Thursday, June 26, 2008


SUCCESS! Almost. (James knocks on wood for me). For $1200, we have found international car insurance to take us as far as this little car will. A green Renault 21 from 1990 shall be the jalopy of our adventure (pictures to come) and the bed of our dreams. Insurance is nearly impossible to come by, but we should be getting it all arranged tomorrow morning, leaving soon thereafter for Barcelona.

Elevator ride, originally uploaded by wanders.
With the arrival of James and Chris, those friendly old neighbors of mine, I got a few site-seeing activities out of the way. We saw the Loyola church of Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, laughed a little too loudly during a Basque sermon, and traded a bit of English for a sandwich and a few local beers. We poned a Heineken Mini-Keg so that we could turn it into our cooking pot, and with our expensive insurance, it looks like rice and beans for most of the trip. We have a few tricks up our sleeves to save money, namely eating dirt and bathing in the rain. Looks like we are shooting for a stop in Barcelona before we hit up the climbing of Southern France - if we can find it, since we have yet to invest in any maps. Fingers are crossed that the car makes it at least to Switzerland, since we're putting all our eggs in the green Renaulty basket.

Friday, June 20, 2008


peina del viento, originally uploaded by wanders.

And hes off, a neighbor´s milk duds before falling asleep, Ratatats LP3 to accompany the feeling of marching likes ants through the airport, and four flights later to Bilbao, where his host aita (dad) picks him up and a beautiful lunch of pescado and Rioja wine. Nothing happened my first day in the Basque Country, except finishing Yiddish Policemens Union, allowing me to sleep easily that night, with one mystery solved.

A small town is not very exciting when you depart with the image of an adventure ahead, only to find that your old friends are all at work and a car is hard to secure. My day trip to San Sebastian, or Donostia in Basque, helped me slow down and appreciate travelling a bit more. I walked up and down the beach, fell twice trying to climb the rocks to get this picture and probably got a sunburn. I wound myself up for four weeks at home, waiting to escape into the wild, only to find myself waiting for a car and my friends to arrive before really embarking on anything. While it sounds like a good idea to slowly build up the excitement over our trip, reaching the unknown lands of Kazakhstan a few weeks in, it is anticlimactic for someone used to jumping in to test the water. I am learning a bit about travelling alone, mostly acquiring my optimistic view that it will get easier with practice. A blind man walks into a bar where Im eating tapas. His friend buys him a drink wearing some strange electronic contraption around his neck. I dont talk to either one of them. Maybe next time. I did some reflecting on how people walk and what it says about them. No conclusions except that I may finally have overcome my long-held desire to be bow-legged so I could look tougher.

Not sure that Ill be talking to any non-profits around here as planned, with a local festival on Saturday, a compact, red Renault 21 to look at and papers to fill out for insurance before my friends arrive on Tuesday. We shall see.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Let's Go!

Stuff, originally uploaded by wanders.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Real Deal

The road lies ahead of me, and despite Fox news reports that Spain is out of gas due to strikes, I'm putting the pedal to the metal, at least on the plane I'm hopping to Bilbao on Tuesday, June 17th. The day approaches and I acquire gear for the real list:
Generous donations from Whole Earth (mad props) - Osprey Kestrel 48 backpack, Titanium Spork, Petzl Headlamp, Dry Sack, Marmot Rainpants and a few other goodies.
Still need to buy that compass, and I know I'll be using it. Good news is that my old pal, Zuleika, from Azkoitia, Spain, where I attended a year of high school, is parting with his car just in time for my buddies and I to swoop in for the catch. If I can get that to pass inspection and find some car insurance it'll be Mongolia or bust pretty soon.
As I finish the final few days of my three week intensive internship (didn't I graduate?) here with HMG & Associates in Austin, I'm preparing for a last minute visa, hopefully procured Monday at the Chinese Consulate in Houston, one day before I leave. I got a few adventures in already this summer - cliff jumping at Pace Bend Park and climbing some slabs out at Enchanted Rock.
Now its time to immerse myself in some non-Texan culture, drink foreign beers and pretend to understand people who talk to me (it's like college all over again). More to come after the jump (over the Atlantic).