Haircut by JetBoil…

I think we might need to post more often! There’s a lot to remember at the moment, we are moving quickly and covering quite a lot of ground… it’s quite satisfying to see our blue dot on Google maps:

Not an awful lot to report on the last part of Russia, the roads are shrouded in tall tress and forest so you can’t really see anything and then there’s no campgrounds to be found either so we have started to use petrol stations, truck stops and “wild” camping. In Aktobe we slept in the street outside a hostel, it was £1 each for use of their showers and washing machine overnight so we tied some ropes from a gazebo across the inside of our tent and hung up the wet clothes. The heat and the wind had them bone dry in under two hours so we washed two loads of laundry… the rooftent got a lot of attention but we left it there in the middle of the city all day and no one touched a thing. We met another overlanding couple from Germany who were on the home stretch after 11 months travelling the world so we had a lot to talk about during the afternoon and late in to the night.

We have a little shower pump thing that you can stick in to a bucket and have a quick wash but mostly we are wet-wiping and it’s been a blistering hot and dusty trail to this point. We treated ourselves to a hotel here in Turkestan, we were dreaming of the shower yesterday afternoon when trying to rest ourselves and the car in the 40 degree heat, that poor machine just works so hard to do all this for us.

Turkestan has been a welcome reprieve and a genuinely lovely little place to take in some culture. Between 40 and 45 km’s north of the town is an archeological site called Sauran, an ancient silk road city. It was the coolest thing we’ve seen since we left London I think, but we haven’t seen much of anything other than Russian architecture so maybe we are over selling it? Nah, it’s pretty awesome. We even went hooning around the sandy dusty off-road tracks that encircle the site and gave the poor truck a bit of a hard time. Last night, after the longest cold showers ever, we had dinner at Turkestan’s “it” place, Edem Terassa. It was a bit out there but heaps of fun and it was packed with locals (and a few tourists as well!). About every half an hour the dance music would suddenly blast out of the speakers and the young guys and gals would all jump up for a dance, 10 minutes later the music would go back down and everyone would be back at their tables. Later we took a walk around the area of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yawasi which is totally enormous and apparently one of Kazakhstan’s most important buildings. It was close to midnight but all the local families were out in the dark at a makeshift street carnival, playing games and entertaining their kids… it was fantastic.

Kazakhstan in general has been welcoming and friendly; people always want to talk to us about where we are from, what we think of their country or town or food and so on. People wave and welcome us to their towns. It’s been quite heartwarming and puts me at ease. In terms of the landscape? That’s a tricky one, something Richard said made me think of the following description… it’s so flat that sometimes you think you are going to drive off the edge of the planet. The sunsets are some of the best we’ve seen though and if you can find some lumps and bumps in the surrounds then that’s probably the best place to camp for the night.

Ah, the hair cut by JetBoil, I nearly forgot about that. So we are on to our second water boiling device. The first having fizzled out with a whoosh in Prague taking all the fluffy bits off the cardi I was wearing at the time. The second device almost went the same way yesterday but Richard managed to revive it after losing a fair amount of hair on the left side of his head and the ends of his eyelashes!

There’s probably more to tell you but checkout time is looming and we are trying to reach Almaty tomorrow which is 11 hours of driving from here (doesn’t seem much but it can take a full day to do what is described as “5.5 hours”).

x J&R

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

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

It just had to be a nail-biter of a finish…

Of course at some point in our journey the luck had to run out and it most definitely did the day we left Swakopmund to head north again.

We weren’t really supposed to be in Swakopmund to be honest but with yet more bad advice from our Lonely Planet, we “had” to go there in order to obtain permits for the Skeleton Coast National Park. You don’t need to, that’s complete rubbish.

We spent a couple of nights there anyway, had a campsite with private bathroom (!!), found a great cafe and dressed in clothes without holes or stains for a fancy dinner out. All wonderful. Then we headed north.

No need for diesel in Swakopmund… We’ll fill up on the way. No we won’t, as we had 100km’s of range showing on the dash we realised the closest station was 100km’s behind us. A night in Henties Bay, a full tank + plus jerry can and we were off again.

Enter Skeleton Coast National Park (via a STINKY Cape Cross seal colony) and we were well on track… For 11 hours of being stuck in the sand. Brilliant.

After our night of “adventure” referred to in the previous post, we head for Palm as we need fuel, money and the mother of all car washes. We arrive, there is no fuel, ATM or car wash in Palm.

On to the delightful little Kamanjab and our favourite bar at Oppi Koppi Rest Camp… A terrible road (not helped by very wobbly steering due to wheels etc heavily laden with sand) and we find a familiar and sympathetic face at the other end. Thanks to Oppi Koppi for giving us 5 hours use of their cleaning equipment and the first meal and beverage we had had in 30 hours (beer and pizza of course).

Let’s head to Opuwo, we’d been told about a gorgeous hotel in the area with a great campsite and views… Tarmac road! Things really are looking up! A few drinks, a beautiful sunset and two long sighs of relief.

We are only hours away from the Van Zyls Pass, “let’s do it!” says Richard, “NO” says Jo, “YES” says Richard, “NO FLIPPIN’ WAY” says Jo. We do the Van Zyls Pass (A notorious one way/downhill 4×4 track.)

Our slightly bung tyre as a result of our night of terror in Moremi can’t really do much more rock climbing/descents and has frightening looking bulges exuding from every angle inside and out after reaching the bottom.

We catch the sunset in the Marienfluss (stunning) and then continue to Marble Community Camp only 50km’s away…

The road is actually a rock track and it takes hours. Excellent. We sleep, change the wheel, and hit the river bed tracks in search of the famed “desert” Elephants (the whole reason for heading north). There are none and in a desperate bid to justify all this chaos we start taking pictures of anything that moves, it’s “desert adapted” says Richard so the giraffes, impala and zebra suddenly become different in some way. No problem, let him have his moment.

Hours and hours of river beds behind us and we hit the first road we’ve seen in days, it’s horrendously rutted and corrugated and another tyre completely disintegrates. Two tyres in two days after 20,000 miles. Just perfect.

Oh and the spare wheel winch jams so the ruined wheel has to be wedged into the boot. Things get a little quiet in the car… Our tyres (MT-R 19″ etc etc) are exceptionally rare and we have to consider the possibility of continuing to Cape Town with no spare at all.

Windhoek! What a bloody wonderful place! The option of a brand new 19″ MT-R or slightly used for half the price, fitted in moments. The gorgeous sparkly Land Rover dealership has a replacement spare wheel winch and we find the best car wash in the whole of Africa to remove the 10 tonnes of sand we are carrying around in the underbody of the car. We’re back on track! Properly!

Since then we have had a fantastic time. Sossusvlei, got the last available campsite in the area, caught sunset and sunrise and didn’t pulverise the huge Oryx that bolted out in front of the car! We have had a really relaxing couple of days, lovely accommodation, beautiful sights and tonight we are only 180’s from the border with South Africa.

How heart-wrenching.

Malawi fuel situation…

For other overlanders heading to Malawi… We have had no trouble with getting fuel in the last two weeks.

I believe the changes in government have meant more fuel supply?

We were preparing to take 1500km’s of diesel with us due to the constant reports of dire fuel shortages but thankfully we didn’t bother as there was diesel (and petrol) available in the majority of stations. If one was out then the next station would be stocked up and without any significant queuing.

We still had 50 litres in the jerries to be safe and this was possibly still a wise choice but we never struggled to fill up and emptied the jerries for the sake of not lugging around extra fuel.

In fact, the diesel in Zambia was 30US cents more per litre so if you’re heading from Malawi to Zambia… Top up on the Malawi side!

Hopefully that is helpful to someone!
Jo and Richard

Ants in the tree and a spider in the car!

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Well, we’ve had quite a week! We have visited all the old haunts of Richards childhood… Schools, restaurants, sports clubs etc etc and spent three glorious nights with the adorable Mr and Mrs Grimes. It was a blissful reminder of home life and they were so generous. Home-cooked meals, TV (!!), comfy clean beds, our own bathroom, and a washing machine. That’s right! An actual clothes washing machine.. Amazing.

We have since covered quite a distance and taken in the sights of Mulanje (a mountain) where we camped at the Likhabula Pools, Zomba (a mountain plateau) and we now find ourselves back on the sleepy shores of Lake Malawi. All gorgeous of course but we have been feeling a little lonely, missing the excellent company of David and Di.

A testing day in transit yesterday; parked in a lovely spot for lunch to find our spare wheel carrier broken in 4 places but thankfully still attached to the vehicle (just!). While negotiating the storage of an enormous 19″ wheel (coupled with enormous mud-terrain tyre) in the back seat of our poor truck we were “attacked” by an equally huge spider! URGHH. Where our leggy friend is now is a mystery though as we both took off at the sight of it! I was precise in emptying the contents of our can of fly-spray into the vehicle before departing for the lake but still, made for a fairly tense three hour drive.

We arrived at dusk last night at the much anticipated Chembe Eagles Nest where we found a campsite full of impressively spec’d up and kitted out overlanding vehicles that make us two look like chumps to be honest. These things are amazing! They must have sensed jealousy in the air as they were quick to offer us two of the most tasty and tender lamb chops we’ve ever eaten. This didn’t soothe the green-eyed-monster as she reheated the 4 day old bolognaise sauce. Grrrr.

No matter, we have indulged in a lazy morning of scrambled eggs and Konyagi cocktails today and as there are welders in absolutely every corner of Africa, we are now back to normal with a functioning spare wheel carrier. Tomorrow… Zambia! And our next dose of African wildlife.

A few pics to a create a “nutshell” of the last few days:

Ants in the tree, world famous (in Blantyre!):

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Phoenix School, where Richard learned to a be a smart-ass:

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Dipping our toes in the Likhabula Pools,Mulanje:

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Money well spent! I think not:

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Addis to Nairobi – Lake Turkana

We have just completed our crossing to Jungle Junction in Nairobi, we opted for the Lake Turkana route for safety and scenery – not to mention it was supposed to be a much softer track than the Marsabit route however it was not that soft! It is known as a sand road but we took the track around the Sibiloi National Park and it was very rocky.

We have seen some pretty amazing things along the way, had breakfast with some crocodiles and stumbled upon some zebra on the side of the road… you know, the usual. Lots of beautiful African tribes people just living their lives in the middle of nowhere.

We drove for approximately 800 km’s on a track. Just two tyre tracks disappearing into the distance! Rocks big and small, sand, mud and dry river beds that are just pebbles and trees. Richard has done all the driving and has done an amazing job, even hopping out to cut away the thorn bushes… Gotta take care of our lovely orange paint 🙂

We have been camping now for over two weeks with a long drop and a sponge bath (using a kitchen cleaning cloth) on the luxurious days so we have treated ourselves to an ensuite room tonight and then first thing tomorrow the car goes to Land Rover for a very deserved service and no doubt some repairs, we are very proud of our little orange trooper but it has taken a beating over the last week and has only complained once or twice when the suspension decides its too hot (43 degrees? Fair enough!).

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Tracking page is back on…

Sorry for causing any confusion guys but we removed the tracking page due to our unplanned detour through Israel in February.

We couldn’t say anything to anyone (except the closest of family etc) before we entered and exited Sudan who would have not let us in for having travelled in Israel.

There are a few more details of Israel in our other post but unfortunately not many pics as it was very rushed and we couldn’t risk having too much info from Israel on us!

We think there may be an issue with SMS in Ethiopia and so our tracker is still in Sudan. We’ll try to get this sorted ASAP because we’ve done some pretty cool stuff in Ethiopia already!

Egypt diesel situation

For other overlanders that may be reading, diesel is somewhat of a concern in Egypt at the moment.

For instance we reached Baharia Oasis (300km’s into the desert) on Wednesday with a quarter tank to find out that all 3 stations were out of diesel. After approaching some locals a desert tour guide kindly took us for a drive into the back alleys to a man that was hoarding diesel in his garage and we filled the tank and jerrys for some peace of mind.

Down the road in Farafra Oasis though there was plenty of diesel but we also found that only one station in Sharm had diesel earlier in the week and we queued for some time to fill up. We queued again this morning in Al Kharga and met many friends handing over their mobile numbers! Diesel supply seems patchy but isn’t impossible to find, just be prepared to wait for the pump! And always ask locals if you are worried as they will find anything you need as quickly as possible.