528 days, 95450 km and 24 countries. Around the world trip without flights was completed March 18, 2013. This is not a point of arrival but the beginning of a fairy tale that I will continue to tell around the world. After publishing VAGAMONDO i came back on the road. Photos, videos and stories of a free life dedicated to the travel.
venerdì 23 marzo 2012
domenica 18 marzo 2012
domenica 11 marzo 2012
Vengo piacevolmente svegliato da una chiamata di un caro amico che non sentivo da 5 mesi, dopo di che di primo mattino raggiungo il ponte che attraversa il fiume dell’omonimo villaggio di Pai mentre osservo gli abitanti aprire lentamente le loro attività. Appuntamento con Ellen, una viaggiatrice svedese conosciuta in una guesthouse di Kandy (Sri Lanka) ed incontrata per caso ieri poche ore dopo il mio arrivo. Programma della giornata: affittare due bici per esplorare villaggi montani e una cascata nella jungla distante una decina di chilometri ad ovest di Pai.
La strada è in buono stato ma è in leggera pendenza in salita per i primi 5 chilometri per poi aumentare decisamente la difficoltà negli ultimi 5; nulla di proibitivo ma in caso di non perfetta salute meglio lasciar perdere. Purtroppo la visibilità è notevolmente ridotta in questo periodo perché, essendo la stagione secca, gli agricoltori bruciano i campi per prepararli prima dell’imminente arrivo dei monsoni. Le montagne non sono visibili e una leggera nebbia ci accompagna per tutta la giornata rendendo pallido il sole.
La prima fermata è in un piccolo villaggio che si sviluppa attorno ad un tempio, Wat Nam Hoo, dentro al quale sono custodite diverse statue di Buddha tra cui una particolarmente sacra perché pare che in passato abbia trasudato dalla testa acqua benedetta. Il tutto in un area verde con un delizioso laghetto di fiori di loto e un piccolo mercato locale. Tappa successiva un villaggio cinese, due colonne rosse con delle scritte in cinese delimitano l’entrata, in cui è riscontrabile nettamente la differenza tra gli altri villaggi per via dell’architettura e dello sviluppo adatto al turismo che sta prendendo piede con degli edifici nuovi nello stile kitsch cinese. Osservo davanti ad un portone un bastone di legno tagliato perfettamente con alcune piume nere affisse e delle gocce di sangue lasciate cadere sopra. Aveva le sembianze di un rito, ho provato a chiedere al proprietario di casa ma era impegnato al telefono e non mi degnava di attenzione.
Riprendiamo la pedalata affrontando una salita più impegnativa con delle bici che spesso danno problemi di catena. Il panorama è decisamente secco ma fortunatamente questa è una stagione meno turistica infatti ho incontrato davvero pochi stranieri tra cui due motociclisti inglesi, uno di loro è un tatuatore con tutto il corpo tatuato che vive 6 mesi a Londra e 6 mesi a Chiang Mai. Osservo la tranquilla dinamica quotidiana dei semplici abitanti dei villaggi che mi trasmettono una forte sensazione di pace e relax, proprio ciò di cui avevo bisogno dopo intense giornate nella rovente e caotica Bangkok.
Raggiungo le cascate che si addentrano nella secca jungla e attendo l’arrivo di Ellen che per via di un problema alla schiena ha terminato il percorso a piedi. Un bel ruscello d’acqua gelida percorre questo tratto di foresta tra grossi blocchi di pietra che creano delle piccole cascate e delle pozze in cui potersi bagnare – niente a che vedere con le grandi cascate singalesi. Alcuni bambini thailandesi trascorrono la mattinata a tuffarsi dalle rocce nonostante l’acqua sia particolarmente bassa in questa stagione. Ascolto per alcune ore il suono del ruscello che scorre e il canto degli uccelli rendendomi conto di quanto oramai sia fondamentale per la mia vita il contatto con la natura.
Al ritorno incontriamo delle donne locali che ci chiamano da lontano facendo il gesto del fumare, avvicinandoci ci accorgiamo che vendono oppio, non interessati proseguiamo alla ricerca di un ristorante dove poter pranzare e ne troviamo uno situato sulla cima di una collina da cui si estende una valle purtroppo non visibile per la nebbia fumante. La gentile e sorridente ragazza, che gestisce il locale, ci prepara un delizioso piatto vegetariano di riso e verdure. Ringraziamo e scendiamo lentamente per tornare nel villaggio di Pai.
Oggi compio 27 anni e credo che lo trascorrerò con madre natura in esplorazione di altre cascate. Festeggerò in modo del tutto particolare nella prossima settimana frequentando un ritiro di meditazione in un monastero sulla verde collina di Chiang Mai seguendo i rigidi ritmi giornalieri dei monaci e isolandomi dal mondo. Sono molto interessato alla pratica della meditazione e, oltre a proseguire il mio viaggio introspettivo, vorrei provare a raggiungere quel particolare stato in cui riesci a non pensare. Chi l’avrebbe mai detto che sarei arrivato ad esperienze simili? Chi mi conosce sa la vita che facevo pochi anni fa. Ma questo è il bello della vita, mai dire mai e bisogna avere una mente aperta a 360 gradi per provare esperienze di ogni tipo cercando di trarne il meglio in tutte e formare il proprio spirito. Limitandosi ad un solo stile di vita, senza mai provare qualcosa di nuovo, è come leggere una sola pagina di un grandioso libro chiamato “Vita”.
The phone woke me up, but I was happy to hear from a good friend for the first time in five months. Then, early in the morning, I reached the bridge over the river Pai flowing through the village of the same name, watching the locals slowly starting the days’ work. I had an appointment with Ellen, a Swedish traveller I had met in a guesthouse in Kandy (Sri Lanka), after casually bumping into her the day before, just a few hours after my arrival. The plan for the day was to rent two bikes and explore mountain villages and a waterfall in the jungle, some ten kilometres west of Pai.
The road was good but slightly uphill for the first five kilometres then steeper for the last five; nothing impossible but best avoided by those not in good shape. Unfortunately the visibility wasn’t great because in the dry seasons like this, farmers set their fields on fire to prepare them for the upcoming monsoon. The mountains weren’t visible and a slight fog partially blocked the sunlight all day.
The first stop was in a tiny village built around a temple, Wat Nam Hoo, containing various Buddha statues, one of which is particularly sacred because people say that in the past blessed water permeated from its head. All this is set in a green area with a small local market and a lovely pond with lotus plants. The next stop was in a Chinese village: behind the entrance with two red columns with Chinese writings, the village appeared very different from other ones because of the architecture and the new buildings in Chinese kitsch style built for tourism. In front of a door, I saw a perfectly carved stick with some bloodstained black feathers attached. It looked as if it was some kind of a ritual, I wanted to ask the house owner about it but he was busy on the phone and ignored me.
We carried on pedalling up a steeper slope on bikes which often had chain problems. The landscape was dry but, luckily, it was not the high season and among the few foreigners I met were two English motocyclists. One of them, a tattooer completely covered with tattoos lives half the year in London and the other half in Chiang Mai. Observing the calm daily routine of the simple villagers made me peaceful and relaxed, just what I needed after my tiring days in hot chaotic Bangkok.
I reached the waterfalls that go into into the dry jungle and waited for Ellen who finished the excursion on foot because of a back problem. A pleasant but freezing cold stream flows through this part of the forest between boulders and rocks, creating small waterfalls and pools where you can have a wash – nothing quite like the big Sinhalese waterfalls. Some Thai children spent the morning diving from the rocks, despite the water being quite shallow in this season. I listened to the sound of the stream and the birds singing for a few hours, aware of how important being close to nature has become in my life.
On the way back we met some local women who called to us from afar, making smoking gestures and, as we got closer, we realised they were selling opium. We weren’t interested so we carried on, looking for a restaurant to have lunch and found one on the top of a hill but, once again, there were no views of the nearby valley because of the smokescreen. The kind smiling girl running the place prepared a delicious vegetarian dish of rice and vegetables for us. Afterwards we went slowly downhill back to Pai.
Today is my 27th birthday. I think I’ll spend the day with Mother Nature exploring more waterfalls, then celebrate in a particular way next week by retiring to a monastery on the green hill of Chang Mai, following the strict daily schedules of the monks and isolating myself from the world. I’m very interested in practicing meditation and, apart from continuing on my introspective journey, I’d like to try and reach that particular state where your mind quietens. Who would have thought that I would get to the point of experiencing such things? Those who know me know what kind of life I was leading a few years ago. But this is the great thing about life, you never know what’s going to happen and it’s best to keep an open mind, try all sorts of experiences and make the best out of them in order to form our spirit. Limiting yourself to only one lifestyle without ever trying anything new is like reading only one page of that great book called “Life”.
domenica 4 marzo 2012
Awareness is key to our fulfilment. The day that you become aware of what you eat and change your diet without being socially conditioned, that you discover where all your habits come from and radically change them by giving your own meaning, that you give up your biggest vice, that you are aware of your posture and the way you walk so that you can change them and relax autonomously, that you stop being afraid because you know that it is a disease created by society in order to limit your freedom, that you accept that the past is the past and that the future will always be nothing but your imagination and you start living the present as intensely as possible without being a slave to your ambitions, that will be the day you wake up and you will no longer be a puppet, but the master of your own life, and will really discover how far you can go.
I decided to begin my day with an unusual breakfast: some new tropical fruit. I went out to the streets of Chinatown and almost immediately found a stall selling fruit that was already cut and ready to be eaten. I chose a jackfruit, which is shaped like a giant green bean, grows on trees and is also found in southern India and Sri Lanka, and a dragonfruit, red and apple-shaped. The first was disgusting but I managed to finish it, the second was good, but nothing special.
I had the whole day to wander around Kuala Lumpur since the first of two trains taking me in 36 hours to Bangkok, the hot and exotic Thai capital, was leaving at 11pm. I left my backpack at the hotel reception and made my way along the modern roads in the muggy weather of the Malaysian capital. The temperature was high, but it was the 90% humidity that made the heat nearly unbearable. Chinatown, a lively colourful district, extends mostly along two pedestrian roads full of with stalls selling clothes, watches, knives and backpacks. There were also various kiosks, from which smoke was rising, selling food and drink at all hours. The area is multiethnic, with Malaysians, Chinese and tourists. In the short amount of time I spent in Kuala Lumpur, this was the district that fascinated me the most.
In the morning, while walking over a bridge in the city centre, I saw by chance a graffiti contest (video 1). On the banks of the small river flowing through the city, a multitude of young graffiti artists were bringing the walls to life with the lively colours of their spray cans. There were many of these artists and the contest seemed to have already been going on for a few days. Just above the eastern riverbank, a group of skaters were practising on a two-metre-high ramp. A Malaysian told me that a television program had organised a festival that week with concerts, breakdancing and various sport activities.
On arriving in the city centre, I was stunned by the ultramodern buildings and skycrapers that dominate the skyline, such as the majestic Petronas Towers. There are certain spots where it’s hard to see the sky, the roads are well asphalted and divided into several lanes, but above all there are shops and malls. After India and Sri Lanka it feels strange to be in such a modern developed city, and this is another positive side to my way of travelling, because it allows me to focus in depth, like a magnifying glass, on the differences between the countries I visit, thus continuing to understand these cultures better even after leaving them.
This is now the monsoon season and the first storm broke, so I rushed inside an eight-storey mall. After passing several fashion shops, I came to a floor dedicated to restaurants and discovered a true community involved in catering services. One after another, a series of international restaurants - no country missing - gives the name “Food Republic” to that level of the mall. It was really difficult to choose between so many options and they all seemed to make good dishes, but in the end, in line with my new diet, I went for a Thai dish of vegetables and noodles. While looking for the way out, I noticed a bakery selling focaccia just like in Italy, except that this was coated with sugar and labelled as “Japanese pan”!
It rained all afternoon and evening and I wandered around the city, soaking wet. I noticed that many Malaysians ride motorbikes with their jacket back to front, maybe because of the heat, maybe because of the rain or maybe so that the wind would not make it swell up. When I started making my way towards the train station I found that the roads were flooded because the sewers were overloaded. I walked across the same bridge under which the graffiti artists had been writing that very morning and was shocked to see how the river had completely overflown its banks and a good part of the walls (video 2). The power of the river, just a few hours before not much more than a stream, was impressive. I stayed on the bridge under the downpour, attracted by the water carrying everything away, not bothered by the fact that I was wet through.
giovedì 1 marzo 2012
- Trasporti pubblici : 6,5
- Cucina locale : 5
- Ospitalità della gente : 7
- Costo della vita per uno straniero : 7
- Media Sri Lanka : 6,375
Third instalment with my temporary report on the countries I visit. As I already blogged, I have decided to rate - give a mark for - my travel experiences in every country I visit. It will be based on personal experience, so feel free to disagree. The ratings below are temporary and may well be changed in the light of later experiences. I give a rating out of ten to four areas which mainly concern the local people: travelling with them on public transport, taking into account the road conditions; the local food (variety and quality); their friendliness and hospitality towards foreigners; the cost of living for a foreigner on a budget.
- Public transport : 6,5
- Local food : 5
- Friendliness and hospitality : 7
- Cost of living for a foreigner : 7
- Average fro Sri Lanka : 6,375