Saturday, 14 December 2013

Starting the paper work!

Last weekend we went to see our friends Nick and Lesley. Those guys spent 3 years going round the world on a big bike, after taking early retirement. When they came back to the UK, they took a job in a motorcycle tour company in Spain, for the summer. Then, they cycled back to the UK! Oh but that is not all. 
They then decided to cross all of Russia... So their advice for Russia was certainly very valuable. Let's just say than the next day I ordered a sheewee from Amazon! 

Anyone interested can check their website: If you can catch with them. They're off to Morroco for the winter and then India next summer! 

I decided to use the same agency that they used for the visas. So on Monday I sent an email to I had a very quick answer, and finally put my application with them.

Few issues with me unfortunately. First, I am french and therefore I need to show a return plane ticket, despite the fact that I will be riding there all the way! Oh well, luckily I found that easyjet has very cheap flights to Moscow. I will get the cheapest fare on cheapest days as I will not use them! What a waste!

The second issue is related to the fact that I am a contractor, hence not on a permanent job. Anyway, I will get all the docs I think. The process is started and, finger crossed, in few weeks time I will get a multi entry business visa to Russia. Then I will apply for Uzbekistan's visa, another one not that easy to get. I will need the agency to help on those. As for the rest, Kazakh, Tajikistan and Mongolia I will apply for those in March / April as they should be easy to get.

This morning we took our little bikes to the workshop to discuss what would need to be done. Long list! Won't be cheap but hopefully the bikes should then be in top condition to take us all the way to Mongolia! We will drop them in January. 

I am still deciding on best itinerary. This is important as I need to know when we will get where. The 30 days visas for most of those Stans countries are with fixed entry / exit dates! So I need to be sure the visa kick in when we get at the border, and that we stil have enough days left to cross.... 

So, still a fair amount of planning before we are ready! 

That's all for now! 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Learning Russian!

Before moving to Brazil, in June 2011, we had been planning to motorcycle from London to Sydney via northern Asia.

Brazil (and work!) got on the way.

As part of my trip preparation, I had been learning Russian for 1 1/2 year. Very tough!
But as we came back to the UK late last year, I had to revive our plan. At least ride to Mongolia.

So I am taking lessons again. Across all of central Asia, and even in Mongolia, speaking a bit of Russian will come very useful. No one speak much English on those parts of the world!

This time, as I have little time, I am having one to one sessions with a great teacher! She is designing the course for my specific needs on the road. So I can ask my way round, find the border, find where and how to ask about buying local insurance for the bikes, food, shelter, we will cover all that.

Of course the hardest part is to understand the answer! :)

I have bought all the maps we need from Stanfords, in Covent Garden, I love that bookshop! I could spend hours looking at their maps and guides. These maps will help me with my planning. You see, I deal with all the logistic, while Alistair deals with the mechanic and bikes preparations, as well as the GPS (OSM maps to loads and lots of way-points to add). That will be essential in Mongolia, where there are virtually no roads.

Tomorrow I am sending my bike's seat to get customised (lowered!). In January the bikes are going to the workshop to get checked, serviced, lots of parts replaced ....

That's all for now on our preparations! добрый вечер!

our travel bikes (well mine, but the other is similar!)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The road to Mongolia

We bought our travel bikes. A couple of Hondas XR125. Small bikes, ideal for off road, which we have a lot of, once we leave Europe!
Preparations piling up, visas, vaccinations, routing, prepping up the bikes... We bought them on eBay!

My routing is not totally fixed but rough idea is Southern Europe, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan North to Russia, then into Mongolia. Then up to Irkutsz and trans Siberian to Moscow. And ride back home....

Of course the elephant in the room is getting a multiple entry business visa with Russia! 
I will apply in the next few weeks! Finger crossed! 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mongolia Trip - Spring / summer 2014 - preparations

I have been investigating routing and visas.
The most important visa for us is to get a multi-entry business Russian visa as we will be in and out of Russia 3 times. It won't be easy and some agency already sent me packing.

However, I know, from various motorcycle adventure contacts that it is possible to obtain... just need to pick the correct agency to help me on that!

Anyway, the route is more or less set by now. We will cross Europe via Ukraine, then into Russia.
Then we plan to ride south into Kazakhstan, and continue south East into Uzbekistan (another visa required!).
Then we will continue East into Tajikistan and we will ride the Pamir highway. That should be one of the highlights of the trip. Then into Kyrgyzstan and we will then turn North into Kazakhstan.
From Almaty, we will cross Kazakhstan from south to North into Russia, before getting finally in Mongolia.
We will cross Mongolia.
Map here if it works!

From UlaanBaatar, we would plan to get the bikes and ourselves into the Trans-Siberian to Moscow and ride back home.

Departure date is the 22d of April. We have 4 months in total and would like to be back home end of August.
Choice of bikes: 2 hondas XR125L. Small but will be ideal once we get into the Stans and Mongolia.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

What next?

Well, after nearly a year back in London, well, as you may guess, I am starting to be restless! I need a break from work! :)

So I am coming with a new PLAN! Riding from London to UlanBator in Mongolia. Get  to Lake Baikal, and then Irkutsk. From there, try to hope into the tarns-Siberian with our bikes, to Moscow, if possible.

I am still looking in detail at the route.

Following across Turkey into Georgia and Azerbaijan and get a ferry into Turkmenistan seems ideal... but for the transit visa for Turkmenistan, which is only 3 to 5 days, with FIXED dates... and the fact that the ferry only leaves when full. So we could get the ferry leaving once our visas are about to expire.
Of course we can sort that by going via Iran, but then that open a full can of worms, as we need to get a Carnet de passage en Douane for the bikes. Expensive and complicated....

SO I am looking at various routes.

For now I am just about to restart my Russian lessons. DEparture date will come soon so there is much to do and prepare until then....

Keep you posted ....

Suggested routes: south via Turkmenistan or north via Ukraine.....

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Central Europe pics


Romania: Sebes hotel



Bran Castle



In the Shuttle back home!

London to Romania and Back….

Another motorcycle trip, this time 3 weeks across Central Europe.
We used our own bikes, Alistair on a Triumph Tiger XC and me on a Kawasaki Versys 650.
We left home on a Saturday morning under heavy rain. After several weeks of sunshine and heat wave, Murphy law applied and the moment we got on the bikes, the weather took a turn for the worse.
By the time Alistair dropped Scruffy (our dog!) the kennel, it was still very wet. We made our way to the Eurotunnel terminal and got some respite in the train. On the French side, we had a mix of heavy rain, punctuated by torrential rain. We pressed on as much as we could but admitted defeat near Reims, by 5 or 6pm.
We continued for the next 2 days, avoiding motorways, across Germany and Switzerland, with yet more heavy rain. And then we reached the Austrian Alps. The area was so beautiful that we decide to continue on small roads across the mountains, although it meant slow progress.
By mid week it was time to get closer to Romania and we got back on the motorway, planning to make it to Hungary by the evening. Best laid plans etc…. once again we had atrocious weather and barely made it close to the border before giving up and looking for a hotel. The following day was spent trying to cross Hungary and talking a “shortcut “ to avoid  a detour via Budapest. AS the weather was still awful we only managed to make it close to Romania. We stopped into a small town (called Kiskunfelegyhaza!) and with the help of the GPS managed to find a hotel. Hungarian is the most bizarre language ever…. We managed to find a place to eat where the waitress was able to speak a bit of English and an English sort of menu, so we could actually identify the food!
The next day, 7 days after leaving home, we finally made it the border with Romania. Unlike other Europeans countries, there were border checks!
The Romanian motorway quickly changed into a 2 lanes road with millions of trucks on it, so it was very slow going, once again. The Romanians, like the Brazilians, seem to be in a huge rush to get anywhere when driving; so they overtake anywhere, even with blind turns or incoming traffic…. Mental.  Although we found the locals are still way too tame in comparison to the Brazilians. SO in my list of most dangerous drivers, Brazilians with Argentinians are still way top of my list!
While stopping for fuel, we looked in the internet for a place to sleep (tablets are wonderful things!) and found a nice hotel in Sebes. We booked there and then and decided to spend a couple of nights there. It was conveniently located to the Transalpina road and on the way to the Transfagarasan (or, as Jeremy Clarkson call it: “the best road in the world”).

The next morning, we took the bikes and rode to the Transapina road. It was slow going as the road surface was in a terrible state, pot holes and long sections of un-surfaced road, gravel, stones etc… But on the plus side, it was nice and sunny! The Transalpina is  abeautiful mountain road that ends in a T junction. We decided to take the road toward Petrosani, but the surface deteriorated so much that we had to turn back. No way I am doing this with my versys and with road tyres!
We rode back through the Transalpina again, stopping at a beauty spot/ restaurant for a bit of lunch. It was a popular spot for bikers, many from Poland.
The following day we did an excursion to visit the near bye town of Alba Julia and its citadel. It was a very warm day, too hot to go round in full motorcycle gear.
The following morning, after a substantial breakfast and a packed sneaky lunch, we got the bikes loaded and we were off. We went to ride the Transfagarasan. We stopped at the top for lunch. It was stunning road with many hair spin bends, definitely worth  the trip! On the south side we rode toward Curtea de Arges but decided to turn East and take a short cut using a small country road, riding toward Bran.
Bran has a medieval castle that is depicted as Dracula Castle…. In the following week we visited various towns around Transylvania. We tried as much as possible to take small or single track roads and trails, through the heart of Transylvania, through mountains and valleys. The GPS was very useful to keep us in the right direction as there was few signposts to find our way round.

Transylvania is definitely a stunning country and we plan to come back and explore more in the future. Another surprise on this trip was also Austria. It is definitely worth spending time there too. Although for travellers, Romania is half what you would spend in Western Europe.

Photos to follow once I figure out how to move my photos from iCloud into windows 8 :(