The Bering Strait?
Nov 22, 2004
The big news is that I'm healthy. At least healthy enough. I continue to have minor stomach problems, but results from the hospital certified me clear of all amoeba, bacteria and giardia. I celebrated with "Safari" cane alcohol and pizza.
The election left me depressed, like Democrats everywhere. But, I found my savior at a local restaurant. They have "kachumbari". It's African food, and it's missing garlic, but otherwise it's identical to the Mexican Salsa Fresca: chopped onions, tomatoes, chili and a bit of lime. Spicy Mexican food 8000 miles from home is exactly what I needed to get over post-election blues.
In Cambodia, I watched the movie "The Killing Fields". Sitting with us was the bald-headed, of indeterminate age, grandmother of the manager of the guesthouse. She had lived through the events of the movie, and watched it with an intense, blank stare. Having her there made the movie experience much more powerful.
A few day ago, I watched "Goldmember" with a Masai grandmother. Her son married a Canadian. The couple returned to Kenya to take grandma on a vacation, and they ended up at Nairobi Backpackers. Again I was watching a movie with a bald-headed grandmother of indeterminate age. This one was dressed in traditional Masai robes and jewelry, with stretched earlobes. She had only been out of the Masai Mara a few times and spoke no English. Her expression while watching the movie was largely confused, but she did laugh. What made this experience bizarre was that she may very well have thought that Austin Powers was real - there was no way to explain "It's only a movie."
What excites me, is the the unknowns of "what's next". I spend much of my time thinking about exciting places that I want to go to next month and next year. The future is what's on my mind, so it's a struggle for me not to write about it constantly. I'm fascinated by in depth, point-by-point, discussions about the pros and cons of the Georgia route vs. the route through the 'stans.... however, I can't imagine that any of you really care.
The focus of my writing needs to be, once again, on telling stories of where I've been, and what I've done.
However, saying that, I'm going to do the opposite. There is a potential change in my plans which is big enough and interesting enough that I feel I need to share it. Three years ago I almost bought a boat on the Mekong. Locals told me that no foreigner had been up the river in their own boat in 28 years. This sounded like the makings of an epic adventure. I failed to do the trip then, but it seemed like the perfect way to complete this trip.
Unfortunately, the world is changing too quickly. The world is getting very small, very fast. Touristification is everywhere. My first backpacking trip was a decade ago. Back then, it was a challenge to make a call from Spain to America. Now there is free internet in Uganda. Ten years ago, the only way to keep in contact with travelers you met on the road was the posting notes on the huge bulletin boards that occupied a wall in every guesthouse. With no way to contact friends and relatives, there was a real feeling of being "away" - a real feeling of adventure. That's gone now. Email is everywhere. Cell phones and text messaging are catching up. A decade ago you were far from home in the capitals of Europe. Now you're not far from email even in remotest spots on the Mekong.
Seven months ago, I read an article about a tourist who was planning a kayak trip on the Mekong from Tibet all the way to Vietnam. Already I'm hearing reports of white water rafting tours on the Mekong. This is disheartening. It'll be more than a year before I'm back in SE Asia. The Mekong will be a very different place by then. The scenery will have changed. The locals will have changed. But, most importantly, the experience will have changed - the sense of adventuring into the unknown will be gone. I need to find another epic adventure.
So... what's left? What's undone? Where are there still no tourists? A post on lonely planet's message board gave me inspiration. I'm not sure that it's possible, but if it was easy everyone else would already be there.
No one is crossing the bering strait. Eastern Siberia is empty. I'm considering skipping SE Asia at the end of this trip. Instead, I think I'll turn north-east at Mongolia. How cool is it even to say that: "I think I'll turn north-east at Mongolia." Visas and transportation are going to be very difficult, but if I can do it, it'll be an amazing experience.
Provideniya, the most north-eastern town in Russia, is less than 50 miles from Alaska. If I can make it there I'm almost home. If I arrive in the summer, I'll try to find someone with a good boat to take me across. In Winter, I'll look for a dog-sled or snowmobile.
I cannot complete a 3 year journey without a dramatic finale. The 800 mile boat trip down the Mekong had some style. But crossing the bering strait is a perfect end for this trip. And from Alaska, I might as well hitchhike home. From Nome there is only another 2500 miles to the Crowbar in San Francisco.
This is a journal entry with a moral: If you like adventure - Go traveling now! I'm forced to go to extremes for even a little bit of adventure. The world is changing too quickly to wait. Not long ago the source of the Nile in Uganda was very, very remote. Now, scores of young backpackers sit around ordering pizzas and cokes while chatting on their cell phones. There are few places left where you can get away and find a real sense of adventure. These places are disappearing quick. Go traveling now!
I'm back to drinking, and back to writing. Journal entries for Uganda will be coming soon.
Good to hear from you. Glad you're recovering from the stomach evilness.
Just a few thoughts about it being more difficult to find an adventure to experience that other tourists haven't invaded. It seems that there are probably many places that are still lacking a tourist industry. The way I look at it it's really the "less desirable" places that are wide open - less desirable for reasons like war, climate, or simply lack of interest. Here's a list of what I can think of off the top of my head: sudan; a lot of the former soviet block, especially those nations still occasionally at war, like georgia or maybe the 'stans; siberia, definitely; what about kashmir? a good deal of the middle east - large chunks of israel and iraq, for instance; antarctica; albania; even the hills of many central american countries or remote parts of indonesia.
despite my argument here, i know exactly what you're saying and it is sad. a few years ago i sort of accepted that i wasn't going to be able to do the sort of travel adventuring i'd always dreamed of, because the experience would disappear before i could get to it. but, really, so many places are just developing a tourist scene and those places still have a lot to offer. bratislava, for instance, has only the beginnings of tourism. i do see the ways that tourism has influenced this city, but it's still thankfully a small influence, unlike prague or budapest.
find the adventure, adam! if anyone can, you can.
Colin White - Nov 23, 2004
I'm still keeping up with you on your adventures and reading your last journal entry, remember well watching the 'killing fields' with Wabs mum and feeling humbled in the process.
A point I wanted to make about your quest for places to go and adventures to have where there are no other tourists, mobile phonos or internet. I agree with you that it seems that the world is over run with Gapyear oiks and tourist trappings at every tree stump, but it does well to remember that 100 years ago the travel writers of the time complained of exactly the same.
Also, to the new gereration of travellers who've never been out of their own back yard, the world is a huge and magical experience just waiting to happen--don't take their excitement away from them, they'll be better more rounded people for the adventure.
Lastly, in my experience, it's the people you meet on the trips that leave the lasting and deepest inpressions---your article bears this out as you are writing about the two old grandmothers of indeterminate
age and hey, I meet you! and we walk the precarious walk that was a Cambodia Minefield.
I know it's tempting but it doesn't do to want the world all for ourselves.
Julia Berger - Nov 24, 2004
Here's some foor for thought from here in CA. I spent the weekend at a family-owned (not my family) ranch a little south of Placerville a couple of weekends ago. A 40 acre plot of land (great-grampa had lost the other 40 in a poker game way back when.)
We went hiking and sifting through an old recycling pile and hauled big pieces of quartz up a hill where my friends want to eventually build a labyrinth.
We marveled that *this* is what California *really* looks like; those rolling hills and oak trees and dirt and rocks and streams and bugs and native grasses.
This post isn't meant to lament the loss of the Real California, but rather to remind us all that Real California is still there, a little south of Placerville, right now.
The world may be getting smaller, but it's still an awfully big place.
Erin - Nov 26, 2004
That does sound like an amazing way to end a trip. Go for it. Ill make the trck over to the Crowbar when you make it back. Anyhow hope your travels are safe nd we love getting the updates :)
Thanks and I'll see you at the Crowbar... in just two years or so.
Micah Rubin - Feb 19, 2005
I stumbled on your Web site and it seems i have similar plans. I'm planning on crossing the Bering Strait via land in June 2005.
I've been researching quite a bit, but can't come up with any good inf. Just wondering if you've found anything substantial?
The latest word as of May 2005 is that boats travel back and forth across the bering strait all year. I still have no idea if it's possible to get an extended visa and travel permits to go up there.
deanna deanovic - Dec 08, 2005
How's it going with your plan to reach Provideniya by boat? How do you propose to get to Mongolia from there? I am interested because I would like to journey from east to west Canada and from Alaska cross to Russia ending at Vladivostok to take the train across Siberia to Europe. Any suggestions or further information regarding the boats that travel back and forth across the strait, per your reply to Micah Rubin?
I just posted a very rough draft of an article with the info that I have about trying to make the crossing.
Claire - Feb 09, 2006
LOVING the blog, I'm becoming addicted to it!!
Just a thought... is it better to have travelled and maybe not get the 'authentic' experience or not to travel at all..? Not sure I have the answer myself there.
Thanks for compliment.
> Just a thought... is it better to have travelled and maybe not get the 'authentic' experience or not to travel at all..? Not sure I have the answer myself there.
My first gut reaction is "yes". But upon a bit more thought, I'm no longer so sure. I think that so long as you are not deluding yourself to how "real" your experience is, all travel is great.
baobab - Jul 22, 2007
I'm looking for some visas and transport information to cross the bering strait by camion via alaska. I think you have more information...