Kurdistan. Just a couple of steps away from the Syrian border the air is filled with calls from the Muezzin. Turkish tea is called Kurdish tea here and, well, everything is simply different here in that part of Turkey. It seems as if the time stopped and traditions were frozen. However, here, so close to the border, so close to war, the situation is heated. In the centre of all, two travellers walk around the small alleys. Morten and Rochssare. For them, this just seems to be yet another holiday, another trip, another adventure. But they want something bigger, something longer: they want to travel all the way from Turkey to India. Their plan: hitchhiking to India. Doing so, they skip the trains, the busses, the planes and simply use one means of transportation: their thumb, a poster and the generosity of the people passing by in their small, big, old or new cars willing to let these two hitchhikers jump into their wagon. The result is a book that is filled with all stories from the back of an old rusty pick-up, from the passenger seat of a shiny BMW and from the many tea houses somewhere in Eurasia – in Pakistan, in Iran or in Turkey. Travellers Archive met both of them for an interview.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: You guys are always on the road. Where are you now?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: We are in Bangkok right now. After the entire trip through the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent, we found a home here in Thailand and we really enjoy the time here. The city offers so many things. Besides beautiful temples and a super filled cultural schedule, Bangkok is an amazing city to live in. They have concerts in the park, really good jazz bars and yummy street food, which is not only full of seafood and fish, but also suitable for vegetarians. The people here are extremely friendly, the weather nice and tropical, the infrastructure modern and the Internet fast. You see, Thailand is simply super relaxing.
A nice place, where we finally get some work done, such as writing some travel stories for which we didn’t really have the time during the past months of travelling. But you guys probably know that.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: Hitchhiking to India – where did that crazy idea come from?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: Between 2011 and 2014, we already hitchhiked through South America and noticed that you get a deeper understanding of the country when you choose this means of transportation. The hospitality and generosity of all locals that we met was simply stunning. Whether it was in Argentina, Bolivia or Columbia, and these are just three examples, we were greeted with such warm-hearted hospitality wherever we were and learned a lot about the countries only through talking to the people in the car. This art of travelling fascinated us from the very first minute.
At some point, we met a French guy in Peru who told us, that he hitchhiked from Paris to Istanbul within 4 days. We couldn’t believe that it is actually possible to hitchhike out of Europe within a couple of days. Back then we already wanted to go to India and the story of the French dude just inspired us a little more to combine both ideas. We wanted to start by hitchhiking to Istanbul and once we made that, we just thought “Ah, well, why not going further to India?”. Actually, the road from Europe to Asia is perfect for hitchhikers as there is not a single sea that would block the way.
And, yes, of course travelling to India by land is still considered to be a relict of the mythos “hippie trail” that apparently was once give. For us, this just gave the entire adventure yet that started in September 2014 another boost.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: And taking the train has never been an alternative?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: The point of hitchhiking is not just the basic idea of getting from A to B. We made this decision profoundly as two things are super important for us: We want to travel sustainably and we want to be in direct contact with the locals.
Hitchhiking combines both. For us, this is the most sustainable way of travelling as our ecologic footprint is basically non-existent. We simply use the kind of transport, which is on the road already. Just think about how many cars are being used with only one person sitting inside. Through hitchhiking we reduce the number of cars on the road and for us neither a train has to hit the tracks nor a plane the sky.
Also, hitchhiking is more than just a sustainable ride which is also for free. It’s a kind of philosophy that brings different people together and that triggers conversations within super small spaces. We learn so much simply because we share a ride with locals, trust me. There is not a single travel guide out there that could give us this kind of knowledge.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: In Turkey, close to Kurdistan, you were almost robbed. How did this situation influence the rest of the trip?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: Well, this raid was random… In the end, we can say that we were super lucky. Right after, we were super scared whenever we jumped into yet another truck. Also because we were standing at the Autobahn in the middle of the night. And it took some time to get rid of our shaking hands..
Until today, we can picture every single detail of this situation. However, the people in Turkey were so nice and hospitable to us that we also quickly got rid of the panic we had after the robbery. This situation is definitely one of the darker episodes of the trip among a lot of light moments. We obviously talked about the incident and both agreed to not putting to much weight into it and to simply concentrate on what’s next.
However, we kind of avoid hitchhiking at dawn or in the dark now.
Looking for things to do in Turkey? We got you covered.TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: Morten, your beard became the talk of town on Turkey. However, you never really shaved – not even when it lead to IS-statements. Why?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: I am wearing by beard with a lot of confidence and have done so for quite some years already. I wasn’t even thinking about shaving my beard just because some people thought they could make some weird statements.
And, to be honest, all those IS statements were only meant to be nice and helpful comments. No one ever told me something like “If you don’t shave, something will happen to you”. Quite the opposite. Most people prepared me for having some conversations about my beard in Diyarbakır, which is one of the Kurdish heartlands. Once we got there, nobody said anything about my beard. They rather were super friendly, just like anywhere else in Turkey.
However, if there had been any weird comments or constant looks and discussions about my beard in Diyarbakır, I would have probably thought about shaving just because I wouldn’t have wanted to put us in any danger.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: Is there anything that you cannot prepare yourself for when going on such a trip?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: To be honest, when hitchhiking you cannot prepare yourself at all. You never know where you’ll be tomorrow, you never know who will offer you a ride and you never know what will happen beside the road. Let alone the question of where you are going to sleep… You really don’t know anything. But this is exactly what makes hitchhiking absolutely exciting. Everything is made for surprises and excitement that exceeds your expectations by 100000 percent.
Also, you cannot prepare yourself for the growing cultural shock that is awaiting you the further you go away from home. Many things that we consider as normal, is something special elsewhere. And then there are some things that you simply cannot prepare yourself for ever: the hectic in India, the crowds of people, the animals in the street, the daily chaos. You probably saw photos of India already, watched movies that were filmed in India or read about the country, but seeing all this in reality is a whole new story.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: You guys started in South America, now it’s India. What’s wrong with all the countries that are close to Germany?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: Oh, man, you won’t believe how badly we want to explore Europe. Rochssare has never been to Italy and Morten really wants to sit in pubs, watch football and get lost in the cliffs of the British islands. One day, we will get to do all these things, but for now we are fascinated by everything that is far away. We don’t even know why. It simply feels as if our travels are driven by pure curiosity for now.
We are still super nosy. Whatever we don’t know, we want to explore. We will definitely explore Europe one day, but for now there are too many spots around the globe, that we don’t know anything about, that are super different to home. This difference is probably also more important than the sheer distance. Otherwise, we would have been to the US or Australia by now – but we haven’t.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: Travellers Archive stands for authenticity, for real stories and for countries, that may not be on everyone’s bucket list. That basically fits quite well to you guys – but why does it always have to be crazy, hidden and sometimes even dangerous?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: It doesn’t have to be. However, we often noticed, while being on the road, that the further away you guy, the nicer and friendly the locals get. They really shine of hospitality and often we find a certain interest in these countries, that we barely find anywhere else. Especially those countries that are stigmatised for being dangerous, such as Pakistan, really touched us. The Pakistanis were full of joy and they always tried to tell is that all these clichés and stereotyped we have in mind when thinking about Pakistan are simply not true. Mostly, the people in those countries that suffer from political unrest and, thus, small tourist numbers, are the ones that are exploding from happiness when tourists actually come to visit. Then, they start talking to you, ask you everything about your home country. While talking to the people in Pakistan, for example, we could let them be part of other parts of the world, that they cannot travel to just because their own country is in political instability.
Also, we feel like especially the countries that are off the beaten track are full of beauty, because only few people take on the challenge of actually travelling there. Speaking of challenges. For us, a challenge is a way of growing. It won’t turn you into a good person right away, but you will learn a lot about the world’s humbleness, about respect and about trust.
Maybe we also travel to those corners of the world to search for the pristine parts, for the connection to nature and for the ease of living. This may sound super romantic, but it’s kind of true. A simple life, which is deeply connected to the nature is also a tough one and one that is full of deprivation.
It’s probably a question of attitude. What am I expecting from my trip? Do I want to lay by the pool or sweat and walk through the jungle while being bitten by mosquitos? Do I want to spend my nights partying and drinking or do I want to sleep under the stars and watch the milky way?
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: What do you guys have more of, luck or sanity?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: We are quite bright, but are also super lucky, I’d say.TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: While your entire time in Turkey was full of conversations with locals and time spent in homes of Turkish families, Pakistan was a bit different. Did this change anything?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: In Pakistan, we didn’t have the opportunity to couchsurf anymore, because the police though it’s not safe enough and because they are simply to corrupt once they see tourists in their own country.
On the other hand, we really had a lot of talks with Pakistanis in the streets. When we walked through Islamabad, we even got invited to a student housing complex, where we stayed for three days. So, yes, there is a lot chicanery from the authorities that takes away a lot of great opportunities to get in touch with the locals.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: Your book ends at the border of India. What should we be looking out for?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: We are currently busy writing stories from India. Just stay tuned! Hitchhiking through India is insane. It’s unbelievable to think back to everything that has happened to us back then. Only considering the drives we had, we could easily fill an entire book. We met a couple of weird creatures, such as a drug dealer who all of a sudden started shooting through the window of his car. Also, during our first hike in the Indian Himalaya, we obviously got lost, ended up in a snow storm and incidentally became snow-blind. Apart from that, India is super crazy and full of stories. You see, the trip to the Indian border was just the beginning.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: In your books, you never really say who is currently writing. What’s the reason for that?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: That’s our idea of writing. We never really want to be in the centre of a story. For us, it’s the country that we travel to and the people that we meet along the way, that should be in the centre of every great book.
TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE: And – what’s next?
MORTEN & ROCHSSARE: We’ll stay in Bangkok until April before we explore the North and Northeast of Thailand. After that, we want to head to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia before we go back to the South of Thailand and Malaysia. These are just rough plans. We’ll see what happens and where life takes us.