Overland Journeys News - April 2020

Current Events

I don’t pretend to be an authority on any particular subject. I don’t openly offer advice on topics that I don’t know well. I have learned over the years to look well forward and anticipate the future and make informed life and business decisions based on experience, history and a lot of gut feeling. Sometimes, It did not always play into my hands, things did not go exactly to plan and in those cases happenings just made me more determined and work harder for an end result. Life is a journey and there are a lot of mountains to climb, rivers to cross, obstacles to overcome but eventually you will make it to the finish line if you’re patient and with the help of friends.

At times like this, when the world has a “little” problem on its hands, and everybody has time to reflect on life we realise that we as individuals are just a small cog in a big wheel. As clever as we maybe, no one individual, business owners, authorities or world leaders had the intuition to forecast the current dilemma. Now we are all involved in this worldwide crisis, not a single person is exempt, and everybody has had to make adjustments to their lifestyle at short notice. Its character building stuff and brings the best and the worst out in us all. Detention, Isolation, Quarantine, call it what you like but it’s a foreign concept to most, other than criminals. Sometimes just sitting still on an aircraft for 10 hours while we jet to a favourite holiday location is enough entrapment for most.

BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) Tour

Land Cruiser on the frozen Lake Baikal, the BAM Tour

I refuse to mention the “C” word and can only relate it to a good quality and popular Mexican beer or a reliable Japanese car. So, where the hell did this name come from and how did it sneak up and bring the world to its knees. If nothing else its character building stuff. We have all had to change our lifestyles instantly, change living and working habits and seriously think about how we move forward or in many cases survive the economic impact.

BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) Tour

Overland Journeys vehicles on the BAM Tour

Up until Saturday the 28th March I was in Central Russia (Siberia) before jumping one of the last flights out of Russia and on to New Zealand. I am pleased to be back in NZ but it was a close call as the rest of the world was closing its doors to keep the monster from moving across their territories. Some countries like NZ and Russia had the benefit of some forward warning as some other not so lucky countries like Italy and Spain were struck down early with disastrous consequences.

BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) Tour

Look at the height of snow cover on the BAM Tour

Overland Journeys were fortunate to have almost completed the first three big jobs of the season and managed to see our clients arrive safely home in NZ. Like a good captain I elected to tidy up in Russia, hang around for a bit longer and go down with a sinking ship. In less than a week the “as normal” life in Siberia went to a weeklong public holiday extended to a non-working month ordered by Mr. Putin himself. There were introduced regional movement restrictions and quarantine in several cities later in the week. While the virus numbers are relatively low in Russia for a country of their size they are taking the threat seriously.

Our first big challenge of the year involved providing twelve 4×4 vehicles and selected staff for the International BMW GS Trophy Challenge. It’s a motorcycle event with no less than 140 new GS850 adventure motorcycles being supplied to 20 challenge teams from different countries from around the world. This 9-day overland ride involved 240 people including our Overland Journeys team who were worked hard to make this huge event happen. The GS Trophy circus started in Rotorua and finished in Queenstown. The day to day itinerary was “top secret” so as part of the contract, we were unable to talk to anybody about the event in detail even on social media. As I was involved in the 14-day reconnaissance with the German organisers, it may explain a big gap in our communications at that time. It was fortunate for us, the organisers and our countries economy that we got through the event before the disruptions occurred. Have a look at the day to day video footage and the exposure of NZ’s most amazing scenery. See: http://advpulse.com/adv-news/gs-trophy-2020-new-zealand

Rally Tours NZ and BMW GS Trophy challenge

Transport provided by Rally Tours NZ for the GS Trophy challenge

Rally Tours NZ Ltd was proud to be associated with the BMW GS Trophy Challenge and the amazing people associated with this event.

Rally Tours NZ and BMW GS Trophy

BMW GS Trophy NZ 2020

Even before the GS was over, I was on a plane to Moscow to negotiate Rally Tours NZ Ltd involvement in yet another large international motorsport event. The “Silk Way Rally” is a Dakar type rally raid featuring most of the same competitors, vehicles with a route that normally takes in at least 3 different countries including Russia and China. As a result of our meeting we now have an official relationship with the Russian organisers addressing some of the access issues to secure stages and ease of border crossings etc. More details later. This July event is now solely in Russia for 2020 and as yet has not been cancelled.

Our 2020 BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) 17-day self-drive winter tour started in Novosibirsk on the 19th Feb. The tour this year featured a slight change in the itinerary. A drive across the ice on Lake Baikal to Olkhon Island is a life changing experience and one of many highlights on this extreme tour. Our BAM road was built as a service road during the construction of the railway more than 40 years ago and is not negotiable in summer because of the lack of bridges. Our Russian Land Cruiser fleet are fitted with special tyres to handle the snow and ice and the cool temperatures (down to -40C) Everyday has its challenges and the historical cultural encounters make this one of the most amazing adventures available in this day and age. I shouldn’t say it, but no viruses here because it’s too cold !! We will be advertising this trip to run again in February 2021 and taking enquires now. Be Quick and email Anton: anton@rallytours.co.nz

BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) Tour

Amazing scenery on the BAM Tour

So meanwhile 2020 has been cancelled with both our Caucasus and Central Asia self-drive trips postponed until 2021. Our scheduled Silk Road 2021 tour which is almost fully booked is to go ahead as planned. Obviously Overland Journeys, with the help of our local contacts are monitoring the current situation almost daily. At this moment we believe it will business as usual for this trip departing Vladivostok 2nd May 2021. However, for clients already booked on this tour we will be communicating on a regular basis from now with our usual, tips, information and news.

Rally Tours NZ Ltd are the official tour operator for the WRC Rally NZ event in September. Thanks to all our supporters who have reserved a seat and again will keep you up to date with any new developments. We can appreciate that many who intend visiting NZ for this special round are currently sitting on the fence. Don’t worry we will have plenty of seats available, accommodation is on hold and we will react on short notice when the flag drops on some certainty of our current situation. If you are registered for Rally NZ we will communicate directly as information comes to hand and if not regular newsletters will be pumped out.

Our thoughts are with all of our friends, clients, suppliers and anyone associated with Overland Journeys and Rally Tours NZ. Anton and I continue to work from home on a daily basis and optimistically are planning toward activities and tours for 2021 which will include some new and exciting adventures in a range of countries including our own. Feel free to contact us at any time. Please stay safe and most of all keep smiling.


Greg Paul (Director)

Overland Journeys & Rally Tours NZ Ltd