La préparation


Visiting India


Posted By on Feb 4, 2014

I have been in India a couple of weeks like every year to visit the rural development site dedicated to the villages in Orissa and the education of about 100 kids. Our association, “Ushagram Suisse”, this year could raise some 55 000 euros to support various projects there. Visiting the site was not only a pleasure but was also needed to prepare the 2013 completion reports and to take stock of the needs for 2014.
As usual, it was not easy to get there: first a flight to Delhi, then a flight to Vishakapatnam, an town between Kolkata and Chennai (Calcutta and Madras, if you prefer), then 6 hours drive, then half an hour boat ride… At 900m altitude, unlike foggy, smoggy and highly polluted New Delhi, the hilly area benefits from pure air and clear skies.
It was a real pleasure to interact with the children this time, the oldest of which are now about 12. Most speak fluent English, when they are not too shy to do so. Speaking with the kids and with the educators, I decided that the charitable aspect of my future journey will be dedicated to giving the kids an opening to the world. Indeed, as I will travel through various countries, villages and sceneries, I plan to take pictures, videos with them in mind and to write texts that will make them discover these worlds through my eyes, as I go. I took some 700 photos which I still need to sort before I publish a selection in an album.

During my visit in Delhi I also enquired about contacts in the Home Ministry that would give me information on travelling overland from India to Myanmar by way of the north eastern States. It is not self-understood as those areas are troubled and a foreign traveller needs a special permit and so far Myanmar has only opened 3 accesses by road in the south-east on the Thai border. No international overland travel with one’s own vehicle seems to be allowed so far. Some people have travelled however, like Andy and Emilie of http://ridingtorangoon.com/.

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letting-go-is-freedom

My project is not just about a journey, however long, from which one comes back after which one finds one’s loved ones, one’s things, one’s home and all the things one has missed on the journey and the people one stayed in contact with. It is about quitting a world, wrapping up, getting on the road without knowing where it will lead, having no notion of what one’s future will be like. It is about leaving the known and familiar for the unknown, the unfamiliar, about leaving one’s comfort zone.
Of course, the project and all its aspects have been matured in the course of many months and has made me feel happy. However, there is ample room for doubts, for questioning, for fears and for some dose of anxiety. It comes in waves and has the healthy effect of letting me question my motivations, my choices, my decisions, my choices. It puts things in a different perspective and encourages me to verify my logic and my solutions. I already quit everything and hit the road when I was 16, absolutely not knowing what the future would be made of and with considerably less preparation, organisation and securities. But that was 44 years ago, in 1969…

This whole process is also about letting go. Letting go of all one has accumulated and that is basically useless ballast – be it material property, “things” as David Herbert Lawrence calls them, or bonds, relations, obligations, securities – mostly chimeric anyway. Relationships and bonds can also give a sense of security and protection. In my case, having been a renunciate for a whole section of my life, it is easier to turn my back on all this and say: “Pfff, I don’t actually need all this stuff!”. In fact, it is like the return of a cycle. I have tried it, tasted it, had it, paid for it. Now is the time for something else. I am turning myself to my unknown future, like leaving all illusory things behind and abandoning myself in God’s hands. It is a nice feeling and it gives me an incredible sense of freedom. Of course, with bank accounts, savings, a bike etc. But still heavy stuff. The complete thing I have already done before.

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paperless1_w

With modern technology, no need to keep or drag around huge quantities of files and documents. One can scan all important archives and documents in pdf files. With smartphones, one can also take photographs of documents and send them as pdf to cloud storage. The latter allows to store large quantities of information that are accessible from anywhere. It has also become easy and cheap to setup a small personal storage device that can be accessed via the web. A selection or all of it can also be synchronised and kept on a hard disk that one takes along. This way one’s “office” can be dematerialised and takes incredibly little space. That is also called “paperless office”. Smartphones have such capacity nowadays that large quantities of information can also be stored on them and be displayed easily. Of course, the limitation for accessing the information stored online is being able to access the web. But this is where a hard disk or large pen drives are useful.
I have spoken mainly of hardware but there are also fantastic software solutions like Evernote for example that allow you to store large quantities of information that can be organised and classified, made available offline too and synchronised with your smartphone.
Of course, this is not exactly about riding and discovering landscapes but is an important aspect of being on the go and remaining functional, especially when one is on the move for very long periods.

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Visiting Kyrgyzstan


Posted By on Jan 4, 2014

KG-map_w

Kyrgyzstan will be my hub and refuge in Asia. India, which is my natural (spiritual and philosophical) home, after I lived there 11 years and have experienced so much (check out the static pages of the website) has decided to change its immigration rules. To make a long story short, it has decided that foreigners can stay if they have an income at least 5 times superior to what Indians need to live comfortably. This means that simple living for us is excluded. Either we have the budget equivalent to living in luxury hotels all year long or we stay out. The visa restrictions are stricter too. Either you earn as much as you would need to survive in the West – which is far too high for Indian standards – or you come as a tourist and can get only 6 months in a year maximum – to the discretion of anonymous authorities. I have so much to contribute and share, yet India is closing its doors to its natural non-Commonwealth sons and daughters.
In fact India is not only a country. It is a state of mind. It is a particular frequency or vibration. Tuning into the spirit of Bharata (India) transforms one’s stay in this country into a permanent miracle of events and encounters, into a feast of joy and wonder. I love this country as much as I hate it. It is as delightful as it is unbearable. Anyway, white collar officials seem to have decided who has the right to live there, regardless of their spiritual belonging. It is as if they were not aware of the unique nature of their own country, cradle of spirituality. Maybe someone decided to modernise the immigration regulations by copying what exists in western countries, without taking into account the different of needs or the difference of cost of life or living standards. Whatever it may be, now I am forced to settle somewhere else, in a country that will not discriminate against me on the basis of my passport. And Kyrgyzstan might be this one. Ex-Soviet State, moderately muslim. (check for Sufism in KG or central asia) and without need of visa.

Kyrgyzstan is the only parliamentary (adolescent) democracy among the Stans and has survived several revolts. Corruption is rampant but India is not bad either at this sport. The climate is something to grapple (?) with with variations between -30 and +40 Celsius. So is the question of language as Russian is The language to know. As a newly developing country, it is also a land of possibilities that are worth exploring. As the second poorest country in the Stans, after Tajikistan, there might also a scope for developing charitable projects – also to be explored. People seem to be kind and open.

Bishkek, the capital of 800 000 souls, lies at 800m altitude. Climate is a little rougher than in continental Europe with temperatures ranging from +40 and – 30 Celsius. It is a mixture of Soviet style buildings and growing western influence. Its numerous cafés can be quite cosy. There is a sense of space that is unknown in Switzerland where everything is crammed and tiny. It has large avenues disposed in perpendicular style. It is incredibly dusty and quite polluted with a thick canopy of smog floating above. The men I have met can be quite sensible, sophisticated and open. Besides that there are those hunks driving big fat Mercedes whose sense of worth seem to be proportional to the pressure of their right foot on the accelerator. Accidents are frequent at cross-roads as respect of traffic rules and consideration for the other seems to be more for anyone else but real men. This country deserves longer exploration, after learning Russian.

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Learning russian…


Posted By on Dec 20, 2013

speak-russian

To travel in the Stans (the five States from Central Asia having split from the Soviet Union whose names all finish with Stan which means “country”) and in Mongolia, and be able to communicate better with locals, learning Russian is important. Everything is written in Cyrillic script. Educated youngsters do speak some English but Russian is the Sesame. Even the national languages are written in Cyrillic, with additional characters.
Getting to learn Russian is an absolute headache because of the alphabet which is different between capitals and italic letters. Some letters look like a ‘D’ in capitals and a ‘g’ in italics. Both giving neither a ‘d’ nor a ‘g’ sound like in latin characters. Just to mention one. I had some old tapes which I converted to MP3.
After a brief visit to Kyrgyzstan I realise how important it is to be able to communicate in Russian.

cyrillic

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Trying out Mitas tyres


Posted By on Dec 5, 2013

mitas-e07

Winter in the Alps. Need to ride every day. After having tried the Conti TKC 80 during several seasons I decided to change. On snow, the front wheel was skidding sideways and I often thought I was going to fall. Unfortunately for my machine, the Heidenau Scout 60 – although M+S – has a full strip in the middle, so I decided to go for the Mitac E07 from Czech Republic. They were not easy to get in Switzerland. Their profile is groovy. I did not encounter any snow so far to try them on. But the grip and cold and wet tarmac is not really convincing. Too early to check their mileage.

Update Feb 2nd.
I haven’t really encountered much snow so far – the worst being wet snow – and I have not used them offroad but only cold and wet conditions on tarmac. And it seems to me that the rubber and other components used do not give it much grip. I am frequently skidding even when careful at not leaning too much.

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