India - June 11, 2001
woke early to tackle the task at hand - containerizing the
vehicle! The freight company was located a short distance
away, near the port. Final odometer reading: 219,566 km. We
had made up an additional 1,000 kms in India.
spent most of the morning sitting and waiting at the docking
facility. When you are told in India, 15 minutes, it can mean
anything from ½ hour to 3 hours. The runaround we were
given was incredible - customs would not accept a photocopy
of our passport. We were forced to dig through our stuff to
locate the originals, which then had to be run downtown. The
heat was unbearable and we had to find an air conditioned
place to wait it out. By 4:00 pm we had run out of time and
We urgently pleaded with them that we had a flight to catch
and we could not wait any longer. The pressure seemed to work.
We were instructed to remove the roof rack and get the vehicle
into the container. I lined up the wheels and George jumped
into the driver seat to reverse the beast back into the container.
plan of putting the vehicle in backwards was to allow easy
access to the Customs officials in viewing and verifying the
VIN and engine serial number. George and I were getting a
little annoyed, the customs people were taking so long and
our K&N representatives were trying to do everything they
could to speed things up.
had been a wonderful experience, unfortunately, our last dealings
with the country were leaving us with a terrible last impression.
The customs person finally arrived and gave us some story
about coming from home but at this point we did not know what
to believe. So in the end we had three customs officers and
one "big wig" and none of them could find the engine
serial number. So after all of this, they ended up pushing
it through and closing the door on the container.
and I frantically got back to the hotel to pack and check
out. We arrived at the airport at 10:00 pm for our 11:20 pm
flight. Luck did turn up on our side. Singapore Airlines did
upgrade us to business class - this meant so much to us. We
were able to spread out and get comfortable in our nice big
2 NOW OFFICIALLY COMPLETE!!
Leg 2 Dublin-Madras let us off easy in the final stretch?
Ha no way! We said an emotional till next time' to our
camera duo extraordinaire (superstars Gerard & Barbel)
and then our jolly crew were two Mike and yours truly.
All we had left to do was containerize da Beast, take a nap,
and take a leisurely flight to Bali much needed chillin
time at the midway point, some 19,000 clicks into the tour.
man was supposed to arrive at 9:30. Instead he sent a representative
at 12:30 no prior warning. We arrive at the port
no container, a port strike was imminent, and custom officials
at the other end of town wanted to see Mike's original passport
"It is the policy - no exceptions." So we
waited and waited
and waited and waited, one frustrated
phone call after another. Four hours down the line (Meester
Mike is overheating and not in the best of moods at this stage
in the game ho no!) container arrives but we're not
supposed to load it until the customs man arrives he's
nowhere to be found but will classically arrive in "Don't
worry - just 15minutes" for another few hours. Some arguing
and negotiating later and we are allowed to load her up
backwards. Who has to load this baby once again yours
hot - severely hot and phenomenally humid. Containers are
being loaded every which way by gigantic cranes on wheels,
ever present holy cows much on garbage at a nearby dump. Undo
the roof-rack and bring it the ground with the help of ever
present group of onlookers. Climb into the Beast. Crouch on
my left foot and cringe (the day started brilliantly - $100
US missing from my wallet, walked into a beautiful pond that
drew blood and caused an egg to swell out of my shin *injury
#37*) as I operate the gas and brakes to reverse into the
container under Meester Mike's precision instructions. Drenched
in sweat inch by inch climb out the passenger side
window people clap. And then we wait
pm. Our shipping contact comes through
fumes, ponders and fumes. The people arrive. "FIVE HOURS!
WE HAVE BEEN WAITING
" Explanations I stand
safely in the background - Mike cruises off
I talk as
diplomatically as possible to the officials who have
all arrived on their own time to specifically help us. As
gently as possible I explain the situation: Mike's reaction
to heat, the flights we have to catch, why we already backed
the vehicle into the container...they appear sympathetic and
only require confirmation of chassis and engine numbers. The
former I find the latter ---no clue
we search and search
for 20 minutes. "Perhaps you can overlook this detail
under the circumstances?" Waiting, contemplation, waiting.
The official makes an exception (very very lucky). Back to
the man: "What's taking so long?"
of there! I transfer Mike into the shipping company's vehicle
and we rush off to the hotel. Quick pack, pay the tab. We're
both filthy, soaked in sweat, tired and miserable. On the
way to the airport we spot our only elephant of the trip carrying
palms to some location on the streets of Madras
be good luck.
formalities, check in, transfer
then waiting in the lounge.
We've been bumped to business class on Singapore airlines
a miracle considering our shabby appearance. 11:00
pm we board with the help of the crew. Drape a blanket over
Mike's head to keep him warm (airline flights are tough for
someone with poorer circulation)
restless sleep in and
6:00am arrive in Singapore. Fortunately nobody breaks
a leg carrying Mike's 200 pound wheelchair up two sets of
narrow wet access steps. Four hrs of wandering. Must find
a place to change Mike's condom catheter. Rejected by the
First/Business Class lounge not bumped up for the next
After much arguing with a elderly health clinic worker
we get a small cot for 20 minutes
aimless tired wandering
through the duty free
up up and away
3 more hours
again the usual chair acrobatics up impossible steps
customs a sign a van a hump makes it impossible
to place the chair in the back
hot and humid, though
not as bad as India
our connection natters away tourist
info as we stare vacantly, exhausted to the point of hallucination.
an hour passes through palms and statues same Hindu
gods as India but represented in a vastly different, unique
manner. Hotel. Sweet blue ocean. Time for a much needed break
from the road
India - June 8-10, 2001
team in Madras is tremendous. They have done an excellent
job with the PR. An exclusive media event was organized at
the hotel with 40-50 media people present - "exclusive
event" kind of a misnomer. I completed a total of six
interviews in a row - media included the Indian Express and
the Economy Times. As I've said before the PR days are far
more exhausting than the driving days. I am aware of the importance
of speaking to the press, but after several interviews the
questions start running into each other. I know that with
the attention the media is giving us, I am successful in spreading
the awareness and the message is getting out there.
arrived at the Taj Mahal Madras Hotel - one of the nicest
hotels in India. Our arrival was amazing with a gallery of
40-50 media people camped out on the front steps. We felt
like rock stars with all lights and cameras. They even had
a closed circuit TV in place capturing us exiting the vehicle.
As we made our way inside and wheeled into a conference room,
an additional 200 people greeted us.
and I took our seats at the front of the room and watched
the Regional Contact video. As is tradition, we were presented
with gifts of appreciation from the four guest speakers.
was emotionally touched with being named the recipient of
the "Triumph of Human Spirit Award" by the Rotarians
of Madras, the Pfizer representatives in India and by everyone
in attendance at this wonderful reception. The award is a
beautiful plaque with a silver base.
thanked everyone for the honour and conveyed my appreciation
for everyone's effort in India. India has been a truly remarkable
experience and I felt that I had given one of my best, most
spontaneous, speeches of the tour. I was again honoured with
a standing ovation - which in the disabled world is the next
best thing to a sitting ovation!
entire evening was a lot of fun. George even jumped into the
action and conducted three interviews to take some of the
pressure off of me.
finally got the opportunity to sleep in. Met with doctors
at a large Government Hospital. Great discussion with the
doctors and surgeons at the facility and we were again presented
with a ceremonial garland and shawl. The facility has a large
ward dedicated to spinal cord injuries and we were given the
opportunity to tour it. We met one gentleman who had only
been in the hospital for 5-6 weeks. It was interesting to
learn that the bulk of their spinal cord injuries are a result
of falls and not automobile accidents like at home. The hospital
is quite cluttered, smells of urine and we can see traces
of blood on the linen. I am quite surprised that a room contains
30 patients. In North America, we see four or at the most
eight patients in a room. This hospital receives 60 new patients
a month and has no way to keep up with the demand.
attempted to meet with a quad in a home environment. Unfortunately,
we were only able to meet a low level paraplegic, which did
not give us an accurate comparison on the independence and
accessibility issues I am most interested in.
had to start repacking the truck for its containerization
in a few days. This was an enormous task since we had not
had to do this since Switzerland. It was a hot night and we
took the opportunity to return to the hotel and the air conditioning
early. Before retiring for the night we did a promotional
piece into the camera for the GAPC Golf Tournament on June
27th - good luck guys -FORE!!!
5:00 am the next morning, we bid a fond farewell to Grime
(our escort driver) and Baboo (personal care attendant), they
had to return to Hyderbad.
morning we gave our final interview in India. It was a time
of reflection of all that we had accomplished in this great
and I had a lot of catching up to do in the administration.
Emails had to be read, papers had to be filed and things had
to be packed-up for the vehicle. The overall administration
and communication with the home team is the hardest thing
to get done on a regular basis. George and I spent over four
hours getting caught up.
and Berubel took off for Delhi and our team suddenly became
here! Leg 2 over, just odds and ends of PR to wrap up, containerize
the vehicle, and get some downtime from the road - hopefully
with some help - need some space from the man. In Hyderabad
Mike and I had the first chance this trip to do a little reminiscing,
laughing at experiences and the various bits of craziness
we've experienced to date. And the characters - all whacked
in their own little way.
thought we were in the clear at that stage - we had a close
call on the way into Madras to remind us of the dangers of
the Indian road. Large truck with a piece of metal siding
protruding from the side swerved to avoid a bicycle as we
cruised over a bridge. BANG-Ruck-a-tuck-tuck. Heart pounding
the hardest this journey, mirror bent inside and up. The damage?
Hmm...minor dent in mirror, radio antenna ripped off, plastic
scraped off roof rack, minor scratches to body paint, accent
grave added to the "z"of the Pfizer logo. The true
evidence of our luck came with the puncture in the front of
the truck body. One inch to the right and the hood of the
truck could have flipped up causing who knows what on a bridge.
And one inch up? Damn! Metal pole right through the windscreen,
shatter and likely puncture me right through the left lung...so
once again thumbs up to that luck angel...
classic moment: Pull off for chai in the middle of nowhere;
"You come from?" ..."Canada"...Out pulls
a weathered newspaper from the wallet. A photo of hundreds
of nude men and women on a march, Nudists Rights or something
to that effect....A wide grin and the classic Indian nod of
the head. "Canada?". Sure why not "Canada."
India - May 31-June 5, 2001
left the Imperial Hotel in Delhi on Thursday, May 31 heading
towards Agra. Short drive of 200 km. The town of Agra is famous
for being the home of the Taj Mahal. I met up with Rajav a
reporter with the AutoClub magazine. Rajav drove with the
team for a short distance and was quite impressed with our
navigational abilities and will be preparing a feature article
for his magazine.
team spent some time visiting the Taj Mahal in the afternoon.
I was blown away by the incredible beauty and calming aura
of this magnificent structure. The Taj was built by a man
as a tribute to his dead wife. This is one the few times that
I have been totally by myself. I enjoyed the solace and spent
some time reflecting on the beauty of my surroundings with
Christine very much in the forefront of my thoughts.
departed Agra the next morning around 7:30 am. The driving
on Friday was by far the longest, most grueling day. As many
of the team members have already heard, this was the day the
team got split up. I had driven slightly ahead of the escort
vehicle, which we had done numerous times in the past, and
came upon a fork in the road. Unfortunately, I went left and
the escort team went right. Once I became aware that the escort
team was not behind us, George and I stopped and waited for
some time. The escort team did not arrive and we decided we
had to push on to the next town. Considering we have been
driving for 2-1/2 months this is the first time the team has
been separated due to travel conditions.
and I enjoyed lunch at a wonderful tourist village in the
middle of nowhere. Road conditions are getting progressively
worse with no directional signs anywhere. We are constantly
being forced to stop to ask directions, with people literally
pointing us in the right (or wrong) direction. In some cases
we have ended up lost and have had to start over by asking
someone else. The potholes are our biggest worry at this point.
The vehicle is shaking so much that we cannot even use the
satellite telephone while driving.
have realized the best way to locate our hotel in each of
these cities is to hire a motorized rickshaw (taxi) on the
outskirts of town. George gets into the rickshaw with the
name of the hotel and I follow. This saves us a lot of time
driving around and is fairly inexpensive.
we had inquired on directions to Sagar we found we were questioned
on why we were going to Sagar. Once we arrived we understood.
Sagar is very cluttered and not a very nice town. Our friends
at Pfizer did not even know where it was. When we arrived
at the Hotel, the Manager who was trying to check us in was
drunk and stunk of booze. We had a difficult time trying to
make him understand why we needed to park the vehicle in front
of the Hotel. After about 30 minutes of dealing with him,
we were able to secure a somewhat safe parking spot. The staff
at the hotel knocked on our door all night enquiring if we
needed anything. This became quite a nuisance and in the log
book George has noted for that day that he was almost
ready to deck the waiter - the staff really went overboard
with this. Woke up the next morning and the truck was okay
which was a blessing since George and I both had had a funny
feeling about this place since we arrived.
made contact with Gerard and the escort team and was given
the very sad news that Jason had to return to Canada for a
family medical crisis. We departed the hotel the next morning
at 9:40 am. George and I were numb from Jasons news
and sad to be loosing him. I spent some time trying to rectify
what to do next. With the escort team in another city, we
had to rendezvous with them and sort out what had to be done.
and I made our way to a small town called Lukhnodan and had
lunch. We have received a lot of interest in the smaller areas
of India, word seems to have travelled ahead of us and people
are curious to see us.
the roads got better and we arrived at the Nagpur Hotel Pride
around 8:15 pm after driving 450 km in 11-1/2 hours. Huge
difference in the hotel, the Manager meet us upon arrival
and greeted us with 24 roses and a cake in the shape of an
eagle with Where Eagles Dare inscribed on it.
We are constantly amazed by the reception and support we receive
along the way. We had thought that the escort team would have
arrived before us and we were quite surprised that they had
not yet checked in. We found out the next morning that they
only arrived at 3:00 in the morning.
Sunday morning we met up with Jason quite early. Given the
situation I dont think that Jason got much sleep in
the last couple of nights. There were lots of hugs, good lucks
and fond farewells as we said goodbye to Jason. Jason did
a great job and is a real loss to the team but we all understand
his feeling with wanting to be with his girlfriend in her
time of need. Jason left for his flight from Nagpur to Delhi
where he will make a connection to return to Canada.
that our two vehicle escort team is back together we departed
Nagpur around 10:20 am and found a really, really good road.
It was exhilarating to finally drive on good road conditions
again even if they were through a windy pass - some of the
road I would say was only a month or two old. There was a
lot of traffic with oncoming and passing trucks but it felt
good to be on the open road.
we stopped for lunch someone parked right beside us blocking
us in, which George did not like very much. We eventually
nudged our way out and were able to get back on the road.
The gas gauge indicator then started going haywire. We are
hoping it resolves itself however, if not, knowing that we
have a 115 litre tank, we will start filling the tank every
450 km to be on the safe side.
we get closer to the Equator it is starting to get dark around
7:00 pm and driving at night, as we anticipated, is chaos.
With very few places to stop we are forced to continue on
and it is hellish on both vehicles. The weather is starting
to become a factor and we have experienced our first premonsoon
with torrential downpours, lightening and winds. Very challenging
driving given the weather conditions and the big trucks on
the road that just leave their bright lights on and dont
care about anything but their own ability to see.
arrived into Hyderabad, which is a thriving city of approx.
8 million people, which is known as the Silicon Valley of
India. The odometer now reads 218,713. Located our hotel the
Taj Krishna after driving 500 km that day.
enjoyed sleeping in on Monday and spent most of the day relaxing.
George and I found this to be of the most relaxing days we
have had in some time. We played some guitar, listened to
some music and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch. Later in the
day we wandered down into the lobby to enjoy a game of backgammon.
We were just as happy as can be!
we met up with Pfizer rep, Ravi, who is a cousin of our friend
Ram. Ravi was able to put us in touch with his brother-in-law,
Baboo, who has now come on board to help us out since Jason
left. Baboo will provide hands on help and is a welcome addition
to the team. The day was a whirlwind of media. I completed
a TV interview with the VTV, an international broadcast channel,
which is seen by millions in Asia. There was a press conference
in the hotel with 40-50 various media people in attendance
- we had just about every style of media: TV, photographers,
camera, videotographers. I gave a full demonstration of the
vehicle and was again overwhelmed with the level of interest.
We had to wrap up the media very quickly to rush over to the
Government House. It was absolutely crazy.
the Government House we met with Chief Minister Nidu who is
very well known throughout Asia and the world. He is a very
progressive thinker and was instrumental in bringing hi-tech
to Hyderbad. The economical impact on this area is very apparent.
I felt very honoured to be given a chance to meet with Minister
Nidu and join a long list of many well-known people (Bill
Gates, Bill Clinton) who have been given the similar opportunity.
The team was kept waiting for approximately 1-1/2 hours before
Minister Nidu graced us with his company. He was very friendly
and genuinely interested in what we are doing. His entourage
asked Ram of Pfizer to say a few words of introduction and
then presented us with 24 roses and a silver plaque welcoming
us to the City. He was very accommodating and it was interesting
to see how progressive they are with video conferencing. Our
entourage was invited into a large boardroom while a videoconference
was taking place with their senior managers throughout the
state. Very impromptu. Ram was given the opportunity again
to introduce me to the group and then the microphone was handed
over to me and I addressed everyone via video conference and
spent a little bit of time speaking on the issue of universal
access given the Minister in charge of disability was participating
in the conference call.
we exited Government House with Minister Nidu there was a
mob of media people waiting for us. Minister Nidu was given
a demonstration of my vehicle and we thanked him for the wonderful
hospitality. The next morning there we were on the front page
of every newspaper.
India - June 6, 2001
classic memory that illustrate the fates are still on our
side...I sit now reminiscing a classic Michean situation.
the way to Hyderabad we stop for lunch in a local dingy place,
people watch us as we eat, dumping the occasional glass of
water on the man's head to keep him cool. Upon returning outside,
god-aweful ramps bruising my shins, a car is parked outside
crowd gathers outside to check out the odd character cruising
around in his funky contraption. "Lets get everyone to
move the car..." Images of a group of six middle aged
with field hockey sticks chasing after a character who dinged
their car during a previous trip pops to mind..."Man
this isn't such a good idea"..."Come on show them
where to lift"...I will have no part of this...a challenge
is presented - ho no the man can't back down.
manages to get about twenty men to move the thing....I cringe
praying nothing serious is going to happen. The crowd (rather
mob) is excited and pushy....over a hundred people crowding
around...Mike opens the lift system, Gerard and myself holding
the crowd back with our bodies...people are really pushing,
the owner of the car arrives looking rather pissed off, perhaps
a glint of worry in Meester Mike's eyes...Hot, sweaty, excited
crowd I am worried.
action time: with dramatic authoritative voice and gestures:
" Everyone stand back now. Move back now." Which
they thankfully do - mob mentality will always fascinate me.
Shaken I get into the truck and we cruise off. Me I'm not
in a particularly talkative state of mind.
you fates...keep up the good work.
yes I did finally see my first monkey. Phew!
I'm grabbing a quick masala dosa snack in our hotel, a relatively
light drive for India, reasonable roads, no night craziness.
I'm philosophical and pensive - tomorrow is our last day of
driving for this leg (da real one) of the journey. I love
India tremendously and I'll miss her dearly. Such a tease
cruise through the streets - only flash moments to go about
and explore...I'll be back (for the fifth?!) time within a
couple of years...
I saw my kids at the Child Haven orphanage in Kismatpur village.
Memories and emotions flooded my mind as beautiful children
I haven't seen in three years recognized me and proceeded
to jump around.... feel the love! We ran, played, munched
on mangos and banged around on the guitar for a few hours...children
are the true clocks...three years of growth and maturity -
India - May 31, 2001
at the hotel pool with the American Law Congregation discussing
bits of this and that. We had a lovely evening at Peter Sutherland's
- the Canadian High Commissioner to India. Lovely family with
two beautiful daughters, one of whom, it turns out, I met
at a party in Kingston shortly before leaving on this odd
adventure...tis such small world. Our Pfizer PR connection,
Ram, also knew a friend of mine in Bombay, Pervez Mistry,
India's premier karate man, so as you can see the connectivity
factor was in full swing...happens all over the world - all
of our Delhi days were spent doing PR and garage details...errors
with lift system, fuel pumps, air conditioning....
I now return to the keys in Hyderabad June 4th...I was distracted
by a few of the American Law Characters and an Israeli guy
trying to dodge the army draft. We chatted in philosophized
about life, politics and the usual existential questions,
went for a midnight swim ...2 hrs of sleep and of course the
classic changes of circumstances occurs...the name of the
game in this kind of adventure.
next day...Lose escort vehicle...exchange annoyed words with
Meester Mike...get lost trying to find Sagar...and again...exhausted
driving...arrive in town...find inaccessible shady cockroach
infested hotel...argue about parking with drunk owner...midnight,
crowds form curious, excited pushy - midnight, exhausted but
must do the evening routine.... must eat 2:00AM all alone....Mr.
Jason Liozzo must return to Canada ASAP due to personal issues
back home...is this the same life as yesterday? Must get sleep...
here we are in splendor Hyderabad. The last time I was here,
three years back, I slept on a plank of wood with a half-inch
mattress, no running water, only sweet thing to eat being
chai twice a day, had hair with lice, but felt as loved as
I ever have been to date with 150 amazing children. I will
see my funky kids tomorrow and I cannot wait. How much does
a child grow physically and mentally in three years? Damn.
are fine things are crazy in a mere split second. Persistent,
constant problem solving and diagnosis 24/7...deal with them
issues as they arrive. Two more driving days in India... almost
the end of this leg...Istanbul to Madras...the soul section
of this tour. Knock wood, don't jinx us - we're not through
India - Wednesday, May 30, 2001
Friday, May 25 we departed Lahore, Pakistan around 9:15 am
and drove about 45 minutes to the Indian border. We had to
travel through "no man's land" between borders and
met up with Sony from the Canadian Consul on the other side.
Sony was very friendly and expedited the process for us to
enter India and to obtain the necessary vehicle insurance
at the border.
we were departing the border, I pulled a U-turn in the parking
lot and heard a strange popping sound. We quickly discovered
a steering house had broken and we had to deal with this right
away. The escort vehicle and George drove into Armritsar,
India to locate a mechanic. Once they had located a mechanic
familiar with a GM vehicle they returned to us to look at
the vehicle and then had to return to Armritsar to make a
new part, finally returning to install the new part. Unbelievable
that this happened less than ½ km into India. Our young
mechanic was extremely patient and was able to complete the
repairs by 8:00 pm that night. We headed off after that and
only made it as far as Armritsar 60 km past the border.
next morning we hit the road at 9:00 am and decided to push
our way through Amballa right to Delhi. Traffic was reasonable,
road conditions are a bit better and the drivers are more
courteous than in Pakistan. We traveled 400 km and arrived
in Delhi at 7:00 pm. Delhi is a hot, smoggy city. Roads are
congested with cows and cars.
next day the team decided to take a well-deserved rest day.
A truck washing was in order. Unfortunately, an over zealous
washer broke one of the wires for the lift and the entire
hydraulic system shut down. Luckily the next day the system
worked enough for me to get into the truck and to get the
vehicle into a garage to have the necessary repair work completed.
Our mechanic, Tutu, was very knowledgeable about foreign cars
- imagine GM vehicles foreign!!!
we met up with Mr. Ramkrishna, VP, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer
India, who actually flew in from Bombay and had his Public
Relations people fly in from Madras to meet with us. This
group was incredible! They prepared 500 customized public
relations cards for Round the World Challenge in India. They
also made up matching t-shirts for the team. Conveniently,
and understandably, they dropped the Canadian and Union Jack
flag from our logo and the globe mysteriously focused on India.
evening, we thoroughly enjoyed a nice family-style dinner
with Canadian Ambassador, Peter Sutherland, and his family.
It was a refreshing change to have a relaxing dinner with
fellow Canadians. As a token of our appreciation, we presented
Peter and his family with an autographed Round The World Challenge
poster. Our conversation centered mostly on activities in
the west. We were very encouraged by the level of the Consul's
participation in our stay and the support Peter was giving
us. Peter and his daughter took the opportunity the next day
to join our tour of the rehab facility.
we visited the Indian Spinal Cord Injury Centre and met with
Hps. Major Ahluwalia. Major Ahluwalia is the Director and
founder of the Spinal Injuries Centre and President of the
Rehabilitation Council of India. The Major led the first ever-Indian
expedition to Everest in the early 1960's. A couple of years
after the expedition he broke his neck while fighting in the
war against Pakistan and became quadriplegic. Major Ahluwalia
really pushed the envelope and created the first Centre of
Spinal Cord Injury in India. This four year old Centre is
an Indo-Indian venture and is South Asia's most advanced specialty
hospital and is the only one of its kind in India. We hit
it off right away as we discussed our many similarities. Major
Ahluwalia presented me with copies of his books that he wrote
on his many adventures. Ultimately, the problems faced by
their centre are similar to those everywhere else. The media
was invited to a luncheon reception at the facility.
6:00 pm that evening, we joined the Pfizer group at their
hotel, the Oberoi, for a small reception. Quite the welcome!
They had displayed a Welcoming Board with tributes in the
reception room. It was truly amazing how quickly they got
organized to greet us. The State Minister of Transport, General
Khanduri, was in attendance and I was honoured to hear that
he had cancelled another appointment to be in attendance with
us. Our group was comprised of mostly local Pfizer representatives.
During the formal portion of the evening, I did a keynote
address to the group for approximately 20 minutes. Again there
was media present and the evening was well documented.
was officially media day! The "proof is in the pudding"
- we appeared on page 2 of three national newspapers. I was
interviewed for Star TV in the early part of the day and completed
a couple of other TV interviews in the afternoon. This was
a very physically exhausting day. The vehicle had to be taken
in for repair work early in the morning and we had to shuffle
between other vehicles to complete our prearranged media engagements.
Very stressful and hectic for the team having to physically
lift me into vehicles to move me from appointment to appointment.
At the end of the day, we picked up the vehicle and were all
ready to hit the sack early, suffering from exhaustion.
are welcoming the change of scenery as we depart Delhi, Thursday
morning for Agra.
India - May 26, 2001
from India! We chill now in a considerable degree of luxury
after a few days on the road - New Delhi. Last time I was
here I was 14 years old travelling the north with my paros.
Last time I was in India (1998) a song called "I Love
My India" charted near number one. I love my India. Of
the 25 or so countries I've had the fortune of popping into
at some time or other, India remains my absolute favorite...hands
down. What a land....one fifth of the world...every geography
imaginable...every extreme of humanity imaginable...a microcosm
of the world.
broke down after a amazingly straightforward border crossing....
popped a fluid line of the power steering ...customs right
outside the border... As we waited for a mechanic to arrive
(Jason on a mission), I took a four-hour nap on the steel
rollers of a conveyer belt at India customs - catch them much
needed zzz's where one can. Gerard and Barbel (our superior
film crew magnifico - Red Mango for all your quality filming
needs) observed a border tradition, soccer without the ball...Daily
people sit in stadium like seats at opposite sides of the
border and cheer the superiority of their respective country.
heat has been relatively mild lately - low forties, but more
humid than before. Our hotel, The Imperial, is hands down
the nicest hotel we've stayed at on this journey, what with
its marble and serpentine tiled bathrooms and elevators, fountains,
and works of ancient and modern art. The Italian restaurant
serves better Italian food than we had in Italy...what's scary
is this place isn't even in the highest class of hotels in
town - I'd hate to see what the "deluxe" five stars
Mike and Jason are off trying to get the catalytic converter
refitted onto da Beast as rumor has it we're in "unleaded"
land here on in...(I remain skeptical...but apparently the
stalling problems we've been having lately are somehow related...so
be it). The lift system for the chair went haywire after a
scrub and wash...much agony alleviated after a nights rest
when the mysterious gremlins in the machine suddenly disappeared.
Tonight we have dinner with the Canadian High Commissioner
... if the lads return in time that is...tick tick tick we're
meant to leave in half an hour and still no sign.
usual I'm trying to track down blasts from the past...somewhere
deeply buried in High Commission land may be a girl with whom
I went to high school in Kenya...
more? In a few days we shall arrive in Hyderabaad where I'll
(time willing) have a chance to see the kids I worked with
for several months 3 years back...the most amazing kids in
the world and I can't wait to see them...images of making
kites out of plastic scraps and flying them in the spectacular
sunset of a giant boulder laden land pops to mind...don't
forget the wandering water buffalo, nor the palm wine man
that every day would pop by, scale a palm tree in a few seconds,
then drink wine that was fermenting on the top of the tree,
grinning slightly more as he slid down to ground...hopefully
Meester Mike will get a chance to check the place out - stories
would be told for years to come.
yet to see a monkey on this trip - besides the hairless upright
variety...this bothers me...is it an omen? I've spent hours
watching monkeys...they play the same silly political and
power games as us, with less gadgets and overall violence.
You want to understand people? Understand monkeys and it all
becomes clear...anyway I digress...one will pop up sooner
or later (likely run off with Mike's legbag - mischievous
I'm getting tired so enough discombobulated rubbish for now...
Pakistan - Wednesday, May 23, 2001
couple of days spent setting up in Lahore and resting whenever
possible. Team has decided to spend Thursday as a full rest
day and will not be answering telephones or emails unless
it is urgent.
reports that they were able to have the a/c fan in the truck
repaired. However, given the heat, the fan and a/c unit are
not very effective.
Team visited the Pakistan Orthopedic Hospital for the Disabled.
Mike was prepared for the worst but was pleasantly surprised
with the conditions of the facility. Overall very well run
with a lot of private funding. Apparently a lot of successful
Pakistan immigrants send money back to fund this facility.
The Hospital has a waiting list of 150-200 people. They are
currently working on building a new unit for the production
of orthopedic and prosthesis. Mike was very impressed with
the level of prosthesis work he saw. This Hospital is the
largest facility of its kind in Pakistan and it is quite apparent
that the disabled or those requiring these types of facilities
have to gravitate towards the larger urban centers to receive
team visited local gardens to see some rare trees that are
sheltered from the city. Unfortunately, most other tourist
sites were not accessible for Mike. George and Jason did take
an opportunity to visit a fort.
they were having the vehicle repaired at a shop located next
to a military base, a young disabled Captain caught wind of
what was going on next door and came to visit. He was quite
proud of his flashy wheelchair from the US and the vehicle
that he drove. It is quite obvious that there is a huge discrepancy
in the funding levels between military and civilian disabled
persons. The military funding seems to be proportionate to
the time of service and overall they are much better treated
from ground zero. We were introduced to the Captains
Major who had a very good understanding of the issues faced
by the disabled. The team was invited to an impromptu lunch
with the Major and they headed out to a local Chinese restaurant.
Very funny to think, here we are in Pakistan eating lunch
at a local Chinese restaurant.
team was meeting up again tonight with the young Captain and
some other disabled people from their Association or Society
for the disabled. It would appear that they have something
similar to the CPA that offers peer support. Mike was keenly
interested to find out how this organization works and to
find out what other services are offered to its members.
has decided that the worst drivers so far have been in Iran,
Tehran specifically. However the worst roads are in Pakistan.
of the escorts made contact with a friend of his, a dental
surgeon, who facilitated the tour of the Rehab hospital as
well as two newspaper interviews. One magazine was a glossy
newspaper called the Friday Times and the second was a local
magazine. Unfortunately, there has been no television coverage
at this point in Pakistan. Hardcopies of both articles will
hopefully be sent back to our office in Ottawa.
team is looking forward to their day of rest before they head
off early on Friday morning for the Indian border and maybe
some cooler weather. They fully anticipate an easy transition
into India. Until India
hello from Pakistan!
Pakistan - Thursday, May 21, 2001
18th was a day of reflection on my injury - I shed a few tears
and did a lot of soul searching. Even with the reflection
it was a good day. We stayed at a beautiful hotel on the other
side of Quetta in a nice little enclave - it was not the oasis
we had in Dalbadin, but it was peaceful. George and I were
able to jam for a while - George on guitar and I on the harmonica.
It was a lot of fun and we spent the night chilling out. Later
on, the team enjoyed a traditional Pakistani meal of chicken
and mutton with rice. I found a great deal on an Afghanistan
oriental rug. This is my one and only major purchase - I wanted
to have a keepsake from my journey in the East. The 18th was
much more reflective than I had expected.
departed Quetta around 7:40 am on Saturday. We found out quite
quickly that there was a gas strike in the town and we were
unable to locate a gas station to fill up at. While we were
trying to locate an open gas station, the entire area experienced
a power outage from what we thought might be a local storm.
So here we were no gas/no power - quite the norm for this
part of the world.
As many of the Ottawa team members may have read or heard
over the weekend, Iran experienced wide spread power outages
due the heat over the weekend. Mike may not know this and
the power outage he was in may have been a result of this
or the storm he speaks of later on.
roads are unbelievably terrible. They have become progressively
worse since we left Iran. Potholes are everywhere and the
truck is rattling away. The heat is still extreme. Lots of
trucks on the roads and we have learned very quickly that
when you come to a blind corner, you honk your horn to warn
anyone coming in the opposite direction. It takes a lot of
maneuvering to get around some of these corners. We have had
to stop and back-up to let trucks through on many occasions.
we were at the top of a mountain pass, we stopped the truck
to watch an incredible storm in the distance over a remote
village. It was absolutely magnificent - I have never seen
anything like this.
odometer is now reading 216,005 km. Over the last few days
we have driven approximately 500 km in 15 hours.
night we stopped in a small town and stayed at the Hotel Shalimar.
It was not very nice and our room was sparsely decorated.
The town was a typical small town in Pakistan - it was crazy
with activity and smelled very foul. The team decided to sleep
in the next morning to make up some of the sleep deprivation
from the last few days.
departed refreshed around 12:30 pm and decided to drive through
to Lahore. We had made it further west than we had originally
thought and the idea of staying in another small town for
another night was not all that appealing. We arrived in Multan
around lunchtime where we enjoyed a short lunch break. The
roads started to become a lot better after Multan. We finally
hit a super highway, it wasnt the Trans Canada, but
it was better than anything we had driven on in a long time.
We managed to reach speeds of up to 100 km per hour. We are
finding that the maps are not correct in their distances.
conditions alternated between good and bad - double lanes
became single lanes but we managed, after 451 km and 8 hours,
to reach Lahore.
checked ourselves into the Holiday Inn Lahore and it felt
really good to finally stay at a nice hotel for a few days.
It was a welcome relief to finally have a hot bath - it is
hard to remember when I took my last hot bath.
will be staying at this hotel until Friday morning.
- 20 May 2001
been hanging out with goats the past little while - and some
of the interesting characters that shepherd them around. With
long sticks we wack bits of fresh leaves of the tops of trees
after which our four legged friends come scurrying along,
the larger ones shoving the smaller specimens aside.
of like the driving here in Pakistan - #1 rule of the road
- might is right all of the time.We cruise a beautiful 4 lane
highway into Lahore right now. The roads weren't always so
nice, generally a single strip of tarmac that can accommodate
a single vehicle with traffic flowing both ways. Honk loudly
at the bend. Flash lights a few times...proceed with caution.
Pull over when a vehicle larger than you comes your way, plow
forward in the case of a car. And of vehicle of similar size?
Chicken is the name of the game - may the man with the most
guts survive...or perish depending on the particular situation.
crossed the Iran-Pakistan border relatively little fuss -
a mere hour, a joke in comparison to the Turkey-Iran situation...We
had to do the camera gear super swap-around in the direct
midday sun, in a dusty barren land ... nothing grows in this
dessert, the odd truck tire dots the landscape.
the temperature was what? Hottest that this monkey has ever
been: 52 degrees boom-shack-a-lack. It was fortunately a dry
heat - not quite the pea-soup coastal feel - but ya man use
the imagination. "Meester Mike", lacking the ability
to sweat, was needless to say a little uncomfortable.
"customs house" were gracious enough to allow him
to sleep four an hour and even provided us with a lovely lunch.
Thumbs up and appreciation all the way round.
we cruise these hot lands, our latest core member Jason "Gastuous"
Liozzo (nurse extraordinaire), and yours the truly (da Road
Monkay) simulate sweat for the man whose temperature has fluctuated
as high 39 degrees C.
have a vaporizer with which we spray every 15 minutes or so,
a sopping ice cold towel around the neck, the occasional bottle
of mineral water over the head. Sometimes we stop in the shade
and wait as Mike catnaps to regain strength. Determined the
man most definitely is.
situation yesterday. Mike was determined to push on to Dera
Ghali Kahn and so we went. Four hundred clicks took how long?
Fifteen hours - full stop. One particular mountain pass 23
Kms in length (or rather "coil") took 2 hours. Let
me describe the scene. Darkness. Tarmac for one vehicle, rock
ledge one side, plunge to certain death the other. Turn turn,
hairpin loop, hairpin loop, turn turn, hairpin loop, turn.
Repeat 400 times. Add to the mix: Honk, flash, pull to the
side, honk, flash reverse reverse, miss a motorbike by inches.
And oh yeah there was an electrical storm with flashes of
lighting and strobe action ever which way - nice. We even
stopped to watch the shop for 15 minutes.
far things this end of the world have flown by phenomenally
smoothly ... and just as I type a truck cruises past us on
the wrong side of the dual carriageway ....knock on wood.
There have been a few close calls here and there but the man's
evasive driving skills are right on the money, as are his
ability to adapt to the road excellent.
yeah and he bought a new rug from Afghanistan, a nice silk-wool
combo, a commemorative treat to celebrate surviving and thriving
16 years after a serious spinal cord injury. So if you happen
to check out Meester Mike's pad in the near future and spot
a funky rug on the hardwood floors - you be with history!
Off to Lahore!
Pakistan - Thursday, May 17, 2001
May 16 from Zahedan, Iran towards the Pakistan border. Arriving
around 1:00 pm after a very bumpy drive. A very emotional
goodbye to our Iranian escort team. These guys were amazing
and had pulled strings everywhere for us including at the
border crossing. The heat was unbelievable and we were quite
nervous about crossing through customs into Pakistan. The
Custom Post was beyond belief. We were actually invited inside
the Post to cool down and to have a tea. Who would have thought!
We casually asked what the temperature was outside - 52 degrees
celsius. Wow!! The border area had gunmen to protect the tourists,
such as ourselves, from potential rebels.
completing our transition to Pakistan, the guys doused me
in water and let me have a great 1-1/2 hour nap while they
enjoyed lunch. While we were in Iran we had made a custom
cover to keep the vehicle cool when we stopped - it is proving
to be worth its weight in gold.
driving is incredible - not only do we have to get accustom
to driving on the opposite side of the road again, but most
roads are single lanes with the biggest trucks getting the
right of way. Paved roads become gravel roads instantaneously
and some areas almost feel as if you are driving off into
nowhere. Driving overall was good or at least acceptable until
we hit Dalbadin - then the roads became winding and in worse
condition as we made our way through the mountains.
Pakistan escort team, that was arranged by David Hamilton,
had made contact with a place for us to stay in Dalbadin.
An unbelievable oasis - beautiful palm trees, quiet, bright
stars - the team enjoyed long walks, had the most amazing
traditional meal and a fabulous night sleep.
drive (May 17) was the most challenging; we covered 300 kms
in 8 hours - driving through a desert on a single lane, broken
road with large gravel sections. The transport trucks in Pakistan
are amazing, each one is colourfully decorated. Pakistan is
a beautiful country.
is trying to keep as cool as possible by regularly spraying
each other down and wetting towels for around our necks. We
have purchased an additional cooler and more water for in
the truck. Since it is cooler in the morning, we are attempting
to do the bulk of the driving in the morning.
a more reflective note, tomorrow, Friday, May 18, 2001 is
the anniversary of my injury. Even though this day will have
an emotional side, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity
to spread the word about spinal cord injuries and the need
for spinal cord research. It will be very therapeutic for
me, being in Pakistan, on this day, doing what I am doing.
I think ahead, three more weeks until we are out of the woods
- June 6 Madras, India!
Iran - May 14, 2001
Journal: Waking Up Mike - Chapter 1
long does it take you to go through your morning wake-up ritual,
from that vile alarm clock to breakfast table? If you're like
me, depending on how many times you wack the snooze button,
it takes about 20 minutes tops
jump out of bed,
stagger into the bathroom, brush the teeth, shave, pop in
the shower, dress
tada. And if you're paralyzed
from the nipple line with no use of your hands? Welcome to
chapter one: the morning ritual.
yours truly, Mike is one cranky incoherent SOB in the morning,
so creeping and stealth are indispensable. First you fold
the duvet from the bottom of the bed so that you can reach
under and "tap" the abdomen by gently thumping a
hand against the bladder. This is done in order to stimulate
the bladder muscles to contract gently and, by intermittently
pushing a fist against the gut, expels any excess urine into
the night legbag. Mike constantly wears a legbag strapped
around his right leg which is attached via rubber tubing to
a medical condom glued to Mike's penis (see Putting Mike to
Bed). The legbag is then unstrapped, the hose detached from
the condom and exchanged with the smaller day bag. At this
stage Mike generally starts stirring and mumbling something
come longjohns (not moving means poorer circulation which
means keeping warm is more of a challenge), roll them up like
stockings and slip them over the ankles of both feet. One
arm is extended and I roll Mike over on his side tug the longjohns
over the buttock, repeat with other side. Every time Mike
is rolled to one side he needs to be brought back up the bed
to regain his balance. To do this I stand over him on the
bed, lift him up by the buttocks and thrust his head and body
towards the banister.
go the socks. The legbag is next fed through the hole in the
longjohns and attached to the right leg. Trousers are placed
on in a manner similar to the longjohns. Boots go on. The
duvet comes back on. Rinse the legbag with warm water and
vinegar. Set up the toiletries: Cologne, electric toothbrush,
toothbrush grip, water with straw, three tablets of Baclofen
(anti-spasmodics), hairbrush, hair drier (?! The man loves
). All set.
on fingerless weightlifting gloves is the most challenging
part of the routine (ironically the one article of clothing
that Mike can take off by himself). Toneless curled fingers
must be gently placed inside the glove, each finger individually
fed through their respective hole, after which the glove must
be tugged and velcroed shut. Repeat with other glove. There
is definitely an art to this one glove used to
take me five minutes, now I can get both on under in under
to be continued
.na na na!
Iran - Sunday, May 13 (Day 55)
departed Kerman around 9:15 am. The extreme hot weather is
starting to affect us, making everyone a bit short-tempered;
the heat and our hectic schedule are pushing us to the limit.
landscape is now exactly the same in all directions. Jason
noted in the logbook that the desert was littered with garbage.
We had originally thought we would stay in Bam for a rest
day but decided that we would need the rest closer to the
Pakistan border. We enjoyed a nice lunch and signed a couple
of posters for the manager of the restaurant.
we were leaving Bam on our way to Zahedan, we came across
a police checkpoint - there are a lot of checkpoints throughout
Iran - this one was approx. 10 kms outside of Bam. The police
officers were totally indifferent to everyone's situation
and my disability. Due to the extremely hot weather, we were
anxious to keep the motor running in the vehicle to increase
the function of the air conditioning unit. They actually made
us get out of the vehicle and we were asked not to go anywhere.
During our detainment, I showed the officers a letter from
the Canadian Ambassador in Iran - they would not even look
at it. We originally thought they might have pulled us over
to provide a police escort - a strange concept in this country.
eventually got back on the road. All along the road we see
desert, camels and carcasses of dead animals. This is a major
crossing and we peaked around 12-13,000 feet. The vehicle
is working very hard with the heat and the load - not a major
problem. Our three vehicles are driving convoy. We are receiving
more recognition during our travels. Some flashing lights
came up on us and I thought we had done something wrong -
it would appear that they recognized the vehicle and wanted
to show their support. The television exposure seems to be
have stopped in Zahedan for the next three days at a beautiful
hotel. The facility has wheelchair ramps, elevators, accessible
rooms, secure parking and, best of all, not too expensive.
We drove a total of 540 kms today and the odometer is reading
next few days in Zahedan will be spent relaxing, working on
the vehicle and doing a few media events before we head off
on the next long leg of the journey into Pakistan.
Iran - Saturday, May 12 (Day 54)
met with a few local disabled people - one gentleman had a
spinal cord injury and another had polio. They put on a great
show of their own mobility - one rode a motorcycle with a
sidecar that he threw his chair into. Another person transferred
himself into a car - the car was push/pull that is common
in Canada - but what was truly amazing was the fact that he
was driving a standard vehicle with a clutch. This was really
cool! They were quite happy to be showing off their mobility.
for the night in Yazd and stayed at the best hotel so far
of our journey. The team was treated very well. The Hotel
had kept our passports overnight and we forgot them when we
departed in the morning. The Manager luckily realized right
away and called us on our cell and was kind enough to drive
them to us about five minutes out of town.
are now starting to drive through real desert country. It
is so hot - unbelievably hot. Better preparation will have
to take place to deal with the heat. Due to my disability,
I don't sweat and have to be kept cool by being watered down,
sprayed regularly with water and drinking more frequently.
We arrived in Kerman around 2:45 pm and had a little lunch
and took the opportunity to have a short nap to rest and recharge
met with a doctor, his assistants and a few PR people from
a rehabilitation home that was next door to where we stopped.
In was nice for a change not having to drive over to a facility.
It was an incredibly moving experience for everyone seeing
children (up to 14 years of age) with all types of mental
and physical disabilities - some were ambulant, others could
not move or speak. We reached out and held fingers with some
of the newborns. The woman running this home was a saint -
very, very kind who went out of her way to make everyone comfortable.
We spoke to a gentleman with a spinal cord injury who was
coming over to Canada to pursue a PHd at McGill University.
After a question and answer session, we departed for our next
had driven approximately 386 kms more before we started looking
for hotel around 8:45 pm in Kerman. The suggested hotel was
not accessible - no ramps - at the top of the first flight
of stairs the door was locked. George ended up having to piggyback
me up two flights of stairs. As we travel further east, accessibility
issues are become a bigger problem.
Iran - May 11, 2001
and the Road Team
with Terry Colfer and his wife, Lynn, of the Canadian Embassy.
I presented them with a framed, autographed poster of the
Challenge as a token of my appreciation and to say thank you
for all their assistance. My vehicle fascinated them and I
gave them a demonstration of its lift system. We were preparing
to depart and they gave me a beautiful memento to take with
us. We started to pull away and as we were chatting out the
window, they commented that it was not every day that they
receive visitors at the Embassy in Iran. We were able to extend
our Visas for an additional eleven days in less than one hour.
Tehran we met up with a German artist who was exhibiting some
of his works there. We found out he was quite a famous artist
in Germany and had done the artwork for the skier postage
stamp for the Lillehammer Winter Games - what a coincidence,
a friend of mine was the gold medallist in freestyle at those
games. The artist kindly signed an original envelope that
contained the stamp for us - we all thought this was quite
general, the driving and parking are terrible in Iran - we
have been nudged twice. Once someone scrapped up against the
mirrors - no damage and on the second instance a car rubbed
along one side of the vehicle - leaving a long scrape over
some of the sponsor logos.
left the hotel and made our way towards Esfahan. Jason got
thrown into the traveling aspect of his responsibility right
away and got to spend some good quality time with me during
the drive. He rode shotgun and worked on updating the log
and assisting me with drinking fluids. We bonded quite nicely.
stopped in Quom, which is the most religious city in Iran.
They had the most amazing mosque that was lit up. I would
say that it was almost more impressive than St. Petersburg's
Square. Many of these religious cities have areas that you
cannot access unless you are Muslim.
gentleman named Masoud met us as we entered Esfahan around
9:00 pm. He is the World Champion Weight Lifter 230 Kg Category.
Masoud was such a big man we nicknamed him Massive for the
balance of our time together. At this point we were so burned
out that there was little we could do. We slept a bit and
met up with Massive again in the morning. I found out the
next morning that Massive had polio and was not a paraplegic.
We transferred Massive into my vehicle and we drove around
a beautiful public square. Esfahan is similar in beauty to
Ottawa in that it has a canal system. Unfortunately due to
the temperatures the canal is dry (and probably unlikely that
you will every be able to skate on it!). There were bridges
that were over 500-600 years old. We again started to attract
a crown and soon 5-6 cameramen were taking our pictures. Between
our parking and the crowds, we caused quite a disruption.
Jason was quick to jump out of the vehicle and started passing
out Canadian flags to the young children. The crowds starting
pushing into the vehicle and we had to be careful with the
size of the crowd. I think Jason learned very quickly how
these crowds grow very quickly and we have to be careful with
how we distribute flags/pins.
left Esfahan around 2:30 for Yazd. Best drive we have had
in a week. We felt strong from a great meal and a restful
night. Biggest noticeable land change since the beginning
of the trip. In Canada we see signs for Deer Crossing - we
are now seeing Camel Crossing signs. We arrived in Yazd around
6:00 pm and had clocked 600 km. Have now settled into a nice
suite for the night. Accessibility is always an issue but
we manage with suites and ramps wherever possible.
May 11 2001
Journal: "Life as a Road Monkay"
we cruise the highways of Iran on the way to Yazd I feel inspired
to tell our noble audience exactly the duties I perform on
this strange voyage around the globe. While my official title
states I am the On Road Communications/Aide-de-Camp man I
prefer to be known as the "Road Monkay". So what
is life as a road monkay like you ask?
and foremost I'd like to clarify that while I am paid a token
wage for the 4 hrs a day I help take care of Mike's personal
care I am otherwise a volunteer...pat me on the back and give
me a big thumbs up. As Road Monkay I work insane hours getting
at times as little as 2-3 hrs
I am normally the first
to rise and the last to go to bed. I function as Mike's hands
and legs and provide varying degrees of personal assistance
have been times in the Beast's copilot seat where I have balanced
a laptop computer, logbook, map navigation and documentary
video camera duties at the same time passing Mike's oh so
beloved chicken flavored crisps into the man's mouth. You
could say that I have multi-tasking down to a fine art.
unloads the truck when we stop at a hotel? the
Road Monkay! Who scouts out the rooms to see if they're appropriate
for Mike's needs? the Road Monkay! Who caries
the man down three floors on his back when the power cuts
out and kills the lift in a small town at the Turkish-Iranian
border? the Road Monkay! Everybody praise the
Road Monkay! Repeat after me: We all love the Road Monkay!
Road Monkay often makes first contact with new connections
strong interpersonal skills are a must. Communicate
with the media, clear paths through crowds, serve as a larger
target for vehicles to miss as Mike cruises the streets in
Road Monkey is inevitably a dirty phenomenon, often covered
in grease, motor oil, and transmission fluid, and until recently
carried in his clothing the stench of a Punjabi curry eaten
in Munich all the way to Tehran
now that's dedication.
mediator, good vibe instigator, the Road Monkey irons wrinkles
before they become creases, keeping safety and sanity of the
team on par with reality
think of the Road Monkay
and give us a thumbs up, we'll send the good philosophies
right your way!
Iran - May 7-9, 2001
and the Road Team
very tired. Whirlwind of activity - good whirlwind however
extremely busy. Meeting after meeting - the "pr"
days are more tiring than the other days.
today to another welfare organization in Tehran. Meet with
the Director and some doctors from the facility. They presented
us with beautiful gifts including a local tapestry. It seems
to be a lot easier facilitating our visits on a provincial
or local level than at a higher level.
on to visit the Sports Federation for Disabled Athletes and
received a great reception. They were very proud of the international
success of their seated volleyball team.
the afternoon we went to an all women's rehabilitation center
that had beautiful gardens. I was glad to hear that our Canadian
Consulate does a lot of fund-raising for this rehab center
through their Women's League. I was expecting to see some
poorer conditions in this center but I was inspired and uplifted
to see the great condition of the entire facility, including
the occupational therapy rooms and libraries.
meet up with Andre of the Canadian Consulate as well as with
the Managing Director and Director of Tourism for the Iranian
Auto Club. We conveyed our appreciation to them for being
great hosts and in orchestrating our hotel accommodations.
They commented that my vehicle blew them away.
set off from Tabriz at about 10:00 am with a very nice send-off
from our hosts, the local welfare organization. Welfare organizations
in the Middle East appear to be a catch all for rehabilitation
facilities for the disabled.
hosts were terrific - they took us out for dinner and picked
up our hotel bill. Five or six hosts were on hand to see us
off. We quickly realized our escort team's (Mohammed and Manchehr's)
vehicle was too small. You do not realize how much equipment
cameraman need until you start loading it into a vehicle.
We were able to get an additional vehicle - an old Mercedes
truck, which we quickly loaded up with the equipment. The
every changing team dynamic always amazes me - we now have
a couple of Iranian women along for the journey.
an escalating way, the driving is getting harder and harder
- driving habits are so erratic relative to Canada and North
America. On the roads we are used to, you may have a close
call once or twice a year. Between blinding curves and oncoming
traffic, I am experiencing close calls as much as once or
twice an hour. As I become more accustomed to the ways of
the road it is becoming a little less erratic - I must be
getting into the flow or the mind-set to understand their
initially drove through mountains and high hills and about
150 kms beyond Tabriz we hooked up to a motorway and did not
have to worry as much. All in all the drive to Tehran was
good and we arrived at approximately 10:00 pm. Our goal had
been to get as far as Tehran and we achieved this in about
11-12 hours (650 kms).
met up with a young blind man name Davood who was doing English
translation for me. We hit it off right away and it reminded
me of the movie "A Scent of a Woman". I compare
our relationship with the scene in the movie when he gets
behind the wheel of the sports car - I am the driver and he
is my eyes. I can understand and appreciate his issues with
being blind and discuss my mobility impairment issues.
great media response - everyone is always asking if I am the
"guy driving around the world"!
Team will be going through another transition this week with
Jason Liuzzo joining us from Canada. I think Tehran is going
to feel a lot like London and the other larger cities we have
are the friendliest people - the people give you all the time
in the world - and they are not letting us pay for anything!
Iran - May 7, 2001
once again people, monkeys and souls in between! It's been
a long time since communications from this end have been presented
by yours truly
but I sneak a few moments to capture
some much needed "space" from our main man. I am
sitting here now in a busy lobby in a large hotel in Tehran.
hospitality we've received here to date has been nothing short
of spectacular. I type now on our main communications machine
the supposedly indestructible Panasonic notebook,
with a character curiously reading what I write over my shoulder.
Many people prance too and fro, tourists, women of all nationalities
wearing the required head scarves failure to
do so is punishable by 70 lashes.
usual I am exhausted, in spite of the magnificent five hrs
sleep I obtained last night. Various members of our "cavalry
crew" of 12 has departed since I last wrote from the
"Beast" in a vehicle lift outside of Rome. We now
consist of our noble camera crew couple Gerard and Berbal,
quality people filled with special life spirit and tales,
our "Iranian Connection" Monacher and Mohammed,
the main man and myself.
pace has continued to be hectic, more social obligations to
attend to but we are surviving and coping well with the various
conflicts and challenges as they arise.
we recount some tales of late? What pops to mind
border crossing Turkey-Iran, definitely an experience that
will stick to mind for a bit of time.
a half hour wait for the border to reverse, we squeezed past
hundreds of trucks exporting various bits of this and that
under the shadow of Mt Ararat where Noah's zoo supposedly
unloaded bits of cargo several millennia or so ago. The atmosphere
in that part of world? Definitely a mystical biblical vibe.
scorched desert hills, bordered by a few snow peaked mountains,
wind carved giant rocks that resemble gargantuan dinosaurs
buried into the earth. The sand and soil is layered, multicoloured
bringing to mind of surreal landscapes concocted in the twisted
mind of the late Salvador Dali
get to the border post expecting to cruise through without
the necessary paperwork, documentary camera equipment stashed
away, overloaded onto the roof of the beast.
Lots of trouble leaving Turkey. We required 6 different stamps,
a task made particularly difficult by the fact we were missing
vehicle carnet forms while entering Turkey
waiting in, lines, back and forth to unmarked stations.
waiting in one line a man came through a metal door screaming.
Border guards arrived followed by pleading and angry words.
Then came the blows; five guards pummeling the poor man after
which he was thrown back into the room and the door was closed
with a resounding clank. Some people watched with mild curiosity,
but on the whole it seem like it was just another day at the
finally getting the vehicle cleared we were told that only
Mike could cross the border in the vehicle and that Gerard,
Berbel and myself would have to pass through the border tunnel
on foot. We soon discovered that this was the very same entrance
that the poor fellow I had witnessed earlier was gently coaxed
metal door was opened and we stepped inside. Clang
the door closes behind us. Imagine the scene. Very dark room
with a tunnel made of boxes, full to the brim with people
perhaps 200, standing shoulder to shoulder almost one on top
of the other.
men stood on top of the boxes staring down in intimidating
fashion at everyone. The air saturated with humidity and sweat,
people yelling talking, pushing shoving, complete chaos, no
forward movement. A few minor scuffles broke out up ahead.
An imposing portrait of Ayatollah Komenei stared down at us
from the Iranian side.
stood all 200 of us pushing and shoving and waited
we managed to move a few feet
in an hour
then over the chaos we heard a faint "canada".
raised our hands and yelled and were motioned forward, but
had to plow our way through a see of impatient people
then fresh air
our Iranian contact had managed to pull
a few strings
otherwise we may have been in there for
several more hours. Another experience to stash away
fortunately none of us were claustrophobic
were greeted by a smiling Mike who cruised through the border
and hour or so ago with no immigration or custom hassles whatsoever
"Put it this way man
I know what a cow feels like when he is led to the slaughterhouse
tunnel with no idea what's at the end"
our Iranian visas. Istanbul what a wonderful
The Iranian consulate informed us that visas could
only be processed between 8 and 11 am. We arrive at nine,
and I am given the task of getting things sorted.
spite of having approval numbers and documentation for the
necessary visas, I am told that we visa processing requires
a minimum of 8 days. The clerk wants nothing to do with the
official invitation we have from the Iranian Auto Club
check these numbers we have the required documentation. It
is imperative that we leave Istanbul tonight".
papers are pushed aside
waiting. Once again
I gently insist that we need our papers as soon as possible.
The clerk finally decides to examine our invitation and confirmation
he speaks little English
give now, come back at three". New forms
scramble back to Mike start scrambling with the new forms,
send David off to photocopy passport pages
the necessary cash
but off course money must processed
at a bank 3 blocks away. Time is running out
to the bank
get lost, ask directions
find the bank,
hop the queue apologetically, scramble back to the consulate
must be filled in double" mad scramble get Mike's signature
(via splint), return to the consulate
hop the queue
(young french guy cycling from Paris to China?!!)
in at 11:05
"ok come back at 3:00"
return with Peter at 3:00pm. All doors are locked. The guards
tell us to go away, the consulate is closed come back tomorrow
a different entrance, sent back the other way. Run into the
French cyclist who says he's been coming back every day for
the last few weeks, each time the same story "come back
contemplation, deep thoughts, knock on
the doors again. Back to the first gate
.waiting, pounding, waiting
door opens finally, "what do you want?", gently
explain the situation
door opens, we are let in
wait wait, will we get our visas or be told to come back tomorrow
an official arrives with a hand full of documentation
visas are ready."
examine them excitedly
hmm only valid for one week
but we can probably get them extended once in the country
battle for another day two points for the Road
Iran - May 5, 2001
Greenberg reports that he had a good conversation with Mike
on Saturday. The team was preparing to sleep for a second
night in Tabrize. They took approximately four hours to cross
the Iranian border, which was not bad considering some trucks
were stuck at the border for 7-8 days.
very positive response from Iran. Young man in wheelchair
gave him some flowers while local camera crew was taking pictures.
Visited a rehab center in Tabrize as well as stopped by two
or three centers that employ people with disabilities - very
encouraging to see this in Iran.
out to Tehran on Sunday - may stop for night in Zanjan.