Saturday, July 26, 2008

Belated account of Sweden

Actually right now [last month] I'm in Sweden, but hopefully getting ferried off to Kyrgyzstan tomorrow. I gave up on the trans-Mongolian railway when I was in Beijing and started really researching it and realizing how much of a pain in the ass it would be to get my bike on and off the railway at all the various stops I wanted to make in Siberia. I booked a flight to Stockholm thinking I would just ride from there to Moscow over the next month, but two days into it I realized it was the exact opposite of China -- perfect roads, no traffic, peaceful and quiet, and not even a hill to speak of. In other words, boring as hell. I had been so excited to get here and ride through this region with nothing to worry about but going forward. But as I should have realized, with nothing else to worry about, doing nothing but going forward, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, stroke after stroke, seemed like so much more of a pain in the ass. Throw in that this region is perhaps the most expensive in the world, and the idea quickly started to lose its appeal.

After two days riding north I turned back toward Stockholm, and managed to get a reasonably cheap ticket to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and will hopefully be going in that direction tomorrow. I say hopefully because I really haven't made any preparations. I'll be biking to the airport, and just hoping that my bike can go on the plane as-is. This worked out just fine in Beijing, but I'm thinking Stockholm airport might be a little more prudish about what it will take and what it won't. (And I've read that most European airports require bikes to be boxed up before being admitted as luggage, and that some airports have packaging areas that'll do it for you and others expect you to do it yourself before arriving -- but I have no idea about Stockholm in particular. However I assume, just for the sake of optimism, that we'll be able to work something out. (Though this may actually be the result of too much time in Asia, where it's the case that you can always work something out. I keep forgetting that in western countries, rules are rules, and if the bike can't go, the bike can't go)). Not to mention I don't have a visa for Kyrgyzstan yet (though I've read that you can get one at the airport on arrival), and, em, I have no idea what I'm doing. Again, optimism. Yay.

I'm curious how this bike trip is going to end. It's kinda unraveling at the seams as we speak. It's entirely possible that I'll get back on track once I get to Bishkek. Bishkek was on my original list of destinations, though I wasn't expecting to get there until mid-August. So I could just hang out there for a month or two figuring out something interesting to do while I wait for my itinerary to catch up with me. Or it's just as possible that everything will unwind and I'll be back at home in a week. Which, I guess I'd be fine with that too. I've got a job that is supposedly waiting for me, and some ideas I left behind that I wouldn't mind getting started on. I haven't talked to my old boss yet about the prospect of coming back early. I guess until that happens, I'm still fairly committed to moving forward. But we'll see how things go once I get to Kyrgyzstan and have two months to look forward to with no idea what to do with myself.


Anittah N. Patrick said...

You may have been in Sweden at the same time as John Chang as far as I can tell from his flickr uploads.

ulrica said...

So you're in my home country!! Or maybe not anymore... Anyway, hope you enjoyed the little time you had there and that my fellow Swedes treated you well.

Was so glad when I found your update after the earthquake. So happy that you were ok! (But guess I should have know that you don't really need to worry about a guy in the CIA, they know how to survive right?! ;-)) Anyway, thought of you, and Mike too of course, a lot after it had happened. I mean, Tiina and I got caught in it as well, but we were at the airport of Chengdu on our way home to HK, so all safe and sound really, while you guys were still up there in the mountains, continuing your amazing China travels.

Good luck on the journey, where ever it now will take you...