Damaste all!

The last days I waited for my visa from the Indian embassy and the medical reports because of “my little problem”. It turns out that I perhaps have tropical sprue and I now get tetracycline and folic acid so wait and see.

In the meantime I visited Kathmandu, a huge town full with people, culture and LOTS of LOUT and STINKY traffic (a 24h traffic jam basically) . It is a great city to hang out and there are lots of beautiful places to visit, especially the durbar squares. In the 18th century there was a big rivalry between the bordering city Patan (now part of Kathmandu) who could build the nicest city resulting in a wealth of beautiful buildings and squares. At the same time Kathmandu was (and is) a very important city for both Hindus and Buddhists leaving the city with the Hindu Pashupatinath temple complex and the Buddhist Swoyambhunath and Boudnath stupas and TONS of smaller shrines, temples, statues etc throughout the city.

Pashupatinath is dedicated to Vishnu, the ultimate god of creation and destruction (BIG BOSS) and one of the main deities of Hinduism. The complex is a lively busy place where people worship, are married, cremated etc etc and it has a similar atmosphere as Varanasi in India. It is full with Lingu (shrines) for fertility etc etc and statues of the different avatars of Vishnu and of his servant Hanuman, the monkey god.

The stupas are way more tranquil with pilger making there Kora around the stupas turning the praying wheels as they go along. The Boudnath stupa is the second largest in the world (the largest is in Sri Lanka) and visited by many pilger from all over the globe. In a stupa the large dome symbolized the emptiness from which everything emanates and the 13 steps on the top the different levels to enlightenment, the “crown” on the stupa. The big watchfull eyes painted on the temple represents Buddha watching your doings.

Yesterday I received my visum for India so tomorrow I will leave the crowded Buddhist, Hindu and hippy city of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a great place to hang out as it has a huge amount of restaurants and shops with food from all over the world (the even have brezel and zimt-schnecken here) but it is time to move on. The next days I will cycle to Pokhara and from there through the Terrai (jungle planes ) to Mahendranagar in the far west. During the tour I will do some trekking and safaris so stay tuned for some tiger and rhino pics (who knows). In the meantime enjoy lively Kathmandu :)


Lhasa in one day

Hi all,

I am in Lhasa now and even the PSB or the FIT (government-run travel agency) can not do anything for me. The FIT told me that they only issue travel letters to tour groups so I need to rent a jeep with driver which costs around 900$ :-o
So I either need to find more people to share the costs or I can travel to Latze by bus and hitchhike back to Zongba (the FIT suggested doing so and the cyclists Leonie, Andre, Didier and Dino suggested the same). I will thus do the last and I hope to find transportation in Lhaze soon. Fingers crossed again please :-) Tomorrow I will rush through Lhasa (a GREAT place to hang out for a while) to take some pics (Potala palace!) and then jump into the bus. If I have time I’ll post an update once I am in Zongba so stay tuned.

Kale sho,
A running Marc


Travel Troubles

Tashe dele all,

A rather stressed Marc here from Rikaze/Shigazte.

Everything is NOT going as planned thanks to bureaucracy :-( I tried to get on the bus to  Shigazte but they would not sell me a ticket and after a long discussion (I had to get VERY angry to get the final info) I found out that to travel independently on a bus in Tibet you need a letter from the police. RULES. So of I went to the police (one guy in a small shoddy leaking cold shed) and I finally got the letter but the bus was long gone by then so I had to wait for two days for the next one.
On the 28 I thus travelled to Shigatze to get my visa extension and visited the as always well hidden PSB (29 16.265N, 088 52.596E) but instead of the expected 30 days as I was as told by the PSB in Ali by the PSB they could only issue 7 days :-0 So I talked to the PSB chief and managed to get 10, not a lot more but still a little more air.
Now I “only” have to get back to Zongba but again they don’t want sell me a ticket (RULES) (ticket booth hidden at 29 15.970N, 088 52.91E) and nobody can write me a letter here (don’t ask me why, even the PSB can’t help, RULES) so I have to find a jeep or such to get me to Zongba and the best place is Lhasa, 250km away so I’m off to Lhasa tomorrow.  Then upon arrival in Zongba quickly to Shigatze and from there to the border. A lot of things to organise and a lot can go wrong and time is VERY SHORT so fingers crossed all please :-)
By the way, the Mount Everest is closed to individual tourist at the moment (RULES) so I will have to visit it next time or from Nepal.

Kale sho,

An organising Marc (Traveling Tibet by bus is like Monty Python 24 hours a day)



Tashe dele from New Zongba !

Time for another big update :-) After leaving Ali we had some days with great asphalt ahead of us but again the wind was blowing us back. The first day we had to climb out of the Indus valley into the Gar valley and because of the wind it was not an easy job. The wide Gar valey itself was easy to cycle although the Terko La (4801m) turned about to be a beast because of the ice cold Himalayan headwinds. We did not make it to a cozy hotel in Moincer as planned and had to camp in a tunnel. So the next day we took it easy in Moincer and visited the Tirtapuri hot springs (31 07.620N 080 45.141E and it was great, my first bath since my departure from the netherlands, a real bliss :-) Ultra clean and fit we set then of for Darchen to start the Kora around the Kaliash Mountain. We had a long climb ahead of us over a nameless 4822m pass but the road was good as the whole road until Darchen is being prepared for asphalt.

In Darchen we set out for the 54km Kora around the Holy Mountain and we had a great trip and weather. Deep blue skies and the huge Kailash next to me made me feel very small, no wonder this mountain is holy :-) The monks at the first monastery we staid were a friendly bunch but how they manage to live in such harsh conditions is a mystery to me, it must be the butter tea… The next day was a real though one with a climb over the 5648m high Droma La (highest point for me thus far) and it was snow sliding all the time for me as my cheap Chinese boots could not handle the iced snow. On the way down we met some monks doing the Kora the hard way, prostrating themselves every step and praying. This waythe Kora takes 2 weeks but leads to instant holiness (and ages all over the body). The third day it was an easy walk and after a great meal in one of the many restaurants in Darchen we set of the next day to the Manasarovar lake in the hope of enjoying the hot springs near Jui monastery.

The trip turned out to be tougher than expected (never believe the Lonely Planet, that thing is written for lazy backpackers) because of an high pass (4801m), road constructions after the pass and an unexpected blizzard at sunset. The 5 km to Jui took ages and on the way down I lost Patrick. I made it safely to the hotel but he had to stay in a road workers camp. The hot springs themselves were a big disappointment, they are totally worthless. They are not warm and the basins are old, dirty bathtubs where the whole village takes a bath, bweeeech. So no bath for us. On the other hand the lake was beautiful and I had a great stroll there.
After this holiday it was time to head onwards to our next big obstacle, the 5280m high Mayum La, the second highest pass during my trip through Tibet. The road was washboard all the way but the valley leading to the pass was beautiful, filled with wildlife (deer, wild donkeys, marmots etc) so it was a great trip but the night were REALLY COLD (-20 outside the tent at Gung-Gyo Lake, 4582m). The climb he next day was only difficult in the beginning as it was quit steep but the last part and the downhill where just great. We staid in a small deserted truck stop (Mayum) with the company of two cooky-loving dogs. The next day after 5km we had to pass a checkpoint but the bored soldier did not even ask for our ATP. Cycling became more difficult as the road turned into the most disgusting stony-sandy washboard I have ever cycled on and the landscape became more an more arid. In the end  we ended up in a prairie-like landscape with the Himalaya on our right side and loose sand roads below our wheels. So it was pushing time, no fun with 45kg bikes :-( fortunately we could stay with a family in a small nomad village to recover and after a (not so healthy, ask Patrick) sausage meal we set of for Paryang, a small village to replenish our supplies. The road was the same as the previous day and we were glad to reach the village for some relaxing and some lovely Chinese food. The following day the sandy washboard dirt track led us trough some real alien looking landscapes with sand dunes, lakes and the Himalaya over the Soge La (4725m) and a small 4650m pass to the valley of the Tsangpo, better known as the Brahmaputra. The last part was a short ride to New Zongba as this is the only place to catch a bus around here.

A bus?? Yes, I have to go to Shingatze to get my visa extension and I have to take a bus I time is to short to cycle :-o So after some great weeks of cycling together I said goodbye to Patrick (he has a 3 month visa) but I will probably see him again in Kathmandu.
So tomorrow I‘m off to Shigatze and then to the Mount Everest. The next update will thus be in Kathmandu in 3 weeks so see you then! In the meantime enjoy some more pictures from amazing Tibet :-)

If anybody wants to send parcels for Sinterklaas or Christmass you can do this by sending it to: Marc Johan Steigenga, Poste Restante, General Post Office, Kathmandu, Nepal. After 2 months of Tibet I’ll probably be starved, HINT HINT :-)

Kale sho!


Touching the sky

After leaving Kashgar together with Daniel and LOTS of food we first set of for the Taklamakan desert, our first obstacle on the way to Tibet. The part of the Taklamakan we cycled through was flat like a pancake, a real serir and there was not a lot to see but that left me with lot of time to think about the last 6 month on the road. Most of the days we had a lot of wind including lots of small whirlwinds. In Yecheng we got some wrong road information from the chinese and took the wrong junction and we ended up in the wrong part of the Taklamakan so we had to cycle 20km back. So beware of the Chinese and look for a signpost with 219 on it. The 219 leads all the way to Ali high up in Tibet and after three days in the Taklamakan the landscape became more and more mountainous as so we were on the right track. In Kudi we had our first checkpoint but we could cross without any problems and could continue to our first pass, the 3258m Kudi La. It proved to be harder than expected as upon leaving Kudi the asphalt ended and the climb was quite long. I also had an off-day so we camped before the pass, not a bad thing as after this pass it is not possible to get below 3000m to get rid of possible altitude sickness. The next day we succeeded and from the top saw the Chan Tang range, high 5 and 6 thounders separating us from the Axai Chin planes.

The next days we climbed to the the 4988 Chiragsaldi La, struggling with the roads and the lack of oxygen. The following days were a little more relaxed as we followed the wide valley of the Yarkan He through the Chang Tang to the top of the Kirgizjangal Daban. The climb was hard and consisted about of dozens of serpentine and the road was bad because of thick layers of loose rocks and dust. So we took it easy in Xaidulla, a small village to replenish our supplies and to recover as our next main aim was the 5120m high Khitai Pan, the last pass separating us from the Aksai Chin Planes. It was a thouggh trip, mostly because of the strong head winds causing strong dust storms. Just before the pass we staid in an abounded road station, nicknamed “cyclist’ inn’ as most cyclist stay here before the long climb to the 5120m Khitai Pan. It was a comfortable place and we made ourself immortal as Tibet travellers by putting our name between the many other names covering the walls of the room. The climb itself was loooong and cold and the lack of oxygen made it quite though but the view from the top into the axai chin was fantastic and after a short brake we headed down to the planes.

The axai chin, what can I say, it is high (4000m+), cold, VERY windy, snowy and dry with the most amazing views I have ever seen . Cycling on these heights surrounded by small hills (all 5000 and 6000m+) and the deep blue sky really gave me the feeling hat I could touch the sky, an unbelievable sense of freedom. Because of the arid character f the planes we encountered some water problems as we had planned to replenish our supplies in Tielongtan but this village turned out to be located 40km further than shown on the map, a bad thing (cyclists BEWARE).

In Tielongtan Daniel left me for another cyclist (Boris) because he wanted to cycle faster and longer distances (where did I here that before?) so I went on alone towards the highest pass in western Tibet, the 5380m high Quishan La. On the way a saw a lot of wildlife, gazelles, marmots, eagles etc etc, it’s full of life if you now where to look. The climb was though because of the ICE COLD, REALLY ICE COLD bone freezing headwinds so I took a short brake in Sumshi and set of for the final climb. The last part to the top was hell as because of the lack of oxygen at 5000m my legs gave out but in the end made it :-) The next day was the coldest I have encountered sofar with snowstorms so I was happy to reach domar after some days of cycling to relax a little.

To my surprise I encountered Patrick there (He previously had cycled with Boris who now cycled with my ex-cycling partner Daniel) so I cycle with Patrick now.
Our main aim Ali was getting closer and closer and I was beginning to stink more and more (21 days of not washing) so we tried to Rush to Ali. the bad washboard road lead us over multiple days trough amazing valleys with salt lakes and sand dunes all the way up to Niak Tso where I finally could take a bath, humanity was saved :-) The next day we reached Rutog, a small Tibetan Town where we could recover and buy some supplies for the last part to Ali. We expected it to be easy as from Rutog to Ali the road is asphalted (YES!!) but the Tibetan ever present Tibetan headwinds blew us from our bikes and our plans our plans to bits.

But finally, after 23 days of cycling I reached Ali and I stay now with Patrick in the Chin Hotel (32 30.186N 080 05,365E) and the last days we enjoyed the luxuries of a hot shower, a bed ,a western toilet and LOTS and LOTS of food :-) And after paying a 30000Y penalty we also organised our Alien Travel Permit at the FSB office (32 30.405N, 080 06.662E) as until Ali we where illegally in Tibet.

Tomorrow we will leave for the holy mountain Kailash to do the Kora (Pilgrim walk) and our next aim will be the Mount Everest. We will have internet in 3 weeks in Saga but I do not know if I have time to update the site so if not see you all in Kathmandu, Nepal! In the meantime enjoy the new pictures

Cycle the world,


Hi All,

Marc here, I safely made it after a rough trip from Samarkand to Dushanbe. So what happened since the last update?

First of all I got sick again (Giardiasis was playing up) but I staid at the small farm of Abdulaziz and his wife Nilrifar and after some nourishing shorpa, black grapes and Lauchai (thee with LOTS of sugar) they got me up my feet again in no time. Thanks for the hospitality :-) The next day I visited a wedding with my host and had a great time there. Sadly he next day it was time to say goodbye as Tajikistan was calling me.

Tajikistan, what can I say about it? First of all it is a vertical country with beautiful high mountains and steep gorges. And then there are the Tajik “roads” and they are the most awful, most disgusting, absolutely the WORST dirt ‘tracks’ I have EVER encountered. Flooded, sandy, bare rocks, earth slides, deep holes, small patches of asphalt with loose stones, you name it, they have it. To call them roads is to much, basically they are just gravel tracks with big holes with sometimes a lonesome piece of ancient soviet asphalt. To reach Dushanbe I had to cycle on these ‘roads’ and climb around 2000m to the top of the 3378m high Anzob pass, the main aim of my first days in Tajikistan. Because of this it took me 4 days to reach Dushanbe. Despite the steep serpentine climb and the very rough downhill (washboard all the way to Dushanbe, my poor butt) the ride was fantastic through deep gorges and high alpine like landscapes. You want the real stuff? Forget the alps and come to Tajikistan :-) Your butt will hurt a lot but the scenery and the people are just fantastic!

Now I am recovering at Goulya’s and Claire’s place and organising a lot of stuff before I leave in 1 or 2 days for the Pamir. Yesterday I had my last wisdom thooth pulled as it was rotten(they somehow had ‘forgotten’ to pull it the Netherlands) and it was quite different than in Europe. Here you go to a clinic with rows and rows of dentist chairs and on the beat of some Russian techno music they pull it out in no time. Costs: 55 somoni (around 20$). Furthermore I organised my Kirghiz visa and after a loooong search I finally located the embassy in a small back alley. It is located at 38 36.022N 068 46.989E. Can anybody tell me why they always hide all the the embassies in small alleys and such?

I also received my parcel with electronics from germany and one parcel for Toon (I will send it to Kashgar) and after installing all the electronics I can now charge all my batteries while cycling :-) 12V legpower is enough to charge 4 batteries in around 4 hour. Thank you Wolf!

I plan to leave tomorrow or the day after and will head for the Pamir. I will have to cross some mean passes (4000m+) but the road is supposed to be ‘good” although in some areas rather remote. I thus will do some shopping and by lots of cookies, rice, potatopowder, pasta and whatnot as stores are going to be scarce (around every 100km).
I will thus be without internet until the 1st or 2nd week of September when I hope to reach Kashgar so in the meantime enjoy the pictures of beautiful Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 

Cycle the world,

Sea and Sand

Hi all! Sorry for the loooong silence but in Mashad the internet was too slow and in Turkmenistan we were in the middle of the Karakum desert, not a good place for an update :-)

So what did we do since the last update? First of all we flew to Shiraz to visit Persepolis, the old government town of ancient Persia ruled by Xerxes and his sons which was sadly destroyed by Alexander the Great (accidently or as a revenge for the destruction of Athenes by the Persian). Furtunately, enough remains to get an idea of the splendour of this ancient city and it was certainly one of the highlights of our visit to Iran.

Our next stop was the student city Isfahan, the intellectial city of Iran since hundreds of years and we spend a few splendid days walking on the Ghomeiny place, visiting the beautifull mosques and palaces and enjoying evening chai at one of the many bridges crossing the river. It is defenitely the most relaxed and beautiful town we visited during our stay in Iran. Toon organised his visa extention here and got one extra month without any problem the same day. However, they only issue extentions when you visa will expire within 3 days. The office can be found at 32 37.79N 051 37.945E.

After some last great days in Tehran (thanks again Adri and Elhan!) we headed over the mountains for the humid Kaspian sea. The landscape turned from arid into a beautifully tropical green but it was but very, very, VERY humid and rainy and cold at times. In case you don’t believe it just listen to some authentic Iranian rain!
Nevertheless it was a great experience to cycle through the dense tropical forests and ricefields, a huge contrast to the barren wastelands at the other side of the mountains. Swimming in the Kaspian see isn’t bad either alltough it is very hard to reach because of the many hotels and the industy. Marc recorded the new age sound of the Caspian so take a mochito, sit back and relax.

In Gorgan marc organised his visa extention and it was no problem at all. The office is quite hidden at 36 50.491N 054 26.660E. Upon leaving the town Toon had a road accident with a Paikan driven by some young guys trying to take pictures so he had to go to hospital for treatment. The downside of being famous.

Next followed a wild rush up throuh the dense humid forests to the the dessert planes to Mashad, the holiest city of the Shiites (after Mecka). Because of the constant dry headwinds it was a though trip but camping and shopping was made easy by Ali, an Iranian wandering cyclist. All Ali owns is his bicycle and he lives from what the people give him (untill his “rich” father dies). Not an easy way of living but he gets away with it :-) In Mashad we staid in a small family run pension with our carpet selling host Vali and we explored the city and surroundings. We had a great time at his palce and it can be found at 36 16.940N 059 35.747E.

We then set of for one of the hardest parts of the trip sofar, the crossing of the Karakum desert. Temperatures reached around 45 degrees so we got up before sunrise and took a long siesta at noon and started cycling again in the afternoon. Water was available everywhere but of dubious quality coming from wells or canals. But when you cross a desert you cannot be to picky however with the result that marc ended up with some nasty diarea. It knocked him of the bike in the middle of the Karakum, not a good place because you dehydrate really quickly in the desert, and that it was he did despite ORS solution. He had to recover for one day in a small dessert village before being able to cycle to the Uzbek border. The Uzbek border crossing (39 13.709N 063 42.942) was hassle free but for marc cycling was not. He fell ill again and the last 45km to Buchara he had to take a taxi and he is now recovering behind the keybord writing this blog :-) The next days we will visit beautiful Buchara and then head for Samarkant and Tajikstan and the next update will thus be from Dushanbe in Tajikistan. In the meantime enjoy the pictures and the recordings from Iran, Turkemenistan and Uzbekistan!

Marc and Toon

Veni, Vidi, Visa (2): Embassy hunting

Last Saterday evening, June 10th, we took the bus to Tehran (6$ pp) to arrange the necessary visa’s for the -Stan countries.
After a 7 hour trip with a horrible Jean Claude van Damme movie in Farsie, we set off for the first embassy for the day: Uzbekistan. The embassy was “relatively” easy to find, however, the Uzbeki visa’s were distributed by the consulate instead. Fortunately, we got a ride on the back of a motor cycle from a Swiss lady also looking for the consulate. I can tell you that numerous eye balls dropped on the streets when we drove by :-)
After 30 minutes of cruising around and getting sent back and forth, we finally found the consulate in a small alley. Much to our surprise instead of having to wait for 10 days we were issued a 30 day visa on the spot as the embassy ladies ‘liked our blond hair and blue eyes”!!

The rest of the day we spent our time looking for the Turkmen and Tajik embassies. The former one was found within 3 hours, where we applied for a transit visa with 10 days waiting time.
The latter one, turned out to be real hard to find. Even the taxi drivers did not know where to go, so we spent hours driving around in taxi’s and getting more and more frustrated as were the taxidrivers who demanded more and more money during the trip altough they had said they knew the embassies, GRRRRR……..
In the end we gave up and went back to our host Adrian, the son of Ingrid with whom we are staying with in Tabriz. His wife Elham made some phone calls the day after, and we had a pleasent drive the Tajik embassy, and wil get the Visa within 10 days.
So, we can get both remaining visa’s on june 21st, houraaay!
A big thanks to our Tehran hosts for their help and hospitality :-)

So to safe travellers from searching all over Tehran with annoying, stupid and stubborn taxidrivers to find the well hidden and ever moving embassies, Marc took the coordinates of them. So here are the the coordinates and or addresses of the consulate/embassies (use at own risk):
Uzbekistan Consulate: 35 48.245N 051 28.555E (Consulate is in 4th Park street or Alley, but cannot remember main road leading to this)

Turkmenistan: 35 48.282N 051 27.091E (first house of the right on Barati street, just off Vata Pour street)
Tajikistan: 35 48.888N 051 28.465E (North of Niavaran Palace, go to Zeinali street, turn right into “3rd Alley End”, number 10)

We spent the rest of the day sight seeing the Shah’s posh green and white palace and especialy the last one is a marvel to see with its walls and roofs inlead with large mosaics of glass. Outside however we saw 5 sad Mercedes 600 Limousine rusting away and 2 hardly identifiable caddi’s. Toon was pretty much upset by this horrific picture and he has demanded the remains of the 5 600’s to be saved!

So if you want to adopt one of these poor neglected cars give us a call, they will be thankful forever!

We were going to show pictures but stupidly Toon dropped his SD card in his cup of tea (ouch). We hope that the data can be rescued…

Veni, Vidi, Visa (1): Iran

Rotterdam, 51 56.175N 004 25.304E

We hebben nu allebei ons visum voor Iran.
Eerst hebben we beide een nieuw paspoort aangevraagd omdat deze nog minstens 6 maanden geldig moest zijn. Vervolgens hebben we via een visumburo het visum aangevraagd. Na 10 dagen kregen we een code waarmee we naar de ambassade konden om het visum aan te vragen en na nog eens 10 dagen stond het eindelijk in het paspoort. Kosten: 80E. Ik word ambassadeur :D   

English: We both now have our visum for Iran.
First we both got us a new passport as they have to be valid for more than 6 months. Next we applied for the visa using a visa agency. After 10 days we received a code that we could use at the embassy to get our visum. After another 10 days of waiting we finally got the stamp in our pasport. Costs: 80E.
I want to be an ambassador :D