Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The planning stage

Using on-line maps like Google and Windows Live, I planned the rough route taking us across Western Europe into the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, then on to the Ukraine and into Russia, then Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

I researched visa requirements and found the Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia all needed ‘invitations’ before submitting an application for a visa; and it wasn’t cheap! I ended up using Visalink who processed all the paperwork.

The next step was to find how I could ship the bike from Australia to the UK. I came across Get Routed, an Australian company run by Dave Milligan from Melbourne. The company ships motorcycles in special containers to the UK. They also handle all Customs and Quarantine paperwork together with insurance. They have now started to ship to the USA, so the Americas adventure will be made a lot easier in a couple of years.

Getting to the UK was made easy by the guys at Flight Centre. Gareth Evans in the Canberra office arranged Korean Air via an overnighter in Seoul.

Apart from some fine tuning of the route; the only other thing was to prepare the bike and our traveling gear. Mike Owen and the mechanics from Mike Owen Motorcycles in Canberra came to the rescue; adding some needed accessories and servicing. Lachlan Campbell, the Australian distributor of Jesse Panniers supplied the panniers and top box. Most of our traveling clothing and camping equipment was purchased from Mountain Designs.

How it all started

A couple of years ago I travelled to Nepal on a six week expedition through the eastern region near Kanchenjunga. The expedition organised by Jamie McGuinness of Project Himalaya included the north and south base camps of Kanchenjunga; Jannu base camp; and some rarely climbed 6000+m peaks!

The expedition was a combination of two groups: six trekkers and eight expedition members. We all planned to trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp, then the trekkers were to return whilst the expedition team went further into the wilds climbing a number of 6000m peaks and exploring some unknown territory towards the Tibet border. As it turned out, only two expedition members were able to continue after reaching Base Camp and everyone else returned on the planned route with the trekkers.

Unfortunately my trip was cut short due to me collapsing due to altitude sickness 100m short of my goal at Pangpema. Our Sherpas brought me back down to Lhonak where I spent the next two days recovering. It was decided I could not physically climb over the 5,800 pass north west of Kanchenjunga and I joined our trekking team and headed back down. The remaining 6 members of the expedition team spent the night at Pangpema and only two members were able to join Jammie in climbing higher; the rest descended and came back with me - very disappointing; but hey, we all survived!

The Kanchenjunga region offers some of the best trekking and exploring in Nepal. The region is unspoilt; and many areas are still unexplored. It offers an outstanding cultural insight into the people, flora and fauna of the region. The sight of Kanchenjunga, seen from Pangpema (the north base camp) is unforgettable, as is the north face of Jannu, Wedge Peak and Mera. Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain on the planet but unlike Everest and K2, the trek to its base camps has been strangely neglected. It has not yet been fully commercialised and few organisations offer trekking/climbing packages for tourists.

Nepal is the most wonderful country in the world and most amazing people, especially the Sherpas and porters who assisted us throughout our journey. If you have time, read my blog of the expedition.

After experiencing ‘living outside the square’, I came back from Nepal with so much adrenaline in my blood; I started planning my next adventure; this time taking Colleen with me – so started the dream of riding a motorcycle across Europe and Russia.

Using the internet as my primary research tool, I came across the Horizons Unlimited website and forum. This website contains tales of adventure, terror and joy from travellers around the world together with very helpful hints and advice on how to travel around the world on a motorcycle. Various countries host annual meetings were travellers come together and swap advice and stories. My first one was in 2007 in the Victorian town of Tintaldra where I met some amazing people who had been there and done it. I came away inspired and ready to go. I also came across the documentary ‘Long Way Round’ made by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman. It was then I decided to follow part of their route across Europe and Russia. We originally started thinking about doing the Americas; but because my Mum lives in the UK, we decided to ride the Europe leg and see Mum along the way.