Saturday, 27 December 2014

Myanmar video

Its been a while since the last post, and visit to Myanmar, but I still have fond memories of travel thru the country with a mixed group of riders from around the world. Christian was one of the riders who made the Myanmar video . I hope you enjoy watching .
I have enjoyed Christmas in Thailand with a friend Lelo from Tanzania, and Ebin from Denmark. In a week its back to Bangkok, and soon after Cambodia.
Its been an exciting year visiting countries as Cameroon, Italy,  Turkey, Georgia,  Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Thailand.. The adventure probably was at its highest while in Pakistan, and calmest in Thailand.. Now enjoying Starbucks coffee again, I feel more at home in a rented house enjoying the holidays.

China has opened to unescorted travel and is on my GPS as a country to see. My dream is to spend some time in Seattle, & Canada, before eventually returning to the motorcycle. I am also looking at storing the BMW in Cambodia for a while and always having it ready for my next trip..
Christmas was also celebrated with a gift of TLC Tender loving care ... getting the BMW painted .. !! it looks great and seems it will be ready to do a few more miles. The bike now has 63,000 miles, and many new parts..

Thanks for all the nice emails over Christmas , its always nice to here from you.
Love garth
The Countryside of Myanmar  , Thanks Christian ....

Friday, 7 November 2014

Burma / Myanmar

Hi Guys , Sorry for the delay in a blog update .. emails are more personal I know , but  sometimes a quick post with pictures can give some reference to where I am. About 10 days ago I entered Myanmar with 10 other riders from Australia , England, Iceland, Russian, Dutch, German and myself. Its interesting traveling in such a big group and with other riders every day.. no conflict,  we do all have a common desire to travel , learn , enjoy a few laughs, meet new people , so its a nice change ...
Next week the tour of Myanmar will be over and we will all go our separate ways again , for myself I look forward to touring Thailand for the first time. Many people speak great things of the country and the food .. so I expect to spend up to 2 months there .. Hiking in the north and kicking back on the beach in the south .

Friday, 10 October 2014

Kolkata or Calcutta ...

What/s up ?? The post title should say enough ... I am broke down in Kolkata India waiting on UPS to deliver motorcycle parts. Its been an interesting two weeks , visiting consulates of Thailand, Myanmar, and Nepal ...I also paid a visit to the national museum, parks, malls, coffee shops, and of course the annual Hindu Durga Puja celebration .. It lasted 4 days ... lots of lights , music, food and people every where ...
I had intended on continuing travels north onto Kathmandu, Nepal,  then east towards Myanmar, but time is running out . October 30th I am entering Myanmar with 9 other riders . We are all on a guided trip thru the country into Thailand so I have no flexibility on dates. The stator on the BMW burnt up the first time in  South Africa ...and now in Calcutta.  It seems to me and most BMW owners, that its a bad design next to the exhaust pipes... and a very expensive fix ... The break down and time waiting for parts will mean no time in the Himalaya mountains, but I am happy it happened now instead of 1000 miles from now in Myanmar on a guided tour.
Over the course of travel I have also become a better mechanic able to repair or replace things like fuel pumps, stators, regulators, fork seals, steering bearings , cables, and wire or tape things up really good !!
If a hammer cannot fix it , its probably electrical !
Taking one's own car or motorcycle into Bangladesh is not really an option,  so the next two weeks I will do a loop around small country east towards the Myanmar border.
India can take some time to get used to, but if you are willing to laugh at things we might find odd, or different it can be a great place to visit. People are everywhere, never alone and always watching where you step !! Riding here  is an experience that  will make me happy when its over.  The country has a growing middle class and everyone wants there independence starting with a motorcycle or car.. making room for the added wheels every year creates a huge problem.. Cars driving right  towards me are normal, as are the many accidents I have witnessed.
Walking can have its hazards also .. a cow walking towards me yesterday did his business just as we passed each other .. the funny was,  we were both using the sidewalk :) ..
Kolkata now exceeds 14 million people , the  growth is amazing .. I see residential development projects that make anything in Seattle look small. Growth rates averaging 6% require new housing to be built to house almost 100,000 new people every year .. Elevated roads are being built, trains and public transport all keep things moving..
The down time in the city has allowed me to rest and eat better than I had been . I have always liked spicy food, but India puts a whole new twist on SPICY ... be careful if making a visit .


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Photo Friday !

I jumped on a plane as planned to visit the tropical island of Sri Lanka ! Plumbing supplies anyone ?
Queen is the leader of about 40 elephants ...
The elephants have been rescued from working in the timber industry .
Every 2nd day the elephants are taken on a walk thru town , and down to a river for a swim and play time..
Pet Snake ? This dude wanted me to hold it.. ah no thanks... its a very deadly boa constrictor.. and he has a python in his lap...
beautiful women in traditional Sri Lankan dress ..
Lots of British styled buildings still standing around the small country. this is Fort Galle
There are lots of monuments around the country in memory of the tsunami .. Almost everyone on the island lost someone.. There are grave sites all along the coast.. People are all still wanting to talk about it.. I am sure its still a healing process that will last generations .  
Of course traveling by motorcycle every few days its a trip to a petro station.
I have quickly grown to like the country.. its a slow island life where drivers stop to let others walk across the street.. friendly, and relaxed.. Tourists go about there days without locals trying to cash in ... They say everyone still carries a sadness from the tsunami.. Tuesday I fly back to India ...  knowing I will return to Sri lanka ..

Monday, 25 August 2014


There is an immediate change as you cross the border into India from Pakistan .. unlike Canada or Mexico borders with the USA. A nightly ceremony of the Pakistan / India borders flag lowering and border closing was a lot of fun... ( on the India side )
Indian women come to dance , sing, and celebrate ... where in Pakistan, I rarely saw a women in the month I traveled the country. Gates on either side of line zero are closed at exactly the same moment every night ... the border police take a lot of pride in defending this line to  keep the peace between  Pakistan / Indian . When I left the Moroccan border in 2011 into Mauritania it was separated by " No mans Land " where I followed trails in the dirt keeping a watch for rebels in the hills and hoping the trail I was on took me to the Mauritania border post.
Only one land border is open between Pakistan and India " Atari ". the border city in India is Amritsar . The must do for any tourist, or pilgrim, is to visit the Golden temple.
I am not really sure how I got a photo with clear blue sky's during monsoon season, but after dodging rain soaked streets for the better part of my first week in India, I decided to catch  a train and head south !
Over the course of my travels riding in big cities has become a necessity .. either in search of an embassy, or dealing with the motorcycle. Some of the worlds largest I have experienced are Cairo Egypt, Lagos Nigeria, Istanbul Turkey, Lahore Pakistan, Tehran Iran,  but NONE of these cities compares to Delhi India .... an estimated population exceeding 18 million. What is difficult is the complete lack of discipline for any road rules.. I truly find myself afraid to walk across the street at times..
A big part of what is India, are the trains.. they are well worn, and in need of some cleaning and updating. I loaded the motorcycle onto a baggage car and got myself a 1st class ticket to Bangalore.. Its a 45 hour ride south of Delhi and it puts some distance between me and the heavy rains of the north. The express was not exactly " express" but I was told not to miss the experience of a train in India and I am happy I took the opportunity. The chance to sit and chat , get used to the food, and relax looking out the window was a well needed change from the streets of Delhi. Hmm 1st class isn't really 1st class , but I did get a birth 6 feet long by 30 inches wide.. a window , privacy curtain, in an air conditioned rail car ..
While travelling Pakistan the movement of westerners is quite the opposite of India. The photo here is one of the many stops each day to record personal details. . Entering a district , or leaving requires a stop, at times only a few miles apart.. Name, passport number, visa number, expiry dates, nationalities, and so on... Taking a quick look thru the pages to see if any Canadians, or Americans had dared drive thru Iran and Pakistan was always a part of these stops every day.. None have , ( in recent years )  I am sure most are part of NGO's that fly in and out.. Showing up at the American embassy in Pakistan on the motorcycle more than surprised the Americans working there...A few left there desks to come outside and take photos of me and the motorcycle.   I needed an American notary to sort out banking in a sanctioned country.. As it turned, banking was restricted until I entered India..

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

E Tourism in Pakistan.

I have said good by to Pakistan, exhausting my 30 day visa and crossed into India !
Reading today's paper, I had to laugh when I saw this. if any of you are looking for a rush,  Pakistan's K2 will be sure to provide some fun ..
This dude is actually keeping the caulking off his cloths , something I could never do after 25 years .. Who knows maybe he ends up in Seattle !
Pakistan Caulking Company !
The food in India has taken its toll on me quick and I find myself weak and in bed again... I will post some news soon.. Love Garth

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dont let anyone tell you that it couldn't be done !

Don't let another moment slip away ! (Michael Franti.. )
Its been a week of emotions as I reflect on the past and present. The events leading up to the final leg of the silk road in Pakistan were more than I ever expected or dreamed of. How many times people had said NO, it cannot be done. Where it all started even confuses me, just by the title of my blog: Garths Africa. I had no idea I would ever be here, never really thought things thru,  calculated the risk or challenges. But here I am !
The difficulties of getting into Iran on a motorcycle, the Iran guide, the visa, insecurity in Pakistan, worries about westerners taken hostage,  up to 5 police staying the night at a hotel, escorts to walk down the street...  A quick road side stop to add air in a flat tire was an issue,  knowing I was not in a place where fixing a flat was an option.
It seems behind me now, in a region of Pakistan where friendly shop owners refuse my money for a coke & chips while I rest from the heat. Pakistan is concerned about there image and is working very hard to change. Police are for my safety , the locals all ask what are my thoughts about Pakistan's. They care and do not support what has happened before and want to show others that its safe to be here. Most westerners would see police escorts as a big problem, but as its often said here: there is no problem , we just want you to be safe !
Taftan is the dirty border town between Iran and Pakistan, comparing it to the border of China in the north cannot be done. Brits, Canadians, and Americans are not allowed on the final leg of the KKH ( Karakum Highway ) the famous highway is one of the worlds highest paved roads linking Asia to Europe and replaces the original Silk Road. It took some begging, diplomacy, senior officers, and refusing to let No be an option but in the end,  myself , Dan and Heiko were granted permission to travel the final 50 miles of Pakistan to THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA !
If ever there was a loop to ride,  this ride will forever be remembered. The day started at Eagles Nest Hotel in Kirimabad , it over looks mountain peaks exceeding 21000 feet, north of Gilgit , the gateway to K2,
the worlds second highest mountain.
A massive land slide about 5 years ago completely wiped out about 15 k on the KKH . Now the Chinese have partnered with Pakistan to rebuild the highway.   Until the road is rebuilt goods to and from China to Pakistan are all loaded from large trucks to small boats. Porters work endlessly unloading trucks into boat after boat, and again back onto trucks 15km later.
The challenge of getting a 200kg bike on and off a small boat was easy in comparison to the river crossings that followed. The KKH will always be in need of repair by the very nature of its location.
In Georgia I met a fellow rider Dan. We enjoyed beers, laughs, fantastic rides, and struggled thru the diplomacy of overland travel. Departing ways in Gilgit,  I wanted to travel alone again. It may be a foolish thing traveling alone after the recent river crossings, and police escorts, but I know I will always have a friend close by ...

The loop unlike many rides around Washington State leaves you breathless .. picking up a bike in the river after a ride to 15075 feet ( 4720 meters)  is hard work. The past few months of poor diet, and constant moving about, have shed any muscle left on me to nothing. Looking in a mirror I ask what happened ? the skin is hanging off me ...!!  I worry the eagles may be looking at me for lunch if I don't start doing some push ups or something...
India is the next stop ! I have a 6 month

visa !!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

leaving Iran and onto Pakistan !

Silk carpets cover the floor of a local gym in a repurposed water holding tank . Its a cool place  30 feet underground. Classes were complete for the day, so no work out.  While in Pakistan I did have an opportunity to watch some fights..
It was a full 9 hour day to travel the final 50 KM of Iran. It started in the morning at the hotel reception asking for our passports. It seems during the night the hotel had called in the troops of our position and at 7am the police were waiting.  Police held onto our passports ensuring we travel with them to the Pakistan border.  An untold number of checkpoints made travel very slow.The Pakistan border post is Taftan, in the province of Balochistan.
The ongoing conflict and attacks by sectarian groups in Balochistan put any hopes of  security escorts ending when in Pakistan.  A warm " Welcome to Pakistan !! " as I road across the border by police was comforting.  Like many border towns Taftan is no different, dirty, dusty, money changers, etc.  .. keep on riding if possible... It was already to late in the day for police to arrange escorts, but they did give up some floor space in their compound. It's also shared with prisoners and pilgrims .
Bomb attacks on pilgrims were of a concern in the area, and with two large pilgrim bus's parked outside the police compound,
 I wondered how safe I really was that night. To my relief that morning the pilgrims were gone. Maybe part of a way to relieve tension we joked as we traveled the province,  Pilgrim bus's constantly seemed to be close by. Escorted the entire country of Iran , I was more than ready to travel freely again, but the next 1500 miles or so in afternoon heat of 109 degrees made the next 8 days go pretty slow. Check point after check point we stopped , showed our passports, gave details, drank water and road off again. Police escorts changed often, sometimes every 10 miles. If there was ever an incident it was will documented where we were at all times.
Invited to spend the night at the home of a friends contact, I was given some in site to the culture. The Government of Pakistan and the police had taken responsibility for my safety and were not about to release me into the hands of someone else for an evening . Police preferred a safe hotel with security , and to escort us if we wanted to go out for food. We met out host who invited us to stay at his home in a parking lot with our police escorts. The parking lot is where a poker game started between our host and the police.. Who would win the right to take care of the American, English and German !
There were a number of phone calls to who's who in Pakistan . We went from staying at our hosts home, to some big developers place. The police went from local authority to provincial and political authority. At one point the police had claimed victory and we were on our way to a hotel for the night. 30 miles down the road their cell phone rang and we changed course again to a private home. Our original host was not a strong enough figure in the community to stay at his home, but he was not about to be shamed by the police and started calling his friends to one better the police. The struggle ended with a full police envoy pulled up in front of a prominent doctors home. I was greeted first by a senior intelligence officer who took our passports and then  introduced me to Dr Khurram.  Only minutes earlier the Dr said bring us to his house,  he was inviting us for the evening. The police had  agreed to let us stay unescorted until 7am the next morning.
Its Ramadan and everyone fasts until sunset. At sunset Dr Khurram fed 20 or more police men and officials in his garden, and invited us inside to feast on local food and drinks.
The doctor seemed to take some pride as he smiled and asked me : " What do you think about our excellent security ? "
Pakistan wants its
its visitors to be safe., and escorts are a big part of that effort.  About 80 miles before Lahore the police left us ride unescorted. I am now in Islamabad and if I can get a permit to travel the Karakorum Highway before my visa expires, I will see the mountains of Pakistan !!