This post documents the evolution of my plans for an overland adventure, between 2011 when I began planning, to 2014 when the 5.5 month trip took place. This information has, until now, been posted on my site under a dedicated ‘Route’ page. However, this site has evolved since the 2014 trip, so I am removing some of the pages. I’m therefore capturing this information in a post, so that it is still available after I delete the Route page.
My first plan was to participate in the Mongolia Rally which involves driving an old vehicle from England to Mongolia and donating it to the people of Mongolia once there (and then flying home). Then I got to thinking that it would be a shame to get that far and have to stop – why not purchase a better vehicle and keep going from Mongolia and drive back to England?
The next grand idea was to drive around the world, following a similar route to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round (but in the opposite direction). That idea only lasted a couple of days, as I soon learned that there is no ferry or other option to get a four-wheeled vehicle across the 80-odd miles of the Bering Straight between Alaska and Russia (not to mention the extremely poor roads in Far Eastern Russia). Ewan and Charley flew their motorcycles from Magadan to Alaska.
I then thought that we’d drive to Mongolia and then head south through China to South East Asia, visiting Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, before making our way back towards England. That plan was scrapped when I learned that unaccompanied vehicles are not permitted in China. Visiting drivers must pay for a government tour guide who must accompany the tourists for the entire journey. In addition to paying to hire the guide, the tourists are also responsible for the guide’s transport, accommodation and meals as well as the costs involved in getting temporary Chinese licence plates for the vehicle. So, China was ruled out of consideration.
I studied the atlas for an alternate land-based route to South East Asia without entering China. Even if we were willing to cross through Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan, we’d still have our path blocked by Myanmar which, at the time, did not permit overland travel. Other overlanders wishing to reach South East Asia have done so by shipping their vehicles from India to Malaysia, but I didn’t want to get involved in vehicle shipping. It’s also worth noting that Iran, Pakistan and India all require carnets to take vehicles into their countries – something that I wanted to avoid on the trip.
There was an option to drive through Russia to Vladivostock and then take the roll-on-roll-off ferry to South Korea and Japan (and back to Russia). By the way, Japan also requires a vehicle carnet to take a vehicle there.
So, having considered all of the above, the following route emerged:
England – France – Belgium – Luxembourg – Germany – Czech Republic – Slovakia – Ukraine – Russia – Mongolia – Russia – Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan – Uzbekistan – Kazakhstan – Russia – Estonia – Latvia – Lithuania – Poland – Czech Republic – Austria – Hungary – Serbia – Romania – Bulgaria – Turkey – Greece – Macedonia – Albania – Montenegro – Bosnia & Hercegovina – Croatia – Slovenia – Italy – Switzerland – France – England
Whilst this was the tentative route, we wanted to remain flexible and able to change plans and directions as we went.
I bought a good selection of maps with which to begin fine-tuning our route for the adventure. I bought maps of Russia, the Baltic States, the ‘Stans’, Mongolia, Russia and Europe that cover the vast majority of the areas we’d be visiting. All of the maps were purchased online from Great Journeys. Together with guide books for the different areas, the maps assisted in putting the route together. Garmin’s World Map CD then helped to determine the distances between each town and the cumulative distance for the entire trip.
Initial Route Plan
The first incarnation of the route is below.
England: Depart from Blackpool with a send-off from family and head to Dover to catch a ferry to Dunkirk (261 miles).
France: Disembark ferry in Dunkirk and drive to Lille – to border with Belgium
Belgium: From border to Mons – Namur – to Luxembourg
Luxembourg: To Luxembourg (517 miles) and then to Germany
Germany: Enter from Luxembourg to Mannheim – Stuttgart – Nuremburg – to Czech Republic
Czech Republic: Enter from Germany to Plzen – Prague (total 937 miles) – Church of Bones – Brno – to Slovakia
Slovakia: Trencin – Prievidza (Bojnice Castle) – Cicmany – Vlkolinec – High Tatras mountain range – Poprad – Spis Castle – Presov – Kosice – enter Ukraine
Ukraine: Uzhgorod – Lviv (total of 1,469 miles) – Rovno – Novograd-Volinskiy – Zhitomir – Kiev (total of 1,776 miles) – Chernobyl – Nezhin – Priluki – Khar’kov – Donetsk – enter Russia
Russia: Enter from Ukraine to Novoshakhtinsk – Rosov-na-Donu – Volgograd (total of 2,604 miles) and follow the Volga River to Kamyshin, Saratov, Balakovo, Samara and Kazan. Enter the Urals region via Perm, Kungar and Yekaterinburg. Enter Western Siberia via Tyumen, Tobolsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk and Tomsk. Enter Eastern Siberia via Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk (5,666 miles), Lake Baikal, Ulan-Ude, Novoselenginsk and Kyakta and then into Mongolia.
Mongolia: Enter south of Kyatka to Sukhbaatar – Dulaan Khaan – Darkhan – Amarbayasgalant Khiid – Bornuur – Ulaanbaatar (total of 6,228 miles)- Bulgan – Moron – Khovsgol Nuur National Park – Darkhad Depression (reindeer herders) – Moron – Zagastain Davaa mountain pass – Uliastai – Altai – Khovd – Ulaangom (7,504 miles) – Uureg Nuur (freshwater lake) – through Siilkhem Nuruu National Park and the Tsagaannuur border crossing into Russia.
Russia (second entry):Enter via Tsagaannuur border crossing into Russia into the Altai Region. Head west to Barnaul then south through Rubtsovsk and into Eastern Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan (first entry): South-bound from border crossing to Semey – Ayagoz – Taldykorgan – Almaty (8,777 miles) – Charyn Canyon and Valley of Castles – Kegen – and south to border crossing into Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan: From border crossing to Tup – Karakol and along southern side of Lake Issyk-Kul – Balykchy – Tokmak – Bishkek (9,190 miles) – Kara Balta – Toktogul – Jalal-Abad – Osh – Taldyk Pass mountain road – Sary Tash – Kyzyl-Art Pass into Tajikikistan.
Tajikistan: From border crossing on the Pamir Highway (high elevations) through Karakul to Murgab – Alichur – Khorog – then north on M41 along Afghan border through Rushan – Togmay – Kala-i-Khum – Sagirdasht Pass – Tavildara – Dushanbe (10,026 miles) – north on M34 through Varzub Gorge – Anzab Tunnel – Takfon – Ayni – west on A377 to Penjikent and border with Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan: Cross border from Tajikistan and west to Samarkand (10,176 miles). Then to Karshi – Bukhara – Navoi – return to Samarkand – Jizzakh – Tashkent (10,672 miles)- cross border into Kazakhstan towards Shymkent.
Kazakhstan (second entry): From Uzbekistan border to Shymkent (10,740 miles) – Kyzlorda – Baykonor (past the Baykonor Cosmodrome) – Aral (and the receding Aral Sea) – Aktobe (11,638 miles) – Uralsk (Oral) – then over the border into Russia.
Russia (third entry): From Kazakhstan border to Saratov – Penza – Moscow (12,663 miles) – Novgorod – St. Petersburg – Kingisepp and cross border at Narva and into Estonia.
Estonia: Altja – Laheema National Park – Talliin – Parnu – Viljandi – Tartu – Otepaa – Valga (13,501 miles) and into Latvia.
Latvia: Valka – Valmiera – Riga – Jelgava – Eleja and into Lithuania.
Lithuania: Joniskis – Hill of Crosses – Siauliai – Aukstaitija National Park – Vilnius (13,788 miles) – Trakai – Marijampole – Kalvarija and into Poland.
Poland: Suwatki – Biatystok – Biatowieza National Park – Warsaw – Krakow – Auswitz-Birekenau – Wroclaw (14,391 miles) and into Czech Republic.
Czech Republic (second entry): Bohemian Switzerland National Park – Cesky Krumlov – Dolni Dvoriste and into Austria.
Austria: Linz – Vienna (14,787 miles) – into Hungary.
Hungary: Gyor – Tatabanya – Budapest (14,928 miles) – Kiskunsagi National Park – Szeged and into Serbia.
Serbia: Subotica – Novi Sad – Belgrade (15,163 miles) – Vrsac and into Romania.
Romania: Timisoara – to Transylvania including Sibiu, Sighisoara, Brasov, Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle) and Sinaia – Bucharest (15,590 miles) – Giurgiu and into Bulgaria
Bulgaria: Ruse – Rusenki Lom Nature Park – Velinko Tarnovo – Koprivshtitsa – Hisar – Plovdiv (15,810 miles) – Kardzhali – Peperikon (Valley of the Thracian Kings) – Haskovo and into Turkey.
Turkey: Corlu – Istanbul (16,068 miles) – Tekirdag and into Greece.
Greece: Dimokritos – Megas Alexandris – Thessaloniki and into Macedonia
Macedonia: Gevgelija – Kavadarci – Tikves Region – Bitola (16,509 miles) – Dihovo – Ohrid – Struga – Radozda and into Albania
Albania: Berat – Tirana (16,641 miles) – Shkodra and into Montenegro.
Montenegro: Ulcinj – Petrovac – Sveti Stefan – Budva – Kotor – Tivat – Bay of Kotor – Herceg Novi and into the tip of Croatia.
Croatia: Dubrovnik (16,790 miles) and into Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Bosnia & Hercegovina: Trebinje – Stolac – Pocitelj – Mostar – Jablanica – Bjelasnica – Sarajevo (16,905 miles) – Travnik – Jajce – Basanko Petrovac – Bihac and into Croatia.
Croatia (second entry): Grabovac – Plitvice Lakes national Park – Otocac – Zuta Lovka – Senj – Rijeka – Opatija – Pula – Rovinj – Buje (17,254 miles) and into Slovenia.
Slovenia: Piran – Postojna – Ljubljana – Kranj – Bled – Bovec and into Italy.
Italy: Mestre – Venice – Bologna (17,588 miles) – San Marino – Rome – Pisa – Genova (18,034 miles) and into France.
France (second entry): Nice and to Switzerland.
Switzerland: Geneva (18,309 miles) and into France.
France (third entry): Lyon – Limoges – La Rochelle – Nantes – Rennes – Caen (18,903 miles) – Rouen – Calais – Dunkerque (19,110 miles) and to England.
England: Dover – Basingstoke – Swindon – Preston – Blackpool (19,469 miles)
The above route covers 33 countries and over 20,000 miles. The miles quoted in the route above utilise ‘as the crow flies’ distances between the various towns and cities so the actual distance will certainly be greater. Over a period of six months, this averages out to about 110 miles per day.
Following our 2013 shakedown trip to the Alps, I decided to amend the route in an attempt to reduce the overall and daily mileage. I also realised that my paid pre-retirement leave would be closer to five months, rather than six, so this also contributed to the need to shorten the trip.
I decided to cut out Tajikistan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey as the primary means of shortening the journey, but some other countries have also been omitted. I also decided to focus primarily on the main segment of the trip – that being Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia and the Stans. It was expected that the main segment could take up to four months. Once we completed that segment, we could decide how much of the remaining segment we could realistically complete within our available time.
I also took a closer look at parts of the route for the main segment and adjusted the route to include some additional points of interest.
The second iteration of the route was as follows:
England: Depart from Bridgwater and head to Dover to catch a ferry to Dunkirk.
France: Disembark ferry in Dunkirk and drive to border with Belgium
Belgium: Transit country to Germany
Germany: Drive to Berlin to pick up Klaus – then towards Poland
Poland: Visit Krakow before heading to Slovakia
Slovakia: Trencin – Prievidza (Bojnice Castle) – Cicmany – Vlkolinec – High Tatras mountain range – Poprad – Spis Castle – Presov – enter Ukraine
Ukraine: Lviv – Kiev – Chernobyl – Khar’kov – Lugansk (2,180 miles total) – enter Russia
Russia: Saratov – Samara – Kazan – Perm – Ekaterinburg – Tobolsk – Omsk – Novosibirsk – Tomsk – Krasnoyarsk – drive the BAM Road through Kransk, Bratsk, Ust’ Kut and Severobaikalsk – down shore of Lake Baikal to Irkutsk – Ulan-Ude (6,050 miles total) and then into Mongolia.
Mongolia: Enter south of Kyatka to Amarbayasgalant Khiid – Ulan Baatar – Erdene Zuu Khiid and Tovkhon Khiid monasteries – Bulgan – Moron – Khovsgol Nuur National Park – Darkhad Depression – Moron – Zagastain Davaa mountain pass – Altai – Khovd – Ulaangom – Uureg Nuur (freshwater lake) – Tsagaannuur border (7,984 miles total) and into Russia.
Russia (second entry): Enter via Tsagaannuur border crossing into the Altai Region – Biysk – Rubtsovsk and into Eastern Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan (first entry): South-bound from border crossing to Ayagoz – Taldy Kurgan – Almaty (9,281 miles) – Charyn Canyon and Valley of Castles – Kegen – and south to border crossing into Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan: From border crossing – Karakol – along southern side of Lake Issyk-Kul – Balykchy – Bishkek – Toktogul – and cross border into Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan: Cross border from Kyrgyzstan – Namangan – Almalyk – Dzhizak – Samarkand (10,236 miles) – Bukhara – Samarkand – Tashkent (10,731 miles)- cross border into Kazakhstan towards Shymkent.
Kazakhstan (second entry): From Uzbekistan border to Shymkent – Kyzlorda – Baykonor (past the Baykonor Cosmodrome) – Aral (and the receding Aral Sea) – Aktyubinsk (11,697 miles) – then over the border into Russia.
Russia (third entry): From Kazakhstan border to Saratov – Volgograd – Gukovo border crossing (12,639 miles).
Ukraine (second entry)
From Gukovo crossing – Donestsk – Kirvograd – Uman – Kamanets-Podolsky (13,284 miles) – cross border to Romania
Romania: Kolomyya – Biai Mare – to Transylvania including Sibiu, Sighisoara, Brasov, Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle) and Sinaia – Bucharest (13,770 miles) – Giurgiu and into Bulgaria
Bulgaria: Ruse – Rusenki Lom Nature Park – Velinko Tarnovo – Koprivshtitsa – Hisar – Plovdiv – Kardzhali – Peperikon (Valley of the Thracian Kings) – Haskovo and into Greece.
Greece: Megas Alexandris – Thessaloniki and into Macedonia
Macedonia: Gevgelija – Kavadarci – Tikves Region – Bitola (14,290 miles) – Dihovo – Ohrid – Struga – Radozda and into Albania
Albania: Berat – Tirana (14,422 miles) – Shkodra and into Montenegro.
Montenegro: Ulcinj – Petrovac – Sveti Stefan – Budva – Kotor – Tivat – Bay of Kotor – Herceg Novi and into the tip of Croatia.
Croatia: Dubrovnik (14,571 miles) and into Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Bosnia & Hercegovina: Trebinje – Stolac – Pocitelj – Mostar – Jablanica – Bjelasnica – Sarajevo (14,686 miles) – Travnik – Jajce – Basanko Petrovac – Bihac and into Croatia.
Croatia (second entry): Grabovac – Plitvice Lakes national Park – Otocac – Zuta Lovka – Senj – Rijeka – Opatija – Pula – Rovinj – Buje (15,035 miles) and into Slovenia.
Slovenia: Piran – Postojna – Ljubljana – Kranj – Bled (15,132 miles) – Bovec and into Italy.
Austria: Transit en-route to Berlin
Czech Republic: Transit en-route to Berlin
Germany (second entry): Arrive Berlin (15,556 miles) – drop off Klaus and pick up Bev – transit via Munich towards Italy
Austria (second entry): transit to Italy
Italy: Milan – Genova
France (second entry): Eze – Nice – Lyon – Orleans – Versaille – Dunkirk
England: Dover – Bridgwater (17,179 miles)
The primary segment of this version of the trip includes 12 countries and covers 13,284 miles. That segment was projected to take 104 days (average daily mileage of 127 miles). However, we would have the leeway to take longer on the primary segment (depending on circumstances at the time of the trip) and eliminate part of the secondary segment.
The secondary segment (if we completed it) would add another 12 countries and would cover at least another 3,895 miles. That would bring the total count for the entire trip to 24 countries and 17,179 miles.
The actual trip lasted 24.5 weeks (5.5 months) and took me to 23 countries. I drove a total of 22,334 miles (34,943 km) in my Land Rover Defender. Here is the actual route that I took along with some thoughts on the route for others who may be considering a similar trip.
The final route included the following countries and cities:
30th March: Departed Bermuda on British Airways flight to London.
Spent time visiting friends/family and receiving training in off-road driving, recovery techniques and vehicle maintenance.
7th April: Depart Bridgwater and overnight in Dover
FRANCE, BELGIUM, NETHERLANDS, GERMANY
8th April: Ferry from Dover to Dunkirk followed by a drive through Belgium and Netherlands into Germany (slept inside vehicle in autobahn rest-stop area)
9th April: Continue to Berlin (2 nights).
11th April: Cross border and drive to Krakow, Poland.
12th April: Cross border and drive to Vklolinec, Slovakia
13th April: Drive to Poprad.
14th April: Cross border and drive to Lviv (2 nights).
16th April: Drive to Kiev (3 nights).
19th April: Cross border and drive to Kursk, Russia.
20th April: Drive towards Saratov (wild-camping overnight).
21st April: Arrive in Saratov.
22nd April: Drive to Samara (2 nights).
24th April: Drive to Kazan (2 nights).
26th April: Drive towards Perm (slept inside vehicle – stuck in mud)
27th April: Drive to Izhevsk.
28th April: Drive to Perm.
29th April: Drive to Yekaterinburg
30th April: Drove towards Omsk (slept inside vehicle).
1st May: Continued drive towards Omsk (wild-camping overnight).
2nd May: Drove to Omsk.
3rd May: Drive towards Novosibirsk (wild-camping overnight).
4th May: Drive to Novosibirsk.
5th May: Drive towards Krasnoyarsk (wild-camping overnight).
6th May: Drive to Krasnoyarsk (2 nights).
8th May: Drive to BAM Road at Taishet (wild-camping)
9th May: Began to drive the BAM Road but detoured due to muddy conditions (wild-camping).
10th May: Drive to Irkutsk (2 nights).
12th May: Drive past Lake Baikal, in snowy weather, to Ulan Ude (2 nights).
14th May: Cross border to Mongolia (wild camping next to Amarbayasgalant Khiid monastery).
15th May: Drive to Ulaanbaatar (4 nights).
19th May: Drive to Kharkarin (wild-camping).
20th May: Drive to Tsetserleg.
21st May: Drive to Tsagaar Nuur – White Lake (wild-camping).
22nd May: Drive to Tosontsengel.
23rd May: Drive to Uliastai.
24th May: Drove to area near Erdene Kirkhan, looking for the small Khar Nuur – Black Lake (wild-camping).
25th May: Drove to the large Khar Nuur – Black Lake – and then past the town of Dorgon (wild-camping).
26th May: Drove to Khovd.
27th May: Drive to Tolbo Nuur (wild-camping next to the lake).
28th May: Drive to Olgii.
29th May: Cross border into Russian Altai region (wild-camping on river bank).
30th May: Drive to Biysk.
31st may: Drive to Rubtovsk (wild-camping between the town and the Kazakh border).
1st June: Cross border into Kazakhstan and drive towards Ayagoz (wild-camping).
2nd June: Visited Ayagoz an then drove to Taldykorgan.
3rd June: Drive to Almaty (3 nights).
6th June: Drive to Charyn Canyon (wild-camping beside river in the canyon).
7th June: Crossed border into Kyrgyzstan and drove to Karakol (2 nights).
9th June: Drive to Tamga (wild-camping on beach next to Issyk Kul lake).
10th June: Drive to Bishkek (5 nights).
15th June: Drive over the Too Asuu Pass to Kyzl-Oi (wild-camping).
16th June: Drive to Son-Kol lake (wild-camping on lake shore).
17th June: Drive through Ak-Tal and Baetov and then over the Kulack-Asuu Pass to Tash Rabat (overnight at yurt camp).
18th June: Drive through Naryn River Valley to Kazarman (wild-camping overlooking river, past the town).
19th June: Drive over the Kaldama Pass and through the Fergana Valley to Jalal-Abad (2 nights).
21st June: Cross border into Uzbekistan and drive to Tashkent.
22nd June: Drive to Samarkand (3 nights).
25th June: Drive to Bukhara (3 nights).
28th June: Drive to Khiva (2 nights).
30th June: Long drive to border and into Kazakhstan (slept inside vehicle a few km past the border).
1st July: Drive to Atyrau (2 nights).
3rd July: Drive to Oral/Uralsk.
4th July: Drive to Saratov (wild-camping beside a lake, beyond Saratov).
5th July: Drove through Kursk and continued towards border. Stayed in motel near to border.
6th July: Crossed border into Ukraine and drive to Kiev (5 nights).
10th July: Day-trip to Chernobyl (with tour company).
11th July: Drive to Klevan, then south towards border (slept inside vehicle).
12th July: Crossed border into Romania and drove to Sighisoara (2 nights).
14th July: Drove to campsite near to Bran (2 nights).
16th July: Drove to Saliste (5 nights)
17th July: Day-trip to Hunedoara and Sarmizegutsa
18th July: Day-trip to Sibiu.
19th July: Day-trip in Cindrel Mountains.
21st July: Drove Transfagaras Highway to Calafat.
22nd July: Crossed border into Bulgaria and drove to Sofia (2 nights).
24th July: Crossed border into Greece and drove to Thessaloniki (2 nights).
26th July: Drove to Kastraki – Meteora Monasteries (2 nights).
28th July: Crossed border into Macedonia and drove to Skopje (2 nights).
30th July: Drive to Ohrid (2 nights).
31st July: Crossed border into Albania. Drove to Berat.
1st August: Drove to Ulcinj.
2nd August: Cross border into Montenegro and drove to Dobrota on the Bay of Kotor (2 nights)
3rd August: Day-trip to Perast.
4th August: Cross border into Croatia and drive to Dubrovnik
5th August: Cross border into Bosnia and drive through Mostar to Sarajevo (2 nights).
7th August: Drive to Jajce and Travnik.
8th August: Cross back into Croatia and drive to Korana Campsite near the Plitvice Lakes National Park (2 nights).
10th August: Drive to Pula (campsite for 2 nights)
12th August: Cross border into Slovenia and drive to Ljubljana (3 nights).
14th August: Day-trip to Bled Castle and Vintgar Gorge.
15th August: Crossed into Italy and drove to hotel in Marghera (3 nights). Day-trip into Venice.
16th August: Day-trip to Venice.
17th August: Day-trip to Venice and Burano.
18th August: Drive to Verona (3 nights).
21st August: Drive to Ferrara and then to Bologna (4 nights).
25th August: Drive to Parma (2 nights).
27th August: Drive to Genoa (3 nights).
30th August: Cross into France and drive to apartment in Eze Bord de Mer (7 nights).
1st September: Day-trip to Eze Village.
2nd September: Day-trip to Nice.
3rd September: Day-trip to Monte-Carlo in MONACO.
5th September: Day-trip to Cannes.
6th September: Drive to Lyon (2 nights).
8th September: Drive to B&B near to Montlucon in the Auvergne region (3 nights).
9th September: Day-trip to Chateu Rocher and Clermont-Ferrand.
10th September: Green-laning trip in Auvergne.
11th September: Drive to Vauxbuin.
12th September: Drive to Dunkerque.
13th September: Drive to mother’s home near Blackpool (3 nights).
16th September: Drive to vicinity of Bridgwater in Somerset (2 nights).
18th September: Drive rental car to Gatwick Airport and flight to Bermuda.
There are posts, with photos, for all of the above locations in the blog section of this site. They can be easily accessed by searching for the place names, or by going to posts for the relevant month during 2014.
Generally, the planned route worked out very well. Whilst for the most part I stuck to the planned route, I did deviate from it a few times along the way, either to skip a city or to include a new location. My route planning had suggested a total mileage of 20,000 miles, so an actual total of 22,334 was quite close, considering the additional driving that was done on day-trips.
My two favourite countries in the primary ‘Russia and Central Asia’ segment were Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, with Uzbekistan coming in third place. I really enjoyed the open spaces of Mongolia and the ability to drive anywhere and camp anywhere. Kyrgyzstan’s mountainous landscape made a big impression on me, with the drive over the Kaldama Pass from Kazarman to Jalal-Abad being an outstanding day. The amazing buildings on Uzbekistan’s Silk Road kept my camera clicking furiously! Kazakhstan was a bit of a disappointment. I enjoyed Almaty and the Charyn Canyon but much of the rest of the country was nondescript and boring. I understand that the route across the northern part of Kazakhstan is much more scenic, but my route choice was necessary to get into Kyrgyzstan and out of Uzbekistan. Russia was a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed certain parts, such as the Altai region and the city of Kazan, but other parts were rather boring. Much of Siberia consisted of very long drives on a highway with views often being limited to the rows of birch trees running along both sides of the road. Rather than driving so far west in Russia (to Lake Baikal), I now believe that it would be better to enter Mongolia at it’s western border crossing and then drive a loop to Ulaanbaatar and back to the western border crossing, thereby cutting out much of the driving through Siberia ,whilst increasing the places visited in Mongolia.
Despite the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, I didn’t encounter any problems. I used the Ukraine-Russia border crossing to the east of Kiev (north of the conflict zone), thereby avoiding the problem areas. I extended my stay in Kiev on the return leg so that I could visit Chernobyl. So glad that I did!
After completing the Russia and Central Asia segment, I felt a little deflated, thinking that the most interesting part of the trip was over. As it turned out, the European countries in the latter segment offered plenty of exciting and interesting moments. There were so many historical sites and buildings to see that there was never a dull moment. Romania was particularly interesting as it is jam-packed with historical sites. The route that I took from Romania to France worked out very well, with some shorter driving distances between each of the cities, particularly when compared to the 10-12 hour drives in Russia and Central Asia.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and could have happily continued for a few more months. It was a fantastic way to celebrate my temporary retirement. Everywhere that I went, I met friendly people who were interested in either the vehicle or in my journey (or both). I can heartily recommend this route for anyone who is considering a similar trip.