In the beginning ...
You would think that 4 middle-aged people of comfortable circumstances - and many past experiences of getting into trouble in places they should never have been - would have been happy sitting at home by the pool, sipping an anesthetic and reading ... well ... a travel book.
It all started when my Minister of Domestic Affairs, Finance, Travel and Personal Hygiene decided that we had seen everything there was to see in Europe and places 5,000km each way, and all around the Middle East, Pacific Rim, Southern Asia and North America. She did however spot a big blank area on her map that became an itch and soon developed into a pain for her long suffering minder. The gap she noticed that was bare of her previous attention, is known as Central Asia. Its an area between China and Poland that has lots of unpronounceable names. The bit in the middle - Xi'an in China to Bukhara in Uzbekistan is the principal fabled 'Silk Road'. In the past, this region has been famous for breeding the most bloodthirsty marauding hoards the world has ever known. Its reported that they still indulge in a bit of cut and thrust amongst themselves and have developed a positive hatred for the many foreign powers that have invaded them in the past. Especially people who can easily be mistaken for Russians, Americans or Europeans. That just about describes us perfectly.
A few years ago my care-giver & I skirted the tricky bits by taking the train from Western Russia through to Siberia, down to Mongolia and then out through China. Rather an interesting few weeks on a ration of greasy mutton, fried eggs and vodka. That was reported previously and summed up by the phrase ... "The rubbish bin has yet to be invented in these parts".
I confess, I do have a role to play in the decision to travel to Europe. Its an annual migration thing - quite out of my control - and there's no known medication. I need to be in Germany during the early Summer each year to take part in a well known car race - the Nurburgring 24 Hour. Arguably the toughest and most challenging car race in the world. The teams I drive for only have me because I take the worlds best timekeeper with me. This year we have decided to drive over to it rather than fly.
My name is Maurice and my caregiver responds best to Anne - although I've taken to calling her 'Flypaper' - because I've been stuck to her for years. I have known our traveling companions for ever - Martin since I was 6 and his PA, Jeanette, since I was 15. That's quite a while and mutual friends are at a loss to understand why, with all that history and knowledge, they asked to accompany us on this trip ... or why we agreed.
It's not as if we are naive - just slow learners. Flypaper and I met on an overland journey from Singapore to London - via Thailand, Kathmandu, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, etc. Soon after checking out Europe we left London in an old Landrover and a year later found ourselves in Capetown. Our 'road map' of the African continent showed the pretty shapes and colours of the countries along with the capital city but not a lot more. Seemed simple at the time - we had a compass and just kept heading south-ish. One didn't have counciling in those days but we survived. The nightmares have morphed into tales of bravery and adventure that make that old guy Livingston seem like a boy scout. Since than there have been many journeys that friends and acquaintances have suggested were either imprudent or an enormous waste of the worlds precious resources. (I feel guilty as hell - but she makes me do it).
Many years ago my mate Martin made his way home overland from Europe to New Zealand via exotic places in time to meet the woman who would care for his children (we think they are his) and keep him working so hard he had no time to sneak off and ruin the family reputation. Since then they have contributed greatly to the fortunes of long haul airlines and recently spent a little time in Central Africa. Nothing really to prepare themselves for a 25,000km / 4 month trip through a dozen countries, that don't have English as their primary language, in a car that's already seen fine service and some suggest should be put into retirement.
This all transpired through the winter of 2010. Since then we have hatched plans, purchased vehicles, decided on a route and enlisted the help of experts and thieves ... or is that expert thieves? The next blog will tell you a bit about the process of turning a silly idea into a really silly plan. We leave the comfort of our New Zealand homes in less than 3 weeks at the end of March. There's still a lot to do.