As some of the people I know reading this Blog only looks at the pictures, I have decided to start this last Blog (until the next continent) with my closing paragraph in this blog, that way I might get you to read some of the “deep stuff” and maybe this will put you in touch with your feminine-side and touch an emotional part of you that you never knew you had :
This has been a journey of discovery, not just the discovery of different cultures, people, places and countries, more than anything, it has been a journey of self-discovery, plus the discovery of the human spirit in the people we met, and for me, also a learning-curve as I was constantly exposed to a different way of thinking, a different way to approach and overcome problems. I look forward to another few continents riding with this group of guys who loves nothing more than pushing the envelope, chasing a dream and riding a never ending sense of adventure.
We arrived in Singapore and checked our luggage and got our boarding passes for our flight out at 02h00 in the morning, then we took the sub-way into the city. I had heard a lot about how clean the city is, that no one litters and that there is nothing thrown onto the roads or pavements. I was sure I would find some litter, somewhere there has to be some litter right? Yes, I am proud to report that I did find some litter yesterday, in the train I saw a train ticket that someone had lost, but that was it, no exaggeration, nothing, not a scrap of paper or cigarette but or even a match-stick, only one train ticket and thousands of people who had passed there, everywhere you go it is spotless, but not because there are a lot of dustbins (I walked for a very long time with rubbish in my hand before I found a bin.) The reason is that it is bred into their culture, YOU DONT LITTER !! If you do you are fined on the spot and it is recorded onto your record, the next time the fine goes up to R2000-00 and the third time it is R10 000-00, there after it is punished by spending some time doing community service and then the next time it is jail.
There is a 200% duty on vehicles to discourage people from owning a car, if you want to buy a car you first need permission and to get permission from the authorities you need to prove you have parking for the car. But the public transport is excellent, so you don’t need a car. We spent a lot of time in the sub-way and apart from being spotless, it is very busy but everything is new and works very well, 2 minutes between trains.)
We went to the area where all the restaurants and bars were so that I could re-pay my debt to my “friends” for over-sleeping and buy them a few cocktails. But this did not work-out as planned as I discovered the exchange-rate was 12 to 1, (almost as expensive as the U.S. Dollar,) so no cocktails were bought and each got a beer, but at R140-00 a beer they each just got 2 beers.) I ordered two plates of bar-snacks and it hurt more than my broken ribs on the last trip, Singapore is not a place to travel on the Rand.
We then bought tickets for a river-boat-cruise that followed the river all the way to Singapore’s most famous landmark, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (and it looks like there is a shopping mall also.) It looks like a long snake lying over the three buildings making-up the hotel. The “snake” has scales and is curved, yet some locals were adamant it was not a snake but a curved boat???? I still say the architect intended it to be a snake, (Taryn, you are an architect, please let me know what the story is with this building as I am sure you would have studied this buildings famous design.)
At first the cruise passes all the night-life (see the amount of bars on the shoreline.)
And the buildings are impressive.
You can do a bouncing Bungee if you want.
Towards the end of the cruise the boat stops for a show, but the show is actually for the shoppers at the mall who sees a spectacular laser show projected onto a musical water-fountain that acts as a screen, (only we were on the wrong side of the screen) so we did not see much but it was still nice to hear the music and see the lights and lasers flash, although we could not see exactly what the shoppers were clapping and cheering for.
But it was very hot, we were now only 1 degree north of the Equator, as shown on Peens’s GPS who decided he wanted to test the Name of this very popular local drink.
They are not shy to throw money at trying to minimize the heat, the entire area is covered with big umbrella looking “roofs” and under each of them there are these massive air-conditioners pumping cold air down onto the patrons of all the open-air bars and restaurants, see the trumpet looking air-con in this photo.
IN CLOSING : (OK this is where the real men stop reading.)
Who would have thought that when 5 guys set-off in 2012 to simply ride 10 000km from London to Cape Town that their journey would take them across 26 countries and over 44 000km. People often ask me how we planned this trip and then I tell them we left London in the rain, it was a Wednesday, we were just heading for Capetown and then things happened, there was the Arab Spring, (closing the road via Libya) and then the Greek Crisis (all ferries to Egypt stopped,) then we though we found a way onto Africa via Saudi Arabia and Syria erupted and are stil fighting a Civil War, and then I tell the people we got a little confused, made one wrong turn, got lost, and being men, refused to ask for directions, and as a result are now heading around the world.
What people also ask is “who does our bookings” (for the accommodation) and “are we using an agent” and when I tell them that we actually don’t know where we will be sleeping, and that we don’t have any bookings or plans, they just cant understand how it is possible to just ride without any definite plans and per-arranged accommodation bookings. But in spite of this we have never ended-up with no place to sleep, yes we have ended-up in towns without accommodation (we always had camping to fall back-on) but things always “worked-out” even when I thought our throats were going to be slit in rural Russia without accommodation, but we always found a room or flat to rent and always had a roof (or tent) over our heads.
Tex always says “the plan is to have no plan” and I hate that plan and work hard at having another plan, but in a way being flexible is what contributed towards the success of the trip so far, we could make changes as we went. For example, one day Rocky said to me that maybe we should stop heading East and start heading West again and then North to go and have a beer with his Nephew in Copenhagen, and then we all decided, “well why not, we have never had a beer there, so lets go.” And when we eventually got to Copenhagen, one of the nephews friend told me about the Noorde Cap (Northern Cape in the most Northern parts of Norway) and the next day the route changed again and we headed North to this point.
Apart from all the destinations, (some were spectacular like the fords of Norway, some where very sad like Auschwitz, some were special like Chernobyl and Crimea, some were top tourist spots in the world like Cappadossia and Pamukale, some were rich in history like Checkpoint Charley and others rich in culture, other destinations were special mountain ranges or rivers we followed, some places like Lake Baikal and Siberia were far off the beaten track, others were crowded with tourist like Effuses) the most important aspect of this journey has been the people we have met along the way, the people who opened their hearts and houses and dinner tables to us, the people who would greet us with wide open arms and toothless smiles, shook our hands with manual-labor-hardened-hands, who would share the little they had with us and not want money or payment in return, kids who laughed out loud with delight when they could sit on the bikes, mothers who overcame their initial shyness and asked for a selfie next to us, that is what made our journey so special.
I can think of so many occasions where the local people reacted in shock as these spacemen, dressed in never-before seen clothing, who came riding in through the dust on the gravel road into their little town where no tourist has ever ridden through, and buy a hand full of nuts or and apple, and then when payment is offered, the money is refused and we are waved on with only smiles changing hands in the place of payment. And it was not just in the rural areas, even is cities we found random acts of kindness and people returning any tips we pay over and above the asking price. People stopping to pull the Land Cruiser out of the mud after the two American bikes cooked their clutch-plates trying to pull the bakkie free, and then after considerable effort and time just smile and drive away without demanding payment.
I have seen very poor people with broad smiles who are happy, be contempt with the little they have. Their happiness came from deep within, truly rich in knowing the importance of the things that matter, the things that makes us who we are, not in material wealth, but in the simple things in life, in family and friends, in their religion and culture and sense of community. I felt guilty for the excess of our lives when looking at the poor in Laos who rush-around during a downpour to ensure they capture every drop of rain water and who stand next to their humble shelters washing themselves with a soapy hand under their linen cloth (as they stay on the road and have no privacy of a shower with running hot water they wash their body’s under a linen cloth wrapped around them.
I got angry with governments when I stared into the empty eyes of some countries citizens. Eyes who has seen nothing but pain, who has known nothing but sorrow and poverty, people who has to work to put a little food on their table regardless of how harsh the elements are, living in the winter in temperatures of minus 25 or even some nights -40 degrees, their only warmth lies in the discussions of another war, their only heat is generated from the blind-support of another President who has forgotten the casualties of 75 years ago.
We got to know so many cultures, experienced so many different food tastes, (some food and drinks we tried were only tried once and never again.) We went out of our way to go where the locals go, eat where they eat and take-in as much of their culture as possible, and that is what has made this journey exceptional.
But this journey has not always been an easy road to travel, 5 “knop-gatte” (hard headed guys) do get on the others nerves, and at times I thought I could make a few Rand selling tickets to that evenings fist-fight. But we worked through these issues, we were forced to as we needed one another, (even though the others wont admit to this I know they agree.) Each member added and brought something the other did not have and together we completed the other. There were many incidents that could have ended this journey, and in my mind a few times I had already decided the journey was over and was working on the exit strategy, but every time an insurmountable problem arose there was always one of us who had another perspective and suggestion or angle how to approach the problem, and then with all the resourcefulness we have between us we would eventually find a workable solution to the problem and before I knew it we were on our way again.
This has been a journey of discovery, not just the discovery of different cultures, people, places and countries, more than anything, it has been a journey of self-discovery, plus the discovery of the human spirit in the people we met, and for me, also a learning-curve as I was constantly exposed to a different way of thinking, a different way to approach and overcome problems, a different smell around the next corner, different painted Landscape over the next hill. I look forward to another few continents riding with this group of guys who loves nothing more than pushing the envelope, chasing a dream and riding a never ending sense of adventure.