August 31st, 2003
Sitting on the highspeed train to Aarhus, my vision is locked straight center above at the lighted sign that says "Vogn 22", whatever that means. Oddly enough, while in this forward staring trance I can clearly see outside both sides of the train simultaneously, like one of those strange lizards that can move either eyeball independent of the other. The whole scene plays by me in some surreal fast forward mode, like a Madonna video where she dances in one place while various fast moving objects flow by on the screen behind her in to the distance. At that moment, it becomes clear that my life has now become an endless string of Madonna videos all run together back-to-back like some long twisted intercontinental MTV Madonnathon. And I think I've lost the remote somewhere in the couch cushions and wont be able to return to my regularly scheduled programming. I find myself more and more unable to participate in the everyday actions that take place outside of this pop video life I seem to have fallen in to. Carrying on a conversation that lasts longer than your average bus ride has now become a challenging excercise - I think I've just forgotten what people normally talk about. However, the elderly lady sitting beside me has found it quite easy to carry on our conversation despite the 4 times now that I have mentioned that I "no sprecken zie Deutch". I have since found it easier to continue my conversation with her with my headphones on, which seems to be working out quite nicely for the both of us. Ironically, the music I'm listening to is in German so I cant undertand that either, and then theres that slight chance that shes saying the exact same thing that the singer is, and in effect I'm still listening to her. Its 10:03.
End of video. [switch tape /- new reel]   Press Play: Aarhus
Sheila and I parted ways in Hamburg. She went to Holland to visit some freinds, and I came north. It really was fanstastic to travel with her for a couple weeks. Not only is she a great travel partner, but having someone around who knows me well was nice. Someone who knows when I'm making a joke, or just gererally how to deal with my sarcasm. :) Yes, it really was awesome.
So, why am I in Aarhus? Well, when the VW van died my freinds from ihana.com emailed me and said a freind of theirs, Morten, from Denmark was embarking on a round-the-world trip in his 4x4 Land Rover, and was looking for another person or two to go along to share the adventures and expenses. Whats more, his truck ran, mine didnt. :). I emailed him and we talked on line for a little bit, and he said if I could get up to Denmark by the end of August, I would be welcome to join him and another guy for the trip through Scandinavia and Russia. The Scandinavia/Russia trip is a test trip to see how the truck performs, and help us make a list of things we might want to do or bring for the big trip to Africa. Also, to see if we all get along with each other, living out of a truck for a month. The big trip through Africa will leave in January, and if all goes as planned, we will all be setting out together in January. For more information on the trips, Mortens website is www.landy-rtw.com
So, I arrived in Aarhus and Morten met me at the train station. After checking email, we went over to the center of town where some friends of his were working getting ready for the big Århus festival. Its a once-a-year week long event that draws about half a million people. This years theme was Asia. People were building all sorts of booths and tents, getting things ready. Helping out were a few Navers. Navers were people I had heard about, but this is the first time I had a chance to meet and talk to any of them. They are skilled labourers, mostly carpenters, that as part of their Naver program are required to leave home and walk the earth for 3 years and one day. During this time, they are not allowed to return to within 50km of their home. They walk everywhere they go, carrying their tools and belongings on their backs, going from town to town finding work in their profession which they do in exchange for food and board. So, upon their return, they have seen the world and perfected their skill, and helped others along the way. They wear a traditonal black and white outfit as they have done for hundreds of years. They can travel alone or in groups. In this modern day, Navers are allowed to take public transport, but many of them still actually walk. They are also allowed to find work that will pay, in addition to doing work in exchange for room and board. One requirement of being a Naver is that one needs to be free of any criminal record of any sort. That way, as you travel, you have no problem being hired, as the person hiring you knows that yuou are honest. The Navers I met didnt look like I expected them to. I think I was expecting someone resembling an Amish person. But these guys had tattoos and piercings, liked to drink a lot of beer and were quite a bit of fun.
The next day, Morten and I went out to the farm where he usually works on the truck. There were (are) some things to get ready in order to make the trip, so we had planned to spend the day there tacking as much as we could. The farm is out in the Danish countryside, and is also where his Mortens antique restored '79 Land Rover is stored. We decided to start it up and took it for a quick drive in the countryside. I got a chance to drive it, and had one of those "moments" when you realize how cool this really is. Driving an old antique Land Rover around this hills of Denmark with kind of a autumn mist hovering about. Yeah, cool.
Since then, we've been back out to the farm a couple times to get a bit more work done, and with the help of Mortens friend Atler, who worked as a Land Rover mechanic in South Africa and Narobi, we got a lot accomplished. In fact, without his help, I'd don't know how we'd have ever gotten to the point we are now. We also got the truck painted, and its now a cool Desert-Storm sand color.
Morten had a bit more of a hectic week than I did and wanted to get some rest, so I headed out solo to see the Århus festival last night. Great little festival that had a different band playing on each street corner in a huge tent. I met some people on the street who invited me to come with them to a nearby bar. From then on until the rest of the night, I played musical hosts, finding in total 4 groups of people who I would head to the next bar with. I'd walk in with one group and out with the next. I met some really cool university students and swapped stories about schooling in our respective countries. Turns out, attending university is free (but not books), payed for by taxes. A student also gets 4000dkk each month to cover other expenses, although rent will typically take 3000dkk each month, and I spent 500dkk in one night out and I would call that a conservative night - doubling that would have been easy. Oddly enough, people on unemployement in Denmark get 12000dkk a month, to the chagrin of the students who feel they should get more than the people not working. All of this is supported by a tax system where you can expect to pay between 34% and 65%. They were equally amazed when I told them how much we pay for college in the US.
So I nursed a small hangover this morning, then began running a few errands with Morten. Like the rest of Europe, everything is closed on Sunday, so we cant do much other than running around getting things from friends and checking some things on-line. Tomorrow will be the big day. We shop for food, get the truck saftey inspected, then leave tomorrow night whether the truck passes or not. We wont need the inspection outside of Denmark, so unless they find something that is truly dangerous, we'll just throw a little caution in to the wind and hit the road anyway.
Bound for Russia...
September 7th, 2003
Well, as can be expected with any expedition vehicle that isnt brand new, there were some kinks to be worked out in the ol Land Rover. The inspection that it had to go in for revealed some rather serious problems that needed to be taken care of before we left on the trip north, most notably, the vehicle needed a new gas tank.
Out plan was to get to Sweeden and Norway by driving through Copenhagen, which was a city that I really wanted to see. As Morten had already been there numerous times, and the repairs on the truck were cutting in to our time schedule, it was decided that I'd head up to see Copenhagen for a day while Morten finished up the gas tank repairs and we'd meet up a day later.
I got to Copenhagen Tuesday and got in touch with a couple of friends that I had traveled with in Guatemala, Lise and Anne. They were nice enough to take me out and show me the city and the nightspots, despite the fact they had school early in the morning. We met up with a couple of their other friends and spent the night going from bar to bar, and catching up.
After walking around Christania for the morning, I called up Mary Lou, a friend of Lise and Annes who wasnt going to school right now, and said she's be willing to show me around Copenhagen. We spent the day walking around the streets and heading to coffee shops and thrift stores (only scored one t-shirt).
After some shopping for food and liqour (as its about twice the cost in Norway) we headed out on our way for points north. Morten was a bit tired so I got a chance to take the wheel of the beast. The Land Rover is quite a large and impressive vehicle. Although we did get the stereo working, we didnt get the CD changer to work. Which means we are limited to tapes. Sorry, I should say tape. :) We have one tape that Morten had borrowed from someone just to see if the unit worked. It has some classical music, some band named "Mothers Milk" and the Phil Collins song "In the air tonight". We looked for tapes along the way, and finally found a gas station that was selling a few, the best of which was Chuck Berry. We now have 2 tapes. :)
We drove through Sweeden, and picked up the other member of the team, Rich. Its his plan to join for this leg of the tour, and then for the Africa trip as well.
The next day Mortens friend Annbrit took us on a tour of Oslo. We walked around the castle and park where the king and queen live (although they are king and queen in name only and have no real power), then downtown and finally to the ferry which takes you to all the islands around Oslo. We decided that'd just be a nice relaxing thing to do.
Well, one of the islands was supposedly over-run by rabbits. Someone let a couple loose there several years ago and they've multiplied like.... well like rabbits. So now they cover a good majority of the island. We got off the ferry and walked around for a bit and played with the rabbits before returning for the rest of the ferry trip.
Rich and I headed out again last night, but this time with my friend from Nicaragua who lives here. I traveled with Lene and Trude for about a week, and I told them that if I ever made it to Norway that I'd be sure to look them up. Lene invited us out to a housewarming party for one of her friends, then we hit a couple of the bars afterwards.
The nightlife in Oslo is kinda as I expected it to be. More bar-like, less clubby. Generally pretty cool people, and a laid back crowd. And I'd say that Scandinavia as a whole has some of the most beautiful women of anywhere in the world.
This morning, Morten and Rich jumped in the Land Rover and headed up to points north, and I parted ways with the team. Part of this trip through Scandinavia was to see how the team all worked together and although we got along really great, I don't think I'll be joining for the Africa leg of the trip. Just different travel styles and itineraries. My reason for picking Oslo as a place to go our separate ways was made by an offer to head to a birthday party. :) I wont say where just yet, it will be a surprise for my next email. My flight leaves tomorrow, 7:30am.
Hope all is well,