Day -1 to 5
13th July : Bruges – London – Goodwood
First stop to check the breaks in Bruges, photo tour of London. Evening drive to Chichester with a stop in a most typical English town for Fish and chips and curry. Arrival at the Goodwood camping site. Rain, mud, cheers and wine throughout the night
14th July : Goodwood – Calais – Lille
Start of the festival of slow. Party in the rain once again, Mongolian music, wrestling and a round drive in the mythical circuit. All teams head to Dover, crossing the channel and make way to France. We stay in Lille to enjoy the firework and some local specialties.
15th July : Lille - Aachen/Aix-la-Chapelle – Frankfurt – Nuremberg
Stop in one of the high place of European middle age. Guided tour of the city and drive to Nuremberg for the night. Testing Doris on the Autobahn with up to 160km/hr.
16th July : Nuremberg – Klenova
Fixing brake pads, drive through Czech republic and a night to remember
17th July : Klenova – Lindz – Belgrad
One of the biggest drive in the rally, nearly 1,000kms in a day. Cross Czech, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia. Arrival at night in Belgrade was a little unsettling.
18th July : Belgrad – Sofia – Istanbul
Second longest leg of our trip. Serbia and Bulgaria, our first real border crossing went w/out problems or delays. Bulgaria already shows a good few signs of ex-soviet flavour. Arriving late in Istanbul, we are greeted by the view of the magnificent blue mosque.
Day 6 to 10
19th July : Visit of Istanbul
Hagia Sofia, Topkapi palace, Archeological museum (must see), Turkish Bath “pampering”, Sunset shots from Galata bridge and dinner in the animated part of Istanbul with reki, Shisha and crowd cheering with buskers.
20th July: Istanbul – Ankara – Goreme (Cappadocia)
Last visit to Istanbul with the blue Mosque, hottest day in the car, drive through Salt Lake and arrival at sunset in Cappadocia. View of the canyon and ferry chimneys is awesome.
21st July: Goreme – Unye
Drive through the centre of Turkey, Start of tough roads in the Turkish mountains and a photo session in Surfclub uniform in front of the black sea. First attempt at putting skid plates on Doris.
22nd July: Unye – Batumi
Early drive off Unye. Turkish –Georgia border goes easy. First impression of Georgia: potholes, crazy drivers and cows on the road. Arriving in Batumi, it feels like a Russian version of Miami. Meeting really friendly people and go for a nice swim on the black sea.
23rd July: Batumi – Tbilisi
Late start due to Fred’s card being eaten by an ATM. Wrestle bear in a monastery and visit a candlelit cathedral at sunset. One of the most spiritual and uplifting scenery we ever seen. Arriving in Tbilisi after 2am. Tough drive in the mountains with crazy drivers.
24th July: Tbilisi – Baku
Wine tasting at 10 am, tasting some more of the famed Georgian food in a 100% original eatery. Quick golf session on the cliffs outside Tbilisi. First taste of the corruption at Azeri Border (Fred got 2 of his cigars stolen ) and Speeding “fine” for both Michael and Freddy at 5 min interval. Seems we going to have fun in this country… Late arrival in Baku. The city is completely alight and screaming easy money.
Day 10 to 15
GPS Tracking brought to you by GTrek GPS Data Mapper.
25th July: Baku day 1
Relaxing day. Catching up on sleep. Visit of the city. Shocked by the difference between rich Baku and the rest of the country. Very expensive city. Freddy buys some more communist stuffs.
26th July: Baku day 2
Gathering information, more visit of the city. Fred trying is best Russian to explain local mechanics we want skid plates. Meet at the repair shop the coach for the National Basketball team of Azerbaijan.
27th July : Baku day 3
Waiting at the Turkmen embassy to get visa/authorisation. Rush to Repair work to put skid plates. Rush to the marine terminal to get on board an unexpected ferry. Rushing to the port we wait approx. 10hrs to board the ship.
28th July: Baku – Turkmenbashi (Caspian sea ferry)
Sad day, we realised at 8am we haven’t left dock due to passports missing. Ferry is dirty like nothing else. Toilets are [censored]. Everyone lingers around, read and rest. Golf session on the top deck. Sunset over the Caspian sea and oil fields as beacon through the night
29th July: Turkmenbashi
Exquisitly delightful Turkmen administration, spent over 14 hours waiting for our visa. Camped outside of Turkmenbashi
3oth July: Turkmenbashi – Kow Ata – Ashgabat
1st day as convoy driving. Fun time with a large group of English, Italian, German Latvian and so many more nationalities.
Hot springs of Kow Ata makes you feel like a boiling egg. Wasn’t as good as expected. Arriving in Ashgabat feel like driving in a life-size sims game with a gold and marble palace surrounded by fountains. We, however sleep in a decrepit hotel and enjoy some beer and shashlik (skewers) till late in the night.
31st July: Ashgabat – Darwasa
Quick tour around the marble city of Ashgabat. Carpet haggling and a quick and deceiving tour to the Tolutchka bazaar, we take on the road to Darwaza.
By chance we meet locals ready to take us across the dunes to the crater (our Doris would have never made it to the first dune). Arrival at Dusk is an impressive show. The crater, bigger than anticipated, burns in the middle of nowhere. An incredible sight lost in the wilderness. We step a couple of centimetres away from the cliffs. Gust of hot air and gas burns our face and limbs.
An amazing experience, totally worth enduring the wait at the border and the bad roads.
1st August: Darwasa – Nukus
Leaving early in the morning, we hope to arrive early in Nukus and visit the museum in the afternoon. Alas the roads are probably the worst so far. Max speed 30km/hr and Freddy is driving. Bumpy ride for a few hours.
Exiting Turkmenistan went like a breeze. Photos and chats with the guards, VIP priority treatment, great last moments in the country.
Roads are better in Uzbekistan. Arriving too late for the museum, we stop at a hotel nearby and sleep for more than 12hrs.
2nd August: Nukus – Khiva
Visit of the Stavisky museum, a must see if you are into impressionists. One of the biggest Russian impressionists collection available. We head for the walled city of Khiva.
Walking around the old city of Khiva feels like intruding an historical re-enacting. All old house made of the same light brown mud and straw material. This monotonous tone only broken by the flamboyant tilework of blue and green from historical medressas or minaret. We walk around history till sunset, stopping to enjoy our first Plov (national dish) with the hosting family.
3rd August: Khiva – Bukhara
After a second look at the city including the visit of the local citadel and a few museum we head to Bukhara. Central Asia holiest site.
The road is atrocious. A 150km strip of badly potholed tarmac set our speed to a staggering 30kms average. Car, necks and backs are all sour from bumps.
Upon our arrival in Bukhara, we bump once more into Renata and Sandy from 2 vagabonds and a yak.
Sitting around the table, right next door to some of central Asia most beautiful monuments, we meet Carlos, an interesting character whose use of superlatives and “stories” makes us laugh through the night.
4th August: Bukhara – Samarkand
Early start for a visit of Bukhara. Our local guide takes us through some of Islam most famous historical universities. We soak history through beautiful medressas, historical figures and stories about the city.
Late departure to Samarkand, road is ok.
5th August: Samarkand – Khojent
At last, Samarkand! A magical name synonymous with Silk caravans, nomadic empires and a feel for a world to be explored. The sights of Samarkand are just stunning, whether you see them restored or as they are, all of them provide you with an idea of the wealth and power of the Timurid empire.
A city I regret to leave so shortly. A point of the map marked for return. We head to Tajikistan in the afternoon. Checking with other teams and local officials whether the Pamir trip was still an option
6th August: Khojent –Andijan
Review of maps and situation. Decision against the Pamirs L
Drive through Tajikistan. Arrival at the border, computer crashed. Stuck for 4hours there. Late arrival in Andijan means too late for border crossing , the local police was really helpful. One of the young officer even got his little brother out of a party to help us with English translation. We spend the evening with him talking about the trip and his projects to go to uni in Australia. Great end of a non-eventful day
7th August: Andijan – Bishkek
After a couple of circumnavigation lost in the cotton fields we finally made it to the border. Kyrgyz one went incredibly fast. Probably a little too fast, now worried they forgot something.
We join straight away the Pamir Highway across the Kyrgyz mountains . The Landscape is just stunning. Glacier lakes, red rocks, snow-capped peaks behind rolling hills. Horses in pasture and yurts. Kyrgyzstan is probably the most picture country I have ever seen. We stop on our road to Bishkek to try Mare milk and cheese. The cheese is…strong and the mare milk, I somewhat dread to taste.
8th August: Bishkek – Karakol
Another day of stunning scenery in the Kyrgyz republic. We drive to the Issyk kol the second largest alpine lake in the world.
Arriving on its shore we managed to arrange to meet Targar and his eagle Tamura. They put on a deadly show for us where Tomura show here hunting skills on a poor bunny. Quite an impressive scene and tragic for the poor bunny. Couple of hours with Targar and his eagle let us understand more of this stunning facet of the kyrgyz culture.
We drive to Karakol in the evening where we tried the local staple Langham noodle and camp in the middle of the fields.