...along the road...

            

Monday, September 20, 2010...

It is difficult to define an "end" to this journey...discussing the memories, and reliving all of the experiences of the last 7 months will certainly keep us busy for a while. We have not yet managed to call the journey "finished" and will most probably not be able to do so for another couple of weeks. For now though, we will finish the log at this stage, after completing the 38.500 km and 225 days on the road.

There is still one big question to be answered though: Who are we, now that we have arrived??? As we step back into a "normal" lifestyle we find several pieces to the answer, but are sure that it will still take some time before we can attempt to fully answer this question.  One thing is for sure though, we are extremely grateful for all the experiences we have had, people we met, thoughts and inspirations along the trip...

We will add one last page to this website within the next few weeks, but are certain, that this experience will not only be part of us for the rest of our lives, but will most certainly form an integral part of almost all of our future decisions...

We would like to thank all of you for reading our log and therewith becoming  "fellow travellers" and hope that you have been able ot take part in what we have experienced. We would be glad to answer any questions you might have, or provide more information in regard to our journey....


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The last beers seem to have been past their use by date....most of us wake up to a headache, and require a couple of  strong coffees and slow movements, before we start into the day...Katrin, Ulrike and Helen set up a Birthday breakfast buffet on Jasper's bonnet... The sun is out again, and we cure our headaches with extreme relaxing in the sun...

 

Slowly but surely everybody starts to head home, and we pack up. We have a quick lunch together with Helen, Bertram and Petra, Reece and all the respective kids before making our journey back to Ingolstadt. On the way we realize that this will probably have been the last night in the tent on top of Jasper for the next many months...a mixture of feelings kicks in, and we are not entirely sure as to which one prevails...


Saturday, September 18, 2010

After a great start into the weekend of partying, we woke up early in order to get everything ready for the arrival of all our guests. The sky is blue, and the sun quickly warms everything up....By 2 PM we and Carol are ready, and not long thereafter the first people start arriving... shortly thereafter we were enjoying a great BBQ and catching up. It was great to see friends and family that we had not seen in a couple of years...Around 11 PM the last few friends from Munich head back home, leaving only the "the hard core campers"...a quick cheers to Tilo's birthday and everybody dissappeared into bed...

 

Seeing our friends whom we had not seen in a number of years, and beeing able to say farewell knowing that it would not be another couple of years before we see them again, felt very good....having that said, a lot of friends are now on the other side of the ocean....


Friday, September 17, 2010

By sheer luck, the campsite we have chosen for the arrival party has a little restaurant attached to it, which has been taken over by a young Hungarian called Carol. Once we explained to him what we were planning, he is quick to suggest that he can take care of the BBQ, and would organize everything for us. He put a suggestion together and we all agree that this would be the easiest way and would especially allow us to spend most time with all our friends...

We arrive at the campsite late afternoon, set the basics up, before heading back to the train station to pick Reece up (whom we had met in Laos)...we end up getting lost in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Germany, supposedly the country where we expect to live for the next couple of years.....anyway, maybe it was not the smartest idea to head out into the depths of Bavaria, without a map or a GPS...about 15 minutes after Reece was due to arrive, we receive a fairly desperate phonecall and an inquiry as to whether we would still be coming...sorry Reece...we just wanted to make clear that we are Aussies, and not Germans....:-) After we returned to the campsite, we set up our tent, and ended up catching up on each others paths since we had split in Laos almost 3 months earlier...


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The week passes quickly, with Katrin sorting out a lot of the paperwork which has accumulated over the past many months, Tilo completing several handyman chores around the house, and both enjoying the kids and the long evening's with Helen and Gerrit...Despite several promises to not drink any alcohol at night, we manage to significantly reduce the number of bottles in the fridge and the cellar....this will certainly not make the return to a normal lifestyle within the next few weeks any easier....:-)))


Monday, September 13, 2010

The very final leg of our journey starts in the early afternoon...We pack everything into Jasper, and head towards Ingolstadt, where we will spend most of the next week, before the next party in the vicinity of Munich...We find a truck to follow and quietly cruise South...

We are glad to arrive at Helen and Gerrit's new home, and quickly move into our temporary accomodation...home for the next few weeks...


Sunday, September 12, 2010

As most of our guests make their way back home, we receive a phonecall from the local TV channel, asking for an interview for the evening news. The reporter sounds alright, and we decide to give it a go...if not now, when else would we make it to TV??? We spend the afternoon on a freshly mown field close to Katrin's parents home, and are filmed as we make a coffee and set up our "simulated" campsite...by 7:00 PM we watch ourselves for about 3 minutes later on that evening, as we drive up and down the field...:-))

View the spot  (this is a .avi file and you might need to configure your external browser applications before beeing able to view)


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maria and Walter organize the welcome party in their workshop at the Technology center. The car is set up as if we were camped and turns into the perfect toy for the many kids...Jasper does not only fascinate every child present, but also several adults...while the children climb in and out of the tent, onto the roof and into the cubby box, the adults are curious to understand how we cooked and where we went to the toilet...by the late afternoon, we are almost 50 people including family, friends, former colleagues and fellow travellers...We are amazed and very grateful for all the interest shown in this journey and the extremely warm welcome we are given...

   


Friday, September 10, 2010

Despite receiving clear instructions from the "arrival committee" in Chemnitz NOT to arrive before lunch, we wake up early, have a quick breakfast and face the last 200 Km not long thereafer. Our progress is monitored closely by the committee, and we sense that there is something big happening in Chemnitz... As we turn into Chemnitz, and drive past the office of Katrin's parents, we see a group of almost 20 people, waving big welcome banners, flags and bottles of champagne...As we pull into the parking lot we suddenly realize that we are beeing welcomed not only by our parents, brothers and sisters, but also by Tilo's aunt and uncle from Hamburg...several tears are shed, and a couple of glasses are downed, before we then need to spend some time with a reporter of the local newspaper....after the formalities are completed, and we have officially landed in Chemnitz, we head out to Katrin's parents home, where we enjoy more champagne....first stories are shared before we head out for dinner at a traditional saxonian restaurant...

It does not take long before we realize the full extend of this event. Tilo's other aunt and uncle from Hamburg arrive together with their daughter and her family...almost the entire Hamburg family is present, and it ends up being one of the first times in many years that all of us are together again. We spend the evening catching up, but quickly realize that it will take far more then a weekend to be back to date with all the respective stories. At the same time, we are glad to realize that from now on, it will not be as difficult as over the last many years to catch up anymore...


Thursday, September 09, 2010

By now we must really be getting close to Germany....it is raining again...this must be a pattern to our journey. We left Sydney with five days of rain, and will now be entering Germany with rain again...we just hope that it does not last five days...

Shortly before lunch we cross the border into Germany, unfortunately not thinking quick enough to stop at the border signs to take a picture of the actual entry into Germany. We therefore decide to turn around, and quicker then we expected, were leaving Germany again, heading towards Australia. For the first time in several months we are heading East again....and we feel quite comfortable with it too...might be an omen for the next trip...:-)) We manage to resist the temptation though, and turn around again, putting the image in the box...

Following the recommendation from Maria, we stop at the "Kulturinsel Einsiedel", an entertainment park for young and old (that is Tilo), completely made out of wood by local artists...once again, it does not take long for us to be the attraction of the park, this time, because Katrin and Tilo are having more fun then any of the other children around...it even goes as far as us being called "rowdy" by another kid. and after 8 month travelling Katrin's jeans give way on the slides... we sometimes do feel for Lennart having to travel with his embarrassing aunt and uncle.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

We finally get a chance to have that BBQ that we have been promising Lennart. The campsite for the night has an open fireplace where we make a big fire. We eat until we cannot see any more food, and then enjoy another hour beside the fire...


Tuesday, September 07, 2010


After a quick drive in the morning we arrive at the salt mine Kopalnia Sol "Wieliczka", the oldest saltmine in Poland, dating back to the middle ages. There are several huge chambers, small lakes and nine chapels, which have been carved into the salt, with salt chandeliers, salt crosses, salt everything...we spend almost two hours below ground, walking along some of the 300 Km's of tunnels. Every now and then we can't resist and lick the walls to check whether it is really salt, as it is hard to believe...

Later on in the afternoon, we arrive at the concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our curiosity is paired with anxiety...we are unsure as to how Lennart will take this all up. We had spent quite some time discussing this ugly part of history with him over the last few days, but were unsure as to how he would react to actually seeing the buildings...It is good to see his interest and his challenging questions, combining history with what is happening in modern live. We are glad we made our way to visit this relict of our recent history...a reminder of the terrible crime against humanity...

Monday, September 06, 2010

While having breakfast, Lennart gives us a new name since we are a travelling dream team - "The KLO Team" - Katrin, Lennart & Otto (Lennart's Name for Tilo)... From now on, all our emails and text messages to the rest of the family are signed with KLO. Throughout the day, Lennart then advises the roles of the individual team members:

Otto - The "O" im Klo (sorry to all English speakers, this does not translate too well...)

Lennart - The Klo-Clown (does not require any further explanation...)

Katrin - The Klo-Pilot or The Klo-Hildegunde (Hildegunde is the family name for all navigation systems in the respective cars....)

We make an attempt to visit some of the various churches, museums and castles for which Krakow is famous...unfortunately we learn that they all close on Mondays, leaving us no option but to believe that Lennart even has this under his control....he was not looking forward to visiting "this old stuff"...alternatively, we head back to the water park, as Lennart and Tilo are both looking forward to breaking their records down the killer slide...unfortunately it turns out to be closed as of this day, as some repairs were required... Before heading back to the hotel, a quick pit stop was necessary so that we could buy a new pair of pants for Lennart...his old ones tore while climbing into Jasper....much to everybodies enjoyment....another true Klo-Clown performance...


Sunday, September 05, 2010


Katrin gathers brownie points with Lennart early this day, as she serves up a full bacon and eggs breakfast, with croissants, nesquik and of course, the 1 litre nutella glass mentioned before... according to Lennart there would only have been one way to improve this breakfast....having ONLY bacon, and tons thereof...

In the afternoon we reach Kelci, where we visit an open air museum, showing how people lived in this area several hundred years ago. Despite being beautifully presented, and having a very impressive collection of old clothes, tools and even field working equipment, we cut our visit short, as the rain catches up with us.

We head further south towards Krakow, where we  find a hotel room, before heading to a waterpark, with the highest and longest slides in all of Poland... We spend almost three hours climbing up stairs, and breaking our own time records down each slide. There are several where you do not see anything at all, sliding through complete darkness...about 40 seconds later, you dive into the pool at the end, and are glad to have survived...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

After a surprisingly warm night, we all wake up to a beautiful morning. We realize though, that we will certainly learn a lot about each others sleeping habits over the next few days...and little Mr. Schmidt certainly has an interesting sleeping pattern...:-)) We are sure that there would be several scientists interested in studying his "jump and then roll over" maneuver in some detail, but for now, this honour will probably be solely ours...

After Lennart put a shopping list together with everything we would need for breakfast, BBQ, pancakes and spaghetti bolognese, we go for another quick stroll through Warsaw. We are all keen to head out of town again, as we really enjoyed camping together and are all looking forward to putting our BBQ plans into action. While Tilo tests the Polish McDonald wireless network, Katrin and Lennart fill the pantry....Tilo was quite surprised though to see that the meticulously detailed shopping list, developed earlier that day did not have a lot to do with what was now actually inside the car.....anyway, this is supposed to be fun, and who says that six bags of potato chips, 4 tablets of chocolate and a 1 litre glass of Nutella cannot be eaten in a week?!?!???


Friday, September 03, 2010

A very special day for us, as we are picking up a special delivery at the Warsaw Airport - LENNART - our nephew - will be joining us on the final stretch to Germany...once we have him in hands - a journey in itself, as we get stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours on the way to the airport (a trip which should usually take no more then 20 minutes), we return to the camping site where we had stayed the previous night, and decide to have a look at the old part of Warsaw and then have an extensive late birthday dinner for Lennart. Warsaw has a beautifully rebuilt old city center (as it was completely destroyed during the war), and the city was crowded with street performers, locals, tourists and party seekers...

While climbing into our roof top tent we were still slightly apprehensive as to whether we would all fit in there, and as to whether we would be cold or not, as we will now be sharing our sleeping bags with Lennart...it turned out though, that the "extreme cuddling" necessary to fit all of us into the tent, actually warms it up pretty well too...certainly no more freezing in the tent from now on....

 


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Another day on the road towards Warsaw... By the time we get there, we make our way to a small campground almost in the middle of the city. There are only a couple of other tents and cars... one of them turns out to be an Australian couple though, and all the others are German...how else could it be?!? We quickly become the attraction of the whole campground once people realize that it is an Australian numberplate. We end up having another long vodka night inside one of the German vans, with the gas stove burning away, in order to keep us all warm... the temperature has fallen quite a bit over the last few hours, and we are curious to see how it will be sharing our sleeping bags with Lennart over the next few days...


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The morning after (the bottle of vodka) started very slow with a looongg breakfast, lots of coffee and the sunnies on our noses before heading into Riga....clearly Katrin had to drive today...Riga is another beautiful Hanse town, with old history and beautiful restored buildings. Shortly after having lunch, while strolling through town, we meet Michael and Matthias again, sitting outside a small cafe having lunch themselves. We do not envy them for having to ride their bikes that day...the vodka is certainly taking it's toll on all of us...

It is now clear that we are back in Europe - crossing a border into a new country every day... The area presents itself beautifully though. The sky's are blue, temperatures are mild and everybody seems to be trying to catch the last warm days of the year...we head out of Riga in the early afternoon in order to make our way towards Poland. Only two more days before we pick up Lennart from the airport in Warsaw...


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tallinn presents itself from it's most beautiful side. The weather is beautiful, with a  clear blue sky and fairly mild temperatures. We go for a stroll through the old town, and it does not take long and we are surrounded by several thousand tourists. Mostly elderly people from Germany, Spain and Italy. Once we reached the top of the little hill in the middle of the old town, it becomes clear where they all come from. There are six huge passenger liners in the harbour, and as we watch, dozens of small boats bring and take more people from and to the liners...A short talk to one of the many tourists reveals that these liners cruise along the Baltic sea coast stopping off at the major towns of each country...in other words, we will be seeing more of these tourists over the next few days...

Tallinn turns out to be another amazingly restored city, with a beautiful old town center, museums, restaurants and shops...nonetheless, a couple of hours later we need to leave again, as we now have one last deadline before reaching Germany. Lennart, our nephew will be joining us in Poland and travel the last 1.000km with us...and we do not want to be late at the airport in Warsaw...:-))

We crossed the border into Latvia late that afternoon, and head to our first official camping site since we left Australia...this will take some getting used to. Luckily it is a beautifully situated campsite along the beach, and we enjoy our first sunset on a European beach. Once we return to our car, and start setting up our camp, we meet Michael and Matthias, two Germans travelling on their motorbikes. They are on their way back to Germany after travelling along the Russian black sea coast and the Volga. It turns out to be a long great night talking about the respective traveller stories while following the good old Russian tradition of drinking vodka... yes, we stayed true to the tradition and finished the bottle before struggling back to our tents ...


Monday, August 30, 2010

We say goodbye to Walter and Maria after spending almost a week together. It is a good feeling to know that from now on the goodbyes will not be for such long periods anymore. We will be seeing them again at our arrival in Chemnitz in less then two weeks...

We head off towards Estonia, in order to cross the border some time in the afternoon. We have no ideas as to what to expect, as we have not heard from many people who have exited Russia at this border...less then two weeks from our planned arrival, the fact that this will be our entry into the European Union also adds to the feeling that we are now really on our home stretch...

With the border gates and buildings already in sight, we decide to grab a bite to eat in a small Russian restaurant, before officially entering Europe...another Shashlik to be added to the numerous others that we enjoyed over the last four weeks...:-) The border crossing then almost turns out to be an anticlimax. The Russians give us our stamps, do not want to see our Visa registrations, nor are they interested in the car...once in Estonia, the interest is even less, and after less then an hour, we are back in the European Union, together with Jasper, but without any stamps in our passports or the carnet....after months of extreme form filling exercises and stamping of everything, it now seems that we do not even have a valid document for our trusty Jasper...

Shortly before Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, we take refugee in a small hotel, as the sky seemed to open exactly over us...


Sunday, August 29, 2010

 


Seems that the weather forecast finally got it right....we wake up to a very cold and rainy morning, but do not allow this to keep us from exploring further. We take a fast boat, and head out to the Peterhof Palace, a series of palaces and gardens often referred to as the "Russian Versailles", also famous for the extremely clever water fountain systems, which work entirely without pumps. We spend most of the day walking through the gardens, and understanding the water flow.

Once back in St. Petersburg, we head straight to a traditional Russian restaurant that we had found the day before, already toying with what we would be eating...it came as it had to come...after a great meal and several beers and vodkas (as a smart man says, always do as the locals do...), we headed back to the hotel in order to get a good night sleep before saying goodbye the next day and heading towards Estonia...it was a great time in St. Petersburg, and we will certainly be back. There is just no way you can see everything her in only four days...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Once again we are picked up by a guide to show us the Summerpalast, famous for the "Bernstein-Room". It is a short drive out of town, surrounded by parks and forests. It is easy to see why these palasts (there are several in the vicinity), were all built in this area. Despite hundreds of other tourists, we get a good impression of how young Yekaterina lived there...

 

 

 

 

 

 


Friday, August 27, 2010

A whole day walking through St. Petersburg, poking our heads into every cathedral, church, gallery and of course every Zara we found on our way...not even the old post office was left aside... St. Petersburg definitely has enough to be seen to keep you busy for a week or more...

Before falling into bed, we finish off with a Lithuanian dinner in a nice little restaurant close to our hotel. Of course we cannot help but enjoy in honour of the real "Lithuanian Prince"...

 


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The first day of several extreme sightseeing days started fairly slow, as we all still need to recover from the first beer and talking festival in St. Petersburg... Maria had booked a guide to show us the Hermitage, which nowadays consists of five of the main buildings of St. Petersburg. They are all completely restored and look immaculate. Despite the fact that all weather reports had predicted rain, we had a fair bit of sun and blue sky, enough to allow for some amazing views of the town and it's beautiful old buildings. After half a day inside the Hermitage, we wander through the old part of town, and into several cathedrals. It is evident that this town was once extremely rich and powerful, and it is good to see that it is on it's way back there...


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The day of a first reunion with our family  - we meet up with Katrin's parents in St. Petersburg. It is beautiful to meet family along the way and to be able to spend some time together along our journey. The next 5 days will be for us to catch up over all those thousand questions and to explore St. Petersburg together....

So we start in style with some "lunch", which turns into then dinner - several hours and many beers later we are still talking - obviously at Katrin's "talk-speed-rate" times 4 .....


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Driving day  - on our way to St. Petersburg


Monday, August 23, 2010

It is still raining and it seems that the short summer here is over... it is really cold, as we get on to the boat to Kishi island...

Despite the cold and the rain, the trip is more then worthwhile. The island of Kishi is certainly a highlight for us in Russia, a grass island in lake Onega. The island is famous for it's old wooden architecture, especially a 300 year old wooden winter church with 24 little towers (at least that is how many we managed to count...). It sits along the shores of the island, and seems to be in the middle of nowhere. There are only a handful of houses nearby, and it is difficult to imagine how and why they built this amazing construction at such a remote location...

There are several old houses showing how people lived a couple of hundred years back, and what they lived from. The inside of these houses was amazingly intact with a lot of the old furniture, tools and decoration on display. Once again on our travels, we feel drawn back in time...


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Unfortunately we wake up to a very misty and rainy morning...not what we had hoped for, but part of the game. We decide to postpone our trip to the island and catch up with our website, emails, reading, and other bits and pieces that have been neglected over the past many weeks...


Saturday, August 21, 2010

After another 80 Km along the shore of lake Onega we arrive in Petrosavodsk, a small industrial city which used to be home to a munitions plant founded by Peter the Great in 1703. Despite many old ironworks and other factories around the city, it also has numerous beautifully restored buildings and pleasant pedestrian areas. We realize how close we are now getting to Finland, as there are quite a few finish cars and tourists... We find a small hotel to stay for two nights and organize everything for our trip to Kizhi, a small island 65 Km into lake Onega, which is the home to some of the most spectacular wooden churches of Russia - so they say... the plan is to leave the car at the hotel, and spend Sunday on the island before then heading towards St. Petersburg on Monday...


Friday, August 20, 2010

We spend most of the day on the road, passing through tiny villages, with small churches and monasteries of all sorts showing up in the middle of nowhere. Some are almost in ruins, while others are slowly being restored and several are already back to their original beauty...it is clear that the church is experiencing a revival after having been discriminated during the communist regime over the last many decades...

After almost 500 Km we arrive at lake Onega. Another lake that amazes us due to it's sheer size. These Russian lakes are not lakes, but more like oceans... we camp at a little beach with white sand and enjoy a beer in honour of Thomas' birthday...Happy Birthday!!!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

By sheer luck we wander into what seems to be some sort of "Apple celebration" within the Kremlin. There are dozens of large baskets filled with apples which are then blessed by one of the many priests, before being distributed to the bystanders. After our apple experience the evening before, we immediately feel pursued by these little green creatures, and decide to head into the church for immediate medication of this nasty superstition...

The event was then finalized by an amazing church bell concert. We head out of town in the early afternoon, looking forward to a quite night along the Volga...


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

 


 

Our drive takes us through Kostrama where we visit the monastery of St. Ipaty. Mikail Romanov lived here in 1613 when he was appointed Tsar of Russia, starting the Romanov dynasty - the last Tsar dynasty to rule Russia...again, it is great to see how much money and effort is being put into restoring these old sites.

Later on in the afternoon we arrive in Yaroslav. After a quick stroll through town, we head into a little street cafe, and decide to challenge our Russian language skills by ordering something that we have not yet had since we arrived in Russia...several minutes later (actually almost 15 minutes later), and no smarter then before having started to read the menu - the friendly waiter is running out of patience - we decide for two Shashlicks "moomoo" with fried potatoes, salad and bread, the basic meal which we have already enjoyed other the last many days...in order to make up for the defeat in the first round, we kindly call our waiter again for the dessert... knowing that they serve what looks like a spectacular Apfelstrudel, it seems easy to explain to her that that is what we want, by using the simple word for apple and pointing to the last table where she had served this so beautifully looking piece of art d' cuisine moments earlier... her enthusiastic nodding and apparent understanding leave us back in anticipation of what is to be served shortly...much to our disappointment - but great laughter - we are then served a freshly cut and meticulously presented sliced apple on a plate...not quite the Apfelstrudel that we had hoped for, but another reason to practice our Russian vocabulary in the car...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another special day...it is Jasper's birthday at 160.000 Km, and that pretty much without any incidents at all...after a quick celebration, we arrive in Kineschma, where we almost get caught out by heading into a one way road against the traffic, right in the view of the local police officers. After a quick U-turn we find a parking spot in the middle of the market, and get ready to make a dash in order to avoid the police officers who by now had decided to take a closer look at us. While getting out of the car though, we are ambushed by an incredulous Russian, who only produces a rough: "ehhh...you really from Australia???" After a short yes, and the attempt to get out of there, he realizes the police himself, and goes straight into "help-mode". Let's go and have a look at the local sights..."you have to see this..." and off we go. The police is left behind, and we follow Nick, who by now talks pretty good English, to the main church in town, completely restored and overlooking the Volga. From there he takes us to the second church, and an hour later, we find ourselves seated in one of the best restaurants in town (coincidentally his mother is the cook at this restaurant), having lunch at his expense...once finished, we get a new map (as ours is far too old according to Nick), detailed recommendations and explanations as to where we need to go next, and his mobile number in case we need any further help during our travels through Russia...another one of those amazing Russian experiences...

According to the travel itinerary created by Nick and followed by us, our next stop was Plyos, a small artists' retreat, which has inspired many artists over the past few centuries...we quickly realize why, as the village is nestled in a small valley along the Volga, with small churches everywhere...


Monday, August 16, 2010

Already on the way into Nizhny Novgorod we realize quite a lot of smoke probably from fires in the surrounding areas. We decide to just have a quick look at the Kremlin, which turns out to be fairly disappointing, before then heading out of town again, in order to get away from the smoke. Another 200 Km north, and the air around us is almost completely clear again. We find a spot directly on the Volga, and pitch our tent with a beautiful view of the river...it is amazing how easy it is to find beautiful areas completely away from other people in this country. Unfortunately we come across large rubbish piles while searching for a place to stay though, as Russians in general also enjoy the outdoors - but not enough yet to take care of it...therefore rubbish is generally left back...

 


Sunday, August 15, 2010

After a very slow start into the day, with a long breakfast, and then updating our website and the photo galleries, we head towards Nizhny Novgorod. We cross the Volga - one of the biggest rivers of Russia - for the first time, and get the first real impression of it's size. Navigation is now quite simple again, as we will follow the river for almost the next 1.200 Km.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

We wake up at around 5 AM in the morning after having passed two time zones yesterday. Just in time to travel to Australia in our thoughts, and take part in Karen and Ryan's wedding. We wish both of you all the very best, and would have loved to be there...We decided to not open the only bottle of wine we have, but to keep it in the fridge for a slightly less "Russian" drinking time (as it was only 7 AM...).

We spent the rest of the day sightseeing in Kazan, a beautiful 1.000 year old town, capital of the Tatar Republic and with a diverse Muslim and Christian history...we even spoil ourselves by sleeping in a hotel, but cannot help ourselves and misbehave by using the bidet to wash our clothes and towels...the color of the water was quite scary to say the least...


Friday, August 13, 2010

Having spent the last few days mainly on the road, we escape onto smaller sideroads, and follow the Kama river towards the Volga. We are back in the middle of nature, with only very few people and villages around us. Choosing the perfect spot to spend the night is now even more difficult then in the last few days, as the choices are huge. The brand new BBQ grill, which we had to buy as we forgot our coathanger grill in Mongolia, once again does a great job, giving the beautiful surroundings the finishing touches by preparing great meals...

P.S.: In regard to the fires in the surrounding areas of Moscow and Jekaterinenburg, we have not had any problems at all. In fact, it is hard to tell that something is going on, at least where we have been so far. Nonetheless, we will hold on to our plan to skip Moscow and to return there at a later stage.. we will therefore be heading towards St. Petersburg along the Volga river over the next two weeks.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wake up early again, with several trucks around us leaving for their day on the road...we realize that despite being practical to sleep at Russian roadhouses along the highway, it is certainly not as relaxing as our usual spots in the middle of nowhere...trucks come and go all night, but you have a shower and a toilet which comes in handy every now and then...

On the way to Perm, we stop off at a small village called Kungur, which is known for it's ice caves. Although by now the temperatures have risen to almost 32 degrees during the day, we put on our winter jackets and our beanie, and head into minus 5 degree cold caves with amazing frozen waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites...


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Arrive in Jekaterinenburg. The sky is blue, and there is no trace of any fires at all. Live seems to be completely untouched by what is happening further west. Even the TUI Reisegruppen from Germany are still being walked through the pedestrian Zone...we stop the car in the center and go for a stroll through the town.

While heading towards the highway to leave town, a noise which has been creeping up very slightly over the last few days becomes quite loud...expecting it to be the left front wheel bearing (which we cannot replace ourselves as we are missing a 52mm socket), we decide to search for the Land Rover service center...an hour later we find it, by following a taxi driver all the way through Jekaterinenburg. After the classical "it stopped doing it just before I arrived here" scenario, we lifted the car up, checked it through, and realized that the front universal joint had given up, but was now slightly wedged in, so that it was still holding and therefore not making the noise anymore... lucky we have a spare joint in the car, as they replace it in no time, and we are off again. If we had not had one, they could have ordered one in for us, which would have taken approx. 3 weeks...We are back on the road, and head on towards Perm.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The run West is still on. We travel another 550 Km and almost arrive in Jekaterinenburg. By now, we can clearly see and smell the smoke from the fires around the area. We are yet to understand as to how bad the situation is; everything seems to be normal amongst the Russians, but the news we receive from Germany is not encouraging.

We decide to head on, and assess the situation as we go, but have a plan in place to circumnavigate the area widely...


Monday, August 9, 2010

While listening to one of our Audiobooks, which takes us back to the late 19th century with a highly nerve racking plot around several deaths in southern France, we shed the k's with ease...only now and then we are brought back to reality by some crazy Russian overtaking maneuver, or a curious policeman, who wants to check our paperwork (while there have been approximately 45 policemen along the road, checking for speed, alcohol and documentation, we have only been stopped by two so far, and both have been very friendly and professional...)...we call it a day after 551 Km...


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Since we have now reached the flat part of Siberia, we decide to start the chase West. Despite being on schedule for arrival in St. Petersburg where we will meet with Katrin's parents, we decide to make some headway... we spend the day on the road, getting used to low-flying-racing-Ladas practicing their crazy overtaking maneuvers...


Saturday, August 7, 2010

As usual, saying farewell while traveling takes a lot longer then expected, and we only get going shortly before lunch. Not a bad excuse though to head into the first restaurant we see along the road...and by sheer luck, it turns out to be a fantastic place for Russian Shashlik. We also find extreme pleasure in the fact that there are real (and clean) toilets, and wash basins with soap...it is amazing how much dirt can come off those hands even after the third rinse...arrive in Novosibirsk after several hours and pitch our tent alongside the Ob river once again... despite being wide enough the wind is not enough for a late afternoon kiteboarding session...


Friday, August 6, 2010

As Raam and Effi do not travel on Saturdays, and we need to continue West, we decide to split paths on Saturday...but not before enjoying another good dinner together. We find a tranquil spot alongside the Ob river (one of Russia's biggest), and set up camp. Katrin makes traditional East German "Glitscher" with fresh "Pfifferlingsauce" while Raam and Effi cook traditional fried rice...Tilo takes care of the beer...:-)) Fresh blue berries with cream for dessert, and we all fall into bed...actually we do not really fall into bed, but are chased into bed by the hundreds of mosquito's that decide to show up shortly after the sun has set...


Thursday, August 5, 2010

After a slow start into the day alongside lake Teletskoe, we leave towards Biysk, leaving the beautiful Altai region behind us.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finally a bog-free day again. Used the spare time that we had up our sleeves as we did not need to lift the car several times, or dig the tyres out, etc. in order to change the suspension from the front left to the right and vice versa. Lucky Raam was at hand to help us out, being an ex-landrover mechanic... While the guys were stuck underneath the car, Katrin washed pretty much all the clothes, and cleaned up the inside of the car... all back to what it should look like... After a couple of hours we were back to sitting next to the lake and drinking beer...


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finished the day with another bogging session. Actually the plan was to just cross the river next to our campsite in order to clean the car a bit before working on the front suspension. Once across though, Raam and Tilo decided to continue for a couple of kilometers along the river in search for a better campsite. Unfortunately one of the mud holes was slightly deeper then expected, providing for almost 4 and a half hours of fun... The sun had already disappeared, light was getting scarce, and our options seemed to have ended, as we finally managed to get good old Jasper onto firm ground again. Just enough time for a jump in the cold river, a cold beer, and a bite to eat, before falling into the tents...


Monday, August 2, 2010

The drive through the small villages of the Altai region is absolutely beautiful. The villages mostly consist of small wooden houses, which generally have beautifully maintained gardens, with many colorful flowers and a vegetable patch. The houses themselves have crafted blue or green frames around the windows, creating a nice contrast with the dark wooden walls...

 

We continue heading northwest together with Raam and Effi. Both of them plan to travel to Novosibirsk, before then turning East again towards Lake Baikal. From there they will head back into Mongolia (from where they were coming), before probably heading back home. We enjoy their company, with great fires, long talks and discussions, and a lot of good food. Before being able to sit down and enjoy another BBQ though, we had to unbog Jasper - who at this stage was sitting firmly on the two diffs... the Maxtrax alone did not do the trick, so we had to lift the car and fill the tracks with some stones from the nearby river, before managing to muscle our way out again...

 


Sunday, August 1, 2010

The day started off with pretty bad weather, so that we decided to pass on the hiking and give fishing a go in one of the many beautiful rivers. Once again, the fish were not very impressed with the salami pieces we used for bait - maybe they were not all that impressed with our fishing outfit in general, which consisted of a couple of meters of 4 Kg line attached to some long sticks...a few hours later we were once again enjoying some great pasta...


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Knowing now that we are entirely legal in the Altai mountain area, we decide to spend the day alongside a river and to go for a short hike up the mountain in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we end up bush bashing for about three hours, before finally finding a fairly good track...at that time, we are already fairly tired though, and head back to our camp, to meet up with Raam who had stayed there for the day....by the time we get back, he is having a chat with another traveler from the Czech Republic, who was friendly enough to leave us his topographic map of the area... straight away, we start planning a hike for the next day...


Friday, July 30, 2010

After almost two days of a wild goose chase in order to get our visa registration for the Altai region, we finally had the required stamp in hands at 3:57 PM on Friday afternoon, shortly before everything closed...

It all started in Kosh Agash on Thursday, where we walked into the registration office together with Robert. The friendly lady explained that government offices are closed on Thursdays, and she could therefore not register us. We decided to continue west towards Aktash, from where we were then sent to Ulagan, another 50 Km into the mountains...on the way we picked up Raam and Effi, two Israeli backpackers, heading in the same direction, and happy to squeeze onto one sear in the back of Jasper... By the time we arrived in Ulagam it was Friday, the respective officers were out at lunch... once they were back, they looked for a dozen of reasons why they could not register us... after long stories back and forth, and all of us trying to work their charm, we finally convince the lady in charge to process our registrations.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Once again it is border day...and even better, it is the long expected Russian border. After many stories from many different travellers, we are unsure as to what to expect, and decide to remain as open minded as possible.

After one of the coldest and probably shortest nights so far - the night was called off at about 5:00 AM because of an extremely strong and very cold wind - we pulled the tent down in record time, and headed towards the wind protected and luckily already sunny side of the valley. Instead of having breakfast we allowed ourselves to nodd off for a second snooze...we arrived at the Mongolian side of the border around 9:30 AM. We skip the kind invitation to invest 20US$ in order to jump the queue, and get prepared for a long wait. Interestingly enough, we are soon allowed into the border station, and wait to get our passports stamped alongside some of the other travellers who had paid the "express-fee"... Processing is fast and efficient, and we are out in just under an hour...so far so good...

We continue towards Russia, over a beautiful pass, but with temperatures falling further... By the time we reach the first Russian border gate, a soft snowrain has started and an arctic cold welcomes us to Russia...We show our passports and our car documents and are allowed to proceed towards the actual Russian border  gate, which lies another 10 Km ahead of us, in Taschaanta... Unfortunately, we have to watch as the border officers close the gates for lunch right in front of us... two hours later, with blue lips and cold fingers, we enter the Russian border station. If it had not been for the confusion of the customs officer due to the fact that a South African, with German passport, and living in Australia, is trying to get an Aussi car into Russia, we would have probably  been out within less then an hour again... nevertheless, all in all, it was probably one of the easiest, friendliest and most professional border crossings to date...

We reach Kosh Agash in the late afternoon, but still in time to get some money, and try to buy a SIM card for our mobile...within 20 minutes, we have met half of the people of the village, as everybody tries to help us and show us around. Robert, probably the only German-speaking in town is quickly called to support while trying to purchase the SIM card, as this seems to be a slightly more complicated process in Russia. He is extremely helpful, explains that SIM cards are only sold to residents, and immediately invites us to use his banya (traditional russian hot shower and sauna), explains where to have the best food, and advises that he would be glad to help us with the visa registration (Russian requirement) at the police station the next morning, which we happily accept... After only  a couple of hours in Russia, we feel very welcome...


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A day to clean ourselves and the car (yes, it takes almost a day to clean ourselves after spending a week in the middle of nowhere...), and to fill up the fridge in preparation for Russia... We say goodbye to Daniel who plans to give the basecamp a second try, while Hsu prepares to cross the border to Russia as well...


Monday, July 26, 2010

After a beautiful but very wet and stormy night along the Hovd Gol river, we split up from Daniel and Hsu in the morning, and agree to meet in Olgiy, as we usually travel at different speeds. The road is heavily flooded, with several nice mud pits along the way. Much to our surprise some of the smaller creeks on the way to the national park have now developed into quite significant rivers... we master several without concerns, until we reach Tsengel. The agreement with Daniel had been that if the river is more difficult then on the way there, we would wait for him in order to cross together... there was not even an option...we were standing in front of a massive, fast moving and pretty deep waterway... We watch in awe as Engelbert and his team drive through fearlessly in their Mercedes Unimog, while the water reaches over their tyres (in Jasper terms that means the water would have been up to the windows...)...the current was strong enough to give the Unimog a bit of a nudge, which burst the last of our hope bubbles... We were left with no other option then to track back our path in order to find a more suitable spot to cross the river, which we expected towards the last village we had passed. Two hours later and after a fairly unspectacular river crossing in the village, we caught up again with Engelbert and his expedition, on the other side of the river, being greeted by a beautiful cup of Turkish coffee before heading further towards Olgiy...

We arrive in Olgiy just in time to enjoy a proper dinner (with real meat, and no mutton), in one of the only restaurants in Olgiy...a worthy finish to a beautiful week in the Altai mountains...


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Despite arriving at the river before the sun starts warming up, the waterlevel is even higher then the day before, and the current still seems to be far too strong to attempt a further crossing...we are once again beaten by the river... not wanting to wait any longer, this means, that we will not be able to make it to the start of the trail to the basecamp of Tavan Bogd. We decide to put this on the list for a next visit, and head back towards Olgiy...


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Skip breakfast in order to get to the river as early as possible. Throughout the day, the meltwater from the glaciers lifts the waterlevel, making the river impassable...After serious contemplation and a couple of attempts to get Daniel's Hilux across, we decide to wait another day, and try again the next morning. As the weather is fairly cold, and the sun is not as strong as the day before, we hope that the waterlevel might drop over night, and the current might slow down enough to give us a better chance the next day...

We spend the afternoon hiking deeper into the valley and searching for petroglyphs...

 


Friday, July 23, 2010

We leave the lakes behind to head to the basecamp of Tavan Bogd. On the way there we stop a van with a couple of tourists, which seems to be coming back from where we are heading. The South African couple gives us a very detailed description of how to get there, but also warn us of several serious river crossings. One of them apparently even washed a couple of tourists away the day before...

We enjoy a brief break while having to unbog Jasper... while trying to cross a swamp in order to get back on the track that we missed a couple of kilometers earlier, we get stuck while trying to muscle our way through...time to get the sand boards out, and have some fun. After some digging, and a couple of attempts, Jasper is back on the road...we have about 16 new mosquito bites each, but at least we got out of our seats for a couple of minutes...:-))

Shortly before getting to the Tsaagan Gol river which we need to cross in order to get to the start of the basecamp trail, we cross several smaller rivers, and get a taste for what expects us the next day. It seems that the whole area still is very flooded, a result not only of the late summer and the severe last winter, but also the heavy rainfalls that this area had in the last few days...


Thursday, July 22, 2010

We enjoy a very lazy day on the lake with an "extreme inner tube fishing competition", unfortunately with no success though...

Luckily the wind gods are with us, and a nice breeze kicks in to finish off the day...


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shortly after starting the drive for the day we arrive at Tsengel, a small village on our route towards Tavan Bogd. We quickly realize that the main bridge across the Hovd Gol river is damaged and therefore impassable, leaving us no option but to use an alternative route into the national park, a detour of probably 100Km... we change our route and decide to head towards the lakes first, before then attempting to cross the Tsaagan Gol river at the end of the valley...

After several hours of driving through completely deserted mountains, lake Hurgaan Nuur suddenly appears out of nowhere behind a crest. It is beautifully situated at the foot of snow capped mountains up to 4.000m high, and we quickly find a perfect spot to camp. Before being able to get organized though, a nice 20 knot wind calls for action again, and Tilo enjoys another Mongolian kite session with 13 degrees water temperature...


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Filling up the fridge and getting everything prepared in Olgiy takes a lot longer then expected, especially as we meet some others travellers with whom we end up having lunch... we leave the village in the early afternoon, view several balbals (tombstones dating back around 2.000 years) and pitch tents after only 60 Km...


Monday, July 19, 2010

Olgiy turns out to be a nice little village at the foot of the Altai mountains. We spend the day organizing the border permit and the national park permit in order to be able to go to the Tavan Bogd National Park, which lies almost directly on the border between Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan and China. In the process of getting all our paperwork, we meet Daniel who has been travelling throughout Central Asia and Russia for the past three years by car, and his current travelling companion Hsu, from Taiwan. We decide to head towards the national park the next day together, spending a day or two at the nearby lakes, and hiking up to the basecamp of Tavan Bogd, the highest mountain of Mongolia...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Driving from Hovd towards Olgiy, it feels as if we are reaching the end of the world. The mountains become rougher and drier, trees disappear, the temperature falls, and there is hardly any person to be seen... Every now and then, snow capped peaks appear behind other mountains though, creating a beautiful panorama. We stop for lunch at a small lake in 2.250m height, and while enjoying the food rests from the previous day, Tilo realizes that the lake would actually be just big enough to kiteboard...and the wind would probably be strong enough to kiteboard, and the wind direction would actually be perfect for kiteboarding... what else do you need to give it a try amongst snow capped mountains in Mongolia...(maybe slightly warmer water would have been nice...:-)) )

An hour later, shortly before a nasty looking black cloud brings some rain and some very strong gusts, we continue further... with another great experience and a huge smile in the baggage...


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Finally we find an internet café in Hovd where we can upload our log and a couple of photos. Although we had access to the internet every now and then, it was never possible to connect our own laptop...

We will head northwest over the next few days, expecting to arrive at the Russian border in the Altay mountains by the middle of next week. From there on, we will be heading almost straight west towards Europe...


Friday, July 16, 2010

After another 1000 km on very rough dirt roads and often enough no roads at all, Jasper is starting to show some first signs of fatigue. The front axle seems to be slightly misaligned, leaving a smaller gap between the suspension and the chassis on the right side then on the left side. Every time the suspension is fully compressed, the spring catches the chassis grinding into it...Tilo will have to build some sort of guide to avoid the spring from catching the chassis. Most probably the slightly different weight distribution between left and right side has led to the front right suspension being weaker then the left side...we will tiptoe through the next 500Km towards the Russian border until we have asphalt under the tyres again...


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Katrin made another great dinner with the usual ingredients - potatoes, capsicum, onions and whatever kind of sausage, salami or other meat-similar ingredient was available...we used the opportunity of Helen's birthday though to open our last two cans of beer and toast to her health...Happy Birthday....:-)))


Monday, July 12, 2010

With the knowledge from Saskia and Emiel, that the rivers along the far north route towards the Russian border are now passable again, we plan to head West in a straight line towards Ulaangom. Previously we had heard from several other travellers that there were a couple of rivers that were impassable due to the amount of water and the strong current.

We thoroughly enjoy the drive West, despite being caught out at the very first stream, which had grown to a full blown river, about 1.5 m deep and at least 50m wide...after wading along the river for almost an hour, looking for a passable section, we decide that the current is too strong and turn back to Moron, where there is a bridge....120km detour...but better this way, then trying to fix an inundated car...

We spent the next three days driving through parts of Mongolia which seem even more deserted to us then any other area we have seen so far. Nature is beautiful and we are rewarded with sightings of dozens of eagles and vultures feeding off dead horses, cows and goats, high mountains covered in snow, sand dunes and lush green grasslands covering entire valleys...

Not only nature seems to be extremely varied, but also the weather...during the day we swap between T-shirts and double fleeces. We watch how a single cloud suddenly brings heavy rainfall, while the sun is still shining less then 5 km away. We watch amazed as a couple of rain drops, out of nowhere, turn into big and heavy hail corns, which quickly cover everything around us with a thin white layer...every evening we realize just how varied the day was once again...


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our second Naadam festival, this time in Hatgal. Significantly more touristic then our first one, as it is the only village along the south side of lake Hovsgol. We were actually quite surprised to see so many tourists, as we had not seen any over the past few days along the lake. We had even discussed this with another Dutch couple (Saskia and Emiel) which we met the day before, travelling through Africa and central Asia for a year. We had mentioned that we expected a couple of tourists, but not sooo many... what a surprise...

We spent most of the day watching the wrestling, only being interrupted by the occasional horse race. Once the first couple of rounds had been fought, and the weaker fighters had been eliminated, it became extremely competitive, with some rounds taking up to about 20 minutes...again, the intensity and joy in the faces of everybody was contagious and we ended up cheering with everybody else...

We planned to watch the final of the worldcup later on that night together with the Dutch couple, but ended up falling into our tent early without managing to get up at 2:30 AM to watch the game... must be all that oxygen during the day...


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Arrived in Moron, but headed straight out to lake Hovsgol, another 100 km north, as the city got to us within less then 15 minutes while stocking up on food and water. We arrived at the second largest lake of Mongolia (and the 14th largest source of fresh water in the world) and found a beautiful spot to camp right on the waters edge far from any other tourists or Gers... We set up to stay for a couple of days, in order to enjoy this beautiful place and relax...


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

After a long day on the go, we head into one of the many valleys fairly late in the afternoon to set up camp, ahead of a massive storm. By the time we find a spot, the rain has already started, and the wind is pounding. We decide to cook our Feijoada (Brazilian bean stew - we soaked the beans over night and now needed to cook them for another hour or two) inside the car, and wait with the tent until the wind drops off. After almost an hour, we realize, that the wind would probably not ease and the rain would probably continue overnight...we move the car to the only other spot in the area that seems to promise better protection...within about 200 m from a group of Gers. As expected, it does not take long for a young Mongolian to visit us on his motorbike...after curiously inspecting our setup, he clearly deems it inadequate which he indicates with hand and feet...several minutes later, his whole family had joined him in his efforts to convince us that it would be too dangerous, cold and wet to spend the night in our tent...with the result that even we started to doubt ourselves and our endeavour...we gladly accepted the invitation to spend the night in their Ger...

Immediately after entering the Ger, two strong perceptions overcome us - the silence despite the strong wind and heavy rain, and the warmth coming from the woodfired stove in the center of the Ger. Both are very welcome after spending the last hour standing in the cold rain...we were immediately offered yakmilktea (which by now we know and actually quite enjoy), and the hard, teeth breaking something. This time we took the courage though, to ask what to do with it, as we figured that putting it in the pocket again would make for a fairly uncomfortable sleep during the night...we learn that dipping it in the yakmilktea helps, but even the grandmother (who by now had also joined the party) indicates that extreme care is required in order to not break your teeth...throughout the evening, further treats, such as goatmilk, bread with sugar and some sort of dried, hairy goatleather strips are served...some of them we try, some of them we carefully decline...

After pointing at almost every phrase in our Mongolian phrasebook, looking at photos from both sides, and exchanging several gifts, we realize that communication has reached an end, and prepare for bed. Before we can finally nod off though, our host offers us another special treat (this one was pulled from a small niche behind his bed). It paid off, that Tilo had finished his goatmilk earlier on, as the mix of cherry lemonade and goat milk in Katrin's cup did not only look nasty, but clearly tasted so too...she did finish it though - courtesy to your Mongolian host is an imperative :-))

We leave early the next morning, after a slightly restless night (only one blanket when sleeping on the floor of a Ger is clearly not enough), but grateful for having been able to experience this Mongolian nomadic way of living close up...

 


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

We walked up Khorgo Uul volcano and enjoyed a beautiful view across  the surroundings, before continuing on towards lake Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur. On the way we come across several other tourists, and realize that this is probably one of the most common routes through Mongolia for tourists. This is not a surprise though, as the mountains and valleys are absolutely fascinating - dark green grass covers the soft hills in between, and every now and then there are a few Gers scattered in between. The lake itself is as beautiful, with white sand beaches and dark blue icecold water.

With the kite gear almost ready, Tilo monitors the wind closely, but by the time it is finally up, the temperatures have plumeted to almost 10 degrees...not even 22 knots would get him in the water at this stage without a wetsuit...

Once again we receive a visitor on a motorbike, curious to understand these modern (crazy) nomads...we go through the basics once again, and query him on the rifle on the back of his motorbike, before they take off again ... only to come back several minutes later, clearly eager to show us his hunting success. He opens a bag hanging from the back of his bike, and pulls out a large marmoth together with a winners grin... He explains to us that he will now take a blow torch and burn off the fur, before filling it with hot stones to cook it from the inside. The only problem seems to be that he does not have a gas bottle for his blow torch, which we gladly provide him with...he leaves happy that his dinner is guaranteed, but leaving Katrin worried, that he would come back to offer us some of this delicacy in sign of gratitude...unfortunately we do not have the pleasure of trying this Mongolian specialty at this stage...


Monday, July 5, 2010

The "late night" catches up with us, and we start slowly into the day... We fill up the fridge, try to catch up with our emails in the local internet café and then head back out of town not expecting much...

A couple of hours later, we stop to help an elderly (and completely drunk) Mongolian and his daughter with their broken motorbike...turns out that the gear pedal has come off, and the clutch cable has come loose. Tilo gets out a couple of tools, in order to readjust the clutch cable and attach the gear pedal, but all the guy wants is to put the bike in third gear while the engine is off, and then push start it....once he had it going again, he showed his daughter to jump on while he drives past ...in vain obviously as she has no chance to get on while he speeds by in third gear... We quickly ask her where they want to go, and indicate that we will follow the guy on his motorbike and give her a lift in the car...to our great luck, as they were heading towards the local Naadam festival.

The Naadam festival is one of the biggest events in Mongolia, where men and children test their skills in horse riding, archery and wrestling...

By the time we get to the festival, several men are already well into celebrating their wins (or losses) with a lot of Vodka, and the motorbike hero and his daughter disappear into the crowd. Nonetheless we enjoy the opportunity to experience our first Naadam, and are amazed as the first horse race takes place. Children of all ages speed past us on their horses, the parents spurring them on and cheering on the side.

  

 

Out of nowhere our biker friend reappears, and shows us a plaque that he must have won earlier during the day. Once again, using his hands and feet, he explains (at least this is what we understand), that he only managed to pick up the plaque as we helped him with his bike. He is extremely grateful, and shakes hands with us another dozen times. He also seems to explain that he is only drunk because he had to celebrate the win...almost apologizing for his state... We end up giving him and his daughter a lift back to their Ger after the festival and are invited inside and treated to yakmilktea and some sort of weird, hard, smelly something which ends up in our pockets in order to not be rude... once we are back on our way, we investigate the something, and study our Lonely Planet before learning that it is some sort of hard, cheese-like goat milk product...impossible to chew...what a great day...

 


Sunday, July 4, 2010

We arrive in Tsetserleg shortly before lunch, and visit the Aimag (provincial) museum, giving us an insight into the nomadic heritage of the Mongolian people.

While having lunch at a small restaurant, a Dutch Defender (which we had already inspected earlier on) drives by. Anuk and Bram, travelling from Utrecht (Netherlands) to Ushuaia (Argentina) see us and come to talk to us (as it turns out they had also already seen our car before, and suspected that we must be the respective passengers - as there was no other tourist in town at that time...and we were waving wildly at them...).

After a couple of hours chatting away, we decide to look for a spot to stay overnight and find another beautiful campsite directly next to a river, where Anuk and Bram catch up with us after finishing their "chores". First time in several days that we stay up past 9:30 PM, but it is easy, sharing stories and exchanging experiences of Mongolia...


Saturday, July 3, 2010

After about 5 hours driving through desert like surroundings, Lake Ogig Nuur appears out of nowhere almost catching us by surprise. We spend the afternoon next to the lake, hoping for some wind for an unexpected kite session, which did not happen though... but there might still be some further opportunities, as there seem to be another three big lakes further north and west on our way towards Russia.


Friday, July 2, 2010

After cutting through several beautiful valleys, we end up in the middle of a semi-dry river bed, which we need to cross in order to continue towards Harhorin. The first 500m are no problem, but then it turns into a swampy, bumpy, impassable something. Furthermore, there is a small river which by itself would not be a problem, but not with the 2m high banks on each side. Finally, we are caught out and have to make our way back towards an existing track, and hope for a bridge. Anyway, considering that we had not followed an existing track for the last 3 weeks, we accept the defeat of having to track back our path and get back on a proper "road".

We visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery founded in 1586 which is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. At it's peak it had up to a thousand resident monks, but was almost completely destroyed during the Stalinist purges. Nowadays there are only three temples left, but a number of statues and impressive wall paintings can still be seen.

We follow north to lake Ogig Nuur, but have to set up camp halfway there as another swampy riverbed makes passing almost impossible. The riverbed still makes for a beautiful night place, with horse herds coming to drink during the sunset...


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our path leads us towards Tsogot Taiy Palace in the middle of nowhere. These ruins date back to the 17th century and are located up a slight slope, overlooking one of the many beautiful plains of Mongolia. We set up our tarp to protect us from the sun while having a lunch break and enjoying the view of the old fort. 

On our way to the ancient capital of Mongolia - Harhorin - we leave the existing tracks and end up in a valley where we spend the night. While preparing dinner three herder boys come by on their horses... communication is still next to non existent, so we offer them water and sunflower seeds, which they gladly accept. While galloping off, one of them overdoes it, and has a nasty encounter with the ground...all good, but an embarrassing moment for the young cowboy which he only acknowledges with a brief look back, and a nervous jump back onto his horse...


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our paperwork has finally arrived and is ready for pickup. It takes us several hours to say farewell to the many newly made friends... slowly but surely all are heading out to follow their paths into all different directions. We hope to be able to see them all again one day, in another corner of this world.

For the next few weeks, we will be heading west towards the Altai mountains and then the russian border. According to the experiences of other travellers, there will be no access to the internet at all, so we apologize ahead of time for the lack of news. We will ensure that all photos are ready to be uploaded as soon as we find the first opportunity to connect to the virtual great wide world...


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

As our papers are still somewhere stuck in Korea, Tilo enjoyes the time with the head under the bonnet of Jasper and gets some maintenance work done. The car park at the Oasis looks like a car yard, Guenter and Frank relief their bikes from all the dust, Rudi works on his MAN truck and Horst on his Iveco..... tools are shared, water buckets are swapped and they seem to have far too much fun to call that work.... I am sure the beer was helping...


Monday, June 28, 2010

We are still lazy, hanging out, waiting, and enjoying thousands of interesting stories of other travellers...but after all we have all excuses on our side after a 4:1 win for Germany and a loooooonnngg night...

But, to do something and to stay in the spirit of working the embassies and consulates worldwide, we went to the imigration department of Mongolia and extended our visa, giving us safety buffer in case we are not as fast as we think for the next 2,200 km.... we filled up the fridge just in case the paperwork really arrives tomorrow and we can get going again...


Sunday, June 27, 2010

After a bit of a long night watching the Soccer World Cup (Korea - Uruguay) amongst 100s of crazy Mongolians, we decided to have a lazy day with more beer and good fun with the other travelers. This was only practice though for the Sunday night match - England - Germany.....


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting up in the morning at a tranquil spot, at the river we decide to use the place and the water to clean the car from all the dust inside and get a bit organized, and even better - to clean us ... the bath in the icecold river turned out to only be a very short one though.

Later we continued to Ulaanbaatar - back to civilization. Looking for a place to stay for a few days we arrive at the OASIS, a very friendly German-Austrian run guesthouse with a secure parking!!! Instantly we feel at home here. With another 3 overlander cars being parked on the lot + 5 bikers here, who all are on somewhat similar tours like we are, we get chatting instantly. It's great to meet a lot of really great people and share experiences and stories on the various trips. It is amazing and inspiring how passionate everybody is about their travels and experiences.

We plan to stay here for a few days as it is a great place and we have to wait for some insurance paperwork from Germany via DHL - which we apparently need in the original in order to cross the russian border...


Friday, June 25, 2010

Another day of driving through the endless grassland. The vast space, blue sky and freedom to stop anywhere is just awesome. The non existence of roads is most to our liking.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

From now onwards our overnight places will not have names and we will live by latitude and longitude, directions and gut feel. Our plan is to drive north west heading towards Ulaanbaatar over the next days to come. On our way we visited an old monastary - Khamryn Khiid south of Sainshand. We drive for hours over grassland, sometimes we follow small tracks other times we just follow our gut feel, to eventually find a small settlement of Ger's (traditional Mongolian tents - also called Mongolian buns by the chinese) before then beeing in the middle of nowhere again...


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

D-day and another border crossing.... we are up early to pack the car and be at the consulate to hopefully get a visa...at 9 am we are proud owners of a Mongolian visa and now nothing can stop us ... except the Chinese border officials..:-) our patience is tested slightly until we finally have all green and pink papers filled in and we are given the sign to drive....we can not really tell what took so long but it is 1pm when we finally get through to the Mongolian side. But hey we are on holiday, time does not really matter.

The Mongolians are very helpful, show us where we can get the passports stamped and what to do with customs. We don't speak a word of the same language but everybody is keen to help. After being sent through each room of the customs building we find a friendly customs officer, who speaks English and knows all the required procedures. She even stamps the carnet de passage and gives us the required import permit for the car. It almost seemed easy despite the burning sun and high temperatures...we are on our way into the Gobi desert...

We drive into the border town of Dzamin-Uud to get some traditional lunch first, before attempting to get a 3rd party compulsory insurance for the car. Again we find very friendly people who show us the place where we can buy the insurance, the lady for the insurance office / bank does not speak english either, so she calls somebody in Ulaanbaatar to help us translate. 30 minutes later we are all set (and very eager) to head into nomansland.

The absolute highlight of the day though is to be able to sleep in our own little tent again, in the middle of the nowhere, under clear sky and without a single noise to be heard...

Katrin really really loves this place already... Welcome to the Land of the Blue Sky.....


Monday, June 21, 2010

Time has come to visit the Mongolian Consulate again to get our visa (second attempt, remember...). At exactly 8 am we are at the gate of the consulate, all seems to go well, and we receive the promise to be able to pick up the visa at 3 pm in the afternoon, all set to go to Mongolia. So we spend the day preparing the car, filling up water, stocking up with some groceries, getting gas for the stove...etc. Winnie spends the day working through her part of the Chinese paperwork war to ensure we can leave the country. All set to leave tomorrow...

At 3 pm unfortunately we are informed that our visa could not be produced as the Mongolian Consular IT network in the whole world went done and no visa can be issued anywhere... :-))))... we have to come back tomorrow morning to get our visa - third attempt and counting...Thank god this is the last visa on our trip...


Sunday, June 20, 2010

After a quick overnight stop in Jining one of the many mining towns in Inner Mongolia, we enjoy the drive through endless grasslands towards Erlian/Erenhot the border town to Mongolia. Tilo certainly enjoys the newly won freedom as the pictures proove. . .:-)


Saturday, June 19, 2010

It is time to leave Beijing behind us - as much as we enjoyed this ancient, modern city, it is time to move on.  We started the day early heading towards the Great Wall North of the city, in the hope to beat the tourist crowds. And we did...our second attempt at the wall (yes, also this took two attempts as the first failed due to heavy rain and no visibility at all...) resulted in a beautiful walk along the wall in Badaling with only one other lonely tourist following us closely. The low hanging early morning sun and the blue sky provided the perfect background to the wall, and it suddenly hit us that we were really in China...

After less then an hour, the tourist masses arrived and started pouring onto the wall...time to head to Inner Mongolia.

On our way we encounter another great wall of China..... we drive along a traffic jam on the oncoming lane - for approximately 94 km, 3 lanes of heavy trucks, one after the other...Katrin puts the bet up that that the amount of trucks on this road exceeds the total number of registered trucks in Germany.... well we still need to get some research done to proof this point....


Friday, June 18, 2010

For some reason it seems that at the moment we need to always try everything twice or more. The Russian visa required two attempts, and now the Mongolian visa will also require a second attempt. After waiting patiently in line for almost two hours (despite being amongst the first to arrive at the embassy in the morning), we are told, that the so called express service - which used to be a same day turnaround - is now a one working day turnaround for visas. In other words, we would only be able to pick up our visas on Monday of next week - which would be no good to us...we therefore decided to give it a second try once we arrive in Erenhot, closer to the Mongolian border, as there is another consulate.

We ended up having some more fun at one of the many fake markets. Even without actively negotiating (just looking at some items is often enough), the prices would drop to less then 10% of the original asking price...

In order to celebrate the unsuccessful attempt to get our Mongolian visa, we had a third attempt at eating a traditional Beijing Duck - by the way, this does not mean that the first two attempts had been unsuccessful - much the opposite...:-)) We just can't get enough...


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hurrrahhhhhh.....the long awaited day has arrived, and DHL exceeded their promise, by delivering the passports one day ahead of schedule. We are now the proud owners of Russian visas, and can finally face the police again without having to come up with weird stories as to why we do not have our original passports on us...

The last step now is the Mongolian visa, which we will be applying for tomorrow. According to other travelers it is a one day process and should not give us any grief..but we had also thought the same of the Russian visa...

P.S.: Before picking up the passports, we visited several temples around the city. When one of the clerks at the ticket office asked where we were from, Winnie explained that we came from Australia. His prompt response was whether we hated the Germans for winning against the Australians 4 x 0...While Tilo repeated in Chinese "bad  Germans, bad Germans", Katrin explained to him that we were actually Germans ourselves....once again we enjoyed the very puzzled face of a Chinese trying to understand these "feng kuang de laowai's" (crazy foreigners....)...


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

After successfully finishing off several of our preparation tasks for Mongolia throughout the day, the one major challenge left for the day was to decide whether we hold for Spain (Helen, Gerrit, Stefan, Nuria, Matze...yep, we are thinking of you), or whether we stick to Switzerland (Wolfgang, Dorly, Danny, Sabine....this would be for you).....not too sure yet, might depend on who scores the first goal....:-))) ). Despite the time of the game (starts at 2:30 AM), the Swiss keep us awake all the way to the end...and we find ourselves very happy with the result...Well done Switzerland...


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer palace together with 34.000 other people - and for once, this number is not an exaggeration, but a factual estimate by the ticket office based on the number of visitors the previous day (for all those still doubting, please see the photo gallery...).

In the evening we met with Wang Ning, his wife Beate and their beautiful little daughter Nina. We have a great dinner together, and realized that Tilo's last visit to Beijing already lies back more then 14 years...no wonder a lot of the recollections are vague....and we thought it might be old age creeping up...;-))


Monday, June 14, 2010

Jasper enjoying good company at the dealer...the oldest car must have been 3 months old...


After dropping Jasper off at the Land Rover dealer in the morning to get an engine- and front differential oil change, we head to the forbidden city. The sky has some few blue patches (which is fairly unusual for Beijing as we are told), and we look forward to being able to make some good pictures. Due to the dragon boat festival and a semi public holiday over 3 days, several thousand other tourists have the same idea.

Nonetheless, we manage to find some corners off the main tourist paths and find ourselves speechless, realizing that we are really in China, in the middle of the forbidden city...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We wander through Beijing without having a real destination...we end up at the Olympic grounds and wonder how any of the famous pictures were possible, as the background we see is white in white due to the pollution. It becomes clear why everybody, even the youngest bring the "green ones" up and spit them in every corner... it seems there is still a long way to go in this regard...


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another 300Km to the East, and we arrive at China's capital - Beijing. We are greeted by rush hour traffic, which by now we are not used to anymore.

Despite initial concerns that it might be difficult to find a reasonable place to stay, Winnie manages to secure a beautiful little room at one of the international hostels, in walking distance to the major bar and restaurant area of Sanlitun. This puts us in a prime position to watch the world cup while waiting for our passports to arrive from Germany...


Friday, June 11, 2010


 

 

Finishing the cultural exploration of the northern region, we head to the Yungang caves - the predecessors of the Longmen caves visited only a couple of days ago.

These caves "only" have approximately 50.000 Buddha statues and carvings, but some of them are even bigger and boast more details and better craftsmanship. A very worthy finish to our excursion to Datong.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Our historical tour took us further north to the surroundings of Datong. We visited the oldest wooden pagoda of China and then continued on to a hanging monastery which seems superglued to the wall. The monastery was originally built to provide the monks with an opportunity to retreat in silence...it is a pity that there is not much left over of this peace and quite, as the main coal transporting freeway passes right in front...

Arriving in Datong later on that afternoon, we are confronted with yet another lasting impression of the dimensions of Chinese growth and development. Four bridges across the main river in the middle of the city are being built at the same time. To the left of the bridge we cross, there are about 20 new high rise apartment blocks being built, while to the right of the bridge there are almost 20 brand new blocks already finished (but nobody has moved in yet). This picture continues on as we drive through the city to our hotel. Later on that afternoon, we can clearly see the result of what finances all of this development - coal dust is blown through the complete city by an upcoming storm and it is everywhere...


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We traced our drive back for a couple of kilometers in order to visit the Longmen caves, south of Luoyang. These man made Buddhist caves date back to roughly 500 A.D.. and were carved over more then 200 years. In total there are more then 100.000 images/carvings of buddhas in the walls and caves, creating a roughly 1 Km long temple wall along the river. Once again the sheer quantity, age and detail of these carvings is plain mind blowing.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Another long awaited highlight of our trip...the terracotta soldiers of Xi'An dating back to the Qin dynasty. Since the first visit by Tilo in 1996, another pit has been excavated, and even more soldiers and charriots have been unearthed. There are now three pits open to visitors, and there are really no words to describe this historic site...although the pictures give you an impression of the site an aura of more then 2.000 years lingers over this place making it hard for us to describe in words...

One remarkable fact though seems to be the effect this place has on the human digestive system, sending Tilo off on a wild goose chase for a toilet 14 years ago, while this time having Katrin running around in between terracotta soldiers, tyring to find the sacred place...


Sunday, June 6, 2010

We catch the train to Xi'An, in order to save some driving time and reduce the number of kilometers for all of us. The train ride is about 6 hours long, and we take part in some traditional Chinese train culture, marked by extreme instant noodle soup eating, sunflower seed cracking and spitting, and smoking... All in all a great experience...


Saturday, June 5, 2010

We arrive at the birthplace of Kung Fu - the Shaolin Temple. Together with another 50.000 people we view the temple built in honour of the Buddhist monk who brought the Zen Buddhism to China from India, and started the Kung Fu tradition at the same time. While the temple has been rebuilt in the 1980's and is fairly unspectacular, it is amazing to see the thousands of young kids, being trained in the martial art of Kung Fu.

Once again, we try to escape the many thousands of tourist, by heading to the cave where the first monk spent almost 9 years meditating and developing the first Kung Fu movements. It is a 4 kilometer walk up a very steep hill. The views from the top are spectacular and very rewarding, and the fact, that you are on your own shortly after starting the trail is another benefit. The hill is step enough to lead to power off for Winnie, but we meet again an hour later, in time to see a Kung Fu presentation at one of the most traditional training centers in Shaolin.

In the evening we went to see the Zen Music Shaolin Grand Ceremony, a 600 actor musical/Kung Fu production, thanks to a great recommendation from Catherine and Tomas (whom we met in Yichang). It is an outdoor production, staged in the middle of the mountains (requiring some serious Chinese coats). Lights go all the way up to the top of the mountain, actors fly across the valley, and Kung Fu is practiced in synchrony by hundreds... .


Friday, June 4, 2010

Another couple of kilometers on the road before we reached Kaifeng, the old capital of the Song dynasty. Spent a full day viewing the residence of judge Bao, the summer palace and several other temples and pagodas... Do not manage to do anything else that evening but eat and fall into bed...


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hit the road early in the morning to shed some k's. Arrived in Huangbei in time for a roadside bbq. It did not take long for us to miss Suzhou and the time spent with Sophia and Thomas. Thank you both for a great time and your kind generosity (had not had breakfast with fresh fruit, bread and muesli since several long weeks....).


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Visa D-Day: With everything sorted and arranged, we were the first to enter the embassy. It all looked good for about ten silent minutes. And then we got stuck at the same place as last time. The Chinese visa is not correct. This time we thought we would be able to argue the case though, as we had been well informed by the friendly clerk during our first visit. Turns out though, that the length of our stay in China this time is not the problem. The problem this time is, that we need to have a working visa, and not a business visa or tourist visa...would have been nice to have known this before... Long story short, we now resorted to the last of our options, and will spend the next few weeks without a passport... bit of extra adrenaline for a couple of days...


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One more day organizing the car and catching up with all the things that have been left to themselves over the last many weeks. Everything is now ready to continue towards Beijing.

Before heading off though, we spent another great evening in Shanghai together with Jorge, with excellent food and a couple of drinks in one of the many famous Jazz Clubs. Once again, we head to the hotel realizing just how blessed we are having great friends all over the world, and being able to catch up with them, and spend time as if we had seen us just last week... it makes our world seem so much smaller then what it is...


Monday, May 31, 2010

After cleaning up the car, and preparing it for the next few thousand kilometers, we drove out to the police station, where hopefully our Chinese visa extension would be ready. Once again, the whole process took only a few minutes, and we are now the proud owners of a 4 month visa for China. We have also received confirmation that the original invitation letter for Russia has arrived at our hotel in Shanghai. In other words, we should now finally be able to apply for our Russian visa in Shanghai on Wednesday. Fingers crossed...


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Probably the most expensive day of our entire trip...started an extreme shopping tour after an extensive breakfast, only stopping for a quick lunch. Had to finish the day off with Sichuan food and a massage for all... Sophia and Thomas, thank you very much for a great weekend...

PS.: Ryan, Katrin really really loves this place...


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Once again, the time to say farewell has come... Judy and Jack have to head back to Sydney, after spending two weeks in China. It has been good to spend some time with friends again, making this place feel a bit like "home". As usual, Judy and Jack showed us amazing restaurants with great food.


Friday, May 28, 2010

We decided to give the Chinese visa conversion/extension a shot in Suzhou, with the support from KB. Sophia had prepared all the necessary paperwork, and walked us through the process at the police station and then at the immigration office, making it all look very easy. After several minutes of nervousness, we received confirmation that we will be able to pick up our passports with a 90 day visa on Monday afternoon. Just in time to attempt applying for the Russian visa in Shanghai one last time, before resorting to our last alternative, sending the passports to Germany. Despite the agency in Germany being extremely helpful, and this appearing to probably be the "easiest" option, it is our least preferred, as we would need to spend almost 2 weeks without a passport...and China is certainly not the country we want to be held up without a passport...we are now one step closer to receiving a visa within the next couple of days....good news to start the weekend...


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ended up going to the Expo for the evening session. Arrived at the exhibition area on the Pudong side at almost 5 PM, and headed straight in, as we wanted to see some of the major pavilions with some sunlight. The architecture is beautiful and it is great to see how much thought has been put into it by some of the countries. We spent all evening looking at most of the pavilions from the outside, as the waiting times were all far beyond 2 hours per pavilion. The organization is perfect though, and despite over 350.000 visitors per day the site is immaculate and does not seem overcrowded (unless you try to enter a pavilion...). Could probably spend several more days here, and will try to come back, depending on the outcome of our Russian visa saga...

 

By the end of the day, we received confirmation from several different people who have been helping us in getting our Russian visa, that it might be possible to convert our Chinese visa into a business visa, and extend it to 90 days.

 

 

 


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The day of truth has come. We head towards the Russian embassy, and feel like schoolkids on the way to the big exam. As soon as we arrive at the embassy, we are greeted with strict military friendliness. We leave everything (and that is really everything) in a small locker at the entrance, and then proceed to the line for visa applications. It is soon clear, that this place is dictated by process accuracy and discipline. Once it is our turn, all the required documents are checked, and several minutes later it seems that we have run against a brick wall... An application in Shanghai is only possible if you are holder of a 90 day Chinese visa (at least), which we do not have. We get the advice to request a visa extension at the public security bureau on the other side of Shanghai. The friendly Russian made it sound very easy, so that we headed out to the bureau with all expectations to solve this problem within a couple of minutes.

Far from it, as we realize almost three hours later. Our visa cannot be extended by more then 30 days, unless we reapply for a business visa which can take weeks...back to the drawing board...


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drove out to Knorr-Bremse early in the morning, almost getting into work feeling again. Arrived there at 9 AM to meet Hong, who had organized a factory tour. Since leaving Australia, this location has grown even further, and the growth numbers match Chinese superlatives...what an amazing factory...

After finding a secure parking for our trusty Jasper, we caught the fast train into Shanghai. Traveling at 230 Km/h it only takes 40 minutes into the city. We are greeted by Jack who had already organized a hotel, and was looking forward to showing us around this massive place. We were all looking forward to a good coffee and soon found ourselves in a small French cafe in the middle of the "French concession". A little oasis in a bustling city. Jack then did his magic, and advised us that we would potentially have a slight surprise later on that afternoon, as he had arranged dinner with his cousin... And what a surprise it was, as a brand new Rolls Royce Phantom turned around the corner to pick us up. We drove through Shanghai in style, and enjoyed a great dinner. Katrin was visibly relieved to have purchased a new fake Gucci handbag last night, and had her toenails done earlier today...Tilo on the other side was plain lucky, that he still had one last clean shirt left when getting dressed in the morning...


Monday, May 24, 2010

Spent the day on the highway, from Huang Shan to Suzhou, a total distance of almost 350Km. As the roads are in perfect condition, and not very heavily used, we arrived in the early afternoon. To be fair, the main problem once again was the rain. After having sorted out the water leak down the front right pillar straight onto my accelerator foot, by sticking a piece of cloth underneath the console, the water started dripping in from the top right corner again....argh%$rg$@%%%. We had successfully fixed this leak in Thailand, but it seems that the strong sun has already deteriorated the silicone to a degree where we are back to square one....once again we are back to driving with either a wet foot, or wet pants....:-))) Luckily we are in China, where almost anything can be fixed with a tube of silicone...


Weekend, May 22-23, 2010

Spent most of the weekend visiting the many traditional Huizhou villages in the area. The mountains themselves remained in the clouds all the time, reminding us of our experience in Zhangjiajie, so that we decided to give the mountains a miss. Instead, we focused on good food - and lots thereof - drinks, and time together to catch up... the Old Street Cafe became a second home for the weekend...a definite recommendation for anybody heading in that direction...We even caught up with the local Rock Band N16 on Sunday evening, unfortunately one day late for one of their shows. Will have to come back for this.

 

 


Friday, May 21, 2010


Finally arrived in Huang Shan, the Yellow Mountains, where we had agreed to meet Jack for the weekend. He had spent the previous week in China visiting friends and family. We were all looking forward to catching up again, and relaxing in this beautiful area.  To start off with we just needed a quite spot to talk and have a beer or two... The Old Street Cafe seemed to be the perfect place for that....even more so after we got along very well with the owner and his sister...who immediately became followers of our travels. We knew we would be back here over the course of the weekend...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On our way eastwards we stopped at the Mega-City of Wuhan. With this city being one of the bigger ones, our expectations were rather low to find a quite place to stay. But we found a beautiful city draped along the Yangzhe river with several lakes and gardens, giving the city a relaxed and spacious feel.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the way to Wuhan, we took a bit of a detour to be able to view the tombs of an old merchant in Jingzhou. We did not really know what to expect, other then some tombs which had only recently been opened (2005), and are still being explored/studied by archeologists. The tomb dates back to 300 B.C.  and has the biggest number of real horses and carriages ever to be found in China. (yes, these horses are 2300 years old...) A pre taste to our visit to Xi'An...

 


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Joined a bus tour to the 3 gorges dam - for once no work for Tilo and Jasper. Despite the dam wall not looking all that big, there is not much more to say about the whole project other then - gigantic...(e.g. the hydroelectric production capacity equates to that of 18 nuclear power plants).  The sheer dimensions of this site are impossible to comprehend - even worse when considering that the very first idea for this dam dates back to the year 1919.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Drive to Yichang - the city closest to the 3 gorges dam.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

 

 

We arrived in the much awaited mystical mountain area of Zhangjiajie - the inspiration to the 3D movie "Avatar". We set off in the morning with great expectations and hoping for a long hike in the untouched nature of this national park. Unfortunately, despite the rain, further 17.853 (approx.) people had the same thought that morning. We joined the long queue towards the major sights, and made sure to not inhale too much of the cigarette smoke of our fellow naturalists. The views from below the sandstone karsts upthrusts were spectacular, as the upper parts would disappear in the clouds, creating a very mystical picture. Once we climbed higher up though, there was almost nothing to be seen due to the low hanging clouds, much to the delight of the many photoshop booths, whose owners simply copied the images of the tourists into the cloudless background, creating the perfect souvenir images... fake at its best once again...

What we saw...

What we could have seen (not the girls obviously...)

As there was not much to be seen from above, we opted for a return walk down another gorge, which this time was deserted. It took us almost 3 hours to get back to the bus station, where we arrived satisfied but with a very exhausted Winnie, who desperately needed her lunch and a lot of rest. Once back at the hostel, she went to bed (4:30 PM), and only woke up the next morning...


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finally found a way to pay off the expenses of this trip. As many Chinese continuously request either Katrin or Tilo to join them on their photos, we have decided to charge a fee of 50 Yuan for Katrin and 30 Yuan for Tilo (as there is significantly less demand for Tilo to be on photos - unless we are at a hair dresser, where they usually all want photos with him)... Please pay close attention to the second girl from the right, as she is one of the many modern young girls wearing glasses without glasses...:-)

 


Friday, May 14, 2010

Thank God we changed that horn in Thailand...traffic in China is absolutely crazy...and we thought Phnom Phen was the capital of horn blowing and not looking drivers...China once again sets the benchmark. We are slowly but surely learning to integrate ourselves though. The trick seems to be to not look as well. And here we have an advantage... Other drivers look at Katrin and if they catch her eye, they continue driving as they believe the driver has seen them and will therefore stop. Katrin now has the clear instructions to ALWAYS look in another direction, and NOT look at any driver who might be attempting to cross our path...It works a treat...:-)

To cross a road by foot, the same principle applies. Just do not look at the oncoming traffic, and walk slowly. The traffic will adjust around you like magic...but it does cost some nerves (usually Katrin's though...).

P.S.: Please apologize for the delay in getting our webpage updated, but we have been enjoying a holiday in Laos. Photos will follow within next couple of days (unless we decide to go for another brief holiday...).


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ended up in a traditional village south of Kaili. Despite seeming very touristic on first sight (golf buggies take Chinese tourists through the village), the village is actually home to over 1.000 families of the Miao minority who live their traditions on a daily basis. The colorful clothes and highly artistic jewellery are still worn by most women giving the village a beautiful character.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Once again we paid the massive entrance fee of RMB 180 (US$ 30) per person to visit the Huanguoshu waterfalls, China's biggest and most impressive according to the guidebook. Several hours later, after wandering along beautifully arranged paths to the various lookouts, and even being able to walk through a cave behind the actual waterfall, the entrance fee was long forgotten. Definately another natural spectacle and well worth the visit.

Hit the road another couple of hours arriving in Guiyang in the early afternoon.

Finished the day off with the obligatory visit to the hairdresser. Tilo is now finally down to a 2mm haircut, while Katrin is finally back to looking civilized... and somewhat Chinese...


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Made our way to the Shi Lin stone forest early in the morning, beating all the other tourists. Our expectations were fairly low, as we had not heard or read anything about this natural phenomenon before. Our enthusiasm was further dampened after we learnt that the entrance fee was RMB 175 (US$ 30) per person, but decided that we could not pass on the very first "attraction" that we had come to.

The stone forest consists of massive limestone pillars split and eroded by wind and water. The pillars are up to 30m high, and form a maze of beautiful paths. The whole reserve spreads over several square kilometers, allowing for walks through several hills and gorges, always lined by strangely shaped limestone formations. There are several ponds, creating water forests and surreal formations.

Being the first to enter the park, and a slightly overcast sky, allowed us to enjoy this wonderland by ourselves for several hours, before the tourist buses arrived, bringing hundreds of Chinese tourists for the obligatory photos in front of the pillars. We left the park in the early afternoon, still taken by the beauty and creativity of nature.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Arrived in the first one million people town - Kunming - shortly before lunch. After visiting the old East and West Pagodas, we have the traditional local soup called "over the bridge noodle soup". The myth has it, that the women would bring lunch to her husband in the fields by crossing a bridge. As most foods would be cold by the time she got to him, the favorite food ended up being a soup, where she would bring the ingredients, while he boils the water. Once she arrives at him, all ingredients would then be thrown in the boiling water. This is still how this soup is served today..

Winnie takes up the challenge to find the old part of Kunming despite not having any really directions. We succeed almost 2 hours later, after following the local bus for several stations. Turns out that the so called "old" part of Kunming is now really the "new" part, as it is a newly build replica of the old village. Welcome to Asia...the old is actually new...Nonetheless, the old people were still around, going about their work and games.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Breakfast was not as relaxed as usual, as we had been advised that we would have to stand a theoretical test for our Chinese drivers licenses. Before heading into the building for the test though, the officer comes out in order to inspect our car. He briefly walks around the car, kicks the front left tyre, heads towards the drivers door, and asks me to turn on the engine. So far so good. He then takes a seat in the drivers seat and tries the indicators (the light flashes inside and it makes a clicking noise - pass). He then switches on the light and seems to be happy that the switch works, before then taking off for a test drive in the carpark. He makes one large circle (as Land Rover drivers know, the turning circle is not the best), hits the brakes lightly in between, and then parks the car after exactly 270 degrees. Switches the car off, and is satisfied - pass. He then walks to another building (which must be the building where we will take the exam), only to come back out again three minutes later. In hand, the Chinese number plate, and two drivers licenses... Thank god it is Sunday - things work slightly different on weekends. We are off within less then 10 minutes. Jasper is now officially localized and so are we, at least according to our paperwork...


      

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Unfortunately the time to leave Lao has come far to quickly. We have really grown to love the people and the lifestyle.

While packing the car in the morning, Tilo is approached by a Spanish couple which is being followed along the mainroad by a cameraman. Turns out that they are part of a (TV show) race through Asia, starting in Vietnam and ending in Bali. Coincidentally they were heading in the same direction as ourselves, and after inspecting the jumpseat in the back, and confirming that they have had worse transportation, we agreed to give them a lift for the next 150 Km towards the Chinese border. We dropped off Reece at the bus station, and picked the Spaniards up a couple of kilometers down the road. From there on, we were escorted by a team of cameramen, a moderator, security, and some other crewmembers. Let's hope our little lift helps them secure the win..

We dropped the two off and headed to the Lao/Chinese border. Lao customs was not interested at all, and after approx. 40 minutes wait, the only officer followed my instructions to fill in and stamp the carnet. Immigration was not much different... Change quickly kicked in though, once we came up the hill towards the Chinese side of the border approximately 2 km further on. A huge border building, with marble floor, stainless steel balustrades and double glazed windows welcomed us into China. Extremely polite and dedicated officers greeted us in German (as they already expected us, since they had entertained our guide for almost 3 hours by then), and showed us how to fill in the arrival documentation. We then met Winnie, our guide for the next 6 weeks, who immediately took over all further paperwork requirements. Although it was clear that the military officer was not happy with some of our paperwork, Winnie handled it all brilliantly, and within another hour, we were on our way to our first stop in Jinghong, where we would have to pick up our Chinese driver's licenses and Chinese number plate the next day. The first kilometers are a completely surrealistic experience, as we had started the day by driving 120 kilometers within almost 4 hours due to bad roads, through tiny rice fields and bamboo hut villages, while now traveling at almost 100Km/H on a double laned highway through perfectly trimmed towns.


Friday, May 7, 2010

After arriving in Oudomxai, one of the last towns before the border to China, we still had the afternoon to explore the surrounding area, which has a lot to offer according to the very well set up tourist office of this province. We opted for the waterfall approximately 23 Km away, hoping for a refreshing swim. The only one to go for a swim was Jasper though, as he had the joy of several water crossings. Unfortunately we had to call the trip off short, due to a large tree blocking the path (Eric, I should have taken that "Fichtenmoped"...) Still a great drive, especially as we had promised Reece to find those mudpits in Laos...


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Luang Prabang lived up to our expectations of a town full of living history, monasteries and temples. We spent the day wandering through the roads or sitting and watching life happening around us.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guess what, we looked at jars...hundreds of them. All sizes, all shapes, all jars...nobody really knows how they got there, where they came from, and what they are used for... but it is still amazing.

 

 

 

 


Monday, May 3, 2010

Had agreed to continue towards the Plain of Jars together with Reece. So we met up for a quick breakfast before heading north along 150 km of windy roads. Not all of us were able to enjoy the drive to it's full extent, some due to the curves, others due to the slight excess of alcohol the night before, some due to both...Nonetheless we arrived at the plain, almost 1800 meters above sea level, in good order late in the afternoon.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Woke up early as we wanted to head north towards Vang Vieng. On the way out of town, we briefly stopped at a supermarket in order to fill up the fridge again, only to be ambushed by two policemen as we stepped out of the car. Both tried to get Katrin to hand over her drivers license, obviously not realizing that she was not even the driver. She eloquently sent them to talk to me, showing them that there is no steering wheel on her side of the car. Once they realized their little mistake, they tried to explain to me that I had not respected the "no left turn sign" when entering the road to the supermarket. What a start to a Sunday morning... Before handing over a color copy of my drivers license, I showed them another 3 Laotians, who were doing exactly the same as I had done...they obviously did not care...they are Laotians, not Felangs (foreigner).

As we obviously did not (want to) understand a word of what they were saying or trying to explain, and they did not understand anything we were trying to explain, they pocketed the drivers license (copy) and sat back, while we watched and sat back to. After another 30 minutes, we agreed (somehow) that we would continue the "discussion" at the police station with the captain. Once we found the police station the captain was not amused, as he was in the middle of his Sunday morning nap, together with the rest of the crew on duty. The policeman who had pocketed the license also did not show up (as he was probably hoping that I would come back to him in order to give him the requested money), so we went back to explaining our wrong doing with three words of Lao, hands and toes. Almost two hours later, we finally had the copy of our license back, the captain generously gave us a 50% discount (resulting in a fine of US$10), the original fine was torn to pieces, and all were happy again...Second attempt to head towards Vang Vieng.

On the way towards Vang Vieng, we called Reece, the real Australian whom we meet in Laksao, to see what he was up to, only to find that he was already in Vang Vieng. We agreed to meet for dinner and drinks...


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spent the morning in Vientiane, before heading out to visit Philippe and Elizabeth. While they were working, I replaced the rear brake pads as they were squealing terribly after they had been replaced by the service center in Cambodia. I also replaced the starter battery, as this had finally given up (expectedly - it was still the original battery at almost 140.000 Km). In the meantime Katrin unpacked everything, and cleaned the car from the inside. We also rearranged several things, so that we would have enough room for our guide in China.

Later on in the afternoon another friend of Philippe and Elizabeth came to visit, and we all spent the last hours of sunlight at the pool, before enjoying a beautiful BBQ. We left late that evening, and fell into our beds after a day full of accomplishments, indulgence and spoiling by Philippe and Elizabeth. Thank you both so much for a great weekend and sharing your experiences of Laos. We hope to meet you again sometime soon.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Had one of those maintenance mornings, laundry, bank, petrol station, bits and pieces...even we can have busy days...shortly after 9:30 AM we had had enough though, and decided to go for a coffeebreak before heading out to meet with Philippe and his wife at their silk weavery.

As we walked into the weavery, Elizabeth, Philippe's wife welcomed us as if we had known each other before. She shows us the weavery and shows us the top quality products they make from their own threads. Time flew, as we even went for lunch together, before Katrin then went on her shopping spree. We had a beautiful and very interesting afternoon together, learning more about the weavery and life in Laos. Before leaving, Philippe and Elizabeth invite us for dinner the next day, and allow us to use their backyard to clean and repair Jasper, who urgently needs some attention... We were touched by their honest and generous kindness, taking us up in their home.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Went for a swim to test the water in the morning, just to find that it was still as good as in the afternoon before...While packing the car, the other travelers (Elizabeth, Ros, Hester and Reece) we had met in Laksao turned up for their cave visit. So we had a second breakfast and ended up chatting for a couple of hours.

We completed the loop, enjoying some spectacular views of the mountains before heading towards Vientiane, the capital of Laos.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arrived at Konglo Cave around lunchtime, one of the highlights of the loop. A 7 Km long and at stages over 100m wide and high cave, accessible by longtail only. We grab all the torches we can find in our car, and head into the cave. Within less then 5o meters, you cannot see your hand in front of your face. And the whole journey through the cave is supposed to take over one and a half hours...30 minutes into the cave, the boat stops, and we walk up into another large hall, to find ourselves in the middle of an enormous cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Coming out of the other side of the cave almost an hour later is even more unreal...

Once back where we started we set up camp for the night, as it is a magical spot. After all the locals left, we had the river and the cave to ourselves. Slept like rocks...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Started the so called "The Laos Loop" from Thakhek around the Nam Theun 2 Dam towards Laksao. This area is know for it's caves, waterfalls and the tribal villages. Finally we found some fairly bad dirt and mud roads - Jasper finally got his share of fun too... We arrived in Laksao shortly after darkness and headed straight to get some food at the only restaurant in town, where we bumped into some other loop travelers with whom we had a fun evening.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Continued around the plateau towards Sekong, and stumbled across a tiny sign of a silk farm along the way. Following the signs, we arrived at a small farm, with several Laos girls making silk thread. While curiously inspecting each step of the process, we met Philippe, the owner. He explained the intricacies of silk making and his aim to help local farmers to create an existence by making silk. He also invited us to visit the other part of silk making, the dying and weaving, in Vientiane, the capital of Laos at the end of the week, which we gladly accepted. What an inspirational visit and discussion. We are looking forward to seeing Philippe again, and to understanding the rest of the silk making process.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Make our way to the Bolavan plateau in southern Laos. The edge of the plateau is famous for it's hill tribes, waterfalls and coffee plantations. We drive through spectacular mountain ranges along the plateau, and spend the night along one of the many rivers, watching the local people fish and collect throughout the night.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Still following the footsteps of the Khmer, we arrive in Vat Puh Champasak the first settlement of the Khmer emperor, almost 1.000 years before the hight of Angkor Wat in Siam Reap, Cambodia. The similarities are obvious even to temple novices as ourselves. The views of the plain of South Laos are breathtaking.

We cross over to the other side of the Mekong later on that afternoon, and head towards Pakse, hoping to find an ATM, as we have spent our last few Kip on the ferry...the return to civilization was also very welcome in order to fill up our water, fuel and fridge...


Friday, April 23, 2010

It seems that we will never learn enough in regard to border crossings throughout this trip. After everything went smooth leaving Cambodia (except for the obligatory stamp fees which are completely random and unofficial), until we entered Laos. Despite already having the Visas for Laos, we had to fill out several different forms while burning away in the midday sun. Border police stamped the passports, the local insurance company arranged the insurance for the car, and off we went. No customs officer, nor did anybody know anything about customs or any requirements for the car. Nonetheless we decided to head off, although it would have been good to have a stamped carnet de passage (which makes life a lot easier when leaving the country again). Still discussing as to what to do, we were surprised to find a customs checkpoint in the middle of nowhere, with about 10 officers sitting around a big round table, having the traditional Beerlao (yes, it is the one and only Lao Beer)... They signaled us to stop the car (without standing up), and waved us to come to them. We gathered all our paperwork, and walked up to them, and while one of them immediately asked for the carnet, two others had already arranged two glasses and were starting to pour our fare share of the next Beerlao. Before getting our stamps and signatures, we had to empty our glasses and show our appreciation for this beautifully cold refreshment (which obviously was not difficult). We left 15 minutes later, with all the stamps required, no thirst and NO fees at all....you just never know what to expect...Welcome to Laos!!!

The day ended on one of the 4.000 islands of the Mekong river, overlooking a massive thunderstorm and another heavy monsoon rain in the distance, while having another cold Beerlao. This place is dangerous...


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Started the day off with Dorlie's birthday party. We celebrated her birthday with a homemade-purchased-baguette-bread-cake full of candles. Unfortunately this was also the day to say farewell to Dorly and Wolfgang, as we would continue north towards Laos, while they would head back towards Thailand. It was a great time traveling together, and we will certainly miss being followed  by the big red Swiss cross... All the best to the two of you on your journey, and we hope to see you again some time soon. It has been great fun, educating and especially extremely inspiring...


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

While the car is in service we have all the time for some sightseeing. We explore some reminders of the very dark and brutal Khmer Rouge history by visiting the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum. The ruling of Pol Pot and his clique in Cambodia certainly threw back this beautiful country by many many years. It is amazing to see what has been achieved since then (only 15 years) and how hard people are working to turn this country around. The first real monsoonal rain and thunderstorm hits us shortly before leaving the museum. One day late according to the prediction of our Thai friends, but just in time, to further captivate us within the confines of the prison and it's dark stories hanging after our thoughts.


Monday, April 19, 2010


Time to face the capital of Cambodia - Phnom Penh. Traffic is completely nuts. Whatever somebody does with his steering wheel, accelerator or brake, needs to be accompanied by the horn. There seems to be a direct link between these movements. Some of the motorbikes have even straight wired the indicator with the horn, so that every time they set the indicator, the horn blows in synchrony. Thank god we installed a brand new horn in Thailand (dual frequency with 70 watts each....works a treat... :-) ). Interestingly though, it seems that the use of the horn is to be understood purely as a friendly reminder, and never in a warning/disciplining manner... and traffic always flows.

We apply for our Laos visas and visit Envotech, the local Land Rover workshop in order to get some further spares and a brief service. The guys a very well set up, competent and professional - a very good team...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The day is dominated by a three hour wait in the line to cross the Mekong by ferry. Seems that after 7 days of new years festivities everybody in Cambodia is heading back to Phnom Penh. Might just not have been one of our smartest moves to date. We end up at another monastery for the night about 20 km before Phnom Penh. The master/owner is a very interesting fellow who shows us photos of himself with the Presidents of Singapore and Cambodia and several other high governmental and religious officials of the region.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Visited some small villages around Kampong Cham known for their traditional silk weaving. It took us almost 3 hours of bad dirt roads and several mud pits before finding the first evidence of silk. Feels like we traveled back in time again. Ended up driving almost 200 km that day, but it feels like 600 km. We stop in the middle of a plain for the night. Once again though, it takes less then a bottle of beer before the first police officer joins us for a drink. 10 minutes later, further three officers find their way to our little party, this time even bringing their fully automatic weaponry... None of them speak english, which reduces our communication to smiles and an attempt to "what is your name" in khmer... not very entertaining for either party... Another 20 minutes of smiles and several phone calls of the police later, a translator shows up on his motorcycle. Again, we are made aware of the potential dangers of this campsight - the upcoming rain (keep in mind, the monsoon clock still has 2 days to go according to our Thai friends), the alleged snakes and the so translated "bad boys" of the area... once more we are invited to set up camp in front of the local police station, which we obviously follow promptly. We shortly thereafter find ourselves in front of the Police station of Rumlich with 5 police officers watching our every move to set up camp and commenting loudly on everything we do. This must be how monkeys feel in the zoo...


Friday, April 16, 2010

Traveled another 600 years back in time, to visit the oldest ruins of Khmer culture - Sempbor Preykuk monastery near Kampong Thon. We find ourselves in the middle of the Khmer New Year festivities, which are celebrated with loud music and a lot of beer. We find a quite spot in the middle of the forest, where we have a BBQ with the last bits and pieces we could dig up in our fridges.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

We decided to use the last day of our ticket to the ruins to revisit our favorite temples before then heading to the ones further away. On the way to Banteay Srei we visit the landmine museum, which was established and is maintained by an ex-soldier who used to plant landmines himself for many years. By now he has made it his sole goal to free Cambodia from mines (there are still between 3 and 5 million in Cambodia alone), but also to help children who have suffered the consequences of landmine explosions. It becomes very real, that this beautiful country was still at war less then 15 years ago, and the consequences are still visible all around.

Before returning to Siem Reap, we stop off at the outpost of the tourist police, as the deputy major had left a voice mail on our phone to "meet him at his office". He had previously offered to investigate whether Wolfgang and Dorly could leave their car at the police station while traveling back to Switzerland for a couple of months before then continuing their journey through Asia. We are greeted with palm sugar, fruit and the invitation to spend the night at this station and to a special khmer dinner treat cooked by the police officers themselves. We realize that these are just tourist police officers who take their duty of supporting tourists and providing them with a memorable experience of Cambodia very seriously. As we had already made other plans, we unfortunately have to turn the invitation down, and head back into town. Afterall, we have already spent three nights with the very friendly police.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Enjoyed a lazy day in Siem Reap and the surroundings recapping the amazing views from the previous two days. The clock is still ticking for the monsoon to cool down the crazy heat...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Started the day with a visit to Angkor Wat at 6:00 AM in the morning in order to be able to watch the sunrise. As expected, we were 4 out of approximately 1.500 tourists, all with the same idea.  Despite a beautiful sunrise, the light quickly became very bright so that we decided to head to a quite spot for breakfast. Viewed another two temples and enjoyed another extensive break over lunch, next to one of the many little lakes.

Finished the day off at Angkor Wat again, still with many tourists, this time for an amazing sunset...another day of tremendous impressions of the great achievements of the Khmer people thousand years ago comes to an end.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Despite the attempt to an early start and hopefully beating the crowds to the ruins, we quickly find ourselves amidst thousands of other tourists at Ankor Wat. We therefore decide to postpone our visit to the most famous of Angkors temples, and head to some smaller temples.

After several temples we start the search for a spot to spend the night, and find a quite spot several hundred meters from the main exit road from the temple area. We head into a dry but beautiful field and start setting up for a quite night. After only 10 minutes we receive a friendly visit from the local police officer together with several of his companions. They explain that we cannot stay in the open field as it is "far to dangerous", and they would have to spend the night with us in order to be able to protect us. They therefore then invited us to stay at the tourist police station in Siem Reap. We sadly packed up and headed to the police station, where we found a brilliant little spot, with toilets and showers, and 24 hour protection by the friendly police, despite this not being necessary from our point view, as the people here are not only friendly but very forthcoming and helpful at all times. Within no time, we had met almost all the officers on duty, as they all wanted to see the crazy tourists, who enjoy sleeping in the field instead of a hotel. This then seems to be the real reason why they wanted us away from the field...there might have not been anything on the TV that night...;-)


Sunday, April 11, 2553/2010

Border day: Thailand to Cambodia

All was going well, until we walked into the office of the Deputy Chief Officer of customs control on the Cambodian side. Without even looking up, he took the carnet de passage from both me and Wolfgang, and started reading intensively. After approximately 10 minutes (no joke), he looked up to Dorly, Wolfgang and myself and started explaining in slow french that we could not enter Cambodia unless we had permission from the Minister of Tourism in Phnom Peng. He hinted that he would allow us to enter the country, but we would need to travel to Phnom Peng in order to apply for this authorization in writing, and then return to the border in order to have our carnet de passage stamped once  permission is granted. All in all several hundred kilometers of bad roads and no value added (at least to us). We tried to convince him that the carnet was all we needed according to other travelers and the books but he was not happy. It then took us about 15 minutes of theatrical "do not understands", "je ne comprend pa" or something similar in various other languages, and very puzzled faces from our side, before we broke his patience resulting in two stamped carnets de passage and a very annoyed deputy chief.... but we had what we needed, and left before he changed his mind. At times we were not sure as to which course this whole episode would take... It also showed us how quickly you can be at the mercy of an empowered and potentially frustrated bureaucrat who wants to play his games... Only later we heard from several others that it can be a matter of either a lot of money, or sheer luck to get a car into Cambodia through the border at Poipet.

We arrived in Siem Reap later on that afternoon in great anticipation of the next couple of days visiting the ruins of Angkor.


Saturday, April 10, 2553

Spoke to Wolfgang and Dorly in the morning, and learnt that they have already arrived in Aranyaprathet, the last town before the border to Cambodia. We agreed to meet there in order to be able to cross the border early the next morning. Spent the night at another monastery, which by now has proven a good strategy. The only re-ocurring problem seems to be that every monastery has it's own noise rituals. In this case, we are woken by a monk who walks from the dormitory to the monastery rhythmically playing a huge drum in the middle of the night. The whole procession takes about 5 minutes. The last minute or two though consisted of only one beat every couple of seconds, giving you just enough time to fall back into our sleep between beats... The next day starts punctually at 5AM with monks singing their prayers. By the time we leave Thailand, we will probably be singing our own prayers in the mornings ...


Friday, April 9, 2553

We went for a 6Km hike through the rain forest, along a little river which was supposed to end in a large waterfall. Unfortunately there is not a lot of water yet, but this is supposed to change within the next two weeks. Locals advised us that the monsoon is to start in exactly 10 days. We will wait and see...Did some repairs and improvements to the car, and cleaned all the watertanks, which by now are in full use. We usually travel with around 80 litres of water, which we use to cook, drink and shower on a regular basis.


Thursday, April 8, 2553

Decided to head towards the Cambodian border and spend a couple of days at the Khao Yai National Park. Before we left in the morning though, we spent a couple of hours trying to source a grease gun, a 12V fan and a couple of other bits and pieces. We are now in the fortunate position to own two 12V computer server tower fans, which cool us down when the tropical temperatures within our tent reach the 40 degree mark again. By the time we bought these fans, we did not expect that we would be very glad to have them less then 8 hours later... For the first time we can see some monsoon clouds building up in the distance, but there is still no rain in sight.


Wednesday, April 7, 2553

Had a first training session for Angkor Wat, climbing several temples in the morning. Still having to catch up with all the history of this place.

Ended up spending some time watching two elephant babies sharing a drink at the elephant krall, before making our way to an internet cafe, in order to finally catch up with our log and the photo upload. Apologies for the delay...we have had a hard time enjoying and relaxing over the last few weeks. ;-)


Tuesday, April 6, 2553

We are finally in rice country. Once again following our trustworthy GPS along the smallest roads towards Ayuthaya, we come across dozens of rice paddies. The ingenuity of the farmers and their machinery is impressive. They seem be able to make almost anything out of a little Honda generator motor. Rice field and salt paddock leveling machines, outboard engines for long tail boats, water pumps, tuck tucks or any other transportation mechanism...


Monday, April 5, 2553

We visited a beautiful memorial jointly created by the Thai and Australian Government to honour all lives lost during the construction of the Thailand Burma railway during world war II. Hellfire pass is one of the longest cutouts along this railway, spanning almost 250m and 50m deep. It was cut with hand tools only and cost the lives of thousands. We walked along a couple of kilometers of this historic track and were taken back in time by the audio tracks provided by the museum. What a contradiction, knowing that this place must have been hell, while now being one of the most tranquil and beautiful valleys we have seen...


Sunday, April 4, 2553

After a second night, but this time an incredibly quite night at the temple, we said farewell to Dorly & Wolfgang as they decided to stay a few more days in town. We agreed to meet again on our common way to Cambodia.

We waved all the monks “good bye” and continued to drive along the river Mae Nam Khwae Yal, which became famous by the film & book around the “The Bridge on the River Khwae”. Further 100 km north west we joined a flock of tourists visiting the infamous bridge.


Saturday, April 3, 2553 

In Samut Songkhram we set up camp on the ground of a beautiful Buddhist monastery. We are very much welcomed by the monks to set up our cars right at the river. We just have to share the space with the monastery cows and wild dogs. That is fine with us, not sure if the cows would agree, as we sit on their lunch table. We even have running water taps right next to us.

Falling asleep after a hot day on Friday becomes a struggle as the whole monastery seems to be on it’s legs. Loud dance music plays from one temple while the monks in all the others don’t seem to stop praying all night. There is only one thing to do, lie and wait. After a restless night we get up before the sun, still accompanied by music and prayers. So much for the hope of a quite place.

On the search for the ladies toilet Katrin finds out that it is a special day, not Easter but two young men will become monks today, so their families celebrate over such honour. It does not take long and we are invited to join the festivities, dancing, singing and eating with them. Katrin soon becomes the tallest thai, leading the dancing women, giving everybody much laughter and joy. We become witnesses of a beautiful ceremony as a young man becomes a monk. What an honour for us.

We are more than touched by these friendly, caring, inviting and generous people. Who in our world would invite a stranger to participate in a wedding ceremony or any other event of this nature????

To recover from the sleepless night and to digest all the happenings of the morning, Katrin takes a break with a 2 hour Thai massage.  

What a day…


Friday, April 2, 2553

Hmmm sometimes April fools day jokes turn into bad reality. Dorly and Wolfgang wake up to a flat tyre – believe it or not it was the same tyre Dorly was joking about less then 24 hours ago…

Time for some minor repairs and we are on the road again driving north through Hui Hin, ending the stretches of endless, people less beaches. The area is beautiful, but unfortunately this has also been discovered by chains of hotels and resorts. It's time for us to refill the fridge and use some civilization to buy all necessities.

We are on our way to a spot recommended by Dorly and Wolfgang to spend a couple of days in order to do some further repairs, and get organized for the next couple of weeks. We are heading to Samut Songkhram.

In other parts of the world Easter starts today – Happy Easter to all...


Thursday, April 1, 2553


Waking up to the sound of waves again and an amazing view straight from our tent - we are certainly getting used to that.

Following the good old German tradition Dorly & Katrin agree to play an April fools day joke against the boys. So we packed up getting ready to leave, when Dorly jumps up and down excitedly calling for Wolfgang to tell him that the (April1st) tyre is completely flat. Wolfgang jumps out of the car to assess the damage and gave us all a great laugh and a pretty good start to a new day.

Later on throughout the day, the long awaited wind finally picked up enough for a great kite session.

After a couple of hours on the board, and a nice downwinder towards the fisherman’s village at the end of the beach, a couple of young monks found great amusement in watching Tilo kiting. After a couple of passes in the shallow water, they would stand in a row, giving him high fives as he passed. It seemed that for all involved this was an encounter of two very different worlds - an absolute highlight.

Wednesday, March 31, 2553

At Hat Banakon national park, we meet Jan & Esther from Darmstadt/Germany who are travelling since a year through EuroAsia with a bright red fire engine. With three vehicles now standing next to each other, it suddenly seems that there are quite few people out there travelling the world by this means. More interesting stories and experiences are shared...

We finish the day not hearing anybody say no to a beer (thank you Wolfgang for this great quote).


Tuesday, March 30, 2553

We are still travelling together with our travel companions Dorly & Wolfgang, whom we have come quite close to by now.

We are really enjoying SCHOENE FERIEN as Wolfgang calls it, appreciating the beauty of our surroundings, and the pure luck of being able to travel and experience...

We started off after a beautiful sunrise at Hat Bank beach, after a swim in the warm ocean. Following the rule to stick to the smallest possible road closest to the beach, we cut through palm tree and pineapple plantations, stop at small fishing villages before coming to the Wat Tan Sai temple, which is set on a hilltop right at the shoreline.


Monday, March 29, 2553

Since we spent most of the previous evening and breakfast chatting away, and our routes take us and Dorly and Wolfgang in the same direction, we decided to travel together for a couple of days. This would also allow us to help them, in case the Iveco would stop again, as it has been sucking air into the diesel since a couple of days. After bleeding the fuel system a couple of times over the first 20 Km, it seems that Wolfgang has found a solution, as the Iveco now runs smoothly again, without further disruptions.

We follow north, stopping at another deserted beach. BBQ for dinner with several beers...


Sunday, March 28, 2553

As beautiful as it is in Krabi, we rather continue our journey towards less travelled roads. Over the next weeks we plan to travel slowly north along the Thai east coast in the hope to find wind :-)

Along the way we feel like royalty or aliens, with people watching us and waving happily. We really enjoy this friendly, warm and curious people.

Ryan, I really really love this place.

In the afternoon we arrive at a beach Hat Thung Wualaen north of Chumphon, and can't trust our eyes as we see a car parked with CH St. Gallen number plate. We obviously have to stop. We meet Dorly and Wolfgang who are travelling the world on and off since 22 years. We quickly decide to set up camp next to them directly on the beach, and start chatting. Only later on we realize that time has flewn, and end up getting thai take away for dinner (a typical australian dinner)...with a view of the ocean, and the moon...


Saturday, March 27, 2553

Spent another day on a boat visiting the islands outside of Krabi. This time we decided for the slightly less crowded option, and got ourselves a little long boat. For one, you can go wherever you want, and you can then stay for how long you want. The islands here are beautiful again, despite huge crowds of tourists being escorted through on a daily basis.  After returning to land, we learned of a new Thai speciality – roti  grob – very thin pancakes, crispy fried with sugar coating and sesame seeds … hmmmmmmmmmmm


Friday, March 26, 2553

Eventhough Koh Mook would have probably provided for enough beautiful spots to spend another couple of days, we feel the travel bug creeping up again and decide to take the next boat back from the island to continue our journey.  Finally we had a chance to get hold of Pattana from the map shop in Trang, who gave us the good news that he would have all further GPS Maps for our journey as requested days before. One more reason to head back to the mainland.

So we picked up Jasper, had a shower and headed back to Trang. With the new Thailand map on the Garmin it was a breeze to get back to the shop in no time. Pattana and his wife did not only help us greatly, but with their warm and kind attitude we felt like visiting friends. Now we are equipped with Garmin Maps for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Russia and Kazakhstan… Thank you Pattana, for your help in getting these maps. We will probably remember you in many situations throughout this trip...

On the way again towards Krabi…


Thursday, March 25, 2553

We spend the day on a pretty touristy island exploring boat, stopping at several little bays together with approximately three thousand, seven hundred and ninety two other tourists, most of them snorkeling in life jackets or trying to stay afloat by some other means...The islands are beautiful though, and the swim through an approximately 80m long dark cave to reach the so called Emerald Cave was spectacular. We finished the tour by being dropped off on Koh Mook, where we spent the night.

Amidst several high end tourist restaurants, we found this stunning little bar right on the hill side of Charlies Beach… a bar with a view and amazing food…we could not imagine any better place for a relaxing evening and a few beers…:-)


Wednesday, March 24, 2553

We end up exploring the surroundings of Trang and Pak Meng, and spending a very hot night in the tent at Hat Cho Mai national park.


Tuesday, March 23, 2553

Our little detour through nomansland the previous day (and as we later found out, the almost crossing of the Thai-Malaysian border again), drives us to search for a map for our GPS unit. We find a shop in Trang, which is directly on our route anyway. We decide to give it a shot.

We meet Pattana and his wife at "Map Trang" in Trang (N 07°33.457; E 99°36.386), who provides us with a complete set of maps for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, in a very efficient and competent way. Thank you very much, Pattana.

Directions to Pak Meng, provided in Thai only, by a 4x4 driver in Trang...


Monday, March 22, 2010/2553

Once again, border day. This time we made sure to prepare as much as we could, as we did not want to have spend another 4 weeks travelling without insurance or the like. Leaving Malaysia was effortless, and we even remembered to take a photoraph (which we then later lost together with almost 1 Gb of other photos...:-((( argh$rgh@!?!?).

Coming into Thailand there were no surprises either, other then finding out that poor Jasper is considered a "pickup" for insurance purposes. The pre-approved visas for Katrin and myself were accepted by the border control, but after checking the expiry date of our entry stamp, we realized that we could only stay in Thailand for 5 days... We checked with the officer, and quickly learnt that they do not like to be made aware of a mistake. Further three stamps in each passport, and we were now allowed to stay the two months, as per our visas. We then calmly explained to the customs officer how the carnet needed to be stamped and signed (who, once he understood what he needed to do, wanted to stamp all the pages of the carnet, instead of the first only....it seems to be a lot of fun/privilege to use a stamp...). None of the many officers was interested in what was in or on the car, and we happily drove off into Thailand after not even 543 years and 30 minutes. Time flies when travelling into Thailand - the calender here is 543 years ahead of ours...

Our first few kilometers in Thailand then took us through a deserted jungle trail, which was supposed to be a shortcut to the west coast, avoiding the main highways. Turns out, that not all maps of Thailand actually depict existing or not existing roads. We ended up heading back after practising the first couple of thai words learnt from our guidebook with a very surprised muslim lady along the way who had probably never seen two gringos before.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

We arrive in Penang just after noon, and are warmly welcomed by Ligia and Ste at their beautiful home. For us, this is a very special stop, as to some degree, this is almost where this whole trip finds it's roots...Stefan is probably the one who first showed Tilo how to dissassemble motorbikes, jeeps, and the like, and how to not only pull them out of the mud, but especially how to get them stuck in the mud in the first place.

We spent a beautiful weekend being spoilt with great hospitality (even a brazilian Feijoada) and enjoying good friends. Ligia, Ste, thank you both for a great weekend, and we hope to see you sometime soon in some spot of this world...(and maybe with your Land Rover?)


Friday, March 19, 2010

Actually we just wanted to have a look at the so called Portuguese square hoping to find some breakfast on the way, as our eyes caught a bus with a VIC number plate. Turns out that it had already traveled back and forth between Australia and England more then once. We had an interesting and inspiring chat, and got some good advice for the next few stages of our trip. Encountering others following a similar path in the middle of nowhere, made the world seem smaller again.

Later on that day, we had another crazy encounter, when visiting the so called fireflies at Kuala Selangor. These fireflies synchronize their blinking, creating a riverbed of christmas tree similar bushes. At stages we were in doubt as to whether this was a massive tourist scam and almost started to look for the power plugs behind the bushes...after catching a number of flies though, we decided to rest the case and enjoy...

nature vs. us -  1 : 0


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time to attempt the first border crossing today. After packing Jasper in the morning, we headed out of Singapore in order to try our luck at the Singapore/Malaysian border. We chose the less frequented Tuas crossing. Once in sight, we went straight for it...only to once again realize, that neither the passport control, nor customs was really interested in us at all. They stamped both our passports, and Jasper's carnet without any hesitation or questioning, and waived us straight through customs. Malaysia was then very much the same, except that we ended up explaining the customs officer how to fill in the carnet. It all went so fast, that we only after a couple of kilometers we noticed that we did not even document our first border crossing with photographic evidence....anyway, there should be plenty more opportunities to come...another 5 kilometers into Malaysia though, it struck us, that we had not arranged for any compulsory third party car insurance for Malaysia. Good citizens that we are (or amateur travellers), we decided to head back to the border expecting to be able to buy the required insurance. Several confused and startled police and customs officers later, we decided that if they don't know what is required, we won't need it...we followed on track towards Melakka.

Our first couple of kilometers within South East Asia took us along a beautiful country road through palm oil plantations. We arrived at the historical town of Melakka late that afternoon, just in time for a couple of beers in a small pub in Jonkers lane.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We have him back and he is all good… Despite our original fears, it turned out, that the customs officer was after a bit of a field trip, as all he checked was the chassis number and nothing else… It seemed that he was pleased to be able to leave the office for a couple of hours, but he was not at all interested in anything more.

Unpacking and remounting the tent took approx. one hour (as we have now changed how we assembled it to the roof – learning curve at it’s best)... We then headed out to get the second round of paperwork organized, so that we can leave Singapore towards Malaysia tomorrow morning…we are all set now, including freshly washed and ironed (!!!) clothes - thanks to Peewee (also known as Kiwi by Bellybutton...) - again, being spoilt along the way...

Singapore has been great. We have very much enjoyed the “different way of travelling” again, but are now desperate to get back on the road. So far, Singapore has made the entry into Asia fairly easy, with it's highly regulated approach. All involved were extremely helpful and understood their respective role in the overall jigsaw puzzle...


Monday, March 15, 2010

We have been notified that the ship has arrived safely, but customs only have time for the clearance on Wednesday. Not a good sign, as they will probably want to see every single piece of equipment, spare part, screw, etc…

More time for sightseeing in Singapore.

We finished the day off with a beautiful dinner together with Steffi and Romed at Jumbo, a great Singaporean classic for Seafood.

   


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sightseeing through Singapore, and of course I (Katrin) can’t stay away from the shopping centres. I had the funniest incident today, browsing through one of the amazing bookshops. Looking around I ended up in the aisle for business management books… suddenly my eye was caught by a book not looking typical for the business section. Having a closer look I recognized a copy of Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”- I took it as a "Sign" and wandered off smiling... :-))


Friday, March 12, 2010

We spent the day at several different authorities, filling in several different forms, which all asked for almost the same information. Everybody was extremely helpful though, and very forth coming. Turns out, that by 2 PM, we had completed all our tasks, and were ready to pick Jasper up on Monday or Tuesday of next week. As it seems, everything is looking good, and there have been no nasty surprises. Let’s hope that Jasper has enjoyed his trip as well, and he has not incurred some sort of bug...otherwise Katrin might need to get the first aid kit and use one of her seven different band aids.


Thurday, March 11, 2010

The day has come to leave Australian shores…

We fly out of Perth to Singapore. Although we have had plenty of time to get used to this idea, it does seem to have come very suddenly. We finally realize that we are now really on our way into the “unknown”. So far we have been travelling on known soils, but as of today, this will change. It sinks in, and the excitement grows.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Three days of great wind and awesome kitesurfing in Augusta. Starting to enjoy the kitesurfing in the waves…but need more practice…;-)


Sunday, March 7, 2010

We spent two fantastic days at the beautiful Cape Lodge, in the heart of the Margaret River region. Located in the middle of an own vineyard, the rooms are almost like individual cottages with beautiful views. For once, no leftovers, although I am sure that in this case, they would have been pretty good too.


Friday, March 5, 2010

After making ourselves presentable again (each of us needed a haircut and got a new pair of shoes) we headed to Cape Lodge to be spoilt for the weekend.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This was intended to be the first day on the road in the shitbox, sorry, shoebox, or whatever the rental car is…anyway, got stuck in Perth for another day, in order to get the Visa for China sorted.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

After leaving Rockingham in the morning, we drove out to Fremantle, where we picked up the rental car which will accompany us for the next 10 days. The drive out to the container port felt like betrayal. We took Jasper to Coote logistics, where he will be packed into a container in order to then be shipped to Singapore. Funny enough, Jan and David who run the Coote warehouse and will be packing Jasper up, arrived in Perth almost 30 years ago, travelling from Europe by car themselves (unfortunately, when unloading their car from the ship in Perth, it was dropped from a height of 6 feet, leaving them stranded as the car had to be shipped back to England to be repaired…). Not a good story to hear while packing your own car into a container..:-). It was great to talk to them, and see the excitement in their eyes still so many years after having done the trip themselves. It is good to know that Jasper is in good hands…We drove off heart broken, leaving him behind on the yard.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Spent the last three days exploring the timber region of the Southwest. This seems to be the smaller brother of the Margaret River region, with beautiful wineries, chocolate factories, art galleries and a beautiful coastline, but a lot less known.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Thank God, it is almost weekend (Sorry, we couldn’t resist...)

Unfortunately we had to start the long weekend with another unsuccessful search for a pub/restaurant in Emu Bay, outside of Albany...(lucky we had that brilliant meal yesterday - leftovers again)


Thursday, February 25, 2010

3 highlights marked the day

- driving a barely existing track, which gave us the confidence that Jasper is well equipped for whatever Mongolian roads might throw at us, despite 3.5 tonnes of weight (we hope we will not eat our words in a few months time…)

- a room with a view at Fitzgerald National Park, where we parked the car right in front of the river mouth allowing us to see a beautiful sunset from our bed…with nobody else to be seen in the whole park...

- a brilliant meal with a similar view as described above


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

After filling up the fridge in Esperance we met Raffa and Tony at Fourth Point Beach for a perfect kite session.

 

 


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today we arrived at probably one of the most beautiful beaches we have both seen to date. Cape Arid. The beach must be about 30 km long, white sand and turquoise water. Not one person to be seen.

We kept on driving along the beaches all the way to Lucky Bay where we set up camp for the night.


Monday February 22, 2010

After another couple of hundred kilometres of dead straight road, we decided to take the direct way to Cape Arid, along a closed 4WD track. According to the guy at the petrol station the track was pretty rough and closed because of several trees lying across the road, etc. We decided to give it a try anyway, as this could save us about 300km. We ended up setting up tent in a beautiful forest in the middle of nowhere after about 60Km of nice 4WD track. We cooked some basic noodles, and fell into bed in what turned out to be one of the most quite spots so far.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

After a lengthy breakfast, we took on the Nullarbor.

We arrived at Border Town on the border between SA and WA shortly before sunset. We managed to drive 514 km with about 3 curves. We saw about 16 cars and one truck trailer - that was burnt out though. Katrin drank 3.27 litres of water, while I finished 4.75 litres. We both shared the left overs from the day before, 3 apples each, 4 eclairs each and I had 2 double choc chip cookies. The Nullarbor at it’s best…


Saturday, February 20, 2010

We ended up driving further then originally planned, coming into Venus Bay at around 9:30 PM on Friday evening. As we had driven almost 650 km we decided to hit the local pub for a quick bite to eat. Needless to say, that after turning right three times, we were back at the campsite - no pub to be found… Leftovers for dinner once again.

We woke up to a spectacular view from our tent though, as we were standing right next to Anxious bay. From there we followed the coast north past Streaky Bay and into Ceduna. On our way there we stopped at the only sea lion colony on shore in Australia (according to the books).


Friday, February 19, 2010

Woke up at sunrise today, to be the first to do the round flight over the Wilpena Pound National Park in the morning. The visibility was beautiful and you could see all the way across to the lakes (approx. 150km away). The whole area is just a complete geographical wonder, and flying over it allowed us to see the sheer vastness of the Pound and the Flinders Ranges.

After crossing the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges north of the Wilpena Pound along a beautiful track, which also showed the signs of significant floods not too long ago, we headed towards Port Augusta. Both we and the documents made it in time, to get them back underway to Perth still on the same day, hoping that they will make it before next Tuesday.

On the way out of town, we almost ran into three brand new troopies, which were coming around a corner on our side of the road. All three drivers were nervously turning the respective steering wheels, and clearly their passengers were similarly agitated. After a closer look, we realized that they were all German soldiers who must have just arrived in AUS for a visit. Coincidentally we ended up seeing them again at the local supermarket, where they were buying supplies for their stay. Officer Bockmann seemed to be the supervisor, as he was loudly announcing the “Marschplan” for some sort of training together with the Australian military. While several of them were stacking 24 packs of diet coke and boxes of chocolate cookies and other important supplies onto the cashiers counters, others were almost collapsing from the heat even though they were just standing inside a supermarket. At this stage it became slightly discerning that these are the same soldiers that are supposed to defend the German Nation…:-O. We decided to quickly grab what we needed, and take off, before they hit the road driving on the wrong side again…


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Will have to change our travel plans again…

Almost all of the tracks in the area we are planning to drive through are closed due to floods. The water from the heavy rains in Queensland over the past many months are now coming through to the central area, leaving many of the tracks impassable (apparently), and are therefore closed. At this stage, the only option would be to stick to the highways if we really want to see Ayers Rock.

We also learnt today, that we will need to post the documents for the export of the car from Perth to somewhere, so that we can then sign them and send them back to Perth before Tuesday, February 23, 2010. The closest bigger city accessible to the Post within this time frame is Port Augusta. Hoping that the Australia Post will manage to get the documents from Perth to there within two days we decide to change our route back to the original plan, and to head to Port Augusta by Friday, February 19, 2010. This should still allows us to see Wilpena Pound…

Fingers crossed, otherwise, this could jeopardize the shipment of our car to Singapore early March.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Dropped Jasper off at Triumph Rover Spares in Adelaide, SA. Time for his first service, together with the replacement of the rear axles, as the flanges were worn out (as foreseen during the previous service by Graeme Cooper). Everything else seems to be fine, but the work will take longer then expected, tying us to Adelaide for another day.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

After following the Great Ocean Road earlier during the week, we stopped at the Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia, where we went for an 11km circuit walk to deep creek bay and the deep creek waterfall after a quite night in the park.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Today we made the decision to change our planned route from following along the south coast across to WA (Nullarbor), to actually travelling through the red centre. The plan now is to head up to the Flinders Ranges and Leight Creek, then following the Oodnadatta track north towards Ayres Rock. From there we will then take the Great Central Highway to Kalgoorlie before heading across to Perth where we hand the car to the freight forwarder.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Arrived in Melbourne on Saturday morning, after almost three days of straight rain. At least we can now confirm that the car is certainly not waterproof. Melbourne appears in beautiful sunshine though, and Sylvia and Fabian spoil us over the entire weekend. Moments like these will make it more and more difficult for us to leave Australia.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Jasper received a new suspension from Graeme Cooper. New heavy duty springs, shock absorbers and poly air bags in the back, to be able to support almost 1.5 tonnes of load on the trip. Thank you to the team at Graeme Cooper.

 

We left Sydney around lunchtime, after saying farewell to Jack and his team in Minto. Before hitting the road towards Jervis Bay, we spent another two hours firming up the nuts holding the roof tent down. Due to the nature of the installation, each bolt takes about 20 minutes to firm up, and there are 16 of them….so this task became our little exercise over the next few days...

 

 

 

 

 


Monday, February 01, 2010

Originally the plan was to leave today.

As we did not manage to finish everything on the car, and still needed to pack quite a few items, we decided to postpone by a couple of days (in reality, the hospitality of Karen and Ryan was too good to leave….thank you very much).

On top of all that, we got spoilt with a farewell gift from our Sydney friends, to sail Sydney Harbour for a full afternoon. What a way to leave this beautiful city…Thank you All very much…we had a great time.