Sorry its been a while,its been a busy few weeks with plenty happening and little WiFi so that’s my excuse!
Leaving Turkey after following the Black sea along its shoreline was a pleasant change of scenery . Our first strange border crossing from Turkey into Georgia was interesting and tedious at the same time with Passports, Visas, V5 doc (vehicle passport), International drivers licence (1949 and 1968 versions),vehicle insurance, road tax, vehicle searches, sim cards, money changing. All taking a part in the palava of border crossings which have become part of the adventure as each border is different. Each item has its own time and place but there was always a pleasant smiley customs officer , policeman or armed military type to advise where to go next so although each border was different we haven’t had any real hassle yet! But you guys reading this will soon need to be following these procedures when Brexit finally happens! I cant imagine the French CRS being overly friendly at Calais next time your heading south. Oh and don’t forget the queues of trucks lasting for miles!
What a fantastic country ! Awesome scenery, great food , stunning wine and the most friendliest, hospitable people we have encountered so far. This may have something to do with the fact they like a drink or two, being a mostly christian country so not having Ramadan as was the case in Turkey.
The other interesting fact about Gory was that was heavily bombed in 2008 by their not so friendly neighbour the Russians ,with bombed out buildings still to be seen. We just happened to be there for independence day where a display of military equipment was just loading up great stuff seeing them load this gurt tank at speed!
Time to get moving out of the slightly depressing town and up into the mountains via the Georgian Military highway which goes up to the Russian boarder up and over 2400m of twisting roads and up to the snow Line!
Having spent the journey from Hungary and the huge downpour ,in radio silence I thought it a good time to fix the on board sound system as it came up with a message stating “take to Kenwood service center” so with a bit of google searching decided to see if we could find one in Tbilisi using Google maps, which eventually located a back street hovel who looked like they were dealers for every stolen piece of electronic goods available with a website so you could order whatever system you wanted! Decided plan B would be to do some more google research and found a video of how to unlock and reset all functions . Wahooo it worked and we now have the ability to blast out a few tunes en route!
Our super useful app Park for night led us eventually to this small eco friendly winery is stunning surroundings where Niki and Mya a young couple are producing and exporting all over the world their organic range of natural wines
We headed into Baku and eventually found a hotel which could fit Amber in and set off down town to find a place to watch the Rugby final Exeter Chiefs v Saracens .Stumbled across an Irish bar with BT Sport and convinced the landlord it would be a good idea to put the rugby on . A great game enjoyed by us two accompanied by several pints and the pub dog so not a huge crowd but we did our best to cheer the boys on. All I can say is that Saracens deserved their wages that day! If you know what I mean.
Sunday morning feeling, glum,jaded and trepidation creeping in after the Rugby and with our next stage of the journey crossing the Caspian Sea, a point of no return, we made our way to the port and parked up with the big boys all waiting for the next ferry to Kazakhstan .The temperature hit 42 Deg so we sat in Ambers cool interior and waited it out until cool enough to venture outside and cook special pasta and enjoy our traditional Sunday sherry .
Monday morning and still a full day to wait in turn for the ferry. I thought it a good time to stop the brakes from squeeling every time I braked.It also gave me a chance to use my recently purchased airbag jack before it’s needed in anger.A quick brake pad change before it got too hot and job sorted without any dramas all be-it a lot of interest from the other truckers who had never seen anything like Amber before let alone a gurt big air bag to lift her up with. Feeling rather pleased with myself having sorted this annoying issue I didn’t even test drive her to ensure all sorted until 12 hrs later when loading began only to find squeal still there coming from front wheel not rear as I had thought !Ah well another excuse to get the air bag out another day.
40 hrs after arriving in the port we started loading onto boat at 20:00 finally got to cabin 02:00 going to sleep thinking that we’re finally off,to wake up in an oven at 07:00 still in port ! Eventually got going by 11:00 for a 30 hr crossing to Aqtau in Kazakhstan calm flat crossing It was a great enforced rest with access to all areas on board including captains bridge where the English speaking captain advised us not to take any more than 1/2 litre/person of alcohol through customs as very strict Muslim border controls.Hummm bit of a worry as with all we had stashed in Amber I reckon we would have had about 20 peoples quota! So we met up with some English and French cyclists and had a few sundowners to lighten the load.Turned out two of the English guys were cycling to Japan for the Rugby as well so lots in common including a thirst. Ben and George are raising money for the men’s charity Movember they are known as the Hairy Handlebars and Sunnie who is cycling to Shanghai for Save The Children.
Fearful of loosing Ben Moons beer I managed to persuade the boys to smuggle it through customs in their pannier bag, they were more than happy to help with this important mission. Still intact and just a little warm we retrieved it a little later on the side of the road.Just as well I did as the very stern military boarder guard was not impressed with our opened bottle of sherry and a couple of bottles of Georgian wine which I thought I’d show him ,leaving the rest in their hiding places.He suggested that he could look the other way if one bottle of wine could be his, to which I agreed.After a prolonged customs process and other border issues to attend to he arrived for his bottle just as we were about to leave ,hoping no one would see him but another officer arrived and that was that ,the wine stayed with us as we waved him goodbye!
Parked up on the sea front for a swim in the Caspian Sea with a lot of interest from local kids and families so I got the Rugby ball out and had a great time passing to ball around and giving guided tours of Amber .
We set off from Aqtau in search of the valley of balls which was recommended from IOverlander another fab app with parking sites and loads of other good up to date information after about 10 k of off road desert track we arrived at this magical place where the wind has eroded the sandstone into these huge stone balls.
As my old boss used to say Onward and Upwards ! Our next stop was to be a truly memorable evening were we set up camp away from the road ready to welcome the boys with a ,too cold to hold beer,warm shower,and bbq on the fire pit.Awnings up for some shade Amber made a great base for the night,they arrived about 20:00 after cycling through the heat of the day which was up in the high 30s
Waved down after a particularly bad stretch of road by a German guy and his nephew heading for Laos with this camper van.Wheel bearing cap had fallen off allowing the grease to drip out as it was so hot stripped it down cleaned up and reassembled with fresh greaseI had on board then found the cap wouldn’t stay on properly so out with the hammer and glue Sorted! He then bought us supper and a few beers.
The Aral Sea In 1960 this area was covered in 25m of water with a thriving fishing industry .Today it’s desert with abandoned ships and not a drop of water in site. Caused by Russian cotton production and gross stupidity!
Uzbekistan is a very gas rich ,diesel poor country with very few stations serving diesel .We were told that sometimes it is impossible to obtain so we had to fill all our Jerry cans and bought two extra giving us a range of about 1280 km so this was a bit of a worry as we needed to do about 1800 km. You can imaging our relief when having used a full tank and two Jerry cans we found a station with fuel Phew!
Well that’s about all I can manage for now. Should now be up to date have missed out loads so if you want to see a more detailed route with more shots and descriptions head on over to the Polar steps app search for Sue Farrell and ask to follow and you will see our tracker working away as we head even more East!