Staring at the map of the world we can clearly visualise our route as it travels east from the UK, through Europe and across the centre of the Asian land mass. Our eyes instantaneously jump across the sea from Russia to Japan and then head South to Australia and New Zealand in the blink of an eye.
Where to Begin
However things are always much easier and quicker when you are planning your ultimate trip in your head. It is in reality much harder to cross borders and harder still and more time consuming, crossing oceans.
For us it started as it does with many. After passing my motorcycle test I was reminded by a friend of the now infamous Long Way Round expedition and began watching it again. I also became exposed to solo adventurists and Siberists Walter Colebatch and Lyndon Poskitt of Races to Places fame.
In the modern world with the internet at our finger tips on phones and computers it has never been easier to find out new things and be able to research how you go about planning such a trip. There is such a wealth of knowledge out there that is only a click away. After finding the adventure serious Races to Places on YouTube which follows the exploits of Lyndon Poskitt who set off to ride around the world solo and for the most part off road I knew for me this was the way to do it.
Once I encouraged Jenny to watch a few episodes after we had returned from our first motorcycling touring holiday she caught the bug bad also! Seeing Lyndon riding in such remote, desolate places but also meeting such kind people from so many different cultures was addictive and also lit the fire of adventure that we have been riding on ever since.
We knew we wanted to travel east around the world and there was countries in our minds that were bucket list destinations such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and South America. However neither of us had been to Russia or Central Asia and although fascinated by what we saw in Races to Places and Long Way Round we felt apprehension and some level of anxiety when thinking of actually being in Countries that border Afghanistan.
A trip of the size would involve some intricate planning and budgeting as visas would need to bought and purchased in time to make the entry dates and ensure we could enter the next country without over staying the current visa. We would also have to budget and research shipping and transport of bikes in advance of when we would reach a sea crossing.
With there being so much to plan we broke down the trip into 3 stages. We decided stage 1 would take us from the UK to Australia, Stage 2 Would be the Americas and finally stage 3 would cover Africa. We couldn't expect to complete the trip in a single pass due to the complexity and length of the route and by dividing it into 3 stages we could take some time i between to recuperate and raise more cash for the next part. With this in mind we concentrated on the stage 1 planning.
When travelling from West to East by motorcycle the timetable is very much governed by the changing seasons. Due to Central Asia and Russia being in the Northern Hemisphere and also having very high mountains in some most places the Winter is severe and appears abruptly without warning. In Siberia you also have a big problem with water. As most of it is covered by permafrost snow melt and rain water do not wash away and thus turn the topsoil into a muddy quagmire that is so bad in the far north that lorries can only travel to the northernmost towns and settlements in the winter when the roads are frozen solid into ice roads.
Our first job was to research which countries required visas and to ascertain how long they would last and also the time frame for application. On applying for visas the delivery time must be taken into account as they will be issued within a certain time frame like 30 days but then the date of entry will be 45 days after that and yo must enter the respective country by that date. This was the process required by our most expensive visa, Russia. Due to us needing 3 entries into Russia we needed to apply for a 12 month Multi Entry Business Visa and not any form of tourist or motor touring Visa. In regards to a motor touring visa they will try to sell you those but they are useless for motorcycles so ignore those and apply for a business visa instead. There are some issues with the business visa application in that it is meant for business and not for tourism so is a bit of a grey area. For us our personal justification is that for us our trip is business orientated as it in some way pays for our lifestyle and helps us build a future career!
For Turkey and Uzbekistan our visa applications were online but we had to send off our passports for our Tajik visas as well as Mongolian. We chose to apply for the Russian Visa quite a few months before departure to ensure we had them on time as they are known to be very busy in the run up to summer and then we sent off for the other visas once we had our Russia visa sorted.
Unfortunately the Russia visa is expensive. We used a company called stress free visas and they came to 470gbp each after paying for the form filling service. If you don't speak or read Russian then this is the way to do it! The other visas were around 40-80gbp each. Many of the countries on our route allowed u to enter visa free with being UK citizens so it is worth checking the UGOV government website for the most up to date information on this.
Deciding what to see
Different people enjoy different aspects of travel. With our motivation being driven by the need to ride our motorcycles we lean more towards the remote and forgotten and away from the typical glamour and comfort. From a young age I have been fascinated with the former Soviet Union and it's dark history. From the development of nuclear weapons and the push into space to their brutal gulag system. A major drive for me was to visit places i had read about in books and on the internet such as the Baikonur cosmodrome and the nuclear test site known as the Polygon. We also wanted to traverse the forgotten winter roads of Siberia so we ensured we allotted time specifically to the countries that contained old Soviet architecture. We also wanted so spend a lot of time with nomadic cultures such as is found throughout Central Asia.
Budget for most people is a tricky subject. When looking for such information on the internet it can be very hit and miss. Most travellers prefer to not divulge such information and those that do provide a lot of conflicting information from one traveller to another. People can travel on both smaller and larger budgets. If you can hack camping most nights then you will cut your budget significantly, likewise if you travel slowly and use little fuel. However unfortunately for all of us shipping and flights have the same costs and these can be high. Jenny and myself do prefer to travel with some level of comfort as we both work from our laptops so must always seek out internet which means we when available we use hotels. We only camp when we are on an expedition section where there is no accommodation available. We also travel fast and with two motorcycles we use a lot of fuel. With stage one complete I can tell you that we spent over 3000gbp to travel 20500 miles! As a guide from our perspective 1000 gbp per month per person is a reasonable budget that allows for some of the luxuries available! Shipping and flights need to be added on top and unfortunately will be pretty expensive. For example to ship both our bikes from Vladivostok in Russia to New Zealand cot around 3000gbp and we then need to pay another 1000gbp to have the bikes imported and registered.
With the completion of Stage 1 from the UK to New Zealand we are now planning stage 2 of our trip. We have learnt so much from stage 1 in regards to budget, travelling and maintenance which is all being applied to our current planning so that we can spend less, travel and enjoy the trip more!
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