3 months to plan a second round the world trip (RTW) should be plenty of time when you’ve done it once before? Hmmm, we’ll find out if we’ve taken on more than we can chew. For now, the list keeps growing. Our biggest challenge right now is how we will manage to get all the visas we need in the tight timeframe we have set ourselves. Why so tight? Because the idea of riding through an early Siberian winter doesn’t appeal. For comfort and for safety reasons. We haven’t had a winter for the past 3 years and we have softened over that time, feeling the cold when temperatures get below 23 degrees/73 fahrenheit !!
Juggling visas is ‘interesting’. For a start, not all countries have consulates everywhere (Turkmenistan, Iran, Mongolia). So we have to work out which country we will be making our visa application from. Many countries require a “letter of introduction” (LOI is formality which you either get a hotel you’ve booked with, which we can’t do as we have no idea of our timeframe, or pay some online tourist agency to provide) before you can apply for a visa (Azerbaijan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and sometimes Mongolia). Finding out how far in advance you can apply for a visa, how long the visa is valid for from issue until you have to enter the country and how long you have in the country is not as simple as you think it would or should be. And to add to this mix, regulations change, just because they can! In our case, a couple of countries have simplified their visa acquisition process (Uzbekistan), which is fantastic but then others have tightened theirs or are suddenly rejecting some people for no apparent reason (Turkmenistan) or just made it even more difficult (US). Because we visited Iran, we are no longer allowed into the US under the visa waiver program. We have to go to Sydney for an interview, having first completed a 10 page questionnaire. We finally got an appointment early next month. Keeping fingers crossed on that one. Oh, I forgot to mention that some countries won’t issue a visa if you don’t already have a visa for the country you intend to visit after it. Finally, some borders have new skirmishes, wars, general unrest which we will do our best to skirt (Turkey and Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan) – Turkey is increasingly looking like we might have to bypass it, so maybe we’ll go via Romania and ferry across the Black Sea. Who knows?…
All this to say that it is a bit of a juggling act so we have no idea of our route yet! The aim is to enjoy the places we travel through and stay safe.
Our main goal is to get to Mongolia and then RTW via Alaska and Canada. On the way there, return to Iran (Turkmenistan permitting) and Uzbekistan and enjoy the ride getting there.
We are trying something new, in the hope that will aid us in getting the visas on time. We are applying for a second Australian passport. That’s a whole process in itself of course!!! Paperwork is all done. We have an appointment at the local post office to lodge our applications then we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed. Especially if the US take longer than expected to return our passports. Then we might just have a bit of a problem leaving Australia!!
Is it worth all the hassle some people ask us. Why bother if the countries make it so difficult? Because government regulations and their required enforcement by officials are not representative of the people of those countries. It is the people we meet that make travel so fascinating. The country’s history, landscapes, culture and especially its people is what makes all the paper-tape worthwhile.
I have to admit we do go through waves of feeling a bit overwhelmed. It feels like pulling one spagetti strand and finding yourself with a monster nest around your fork. Luckily, we recover quite fast, we remind ourselves we’ll work it out as we go along and if we have to change our route, yet again, well, so be it.
The new paper maps have been ordered (love paper maps!), a new spare fuel filter and fuel pump are on their way, new boots selected (my wet boots in hot weather were barely bearable, but not in cooler climes thank you very much), new wind chill protection identified, list of bike maintenance required drawn up, air tickets to Paris purchased. So much more to do!!! Getting exciting 🙂