All the golden onions…

Well, not all of them but I had to really limit the number of church and cathedral photos I put in this post as we have seen many (like a lot)!

It’s been a very busy week since the last update here, also a busy time on Facebook so I’m guessing the pics and mini updates are pretty popular which is always nice to see… thank you for taking the time!

So, how do we cover everything from Russia so far?! It has been quite the ride; frustrating and fun in equal parts possibly.

Firstly, crossing the border from Imatra to Svetogorsk was very straight forward. Two friendly border guards moved us to the front of the foreign car queue then had a good laugh at our claim of driving to Australia. Passport control had us hang around for a bit while different individuals of varying ranks scrutinised our passports and visas but after some discussion and a few phone calls we were stamped, car and tent briefly inspected and sent on our way through the barriers.

Now for insurance, if we’d had a dollar for every time we had read online “pick up some insurance at the border from a kiosk or a petrol station, they all sell it, very easy, no problem”. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong! It was flippin’ difficult and absolutely no one would give us this insurance that is apparently mandatory. We ended up in the border town/area for 3-4 hours trying to get it sorted but with no luck. That was with data we could still reach from Finland, help from two Finnish chaps who could translate some Russian for us and numerous phone calls to the UK where we were offered third party insurance for a mere £470 (bollocks to that!). After ruffling a few feathers with the border police and noticing we were discreetly being watched and followed we decided we had to move on without the insurance and figure it out in St. Petersburg. After a couple of mornings trudging about asking for insurance (and some sightseeing of course) we eventually asked the staff at the hotel where we were camping, they found a place about 10 metres away that immediately issued the required insurance for only £72. After all that, can you actually believe it!

Insurance in hand we did a little dance and planned our stop at Catherine Palace on our way to Velikiy Novgorod the next day… after spending an hour queuing in the rain we paid for our ticket, were informed there were no English audio guides (as in they didn’t exist!) and then jostled through the establishment amongst a mass of tour groups. Back outside in the pouring rain we attempted a look at the gardens but the weather was horrendous and it just wasn’t enjoyable. We returned to the sanctuary of the car only to find it had turned in to a Russian registered family sedan in a pleasant shade of white paint. Perfect.

With Richard’s GPS tech we were able to locate the truck about 5 miles away from where we had left it. Who what when where and why! So many scenarios playing out in our minds! We called an Uber and with a speech translation app our driver helped us pinpoint where we needed to get to… and there she was, in all her orange glory, utterly unharmed but towed away for having parked too close to a crossing. The policeman was very nice, even had a couple of English words for us but after he realised there was no protocol for ticketing a foreigner he laughed and waved us off.

Things have gotten easier since then, still the crazy bucketing rain but it has slowly moved on. We had a restful few nights in Velikiy Novgorod and in the Valdai National Park where we visited the Iver Monastery and caught a snippet of their beautiful choir. We have really really enjoyed Moscow and met some lovely people (local and foreign). Even had a long and lazy lunch/dinner with some Aussies we met on a tour today and tomorrow we head for Nizhny Novgorod.

Still trying to work out the live tracking for you guys but we’ll get there, I think… ask Richard.

Bye! X

This is it! The big hitter…

… tomorrow we enter Russia.

We spend three nights in St. Petersburg then on to Velicky Novogorod, Valdai National Park and eventually Moscow.

Today I am homesick I guess you could say (cue roll of the eyes from Richard); the weather is grey, the tent is cold and we are looking ahead to days of rain which means a soggy duvet! It also feels like this is the point of no turning back but don’t ask me why, we can get anywhere from anywhere in this day and age but it’s our last day in Europe and that seems just a wee bit scary.

Going back over the last 10 days or so however; life has been easy and generally fast paced. We flew through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with just one night in each country. We slept in Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn… all three places offering a totally different experience to the last. Vilnius we slept atop a pile of firewood in a campground that was actually just a small, steep car park outside a backpackers with a public bar that attracted around 600 people on an average night. It was lively and fun and really rather clever in the way they had squeezed an income out of every square inch of the premises! Sleep wasn’t really a thing there.

We arrived in Riga and ended up in the carpark of a convention or events centre, sounds bad right but actually it was jam packed full of travellers and campers and had a nice atmosphere… there was an important football match on and everyone gathered around a TV rigged up in the driveway. It was also the last night of Jāņi, a festival timed around the summer solstice and it was our first taste of the late sunsets to come.

Tallinn, Estonia; really not a lot to say about this… parked the truck in a marina carpark which moonlighted as a campground, Uber’d to the old town where we were immediately steered through the doors of the first beer hall in sight by good friends from Rotherhithe! Didn’t see anything of Tallinn but had a hell of a boozy catch up with a couple of the locals from the Salt Quay. Perfection.

After a horrid 4am start to grab a ferry to Helsinki, we stopped for 5 nights thinking we needed at least a week to arrange a couple of visas for China and Mongolia but as it happens you only need 3 days and 2 nights! Paperwork gets done very quickly in Helsinki with little queuing and similar costs to a snails pace visa in London. We utilised the extra time to arrange our forgotten International Driving Permits, got some help with finally fixing the fridge to the floor of the truck, did approximately 1000 loads of laundry and saw every inch of Helsinki in the process. Shops, cafes, food markets, entry by password cocktail bars, roof top cocktail bars, picnics on fortress islands and the worlds most expensive cheeseburger… and that’s what it boils down to really, everything is suuuper expensive in Helsinki! Yikes.

We have now had a peaceful few days in the lakes near Savonlinna and tonight we are in some sort of fishing camp type thing which is about 20 minutes from the border with Russia. Through all of this last week we have witnessed nights that don’t actually get dark, I swear! I know very well as I haven’t been able to get to sleep until around 4 or 5 in the morning sometimes… it’s like jet lag without the air travel. The sun sets, sits just below the horizon for a few hours of dusk and then comes back up again.

Right, enough of all that. I don’t know what our internet situation will be like from here on in… we’ll post when we can as always, pics:

The Baltic Blitz…

So… almost another thousand miles done and a few things seen and done, not really sure any of it will be of much interest but I will try!

Poland has delivered spectacularly, it was a country I was really looking forward to seeing and it hasn’t disappointed. Loved the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane, Krakow was relaxing and quaint, Warsaw was spacious and very beautiful (for the few hours we had to spare, naughty!) and lastly the Masurian Lake District that we have left behind today. All worthy of a visit but long drives in between with tricky roads and road works to contend with.

We visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, it’s a bit odd to say but I didn’t want to see it but more experience it (even though that isn’t really a thing). I wanted to be moved and appalled and shocked… it was all those things and more. To walk where those people walked and try to imagine the last months, hours or even minutes of their lives, well I don’t know what to say. Madness. Richard and I don’t believe it is a place for photos so you won’t see any from us, it just wasn’t that kind of day.

Within the Masurian Lake District you will find the Wolf’s Lair, a complex village of camouflaged concrete bunkers where Hitler and his Cabinet spent more than 800 days of the war… fascinating to say the least. This is also the location where he was one person away from dying in a suitcase bomb explosion but after the suitcase was moved out from under peoples feet he survived.

So! What next… the baltic blitz! Tonight we are in Vilnius, tomorrow night Riga and Sunday night Tallinn then on to Helsinki where we are stuck for up to a week arranging visas for China and Mongolia plus a follow up jab for tick-borne encephalitis?! That’s a thing apparently.

A few pics below but we have been forgetting to take photos of stuff to be honest!

The first thousand miles

Hello again,

Not really a lot to report, we have been busy bees working on the incomplete tasks we left London with, plus we haven’t really had reliable internet and have burned through a worrying amount of data!

We have covered good ground so far, stopping at Nurburgring for two nights to organise ourselves… one night by the lake at Hainer See… one night on a camping island in Prague… one night behind a busy motorway in a funny little spot called Camp Alpa (great for winding on a new winch rope)… another night in the Tatra Mountains, by a lake again on the Slovakian side and now we find ourselves in a very sweet little campground in Krakow!

We can finally unpack the back of the truck and enjoy three or four nights in one place, we have a little pitch surrounded by tall hedges all to ourselves and the internet is great so here it is, the last 5 days laid out on a blog post with little to talk about! Ha!

Today we travelled through a place called Zakopane, basically a Polish Aspen where the wealthy come to stay in their sprawling holiday homes and tourists pay double for everything. However, there is usually a reason for this type of set up and that is its beauty in the mountains with the spring water, baths/spas and stunning vistas. We opted for sandwiches constructed on the tailgate of the Disco with slightly stale bread and then carried on to Krakow so no living large for us in Zakopane.

Our return to Prague after many years was a big hit, we both realised how much we loved it there. So beautiful and so trendy! There are endless places to eat drink and shop in style… shame I turned up looking like the worst type of tourist! A poorly planned outfit that delivered quite a fright when I caught myself in a mirror later in the day.

We made a creepy detour to the church of the bones outside of Prague, although interesting to see at the time… it was a 2 hour detour for a 5 minute visit and with the catacombs in Paris I’m not 100% convinced it is worth the journey but hey it is ticked off “the list” and it was an experience as always.

There is much to do on this blog/website, there is tracking to add and old information to move aside for the new but we’ll get there. It isn’t as easy as it looks, I swear!

Talk soon x

J&R

Frank! We’re coming to get you…

So we are off! It’s been a mind boggling experience to get to this, the first day of our journey but with a few missing finger nails… bumps… bruises… additional wrinkles and many more grey hairs we have finally set off.

Tomorrow we head for Czech Republic via Leipzig and on to Slovakia. We have caught up with some old friends at Nürburgring today, done some neglected work on the truck and actually packed our possessions instead of throwing them at the open doors from a distance in order to leave the drive way and not miss our tunnel crossing.

With a host of fresh parts fitted underneath and our trusty tent fixed to the roof the truck is feeling great and we are actually starting to get excited about what lies ahead, plus a “twitchy eye” level of anxiety for myself too of course, can’t travel anywhere without that now can I?!

Will let all you chaps know when our website has been updated with our new tech and toys!

J&R

Are you still out there?

This is the real test isn’t it… who still follows the blog after all this time!

T minus 3 weeks folks and we are back on the road heading East and eventually South to Australia (mate).

Myriad tasks, chores and planning yet to be done of course but we’ll get there… we have to because Frank leaves us this week and that is desperately sad

By kiwisinafrica Posted in Asia

Lake Turkana… IMPORTANT!

If you’re considering the Lake Turkana route into Kenya then you must read this post from cornwalltocapetown … They had a scary experience as did we.

Richard and I chose not to say anything for fear of worrying our families but on our jaunt past Turkana we found a body on the shores, white in appearance and it left us very quiet and very shaken considering it was just the two us after deciding we didn’t need a convoy on this particular route.

Clearly you do!

Lake Turkana from Cornwall to Cape Town

Underpants over our trousers… And maybe a cape?

Yippee!

I finally have something to “blog” about… Absolutely nothing even slightly Africa, over-landing or off-roading related has occurred in the last few months and then we came across this poor fella last night…

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We shut out the oppressive darkness, rain, pollution and crowded streets and briefly returned to the Serengeti in Tanzania and Sossusvlei in Namibia where we encountered other sticky situations (excuse the pun).

This unsuspecting chap had driven over a large bollard/stone policeman on a narrow lane in the heart of central London and was beached at an extraordinary angle in his SUV. Richard took one quick look and almost leapt from our moving vehicle at the exciting prospect of rescuing someone with his beloved winch!

After some tight manoeuvring of the orange beast the winch cable was out in a flash and Richard was on the job.

I don’t think the stranded gentleman knew quite what to think but hey… He’s free to carry on and I couldn’t really say who was happier! Us or him 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone!… Spread a little festive spirit and help those in need if you happen to stumble upon them, its pretty fun (when you’re car nerds like us anyway, thanks for the adjective Gabrielle x)

Home is where the heart is…

And my heart is still in Africa I think.

Our little orange truck has been loaded on to it’s container and is awaiting departure from Cape Town, it already feels like we are missing a limb and that September is an eternity away. We really should have hired a private plane to transport it… It deserves the only the best you know!

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What’s it like being in London again? “Mixed feelings” would be the standard response…

Pros? An ensuite; oh man, it really is brilliant. My handbag; it’s gorgeous and I missed it! Familiar faces; always comforting. Our own washing machine; we still hadn’t washed our Kilimanjaro clothes… Gross!

Cons? Wearing shoes; jandals (or flip flops) are the way forward. Job hunting; pffft. Cleaning; having a flat is great but you have to clean it all the bloody time! Car problems; you think you’ve left it all behind in Cape Town until you realise the other two need MOT’s, Tax, new batteries and what not. Blah blah, the list goes on, so there we go… I guess the point I’m trying to make IS:

You really only need the simple things in life and as equally frustrating as that can be at times I’d give absolutely anything to do it all again tomorrow.

i.e. Some of the experiences that put a big smile on our faces while we travelled were a washing machine, a clean toilet, hot water and a roadside meal that wasn’t skewers of whole-cooked rat. Richard found joy in scaring the excrement out of me on various off-road “adventures” and mountain climbing expeditions (we climbed a MOUNTAIN for crying out loud!).

It’s been an emotional few days to be completely honest. It’s actually very difficult to let our little African adventure go and in typically girly fashion there are sniffles and damp lashes as I think of how best to word this post.

We have a raft of facts, figures and stats to share with the fellow inquisitive overlander but as Richard is the mathematician in the household I will leave that to him.

Just to wrap things up though… We finished in Cape Town with 34567 miles on the clock. How totally perfect.

Overland travel in Africa really is as simple as 34567.

Love to all, we miss you.
Jo and Richard