While I'm writing this page, I'm sitting somewhere in America and I'm enjoying it a lot, but at the time I started travelling, years ago, I couldn't know that I would love America one day. So the reader will find many statements about God's own Country on this page, sometimes just strange, sometimes really hostile. I will not change that, in order to show the big difference between the way I used to think before and the way I think about america now. My conclusion is: If people would travel more, there would be less wars on the world.
The first long journey I did was in August 1996 to Spain. Well,
at that time I considered it a long travel, I had no idea, what "long journey"
really means. It was an old car and I was expecting to have some problems with.
Well, I got my problems, but only with my gril-friend. I don't know why people
insist on calling that things "friend". A friend is something for
a lifetime - like for example this car, so let's get back to it:
In 1997 we went to northern Europe, the trip was twice as long as the first one. "Don't forget to take a towrope with you", so I was told. Standard answer: "Why? Who shall I tow away? I don't know anybody there..." But I took a towrope with me and, by accident, I found somebody in northern Sweden to tow away. It was the driver of an Opel, the same trash that is called Chevrolet in other parts of the world. I gave him the friendly advice to buy himself a Mercedes. Always the same: afFORDable but not reliable. This trip brought the same result than the first one to Spain: No problems with the car at all. We had no reason to go to Norway, so we had to find some. We definitely needed to smoke a cigarrette right on the polar-circle and we needed to reach the most northern point on the european continent, which was Gamvik, a little town in northern Norway. It still is the most northern point on the Continent, in my opinion, even if most people say it is the Nordcap. After days on the so called "arctic road", which goes from northern Sweden through Finland to Norway, we left that road and spent many hours driving through nowhere. Just the grey sky, stones, the narrow road and us. There was nothing else and I mean nothing. The sky was mostly cloudy, but sometimes it was clear and we could see the famous northern lights, also called aurora borealis. Some of them looked like huge courtains waving on the sky, some of them like drawn by a plane. Very impressive. And very cold outside, even if it was late summer. We definitely needed a better photo-equipment.
|Rest area. Sweden.||On our way to Gamvik.||Crossing the Polar Circle||Tromsø.||Fjord. Norway.|
We didn't end our tour through Scandinavia the way we planned
it, because we ran out of money, which is not a problem yet, but it means, that
the car will run out of fuel very soon and that is one of the biggest problems
a man can get. Norway is very beautyful, but way too expensive, we simply couldn't
afford it, even though we only spent money for diesel and nothing else, apart
some insignificant tolls for using the road. We didn't even buy food, we brought
it from Germany.
The year 1997 was the year of the travels. We spent each weekend in another european town: Bruxelles, Metz, Verdun, Vienna, Rome, Prague, Colonia, Berlin, Barcelona, Lugano, Amsterdam. We reached Europes most southern point at Tarifa, from where we could see the coast of Africa. "One day I'm going there..."
As the most western point , Cabo da Roca, Portugal, was very close, we also went there to see, how it looks. Then back to Germany, 34 hours non-stop-driving and only one driver aboard. During this time my sister went to London and there she spent more money in one week than we did during the whole summer. I never went to Great Britain, regardless if you use the ferry or the train to get there, it is still cheaper to cross the mediterranean. Even though I believe that Scotland is a beautyful country, the people are nice - I've heard that they don't like the english - and the scottish dialect sounds great, I never felt the desire to go to the Monkey-Island. And I also believe that it would have been better if the british had never left their own island. But they did and messed up a lot of countries spreading their inches and pounds and a lot of other useless stuff throughout the world. And - that's the worst - they drive on the wrong side of the road, like they did in the 16th century. It might make a lot of sense to drive a horse on the left side of the road, that way one can carry the sword with his right hand, but times changed a little bit since then and the british still didn't realize that most people do not use a sword in their cars. I guess that's why Rover went down the drain. And last but not least: Britain is way to expensive. Going there to visit is not reasonable at all. Maybe one day - but better by a landing craft than by ferry. We were happy with travelling to and through the other european countries. So the only part of Britain we saw with our own eyes was Gibraltar. Another anachronism made in England, by the way.
|Gibraltar||Tarifa||Portugal||Finland and Norway||Russian border|
In Norway I had decided, that we had to go to the desert. I failed
twice at school because of geography, but after some research I figured out,
that the Sahara was the closest desert, so I took my time - mostly at school,
during the english lessons - to find out which country was the most appropriate
for a desert-tour. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya or Egypt? I had no idea,
where to go. Tunesia doesn't reach the heart of the Sahara, Egypt gives anyone
a hard time, who tries to enter with his own car, specially if the car has a
diesel engine. In Algeria there were some crazy islamic fundamentalists at that
time having lots of fun killing people - without being busted by Clinton - and
Morocco is too close to the coast. Libya! I found a road which goes from the
mediterranean coast straight into the heart of the Sahara to a little town named
al-Kofra. Some changes to the Benz were necessary - at least I thought they
were. I built in an air condition, an oil-cooler, as the 200D comes without,
and I bought a stable luggage-rack. I got some fuel and water-tanks, but just
that isn't enough if you need a "sahara-equipment". We also needed
steel plates. Usually people use this plates to put them underneath the tires
when the car gets stuck in the sand. The old ones that the german army used
during worldwar two to build runways for the gliders are perfect for that purpose.
This plates are very expensive, though, so I had to figure out a cheaper way
to get them. One night a friend called me and said, he found some dugouts out
there in the forest, apparently an US-Army-Base. The roofs were made of this
old plates I was looking for. "Well, they stole it from the Wehrmacht,
we're gonna steal them back. No Air-Force, no problem..."
We organized a little raiding party: Three men, radio set, block and tackle, night vision aid including an infrared beam, one car - that's it. At dead of night they went in and two hours later we got our plates and the americans had some dugouts less than before - they don't need it anymore, the cold war is over. Now, finnaly, my sahara-equipment was ready.
After a short trip to the Inari-Lake in Finland - this time we didn't see any northern lights, it was to bright, as the sun was shining 24 hours a day - we got prepared for our first intercontinental-trip. Libya. One member of the crew, Günther, deserted one day before we started. Schameless, disgusting... "A deserter is a man who, in a moment of difficulty, abandons his comrades, seeking, above all else, to save his own skin" - that was Leo Trotzky's definition. We started without him - at least he paid his third. And he had no important function, so we could easily get over that failure or loss or whatever it is called. The driver was ready and the navigator as well, so we were still fit for action and we were at least 100 kg lighter. We went down to Genua / Italy, from there by ferry to Tunisia, from there straight to Libya. We reached the border at dawn and it was crouded and very noisy. I just got out if the car, set up my most stupid face an soon there came a libyan border-officer, grabbed my sleeve and positioned me on the front of the queue. We gained several hours, maybe even days. We didn't have much time anyway. fourteen days for the whole trip. That is way to less.
Soon I realized that the car was simply overloaded, so that we couldn't leave the roads. But the roads in Libya are largely in very good shape. We didn't reach Kufrah, but one day we went to an old greek excavation at the coast and I heard women talking. That alone is very strange, because usually there are no women outside their own houses at all, except in the big cities like Tripolis or Benghasi. I sounded familiar, as if it was german, and that was even more strange. I simply had to go there and ask, what the hell went wrong with them. Their names were Ines and Almut, they told us that they were travelling through Libya on their own and with public transportation. And they spoke arab fluently. Since that moment I knew that something went terribly wrong with them and I prefered not to ask further. Just two brain-damaged german girls - so I thought. Travelling without a car through a country like Libya. Libya is a paradise, cheap fuel, cheap Coke, desert roads and everything ruled by men. I asked, if they planned to go to the desert. "Well, public transportation is limited to the coast, but we would love to..." I had two seats available, so we took them to the south. We didn't have much time, just one week. I had to be back in Germany on time for school. I didn't know that I would visit school for just one day, otherwise I would have stayed three more weeks. This travel turned out to be something like a scouting party, just for reconnaissance. But at least I knew where to go next summer: Libya again. Unfortunately, my navigator showed himself not to be suitable for this kind of tours. He often got on the verge of despair for no reason, always thinking we would be kidnapped and end up in a dark dungeon. I guess he watched to much american movies, because there was absolutely no reason to get scared. Nobody did anything to us, not even as we found ourselves in the middle of a prohibited military area. We were trying to find the way to Waddan, I followed his instructions, for all the signs were in arab and noone of us could read them (that was before we met the girls). He was the master of the maps. "Are you sure? That looks strange to me", I said. But he was sure. Suddenly the road ended. While he was trying to figure out what he did wrong, three soldiers appeared and came towards the car from three different directions, each one holding a submachine gun. They really looked like in one of this american movies, they had their shirts wrapped arroud their heads instead of wearing it normally. It is not common to be outside the house with no shirt in Libya. I got off the car with my hands in the air holding our passports, prepared to get in trouble. But they were very friendly, explained us how to get back to the road and told us the way to Waddan. They spoke a little bit of english. No reason for panic at all, but my navigator was totally confused and apathetic, like after a heavy accident. I had to look for another navigator. And it seemed like I already found one, for the two girls were definitely cast in a different mold. For the next year, though, because we had to return to Germany.
|Between Ajdabya and Tobruk, northeast Libya||The Hammda al-Hambra (Red Desert), central Libya||The crew|
Before we startet to Libya again, I went to Turkey, with an other girl that I found on my passenger seat one day. Wonderful country. First I planned to drive all the way down through Yugoslavia, but the operation failed, because this country was being "liberated" by Uncle Sam. This time the Air-Force was in action - better to stay out of their way. No chance to pass through, we had to take the ferry from Ancona in Italy to Igoumenitsa in Greece. We spent some weeks in Turkey, reached the border with Syria, went further to the east on a scary road trying to get to the iranian border. We only came til Siirt. After innumerable police- and military-checkpoints they took our passports away and escorted us to the Police-Commander. The only thing I know in turkish is "I don't want to marry", so communication between me an the Chief was very hampered. But my navigator Zehra spoke the language fluently and that's why they interrogated her instead of me. Three hours before we reached the town, a bomb exploded not far from there. Some idiots blowing something up for some reason - who knows? All units were in high alert, nobody on the streets, just police, military an one brown Mercedes with german license plates. "What is his name, for the last time?", she was asked. "Markus Besold", she said. "I want to know his real name, damned. What are you guys doing here?" "We're on vacation..." He didn't believe it. I was asked to come into the room again. "What are you guys doing here?" "Well... we are on vacation." "Here? You are the first german in this town. What have you been doing in Libya?" "Vacation, as well..." "10 days? Vacation? Come on..." We spent six hours at the police-station, the access to the city denied. But they were very friendly and escorted us back to the first checkpoint west of the town on the same road we came from. A few hours later, we were on the way back to Alanya, they called us a few times to ask, how everything was going.
When we went back to Germany I remembered that I paid 75 US$ for
the visa to Yugoslavia without using it. That's a waste of money and it pisses
me off. No refunds, of course, so I had no other option, than trying to go to
Yugoslavia. We started, went down through Austria and Hungary to the Yugoslavian
Border. With a little big help of the Mum of a friend of my fat sister we was
given 24 hours. We went in, heading to the capital Belgrad. All the bridges
in the country where destroyed by the US-Airforce, that turned a two-hours drive
into a seven-hours drive. I was driving for 23 hours and simply overslept the
whole bombing raid. The airport was not far away from our place, but I heard
nothing. And the strategic important hospital nearby was hit in that night,
the Hotel "Yugoslavia" as well as the chinese embassy were hit a few
days ago. Precicion has never been an american specialty. They should try it
with the metric system, it works better. But one of the stealth fighters has
been shot down, probably by a drunk yugoslavian farmer and I wanted to buy one
of the T-Shirts I saw on TV. It had the picture of a F-117 and says: "Sorry!
We didn't know it was invisible." But the T-Shirts were all sold out...
Anyway, for sure that was probably the safest time to go to Yugoslavia: The
car has not been stolen.
We returned safe to Germany and went to some other countries, such as France, Spain, Norway and Italy. It was great, but during this time my driver's license was taken by the german police. At least they tried it, but they didn't get it, because I "lost" it right in time, just a few minutes before two of this clowns arrived at my home, asking for my license. So much trouble, just for speeding on the german Autobahn. The car doesn't even reach 130 km/h (80 mph), that's almost as ridiculous as german policemen themselves. At least I was allowed to drive outside Germany, so I had to keep my car and myself outside the country as often and as long as possible.
The second time I went to Libya, I took Almut and her brother with me. This time I modified the suspention of the car, so that we could leave the roads and drive through the desert. That's what I wanted to do since years. No other cars, no signs, no roads, just directions, the blue sky and the desert.
Libya was the Number one, no doubt. I love this country. It has
a very bad reputation, but I found nothing there which could justify that. Maybe
I just went there because of the reputation it has. Ghadaffi messed with the
americans and whoever messes with them is my friend.
One night in the middle of the desert between al-Kofra and Jalu we were sitting next to our car like we always used to do in the desert. I've never seen such a clear sky and such bright shining stars, like I saw in the Sahara. You can look straight forward and you will see stars, all around, nothing else but the dark and flat desert. No cars, no cities, not even a sound, except the ever blowing wind. We drove about 14.000 kilometers (8700 miles) throught this amazing country, where fuel is almost for free. The worst part of the trip was the way back. I didn't want to leave, but we had to. And I had to leave to, because we decided to go further towards south. Not "one day maybe", like most people do. They mostly end up never leaving. We decided to travel to Southafrica in the next summer. Almut wanted to finish her studies and I wanted to try to get some money, a few thousand Deutsch-Marks. I had to change my live a little bit, but just temorarily. Till that time I used to live avoiding any kind of work as long as I possibliy could. Work sucks a lot, you spend most of your short lifetime working for a tomorrow that never comes and you do not have time to enjoy your life. Either you live within the system, you get your money, you have a medical assistance, or you try to get out of it. The best way is to realize that almost everybody in Central-Europe has much more than they really need and that it is quite possible to live without having a big house, five stereos, sixteen TVs, eight cars and stuff like that. But a little bit of money is still necessary. And that was the main reason to go back to Germany.
I was fed up with live in Germany. Each single step is ruled by somebody, driving maybe easy even without licence, but it was not relaxing anymore, like it used to be. I had to leave Germany and go to Namibia, a former german Colony. But the question where to go wasn't really important, the main thing was to leave Germany.
I went back home, worked for one year, prepared everything for the last big trip and got caught six times driving without license and insulting policeman. "So what... I'm leaving anyway..." Looking at Germany from the point of view of one who's going to leave, it didn't seem so bad anymore. But now it was too late, there was no turning back. I had brought myself into a situation, where I had to leave, whether I wanted to or not. Because of that times where getting tough. But I managed to escape before everything broke down. Freedom is just another word for "nothing left to loose", so I heard and I felt, that that was true. No wife, no children, nobody to care about, also no job, no money, no bank account, no monthly payments, lots of fees I didn't want to pay.
When I look back upon my live from the german point of view, everything was bent out of shape. From my own point of view, everything was perfect, I was ready to leave. I just kept asking myself: "What the hell are you still doing here?" I had no answer to this question. But I had a good car, diesel in the tanks, air in my longues, some thousand Deutschmarks in the pocket, a good crew and that's it. "Naught, yet enough had I when but a youth..."
Whatever... we finally started on August 21, 2000, way too late, like always in my life. The german summer was already coming to an end, but who cares? It is always summer down there in Africa...