Sunday, September 17, 2006

Travel letter 2006


Yellowstone National Park


Letter 9,USA, November 23, 2006o
* Restless and sleepless nights in my hammock in the Yellowstone national park. Wouldn't you be!!?
* Cowboy in Montana
* Built a house with Mexicans
* Robbed in Seattle – and got famous
* Many warnings against cycling in Canada during the wintertime

I am now in Vancouver, Canada after riding in the rain for one week. It’s funny with this weather. I have been riding 9 months almost without rain but heavy sunshine

I shall tell briefly what happened to me in the last 2 months
I met a guy in Montana who is a professional biker. Troy Evans is his name.
He gave me stuff for my bike tour and also addresses of places where I could sleep on the road.
It was quite a relief to talk to someone after many months on my bike alone

I’ve been in the Yellowstone national park which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to so far. There is lots of wildlife and nature. I have seen bears and bison’s a.s.o. I must admit that I brought on a bit of a sweat when I heard a wolf cry in the night whilst I was resting in my hammock. Naturally no one is allowed to sleep or camp in the park for the obvious reason of wild animals. I had many sleepless nights in my hammock, which I hung especially high up in the trees.

Later I went to Montana, which is actually a big farm to me. I was invited to a ranch where I found work for 3 days. I helped to cure a cow. The cow was put between two wooden walls, which acted as a vice. Five cowboys were standing around the cow to inject her 5 different vaccinations and to cut her horns with a hacksaw. To keep her head steady she had a ring in her nose. The blood ran when the horns were cut. One cowboy put his hand in her behind to find out whether she was pregnant. This entire act happened within minutes.
Montana is one of the most beautiful states I have seen. There I have been a real cowboy and went in peace when I carried on with my bicycle.

When I reached the town of Wenatchee I met someone whose address I had. I worked one week to build a house together with illegal Mexicans. When they found out that I spoke Spanish we became the best of friends. They asked me whether I had crossed the border like they had.
I told them I came with a passport and visa.

I moved on to Seattle to find a job on a fishing boat. Well I didn’t have a green card but I hoped to get one. Getting to Seattle was my longest day trip to date. (160 miles or 260km)
It was dark when I arrived. As I went in a store to call Kristina Southard of whom I had the address. But I wasn’t really inside when somebody stole my wallet and some other things out of my bags. Sure it wasn’t smart of me to leave my bike unattended but I had forgotten about this danger. In the newspaper in my homepage you can read the rest.
But from now one I was famous. I couldn’t go anywhere without been approached by someone who knew me from the papers. That happened so often that Kristina became my secretary. But I enjoyed it. Many folks wrote that they would start riding a bicycle again.
A bicycle club repaired my bike and gave me discount on spare parts and also sponsored me.
Sons of Norway sponsored me with some crowns and a Norwegian old age pension home held a benefit party for me. Also I was invited to speak in front of 400 high school kids.
I have met so many friendly and helpful people that I can’t think of how to thank them all.

Here I say 1000 x thanks to the worlds best city, Seattle

Now I will try to cross Canada in the winter from west to east. I have never heard of anyone doing this before. We will see how it works. If it doesn’t I must wait for the spring.
Many warned me not to do it. But I always got warnings wherever I have been. (Dangerous surrounding, snakes, a.s.o.
I was warned of pumas, wolves and bears. I was told to go to the police to get permission for a handgun. (I will do that.) Right now I have pepper spray against bears.
It wouldn’t be very nice to be awakened by a wild animal. But I think everything will be all right

Rune





This is one Cowboy I met in Montana. He is 80 years old and has worked hard as a cowboy his whole life.

Letter 8, USA Montana, August 31, 2006

Hello !

(heatwave)

I am now in Montana after I crossed the border to Canada. My tourist 3 month visa had run out and I had to leave the states. I tried to get an extension but this was really difficult. I was a little tired of all this when I met a border police whom I told of my problems. Maybe he had his good day when he told me to cross the border and come back again when he would give me another 3 months visa. Surprises never end.

The nature up here is really beautiful. Clear rivers and the air a little chilly. It’s real Cowboy land and I feel allmost like the marlboro man who rides/cycles in the sunset. But there are also parts where there is nothing but desert and grass. I am getting a little tired on these roads but luckily I met Harley bikers and we became friends. In South America my friends were truck drivers and police. They often ask me why I don't ride a Harley instead of cycling. I told them that my horsepower are my legs which all ways gets a huge laugh.

After a hot day I've been cooled off with a waterhose by a Harley gang.
They shouted: "Do you feel better now?"
I said: "Yes, I feel better!" But they said I didn’t look better and invited me for a beer.

There was a month with a heat wave which took all my strength. My day trips ended up as low as 50 km. I was told that it was the hottest month for 50 years.
I found that an icecold coke after a hot day gives you a headache.
If you like to jump off your bike and throw it from a bridge into the deep water then it is time to take a break until you find new strength to bike again.
Sometimes when I spend the night at a rest place I always got problems with gays hitting on me. Here in the states these places are frequently used for contacts by them. For one or other reason they put their interest in me! I just don't know why!
I have been to the Indian reservation of the big chief ”Sitting Bull” who fought General Custer. Someone warned me not to sleep there, but when I got closer I forgot. They have a lot of alcohol and drug problems there. I met one indian who invited me to his home where the whole family greeted me.(six boys, one grandfather, many aunties and so on.
They gave me amulets which keep the bad away from me and bring me luck.
They baptised me ”White Buffalo” because I seemed to be fearless cycling around the world. I took the chance and stayed over night. I have never seen such bad behaviour: young and old drunks together, smoking and fighting. The kids were obviously used to this.

I found an open house and went to sleep until police came and threw me out. There are many Norwegian living in the north of the states. They were astonished to see me coming with my bike. Many times I was invited to stay and to eat and drink. One of them spoke in really old Norwegian which he had adopted from his great-grandfather. I hardly understood anything that he said. But all of them were shocked when I told them about the welfare we have in Norway. (free hospital, doctor, schools and unemployment, insurance.)
They were even more shocked when I told them about prices for gas, beer and cigarettes. Also the couldn’t believe how high fines can be there.(to urinate in the street in Tonsberg, Norway cost 15 000 NOK)

Greetings from
White buffalo
Rune



Letter 7, USA Kansas, July 31, 2006

Hello.

I am now in the mid-west in Kansas. I have been on long tours but nothing special has happened. There is not much to see and no one to talk to since everyone are in their cars

The camping facilities are great though. In Texas for example, I asked one guy whether it was possible to sleep in the yard of his ranch. That resulted in a 3 weeks stay with free room and board! I worked on the ranch. It was hard, cowboys live a tough life. “Texas” has a new meaning to me now that I know the background. They had been gun fighting, fist fighting and drinking. But that’s history now.
I have met people with the biggest hearts in the world. They have fixed my bicycle. They even had a benefit dinner to collect money for me. They took me fishing and pubbing. I really felt welcome.

After my stay in Bridge City I was happy I had room and board. But after one more week of biking I needed a new front wheel chain and gear. I also was hospitalized for my back problem. So I was left with no more money even though I didn’t spend much

I biked from Texas to Mississippi and through Alabama to Florida. Later I want to go to the west coast. But where my journey will end – I don’t know.

Now for some stories of my adventures:
- a skunk visited me while I was sleeping in my hammock. He stole some food but when I chased him he lifted his tail. After that my tent and hammock where useless! But fortunately a girl gave me a new and better one in Missouri. I was often invited to homes for food and lodging. People in the south USA are so friendly. I have heard that in the north they are not. But I will see.

Greetings Rune




Letter 6, USA, South. Spring 2006

After lots of trouble on the border I am now in Southern Texas. When the World Trade Center came down they became very strict. Now someone must show that he’s got sufficient money and not try to work instead of taking holidays. I took the chance but they rejected me. I went back to Mexico and wrote letters to my friends asking if they could lend me money. One friend took a mortgage on his home and sent it to me. It took days to arrange. Again at the border they told me that this wasn’t enough and they wanted to see at least $1000 in cash. In Mexico I withdrew the money and finally they let me enter the USA. My first impression of the States wasn’t too good after all this stress. But now I feel better. In only 2 days I have 2 new tyres, a free hotel stay and lots of hamburgers. We were interviewed by local media and here in Kingsville I can’t think of anyone not knowing me. I met a Vietnamese veteran who offered us hamburgers. He told us some really horrific stories about the war there. He didn’t realize that all of this was due partly because of the tortures by American soldiers. He also didn’t realize that hamburgers and other junk food made people overweight. I have never seen so many fat people in one place before!

When we entered Guatemala we met a rightwing politician. For one or another reason he called the police to escort us. The police took this order very seriously and followed us with blue lights flashing up to the border of Mexico. We felt very important at the beginning. On the police radio we only heard talking about a Norwegian and a Japanese biker. Lots of folks came just to see us. After 2 days we got a little tired of all this publicity. When we slept in our tents a policeman was watching us all night. When we took a bath in the river there was at least 3 police cars for our safety. This awakened the interest in us. As many as 50 people came to watch us sleeping in our tents. (Camping is something really unusual down here) they really wanted to see everything. We were warned and hoped it would be better in Mexico.
There isn’t much to tell about Mexico. It was a bit boring with long even roads which seemed never to end. Folks weren’t too friendly either. We kept on cycling and got bored more and more with the Spanish culture. I’ve got a problem with my backside. When ever I sat on my saddle some muscles went tight on me. A Dr. Jesus Ramirez helped me but after a week the pain came back and I had to see another Dr. who gave me penicillin and advised me to find a softer saddle. But I think the muscle must be operated once I am back.

I had some strange experiences with snakes. In Mexico there are dead snakes on all of the roads. At the end I got used to it so I just ran over them without taking care. But when I ran over one which wasn’t dead she found herself in my front wheel. When I stopped she tried to bite me. A little tug and I had it. I think it was a small rattlesnake.
My next frightening experience was in the States. When we camped close to a river I wanted to take a bath before going to sleep. Exactly when I wanted to dive I saw a 2 m long snake about 1 m down in the water. I quickly forgot about taking a bath in the river.
My (our) plans are to ride alongside the east coast beginning in Florida, up to Canada and later to the west and north to Alaska.

Rune



Letter 5, Central America, May 2, 2006
I am now in Guatemala, close to Mexico. Central America is really beautiful. Crystalline rivers and paradise beaches all the way.

To get to Panama I had to take a so called smuggling boat with 400 hp. It wasn't a pleasant trip at all. The boat raced at 100 knots over the waves. My back still hurts me one week later. On the coast we've been checked out very closely because they thought we were cocaine smugglers from Colombia. Afterwards I had to take a short flight to Panama City because they don't like tourists in the surrounding areas.

Now I have two travelling companions, one from Japan and the other from Canada. I just feel fine after I have been traveling 3 months alone. They are tough bikers and I call them hippy bikers. We exchange experiences all the way. But our daily trips hardly reached 100 km on even roads.

Except for biking we spent a lot of time on rivers and beaches taking rest and swimming. As I said it´s really a paradise here. We always sleep close to beaches and rivers and start out early in the morning with coffee and eggs. Once we slept near a Vulcano which was active and spat smog and lava all night. It was nice to see how the red lava ran down the mountain sides. Luck was with me 3 times.
1. A dog jumped ahead of me and I fell. I hurt my arm and my camera was damaged.
2. To avoid colliding with an elderly lady I collided with a tree in the middle of the road. She didn't even bother to apologise or anything, simply carried on her way without as much as a "How are you?"
3. The last time, I didn't realize that my legs where much stronger than I thought and I was able to cycle straight up a hill without going from one side to the other.

I found the people in the south much friendlier than in the north, where the shouted "GRINGO!" a lot which basically means "Americans go home!" That is to say that USA is not so popular down here.
The countries are left-wing orientated because they hate USA.
There is a lot of corruption on the borders and we must pay every time to cross.
On the border of Honduras we didn't pay which resulted in a load of screaming and arguing.
But we didn't give up (we got to know the culture) we tried to find out the officers' identity and wanted to report him for corruption in the capital.
Because we didn't get his identity we took a photo of him. He almost flipped out, nearly exploded and he called the police. He took our passports and threatened with one thing or another, but it ended up with us having to pay to continue our trip.

We laughed a lot afterwards about this episode.

From my sponsors I received some money from one of the greatest contributors in “The Bolivian family”. He's been there from the beginning and worked active to hold the whole works together. Hans Olav Medland sponsors me as a private person, very kind of him.
Rune




Letter 4, South America. Mars 2006

Meanwhile I am in Colombia, after a heavy mountain trial in Ecuador. The fastest
bicycle tour I have had so far. The landscape consists of lots of volcanoes and high mountains, deep valleys. I don’t use my tent now because I was told that there are many snakes. Once I
spent carnival in Ecuador. (It’s celebrated all over the country) somebody let me use his house over carnival. I took a lot of pictures. But a nasty little boy tripped me up and my camera and all pictures were gone. That’s why sadly, I have no pictures of the feast.

Colombia is altogether different from any of the places I have been until now. There are many military persons on the road (I think about every km there is a post). But they are really friendly and invited me for dinner and to stay over night. They let me use their guns in the jungle and showed me what life is like in the military. They were surprised by my camping gear and liked to exchange it for theirs. But I said thanks but no thanks. (Too heavy, about 10kg)

Colombia seems rich and beautiful (also the people) Bolivia and Peru seemed to me a bit worn down. They are pretty poor here especially in Bolivia. My saddest experience I had was about 4000m high. They had nothing. They looked sick. And often I thought they live in Barns. I worked in an orphans home and when I left they wanted to send all of the children with me.

I think the wealth of Colombia is due to its smuggling cocaine. But it just seems like we are smuggling cigarettes from Sweden. I asked them to take me to a cocaine camp. But they said they couldn’t guarantee my safety.

I had my first strange experience here. (A little of my own fault.) I was sick and tired and could not carry on any more. I set my tent up in the middle of a city park and slept. When I woke up my bike fell on me. I heard voices and started to panic. But at the same time I felt an adrenalin kick. I took my knife out and cut open the entrance then got out screaming and yelling. I saw 4 or 5 guys running away. I didn’t sleep afterwards.

But never the less I like Colombia and its people. They invited me for food and to stay over night many times.

After I was turned down by 20 sponsors I felt somewhat discouraged. Now I am looking to get some sponsorship here. I got 3 replies and I could hardly could believe it . One who is selling ipod
I am now in Cartageña in the north of Colombia and from thereI shall take a boat to Panama because there is no road between Colombia and Panama. There has been several wars between these countries. Guerrilla troops who are also called socialists, have made that road impossible to ride in safety and the USA don't want one because they are very concerned that there will be even more cocaine shipped across the border.
Rune



Letter 3, South America. February 21, 2006

I have now been in Ecuador for 3 days. It is very tropically hot and I must drink 10 Litres of water a day and because I sweat it out all of the time I can't even find it necessary to have a pee. There are many insects and small animals and until today I've seen 6 dead snakes. It's absolutely beautiful here. You can't compare it with Peru which consists mostly of desert. Here you will find vegetation almost everywhere except on the Vulcanoes.

My journey through Peru took a little longer that I thought because many people invited me to their home. Now I'm getting tired because people are of the impression that I have loads of money, why I can't begin to understand. I told them that my dear mother is only able to send me §150 a month (1000 crowns) so I am not able to spend much money in restaurants and
hotels. If someone must have respect, it's for their mother. Total respect for their mother is in abundance there.

Many families have invited me to stay for dinner and even offered me a nice bed to sleep on. They would organise a small party for me which is ho I get to know people and their cultures. It also helps me to save my money.

But it is not funny when many females want to get involved with me. I enjoyed it at first but later I got bored with these situations. Now I tell everyone, well almost everyone, that I have a special girlfriend in Norway, not necessarily true.

I was very surprised how friendly the police are here. They escorted me many miles through numerous unsafe places. They even offered sleeping accomodation in the police station and gave me food and drink even though they knew that I didn't have much money.

Even though the locals warned me that these same police could just as easily rob me or put drugs in my luggage etc etc. But never the less the police are my good friends.

People who live in this area are curious what camping life is like. I very often have to show my tent, sleeping bag and field kitchen. They are very impressed. Here it's carnival time until Sunday but I would have preffered to have been in Colombia for their festivities.

Carnival should be way better in Colombia, but Ecuadorians say its better in Ecuador, naturally! However, I am a little afraid of Colombia that someone might rob me. A Japanese biker told me he was robbed with machinegun toting gangsters and was left naked until he was eventually found by the police. All the people that I've met here have said that it's a sort of war in Colombia. But I will see how I will end up.

All the time I riding into headwind (sometimes heavy). I only wish that it would stop but it never does. I tried to find information about the winds down here but I couldn't find any.


Greetings
Rune Monstad




Letter 2, Peru. February 2006

Hello!
Now I'm in Lima staying in the house of a German friend who is married to a Peruvian girl. I'm being treated like a king and I will stay a few days more. They have shown me many beautiful places of Lima. They invited me for dinner together with all the family. I saved about five days meals. The sweet daughter and her friends invited me for a bottle of wine.

Since my last letter I rode more or less 700 km and I really needed a break. Here there are many things to see and discover. I was really amazed with the desert, it is so big. I experienced a heavy sandstorm and I got totally covered with sand. My ears, pants, hair and even my bike were completely covered so I had a lot of cleaning to do. I really felt like an adventurer. I have been warned of the dangers of South America before I started this bike tour, specially my mother. One can even die for a few dollars or could be kidnapped, robbed or even the police putting drugs into my luggage and then follow up by pressin charges against me. But thank God so far nothing has happened.

The people are very friendly, they often invite me to their homes and I usually accepted.

The police stopped me many times asking me where I came from. But later they wished me luck and then let me go. I pitched my tent on the beach and when the police came (I didn't look very good) but they only asked me to move a little further inland because of the high tide. It's quite
different in Norway. My only problem are the dogs which are never kept on a leash. No law exists for this kind of problem. They usually run behind me and try to bite my legs I can't tell you how many times. One dog was even killed by a car when he was running after me. I have seen more than 14 dogs die from being hit by cars.

The German took me to a bike repair shop to clean my bike. I have never seen anything like this before, they took the bike apart and cleaned it with chemicals in the water using wire brushes. They checked all the bearings and changed some. My handlebars bearing was totally gone. The wheels were also aligned. All that cost me around 30 crowns.

I learned more about bikes this time than in all my life before. Until this moment I haven't spent much money. It would be a shame if I had to stop my journey because of lack of money. Now I always sleep in my tent unless someone invites me home. But still I'm dreaming of a better tent, a better sleeping bag and a new camping kitchen. What I have now I bought in Bolivia. I'm looking for sponsors to get better materials. Also I'm trying to find sponsors in Norway; let's see what will happen. Tomorrow I will see whether I can get to Colombia by 25th of February. To achieve this it will mean me having to cycle at least 150kms per day which probably be too much for me.





Letter 1, Bolivia. January 2006

Bolivia
I write this short letter on behalf of “The Bolivian family” at the orphanage (Boliviafamilien Norge), a brief history of how I came to South America. I came to Brasil to spend half a year as a back packing tourist. At first it was quite interesting, spending my days on the beach and enjoying the Carnival, but after 2 months I was tired of wine and songs. I wanted to see more of this continent. I heard of many orphanages run by Norwegians in Bolivia and wrote to many asking for work. They asked about my background as well as my Christian beliefs. Only one wanted to employ me who were called "The Bolivian Family".
They had no objections and received me with open arms. I had many exciting times whilst there. I lived with the children, some had been drug addicts, and the other volunteers. I went hunting in the jungle with half civilized Indians, which was my greatest experience.

I returned to Norway to work a little, and went to Bolivia in October to help build a new children's home, which we finished on the 26th December.

I bought a bicycle and began to ride towards the United States starting in Cochabamba in Bolivia and moved on to La Paz, the worlds highest capital city (3700 metres above sea level). I had never cycled before at this height, but wanted to try. After packing what I thought necessary I set off. It wasn't a problem on the even roads in good weather, but after 2 days the storm clouds
began to form.

The following day there was snow, rain and frost, which I hadn't expected at all. The altitude began to make breathing difficult, and the clothing I had wasn't made for the cold. Later I dumped half of my camping equipment because it was far too heavy and had to to ask local people for accommodation, as it was much too cold sleeping in the tent. People let me sleep in their houses for small payments. Sometimes truck drivers would cheer me up by blowing their horns and giving me a thumbs up. Despite this it was the worst cycle trip of my life, and I was very happy to reach La Paz.

Each day I heard that the rainy season had begun, and was told to head for the coast of Peru. I began heading north towards Peru, and when I reached Lake Titicata the weather began to improve and the travelling became easier. My fitness had improved and I was making 150 kms a day.

I was surprised to find the Kon Tiki museum, which an old lady showed me around after telling her I was Norwegian. Continuing on towards Puno in Peru, I also saw the floating islands of straw in Lake Titicata, which I must have been the first person to ride a bicycle on. A young boy ran after me wanting to sit on my bag rack, surely never seeing a bicycle before.

Another time I had to climb a pass to 4975 metres to reach the coast of Peru, when it started to rain again and the winds picked up. Luckily at the highest point an ambulance stopped and offered me a ride, and as I was soaking wet this made me happy. I fell asleep in the ambulance and when I woke again I was 100 kms closer to the coast. I've been surprised by the hospitality of the people from here.

At the coast two friends from “The Bolivian Family” came to visit me, Siv Broman, from Finland, and Heidi Vinnes, from Norway.

Now I follow the coast up to Colombia, where I want to spend Carnival.

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