I hadn’t forgotten…

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Well well well… it’s been a crazy old time and I just haven’t had the brain space in the last 11 weeks (yikes!) to put together “the last post”. The last post for London to Melbourne anyway.

We live in a house now! It’s the craziest thing. You don’t realise the habits that are formed after 7 months in the car; some good, some bad. Now we have a garden and a garage and a whole laundry room all to ourselves! We even took delivery of a real life, full size refrigerator yesterday… we had the National Luna on the kitchen floor for a month before I finally lost my nut over it haha! Time to move on from the camp-style food storage option. We have drinking vessels made of glass and not plastic that looks a lot like glass. It’s all rather civilised. And you don’t have to remind me that I wrote a startlingly similar post when we returned from Africa back in 2012, I know it! You learn to live without so much when you travel for long periods of time but there is joy in reintroducing some of the missing items back in to your life when things start to go back to “normal”.

Overlanding is an addiction, sort of. Richard and I are different in so many ways but also have heaps in common and share a mutual 5 to 6 month limit when it comes to travelling in the Disco, living outside rain hail or shine and climbing a ladder to go to bed. We learned when we went to Africa that we reached the end of our tethers at 5 months… two weeks later we were in Cape Town with the car in a container and our rear-ends planted firmly in an airline seat. We were 7 months and 2 days on the Asia journey and with a large number of combined factors it felt long and arduous.

I can only speak for myself and my views are often not conducive to popular opinion amongst overlanders but so be it… I do like to say things how they are so here goes; would I do it again? Asia, no. Africa, in a heartbeat. Overlanding in general, absolutely. Lesson learned, take the dog with us next time!

We didn’t really write much about our Australian leg of the journey, all our plans fell by the wayside when we struggled to put together a legal driving option with our foreign plated car… but please don’t worry, this was due to our permanent move to Australia and had we just stamped our carnet life would have been sweet. Richard had big dreams for Aus; head north from Perth, then south east to the red centre onwards east to the coast through the Simpson Desert and south again with a lot of sights and remote off-roading along the way. We only managed one day of off-roading (170KM’S) in our actual journey which took us from campground to campground along the southern and sealed roads from Perth to Melbourne via Adelaide and the Nullarbor. But you know what, we still really loved it and as disappointing as a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy was we found so many beautiful places along the way and all in all life was easy. It has made us see the endless opportunities for travelling with the car in this new country of ours (how will we find the time?!) and look forward to getting out there once the bank accounts are feeling a little healthier.

So time to put WordPress away for a little while, I am not too sure if our website even works that well at the moment! We have’t updated the map or anything! I’ll get to it this weekend, it’s about time we sorted out all the loose ends.

Thanks to everyone for their endless support, I know we make you worry Mum’s and Dad’s and we appreciate it… you shouldn’t though. It’s a doddle(?). Again, we met so many new people along the way, some of them are even headed our way to Melbourne so we can have a mini Laos reunion here at our place. And of course we are already looking at ways to improve our kit for the America’s. Suckers for punishment you say and you’re right.

Take care, J&R

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Star dome…

Oh dear, naughty naughty! 20th November was the last post from us.

Tonight we are camping on a farm, under an immense night sky, in the Margaret River region of Western Australia… I guess that says it all! We drove in to Singapore, handed over the car to the shipping agent and then waited for what seemed like an age to get it back again!

On reflection to Singapore, it seems there is this belief that it’s impossible to take your car there and if you do it’s crazy expensive… none of this is true, although the temporary insurance is expensive the entire process is really quite straight forward and there’s just a $50 fee for the permit and paperwork. Really not bad at all! When you’ve come that far, who wants to gripe over $50 and some costly insurance (obviously subject to individual vehicle and personal circumstances). The rules are strictly adhered to though and campervans or vehicles with (obvious) internal sleeping arrangements are not allowed but on the day of the border crossing at Woodlands no one really looked that much at the vehicle, just the paperwork.

The entry process in to Australia was tiresome and all rather half-assed but that’s how it is here and you just wait your turn. We gave our car a DIY jetwash and a vacuum in Malaysia 2/3 days before shipping and only two things had to be cleaned for the quarantine guys at this end… our dusty max trax and a pair of old shoes we had forgotten to throw in the bin when we packed the car in Singapore. There was accumulated dust and dirt and grime all over the place and it didn’t seem to be an issue. Another potential myth busted! We didn’t have any asbestos concerns raised either but we had done our research in advance and had written confirmation from Land Rover that the cars and parts were asbestos free many years before our car was built.

So, on to more interesting topics… Mr. Frank Furter, our beloved Dachshund, is now with us and learning to travel overland! This has been a really big deal, after so many months of being miserable without him we took the plunge and flew him to Perth so he could do the last stretch with us. He’s not so sure about it just yet but if we lay on the luxurious cushions and blankets then he seems to manage. Such a diva.

While we waited for the car to make an appearance we spent time in Auckland, Melbourne and Perth, had time apart and time together that wasn’t overlanding. It’s been a rough ride this one and a long break was really what we needed, lots of sleep and time to think about other things, be with Frank, be “normal”… it was invaluable and now that we have set off again in a new environment and a new culture it is all rather invigorating. We met some lovely people over Christmas and tonight we have settled in to a campsite on a beautiful farm. The night sky takes your breath away and it’s all very peaceful. The coastline is stunning and we have so much to see and do over the next few days including a dog friendly wine tour which we are really excited about!

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!

J&R

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

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

Africa Overocean 2012

So we’ve been doing a bit of boating the last few days… Hence no Internet or tracking after being encased in a steel freight ship since Monday. Dull to say the least.

We did however meet some pretty cool peeps also killing time on our route so I’ll start with the French guy carrying tanks of live baby fish from Greece. (He’s the guy in the title pic of the post) The poor bugger had to check the oxygen and acid levels every 4 hours regardless of sleep deprivation and explained in 90% French this morning that today/tonight it would be every hour until the delivery was made. He was a total nutter but very sweet and wanted everyone to check out his “baby fish”. You can see him on the truck as we are brought into port.

Richard also managed to get an invite to a BMW drift day in Lavrio, southern Greece by a cafe owner who didn’t even know he had one parked up in London waiting to go! This was definitely the highlight for young RW.

Last night in Cyprus, three Portuguese journalists got on the ship for the final leg to Haifa and it turned out they were in the middle of completing “the road to revolution” documentary. Interestingly they had entered Syria three weeks ago, took a bunch of footage and it was published by a German news company. It has more than 5 million views so far. They now want to return to Syria again knowing it’s highly likely they will be arrested. Crazy guys!

Their website is here: http://www.estradadarevolucao.com/
They had also travelled overland to cape town in 2009 but on the western route and they say they miss it everyday. They covered the build up to the football world cup and managed to get from top to bottom with out any documentation whatsoever, not even drivers licences! Makes us feel a bit stupid after spending months (and £££’s) obtaining every document conceivable to man!! They published a book about their tour but as it was in Portuguese we didn’t accept the copy…

We also babysat some push bikes that two Aussie guys had cycled from London on. I think they had achieved 5000km’s in about 3 months but were badly disadvantaged by the horrendous weather Europe had to throw at all of us this season. Poor guys also got put through the ringer in the ports today and our little gang from downunder were very very frazzled after 10-11 hours of jumping through hoops and running in circles to get out of the blimmin’ port. What a disaster. Had we gotten any sleep last night it may have been easier but we lay awake the entire night rolling from one side of our bunks to the other in the swell. Richard kept getting up to check on French-fish-guy to make sure he hadn’t been flung over the side whilst wandering about on top of his tanks. The boat docked at 6am and the games begun around 7am. We finally drove out of the port gates at about 4.45 in the afternoon to find out that our map for the navigation device didn’t really work.

You can probably tell I’m pretty tired and over-it today but our adventure has been really entertaining and eye opening so far! It seems such a cliche to bring up the old “meet such interesting people when you travel” scenario but you really do! Can’t rave about it enough, I think we both feel really lucky so far (just excluding today)

Crikey!

Our little website is kinda popular! Average of 52 views a day so far… I’m guessing approximately 20 views per day for each set of parents… 🙂

So anyway, an outing in Athens today which has been great! First day of proper sunshine in longer than I can remember and two scoops of probably the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. Loved the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus then a race against the sunset to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. We lost… by 10 minutes. Grrr.

We have done much tweaking of the camera today and so there should be some new pics (not taken in Auto mode!) up soon.

Nigh’ night x