Across Continents

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Solo camping

May 28th, 2011

Solo camping from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Join Ken camping alone in the Mary Valley, southern Queensland. No garlic to ward off evil. Relying instead on having consumed an entire packet of fig rolls. Enough to deter even the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town. Unfair competition.

[With thanks to the "Two Ronnies"]

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Kangaroos in the top paddock

February 2nd, 2011

"Solo British cyclist seeks partner for Alaska. Summer 2011. Spatially aware women welcome. No dogs, beards or obsessives. GSOH and own teeth essential. Must be solvent, non-smoker and good conversationalist"

Few problems are unsolvable. But the solution to this one was proving to be a bit elusive. Trying to sketch out a small ad. Solo cyclist seeks riding partner for Alaska. Difficulty was how to phrase it so as to ward off those who have a few errr.. kangaroos in the top paddock.

Easy enough to scribble down the requirements. But expressing them with suitable decorum. Quite another matter. I’d jotted down what I might want to say – see above – as much for sheer amusement as anything else. The best humour, they say, being based on fact…

Complicating matters was the little issue of what to do with the ad. Where to place it. I’d been quick to rule out "Private Eye". And "Solo Cyclists Monthly" has yet to appear on the newstands. Might have to take my chances alone with the Alaskan bears. Or the loneliness monkeys… not seen them for a while…

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Solo in the saddle

July 2nd, 2010

I’d returned at dusk to the house in the suburbs where I was staying. Busy day, mostly writing for the blog, the events of the past week, or scribbling notes as I sought to cajole my thoughts into a form I could properly grasp. If the Chinese Consulate in Almaty said no that was simple enough, go elsewhere. But if they said yes, but just thirty days entry, something of a dilemma. Accept, or go elsewhere in search of more. Costly. And no guarantee of success. I’d chatted to my parents earlier which had helped a lot, but it still remained my call.

I must still have been pre-occupied with my own thoughts, for I missed Olima’s parents, Ilkom and Shaiza, sat quietly on a covered wooden platform in the garden. They called me over. Welcome glass of red wine to enjoy as the light began to fail, rumblings of thunder in the background getting ever louder until the steady patter of rain could be heard on the roof above us.

We sat on long, thin cushions around a low table. They both spoke a little English, admittedly more than either my Kazakh or Russian, but far short of what you might imagine would be needed for a conversation. And yet we’d been able to communicate, and quite successfully. Ethnicity, language migration across Central Asia, troubles in Kyrgyzstan, topics no phrase book I’d ever seen prepared you for. Found myself explaining about the Norman Conquest, Angles and Saxons. Even the relationship between UK, Great Britain, England, Scotland and Wales. Learning about Farsi being spoken in Uzbekistan.

The failing light, refreshing rain, the relative tranquility of the garden, had put me in a contemplative mood. I’d often be asked if I was travelling alone, more so as I’d headed east, and I usually said yes. Truth was I might be solo in the saddle, but I was far from independent. On the contrary, I was entirely dependent on others. Family and friends, people I sometimes met only fleetingly, Olima and her family for their generous hospitality in Almaty, so many others. Without whose support I’ve have scarcely left the UK, never mind reached the eastern edge of Kazakhstan.

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