We have a dream…
We used to have a 2 metre world map on a wall, which invited to stare at the world and dream of exotic places to visit. The weirdest shaped, furthest removed and least known destinations would of course be the most interesting. But also possibly the most misunderstood, hardest to travel and prone to instability/corruption.
When we bought our Landcruiser, we started off with three plans that came to mind:
- A grand loop around the Mediterranean
- Driving to South Africa
- Driving to India
As the first two options aren’t really an option at present (2015), the third option seems to be the preferable one (however, Turkey is trying really hard to stop us from going there).
Politics and safety
Deciding where to go is only the start though. How do we get there? Is it safe? Is it stable? Lots of unstable countries along the way. Which would prove interesting, but might also prove to be hard to enter and hard to travel safely. Going through Central Asia means some possible political liabilities along the way:
- Turkey, which struggles with PKK and ISIS on their southern border
- Georgia, which has a continuing quarrel with Russia over Ossetia and Abkhazia
- Armenia, which is in an ever lasting rivalry with Azerbeijan (with Russia, Turkey and Iran happy to involve) after WW1, when the Ottoman empire collapsed
- Iran, which is currently stable and has solid rule, but might stumble in international politics because of their nuclear ambitions
- Turkmenistan, which doesn’t easily open its borders to foreigners, let alone extend visas for entry
- Uzbekistan, which has quite a few rogue factions of criminals
- Tadzjikistan, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, which means possible terrorist activity and its rivalling claims to border areas
- Mother Russia itself, which is not always very predictable (in case we decide to drive back)
And of course, driving a rather conspicuous car, we stand out nicely for any ambitious fortune seeker with trouble on his mind. National authorities will provide details on the current situation in the country you visit. In some countries it may be wise to register or announce your visit with your embassy. At borders or when we are pulled over by what looks to be an official, the general rule is that the other person stays in the car with all documents. After everything is clear, we will act (hand over documents, pay, or whatever) of join the official to a formal office and superior. Don’t bother with intermediates or strawmen, they are generally swindlers or have to be paid afterwards. It helps to first sit, stay, observe and blend in before getting out of the car.
In case of an emergency, we have several protection and communication options. Our car is additionally protected from theft by an additional immobiliser and a steeringwheel-lock. For instant protection, we carry a few cannisters of bear-spray (pepper) in our car. On top of that, a Maglite and hand saw are within reach. For communication, we carry a 27MC radio and GSM phones. Another option, which we may use, is a satellite-phone or a SPOT (gps rescue tracker). And we do carry lightsticks, safety blankets and a survival guide, if all goes to hell.
Foreign hygenics doesn’t usually meet western standards, which means food & water are an important concern. Washing up both food and yourself before cooking and eating is important, just as obtaining potable water. As we cook our own food and have a fridge on board, we can arrange everything ourselves. And in the event of sickness we carry a number of medicins (see packlist). Of course, it is important to check whether a medical statement is required to carry certain medication, you wouldn’t want to be imprisoned over a pack of paracetamol.
Some diseases do need treatment though. Some can be prevented with shots or profylaxe treatments, like hepatitis A/B, meningitis or rabies. Check your local medical travel support to see what medication or shots are needed. The medication you receive will be stated in a yellow medical passport.
In other cases you might need to go to a hospital. Make sure that your insurance coverage is sufficient, some hospitals won’t treat you otherwise. We do prefer to bring some broad spectrum treatment medication and clean syringes/needles. Make sure the hospital is clean and possibly western if possible: an army hospital or privat clinic may be preferred.
Driving long distances (over 20.000 km) will mean our car will break down eventually.