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.
Overland Journeys has earned a reputation for having developed some diverse and interesting self-drive tour routes across the Russian continent and from time to time venture into the wilderness in this interesting part of the world in search of new and exciting experiences for their clients.
Greg Paul has just returned from one such trip into a little-known region of Eastern Russia which not only provided our team with the ultimate road trip but revealed a region with lots of interesting culture and history specific to the area.
This expedition, was a trip into the unknown is called the “BAM”.
BAM is the Baikal Amur Mainline and refers to a little known but very lengthy 4000km rail line built during and after the Soviet era that involved a lot of human hardship and is an amazing story of cultural and religious integration, in a not so long ago era.
However, the big bonus was that when the BAM railroad was built they also had to have road access. The road may have once been good but has faced the challenges of the adverse climate, permafrost, snow and devastating floods that have all but destroyed the road bridges that have never been repaired or replaced.
Major settlements are isolated by road connection and rely totally on the rail system for communication with the outside world.
However, the harsh winter climate provides and links a lot of Russia with ice roads that provide and interesting and viable option for overland travel. The BAM is one of the lesser known but is a critically important winter road linking the town of Tayshet in the west to Tynda in the east. Our story begins on the 22nd of February in Tayshet where a major oil and gas pumping plant is located, pumping this vital commodity to the east and as far as China.
Our journey however started 1200km prior to Tayshet in the Siberian Capital, Novosibirsk where our two “Overland Journeys” Russian registered 100 series Land Cruisers are based under the watchful eye of local agents, Altair Tours and Olga Antonova. Olga has done all the organisation for the trip and also helps with the kitting out of extreme clothing for myself and second Land Cruiser Driver Simon Arms, from Australia. The concept of working in temperatures of -30C and below have not yet sunk in for Simon and I as yet.
As for the vehicles they are the 4.7 litre petrol versions and running 100% glycol in the cooling system with -40C washer fluid and Continental studded tyres all of which is totally necessary for the climatical conditions.
The warming up procedure normally takes 30 to 45 minutes most morning until the cabin, the seats and the engine warm up and the fluids are fluid enough to operate the power steering etc.
In Tayshet we pull out of the hotel car park at 07.30am and its still dark and has snowed overnight. While the engines warm up Simon and I brush fresh snow, lots of it off the cars. The snow is dry and fluffy unlike snow here in NZ. The studded tyres are amazing and squeak as they claw their way through 25mm of new snow to the cleaned and groomed main road. We learn a valuable lesson just a few kilometres up the road as the deep snow on a connecting road sucks the vehicle into a snow drift on the right side of the road then spits it out chucking us across to the opposite snow back which called on the 4×4 capabilities to get us back on the hard. Conclusion is that maximum driver attention is required at all times! The remainder of the 400km drive to the city of Bratsk on ice and snow covered roads concludes that these studded tyres are not only totally necessary but are also incredibly good. Why are they illegal in NZ?
In the city of Bratsk we met our clients after they flew in from NZ via Moscow. Bratsk is a fairly new city and built as a result of a major hydro dam construction. Interestingly enough saw an advert in a restaurant for a particular brand of NZ wine. The world is a small place!
From Bratsk the distances between towns are not that great but the travel times increase as the road gets interesting with just ice tracks and lots of broken bridges that require either careful negotiation or bypassing using ice covered rivers.
The days are getting cooler and at 7am the temperature in Bratsk is -28C and we are starting to learn all sorts of interesting facts about operating vehicles in the cold and about generally living and surviving in these extreme temperatures. The bottles of water we left last night are frozen solid and the fruit has expired. Why doesn’t the digital read out on the Tyre Dog pressure indicator work and how come my iphone has shut down. The cold has a lot to answer for. Also Toyota needs to tune their dash outside temp indicators because as we now realise they don’t work below -30C !! My heavy jacket that I left in the car last night is crispy. Fortunately, it’s a dry cold so it’s possible to open the doors and the light coating of fresh snow is dry and fluffy and easily brushes off the car.
Washing the windows with water is however definitely not an option for the next two weeks.
After a compulsory 45 minute warm up regime that engine is ticking over nicely but the engine bay heat never gets warm enough to melt the snow off the bonnet for at least the first half of the day. The wheel arches are full of snow and ice adding at least 100kg of extra weight to the tare of the vehicle. It takes a while for the power steering fluid to loose its viscosity so that the steering turns easily. All part of the fun of operating in cold climates. Buts it’s not unpleasant as after a few days anything warmer than -20C seems quite comfortable.
As we roll out of relative civilisation at Bratsk the icy snow-covered road takes us toward our next night stop and a small town to the east called Ust Kut. There are lots of towns throughout Russia that start with the name “Ust” which means head and refers to the location at the head waters of a river. Ust Kut is a major river port on of the longest rivers in Russia, the Lena. The Lena is frozen at this time of the year and the river traffic is at a standstill for about 6 months.
As we are about to realise, these rivers throughout the region provide another form of passage for road transport while the boats are parked up. In some case its only in winter when the rivers are frozen and the ice roads are working are many towns and cities accessible.
It’s today that we also start to understand the importance of having the good studded tyres as temperatures drop the snow depth increases and bridge bypasses and river crossings are more frequent. The town of Severobaikalsk on the northern shores of Lake Baikal is our next destination and an integral link in the BAM railroad as it arrives on the shores of the world’s largest fresh water lake. It’s a great place to remember the enormity of the project with a couple of excellent BAM museums and one museum that portraits the culture and lifestyle of the local “Evenki” native peoples.
Our host in a neighbouring village, Nizhneangarsk, is a lady we called “Mama” who is a local identity whose parents were BAM engineers. She housed and fed us during our two-night stay like celebrities and insisted on making sure that we saw all the sights, visited all the museums and nominated to be our private tour guide. What a lady!
Best of all she suggested that we drive 46 km across Lake Baikal to indulge in a local hot spring experience. The springs at -30C sounded interesting but the drive across the lake was really the attraction if the truth be known. Scary, for sure knowing that below the 2-metre ice pack was more than one kilometre of very cold water. Just follow the tracks was the instruction, which at time was difficult with white out conditions and sometimes a deep snow cover on the surface which tested the 4×4 capabilities. This was a first-time life experience and as far as ice driving was concerned it certainly broke the ice.
Mama was hard to escape from and after a shopping trip, a refuel and a very emotional farewell we headed out into the unknown heading a relatively short distance to the next civilisation called Novy Uoyan. When the BAM was built engineers and their families were recruited from all corners of the USSR to build their portion of the railway. Novy Uoyan was the new home of people from Lithuiana and the architecture of the buildings and the local railway station reflect the origin of those immigrants. The distances between villages are not that great but the roads now are basic and rugged with lots of detours around broken bridges and take time to cover the distance. But the mountainous scenery is just spectacular and its hard to concentrate on the road as we travel north east.
The next exciting leg of the Journey takes us to Taksimo. Its an interesting name, a major town and the strange name derives from the settlers that came here from Estonia.
The first 120km of road was not bad and the reason is that it leads to the entrance of the longest rail tunnel every built in Russia at 15 kilometres. The “Severomuysky” tunnel was built over a period of 25 years and was officially opened in 2003. Security of this strategic construction is tight but we were able to get excellent close up views of both portals.
After the eastern tunnel entrance the road is no longer important and the remaining part of the journey was rough and slow and at times exciting and challenging. At the eastern end of Taksimo is an old aircraft on a pedestal. Air transport has always been important to remote regions in Russia and in this case the relic was restored after crashing into a nearby riverbed.
Lots of references and adventure videos to the BAM road can be seen but almost all refer to the summer road which is almost impassable. The “Vitim” bridge is the most famous refernce and probably the most feared because there is no alternative to crossing this famed construction. The Vitim was also our next challenge on the short drive to the village of Kuanda. We arrived at the Vitim bridge ready to take on this famous land mark. From the Western approach the bridge looked to be in amazingly good repair. We walked the 300m bridge which was covered in light snow. The eastern end of the bridge however was not in such a good condition and any attempt to cross was abandoned as being too dangerous. We were lucky because there was an alternative as in the winter the river is iced over and while it was an interesting exercise after an hour the crossing of the ice covered river Vitim was successfully made.
Our hosts at our homestay in Kuanda, Victor and Natalia made our stay a memorable one with way too much food and a comfortable warm bed.
Novaya Chara is our next exciting stop on the BAM. Novaya means new and this village sprung up as a result of the rail construction but there was always a Chara (now old Chara just 14 km away.
As per every day the drive between towns was not only challenging but spectacular and with several serious ice river crossings needed and broken and missing bridges in evidence it certainly confirmed that the BAM road was indeed a winter road only.
The Chara region has an unusual claim to fame. It has a desert region which is not only unusual but spectacular and is a don’t miss attraction if you happen to be here in the summer. So, what about the winter. It’s a snow-clad desert and even more unusual. In the summer it’s a trek on foot and a boat ride across the big river. In the winter big rivers are not a problem and we can drive and play on the dunes. It was very unusual and a lot of fun. Our day however extended to some serious 4×4 driving through the nearby snowy forest tracks to a remote lake, covered in ice of course. By this time, we had discovered that driving on icy lakes was safe and fun. The temptation to perform a few pirouettes on the ice could not be resisted although a fully laden Land Cruiser definitely does not handle like a rally car. A few sheiks of delight (maybe) came from our passengers including the local guide. New Chara has a huge coal mine locally and is a busy place and our hotel and close by restaurant were of an international standard with made our 3 nights stay a pleasant affair.
We were in for an interesting surprise the next day as we started our day at -34C and a visit to a very good local museum. It of course featured lots of BAM artefacts, more about our Evenki local people and displays of a unique stone, bright purple in colour and only found here in this region.
Following the museum visit we headed in southerly direction to investigate a local Vanadium mine. It has its own road and rail line both of which were in a below average condition. The rail in some places was suspended in mid-air but was a masterful construction as it wound its way up a mountain side to a high elevation to the mine. The road was temporary affair utilising the river valleys and steep mountain passes with somewhat deep snow.
What a drive with no idea with what was at the end of the road.
The mine, it appeared was temporarily closed but on arrival were fortunate to catch Alexi the winter security man about to leave on his snow mobile, with gun and skis over his shoulder.
Clearly, he does not have too many visitors and welcomed us to his warm but small hut for tea and to enable us to warm up our tasty lunch from the Chara bakery. Parked up outside the hut was three interesting tracked vehicles of which two were parts donors but very useful machines in this area. A GAZ 66 and two well used Lada Nivas completed the collection. Further into the camp however were other interesting Russian 6×4 heavy duty trucks and a huge Komatsu V12 bulldozer all parked next to a beautiful little Arthodox church amongst the converted container accommodation.
It was one of those days that you could not have organised if you had tried. It was a long day but by the time we had retraced our steps on the snow road it was late but it was a great day and everyone was buzzing with the experience.
After 7 days on the BAM road the terminus of stage 2 of the construction is in sight. The town of Tynda is a major railway junction with BAM branches heading from here in all directions of the compass.
However, it is still 800km away and although a sense of getting close to civilisation prevails based on our experiences of the last week, anything could happen.
For most of the morning we follow the mighty frozen Chara river eastwards and its tempting to take on the challenge of driving down the length of the frozen mass, but common sense prevails. The road however takes a lot of detours high into the hills by necessity which makes the days drive both interesting and challenging in the deep snow and icy conditions until we arrive into the town of Yuktali.
Yuktali is our night stop and a small but important railway town that does not see a lot of visitors, especially from as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
Our accommodation on this night is interesting as the town has no hotels as we know them. We are staying in a school with student boarding facilities which are available as the pupils are on holiday. It’s an elegant Soviet style school building with a tidy entrance and reception area that is exceptionally clean and well presented. However, that’s where the elegance stops and while the rooms and bathrooms are adequate and warm not much in the way improvements have been made for many years. Seems everybody slept well though and were ready for an early start on our last day on the BAM road to Tynda. Eating was another issue we had to address in this interesting village. It’s a major crew change point for train drivers so after some investigation we found our way to the railway administration building where drivers are accommodated rested and fed between shifts. As we were fed for both dinner the previous night and breakfast on the day of departure train drivers in standard issue red chequered pyjamas paraded through the café without noticing the foreign guests.
Patience is a virtue in the extreme weather and this morning as we left the café to start the day’s drive a power steering hose popped on the #2 Landcruiser. At -34C the steering fluid is not as fluid as it needs to be and the hoses brittle until things warm up. So maybe we should had waited a little longer before moving off. After an attempted temporary repair, we were offered a warm garage to work in just a few hundred metres down the road. At that temperature the offer was gladly accepted! The helpful local sourced a replacement hose for us and additional steering fluid of the correct viscosity. It made us mobile again and heading in the right direction.
Even the last day on the snow-covered roads were interesting with lots of detours to avoid broken bridges and tricky icy driving conditions until our arrival at our familiar and comfortable hotel in the civilised town of Tynda. There was celebratory dinner that night to congratulate ourselves on conquering the BAM and reliving the BAM experience that was truly a life changing experience. However, we still have 3 more days to travel but the trip south to Blagoveshchensk won’t be quite as arduous or exciting as the last 10 days.
We are back in familiar territory now and the temptation to turn left out of the hotel and head north on the Kolyma highway to Magadan has a strong attraction. But we are heading south just 190km on the M60 to Skovorodino where we will join up with the main Trans-Siberian highway toward the east. From now on we come across a varied cross section of immigrants from China, Azerbaijan and Georgia who run the hotels, restaurants and other allied industries along the road side. This means different food of eastern and middle eastern variety. Nice for a change. One interesting Georgian café owner was so pleased to see us that he insisted that we share a bottle of his best Georgian Cognac for lunch. Something of course we could not refuse to help him with.
Blagoveshchensk is our final destination and a big city close to the Chinese border. It’s one of many visits Overland Journeys have made this multicultural city which is more Chinese than Russian. Blagoveshchensk is just a stone throw away from China and separated by the Amur river. At this time of the year its covered in ice and at several points security posts stop either nationalities crossing the border illegally. While a new bridge between Russia and China is being built 20km upstream from this vibrant city at this time of the year authorised road traffic is permitted to cross the rivers ice road with temporary border posts at either end.
We say farewell to our NZ clients here in Blagoveshchensk at the end of a 15 day adventure which amazed us all with the scenery, the cultural experiences, the characters that we met and the weather extremes all of which make up the BAM ice road winter adventure. Thanks to Olga of Altair Tours who organised the expedition, Simon who used all of his driving skills to keep one of the Cruisers on the road and to Mark and Robin were the fearless passengers who cooperated with anything exciting that we decided to do along the way. It was truly an experience that Overland Journeys would like to offer again next year to anyone willing to take on the adventure of their life.
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.
A fitting last leg to our 21,000 kilometre drive through an incredible balance of contrasts.
An Overland Journey of unexpected, sometimes exasperating but always superb (sometimes on reflection) challenges.
Contrasts. From beginning to end. World history retold from passionate local guides to witnessing in real time the country’s folk going about their seasonal business.
Contrasts. From 30meters below sea level at one point on this whole overland journey to 4,600meters above sea level.
From the lowest temperature of icy cold at the beginning in Russia to 45degrees in one of the Stan countries.
From the remote, early spring, adventure camps to the unexpected, comfort bed delights found behind a back street,
To crisp cotton sheets in a beautifully located luxury setting.
Contrasts with dust so frustratingly blinding to ‘Holy Cow’ exclamations of wide eyed pure scenery.
From roadside stalls of fresh spring strawberries, fat flavoursome watermelon and locally caught dried fish, to our tailgate lunches sourced from shops without a single symbol that we recognised on a tin or packet to know what we were buying.
A contrast to sumptuous dinners rivalling any fine dining establishment here, compliments of Overland Journeys.
A thoughtfully chosen bunch of couples daring enough to become a convoy.
All smart enough to know that Greg Paul will tantalising lead them through a maze of contrasting countries, geography, and histories.
Nearly three months touring, tripping and tracking our way through Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kurgikstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Poland, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, France and then to finish safe and sound in ‘Mother’ England was the best journey I have ever experienced.
An added joy was having the young, professional cameraman, Nick, along with us capturing our memories so well. Thank you to Deb who undid every problem I gave her.
Greg Paul you are truly amazing and Warwick and I thank you so very much for every minute of your incredible Overland Journey.
The group is now done to 18….. with the departure of Barry and Val. They set off on their own as was planned heading for Romania. After a week of assisting the youth education programme that they have helped to set up, they will continue onto England.
Had the remaining group not been distracted with the anticipation of heading off to Obrien’s Irish Pub to watch the All Black/ Lions game there would have been tears I’m sure. And what a game in a great place. They had reserved a room for us and set up a projector and large screen. Fortunately or perhaps not, the Lions supporters kept to the other room although cheers from both sides added to the atmosphere.
Three of the ladies, Alli, Enid and Sam, chose to set off and find the railway station that reportedly had wonderful tiled mosaics. it was a perfect Saturday morning for a brisk walk. Then a nice adventure thrown in trying to make themselves understood at the metro.The purchase of tickets were necessary in order to descend the 2 very steep and very fast moving escalators onto the platforms a very long way down. It was quite exciting.
Delicious coffees were then enjoyed sitting in a picture book, garden cafe. Kiev was indeed a wonderful 2-night stopover.
The excellent, guided city tour the day before had set us up with fascinating knowledge of the area’s history. And to think we were actually staying in the same hotel where snipers had chosen to fire from and kill a hundred local citizens. Both riot police and demonstrators were victims. This took place just 3 years ago during a demonstration protesting against the illegal vote count in a recent Presidential election. Last night we watched from our hotel room as a peaceful but loud procession made its way down the memorial street.
This blurb is being written as we make our way to Odessa 400 km’s or so away. We were all a bit smug thinking that 5 hours should see us cruise down the motorway. Wrong.
We learned that unfortunately our wonderful English traveling friends, David and Vivien are to leave us tomorrow as David has a detached retina. Time had to be made before we drove off in order for their flights out of Odessa to be arranged.
Then off we all eagerly set. David and Viven are in Greg’s vehicle while Nick is driving theirs. Fortunately he had arranged a local navigator to assist with this leg. Lucky young Nick.
However within 20 kilometres the 3 lanes of traffic heading South came to a grinding halt. We all crawled for about an hour at least through roadworks and then a traffic accident.
However as dusk Is upon us now we have satisfied tummies after a quick sit down dinner stop. Viven and David’s last supper with the group. It feels strange.
The scenery is still interesting and stunning. There is wheat, sunflowers and other crops patch working their way forever on both sides of the road.
Two hours to Odessa.
Our group is now at the 60 day mark of their expedition.
At the time of the last newsletter they were all in Mongolia (hope that you all watched the video from Nick (click here). Proves the saying a picture is worth a thousand words what a fantastic way to show case Mongolia!!. Better still is being there yourself.
Since their departure from Mongolia they have travelled back into the Altai region of Russia, through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan into Tajikistan and have spent the last 10 days in Uzbekistan. That’s a lot of Stans!
They go back into Kazakhstan for a couple of days, and then enter Russia for the last time, heading for Volgograd before turning west to the Ukraine, a new portion of the route for Rally Tours. The highlights of this sector are Kiev and Odessa.
Thank you Sam for your wonderful contributions with the blogs, and creative Alli has penned a poem about the Pamir Highway with some wonderful images to bring some more context.
Check out the gallery – Nicks fistful of cash.. a fistful of SOMS (Uzbekistan) Purchasing fuel in Samarkand – no fuel stations in this part of the world….The car wash…DushanbeGreat digs/accommodation!!
Silk Road concludes in London 22nd July, and there ends this 82 day expedition having traversed 11 countries, so many time zones, and experienced all weather conditions. We are planning another Silk Road Expedition for 2018, subject to a minimum number of bookings. Please contact Deb to indicate your interest. She will provide more information.
BANGKOK TO MAGADAN July 1st – August 31
The long-awaited tour is almost upon our group that leaves New Zealand, the UK, Russia and Australia for this brand new 62-day adventure this weekend.
“Permits in hand?
Steep roads, long drops, remote towns, strange food
You ain’t seen nothing yet …”
This was all we knew to expect of –
the Pamir Highway
Scenery unseen before – rugged, steep and huge
Mountain passes, fertile valleys, raging rivers and steep gorges
This was what we saw
Along the Pamir Highway
Horses, cows, sheep, goats and yaks
Donkeys aplenty with one to three aboard
All this to we saw
Along the Pamir Highway
One lunch stop by a river
Brought four young boys joining in
A cool game of frisbee
With young Nick and Barry
Along the Pamir Highway
Dusty villages with cheerful waving children
Made us feel like dignitary – hope we did the same.
Homes and gardens hidden
Behind tall metal gates,
Rock walls and woven fences
All this and more
Along the Pamir Highway
Carpets being scrubbed by very young and old alike
Alongside flowing springs – right on our road – would you believe?
Along the Pamir Highway
Watermelons, apricots on sale beside the road
Vegetables a-growing for winter overload
Along the Pamir Highway
Afghanistan across the river
What intrigue is happening there
Along the narrow, winding road
Connecting pastures green and yellow
Over from the Pamir Highway
First night in Osh, oh my gosh
Next was Sary-Tash, and dinner without legs
Onto Murgab – scene from Mars and Star Wars
And buzzing Hotel Pamir
Two lovely nights in Khorog
With market bargains and garden delights
Ten hours to Kalaikum at thirty k’s per hour
Then a royal night in Karen
Along the Pamir Highway
How could we forget the pot-holes, humps and hollows
The munted asphalt and piles of gravel
Awaiting placement for repairs.
The narrow passes and tight squeezes
Rocks above suspended at the ready
All along the Pamir Highway
Car-wash in Kulyob, tar-seal ahead
En route for Dushanbe
Are we there yet?
Slight skirmish with the speed
All sorted without fee
Along the Pamir Highway
Let’s not forget Feroos and Parvel
Our trusty companions and guides
Thank you for taking us with you
Along the Pamir Highway
All this and so much more
We may never be back again, but –
We’ll never be the same again
After all we’ve seen and done
Along the Pamir Highway
UZBEKISTAN 20 JUNE – 30 JUNE
Basically, there is no petrol or diesel for sale in Uzbek apart from agricultural needs.
So because they have an abundance of natural gas and limited oil production everything automotive has been converted to run on Lpg
Diesel and petrol that we obtained in Samarkand was Black market.
Our guide, Marat , was able to source petrol (benzine) and diesel to be bought to the hotel car park.
In plastic bottles and containers which came in a local lada car.
Paid for it in US $s. Probably about 75 cents US a litre.
There are seperate stations for LPG and Benzine.
This morning driving out of Bakhara we passed a Benzine station thar had a queue backed up half a kilometre each way.
We see a lot of disused stations because prices are now State controlled. Hope the poor last guy gets some before it runs out.
When Robin got his Benzine it was syphoned out of a taxi that Marat had organised. It was only 80 octane.
Local currency is called Som.
Through our guide we are getting almost double the official cash rate in exchange for US dollars.
It means it’s cheaper to buy souvenieers etc using Som however it’s tricky to understand .
There seemed to be only one Bank, Kapitol, where you could use a credit card. It wasn’t working apparently.
In Samarkand Warwick wanted to exchange $100 US dollars into local Som.
The teller accepted the note but then returned two $50 US notes to him.
So another teller was found who had good English.
He took his official badge off and took Warwick outside to the money lender on the footpath. Here he was able to get Warwick more than double what the bank could have given him. It was bewildering but rewarding for us.
Getting back to the story of the Hotel fuel fill, the final payment that Marac gave to the local fuel suppliers was in Soms and could have filled a backpack . The supplier asked him if it was all correct and Marac replied with ” count it”. That was met with a shrug and goodbye.
1 US dollar resulted in 7,000 Som. Stacks and stacks of notes.. Big bunch of money.
Working it out now we know that $1 NZ equals 5,000 Som.
Just as we have all come to grips with it all we will be moving back into Kazakstan in a few days where it’s different currency again.
There is a notebook page full of scenes, incidents and moment reminders to assist when there is a chance to sit and write this blurb. However, this incredible journey won’t stay still and around every bend, there is, even more, new sights and stories to try and describe. Take the optional drive for instance to view a couple of our Kyrgyzstan guides favourite places.
At our lakeside lunch stop, we looked over gin clear water to snow-capped mountain peaks while surrounded by apricot trees. Five minutes later we are maneuvering around red rocky outcrops with the dust settling on a treeless landscape. But, “there is gold in them thar hills”. The Canadians are mining it. Gold represents 30% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.
Earlier that morning Robin and Clare had followed the command of a roadside policeman to pull over. He was not happy that they had tints on the front windows and wanted them off immediately.
He also indicated that he would take Robin’s international licence for 4 days after which he would need to come and show them that this had occurred. Lucky for us we had Maksat, the guide with us who was able to suggest that he would personally see that the tints were removed as well as those on David and Vivien’s vehicle. A thank you of 1,000 Soms ($20) helped. While this was going on the rest of the convoy were parked up around the corner. The agricultural area had a few surprises. Wild marijuana is growing by the paddock full.
Everywhere there is evidence of the old days and ways sitting next to the new. The man riding a horse slowly along the furrows with another broad shouldered fellow manoeuvring the wooden plough. While later we have to almost stop in order to let a large, modern tractor towing a hay maker cross over the road from one paddock to the next.
A very young boy holding a stick with a metre of rope on the end keeps a cow from going on the road. The children provide such joyful moments as the vehicles weave their way around potholes that lie like discarded hoops and frisbees. Oncoming and overtaking locals scare the what’s it’s out of us. Overladen hay trucks teeter around dusty corners. Donkey and horse driven carts plod along the roadsides. Old European cars, maybe from the 70s, dart in and out of the convoy. We always let them in.
Yesterday, however, we had a good 3 hour run into Bishket on a new sealed highway. It took us through an incredible drive. Down a valley surrounded by high mountain peaks. These triangular stacks often had great stone walls at the bottom of them to keep rocks and snow slidesat bay. This is snow leopard country. They like it the high up to 4,000 metres. There are only about 200 snow leopards left.
Drama of the week. Nick, our young, creative camera guy. Crashed his drone. It was while he was filming high above the Charyn Canyon. The frustrating part was that we could see it sticking up on a bush which was on a rocky slope across a formidably flowing river. It was still sending film of the car park. The locals will try to retrieve it maybe on horseback at some point. In the mean time, Maksat has managed to use his know-how and find another drone for Nick.
And then there’s the delightful surprise boat ride on an enormous salt water lake where Nick takes a dive while the oldies envy his youth.
And on we go ……..