Sunday, May 31, 2009

The World's Most Boring Post.

As I've recently been informed that we have been miserable failures at updating statistics, route and logistics.  That is because I find all three of those things terribly boring.  What I don't find boring is steampunk, but no one wants to read about that.  Because my mom asked very nicely, I am doing a boring "where are we" update post.  I had meant to let you be able to follow along on the super sweet google map thingy I put on the sidebar, but since blogger is a capitalist running dog invention, and the reds hate running dogs, I have been unable to update it.  So whip out a map, pop some popcorn, stare at a picture of me looking strikingly handsome and get ready to follow along on our travels for the last weekish.
We left Golmud by road and headed to the historically important town of Dunhuang.  Dunhuang is famous for all sorts of things.  We did not see those things. Instead we ate 5-7 chocolate shakes a day.  The 4 day ride from Golmud to Dunhuang put us through some of the most intense desert I have ever seen.  It looked like China grated their entire country for miles.  Having seen a fair share of Chinese "public improvement projects" I would it put it past them.  We averaged about 120 kms a day for the four days.  On the last day we woke up to rain and instead of riding in the morning we hopped in a giant dump truck and rode for about 100 kms.  The passenger side door broke midway through and I had to hold it shut for the last hour and half.
We knew we were running out of time on our visa's and decided the only way to get done what we wanted to do was jump on a bus.  From Dunhuang we took an overnight bus to Turpan, the second lowest point in the world.  Getting on the bus was a wreck and ended with a standoff. The driver tried to overcharge us for our bikes but not before i got both feet on the bus and refused to budge.  The bus left 30 minutes late, but we weren't charged for our bikes.  Us ransacking bus stations and fighting with giant crowds of people dedicated to ripping us off, was a common theme for the next two days.  This post is even boring me.
Turpan was a cool town and after turning the bus station upside down and fighting everyone in it, we got fair price on a ticket and headed towards a town outside of kashgar. The bus took a midnight detour, without our knowledge, and headed through the Taklakaman desert and dropped us off in a town called Hotan.  Another fight ensued and we ended up on a bus to Kashgar for free.  Well not for free.  Our bus driver paid another bus driver for our tickets so he didn't have to deal with us anymore.  10 hours later we were in Kashgar.
Kashgar is AWESOME and will be for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Unless you are in China right now, and headed this way, you probably won't get to see  what makes this town so amazing.  The Chinese have an untold dedication to destroying everything and anything that is interesting or worth seeing in their country.  It is astounding to watch 700 year old neighborhoods smashed to dust by back hoes and dump trucks.  Their occupants carted off to concrete projects and hideous strip mall architecture replace everything they hold dear.  I think I'll write more about it later.
Tomorrow we head towards the KKH and probably won't be updating the blog for at least a week. Contrary to popular belief, this part of our trip is not some ill-thought out and ill-conceived exercises in naivety.  After months of doing research and writing ex-pats, experts and local guides, we have decided the route does not offer significantly more danger than anything we have done so far.  We just spoke with several people who  finished the exact route we are about to undertake.  We are incredibly excited and hoping we can update this sooner than later.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Things I Have Learned

-Tibetan nomads love techno music.  This is something I found very surprising.  I only thought Germans loved techno/drumandbass/house/noise.  But no...  Every motorcycle (and one horse) that passed us for 20 days had speaker strapped on the back and they were blasting Tibetan techno.  These are the things you learn when you travel.
-Chinese bathrooms are the most repulsive things in the world.  Believe me, I have seen my fair share of repulsive things, but nothing is quite like a Chinese bathroom.  For years I have believed the hullabaloo about China taking over the world.  Upon entering my first Chinese bathroom I realized this country will not be spearheading the 21st century until they pull their dunnies out of the 6th century.  I mean, come on!  No one, not even freedom hating terrorists (or Glen Beck) should have to stare another man in the eyes while squatting over a stinking hole.  You don't know shame until you've bent down, with your pants scraping years of dried bathroom viscera and made eye contact with the guy squatting next to you.  He nods his head and looks you in they eye as if to say, "Hey, its just the water and the food.  50 percent of the developing world suffers from dysentery.  I'm suffering from it while staring you in the eyes.  You'll get use to it here in a couple of weeks and everything will firm up for you."  He then goes back to blowing smoke in your face, while you continue to squat and want to die.
-I've tried to stay pretty apolitical on this, the most awesome travel blog in the world.  However, reading articles like this, and  fighting communist bureaucracy for 50 days leads to certain feelings of frustration.  Like most thinking americans, I am going to blame Wal-Mart shoppers for everything that is wrong with China and the world.  Stay with me. 
 I consider myself to a political pragmatist.  I'm not a latte drinking liberal elitist and I'm also not some yosemite sam shoote-em-uppist.  My politics fall firmly into the common sense and logic camp; a camp that seems to have been decimated by tainted moose stew. 
 I haven't been in America for a while, but when I left, the folks were all riled up about the imminent crush of socialism in America. This is what I find funny.  The same folks that are hooting and hollering about the evils of socialism, are doing so while pushing their shopping carts around Wal-Mart, and buying cheap consumer goods they probably don't need.  Cheap consumer goods that come from China.  A country that is blatantly communist.  Yes, American consumers, China is communist!  Believe me, this isn't some warm-fuzzy, new-age, kumbaya communism.  No, this is black boots, billy clubs, show me zee papers communism.  This is communism dedicated to destroying ethnic culture, ethnic identity and any form of dissent.  This is good old fashion communism with a good PR team.
Our Chinese experience has been diffused through the lens of not actually spending much time in "china."  We have spent the majority of our trip with different ethnic groups who do not identify with the Han majority and express no form of Chinese nationalism.  Everywhere we have gone, China has been cursed and mocked.  People have gone out of their way to make sure we knew they weren't "Chinese" but where fact, Dai, or Tibetan, or Uigher.  I have been shocked by the hatred people have expressed for the country they are governed by.  We have passed through hundreds of miles of militarily occupied country and subjected peoples.  We have passed through a country, that essentially funded our war on terror.  A communist country that we turned to because the folks at home didn't feel like paying for one of the biggest defense budget increases in the 20th century.  When did that become an ok thing to do?!  Can you imagine Regan turning to East Germany to finance star wars.  Give me a break.
And here's my point.  If we want to whine and complain and hoot and holler about the world.  Perhaps we should take a second  and look at our own shoulders and see the burden of responsibility we have shirked.  Perhaps we should look at the principles we sacrifice everyday so we can buy cheap junk.  Perhaps, as we lament the death of american manufacturing, we should stop and wonder how our consumption habits have led to it's decline.  Last time I checked I didn't see anyone picketing Wal-Mart when they shifted from "Buy American" to "Slashing Prices Everyday."  Perhaps, we should remember that personal responsibility is one of the greatest of American virtues.  And perhaps, we should stop trying to lay the blame on politicians and pundits and start looking in our own shopping carts.
-It is impossible to find egg-rolls, cream cheese wontons and fried rice in China.  I guess I had imagined China was one giant Panda Buffet line. I was wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Still Blogger Is Blocked

Breckan and I bumped and jostled off the Tibetan plateau in the cab of an 18 wheeler, while sucking down coke, Chinese moon pies and billowing clouds of second hand smoke.  On the 11th day of the wilderness, as we rode into a huddle of tents and dismembered animal parts; labeled a town by a cartographer drunken on the power cartography gives, Breckan informed me of something.  Unless she got a shower on day 12, I would be looking for a  brand new bouncing Bejing bride on day 13, because she was out.  Since I am unable to speak Chinese, and the dating process in America was confusing enough, I opted for semi into Golmud and hot showers. 
Now for a quick aside.
What is it with this country and dismembered animal parts!?  Never, not once, and I'm almost 30, have I ever stepped over an animal leg (unless it was attached to a breathing animal) to get into a restaurant, hotel, or house.  Now it's like, "ya I'll be right in.  Let me just hop over this carcassy like thing in the way."  Next to having to stare other men in the eyes while taking a poop, being able to purchase human skulls in stores that also sell Coke, and watching women produce living, breathing animals out of the folds of their dresses- having to step over random, rotting legs has been the weirdest thing about China.
And now back to the travelogue.
Charlie and Kyle opted to ride into Golmud.  The city was green, and warm and pretty and except for the fact that we were kicked out of three hotels in three days, it was an enjoyable place to stay.  The kicking out started at 10 pm our first night.  We had checked in, ran out for some errands and when we came back we got the boot.  The staff kept staring at their feet and it was never made quite clear why we had to leave.  It wasn't the police.  It was the Foreign Affairs Office.  It was their Commie leaders.  It was very odd.  So we rode around to all the hotels that were going to let us stay there earlier in the day.  Now at 11 pm, they informed us they couldn't let us stay.  Again, a lot of feet staring.   Finally we found a hotel that let us stay.  The next day we were kicked out.  This went on for three days.  It was never made clear who was kicking us out, or why, and it all felt a little weird.
Outside of the Golmud the Tibetan plateau gave way to high desert and then high desert gave way to low desert.  As many of my friends know, I have never been to the moon and after the lunarscape we've cycled through for the last 5 days, I feel no need to.  Fields of yaks have turned into sandy dunes of camels.  Tibetans have given way to Uighur Muslims and snowstorms have given way to sand storms.
Breckan and I, faced with a reality check have made a route decision.  Instead of heading into the Stans, we have decided to jump on a train to Kashgar and then ride down the KKH.  We are going to spend more time trekking in Northern Pakistan before heading across India and towards Kathmandu.  As of right now, our plan is to fly out of Kathmandu for Bangkok.
I will be spending my 30th birthday in the second lowest place on earth.  Thus making my birthday a real low point (rimshot).