July 2008 Archives

The Mysteries of the East

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Well, it seems a lifetime away that we were in Astrakan and now we're in Bukhara and seeing the actual hats sold everywhere in the street - thick woolly Russian things - a bit hot for here where it's about 44 in the shade.

Since last blog nine dasy ago we've been through Kazakstan - what an interesting place to see now - clearly being devolped with its oil riches - we've been into what look like shanty towns from the Giold Rush into sophisticated cities. The desert is shrubby and flat and the horizen stretches for miles - camping off the road on three nights, we had trouble getting out of sight without going at least 1km away from the road.

Campning has been compulsory, by the way, in many places, because of the sheer distance between towns and a lack of hotels. The food on offer in cafes was pretty awful - fried eggs are usually the best choice. But the people friendly and helpful . Lots of mongolian features now creeping in amongst the more 'Borat' styles.

Then after 3 nights, we got into Uzbekistan. This is the part of the journey that I have been looking forward to most, but apprehensively, because we were told that Uzbekistan is very difficult to travel through, that getting money is difficult and that the police stop you all the time and try to get bribes out of you if you're foreign.

Well, the money, it has to be said is surprising - mainly because there are 26,000 suma to the pound and it comes in denominations of 1000 notes and under! This results in everyone carrying huge wads of notes and being able to count them amazingly quickly. From our point of view the only hassle is changing travellers cheques (and then wondering how we can possibly haul the cash around). Changing cash, especially dollars is very easy - you can wander into a bazar or go to the hotel desk - pretty much the same exchange rate. Aldo here in Bukhara and yesterday in Khiva, they would take dollars in the shops.

As for the police, save for the first one we encountered on entering the country (who tried it on with Dave and me for $100 and threatened to send me back to England, as which we laughed heartily - he settled for a key ring fro his son) they have all been helpful and charing - even the one who stopped Roger for speeding yesterday (his 2nd speeding offence and thirds overall offence - we're considering taking his international driving licence off him if he does it again - 12 points!) - who fined hin 10,000 suma and then gave it back to him with a laugh. Our border croding was the fastest yet and they didn't even look in the vehicles, though they were making the locals emepy out everything. We met a French guy motor cycling back from Pakistan to France who said he thought they had been told to be nice to tourists, and maybe it's right - we'll see - five more days to go.

Our first day we went to see Muynaq, a town which used to be a fishing port by the Aral sea - it's now 150 km away because the sea has shrunk so - there is a memorial and a row of rusting boats below it to bear witness to what's gone. It's unclear whether the cause is the irrigation needed for the cotton industry imposed by the USSR or global warming or a more natural phenomenon, but it's a very tragic and poignant place to go. And some  local men pumped water for us from their well to fill our reserves, because we didn't understand how to use it, and were clearly very happy to help us.

 

We have had small children waving at us for some days everywhre we go, certainly through Kazakstan and Uzbekistan - they just love seeing the vehicles go by.

Stayed in Nukus, a town on the way towards Khiva which has a fantastic art museum. A local artist fouind and collected dissident soviet art for about 40 years and kept it hidden to preserve it - there are about 70,000 paintings and ceramics and many of the artists ended up in the gulags because of it. The museum itself has been built recently and rotates the exhibition in an attempt to display it. Their numbers more than doubled when we turned up.

Had an intersting meal in a local restaurant the night we got there, where a drunk but very friendly Uzbek called Victor embarrassed his wife and children by insisting we had a photo taken with them and called Sally 'Margaret Thatcher' and another man came up to Dave thinking he was Joe Cocker, so now we all have the image of Joe Cocker being married to Margaret Thatcher.

Got to Khiva very late to a pre-booked hotal of almost morrocan style. The plumbing wasn't up to much but it has AC, unlike the one in Nukus where we all got bitten to death by mossies. But the ladies running it were very sweet and welcoming.

 

A day in Khiva seeing the most beautiful architecture in the old city. It was fairly quiet and very little hassle - most tourists they get seem to be French and we met some Germans. We had some engine trouble with the Green vehicle which seems mostly to be caused by dust and it was fixed in the next town for about six quid.  

And then another drive through more hilly desert yesterday to Bukhara, ending in a luch and verdant plain and fields of cotton as we arrived. This hotel is spanking new and greeted us with local wine and nibbles. The plumbing is fantastic, the breakfast something other than fried eggs and the city is lovely, tho more commercial than Khiva.

We have one more day here and then to Samarkand. Not sure whether to buy a carpet or not....


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Introduction....

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'I am Ann-Clare Fourcin - the last member to introduce
themselves, albeit when we have already set off and
now in Astrakhan (see a map)!

I couldn't resist the opportunity of a long journey
like this and when it was suggested to me by the
Hillebrandts did all I could to try and make it
possible.  This has involved complex childcare
arrangements and last minute reports at work- hence
the lateness of this entry. All I think, well worth it
- so far!

The ability to deal with the unpredictable and a
knowledge of car mechanics would be desirable
qualities ... '

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Into the desert..

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Two weeks in and my first blog. I never knew a 'holiday' could be so exhausting! Gather some of the others have made postings, but little time now (it's 6am local time - I think 2am in the UK) to read/supplement those, so I'll just do a brief catch-up for family and friends before we set off into the desert later this morning.

I think our initial efforts have now filtered back - departing in a torrential downpour - detour to check the electrics with Frogs Island (how significant that now seems, looking back) - missing the ferry mainly as a result of traffic on the M25 (oh, how we miss that - not!) - frantic search of Dunquerque late at night for our hotel - the 'St Bernard' incident - Wurzburg (good) - Prague (better) - my diversion for Laura's graduation (well done Idiot!), which all went according to plan fortunately, meaning I had 48 hours in the UK before flying into Kiev for a 17 hour sleeper to Mariupol, which was where things all started to go horribly, terribly, wonderfully wrong.. (actually, they weren't that bad - just locked inadvertently into a Spitting Images sketch involving Michael Heseltine telling fairly tales to children! Weird how that happens isn't it - hadn't thought of that one for at least 20 years!).

Anyway, to return to the plot - they didn't arrive! Checked into the Hotel Checka as planned, only to get a text from Linda (Dennif - Hi Linda!) that there had been some problem on the road & I wouldn't see the team until the next day. Killed time in Mariupol, where I think I was the first tourist ever! No postcards on sale, so I wander into an Internet Cafe (another first for me - what a great place!) and was tapping away at an e-mail home when I hear a very familiar voice at the terminal behind me. Turning round I see Nick (Hewer) trying to send his daily blog back to The Telegraph! Transpires he'd remembered where we were staying and checked into the Checka as well, having had a disasterous time at a hotel in Maritpol (?). Back at the hotel I help him 'pimp his ride' (a Renault 4 called Hortense!) by silvering out his rear windows to conceal the kit he has on board for his 10,000 mile expedition to Ulan Bator.

That evening we go out and have an excellent evening at a restaurant called Obana, filled with many lovely young things - plus us two old(ish..) persons! To Nick's obvious chagrin, I am asked to dance! Her name was Ilyana & she was very charming. On our walk back to the hotel Nick & I stopped by a music bar on the seashore for a beer. It was very lively & all quite surreal, somehow..

Next day (19th) Nick moves off and the others arrive an hour later. They've had some adventures/mishaps - see what happens when I'm not around?! I'm sure their blogs coevr this very fully, so I won't go over that again; suffice to say that we no longer have a working fridge! We leave Mariupol in another downpour which stops the trams and leaves the main road like a river. Eventually get through the Russian border, which was an education in itself - 6 hours being checked over by various Border Guards, while armed female soldiers in tight short skirts tottered by on 6" heels! Sleep in Rostov. Next night, arrive in Volgograd after (Dr) Dave - ably assisted by Nurse Berry! - has leapt out to attend to a road accident which occured just in front of us. They see the victim, who was coming to & should be ok, onto the ambulance. As the Russian police drive off they say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH" in perfect English over the megaphone! They are human after all! (Unfortunately, this does not prevent us being stopped at least half a dozen times en route to Volgograd..)

The Hotel Volgograd is a magnificent pile, a leftover from the Tsarist era. The deskstaff speak excellent English - a rarity in Russia, where few seem to speak any English at all (of course, why should they, one might reasonably ask?). The first night we all go out for an excellent meal, at which we are joined by Nick, who is following a similar route to Samarkand. We take a group photo around Hortense. I 'slightly' dent the roof. Ok, it completely caves inwards - well he did ask me to pose on top! Anyway, it pushed out. Mostly.. Berry & I move onto the Russian billiards table where (eventually) I triumph in the 3rd game and decider in our epic battle (unlike it's counterpart in the UK the balls are v large and the pockets very small. In fact it's a miracle anyone ever finishes a game at all!) It is fortunate I win as someone says that at one point I staked The Pips - our home - on it.. Rubbish, of course! End up in the bar at 3 am being brought whisky by a group of Russian Chelsea fans. No common language between us, but we can agree that Man U & Ronaldo are rubbish (sorry, Addie - I had to agree with them!). They refuse to let me pay for any of the drinks, which was fortunate, as I discover I do not have nearly enough..

Next day I do manage to get up at 7.30, but decline the guided tour round Volgograd and after braekfast return to my room for a rest.. Actually, it is an amazing city and well worth a visist on a weekend break - so much to see & the people are so nice. One also notices how calm and well ordered it seems after British towns & cities, albeit much of the recent building work is only half finished & not always done to the standard that we would expect at home.

Nearly up to date! Must rush this bit (which is a shame as there is so much I would like to say, but it is now quarter past sesven and I really need to get ready for breafast as we are to set off early for Kazakstan). Long straight roads form Volgograd to Astrakhan, where we stayed last night. On the way we stopped for lunch unde the shade of a tree in a little village just off the main highway. Next to us was a massive dilapidated Russian Orthodox church, which was closed but clearly being renovated for re-use. It was absolutely wonderful. I wish I could post a picture of it, but unfortunately did not bring the necessary cables. Perhaps one of us may be able to do that.

Astrakhan itself is magical; even though it is still in Russia, spanning the Volga. One really gets the feeling that we have arrived in the East. Many of the people in the streets are clearly of Mongol descent and some of the ancient wooden houses and are beautifully decorated. It must have been wondeful in its heyday, which I guess was mid/late 19 Century? Need to read up about it (as with so much, on my return!)

Well that about brings us up to date. Had to get it down now as we will be setting off into the desert and do not know when we might next have access to such technology (which I cannot say I will greatly miss, though I've enjoyed getting all this down!)

Missing everyone back home very much - look after yourselves.

Love to all..


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Astrakhan

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We just got into Astrakhan, which is full of old buildings made of wood, highly decorated - many falling apart, but some restoration going on. It has a huge church in the middle high up within a walled centre, all of which is being restored. The feel is very different from anywhere we've been through -and it's very, very hot.

During the drive from Volgograd, the scenery changed and became much flatter and prairie-like. I don't think it's the actual steppes, but close to it. The journey followed the Volga all the way here, although most of the time we couldn't see it - just an edge of green shrub to our left and then an occasional glimpse of where it cuts down through the earth.
Coming out of Volgograd, we passed miles of rotting factories - it's as if they just throw them away when they don't want them - too much space, perhaps.

From today we will be in Kazakstan and possibly camping for several night, so it will be much less pleasant - no chance for a cool shower at the end of the day and certainly no fridge to get cold drinks out of. (And no email or blogging opportunities either)


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Volgograd

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Well hello!   Debs has done a great job of our first blog about the journey so far to here, and there's no point in my repeating all that.   Just to say that I am loving every minute of this incredible adventure.   There is so much to see and take in - the change in culture, people, and geography, the sense of vast distance - it is constantly fascinating.   The journey makes its own magic; who would have thought that we would meet a Jesuit priest walking all the way from Portugal to Sevastapol to see a bible there taken by a saint in the ninth century!   He was 67 years old and when we met him he had just walked 37 days non-stop from the Czech Rep border.   We think his blessing saved us when we broke down shortly afterwards.

Volgograd as a city is well worth another journey sometime.   Yesterday we went to see the gigantic memorial statue that stands on top of the tallest hill in the city.   The Russians have created an incredible place there to remember the dead from the 2nd World War.   Not only is the statue one of the most incredible in the world, but the hall below it containing the Eternal Flame is an emotionally moving and simply beautiful structure.   I have the feeling that the sheer scale of the horror here (2 million dead in the siege) is something that the city can never escape from.   The city itself is attractive - wide streets and boulevards, green trees, and a mixture of old and new.   The hotel we are staying in (the Volgograd Hotel) is one of the few old buildings to survive intact the bombing and shelling of the war.   It is quirky and basic but fine for us.

 

Today we beging the hard part of the trip - the deserts of Central Asia.   Now begins the drive to Astrakhan, Khiva, Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Osh before we cross the mountains to Kashgar.   I can't wait!!

We will try to blog again when we can, but we really have not had much time to spare.   See you.......


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Well, amazingly and with an enormous amount of energy, some very late night driving, a bit of luck and some extraordinary kindness from people allong the way (mostly Ukrainian) we are in Volgograd. It's Monday evening, sitting in a smart cafe that lets you use the internet for the price of a cup of tea, surrounded by very sophisticated Russians, who obviously thinkw we're a bit strange and certainly not fashion-conscious.

It's been rather a race against time since Prague. Weleft Prague and Jeremy in the rain a week ago yesterday (Jeremy returning to Uk to give his daughter a massive surprise by turning up at her graduation ceremony, which she didn't know he's planned) Drove on through(mostly) heavy rain, into Solvakia, where the rain let up for a while and we were able to get to our campsite. As we set up, the heavens opened again and instead of cooking a meal, we retreated to a restuarant (having found the one ATM in town to pay for it).

After a wet night, we packed up in the almost dry and then Dave found that the fridge had stopped working (panic for me because Dave and I both have drugs that need to be kept cool, though in fact there are smaller coolers which work when the cars are going and hotels tend to have fridges, but it makes it a pain to have to keep remembering to move them). In addition, one of the equipment drawers got stuck and we found ourselves involved in a group exercise which would have been worthy of the finest management training course to extract what was wedged in it! (thinking of patenting the idea before the others do)

In the next big town, we spotted a Toyota garage and tipped up to ask them if they could sus out what was wrong with the electrics (the fridge runs off the 2nd battery, which was the problem that should have been sorted by Frogs Island on the day we left) About 5 hours later (as they were locking up to go home) it transpired that they could sort a little of it - which fixed th headlight which hadn't been working properly since France) but it was the additional special dual linking system, the name of which escapes me, but which was nothing to do with Toyota, and which was put in to run all the 2nd battery equipment, that wasn't working, so they couldn't fix it. They charged us for an hour's work, even though they'd been at it for hours (about 35 quid!)

We were expecting to camp  but being much later that intended, couldn't find a site in the time before dark, so we made camp next to a tennis court by the side of the road (the people just leaving seemed to think it would be alright.) and had a the wettest night to date (did I say it was raining)

 

Got up and packed up herredly the next morning, sopping tents and all, and drove toward the border to go into Poland (why not knock off another country, we thought)and then into Ukraine, which took 5 hours of queuing at the border for no reason, except that's what you have to do. Ukraine is noticibly poorer that even Poland and the roads were really ropey. Almost no dual carriageway and huge trucks belching black fumes, so, with that and the border, we got to Lviv and the lovely Lions Castle Hotel ay 8.45 local time. There we had huge rooms (some even had suites) and tried to get dinner out of Olga, the waitressin the restaurant. A wonderful middle aged lady, who went to chek on almost everything we asked for and came back to say that she was 'Sooo sorry!' each time they didn't have it, whilst drawing her eyebrows togther and pursing her lips, and beating her chest in contrition to demonstrate how very sorry she really was not to have it. We suspect that the food we actually got was  hastily bought from the shop down the road, as we ordered it.

Very frustratingly, because we got there so late and because we knew the driving time estimates were well out, we had no chance to see Lviv, so a return visit will be needed.

We drove hard all the next day and, after much searching found our next hotel in Uman at 8.45 only to be told they'd let our rooms, so the guys had to share a triple and Sally, Dave, Ann-Clare and I palyed happy families in a family suite. We headed out to find a cafe and on entering the nearest, were told they hadn't room - it looked like a private part, but before we could leave, Steve and Roger started maing eyes at three middle aged Ukrainian women, who fell for their charm and made the waiter set up a table for us. So we ordered food and then the disco started  and the dais ladies grabbed the men and wouldn't take no for an answer (though judging by the swiftness of the response, 'no' wasn't on the agenda!) But not to discriminate, they all started getting us to dance and then gave us local vodka flavoured with honey and chilli and kept filling up the glasses. Some of the group regretted their enthusiasm for the vodka the following day (thought I wasn't one of them) but they certainly didn't regret the dancing with lovely Ira, Leda and Natali and we have the photos to prove it. (not posted yet - haven't worked that bit out yet - sooo sorry.)

 

Got off early the next day, and hit the road, only to get just past Youzhniukrainsk (where? you say - that wasn't on the itinerary - well look out for it when the next Chernobyl happens - it's the spit and such a loevly view I had from my balcony) for the silver vehicle to break down.

Well, the bonnet goes up and within a minute, 2 Yukrainian guys - one looking like a cross between the Incredible Hulk and my client Gary McDonnell(and turning out to be just as lovely) and the other only less wise, not shorter) came up and started taking bits of the engine apart. After 3 hours (5pm) they felt they were doing no good and we faced the possibility of being towed to Odessa (150km away and off our route) to find aToyata garage. But these guys, just made a phone call, one disappeared and shortyly returned with an off-roading monster and towed us back toYouzhniukrainsk, through tiny alleys, to what looked like arow of sheds where a mechanic came out, hummed and hah-ed, looked puzzled and then said we should return at 8am so he could give an update. Sacha and Garik, our saviours, took us to the only hotel in town, via a friend who spoke perfect english who they'd called up just to meet us in the street for five minutes to ensure we understood what was going on.

 

I should mention that it was Dave's birthday, so we tried out all the local wines at the hotel (brand spaning new, next to the power station, for the Americans, I guess) and then two guys at the next table sent over a bottle of the local vodka (same as last night) so Steve and Roger felt duty bound to econsume it with them, to enable to the rest of us to get an early night - such sacrifice - we heard tales of arm-wrestling and other male bonding activites the next morning, though no grunts reached my room.

The next morning (Saturday - when we were anticipating having to spend at least another night there) Sacha and Garik turned up to say it was all fixed. The mechanic had worked till midnight to diagnose the probem, taken off the engine head (don't ask me) and finally found it was yet another electrical problem, this time realted to the alarm system. The whole bill was $300 and S and G wouldn't accept anything as a thank you except some of our trinkets - it turned out they are off-roaders and there is a fraternity which helps each other out and there is no way they would profit from us. They loved our vehicles and thought we were proper off-roaders and the mere amateurs that we in fact are. So a million thanks to you. Sacha and Garik, you wonderfull people. (David - the Ukey boys may not be as svelt as on Eurobeat, but they are absolute winners with us!)

Well, we drove like mad towards Mariupol where we needed to pick up Jeremy, and where a really nice hotel was booked, but only made it to Melitapol - sounds similar, but nothing like it. Took rooms in an old soviet style concrete and rotting hotel - really not very nice - some peole had cockroaches - for want of anything else, had a good meal round the corner, amongst the Friday night families and youth of Melitapol and set off at 7am the next morning.

Got to Mariupol in torrential rain, with flooding and people wading through (had i mentioned it was raining?) found Jeremy, ogled the nice hotel and made for the Russian border.

Of course, the Russians have to do everything bigger that the Ukrainians, so the crossing to 6 hours. A number of different officials asked us to fill in forms, looked in the bacj and n the drawers, and asked us what was in the blue barrels. during that time. Thanks to another kind and helpful Ukrainian lady who spoke perfect English, and who spent an hour with Steve in a little room (with the customs officer, in case you're wondering) we got through without any bribes at all.

In great jubilation we hit the Russian roads, which are much better that the Ukrainian ones (sorry, Ukraine, but it's true) and got to Roscoff in the dark. Steppes Travel, who had booked the hotel, hadn't thought it necessary to provide a map, so between 11pm and midnight was spent searching the city.


Yesterday, we got off to a good start and got to Volgograd in very good time and without getting lost. 

We, or at least Dave. Roger and Steve. had the chance to pay back a little of the generosity we received in Ukraine as we left Rostoff. On the road out, we passed a lorry and a police car, then saw a smashed motor scooter and a man lying down. We pulled up and Dr Dave grabbed his emergency kit and raced off, followed by Roger and Steve to assist. Between them they stabilised the guy, who was hadly injured, until the ambulance arrived and saw him in. As the police drew away a heavily accented voice came over their loudspeaker -'Zank you very much!

And what a great pace this city is. The hotel was built in 1890, mostly destroyed during the battle of Stalingrad, and has been restored. Huge high ceilings, unsmiling concierged on each floor and wierd toilet-cum-shower rooms, but comfortable.

Las night we met up with a friend of Jeremy's who he'd bumped into in Mariupol, who is doing the Mongolian Rally alone in a 4CV - see, there are people madder than us. His name is Nick (Heyer - not sure) and he is one of Alan Sugar's sidekicks on "The Apprentice" (apparently - I don't watch it). He joined us for dinner and then a drink and I went to bed about 2am, leaving Jeremy, Steve and Nick in the Billiards room (yes, there's a billiards room) drinking  - what else - vodka. Some sore heads today (not mine).

Nick went off this morning and we have at last had a rest day and chance to see round. There is the most incredible memorial to the Russian dead of the Battle of Stalingrad here and if that's all I see of note in Russia, that will be enough.

And at last, an internet cafe to pick up emails and get this blog done. I'm sooo happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Text from Deborah

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Got a text from Deb today:

"Not been ale to get to any internet places since Prague due to driving times and breakdowns delaying the journey. But OK, if wet with torrential rain for the main part. Coming up to Russia."


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Virtual Blog

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Whilst we're waiting for them to stop long enough to find a cyber cafe I thought I'd try and keep a virtual blog of the trip, using Flickr photos identified by Google Earth to show what they should be seeing - if they are keeping to plan. Perhaps we ought to have a sweepstake as to how many times my photos match theirs!

The link will always be available on the right hand side of the page - just below the fold.


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Hard to believe we're here and I've not only found a cyber cafe but I've read my emails, replied to some and now I'm blogging away!

What a send off - England graced us with its very worst weather - we almost drowned before leaving the car park at HK. That's why we all look so wet and shiny on the photos.

We got away about 11.30, with only a few minor last minute hitches, and then spent two hours at Frogs Island Garage, outside Newbury, getting the vehicle batteries checked. They did some changes and checks and it was worth it, although it meant that with the torrential rain and an accident on the M25, we missed the ferry. Steve mentioned at that point that there was a sweepstake at his office on him ever leaving Dunkirk - to which we naturally replied that we had to get there first!

But it wasn't a problem - we got the next ferry and arrived at 2300 local time. Setting off to find the Campanile Hotel I'd booked us into, we had no confirmation as to where we'd actually come into. Thus, we spent an hour looking for what should have been easy to find, frustratingly passed a different Campanile hotel and only found ours by dint of Ann-Clare and I flagging down a passing motorist, while the men tried to work out where we were by compass bearings. What does that say? The couple in the car not only knew where the hotel was, but insisted on leading us there which was just as well, because we'd never have found it.

The next morning was a wet at the previous and th drive through Belgium as confusing as France - almost no signage, which resulted in us driving through Brussels unexpectedly. We did find our way out - more by luck than judgement.

A long drive which gradually got hotter and hotter, the roadsides getting yellower and yellower, and we arrived in Wurzburg about 2015. One of the vehicles made the hotel with the ease, whilst the other drove into a pedestrian precinct and was escorted out by the police and led to the hotel (won't say who was in that vehicle, but I wasn't one of them).

The hotel was unbelievably friendly and the town lovely. it's shame we got there so late, but we had a nice meal out in a little square under the trees and it was very pleasant.

We set off early for Prague on Friday and it continued to get hot. The countryside is big rolling hills with dark forests and occasional glimpses of schlosses, but noticebly further through the season than at home - very much into harvest and the grass no longer green.

The hotel in Prague in just by the tram terminus and is very modern. The rooms are all on the sixth floor and give view right over the city.

We have all split up to do our own thing. Some of us took a short boat trip and now I'm blogging in the Jewish Quarter (hence the title - or not?!) in a cyber cafe full of gap year travellers. Being here blogging with Mika playing in the background feels quite strange, but at least I'm not the oldest one here. There's an elderly lady tapping away next to me. What a strange international place the world has become.

Tonight some of us are going to see a marionette production of Don Giovanni (if we can get tickets) which the Sunday Times recommended. Apparently marionettes are a real tradition here. So an afternoon of wandering round and imagining coming back to see more and then tomorrow off into Slovakia.

Next blog - can't guess where!



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Departure

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teamshot.jpg

We drove from Birmingham to Wootton-under-Edge in the rain. We helped load the Landcruisers in the rain. They posed for the team photo in the rain. We said our goodbyes in the rain. They drove off in the rain. We drove back to Birmingham in the rain. Perhaps its to make up for the deserts they've got coming.


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Last Preps

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It's two days till off and I've just had my last day at work. It feels very odd to be going off for so long - my desk has never been so tidy! As I left colleagues were eying up the space - I'm getting suspicious that it'll have been re-allocated by the time I get back - are they trying to tell me something??
The last few days have been spent buying all sort of bits and pieces - it's incredible what you think you might need for a ten week trip. The sheer amount of drugs 'just in case' makes me wonder if I'll get stopped at the border and locked up for trafficking! Please keep an eye on the news, especially you Anthony Collins people - I might need some legal assistance to get out! Oh, but if they're after my desk, they won't lift a finger  - is this all some huge conspiracy? Will I ever get home? Help!!.....
Oops, sorry, letting my imagination run away with me, I think. You can see that going on such an amazing trip is making me a little nervous! Leaving home and the family for so long is quite daunting, but I'll be much better when we've set off - honest.
Actually it's all very exciting and everyone is very envious of me, although the children are getting rather sad at the prospect of me actually going. I don't think they thought it was really going to happen, but then, I'm not sure I did either!
Well, all that's left is to pick up yet more drugs from the chemist (antibiotics, malaria - we should have bought them as a job lot - they're on three for two at Boots - we could have saved loads.) and pack my holdall. The blue barrel is almost full, so there isn't much to do but check and re-check my lists - and I'm still bound to forget something.
And a final technology lesson. This bit of blog is written on a laptop and will be transferred via a dongle (I believe that's what they're called) so that I know how to do that bit at a cyber cafe in the middle of nowhere..... which may be the next place we'll be blogging from..... (actually more likely to be Prague!)



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Crazy....... needed for this trip?????

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Harvey at Christmas pantomine Dec 2006.jpg

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John H viewpoint

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Old John Harvey.jpg

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Roger's Blog

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Hello to anyone reading this. I'm Roger. The one that looks like Steve - or is it the other way round? (If you're confused, I'm the taller one by the way!)

Anyway,  this is a photo of me ealier this year in southern India...

 

I'm the one appropriately sitting in the front passenger seat!

This will be my third trip overland to India. The first time was in 1971, when a friend gave me a lift to Dover, and put me on the ferry; and then I hitched from Calais - young and naive, and looking for adventure. The second time was in 1998, when I travelled by train and car - somewhat older(!), and a lot less naive, but still excited by the prospect of adventure. This time I'll be sharing the driving, I'll be with friends, and it will be a different experience again. I can't wait.......!

Follow our progress on this site...and send us your news, and a few good jokes!!


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