Peking to Paris sum up from Geoff R
It's been over 6 weeks since you got the message that we had made it to the
finish in Paris. From that point we all headed in different directions
for further holidays in Europe or Britain and some well deserved R&R. I've
lost track of exactly where most people are at the moment - some are now home
in NZ and hard at work and others still enjoying the northern summer!!-
and starting to think about what they are going to do next?? It's taken all this time to refocus my mind and get a final wrap-up out to
Jenny and I set off from Paris for UK on July 18 in the company of the Fiats
(briefly!) and crossed the channel that afternoon heading for three weeks
with my sister and family in and around the rolling countryside of North
Wales, just out of Welshpool. You may recall the storms and floods in Britain - that was our summer
although the floods did not affect us directly !!
I was very run down after the trip and put that down to general lack of fitness and tiredness after sitting in a car for several weeks, but when things did not improve after a week or so, Jenny dragged me into the UK National Health System who came up with a diagnosis of viral pneumoia. Our health insurers wanted to fly us straight home to NZ but flights were fully booked and by the time they sorted themslves out, I was on the mend. We decided to continue with our plans to visit our daughter in Japan for a couple weeks from Aug 15.
That was not to be !! We got an inflight
message just before we landed at Narita advising us that my mother was
seriously ill in hospital in Christchurch and so we did a 2 hour turn around at
Narita and, courtesy of some magnificent help from Air new Zealand, were
on the ground in Christchurch 12 hours later!! My Mum has just got home from
hospital in the last couple of days after a harrowing 7 days in intensive
care followed by further rehab, and has made a rather remarkable
recovery!! Family have now dispersed, and Jenny and I can at last pick up
our "normal" lives where we left them - somewhere a long way back in May
Looking back on our adventure , there are number of things that stand out
for me as key factors in the overall "success" of the trip.
- While there was certainly some emotion at finally driving up and parking by the Eiffel tower, the success for me was bringing together a group of entrepreneurial (and strong minded!) individuals who committed to and embarked on an adventure which we could not confirm would actually take place until just days prior to departure - despite 7 or 8 years of planning and organisation!!
- We all had our unique experiences - perhaps none more so than Graeme and Diane who we had to leave behind in Mongolia in the capable hands of our Karakorum Expeditions Guide, and who organised to get their car home to NZ from Ulan Baataar and then completed the trip to Paris by train. We're still waiting to hear about their adventures. Then there were the bed bugs, butt we won't go there!!
- Many of us had preconceptions of what we thought the roads and conditions along the way would be like, mainly from reading about previous similar trips and, I think, a general expectation that things would get better the further west we travelled. I can tell you that the last 30km into Paris was probably the most harrowing traffic experience of the trip and that some of the sealed roads in Poland were amoung the worst we came accross. Most of the non roads through the Gobi (apart from the notorious "Lamb Pass") turned out to be a breeze compared to large sections of the road we travelled in eastern Siberia from Ulan Ude to Irkutsk!!
- The trip for me had a strong driving focus and I enjoyed every minute on the road. I do not recall ever "wishing we were there", even on the very long days. Although on most of those days we did not know where "there" was and which often ended up being another scenic gravel pit or solubrious roadhouse!!
- This was a co-operative venture rather than an organised tour, and prior to and during the trip we all contributed energy and skills and shared initiatives. We found we had experts in most things - getting Russian visas, negotiating border crossings, finding and navigating us to city hotels, towing, selecting campsites, assessing roadhouses, buying beers, finding Starbucks, unpacking cars for customs, breaking shock absorbers, confounding Russian traffic police, choosing routes, getting lost, etc, etc. We learned very early on that if we all tried to contribute to the same thing at the same time, the outcome was rather unproductive!!
- We were all generally well prepared for the trip, but perhaps over done in some cases!! (That's 7 years too long thinking about things!!) When the SAAB 95 gets home in a couple of weeks Graeme and I will unpack into 3 piles on our garage floor. Pile 1: The things we took that were priceless i.e. portable folding toilet seat, bug spray, self inflating mattress and sleeping bag - in that order! etc. Pile 2: The things we know we had to have but did not use much or at all - spare wheels, some of our tools and spares, water purification, spare fuel and water containers etc. Pile 3: Everything else that was totally unnecessary - guitar, dehydrated food (most of it!! - there may be some bargains on Trade Me over the next few weeks), more tools, etc etc etc. I anticipate that pile 3 will be three times the size of the other two!!!
When we started the planning for this trip I anticipated that planning and anticipation would be fun - campouts and trial runs for many of us - and all the hype, along with the challenge of finding our way through the Chinese bureaucracy. And it was!!
I anticipated that the 4 weeks of the drive itself would be hard, both
mentally and physically, possibly not so enjoyable? I was wrong here.
Tense security, health or breakdown situations were few and far between and
created some concerns and pressures at the time but the overall outcome was
great driving, great beers and great sharing of what was a unique travel
experience for all of us.
I anticipated that an after-tour glow of achievement and tall story syndrome
could overtake us all - there will no doubt be a little of that, because
we have challenged ourselves and stepped outside comfort zones. But I
suspect we are all types who will not stand still for very long and will
find other challenges, not neccessarily motoring, to get stuck into!!
Whose on for a new adventure??
Finally, we must thank a large group of officials, friends and family, some of whom had planned to travel with us, for their own work and
enthusiasm (and belief that it could be done!!). Much of the
organisation was done by people who were not on the trip - we were the
lucky ones who reaped most of the rewards!
Thanks for your support and enthusiam!