Gooooood Morning Argentina

September 12th, 2009 § Comments Off on Gooooood Morning Argentina § permalink

I think spring is finally here.

Highest Vines

September 11th, 2009 § Comments Off on Highest Vines § permalink

Settling down with the sunset looking out from our room at the highest vineyard in the world. Amazing 7 hour drive out here, happy that we have 2 nights here!

CCP Comrade

July 15th, 2009 § Comments Off on CCP Comrade § permalink

After beating the streets and making a visit to the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party, we stumbled out of the heat and are finding refuge in the 1901 club in an arty area sipping pints. The propaganda museum will have to wait until tomorrow.


July 13th, 2009 § Comments Off on Breakfast § permalink

29 hours later. What we didn’t know about our flight to Shanghai was the stop over in Beijing. Unfortunately the weather this time of year in Beijing tends to be filled with electrical storms in the late afternoon. So when we were nearing the end of our first leg and looking forward to stretching our legs the announcement came that we were diverting to Hoahot 45 minutes west of Beijing. Add another movie and some soda crackers to pacify the already weary travelers and we finally arrive in Beijing around 3 hours later only to be marooned in a secure gate somewhere in the sprawling Beijing airport. Sometime around 1:00 am after snoozing restlessly on airport benches we were whisked onto the tarmac in the 75° heat of the early morning and put on our final flight for Shanghai. Hotel arrival approx. 4:00 am & 80°, add a few hours of sleep and we were ready for the breakfast buffet in the Sofitel Shanghai.

On the road

August 8th, 2008 § Comments Off on On the road § permalink

It usually takes a a week or so to get “That” feeling. You get over your jet lag, lower your expectations of everything, adjust your gut to the local fare, downshift into the low and slow gears, and in most cases “That” feeling arrives with mixed company in establishments that serve beer and the local version of meat on a stick. A day after arriving in Olgii is when I knew I was officially on the road.

Olgii is located in the far west of Mongolia. The borders of China, Russia, and Khazakstan are all within a days driving distance. The main spoken langugage Khazak is followed by Mongolian and Russian. The people are a mix of Sufi Muslim and (insert here) mostly herders and their traditions have probably not changed for hundreds of years. Time in Olgii creeps along, unlike the wind and dust that relentlessly eat away at the soviet era buildings that populate the town. It is still pretty “wild west” out here, which seems to draw adventurous characters from all over the globe.

“That” feeling came while making friends in the local beer garden. Beer garden is a loose term here. It is more a place that the local young couples or groups of young people come to escape the very close living quarters that most families share in their Ger. It is also a place for families to come to with their children to talk, eat, and drink (the Sufi’s are a little loose and slightly tolerant with alcohol consumption) with friends. There are small pavilions scattered around a walled-in garden with a swing-set in the middle and various plastic children’s riding motorcycles or cars and some music playing. There are also 5 or 6 very small Gers that couples can rent out for maybe a little more private time, and backpackers can rent out (yes, odd as that sounds you can stay in a Ger in the beer garden). From what I could tell it was not quite a love hotel thing, the culture is fairly conservative so more a Ger of our own for a few hours kinda thing.

Back to “That” feeling. I could write pages about all the details of each eccentric character I met but it seems more fitting to just throw them out like the lost hollywood casting director’s face book that fell from the sky and blew into Olgii: the bohemian Italian pizza maker hallucinogen inspired oil painter; the Lithuanian linux head-cum-Mongolian Altai guide with a penchant for vodka and beer; the Swiss-French 21 year old girl with a hidden penchant for the Russian Soul who had hitchhiked through Russia to Olgii to try and scan the eclipse with a camera-obscura,; the professor of Botany from Moscow with his two muscle bound Russian equivalents of the Navy SEALS (these three brought out the hidden penchant of the former); the Dutch-English girl who went to high school in Saratoga CA who was taking a break from a road trip gone awry; the Australian Cambodian Ger merchant who was spending the summer ferreting out new Ger to export while staying with a local family; a tech geek from SF who worked some magic for a Khazak TV documentary film maker who happened to be filming in the area; a certain girl from SF who’d come all the way to stare at the sky for 2 minutes to see why eclipse-viewing is so addictive and found she was our eclipse expert. There are a few more characters, but that’s another night in a Ger camp down the road, and includes 4 naked men and 1 woman (yours truly, Ben and Cheryn) in a Russian Banya.

All of the above found sitting under the abundant stars around a few plastic tables and chairs in one evening in the middle of nowhere Mongolia. “That” is the warm feeling of being on the road.

Getting on Mongol time

July 20th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

I haven’t felt this way since I left on our last trip. Granted our last trip was more grandiose in scale and emotion particularly on a more personal level. If you aren’t familiar with it I suggest you yield and get a flavor of it and then read on.

While the scale and time frame are much shorter in comparison, the stress and anxiety level are still the same about leaving. No I am not selling all of my stuff (phew), no I am not worried to much about what to wear, no I am not worried about what I may have forgotten and need, no I don’t have to find a new job in a culture I left a year ago. I have a whole new set of unknowns: Why I am taking my tent, a sleeping bag, a GPS unit (oh thank you Molly D!)(which I do take comfort that I will be able to find my way back if I get lost), adopting an optimistic attitude about mutton, looking forward to fermented mares milk, man I hope we find a driver that will take us further into an already remote area of the globe that we have never been to, did I tell the guys at work about the idiosyncrasies of rebooting the server on a Friday? That last one was eating away at me on Thursday night, but after the smooth, painless and happy smiles of the stand-in tech team training on Friday I feel a great weight lifted. Smooth sailing Boys!

Five weeks total on the road and three weeks of those on literally no roads to nowhere to witness something that has been referred to as “a spiritual experience”, “seeing the eye of the universe”, “Amazing, brilliant, awesome, mystical, super, incredible, heavenly, and out-of-sight! , an emotional experience” “addictive” according to the eclipse chasers group on yahoo. I must point out that we have to be in the right place and the right time (in the right middle of nowhere) to actually see this phenomenon. All of this with little to no confirmation of transport or lodgings has me a bit stressed out and very excited at the same time. But hey it is Mongolia, I thrive in this kind of chaos, what do I have to worry about. Everything I have read indicates that Mongolia is actually the largest campground on Earth. Tent, sleeping bag, GPS, open mind, mmmm mutton, sense of adventure, seeing something few have seen, yeah here we go!
04:27=19:27 tomorrow in Mongol Time

Rusty Writing Boy

July 20th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

On our first trip to Asia back in (checking my passport) 2002 during the dotcom meltdown when we first got our taste of travel and were bitten I kept an ongoing email list of posts and reports mostly written by me. Our last trip was faithfully and frankly reported and beautifully documented on film by Ms. Cheryn. There were plenty of occasions that I contributed silently to if not in text but in action and always to amuse that bubbled to the surface in a lot of those posts. I am throwing my hat back in the ring for perspective.

I have to say that I feel a little overshadowed and daunted already with the surplus of Ms. Cheryns yarns.