The winter weather has been wet in most parts of New Zealand with the occasional snow fall closing roads for a short period throughout the country and prompting an early opening on most of the countries ski fields.
It’s the first real winter I have had to endure in NZ for 7 years and normally at this time of the year am basking in the sun and warmer temperatures of Mongolia, Russia or Central Asia.
Must say that there are lots of good reasons to leave home in the winter months and the promotions in the general media to venture to a tropical island, participate on a boat cruise or enjoy a trendy river boat cruise in Europe are all very tempting and in most cases cost effective.
However, I suggest that if you save the above options for your “later in life” vacations and while you can, take a self-drive adventure in an interesting part of the world while the countries on our agenda are available to us to visit in safety. This will also surely give you a greater appreciation of the places visited on the boat cruises later in life !
Overland Journey’s biggest challenge is that of convincing clients that the likes of Russia are not what they have been led to believe. Always portraited as the “bad boy” of civilisation, dark and dingy and unfriendly, it’s a hard image to shake off especially when the media play on its reputation.
To quote the majority of our clients within 24 hours of arriving in Vladivostok to start an Overland Journeys self-drive tour. “Wow, this is not what I expected !”
Yes, the people are friendly, the weather is warm, even in May and the scenery and architecture is amazing. The initial impression sets the scene for the start of an unforgettable 81-day tour to London passing through no less than 14 countries.
Anton Zaglyadimov, “Events and Operations Manager” for Overland Journeys has been doing an amazing job developing and refining our website.
We seem to be reaching a wider audience and a renewed awareness and interest in Overland self-drive and escorted travel is evident.
Its true to say that we are leaders in this field of travel and now have a global audience.
Just recently, NZ 4×4 Magazine have released their July edition with a 8 page article (with some spectacular photos) of our January winter ice road BAM trip in North Eastern Siberia. Either pick up a copy of NZ4x4 Magazine or read the article online on nz4x4.co.nz. The inclusion of an international articles written by Overland Journeys will be a regular feature from now on.
Greg Paul and the old faithful 96 / 80 series Land Cruiser in conjunction with Goosey’s Customs the Pukekohe Ironman 4×4 dealer recently displayed our tour product at a home show at Pukekohe. It was a great weekend and met lots of interesting people with that were amazed that a NZ organisation arranged 4×4, classic car and motor home tours around the world ! Of course, everybody who did engage in a conversation was keen to participate in such trips but mostly filed their thoughts in the “too hard basket”
I can assure you that the hard part is making the decision to do such a trip. The rest is easy with our help and organisation !
Part of the Overland Journeys portfolio these days is making arrangements and advising independent travellers on Overland travel.
At the moment we have 2 motorcyclists on a 150 day journey from Singapore to Amsterdam via China, Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. It took some organising but the boys are having a ball and soaking up the experience on a daily basis. At the moment they are on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.
Another couple from Rotorua are currently in Moscow after driving their Land Rover Defender from the UK via Finland to Murmansk in North Eastern Russia. They have an interesting Itinerary in Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia. Their blogs provide interesting reading and if you wish to follow Dennis and Jenny’s travels let me know and we can provide you with a web address.
Due to some early issues with the LR we also provided a list of the LR service agents throughout Russia. All part of the Overland Journeys customised service.
Overland Journeys are proposing a “last minute” limited edition 30-day Central Asian tour from the beautiful Kazakhstani city of Almaty to seaside resort of Yalta on the Crimean peninsula now back in Russian ownership.
Cost: $US19500 for 2 persons twin share including vehicle hire. (Land Cruiser 100 series LHD)
Notes: Only two customer vehicles available plus guide.
Email or call for detailed itinerary and tour inclusions / exclusions now.
Almaty, Bishkek, Osh, Dushanbe, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Astrakhan, Krasnodar, Sevastopol, Yalta.
Dakar Rally Tour
The famed Dakar Rally-Raid is next year to be held entirely in Peru.
This is a huge surprise to the Dakar fraternity, but the sand dunes of Peru are what the Dakar is all about and the return to Peru and the dunes earlier this year gave the competitors and teams a taste of what the Dakar event is known for.
Its tough going and the duration of the rally has been reduced to 10 days, also a surprise.
We will be shipping our specially prepared Land Cruisers to South America for the 10-day event.
We are traditionally the only company that follows the Dakar from start to finish.
Due to the Rally only being on Peruvian soils this year and that its shorter in duration we have slashed the price in hope that all 15 seats will be filled in 2019.
This will be the last Dakar that Overland Journeys / Rally Tours run as rumour has it that it may be the last in South America.
Cost: $US8,000. Per person. (Seat in vehicle) Vehicle hire options are available.
See our website for more details.
The Best of South America
South America is on for 2019.
Following the Dakar tour which this year finishes in Lima Peru, we will be starting a self-drive tour (with vehicles provided) to travel to the Southern tip of the continent, to the city of Ushuaia.
The city of Ushuaia at very tip of the South American Continent is our turning point before heading back up to Santiago by way of a relaxing 3-day ferry trip.
This trip is “The Best of South America” and has morphed into a 50-day affair combining the best of all 4 countries at a crazy price of $NZ49k per couple based on share twin accommodation.
There are only 4 clients vehicles available for this tour so you need to be quick to accept this offer !
Finish: Santiago (Chile) on 8th March 2019
Cost: $NZ 49,000 per couple (4×4 vehicle included)
Details and Itinerary available now from email@example.com
Momentum is gathering for our planned “Across Russia” Camper Van / Mobile home tour from Vladivostok (Russia) to Tallinn (Estonia) starting May 2019.
Advertising in the two most popular Motorhome publications has yielded plenty of enquiries from adventurous travellers keen to experience Russia and explore Europe and the UK with their own wheels.
A trans Russia Motor Home trip is now possible due to improved road conditions.
It will be leisurely trip with several two and three night stops and city sightseeing trips arranged with local guides and lots of optional excursions to museums, concerts etc.
Email Anton to get information about this trip and obtain a tour prospectus.
Finish: Tallinn (Estonia) on 20th June 2019
Cost: $NZ37.000 (does not include shipping)
Silk Road Tour
Still taking bookings for the 2019 Silk Road Tour. We have just 4 spots left for this 81 days “Overland Journeys” adventure of a life time.
If time is a problem and you don’t have 81 days we have one vehicle for hire that is available to do the Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) to Volgograd (Russia) leg. It’s 54 days and takes in the best of Mongolia, the Pamir Highway and Central Asia.
Also, we have a couple of “seat in Vehicle” fares available. This will involve travelling with Greg in the lead Land Cruiser or the “TEC” (Trail and support) vehicle. This is a cost effective and relaxing alternative to driving at $NZ36k.
Note: We operate this tour bi-annually. The 2021 Silk Road Overland is almost booked out.
If your thinking about the Silk Road adventure we can get you organised now for the 2019 trip.
Experience the Baikal Amur Mainline
February 2019 is not that far away, and we are now looking for expressions of interest for our 2019 BAM Russian Ice road trip.
Yes is cold, but not cold as we know it !
It’s a dry cold and the skies are mostly clear every day.
The tour cost includes warm Russian clothing, warm hotels, vehicles and as much vodka as you like to keep your insides warm.
This is truly an amazing trip and an incredible experience that you will not forget.
Talk to us about it now or take a look at the 8 page article that Greg wrote on our 2018 BAM trip and see the spectacular photos on www.nz4wd.co.nz or buy the NZ4WD magazine July 2018 edition and you will be convinced. This is also a very cost-effective trip and is seat in vehicle or vehicle hire by arrangement.
Duration: 18 days. 18th Feb – 8th March.
Call us now to discuss this trip.
2020 Classic Car Tour
2020 will see us run our popular Classic Car trip and this time from Vladivostok to London. Details out soon.
We have escorted Classics across Russia on 3 occasions before and its proved to be popular.
The tour will end in the UK in time for the “Goodwood Festival of Speed” and the Silverstone Classic and Historic race meeting.
So, dust off your favourite classic and reserve the months of May, June and July to tour Russia, Eastern Europe and the UK.
Cost and dates to be announced soon.
“Special” Travelled with Overland Journeys previously, then you automatically belong to our “Overlander’s Adventurers club and are eligible for a rebate (don’t like the word discount) on your next tour with us.
In May 2019 Overland Journeys will operate its inaugural “Motorhomes Across Russia + Europe Tour”.
The planning of this event is only possible because of the long germ associations that Overland Journeys have developed over the years with our Russian partners and suppliers.
The roads have also improved to such an extent that it is now a reality that modern Motorhomes can cross this vast continent easily.
As recent as six weeks ago Overland Journeys director Greg Paul was in Eastern Russia plotting the Motorhome Route, discussing logistics with Russian partners and arranging the night stop locations.
The arrangements are looking good and believe this will be a very memorable and enlightening expedition of Motorhomes taking in a combination of amazing sights, interesting history and the cultural delights of this big and interesting country.
The 54-day itinerary starts in Vladivostok, located on the far eastern sea board of Russia (near Japan). Vladivostok is a mystical and multicultural city with a natural and protected harbour and the logical place to start this MH expedition.
Vladivostok will quickly change any pre-conceptions about Russia that you may have had, such as it’s a cold frozen continent, it’s a grey and uninteresting country, it’s dangerous and its people are gruff and grumpy and unfriendly. On arrival it takes just a few hours to realise that none of the above apply to Russia.
The MH expedition is based on the “Overland Journeys” tried and tested “follow me” concept. Our experienced Tour Leader and Tour Manager will lead the way supported by a Tour Follower to assist with any eventuality so that you are not left alone.
Each vehicle will be provided with a radio telephone and tour manual including maps and general information. The maximum size of the convoy will be 10 motorhomes plus 2 support vehicles.
The Idea is to provide an opportunity for NZ and Australian based Motorhome owners to traverse a country otherwise normally inaccessible to individuals and do so with a support team familiar with the territory and attractions of this varied and interesting continent.
Once having crossed Russia via Siberia visiting its numerous and beautiful cities the expedition will terminate outside the boundaries of Russia at our first European city, Tallinn, in Estonia. From here there are lots of choices of direction to continue your journey easily without our assistance.
Again, we will be happy to make forward arrangements and assist with route planning based on our vast experience in Europe.
Overland Journeys has produced a portfolio of requirements / suggestions for the “Across Russia by Motorhome” expedition.
Tour costs, inclusions and exclusions for the base charge as advertised.
Expected costs for Fuel, food, shipping (dependant of MH size and dimensions), etc.
There will be numerous optional excursions such as the Moscow Circus, St Petersburg Ballet etc which will be arranged by our tour manager on request.
Detailed Itinerary: The pack will include a detailed itinerary with dates, mileages night stop locations, facilities, attractions and available excursions.
Documentation: Overland Journeys look after Russian visas and will detail all documentation required for shipping, insurances, visas etc for your Russian leg of the trip and beyond.
A Tour Manual and access to Electronic Maps will be provided (on acceptance of entry)
An individual timeline schedule leading up to departure date for presentation of documents and vehicles to the shipping location will be provided by late June or earlier.
An Individual easy payment schedule will be provided on acceptance of expedition entry. Final payment is due 2 months before tour start date.
Warm Greetings to all supporters, loyal clients and friends of Overland Journeys and Rally Tours NZ Ltd.
We have not pumped out a newsletter for a while which is an issue we will be addressing as the year progresses.
Lots of exciting things have happened in the last 12 months and at the moment Overland Journeys are working full time on more exciting travel stuff for 2018 and 2019.
Important news first:
Those of you that know the Deb Hollier our GM, totally organised administrator, collector of monies and all time nice lady has left Rally Tours / Overland Journeys after several years of faithful service. Over the years and especially in 2017 we tested her abilities and patience to the max with two long tours that proved to be the ultimate test for any ones organisational skills. Deb succeeded in making things run smoothly and solving the issues from behind the scenes seamlessly. I am sure she will miss the contact with our loyal clients as much as we will miss her happy face.
Deb’s replacement is Anton Zaglyadimov. Anton is originally from Russia and has an impressive CV and experience in a marketing and event organising. Anton has a big job as our new Operations Manager, learning the ropes and the multitude of skills need to keep our overland journeys ticking over. His Language skills are already proving valuable and while he has only been in the job for a few months he has done an amazing job.
Anton Zaglyadimov driving Wrangler
Any enquires regarding our up-coming adventure tours or other company matters should firstly be directed to Anton at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile +64-22-128-6095 and secondly email@example.com or on mobile +64-21-777523.
This newsletter summary
- The 2017 Silk Road adventure from Vladivostok to London.
- The “Repositioning Trip” London to Vladivostok, 4 Landcruisers, 12500km in 18 driving days!
- Bangkok to Magadan. The trials and tribulations and there was never a dull moment in 54 days.
- The Dakar Rally Tour 2018 report.
- Eluding to our exciting plans for 2018 and beyond.
Tour Reports 2017: Silk Road
It has been a huge and Successful year for the Overland Journeys Brand.
Our Bi-Annual Silk Road Overland Adventure departed Vladivostok in the first few days of May, a little earlier than normal. This 81 day, 20,000km trip attracted 10 customer cars and 2 x support vehicles.
The trek across the top of eastern Russia and then into Mongolia proved to be interesting at this time of the year with a couple of days of snow and ice still adorning the vast inland lakes which made for spectacular viewing.
The journey through the “Stan” countries also was exciting as this year we added the spectacular Charon Canyon (Kazakhstan) Lake Karakol (Krygyzstan) and Termez (Alexander the great) regions to the itinerary. These additions complimented the tried and tested excursions via the famous Pamir Highway and other historical locations visited in Uzbekistan and such like.
Our sojourn into The Ukraine also proved popular dispelling any thoughts of a kaotic and disruptive country at war. Certainly calm prevailed in the spectacular cities of Kiev and Odessa and we will be comfortable including this interesting country in our future programs.
The express run through Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Germany to the finish destination seemed like a formality after traversing the Stan countries.
Certainly this 2017 version of our popular Silk Road trip worked well and will be remembered by 24 happy adventurers for all of the right reasons.
On a sad note, on the 31st of December 2017 we celebrated the life of Barry Hayward, one of our SR17 clients who passed away after a short illness on his return to his home in Orewa. Barry will be remembered for his energy at climbing mountains and power pylons in Tajikistan and swimming in Lake Baikal’s icey waters. Our condolences to his wife Val and the Hayward family.
London to Vladivostok, 12,200km in 19 days!
This is likely to be a record I suspect. However, the mission was to return 4 of our Overland Journeys Land Cruisers to Vladivostok the fastest way possible.
That was to be by road with 4 carefully selected drivers capable of a challenge coupled with a little endurance. Alan, Roger, Nick and Greg managed to steer the 4 vehicles without incident across the Russian continent to arrive in Vladivostok in time to greet our next wave of clients heading to the North East of Russia in the same amazing vehicles!
Bangkok to Magadan
Another first for Overland Journeys with 6 cars leaving Bangkok for the Northern regions of Russia.
It was never going to be an easy trip with three major challenges.
The Thais changed the rules governing self-drive travel which we had to adapt to rapidly.
Myanmar was a new and exciting destination and some last-minute itinerary changes had to be made to bypass some internal skirmishes and the weather at this time of the year was always going to be a challenge with lots of wet weather in Asia.
However, one the attractions of this trip was the last sector and the road into North Eastern Russia to the final destination on the “Kolymar Highway” to the remote city of Magadan and that part of the journey is very much weather dependant.
Regular client Robin Dicey wrote a tour article for nz4wd.co.nz magazine and photos were supplied by Grant and Tricia Short. The article is in their 2017 annual edition and titled “The Ultimate Overlander” Click here to read it.
We intend to run a similar 4×4 self-drive tour in 2020 starting in Vietnam. Expressions of interest are welcome now. (See the trip video of the Myanmar section on our website).
2018 and the 40th Edition of the Dakar Rally Raid
For the 5th time Rally Tours headed off to the Dakar Rally in South America.
The event this year started in Lima, Peru. The last Lima start was in 2013 so was nice to be returning to the spectacular Peruvian capital.
With a Lima start this meant that the 350 strong field of Motorcycles, Cars. Quads, Side by Sides and trucks had to endure the unforgiving sand dunes of Peru. This proved to be quite a challenge for some with 30% of the field disappearing in the first 4 days.
The Bolivian altitudes and traditional wet weather tuned the dust into mud and cooler temperatures and the last 5 days in Argentina proved to be no less challenging for competitors, service crews and spectators alike.
Despite the challenges of running a Dakar tour Overland Journeys / Rally Tours will return again the Dakar again in January 2019. Thanks to the fantastic TV coverage this year we have had good enquires for the 2019 edition.
This will be the last Dakar Rally tour we will do for a while so if you are thinking about it experiencing the most amazing rally in the world give us a call soon. Seats are limited.
What’s happening in 2018 and 2019
BAM Ice Road Winter Trip
New for 2018, traversing a winter ice road route alongside the Baikal Amur Mainline railway alongside the famous Lake Baikal.
23rd February to the 9th March 2018.
We are using just two of our Russian V8 petrol powered Land Cruiser fleet which are well equipped with winter gear including ice tyres for the -40C temperatures.
Watch our Rally Tours NZ Ltd Facebook page for reports and photos of this incredible trip.
Bookings for next years BAM trip are welcome and its inexpensive at $US7,5k pp.
This trip has been completed and it was simply an amazing experience. See plans and dates for the 2019 BAM trips at the end of this newsletter.
April 14th-15th with a ceremonial start in the Dunedin Octagon on Friday 13th April.
$NZ1450 twin share and $NZ1850 single fare per person.
8 seats available.
Contact Rally Tours for tour details.
21 days 28th May to 17th June 2018
Self-Drive or set in vehicle.
Self-Drive: $US 9990 pp
Seat in Vehicle: $US 9095 pp
4 hire vehicles available and 3 passenger seats in leader vehicle.
22 days 17th June to 8th July 2018.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Traversing the famous “Pamir Highway”
Self-Drive or Seat in vehicle.
Seat in Vehicle: $US8900.
4 hire vehicles available and 8 passenger seats in 4×4 Tour van with guide.
Silk Way / Dakar type Rally (New tour for 2018)
This is a Dakar type Rally Raid event run in Western China, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Same teams, same vehicles and similar terrain including dunes, mountains and mud.
July 15th from Xi’an China to the 29th July finishing in Moscow.
Our tour will start in Xian on the 13th July.
$US10k pp excluding airfares.
Details available soon and expressions of interest now being taken.
Limited seats available.
Mongolia, the Russian Altai Region to Novosibirsk
Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) to Novosibirsk (Russia) via the spectacular Russian Altai region.
To finish the touring off we are offering this amazing short tour traversing Mongolia and crossing to into the Russian Altai Region finishing in the Siberian capital of Novosibirsk.
24 days 20th June – 13th July 2018.
Mongolia and Russia (Siberia)
Seat in vehicle: $US7500.
4 Hire vehicles and 3 passenger seats available.
Combine this tour with the Novosibirsk to Magadan.
Novosibirsk to Magadan (The Road of Bones)
This is the magic of Siberia and the intrigue of the Baikal and Russian Far North East combined into a very exciting and adventurous trip traversing the “Kolymar Highway” and finishing in Magadan. This is truly a great road journey.
24 days including a flight from Magadan to Vladivostok.
20th July – 12th August 2018.
Seat in Vehicle: $US8500.
4 Hire vehicles available and 8 passenger seats.
Expressions of interest welcome and detailed itinerary soon.
Targa NZ, Tarmac Rally
22nd October – 27th October 2018.
Once again Greg will lead the Classic car section of the annual Targa NZ tour.
This year this 7-day drive in the country with a range of nice modern and classic road cars will take place in the South Island.
Got a nice car and want to legally stretch its legs in a controlled convoy situation then take a look at www.targa.co.nz
Silver Fern, Gravel Rally
23rd November -01st Dec.
Held in the North Island for the first time in 6 years the Silver Fern Classic gravel rally will start in Hamilton.
Again, Overland Journeys director Greg Paul will exercise his gravel rally skills steering the classic 1973 Fiat 125T over the stages as a course car, opening the stages prior to the strong field of both local and international competitors taking to the challenging North island gravel roads.
Interested in either competing, assisting as rally marshals or participating in a tour run by ourselves, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
2019 and beyond (a heads up on what we have planned)
Just heard that the 2019 Dakar itinerary is likely to start in the North of Peru and follow the picturesque Pacific coast and the Pan American Highway south to Santiago in Chile.
Sounds exciting to us and while no official details will be released until May we need to plan on vehicle numbers and prepare accommodation.
Save money if you want to see the Dakar Rally in 2019 and book flights early and take advantage of our “early bird” discount of $US1k if you book and pay by the 30th of June.
Dates are likely to be from 4th Jan (Start near Lima) to the finish at Santiago, Chile on the 19th January 2019.
Cost per person will be $US15k pp and seats are limited.
The BAM, the ultimate winter experience
The “Baikal Amur Mainline” is one of the greatest engineering achievements in modern times. The remoteness, the harsh conditions and the tough characters that combined their efforts and forgot about their cultural differences made this a human miracle and something for the world to aspire to then and in the future.
Forget about the cold (-30C is not uncommon) because this experience will warm your heart and the warm clothes we provide will keep the rest of you warm enough!
Next years BAM will be run twice and the ground sector will be 18 days long.
It’s a winter trip in the Russian Far East and departures will be ex Novosibirsk in mid- February and ex Blagoveshchensk early March.
See our Overland Journeys website for details and lots of photos and videos on the Rally Tours NZ Facebook.
Full details will be available within a few days.
Seats are limited so enquire now.
Its seems a waste to have our special Overland Journeys Land Cruisers in South America having just completed the infamous Dakar Rally. So why not put them to good use. Overland Journeys have a fantastic 30 day self – drive 4×4 tour from Santiago Chile to the southern tip of the South American continent well sorted. After arriving in Ushuaia we then begin the journey back to Santiago but with an exciting 3 day ferry voyage with our vehicles from Peurto Natales to Port Montt with a 3 day drive to finish in Santiago.
Take in the best of Chile, Southern Argentina, Patagonia and Terra del Fuego.
Hire Vehicles Included in the cost.
30 days Santiago to Santiago
$US29000 per couple.
Camper Van tour: Vladivostok to Tallinn (Estonia) and beyond
The improvements in the Russian roading network now make it possible for Overland Journeys to offer the chance to drive your own motor home across this vast continent in comfort and safety.
Overland Journeys, a solely NZ owned company have been operating 4×4 and classic car self – drive tours across Russia since 2007 with more than 20 crossing under their belt. So, the time is right to offer a fully supported motor home drive across this intriguing country. There are lots of logistics to address so if interested its time to contact us to express your interest and get the details.
Dates: 1st May 2019 to 22nd June.
Start: Vladivostok, Russia
Finish: Tallinn, Estonia (with an option to continue to various destinations in Europe)
Duration: 51 Days.
Cost: $NZ38000 per couple / van. (conditions apply)
Limited to 10 client vehicles.
Talk to Overland Journeys now!
Silk Road 2019: Vladivostok to London via Mongolia and Central Asia
After operating this mother of all overland’s in 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2017 it has become our premium tour and this bi-annual 4×4 self-drive is mostly fully subscribed.
Overland Journeys due to popular demand will offer the Silk Road trip again in 2019.
As was the case in 2017 we will travel westbound and depart from Vladivostok in early May to arrive in London in mid July to capitalise on the European summer for those who wish to travel in the UK or Europe utilising their own vehicle.
The Logistics of arranging this mammouth 81 day tours are enormous and expressions of interest, and reservations are being accepted now.
Dates: 5th May – 25th July 2019
Duration: 81 days.
Self – Drive with own vehicle $NZ89,000 per couple.
Self – Drive hiring an Overland Journeys Land Cruiser $NZ106,000 per couple.
Seat in Vehicle as a passenger. $NZ39,000.
Talk to us soon for a full list of trip details including inclusions and exclusions.
London to Vladivostok
Why waste an opportunity to provide a inexpensive and interesting drive from London to Vladivostok. We need vehicles repositioned across Russia for further tours and it’s a chance to see and experience this vast continent at a reasonable cost.
No definite dates as yet but late July ex UK is about right for us.
The cost will be negotiable and based in what you want to do, how long you want to take etc.
Talk to us about this option now.
Looking forward to fielding and requests and questions.
Want to chat in person about our amazing trips, just call us.
Want to chat with anyone of our ex clients about our Overland Journey Tours. That is easily arranged.
We’ve all been there – the bucket list, to do list, if only I could list, closely followed by should I, shouldn’t I, can I afford it, what if? Well, what if you don’t? This is my take on travel, the bucket list and why you should just do it.
Lake Baikal early spring
Where should I go?
The “to see and do before we die” list is quite long. And then one day we realise if we don’t get on with it we won’t be able to for any number of reasons that are creeping (or running) up on us.
For some time I’d had an urge to do something a bit out there. It had to be a challenge. I wanted the road less travelled. Crowds have no appeal, be they locals or tourists. I was looking for something that would change my life. I’m not a 20 something going to find myself. I just want to go and find everything else.
Late 2016 and we made a decision to just do it and go on an Overland Journeys epic tour. The 2017 Silk Road from Vladivostok to London itinerary read like a story book of names of many of the places I had read about and dreamed about since childhood. My great aunt had been to the USSR in 1969. She brought me back Matrushka dolls. Maybe the seed was sown.
Richard wanted to take the Trans Siberian Railway. I wanted to drive the Pamir Highway – among other things. He loves trains. I don’t mind trains. He likes driving. The train doesn’t do the Pamir, often the views are not so scenic, a lot of travel is at night, he has trouble sitting still, I wanted a big adventure – so the decision wasn’t that difficult.
We’ve always been a bit DIY in many aspects of our lives including travel. I started planning our ultimate itinerary and rapidly realised the logistics were going to be incredibly time consuming and difficult even without taking multiple visas, languages and border crossings into account, never mind shipping a vehicle ourselves. I Googled “self-drive Overland tours Pamir Highway and Russia” and found Overland Journeys.
We weren’t sure that group travel was our thing; we didn’t know if we would get enough time (however much that might be) in each place; we weren’t sure if we knew enough about our vehicle (she is old and “different” and we had only had her a couple of months); we didn’t know if we were young enough, old enough or fit enough (i.e. what the mix of the group would be); we didn’t know how much driving there would be each day and whether that was what we wanted to do.
It was a fairly decent chunk of cash and there were a few unknown costs as well – fuel, meals, insurance and other extras. I’d had that fund ear tagged for a little building project. True to our form we just did it and sorted all that as we went along.
Was it going to be safe? Well you know “they” are shooting at each other along the borders; there are big earthquakes and floods and landslides; there are things that bite (a bit like our near neighbour in that respect); the water is dodgy; the food is dodgy, it’s very hot; it’s very cold; it’s high altitude; it’s extreme; the people are ruthless – we’d get mugged or kidnapped or worse. Or so we’d been told. Add all that to language issues, driving on the “wrong” side of the road and why would anyone do it? Why didn’t we just go for a nice long cruise? It just shows you don’t want to believe everything you are told especially by people who have never done it.
After meeting with Greg at Queenstown Airport he thought we’d fit in ok and we thought we should just quit over thinking it all and just do it. He seemed pretty relaxed about it all and we figured if he wasn’t worried about taking a group of mixed abilities, health and backgrounds into those environments why should we worry. He’d been there. We hadn’t. So it was a case of commit and be determined to make it the best experience we possibly could for ourselves and our companions.
We really weren’t sure about group travel but as we very soon found out there are distinct advantages to being with like minded people. It doesn’t mean we lived in peoples’ pockets.
We saw guns – lots of guns on guards, patrols, borders, police, and security. None of us was shot at. In fact, I felt very safe the whole time. We got used to police checks. It’s just how they roll. As long as all the paperwork is in order, especially the insurance and the car registration, we had no problems. I’d like to think we did our bit for international diplomacy. I don’t think most of the very young policemen had seen a New Zealander before. Don’t take photos or film security guards, military or police, even train guards and there is no problem. If you ask nicely they may just let you or not. In which case smile & say goodbye.
Vladivostok had always been on my bucket list just because it was there in the Far East of Russia and nobody I ever spoke to seemed to have a clue where it was.
Vladivostok to Dushanbe was not quite halfway.
We drove across some massive landslips on the Pamir. Our intended route from Kalalaikum was blocked with a bridge out so we had to take plan B. None of us were hit by falling rocks or earthquakes. And if that was Route B then Route A may well have completely blown my mind. We’ll find out next time.
Had I been planning our route I might not have worked out that there are certain border crossings that, while on the map, may not be used by foreigners, only residents of the two countries on the border. There are lots of things that Overland Journeys organises that we would not have known about ourselves – possibly when it was too late. Some visas cannot be applied for anywhere except within your home country so thinking you’ll just take your time and wait and see when you get to a border is, often, not an option.
Things that bite
One of our group managed to get a tick embedded in his skin- and it was dealt with. Because we started out early in spring and it was still cool there were few mosquitoes and sandflies until later on and even then they were not in the plague proportions we expected. We didn’t see any wild tigers or bears or snakes or anything else remotely fierce or dangerous.
It was hot, it was cold, it was high altitude and low altitude, it was extreme in some respects and yet, at the time, it didn’t feel stressful or unbearable. We both had smiles a mile wide day in day out. At no time did we ever feel we wanted it to hurry up and end.
Yes, we had mechanical issues. Yes, we got sick a couple of times. Yes, we were challenged. Was it insurmountable? No. People pitched in and helped out when and how they could. We made a great team and that is part of the success of any group travel. We all knew that if someone needed something and someone else had it, it would be available.
Did we have enough time in all of the places? No, and would we ever? I rapidly came to the conclusion I may not have seen every single thing I thought I wanted to but I saw and experienced other things I had no idea existed. It was all new. It was all an experience that I would not have been having anywhere else.
In many of the countries we visited, tourism is a relatively new thing. We enjoyed local fare – sometimes what we ordered (or thought we ordered), sometimes not. More than once I said, “it is edible be grateful”. More than once we were stunned by a beautiful meal prepared with the most basic of facilities. Just don’t expect to order a fillet steak and fries on the side outside of the big hotels and do expect seasonal fruits and vegetables. None of us starved!
As one of our travel companions said “I’ve become a “yes” girl. If I’m asked if I want to do something I say “yes”. I may never have that chance again.”
I absolutely, completely agree.
We hope we were good ambassadors for our country and for Overland Journeys. We hope the people we were in contact with felt our appreciation and our joy at seeing their world.
Before it is too late
So there are places on our “to do list” that have been wiped off the face of the Earth by war and natural disaster or made inaccessible by political disagreements or have become so overrun and crowded by tourists that the attraction has diminished somewhat. Yes I know I am one of the tourists and there is irony in wanting to go and experience the world sans other tourists.
We never know what we are in for with our health or wealth despite the best planning and precautions for both. Since we have returned we have been especially shocked by the deaths of one of our group and the brother of a friend.
We have seen too many people plan to do it “later” and there was no “later”. We have also seen people plan their finances only to have someone else spend that money for them as an inheritance or a rip-off.
I hope that’s explained how I feel about travel and why you should just do it if you have the desire. It will be a long time before places like Syria will be back on our “to do” list.
BACK IN NZ
Been home in NZ a whole week now. The jet lag had hardly enough time to wear off and was back on the road again driving a truck and living out of a suitcase. just how I like it !! The long driving stints gave me time to reflect on the two wonderful trips in Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia just completed and the great people who joined me to experience these amazing countries. Thanks to our loyal clients and helpful suppliers and helpers for making both expeditions safe and memorable. Plans for future Overland trips and Rally Tours are now planned and dates set for the 2016 / 2017 and beyond with new opportunities and requests presenting themselves daily.
DAKAR RALLY RAID 2016
We head off to the DAKAR Rally on the 1st January 2016. The Dakar event starts in Buenos Aires and heads into Bolivia returning to finish in Rosario (near BA) 17 days later.
The big news is that Sebastian Leob has been recruited to drive for Peugeot along with 3 other rock stars.
We are offering a special tour price for anyone who holds a NZ Motorsport licence or belongs to an affiliated MSNZ car club. The DAKAR is a must see “bucket List” item for all motor sport supporters … CHECK OUT THE DAKAR TOUR PAGE …
SOUTH AMERICAN SELF DRIVE
Our 2016 South American self drive tour kicks off from Buenos Aires on the 20th January and follows a trail in and out of Argentina and Chile for 37days finishing in Santiago.
Highlights include reaching the southern tip of south America, Ushuiaia and a 3 day boat cruise from Puerto Natales to Port Montt the spectacular Chilean fiords. We supply the vehicles or bring your own vehicle …
SHANGHAI TO LONDON 2016
Rally Tours are the specialists in providing the ultimate self drive adventures. In May 2016 a convoy of Classic and modern cars will depart from Shanghai bound for London. At the same time a group of 4×4 vehicles will leave Vladivostok.The two groups will come together in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for just one night then again in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
At that point The entire convoy will travel via Moscow, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Warsaw to finish at the famous Beaulieu Motor Museum in Southern England. Be quick to join us for this “one off” 65 day trip in 2016 …
WRC CHINA 2015
The WRC is returning to China in October 2016.
Rally Tours will be there and want you to join us !!
Rally Tours has had extensive experience in China with its successful overland tours and will has the expertise to take you to experience what will be a totally unique event. expressions of interest are being received now !! …
WHAT’S NEW IN 2017
2017 sees our Rally Tours overland expeditions venturing back into Central Asia and the “Stan countries” A new innovation sees us operating the Silk Road tour in reverse starting in Vladivostok and finishing in London. Don’t have the time or the money to do the whole trip then consider the following modular options now available …
Join us for a 21 day Mongolian experience or a 24 day “Pamir Highway” / Central Asia adventure. We can offer either self – drive or seat in Land-Cruiser options. Talk to us now about 2017 trips as i expect that they will be popular …
ROAD OF BONES
By request, the “Road of Bones” to Magadan (north Eastern Russia), a trip to Murmansk (North western Russia)
And totally new program in Myanmar (Burma) are currently being looked at as potentially future expeditions …
A big thanks to John Kilpatrick who did a great job looking after our very happy Rally Australia group.
Also again thanks to Rally Sport Magazine who hosted our group and gave them the very best spectating opportunities at Rally Australia.
Sorry to those of you that thought that you could do it on your own …
That’s all for now, more details to follow soon …