After 4 months on the road to the day ,19 countries ,3 ferries and 27,000 km our arrival in Japan felt like our little adventure was nearing the end .How wrong was I !
Our arrival in Sakimento in South western Japan was great with the heat and humidity it really felt like we had made it!So with time on our hands we set off on a leisurely pace , about 25km to our first wild camping in Japan
Not a bad spot for the night and a swim in the Pacific before breakfast!
The humidity eventually reached 100% ! In other words it’s raining! Really heavy, warm drops as big as golf balls! But as always Amber was the best place to be!
Another day another beach this one with squeaky white sand and a natural Onsen filled from a hot spring .Heaven on earth!
Followed by an ice cold shower from a stream!
And another swim snorkel
Just in case you were missing some tractor action check this little beauty out 60 hp on rubber tracks! It’s blue but not paying my pension but worthy of a stop en route.
Met up with our friend from Culmstock Jude Zebedee who had just completed a section of the “celebrate the Austin 7” having travelled in an 80 year old Austin 7 across eastern Russia with Chris Blakley who we hope to meet up with at one of the games.
Another wild camping spot complete with mozzies, horse flies,BBQ n beers!
Exactly 27,835km from Home our Tokyo hosts, my brother Simon, his lovely wife Tomoko and my nephew Kai who I’ve never met before welcomed us with a bottle of champers and a tight parking spot with a couple of inch’s spare Amber fitted in perfectly if a little bit of a surprise for the neighbors!
We arrived at Simon and Tomoko’s house just hours before Typhoon Krosa .We barely managed to sleep with the back doors open with all hell breaking loose outside but such an experience with a force of nature so strong it managed to knock out all trains in Tokyo for the next day!
Kai’s mode of transportation to school known as a mama charr swing low sweet chariot!
Next stop Narita airport to pick up Hazel,Douglas and Alex
Hadn’t seen Hazel since March as she’s been traveling around South America and Doug and Alex since early May .Awesome to meet up again!
Let the Party begin!
Strange shot of Amber as we travelled through down town Tokyo through the skyscrapers
First experience of a conveyor belt Sushi restaurant and yup that was just Doug’s pile of plates!
Next official duty delivering some Otter bitter to the British ambassador Paul Madden who coincidentally originated from Ottery st Mary a few miles from home! We were given a tour of the embassy which was a bit surreal as only a few days earlier we were wild camping in the woods!
Note beard trim and clean shirt and I don’t mean Douglas!
The British ambassador was so impressed he said he would like to place an order for embassy events! Wahoo! Get my commission ready Patrick (owner of Otter brewery)
Also managed to leave a sample with David and Maki the proprietors of a great English themed pub in Tokyo The Hole in the Wall .Fab place with great atmosphere and cracking English grub! Mmmmm Pie n Mash Yum scrum in my tum! If you are in Tokyo and need a bit of English nourishment check this place out.
The big day arrives! 60 years old who would believe it!
A smiley birthday breakfast!
A great start to the day in our Air BnB and ending up in the Hilton thanks to Simons generosity
Decorations done in style thanks chums!
Just happens to be Tokyo towers 60th birthday as well!
Birthday surprise my sister Nicky flew out to join us a great shock completely un expected
And then a most incredible Japanese meal in Gonpachi restaurant which was the inspiration for one of the fight scenes in the film Kill Bill .
The evening ended up being invited to a rugby themed party which is all a bit of a blur so you’ll just have to try and imagine the rest of my Big Day. Thank you everyone who made it such a special day and all the birthday wishes from all my chumlies !
Anyone guess what’s happening here!
Leaving Amber at Haneda airport to fly to Hokkaido for England’s first game.
Hello chubby chunkster our new home for five of us for the next week whilst we tour around heading for Sapporo and England’s first game against Tonga!
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!
Bulgaria memorable for first sight of Black Sea – was pretty blue actually. Everywhere seems quiet as out of season but friendly enough folk and fabulous scenery with mountain roads with Amber down into 1st gear at times!
Entered Turkey at small mountain border crossing taking about an hour to sort out stuff but all very friendly and interested in Amber Soon down from the hills and onto motorway with heavy wind and loads of crazy trucks making it fun. Bit of a worry when we came to leave motorway as flashing lights and alarms going off but no where to pay or anyone about so just drove on and learnt after that tourists get 15 days free motorway Phew had memories of Midnight Express!
Our Fab App Park for the night gave us a great parking site which was 10 mins walk from Blue Mosque and beside the Bosporus with Ramadan just starting it was an interesting place later on with families picnicking and Mosque calling to prayers Dolphins swimming and a fab Full moon vey atmospheric!
The other Highlight of Istanbul was getting a haircut and beard trim from a genuine Turkish Barber Took longer that planed as he decided my ears were too hairy and got the hot wax out, yup it did hurt but a good experience and I look less of a hedge monkey now !
Left Istanbul Monday morning in the traffic which was interesting and went on forever . It’s the second biggest population within city limits in the world so pretty busy eh?Followed Black Sea coats road from Istanbul eastwards having gone over the Bosporus Bridge and leaving Europe and entering Asia. A day of motorways and mountains following the coast which we have done for the last week stopping off along the way .A great place with super friendly people and stunning empty roads Amber much impressed with the long flat sections of motorway with only one or two cars to be seen cracking on ta a steady 80 kph achieving a staggering 23.73 mpg! Total mileage so far 3973 miles done without a drip being dropped ,well not that I can see!
we decided we deserved a night in a hotel in Rize so for less than two rounds in the Catherine wheel a 5 star hotel with sees views ,swimming pool and sauna had to be done . we really needed to get a decent WiFi signal to be able to talk to Hazel n Reg as it was her 25th birthday whilst travelling in Guatemala. And also to update this yer blog!
leaving Turkey soon as about 1 hr from border so the adventure continues ! Got to find some more decent WI FI tonight as we are going to listen to Radio Devon commentating on The Exeter Chiefs v Northampton in premiership Semi Final! come on you Chiefs
Tempting Ben Moon with a bottle of Otter bitter which I’ll deliver to him ,if he gets to Japan ! Doing our bit for U.K. Exports assuming we don’t get a thirst on!
Hemyock – Southampton to meet up with Dougie quality time spent with our favourite son. Who is going to have Dibley for a while. As a parting gift Dougie gave us A bottle of sherry which we will sample every Sunday whilst cooking Lunch as every civilized English man /woman should do.
Then off to Dover for the ferry
France 30 mins !
Belgium overnight in Bruges many happy memories of New Holland Combine factory visits ! Moule frites n beer in the square
Germany Ba ba ba de Autobhan!
Parked up in Bad Honningen right beside the Rhine. It just happened to be a celebration weekend of 1000 years so we got stuck in and enjoyed the festival culminating in a flotilla of 50 cruise boats all lit up and fireworks !
Next stop Brombachsee a huge inland lake south of Nuremberg Campsite beside lake with awesome views and bird life. Got the bikes out and cycled before breakfast . No comments about A monkey on a bike ,you lot!
Very cold with snow on side of road when heading into Austria parked up in Saltzburg which brought back memories of working here in the early 80’s with the Ford tractor demo team RIP John Baggaly Really tempted to go on a Sound of Music tour as it’s my fav film ever!
Amber doing well not a drip anywhere to be seen ! Cracking on at a steady 55mph which is perfect and stressless . Found a comfortable position for my knee which involves left foot throttle operation which is a huge relief as driving from Home to Southampton I had to stop 3 times to stretch the legs and relieve the pain!
Life on the road is great, no deadlines, no tacho, no stress, no idea where next, no worries!
The only thing we have booked is our ferry from Vladivostock, the rest we will make up as we go but here is a list of countries and approximate dates .
20 Countries , 12,000 miles +/- 136 Days 88 miles / day @ average 50mph 1.75 hours driving / day!
“Any long journey sounds worse than it actually is, when you sit and worry about it. But just stick the truck in gear and that first mile is one less that needs doing !” Is what I’ve been telling myself and anyone daft enough to listen to us for the past four years !
Inspired 35 years ago by some guys I met whilst working in Africa who were doing an overland trip from London to Cape Town in a Landrover! I have always wanted to do something similar with that travel bug firmly taking hold. Sue and I have travelled extensively and have talked for many years about an Overland trip. With two grown up kids and semi retirement around the corner we came to the conclusion that it’s – Now or Never !
The light bulb moment came when we were watching the Rugby World Cup in 2015 at Sandy Park, home of the Exeter Chiefs. When Sue said “lets go to the next World cup. Where is it going to be held?” “Japan” was my response, and that was the start of it. After 31 years of thinking about it,we had four years to get ready to go!
We had been looking at different vehicles for some time and had concluded that an ex-military Landrover Pulse Ambulance, based on a Defender 130 with the respected 300 TDI engine, would suit us down to the ground. As a confirmed Landrover fans, it didn’t take long to convince us this would be the right vehicle for our trip. Being big enough but not too big , comfortable enough but not too comfortable and reliable enough but not too reliable ( I like a challenge). Bought on an online auction without seeing her, she duly arrived and the conversion started in Spring 2016. We have christened her “Amber” the Amber-lance,and a new colour scheme to suit the name was applied in December 2017. ( Otter Amber is also our favourite local beer). She has been used on several shakedown trips and adapted to our own designs and requirements which has allowed us to let her evolve into our mobile home from home.
Roll on to spring 2019 and a looming deadline fast approaching .We were planning on leaving on 28th March , the day before Brexit,but after a slip and a fall resulting in a snapped patellar tendon, an operation and hours of physio, our new deadline is to leave on 1st May latest, to arrive in Tokyo by 14th September, my 60th birthday! Just in time for the start of the Rugby World Cup . What could possibly go wrong ?