The Pamir Highway

The second highest highway in the world!

Leaving Dushanbe with a happy Amber! Clutch sorted,water and diesel tanks full and fridge replenished with supplies.We’re off to tackle the Pamir Highway which has been one of the main objectives of the trip and one that has been constantly on my mind concerned about the route,the altitude and Amber of course!

I was once advised by an old work colleague “The time to worry is when you don’t worry” So full of worry and concern ,listening out for new noises ,smelling new smells,feeling new vibrations and looking out for leaks and general issues with Amber we progressed up and up through the fabulous Wakhan valley heading along the fertile valley floor checking out the local agricultural practices in this very poor undeveloped part of the world

These guys could win any ploughing match on sheer effort alone!

These were the military helping out with cultivation’s with a bit more technology and cow power!

Onward and upwards through the Wakhan valley through villages with children, teens, adults and old folk all waving at us with genuine smiles on their faces and a true welcome which is pretty awesome as we have noticed those with the least have been the most friendly !

Amber to the rescue! Waved down by a worried looking truck driver with a problem we soon realised that he was well and truly stuck in the sand and had been overnight as it was only about 07:00 am .Amber always a willing workhorse was hitched up and soon straining at the leash dragging the truck out with cheers from the onlookers who had gathered for the spectacle!

With 82 hp, 4wd ,low range and diff locks engaged along with two Otters,two Collies,and six Camels ,out she comes onto the hard surface with lots of whooping and hollering from the crowd of on lookers!

Good morning Afghanistan!

After finding a wild camping spot off the road we settled down for the night to be waken by this stunning view of Afghanistan on the other side of the valley the next day.With sunshine illuminating the fields of crops all ripening at different times it made a really colourful sight worthy of any art gallery.

Crops being harvested by hand field by field as was done in England 100 years ago! this shot was taken by Sue and her fab new camera which was able to zoom into the other side of the valley and pick out these black clothed Afghanis working away !

This one says it all ! It kept us on the straight and narrow with a reminder that this area is mostly safe if you don’t wander off where you shouldn’t which is what happened last year to a group of cyclists who were captured by the Telitubbies, oops I mean Taliban and murdered !

Good morning Pakistan, Hindu Kush

Again running along the valley with Pakistan and the Hindu Kush on opposite side.Didn’t realise we were so close until looking at a map!

Good morning China!

Barbed wire fence signifying Chinese border better not let Donald Trump see this!

Several shots of the road up from the Wakhan valley which don’t really do it justice as it was the most amazing drive with very steep,rough tracks and stunning views!

At the top of the pass !

Altitude a real challenge for not just us but Amber as well with very cold morning starts and poor quality fuel she struggled a bit with black smoke and temperature rising our fuel consumption dropped from about 8km/litre down to about 6 km / litre

If anyone has been at altitude for a while will also confirm it effects the body in different ways the most obvious being the need to pee! Normally a 2/3 times a day I was peeing about 8/9 times but keeping fluid levels up to avoid dehydration.

Snowball fight anyone?

And back down the other side time for some Amber TLC!

Checked gearbox oil leak as I was convinced oil leaking from oil cooler pipes and thinking it would not be a good place to have transmission failure turned out all ok but satisfying to know I needed have been worrying again !

Still chasing the brake squeal which was now coming from the last wheel to be checked cleaned and reassembled in the desert sands with the help of our air bag jack along with std jack which was sinking in the sand!

Before our arrival in Osh I thought Amber deserved a birthday treat as she had been through some messy places and was looking a little grubby!

All that was needed next was a celebratory pint or two with thoughts of Glastonbury happening as we supped our beer!

Met these crazy French guys on motorbikes and had a great night with plenty beer and Pizza where I realised I could still understand and speak French which got better the more beers we had Equip extraordinaire! Allez les Blues! But not too much

Our next stage is onto Bishek to apply for our Mongolian visas ! Wish us luck,

Never a dull day in the Landrover

Says it all really ,seems strange but we’re over half way with 100 days till kick off! currently In Samarkand,as intriguing and mysterious as it sounds a fantastic experience watching an amazing light show projected on to the mosque and madrassas by 36 massive projectors and commentary in English truly memorable might be worth a watch on you tube!

Decided thar Derek the Otter was a bit lonely so invited some friends to join us for the journey to keep him company .He looked a bit shocked when he first saw his new mates but has got to know them as Kaz, Uze and Taj!

Hit a swarm of gent locusts this one got caught up in wiper blade about 5 inches long glad we’re not on bikes!

I want one like this early Ford 40 series prototype! Seen en route !

Russian built combine harvester! hand feed, and dumps straw in gurt heap to give workers something to do I.e.load it on a trailer and carry back to farm loose!

Next up into mountains to wild camp at seven lakes ,interesting off road drive getting more and more challenging until after 20km had to stop about 3 km from lakes as clutch lost its fluid requiring a top up and peddle pumping to be able to engage gear and turn around on narrow mountain pass!

First symptom ,wet left foot! First reaction have a beer and think about consequences of being off road fairly remote and 240 km from nearest town without proper clutch operation as this is indicative of clutch master cylinder failure as fluid drips down onto drivers foot!

Managed to creep down to near civilisation and picked up 3G amazingly! A quick search on I overlander app found Anar Maul a German guy running a garage in Dushanbe who communicated via WhatsApp identifying part required by sending a picture of the offender and vehicle serial number within ten mins he confirmed it would take 5 days to arrive in Dunshabe which was great to know .With our enforced slowdown and still 230 km to go we crept over the 2700m high mountain range with slick gear changing ,multiple top up stops and a soggy left foot!

Wild camped in dried up river bed track ,lamb chops on the bbq and a pensive nights sleep.

Up and up to the summit at 2700m and a truly scary 5km unlit tunnel full of Mad trucks, crazy cars,stinking exhaust fumes, blackout darkness and amazingly idiotic drivers which all contributed to a frightening experience adding to the dodgy clutch one I wouldn’t want to repeat! For those who like scary films check my Facebook page for dash cam action.

Phew! Had to stop for a breath of fresh air and a view!

Onwards and downwards towards a fairly remote lake where the President has his holiday home so we were expecting great things and weren’t disappointed at this wild camping site

Decided it was time for some enforced R n R and found this amazing guest house with level parking and a spring filled swimming pool where we stayed for a couple of nights. Making good use of our mozzie nets ,not for the first time amazing how the security of a net helps the sleep!

Constantly brought presents of melon,almonds and cucumber by Jasmine-a our hostess it was difficult to leave as next stop was to be Dushanbe and clutch repair.

After a tricky drive into town and checking into a hotel in Dushanbe I spent a pensive night wondering if part would turn up,would it be the right part, was it going to be a Chinese rip off, could I change it myself ,would it work?And all those things that keep you from a good nights sleep.The appointed hour arrived when part was to be at garage so I decided to wait an extra couple of hours ,as there is always the possibility of a no show. I found the garage ,the correct part was there it had been shipped from Moscow. In 33 deg intense heat managed to change part without any dramas, except for a thunder storm and heavy rainfall the first rain we had seen since Hungary which was a great relief from the heat.

Offending part removed and replaced with an engine oil change done by Hamid and his great sun/rain shelter great service from these guys .I will sleep well tonight after a few pints of the cheapest beer in the world at £0.70 a pint I struggled to drink £2.00 worth!

They even sold cigarettes in this awesome beer garden ,cowshed cafe Awesome day!

Feeling fuelled up and ready for the Pamir Highway and Kyrgyzstan our next country.

Georgia,Azerbaijan,Kazakhstan Uzbekistan

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 boarder 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 Pa lava 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!

Georgia

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.

Parked up in down town Batumi for the night!
Local kids doing their traditional dancing so good and together with such pride !
Batumi by night
Next onto Gory the birthplace of Joseph Stalin a right nasty piece of work! This is his death mask which is on display for those who haven’t had enough of him when he was alive

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!

Last of the snow at 2400m
More hair pins than Ena Sharples hairdo!
Up and down without an issue except for a bit of brake squeal from rear
Wild camping in the woods
Looking down on Tbilisi where did I park Amber?
Tbilisi We would definitely come back!

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!

If you have never tried Georgian wine you need to check these guys out!

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

Yup huge amphora buried in the ground to maintain temperature
A little stroll to some caves she said
Where she too now then?
Now weem varmin! Barley being cut in May bugger my pig!
A cheeky bit of wild camping beside a field of garlic ’n yes we did pinch some
Crossed into Azerbaijan Saturday morning looking a bit grubby!
Quick scrub up before Baku the capital of Azerbaijan
And after nearly 6000 miles not a drop dripped! Well not here anyhow!
After the rugby I have only one thing to say to Saracens!

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.

Stop trucking about Amber ,where you hiding now?

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 .

We promised Douglas it will last until Japan so only one every Sunday til then
Brake squeal front or back?

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.

Luckily we had an opening window

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.

No Lycra for us
Ben Moons beer!

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!

Rugby by the beach

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 .

Valley of balls

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.

Pretty remote and stunning to watch sunset from here
Why the big lip?

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

Birds eye view of campsite
Awesome Dudes!
Fed n waterd and on their way
See you in Japan
Bodgetastic on the side of the road

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.

I see no Sea!

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!

Graveyard camping site
3 centuries Before Christ they built this mud castle for us to camp up
There she is!
Dead center of town .You’re a long time dead so just get on with it now!

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!

Telegraph road by Dire Straits very fitting

Where West meets East

Next Bulgaria through Turkey and into Georgia!

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

Simple signage
Went for a paddle in the Black sea and couldn’t resist it! the bulldozer that is.
Spot Amber ! Parked up in Sozopol marina for the night £3 for toilets , showers and security Bargain!
Gave her a birthday as want to be clean for Istanbul
Grey Unimog, Amber Defender, Blue VW, Orange VW and Blue Mosque!
Awesome park up for two nights in Istanbul beside the Bosporus
10 mins from Amber the Blue Mosque
This Bazaar is Bizarre! thankfully managed to buy nowt!
Had to be done !
Compleat with an ear waxing ouch! And no I didn’t go for the Back,Sac n Crack option
Grub up ! Sat watching Rugby scores being updated on BBC whilst munching on these bad boys! and watching the odd Dolphin.
Yup Confirmed Exeter Chiefs Top of table two years running with a poor performance from our European Champions ! Bring on Northampton next week end in the semi’s!

6 Days in 5 countries done!

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 favorite 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 Honnongen 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!