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Belgium Apr 10 - May 12, 2006

A month spent with family, some preparation for the trip, a memorial for my mom and a balloon ride with my dad.


No, we don't have your motorcycle Apr 10, 2006 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Collecting the bike proved to be a nightmare. For those interested in the full story, drop me a line. Below is a pic of the bike, as it was handed to me by KLM Cargo, circumventing customs rules. As I said, it's a long story...



Can you fly an airplane? Do you speak Arabic? Apr 9, 2006 - Underway over the Atlantic
You know life is going to get complicated when the US customs guy takes one look at your passport, asks you an irrelevant question, and then starts typing away quietly, avoiding eye contact. Carefully digging for the right color marker in his drawer, a purple “C” marks the beginning of absolute scrutiny. “Have a nice trip”, he says as he hands back my paperwork. I just about asked if I should just go to secondary inspection, but then figured I’d just follow the process and as predicted quickly got rejected when I presented my customs card to the next DHS automaton. Secondary inspection consisted of a few bored customs people lingering and one bright-eyed and bushy-tailed recent graduate from the Department of Homeland Security assembly line. Into the third question, we both knew we’d be here for a while. After handing over my second passport as well as my BC license, the careful questioning and unpacking began. Two others were slaving at their keyboards, glancing at my various documents as undoubtedly my life flashed before their eyes. After about an hour and numerous repeated questions, a visibly well-used person came my way and whisked my interrogator into a little mirrored room. Meanwhile I continued repacking all the pieces of paper and other gear in my thankfully meager carry-on.

"Why did you buy this magazine?” Asks the well-used one. “Why Men Rule”, the title gleams. Mind you, it's an article on population inequality on the cover of Foreign Affairs. “I was given this and the other magazines by my friend Shelley to read on the plane”. The female component of my answer seemed to satisfy them and no longer was I the wife-beating Islamic thug I undoubtedly had become in their eyes. The two others carried a bundle of my paperwork towards the conveyer belt where I had been busy reassembling my belongings and with a quiet nod they went back to standby mode. Clearly something had convinced them I was not about to blow something up or worse. Visibly relieved to not have to bring out the blue rubber gloves, I was wished a good trip and shown the door. I debated asking whether they shouldn't check and turn on my laptop, but thought the better of it.


T minus 6 days Apr 3, 2006 - Vancouver, Canada

After much effort and a few choice words, the move is over. A week or two ago I cleaned out my apartment and everything, including the red motorcycle, is now in storage. The inventory of stuff I own seems to grow organically. I moved 11 boxes more than my last move, barely 2 years ago. Who keeps acquiring all this stuff? Thankfully, it's all behind me. After spending today successfully culling my trip packing list, I must say I am pleased with the result. Note that the backpack includes my helmet, riding boots and riding gear. I packed to simplify the switch from travel clothes to riding gear when I get to Amsterdam. The bike leaves on April 5th and I fly out on April 9th.



Packing continues unabated Mar 8, 2006 - Vancouver, Canada

Packing is highly underrated. Trying to collect all the bits and pieces for being on the road for a long time requires going with the absolute minimum, and then cutting it in half. I'm down to just over a 109 pounds, including the bags. The right Touratech weighs 33 pounds and the left 36. I'm also carrying a backpack across the two which weighs 40 pounds. The Zega cases and the backpack weigh 21 pounds, so a net weight of 88 pounds or 40 kilos of gear, including spare parts and tools. Not a bad first cut.


Just leave it blank, we don't care Mar 3, 2006 - Vancouver, Canada

I wanted to avoid a repeat of the Iranian visa fiasco, so I called the Syrian embassy in Ottawa before I sent in my paperwork. Some servile behaviour resulted in knowing exactly what to fill in where. As to the section on "references", the answer was curt. "You're a tourist, we don't care, just leave it blank". And so went the paperwork to Ottawa. And surprisingly, it came back in less than 3 days with the desired result.


Are you a cartoonist, per chance? Feb 16, 2006 - Vancouver, Canada

It is proving hard to get an Iranian visa. My initial application was refused. I'll try again through a "tourist agency" that deals with the embassy in Ottawa. The other options are to try in Brussels and Ankara. A few weeks ago visas (15 day, renewable in Tehran) started becoming available at the Iranian border. However, the Danish cartoon fiasco curtailed that for the time being. Maybe visas are now harder to get overall. Some British riders had issues in the past week as well. My contingency plans include going through Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman and taking a dhow from Muscat to Karachi. Alternatively, I can go through the Stans', over the top of Iran. Hopefully I'll get the visa situation sorted out.


Collecting the hard-to-get parts well in advance Jan 11, 2006 - Vancouver, Canada

After a few phone calls I got in touch with the right person at the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Ottawa. Since the standard visa application guidelines were well outside of my time frame, I decided to see what I could arrange. The result is more than I could have hoped for. Although I'm not sure if the "Purpose of visit" says Tourism or Terrorism. See here.


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