Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

My Photo

I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

travel update from outer mongolia

Hello from Ulaan Baatar,
I am in Ulaan Baatar the capitol of Mongolia. Mongolia is a country of less than 3 million people, mostly nomadic herdsmen. Modern day Mongolia was called outer Mongolia when i was a child. It was deeply under the sway of the Soviet Union, but it did maintain its independence, at least on paper. Though in fact, Stalin and his boys were calling the shots, so to speak. Today it is a parliamentary democracy and the people seem pretty happy. they are part of the global community and tourism is beginning to reach them, although it is NOT an easy country for the independent traveler. Inner Mongolia is part of the Democratic Peoples Republic of China. I will pass through Inner Mongolia on my way to Beijing, soon. I expect to be in Beijing on August 10.
After a few days in Irkutsk Russian Siberaia, I went with Tom to visit Lake Baikal. It is 1,600 meters deep. So that makes Lake Baikal the deepest lake in the world. It is said to contain 20% of all the un-frozen fresh water in the world, More water than the Great lakes of USA and Canada (Erie, Huron, Michigan, Superior, and Ontario ) combined! I find that hard to believe but you can look it up! It is truyly a beautiful sight to see. A vast in-land sea that stretches for as far as the eye can see. Very cold and crystal clear waters. The following day we got back on the trans siberian rail road and left Russia and 36 hours later, entered Mongolia.
I have been here in Mongolia since 18 July. I arrived in the capital city and the following day took off for Terelj National Park. I stayed there for a couple of nights in an "eco camp" owned and run by Bert, who is a Dutch expat and crazy as a loon!! On the other hand, he is a hobby cheese maker and he makes most excellent Gouda cheeses. I watched and learned a lot from him. All the milk he uses come from his own free ranging grass eating cows. Happy cows make happy cheese! Most of the deal is in control of the temperature, and the process of separating the curds from the whey. After this it is all about aging. In the end I bought a quarter kilo of some excellent home made cheese from him and I enjoyed the last of it in a grilled cheese sandwich this afternoon, accompanied by a couple of eggs over easy.
I am not exactly sure what an eco camp is, even after staying in one. I was going to ask Bert but he is so crazy that it seemed not a good idea to risk further agitating the man. He needs an anger management course...I can not for the life of me decide why he should be so angry. he lives in one of the most beautiful and tranquil places I have ever seen on this lovely green planet of ours. Beautiful green valleys of grass called steppes for as far as the eye can see. lovely gentle hills surround his lush beautiful valley. herds of free ranging livestock Yaks, cows, horses, sheep, goats go slowly grazing by,...
The Mongolian cowboys go galloping along and their dogs kind of keep the animals in a group. the cowboys sing as they ride! Serious!! You can hear them singing to themselves out loud as they go by on their ponies.
The lodging is rather primitive in a fun way. I stayed in what is called in Mongolian a "Ger". In Khazakistan, it is called a "yurt". It is a circular shaped tent. It is semi permanent structure. you can take one down or put one up in an hour if you are experienced. There is a wood stove in the middle and there is a little chimney so it is warm at night. Our Ger had 5 beds in it. there are bigger ones and also smaller ones.
Near our camp is a lovely little river with crystal clear rather cold water. I took a very brief dip but did not swim. My two travelling companions Mathew from Denmark and Florian from Germany did , but they did not stay in the water for very long. Next day I took a long walk around the steppe and gathered mushrooms with Nellie, which Bert inspected to be sure we would not poison ourselves and after his approval we sauteed them in olive oil and served them on toast. Very nice indeed. We cooked in the Ger of Nellie a german woman who was there at the same time as us and she had brought a camp stove and some frying pans. We all had dinners together while we were there and left together as well.
During my long walks and solitary sitting time out there on the Mongolian steppes I found myself contemplating the Sourse of my "self". My "being" or my "essence" as it were. Many of you have heard me speak of the line of being and the line of doing. I often say I am a human being not a human doing. Many of you also have heard me speak of the inevitable law of karma, of cause and effect, action and reaction. The problem is like the chicken and the egg, where does one begin and the other end? What comes first? is not every action merely a reaction?
Well I believe I have come to a new understanding. A man's being is the cause, and his doing is the effect. That is why one works on ones being. because all your doing is a result of your being. If one can perfect or at least improve ones being, his doing, that is to say, his actions, will also change in corresponding fashion.
It has been said that in order for a man to "do" first he must truly "be". I have pondered this riddle for decades. Mr. Gurdjieff was said to have told his pupils that a man, such as he is, can "do" Nothing. for Man in his present state things just happen, that doing is illusion. Last week on the steppes of outer Mongolia this idea truly made sense to me for the first time. I have been working on my being for a long time now. Working on my ewssense by observiong my "self" ...Observing my breath, my fantasies and daydreams, my body at rest. Not doing, just observing. It is the observing that brings about a change.
In quantum mechanics it is said that the observation of the experiment changes the experiment. That there is no line of separation between observer and observed. To observe the experiment is to change the experiment, so I reckon that to observe ones self is to change ones self.
Below are some quotes to think about until my next update. I hope this letter finds all of you well and peaceful.
Peace and love to you all,

"The man who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can be learned in no other way." Mark Twain

"Man [has] always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much-the wheel, New York, wars and so on-while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reason." Douglas Adams

"The greatest barrier to consciousness is the belief that one is already conscious." PD Ouspensky

Thursday, July 14, 2011

travel update from Siberia Russia

Previet Everyone,
Moscow was a good city. It is not so different from St. Petersburg. The population is of course much larger. Both cities have a lot of foreign visitors. Foreigners do not stand out very much there. It is easy to find helpful people who speak english, especially among the younger folks I am meeting. Even the police were helpful if you are a foreigner looking for directions or asking questions.
Globalization has come to Russia. Everywhere one looks it is all the same as other countries. McDonalds, Subway Sandwich, Starbucks. Tuborg, Heineken, Budweiser, Johnny Walker, and Jack Daniels. People dressed in the same fashions as in the west, reebock shoes, Dolce and Gabbano, Christian D'or. Young people with tatoos, American and British rock and roll music in the air. Bob Marley playing on the stereo in my hostel...BMW, Toyota, Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz cars...I am a little disappointed. I was hoping to drink tea prepared in a samovar. No deal. Plastic electric tea kettles have taken over the world!
Well, I suppose this is what some would call "progress". I am not so sure about that. It seems to be a lack of character and an overdose of uniformity. In Thailand they have an expression...they say "Same, same but different". I am not saying that it is completely characterless. People still eat Blini, Pierogi, and lots of different kinds of caviar. Lovely breads and interesting cheeses. If you all are planning to travel to see how the different cultures differ one from another, I suggest you not waste too much time. The forces of mass marketing is bringing the east to the west, the north to the south and turning everything inside out! Just my opinion but, based on my first hand observations...
Trying to buy our train tickets in St.Petersburg or Moscow at the train stations was a horror show! Long lines and ticket counter sales people who did not speak anything but Russian and were not in the mood to try to help at all. People who were behind in the line volunteered to help by translating, (so friendly, so helpful, so sweet) but most of the trains are crowded or sold out. We had to take a bus to Moscow and from there trying to buy tickets for trans siberian rail road trains was all but impossible. Finally in desperation we bought them on the internet from RealRussia.com and paid the extra commisions. Ahhh, What the wahh hay! it was worth the price for the added convenience and security of knowing we would be able to get on the train! The first leg of my great trans siberian rail road journey is done. 56 hours from Moscow to Tomsk.
The train was modern and very comfortable. We had cheapest tickets, in third class. People were super friendly! We were the only not Russian people in our car! There were a couple of teenagers who were travelling with grown-ups who translated for us. We played checkers with them and Rummy and 17 matches. They invited us to play chess but we both do not play. Pity it looks like fun...
Everyone brings their own food. There is not much to do so everyone is eating all the time! Like a big camping trip. The train has a big samovar so there is boiling water any time ( I finally got to use a samovar! ) you want to make tea or coffee or cup of instant noodles or instant mashed potatoes or soup in an envelope. They also had a microwave oven you can use.
Most of the people bring bread and make sandwiches of hard cooked egg or salami or cheeses smoked or canned fish. Lots of fresh fruit like cucumbers, apples, bananas, cherries and strawberries. Lots of pastries and sweets. Everyone was offering us stuff to taste or to eat. There is not much to do so everyone is eating all the time. It is like a big camping trip! I loved it, so much fun.
There are many stops and you can get out on the platforms and stretch your legs and of course all kinds of stuff are available to buy. After 56 hours, however, I was about ready to get off and stay in a town for a couple of days and take a shower. Which is what we did.
So we stopped in Tomsk a city of 500,000 people built along the Tom River in South Central Siberia. Tom and I are the first Americans to stay at the Eighth Floor Hostel. It is a nice hostel and the staff is friendly. It is rather new and everything is very clean. It is a converted apartment. The city population is about 50% university students they say. There are many XVIII century old wood buildings, actually more like giant log cabins. Very beautiful and interesting. It is obviouse they do not get many foreign travellers here! After 3 days and 2 nights we got back on the train to go to Irkutsk.
Once again we had the third class cheap tickets but this was an older train and it was not as nice as the earlier train. lucky for Tom and me we only had to stay on for 36 hours. It was very hot and uncomfortable. The people were great very friendly and there were two French men on the train with us so we were not the only foreigners.
I am writing from Irkutsk. Irkutsk is famous for lake Baikal. It is said to be the deepest lake in the world. 1.6 km deep at the deepest point. Irkutsk is not exactly on the lake but rather about 60km from the lake. We will go tomorrow to the lake and to Taltsy.
Taltsy is a big outdoor museum, actually a rebuilt replica of a siberian village from the eighteenth century.It is about half way between here and the lake so we will go there first and then continue on to the lake. We will stay for the day and return to Irkutsk.
Here in Irkutsk we are staying in a 101 year old home made of logs. It is way cool and the owner Igor, is a gem of a man. He is a director and producer of theater plays. he has done a great deal of the work on the home himself. Restoring here and refinishing there. The place is totally unique. i am loving it!!
Well thats all for now. Next update from Mongolia!
peace and love to all of you

"Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues; you can tell by the way she smiles."Bob Dylan
"Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart's position. You wear your life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after -- lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it, cherishing because you know you won't ever come by such a bargain again." Louise Erdrich

“There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.” G.I.Gurdjieff

Monday, July 04, 2011

travel update from Moscow

Well now I am here. Here I am now. Uuhhh, wow wait let me start over. I am in Moscow.
The capital of Russia. I arrived here on the morning of 4 July. Independence Day in USA. To what Ronald Reagan once called the black heart of the dark empire. He of course was stuck in time. I am a A Eulipian...a time traveller. A journey agent...I know everything is in a constant state of change. I know that "This too shall pass" There is no need to annihilate one another if one is patient...
"I hung around St. Petersburg until I saw it was a time for a change" Mick Jagger "Sympathy for the Devil"
I was in St Petersburg for 4 days haunted by that line from an old Rolling Stones song. St P. is a beautiful and vibrant city full of friendly and helpful people. I am walking in history. Staring in open eyed wonder at the Hermitage, the old summer palace of the Czars since the time of Peter the Great until the Bolshevik Revolution. Wow those folks were awfully good at spending other peoples money. The architecture and art and just sheer beauty of the old imperial city are in a word, breathtaking. Truly one of the worlds most magnificent cities.
My first day in St P. however was another one of those travel days in... HELL!! Murphy was watching and guiding me from on high. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. It started out fine, our bus from Helsinki was on time and going through customs was a breeze. A nice girl on the bus offered to walk us right to the front door of the hostel we reserved as she was walking that way herself. So it was easy to find. Then the fun began.
We arrive and it is too early to check in. We must wait until 1pm. The receiving agent at the desk speaks no English or Spanish only Russian. The place looks like a real dump! She will not let us look around. She does not want us to leave our stuff there so we can go out and walk around.Okay, so we pantomime and get directions to the bank machine so I can get some Russian money. Tom stays behind with our stuff. I get the money count it up and go have a walk about.
When I return I am going to sort my cash and notice that somewhere along the way, I lost a 500 ruble note and a pair of 100ruble notes. I can not believe it. I withdrew 7000 (about 250 or 270 dollars) and somehow, lost 700 (about 25 or 30 dollars). I counted it all at the bank machine, so I know the bank did not short me. I lost it. I do not know where or how...I feel like such a fool. I realize that I am not breathing with awareness so I watch my breath and immediately feel better, even if I do not feel richer! It is only money why let it molest me?
Now Christina the owner of the hostel comes and tells us she is over booked and has no room for us. I am breathing with awareness. I smile at her. She says "I can take you to another hostel close by". "Let me call" she says. I am breathing like a Buddha and things are improving. She says she can get us in, and she can walk us over there in a few minutes. I ask if I can use the toilet and she says " It is for guest only, do you really need to go?"...I smile with my out breath. It is better than telling her she is a 3 holed ass!
After I get back from the toilet, I feel better and ask her if she can register us with the police. All tourists who stay in Russia more than 7 days must register with the police. She says yes it will cost 3600rubles. I will think about it I say. She says well...I can do it for 2800. Okay I say let me think about it some more. She goes down to 2100 for us both. The girl who walked us there from the bus had told us it should cost about 300 each.
We get to the new hostel. It is cleaner, brighter , friendlier, and just all in all much better. We get into our dormitory and I need a nap. I have been traveling all night and did not sleep well on the bus. I am asleep when our new administrator wakes me and says I must change rooms because Christina is back and she has more guests whom she over booked and...I am angry. I am not breathing with awareness, I am pissed off. I am tired. i am an important person. I demand respect and to be treated kindly I am an ego machine and I want to scream, I breath in calm and give her a smile on the out breath and move my shit. What else could I do? She is grateful for my understanding. I am glad. I am really tired but I am happy.
Christina wants us to commit to letting her register us. I breathe calmly. I tell her go ahead, I will pay her tomorrow when we go to the ATM. I am clever. I know it costs her nothing to register me and after she has done the work she will accept the normal fee. If not, we can register in Moscow. I smile knowing this, while I breathe out. I am a New Jersey Buddha. Two days later after more of her belly aching we pay her 300 each.
Moscow. Red Square. The Kremlin. St. Basil's cathedral. It is like a dream. I am walking in history. It is 4th of July 2011. I am in front of Lenin's tomb. Standing on the exact spot that 20 minute man ICBMs used to be pointed. Ground ZERO of the nuclear nightmare. Only that was then and this is now. That too has passed. It is peace. We are friends. I am at peace. I watch as the thing I call "me" breathes in calmly and breathes out smilingly and i am loving life, right here right now in Moscow!
Tom asks the desk clerk of our Moscow hostel, The Comrade Hostel, how much it costs to register a guest with the police? She says 900 each. Tom smiles and breathes with calmness.
Peace and love to all of you
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" Mohandas K. Gandhi
"Travel teaches toleration."Benjamin Disraeli
"The test of an adventure is that when you're in the middle of it, you say to yourself, "Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess I wish I were sitting quietly at home." And the sign that something's wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure."Thornton