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!