Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Riding the Mekong

More than a month has passed since my last post. Incredible how fast the time goes when you are having fun! I have now left Tibet and China and made it to Laos. A warmer and a more relaxed place! But the journey through Tibet and China has been spectacular. If I don't get too used to the lazy life here in Laos, I just might post a story or two about Tibet and China at a later date.
I love Laos though! I am having a great time. The other day me and took a little boat ride down the Mekong. Thought I use this to share a short video of this adventure with you all!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Leaving Pelbar, gateway to Everest Base Camp

Leaving Pelbar to Everest Base Camp, originally uploaded by Fernweh.

I made it to Lhasa yesterday. Travelling here in Tibet has been fantastic so far. I love it here! There has been some great riding on the bike, beautiful scenery, interesting monasteries and fascination encounters. Unfortunately I am on the move a lot to make to best out of my time here, so there hasn't been a lot of time for Internet. I managed to upload some of my pictures, so for a first impression check them out at:

Monday, October 01, 2007

I am in Tibet!

After almost a year of preparations, I finally crossed the Friendship bridge between Nepal and China and made it to Tibet! I am now in Nyalam only about 30 kilometers into Tibet but I just have to tell you all that I am super happy!
The last three days have been at times stressful but also filled with lots of hours waiting for paperwork to get processed and traffic jams to clear. The waiting had started in Kathmandu. On the day of our departure we didn't get going until four in the afternoon, since we had to wait for the Chinese visa to be issued. Also as it turns out monsoon was not quite finished! It rained the whole way and as we got closer to the border the road got a lot worse. Also it got dark. Riding in the rain and the dark on muddy roads and through rivers was a first one even for me. But we made it to Kodari, the border town on the Nepali side.
The next day we left Nepal, which was the easy part. We drove across the Friendship bridge, but the Chinese made us push the bikes across the last couple of meters. From the Friendship bridge it was a very steep and muddy drive up to the actual border at Dram. This is where the waiting started. As it turns out it took more than 24 hours to get our paperwork processed. Which makes this the longest border crossing for me ever. Not even the lenghty process in Turkmenistan took this long!
While waiting we were talking to a lot of tourists who were coming back to Nepal after having done Jeep tours in Tibet. They were all saying that the road between Dram and Nyalam was not doable on bikes, as it was very muddy and there were two very deep river crossings. So naturally we were a little worried. As it turns out it wasn't all that bad. The road was muddy and potholed but quite manageable. Apart maybe from the traffic. You haven't seen traffic jams until you have tired to drive out of Dram!
Tomorrow we will leave Nyalam for Tingri and then Everest Base Camp. I hope that I will be able to post some pictures once we get to Lhasa.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam, originally uploaded by Fernweh.

Ten days ago my friend Rainer from Germany arrived here in Kathmandu. He will hopefully tag along to Tibet and China. In order to aclamatize for Tibet we flew to Lukla and spent a couple of days in the Everest Region. We were very lucky with the weather at least in the mornings we always had good views of the fabulous peaks. My favorite is stillAma Dablam as seen in the picture above. It is just such a beautiful mountain. The trekking season here in Nepal is definitely heating up. We saw a lot of trekkers going up.
Now I am back in Kathmandu. The day after tomorrow we are supposed to leave for Tibet. But there are still problems with the arrangements and so I am holding my breath. Hopefully the next update to this blog will be from Lhasa!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Long overdue update

It is mid September already and it has been a really long time since my last blog entry. I promised someone to do this more frequently and this is a start. I guess it makes sense to bring you all up to date to what I have been up to these last couple of months.
After my wonderful trek in the Khumbu and the climb of Island Peak unfortunately I had to leave Nepal. The plan was to head to Spiti and Ladakh and do some more trekking there. On the way out of Nepal I stopped at Bardia National Park in Western Nepal to visit the Elephant breeding centre. There were quite a few baby elephants there and I had a great time playing with them. Tourism in Western Nepal is not doing very well which is very obvious in Bardia National Park. I was almost the only tourist there. They are all hoping that this will improve next season.

By the time I got to India monsoon was starting and I had a couple of extremely wet and hot days on the road which I escaped once I had made it to Shimla. But the place was packed with Indian tourists and so I soon moved on. I had decided to drive to Leh from Manali and do the Spiti valley on the way back. The ride between Leh and Manali was great and me and Stybba set some new personal records as far as heights of motorable passes were concerned: we crossed the first one Rohtang La (3'978 m) in pouring rain which did not stop until after the second pass Baralacha (4'892 m). But on the third day the weather improved and Lachulung LA (5'059 m) and Tanglang LA (5'325 m) were mastered as well and brought us safely to sunny Leh.

The summer was then spent in Leh where I met a lot of people and did two great treks. On one of these treks I climbed Stock Kangri (6'120 m). I hope to do a blog entry about the treks a little later this week.

Also during my time in Leh a solution for the long planned trip to Tibet and China finally presented itself. Which meant I had to get back to Kathmandu by mid September. In the end it was very hard leaving Leh and I kept post phoning my departure until that was just no longer possible if I wanted to make it to Kathmandu in time. Which meant a couple of days long riding and leaving out Spiti.
So now I am back in Kathmandu and here I am getting ready for my trip through Tibet. On that leg of the journey I will have some company. Yesterday my friend Rainer showed up here and we are hoping his BMW will make here as well. We will find out in a couple of days. Also along for the ride are Peter and Gilles, two bikers I had met in Leh. I am really looking forward to Tibet not the least because it has been so much work and so much trouble setting up this trip. But that is another story......

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cecilia on top of Renjo La

Cecilia on top of Renjo La, originally uploaded by Fernweh.

Yep that is me and this beautiful mountain in the background is Everest! I have just come back from the most amazing trek in my life! Not only have I seen Everest from almost every possible angle, but I also climbed Island Peak (6189 meters), witnessed Bear Grylls world record flight in a powered paraglider high above Everest, cheered on the runners of the Everest marathon and in general had a wonderful time! I hope to post more pictures and the whole story in details shortly! Until then .........

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thorong-LA: 5416 Meters, originally uploaded by Fernweh.

Just a quick update! Middle of March saw me leaving India for Nepal. I love it here and immediately went on a 25 day trek around the Annapurna's and up to Annapurna Base Camp. It has been a wonderful trek and I will write in more detail about it later. Here is a picture of me up on Thorong LA, a mountain pass and with 5416 meters the highest point I have ever climbed, at least so far........

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Made the newspapers in India, again!

Pushkar Ranjan was kind enough to mail me an article that appeared in Jamshedpur. It is such a nice gesture from him to mail this to me, because I would have missed out on it otherwise, as I left Jamshedpur very early in the morning and did not get a chance to check to papers. So here thanks to Pushkar the latest news on me:

Swiss biker on world tour
- Jamshedpur, a one-night home, for 42-year-old engineer
Swiss biker Cecilia Rojas. Picture by Bhola Prasad

Jamshedpur, March 12: At first glance she looks like a foreign tourist taking refuge for the night at a city hotel. But she made enough heads turn the moment she rides her power machine.

Meet 42-year-old Cecilia Rojas, a Swiss national who arrived here after globe-trotting half way across the world.

An avid biker, Rojas was in the city as part of her world tour that began from Switzerland in October 2005. She stopped at a city hotel to avoid the night journey and left for Nepal early this morning.

"I started this journey in 2005. I have been in India for five months and it will be two more years before I go back home," said Rojas, who travelled along the Western coast and the Coromandel Coast to reach the steel city. In the past one-and-a-half years, Rojas has travelled through major parts of Europe, Egypt and Libya in Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Mongolia and Pakistan before coming to India on her BMW R100 GS.

But has this been a pleasurable journey? "Mostly, apart from a near-fatal accident in Pakistan," she quips. Her next destination, is Nepal from where she moves to Ladakh and China before moving to the Far East.

She managed to get some time to see the city. Rojas, who is a qualified system engineer designing high-level surface systems for leading banks in Switzerland, started riding 20 years ago.

"I do this completely out of passion and there is no sponsorship from any agency," added Rojas who along with her brother Khim, runs the Fernweh Adventures Club in Switzerland.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Made the newspapers in India

As a nice follow up to my newspaper post. We made the newspapers ourselves this time. For people who know us it will be easy to pick out everything that is not quite right in this article! That much for the quality of the news here in India. This article was done based on 2 minute talk I had with a reporter while a tire walla was changing the tires....

The Times of India, Bhubaneswar-National Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wanderlust drives them around the world.
Debabrata Mohapatra - TNN

Puri: They say when the travel bug bites, it makes you do the most craziest of things to satisfy your wanderlust.
Ask Cecilia and Kim Rojas of Switzerland, they have sold off all their belongings and are using their lifetime savings for a trip around the world on their giant motorcycles.
The couple in their late thirties, have traveled across 12 countries covering nearly 31,000 km on the road. They reached the shores of Puri last week after traveling to various places across the continent for the last five months.
"We chalked out out plan for a world tour on motor bikes in 2004. Since then we started saving money for the purpose. We also raised some money from our friends and relatives," says 35-year-old Cecilia. The couple began their journey on October 10, 2005 from Lucerne in Switzerland.
They entered India from Pakistan at Amritsar through the Wagah border.
"We chucked out jobs and sold our belongings before starting this adventure. It was a dream come true for us the day we set off on this daredevil journey on two motorbikes," says Cecilia, a computer engineer like her husband.
"We decided to take two bikes because one bike is not enough for two. There's hardly any space left for the pillion rider after all the stuff have been loaded.
We've brought everything required for us on the bike, which forced us to go for two bikes," says Kim.
The couple are clear about what they want from the journey and spreading any message or creating a record is not on their agenda, they just want to enjoy wandering across the globe.
"We want to cherish our dream of visiting around the world on a motorbike.
But during our we have got a chance to learn the art and culture of different places.
We are really enjoying that," says Cecilia.
Kim and Cecilia do their best to keep their two BMWs in shape for the journey.
"We ride for nearly eight hours a day.
If we ride harsh, then the bikes cannot fulfill our dream.
Till now we have managed to sort our whatever small technical faults we encountered on our own," she says.
Kim says they have not faced any hurdle so far while crossing the borders of various countries.
"We have all the valid documents like passport, identity card and motorbike papers with us.
We found India pretty safe, though we never ride after dark," says Kim.
He says their journey will continue for another two years, but did not divulge their future destinations.
Talking about their experience in India, the couple say the hospitality they got at various places speaks volumes of the kindness and generosity of Indian towards visitors.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Newspaper reading in India

I am staying in one place for a while, waiting for tires for the motorcycle. Indians love newspapers. And so do I. I get one every morning and I really get a kick out of reading it. Somehow the news here just gets presented in a way I find highly amusing. I thought I share some of these articles with you:

Spirit of times: Beer, there and everywhere
Recent studies point to India having some of metrics in the world, particularly when it comes to children; worse than sub-Saharan Africa, if you can stomach that. The adult population is not in great shape either. Word is getting around that South Asians are more prone to heart trouble at an earlier age than any other ethnic group. Not good news for rising, shining, poised, incredible India. But since we are intoxicated by our demographic dividend for the moment, lets not rain on that party.
Instead, mull over the imminent arrival in India of Budweiser and Burger King., calorific exemplars of American haute cuisine. As the humorist Dave Barry once wrote,"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer... the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." Now that both American beer and pizza, or its cousin burger, have arrived hand in hand, expect hale and hearty Indians to protest "India Pois-on-ed!"
However, look at the bright side. Alcohol is avoidable, but if you are going to drink at all, wine and beer in moderate quantities are probably more recommended than harsher liquors. It's a travesty that liquor outlets in India are called wine and beer shops but they sell little of the said drinks. Instead they are stacked with hard stuff like whisky and rum, some of it of industrial grade that can test a cast-iron stomach.
Our beer consumption is piddly, which is why Budweiser and Heineken are hurrying to open the tap. India's beer market was worth an estimated $764.9 million in 2004, compared to China's 8.5 billion. Per capita consumption: China 20.3 liters; India 0.7 liters. Good news? Well, here the bad news: India is the world's biggest whisky market, 20% higher than second placed US home to Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. As someone observed, more scotch whisky is consumed in India than produced in Scotland.
On the other hand, our wine consumption is so negligible that one report put it at half a teaspoon per person per year. We probably drink more cough syrup than wine. By comparison, Canadians drink about 12.8 liters a year and the French soak up 55 liters.
Since foreign beer is here wine can't be to far behind. If anything, given the health benefits, it should be ahead. Already wineries from California and Washington are tripping across to get at the small but growing market.
So should we despair? The remarkable thing is Indian wines and beers have already made minor inroads in the west even with their limited production and exposure.
Beer barons took the easy route and bought breweries abroad, but our vintners have sweated it out to produce modest quantities of wine that are actually exported, even as domestic demand rises. In the US, Indian niche restaurants, such as Miami's Imlee and San Francisco's Dosa, pair their atypical menu with American And French wines. It would be in the spirit of the times if their American clientele got to drink Indian label, even as you imbibe theirs.

Cooker arm in brain, woman lives
Doctors remove 7-inch handle after five-hour surgery, repair fractured skull
On February 19, T. T. (40) was cooking the afternoon meal at her home when the pressure cooker burst. The enormous pressure flung the cooker lid at extremely high velocity at her face and the impact drove the handle through her right eye, up through the brain.
The velocity of the projectile was so high that the handle broke thorough the top of her skull and lodged under the skin. Referred by the local surgeon the Jehangir hospital T. was unconscious and barely alive, with the handle lodged firmly in her head and the lid prodtruding out of her eye cavity when she reached the hospital.
A group of surgeons undertook a five-hour-long surgery to save the lady. Rather astonishingly even for the doctors, T. has not only survived, but is recuperating and is able to move her limbs and obey commands to yawn or flick her surviving left eye open and shut.
The team of emergency staff was led by neuro-spine surgeon S. G. and assisted by plastic surgeon Sa. G. The initial emergency management was carried out by a team led by M. B., head of Jehangiri's emergency service.
G. and his team applied the time tested policy of airway, breathing an circulation or ventilator support to keep the patient stable. "Stabilising and rapidly creating a passageway for breathing were critical and a tracheotomy (surgery to create an opening of the trachea through the neck) was performed'" said Gandhi.
For conduction a CT Scan to find the level of penetration, the angle of gantry at the scan machine was changed to allow the patient in. The cooker handle had penetrated seven-and-half inches inside the skull.
Chances of long-term permanent neurological deficit ruled out any attempt to bring out the handle in one single attempt. Emergency craniotomy (or surgical opening of the skull to again access to the intracranial structures) was carried out by removing a portion of the brain scalp. " Swelling of the brain had led to continuous deterioration of the patient's condition", G. said, adding that after a five-hour-long ordeal, the team succeeded in removing the blood clots and the cooker handle and repaired the fractured skull.
T's right eye was completely shredded and restorative surgery was not an option due to lack of any visual potential. "The issue was to prevent any infection moving to the surviving eye. Now, there is chance of using prosthesis like a plastic eye as the damage has been kept minimal" said G.
After the surgery, the patient was moved to neuro ICU and monitored for 96 hours. She regained consciousness on February 23 and is now able to move her limbs and say short sentences.
Though baffled, G. suggested that T's recovery may be due to the fact that unlike a bullet the cooker's handle did not rotate once inside the body. " That might have reduced the damage to sensitive tissues," he said.

Monday, February 26, 2007

On driving in India

I know this subject has been covered by everybody, but driving in India is such a big part of the experience I just feel I need to add my thoughts and comments as well.
There are no road rules in India! This was my first impression. Total chaos prevails. Now that I have been driving here for some time I have changed my mind somewhat. There are a few rules to traffic in India:
  1. Everything is allowed. Drive down the highway in the wrong direction, drive on any side of the road, u-turn everywhere including highways and so on. I think you get the picture.
  2. Honk your horn. This will guarantee you right of way. Hence there is no need to check for oncoming traffic when pulling into a road, just honk your horn first. Everybody else will then just get out of your way!
As you can imagine the topic of driving in India is always popular when I meet up with other motorcycle travelers. Some of them think that as with everything else in India, traffic is chaotic but in the end it works out just fine. I don't agree. I have seen a lot of accidents and I do think things would work better here if some simple rules were laid down and enforced by the authorities. But unfortunately this is not the case. So yes, chaos reigns and it is bound to get worse as the number of cars and motorcycles grows!
The worst breed of drivers are the motorcycle drivers. Here are some of the things that I have seen motorcycle drivers do:
  1. talk on the mobile while driving!
  2. write a text message on the mobile while driving!
  3. talk on the mobile while driving down the wrong way on a highway!
  4. talk on the mobile with a female passenger on the back who is also talking on the mobile and holding a baby in her arm!
I always drive with my headlights on. This seems to be a big problem for the whole male population of India. Everywhere I go very eager Indian males point out to me that my lights are on. They will pass me in hair raising maneuvers, come to a complete stop right in front of me only to point at my lights! Police will stop directing traffic to make the 'lights on' hand signal! So news flash to all Indian males: Yes I know my lights are on. I like it that way, because at least this way you will hopefully notice me!
Here is another thing I see every day: A lot of times I will be cruising along on my side of the road and then see myself confronted with an oncoming vehicle in my lane. The first reaction of this vehicle will not be to pull back or get out of the way, but to honk his horn! Yes, hello! You are in my lane and honking your horn is not going to improve the situation!
But then again I have to admit, it works. In the end I break or I get off the road. I guess I am not made out for this chicken game! But then judging by the number of car- and truck wrecks I see neither are a lot of the local drivers!
In the newspapers accidents are always referred to as 'mishaps'! Here is a typical newspaper article about such a mishap:"Seven dead in mishap: Seven persons died and more than 50 people were injured when the bus carrying them fell off a hilly road at Kalinga Ghat in Kandhamal district on Monday. The accident took place when the driver lost control over the bus while negotiating a downhill turn near Andharkota temple, about 13 km from G-Udayagirir, sources said."
When driving in India you get to see a lot of what is going on in rural India as well. Most roads will got through every village on the way. When you drive early in the morning as I do this means you will see a lot of man taking a dump by the side of the road, little pot of water for washing up afterwards in hand. But in plain sight of everybody who just so happens to drive by. Also during the course of the day, you will see a lot of men taking a piss all over the place. I have to say I find this pretty disgusting. Also I would like to point out, that you only see men doing this. No women! But I do assume Indian women have the same needs. So half the Indian population actually manages to do what is necessary while laking the proper sanitary installation without everybody noticing it. So what is wrong with Indian males?
While on the subject of disgusting habits: there is spitting! That has to be the worst! I hate passing buses, because you never know. Sure enough the other day I was passing a truck when a big, fat, slimy spat landed right on me! Disgusting!
All in all I find driving in India not a very enjoyable exercise. I love the fact that I get to see a lot of what is actually going on in India. But most of the time it is just a lot of work on a lot of really bad roads. And you never know what you are going to see next. You constantly have to be prepared for everything. The other day I was passing a bus on a two lane highway, only to come face to face with a big bull charging down the highway at full speed!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Catshit Coffee

Just a quick note from the road. I have just spent two wonderful days at the Rainforest Retreat near Madikeri. This fantastic place is an organic spice plantation in the rainforests of the Western Ghats. The plantation is run by Sujata and Anurag Goel who are very gracious hosts and inspiring people. I enjoyed my stay there very much. One morning we went for a short trek through the rainforest. Our guide kept picking up these animal dropping that looked like coffee beans. Sure enough there is apparently a feral cat in these mountains that feeds of the coffee beans and after having digested the edible exterior shell gets rid of the hard beans through its rear end. Apparently the coffee brewed with these beans is called Catshit Coffee and is supposed to be a delicacies craved the world over! Sujata however told us at the Rainforest Retreat they collect these droppings to use them as fertiliser on the coffee plants in the plantation. The coffee at the Raiforest Retreat is excellent but I think I would have passed had it been Catshit Coffee!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Goa India: 'Just when you thought you got out, it pulls you back in!'

Goa is a great place to relax and think things over. I got here at the end of October, which is really the beginning of the season. There are hardly any tourists around and the beach shacks are only just now being built. The beach is still nice and empty and every now and then there is still a little rain in the late afternoon. Leftovers from the monsoon which had lingered here longer than usual this year.
November brought visitors from Switzerland: my parents and later my brother showed to check up on me. We had a wonderful time. We went jogging every morning on the beautiful Varca beach, which is just perfect for that. Unfortunately my parent's jogging shoes got stolen and doing it barefoot proofed a little difficult in the end. The days passed way too quickly and soon I was alone again.
I left Varca beach and moved a little further South to Cavelossim. Same long stretch of beach but different crowd. Here I seemed to have landed in little Switzerland! With all the people I met I had trouble finding time to read my books. Nudi and my parents had brought lots of reading material and I was really keen on getting some reading done. I did manage to read ‘Der Weltensammler’. A novel by Ilija Trojanow based on the travels of Richard Bourton. I loved this book.
Beginning of December brought a halt to the leisurely beach life. I went back to Benaulim where I met up with Khim. The plan was to spend a couple of weeks doing maintenance on the bike and splitting up our equipment.
First thing on the list of maintenance work was taking of the swing arm and checking the kardan. The bike really sounds pretty bad and we were afraid the kardan might be going. But it was a false alarm. The kardan looked just fine.
Next we removed the gearbox. There had been a slow leak around the output shaft. We thought we might need to change the seal. But again, false alarm. A re-tightening of the screws did the job.
Next we wanted to have a look at the rear shock. It seemed to have too much play at the bottom socket. We fixed that by putting in a new bearing and we were about to remount the shock when we noticed that the spring was broken! Bummer! Where to get a replacement? While we were pondering this question we tried in vain to straighten out my front end. If you have followed our trip, you will remember that I run into a truck on the KKH in Pakistan. Some nifty workers straightened the front forks again and I was able to drive to India, but something was definitely still bent and we needed a more permanent solution. After bending and re-bending the steering wheel and the triple tree, we finally gave up and decided to just get replacement parts.
So with the rear shock, the triple tree, steering wheel and front forks the list of parts kept growing. Then there was the problem of camping equipment. I needed a tent, a cooking stove, cooking gear and a couple of other things, which we only had one of. Plus Christmas was coming up. So I decided to fly home for Christmas!
After Christmas I showed up in Goa with 40 kilos of spare parts in my luggage. I had been really worried about getting stopped at customs. But nobody looked. Ten days later the bike was like new: new front end, new back spring, new oil! I was ready to hit the road. My first stop was Patnem beach only 50 kilometers farther south. There I met up with some friends whom I had made on the trip to here. First there was Anders and Laurent, two bikers we had met in the Kyrgyz embassy in Almaty. Through them I got to know some other bikers who were also hanging out in Patem. It was great swapping stories and just talking. Also in Patnem were Ute and Andreas whom we had met in Northern Pakistan. Even though it was great hanging out I was keen on getting on the road. So one Monday morning I packed the bike and was about the ride off, when the handle for the front break just broke in lots of small little pieces! Bummer! My attempt at fixing it with liquid metal failed utterly and so I resigned myself to some more beach rest while waiting for parts. Finally another then days later I did make it out of Goa.
I managed to get two days of riding in and landed in Hampi. But the bike sounded really bad! This was really getting to me but there was nothing for it but trying to figure out what was wrong this time. It sounded like it might be the drive-shaft. This was unlikely, since as you remember we had just checked that. Nevertheless I took it off again and sure enough it was ok. This was actually bad news, because that meant it was probably a problem with the transmission. Draining the oil from there confirmed this suspicion. Hampi is a great place, if you are a tourist and want to see ruins from an old Hindu empire. It is not such a good place to be when trying to fix a transmission. So I decided to drive back to Benaulim in Goa, where Khim was still hanging out and where there is a lot more infrastructure. I can't tell you how glad I was when I made it there! Say what you will about BMW's, but they always get you there!
Khim did a great job on the transmission. Turns out the small bearing on the output-shaft had gone bad. On the second attempt we managed to fix it and now the bike runs really smooth. So guess what: Tomorrow I will try to set out again. I am really curious to see how far I get this time around.

Hampi, India pictures slideshow