WHICH WAY TO GO?
We chose this route more or less by a process of elimination - the other overland option that we considered was to drive down through France and Spain and then across Northern Africa to the Middle East, but this seemed to be more dangerous and required more expertise such as desert driving. We haven't planned our route on a day to day basis, just the countries that we will travel though and the border crossings. Table of Entry-Exit points. Another option would have been to drive up through Poland, Russia and the Central Asian Republics.
As relatively inexperienced 'expeditioners', we thought it would be best to stick to a fairly well trodden path, avoiding areas of political unrest such as South East Turkey (although we did end up going through here, and it was fine), Afghanistan and Myanmar (Burma). Obviously after September 11th, we had to include Pakistan in that list too, which has added a whole new tangent to the trip and is still an unknown quantity.
Mainly decided by the various friends that we're hoping to catch up with along the way (Guus in Amsterdam, Stu and Liz in Stuttgart and Ade in Prague), We're also keen to visit Eastern Europe and to try and fit in some skiing in Austria.
TURKEY TO INDIA (MIDDLE EAST).
We would have liked to detour through Jordan and Syria, but neither of these are currently covered by the Carnet de Passage (this may have changed by now), so we have chosen to travel directly from Turkey into Iran. We should be in Iran for the Persian New Year.
Istanbul to Kathmandu is a classic overland route (Lonely Planet even have a book about this) and, until recently, a straightforward one. Our preferred route, circumstances permitting, is to travel from Iran through Pakistan to India. Pakistan is not currently included in the Carnet so whilst collecting our visas we managed to meet up with the Pakistani Foreign Commissioner in London. He was a very friendly and helpful chap, and was able to provide us with a letter explaining about our trip and requesting 'any assistance we should need' to be provided. We'll also need a 'letter of undertaking' from the bank to satisfy the customs authorities. Safety-wise we'll see how things look when we get there and try and join a convoy through the southern Baluchistan area. Other than travelling via Pakistan, the other options are to go north through Turkmenistan or Afghanistan (not likely in the present climate), or to ship from Iran to India.
INDIA ONWARDS / CHINA
The options from India are limited - Myanmar is out of bounds to foreign vehicles, and it is still practically impossible to obtain permits to travel independently through China. We have had to organise this part of the trip through an agency (see the Preparation section) so we will meet our guide at the Nepal-China border in May. It is important that we travel through the high Himilayan passes before the monsoon season starts (mid-June) and the roads become blocked by landslides.
We have heard nightmare stories from other people about trying to take right hand drive vehicles into Vietnam. Apparently they are considered to be in the same category as drugs and guns when it comes to the border customs - although this may be an exageration. Other overland groups have had to leave their vehicles at the border and, after a great deal of hassle, have their vehicles transported on trucks through the country.
Much as I would love to travel through Vietnam, we thought we would save ourselves the hassle and go through Laos instead. From Laos the journey should be straightforward down through Thailand to Malaysia and then Singapore. If we have enough money and if the political situation is okay, we'll find out about travelling through Indonesia.
SHIPPING FROM SINGAPORE...
At the moment, we're planning to ship from Singapore to Freemantle, Australia. But the journey doesn't quite end there as we're then planning to drive round from Freemantle round to Sydney... watch this space... and no, we're not planning to drive back to the UK afterwards!
APPROXIMATE ITINERARY (our main limitation being to the need to get through the Himalayas before monsoon)
|Approximate Date 2002||Countries|
|31st Jan (3 weeks)||France - Belgium - Holland - Germany - Austria - Czech Republic - Slovakia - Hungary - Romania - Bulgaria|
|17th Feb (4 weeks)||Turkey - Iran|
|17th March (2 weeks)||Pakistan|
|23rd March (6 weeks)||India - Nepal|
|8th May (4 weeks)||China|
|6th June (6 weeks)||Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore|
|July 2002 - July 2003||Australia, New Zealand|