alcohol we can all understand his urgent need, but unfortunately we are out of alcohol and try to figure out what to give him as a bribe. Morten remembers that he has brought some Cuban cigars and we hope the policeman will know the value of two Cuban cigars as we hand them over. He understands.

Somewhere in the Russian no-where a sami-postcard is hanging on a dirty police station wall and somewhere in Kyrgyzstan's rural mountains a policeofficer is smoking away on his Cuban cigars while taking a sip of the Vodka bottle he got from another lost driver.

Nepal top 3

1 Flying with the Eagles over Pokhara

First time experience of paragliding. Wonderful wind, wonderful views.

"I can see my bus from up here"

2 Magical Rhododendron forest in the Annapurna mountains

Of all the magical visions on our trek this fairytale forest was what really made me simmer with childish joy. And yes, it had monkeys as well.

3 Kiosk-party in the old city of Bhaktapur

After a night-walk in the streets we thought we'd pick up a beer to bring to the motel. The kiosk owner invited us to drink it there, inside his small kiosk. Soon all four of us had the best party going.

It is hard to make a new nation on a short notice (about Kyrgyzstan)

The whole world seems to be covered by a thin layer of red, yellow and brown particles that makes the sceanario around me a bit unreal through the dusty sun haze. I know that this is not the whole world, but right now the sand seems to be taking over my world, and these days my world consists of Kyrgyzstan. The sand is everywhere; on my clothes, in my nose and in my eyes and the bus has gotten a slightly new yellow look. It is autumn in Kygyzstan and it is dry. Dry and warm during daytime and sometimes freezing cold at night. The contrast between t-shirts and shorts during daytime, and wollen clothes and heating in the bus after dusk seems unecessary harsh as the sun is making me uncomfortable warm at the moment.

But it is not only the contrast bewteen the heat and the cold that will stand apart in my memory when I think about Kyrgyzstan. As in Kazakhstan there are huge contrasts everywhere. Contrasts between the nomadic culture and the modern city life, between the old soviet system and capitalism. One day I am enjoying a coffee latte and wireless internet in the capital Bishkek, the next day I am eating laghman (a local noodle sup) and nan in a yurt (the nomadic 'tent') on 3500 metres above sea level in the rural mountains by the lake Issyk Kul - the pride of Kyrgyzstan. It is a country were you can see BMWs (they are usually imported from Germany; they still have the D on the back of the car) along side a yurt, where the old Kyrgyzstan is meeting the rest of the world and where the adjustment will take some time as this area was a no-go area, closed to the rest of the world as a military reseach centre during the Soviet times.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan seemed to be going in the same direction with something that looked more and more like dicatorship than a western democracy, but where the Kazakh president was popular, the Kyrgyz president didn't enjoy the same popularity, and where the Kazak people seemed to accept the political terms in their country, the Kyrgyz people made a revolution. If the so
called revolution has changed a lot, I can't say, but at least we didn't find any tower in a newly made capital with the president's golden hand.

Coming from the flat and enormous Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan is in many ways the opposite of Kazakhstan, but they have the dust in common though. Where Kazakhstan is a big, flat country, Kygyzstan makes up for its small size by being a very mountainious country with about 90% 1500 metres above sea level and 41% above 3000 metres. Where Kazakhstan is the new and upcoming country in the region after discovering an oil bubble in the Caspian sea in 2000 (we are talking about a country that might become one of the world's largest oil exporters just conquered by Saudia Arabia), Kyrgyzstan has a much poorer future ahead - the officially inflation is 6%, but it might be as high as 20% according to sources in the only English newspaper in Central Asia. The economy is only saved by a growing tourist industry and the country's good water supply.

The country has a similar history as the rest of Central Asia; it is not only struggling with bad economy, but also the struggle of becoming a nation over night after Soviets fall. In Russia there is a small difference in the pronounciation between being Russian and living in Russia to embrace all the different ethnic groups living in the former Soviet Union. One can either read this is a way of making room for all the different ethnic groups and try to keep the tension low, or one can read it as a way of saying: "you will never be a real part of this country. You are forever different." I don't how to read it since my knowledge about the the former Soviet Union, Russia and Central Asia, is quite limited. What I think is interesting is what defines nationality when living in a country your whole life doesn't? Needless to say that this question is valid everywhere else as well, and I might not need to mention that it has become harder to be a Slavic descendant in these countries; they are denied access to the government, and they often have harder times getting jobs. According to my guide book(!), as many as 250 people left each day in 1993, the same number in 1996 was 38 people. This of course, also has an impact on the economy as they often are the most educated people. It is just the classical brain-drain problem that appears here as in 3.world countries.

After 70 years under Russia in some way and with Russian as the official language and a populationconsisting of different ethnic groups; nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakh people, Russians, Germans, Ukraines, Koreans and so on, it is hard to define a new national history. As in Kazakhstan it is the nomadic culture and the language that is to be the national tool. Kyrgyz and Kazakh were to become the official languages, though not over night, but in Kazakhstan, according to the law, everybody should by now speak Kazakh. The schools are to teach in the Kyrgyz and Kazakh, but what do you do when Kazakh and Kyrgyz are both oral languages with no written tradition and when many people realise that they speak Russian better than their "native" language? Many parents supportive of the their childrens possibilities to be taught in their own language, chose to take their kids back to the schools teaching in Russian, realising that the school books and the teachers had sadly not the same standard as the Russian taught schools.

It is hard to define a new nation on a short notice.

Apart for being a country striving to be a become a nation state, Kyrgyzstan will for me always be a country remembered by the kids shouting "helloooo" on the streets and "give me your money" laughing, for its stunning nature, kind and open people. A country made out of sand and revolutions, a shepard, his family and a bike, a horse without shoes, a drunken man and his angry wife, kymyz and bad stomachs and the haunt for the nicest shyrdak in town.


Om å bli fotografert bakfra. Opplevelser i Kina

Om å bli fotografert bakfra
Det skjer stadigvekk. Idet jeg snur meg står det en skokk med kinesere
og knipser løs med deres nye digitalkameraer. Igjen har ryggen og mitt
lyse hår vært gjenstand for en hemmelig fotosession. Når jeg går blir
det både hoiet og ropt; jeg ødelegger tross alt motivet ved å
forsvinne ut av bildet. Mange ser skuffet ut. Noen ganger velger jeg å
la meg fotografere forfra for å være snill. I Sommerpalasset endte jeg
derfor opp med en kø på nærmere 10 mennesker som ville fotograferes
ved min side. Gamle damer med store smil, kinesisk klær og caps. De er
jo turister de også, og capsen er med til å bestemme hvilken gruppe de
tilhører. Slik blir minnet om Sommerpalasset ikke kun en vakker innsjø
med kinesiske pagodaer og fjell i bakgrunnen; det er også minnet om
store horder med capser i alle mulige farger som lydig følger guiden
med flagget.

Om å ta tog i Kina, om å være utlending og tissing i det offentlige rom
En stor dam ligger etterlatt på gulvet i togkupeen. Den lille gutten
stagger fornøyd rundt mens faren finner fram litt avispapir og tørker
vanndammen opp. Damen i den nederste køyen prøver febrilsk å få gutten
til ikke å sette seg i sitt eget tiss, noe som forståelig ikke ville
være særlig lurt av gutten. Fortsatt har mange barn bukser med hull i
rompa, selv om flere og flere bruker bleier. Det kan se litt kaldt ut,
men samtidig slipper de ekle, våte bleier og røde utslett.

Jeg er på nattoget til Beijing alene. Alene er vel kanskje å ta litt
hardt i siden man sjeldent er alene i Kina; det finnes tross alt 1,3
miliarder kinesere i dette landet. Slik sett er toget også stappfullt,
men heldigvis har vi alle en køye hver. Toget i seg selv er på
standard med Oslo-København nattoget slik jeg husker det fra noen år

Faren til den lille gutten viser ham stolt fram til meg og sier
"laowain, laowain" til sønnen sin og peker på meg. Laowain betyr
utlending, og det er vel ingen som er i tvil om at det er det jeg er i
et land hvor mitt tilnærmet hvite hår lyser opp på sikkert en halv
kilometers avstand. Høyden og kroppsbygningen har jeg ellers til
felles med de fleste andre kinesere og det er første gang jeg har
blitt fortalt at jeg en størrelse large... På toget blir det snakket,
diskutert, drukket te og spist nudler. Har man prøvd å ta en togtur i
Kina, vet man hvordan man skal utruste seg til den neste: først kjøper
man sånn er smart liten te-termos med filter på toppen, så kjøper man
selvfølgelig te til denne, og til slutt bør man ha med seg noen bokser
med nudler, avhengig av togturens lengde. I hver vogn finnes det
kokende vann, så når man er sulten fyller man et av nuddel-begerne med
varmt vann, og man har et måltid. Er man derimot ikke sulten, lager
man seg en termos med te. Har man lyst på en øl eller litt snack,
kjøper man bare det av vognene som går fram og tilbake med jevne

Klokka elleve blir lyset slukket og jeg ligger i senga mi med
lommelykt og leser i en bok. Nabomannen har drukket kinesisk brennevin
eller kanskje noen Tsingtaoer for mye og kravler halvfull oppi køya.
Han ser fordrukkent på meg og prøver seg først på kinesisk, men
skjønner fort at jeg ikke forstår et ord, og prøver seg derfor på litt
engelsk før han gir opp og sovner umiddelbart hvis man tar den
høylytte snorkingen i betraktning. Jeg har heldigvis ørepropper, klok
av skade etter noen måneder i bussen med de andre og jeg sovner etter
en stund.

Om å gjøre seg forstått
For å overleve i et land hvor språket på ingen måte har noe til felles
med den indoeuropeiske språkgruppe, er det viktig ikke å være
selvhøytidlig. Med en porsjon selvironi, gode mimekunnskaper og en
like stor porsjon tålmodighet, kommer man langt. Dette kan til tider
være hardt; nei, jeg skjønner ikke kinesisk selv om du snakker sakte,
jo jeg er sulten og blodsukkeret er faretruende lavt, jeg vil bare ha
et hotellrom og så videre. Til og med russisk fremstår nå i ettertid
som et veldig forståelig språk sammenlignet med kinesisk. Likevel har
det ikke vært noe problem. Vil man ha kylling til middag er det bare å
flakse litt med armene (det er i dette tilfellet det gjelder om å ha
en porsjon selvironi siden det utvilsomt ser latterlig ut i kinesiske
øyne at en fremmed person flakser omkring på restaurantgulvet), eller
man kan få lov til å bli med ut på kjøkkenet og peke ut grønnsakene
man vil ha. Et annet alternativ er å peke på tegnene til kinesiske
retter eller råvarer i sin guidebok og vanligvis får man deretter
servert et godt måltid. Hvis man i tillegg til dette lærer ordene for
ris, vann og øl på kinesisk, sulter eller tørster man aldri.

Om kinesisk-engelsk
"Great choise perfect reflect" står det med lysende røde bokstaver
idet drosjen kjører forbi på en av Beijings mange motorveier. Navnet
tilsier ikke uten videre at dette er et hotell, men det er ikke tvil
om at dette må være et perfekt hotell om ønsker å gjemme seg bort fra
Kinas mange mennesker. Chinglish er begrepet som forklarer fenomenet
kinesisk-engelsk og som har vært gjenstand for mangt et humoristisk
øyeblikk i min tid i Kina. De ganske bokstavelige oversettelsene fra
kinesisk til engelsk er jo ikke direkte ulogiske slik skiltene
"entance" og "outance" på et taoistfjell vi besøkte indikerer (de
hadde for sikkerhetsskyld også utelatt r'en), og like fullt kan man av
og til være i tvil om hva slags mat man bestiller de gangene menyene
er på engelsk, men "fish-resembling aubergine" er faktisk bokstavelig
talt aubergine stekt i fiskesaus

Om hunder
I Kina har man hund. Det kan godt hende man også spiser hund, men
dette har jeg ikke sett noe til. Derimot er det mange små hunder som
løper rundt på gata med eieren ropende bak. I Shanghai koster det
visst til og med en god del penger for å få lov til å ha hund og hvem
har ikke lyst til å vise hvor mange penger de har i et land med et av
verdens høyest antall voksende millionærer?

Om å google
I et land som har lagt til seg en merkelig hybrid mellom kapitalisme
og kommunisme er det fortsatt viktig å kontrollere borgerne. Dette gir
utslag på forskjellig vis. Forsøk å google amnesty, sjekke ut noe på
Wikipedia eller lese bloggen sin på blogspot og man får opp at dette
er nettadresser som ikke eksisterer. Jeg fikk faktisk opp en "bible
study" side når jeg forsøkte å komme inn på bloggen min. Lurer veldig
på hvem som fant ut at jeg burde bli redirected dit. Det er ingen spøk
at det faktisk sitter 30 000 personer konstant på vakt for å
kontrollere hva folk oppsøker på nettet. En dame som søkte på Falun
gong fra jobben sin fikk besøk av sikkerhetsvakten 15 minutter etterpå
med beskjed om at dette var ikke et passende ord å søke på - i hvert
fall ikke fra jobben. De ser ellers så snille ut, politiet i de grønne
uniformene sine, men det er heller ingen spøk at kanskje opp til 15
000 mennesker blir henrettet i Kina årlig ifølge Amnesty. Det er ikke
bare drap som fører til døden, men også synder som korrupsjon og
politisk oppsternasighet kan føre til et nakkeskudd.

Om mat
Å spise er viktig i Kina, helst i fellesskap med andre hvor man samles
rundt et stort bord og bestiller masse småretter som man deretter
forsyner seg hjertelig av. For de som er opptatt av å ikke dele spytt
med andre (spytting er ellers populært i Kina, overalt hører man
harking for deretter å se store spyttklyser lande på bakken bak en,
men det har forsåvidt ingenting med mat å gjøre), er dette ikke landet
å besøke (eller, man kan jo bare la være å spise med andre). Her
forsyner man seg med sine egne spisepinner i de forskjellige rettene
og "dobbelt-dipper" gjerne. Men dette er en veldig hyggelig og sosial
måte og spise på, og man glemmer fort at det kanskje ikke er så

Maten har til dels vært fantastisk. Fra chili-hotpot i Chengdu i
Sichuanprovinsen til Peking and i Beijing. Hvis det er noen som
fortsatt tror at kinesisk mat er det man får på hjørnet i Norge, så må
de tro om igjen. Det er ingensteder i nærheten av slapp sur-søt saus
med kylling og ris. Men så er også Kina et enormt land med mange
forskjellige kjøkkener, delt opp i fire store. Bare fra Kashgar helt
nordvest i landet, til Sichuan og deretter Beijing, var det store
forskjeller i krydderier og ingredienser, og ut fra den lille
materfaringen jeg fikk i løpet av disse ukene, så var Kashgar
(uighur-mat) og Sichuan de to stedene med klart best mat. Hvis dine
tenner har begynt å løpe i vann, er det bare to ting du kan gjøre: 1.
Kjøp en flybillett til Kina eller, hvis økonimien er litt skralten,
2.Bestill bord på Dinner i Oslo som visstnok ikke er såverst når det
kommer til kinesisk mat.

Jeg anbefaler punkt 1.


Leaving Nepal

Roof Bus

After almost one fantastic month in Nepal it is time to move on. We have had so much to do, that there have been no time to write about it on the Internet.. This will follow later! Key points include paragliding, trekking in the Himalayas, party by the bus, lots of tourist food (burgers, pizza and set breakfast) and a lot new friends.

Guro is back in Norway for a couple of months, and Andreas is going home tomorrow morning - hopefully to return in Iran or somewhere. Ingrid and Torkild will try out the Indian Railway System and go scouting for a sweet spot ahead. Anders is meeting us in India, along with a bunch of other friends for the Christmas Extravaganza somewhere in Southern India. We hope to find a place to stay for a long time (maybe until February) and evaluate and make more plans for the long road home.
But before that, the bus must be moved down there during the next couple of weeks. So to sum it up, everyone is now healthy (thanks to some doctors in Kathmandu and Pokhara) and looking forward to more adventures on the way to Kerela. The road will probably go from Sonauli by Varanesi, and onto the North-South Corridor, which probably is a very good road, but mostly populated by cows, camels and donkeys coming in the other direction.. See you later!

Hjertesukk fra sjåføren.

-Etter en uke på indisk vei.

Det er egentlig ikke mye å utsette på de indiske hovedveiene. Vi kjører Grand Trunk Road og East West Corridor. Det er mange filer, flate og rette strekk, jevn og fresh asfalt, midtdeler, hvite striper. Deler av veien kunne lett sikra seg pallplass over turens beste veier. Allikevel har jeg sjeldent blitt så forbanna som når jeg kjører buss i India.

Det er ikke dét at vi må kjøre på feil side av veien og motsatt vei i rundkjøringer.
Det er ikke dét at inderne er gjerrige med veiskilting.
Og det er heller ikke dét å venne seg til å bruke tute som kommunikasjonsmiddel i en trafikk hvor de færreste tunge kjøretøy har speil. Vi har det moro med vår nye ansvarspost foran i bussen.

Ekstratute pa indiske veierBK horn Ekstratute pa indiske veier
Rollen som ekstratute. Her er BK i aksjon.

Uansett størrelse på veien, den er for alle. Sykler, mopeder og motorsykler lasta med hele familier fra bestemor til bebis, autorickshaws og traktorer med enorme hengerlass uten nevneverdig sikring. Kuer gresser hellige over alt. Esel og vogn, hest og vogn, vannbøffel og vogn, dromedar og vogn, biler, lastebiler med lasteplanet fullt av stirrende indere og busser som kjører som sinnssyke.

Jeg spør en inder om hvordan det er med vikeplikt og sånn. Vike fra venstre her, kanskje? Han ler. Det er ingen regler her. I hvert fall ingen som følger dem.

Våre kollegaer bussjåførene er de værste uansvarlige svina, hakk i hæl kommer lastebilsjåførene og bilistene virker heller ikke redde. Her er det ikke snakk om å beregne god plass for å foreta en forbikjøring. Bare det er akkurat plass nok. Det blåses i skrikende horn og gis blankt faen i esler, sykler og norske busser. Andre må bremse, andre må pelle seg, gjerne av veien. Det er som et bilspill hvor det er bonuspoeng i hver eneste forbikjøring og alle har lomma full av ekstraliv. Folk brenner etter å komme seg til neste brett, hva nå det måtte innebære. Fra mitt raseri får jeg lett mistanke om at det å kjøre så hensynsløst har en sammenheng med å tro på reinkarnasjon og at livet aldri kan verdsettes like høyt her som hjemme i gode Norge.

To ganger på seks dager får vi blåst av speila på høyre side. Begge ganger av lastebiler i avsindige forbikjøringer. Første gang har vi ingen reservespeil. og uten speil er vi blind elefant i barnehage. Speilekspedisjon utsendes med autorickshaw og kommer tilbake halvannen time seinere med nytt speil og ekstraspeil(som vi får bruk for to dager seinere).

Å slappe av med midtdeler, er ingen god idé. Med midtdeler er det nemlig ikke sagt at all trafikken på din side går samme vei. Når man ligger som best i 80 uten en eneste bekymring fordi veien er god og ganske trafikkløs, kommer det plutselig en traktor med et optimistisk duvende høylass kjørende imot.

Likevel må jeg bittert innse at folk faktisk er vanvittig gode til å kjøre på akkurat denne måten og det går opp for meg at det kanskje kan være mitt sinne og min nervøse fislekjøring som utgjør den største faren her.

Etter en uke på indisk vei, har vi allikevel tilpassa oss aldri så lite. Når jeg nå drar hjem til jul er jeg spent på hvordan det blir å kjøre bil. Hvem veit om jeg uten å tenke over det kommer til å stå på tuta mens jeg foretar hårfine forbikjøringer mellom Seljord og Bø?

Big Fat Indian Wedding

Finally: India. 12.000 km from home, and sort of our destination. Here is a story of the first days there:

PB041353 PB041370 PB041363

The border crossing was easy enough, and even easier after agreeing to help the Indian bureaucrats with a little baksish (some mild form of bribe). After leaving the huge crowds witch came rushing to see and cheer on the nationalistic border closing ceremony on both Pakistani and Indian side (This peculiar event is covered somewhere on Radioselskpet), it was getting dark.
Time to find a suitable place to park for the night. After looking for a hotel or truck stop along the tuctuc-, cattle- and rickshaw-filled road towards Amritsar, we decided to try a place called something like Punjabi Resort, hoping that they could accommodate us. This turned out to be a place for wedding parties, and not ment for tourists like us. But it was owned by an extremely friendly Sikh named Manjinder, who agreed to let us park inside his gates, and use the bathroom in his office. The only condition was that we had to be gone by seven the next morning, when the preparations for a wedding that day would begin.
Furthermore, he invited us all in, and sent some servants out for food, beer and some whiskey (sikhs do not drink themselves, so a very friendly gesture). Later, as we ate and talked, he extended the invitation, as we were very curious about the wedding. We would be able to see the wedding through the windows from the office, and go for a stroll among the guests at some point, having a discreet look around.

Andreas taking over the wedding buisness

Next morning some of us got up at 6.00 for a football match with some of Manjinders friends (something they did 6 times a week!). After the quick awakening and male bonding with these turban-wearing players, we came back to find the bus half buried in flowers and stuff for the wedding. These were moved, and Atilla moved outside this lovely green garden.
The wedding was supposedly not a big one, as they expected only 500 guests. Really big ones can have up to 3000 guests. Manjinder told us that this could get a bit crowded, and he preferred the ordinary size with about 1500.

Big Fat Indian Wedding

The discreet look from the office (of course) turned into all of us being invited as guests by the families, and placed at a table being constantly served every kind of delicious Indian food imaginable, while watching a dance troop performing for hours beside the married couple. Also a bunch of bachelors was dancing and throwing money notes around. The bride and groom were on display on a separate stage, where they were constantly being professionally photographed and filmed with different family members. In the end we ALSO got invited onto the stage, and will now end up in the official wedding album (a very kitchy, and important thing for Indians).. Guess we became sort of an attraction in this beautiful, colorful setting.
The wedding party ended, and after the (arranged) bride left in a tear-drenched crying ceremony, we ate some more. Some of us almost exploded from the last sweetest-dessert-ever.
The next couple of days we relaxed in Manjinders company, seeing the famous Golden Temple in Amritsar, and enjoying the fantastic hospitality of this 24-year old man, and his family.
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When time comes, and we head home, he has convinced us to call him ahead, so that he can arrange "something special".. Looking very much forward to this, whatever it means.


NB: Posted by Ingrid, but written by Maria.

At the mountain pass between China and Pakistan the road becomes one third narrower and the landscape numerous times wilder. The turquoise river and yellow leaves stand fluorescent against the massive amounts of beige and gray rock.
We slowly drive needle-sharp curves on steep mountainsides. Some small landslides and springs cross the road.

We arrive in Sust after dark. The friendly border-guards have been waiting for us and guide us smoothly through customs.
Here we get our first close look at the pakistani trucks. They are thoroughly decorated marvels with expanded carved fronts, colorful flowery patterns, wildlife motive miniatures and dingely stuff made of fabric and metal. In short, they make dusty Attila look even more grey.

The next days we spend walking the hills of Passu and Gulmit. We get especially exited by the suspension bridges. Wind pulling our clothes, we walk on wires and airily distributed sticks and boards with pounding hearts and grinning faces.The cameras are running hot trying to capture the overwhelming landscape.

Next stop is the ridiculously scenic town of Karimabad. We drink tea and say superlatives about the scenicness. We feast on chicken. We drink tea and play Trivial Pursuit. We get a guided tour at the Baltit fort. We drink tea and chat with the shopkeepers i Bazaar-street. And of course we need to climb the hills up to "Eagles nest" to see the sunset over Hunza Valley from a birds' perspective.
The hospitable locals, fresh air and great scenery (and tea) makes us want to linger. But as we have a date in Kathmandu in not too long and the situation in Swat is getting more than tense we decide to get moving.

In Gilgit we meet up with gentle Abbas. Anders met him on his way down KKH, and passed his phone number on to us. Abbas works as a guide, mostly with trekking, and it soon becomes clear to us that he's the man to have aboard for a secure journey southwards. He agrees.
We also hook up with Bashir, a merry smart-mustached gentleman we met in China. After admiring his fruit-garden we have a grand evening of drinking tea and solving some world-problems.

Abbas goes with us all the way to Lahore, with overnight stops in Chilas, Besham, Abbotabad and Guirat. The landscape, vegetation, hats, robes and beard-colours are changing rapidly along the way, sometimes even from one village to the next. The temperature is rapidly rising. As is the amount of spices in the dall.
When we turn on the TV in Guirat to watch the news, all the news channels are dead. Musharraf has declared state of emergency, and Cecilie in Bejing can inform us that the Broadcast building and High Court in Islamabad are surrounded by the army. We decide to drop sightseeing in Lahore for this time around, and head straight for the border the next morning.

Pakistani border: A guard askes "May I borrow a ballpoint pen, sir?". He may, and writes on the side of the bus; "I love Pakistan Rangers"

Kina - en grundig undersoekelse av fordommer og fakta

NB: Posta av Ingrid, men skrevet av Andreas.

Etter tre ukers rundreise i Kina kan jeg med dette bekrefte at mange av fordommene mot landet faktisk stemmer. Her foelger en grundig og om enn ikke faglig forsvarlig undersoekelse:

Fordom 1: Kineserne er jaevla mange
Jeg har reist fra Kashgar, som ligger i oerkenen helt i vest i Kina, til Chegdu som ligger i lavlandet oest for Tibet. Vi snakker digre hellige fjell med trapp helt opp og templer paa toppen og pagoder og full snikende tiger-steming.

Men aller mest snakker vi sinnsjukt store byer med masse millioner innbygere som jeg aldri har hoert om en gang. Chengdu over fem millioner innbyggere, Chungking med omraadene rundt, over tretti millioner, Yangchi fire millioner osv osv. I tillegg er jo kineserne ikke det dugg bedre enn noen andre jeg kjenner, de flytter fra den treige bygda si inn til byen koste hva det koste vil. Det er snakk om hundrevis av millioner folk som har flytta fra landet til byen paa to tiaar. Da blir det trangt.

Effektene av den berykta ettbarnspolitikken har saavidt begynt aa kicke inn, saa det er et haap om at innbyggertallet vil stabilisere seg og til og med gaa ned paa sikt (det er naa 1,3 milliarder kinsesere). India vil ta dem igjen og gaa forbi om ikke saa lenge. Ettbarnspolitikken har ogsaa gjort at det naa finnes andregenerasjons enebarn av enebarn. Det finnes egen anstalter for unger som er oedelagt av at fire besteforeldre og to foreldre gaar tungt inn for aa skjemme bort. Minioritetsbefolkning har raust nok lov til aa faa flere unger.

Martin, Bjoern Kjetil oj jeg reiste i tre dager med passasjerbaat oppver Yangze elva, som pipler ut fra Tibet og ender i Shanghai, hundrevis av mil altsaa. Paa midten ca. har kinesiske myndigheter bygd verdens stoerste demning, to kilometer lang og nesten 200 meter hoey, et prestisjeprosjekt av en annen verden. Under bygginga av 'The Three Gorges Dam' blei 1,5 millioner mennesker mer eller mindre tvangsflytta. En fin baattur ja, men litt fucked aa tenke paa at den gaar over hundrevis av landsbyer og et par stoerre byer som naa ligger under vann.

Til slutt fikk vi noen dagers smaksprove paa Beijing, som ogsaa var ganske sinnsjukt. Foruten obligatoriske Kinesisk-mur og Forbudte by-turer var det ganske digg aa meske seg med vestlig luksus som pizza, internett, sushibarer, kaffe og t-bane. De som kjenner oss veldig godt skal faa hoere om turen paa den koreanske karaokebaren naar jeg kommer hjem.

Fordom 2: Kineserne smiler alltid
Iallfall de fleste vi treffer. De kan omtrent lite lite engelsk som jeg kan kinesisk, men de som kan litt er veldig hypp paa aa henge rundt aa oeve seg litt. Det foeles bra og gi litt tilbake bare ved aa gaa rundt aa vaere eksotisk i seg sjoel ogsaa. De fleste som gaar paa universitetet laerer engelsk, men engelsklaererne er ogsaa kinesere som er daarlige i engelsk saa det blir litt saa som saa. 'Chinglish' som det blir kalt er opphav til mage morsomme skilt, saa som 'Pubic toilet' og mye annet helt uforstaaelig.

Fordom 3: Kina er et kommunistisk diktatur
Dette er det ikke saa lett aa si noe kortfatta om. Paa mange maater er Kina det mest kapitialistiske landet i verden, det deales og hustles og handles hele tia. Kina opplever en oekonomisk vekst som er helt vill og sjukt skeivt fordelt. I Beijing selges det 1000 nye biler hver dag, 80 % av disse bilkjoeperene i byen har hatt lappen i under to aar. Paa den annen side er den politiske undertrykkelsen ganske massiv. Saann sett tar Kina det verste fra begge verdener.

Naar vi var i Beijing var det samtidig den femaarlige kongressen til Kommunistpartiet. I forkant har minst 3000 folk blitt fengsla, politiske opposisjonelle, noen kristne og en haug med folk som har kommet til hovedstaden for aa klage paa offentlige vedtak. Internet er ogsaa sensuret gjennom 'The Great Chinese Firewall'. En nordmann vi hang med, som bodde i Beijing, fortalte at aftenposten.no var sensuret under ski-vm i Falun, fordi Falun matcher den forbudte sekta Falun Gong.

Men Mao er fortsatt pop mange steder, og henger der med vorta si paa vegger, pa pengesedlene paa lightere, paa plakater, paa paraplyer og mye mye mer.

Fordom 4: I Kina spiser de hund
Ja, noen spiser hund, men det er ganske dyrt. Det beste skal visst vaere krysninga av s.k. kinesisk kjoetthund og st.bernhards hund, en skjoenn forening av kvantitet og kvalitet. Jeg saa en skaalda hund ligge aa duppe i en svaer gryte en gang og bevegde meg langsomt men sikkert bort defra. Men de har mye annen jaevlig digg mat og kanskje 1 % kvalme greier. Det risbrennevinet smaker hoegg. Det har i det hele tatt vaert veldig lite drikking, med noen faa solide unntak, jvf. karaokekvelden i Beijing.

Fordom 5: Kineserne raper etter de har spist
Ikke bare det. Skal det spises skal det ogsaa stoeyes, grises, harkes og slimes. Ser ikke restaurantbordet ut som en soeppelfylling i Manilla naar du er ferdig har du lissom ikke kost deg. Et gjallende rap etterpaa er bare en forsiktig prikk over i'en. Det var litt uvant i starten, men etterhvert var det ikke noe problem aa hive seg paa galeien. Naa som vi er ute av Kina er det faktisk litt vrient aa plutselig venne seg av med igjen.

Etter grundige overveiinger har vi reist inn i Pakistan. Saa langt har det godt som smurt, folka her er jaevla morsomme, oppriktig interessert og bare kule. Fjella rundt her er over 7000 m. Alle er venner og bussen ruller bra. Mer i et annet kapittel.

Takk for oppmerksomheten,
Andreas Reisende Mac

Beijing Rock City

Beijing has been a blast for those of us who decided to come here. Yesterday went out for a night of sushi and karaoke extravaganza together with our new (or old) found friends in Beijing. Great success, as Borat would have put it. Beijing has been about art, the great wall, politics, food (as usual), police, cycling, senior nights, punk rock, ping pong, morning gymnastics, American pub quizes and hamburgers, taxis, traffic, noice and great fun.

Thank you so much:

Julia and Jonas

For great hospitality and a warm welcome.

Tomorrow some of us are flying to Kashgar, with the rest following on Sunday morning. Guro and Morten have been to Tibet, and will arrive in Kashgar Sunday. From there we go on to Karakoram and Pakistan, ins` Allah.

Photo by Ingrid Koslung

Within you without you

Morten, Guro, Martin, Cecilie, Andreas and BK have explored the White Cloud temple and Chengdu. Now the first two are travelling towards Tibet, while the rest are heading for the yellow river. Anders is down Karakoram highway. Torkild, Ingrid and Maria are going to Bejing one of these days. If they can manage to leave Attila the bus.
Photo by Guro

Hva vi husker fra Kirgisistan

Dolong pass, Kirgisistan.

Vi kommer dit en sein kveld, rett i armene på Ivar Dale, en fyr vi har fått kontakt med uten å huske gjennom hvem. Ivar bor og jobber i Bishkek. I løpet av våre dager i Bishkek tar han oss med på centralasiatisk middagsfiest, på konsert med rockebandet Liquid Cactus langt utafor byen og er ellers en morsom, kunnskapsrik og kul fyr som vi er glade for å ha møtt. Det viktigste; billig og trygg parkering med do fikser Ivar som snakker russisk og ikke hjemmemekk-coctail av norsk, engelsk, russisk, spansk og ekstremtegnspråk som er det vi ellers pleier å bruke som våpen. Veldig deilig å endelig få med seg alle nyansene av hva folk sier. Den gamle mannen som passer på truckstoppet er ikke sur, slik vi tror, men sier derimot at vi bare må bli, her er trygt, bare bra folk vanker her, kafe der borte, do og vann så mye dere vil.

På truckstoppet i Bishkek blir vi lenger enn noen av oss har regna med. Det er en stor støvete plass, med et utendørs teglverk i den ene enden, dusinvis av kamaz-lastebiler i den andre, raklete utedasser i forskjellige varianter rundt omkring og masse støv overalt. Busser med danske og tyske logoer kommer innom hvert døgn og blir stående noen timer. Det blir lasta av og på en masse stasj vi ikke klarer å identifisere. Truckerene tester tutene sine, eller de kjeder seg og ser hvem som kan tute høyest. Skranglete bikkjer lunter rundt, bruker alt av krefter på endeløs skvakking om nettene.

Her er det nok albueplass til å brette ut busslivet til det ytterste. Matmekking, oppvask, klesvask, spising, lesing, fotball, brodering, hekling, snekring, tapetsering, veggmaling og vannpumping. Til og med vår egen do kommer ut av skjulet sitt under bussen. Med Marias eminenete dass/dusjforheng danker den nemlig ut hele dassparken på truckstoppet.
Vi vekker oppmerksomhet. Folk kommer bort, plutselig står det fem nysgjerrige lastebilsjåfører inni bussen og fniser. En kveld viser en kamaz-sjåfør, Ruslan, seg å være dreven på kirgisiske vuggesanger, lys og rein i stemmen og frekk på gitar og komos (kirgisisk strengeinstrument som martin har kjøpt) En kveld spiller vi fotball med naboen Olan og hans nivø, Roskilde på fire år.
Andreas kommer mens vi fortsatt er i Bishkek med friskt blod, sladder fra Grünerløkka og forsyninger bestående av grapefruktkjærneolje, krimbøker og tusenvis av Idoform.

Ivar låner oss Helsingforskomite-kontorfasilitetene sine slik at Maria og Anders kan ta en dagsøkt for fellesskapet på nett og telefon og kommunisere med viktige folk som kan gjøre oss klokere på situasjonen i Pakistan. Mange gode tips kommer fra Ivar sjøl og fra Andrea, ei tysk dame Ivar deler kontor med. Vi er ennå ikke sikre på om vi vil kjøre Karakoram Highway fra Kashgar til Islamabad, videre til Lahore.

Mye diare, noe feber og forkjølelse og bemerkelsesverdig lite oppkast.

Et tilfelle av tilløp til høydesyke i form av hissig hodepine på fjelltur over 3000 moh. Egenbehandling med hardtslående smertestillende fungerer bra.

Mye saubasert. Lagman (nuddellammesuppe) og plov (stekt ris med sau) er godt og kan fåes overalt. Manti (sau i store mengder sammen imed kål i "pastaposer") er like tilgjengelig, men litt for ofte er den skadelidende sauen for gammal, bitter og stram.
Gjæra hoppemelk, her kjent som Kymmyz, har fått staus som "det unevnelige" etter overmodige inntak på vei over høye pass. Drikken har alkoholprosent som lettøl og smaker først av tynn kefir, så sur hjemmelaga vin, deretter av oppkast og til slutt kommer en lang ettersmak av skitten hestepels. Og den ettersmaken sitter lenge...

Torkild og Ingrid bygger kjøkken. Maria bygger data- og prosjekt-hylle. Morten og BK bygger skohylle og mobile høytalerkasser. Nå kan vi høre musikk utafor bussen også.

Buss og kjøring
Vi har slutta å kjøre etter det har blitt mørkt. Prøver å stå opp tidligere. Ti folk tar fortsatt ganske lang tid...
Veiene er ikke dumme, mye asfalt, aldri så bulkete og lappete som i Russland, aldri så hullete som i Kazakstan, men smalere og etterhvert grus, svingete og bratt. Bussen runder det ene passet etter det andre, klatrer til nærmere 4000 moh uten å koke. De kinesiske monstertruckene som det etter hvert florerer av sliter i kneikene. Kirgiserne kan ikke skjønne at vi ikke koker, de spør om vi ikke skal kaste et par bøtter med vann på radiatoren. Nedover de hissige bakkene briefer motorbremsen som vi fikk fiksa på verksted i Tromsø. Vi bruker nesten ikke bremsebånd og er stolte av doningen.
Ingen luftlekkasjer, gjærrig på olje, men sluker vann. Så det må være en lekkasje ett eller annet sted i kjølesystemet. Bjørn Kjetil (som har seila opp til å bli en av våre store mekkemenn) har funnet hullet.
Vi punkterer på ett av fire bakhjul når vi har kommet oss av de beste veiene og har begynt den 280km lange turen fra Isyk Kul mot Torugart Pass. Vi har både før og underveis på turen snakka masse om at vi bør ta en skifte dekk-test. Ingen av oss har gjort det på buss før, og mutrene på bussen har ikke vært løsna på godt og vel to år. Så når vi nå står der med slaskete dekk og mutre som ikke rikker seg, angrer vi på at vi har prata bort hele dekkskifte-testen. Flaks i uflaks, vi står parkert 50 meter fra et verksted hvor det skiftes dekk på en kamaz-lastebil. Vi får ekspressbehandling til turistpris og gutta svetter, spenner, hopper og stønner av de ti mutrene. Vi er glad vi har ekstradekk som funker.

Seinere får vi lappa dekket, lappemannen finner en enorm jernbit inni som har laga hullet, og mener det er noe som burde stilles ut på museum. Morten og BK skifter dekket på igjen. Nå kan vi det også.

Andre fine ting
Banjabesøk i Bishkek. Hør det på www.nrk.no. Klikk rundt etter radioselskapet på nettradioen.
Fjellturer. Se flickr-kontoene våre.


And then we have driven to China. A rough ride over the magnificient Torugart pass took us to the Uighur capital. Here we've enjoyed various touristy activities: Feasted on Uighur and Chinese food, been to the big markets and bought carpets but not fat-bummed sheep, slept in marshmallow-coloured hotelrooms and shopped cheap DVDs. We even went test-riding camels as we've been offered 12 in exhange for Attila the bus. We decided on sticking to the bus.

The bus. As it's not allowed to drive in China without hiring a guide, we will leave Attila in Kashgar for tree weeks and travel by foot, train and plane.

Photo by Guro Anna Wyller Odden


Statue of stron Kyrgyz msn
In Bishkek, after over a month of traveling, we managed to get a portion of pictures from the trip out on Flickr.
They can be viewed at:
Our Common pool, witch is not completed yet is at Strangeways pool

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek is the Capital of Kyrgyzstan. Until a few years ago it was called Frunze, named after a bolshevik hero. Since the new rulers are not very bolshevik they gave the city its new name almost similar to the old name Bishpek.
We have spent a couple of days here at a truck park. It's a bit funny how we always end up at such places. It may have something to do with our habit of arriving places late in the evening with a big bus. Anyway, it's a nice place. A bit shabby but with nice and helping people. We have had some time to build more furniture in the bus. Yesterday we played football with some of the truck drivers. Some of them even spent the whole evening with us, jamming and singing kyrgyz folk songs for us.
There has been some time for the usual holiday activities as well such as visiting local bazars, looking at the President Palace and bla bla. Most exiting was a trip to the local banja, a kind of public bath with sauna. Since foreigners seemed not to be very common at this place, we got a lot of friendly attention and good advice. Two hours later we came out of the place cleaner than any of us have felt ever before. At least more clean than we have been since we left home.

When we came to Bishkek we were met by the only Norwegian living here, Ivar Dale. He gave us a guided trip through the uptown part of the city's nightlife. We ended up at Bishkek's most posh place, were a band played cover versions of early 90's hits.
Mr Dale, the very helpful man, has offered us to use his office to do some research on the Pakistan business. Therefore we will stay here a couple of days more than we had planned. We hope to get back to you with more info on our route in the next days.

Andreas comes to town on Tuesday, and then we head towards the mountains south east of Bishkek, on the way to China.

We have added some new pictures to the blog. Scroll down a bit to find them. More pictures coming up soon.


Ps: I`m adding a couple of photos, one from our fantastic Central Asian dinner with Ivar, a night that ended in splendor at a posh nightclub dancing to the music of the Kyrgyz band "Liquid Cactus". The other one taken from the back door of the bus, and depicts two of the guys we`ve been hanging out with at our current truck stop. It`s a good place, with nice people running a café, and a truck driver called Russland who plays guitar as well as the local Kyrgyz three stringed thingy I can`t remember the name of at the moment. The two guys on the picture are listening to a recording Torkild made of Russland playing. Thank you Bishkek, thanks Ivar and Alina, thank you Angela who washed our clothes, and thanks to the friendly truck stop people (especially our young friend Roskilde). Now on to the beautiful lake Issyk-kul. Ingrid

Steppe, ørken, badeferie

Etter skyskrapergalskapen i Astana har vi hatt noen dager med mye kjøring og de sedvanlige overnattingene på truck stops. Bursdagen til Torkild blei feira med øl og vodka, på et truck stop, selvsagt. Vi begynner å bli gode på truck stops. Vi kan omtrent alle fra Murmansk til Astana. Slikt står det ingenting om i Lonely Planet, kanskje vi skal skrive et kapittel for dem om det.

Da vi nærma oss Balkash-sjøen var vi heldige og fant noe som viste seg å være en slags resort for folk fra Karaganda, som vi hadde kjørt forbi litt lenger nord. Bak en anonym fasade åpenbarte det seg asurblått vann og en stor sandstrand. Balkash-sjøen er verdens fjerde største innsjø. Forstå det den som kan, men det har seg sånn at den vestlige halvdelen består av ferskvann og den østlige delen er saltvann. Vi var ved ferskvannsdelen. Bortsett fra at det var ferskvann og at alle rundt oss snakka russisk, var det som å være ved Middelhavet. Bussen ble parkert i en låst bakgård, og vi feira Marias fødselsdag. Dagen etter blei en fantastisk dag med bading, avslapping og tid til å bygge litt i bussen.

Etter denne lille badeferien la vi ut på veien igjen mot Almaty. Steppene blei til ørken, og bortsett fra noen kameler i ny og ne var det lite å se før vi kom til et sted der det var satt opp en lang rekke med boder hvor det ble solgte shashlik, grillspyd. Mens vi spiste slakta de lam rundt oss. De skulle på grillen dagen etter. Eksotisk.

Ny dag i ørkenen, og nå er vi i Almaty. Her blir vi en dag eller to før vi kjører videre mot Bishkek.

Astana - under construction

We had a somewhat rough transport to from Kostanaj to here. About 200 km north af Astana we became involved in a traffic accident. A man was hit by a speeding car, and rolled under the bus. We had to pull him out and someone brought him to hospital. He lost a leg, but is otherwise ok. We had a long night together with the police. Guro, who drove the bus at the time of the accident got status as witness. We had a long and exhausting night, but everybody is ok now, and we are happy that the man survived.

We have been in Astana for two days, and had some time to be tourists. Astana is a huge construction site where scyscrapers and official buildings are shooting up everywhere. They are building a new administration centre that is planned to be opened in 2030. Some buildings are already finished, among them an arch de triumphe that looks like a newer version of Brandenburger Tor, the President Palace (not very different from the white house in Washington), and a 105 m tall tower with a golden apple. Inside the apple you can place your hand in a golden handprint of president Nazarbayev himself. Together with a 360 degree panorama of the city and the surrounding steppes - Its nice!

Last night we celebrated Martin's birthday at a Jamaican restaurant together with Martins cousin Simone and her boyfriend Alex. Good food, no reggae.

Today we wil hit the road again, heading south towards Almaty.


Due to the tense situation in the northern Pakistani region Kohistan, we are now considering whether we will drive the Karakorum Highway through Pakistan to India or not.
Here are some alternatives we are considering:

1) Friendship Highway from Tibet to Nepal. This is probably the fastest route, and probably the most expensive.
2) Kirgisistan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-and then somehow from Iran to India. Long and expensive, but maybe the only way to get to India if Friendship Highway is closed.
3)Drop India, and drive somewhere else.
If anyone has useful information or experiences, we would be glad if you share them with us.

Kostanaj, Kazakhstan

Yesterday we spent about six hours to get into Kazakhstan. Four of them were spent on getting out of Russia. When Russian border authorities are extremely slow and thorough, the Kazakh seem to think that the Russians do the job for them. One of the Kazakh guards even spoke english: "Norway? You guys crazy!"

We are now i Kostanaj, a small town about 150 km south of the Russian border.
We are not that much in a hurry any more, and hope for a couple of days without driving somewhere before we reach Astana.

Go Asia!

Yes, we are in Asia. Apart from huge wasps, it's not that different from home. Since Kazan, there has been a couple of days with a lot of driving, and sleeping at truck stops. Last night we spent the night in the middle of a forest. When we woke up, our kitchen was gone. But a retired colonel in a neighbouring summerschool/ dacha for children (!) invited us for tea. Tea in russian means vodka. After two bottles and exchange of canned foods, we headed for Chelyabinsk.

Right now we are having a short pit stop in Chelyabinsk. Internet and food shopping action. In a few hours we will drive towards Troick, a small city at the border to Kazakhstan. And tomorrow: Kazakhstan.


Petrosavodsk ligger omtrent 2500 km fra grensa til Kazakhstan. Fordi vi ikke har kjøretillatelse i mer enn 14 dager, må vi være inne i Kazakhstan seinest den 31. August. Det vil si at vi har ti dager på ossfra Petrosavodsk. Vi må altså kjøre i gjennomsnitt 250 km hver dag. Hvis vi holder av den siste dagen til kryssing av grensa, har vi ni dager igjen. Vi trenger et par dager uten kjøring. Altså sju kjøredager. Det vil si at vi må kjøre omtrent 400 km hver kjøredag.
Folk som er misfornøyd med norske veier, kan ta seg en liten kjøretur i Russland. Hvis man kan holde en gjennomsnittsfart på 50 km/t er man heldig. Vi har det altså litt travelt.

Dette blir mer kjøring enn vi hadde regna med. Det legger noen føringer for reisa som vi ikke hadde regna med. Det har blitt en slags russisk roadtrip. Vi kjører hele dagen og kommer til et nytt sted seint på kvelden eller på natta. Det gjør at vi må ta de overnattingsmulighetene som byr seg. De siste nettene har vi overnatta utafor et hypermarked, ved siden av et kloster på truckstop og på en kjøreskole. Det siste skjønte vi først når vi våkna om morgenen, og en haug med biler humpa rundt bussen.

Nå er vi i Kazan, en svær by som ligger ved Volga. Her er fullt av både kirker og moskeer. Vi merker at vi nesten er i Asia.

Photo by Ingrid Koslung

21.08- Petrozavodsk

Petrozavodsk means "Peter's factory". The city was founded by Peter the Great in 1704. At the time he was at war with the Swedes and needed a city in Karelia to supply his army with arms and ammunition. Apart from the odd tractor, the factories in Petrozavodsk produce little metal today. The city is now dominated by students from the two local universities, as well as quite a number of Russian and Finnish tourists who promenade along the shores of the great Odega lake. We follow their example, and Maxim guides us through the city and down to the lake. Maxim also organises showers for everyone. Bj¯rn Kjetil, Torkild and Anders shower at Troll`s place, while the rest of us are catered to in Maxim`s appartment.
In the evening we invite Maxim and Tanya for dinner in the bus. Guro and Morten learns how to cook "pillemini", a russian dish similar to tortellini. Maxim has a Ukrainian hitch-hiker visiting who makes "dibosjr" - the official Russian hitch- hikers’ coctail. It contains canned, condensed milk, sugar, instant coffee, water and vodka. All of them supposedly ingredients every Russian hitch-hiker carries around in his backpack.
After a long and good day free of driving we go to bed on full stomacks and a bit tipsy from the vodka.
Anders. (translation-Ingrid)

Photo by Ingrid Koslung

20.08.07-Chupa-Petrosavodsk. 550 km.

Chupa is later described by people we meet as a hole, exclusively known because of a local writer by the name of Venedict Erofejev, a drunken bastard who wrote books about being one. Perhaps it was his cousin who came by in the morning, looking for more alcohol after a very late night out. Chupa looks better in the sunlight than she did the night before. Some cows walk by, and cute stray dogs compete for our attention. The three girls we met the night before arrive to join us for our morning coffe. They take some of us with them on quite a long expedition in search of drinking water. The public water supply exists, but the water is not drinkable. So we follow the locals example and collect our water from a natural spring in the woods outside town. The water is cold and fresh.
After a long photo session with the girls, they send us off as we glance at the ocean one last time. If all goes according to plan, the next seawater we`ll see is that of the Indian west coast sometime in December.
Right outside town we make a short stop to see the local wooden church. Some of us gets a short tour inside the building. The priest is wearing sandals, jeans and a shirt. The only indication of his priesthood is his long, grey beard. After looking at us with a sceptical eye, he and the cleaning lady light up and we manage to tell them that we are Norwegians and "spasiba".
A few kilometres later Martin has problems with the clutch. It turns out to be yet another air leak in the exact same place at last time. Luckily the repair goes swiftly and we are on the road again after 30 minutes.
This becomes another day of driving, Atilla eats more than 550 km. When we finally arrive in Petrozavodsk around 1 am, we are greeted by Maxim, a hitch-hiker who accompanied us from Narvik to Troms¯. He suggests that we park in the parkinglot outside a 24-hour hypermarked. Not the most idyllic spot, but both toilet and food is easily accessible. We share two bottles of wine and some cheese with Troll and Olya (Maxims friends) and Tanya (Maxim’s girlfriend) before we go to bed.

Anders (translation by Ingrid)

19.08.07.Chupa- an ugly town turns beautiful over night.

A long drive today- more than 500 kilometres on, at times, very bad roads. Sometimes the speedometer shows no more than 30 km per hour for long streches of road. There seems to be loads of roadworks going on, but the workers themselves are scarse, and there doesn`t seem to be much progress. The drivers are struggling with holes and bumps in the asphalt.
We decide to leave the main road and go on to Chupa, a small town by the White Sea, to find somewhere to camp for the night. The houses are mostly wooden, though a few huge appartment buildings dot the horizon. The town looks run-down and more or less dead. There are almost no lights to be seen.
By a football pitch, some kids are playing ball. Martin and Ingrid go and attempt talking to them about possible campsites. They achieve a certain degree of communication with three girls of 12 and 14 who can hardly stop giggling. After some stuttering and stammering in English and Russian (and a bit of spanish to round it off), they show us a beautiful spot down by the shore, on the outskirts of town.
It`s raining, so we get a chance to try out our shelter construction skills for the first time. It works surprisingly well, and we make dinner using the last Norwegian sausages we have.
Anders 8translation- Ingrid)

18.08.07- Murmansk

We drive into Murmansk at seven in the morning. On arrival we check in at Hotel Polyarnye Zory, a hotel named after a city a few hundred kilometres south of town. The Scandinavian flags outside the lobby show clearly that we are not the first Norwegians here. Some of the receptionists even speak a bit of Norwegian and Swedish. As long as you can tolerate loud techno and Russian pop with your breakfast-pancakes, this hotel is a good alternative. After having the hotel`s breakfast for supper, we head to our rooms for a good day`s sleep.
When we get up in the afternoon we are ready to have dinner for breakfast, and ask the receptionists for advice. Their suggestions are way too exclusive however, so we let Lonely Planet guide us to a pizza place called Mama Mia. The restaurant hands out pizza with reindeer tongue and jam as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The biggest success however, was the dessert-pizza Grandioso; cheese, assorted fruits, nuts, ice cream and whipped cream. After beer and vodka in the hotel bar, we head for our beds again.
The city of Murmansk is situated by the Kola Bay and boasts the northernmost ice free harbour in Russia. Thus it constitutes a point of great strategic importance, and is perhaps particularily well known for the large number of atomic submarines stationed here during the Cold War. The boats are still there, though most of them are hardly in sailable condition any more.
After a few harsh years, the city seems to be more or less on it`s feet again. The streets are filled with young people in fancy clothes, older people in shiny cars and hords of Finnish tourists.
Some of us comment on the huge contrast between the well dressed and seemingly well fed people, and the run down residential areas. The old trolley busses contrast the shiny new SUV`s in a similar fashion.
After sleeping off the vodka, we get ready to leave, and Attila the bus gets a check-up. It has received a good beating on the road from Kirkenes to Murmansk. Bj¯rn Kjetil shows his newly aqired mechanical skills, and fixes an air leak in the break system. An electrical chord also needs to be attended to, in order to get the sidelights on the right side working again. Also, the body got pushed about a bit, driving across some big bumps on the hellish roads of last night. As a result, the door is not closing properly- but this repair has to be saved for later. We head for the Russian forests again.
Anders (translation-Ingrid)

In Borderland

Russia is the land of the Lada. Not only the land of vodka, bureaucracy or gray concrete, but also the land of the small and handy car that for me always has been a symbol of the former Soviet states. I had forgotten about the Lada when I imagined Russia as a country with concrete buildings, tired vodka-drinking people and an enormous bureaucray. This is also Russia, but Russia is until now something else and something more. It is nicotine-addicted transport inspectors, customs officers that laughs when they look inside our bus, it is silent shop attendents, humpy roads, old, worn wooden houses with fantastic wood-carvings. It is sunshine and nice people, old trucks and charming truckstations with smelling toilets. It is a welcoming Russia that so far hasn't lived up to its bad reputation, and knock on wood, it won't either.
At the moment we are driving on a humpy road between Petrozavodsk and Vologda. This is not the only bad road we have experienced since we just about managed to get into Russia - in the excitement of crossing the border to Russia we forgot a very important thing; map reading, and as a result we followed the wrong signs to Murmansk. A journey that would normally take us 3 hours, ended up taking 7 hours and a night's sleep from us. The distance was the same in kilometres, but when you are driving only 5 km per hour on a road that more resembles a dry river, than an actual road, it is quite obvious that it takes a few hours longer. But, hey, someone told us that the roads were supposed to be quite bad in Russia. What have we learnt? There is always a co-pilot and map-reader sitting next to the driver. And never trust a road sign.
Even though the road quality doesn't resemble a dry river anymore, the roads are still a challenge and the bus is constantly changing between 20 to 80 km/h.
Crossing the border is a long story and now, a week later, it seems more like a Russia-test than how it actually felt during the five long hours waiting at the border between our safe home country Norway and the big, scary Russia: if you pass the test - if you are patient, humble and stubborn you are welcome to Russia, if not, this is not a country for you. But we passed the test in the end. Russia is a country for us.
We arrived late afternoon at the border, a bit nervous and excited about what expected us. It was now our big trip was about to begin for real. It was now we were going to meet a Russia few of us knew, but all of us had heard and read many stories about. Would the customs spend hours checking our bus, or would there be a different kind of problem ahead? Would there be any problems at all? The one we feared the most, the customs, didn't turn out to be our problem this time.
After a young man with an enormous hat let us into the Russian border station, we were guided to a room were they stamped our visas. Since Guro Anna is registred as the owner of the bus, she is also the person who has to take care of all the practical matters with the papers for the bus. She was about to learn that we were in "BIG troubles" as the transport inspector expressed in broken Russian-English. In Russia you are not allowed to drive with more than 8 passengeres if you are driving as a private person in transit, meaning that you are not returning to the same border as you started out. With our 12 seats in the bus, we were, as the transport inspector indicated, in trouble. We were already registred in the system as a "big bus", and we had already gotten our migration papers. We needed a transit paper, but it would take weeks to get, and our whole trip were on hold. Neither Guro Anna's tears or Pasvikturist (who had helped us with our Russian visas) begging on the phone, helped. The fear of the, for us, invisible boss, were too big. The transport inspector was afraid he might loose his job if he let us go. He suggested that we came back the next day when he wasn't on duty with three seats less in the bus, but our visas were all single entry visas, and they were already registred. Getting new ones would take days, and we were in a hurry. Being in a hurry is by the way another problem we hadn't predicted, but more about this later.
Sad, dissapointed and confused after 4 hours of waiting we were sent back to the bus and asked to leave. We had at this stage started to plan an alternative route not including Russia, but it also meant applying for new, expensive visas and no Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. We had tried everything; could they maybe annulate our entry stamp? Could they delete us from the system? Could they pretend that they didn't know that we were driving through Russia to Kazakhstan? Soon the whole border station was involved in our problem, but they didn't seem to be able to help us, even though the transport inspector actually looked sad as he smoked heavier and heavier. During these 4 hours Guro Anna had gone from being "Miss Wyller", to being "Anna" and at the end "Guro Anna". A kind of personal bond had envolved.
Of course we had to get a fine before we left; one fine for being rejected and one fine for not having a N for Norway at the back of the bus. Guro Anna was on her way to pay when the transport inspector pulled her aside, lit a cigarette and said "Okay, you go to Russia now" and pointed towards Norway (he meant to point towards Russia, of course). In the joy of the moment Guro Anna claimed "I love you!" This must be the biggest declaration of love he has ever experienced in his working days. The transport inspector had after a while realised that he could delete from the register that we were driving transit, and instead write that we were going to Murmansk - any problems that might occur because of this, we would have to handle on the border to Kazakhstan. He would not be the person responsible anymore.
The border was about to close (Russian time) and we were now facing our original fear: the custom. Each one of us had to take all our personal belongings and get it scanned - meaning, not more than 35 kg, otherwise we would have to pay duty. It is likely that we have approximately a tonn of things in the bus, including personal belongings, technical equipment, food and kitchen. Only two people managed to get their things scanned before a somewhat frustrated customs officer came towards the bus with waving arms demanding us to stop. They had seen enough and it was closing time. Two customs officers took a quick look inside our bus while laughing and smiling, they even called for the woman who had stamped our passports and gave her a short sight-seeing.
We had now been in the borderland for five hours; a land of stern people, problems and enormous hats, but also our first meeting with a Russia that smiles and laughs in the end. At last we were allowed to cross the magical border to Russia.


Enter Russia

After five hours at the Russian border, we got in, five minutes past closing time, which is 11 pm Moscow time. It was five long hours with waiting and more waiting, njet, njet, maybe and finally "ok and good luck" from the border guards. Our first meeting whith the Russian bureaucracy, probably not the last.
After turning the wrong way in a road crossing, we spent several hours on a bumpy and sandy road with with huge holes. We asked ourselves if the roads really are that bad in this country, and India seemed very far away. we reached Murmansk at 7 in the morning, after a six hour ride that should have taken 2 hours. We had breakfast and went to bed.
One could say we got Russia right in the face. But now we are in Murmansk, after a good days' sleep, we will have a stroll in the city and continue southwards tomorrow.

Across the border-Short update

We are now about to enter Russia near Kirkenes, and preparing to unload all our luggage for scanning at the border. Hopes are high, but we are expecting to possibly spending quite some time with the Russian border officials. Last night we set up camp in a beautiful location not far from Kirkenes, did some fishing and some barbecuing and had a great time. Now, on to Murmansk!

Norway, your most expensive vacation destination ever

Two weeks have past since we left Telemark and Oslo and started our travels. Norway has proved a great place to be a tourist, with exception of the obvious facts mentioned in the title.

We have not yet slept one night without a toilet and a shower accessible, and have been offered food, good stories and excellent company everywhere we`ve ventured. Lofoten and Hamnøy were fantastically beutiful with Lofotkaffe and Markus + Elin as excellent guides. After that we (at least some of us) went surfing (at least attempted to) in Unstad, before we headed to Tromsø and Karlsøy. The people, music, lavos and festivities of Karlsøya were - as always, pure bliss. We kept ourself busy helping out with the festival in different ways, building toilets, dancing and making food as well as establishing the "media-city" in the old school building that now fuction as the Karlsøy Festival`s heart and brain. The pirate-radio "Karlsøya Direkte i år igjen" broadcasted on FM 108 under the slogan "Creating a free space on the airwaves". Our editorial group consisted of local kids and came up with numerous creative jingles, interviews and reports about the festival, the island, free spaces in Europe (Ungern, Christiania, Köpi) as well as a deep plunging debate on the subject of the fishing industry in northern Norway. The festival newspaper "Geitehelvete" was put out daily by Andreas and Fredrik- a marvelous little fanzine with a 1977- punk- D.I.Y. -design.

At present we are in Hammerfest, tidying up the bus and our heads before departure for Kirkenes and Russia tomorrow morning. Spirits are high in spite of a mild coughing and sneezing epidemic spreading rapidly among the crew. Finnmark is exotic and full of raindeer, fish and good people- the wievs from the bus windows are breathtaking. It`s high time we get out of this country before we turn into patriotic bastards.

A big thank you goes out to all the people who have helped us so far.