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Welcome to the Freedom Track site. I am Tom Hatlestad. On this page I am describing the journey and the project Freedom Track as its rolled through two continents and x-number of countries. The core of the project is the idea of freedom. A camera, a Land Rover and a handmade leather book was my most important tools in collecting stories and thoughts. The people I met, their portraits and thoughts became the basis of an exhibition in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Kathmandu, Nepal. I posted images and text here as I went, so now you can read about my journey. I am currently making an exhibition to be shown in Norway.


Out West First Attempt 29. oktober 2008

Last day of October, it is cold and I have rolled into the first snow this winter. The mountain-road from Hol to Aurland is packed with ice, and my car is not prepared for this. In Aurland I meet Tom from Orange Webdesign. A dutch guy who knows how to make wordpress documents, and how to make them look good. The rest of the work is mine, to get the photographs in the right place, and the texts readable. 

From Aurland the worlds longest car-tunnel, with 3 places to stop, nice light here. It’s strange to be in the middle of the tunnel, knowing there is 12 km both in front, and behind you, and over 1000 meters straight up. And to the right? Sweden? I made a photograph, handheld camera, no flash, just to see. And to learn.

Here I am in Sogn with my father. Together we have taken out a seat, and made space for an extra battery, and a place to sleep when the nights get tough. My master bedroom is in a tent on the roof of the car. I took care of the financial situation with excellent help from a nice banking-person. It turns out that having a long relationship with the local bank was useful, after all. Now I am heading east again, with the sunset in Sognefjorden as backdrop.

In Aurland 4. November 2008

It is quiet under mountains in Aurland on a morning like this. Strange, considering that the main road between the east and the west part of Norway runs close to the river. I am visiting my friend Sjur, who works at Sogn Jord og Hagebruksskule. Soon I will head up to the mountains again, and eastwards. I went from Høyanger and my family yesterday, and on my way I received a call from NRK Sogn&Fjordane who asked me to come to their studio in Sogndal for an interview with journalist Elgrim Fossheim. Tom at Orange Webdesign in Aurland has made som adjustments on my site, and Kevin Reeder has promsied to take care of the translation to english as I am on my way. What should I have done without all my good friends? Thank you.

Logistics 14. November 2008

I came back from west to east, and found my passport in my mailbox, sent from the Iranian embassy. It was not ment to be here. My friend shound have collected it, and delivered it to the Indian embassy. The days are passing. After India, its the Pakistanian embassy’s turn. I have no departure date, but its strange. I feel that I am 1 1/2 week behind. 

But it implies that I have more time for preperations. Today the decor arrived that my good neighboor, Bjarne Eriksen has made for the car. Norwegian flagg, and the travelroute. We will mount it all on the car as soon as possible. Its to cold now. Bilservice in Tønsberg has promised to have a look at the car on monday, and I will have new wheels on wednesday. Bjarte at Page One worked on my “new” Mac to day, and tomorrow I will collect it, and a printer that I can use in my car. Excellent stuff. My friend Firooz from Iran who makes boatcovers, will make a mattrass that fits into the box my father made, so I can sleep on the ground floor as well as up on the roof in my masterbedroom. The day was spent in Oslo. I bought some new maps at Nomaden; Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. My friend Terje at Fotobrygga lent me a Nikon D300 with a zoom objective (?), and Frank let me borrow his 85/1.4. I am a lucky guy, so he also let me have an I-POD loaded with music. My friend Morten Krogvold lent me 4 excellent soundbooks (do you say that?) for the trip, and two italian handmade leatherbooks. Its like going halloween, having your birthday and x-mas eve on the same time. Thank you all! And thanks to my friends at Java (best coffee in oslo) who says “GO!” At Facebook we have created a group – Freedom Track. Over 130 members already, and some of them have posted on the wall their definition of freedom. So in a way this will be 2 parallell projects; what I do on my trip, and what you who read this will write on the facebook-wall.

In the waitingroom 18. november

I went to Tønsberg to check the car at Bilservice. Pick up more car-decor, to fix my camera. After some time at Page One the monster-camera, the Mac and I were able to become friends, and to talk the same language. With the car, however, its worsee. Trouble with the front wheel. Bilservice told me to return the next day, promising a new battery and new wheels. Amazing. I have made a reservation on the ferry to Riga monday. Getting exhited now… I had a farewell dinner with my architectfriend Rolf at Gaia Architects. We work together on

two projects in Russia, buidling houses for troubled youth east of StPetersburg. The project is called BRO, which in norwegian is an abbrivation for Build – Travel – Experience. I was appointed the first BRO-pilot by Rolf. I was happy to receive the stickers for the car confirming my BRO-pilot status. My norwegian writing will now be even more difficult, because my daughter Tora will correct all my typing errors. Is this kind of a pay-back time, Tora? This is Fredrik at Et-Cetera mounting stickers to my car.

Getting ready II 20. November 2008

Bil Service should have called if they found time to fix my frontwheel. I slept long, no call… I picked up a camera and went out to photograph the new wheels, plus all the decor on the car. It looks very glossy.  

Here you see it. I am glad you can’t comment on this site… I have tested the new wheels, the same ones that the car was delivered with originally, and they are great! So thank you all at Bil Service Dekksenter. Then my friend Firooz came with the new mattrass – excellent! That afternoon I went to buy a new Canon G10 – such an unneccesary extra cost. It took my father only 5 minutes from he heard about the unlucky son, till he called me and said: “I have put the money into your account, go on and buy yourself a new camera.” I will remain a little boy for the rest of my life. A lucky little boy. 

So. New camera, and off to see Bjarte at Page One, to check if the printer, Canon and Mac could speak the same language. There were some problems with the printer accepting the memorycard form the G10, but we will get it to work. Tomorrow the car getting fixed again, and the visum and carnet from NAF arrived today.

Getting ready I 19. november 2008

What a day. Got up early to go to town. The car was ready, waiting for me, with new wheels, and maybe the part (endeleddet) was fixed. I had bought a ticket for the ferry to Riga the following monday, and was ready to leave on sunday. To keep it short: there is more bugging the car, and the garage is fully booked. My friend Joachim in The End fixed the visa application to Pakistan, and is supposed to collect it friday. The car went to get new wheels. Pictures of this will be posted later. We also put the stickers on the car, it was warm and nice in the garage. Content I left the garage, and along the way I discovered that I had forgot my new, little Canon G10 somewhere. I never discovered where. The insurance does not cover it, and there are no images in this post. No camera anywhere either. I will try to recall what happened to night, if I don’t find the camera, I will have to go to Japan Photo tomorrow, to buy a new one. Such an unneccesary cost on the already low budget. I have bought an extra battery for the car, and tested the printer. The battery runs the printer, and the little Mac Book Pro is beeing refurbished at Page One, so it will work aswell. Et-cetera has made 5 stickers for the car, and Tine Poppe has designed a sticker for Chobi Mela V (the festival). Hmmm. my universe consisted of stickers for a while. Thats all finished now. Tomorrow I know if they can fix the car before the weekend, and I have moved the ferry reservation till tuesday.

Ready for take-off 23. November 2008

Sunday evening. I’ve spent the day packing. Meeting friends, saying goodbye and had a nice meal with my children and their mother. Tomorrow morning, the 24th I will set set the km-counter at zero, and try to start the car. It went well to day, but I never know. Karl Henrik took the picture, it goes to all my good helpers, and people sending messages and stopping me on the street, wishing me luck and a nice journey. Tranquil 21. November 2008 I was excited going to town early today, early ment 0730. I delivered the car, and they said that either it could be fixed, or we will have to order som extra parts. You might want to go home and rest for a while? asked Mette at the office. Long story short, she lent me a car and somehow I managed to manouver it back home. The called some hours later and told me that everything was fixed. So what remains now is collecting the visa from Pakistan, pick up the Mac, printer, buy myself a camerainsurance and get home to pack. Here I am with a new-old Mac, a printer that functions, Radka Tonef on my radio (P2 – the only channel worth listening to in Norway) and an image on my desktop that will be posted with a big thank you to everyone at Bil Service in Tønsberg. Here they are.

On my way, 25th November 2008

Bad weather on east-cost of Sweden. On the radio people are told to keep themselves inside. I’m on my way to Stockholm, to take the ferry to Riga. Snowstorm and chaos. At Østersund I see a lorry in the ditch, together with a two other cars. I have dinner, and find a place to park the car for the night. 1C through the night. Its a bit cold. *

Man overboard, Nov 25 2008

Three sharp blasts of an alarm. The ships alarm, we are in open sea, and landing abruptly out of my sleep I hear the words..”MAN OVERBOARD!”… Passengers raving around on the top deck, dressed to party and already drunk. The boat has turned and is bobbing in the waves. Some are hanging over the rail.. Searching, the searchlight on the bow is swooping from side to side in the great black expanse. The only things we see are the white tops as the waves break. Its cold, the boys on deck with cigarette butts in mouth pointing and wondering, down below…the propeller…It’s so dark, so bitterly cold…- the ocean – the youngsters, party dressed and drunk, running across the deck, shouting to each other before continuing their panic inside. I hear the larm of pop music down below…the party. “The experiences of travel” I ponder, what life can offer…perhaps? I’m at the end of day two, observing the many contrasts of a few short hours. Finally the ship turns again. We have just passed three empty lifebuoys with lights faintly blinking in the shadows as another ship, just a few hundred yards away also turns back. The loudspeakers are calmly informing passengers and crew that everything is under control and none of us are in danger….And in the stairwells the girls run, all high-heeled and pale. .

No signal, Dec 2 2008

Tom is in Poland… with no internet access. All is well with both car and driver, and will update his blog as soon as he can get back to the great international web…over

Online Dec 2 2008 I give up for now. Going to Krakow later today to try again, Right now I’d rather give my camera a chance to take in some pictures from various places along the road. Well that didn’t go so well either, we’ll have to wait. Life is, after all, full of all this and if I may say so myself, It’s not so bad at all.Three portraits today…, so onwards, and further into the southern sun.

On the road again II, Dec 2 2008

As i drove ashore in Riga I was loaded with thought . I had’nt eaten anything and was already 3 hours late- daylight rapidly fading. With some dock food to keep me going I found the way out of town and headed South for “The hills of crosses”, somewhere in Northern Lithuania. Photography in Riga was postponed as the snow driving horizontally from low clouds barely allowed life to the pale jeep lights. The people were like in Stockholm, drawn and packed in hoods with their gaze welded to the next door frame. I just could’nt. I had checked the net and found that the ”Hills” were about 12 km North of Siauliai. Early on this stretch a sign popped up for tourist attraction, same sign as used in Norway. After passing 7-8 of these signposts I realised I had passed it as the edge of town showed itself, so…that was that, I won’t repeat the thought that occurred to me there and then but will strongly recommend you all to check out “Hills of Crosses”. I became even more thoughtful as I drove south and approached Kaunas in South Lithuania, approx 130km from Vilnius, and found a parking lot behind a petrol station. The downpour still came at me side on, but the attendant at the station was a nice guy and we agreed to take pictures of him next day. He said he’d be at work at 8 o’clock. Nest morning it appeared that he had BEEN at work till 8 and had done the nightshift.

Not exactly a major boost to my humour. I sorted breakfast on board and a text message clicked in to my phone. I had some friends in Vilnius who knew I was on my way, wondering where I was…? I answered and promptly got the message to be in town that afternoon where board and lodgings awaited… I took pictures of 5 people in Vilnius, caught a bar and a pop concert, while being interviewed on the project by Lithuania’s biggest newspaper. I dined well and met Ulf Hallan, living for the moment in Vilnius and lecturing in “The art of Leading” in both Vilnius and Norway. I visited the K.G.B. museum and Ulf told an incredible story on how the Soviets replaced the bestiality of the Germans, killing more Jews in Vilnius than in the ghettoes of Warsaw, after banishing them from their country in 1944. They kept this up all the way to the 80’s, while Putin the Great says “Nothing happened”. Not long ago a film was shown of the Soviets (during the war?) visiting the Germans, where the Soviets were trained in building “practical camps” for their enemies. Apparently they sketched and measured, taking notes for future use… Well… I have a c.d in the car by Jens Bjørneboe on The history of Bestiality and will now do a days drive along the border of White Russia, thinking about how these qualities are given and taken in inheritance. The Germans I suppose didn’t invent these themselves, but shared gladly with the Soviet. Later the Apartheid regiment in South Africa realised that they didn’t need to re-invent gunpowder and rather refined what they had previously experienced. That’s how I see it. The U.S have their places around the world including Guantanamo, not to mention what the Israeli’s entertain themselves with in and around their self elected state. Mister Bjørneboe himself would have surely had some extra chapters in his book had he still lived?Neither did I know that the Uzupis Republic existed, with its one bridge in, one bridge out, and one bridge going no-where. That’s the way. Ulf is a Norwegian Ambassador in this republic and therefore a member of their National Assembly. He is Ambassador for all Ulvef plus Norway-(Ulfas being his Lithuanian name). They have their National Day on April 1. and promote tolerance, especially in relation to neighbouring Lithuania, who, according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic are just a bunch of Homophobe’s and racists, beside the fact that the Republic consists mainly of artists. There are galleries, ateliers and workshops everywhere. Ulf mentioned that there are 20.000 people in the republic… A Baltic Christiania functioning without drugs, and with their own Constitution.

Right now I’m sitting in the middle of Poland writing, approx. 20 km North of Lublin, and aiming at Krakow. Its dark outside and I’m far from as thoughtful as I was earlier. I should mention that the car seems to be acting up a little. The lights seem to be deciding themselves when they will and won’t work. And if the lights are acting up, the wipers definitely seem to have a mind of their own. Both are totally unpredictable regarding when they come on and when they then decide to take a break again. I had sunshine today for the first time yet the wipers still thought it was great fun to scrub away at the windscreen.. Monday tomorrow.. I’ll spend some time regaining electrical control by hotwiring and bypassing some cables, I haven’t figured the lights out yet… Not good when its dark. The electrical system is all in English, made by a crowd called Lucas and who call themselves The Lord of Darkness…and in this I have no doubt… There was no Krakow, and time is playing tricks. One hour back (to Norwegian time again) and I believe that I am further East than Vilnius. I am heading south in Poland searching an Internet-cafe. Passing one town after another, and no internet on the border to Belarus. Then I found a character, an @ sign leading to the city centre. Eventually yesterday afternoon I arrived in Kurozweki and found three wireless networks. Unfortunately the networks didn’t want to communicate with my Mac. I transferred all my pictures and text into a memory stick I got access to a PC. I’ve been looking and looking for Internet cafe’s or connection stops all the way down South and now, finally, in a medieval castle… (www.kurozweki.com), a few hours North of Krakow and they have a wireless network. I edit some pictures and reflect awhile on which way to present this, and the choice lands on accommodation. I was lucky when I rolled in to the yard here and saw the last sunrays of the day sweep along the facade before they retreated somewhere close to southerly Sakopan. This I want to show you. I have a great internet signal, but no network connection. So this is how time is passing, and tomorrow I’ll be off to Krakow to track down some people I met in a summer job in Warsaw 1974, plus another more recent acquaintance..

This is where I slept last night, in a castle from 1380 – nice

A little visit, Dec 3 2008

Kurozweki Castle is about 120km Northeast of Krakow, and it took me a couple of hours to drive to town. Picked up a couple of young hitch hikers who could’nt speak one foreign word, but seemed to like both Bruce Springsteen (thanks Sjur) and Tom Waits, nice to see feet tapping after just a couple of beats. One of them got the responsibility for navigation and other map work. He was going for the train station and I towards the centre of town to meet up with the polish painter Edyta Sobieraj who also teaches at the town academy. The dinner became a marathon event followed by coffee with all the trimmings among good colleagues, then home to somewhere else to continue with wine and a good talk. Before both the wine and the sun had gone down I had documented two pictures and some written words from these two artists and professors, both of whom have exhibited in Norway. Next day I got the chance to visit both studio and the academy. Luckily I also managed to meet up with a friend, Malgorzata from my earlier working life in 1974, and her husband, Jan Pawlikowscy, one of the most recognised violinmakers in Poland. My father has visited them many times; their common interest of instrument making often transforming verbal expression to silent enjoyment, meeting together in their tools, while bathing in the varied aromas of varnishes and wood. Here is Jan at work in his Krakow workshop repairing a violin bow. It is a Krakov evening, and the TV is rolling Poland’s version of “Shall we dance”, while I set off to find a way into the great world net again. Night is quickly falling and tomorrow we’ll be heading towards Zakopane, a place best compared with Norway’s Hemsedal and Geilo, while on the far horizon behind, the trees of Slovakia are singing a whiter shade of welcome.

Down south, Dec 4 2008

My host Edyta joined in a shopping spree around town and we filled the cooler-bag with Polish cheeses, hams, sausages, cup-a-soups, and bread. All that was left to do then was to say thank you and take farewell, then take to the left, next right, right again, left, straight ahead a good while, and then to the right one last time.From there, there was fog all night, reflecting my own lights back at me, all the way til these mountains suddenly appeared out of the mist. The Tatra Mountains, directly east of Zakopane, and behind there again, Slovakia with its multitude of landscapes. At once it became Winter. And there was I, thinking that the further South I go the warmer it will get. Since I am driving a big car that runs on diesel I’ll have to take some of the blame for this myself. I like small roads, not those marked with green or yellow or double red lines, but the ones marked with a single red line, the ones which choose to go around a mountain rather than go through it. New maps were provided for, but it didn’t take long until I started recognising bits and pieces of something…not so much at first, and I probably thought it was just the brain playing a little trick on me,-you know these ”been here before” things? (It���s called De-ja-vu Dad! Tora). I dug into the baggage and found the old maps from three years ago and an earlier trip to Bangladesh. Although I had chosen a different border crossing into Slovakia back then, here I was, stopping to reflect a few times before realising I was stopping in the same places as before. Strange how pictures re-develop and I remember more and more. This still didn’t stop me from going the wrong way and had to stop for help. A pleasant fellow on his way from work could speak some German so he ended up jumping in. Here I now am in the little town of Tornal’a in Slovakia, bordering Hungary, booked in with a little room while behind my windowpane, hailstones hail and dark is dark. I find it a difficult decision whether to use the available daylight to drive in, or to take pictures in. The darkness makes for an unpleasant job of both, especially when the clouds are thick and heavy, and the sparse daylight fades before 15.00 hrs. or 3 o’clock as one would say in… Dublin. So now for the dark evening, its still raining and I’m outside trawling for an internet connection. A passer by tells me there���s a hotspot right outside the telephone shop, so here I sit as I upload my written word. The people working at the shop have just left the scene after one of them had taken a picture of me, but you won’t see that one, cos all the card readers are well forgotten back in the room. Later.. maybe.

On hold, Dec 5 2008

Luckily I have my daughter Tora, checking double consonants and sentences with no meaning …thank you dear.. It’s easy to miss out on some details when the pen is racing and darkness and rain take over, and the town is called Tornal’a. I decided to stay another day to see if I could break the ice, or the barrier, or the short distance between myself and the”natives”. For some reason I cannot. Each time I pull out my project and try to explain what and how and a little about why, they listen intently and answer “No”.. You’d think they were all from Sogn in Norway.. -don’t stick your neck out… Well I got something done anyway. Clipped some cables in my fuse box and have with that regained control over my wipers. Hope it lasts all the way to Dhaka. I was a sight for passers-by I���m sure, with my two whole meters curled up under the dashboard with flashlight and pliers. First of all I connected it the way I thought it should be, then cut the cables and with no way back, it didn’t work. Then I had to find out using some form for logic (which I did not have right then), testing, eliminating, and then they worked as they should and stopped when I wanted them too…had to lie down a while.So it’s out on the town again looking for people. Instead, the hitch hiker from yesterday found me. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name so I’m hoping he sends me an email so I can catch his name again. He didn’t want to line up in the project either. (Oh believe me, I’ve had a couple of discussions with myself about what I can be doing wrong, and I will find out). It feels a bit like, (or a lot like), being on a workshop in Vågå when everything drains to a halt…for those of you who have been there and know the feeling…BUT back now to the hiker you see in the picture. All day yesterday he was telling me that he was “private” and I understood him as such that he was a chauffeur in a private firm and drove a Tatra, but today he showed me what exactly he does. He had 2 film clips on his mobile phone. He was a driver of an 8 wheeled rocket launcher which performed almost the same as mine in the terrain, just completely different. With his 8 wheeled rocket launcher he had been on missions for NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cyprus. Private’ meaning army private and this was something I actually knew..but..let it comeIts off to Hungary tomorrow.. Saturday, the country is perhaps 4 hours wide and I’m now off to” the hotspot” to upload all this onto the web

Dec 7 2008 South East

A new rainy day, and if this was the old days I’d have two new stamps in my passport, Hungary and Romania. It is strange to drive through these three countries including Slovakia, and see the factory names, Whirlpool, Bosch, Mercedes, Toyota and so on… and too see the smoke from factory chimneys and power stations, and to see people coming from work on Saturday afternoons, knowing that this is because we at home don’t want a polluted atmosphere, buying ourselves out of our quota’s and getting cheaper machines in return.And then I got my crosses, the ones I didn’t get to see in Lithuania.. I’ve thought about that today, about how beautiful Hungary was, and how lovely and varied Romania’s agricultural areas are, here in the North, and how fantastic the colours are now in Winter after the colours of Summer have retreated to their roots, waiting to return in a few months. Such harmony to be felt in this spectrum of colours, with 13 degrees and raining cats and dogs and Life in the air, and moonlight. Transylvania.- When people don’t have company they switch on their TV’s and with a thin plate of chipboard between rooms they wont be getting much sleep. A new day with new opportunities in rain and hail and snow… The landscape here is amazingly varied and beautiful to drive in. Up mountain passes, which are really only tall hills, then down into the valleys and out onto the plains until it all starts again. Nice. Into one town and out of another. Houses lie closely knit along the main roads where trucks roar past doing over 80. There is barely the width of a path between house and road. But today was inside weather and not many people on the edge… Sigisoara, this towns called, and I’ve rented myself a room for 2 days. The people here speak English and seem more welcoming than the previous countries farther west. I will try to finally add some portraits to my project. Maybe I’ll meet Dracula too? He owned a big estate in the area and the moon is high. I just have to insert this picture of two empty houses which are probably summerhouses for rich industry lords. High above on top are glittering stars, their presence better known from earlier days…I saw more of this type, some bigger, and all in the area of large industrial estates

Short version, Dec 10 2008

I learned today that these empty houses I mentioned are typical gypsy houses and that the builders often live down at the bottom of the garden, back there somewhere in some sheds…while these houses stand empty, reminding us of newly rich Russians Datsja’s (summerhouses) Click on the photos if they are not big enough.The day I left Romania there was a blizzard in the mountains. Christmassy. After a while it got like this, some swings were pretty tight A wee hour later and springtime was upon me, I could stretch out my eyes and watch the moon. This is how the vehicle looked that day.

The Moldovian border by night, the card games can be heard across the border. I was supposed to be sleeping with the guy with the cap, but when his wife saw me she refused. Instead, I ended up at the local petrol station with a few minus degrees, and ice on the inside of the window. The boys woke me at 07.00 with a coffee and vodka. I paid with a plastic bottle of beer as they had looked after me and the jeep. I awoke to the sound of somebody burping.

Group photo of the boys after coffee and vodka. People here drive as if they have at least two lives, and they’ve been doing that for a long time, I thought Russia was bad but Poland topped the list for a while, now I’m not so sure. On every hilltop there’s a cross, also in swings in the road after a straight stretch. Such meaningless death and mindless overtaking. I reckon that I will never be a passenger in this territory, and just drive myself.Anyway, I got to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. About the same size as Oslo with somewhat messy roadsigns..but a nice man Sergeij, gave me a manual version of G.P.S and suddenly I was in place, supported by www.ahead-moldova.no in Norway, and the project became

5 portraits richer.

Bulgaria, Dec 14 2008

It may seem like I am covering a lot of ground in short time, crossing three countries like that, Moldova too, but there really isn’t such a long stretch each day. I drove the main road out of Moldova and then along the border to the same land in Romania till I came south to Galati and crossed the Donau. The river is quite wide here and the thought that there was no bridge didn’t cross my mind. It’s a river we’re talking about and the people I spoke to kept mentioning “Bak” meaning boat, as after whizzing around between roundabouts towards the Harbour, a man going to the Bak finally joined me. Imagine, I took a ferry over the same river in 2005, a bit further east- safe man, and he’s going all the way to Bangladesh.. I did’nt quite catch if ”Bak” was crossing the river sideways or if it actually behaved like a boat. We both boarded and landed from the side of the boat and ended up a bit differently from what one would be used to from other “Baks”The Donau delta is quite big here and is surrounded by rich farmland. I found a field, parked the jeep in full moonlight on top of a hill while out of sight from the road. People here generally travel by car but still use horse and cart, some with both 1 and 2 horses and rubber tyres, while others have only one horse and no rubber. That’s how the classes are split, quite clearly. Looks like the richest are also those who end up placing the crosses along the roads, the way they drive. 

I met Father Christmas north of Varna on the coast of the black sea in Bulgaria, he washed the car and we took a group picture. These washers were not at all tall so I had to get down on my knees, as pictured, I promised to show this picture to the world. Done I found a good spot about 100 km south of Santa Claus and set up tent for the first time. Mild weather, 10 degrees, wind and rain. I found shelter and soup in the cup and began the next morning with an omelette from the rest of the Polish foodstore. Coffee and great stuff. Until then I discovered, approx 10km down the road, I no longer had in my pocket the wallet with my bankcards in. Something strange happens with the body when such discoveries are made and I had to loosen my collar a wee bit. Back to where I had slept, nothing there, up with the tent, nothing there, checked the car inside out and the ground around..nothing. Out with the map. The last time I had used it was with Santa. Sat behind the wheel and took a break. Slightly feverishly thinking about 100km back and maybe not.. I got out, had one final shake up, and there, among the sweet oak leaves of last summer, lay my cards. So, I rolled on southbound, glancing at newly built houses all the way till the mountain range began bordering Turkey. I’m glad I won’t be seeing the Romanian coast for a while. The ocean is nice, the waves on the beach are nice, the old houses down by the beach in the old towns are nice.. But the rest of the place is occupied by a power that doesn’t seem to recognise justice, neither in taste or anything else. It’s growing inwards from the coastline, many kilometres inwards. Land (fields) for sale everywhere and they are promising luxury like no other place eon Earth. I���m sitting again in an oak wood.. silent.. apart from the birdsong, and Santa Claus would have had himself another job if he’d been around today. At least now the salt from the North is gone. Here the car is being washed clean, of everything from Swedish salt to horseshit from the lower classes of world traffic. Off again heading south and I find myself two hitchers on the Turkish border, both of whom are working to save the birds of the world. They told a fantastic story of 500 parrots attempted smuggled from Bulgaria to Turkey. They were locked up in a small room on the border and the job was to go in and bring them all back to Bulgaria… I let them off after the first border town; get myself some food and alls well. They have written in my book and been photographed. Then I realise that Sir Lucas from England is no longer aboard with us. I have no light, I have no horn.. Its two hours to Yekirdag on the south coast, ocean to ocean. Found a petrol station which turned the world upside down to find someone who could speak English. Finally someone called his buddy and the mobile was going forwards and backwards for 20 minutes, then an electrician came while Maryem who works at the station prepared soup and pasta. Afterwards there was coffee and I see the car out front beeping its horn and flashing its lights. I’m allowed to park behind the station (open 24hrs). The electrician is hotwiring, seems to be a part of growing up for a Land Rover, (till it can sing…I’ve been a Land Rover for many a year) * The light will now come direct from the battery, the second of its kind; otherwise all is grand and its 160km to Istanbul And heres Hasan who fixed it all. I don’t really know what he has done or how it works but if it holds out till I get home its ok. 3 cheers for Lucas, hope you’ve no more tricks in store…. And Meryem who kindly fixed me a meal without asking if I needed it. And here’s the whole gang who did their bit for me to fix all the stuff, afternoon, night, and day shift.. Finally I have to tell that before I left I wrote a “letter” explaining what it is I am doing and if people wanted to be a part of my project. I got this translated to Romanian, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Lithuanian, and a few more. It has been of inestimable help, especially now in Turkey and in the next country, Iran.. Thanks to the boys in the kitchen for all the help, maybe I’ll have to asking for more help soon. They are writing it in their own language and I will present it in English………….*

Changes, Dec 16 2008

I said Adieu to my petrol station saviours and rolled on eastwards towards Istanbul, the great town dividing Europe from Asia to again reunite them through their bridges. It was in this bay that the Vikings in their time came a-rowing to combat abomination- the muslims- sound familiar?

Further along the road I passed a group in a similar car to mine. They waved me in and invited me for coffee at their place, a few kilometres down the road. That done and two hours later I had three new faces in my project. A type of hippie group they were, living off tourists and the sea, one of which was a book binder. As a gift, I received a book on Istanbul’s historical buildings-in English- looking forward to reading it as this town is more than I have ever imagined. Two days before I departed from Norway, Anne Tveit found out that I was going East.. She has been carrying a long term dream of seeing Iran. We spoke awhile before leaving and, that done again, she collected an Iranian passport, brought along some Italian roast java expresso and some Norwegian toffees, the hard type… we met after a couple of hours wait at the airport and together we headed for the centre of town where a hotel room, sunset over the mosque, street markets, and good food awaited. Its morning now and I have a sleeping passenger who will share her part of car space till we reach Shiraz, there she will meet up with Ane Tvedt and spend the rest of their time until New Years Eve travelling Iran together. So in a few days there’ll be two Ane’s with almost identical surnames crossing Iran towards each other.

But firstly I will be getting out of town, and am as sure as I can be that I will return one day to experience the city- without the car. And before that again I’m off to the barbers. Mullah Tom Romania and Bulgaria and the beginning of Turkey,

This and that, Dec 16 2008

Out of bed and into the outside world to find myself a barber, right around the corner for a solid hour in the chair. There’s not a lot to compare with treatment like this and I’m already looking forward to the next, which will probably be in Iran. Collect freshly washed clothes and check out of the hotel. With such a strong smell of soap, this room is anything but dirty…

Moving moving moving, find a way out of the labyrinth and cross the bridge south of “The Golden Horn”, found a wilderness shop… My primus is out of gas, and from here and further east of Turkey there’s no hope of finding the same brand, 3 cheers for MSR. Had to get a new burner and two good gas bottles… coffee’s on. Around here Nescafe is the thing, and you need both sugar and milk to get that down you.��������The road led over The Bosporus Straight and as I didn’t have an express chip the toll alarm followed me out of hearing distance. A few checks with the mirror showed that nobody was after me. The next pay-toll was manual and cost 3 Turkish Lire and brought me all the way to Izmit, east of Istanbul. We passed this Mc Donalds along the way… Its evening now and the Minarets have sung the night in, in the morning they’ll sing the sun up. The plan from here is to find the area or areas where underground towns have been built, (some over ground) in porous volcanic stone. Some of these are over 4000 years old. I have driven 4.800 km so far, and am actually looking very much forward to the rest.

Dec 18 2008 A Trio

We got to Bolu, east of Istanbul, and headed further south, past Ankara and onwards to Kapadokia. We made it there just as darkness fell, the minaret’s sunset already sung… On the way down past Ankara I had spotted a cyclist, a typical tourist, stopped the car and backed up. Hamza, French, originally from Tunisia, was on his way from Paris to Tokyo on a project. He is 47 years of age and his project has something to do with Karate, his website: www.human-brother.fr As if that wasn’t enough, two more cyclists that came pedalling, created after a while something resembling a smoky Gypsy camp with tea and coffee on the boil, as tongues were loosened. Apart from our Tunisian Hamza we had Argentinian Francisco; he had flown to Barcelona then cycled on, destination some Sufi stuff in Indonesia, before finally heading home to Mama. Then there was Stefan from Switzerland, on his way to explore India. Coincidence had brought these three together along the path and they were now on their way together to the Iranian embassy for a visa into Iran. They have a 3 week stay ahead of them in Ankara. Thoughts and gifts were exchanged and all 3 performed for my project. We drove on southbound and found the road to Goreme where hundreds of people live in mountain homes..literally…both under and over ground level. The eldest of these houses dates back thousands of years. The mountain is built up of porous volcanic matter, and is easily formed by hand into corridors and rooms. They then put in doors and windows. Some are hotels, like the one we lived in; some are shops or domestic family dwellings. One of the hotels had to of course be named Flintstone Hotel. Good food and a chill in the air. The minarets are right outside so it’s not difficult to be drawn out of sleep. A bit early perhaps, but it’s a nice way to wake up. Its not so easy to strike up a conversation with the Turkish women, the men are more willing, but about an hour ago I finished my morning shift by portraying two Women for the project, and now its an Americano at the local café, and internet.

Not so much today 19 dec.

Since my last entry there’s been two days of driving and one night in the tent, and we have covered a lot of ground eastwards. The people here speak less English and smile even wider. The taxi driver joined us till we got to the hotel then walked back to his car. The man sitting beside us at the café insisted on buying us fruit and vegetables. The bus driver with whom we have been swopping places all day on the road came and gave me a hug as we were filling up at a station, and wouldn’t we like a cup of tea…? I ’m compelled to insert two pictures here of some Turkish architecture, the yellow buildings are to be seen in different variations across the country. The whole country! Its nice to drive like this through all the different landscapes. Some stretches of road are completely straight for 7-8 kilometres, while in other places the swings are so intense that the steering wheel heats up between my fingers. Two days have passed since leaving the cave dwellers of Goreme. Here we are now at Van, by the lake Van and its neighbouring town with the same name, Tatvan. Ane my passenger found a town on the map named Batman, drove through some mice too. Altogether I have driven 6000 km and am now approx. 100 km from the Iranian border. I’ve been here before and want this time to cross the border in daylight. I know one story about a fort down in the valley here, the door of the fort ended up in St. Petersburg because the Tsar of the time liked it so much, I’ll find out more about that.I’m down in the valley writing. Van is at about 1730 metres and last night we pitched camp at around 900 metres, we had crossed some passes at both 13000 and 1600 metres. Alas, a certain lack of strength has been bothering me today, not mine though, the cars. Now and again I lose speed in fifth gear while descending gradual slopes. I have then to drive in fourth and sometimes on a flat stretch all the way down to third gear. I know that it hasn’t been seldom that I’ve dug myself into terrible thoughts of mechanical breakdown, bordering on my own breakdown. Well finished with that and onwards onwards ONWARDS!!!. This picture is taken as the sun went down at 2234metres and is not manipulated in Photoshop. We are living now at 1700 metres, and have been wandering between these heights all day. Of course this machine must just have some height sickness and a certain spiritual need. In addition the fuel here is pretty rough.

Higher and steeper

I had thought that Van was the highest point on this stretch and that it was downhill from there into Iran, I must admit that sometimes I read maps in a strange way, and don’t learn from it. The memory isn’t the best either, but I remember mentioning a mountain pass that was higher than Norway���s highest, and here it is. At 2730 metres above sea level I gladly exhaled as I rolled over the peak and downwards again. I had barely managed to overtake two big trucks carrying steel on the way up, way down in second gear. Great…

Well we got a picture of the castle I had mentioned but didnt learn any more about the Russian Tsar.

We stopped for lunch at a little café during the descent, a real “out of the way” Turkish truck-stop where the same trucks from earlier turned up remembering the pictures I had taken of them at 2730. Food, chai and Bon Voyage from the boys. The next time I saw them was on the Iranian border in an 8km queue of iron laden trucks on the way into Iran. Photo Photo! they brawled so we had a group picture that unfortunately came out overexposed. But the queue is here. It was evening before we hit the Iranian border. Pleasant custom officers led Ane my passenger through on foot, while I rolled in and around various offices. Chai was served with apologies for their delays. The computer didn���t accept the way they wrote Norvege, calls were made. I was registered as Norwegian, and so for the Land Rover with Defender as surname. Fresh calls made. I don’t know how they solved it but hope the picture coincides with reality when I’m checking out of Iran again.

So! Bon Voyage and welcome to Iran! And it’s been that all day. We got one portrait for the project while discovering that it wasn’t so easy to convince them here. They all get the impression that it’s all a political thing, or can be so interpreted, and back down rather than expose themselves. The hotel owner who has once lived in the States is helping best he can but there’s no moving theses chaps, they’ll pleasantly refrain with no thank you’s but otherwise its all smiles, please sit for chai’s, and where are you from’s.- on every corner.

There was some chaos in the market area where there were most armed soldiers. We saw it as only positive and as good photos were taken we stood wondering what was going on and why. Clocks and mobile were racing around and everyone stood with their backs to us, till we came, that’s when the circus began.

We then managed to sort out our currency exchange, learned that in Iran the petrol costs 3 norwegian kroners per litre, and tomorrow were off Southbound.

South and downwards 24th of Desember

I wish you all well from Esfahan, Iran   Yep, definitely southbound, the road has climbed and climbed, 24th December today. The jeep is parked a few hundred metres below the point where I was last online, ie approx. 1500 metres… I’ve almost done a thousand kilometres and have been wavering between here and 2000 metres height. There have now been a few rough snow-laden days in high winds and the tent had to give way to a few hotel nights. This has on the other hand provided for four Iranian faces to my project, of which one is an Iranian woman. The road, at 2000 metres and headwind. If I was a mechanic I could surely have done something for the car regarding the fuel I’m burning and the height we are at. She’s smoking black behind and now and then I try to clear her out by dropping into 3rd and 4th gear to clear the exhaust out of the throat, both hers and mine. The strange thing is that I forget this each night and end up down in the dumps each morning when I discover that the nights sleep hasn’t helped the car as much as me. Mood-wise we both end up in the same boat pretty quickly..We have seen a monastery from 600BC and today have visited the fantastic Esfahan with its mosque. My passenger is celebrating Christmas with a little meal and a walk around the church. I’m sitting here writing and will make sure not to be too optimistic about the car tomorrow. I imagine it’ll be a nice trip down to this ancient town. That was a brief update. Tomorrows plan is to explore Shiraz which is 200 mtres below…Hurrah….and P.S it’s about 15 degrees outside.

Another day in Pakistan, dec 29 2008

Another day in Dalbandin. A brief summary… I made an arrangement with for 4 men for project portraits. It is quite clear that I am in a conservative area of Baluchistan and have so far seen 4 women crossing the street dressed in black Burka’s. I’ve also seen a young girl in front of a shop mirror. (This is a bit like reeling off yesterdays camel sightings…) It’s actually not possible to take pictures of the women here; tomorrow I’m off to Quetta. Had a shave again and I must say the experience is great every time-amusing too. The barber was 1.60 tall and everything in his shop was custom built for his size. He accepted the head shave but couldn’t understand why the face was to have no beard, not even a moustache. I was served chai for the ritual, regardless. Then back out onto the street, a stranger for all to see, and be seen. The car is washed and filled with Pakistani diesel and the boys at the petrol station invited me in for food. I took pictures of the bakers on the corner (all of them Afghani), they have also received their pictures. Same with the car cleaners, the rumour spread quickly and pretty soon everyone was lining up for pictures, to bring home of course. Occasionally I find myself balancing on the fine line between firm rejection and attempted humour. I had hoped to fit some Afghani’s into the project but unfortunately there seems to be a language barrier and difficult to explain what I’m searching for. Settling for 4 portraits in Hindi I will try my luck further on up the road towards Quetta and Lahore en route to India. One man and his car…

From India to Nepal, January 10th

I’ve been a tourist a while today, I think to myself that this is a seldom occasion, even though I am travelling as I am. Either way I have been wandering around Pokhara village with a load of western “hikers”, with their shorts, t-shirts, and whatever that hair is called, the hair that looks like like it hasn’t been washed for a few years and dried with clay. Oh yes, they have these jackets with North Face printed on, and huge shoes… but lets not get finicky … Lucknow became a turning point of something I was stressing with in India Thought I was spending a lot of time doing just a few kilometres, as if there was a special reason to get off quickly. India certainly has its own driving culture and it took me about that amount of time to get into it. I had a fine flow and spent one more night in India before swinging northwards at Faishbad towards Nepal and the border town Belahiya. I have mastered the art of petrol station sleepovers… Photograph the boss (the Manager, please), and give him a picture five minutes after I get there. That gives me an armed guard all night. It looks like the fuel problem at the borders is the same here as at the Pakistan/Iran border. There were attempts of aggression at the pumps which still had fuel. I jumped the queue and got my fill from a pump, then, there was a huge hullaballoo from the passengers of the bus behind me who didn’t get enough. There were motorbikes and tractors all in the queue. No problem crossing the border, the guys changing the money were a stress factor, everybody working to help you whether you need it or not. Shouting and pointing and God knows what else. My initial approach is a polite “no thank you” which is repeated until finally it explodes, sometimes I could probably have been more humble, or patient. The Nepalise air was chilly, smiles, and a lot more English than their neighbours. The air is cleaner and the sky is higher. Just outside here there’s a peak scraping the sky at 7000mtres. The sun went down and the whole thing was like the backdrop for a movie/theatre. The tourist office at the border town Belahiya informed me of the two routes to Pkohara, a short way through the mountain and the longer way around on the flatlands. They didn’t mention the condition of the roads, just the length -130km. I chose the “Hill” route and once again my hand was warmed on the wheel. Tyres were howling and the engine ticked nicely over in third gear between 20 and 50km/hr. Once I got up to 60 and had to gear up to 4th Because of this I had to sleep along the road somewhere so I stopperd before the sunset and fullmoon were in sight. There were some houses in a bend in the road, 7 families live here and run 5 caf��’s in all. I stopped at the first and had one of the many good meals I’ve had on this trip. I’m drinking bottled water but til now eaten as the locals do.Lovely breakfast, no meat, and my belt is now pulled in a few notches. I photographed the children and the boy, being eager with his english became the translater. There was lots of good humour about the differences between them and I, the Mother of the house has written in my book and been photographed. I had the best sleep there, along the road, than I’ve had in a long while, with the sound of running water and fresh mountain air. So, onwards, past traffic accidents, goats, mothers and children washing together. Saturday, the same here as any Norwegian Saturday. I’ve never seen so many women sun-drying their hair along the road. There’s a difference to the freedom people have here and there, and how they use it. I’m attempting the drive to Kathmandu tomorrow, but have been informed of the bendy road there too. This means that 200 km can suddenly mean 2 days, also doing India once again before Bangladesh. But this time I’m prepared, and as Rolf Jacobsen says “I’m happy among mountains” This entry was posted on Saturday, January 10th, 2009 at 4:42 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed. India, January 8th Well I haven’t been so online since I entered Pakistan via Iran! That’s quite a few kilometres ago, not to mention the grand gallery of experiences enroute. My dilemma now, is to shorten the narrative, without you losing the essence of the latest journey, so pull in your chair and enjoy a nice long read. Firstly, a very Happy New Year to all those following me on the road. The trip through the desert, although it was nice, was quite tiring. After Dalbandin the road transformed into a tarred but thin path. Drivers competed for road-space and the biggest won, each time. In this company I’m ranked middleclassed, while busses and trucks are purely upperclass. Quetta is an averagely sized town, this is where I followed”Lonely Planets” advice and bedded down at a hotel. Way too expensive at double Dalbandin’s prices, without the comfort. Again, trusting in Lonely Planet I chose to travel north to Multan via Loralai. Not a clever move unless one is an off-road fanatic. There were road works all the way and many shaken and dusted kilometres. BUT, I finally crossed a mountain pass and experienced a view to dream of, one you’d expect to see in Tibet etc…Just a shame that Telenor had been there before me and tagged every stone with their blue and white propeller, you would think they were running a shipping company. I haven’t seen the likes of such aggressive marketing, and in the poorest areas of the country too. My telephone didn’t have coverage, which is of course Telenor! That’s how it was in the whole of Pakistan, no network, no internet. Down from the mountain and checkpoint nr.1 called headquarters, from there I had a police escort all the way to the Indian border. Spent one night with them at Multan station, then all the way to the border. A total of 600 km’s with police escort. Somewhere in the chaos I lost count but I think there were 15 of them who used me as a baton in their relay race.This included one long stretch before the mountain pass. I reached food and toileting just in time. I met a nice Norwegian/ Pakistani restaraunt owner from Sarpsborg. He treated me to an all-time best of chicken dinners and I hope he reads this to receive my- ”Azmat I Thank You.” One more thing: Under this mountain lay the open plains, the river Indus, sprawling in the heat of summer, and as for me; another bridge crossed. I believe I found explanation for the police escort on the Indian border. It is the first month of the Muslim calendar – Muharam-ul haram. (Haram meaning Sin). The Sunni and Shia Muslims celebrate this in their respective fashion. The authorities chose to protect foreigners in this situation (or so they say) as it can sometimes lead to aggression. I crossed the border well and saw the circus that the extremely tall guards hold each day at 15.30. There were a few jokes about my height..each guard both Pakistani and Indian are handpicked due to their height. I said I was only average for a Norwegian.. Straight through Amritsar, I’m not too keen on the larger towns, they are beginning to look quite similar, and found the road leading to Darmshala where the Dalai Lama is camped with his exiled government. There were many tradesmen to be seen and busloads of Americans, so I hit the road pretty quick with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Himalaya. It is more than a thousand metres high yet the locals call it Hills. Thus, Norway by definition is not a mountain country but rather a Hill country. I was headed for Simla today, the town in which the frailest of Englands invaders sought refuge from the summer sun. They came up here and built their retreats in cool Hill-air. So far I have rolled 12 000 km and have my nose pointed towards Nepal. That was written this morning, Monday, but it didn’t work out as planned…The first 32 km took me an hour, the next 75 took 3 hours, and so, the day slid away. I covered 250km altogether, including a stretch of motorway towards Delhi. I got lost in the mountains and have basically spent 3 days doing almost as many kilometres. There can be so many reasons to getting lost..but when they point to the right saying “then drive to the left at the end!”, and point to the left but are left handed or the opposite, and say “straight ahead!”, while my map is in English and everything in reality outside is in Hindu, that’s when this lad from the west of Norway just….gets lost? Sure that’s how the days can slide away…as they say.. up north. Back out onto the plains and I’ll try again with the map and some goodwilled natives showing the way. One man said I should ask 3 different people then chose the decision of the majority. You see, some people get quick a kick out of sending strangers off in all sorts of directions. I passed Kurukshetra today by the way, it sounds like a place in the middle of Norway but is a little north of Delhi…Internet alas?, I cannot find.   Today is the seventh of January, and it looks like India will get their own blog covering my whole trip through their country. I must admit it is hectic here, a hectic country, and I get drawn into the tempo myself through traffic and towns. Its all about overtaking. Theres one road and everyone wants their place on that road. Scooters have a speed limit of 30km, but don’t follow it. Trucks are supposed to keep to 40, and I dont think they go much faster, even though it seems so when we meet to share the space. Cars can do 80. The roads are about the same width as in Norway, and fully loaded tractors and buffalo carts with cotton, sugarcane or other light material (or heavy for that matter) take up about 2/3 of the road, then all the rest of us come from all our own directions to overtake all the rest of us.Another point is that I’m sitting on the left side of my car on the wrong side of the road, trying to pass on the right… the side I cant see on without leaning way over the passenger seat. (my translator knows all about this). So despite myself and all the rest driving as fast as we can all day, we end up at an average 30km/hr. I must admit to a few romantic but prejudicial thoughts coming at me, and I don’t pay them any heed til I’ve had something to eat at about 6o’clock. Today I ate protein, rice, and Chiabatti, this evening a 3 egg omelette with onion, some other type of bread and some sweet stuff for desert. But best of all I���ve had a trip to the barber, and the world is a different place. I’ve crossed yet another big river (collecting some of those). I have Glomma, Donau, Indus and Ganges so far on this trip. Think there’s a huge one further east. It’s foggy this morning, and its like driving in a foggy scene from Fellini’s Amacord. Fantastic light, and the traffic must calm. Driving with their lights on?? Have you seen the likes of that, as cars and whatever else is on the road suddenly pop up like monsters, white cows, people on bicycles, or the shadow of a dog.. how do I know? Dogs take a beating along the roads here. They lie strewn here and there and nobody bothers to remove them after they have been knocked down. Doing my best not to kill them a second time, like some cows I’ve seen knocking around.Last night I saw the biggest bat I have ever seen, just as quiet and flexible as the small ones. Maybe they’ve followed me here from Romania? Tomorrow’s ambition is to reach the Nepalese border, approx. 300km I wake up earlier and earlier here in India. The boys at the petrol station where I slept kept guard under strict instructions from their boss who arrives to work at 08.30. They parked themselves right behind the car where I slept and lit a fire from bits and pieces, a lot of which smelt of plastic and rubber. And so the chat was lively all night. They had to stay awake of course, – keeping guard. Then the day started with full blast music at 06.00 and sweeping of the yard, the dust rising just as well. The generators across the yard run on diesel and make a huge noise, but the pumps need electricity, and music must be heard. India can be heard in all ways, always. Maybe the boss can come soon so I can head for the hills. A motorway sign saying “Cyber café”…on the way to Lucknow, I note the name. Lucknow. Then it’s the road to Faizabad next. Hoping now for a god enough connection to upload.

More Nepal, January 11th

Well, this tourist continues to touristify. As a tourist I can deliver my dirty laundry to a hotel and get it back cleaned and dried the next morning. So I did. I was lucky enough to make an arrangement with some people for the project, and was up bright and early to prepare. Two fine women and two fine men lined up and became immortalised before the sun got to us all. They then wrote in the book and I recieved breakfast. Packed the car and was ready for Kathmandu and the trail there. I hadn’t assumed to make it, but wanted to get off early – the laundry – Sorry, but it’s not finished. It wasn’t washed until early this morning. In Nepal they go with the flow, and the clothes had barely gotten wet and certainly weren’t dry. When then? Possible 11 oclock? Its now three in the afternoon and I have booked into a hotel for another night and Kathmandu ended up on the list of places to visit in the future. They believe in reincarnation here. BUT, everything is good for something. One of the employees’s had his picture taken in his lovely sari for some occasion and was thrilled with that, I was photographed too and they wanted the picture to remember me by. That’s nice. Shahidul from the photo festival in Dhaka sent a text and asked for pictures for the catalogue, so I’m in the car in 27 degrees and trying to co-operate with Photoshop in editing black and white pictures for printing. Performance anxiety, but I’ll get through it. Either way there’s an electricity cut forecast so I have something to blame it on. He needs the pictures today, with the text. What’ll i say? Cut and paste from the blog? It’s all there. Apropos blog, the good thing with that is I don’t have to explain anything from the trip when I get home. This morning I was checking my mail at one of the 200 netcafe’s here (they could have shared some with India and Pakistan), and while I sat writing, a scooter ploughed into a woman and both of them ended up in the ditch on the other side of the crossroads. The police (or the military) were quickly on the scene and took care of the man and the scooter, -and the woman? The women helped her out; she was not in good shape at all, but not enough to affect the men. There’s something about the women, that they don’t get such a good deal on this side of the Donau as they do on the other side. I don’t know what to say about it, I’m just sitting here in the car as an observer, but I definitely know it has something to do with freedom. One little prayer to the world…Is there anybody out there who can translate from Turkish to English for me? And from Farsi- Iran, Urdu-Pakistan, Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish, all to English…Send me a mail and Thank you Thank you Thank you.

The trip through the mountains (Hills) from Pokhara towards Kathmandu is a beautiful one, and at the beginning of the journey the Himalaya mountains stretch along on the left flank making it difficult to keep my focus on the road.. Travelling artists in groups of 3 or 4 perform along the road for the locals. I was lucky, and experienced one of these, to small acrobatic boys, with perhaps a big brother banging a drum and shouting something or other, just like a proper circus. I know that the circus tradition in India is a great and old one. Maybe I’ll get to see one of those too, one day? I didn’t roll into Kathmandu, but chose to take a right through the mountains and towards the border crossing south of town. Both the landscape and the temperature changed dramatically in a few short hours and pretty soon I was in the “tropics”? And onto the plains. At the border I met two Canadians and a Danish guy and we stayed in the same place that night, resulting with three new portraits in the project and a Danish passenger through the following day. The Canadians had a train to catch- nice people. The passenger Kenneth and I rolled on southbound towards Patna. We apparently crossed the Ganges again somewhere enroute. We spent the night by the roadside at something we reckoned to be a deserted petrol station, but which actually contained three people. They were quite surprised at the sight of us with the tent on the roof. So.. group picture and Bon Voyage after the passenger and I ate the rest of the bread I had bought at Pokhara. Check out the bread counter, it was quite a while since I had seen the likes of this, gorgeous too, they even had cinnamon buns with sugar on top. pic natural colours) Apparantly my passenger Kenneth was going to Bodaya, and as the detour for me wasn’t so big I went too. Bod- Buddha, Gaya-Gaia, hm a link perhaps? What do I know, but people we encountered told that Jesus had been here between Christmas and Easter, (that being the period when nothing is documented on his movements) what do I know?

The passenger stayed on and I found the road to Kolkata and a visa application for Bangladesh. As we have earlier gotten a visa at the airport I was sure this could be sorted out at the border, but not so.

And so for Bangladesh January 16th

As rumour had it, the Bangladese embassy was difficult to deal with, so we were quite ambivolous walking in. At about 15.00, the most pleasant man in the world greeted us, told us the visa could be collected at 18.00 and we paid and left. By evening, I had a visa for this small land with so many people. In Dhaka alone there are 20 million people, and the stories continued with how difficult it was to cross the border by car, and that people were bribing officials to get through without trouble, like totally ransacking your car and spreading your stuff all over the place, while the authorities with time on their hands stand by. Before we got this far, Suvendo and I had an interesting conversation about the poorer people in town, often being the reason for tourism. – Mother Theresa’s projects in the poverty stricken Muslim neighbourhoods-. He showed me the way out of town and we passed some of these areas. I asked if these people were unhappy, given their standard of living. They celebrate life he answered, by giving birth to new human beings, and that these people are neither wild nor stupid, then I thought, isn’t happiness a feeling provided only sporadically by Life with just a few blissful seconds at a time?

To Kolkata, knowing no more than that Drik India is to be found there. Drik India is the sister organisation to Drik in Bangladesh, arranging the photo festival I’m going to. A few text messages later and I had a contact and a place to live. Suvvendo sent road directions by mobile and off I went. I assumed I had enough diesel and all would be well but ended up driving in circles for three hours. It got pretty warm both in the car and in my head, maps didn’t help and the locals drew sketches and explained the way. It ended with me asking Suvvendo to come and find me, not the opposite. After reuniting we found the way to the Bangladese embassy. This went smoother than all the stories I had heard, chicken and rice afterwards and life is rosy again. Not only that, but I photographed two more Indians, one a renowned author- Mahasweta Devi. She is an activist, author and writer and has won Asias answer to the Nobel Prize for Literature.-Magsasay Awardee. This means I can leave India and on to Bangladesh tomorrow. There is so much more I should be describing for you. The smells, sanitary conditions, both mine and the locals, the car-filling mosquito’s by night, the food at the small roadside “cafe’s” where they sit on the table while eating and I have to sit at one table and eat from another. The food that tastes so good I can’t resist a taste, denying headroom to all thoughts of stomach trouble. The price of the food, all the people wishing to watch me eat, the traffic, I should have said something about the noise, the lack of rules, and all the horn-blowing. All the animals that get knocked down at night, lying by the roadside swelling up during the day. Kolkata is not as “everyone ” has said it was, but there’s no more room in the blog for more so I think I’ll accept that there’ll be some storytelling after all, and not as previously mentioned. It’ll be grand.

So, with my head full of new thoughts I rolled North then east, towards the border to Bangladesh. Rush-hour… pure madness in movement. I’m now on some of the worst roads to be found, where the strip of tar gets thinner and thinner, and the holes gradually deeper. Off to find the border-crossing and my awaiting troubles. I was prepared, as were the customs officers. Out of India – with stamps klacking on paper and ‘welcome back this way’. While on the Bangladesh side.. Welcome and how long will you stay and why come here? Have you a car? Ok, you need a stamp in your passport here, then go to the other office there. Emigration went smoothly, and the customs officers were ready with their stamps. After all was done (15 mins max.), the customs men believed that they deserved a reward. I, on the contrary, believed that there were 3 titles for their reward.. Begging, Bakshish, or Corruption, and wondered if they took visa…they showed me the door and I was out the other side. The whole thing took 45 minutes. Kolkata didn’t live up to its bad reputation, neither did the Embassy, and upon my word, the rumours about the border were wrong too. This is how most of this journey has been, and I’m wondering where all these bad rumours are born?, in meetings between backpackers?, competing for the worst hardship? In that case we can all sit at home, not daring even to cross the Swedish border or no longer approve the cheap fare package trips towards the fenced-in ghettoes of Bulgaria?

And so, the roads became straighter, wider, and increasingly even, with avenues of great trees providing shade. This is to be seen in many countries but I had a soft spot for these ones, the way they stood, old, rough, and huge, sheltering the road. Their trunks are used to dry cowpats for kindling. The roads were signposted better here too, making the choices easier. Sleeping at the local petrol station was a funny affair, with a visit to the local market and half the village in tow. All men. One of the boys at the station became my first Bengalese for the project. I thought they were all teenagers but were all actually somewhere between 26 and 34 years…smiling they blessed me with kisses the next morning enroute towards the river. pic BLÅ) Another river to cross. Buriganga, a run off from the Ganges which splits upstream. Wide enough for the fog to conceal the other bank, and a calm atmosphere crossing. I was met on the other side by two guys from Dhaka, working in T.V at Drik, – the host of the Chobi Mela V Photo festival. They joined me the last 80 km in to Dhaka, chattering and filming. Tomorrow they will edit the whole thing and see how it comes out. They are polite and pleasant down here, and according to them, everything‘s fine. I recieved a warm welcome and believe that there can’t be many people I haven’t met yet. Some of the students from photo-journalism in Oslo are here on a workshop, met some of them too. This’ll be some fine days I think to myself, looking back on 55 days and 14 750 kilometres, and I have a visa for a month. See more of Tom’s arrival at the chobi mela link.

People at work, january 18th

This begins with a greeting to Gard and the job he did in making this pendant, hanging in my trousers all the way. I’ve had enough sleep now and used up what water there was in the Ganges. A visit to the barbers is done and texts are translated to English. There are 63 exhibitions at the festival with plenty of lectures; I’m pondering how they could organise something like this in Norway. Come on Risør now’s your chance. My car is parked by Shahidul’s house, the guy behind all this, and yesterday when I was getting something from the car I was asked if I wanted it washed. The boys at the garage were into washing it as a dirty car gives you a low status among the millions of natives. Even the trucks are washed each morning, and water is no problem. But Frank, my friend the photographer said that dirt like this has “cred value”, so I want it like this a few more days, in case someone should turn up wishing to take more pictures of the vehicle. A few hours later Shahidul called saying they had started, despite me saying no, and without agreeing a price. All the windows were opened a little and the sunroof under the roof rack and tent was also open. So, some buckets of water were thrown in and the water has disappeared…where to? Its apparently clean anyway and I’ll check it out. There’s nothing wrong with the will to work here and most things happen manually, be it wood gathering, hay, or demolishing houses. A greeting to all workers.

More work Jan 21 2009

Its pretty hectic here in this town, and I don’t exactly know where to start..or how to explain it all. Not many people here in my company are 2 metres tall, so those who are must accept getting their share of attention. The fact that I am a caucasion excludes a few of the others, and the fact that I go to the barbers also allows the others to wander around unnoticed. I become the centre of attention wherever I go here. I have learned to look down while out walking, to allow my gaze to meander along the ground a couple of metres ahead of me. It makes it easier to be me. Then I just notice that the curious silence falls upon the passing rickshaw, or someone giggling at the sight of me. I do then also get the opportunity to see something I otherwise would’nt have seen had my chin been raised…Dogs sleeping, punters and salesmen at ground level, and other similar bagatelles. Here is a few of those. 

I have checked out of the hotel and taken a room in an apartment close to headquarters. Frank Alvegg will stay here to when he arrives with a kilo of coffee. Besides the well appreciated coffee, Frank will be presenting the film “My daughter the terrorist” (“Min datter terroristen”) Also! It’s been decided that I am to exhibit a whole twenty pictures in the festival, text is translated and digitilised with the exception of to in Farsi, one Turkish and on Spanish. But that will sort itself out as much else has so far done. Ten pictures are testprinted and I think it looks quite good. There has been 3 newspaper arcticles so far and apparently more to come, I’l try to track them down to take home. Here is a link to an arcticle in The Daily Star today.  Yesterday I was lucky enough to get an interview with Nobe Peace Prizewinner Dr. Muhammad Yunus. I was told that if I come immediately I’ll get 5 minutes of his time. He took plenty of time to write in my book, I took plenty of time taking the pictures, ane together we took plenty of time exchanging some comments on this and that. A generous man who gave no impression of being pushed for time. Lovely. I have met this man earlier while on a project with Morten Krogvold, Morten will also be here in a few days to run a workshop in photography. The car is parked by the apartment and needs a service before I return. Oil and filter change. I got some addresses from my good helpers Bilservice in Tonsberg- Norway, appointments will be made. Internet is affine thing sometimes, Text messages too. I’ve got myself a banglanumber now and can chat away locally without it costing an arm and a leg, and people calling me pay their own bill.  Here you can get shaved and powdered basically everywhere.

Service

Up early into the larm and I can contribute today too if I wish. I was on the street a little before 8 and on my way to the Landrover service some place across town, Momena came with me narrating the lefts and rights. I had gotten this address from Anders, one of my helpers at Bil Servis Tonsberg. The place was called Pacific Motors, scepticism due to the Nissan signs covering the building. But.. They had cards with Landrover also on and I caught a glimpse of a white Defender out back and behind me in the queue was a new Discovery, ok I’m in the right place. I talked my way into the hall, took some pictures and had a chat with the LR mechanic. I left the garage with a certain security that they’d do as I wished, we’ll see tomorrow. Full speed back in one of these green motorised vehicles that fart around on gas, a quick stop for breakfast and to buy a new pair of sandals. The last pair ended their days on an uneven footpath when the strap broke and my foot slipped forward. I know a good cobbler (shoemaker) in Tonsberg so they’ll do the return trip with me. SO- straight to the photography school -Patshala – where Morten is holding his workshop for a mixed group of Bengalese and Norwegians. After a short while it was just like “the old days” again and that was nice. There’ll be an attempt at the same tomorrow. I’ve been wandering the streets taking random pictures and now its time to give some pictures back to those modelling for me. Shoe-shiners, and people selling baskets, toothbrushes, fruit , and hammocks. And now it’s over. Tomorrow morning I’ll be interviewed by “Sveip” NRK2, sometime after 5, on skype, then those who wish they could see some of my pictures can at least here my voice and see my face… if it works.. Comments Off Jan 25 2009 Sunday Two months since leaving Norway and it doesn’t seem to have any effect on the people here. Full speed ahead as normal and I knew that when the horn-blowing started, an hour after the minaret’s had finished their morning orchestra, that the day had begun and the schools were open again. I lay here thinking that I must try to record this somehow and get it out onto the website. Here is my bunk, down on the floor and with mosquito protection. So Frank if you read this, bring something for the ears to dampen the sound. I don’t really have much to do on Sundays, taking a shower I saw that the water had found its temperature during the night. I think the guy who met the evening temperature after a day in the sun was better off but that’s when I wanted sleep. And now I’m awake. I am borrowing an apartment from a neighbour and feel in some way that I’m invading someone’s privacy, as others live here too. As I understand it there’s a sort of maid living here who works and cooks with the families on both floors. She turns up voluntarily with freshly cut bread, asking me if I’d like some breakfast. I point to the eggs asking for 3 of those in an omelette, she returns presently with 3 slices of French toast, language isn’t always easy I’ll tell you. As I was manoeuvring the car around the garage I bumped into the pipes in the ceiling giving my tent a bit of a pull, its fixed now after hammering and fixing along with my regular audience.It works this time and I got some pictures of myself both high and low. The tent is almost the same again, and I’m off to the office to see how the pictures came out, and get them out on the net for all to see. Morten Krogvold came down last night (or came up rather) , his plane from London couldn’t land in the fog without the correct electronic equipment, so they had to go on to Kolkata. He stayed there almost a whole day and last night as the neighbour was taking a shower a plane glided over the rooves at low altitude and managed to land in the fog. Morten called me shortly after to gladly exclaim that we were both in the same country. I’ll have lunch with the guy soon and see if wer’e compatible. Comments Off Jan 23 2009 Friday-free-day Not much happening today, its Friday in Muslim country. This is their Sunday and they don’t have Saturday off. I’m scanning the book digitally to get all the signatures in original form. Lazy morning, and on the way to the office I found some vacuum packed expresso which I’m about to test. Here’s a picture from the stairwell where I live. I want to also give you a link to the TV program which went on air yesterday. Here.The local papers have some material on me too, this full page came out today, and friends are gathering and bringing them to me, very pleasant. Going on air in Norway on Monday Sveip NRK2, and have invested in Skype equipment. Sogn og Fjordane are airing me this afternoon and I’m interviewed for their website too. I’m not used to all this attention. A while ago I sat and watched an edited version of the last 80 km’s into Dhaka, apparently something they wish to extend later. In between all this I’m trying to get time to scan the book correctly in, get texts translated, and work out a good way to present the portraits. The coffee was approved. Comments Off Jan 22 2009 In traffic Sometimes while out driving I feel like I’m manoeuvring a ship, there’s a lot of work done in Car-Parks, reverse- forward, forward-reverse, wheel to port and then to stern and always accompanied by shouts of guidance from my audience on the quay, everyone giving their opinion- and mind the top! I ran into something on the way into the garage under the apartment and something got a knock. The tent wasn’t up but the frame got hit. Here’s a picture of the scene so it’s not hard to imagine the rest. There are five floors of apartments in the building. There a terrible racket from outside my fifth floor apartment. There are so many schools in the area and the middleclass drive their children each morning and afternoon. There is no limit for how much horn-blowing is needed to get the car ten cars ahead of you to free itself from the knot of rickshaw’s it’s stuck in.. It’s noticeably quieter now at 09.30 when the ritual has finally ended, it lasts about an hour and nobody needs an alarm clock to wake up. The whole shebang starts again at 3 when the children are being collected. Everyone is tuned into this, so if you have something to do across town at this time you delay it till later. The children are driven by the chauffeur who then drives the parents on to work, unless they have 2 drivers, in this country they certainly have many children. The latest headcount in town (or towns, as Dhaka has grown into several townships) is just below 22 million. On the way back from Dr. Yunus the other day, I may have been in an extra good humour and put some music on in the car. It was clear that my guide was not aware of the quality of music he was missing, but was polite about it and I chatted away contented. At one of these horn-blowing points my car came in contact with the one in front of me. I can’t say if it was he in front who rolled backwards or if I in my excitement over having gotten a new subject for the project had rolled into him unnoticed. The driver ahead came roaring out and gave my guide an earful, he sat on the side of my car where the driver normally sits. In addition, the fact that the guide was Bengalese and I was white gave the guy ahead the impression that he was my chauffeur. I waved my hands and spoke Norwegian and when the guy saw my steering wheel the dialogue ended abruptly as if the electricity had been cut, and he raged back to his car and disappeared. I played Tom Waits all the way back- Always take the long way home. . Home is mainly at the Drik office, the one’s organising the festival. There’s a myriad of life all day long here. The festival is held every second year, and the building gets refitted each time. Imagine re-decorating your offices every second year. I guess this only happens in lower class countries with support from the upper classed.Clean water is mostly found indoors, but when something goes wrong and pipes get blocked the system overflows. Something people are quick to take advantage of. The last thing I did today was to update my travel plan. Now it’s approximately as I did it, almost anyway.

Daily life

The days here have adapted a certain routine. I’m on standby with the exhibition and am observing the other preparations from the sideline. Morten K is holding a workshop here, a pleasure to have the time to reminisce on our earlier days. Looking forward to seeing how his students take to his challenges and innovative thoughts. Morten is fresh and well. In a short while I’ll be interviewed by NRK (Norwegian tv) Link to this here? Is it really worth it? Here’s a picture from the sound-check with the newly purchased headset which wasn’t good enough and now the whole thing will be done using the hands-free thingy on the mobile phone… with sound delay. The car was supposed to be finished today, but no news, apart from the fact that something has to be adjusted. It’s still out there, among the Nissan family somewhere on the outskirts of town. Hope it won’t be too expensive, or that it can actually be adjusted. I’ve asked them to please leave Lucas alone this time, since the Lord of darkness has already been conquered in Turkey. The alternative being little green bubbles oozing out everywhere.

January 29th 2009

Just a Leafe  During a trip to Russia last year a young girl gave me the present of a leaf. The girl is Boris and Katya’s daughter whom we work with over there. More about BRO work. I don’t remember her name right now, but I placed this leaf under the lid of my ashtray in the car and it’s been there ever since. This leaf accompanied me all the way back to Norway, all through all my preparations, and all the way to Dhaka… I arrived at the thought of giving this certain leaf back to the girl next time I’m in Russia, maybe even in May or June this year. During my trip to Dhaka people have been asking me about this leaf. It’s not so easy to explain these things that aren’t so very rational but I have done my best. My son, Gard, was the one who started it all. He picked a leaf for me one day long ago, which he placed there as something to remember him by while I’m driving, and that is something that I have done for many Autumn’s. But this little Russian girl…. The TV crew asked me about this leaf on our way in to Dhaka, making a point of its symbolism, I tried to explain, as I am now. One of the escort soldiers through the Pakistani border tried to take this leaf for himself and almost ended up in the ditch, yet the leaf survived. Why.. I, (or we)..As there’s many people collecting these sorts of things…things that presently become as little icons to us… as anchors for memories, preferably good ones, yet sometimes bittersweet. Ok, sentimental and romantic values, you probably understand where I’m going with this…something has happened… I’d had the car in for a service and went to collect it yesterday, soft and fine she was, obedient, and solid in the brakes. Newly washed and nicely polished.. but without the cred! They’d managed to break the wheel-brace used to remove or tighten the wheels, had to make a new one, one I should pay for. Not so my friend! After a minute or so though, I discovered that something was missing, something missing….and I can’t drop the thought about “why one somebody do this?” I was saddened; but still I know that I have a story to tell the little girl (Yeva Maria!) It just wasn’t as I had expected the story to go, not so at all, but alas, something else will come of it… and probably something just as good .

The Opening Jan 31st

The festival has now opened and for those involved, yesterday was like the 17 May, New Years Eve, and Christmas Eve all at once. I’ve been at the office each day, watching and feeling the excitement gather.

The people around me rounded up the final 3 days of preparation by their computers and printers and sewed everything together before the opening. Some worked “overtime” after this and prepared the openings for each day too. Here, people aren’t thinking about clocking out after a full days work.

AHH, I think I’m coming down with a cold today…

Mahasweta on screen

It was an adventure to watch in free-flowing energy, and experience a full-house at the National Museum as people lined the walls in anticipation of hearing Mahasweta Devi and Shahidul Alam with their opening speeches, along with the other guests from Nepal, Argentina, Nigeria, and Lebanon. The whole world was represented.

Then came the seminar at the Gøthe Institute with Naom Chomsky live from the U.S on satellite, and Mahasweta Devi, both discussing the theme activism and photography, thorns in the eye of each their respective nations. Finally then, the hosts let loose in a rented cruise boat on one of the 5 big rivers surrounding Dhaka, before returning red-eyed to their computers the morning after. And so the days pass, with no workers union present.

Festival Feb 2nd

The gang that returned from the opening nights events on the fjord was a tired one, straight into exhibitions, openings, and lectures, a long day ahead of them. Frank and Morten turned up for dinner at the ambassadors with guests from all around the world. Lovely to sit and take part in calm conversations, each table to their own.

The car has gotten its little icon back again, and this time i’ll make sure I get it back “home” to Yeva Maria, the little girl in St. Petersburg whose name I had forgotten last time I commented on her.

Frank and I found a good barbers and treated ourselves to some quiet moments with all they had to offer, the whole ritual costing only 30 kroner, then off to lunch for some shopping in the next door shop before heading towards the interviews back at headquarters.

Its not only the locals who want a piece of this machine of mine which has travelled halfway around the world to get here, from a place they dont dont where is, if not for maps and their interpretation of them. The media guys in the picture were slightly provoked that Google hadn’t written Bangladesh where it lay on the map, while Nepal was mentioned. They gesticulated and argued the point and finally the head shaking cameraman left the scene when the job was done, I had only commented on the 55 days and the 155000 kilometres. People are rushing to exhibitions, and I’m eating deserts, I am not a guy to be kept motionless, mostly between two rooms, and this hollow stomach of mine is looking forward to the next meal in a short while.

Everday life Feb 6th

It may seem that my days consist of enjoying the plaesures of barber shops, but thats not the case, although a little bodily love and attention each third or fourth day is really satisfying. Equally satisfying is to turn up and ask for “the usual” and se the price dropping each time. According to a web converter a full treatment costs 300taka, approx 30 norwegian kroners, but if we choose a somewhat rougher place with the same visual result it costs about 60 taka-6 kroners.

In the course of a week this gang removed this building with these sledge hammers and carried it away on their heads.

Theres been birthday celebrations too with cakes and song. Frank held a successful presentation and showed the film My daughter the terrorist to a filled Gothe Institute witjh open mike and taking questions.

My pictures are now digitally mastered and I have created a form of expression which is in production as I write. It’s quite exciting to see the pictures in full exhibition size; all the handwritten pages with lyrics are scanned and will be used as “captions” with translations to English and Bangla. I notice, especially after all the waiting, that my own feelings about my exhibition are on hold, but I do believe it will be fine. The people of Kolkata wish to take the pictures there for exhibition also. It’s quite a transformation for me, from not previously showing my work publicly, to exhibiting in such large towns… I make myself scarce just after the opening, that’ll be fine too. Four of my pieces are also presented together with other artists work in a mobile exhibition around Dhaka. A fantastic idea, should be used other places too.. Pictures are mounted onto framed bicycles and driven around town to places that wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to experience them. Good visual installations. My Bangladese visa expires in a week, so its time to organise a visa for Iran before I begin the return trip. All the papers and pictures, with an explanation from Shahidul on why I have been here, enveloped for sending. I don’t completely understand why all this is necessary, but I guess it’s a part of the ethics in these environments. Aqquiring a guide on the CNG, or Tuk-Tuk as it was known, before converting to gas, we found the Iranian embassy, paraded past all the queues and waiting rooms, and headed straight for the guy I think was the main man himself. These sorts of moves do create some mixed feelings among others, but alas, I allow it to happen- the spirit of Imperialism being in the best of health, and me being apparently a part of it. Not that he could help me very much with my visa though… All the papers must be sent to Theran with a 10-15 day processing time. I have to be out of the country by that time…”but I think”, he said that you can get a transit visa on the border.. “you Think?” I ask..- so after a pleasant conversation about allsorts of rarities he confirmed that I could get a 7-9 day transit visa on the border, and so I choose to believe him.

Everydaylife Feb 9th

Frank has returned home and the remaining people are standing on their heads to complete part two of the festival. I far as I know my pictures are at the framers and people are sitting discussing captions, A4 sheets with the words of the people I have portrayed, translated to English and Bangla. There is also a vertically suspended banner showing the words of those contributing..

l I have printed out some of the pictures from the barbers and Frank has delivered them. Hasib will be along shortly with two baggage cases he has had manufactured at the metal shop. In that way I can take home stuff that others have left behind in fear of overweight aircraft baggage. Baskets, drums, clothes, and workshop material. Some is mine too, presents and the like. Some people will be getting a thing or two but that doesn’t include Avlat as somebody has once implied.

The car is parked outside here and is truly an eye-opener for pedestrians and other traffic. There is a constant traffic jam here and people realise that there is a photo-festival occurring. Two young ladies approached me today, the first to take initiative to converse with the long white man, wondering about this and that. It ended with them sitting almost a whole hour leafing through my book of words and pictures, for me a nice experience. A feeling of ending is in the air though. Most of the international stars, Frank included, have returned home and now and then a new face has turned up, we don’t have the same tempo as last week. I notice I have already begun to turn Nothwards and West, mentally. The moon is full, the third I have seen on this trip, as Friday the thirteenth arrives outside town, but lots will happen before this.

Here is the house of Parliament.

I had a plan.. Feb 12.

On the 9 of February I wrote,”but lots will happen before this”, today is the 12th and surely, lots has happened. If only I could remember most of it.

I had bought some rolls of toilet paper on the 9th and guess what…Home for dinner with my roommates, or rather, the people living here. The invitation was theirs so I couldn’t refuse, it was late evening too. My pictures were printed and sent to the framer. I had sat working with the layout for 2 banners, bought toilet paper and watched the others working on captions. A grand day, and I was looking forward to seeing it all completed.

I’m writing in past tense right now, and something is about to happen.. I have to mention first that I’d had a visit from the box-maker; he had measured my roof-rack, and has custom-made two baggage cases for me, one outside and one for inside.

The car has gradually increased in volume. To avoid extra weight at the airport, or use the space for something else, and fuelled by thoughts that some parts of the baggage aren’t needed until springtime etc, I have said yes to taking their extra stuff home with me, those choosing the short way home.

So, here are some pictures from the job, first out on the street for some evening adjustments, and then mounting them outside Drik, the festival headquarters. The boxes were great, but it cost a little energy to mount them, the tent had to be replaced further back for example. Anyway both are now mounted and secured and the plan is to head off early tomorrow morning.

And so for dinner, a good dinner, and I wake the next morning, the day the pictures are to be hung and I am to accompany them at the opening. Morning wash and a quick toilet visit…, and there I sat,- the energy and everything else ran out of me. After a while I gathered myself and made my way to Drik and on to the gallery, the name of which I can’t pronounce, but sounds Samisk (shippagurra?)

An hour one way in a CNG, the small green three wheelers. When I arrived, one wall had been hung and I had just slipped in the door when these great contractions took hold of me again and I barely manage the 1 hour trip in the CNG back to my bed and the bathroom I was soon to be so well aqquainted with. The telephone was hopping.. where are you? And why?? After a while I didn’t bother answering anymore, but registered that one number had rang 5-6 times. I won’t mention much about my thoughts in the following hours, but fever, a heavy head and zero energy does also produce a certain creativity, not much that can be repeated, as black as the scene gradually became.

During the evening, both the telephone and my body have calmed a little (Imodium works). The doorbell rang, and in poured a TV team complete with camera and reporter. I have meant to document some words about freedom, and also how my viewpoint on freedom has changed in meeting all these people. The reporter was the one repeatedly calling on the phone. He had a fire in him I’ll say that, and presently, I landed down on the street with Shahidul Alam, the man who had of course been behind the whole thing, and rigged up for an interview there and then.

A report from the exhibition was shown on the evening news, and one main person, an ex minister insisting on being interviewed beside my pictures, and all the telephone were a waste of time. It is the same reporter who came to visit me. It is Reza at Drik who has taken the pictures from the exhibition, and Hasib from Patshala was behind the camera at the box-makers job. A great thank you to both of them, and if the body allows, I will be away out of Dhaka tomorrow morning, without getting to see the exhibition.

Not as planned feb. 13

Last night they showed a film with the governor of California in the main role

……  I shall return

Onwards …Feb 16

The minarets sing the day to life… Its Friday -the thirteenth- my visa expires tomorrow and I still feel it in the stomach. Drinking water and eating a banana before making my decision. I throw down another Imodium and let it off.

The car is packed and the bag is in its regular seat behind me. I stop by the Drik offices checking to see who’s there. My cooler bag is at the office so I leave Dhaka with lukewarm water in my bottle, it won’t get any cooler either as the office door was locked. A rickshaw turned up in the traffic at the last minute carrying an acquainted face. Of all the people I know it was Shahidul Alam who got the last glimpse of me on the way out of town. I just managed to raise the camera, a quick handshake, – see you later buddy.

Dhaka suffers with its pollution in Wintertime as it is then that all the brick factories fire up their ovens to produce the bricks needed for further city development. Some of these bricks get crushed and used as gravel and filling-stone. They have sand here, clay too, but no stone. They consequently remove all the stones from the river, giving for bad river cleansing, heavily polluted on its way from Himalaya and out into the nearby ocean. Still they wash and drink and cough as healthily as ever. According to my friend Hisab, a fuel transporter along the river, they power-down the factories when Summer comes, making Dhaka one of the least polluted towns in the area.

Closer to the Indian border I see that the area is a lot greener than it was when I came through from the North, Spring is in the air, giving a clear green colour in the outer branches and on the fields. There are more people out there too, on the fields I mean. The quantity of road pedestrians is the same, and as before you don’t drive more than 1 metre before meeting somebody. This is how it is all the way to the border

I had to stop at a village I had earlier slept at to say hi to Teto and Metu. Teto was portrayed and is on exhibition in Dhaka, Metu is now a part of the project. I photographed him on my way North and he showed me around the bazaar. He showed me the picture of him I had taken, laminated and carried around in his breast pocket with a passport photo I had also given him. “Brothers”, he said and pointed to the laminated pictures.

They wanted to show me the river and for the first time in ages it was quiet. Some fisherman came wandering with the catch of the day in bags as the birds sang the sun down. No cars beeping their horns. I almost cried. This had obviously been closer to heart than I had recognised, silence. The border crossing went like a dream again. No questions about Bakshish this time, but one gentleman who wanted to see everything I had in the car before signing me through. He was 1m.40 tall, so I began with the box on the roof and invited him up onto the bonnet to look. I got the feeling that the journey up and down from the bonnet posed a certain problem for his uniform, which again represents his status, especially with the audience we had, …we left (as usual). The rest of the formalities went like a dream. He stamped me out of the country with no further questions, neither did he fill out his side of the form, just the stamp and “Finish, go….” Small men in uniforms I smile, and that goes for all of them.. Now for Kolkata and Drik India. I think it will take a few days for me to get back online, and am looking forward to riding home on this years spring, it is here it starts? It is February, and it gets green in the North in April. But first some orienteering on my exhibition in Kolkata. I went to see the rooms, a deserted bank building, not decorated yet here, maybe they’ll hold it out on the street? Looks like I won’t see this exhibition either?

I’m on the road to Delhi..tomorrow.

on the road 19th of February

I am here, a mile away from my Mac (lap top) and found this Cyber Cafe. I`ll see if I can find this place again before leaving in the morning. About one hour north of Dehli, India, and feeling not too bad..  Holding my food, and just got a shave and a hair cut. Now I need a job…

Best before: see date below… – 22nd of February

A few days and kilometres have passed since Kolkata, and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Delhi, the capital of this country, or should I say this continent, with its one thousand three hundred million people, or 1.3 billion of them. I don’t know how big Delhi is but it took me a short hour to cross it.
I had at first thought of writing about the Kolkata exhibition not going so well, a somewhat un-decisive administration didn’t get it together and as I understood it I just had to keep moving. Suvendu followed me out of town, once again, and put me on track for Varansi on the road titled GT-Road 2, or the Delhi road. GT means Great Trunk and I have met this road before some years ago east of Dhaka in Bangladesh. This is the big old road which once connected the empire together in the old days, and is constantly being improved. The final stretch is from Delhi to Amritsar and on to Waga Border, it is now a four lane road where the Indians can gallop in both directions on all four lanes- all at once.

I had hoped to add a little piece of Bangla memorabilia to the car, and this occurred one day. Not a lot, just a little, and here is the guy behind it all, sighting in, suggesting, tassels and tigers, peacocks and swastika’s. I followed the signs to Varansi for around 600 km, before the signs to Agra took over. Nice names, with good stories to boot. I crossed the Ganges again knowing that Varansi lay along the banks of this Holy river. They had forgotten to signpost the exit, something I realised late and far into the countryside again. Amazingly there were many well signposted technical colleges though. So, Agra next, but a town named something like Allahlabad first, where the country’s High Court lies. This is theonly place where I’ve seen white shirts with ready starched collars being sold on the streets. Perhaps the lawyers need a clean shirt for each meeting? – a conservative and strange country it is.(I don’t actually know much about this country so take my words with a pinch of salt)

But before I found the starched collars I had gotten lost. That means I had given up at the entrance to a traffic jammed roundabout. I lined up in the centre, rolled down the window and waited for my guardian angel to rescue me. It didn’t take long before a truck driver shouted questioningly to, me, and I shouted back- Delhi Road?. He pointed straight ahead then right then something resembling “follow me”.. He in front and I behind, over the Ganges again on a bridge, if not as beautiful as Helgelands bro, built with the same principles and form. There was a toll bridge at the other end, a normal sight at larger road works. The truck driver slowed down and explained once again, straight ahead, then right.. before disappearing through the tollbridge ahead. I was about to pay and asked again with the same words..Delhi Road?? The man at the boom sank it again, shook his head and asked me to turn around again and ask for the road by the big roundabout across the river. This is like playing Monopoly, go back to start and take a break before you throw the dice again… I got through it-found GT road, and the rest of that trip was boiling hot. Some people didn’t know what Delhi was (when I pronounced it)… The truck driver was out to trick me, something I was warned about earlier “ask 3 times , if you get two similar answers, that’s probably the right one”.. At Agra I saw a a huge white palace, a war between Pepsi and Cola, a huge oil refinery and a Mac Donalds. Any link here? The town lay on the edge of a great downhill slope, I had climbed for a day and it was incredible how fresh the new green vegetation was on top. Down on the plains was the same all year green that still dominated.

I like sitting in the car imagining that I am taking springtime with me, like when i sometimes drive from east to west at home and bring the good weather with me all the way. A car full of sunshine, and the early buds of spring. This is gathered nicely by Tom Waits with his- “You can never hold back Spring”, google it. New Delhi was over in a flash through rushhour with steady flow, and I was on the road to Amritsar on GT road-1. Spent one night outside town, had a barber who almost put me to sleep in his chair, and internet access, although they closed so early that I just managed to show some people that I existed on my blog.

I belted up next day, and had thought of making the border before they closed at 4. Then i had planned on settling a little on the Pakistani side to wash clothes and stock up. Need a rest now. The manager of the hotel is a nice guy and i was looking forward to spending time with him. Two birds with one stone i thought.. as i came upon a closed motorway and traffic jam, about 100 km from Armitsar. The problem was solve 2 hours later in 36 degrees in side the car, all hope of reaching the border in time was lost. 6 trucks had crased in a huge pile up, blocking all 4 lanes.

A little later i was stopped by a radar control, 82 km/hr they said.. I laughed saying that this Bangla car hadn’t been over 70 in the last 3 months, got away with that, but the man behind was not so lucky.

Each time i stopped for food there was a huge discussion with all sorts of explanations from all sorts of people. This is Punjab.

I thought i’d tell you all about the experience at the border, while waiting for it to open next morning at precisely 10 o clock. Her i had my first encounter with a potatoe burger, good veggie food.

There weren’t many white people in the area towards nightfall, but i did notice one lady, wandering from tea shop to tea shop, getting free cups as they closed for the day. She was dressed in a suit with a tunic, a strange garment on her head, and training shoes. Some of you may remember the lawyer Hermansen in Oslo during the 80’s, looked a bit like him, in a female body, and by what i could see she wass completely crazy. She had papers from The National Living Treasure of Nepal, with diplomatic immunity , picture and all. Maybe we have some of those in Oslo, whom we could take better care of, and who could get some sort of diplomatic immunity. I remember a few from the 80’s. Next morning i saw her in a big discussion with the guards and other authorities. I walked quietly past, as i had stood at the border precisely 10 o clock, filled out my forms and h’d gotten my papers back with the message that my visa for Pakistan had expired, my heart sank..and that i had to go to Delhi for an extension, sank a bit more… I asked if i could speak to the guards on the Pakistani side..-Yessir we can accomodate your request,- The long road to the border and stopping and waiting 10 metres from the line. I had been photographed here earlier with the guads, too long ago. My helper returned from speaking with the guards, shaking his head the last 10 metres..not possible..sink a little more. It was there on my way back to the car that i passed the gesticulating Mrs Hermansen, i had nothing to say.

I decided pretty quickly that i wouldn’t do the drive to Delhi myself, and an hour later had stored the car in a safe place, found a taxi and was on my way to Amritsar at full speed, an hour later was on the bus on the southbound GT-1, and 11 hours later i checked into the hotel where i am now writing from. Its Monday tomorrow so I’m off to the Pakistani embassy and then back on the bus again. Its about the length of an Oslo Trondheim trip. Sting is singing “Be still my beating Heart”

effective..

To say that today was a successful day would be an over-statement, whereas I did get something done, so, not a total loss. My guy with the motorised rickshaw turned up at 9 and has been with me all day. First to the embassy (the Pakistani one), they kindly gave me 3 forms. One to be paid at the bank with a receipt for paid amount, the other to be filled out by a man at an office across the street, and the third to be filled out at another desk where a man had a stapler; he could accurately place the passport picture in the correct place.
The man also said that I needed a letter of recommendation from the Norwegian Embassy and then go to hatch nr. 4.
My guy the driver found the way to the Embassy (the Norwegian one); there I got the message to come back before 4 o’clock as the official was very busy. I had checked out of the hotel and my driver, now my friend, knew another guy with a cheaper hotel. Ok, we go there. The windows opened to the stairs and nowhere else, I think it was one of the clammiest places I’ve been since the Banja (Russian sauna) in Sestroy last October. Either way I had no passport as it was at the embassy so got out of that situation without insulting anybody.

Back to the hotel and some street food, a hours nap and back out on the street, towards the Embassy, the Norwegian one. The papers were not finished and it makes me wonder how natural it is for me to end up with communication problems with the locals when I can’t even get my point across to a guy from the West of Norway on the other side of the glass. I think the fact that I’m driving a car from Norway to Dhaka eradicates all reference points for others to relate to, and strange things un-avoidably occur. BUT, by four o’clock I walked out of the office with the letter in hand, both for the embassy (the Iranian), and for the embassy (the Pakistani one), and we’ll see early tomorrow how tomorrow goes.

The batteries in my camera have passed away, so there are not many pictures of here but here is my room, and my bed with a meal on it. My friend the driver noticed that my mood wasn’t at best, so he suggested some tourism, India Street was the first stop, the parliament the second and the third was my hotel room and 4 juicy oranges.
I wonder why I am not the kind of guy to appreciate such buildings, or other tourist attractions.. Never have been, and I have no wish to study them in the future either. On the other hand the beautiful roadside villages enthral me and I could sit for hours, just taking it all in. Not just India, but anywhere I’ve ever been.
And so the day passed, my friend the driver promised to turn up at 08.00 in the morning to drive me to the Embassy…the Pakistani one.

Application delivered feb 24 2009

I awake yet again to the morning Minaret song. It’s a long verse this morning and I have to say it’s not such a bad way to greet a day. The barking of dogs, and pigeons cooing on the window ledge. My stomach was behaving as it used to in the old days in light of a trip to the dentist. Restless, and tense. I didn’t manage to sort out my thoughts either and was compelled to do an exercise of mine to hold balance and flow en route to the embassy, the Pakistani one. My saviour and driver, who presently acquired the title of “friend” turned up on time as agreed and drove me there.

Allow me to present this man. His name is Hanjeet Singh. He lives in a couple of weight groups above me but is roomy in many ways than one. He has a wife, says he has two sons and lives 15 kilometres from where I live. I sometimes notice that he observes me in the mirror when the traffic allows it, and delivers short comments on our surroundings. It also seems that he works to avoid driving the same route twice. In this way I get a guided tour which I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. The conversation goes something like this:
-T:Park? -H: Army area. -T: Big. -H: Very big… A bit later-H: Subbidubbi Temple.. -T: ok, big temple..-H: Yes, very big God. Then we smile, thinking that the military park was big enough to room a war, and that perhaps that’s an idea?, that one imposed the old rituals from the “primitives” who fought out their differences in an arena, where one representative from each tribe was chosen to fight. And all such battles were administered. The temples were big, like the churches of the West, so that we as people should feel that we were small. I suppose also that it was the boys deciding this. I wonder how many women in world history have started wars or built temples. I must say though that there are many smaller temples of worship also, easier to relate to on a personal level. Hanjeet drove me around Delhi, hunting for a battery charger for my little canon, and in this way I am guided through Delhi, and given a more wholesome visit.

No charger was to be found, but I got to see some markets and the old Delhi railway station, and a load of temples and some buildings which I didn’t quite understand.-and what of my passport? Goes without saying, I thought. It was delivered and can only be collected tomorrow morning, and my friend who says his nickname is Vicky (I cant force myself to call him that) will collect me and together we’ll find a bus that can take me to Amritsar. This was the last photo I took and I don’t think there are many internet sites to be found before I am well into Pakistan, so there’ll be a short break from here, and if I’m lucky I can charge my camera in the meantime.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 1:21 pm.

Trivial exercise…

When I see myself in the mirror I question if vegetarian diet is good for everybody. It tastes good, that’s not a problem, it fills you up too, but for this body it seems like that’s all it does. Tastes good and fills. At the start of the 80’s, Mario who is now on Tonsberg market was in Oslo, and sold me a belt. This belt is a witness to good times and bad times, in many ways. It is a very long time since the belt holes I am now frequenting were used. I have heard there are green plants containing protein, but I don’t have this knowledge and am afraid that the energy spent on trying to find it would defeat the cause. So I’m throwing in fried rice with vegetables with butter Nan-bread and washing it down with water.

Luckily bananas and oranges are in abundance. If I buy bananas I get 4 for 10 rupees, while my Nepalese friend working at the hotel always gets 5. I was out to but some stuff today and my friend decided what to get and the price was 250 rupees. The Nepalese guy growled and I paid 150. Then I found a little thing for 150.. threw some dirty looks and sharp words and paid 80. I have a feeling that’s how it is for a lot of things here. Its not so important either but I see I could have bought more souvenirs or something, but I don’t need it. I learned from our guy in Morocco that one should decide themselves what the right price is and see what the peddler has to say about it. Meetings normally occur somewhere in between. The prices down here are so low that its hard to imagine something being cheaper before we even begin to talk, so I pay what they ask for, they are happy , I’m happy, and sometimes the seller gets the souvenir feeling of having tricked a strange foreigner.
This article is titled practice, and now I may have forgotten what I was going to say, as I didn’t get right down to it and explain that I am still in Delhi, waiting for a visa to Pakistan. I have calculated that I have spent approximately 25 minutes of the last four days in action at the embassy, the Pakistani one, to sort this out, and a little hour in the embassy, the Norwegian one, to get a letter to accompany my application to the embassy, the Pakistani one…. The rest has been an exercise in patience, to fill the time and the head with something constructive and remember that it’s a good thing I don’t have permanent company in all this. It’s my fault alone for not realising the visa was expiring.

Right now I am greatest critic, while trying to be my best accomplice. All this is just trivial detail, like a child’s hand is, life, love, and death, trivialities…isn’t that right Olav? The man at the interview at the embassy, the Pakistani one, laughed when I told him I was alone in the car and told me I did not need 30 days to cross his country. True enough I answered, but it’s nice to be able to stop now and then to catch the nice stuff. I’ll give you 3 weeks OK? he said, and you can pick it up here, tomorrow morning 10.00. So from now till a few days in the future, no news is good news. I’m off.

Onwards once again …Mar 4 2009

Hanjeet Singh, my friend and driver, collected me early in the morning as he has done each morning on the way to the embassy..the Pakistani one. An hour later and we were at the station for Northern busses where he helped me onto the correct platform and said I could call him anytime I was in town and needed a driver. He had driven around these streets for the past 30 years and would gladly show me more of them. We hugged our goodbyes and I found a good seat towards the front of the bus with English speaking people. They told that about 200 million people lived in Delhi, and each town we drove passed had more inhabitants than Norway itself. Three busses and a rickshaw later and I found myself booked in to a hostel connected to “The Golden Temple”, India’s biggest attraction. The place was crawling with people, although it was past midnight, and the temple which sat on an artificial island was made of gold, explaining the glimmer. They go out there each morning before dawn to read the great book all day and return after sunset. They sit around, behind windows and read; the book is large but can be read in 48 hours they say. People outside bow repeatedly, kissing the window frames. There was free food inside the walls. Barefooted and with my head covered I received a little tour of the area, with a little guiding by two nice men selling Gillette shaving cream and Head n’ Shoulders. Finally at 01.30 I dived into a bed, to then be later awoken by the carrying of the book before dawn. The Muslim minarets are nothing compared to the orchestra the Sikh’s can produce.

I then checked out of India again and into Pakistan, meeting an adventurous Englishman in a custom built German military vehicle with a large engine. He has been on the road for 18 months and his wife and children have just flown home leaving him to drive the “car” back. He is up and down with dysentery, and I’m waiting for my visa to Iran, so, it fits that we spend some road time together. I have to mention that I have not been travelling in the right direction for more than 1 kilometre since Feb 21st and its the 2nd of March today…the plan is to do the 4 day drive to Quetta to pick up my visa. Some wanderers stop here, by the Waga border, more than I thought, and I’ve been lucky enough to get a Polish man, a Brit, a Spanish man and an Italian into the project. Just before Delhi I also got an Indian woman in…I’m considering myself very lucky.

As is typical for Pakistan, the mobile network is jammed, by both sides of the border, as if it isn’t difficult enough already. But here there are other things to catch the eye, glitter and thing’s hanging from every hook, and lots lots more, and here again I see Springtime advancing upon me.

Here I stand a while and watch, and think.. I’m observing the world transform before my eyes. Earlier today the world felt quite small and right now it’s opening up piece by piece. A short summary: I met Sam, the Englishman, on the Pakistani border; we stopped at the same place and decided to wait together as we could get an Iranian visa the same day. Two days later we discovered that it took 5 days for a visa, but they could transfer it to Quetta. We agreed on a departure time of 05.30 next morning and I turned up as planned. The Brit however, hadn’t slept all night because of the dysentery he’s suffering with. He said I should carry on alone, but I’m thinking that while it’s working its working so I’ll wait, he needed 4 hours sleep and is still sleeping right now. We have patched him up with Imodium and all sorts but now its giving him hell big-time. At 10 o’clock local time, somebody shoots and kills 5 security people in Lahore , the closest town to here, killing also 4 civilians and injuring 5 Sri-Lankan cricket players, here to play against Pakistan. Cricket is a sensitive sport here in this corner of Asia, so the neighbouring town is now controlled by commando soldiers, and any passengers on busses are being transferred to Military vehicles before being transported into town. Sam is sleeping, I’m waiting. And the world is standing on its head. The small world… that is.

Another day passed, Sam ended up in hospital and came back with his body full of intravenous sugar water and some medicine supposed to kill off the stomach infection. He is a little more lucid now than when he left. The roof of my hotel has been transformed into a fort with sandbags and machine guns, and the boss has invited me to dinner and internet in Lahore. Still I wait, and maybe tomorrow will be my day for movement, and more room for Springtime.

No worries, it’ll be fine

Firstly, a picture from the restaurants of Lahore the evening before departure. The hotel owner invited me to dinner; there are more streets like this one. We carried on the next day, Sam the Brit and I. Guided through Lahore we rolled on southbound towards Multan. It didn’t take long to realise that this was not going to work. His vehicle couldn’t do any more than 60km/hr and I got tired of sitting behind him eating bananas. We agreed to meet further on down the road by a restaurant, in the next town-Multan. I ate alone and then carried on into the dusty sunset towards the river Indus. I won’t say it’s a normal thing to do but I often find myself sleeping at petrol stations. Bigger trucks stop here to do the same; they’re also open 24 hrs with security. I just as often take a picture of the workers there and give them a copy. I’m out of print in the printer so its black and white from here on in. As so often before, I ask “may I take a picture? They answered gladly, as often before, “oh yes!”, and someone or other thought to himself “may I take your camera?”, and did so. I must say it’s not so easy to be as photographically spontaneous with a large Nikon, as with a Canon G-10, that’s the second one gone.

I caught up with my friend Sam, the Brit, during the day and we exchanged hugs and best wishes and some info on the road ahead. I was going to Quetta to make the Iranian embassy next morning. He was to try and meet me on the road between Quetta and Dalbandin, towards Iran. I set off, and the last I heard from him was about some car trouble I Jacobabad. Since then telenor haven’t given me access to any network with either a Norwegian or Pakistani sim card. I hope he understands that I am here as we had discussed. I made the embassy and was pretty dusty around the ears as I stood there after 700 km and begging for a visa the same day. In Dhaka they had told me 7-14 days, but I could get a transit visa on the border. In Lahore I heard I could get it the same day, but it seemed it took 4-6 days, so I had to fill out the forms and imagined from 5-14 days stuck here in town. I did the best I could and got it down to 6 hours, while a friend behind me in the queue spoke both languages and got it down to 45 minutes. I’ll have a transit visa with picture in 7 days.

So, off again with police escort, they don’t exactly drive fast. One of them lay behind me and gave out to me later for driving away from them. I   haven’t asked for an escort and had decided to drive as I like and they can follow if they like. My friend Sam, the brit, drives faster than them. But it does give me time to follow the march of springtime through the desert. It’s about 400km from Quetta to Dalbandin, and I discovered enroute that the car wasn’t behaving the same as it normally does, and that I could have driven slowly with Sam. I managed 60 in third gear, 70 in fourth, and 80 in fifth. I had probably gotten served some bad petrol on the road and this was enough to stop all traffic, or rather all filters blocked at the same time. I have a suspicion that they didn’t check my fuel system at the Dhaka service. There’s been some terrain driving lately and the dust covering the road is so unbelievably -fine and heavy. Trucks get stuck at the bottom of the hills and can’t get up. They slide as if it was snow. This dust gets in everywhere, in the machine and otherwise in the car, and I have rarely felt as dirty as I do now. Water doesn’t help either, it’s in the pores.

I kept an even speed with these three gears and lost my escort again. I was stopped and written in many times in the mantal but nobody suggested escorting me anymore. Next night I slept at a petrol station and left the next morning believing I had 160 km to the rendezvous with Sam…the Brit.. I chose to drive through the town and noticed that I was at the same place I had crossed earlier from Iran and had met the guy who wanted my camera. So here I was, stayed at the same place and got those lovely baked loaves of bread from my friend the Afghani man. I’m lucky.

My engine trouble is being looked at.. All four filters to be found are cleaned in all possible ways, and the last filter which is of all places down in the diesel tank is being hunted for now. (You would think I had a French car), but first 70 litres of diesel must be removed, the tank taken down, and some feeding pump located. If this pump is broken they’ll find one from a Toyota Land Cruiser as Land Rover parts are hard to come by here. This is my contribution to child-labour..

The mechanics sort out the complicated things and the kids are taking things off , cleaning and other stuff., but they sit and watch as the more important stuff is being done, the Afghani mechanic is pointing and explaining, and they listen. It’ll be their turn soon and there are enough bad cars in the area. No schools. Its not so many generations since that‘s how it worked in my country either. The mechanic read my face, looked at me and said “don’t worry” so I went for a comforting shave with closed eyes.

I had imagined I would get this uploaded yesterday, but the owner’s computer is worse than my car. One guy working here will take me to a friend with a better set up, we’ll see. This day has been filled with all sorts of things which I haven’t quite sorted out yet. I have been wandering restlessly between the hotel and the garage and seen the calming calm of the mechanic. Even more uncomfortable feelings came when I discovered I hadn’t eaten, and was well hungry. Maybe there’s a word for this.  A type of travellers-wear-and-tear-something-syndrome? Arrogance, intolerance, impatience, pride, and other despicable terms have had their turn, and my trusty workers are at it faithfully and I am regularly apologising. I’m just as bad out on the street where people are shouting and laughing at me, I growl and bark back. Apparently I am not created for this type of attention, and it hasn’t gotten any better by using up my energy reserves.. I’ll probably get one on the nose soon…But with a cheer the car finally started and worked fine, both ticking over and at full revs. ……

The boys left the arena to the sound of the minarets in the evening sunset glow, and in cold contrast, an almost full moon is illuminating the stage. All is good and I am lucky. A new pump and some new filters are introduced and the bill delivered. Tomorrow morning it’s the beaurocracy of the bank to be tested. I promise to keep my temper under control.

This became a car trip, or rather a taxi trip, all the way to Quetta for the minibanks there. That’s also 300 km to the closest feeding pump of that sort.

But… Spring is here, and it all looks better now than it did yesterday.. I’ll sleep at a Muslim hotel tonight with my good friend and helper Jahangir Khan.

Onwards, always onwards..16 march

YEAH YEAH! I’m still her, and the creativity of these electricians and mechanic’s is brilliant! This pump couldn’t be fixed and the new one didn’t give enough fuel to hold the revs up. As new parts arrived the price increased from 500 to 750 when a new senior electrician came with another pump so now I have two, and a filter. The car sounds good after it finally started again. I’ll say these batteries are fantastic at retaining power. 

I’m trying to do the same, retain power – energy; I had a board meeting with myself last night and have managed to sharpen my wits. No more explosions towards these innocents on the street here. As if there not used to worse, most of them are refugees from their neighbouring country. Friendliness helps though I do agree. This morning I had my first warm shower in two months and took that as a good sign. Looking forward to catching up on my friend again, Sam, the Brit, who I think has passed me without me realising it. Maybe I can hold an even tempo through Iran. Its 2000 kilometres, I have 7 days. 7 days goes quickly and now its done. I didn’t use them all either, maybe I can have them for later? I don’t think so after new meetings with willing escorts and my own safety.

First, out of Dalbandin in the early morning. I got some warm bread from my Afghan baker friends and rolled towards an eternity of a desert. Certainly seems so sometimes. Only the sea has a similar visual horizon. It doesn’t take long to figure out that something is wrong, and this is confirmed throughout the day. I can’t get any speed up. Well yes 80 is a speed too but as soon as some headwind or a slight hill comes I have to go to 60 and third gear. Not the way I want it. I didn’t notice this thing with headwind for a few hours until on the first downhill without wind I was doing 100 in a flash. Thats how its been for 2800 km over the last days. I’ve been in the process of losing my mind sometimes, but thanks to this good toolbox I have with me I have gotten over it pretty well I think. It’s the car and not me that has M.E. The reason is that they have put on a fuel pump that is too small and with too small openings.

With no resistance of any sort we can manage it together quite well, but if I need to give it some extra gas everything blocks up and she loses speed and power. Besides this I have also found a mental key to the problem and will manage well the next ..Thousands of kilometres, and besides, its springtime in the desert too….

I met a Danish couple at the first town after the Iranian border, Gitte and Pelle, driving around in  Land Rover. This is their website:www.barskeberta.dk I had met them briefly when I was getting money at Quetta, and at all the checkpoints since I saw that they were written in just ahead of me in the books. At the last checkpoint in \Pakistan I saw that they were just 30 minutes ahead of me. I was stopped again though at the Iranian border. They wanted to escort me for my own safety as there are loads of terrorists out and about lately. An hour later and I had a chicken of a soldier in the car who only wanted to listen to music on his mobile phone. I refused. This is where the limits start to get stretched…They kept my passport, and guard number two told everybody in his phonebook what he was doing. Body guard for this Norveschi in a Land Rover Jeep. There was bad coverage too so he shouted away while I wanted peace and quiet. We drove around the town where he was to be relieved and I carried on to Bam where I wanted to go. He screamed at me and we ended up in a row. (it felt quite nice actually, to get all the frustration out with childish reactions) poor guy. I drove him to the police station and there was Barske Berta detained for several hours.

The last thing I heard and understood was that if it was the will of Allah the soldier would never see me again. So the two Land Rovers drove together in escort, and this wasn’t very pleasant either. The police wanted us to drive faster than we could, and towards the evening there were many verbal confrontations in many languages, and finally we got to sleep outside a police station. The next day we just drove off, and saw a quick glimpse as we neared a checkpoint near Bam,  policemen shouting ” Escort!” and running to their cars. We didn’t see them again.

That’s how it was at Kerman too. I lost the Danes at a crossing. We had tried to find a bigger diesel filter for my car and gave up. They disappeared behind me on the way out and I reckoned I’d see them again. We were going the same way and they had GPS., but it didn’t work out that way, and I didn’t see any more of  them. While waiting for Barske Berta at a truck stop I was explained how to avoid Tehran- a nice route that I had followed in Winter, with rolling hills.

But before that, I found a place in the highlands where I slept in the moonlight. Despite the traffic going all night it was a nice evening. I drove on the next morning towards Yazd where I had dropped off my Norwegian hiker Ane. A few kilometres later I drove past a man covered in blood by the roadside. I was stopping, but anxiety caught me and I rolled on. I’m trying not to think of what had happened there that night, and hope it was a traffic accident. An ambulance was on the way and passed me just after..

I made camp the next night by a pump house a few miles from Qom, Irans holiest town. These thoughts hit me again when 6 men on motorbikes turned up and circled my car a few times and parked. I got my camera out and took some pictures of them which they got to see, and hoped it sufficed as some kind of friendship pact. It’s strange how the head wants to make its own mind up sometimes but that’s how it is, even with hard work. My special toolbox helped me out again though.

Then I ate Nan bread dipped in honey, and banana rolled in Nan bread and some coffee from Frank. Java and Columbia for breakfast and life was bearable, although I was put to many a test during the day’s headwinds and uphill climbs. When the plains warm up, the air rises and cool air is blown down from the mountains, and this wasn’t easy for my little diesel filter. I found a motorway and my own lane to the right, the other two used the other lanes and that evening I crossed the border to Turkey and exchanged some money for a visa with guards who were simply ..Nice. 

This is the last I saw of Irans 2500 km, and from here to Istanbul is 1500 km. It’s minus 15 outside with 15cm snow. Two days ago it was 38 degrees in the car when I stopped in the evening, and 15 in the morning. Today I hit 20 in daytime and 7 this morning. I must admit that sandals and no socks was fresh enough on the border…I have pinched in the time difference to only two hours now, and yet there’s so much to tell. My goodness…. And I haven’t any more news from my friend Sam, the Brit…

A blues song never end March 17

Terje sang that the first time i heard it. The original is from Falsk/Mathisen and that never ends either.

I think I was a bit tired last night when I was editing the latest blog, but I stand by everything written, and more. This is Mac’ I’m using has begun to get the same sort of shakes as the car, and isn’t taking the orders as I am giving them, or think I am giving them. That’s my excuse for all the spelling mistakes on the Norwegian side of the site. (bad excuse right?) My daughter Tora is trying to help among all her own school work, she is better at double consonants than I.

So. The day ran in at 05.00 this morning and I couldn’t lie still any more. The clock was set forward 1.5 hrs last night so I feel pretty good. I could have written a whole blog about my shower yesterday too, among with a lot of other stuff… like when I came down to reception looking for my passport.  I had given it in the evening before and the receptionist couldn’t find it. A hefty scene developed rapidly, one that resembled a discussion I’d had with an escort guard in the last two countries. I sat down to check the Turkish weather and see how much the money was worth.

With a straight spine and big attitude I packed up, started the car, and was putting my things in place…left pocket…my passport.  I was about 3 foot tall when I walked back in to the reception. They took it well, saying “O’kay, no problem, don worry. So I left it be and rolled out of town into the fog and the frost. It was 7 degrees minus in the car. It spluttered a little and I blamed it on the frost. She hasn’t been in this kind of weather since the operations

The next big town, and a petrol station that takes my credit card. Euro diesel and fill her up thanks. Finally away from the Iran-diesel. Got some sweets and the frost was biting the cheek as I rolled out. 2.5 kilometres (two and a half kilometres later) the engine broke down…I just managed to roll it off the road so as not to block it….literally no go. Wouldn’t start again either. Water in the diesel? Water in the diesel filter from Pakistan which is frozen in addition?, Bad diesel from the station?, Water in the tank from all the bad refills?, There are almost no limits for how many options I thought of in those few minutes. I wander around the car in the fog, cars booming past, nobody stopping.

Then I see that the inside of the back wheel is shiny, as if something has been rubbing off it. I lay down and see that some rubber from a suspension has loosened and is lying against the tyre. So… I see, on a closer look, that the whole suspension rod is cracked and the clear view I have of the broken joint on top is because nothing is where it is supposed to be… I get a bit dizzy under the car and realise why the car has been dancing around so much each time I hit a hole lately.

After a chocolate muffin and some juice, followed by a banana and some rooting around in the toolbox of mine I mentioned earlier, I get down to business. I jack the car up and get the spring into place. Stop a taxi and demand the best mechanic in the area. Full speed, and after that the whole thing rocks and rolls.

The truck mechanics know everything about diesel and springs, but not much of English or Norwegian, they throw themselves at the job, fill their toolboxes and its out to the car, take off the filter, check the oil and look at the spring. No problem, don’t worry…hmmm heard that before, but not long after, the water was emptied from the diesel filter and dried over something they burned and the car started on the first go. My new helper wanted to drive so I became a passenger. That’s a long time ago, in my own car. So…chai, and a sort of soup, fresh bread, tank taken off and fuel quality checked.

OK, don’t worry, and the suspension was repaired and mounted again. 150 kroners for the whole job, plus a scarf, pair of gloves and food. The taxi driver wanted 280 for the return trip and the mechanics were embarrassed for the whole of Turkey at this.

So.. the group picture and the “don’t worry” once again…The car is starting and going just as it had done in Iran but I have managed to calm into this and try to find a route through Turkey with least mountain passes. I have to go all the way down to second gear when climbing over two thousand metres. The hills here are long and steep.

But downhill, my goodness!, it moves, I land straight into Easter mountains and sunsets. Holding course towards the west, but tomorrow brings more minus degrees, and a blues may never end…?


Early blossoms.. 18 March

I saw a wagtail wagging its tail yesterday, a flock of starlings, a group of Lapwings and a maze of blooming fruit trees. Today I saw a Stork nested at the top of a pole, and even more blossoming fruit trees. I saw people cleaning up in their gardens, clipping branches from their trees, raking their fields and spreading fertiliser. I also sat on a stone by a pine tree today watching my coffee prepare itself for drinking. Thank You Frank, for the best of goods.

But, first of all I awoke to a breakfast invitation by the boys inn the canteen. They must be called canteens, the restaurants and petrol stations I have been sleeping at. The Turks have a sense for greatness, and by that I mean huge rooms with lots of tables and hardly any people. The food was good, the tea also, and the markets had the rarest of things. The car stood waiting in the cold outside. Minus 3 today, not 7 or 14 like the last day, but still cold enough to freeze the water, and there is still water in my fuel system.  I was wondering how starting it up would go. It didn’t start on the first go so I let it spin a while and slowly it started to kick. I rolled over to the pumps and filled up. Fatalistic yes but I repeated the procedure from the other day, Euro diesel thanks.

Calmly out onto the road like last time and after 2.5 km I calmed down and thought “this’ll be ok”. I chose another way than the main road to Ankara and went further north where I knew there were fewer mountain passes. I was up at 2ooom at least twice. This machine and I manage quite well together, but not that I can choose to sleep out in the woods somewhere. I need access to a road and mechanics. There is snow here too, as there should be, as in Norway. It’s in March here while in Norway it’s normally an April offering.

I had a chicken kebab as the only guest at a cafe where the chef stood out in the snow and grilled meat and tomatoes, just for me, before going back to fixing his motorbike again.I have driven past places I’ve been before. In 2005 I tried a trip to the East, but turned back as the body didn’t want to go as far as the head, so I remember some places.

This has been the best driving day as long as I can remember and maybe I’ll get to Europe tomorrow. Its strange how most things are in the mind, and how it can be adjusted, or adjusts itself, as the abnormal becomes normal- as it is now for example, and nothing you can do about it Tom so sit here and drive, no looking at the speedometer or the clock or how close is it to the closest town, drive on…Stop making goals for how long or how far you want to get, and one day you’ll be where you thought you would. Simple eh? Course not, but this is how it’s been after the last few days behind the wheel. This toolbox I got from Geoff (see the link Good Helpers) it works and I use it every day.

Its still cold outside and maybe frost  tonight, and I can’t say I feel comfortable with the vehicle, but am sure I’ll handle the problem if it arrives. We”ll see tomorrow morning.

Once again… 23rd of March

The car, that’s what its all about lately, it started like a bomb the next morning and pretty soon after I was on the road to Istanbul. The same route was to take me to Nic in Serbia via Sofia, I had thought. It was raining, and I suddenly noticed a warning lamp in the dashboard, Shit!  It’s hard to explain the feeling, in the whole body, especially the stomach region…25km to the nearest stop. That’s the problem with motorways, they’re like deserts with oasis’s spread throughout and you can’t do anything until you’re in one. A 25km warning lamp is not good for either the body or the soul. When I finally got off the motorway I found that it was the warning about water in the diesel that had decided to show itself. I thought that would have been already accounted for as it came on 4000 km late. Electronics is great stuff. I thought I might as well have breakfast and didn’t worry any more about the lamp which eventually decided to give up warning me about water in diesel.

A rainy Istanbul, and I crossed the Bosporos bridge which divides Asia from Europe along with a thousand other cars, a little past 9 in the morning. There was the same amount of traffic on the plains towards the border to Europe and Bulgaria. No hassle at the border and I had A nice ride about 100 km from Sofia where “the gasoline girls” Vania and Petra let me sleep at their petrol station with a tank to be filled next morning.. Sofia didn’t show herself, the by-road was too far away.

This country has good roads and an incredible amount of advertisements. Huge signs, showing all sorts of useful things for sale, technical things, sewing machines, washing machines, cranes, textiles, and other luxurious stuff, all shown to us on thinly clad ladies. H&M don’t have a chance against this. I saw the first of many crosses along the road outside Sofia, as it was on the way down, in the more Northern countries. A step apart from the normal advertisements.

Food for thought: Once upon a time my Father and I were working together on the roof of our house, the house my family and I were to live in. We had taken down the old roof and put up the new one. We had been working for hours and had a nice rhythm, the roof expanding before Us, he above and I below, or was it the other way around? I don’t remember, but remember him suddenly mumbling something. Whats up? I asked…”nothing” he said. “Come on” I said, what’s up? …. And he said, “Things have been going so well now that something is definitely wrong!”. That’s pretty much how this trip has been.

And so I’m out of Europe again and into Serbia. I hadn’t really intended to take this route but a look at Turkey on the map told me to choose this way. And here I am sitting in the car, 6 km into the Serbian side; in a garage where the wife is fussing around in slippers and serving Turkish coffee while the husband is going over the car, changing stuff and guess what? The diesel filter, water in the diesel, a pump (from Pakistan) that doesn’t work, and the same thing all over again.  We have winched and towed and pushed and pulled, in and out of the garage to test it, he speaks a few words of German, and I don’t know what to say about myself. I’m sitting here anyway… and his wife is outside making sounds. Beograd is over 300km away. That was one day in Serbia, and so for day two.

Maybe I shouldn’t write before a day or two has passed but there’s nothing else to do here than wait. Ståle, the man himself is cleaning up after yesterday; and the wife, Gina, is making coffee over and over again. Springtime didn’t come any further than Bulgaria and the farmer tried unsuccessfully to burn some rubbish yesterday. He did manage to plough a can of tuborg and a plastic bottle into the ground. The fruit trees aren’t flowering but the birds are singing. 5 cm of snow fell tonight and I am to get Christmas feeling this year too. Across the street a house is flashing light.

Last night Øyvind from Carservice in Tonsberg found the name and number to a Land Rover dealer in Sofia, Bulgaria. They work on Saturdays here and had a diesel pump. A friend of Mister Ståle is going tomorrow to pick it up. Thank you Øyvind , my good helper. I don’t know how a man like him could lose his job. Maybe the car market in Norway is under pressure but there’ll be older machines in need of repair and good craftsmanship, so my suggestion is, get the salesmen out and let the boys who know the cars keep their jobs. I’m cheering for Øyvind and all his knowledge. Here in Serbia they take Saturdays off and luckily the pump wasn’t in Beograd, 300 km away. In that case I’d have been here till at least Tuesday. Five days wait?… Been there. Delhi and the visa, Waga border and the visa there, Dalbandin and the diesel pump, oh yes, it was taken out yesterday, and we found out that the tank was full of sand in addition to all the water in there. Mister Ståle is shaking his head and mumbling.. “Slecht”…bad.

So, now the whole tank is washed and shining and the maestro is preparing for the new heart transplant. I’m very glad that some places work on Saturdays as in Bulgaria, as at Maestro Ståle’s workshop in Dimitrovgrad, Serbia.   It’s a good thing that his friend was going to Sofia today, we have been to empty a minibank and exchangred into Euro’s, Bulgaria is in the EU, but not Serbia. We’ve been to the bakery and ate Bolat and drank yoghurt (sour milk), so now we wait. The friend returned with an original diesel pump and filter, everything is replaced, but still the fuel wont go where it should, to the engine that is. To this, the maestro says that the Pakistanis have mounted the pipes in the wrong directions. It’s strange how the mechanics of the world laugh at other mechanics’ work. “Bad stuff” they say, smiling, it really is like a never-ending marathon. Hopefully it will be Norways turn next, to smile at Serbia’s workmanship. I don’t want any more problems between here and there. Th maestro’s son is 30 today so I have asked him to go to his birthday party and not to spend the evening at this, finish up tomorrow instead. Then I can roll northwards.  It’s nice to see on the map that the road will soon be pointing North instead of west, a while anyway. It’s now the third day and I’m still here. I’m sleeping in the car inside the garage, as the trucks thunder past from Turkey to Bulgaria on the way to Europe. Not so much to do. I can’t speak Serbian, and between us we don’t have enough German or English to discuss the problem. I choose not to say anything rather than get involved in bad communication, but I feel my blood starting to boil…

The chat revolves around four hoses coming from a diesel pump, via a filter which has four more connection options, before the fuel continues into the engine. It’s beginning to sound like they are getting lost in Serbian theories and I notice now that it’s starting to draw out a little.   BUT! They finally found the solution. The Pakistani maestro had modified the colour codes, and from here on in it was simple. A way out. Priming and mounting of all parts. Outside the sparrows are singing and the sound of melting snow is in my ears.

This was to take some time, but finally the transplant was successful and all bypasses and seals were done. The patient got its fill of fuel and tested on high and low pulse. Everything was working as it should. I didn’t quite agree, as something felt wrong, but had no chance of explaining how. 10 hours later I could ring a mechanic in Beograd and say “alles gut” he was glad to hear that and wished me Bon Voyage.   Strong headwinds across the plains in Serbia and Hungary. Last time I filled up I measured 15 kilometres to the litre, and thought that was high, but the man filling the diesel said it was the right amount- 90 litres for 600km, maybe it s correct considering I was mainly in third and fourth gear all the way… Well, the last stretch of mountains is passed, and the next is the one separating east from west when I go home to “visit the relatives”. Looking forward to that now, but first I want to do some more portraits for the project before taking the ferry to Stockholm.

There’ll be more sunsets than I had thought, and this one is in Hungary. Outside it has been snowing all day at this height. Where I am? Hehe… about an average of 700 km per day will keep me covering the miles pretty quickly.

On the straight and narrow    26th March

A little about the car, not much. It’s not completely in the best of form, and I find it hard to get the speed up. These headwinds across Eastern Europe have been a bit testing but when I check the kilometres in the evenings it doesn’t seem so bad, so its not all bad. The mechanical maestro Ståle called me, asking “alles gut”?, and we are glad for each passing day. I got a text today that he had seen himself on internet. Here’s another picture, for Ståle. They say it is normal to shift the diesel pump after 250.000 km, and my speedometer says I’ve done 267,000. Time for something else to be shifted soon I’d say. The clutch is the original one and it’s giving off some strange sounds now and then. Hope there won’t be so many uphill climbs in slow traffic. Then there’s all the other stuff which is lurking invisibly in the background, as with the body. I know nothing and am thinking that there’s nothing really there to be bothered about.

I’ve never really liked driving in towns, especially towns bigger than, say.. Gol. (small town). I celebrate the ring roads but sometimes you just have to go in, perhaps because I was amidst a group of trucks when we passed the “bypass” sign, either i didn’t see it, or just didn’t get it. I cant find the road numbers on my map. Same as Budapest. This town is like two cities in one. I knew I was to stay on the one side of the river and not cross in to the other “city”, but suddenly the river was under me, F…! So.. I took a Chicago u-turn over 8 lanes, the kind that creates an orchestra in traffic. I said I wasn’t that hot at city traffic, not true. When I’m first in there I’m good but I don’t like the thought of not finding the right roads out again.

My road is called 2A, and there was only one sign with the number 2 in it, so I put my money on following that one along the river. There was some help to be had from road workers and the like, until I had to stop for other reasons. Here’s the sign with the number 2 on it and right under is 2A, so it worked out fine in the end anyway, and the headwind greeted me on the plains outside town and stayed in front of me all the way to Vilnius.

I met some hardy Winter weather between Krakow and Vilnius, and thought that in Norway this would be single file with escort truck. The cars that were stuck with their noses glued to the railings would have hoped for this I’m sure.  Strange how one strives to recognise. This light reminds me of the North, I recognise it especially in the afternoon. The trees change and suddenly a pine tree looks like a pine tree, and isn’t that a silver birch on the edge of the forest here and there?. The snow.. and the snow..and the rest of the snow…..

Recognitions curse. One searches the safety of familiarity and there in a bend in the road I came upon a house which reminded me so much of a house outside Bronnoysund in Norway along highway 17. Its called “The house in the bend” and has its own history, both good and bad, one of those houses. Mayby I’ll write that story one day. In the meantime..heres a house in a bend, Northern Poland.

Before I go any further there is a person here to be photographed for the project. There’s a dead calm outside, not a breeze. The Sun is warming a pale cold day and down between the Soviet blocks a fruit tree is giving off a faint shade of pink. I said it was safely packed away in the car…springtime.

Almost there


An old shopping centre outside Vilnius’s old town has survived the test of time for 5 years, and despite the global recession this must be celebrated with style… with no less than an orchestra hired in for the evening. It took all night and well into the dawn, with 30 % off all goods, and “drinks on the house”- happy hour and 24 hr shopping, same difference? It reminded me of some stuff in Norway in the 80’s

Vilnius wasn’t quite as I had expected, (not that I’m planning or thinking that much…) My friend Ulfas, to be in the project had left his mobile at the hotel, misunderstood the “plan” and thought I was turning up later. I waited and waited and he called me just as I had crossed the Latvian border. I’m  apparently not good at waiting, especially when I don’t know how long for. I think all these “waiting moments” at Dhaka, Delhi, Waga, Dalbandin, and then Southern Serbia has gotten to me. So, when I ended up with a two day wait in Vilnius I blew a fuse, the walls were creeping in on me and I barely managed to take one picture of  my hosts before the need to move on overwhelmed me. All because of a forgotten mobile phone and a little misunderstanding. But..I’ll find Ulfas again one day me.

So!.. Through the woods, towards and into Latvia and Valmiera, and so into en Camphill Landsby 120 km nordøst for Riga.  Finally I’ll get myself some Latvians, the ones I didn’t get on the road south.  I’m finally getting some fibre, I don’t think I’ve had bread so rich in Fibre since my baker friend in Nepal, seems like an eternity ago. I stopped somewhere last night to find some food. A baguette, some juice, nuts, and a bar of chocolate. On the way out I decided to just eat there and then. I raised my head and realised that I had sat and had soup at the same place on a trip in Oct. 2005. Hmmm… Sometimes it feels like I’m driving in never-ending figure’s of 8… circles that eternally cross each others orbit, becoming plaited bows and landmarks between places I’ve been before, and the present-day now. (If you know what I mean?)…

Its strange how time goes, it’s now 4 months and 4 days since I rolled off the island in Norway with everything ahead of me, it still is ahead of me in a way.

If I wasn’t to explain these past months with words, and rather just feel into it…, the whole period has become in a way compressed into a split second feeling of something.

Each long hour, day, week…all the waiting, its all gone, leaving behind only a certain perceived sensation.

Time is a strange thing, everything is ahead of me …what was, is inside me.

Hmm, I think I’ll stick to the practical side of Life for the next few days. Take some pictures, drive the car, catch a ferry, drive some more, go to the dentist, and set about finding my children. I hope for tailwind on my last stretch.

Riga Port and out to sea   30th Mars 2009.

I don’t know much about Riga, but the name has a certain ring to it, and has followed me through childhood. Perhaps its something to do with war in history?. Maybe because my uncle was a seaman and Riga is a port town in the Baltic? I don’t know but Riga has a ring to it. Sunshine and springtime turned up in Riga and the cranes and lapwings have followed me along the way. I said adieu to them a while ago.

I have spent some very nice days at Rozkalini, a village of people, armed with different resources than most and sometimes I am very grateful that that’s how it is. They put life into a different perspective than I normally have. A fine group who wished me welcome into their nest. Thank you again to the directors, Inga and Vilnis.

Off I rolled towards Riga with some of their homemade cheese, filled the tank with fuel, bought a chocolate and found my way onboard. This picture is for my friends who asked me how I get across the big water with the car. Easy with a vessel such as this, to cross big waters by car. And now I’m off to sea with a clear sky, a flat sea, and I’m sure the Spring is in the air.

The last verse… April 2nd 2009

The flat sea changed between Latvia and the Scandinavian mainland. The calm and rhythmic rocking was intermittently disturbed by a few hits that made the whole body of the boat rattle and shake like an old – Land Rover? I eventually arrived at Stockholms peninsula to a cloudless and sunny morning sky with a slight headwind. The prevailing wind of the day is promisingly from the West, helping my last 500 km. The customs officers were in good humour, the Police, on the other hand wanted us to blow into their Alco-meter. This I must say was a comfort after listening to Balters banging all night. (Are they called Balters? People from the Baltic?)

I only really had one main goal for today…to get to Oslo, meet friends and have a good dinner, then get to the dentist the following day. Two fillings had wandered away during the trip, the last and biggest one disappeared sometime at the end of February, and you get a sore tongue from that kind of thing. Firstly I had registered that about 18,500 Cranes had landed somewhere in Sweden yesterday, a world record at this place. Lapwings were swooping across the fields and Swans and Geese were out feeding among the buttercups by the roadside. Springtime.

The last lunch was had about halfway home, and was a relatively international gathering of leftovers. Honey from Pakistan, Blueberry jam from Serbia, Bread from Poland, Water from Bangladesh and Turkey, cheese from Latvia, and coffee from Columbia. The butter knife was lifted from somewhere in Iran and the coffee was made by my good friend Magni on Kvamsøy in Sogn. Thanks a million, it’s been good to have along!

I had a lively reunion with my children, and then got the bus to Oslo for the dentist Paul Hermansen – which is the very same Paul Hermansen-the Photographer. I paid a visit to some good helpers and am now sitting with a foggy view, contemplating on the springtime in Tjøme..unpredictable, but with the cry of seagull’s in the morning.

I have been pondering in which way to round off this adventure and have arrived at the point of “Well, that’s the end of the story…and this my final verse”.

What the man and car get up to in the future, well that’s another story.

So, thank you for your company, I thank all of you who have helped and supported me all the way from here to Dhaka and back, check out Tom Waits version here.

You can never hold back spring

You can be sure that I will never

Stop believing

The blushing rose will climb

Spring ahead or fall behind

Winter dreams the same dream

Every time

You can never hold back spring

Even though you’ve lost your way

The world keeps dreaming of spring

So close your eyes

Open you heart

To one who’s dreaming of you

You can never hold back spring

Baby

Remember everything that spring

Can bring

You can never hold back spring