Archive for the ‘ On the Road ’ Category

Mongolia: The void personified in a country?

That’s how Lechu defined Mongolia.
With a population of 2, 5 million people, Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world.
Half of the population is nomadic people. They live in big rounded white tents called Gerts

Transportation is tough, with practically no paved roads (even in cities road are sometimes just a tire track). There are no public buses. The way to move is just hitchhiking or taking vans (11 seat persons in Russian vans totally packed with people). We’ve traveled is one in 18 and 20 hours trips for approximately 300 km.
Broken vans, accidents and drivers stopping for sleeping or drinking vodka are totally common (we had all those experiences).
Being in a Ger (like we’ve been) spontaneously (not a ‘tourist’ ger) like we’ve been it’s an amazing experience. Trying the typical foods is also an awesome experience, except, i.m.h.o. from some dairy products like airag: mare’s fermented milk (like vinegar with milk), suutei tsai, the Mongolian tea (something like tea with salt) and the cheese, called aaruul (it tastes really different than what I consider cheese, its really sour and extremely hard). Another thing that everybody offers you all the time is vodka. They call it “Mongolian vodka”. I swear it has nothing to do with vodka but I’ll never say it to a Mongolian (shhhh!)… It’s like water with ethylic alcohol… Anyway, when you drink it more than 2 times, it tastes ok.

Mongolia owns incredible landscapes and great nature. Yaks, the taki (Mongolian horse), lambs and camels also prettify them.
The true Mongolian experience, I think, consists in enjoying its nature and its breathtaking mountains and desert. You can camp anywhere as it’s the world most “camping friendly” country. Lands have no owner.
I’ve found that Mongolian people have a deep relation with nature… as most of them don’t rely neither in electricity nor other things we’re really used to. It’s great to watch it.
By our western standards I’ve found that some of what other tourist would consider “drawbacks” in traveling around the country make this nation more special and attractive.

The (practically only) Mongolian hero is Genghis Khan. He’s everywhere. In the 12th century the Mongolians had the biggest empire the world has ever seen. It seems that they didn’t develop much till that century, as they’re still riding horses, living like nomads and having the same living conditions. Mongolia has lot of ancestral magic to give us. Its enchantment makes Mongolia unique.


Our Wilson

As Tom Hanks had his Wilson, we have ours: this bottle. It’s always with us. It got lost several times and we saved it. We ‘invented’ a easier way to carry it, and it’s getting more and more dirty but we love it.

Russian Insomnia

Never ending days. Never ending issues. Never ending hassles?
This is about a bad experience.
Not the saddest. That was in Vienna, in a train that took forever things that I’ll always look for.
Pressure from the police: asking for bribes to tourist and for registration in the city (some soviet legacy, where you have to go to the OVIR (tourist police) to register in a city when you’re more than 72 hours in it),a thing we didn’t do just because we don’t want to spend that much money is said to be common in Russia.
This was a plus for my nerves. But the trigger of my bad mood was the Russian trains.
Russians don’t speak English. No English at all. None. It’s really hard to make yourself understand here… I like adventure, but sometimes… just sometimes… I just want things the easy way.
And trains are hard to get. And we’re planning to do like 10000 km on train. A quarter of the world in one trip: the famous Tran Siberian train. We tried to take several tickets, several options, but they didn’t get it. We had to learn Cyrillic to try to understand. Anyway, we didn’t get the tickets we wanted to. We just gave the paper saying ‘one ticket to XXX’ to the girl on the counter; she gave the paper back and said -“niet!”.
So we finally spent our second day in Russia just making queues, going to the bus station, train station, making calls and starting to feel more and more worried.
We also spent the night doing online researching and looking for tickets. On our third day we didn’t sleep at all. We just stayed on the internet looking for your tickets. All our tickets because as we noticed, cheap tickets are really hard to find..
So we finally made lot of options, combinations, we look for our Tran Siberian train and how to get to Mongolia.
On the other day god helped us a little bit more: we got the tickets. We did our homework in a flawless way. But the Mongolia ticket was not there yet. The only one left… we’re going to do the Tran Siberian train soon but we can’t find that trip in particular.
Anyway, we should be happy. We managed to do little ‘technical scales’, and with tips and tricks we managed to get our Tran Siberian (or Trans Mongolian) tickets for about 100 euros. The average is more than 200 and tour companies can sell them at even 600 – 1000 euros.
So now I feel more ‘realized’ though we still don’t know how we’ll get out of Russia. We’re just going to the Russian border with Mongolia.
But crossing is not as easy as it seems. Scams, corruption, policeman stealing, trying to get something from tourists and eternal customs border waiting (4 hours minimum until 8 hours just waiting for your passport, visa checks, registration checks, etc) transform going out from Russia an Epic adventure. We know how that works. But it’s not easy.
It was just a not so warm welcome on the beautiful yet still communist (from my point of view) St Petersburg. We also had good experiences there. And we know all the plazas, squares, or whatever they called them: we’ve been sleeping in them all…

When do you reach the top?… [Pärnu, Estonia]

Before being in Pärnu, we’ve been in Riga, where Mara & co. let us stay in a hostel… we also went out, ate and stayed together, went to the beach, to the Latvian country fields and blah blah…

We said: “this is finished, this is too much”… and we went to Pärnu, where we met Tönys and his girlfriend Victoria. As always, as every place we’ve been, we had an insuperable time there.

Tonnys worked in Ammende Villa, one of the best hotels in Estonia, so we’ve also been in the hotel eating and drinking, even we went there one night to be with Tonnys… Actually, I know I had eaten great things, but the best were the fruit juices… (I can’t tell exactly what they had, let’s call it ‘custom made’)

In the picture I’m in the terrace in one of the really expensive tables…

They also introduced a friend to us (now ours), Irene… she worked in a bar and also let us see there the Argentinean match (I won’t talk about it) there. She helped us cleaning our wounds with lot of food and alcohol from the bar.

We went out altogether several times, and we occasionally drank a little bit and had a little bit of fun…

When do you reach the top? Never. The road never stop surprising me… in myriads of forms, ways you never expect …When you think you’re done, it takes a different shape and just go on… When do you reach the top? It’s just up to you; we didn’t set a top, we leave it for the mediocre. We let us flow. It’s not a coincidence, our energy lead to this.

This time (it does not happen often as we capture just a little bit of all the great moments we have) we have a picture of our host, friends, and us… yes!, we all!!… So it’s worth posting it…

From Left to Right: Pablo, Irene, Viktooria (Tony’s girlfriend), me, Lechu and Tony

Thanks Irene, Viktooria and Töny!!!….

Riga, Partytown

In Riga there’s party going on… for sure there is…

Guido is in Riga

I was in the Riga bus station, taking a bus to the country fields to celebrate the midsummer fest. I was already in the bus and Pablo said: “God, what a face!…” I nodded and realized that our friend Guido was in Riga!!… Please try to find Guido somewhere!… for sure you won’t find him… he’s here!, in Latvia. I love bus stations, they’re weirdos, freak and bizarre human beings concentration camps. Estabamos por tomar el bondi al campo para celebrar la midsummer fest, y vimos una caripela que no podíamos creer… Dios, que cara mama!… mirando bien nos dimos cuenta que Guido estaba ahí. Pablo tomo la foto desde adentro del bondi, no hay precisión pero se puede observar perfectamente que la persona rubia que esta ahí es Guido. El otro también tiene una caripela que da miedo, pero ese ya es otro tema. Me encantan las estaciones de bus, siempre son un lugar de reunión para los seres más bizarros.

Eating pork like beach pigs…

Juan is from Spain. He’s the owner of Riga Hotel. He also (thanks to Mara) let us stay in the Hostel for free. He also told us: let’s go to some isolated beach and have some barbecue… He took 6 kg of Pork and the grill and took us (Lech, Pablo, Mara n’ me) in his car. The route was hard. We got lost several times and the road was really sandy, at certain point we thought we couldn’t do it, but we finally succeed. We couldn’t stop eating. We ate all the 6 kg of seasoned pork. What a good meal!. I’ll (and I’m not kidding by any way) always remember it. (considering the cheapies we’re eating right now, this is 100% luxury)