The seed was planted a long time ago…
29 December 2011
We first started talking about our new adventure, our big trip, on the way back from Fraser Island on Thursday 29 December 2011. We decided it was time to bring our focus back to the reason we bought Lara (our Land Rover Defender) – our big overland trip. We didn’t make any decisions that date, no real plans. It was just great to start dreaming again!
15 January 2012 – First planning session
We had some more discussions about our big trip after I got back from NZ on Sunday 15 January 2012. Jon had already done some research online and had found some very useful sites (I will add those later).
We discussed a possible route and looked at Jon’s roughly planned itinerary including amount of time spent in each country and when we would have to leave to be in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’ of year. There are many options for countries / itineraries and we’ll have to get into quite a lot more detail.
Jon mentions a starting date of November 2012!! That sounds very soon and somewhat impossible, but we’ll start looking into things and see where we end up. We’ll also have to start looking into courses: 4WD mechanics for Jon and remote wilderness first aid for me.
21 January 2012 – Creating a convoy?
We discussed a rough plan of our ideas with Scooby on Saturday 21 January when we were in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under 2012. It was a great topic of conversation during dinner in one of our favourite restaurants ‘Namaste’, a Nepalese restaurant in our old stomping ground, and whilst having some beers in the Earl of Leicester around the corner.
Scooby seemed semi interested, but he thinks it is impossible for him due to work restrictions. Unless he can get a job with an airline and do this trip in between jobs, he is a no-go I think. He now has a good car for it though…!
4 February 2012 – A possible route…?!
These are some very, very rough notes from our first planning session…. We haven’t looked at feasibility of any of these countries! I just wanted to add them so we can compare the final ‘result’ to the initial plan.
- Singapore / Kuala Lumpur – depending on what is easier or cheaper to ship to
- Malaysia – December
- Cambodia – January
- Myanmar – February (I think Jon is rather optimistic about our progress: 3 countries within a month!)
- Nepal – March
- Tibet – April
- China – May
- Russia – June
- Mongolia – July
- Kazakhstan – August
- Uzbekistan – September
- Lithuania – October
Do you like our list??!! It would be fantastic if we could meet people along the way who would travel one or two countries with us… one can dream right?!
For those of you interested. The map above is Peter’s World Map. It is a map of the world where each country is projected according to it’s real size. If you are interested and want to read more about it you can read more about it on the website peters map. Enjoy!
27 March 2012 – Interesting developments
We finally manage to get our first Monday evening of planning in. Jon is home ‘early’ (and very proud of it) at 18.40 and after dinner we get the laptop out and start doing some research.
Jon finds the site he had read things on before and we bookmark it. It is an amazing site with lots and lots of information so we will be using that a lot over the coming months. It’s called Goanna Tracks and run by a couple: Kym and Lyn who seem to have an amazing amount of knowledge after done some super spectacular trips.
Surprise when we discover they live less than an hour’s drive from us! A cheeky email is send to them immediately, inviting them for a dinner on us so we can pick their brains and hopefully find the best way to hook up with other people who are interested in doing what we want to do… Now all we can do is wait and see if we get a response…
The rest of the night is spent reading the website, discussing things like the “car-nay” (carnet de passage) and the courses that we both need to start doing. We haven’t made any progress on those, so we have set our deadlines for finding the right course for next week Monday. It’s on the agenda so now we better try to find some information.
3 April 2012 – A major step forward
Well, we didn’t have to wait long before we received a response from Kym. They were happy to join us for dinner and share their knowledge with 2 complete strangers and gave us some dates they still had free before they depart again for their next adventure.
1 April was suggested and what better day then April Fools to meet strangers and talk about overland trips?
We had a great sunny weekend in Noosa and Tewantin where we met up with Graham and Jan, and Sally. Leaving Noosa with a great icecream we arrived in Kurwongbah at an amazing house. We even saw a cute little wallaby on our way in on the drive-way! Astonishing views over the lake with a nice house on top of the hill.
But the biggest surprise was yet to come. We were invited into the living room, but not just a normal living room! The room had maps on the walls and souvenirs littered the cupboards and competed for space on the walls. They had put out a very nice selection of mementos, neatly grouped per trip. But the maps, I think Jon and I both started druwling on their sofas just looking at the maps.
One big map of Australia and one of the world next to it, but of course the most impressive things on the map where the hand-drawn lines crossing a lot of continents! We had hit the jackpot when it comes to meeting people with an amazing knowledge about overland travel. And, as you would expect, they were very nice!!
We bombarded them with questions all night long, first at their place and then in the tavern over dinner. Question after question and they didn’t flinch. They answered all our questions and some! We heard amazing stories and received so many tips I will have to start writing them down to make sure I don’t forget them! I would love to sit around the fire with them and have more time to listen to lots more stories!
Below are the suggestions and tips they gave us in a bullet list for future reference. Maybe one day we can pass on the knowledge and experience to the next lot of overland travellers!
I might go through them at some point and explain things a bit more in depth or maybe add some more. But this is just a brain dump to make sure we don’t forget the things they told us!
- Cost for guide in China for 48 days: $15000. They shared this with 4 couples (which came to $3 a day basically, not that expensive….)
- They spent $7000 on the whole trip?! check their website as it lists all the expenses they said.
- Install a floor safe. Somewhere invisible, but still easily accessible so you can get to it without it being obvious that you are getting something out of a safe spot. Keep your passport, extra cash etc in there.
- Change your fuel filter more often than you would at home
- Look into travel sim, they are pretty good when you are calling home from the country you are in (as opposed to a local sim where you still need to pay international calls on the local sim). Not sure if we will use this as we probably would’t call home very often.
- waterpurifier – Seagull 4 (carbon filter than lasts for around 12 months). Fill the tanks with water from the creeks or local pumps and then only filter your drinking water on the way out with the Seagull. Use a simple sand filter (Kym was talking about a farm filter) that you put at the inlet. That stops the leaves and other ‘big’ things from getting into your tanks.
- Do Mongolia and Russia on your own to receive more invitations from people. Don’t cross the Gobi dessert just on gps coordinates on your own though. Don’t do the Road of Bones on your own.
- Kym did the outback challenge for 10 years
- Vietnam – not possible with a car that is right-hand drive
- Burma – try if you can drive through Burma. Find the contact they recommend for Laos and Cambodia on their website and ask them if it is possible.
- You definitely need 3rd party insurance for each country. You can buy this at the border crossings. You could get insurance for the car for the whole trip with the Dutch company they mention on their website, but they don’t do it as it is too expensive.
- Get the carnet de passage for Malaysia, then as soon as you leave Malaysia you can send it back (FedEx) to get your money back. Then renew it again when you need it for the next country where you need it. Thailand etc doesn’t need it.
- There are only 3 entry and exit point to get into Mongolia with a car. The LP for Mongolia gives you coordinates for cities etc so you can drive to them using the gps.
- pico station (from ubequi) – a small device that allows you to pick up a wifi signal from 15km away. This allows you to be further away from wifi but still use it.
- Buy a big map for the countries where you are planning to go to, get the LP and read through it and then number all the things you find in the LP on the map. Number them 1-5 where 1 is MUST SEE and 5 is nice if it happens. Then try to connect all the numbers to find a planned itinerary. You can of course always change, but it gives you a good idea how long a country will take you and where you will go.
- Take a polaroid camera with film to take some photos and give them to the people you took them off.
- There is no problem anywhere with taking gps, radio, sat phone etc.
- They have only ever twice had to pay a bribe. Just wait, be polite, smile a lot, pretend you don’t understand and wait until they get bored of you.
- You don’t need to budget extra time for the border crossings. They can take longer sometimes, but sometimes not.
- Once we have dates for China he will add us to the list of people looking for travel partners to share the cost of the guide. We can also ask his contact in China to add us to the list.
14 June 2012 – Meeting Robyn & Rob
After our visit to Kym and Lyn he put us in touch with a group of people who have been planning a big overland trip for a while now. For the past weeks they have been suggesting dates and times to meet up, but every time we were somewhere else and couldn’t make it 🙁
This time Robyn & Rob were in Brisbane to visit the travel doctor (maybe we should see them too?! it seems way too early for that…) and asked if we would want to meet them for an early dinner. Jon was away, but I decided to go anyway as it seems like we never meet otherwise! Again I find myself in a Nepalese restaurant talking about our big trip 🙂
Great people, so much (Australian) 4WD experience and very happy for Jon and I to join the group. I was a little bit worried they might take one look at us (well me in this case) and think we’re way too young, but they didn’t seem to mind.
Their daughter (Naomi) also joined us as she lives nearby and we talked about a lot of things. As usual they seem to have so many good ideas and tips, have been planning this for a long time now and really know what they are talking about. I feel Jon and I really need to start pulling our fingers out and start helping them with the preparation for the trip!
I did offer to help with things and there were a few suggestions made:
- check if there is anyway we can start in KL without having to pay the carnet, or make it a cheap option
- look into a more detailed China route – they had originally planned 2 entries into China, but that looks like it might be too expensive. Now they want to look into doing just one entry and one exit, so the trip needs to be changed. Also Robyn mentioned that she now possibly wants to add Shangai as somebody (her daughter?) was going to be working there. I also tested the waters to see if we could possibly make some suggestions and additions to the route and they were definitely open to that. At the moment apparently John Maxwell is the only one really looking at the route, but he is also building his own EarthCruiser so doesn’t have that much time to look at it. A great opportunity for Jon and I to look into the route and make sure we get to see what we would like to see too. To be honest, most of the route ideas they had written down looked pretty good, it is just adding little things like the Huashan trail which is pretty much on the way already anyway…
- which shipping company to use, either to KL or to Bangkok. Robyn said she had made an overview of what they need and I could then ask Cat to see if this is something she can help us with.
Robyn also tells me she has basically taken everything of Kym and Lyn’s website and put it into 2 books (!) she will send around via email tomorrow. I can’t wait to see those (or better read them!). That must have been a lot of work, but will prove to be invaluable I reckon. Really looking forward to reading those.
Another tip from Rob: look into buying a petrol stove as you can’t get LPG anywhere for cooking. They said you could buy the big ones here in Australia, but the medium-sized ones can be found online. They all seem to have a medium-sized one. We have written our findings on stoves in a separate blog post: The stove.
I really had a good feeling talking to them. They seem to like all the things we like: stay away from towns / big cities, check out the country-side, camp for free alongside the road. It all sounds great and exactly what we like! We also talked about the option to split up for a little bit and meet again after a week or so somewhere if we want to do different things at some point. Obviously we can’t do that in China, but we definitely can in other areas. I’d like to follow Kym’s suggestion for Russia and Mongolia and travel alone there to get more invites from people, but other than that I think I would be pretty happy traveling with Robyn & Rob. I think they will have some great stories for around the campfire!
She was trained as a teacher and just retired (2 weeks ago), but the last 2 years she has been working for an organisation that works with remote areas. Oh, why can’t I remember what it was called – damn goldfish brain of mine! Rob works in the mining industry and travels up and down from Bribie Island to Brisbane (Mary St) every day…
They are still working on their car too to improve things, I really think we need to make a start on creating all our modifications too as time will creep up so quickly on us and these things always take more time!!
We talked about the kangaroo on the car and they have already created theirs, Robyn asked an aboriginal artist to create it for them. She knew him through work where he did illustrations in the kids’ books. Sounds lovely, would love to see it. They are off on a 7-week trip through Australia – in search of an oasis near the WA border, near Lake Mackay – starting on 7 July (back 21 August), so I guess they have to do a lot of things already now.
I also said I would love to do the course with them, or maybe I might do mine earlier as I think they are not doing theirs until the end of the year. It seems Ann is a doctor and John a very handy engineer (he is building their own car!!!), so we should be ok, but we travel separately as well so I definitely want to do the course (and some more if possible).
They also mentioned there is a big get-together on the 26 August and said we were invited to that as well, I haven’t checked the calendar but hope we can make it!
That’s enough brain dump for tonight. I might revisit this post at some time and put some structure into it, but for now it will do.
27 August 2012 – List of random things to bring
I just wanted to write down a few things I think we should consider taking on our trip as we might forget them otherwise…
They are in complete random order and some things we might decide not to bring. I’ll make sure we will update some sort of list somewhere that will list everything we are bringing…
- helmets – on top of clothes cupboard on the inside
- games – beach tennis, frisbee, water bounce ball, juggling balls, hacky sack, slackline
- oil lamp
- mozzie spray
- first aid kit
1 October 2012 – A big update
Last time I wrote an update was when I met Rob and Robyn for the first time. A lot has moved on since then!
I finally met John and Ann for lunch one day in The Gap as they were visiting the Brisbane area. Great to finally meet and very interesting to see their home build Earth Cruiser. Definitely a lot more space in that one than in the standard ones! A lot of work for John who seems to work on it every single day (a few hours after work) and every weekend! But I can see why they are doing it, and it looks awesome.
A few weeks after that, we all met up at Guy and Cheryl’s place in Sandgate. John and Ann joined us via skype, but we all head a lovely Indian dinner at Guy and Cheryl’s place. They are also part of the group and are the only ones that seem to have some experience with overseas travel (apart from some work travel by others) as there are some beautiful photos on the wall.
A lot of things to discuss and plan, the skype call is a great idea and although it is hard for us to make sure we keep our Sunday early evening free for this, it is worth it.
Then, another few weeks later, Rob, Robyn and Guy and Cheryl go on a big trip where disaster seems to strike quite a few times. End result is that Guy and Cheryl are no longer traveling with us through China, as they can’t take their car to high altitudes and they are now going through China with Miles and his partner (forgot her name!).
Right now, we are busy making long lists of things we still need to do before we leave. 69 things are currently still on that list! Some are easy, like setting up our mail forwarding, others a little more complicated, like arranging our Chinese and Russian visa.
The main 2 things we are working on at the moment are making sure we know where we plan to get each visa and how to get them and finalising the interior of Lara.
Oh, and yesterday we decided we want to look into the option of taking folding bikes instead of full-sized bikes. A brilliant idea, as it will hopefully mean less weight on the back door and also that we won’t have our bikes slam in our backs every time we close the back door… would be nicer we think.
We had a quick look online and you can get some new ones from $200 if you buy them here in Australia, or a good second-hand one can be found here too for around $800 (Bike Friday). But, we are interested in buying them in Malaysia or Thailand if we can. Giving us a mission when we are there, supporting the local economy and (hopefully) save us some dollars too. Jon is also planning to write to the manufacturers and see if they are interested in sponsoring us into this new market for them. Fingers crossed!
22 October 2012 – On our way…?
There won’t be any posts in this area until we are… you guessed it… on our way!!
Rough start date for now is 21 February 2013. The plan at the moment is to fly to Singapore, pick up some visas in Singapore (the ones we can’t get in Australia) and then train to Kuala Lumpur where we will reunite with Lara (our Defender). That way we travel end-to-end overland too 🙂
Shipping of Lara is planned in the first week of February and it will take roughly 3 weeks to get to Kuala Lumpur from Brisbane.
See you back here in a few months from now!
Update 22 Jan
Loading of Lara has now been locked in for 1 Feb (as long as we can find our carnet which the RACQ tell us they have sent, the post office says it was delivered yesterday, but we haven’t seen anything!!) and we fly to Singapore on 25 Feb. Picking up Lara in KL is scheduled for 28 Feb at the moment.
I wish I would say our list of things to do is getting smaller, but it just seems to get longer and longer… Only just over a month to go to tick them all off!
29 October 2012 – Wow, today started out well…
We received our first visa back today! It had only been 5 days since we sent our passports to the Lao embassy in Canberra so I was rather surprised when there was a knock on the door today and the familiar looking registered mail envelope was looking at me (well, the postman looked at me with the envelope in his hands, but I don’t think I can even remember if the postie was a he or a she)! Not even sent with express post and back so quickly! A quick check of the contents reassures me they are our passports and they have a visa in it with a validity range of 2 months! Woohoo, we can now enter Lao!
When I picked up Jon from work (on the bike – my commute), he told me he had spoken to the travel doctor who had done the research for our trip. Pretty good news there too. He recommended we take the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination here in Australia, but wait until we get to Mongolia before we get our Tick-Borne Encephalitis. Much cheaper (EUR30 vs AUD300 per person!) and much easier to get. He will send us a link with a recommended clinic and that leaves us only with Typhoid (expired for both Jon and me) and the Japanese Encephalitis before we leave.
Jon had also spoken to Bupa (our medical insurance) to get in writing that we can suspend our insurance and can re-activate it on return and we will still be covered without a waiting period for anything AND for everything and anything we might have picked up en route! He now has the email details of the person to talk to and get it in writing – fingers crossed…
Then, as we were finalising our tax we received an email from John and Ann. That’s when the good news ended! They are unable to continue planning with us as they are no longer able to join us on the trip! We tried to call them, but couldn’t get them on the phone. We’re not sure what the reason is, but I am sure we will find out at some point. We spoke to Guy & Cheryl and Rob & Robyn who are all still keen to continue the planning and go on the trip, so we decided to all get together face-to-face again at Guy and Cheryl’s place this Sunday. Hopefully we can work out some new ideas then.
Base plan is to join the 2 groups and use our shorter version of the China trip (leaving out Tibet due to their altitude restrictions) and start a few weeks earlier than planned (roughly 14 May into China). This will put us a month ahead of schedule into Mongolia (and the Stans!) which is probably not a bad thing considering we are otherwise getting into the Stans when winter is approaching…
We’re not sure where it will end, plans are on the move again. We’ll keep you up to date!
23 November 2012 – More visa (Russia, Lao and Kazakhstan) and passport news
I don’t think I mentioned it last time, but because John and Ann can no longer travel with us our Lao visa is pretty much useless as it now has the wrong dates for our time in Lao (due to moving the China section forward by 3 weeks). That means we are now back to having zero visas in our passports and many to go. I don’t even dare to count how many at the moment – too scary!
We wanted to apply for our 12 month business visa for Russia here in Australia, but after some research, many emails with Stantours and finding out about the new regulations for this visa (now also requiring an HIV test and our cv’s in Russian with valid business purpose for travel…) we are now completely going to change tactics: apply for a tourist visa in Europe instead! More research needed, but it seems it is much easier to apply for in Europe and also cheaper. And it appears we can apply for multiple entry tourist visa in Europe too. We’ll let you know more once we find out.
Applying for a visa in NL does mean I would need a second identity form as we are also traveling to Germany and Norway when we’re in Europe and as the Dutch allow you to have both an Identity Card and a passport, I wanted to apply for one now (they take about 2 weeks). BUT when I started to call the consulates here in Australia I found out you can’t apply for one here. You can only apply for them in the Netherlands (if you are registered there), or in a country where they accept them as proof of identity… But then the guy suggested I apply for a second passport! I told him I had read that personal reasons (ie travel) were not a reason to be granted a second passport, and he told me that is correct, BUT that they don’t ask for a reason….
I quickly send all the documentation to Jon to print, called the consulate in Brisbane to make an appointment (between 10-12 only), rushed off to the post office to get a registered envelope and raced into the city to submit it all (keeping my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t matter that they can’t see my current passport as it is with the embassy of Kazakhstan in Singapore!)
That means we are now waiting for our passports with the visa for Kazakhstan to come back and I am waiting for my second passport!!
Next visa is the Chinese and we’ll get that going as soon as our passports are back from Singapore if we have enough time before we leave for Europe on the 15th of December…