So it has been a while...
Posted by Tristan Salter at 10th August 2012 at 05:52
So it has been a while since the last post on the blog and we have spent the last week travelling through Kazahkstan which is a pretty large, flat space with very questionable roads.
One day we only managed 150 miles on what was meant to be a main road but was so full of potholes that tracks made by trucks at the side of the road were actually quicker. this didnt stop me beaching the car and getting us stuck for 2 hours. we were eventually pulled out by a passing 4x4 but only after id jogged about 4 miles petrol station to go get some help. i got back but 2 mins before the other boys had flagged down a car and got out.
after this disaster we werent in the best mood pulled up to camp at the side of the road and lit a fire, 10 minutes latter two landcrusiers pulled up saying this was their land and we thought we would be asked to move on. instead they invited us to kazak dinner - a completely surreal experience where we ate like kings and they had numerous toasts of vodka. we learnt that our hosts included a businessman, policeman, poitician and, in their words, "mafiosa".
we then caused a little damage to the car. we couldnt stay near the hosue because of the women and children so had to drive back to our original camp site, 5 km up a dirt track. unfortunatley managed to damage a wheel doing this and that is why we are now in almaty waiting for our car to be fixed.
after this quite hectic and unusual day the next 4 days were just demonstrating to us the size of the country and the poor quality of their roads. every now and then a large section of smooth tarmac would be diverted down a sidetrack where a top speed of 20 miles an hour could only be managed with severe shaking to the car.
our next challenge was the police. having already been pulled over in russia we hadnt learnt our lesson and I was pulled over again in kazakstan where they wanted a little bribe to get them on their way. we ha to stump up some cash and this time it wasnt just pocket money.
we saw a couple of sites but mostly tried to get through the country. we then luckily started bumping into teams and have spent the last two days in convoy with people. this not only gave us a bit of a break from worrying about getting lost but getting stopped by the police is a lot easier when 15 people jump out of the cars looking bemused. feign stupidity long enough and they get bored and let you on your way.
we have now been in almaty for two nights and trying to get our car a little fixed (nothing major but making sure she is okay for mongolia). we have been helped by some amazing people at the parts shop who have sorted our mechanical problems and taken hige amount of time to get us back to shape. actually everyone in kazakstan has been incredibel (apart from the police perhaps who sometimes want an odd souvenir to get us through). at one point we were flagged down by passing motorists who wanted to swap some decorativce coins for a few pounds and pence - our shrapnel from england has been the best present for people so far.
hopefully today we willbe on our way north, 1100 km to the russian border and then a quick jaunt across and hopefully be in mongolia no later than the 15th. still quite a few miles to go but the teams are all starting to get on a similar routing so any problems should iron themsleves out.
Mariupol, Ukraine - a...
Posted by Paul Higham at 1st August 2012 at 06:35
Mariupol, Ukraine - a bizarre stop-off before the nightmare Russian border crossing.
Since Tirana we have well and truly put Suzy the Suzuki through her paces. The route to from Tirana to Thessoloniki involved a mountain trail which a tank would have struggled to negotiate. Coming across a couple of men on pack horses as we were crawling along at 5mph down a 25% incline was quite a surreal experience... Moral of the story: follow the bloody map, don't follow your instincts.
The following day we powered through to Istanbul where we had a couple of days off and rejoined with Tris after he had jetted home for an interview - a really nice time to relax and repair the damage that we'd done to the car.
We then headed north after deciding that we didn't fancy the Georgio-Russian border, and spent a night in Bulgaria before carrying on to the Ukraine the folllowing day. It turns out Eastern Europe is a pretty strange place... It seems like a different world, and people tend to shout at you a lot when you don't understand the instructions they're giving you. We're yet to decide whether shouting back is the best way of going about it.
Border crossings are becoming harder and longer with an unbelievable amount of bureaucracy and wasted time, but it's amazing how far a smile and a handshake goes, even when you're in a ridiculous yellow car and have 'english moron' written all over you.
We'll be at the Russian border in the next couple of hours, let's hope we make it through before dark...
It turns out the...
Posted by Phil Judd at 24th July 2012 at 07:50
It turns out the machinations of Croatian law are no match for good, old-fashioned, Brit-abroad-style bungling idiocy. Feigning a lack of funds and an even greater absence of knowledge, Phil was released from an early morning court appearance for speeding by a tired policeman on the road from Zagreb to Split. We have since headed down the coast to Dubrovnik via Mostar, Bosnia, and into Tirana, the Albanian capital, where all of a sudden the attention that a multicoloured hatchback receives changed dramatically, something that is only becoming marked in Albania. At least it makes us visible- five lane carriageways with no road markings and gung-ho bus drivers who force you to add reverse to your repertoire make this place a crash course in advanced driving.
One point of note: if anyone you know has had a Merc, BMW or Range Rover pinched in the UK, it's probably in Albania being driven by a shifty-looking geezer...
In Croatia where I leave...
Posted by Tristan Salter at 22nd July 2012 at 09:38
In Croatia where I leave the guys for a couple of a days before meeting up with them in Istanbul again. It also marks the point where we leave the EU and get more stamps in our passports. Our crossing was not without incident either. On arriving at Croatia the border guard took a long look at our car (it has now been painted and decorated with bright oranage wheels and various signs). He asked us a simple question of where we where going to, probably expecting an answer in Croatia yet in perfect unison we shouted "Mongolia". "in this car" he asked clearly suspicious that our little car could even make it the length of Croatia let alone another 8 thousand odd miles and we smiled like morons. he had a few more questions then finsihed off with the classic line "I dont want to know" before letting us on our way.
We also saw our first lada in Croatia so this must be the start of eastern europe.
Slovenia is full of...
Posted by Tristan Salter at 20th July 2012 at 19:09
Slovenia is full of surprises. soon after leaving Italy we found ourselves on amazing winding mountain roads sweeping through a forest. a brief scare with a 30 ton truck did not put us off as we headed to the capital and then on to Bled. Here we found a beautiful lake with a church on an island about 500m from the banks. photos will be up soon but it was great way to actually do something after being in the car. a swim there in the evening and then again in the morning made us feel like we had at least done something.
all the oeros are now gone. nightmare
a side note is needed as i have the only ipod on the trip, anyone who knows me realises what a problem this is - i have less than 300 songs so we have now gone a bit insane listening to the same stuff all day
after a night in bled we set off to find Skocjan caves which the Lonely Planet guide said was on the way to our next stop. however this proved to be very false. the guide lies. in a big way. we ended up in Skocjan the village about 4-5 hours away from the caves which were in the opposite direction. yet we were able to find an awesome place to camp for the night - built oursleves a fire and tried to fights off the bugs.
we have reached our 5th...
Posted by Tristan Salter at 20th July 2012 at 18:58
we have reached our 5th country, the lack of internet at various stops has not helped updating the site.
the last messge was from a lakeside in Italy and we have countinued that theme and have basically searched out water. first we headed to lake como where George Clooney has a pad - and it has great taste, it was incredible. Spent the night at Lake Gardia in a pretty strange campsite but at that point we had been turned away from 6 or 7 campsites and would take anything. an earlier post should of mentioned that we lost the tent poles to 2 man tent on a motorway in Italy so we are now down to a 3 man tent. this night it was my turn in the car - not a pleasant experience . after an early morning swim we then headed through Verona to a town just outside Triste. Here we made a pretty epic mistake and tried to camp next to water which ended up with us being bitten by hundreds of bugs. in the morning we found not only had we camped in a bug storm but next to a recycling plant and a cemetary. one of the most unpleasant nights in a while which included paul coming in from the car at 3am saying he couldnt sleep and wild cats (small ones) prowling round our tent. yet it was afree night and after huge amounts spent on campsites in the previous days necessary so we can actaully get through the rest of the trip.
Arona, Lake Maggiore-...
Posted by Paul Higham at 16th July 2012 at 11:25
Arona, Lake Maggiore- lush.
Posted by Paul Higham at 16th July 2012 at 11:24
After waking up in our tents (read: covered paddling pools), we packed Suzy up again and left the quagmire. Grabbing every free sticker and window badge going to decorate the old girl, we repacked The Beast until flickers of horizon could be seen through the back window and tins of beans found with ease, snuck in a lap of the circuit, and bounced amid blaring horns. Everyone else charged in the opposite direction to litter the M25 whilst we headed along the south coast to Dover; bemused looks turned to smiles when slowly passing us revealed the ‘UK to Mongolia’ sign gaffa taped to the boot. So we’re off.
But we’ve run out of Dolly Mixture.
Just got to Goodwood after...
Posted by Paul Higham at 14th July 2012 at 10:22
Just got to Goodwood after a waking up in a paddling pool and it's all getting quite exciting! Starting to realise that our last minute preparation might leave our car a little undercut, however... Phil has already managed to break the driver's door and spell his name wrong in the window - start as we mean to go on.
T minus 1day and some last...
Posted by Paul Higham at 13th July 2012 at 15:25
T minus 1day and some last minute panic found us running around to tax the car this morning before we could actually drive the car but we are just about to set off to goodwood for the start of the adventure.