Mikael Strandberg

  • 1,641 Affection

Frozen Frontier: Pregnancy Drama

Published April 27th, 2013

February 15th

Somewhere in the taiga

Around -30 degrees Celsius (amazingly warm!)

What do we do if people get seriously ill? Piotr repeated my question, I think slightly surprised, and immediately added his answer: “Somebody gets seriously ill out here on the taiga. Maybe a cold, but that is it.”

Piotr is Vikas father and he has lived pretty much all his life out in the taiga, tending reindeer. A lot of this time he has spent by himself. He is one of the most relaxed people I have ever come across. There´s a high degree of serenity in people who have spent all their life out in the great outdoors, living in a small tent most of time, dealing with the forces of nature, including extreme cold, hunger and wild animals. In this little temporary camp, the talk over the campfire is dominated by reindeer stories and tales about hunting success or meeting wild animals. Anything can happen. This time last year, Piotr together with his wife Jevdokya and little Andre were travelling from Arkah ...

Read More →

Frozen Frontier; Paradise Found!

Published April 27th, 2013

February 12th

A far from permanent camp called Turten (Eveny word meaning “the place with no food for the reindeer”)

Around -30 degrees Celsius (amazingly warm!)

Paradise found!

Yesterday when we rode into Vika´s papa’s camp, it felt like I was part of an old Western movie. However, instead of teepees and horses, we found 7 tents with warm smoke coming out of them. There were also a bunch of sleds with reindeer tied to them, which showed they were not staying here permanently. This was the temporary home of Vika’s parents, Piotr and Jevdokya Andreejevs. We got off the sleds after another hard day - 30 kms of too much risky ice and dense forest which we pretty much shot through at full speed. I thought the main reason for us being here was that Vika wanted to see her parents, but it was really that Yura wanted to see his 8 month pregnant wife who was in camp waiting to be airlifted out to the hospital in Okhotsk by helicopter. Another fact I wasn’t aware of. There´s so much info, so ...

Read More →

Frozen frontires; The life of Normal-na

Published April 7th, 2013

8th of February 2013

Somewhere in the taiga with a view over the Okotsk Mountains

Around -40 Degrees Celsius

Woow, where to begin......

The last 2 days have offered some of the best winter landscape scenery i have ever come across! It has just been magical!

Right now I am really knackered and slightly run down. Vika is mending my down trousers who got ripped quite badly a couple of hours ago, when the taiga hit back at me and relieved me of some goose down. It has been a freezing afternoon after a very dramatic day. Our tent is still far too cold, due to a wood stove which isn´t doing its job, but such is life, it could be worse. We survive. It is all normal-na here!

Yesterday morning we started to climb up through the taigam who´s trees wgere dense with deep snow and tracks after wolf, hare and mountain goat plentiful. We climbed with a certain sadness, because the reindeer which Slava was given as a gift, died due to the stress of being tied up. But I always find out about these ...

Read More →

Frozen Frontier; 3 days 100 km

Published April 7th, 2013

Frozen Frontier; 3 days 100 km

6th of February

Midday about 100 km south of Uchugay in the taiga

-35 degrees below zero Celsius

Gee, I am really, really frozen into the backbone! But, these three days of travel have offered some of the best winter scenery I have ever come across! Lots of deep snow, mountains, valleys and this eternal taiga, and with this cold and the odd appearence of the sun, the beauty is stunning and it cannot be seen elsewhere. You need this extreme cold to get the alluring foggy misty freeze and extremely clean, high and fresh air!

What a privilaged time it has been! It is like travelling in a continous dream.....But, the cold. The cold, is fearsome.....at times I ask myself, is it really worth it....and it doesn´t take many seconds until I say loudly yes! And the best experience of all are these personalities we come across, all from wolf hunters to reindeer herders...I tell you by experience, it is not a lot of these nomadic personalities around today ...

Read More →

Frozen Frontiers; Freezingly Painful

Published April 7th, 2013

3th February

Somewhere in the taiga

Around -50 degrees Celisus

Believe me if I say I have been freezing today! My heels and toes have been terribly cold, but since I am used to this freezing, it doesn´t scare me. All it takes is to start jumping, walking or doing camp work. Problem is, like us, when sitting at the back of a sled, pulled by two reindeers, it goes very fast, probably 7-8 km per hour. And one just can´t get off when one needs to!

Yesterday was short, an hour no more and we put up our first Siberian camp, which is basically a canvas tent built on natural elements and since I am just to the Scandinavian way, it takes time to do simple things like chopping wood, shoveling snow or starting a fire. In this element, our 4 reindeer herders are masters. The way they do the simplest things, is relaxed and with ease and grace. And they´re so easy going. Just as I remember from my Kolyma jorney back in 2004. The Yakut are more serious in every sense, but get things going. Egor is ...

Read More →

Frozen Frontier; -58 degrees Celisus this morning

Published April 5th, 2013

Frozen Frontier; -58 degrees Celisus this morning

31 January 2013

31st of January

Village of Yuchyugei (ok Village in yakut language)

”This is the first time I have traveled in this area and this route” , Tonya the Eveny reindeer herder told me, when I asked him, what he felt about doing this Expedition and finished off with these true words; “For us who are nomads and roam the area freely, this is nothing extra ordinary to travel 600 km:s in these low temperatures.”

I just love when somebody like the real deal takes away all the fuss created by media and by explorers like me, who often, I hope I ain´t (!), forget that local people have done what we explorers claim to do as firsts, as a normal work day for them locals many times. That is also one reason I want to do this journey, to put emphasis on this reality. One of the four herders that will join us, I didn`t get his name in the cold, had two really bad and infected cold sores on his cheeks. He didn´t whine or complain, ju ...

Read More →

Frozen Frontier;

Published April 4th, 2013

Frozen Frontier; Heading into the unknown

27 Jan, 13 - 20:41

-45 degrees Celsius

Yakutsk 28th of January

Yesterday I went downtown Yakutsk with Yuri to do some interviews with local women and their fashionable dress in these extreme cold. It was the coldest day since I arrived, -45 Celsius, and I hadn´t put on enough thick trousers or good gloves and after 15 minutes I was shivering and cold. And I suddenly realized, this is certainly no gasme or joke, this will be very serious business.

We are ready to leave tomorrow, the 29th of January, heading for Oymyakon and the 4 reindeer herders that are waiting for us. I haven´t packed yet, still some tech problems I haven´t figured out, I am really, really bad on tech, thanks Tom in San Fransisco for you patience and help and Evans and Daniel in New York for the encouragement and patience.

But most of our time goes to assembling all the gear we need. Oth for personal reasons and for the group. And whilst we were checking gear at Eg ...

Read More →

The Gentlemen´s Expedition; Chilling in Zanzibar

Published December 3rd, 2012

“This is cocoa!” our guide said, smiled and showed us a fruit that looked anything but what he said, and than added; “The gem of the spice tour of Zanzibar!”

Even though it was my second Zanzibari spice tour, I really enjoyed it. It is a fascinating tour into the world of spices and it gives a wide perspective on what they can be used for, like for example medical purposes. Jeff had picked up a cold and immediately stuck a couple of red chilies up his nose, which did wonders.

It was great being back on Zanzibar, not only because it is such a laid back paradise of sandy beaches and nice people, but also because I heard some Arabic spoken again and having been in Yemen for awhile, and Oman, I saw the influences all the way down here still today. Not only the doors in Stone Town, but the less nice legacy, the slave trade. And, if one can call this enjoyment, I saw the less developed part of Africa. Kenya had just shoot of and built up a middle class, but this important development aspec ...

Read More →

The gentlemen´s Expedition; A pride of lions at...

Published December 2nd, 2012

I saw Mount Kenya hoovering over the clouds early one morning at Loisaba Wilderness. It was the first time I saw this giant and even if it doesn´t compare to seeing the back drop of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, it still triggered that strong feeling that I am belonging to some of the most privileged people on earth. Always I come across this beauty of our globe. As beautiful as the mountain it self was the valley below the balcony of my lodge. A wet little mist sat just over the bush which covered all the distance from where I stood to the mountain. The Aberdare´s where covered by mist and hidden to my right, but I spotted 5 elephants who were eating breakfast just in front of a little man made pond maybe half a kilometer below. I was still thrilled by seeing a leopard from a hide the night before. It was my second day in Loisaba in Laikipia and I had entered another paradise.

It wasn´t only too much Jonnie Walker Blue Label which had kept me awake the past night. It was ...

Read More →

The Gentlemen´s Expedition; A birds perspective...

Published November 29th, 2012

“Look,2 rhinos!” Kevin Pilgrim, the balloon pilot pointed out in the horizon and than added; “No, I only say this to keep your attention. It is probably 2 buffaloes.”

It turns out it was 2 rhinos. Amazingly enough positioned more or less next to the same stretch of bush where I saw them 12 years ago. That time from a Landrover together with 2 female scientists doing a survey on the black rhino of Masai Mara. That time they worried a lot over loosing the rhino to the poachers which where roaming the park. This time, the poaching was under control and this time I managed to see them better and get a better photo. Much due to the piloting done by the Canadian Woody Harrelson look alike, Kevin Pilgrim.

“I have done this for more than 20 years” he told us, whilst he brought us very close to the rhino, just missing the tree tops and he brought us up high, so we got a good overall view of this magnificent park; “I should know what i am doing.”

This was my third balloon safari in the Masai ...

Read More →

The gentlemen´s Expedition; Safari in Masai Mara

Published November 19th, 2012

The East African safari really starts as quick as you get off the plane at JK Airport in Nairobi. The visitor immediately gets greeted by the most important human trait, a big smile. For us who come from the furthest northern parts of the hemisphere, we get happy beyond belief for such a welcome. We are not used to these genuine smiles. They warm every inch of your body, penetrates those cold bones and plays with your soul. It is the original smile. For a Northern European it wrecks your heart. And there´s nothing North American with this smile either, you know, that not fully genuine Have A Nice Day Smile which one comes across over there. The African smile is free from any selfish, evil thoughts. It comes from the deepest of souls, the original homo sapiens sapiens, who once upon time stood up and after some hesitation, decided to head north out of Africa. I wonder if they left this the biggest and most genuine of smile of all behind? As a genuine partner to the smile comes the Afric ...

Read More →

The Gentlemen´s Expedition; The Masai and Kensi...

Published November 17th, 2012

A Gentlemen´s Expedition in the eyes of Kensington Tours owner, Jeff Willner, is full of dramatic challenges. Like now, when we have pretty much reached the end of a 12 day tour, I feel as always – extremely run down! But happy! Just like on any Expedition I have ever been on. Even though these Expeditions which are organised by somebody I see is my brother, have a very luxurious touch, they´re really demanding. Two days ago, as always for me, I was down and out! Well almost. It is the enormous quantities of good liqueur, the long talks about life, complete lack of sleep and absolutely no time to recover, no personal time for reflection which knocks me out! On the other hand, I always return home wiser, happier, with new friends and have changed some perspectives of my way to look at life. On this Expedition, set in East Africa, the group consisted of 6 individuals who went under the names of the Eland, Giraffe Warthog, Hippo, Impala and The Common Goat. During a series of 5 articles, ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Closure and summary

Published August 5th, 2012

Yemen changed my life! For the better!

There´s no doubt at all. Siberia ruined it. The 2004 Expedition was so overwhelming, that I didn´t want to return home. It is never easy coming back, no matter how many times you have done it, but this time, it has been easier than ever. (In fact, this is a seldom discussed topic, returning home after a long adventure and the difficulties involved, so I have asked my good friend Captain Fogel to write an article about it, so stayed tuned on Monday the 5th!) Having a family you love makes a difference. And our little family started in Yemen!

The reason I went to Yemen was most of all due to the fact that I was planning another Expedition, travelling by camel from Oman to Mauritania during 2 years, but also due to that I was tired of life. So when looking around for a good place to study Arabic, I wanted to go to a place which could offer all the dramas of life including being dangerous, I was that fed up, and after checking the Internet I found t ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Meeting Al Qaeda in ...

Published August 1st, 2012

”I will miss sleeping under the stars” , Tanya said whilst we were cooking our last dinner under a moonlit sky full of stars and a clear Milky Way, but she finished her dreamy comment with a reality check; “But on the other hand, travelling through the desert is most of the time like a prison. The heat and lack of water forces you to stay on track leading to other people to be able to survive. The freedom of the open spaces is really completely off limits.”

Sheikh Saleem was praying again. Today he had prayed more than the compulsory 5 times. He was worried about entering Rumah which he considered full of evil and he continuously reminded us to get out of there as soon as possible. We had already decided that we would give Kensington to him as a gift. They were already best friends and Saleem had taken over the job of feeding and packing him more for every day that passed. And we allowed him to do this, since we knew he was the best solution to where to leave this fantastic travel p ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Marriage offer with ...

Published July 29th, 2012

“She is almost white like you and she goes to school, so she is educated” , Sheikh Saleem Hamid Ambe Somota Al Mahri told me, he then grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes with seriousness and said: “Please, take my daughter with you to your country and leave Tanya with me here. She will become a good Muslim.”

“Don´t leave me here!” Tanya shrieked half jokingly since she had gone through quite a demanding time since we arrived to this small Bedu settlement Al Arabah and I answered our new guide quite weary knowing his daughter was only 12 years old: “It is haram (forbidden) in my country. You have to be 18 years old to be able to marry and we cannot have more than one wife.”

Sheikh Saleem looked very surprised and tried again to persuade me again, since in his book of life, it would be a good move for a father to marry his daughter to what he most likely thought was a life together with a well to do foreigner. Somebody who not only could take care of his daughter but also one who wou ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Poor Me

Published July 28th, 2012

Poor me


Tanya Holm

I am about to fall asleep when Saada Saida tells the other women that I have no mother. Where she got it from I don’t know. We have known each other no more than a few minutes, since Mikael and I arrived with our guide, Muhammed al-Kathiri, to her settlement with the camel Kensington. I have introduced myself and said only that Mikael and I walk through the desert in hope of learning something about the landscape, culture and preferably its people.

“Poor her,” says a girl.

I have no strength to talk of my family. In Yemen it takes long before conversations about them end. There are plenty of follow up questions.

“Is your brother taller than you?”

“Is your father taller than you?”

“But not your mother, right?”

Other questions asked on the trip are the following.

“Would your family reject you if you changed your religion?”

“Would your husband beat you if you said you want to live in Yemen all your life?”

“Will you be put in prison when you return to your country ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Extreme Heat and the...

Published July 23rd, 2012

“I just feel cheated all the time” , I said to the camera slightly upset, at the same time as we walked out of the village called Marayt and I added almost in despair; “These never ending negotiations about every little thing is killing me!”

For a short while we walked through a lush area of date farms and it felt like walking through some kind of a paradise. Mabkhout, our guide, was very happy that we had agreed to raise his daily wages by double compared to earlier, a 100 US a day, and up until that moment, all my comments about the beautiful desert had been received non-committal. Walking through this greenness he looked genuinely happy and this was his image of paradise, not the extreme harshness of the desert. Suddenly a strong wind arrived at the same time we passed though a narrow, fenced off area, Kensington panicked and threw off all the gear and Mabkhout screamed:

“Djinni, djinni!”

I don´t know if he thought it was bad djinns or good. but this was the beginning of a chang ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Buying Kensington Th...

Published July 21st, 2012

”It looks younger than you say” , I told the crowd watching me walking backwards, checking the camel who had been offered for 2500 dollars and added; ”But it is really placid and cuddly.”

The Bedu crowd protested when I questioned that this not fully grown male camel was younger than the 4 years they suggested. Nobody knew exactly, but after awhile, I agreed, this young camel teenager was perfect for us. We named him Kensington after a friends company, who had sponsored the Expedition with this camel. Kensington was a charmer. Small, but well built, he had walked some distance with gear and had been ridden a lot, according to the people selling him, which was a first for us to hear, since we came to Al Mahra. So far we had seen many camels, but none used to long distance walking with gear. Kensington had small ears, a big mouth, cute and very curious eyes and a strong big hump. I didn´t find any injuries anywhere, except the scars after far too big branding marks on his left cheek and ...

Read More →

An insight into tribal Yemen

Published May 22nd, 2012

“Get inside!” shouted one of the bodyguards, Adnan, to us and Tanya and Benjamin got into the armoured jeep, but I took a chance and jumped up on the back of it together with more bodyguards and the sheiks security.

The jeep shot off full speed down the road, followed by at least 50 other cars, packed with regional sheiks belonging to the biggest tribe inYemen, the Bakil. And of course our host, one of the leaders of the Bakil tribe, Sheikh Mohammed Naji Abdul-Aziz Al-Shayef. We were all heading for a place outside the capital, where the leaders of the second biggest tribe in Yemen, the Hashed, were waiting. What I was experiencing was a tradition older than the prophet Muhammed, namely tribal law and a tribal court. It is said that possibly as much as 90 percent of all conflicts in tribal areas are resolved by using this ancient system. A conflict resolution based on tolerance and forgiveness, dialogue and negotiation and which is much more flexible and responsible than the fixed wr ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen part 2; The first week

Published May 16th, 2012

“Two Yemeni friends of mine travelled back to Sanaa from Al Hudaydah the other day. One of them was really ill. He had serious liver pains” , Tarim told me immediately when we met upon the third day of my arrival to the capital, whilst we were sitting outside the Great Mosque and had a very sweet cup of milky tea; “About halfway, in the middle of the night, the car broke down right in a tribal area. It didn´t take long until a bunch of very aggressive tribal men showed up, pointed their Kalashnikovs at them in the dark, yelled and asked them what they were doing there!”

Everyone at the café was listening to Tarim´s story, whether they understood English or not. Tarim is only 17 years of age, but wise like a man double his age. He was supposed to be my partner on this second phase, but basically due to demanding final studies and some worries about the possible obstacles along the road for the Expedition, he pulled out a month back. He continued his tale:

“My friend pointed at his fri ...

Read More →

Back in Sanaa, Yemen!

Published May 13th, 2012

I just arrived to Sanna. And I feel happy with no limits!!!! It was such a breeze and I got all necessary equipment thru and I have holed up with great friends in the Old City.

An angel in the shape of a Lebanese business friend and a good mate of my great friend here, Tanya, helped me thru like you couldn´t believe it. After that he brought us to his small mansion and we had a great lunch!

This is Yemen!

You never, ever know what to except. I worried, like all my friends, that I would get problems getting in. No sweat, 3 month visa and I feel such a relief!

After sleeping sound and safe in a room with a great view I woke up to the muezzin at 6, walked downtown to change money, 1 dollar buys you only 215 rial this time. prices are the same, so everything will be far more expensive. I bought a phone card, sent some text messages and walked over Tahir Square.

It is in many ways such a different Sanaa too the last time. No aggression in the air. All is calm and nice and people seem r ...

Read More →

The Last free Man; Returning to Siberia

Published April 6th, 2012

It felt like I was part of a fairy tale. Imagine yourself, zooming through a beautiful pine forest, heavy with deep snow, shining and glittering snowy mountains on both sides, a thick cloud surrounding us, made up from the breath from 25 reindeer’s running at full speed pulling our food, tents, all sorts of gear and us, 2 Even reindeer herders, Misja and Kesja, Jegor, Bolot, Timmon, Jury and me. All of us in different levels of freezing. Temperatures were below 50, but the sun was out and every time one was hit by a ray, one felt instantly a bit warmer, but at the same time, one realized how incredibly cold and frozen almost solid one felt.

After a few days my feet just felt like two big, numb limbs of ice. But it didn´t worry me, because I knew at worst it would be a bit of pain, whenever we got inside somewhere and somehow and get some Siberian warmth. Every time we took a break, mainly for Misja and Kesja to have a smoke or a cup of tea, I ran up and down to wake my feet up. I had, ...

Read More →

Returning to Siberia part 3: Traveling with rei...

Published April 5th, 2012

“Why do you have your little backpack on?” Misja, one of the two brothers who we traveled with through the taiga, ask me and I answered: “I am a little bit cold. It warms my back.”

Misja smiled and said:

“Siberia is very cold, ey?”

I nodded. It is very cold. I was jumping up and down, trying to feel my feet, which were frozen up and I didn´t feel them. Misja and his brother Kesja were getting all of the 25 reindeer’s ready, a job they did amazingly well, Bolot and my were kind of standing around waiting to leave, but we two hadn´t really assimilated into the taiga life of the coldest inhabited place on earth – Oymyakon. We wanted to get going, but for the two Even brothers, it wasn´t any rush. One has to do one thing at a time in the taiga, when temperatures are below -50, do it slowly and than have a break in some kind of warmer environment. It was just that Bolot and me where plagued by the modern stresses of life. It takes time to wire down. Timmon helped out, Juri continuously ...

Read More →

Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on earth;...

Published March 26th, 2012

Wikipedia describes Oymyakon likes this:

“In 1924, Russian scientist Sergey Obrychev registered the lowest temperature −71.2 °C (−96.2 °F). On February 6, 1933, a temperature of−67.7 °C (−89.9 °F) was recorded at Oymyakon’s weather station. This is the lowest recorded temperature for any permanently inhabited location on Earth. It is also the lowest temperature recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. Only Antarctica has recorded lower official temperatures (the lowest being −89.2 °C (−129 °F) near the Russian station of Vostok).”

There´s no doubt that people in general are more fascinated by extreme cold than heat. Even among the natives of these areas. I have noticed when I tell people living in the deserts about the extreme cold, they are utterly almost unbelieving and I would say nearly in horror of the stories I tell. Like when the temperature dips to minus 60 degrees. At such times mercury freezes solid and brandy becomes the consistency of syrup. It is so cold that trees explode, ...

Read More →

Returning To Siberia, part 1: Bolot, Yakutsk an...

Published March 23rd, 2012

My first visit to Siberia changed my life for good and bad. For sure forever. It was back in 2004 when I traveled down the Kolyma River, by canoe and skis together with Johan Ivarsson, and we spent almost a year falling in love with its nature and most of all its people. Since than I have pretty much made a living on my journey down the Kolyma and to a certain degree, become some sort of an ambassador for this area through articles, a documentary and most of all lectures to many corners of our globe. I returned for a brief visit to Yakutsk in the summer 2006, but that was so close to the trip itself, so I have almost forgotten about it. So, I feel like I haven´t really had a real chance to return to Siberia to kind of try to sort out all my emotions. Was it as good as I have told people? Had all those years in between, which also involved plenty of tragedy and difficult times, changed my way to look at things? And, I have felt since my journey, that it had been quite difficult to move ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Arriving at Bab Al Y...

Published March 12th, 2012

I think arriving at Bab Al Yemen, the great entry into the an Old Historical and long gone world, is one of the highlights of my life!

I don´t think that I seriously in my mind, thought that what we three and Antar just had done, would have been possible when I arrived in mortar fire to Yemen 2 and half month earlier with my whole family. But with a lot of positive attitude, good contacts and an almost desperate will to succeed, we had made the almost impossible, walked from Tihama to Sanaa at the brink of a possible civil war!

Media met us as quick as we got into the sailah, a paved road, a kind of a through fare, and I could see that even Ahmed Ali Hassan was happy he had persisted and stuck to his guns and finally understood what he had done. Amin loved it! It was his big day in life! Sailah is like a dream, because it takes you on the outside of the old city, we had it all the time to our right, and you have a feeling of traveling through ages. And that is a feeling which just gro ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Avoiding the Bani Sa...

Published March 11th, 2012

”I just phoned my superiors” , Amin said as regards to the threat of the Bani Salaam or Anis; ”And they said the threat was real, so we have to back track I am afraid and head east and try to get out on to the main highway to Sanaa as quick as possible. As a security measure.”

Ahmed Ali was seriously cold. He hadn´t slept a lot, I am sure and he looked really worn down. His lips were blue, it was that bad! The same applied to Antar, the camel, who still didn´t eat the local food and wanted, like his best friend Ahmed Ali, to return to Tihama. Amin was doing far better. Not only because he had better gear, but all the walking was putting him back in good shape. He had always dreamed about doing Expeditions. As a young man, around 19 years of age, he had approached the government with an idea to let him out of the country, so he could cycle the world. They said no. They were scared he would never return again. Such a pity! So many young people who have had their dreams crushed by a inwa ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Ghiardia and a revel...

Published March 10th, 2012

Ghardia is a disease I really now well.I have had it quite a few times throughout these 25 years as an explorer. It begins with a sulphur burp and than you just get worse! It really knocked me out and I had great difficulties moving. I think both Amin and Ali Ahmed were quite happy. I know they were, because Amin told me when I felt better and started to push on as before, that he shouted:

“It was much better when you were ill! You are like a donkey, you just move on and on and on!”

I wasn´t really surprised. That I had gone down with a stomach problem. The level of hygiene in our camp was below zero. Ahmed Ali never washed his hands, except when you was forced by Amin to pray, and he didn´t mind Antar pooping all around our camp, so we did live in filth. And I was too tired most of the time to have any opinions. I kind of, like the rest, just survived. But, after 10 days, things starting working better, we were a better team. Amin and Ahmed Ali had lesser quarrels every day, mainly ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; The climb to Rub Al ...

Published March 6th, 2012

”He is so upset, if you talk to him, he will punch you in the face!” Amin told me, just after half an hours climbing, “He is very angry!”

I could understand him. The climb was brutal, Antar was to heavily loaded, but we couldn´t stop now. If we did, Antar wouldn´t get up again. It was that bad. I have to say it was one of the worst experience in many years and I regretted not taking the time to go up and down to check it out, assess it, but we were all under pressure to get up before it got dark. I don´t think we would have made it without the help we got from the local who wanted to make some money by showing us the route. He knew how to get Antar to move, by shouting, caressing and making a lot of odd sounds. But it worked. Ahmed Amin was really upset, scared and under stress. So he threw stones on Antar to get him moving.

“Don´t do that” , I tried to tell him via Amin, but Amin said: “He will punch you if you say anything. He blames you for this. This is not what he signed up for. ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Travelling through W...

Published March 6th, 2012

Walking along or next to a well defined road isn´t really an Expedition. Even though it might be demanding in many ways. The heat is the same! As the ever present attention and surprise amongst people who see you. But in reality, it is no more than an advanced tourist outing. And I was beginning to think, that´s what Ahmed Ali Hassan, the camel handler had expected it to be. He was used to, years back when tourists came regularly to Yemen, to walk along the beach off the Red Sea, with Italians who gave him a continuous supply of extra money to feed his need for futtah with honey, meat and khat. And where the supply of good food for his camel Antar where to be found all over the place. I was sure by now, he had never even travelled about Wadi Zabid. And he had never been to Sanaa. He didn´t know what was waiting us ahead in the shape of less food, no roads and hard going. That is probably why this third morning was the first one, he said he´d like to return to Zabid. Well, according to ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Walking from ancient...

Published March 4th, 2012

As quick as the first sunlight hit the shack we were sleeping in, I stood up, feeling very dirty and worried about all these mosquito bites throughout the night. I have suffered the effects of malaria too many times. It is nasty and debilitating.

“Don´t worry” , Hussein, Usamas son said when I asked; “There´s no malaria in Zabid. The camel is here!”

The camel was resting on all fours with the great fort as a background. It was a beautiful sight! And a beautiful camel. He had henna made patterns on his sleek body and he looked very proud.

“We will call him Antar” , Amin said and I protested; “It will be Erik”.

The owner, Ahmed Ali Hassan, said camels didn´t have names in the Tihama. He smiled with black teeth. Too much honey, fattah and khat Amin told me later. We loaded the camel, I took my heavy rucksack with all the technique and suddenly Amin tells me when we start walking in the midday heat:

“I forgot my boots and only have sandals.”

I pointed to Ahmed Ali Hassan who only had ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Leaving Sanaa and bu...

Published March 4th, 2012

***Important update***Mikael asked me (Pamela) to send out this report out as soon as we got internet which is now (17:00 Sanaa time by generator). On the day Mikael sets off on Expedition Yemen, fighting started again with heavy mortars and gun fire near Jabel Noqum and Hasabah. When you hear the sound of mortars, it echoes and you never really now what direction or how close you are to the mortars. We both thought, “why now?” Why just before Mikael sets off? But of course, Mikael gets a call from his expedition companion, Amin, and they are off with no worries. Yemen is a country where war is experienced as ’aidee” which means that war is part of everyday life and “normal”. Let’s hope Mikael finds a strong camel ready to face whatever lies ahead…

This is how it all started. We had no idea whether we would get out of Sanaa or not. I called Amin. He was late. And he didn´t answer. I was nervous. Maybe the government had turned off the mobile phone net again due to a possible es ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Getting ready to get...

Published March 4th, 2012

Tom Finn, Guardians stringer in Sanaa, one of the best, writes just now on Twitter:

”The shelling matches have resumed. Heavy explosions now shaking Taiz”

There´s definitely a great worry amongst the people I know in Sanaa, that the war will resume soon and the GCC agreement destroyed, since the battles in Taizz have escalated. According to the most believable news media it is tribal warriors against the government. It seems that one of them want the agreement dead. But as usual, the two sides don´t care about the inhabitants of this country, because loads of innocent people continues to get seriously injured and die. If the agreement dies, I will definitely NOT get out of Sanaa. The last week there have been rumours that foreigners once again have been able to get out of this embattled city. And getting in. I actually saw a tourist in Old Sanaa a few days ago. But it is an entirely different matter to get a permit to travel by camel from the Red Sea to Sanaa through some very trouble ...

Read More →

Back in Siberia, part 1

Published February 19th, 2012

Just want to capture my thoughts as they are right now, not after days have passed. It is never as good.

Well, I am preparing to go to Omyakon. I will set off together with the very kind and extremely talented Bolot and probably one of Yakutias best photographers and business men, who is almost on the date the same age as me, Egor Makarov. Two really great local personalities which makes the Yakut proud!

The family is very happy. I think this is really a highlight in my life, returning back to Siberia and Yakutia while some of the cold is still there. We arrived in 40 below, but it is warmer right now, during the days higher than thirty. Since Siberia is really such a big part of my life, for good and bad, to bring the two people I love the most and see how they really love the place and the people as well, that is such a strong feeling of total love, so I almost lack words! I love these two girls which makes my life a limitless joy, more and more for every day!

Anyway, I came here ...

Read More →

Notes from a tour leader part 3; Home coming

Published February 6th, 2012

Being a tour leader is a very privileged life. In many ways. You get to show other people this fantastic world of ours. You might even make their future better, by doing a good job. And you get paid for something you easily would do for free! And, another thing, for the group, you are in many ways their life line. The father and mother. And, if you do a good job, meaning, giving everybody the feeling of being unique and special, they will treat you extremely good in every way. And I have been, every single time, very fortunate with great people, all of them!

So, coming home, ain´t all that easy.

First of all, the sleep you get on a trip is little.You need to stay focused and always be there for them. They hav paid a lot to travel, so that responsibility is heavy. Than, even though you have local guides, who lecture and explain, you are the main guide to stitch everything together, you need to have a plan what is going to be said and lectured, so at the end, they feel that they, as in ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Report 6; Still no c...

Published February 2nd, 2012

There’s no water in the tap, we only have electricity from the government a few hours a day and therefore the ways to communicate ain´t the best. The mobile phone is expensive and you have to stick to sending texts because it is so hard to hear what people say due to the poor lines. At times, these issues is demanding, because you just can´t get things done. Washing clothes happens if all goes well, every ten days, a luke warm shower at the best every other day, drinking water you buy most of the time, food consists mainly of bread, eggs and rice or pasta, mainly due to the time constraints and that we cook our own food all the time. And doing your business on the Internet isn´t happening every day either. Now it has been off for three days. But you get use to it. Most business, including the school, have a generator, but that one is also on and off down, and isn´t strong enough to run both the Internet and supply us with water. Having a conversation outside after the sunset is hard, d ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Kidnapped and mortar...

Published January 31st, 2012

The last two days have been scary. First I got kidnapped and yesterday our area got shelled by mortar fire. Let me take the kidnapping first.

I was at the home of our friend Baba Hussein, helping him with some garden pots, when two guys came running in, grabbed me, I tried to fight them off, Pamela, looking out of a window, was screaming at the top of her lungs:

“No, Mikael, no!”

They dragged me out to the narrow street, where a Mercedes Benz was waiting, I was pushed into the vehicle and we sat off with screeching wheels down the narrow lane of the Old City. 30 minutes later I was rescued, whilst sitting on a chair with both hands tied up behind my back, by a team of agents. A fight took place between the bad and good guys, but I was eventually saved and when I came out into the open, Pamela came running towards me happily and we cried and kissed!

The truth is, we were actors in a Yemeni movie for television!

That´s the thing with Yemen, you never know from one day to the other w ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Trouble in Hashaba

Published January 30th, 2012

Sometimes fate makes you take the wrong decision! Otherwise I wouldn´t have ended up in that part of Sanaa which is probably one of the most dangerous areas of the world right now- just a stones throw from Hashaba. Hussein was really upset last night when I told him about my very complicated afternoon and almost hissed:

“What did you do there without somebody who could help you! It is very, very dangerous and you could have been shot!”

It all began when I decided to join Rashad to film the last part of the story about him, the guy who´s village I went to visit in the last report, during Eid Al Adha. I knew he had told me he lived in a pretty rough area, where he a month and a half ago had to run zigzag over the street to catch a dahab (small mini van) to work, to avoid getting shot by snipers on the roof. But he said it was calm right now, so we caught a dahab at Tahrir Square and set of for his home. I should have realized as soon as the dahab turned right before going crossing the ...

Read More →

Notes from a tour leader, part 2; Machu Picchu

Published January 29th, 2012

Just came back from a tour to one of the seven modern wonders of the world - Machu Picchu. It is an hour from midnight and I have spent the last three hours with one of the great clients I have, who have somehow pulled a muscle in his butt. A doctor just arrived and gave him an injection, so he can travel the long way to Lake Titicaca and Puno tomorrow. Earlier I spent two hours with him at a masseuse. It has been an amazing trip!

But, I have only slept three hours per night!

————Actually, I was so tired, so I fell a sleep writing this, which means, three more days, we have gone from Cusco to Puno to Lima, where I am sitting at the hotel waiting to finish the trip with a half day tour of the town which Fransisco Pizarro made the capital of Peru, Lima.——-

There´s so many details, except supplying the group with as much interesting stories as possible and details of everything, but you have to tend to everyone in the group with lots of care, attention and love, plus settle the wake up c ...

Read More →

Notes from a tour leader, part 1, Galapagos

Published January 19th, 2012

I am sitting at Finch Bay Hotel on the island of Santa Cruz, one of the Enchanted Islands of the Galapagos. I feel both genuinly privileged and happy, but I am probably as tired as when I got back to Sanaa by camel less than three weeks ago. I have just ordered a cold beer and a plate of grilled local fish with chips. I have been travelling with my group since a week back and it has been a fantastic trip! Much due to the fact that I have a great group, and that the local guides, bus drivers and baggage handlers are really superb! -I had almost forgotten how great the Ecuadorian people are!- and that most things with Oktogos present partner works relatively smooth.

I would just like to share a few reports with you readers regarding the life as a tour leader, since I get a lot of questions on this subject. And, first of all, it is a very priviliged life, but it is also a very demanding job, since I always want to be the best guide they have had and I always want my clients to feel that ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; Report 2, I managed ...

Published January 10th, 2012

I just got back to Sanaa from probably one of the most important excursions I have ever made!

I am bitten all over the body by bedbugs, I may have malaria, I am really, really tired and nobody in the city really believes that I was able to get the permit to leave the city, travel to Taizz which is the other serious flashpoint of the war in Yemen, as the locals call the battle between the Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents, and spend Eid al Adha in a village two hours south of the countries most populous city. And spend a week there as the first foreign visitor they had at least for the last 96 years and return without any problems to the city again. And get back with one kilo of smoked camel cheese from the covered bazaar of Taizz!

“There´s no way you will get a permission to leave the city as things are right now!” , I was told by pretty much everybody, when I tried to get a permit to go and visit my very good friend Rashad in his home village located in between two big mountains ...

Read More →

Expedition Yemen By Camel; The first week in Sanaa

Published January 5th, 2012

Sanaa´s International Airport got shelled for the first time a few hours back in time, and the airport is once again closed. I think we just got in by pure luck the whole family! The hour I am writing this is just after the early sunrise prayer, because we just have electricity about two hours a day. At these dead early hours that is a challenge getting up! Today a serious bout of the runs got me going. Due to the war, as the locals call it, it is hard not to get a gut rot after having been invited for food at friend’s houses. Since there’s no electricity, meat and chicken is a gamble. What to do? Well, I will soon have my fist shower since I arrived a week back from Dubai.

I don´t think I ever have been as nervous as getting on the plane in Copenhagen, since I had spent weeks researching the possibility to get any camera equipment inside this war torn city. Most people said;

“No way you will get it in!”

I was hoping my contacts at high level I had nurtured the first time I was here ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Jihad!

Published October 23rd, 2011

n a few days I will be leaving Sana`a and return to Sweden. It feels exactly like when the woman you love more than anything has just left you. Your heart aches, you feel empty, you look at pictures of her, you worry what will the future be like, you miss her profoundly and you ask yourself:

“Will I ever see her again?”

Well, if the longing and ache is big enough, you will see her again, so YES! I will see Sanaa soon again. In shallah!

The war planes are still leaving Sana`a, it seems like there is no end to the war, it just continuous and people have almost stopped talking about it. It has become part of the daily chores. Global media still writes about it, though, but still seems to lack profound insight and it seems just to be second hand reports. (Read this and a local point of view, this.) Ramadan is moving into its last week and soon the Eid festivities will begin, the same day I return to Sweden. I guess it is the right time to return, before the festivities. Why indeed enjoy ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Am I a taliban?

Published October 22nd, 2011

Part 18; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

…I guess to a certain extent, since the word is Arabic and means a student, and yes, I am a student of life in Yemen at the present. The following took place yesterday:

”What is it that you specifically like with Yemen?” the young American journalist asked me, when making an interview at The Coffee Traders yesterday, “What are the positive aspects?”

Like most other foreigners in Yemen right now, like Westerners, Arabs, Asians, I was warned profoundly not to come here. By old friends, Middle East experts, governments, Arab friends in other Arab countries and global media. Basically they all said:

“You will either be kidnapped, hold to ransom or killed. Yemen is the most dangerous country in the world right now! Al Qaeda is running wild in the country! Worse than Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan!”

Let me just tell you readers, not once have I been scared or felt threatened, and on top of that, please do know this important fact, ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; I am right now Ahm...

Published October 21st, 2011

Part 17; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

”My father and his father and so on, they all travelled to Mecca by camel” , the old man explained whilst touching the top of his jambiyya , “It took my father four months to get there and the same amount of time back. In those days you only made the pilgrimage once. It was too difficult and to expensive.”

“Isn’t it still expensive to do a pilgrimage to Mecca? My teacher told me yesterday it is still very expensive and for most people, if it is possible at all, that once in a life time is an achievement, a dream.” I said, remembering Rashad telling me that he hoped to do a pilgrimage, but that it would take him many years to save the money needed, “He said it would cost him at least half a million rials (approximately 2500 dollars) to do a proper pilgrimage, since he had to go through a travel agent here in Sana’a specialising in pilgrimage tours to Mecca. About 25 days including hotels, transport, air tickets, a visit to the p ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Me a Yemeni from S...

Published October 19th, 2011

Part 16; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

“Taxi, Taxi, taxi, we have to help this guy!”

The old man shouting was, as always, Hussein, my landlord in Old Sanaa, where I am renting an apartment so I can work in peace, feel the atmosphere of the old town plus invite people to my mafrag. I take the expedition and Yemen seriously and to be able to show people how much I love Yemen, I want to offer them the same hospitality. So, with the help of my friend Kyle, I ended up renting this three roomed apartment. And got two good new friends, Hussein and Mohammed. Hussein is, if I am to believe other friends, a typical sanaani, a Yemeni from the Old Town of Sanaa. Warm, generous (every day one gets invited to break iftar and eat with him), always shouting and doing pretty much everything needed just by sticking his head out of the door and shouting for assistance. People always turn up. The mobile still have a distance to go before it is accepted here. I asked him yesterday if he ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Finally i get out ...

Published October 18th, 2011

Part 15; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

War planes continue to fly north, tens of thousands of people get displaced, far too many killed on both sides, worry amongst sanaanis (local people of the capital) is growing fast, the heavy rains have taken a break for awhile after wrecking havoc with Sanaa and other parts of the country, crops are destroyed, farmers are loosing millions of rial, a national treasure of a building in Old Sanaa collapsed and killed an old woman and Ramadan is moving into its second week. Tempers are still under control, but there is no doubt that kat chewers are suffering the most. A guard here at school is sweating heavily.

For the last three days I have walked four kilometres from the Coffee Traders (I need a espresso every day, if available) on Hadda Street and home to the flat in the Old Town just before iftar, the daily break for the fast. It is one of the best times of the day, because the streets are deserted and the feeling of walking t ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Warplanes and Ibn ...

Published October 17th, 2011

Part 14; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

A few hours ago I woke when the muezzin called for another day of fasting, accompanied by warplanes heading for the Saada Province and realizing that the Yemeni government under Abdullah Ali Saleh was stepping up their attempt to stamp out the Al Houthi-rebellion in the north. At least 10 of them passed over the legendary Old City of Saana, the city which according to legend was placed here by Sem. After that experience, it is always frightening to hear the sounds of war just outside your own comfort zone, I couldn´t sleep even though I went to bed at 4 a.m, so I read an article about the 100 Yemenis (50% of all) detainees still locked up at Guatanamo Bay accused of terrorism. The rain was pounding down hard on the streets below and I remembered what my new friend A said just a few hours earlier:

“I think this is vital for the future of the country” , he said whilst sipping at the hubble-bubble (the water pipe which is called s ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Ramadan Karim

Published October 16th, 2011

Part thirteen; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

”Ramadan is the best time of the year!” said my teacher Rashad with passion and continued: “It is a time when you get closer to God, when you think about who you are, feel compassion with others and show your most generous side. And it is a time of big commercialism. The streets will be full of people in the middle of the night! You can buy absolutely anything!”

The opinions of the goodness of Ramadan is views of contradictions. Amongst the ex-pat (foreign Western workers) community in Sanaa, not a very big one, Ramadan is a time of complications when the country stands still and nothing happens. Even though it is officially said that people do work between 10-15, it is also said that nothing seems to happen. But, personally, I really look forward to the Ramadan, even though I am not a Muslim. It is no doubt a time of festivity and joy. But not all Muslims are happy regarding all the tough restrictions on normal life, whi ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; A self made man

Published October 15th, 2011

“It´s is all haram (forbidden)!”, my new very good friend exclaimed with disappointment and threw out his hands, turned his new Mercedes Benz around and returned back to what was not long ago a foul-smelling sewer canal, which is called the silo in local tongue, but now turned into an exiting main road through the city and he continued: “Every good idea to turn things around for the better for everyone in this country is killed by the religious fanatics and called haram!”

Let us call my very new good friend the Self-Made Man. A true description of this fighter in every sense turned into a powerful factor in this great, but complicated country. He was showing me one of his great visions to turn one part of the Old City of Sanaa into a great possibility to draw tourist from all over the world. Which is something the country desperately needs to have a chance to handle the future. My new friend is also a great visionary. He sees the silo, the main street, free of traffic, which is covere ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; 4 days in Oman, co...

Published October 14th, 2011

Part eleven; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

I have just put foot once again in Yemen, after four very relaxing days in Oman. I have been up and handling camels again…gee, I just love camels…they´re so sweet, cuddly, funny, difficult, independent and gracious….I cruised the dune ridges with a friend in the Wahiba Sands….silent, spacious, fresh air and open wilderness…everything that Sanaa doesn´t offer…..

I will keep it relatively short today, I did of course pick up a cold going in and out of air conditioned rooms and hotels in Oman and I started with the Arabic classes again today. So I am, as always, more or less knackered. But I just have to do some kind of a comparison, even if it is not a good idea to do. They´re two extremely different countries with different possibilities, Oman and Yemen. One has plenty of gas and oil for awhile and only around 3 million inhabitants in a country bigger than Yemen, where at least 25 million people fight for some fresh air in a ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; First term pretty ...

Published October 13th, 2011

Part eleven; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

I do get a fair amount of questions from readers who wish to know the development of my Arabic…..well, the truth is that it is better than when I came! It is like life itself, it has gone up and down, but since the first term is almost over, one day to go, I am more than happy that I took the choice to come here.

There´s no doubt that I have had some of the best moments of my life here. Much of it is due to the people I have come across here. It has been such a busy month where I have had problems catching my breath in between lessons, meeting people, planning the Expedition and trying to handle all these, at times, unbelievable impressions that you continuously run into here in Sanaa. So, just to get a bit of a break,and meet my great friends in Oman, I will head for Yemen’s neighbor for a four day visits. I will keep you updated about the visit.

Learning anything new in life, you need a good setting -it couldn´t be bette ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; The General

Published October 12th, 2011

Part ten; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

”You have to speak up” , Abdullah Rahman shouted, ”I am almost deaf after spending so much time standing next to cannons!”

We were heading for the palace of Dar Al-Hajar, which was constructed as a summer residence for Imam Yahya in the early 1920`s, in an area which the locals of Sanaa in those days used as a weekend trip to rest their nerves after the busy life in the city. They still do. We passed through the outskirts of the city, where construction seemed to rest due to the demanding circumstances. It´s like people just began building and suddenly just ran out of money. We passed through several cramped stops for shared taxis, where people hurried around trying to find a seat that would take them out of the city for the weekend. My first thought was:

“Africa and matatus!”

There’s definitely a feeling of the great continent of Africa, on and off in Sanaa, even though the enormous amount of impressions one gets continuous ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Just going to the ...

Published October 11th, 2011

Part nine; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

The evening muezzin is calling for prayer over Old Sanaa, dogs are barking, kids are playing football on the street below my window, I can see straight in to the backyard of a neighbor, a covered woman washing clothes, cars are giving noise a new dimension and motorbikes seems to try to set world records in highest speed in most crowded environment. I am sitting in the dark, another electricity brake is hounding the city and I am eating laban, a kind of a salty, thin youghurt with a taste of smoked milk. It is one way to add protein to the body. But building muscle and power in Sanaa is no easy thing, basically due to that it is hard to find enough protein. I eat a lot of eggs, youghurt, milk, but it ain´t enough. I have in a mere three weeks lost so much power and at the gym today I had to fight with ridiculous weights. So I am not surprised that all the young men who train there don´t have neither muscle or strength. It isn´ ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Chewing kat – the ...

Published October 10th, 2011

“You see, it shouldn´t be called chewing kat” , my new good friend Kyle said, “It should be called storing kat, which is the Arabic meaning of the word.”

The chewing, or storing, of kat is a controversial issue not only in Yemen, but also in the surrounding countries. There´s a loud opposition against kat (read about kat on wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat) because it is said to have a big negative effect on Yemen’s economy. It is not an exportable product, it uses an considerable amount of the countries natural resources, lots of manpower and most of all, apparently almost 40% of the countries water resources. It is also said that it creates a lot of problems within the family, like for example alcohol, since it strains the family economy (a small bag of a one session chew is 750 rials, which is a lot of money for the locals, about 3.5 dollars) and it damages family bonds since the men are always gone chewing kat with male friends. All this is of course the same effects ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Yemen – how danger...

Published October 9th, 2011

Part seven; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

The seven o´clock muezzin just took tone and the prayers from the holy Koran spreads across the darkness which dominates the old city of Sanaa…it is the day before Sunday (Friday here) and I wouldn´t like to be in any other place at the moment….

On the other hand, some professional opinion makers think that Yemen is on the brink of war. That Yemen could turn into a new global tragedy like Somalia, a country dominated by violence between armed fractions belonging to different tribes and where a solution right now seems almost impossible. And there´s no doubt that the situation is dire. The local newspapers,Yemen Post, Yemen Observer and Yemen Times are full of bad news regarding the conflicts within the country and when you read the editorials, yes, it can well be said to be a slightly unstable and dangerous country. A country where kidnapping seems to be a national sport. According to the Yemen Observer there’s been more tha ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; The Swedish idiot ...

Published October 9th, 2011

Part six; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

I feel more amazed than upset. This nasty incident happens in every country in the world, but, the reasons it happened in Sanaa, Yemen, are two. First, the major reason, I am in Yemen, the unlikeliest place I thought it would happen. Best of the best when it comes to the quality of people. Two, I am very naive and always trust people. But the more I think about the whole drama, I realize how good he was and how I did everything wrong and should have seen the warning signs early on in our very common conversation. How much did I loose?

Well, read it until the end and you will find out. In any matter, it is a good story!

Once again I went off to the local gym and once again, I failed to get a membership to train and lost the monthly fee they charge, the Club, where the local gym is located. Since my Arabic isn’t good enough to sort out the paper work, I asked a couple of guys in the queue, if they spoke English. Nobody did, b ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; The Swedish idiot ...

Published October 9th, 2011

Part six; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

I feel more amazed than upset. This nasty incident happens in every country in the world, but, the reasons it happened in Sanaa, Yemen, are two. First, the major reason, I am in Yemen, the unlikeliest place I thought it would happen. Best of the best when it comes to the quality of people. Two, I am very naive and always trust people. But the more I think about the whole drama, I realize how good he was and how I did everything wrong and should have seen the warning signs early on in our very common conversation. How much did I loose?

Well, read it until the end and you will find out. In any matter, it is a good story!

Once again I went off to the local gym and once again, I failed to get a membership to train and lost the monthly fee they charge, the Club, where the local gym is located. Since my Arabic isn’t good enough to sort out the paper work, I asked a couple of guys in the queue, if they spoke English. Nobody did, b ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Salta, The Yemeni ...

Published October 8th, 2011

Part five; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

“Hal andarah salta?” I asked the owner, Ahmed, and he nodded and said something like: “Mumtaz salta!”

So I just walked into a hole in a wall, sat down at the back of the room, next to a big poster of the president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was gazing kindly down at the hungry lot of Sunday eaters. The restaurant was kind of closing up, it was midday Friday and the big prayer day for all our globes Moslem’s. Traditionally dressed Yemenis hurried past the restaurant, bags of kat in their hands and the jambiyya polished and tucked down in the belt and the muezzins were already calling. A couple of beggars passed by, the owner gave one of them a cup of chai, (tea) a coupe of flat breads and sent him on his way. This particular beggar sleeps just outside the school and I give him an orange on and off and some change. It makes me feel good and he looks happier. For a moment. And that is enough for me. Because the fact is that people w ...

Read More →

On a cruise ship with Kensington Tours

Published October 7th, 2011

This is part one of two regarding another Gentlemen´s Expedition as an honoured Explorer-In-Residence with Kensington Tours.

I just got onboard the massive cruise ship MSC Fantasia after having had a few hours of paradise, visiting Taormina on Sicily. My mobile rang immediately and it was a young guy from one of the many Swedish pension funds asking me if I knew how bad the situation was for me personally in the future as regards to what will happen to my pension? And most other Swedes my age as well, he added, when I was silent. He probably thought I was in a state of shock, so I filled him in on my situation and his response was a loud:

“Woow, I wish I could change places with you!”

“We don´t want to use anymore of our pension fund money do we?” I said and finished the call with him adding:

“I will call you when you will be back home!”

I will get off tomorrow at the port of Civitavecchia and fly back from Rome. So I will be back tomorrow. But I thought of his response and realiz ...

Read More →

Expedition or not? Luxury cruise.....

Published October 4th, 2011

Luxury cruise in the Mediterranean sounds like something I would do?

Well, everything is an experience. Travelling in itself makes me happy! So when Jeff asked if I wanted to come together with my other good friend Olly Steeds and Jeff’s brother, William, on a cruise from Barcelona, via Tunis, Malta, Sicily to Rome, of course I said yes.

So here I am on a luxury cruise with 3500 other tourist, mainly Italian, right now docked in Tunis. We have spent 2½ hours doing a quick tour of Carthago, which was a disappointment and a quick visit to the blue city, which was more than ok. Loads, and loads of tourists, this is of course what happens when more than 3000 people get off at the same place!

However, it was good to here Arabic, here the muezzin a few minutes ago and stroll through a bit of a bazaar smelling of myrrh and frankincense. Best though was hearing the story of the hero of many, the one who burned himself to death and started the Arab spring, Mohammed Boazizi. According to our ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; A taxi ride to Bri...

Published October 2nd, 2011

Part four; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

“What I think about the Saudis…” , Kasim said whilst chewing an enormous load of kat , “Hmmm…well, you have to excuse me, but I don´t want to talk bad about other people.Please excuse me.”

Kasim, the taxi driver, well, his answer was so typical Yemeni. They´re easily among the friendliest people I have ever met, but I think amongst the most amazing thing I have encountered is their attitude not to down talk other people. Now, for me, coming from a continent where we have newspapers like the awful tabloids, sit coms full of people hired to talk crap about others and reality shows like Big Brother where people thrive a bad talking others, Yemen is so refreshing!

We just stopped Kasim outside our living quarters in a tiny alley in the old city of Sanaa, on our way to visit a new friend of mine, a power station of sorts, Brid from Ireland, and it turns out that Kasim speaks pretty much perfect English. Part of his family, which ...

Read More →

An Explorer Learning Arabic; Pollution and A Th...

Published October 1st, 2011

Part three; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

“Most students learn the Arabic alphabet in three days!” our teacher told us sharply this morning, “You have to do your home work better!”

We three students in the beginners group looked down on the floor with shame and felt stupid. One was Ignacio from Spain, a mathematics professor, another, Greg, a Scot studying commercial law and then me, an author of 7 books, which could be considered as slightly intellectual. And I am by far the slowest of us all. Learning Arabic at 47 isn´t easy, but fun! We all study four hours a day, very intensive, good teachers, and on top of that we spend, or should, at least 3-4 hours a day on homework.

However, we´re all in Yemen to experience this unique culture, which in many ways is like passing through the books of A Thousand and A Night, and therefore there has to be ample time to enjoy, appreciate and understand this fabulous atmosphere!

I have to say, once again, I wasn´t prepared fo ...

Read More →

An explorer learning Arabic: The second night i...

Published September 30th, 2011

Part two; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

First of all, I had no idea that a place like this still did exist. It is kind of my old Arabian dream coming true and the souk in the Old City of Sanaa, is one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited.

Just want to share my first thoughts with you. It is in many ways medieval, exiting, the people are superb, full of personality, curios, smiling, very friendly and courteous, but Sanaa is also noisy, polluted and utterly confusing when it comes to this amazing item called traffic which is made up of mainly people traveling on motorbikes in every possible speed. In all directions, everywhere.

I have just worked on some common phrases and the Arabic alphabet for almost 8 hours. It is far from easy. I have not been in this situation of being a student for over 20 years and the teachers here are very good but hard. They beat you over the fingers with a ruler if you do mistakes. So I am bleeding on both hands right now. J ...

Read More →

An explorer learning Arabic; Yemen – one of the...

Published September 29th, 2011

Part one; An explorer Learning Arabic in the year of 2009

Life is very much about taking the right choices, to dare, where others fail to see the possibilities. That is the gut feeling I have about going to Yemen to study Arabic. I just have to go no matter what. Choosing Yemen, of course, is also a good choice when you look at the upcoming Expedition, since then I will find out the difficulties passing Yemen by camel. I bet the capital will be far easier….Anyway, I did check the Internet a couple of days ago to make risk assessment, and I began to visit, as usual, the US government and see what they said about going to Yemen:

YEMEN April 24, 2009

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities. The Department recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to Yemen.

The Department remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, ...

Read More →

Sarek, the last real wilderness of Europe, part 3

Published September 25th, 2011

“What ever you do, brother” Sundip told me when we returned to our beautiful camp after the scramble up to the glacier; “Find a new route to avoid those…plants!”

Due to lack of time, we had to return to the same place we set out, at the Sourva Dam. Because the reality is, to be able to cross this great park from north to south for example, you need at least 8 days to enjoy. There´s no reason to rush through a beautiful park like this. However, on the way through the bush I had noticed a rocky ridge which would help us on the way back. We decided to use 2½ days to return and fully enjoy the walk, so we set off once we had dried out gear and just kept height at 800 meters, with the ridge as a goal. It took us through some real easy walking, an easy crossing of the river Lulep Niendojagasj and there was just a small stretch of these evil bushes, but this time around they were dry, so it wasn´t a great deal. We ended up at a locked hut at midday, at the foot of this low ridge and took a l ...

Read More →

Sarek, the last wilderness in Europe, a trek pa...

Published September 24th, 2011

“This is hell!” Sundip volunteered positively when we met up an hour later, after leaving the river crossing; “These scallywags of bushes, they are dangerous!”

My map had clearly showed us that there would be a couple of kilometers of thick willow brushwood waiting for us, or as I later called them, low stunted bush. But it would allow us to keep height, which most times is an advantage on the mountain and I figured;

“How thick can they be?”

Thick is the answer. It drizzled, clouds were threateningly low, a light north-easterly wind and I think it was the mud and water below the bushes which were most challenging. When I run up against a challenge like this, I just put my head down and just bulldoze my way through. No matter what is in the way. So that is what I did and I only stopped on and off to check off were we best should get out of it. On and off I saw Robert appearing in the horizon behind me, engulfed by the high bush, looking determined. I was already sure he wouldn´t appr ...

Read More →

A trek through the last wilderness of Europe, S...

Published September 24th, 2011

This is the first article in a series of three about an autumn trek through what is called the last real wilderness of Europe, Sarek National Park. It was, once again, initiated by the the independent thinking London business man and my great friend with the name Sundip Chaterrjee.

“Mikael!” let us go back to Sarek, the text message said: “I am ready now!”

There´s no doubt that Sundip fell in love with this exclusive part of the world, when we trekked a part of it back in June. It differs to most areas in Europe in the way, that there´s very few trails, no lodging, great drinking water, very little people and lots of freedom. Well, that reality had been back in June before the commercial bus traffic started, so I was curious to see the impact when coming back at the end of the tourist season. Basically meaning before the buses stop taking tourists into the starting points ahead of the long winter break.

Sundip flew into Gällivare from London and I took the long train ride from Malmö ...

Read More →

Bonobo - the love monkey

Published September 20th, 2011

I first heard about our closest relative, the bonobo, whilst reading a book written by an extra ordinary writer, and a friend, Lasse Berg. If he, instead of being born in Sweden, would have been raised in, for example, the United States of America, he would be a world renowned writer and scientist today. In this book about the origin of human kind, he states that not only is the bonobo our closest relative, but it shows that we instead of becoming such a violent ape, could have copied this dwarf chimpanzee instead of the more aggressive bigger chimpanzee or gorilla. Because, compared to his bigger relatives, the bonobo just makes love to handle any sense of aggression! With anyone. Their kids, same sex, well, anyone around!

“Emmanuel should have seen this!” Kennedy laughed when we sat and watched a group of bonobos eating and lovemaking at the Bonobo Reserve just located outside the capital Kinshasa, “It´s unbelievable!”

Was this our closest relative? Did I feel any connection, like ...

Read More →

Kisangani Today 2010; formerly Stanleyville

Published September 18th, 2011

We flew into Kisangani by a small air craft from MAF piloted by one of the organisations great characters. Jon Cadd have seen, heard and done most things in life. I remember the MAF pilots as vividly as anything else from my 2½ years on a push bike through Africa. Most of them, like Jon, has a lot of humor as well. You need that to survive Africa. But, I also remember one pilot, who didn´t have enough humor. Whilst cycling through East Africa 1989, where I was accompanied by one of my best friends, Steve Jewell, we stopped at the MAF compound in Dodoma, Tanzania, and Steve helped one of their pilots to pull a propeller of a plane. And whilst doing that, suddenly oil gushed out of a hole and Steve, never tactful, shouted:

“Holy shit!”

The pilot of this profound Christian organisation looked at Steve, with great seriousness and said:

“I guess you could call it that…..”

Jon had far more humor and distance to himself and life. He cruised over the great African rain forest with ease. No ...

Read More →

The pygmies and Olly

Published September 2nd, 2011

“Is the molimo still part of your world?” I asked and managed to make him surprised!

“The molimo…” , he whispered, “….we shouldn´t talk about the molimo. It is hidden out there!”

I was referring to a kind of a holy and spiritual being for the mbuti pygmies, which took the shape of a long object from which one could make different sounds. This instrument is hidden in the forest, their home, only to be seen by the men. Only used once a year at a special celebration. At least according to Colin Turnbull´s excellent book The Forest People. (Which has been recently analyzed and seen in new light, see here!) And since the pygmy in front of me reacted like that, it still exists. Otherwise, life since Turnbull´s book, written at the end of the 1950´s, have changed quite a lot for these fantastic people. At least if I judged by the man in front of me. He was dressed like a smaller version of Mobutu Sese Seko, the former dictator of Congo, and sported a hat worn by Muslims.

“They do anything f ...

Read More →

Goma - badly affected by war and nature

Published August 25th, 2011

“Even though we were warned on the radio, some people just didn´t leave in time” , Emmanuel told us while he gesticulated frenetically with his arms, indicating how the hot lava spread over the town of Goma, “They ran for the cathedral and thought hiding inside would save them. It didn´t. They fried to death.”

We were all standing on top of an outcrop of sharp black lava, where the eruption had started in January 2002. It was Emmanuel, our guide, Jeff and me, a very passionate local woman who saw herself as the caretaker of the area and about a dozen kids in awe of what they called monics. (mispronunciation of United Nations mission in Congo, MONUC) The lava had just broken through the ground where we were standing, about 10 km:s south of Nyarigongo Volcano, but at the edge of this unfortunate town.

“The lava stream was one kilometer wide and up to two meters deep and it just went through the whole town ending up with a great fizz in Lake Kivu.”

I looked to the north, were the perfe ...

Read More →

Climbing Mount Nyiragonogo in Congo

Published August 19th, 2011

“I hate this posting!” shouted one of the guards when we slogged through the first part of the climb, dense and wet bush, “I wanted to get a posting at the gorillas, where you don´t have to work as hard as this. Oh, no, I end up at the worst posting for a Congolese park ranger – climbing the volcano Nyiragongo with some slow tourists!”

When Jeff translated this quote from Swahili to English I fully understood the guards opinion. I found the going rough as well. For once in a long time I felt upset with Pamela´s fantastic cooking. It had made me put on an enormous 7 kg:s of fat in just 6 months! And I asked myself:

“I won´t make it to the top with all these cameras and I will look like a fool in Jeff’s eyes if I can´t make it!”

Jeff Willner was a revelation in many ways. He used to be a missionary kid here in Congo and spoke fluent Swahili. He was also one of the kindest, most generous and intelligent people I have met in a long time. This was my first job as a explorer-in-residence ...

Read More →

Chimanuka and his family

Published August 17th, 2011

”Uff, uff!” he said and turned his back towards us, heavily slumped down on his back lazily and started chewing away on his main diet this time of the year, leaves. He wasn’t at all interested in our presence, almost seemed bored and fed up with being a star.

Suddenly, his wife gave a call of distress and Chimanuka, showing that his enormous size isn´t a problem, flung himself like an agile chimpanzee down the tree, hit the ground with a thump -30 centimetres from where we stood in a paralysed silence- and raced through the bush like a rhinoceros and growled his orders of silence!

When he had done his duty as the sole leader of this family of lowland gorillas, he just sat down in the thick under growth and the only part of his body we could see, was his gigantic head. Chimanuka was the undisputed leader of this family consisting of him, 17 females and 14 young ones of different ages. He’s name meant Happy Swahili and had been given to him by the park rangers after he by pure luck was ...

Read More →

Congo; Genocide and memories

Published August 11th, 2011

21 years ago I entered what was then Zaire at the Zongo border station with my pushbike. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the rumor said it was one of the most demanding countries of Africa. It was very poor and run by a blood thirsty dictator, Mubutu Sese Seko, and there were pockets of un-rest were gun touting rebels hid out. It turned out to be easily the most demanding stretch of cycling through Africa. Incredibly bad roads, hardly anything to eat except pine apple, local peanut butter and bananas and so many images along the road, that it most of the time was hard to comprehend. But, it was the best country of them all as well!

The Congolese were so friendly, wild, laughing, colourful, hustling and bustling and loud! And it was by a wide margin the most adventurous and interesting of all countries. Not one dead second. And, it still seems to be the same! Even though the mobile phone has arrived and changed a lot, it is still the heart of all which constitutes my image of ...

Read More →

Sarek, the last real wilderness of Europe, part 3

Published August 10th, 2011

When weather is perfect, any kind of travel is easy. Sarek isn´t for the beginner when weather turns bad, but when beautiful as we had throughout the week, sun and heat every day, mountain travel is dead easy. And very enjoyable. There´s no need for drama to enjoy life and relish every moment. The only drama we had,though, was crossing rivers. Sundip did real fine on all of them, A London gentleman as he is, and his only fright of the trip was the one he went through a layer of snow on Vassjavagge and he thought for a moment it was a glacier we were traveling on and was sure the end of his life had arrived. I had told him earlier about the dangers involved in glacier travel. That apart, Sundip did a great job on his first Sarek tour.

“I am telling you, Mikael, I am coming back. And back to this place” , he said many times every day.

We left Abbmojavre that had been our base camp mid day next day, more a big tarn than a lake, and most of it still covered by a thin layer of ice, and ju ...

Read More →

Exploring Northern Ireland; Stroke City by Mika...

Published August 9th, 2011

“This small enclave you see below here is the only one in this area which is protestant” , the guide told us and continued with passion; “But do you know what my dream is? I hope, and think, that the peace accord now in place can serve is a blue print for other nations with the same trouble and they can see and learn from us, no matter how deep the divisions are, as long as one talks, talks and talks, there´s possibilities.”

I looked down from the Old Derry Wall, which was set up beginning in the year of 1613, over a tiny little enclave, where the pavement was colored in the Union Jack colors, houses sporting the Queens flag and a sign said:


West Bank



Under Siege

No Surrender

As a tourist, so much of this wee little country´s history is dominated by centuries of violent division, so you can´t get away from it. It deals with everything, penetrates every street corner. It fascinates me. As did the walk along the wall. And once again, a very good guide made ...

Read More →

Sarek National Park, part 2; Vassjavagge

Published August 9th, 2011

Since it was 24 hours of daylight, we got it all wrong already the first night and fell a sleep at 3 a.m and woke up at 11. Refreshed and looking forward to another day of sun and spectacular cloud formations above us. We had decided that we just didn´t have the time to trek all the way up the Rapa Valley to find a decent crossing over the river so we could return to Kvikkjokk and finish our journey there. That would mean competitive walking again and we were here to live and enjoy. So we set our sights for lake Abbmojavre, which the map showed was located below a steep mountain wall.

“My first thought today…” , Sundip claimed whilst we hiked down into a marsh and came across some flies, mosquitoes and out first viewing of a group of apprehensive reindeer; “….is whether one really needs a mobile phone or not. I am seriously thinking about dumping mine. People just have to wait until the time is right to talk.”

Sarek at this time of the year, just when glaciers and snow is melting, is ...

Read More →

Sarek National Park, A Trek with Sundip, part 1

Published August 8th, 2011

“You need these!” Sundip said when we got off the train in Murjek to catch a 2 hour taxi drive to what was locally known as the cycle trek, located at the border of Scandinavia’s wildest national park – Sarek; “I am telling you, these are very important on a trip like this.”

Sundip handed me two packets of handkerchiefs. I am not easily surprised but I was now. We were already heavily loaded for our week in one of the most spectacular national parks i have ever visited, Sarek, located in the far north of Sweden. I had only visited the park for winter training and tours, never in summer, and last time I was there, was like 5 years back in time. I guessed things had changed, since the Swedish outdoor magazines continuously write about the park which than attracts many visitors. That is why we had decided to go and hike before the official tourist season was on, to avoid people, because we both needed a rest from our respective lives. Me as a slightly too worried daddy and Sundip as a su ...

Read More →

Exploring Northern Ireland; Bushmill´s Distillery

Published August 7th, 2011

The sun was threatening to make its way through the clouds our 5th day of touring Northern Ireland – this gem of our world. We needed that. No matter how more dramatic things become due to heavy rains, that moment when the sun arrives, that is sheer happiness! And, of course, it does change the perception of the environment. After leaving Dieskirt with three loaded bellies, we once again passed Dunluce Castle and it has such a dramatic positioning poised on a rocky top of sheer cliff walls overlooking the Irish Sea. But I just couldn´t make it look as good as reality when rain was pouring down the day before. Now, in the sun, it was a real postcard view of these romantic remains of this 14th Century stronghold. We stopped there briefly before we headed of for the world’s oldest distillery, Bushmills, next door almost to Dunluce.

I have never been big on whiskey. And after I had spent almost an hour with Ben, a Polish bloke gone Irish, and he had taught me the elementary rules of the d ...

Read More →

Iceland; The Gentleman´s Exploration, part 3

Published August 6th, 2011

An early morning visit to Jon Gunnar Arnason´s piece of art The Viking Ship was a great way to finish off a tour of Iceland. It is located in the harbor area of the capital and is a stunningly beautiful piece. Yr Karadottir, our great and helpful contact on Iceland brought me there, whilst Jeff was trying to figure out the bill. Iceland is still not the cheapest of destinations. But well worth the effort. For me, Iceland, was kind of a big surprise. I hadn´t expected that it would be this wild, untamed and unpopulated. For anyone who love the great outdoors, this is a must on the list of countries and places not to be missed!

Before returning to our hectic life´s outside Iceland, we finished off by driving in three different types of weather in a mere hour, to reach the spa resort outside the airport of Keflavik – The Blue Lagoon. Now, I have never really been into neither spending time on beaches or relaxing, but I realize after visiting this open spaced spa, what a mistake. Our time ...

Read More →

Iceland; The Gentleman´s Exploration, part 2

Published August 5th, 2011

This is the second in a series of three articles about Iceland and Kensington Tours exclusive offer of The Gentleman’s Exploration. I am an honoured explorer-in-residence at this giant of a true travel company.

Day 3

Temperature went below -15 degrees Celsius during the night, so the light was even more spectacular when we left Ranga Hotel, heading slightly north-west in the darkness, aiming for Gulfoss, the Geyser area and Thingvallavatn. Whilst riding in the dark, on the icy roads, all of us slightly tired from the evening before, I started thinking about Iceland and how little knowledge I had about this very special country. I knew Leif Erikson, the discoverer of North-America came from Iceland. And that Halldor Laxness received the Nobel Prize 1955, with several books describing the harshness of nature and life. And even more in present history, I knew of Eidur Gudjohnsen, soccer player, who had shown great capacity at Chelsea and Barcelona. On top of that, it was all about volca ...

Read More →

Iceland; The Gentlemen´s Exploration

Published August 5th, 2011

This is the first in a series of three articles about Iceland and Kensington Tours exclusive offer of The Gentleman’s Exploration. I am an honoured explorer-in-residence at this giant of a true travel company.

Day 1-2

Rained poured down when I got out of the airport in Keflavik. A big dark cloud covered every inch of the sky, threatening even worse weather to come. I pulled up the hood and ran over to the guy from the jeep rental company who was waiting for me. He must have seen my worry, because he immediately said:

“Don´t worry, in ten minutes, you will have a different weather. This is Iceland.”

He shook my hand and started explaining all details concerning the Land Rover in front of me. The tires were huge and I wondered briefly what Jeff had planned for our Gentleman’s Exploration of this peculiar country. This vehicle was definitely what somebody would call a male symbol of strength.

When I left the airport heading for the capital Reykjavik, night fell over Iceland and the r ...

Read More →

Exploring Northern Ireland; Giant´s Causeway an...

Published August 2nd, 2011

An Irish breakfast is a revelation in itself. Ann brought out two big sausages, two big chunks of bacon, a giant of an omelette, soda bread, yoghurt, porridge, juice…pretty much all home made. Now, regarding the bacon and sausage from the farm…Let me just tell you readers, this is heaven!

James had already been up a couple of hours before us, feeding the animals, checking fences…life as a farmer in what they call the mountains is very demanding, especially in the winter. With the rain pouring down, fierce wind, we could just imagine how cold the winter could be. The past winter they had even had half a meter of snow, which killed lots of their sheep. James was thinking about retiring, he felt run down from years of extremely hard work to keep the farm on its feet.

“Reality is, the farm has kept going forward but never enough to employ anyone” , James told me when he took me for a ride on his four wheel AT-bike, bringing me all the way up the valley, into Glenariff Forest Park, so he ...

Read More →

Exploring Northern Ireland; Torr Head and Murlo...

Published July 31st, 2011

“Remember that the Causeway Coastal Route is considered one of the 5 most scenic one´s on earth” , Billy the Cab driver told me when I told him where we were heading after Belfast.

Whilst we tried to find an easy route out of Belfast in pouring rain, I wondered who the others were, possibly Highway 101 in the US/California, anyone on the south island of New Zealand and maybe Tasmania? I know by experience that all scenic awards includes, always, the US and other over developed countries. Very seldom routes through developing countries. By which I am saying that maybe the Causeway Coastal Route also could be overrated. Now, let me jump ahead a bit and tell you this:

I personally rate, after travelling 90 000 km:s on a bicycle, quite a lot on foot, by horse, donkey…so I know what I am talking about, there´s a hidden gem here in Northern Ireland, not mentioned in the guide book about Ireland we brought (Insight guides)…well, not to ramble on….Torr Head Scenic Route is definitely amongst ...

Read More →

Exploring Northern Ireland; Belfast by Mikael S...

Published July 30th, 2011

“Do you know what the wee difference is between summer and winter in Northern Ireland?” a guy who looked like he had been cut out of a rock asked me when we arrived to Northern Ireland and a heavy wind made the rain go sidewise; “The rain is warmer in the summer.“

Rain was one thing I expected from our visit to Northern Ireland. But what else did I really know about this almost mysterious country? Well, as everybody else I have carried memories from what is called the Troubles in this tiny country located in the northern part of the very green and lush island of Ireland. The war, the fight, as far as I knew, between protestants and Catholics in what had come across as a kind of a political/religious internal war, were the Catholics wanted to be united with Ireland and the Protestants wanted to be part of the UK, was pretty much over. Even though there had been unrest just before we were to leave for this extra ordinary country, it didn´t worry us. It was easy to see between the lines ...

Read More →

Bogside and walking the walls of Stroke City

Published July 24th, 2011

Northern Ireland - what a great surprise!

Just me first tell you, that no matter what anyone thinks, I will never, ever be able to stop travelling. For me it is life. I cannot do anything else. I don´t wanna do anything else. And the key ingredient is that every time you travel, no matter how experienced, how much you have seen, it is the feeling of personally discovering something you didn´t know to its fullest. Take Northern Ireland. As most people I have only images from the Troubles and there´s no doubt about it, it is one of the main interests of visiting Northern Ireland, trying to understand human kind and all its conflicts. And I had a touch of a feeling that they could have a coastline of some beauty and people, as always, when quite untouched by tourism, were probably the main attraction. I was right, but I didn´t think it was this good. It is definitely a world class tourism spot! One just have to go there before it gets too...touristic. By which i mean, it will more or le ...

Read More →

Stroke City and talks about the troubles

Published July 20th, 2011

"The troubles has put as back many years when it comes to tourism", James McHendry told me early this morning after taking me up on his 4-wheel dirt bike to get a view over his fantastic valley; "If it wasn´t for them, the valley would be full of visitors."

I believe him. the valley was beautiful. We could see all the way to Scotland. Both sides were teeming with waterfalls, forest was thick, so was the grasslands and the walking paths well prepared. But no tourists. Yet. Believe me, I have been trekking in almost a 100 countries and I can tell you, these trails in Glenariff Forest Park are as good as any, especially when it comes to, like all of Northern Ireland, that you get a feeling of not being bother by other people and that it is a genuine experience.

I enjoyed my company with James, we had a lot too talk about. And that is another thing with the Northern Irish, they have so many stories, opinions about everything and not a dead minute in their company. He and his wife Ann ru ...

Read More →

And the Lord sayeth: May there be...SUN!

Published July 19th, 2011

Day 5 The Strandberg Family exploring Northern Ireland.

I feel like shouting;

I was wrong! It is far nicer when the sun is out!

However, I think it is the the delightful full, smooth and rich taste of the Blackbush from Bushmills whiskey with a wee drop of water talking!

I still think it is more beautiful just after and just before the rain begins pouring down. Somebody said, when the alcohol starts talking, the truth comes out. Well, let me tell you, I have given it all a good thought, I think Northern Ireland is on pair with New Zealand, one of my favorite countries in the world when it comes to beauty, laid back people and interest. It is -and this is positive in my eyes- on pair with what I remember Buckhurst Hill in Essex used to be back at the end of the sixties when I was 7-8 years old. Same smell of coal in some villages, windy and narrow roads, kind people who call you dear when you open the doors for them, very relaxed and down to earth, interested in who you are, ready t ...

Read More →

The country of wee and a definition of rain

Published July 19th, 2011

Day 4; The Strandberg Family exploring Northern Ireland.

The country of wee and a definition of rain

I realized when I woke up early this morning, looked out the window from the second floor at our excellent BB named Dieskirts Farm, saw their donkies running after their horse, their sheep grouping up in the ongoing rain, that without the downpours, this wee country would be less appealing!

You need this kind of weather to get this kind of rough cut people and nature! And, basically, if you are not a cyclist on tour, you can get away from either by, like us, traveling by car an dress up well. It is after all just rain. Nothing a brandy, hot porridge or some indoor can´t fix, and, the thing is, which i know after sleeping out over 2500 nights in tent, it is the contrasts which makes a human smile to its fullest!

We set off in pouring rain, doing the roller coaster narrow, windy country roads to Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge along the A 2. Now, I normally don´t like or get impressed by s ...

Read More →

Rain, coastline and heavy winds

Published July 17th, 2011

Day 3; The Strandberg Family exploring Northern Ireland.

Another fantastic day in Northern Ireland! i have to admit we would have liked to stay another few days in Belfast, it was that good. Even though most of the travel we have done, has been dominated by a huge amount of British flags on both sides of the road, so there´s little doubt who lives alongside these spectacularly picturesque seaside villages.

Initially we felt slightly worried, that the coast would be a long series of seaside resorts, which doesn´t differ much from other seaside resorts globally. They´re all pretty much the same in every way. However, after visiting Carnfunnock County Park and got lost in the maze, had an excellent lunch at Londonderry Arms in Carnlough, we headed for Glenariff and the B&B at Dieskirts Farm, took a brake there, before we set off for Torr head.

Let me just say, these roads are...well, not wild...but dramatic, narrow, challenging and it is a roller coaster ride up through this almost ove ...

Read More →

Bread and murals

Published July 16th, 2011

Day 2, The Strandberg Family in Northern Ireland

Let me first say that the main reason for a visit to Northern Ireland are the locals. They´re genuinely good people. Down to earth, funny,friendly, warm, interested, love children and are very good story tellers.

But, Belfast is a very interesting place which must have to be visited. We started the day by doing the Belfast Bread Tour guided by a professional actor posing in an extra ordinary good way as a former chef of the Titanic. A guide -not just because I am a guide myself- is really a must and a well invested sum, because you get a profound insight into the city, its history and present and pass most areas of interest, which one later can go back to. A good guide makes your visit so much better!

After 3 hours by foot with Barney, Billy Scott picked us up in his Black cab and took us to Shankill and the mural experience. I has to be seen! It must be the biggest outdoor gallery in the world, even if it is highly political. A lot ...

Read More →

Sandy Row, Belfast

Published July 15th, 2011

Day 1; Family trip to Northern Ireland

The Strandberg Family has just arrived to the thrilling little town called Belfast. It was far more dramatic, interesting, small, close, run-down and absolutely a must for anyone interested in travelling, taking photos, trying to understand the meaning of life!

We arrived Dublin midday, traveled up the M1 in rain and arrived to Hotel Europe, http://www.hastingshotels.com/​europa-belfast, where we have a room overlooking Sandy Row, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S​andy_, and have just returned after a visit by foot through an area full of dramatic murals and a visit to the Ulster Museum, to get a background of the troubles.

The Irish are such a great lot of people, so humorous, helpful, tough looking, hard and harsh, but so warm...

A great start of our visit, Eva loves it!

Read More →

My testament of life

Published July 12th, 2011

I just love life!

I wake up every morning thinking: “Yes!!! I have another privileged day ahead of me! Another day to try to change the world! And I am still alive and kicking!”

The Explorers Club in London believes I am the best contemporary explorer in the world at the present. This is of course utterly wrong. Nevertheless I do feel honoured! But why does Barry Moss, the great chairman of the Club, believe this? Well, not only is he one of my very best friends, but he knows my life story. He knows that the real explorer is the one, who explores every moment and every day of his, or hers, life. Not only on an Expedition. An individual, who understands that joy and tragedy, are part of being a human and fully alive. You have to dare, even in every day life, to be able to live life to its fullest. If there’s one major lesson of life I have learned exploring, this is the one:

“Life is very short. This is the only opportunity you will get. Just take it!”

I am really trying to do just ...

Read More →