fredag 21. desember 2012


Toliara 21.12.2012

It has been almost a month since I last wrote to you from France, a month filled with a lot of Madagascar, a lot of motorcycles and a great deal of heat. The period can be divided into four parts. First the journey to Toliara, including a night in Paris, a night in Antananarivo, two nights in Antsirabe and being sick on the road to Toliara. The second part consisted mainly of repairing motorbike(s), sweating, not being sick anymore and having mango breaks. The third part, lasting only for four days (compared to the previous, lasting for almost two weeks) consisted of the motorbike-trip, from Toliara, up the coast to Marondava, and from there to Antsirabe. The last part is now, leaving Jeremy in the highlands, and returning to Toliara to celebrate Christmas with the whole family.

Arriving in Madagascar was, as usual, very nice. I have been in love with this Island for quite some time, and even though I may forget why from time to time, I am always reminded when I get back. The people are so nice, everything so uncomplicated and then it’s Africa, or at least something quite similar to it. In Antsirabe I have lots of friends, having lived there for five years, so whenever I am there, I always have plenty to do. I had to show Jeremy around a bit, and met up with Toky, my best friend up there, who makes his living as a musician (you can see that on the picture). The drive from Antsirabe to Tloiara (800 km) was not to enjoyable for me, because I had fever and felt very bad, but Jeremy did the driving, and we arrived safely.

In Toliara (town on the west-coast) the plan was to open the engine of my bike, replace the broken parts (I brought new parts from France), and then head out on a trip. We managed quite nicely, I would say, in opening the engine, and getting all in place again. For me it was the first time to open an engine, but Jeremy had done it before, and was thus the “first mechanic”, and I was the assistant. When the engine was reassembled, with new piston rings, a new cam-shaft and a new distribution chain, we tried to start the bike, but there was no way. It took us several days, and the help of a mechanic, to find the problem, which was a little missing thing that blocks the automatic decompression from turning with the camshaft. This was of course discovered on a Saturday evening, and there was need for a special machine to pull the automatic decompression off the camshaft, so the bike was not ready before Monday in the evening.

We left early on Tuesday, and headed towards Morondava, first along the coast, with plenty of sand, and later a bit inland. To reach Manja was not a problem, even though the road was muddy in some parts. This area of Madagascar is very remote, and there are few roads, few cars, and the roads are in partly very bad conditions. The second day we actually wanted to do a count of cars (or any other motorized vehicles) and ox-carts, to see what there would be most of, but we got out of count with the ox-carts. With the cars it was much easier. For 200 kilometers of gravel-road we neither met nor overtook nor even saw anything with an engine, except for our own bikes. This was understandable though, regarding that the road was very bad, even for the cross-bikes, and we also took a wrong turn, which cost us some hours of extra sweat. Crossing big riverbeds in 35 degrees and sun is only partly fun, especially if you get stuck, stall, and your bike does not want to start, like it happened to Jeremy. I have never seen him as tired as he was after that river crossing, and I think it will take some time before he agrees on another trip into deep sand.

We did not sleep in Morondava that night, but went out of town after a cold drink, to spend the night in the famous baobab-alee, 18 kilometers from Morondava. It was a beautiful evening, and the people were very nice, when we decided to camp 50 meters from their houses. Madagascar can be so incredibly beautiful, and then it can be so damaged too.

Between Morondava and Antsirabe, there is a good tarmac-road. There is also the option of taking a very bad gravel (or stone) road, which was our initial plan, but when we had the option, the heat and the exhaustion made us choose the more boring tarmac. On Friday we hit Antsirabe for a second time. My parents, and my little sister arrived in Madagascar on Saturday, but their luggage did not, so they waited until Monday with coming to Antsirabe, so we waited to. An accident with Wombosi gave us another day delay, but on Wednesday we finally headed southwards again with the whole family. Jeremy was sent his own ways, so Mparany took the one bike, and Alma, my little sister came with us bikers too, so that the rest could fit in the “little” Renault Laguna. Wombosi had to stay behind because of the damage from the accident.

Now we are set to do nothing for some days. Markus and Jacob, my nephews will get some attention, and then it is Christmas.

For those of you who don’t know Madagascar too well, I can tell you this much. Being south of the equator, we have summer here now, meaning that it is very hot. Toliara is one of the hottest and driest places on the island with approximately 11 days with rain a year, so even though the hot season is rainy season, Toliara stays hot and dry most of the time. My sister and Mparany, her husband, have built a house on a big plot here, so our main activity whenever we get here is to plant trees, cut of branches and take care of the garden.

 I’ll be back in Norway on the fourth of January, and wish you all a happy Christmas and a blessed new year.


Jeremy before his haircut

"Satroka ny papa" (the hat of the pope), between Antsirabe and Toliara

Mparany, Sophie and Jeremy

Bikes and Baobabs

Jeremy is crossing a river...

...before taking a mud-bath

Baobabs close to Morondava

What a place to camp

The destroyed mountains above Miandrivazo

torsdag 22. november 2012

Cruising through France

22.11.2012 Cassis, France

Tomorrow I will be going to Paris, and on Saturday I’m off to Madagascar. It is almost two years since I was there last, so I am of course very eager to be back.

The time between Cuba and Madagascar has not been wasted though. The days at my grandparents were nice, and here in France we have had plenty to do. I have been with Jeremy, who will also come to Madagascar with me, and have benefitted greatly from both his means of transportations, and his local knowledge. We are in Cassis, which is half an hour east from Marseille at the coast of the Mediterranean. The location means that it is still warm enough to ride bikes, so there has been a lot of that. If you remember when I met Jeremy about a year ago, you will know that he was doing a trip similar to mine, but on a Honda Afrika Twin (motorbike).

The longest expedition we had was a four day trip on the bikes into the Alps. The highest passes are closed for the winter, but we had plenty of nice roads at almost 2000 meters above sea level. Our route was east passing Nice, going through the world’s most densely populated country, Monaco, and to Menton. From there we went north to Sospel and into the mountains. We wanted to do the Cime de la Bonette (the highest pass in the Alps, if you take the old road), but it was closed, and as it was in the afternoon we decided not to try and sneak and run the risk of being stuck up there in the night. Instead we went through some gorges and canyons and all the way to the Mont Ventoux.

We also dropped by Avignon to see the funny half bridge and the popes palace. For those of you who have not studied history; Avignon was the seat of the “real pope” for 67 years, between 1309 and 1376, and later there were two popes for a short period (1978 to 1417). One in Rome and another one in Avignon, and both claimed to be the real one.

Regarding that I am still trying to live on the cheap, we decided to camp on our trip. This was not a problem, even though camping is more or less illegal in France. The trouble was the cold, both in the tent and on the bikes. The last morning there were three degrees under zero, and the comfort in my sleeping bag was limited. We had to drive very carefully, but on the plus side we had lots of blue skies and beautiful sights. The view from the Ventoux was enormous.

So now I am off to my little island, to meet Wombosi again, to meet my family, and I bring over 800 Euros of spare-parts for my Elefanta (motorbike in Madagascar).

An island off Cassis
If you wander why I don’t write anything about the French cultures and habits, it is because I am very disappointed. I thought that when I came to France I would meet many people with big noses who were unfriendly and talked French and ate snails and frogs every day and drank a lot of wine and all looked like Gerard Depardieu, but it seems that the only real difference from Germany to France is the language they speak, and here south, the milder climate. France is beautiful, and there are nice people here with normal noses. I am impressed by the nature, and by the amount of nature (there is more space than in Germany), and even though the towns are expensive, the nature is free and the roads are good. Jeremy put it like this (and this is a direct quote): “in France, you can enter a curve like a crazy-man”.

The Mont Ventoux behind Lavender feelds

View from the Ventoux

Avignon, with the bridge to the left and the
papal palace to the right

Our bikes

Me, my twin, Jeremy's twin and Jeremy

mandag 12. november 2012

Three weeks in Cuba

Bernstein, Germany 10.11-2012

It is a long time since I wrote here on my blog, so I think I have to come with a small update about the latest developments in my life, before I start telling you about my three weeks in Cuba.

In July, I earned myself a girlfriend. I was playing on the streets of Bergen, and she decided to give herself, 20 kroners and an ice-cream, and what could I do except saying thank you. Her name is Kristine, and she will soon play an important role in this story. In August I lost whatever brief housing I had over the summer, and started to look for a new job, as the season at my museum drew to an end. In September I got bored with only getting crappy job-offers and living on mercy, so I decided it was time to get “out there” one more time, and then start studying after New Year. I have applied for a place at theology in Bergen, and have gotten a room at Alrek, so I am ready for the next semester. So, from one day to the next, I had three months to fill.

The first thing I did was to leave Norway for Germany. After some days at my grandparents’, I went to the South-West, and locked myself into a small hut (once a mill) owned by Wiebke, with my computer, and wrote for ten days. I wrote about the Africa-trip that this blog is all about, but still have quite a lot of work ahead of me before it is a book.

Now over to Cuba. Why would I go to Cuba? Many people have asked me that question, and to be honest, I did not go to Cuba for Cuba’s sake. Kristine went there mid September, to do parts of here nursery-school there, so I went visiting on the 18th of October. I came home yesterday (9th of November).

Cuba is an Island, west of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, east of Mexico and south of the United States. It was a Spanish colony until the liberation in the 1890s. In 59 Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries got power, and since then it has been a communistic country. Fidel is now a little old, so his younger brother Raul Castro is leading the country. I have thought a lot about the communistic system of Cuba, and could write a lot, but I think there is no space for it here. I can say this much though. It works to the extent that everyone is more or less equally poor, no one starves to death (not even during the crises 90-94), and people get quite lazy. I think people are not happy as it is, but I think many will be unhappy, should the system be radically changed. The one thing that seems to make the Cubans angry is that they were not allowed to travel outside their country, but there is a brand new law on that now, so starting at the 14th of January Cubans can leave the country (if they have the money).

I visited Cuba for the sake of seeing Kristine, and regarding that here school is in Holguin (North-West), I was there for most of the time. I met here in Trinidad though, and we tried to get a bit around during the weekends, but hurricane Sandy made things a bit complicated. She did not destroy too much in Holguin though. She broke a lot of branches and some trees were unrooted, but no houses were damaged. Santiago was hit much worse, and even though I did not go there I believe it when they say that most of Santiago was damaged. Kristine and I went to Guardelavaca (40 kilometres from Holguin) only a day after the storm hit, and when we eventually got there (we had to take some back roads, because the main road was closed) we found it without water and electricity, and the big beach-hotel (we did not stay there) had suffered badly with plenty of broken windows. It must have been even much worse further east (between Santiago and Baracoa) where Sandy went through.

This post is a bit chaotic, but I cannot tell you about everything I did in Cuba chronologically, and it would not be appropriate either. Last weekend, though, we wanted to head east and towards Baracoa. We rented a scooter (we wanted a motorbike, but there was nothing to get except 50 cc scooters) , and since top speed was between 30 and 50 depending on the wind, and we had to walk and push where the road was at its steepest, we never got that far. We got to Mayari and up to Cuba’s highest waterfall (over 100 meters), but due to destructions by the storm, the path leading to the foot of the falls was closed. It was also very foggy, so we did not see too much. We had great fun though, pushing a scooter through Cuba, but there was no use in continuing further east. Instead we drove to Gibara, a nice little fisher-village.

The last two days I spend in Havana, and two days was just enough to get a brief overview of the old town, and visit two good art museums. Havana is a proper beautiful capital city with plenty of beautiful old buildings, good museums on every corner and saying has is that the nightlife is good too. It does of course have a seaside avenue (the Malecon). I could say that Cuba has many things that remind me of Africa, but I have not seen a town like Havana in Africa. Nor have I seen art of the quality that you have in Cuba. I recon some suffering and intellectuality leads you right there. Antonia Eriz’s the wall-styled paintings (in the museum de belles artes de Cuba) talked straight to me.

It’s funny how I came to Cuba with three goals; first and foremost to see Kristine and spend time with her. Mission accomplished. Secondly I came to learn some Spanish. I can say I managed that too. Thirdly I wanted to see some of Cuba and the communism. Off the three, I feel I managed this the least, but still that is what I go on about passage after passage. Few trips have given me so many new thoughts and ideas as this, which once again proves to me how the human being lives and breathes of new experiences.

I will have to add a little paragraph about my days in Holguin. That was after all the biggest part of my trip. Holguin is a province-capital, and a fairly big city. Kristine is there with nine other Norwegian girls to do three months there in their nursery-study. Normally they have to live in a hotel, but while I was there, Kristine was allowed to move out of the hotel and into a “casa particulare”, private accommodation, with me. In stark contrast to the service at the hotel, the service in the private rooms is good. Private stuff was a long time completely forbidden in Cuba, but the last years small things like taxis, small “cafeterias” and even some restaurants have been allowed, and a family is allowed to rent out two rooms if they fulfil the requirements, being a room with bathroom, air-condition and a fridge. We stayed at Lissie and her family, and had a really good time there. Lissie and her husband Ronaldo were very nice, and their granddaughter, Veronica (one year and four months), was about the sweetest little thing you can imagine. She learned to walk while we were there, and learned many new works. When I was at safe distance she looked at me and peaked around the corners, but as soon as I came close she ran to mummy or grandfather and hid and even cried as if I was a monster.

We spend a lot of time wandering around town, looking for stuff to eat or things to buy. Cuba has plenty of shops, but they usually don’t sell much other than soft-drinks and cigarettes and a lot of alcohol. It’s strange to see a big shop with many shelves, but nothing in them. We also spend some time with schoolwork, and I could of course study while Kristine was at her school (some few hours from Monday to Thursday). I brought a book for my study next spring, and I finished it, not because I had to, but because it was so interesting (thank you Sigvart!). I did not get many Cuban friends, but in the Norwegian group I got to know Kristines three best friends, Tone-Lill, Cecilie and Liv. I played for them two evenings (on the guitar), and we played volleyball and card-games. I could even talk to them. Cecilie speaks Arab and has been in Egypt and that area and could give me insight of that society from a woman’s point of view. The other girls (the 6 I have not mentioned with name) seemed to be most interested in dancing, drinking, nice dresses, getting shampoo and boys. It is sad to see what people in Cuba think about when they hear Norway (other than it being cold and having long days and nights depending on time of year). One guy I met in Havana new one word in Norwegian. It was drita-full (dead-drunk). It seems that most Norwegian that come to Cuba (or anywhere) end up drita-full in some bar. Cubans like to party and dance themselves. After all, they have a lot to forget, and they don’t need to go early to work, because they get the same salary anyway. It makes me embarrassed to be associated with Norway when I see how many Norwegians are, when the bottle of beer costs 6 kroners instead of 60 (or even in Norway when it does cost 60).
Wiebke's mill

The seaside in Havana

Kristine does a little "guantanamera"

Landscape from the "Valle de los ingenios" by Trinidad

What a beauty! Kristine with Holguin in the background


Old american cars and Bici-Taxis in Havana

One of several forts in Havana

Now I have written too much already. Before I talk badly about something else it is time to round up with telling you about the next two months. If you remember Jeremy, it is good for you. I will go to France next week, spend ca ten days to drive motorbikes with him there before we head to Madagascar together to drive motorbikes there. My parents will arrive in Madagascar a week or so before Christmas, and Jeremy will go back home. Christmas will be celebrated with the whole family in Toliara, and on the second of January I fly slowly back to Norway, coming to Bergen on the fourth. But most of this will be here on the blog, so just stay tuned in!

onsdag 27. juni 2012

Take it Back

27.06.12 Bergen
So now it’s more than a months since I came back here to Norway, and I won‘t be preaching about. I just want to share a memory from Africa that I couldn’t share then, due to the superb African internet. It is a recording of a poem made by Roger and me in Uganda. It was made as a result of when Roger lost in poker. Even though illegal (at least in Norway), we played about money, and after keeping our betting nice and low, Roger all of a sudden went mad and bet 10 000. He lost, and had to continue to bet high to win his money back. That did not go too well, so in the end he owed me 28 800.  That disturbed him so much that he started to write this poem.

I have also added three pictures of a recent MC-trip through Norway. Enjoy, and have a nice summer.

Sonia on the Pulpit

A tiny church at Varhaug

Samlen and the Hardanger-Fjord

P.S: He owed me 28 800 Ugandan Shilling, a sum equal to 70 NOK or 9.2 Euro, and he has not paid it all back yet.