Friday, 21 March 2014

New plan!

Things have changed quite a bit since last post.


First the good news, we have our Uzbek and Tajik visas (including the GBAO permit that allows us to ride the famous Pamir Highway and Wakhan corridor, in Tajikistan).


We are now waiting for the Kazakh visas, for the second time. First time round, the agency turned down our application, as, for overland travellers, Kazakhstan demands visas for countries we will be in and out, and we did not have the Uzbek one!


With the situation in Ukraine deteriorating, we have decided to change our plans and avoid it, as we cannot be sure the borders will be open, even if the situation is calm. Normally, change of itinerary does not happen until we start our trips! It can happen due to weather or road conditions (snow for example), timing, protests/ politics…. I feel very sorry for what is happening in Ukraine and hope for a peaceful resolution.

For our trip, it means we have the option to either go north via Latvia, or South via Turkey.


The Latvia option is not great as we will come back that way, and it will be cold late April. So we have decided to ride south to Italy, pick up a ferry to Greece, then a ferry to Turkey. From there, we will ride toward the Black sea and follow the coast into Georgia. No visa required there!


Then cross Georgia and into Russia, making our way to Astrakhan. Then back to our initial route into Kazakhstan. Of course we hope the border will still be open between Georgia and Russia, by then.... Things are a bit tense....

It is a bit of a detour, and I am very aware that the timing will be tight. Remember, we are travelling on a couple of 125cc bikes, we will struggle to keep an average of 250km daily. We will need to stop for repairs, source parts, weather & road conditions etc… Mongolia is a long way, and we have to come back too.


We have not changed our fixed entry dates for the Stans:


Visa start for Kazakh: 12th of May (60 day double entry)

Visa Start for Uzbek: 14th of May  (30 day single entry)

Visa start for Tajik: 19th of May (30 days single entry)


We will apply for the Mongol visa week of the 15th April. So we have until the 14th of July to make it to the border.


We need now to pack everything and see how we are going to fit everything is our saddles bags…. That will be interesting! 


That’s all for now. Starting to feel a bit apprehensive. It is going to be a big adventure! The Stans and Mongolia will not be a walk in the park!  I hope I am not biting more than I can chew! Time will tell!

4 weeks to go! 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Already starting to change our plans!

After getting the Russian multi entry visa we applied to the Kazakh visa last week, but the agency turned our application down as, apparently, Kazakh requires Uzbek visa as we are touring by road. So we applied directly to the Uzbek embassy on Monday. Still Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolian visas to sort out. We will get there eventually but it takes time. The Uzbek embassy, for example, is going to keep our passports for 10 days! 10 days!? What the hell?! Regarding the itinerary, my plan is starting to look shaky, and we may not be able to go via Ukraine. Plan B would be to go via Latvia, but it is quite a detour North and it will be a long ride from the border crossing with Russia to the Kazakh border! I still keep hope that we may be able to cross Ukraine, although I do not want to come face to face with Russian tanks! The bikes are now ready, after extensive work (they are 8 and 9 year old). They had never been maintained so it is a testament to how solid and tough they are. We tested them on very muddy green lanes few days ago and they seem to behave. But it is going to take time to get used to the lack of power. However they are so light it will be a massive advantage once we leave Europe and especially Mongolia.
So what next? We want to do a “dry run” with the bikes fully loaded. We are trying to go “minimalist” in term of luggage which is leading me to do some research and experiments on myself! I want to avoid taking liquid shampoo and conditioner. They can leak, are heavy and bulky. I bought Pine Tar Soap which, allegedly, can be used for body and hair, and even for shaving! Well, after washing my hair with it last night I can confirm this is… utter b*llsh*t! My hair was left very tangled and unmanageable, and feeling sticky and matted. Horrible. I applied shampoo and rinsed 4 times, at lunch time at the gym, and it still feels a bit sticky! So, not one of my best ideas. However, I decided to try 2 different specific “shampoo solid bars” see if they are any better. We could do with one soap for body and one for hair! Easier to carry than bottles and would last longer….. worth a try anyway. At least I found a moisturiser that is multipurpose and fairly pleasant: Steamcream. It can be used as day/night/hand and body cream and is not too heavy like nivea for example. I like things that are multipurpose! It fits the spirit of “minimalism”.