Friday, February 8, 2013

Hi Again - check out our new website.....

HI ALL....

Well we have in fact been quite busy since the last post and have done an extensive amount of travel.

We have been up to Alaska, across Canada down the East Coast/Appalacians of USA and across to Texas then down through Mexico, Belize, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

We now have our own website (still under construction) that we hope to have completed by the time we leave again in May 2013.  You are welcome to visit it at -  See you there.

John and Elizabeth

Monday, November 29, 2010


1 November 2010 AMERICA! Land of the Free... and the most amazingly friendly and helpful people we are ever likely to meet. This was part of the appeal to return to this beautiful country, and we are pleased to see that nothing has changed.

While waiting for the trucks to clear Customs, John has enjoyed some super days with old friends, who are cowboys. The whole family was extremely competitive in shooting competitions, and their son has just won a scholarship to University, through rodeo!

** Tom on Tango

Two of our trucks were offloaded successfully, but Customs decided to retain the other 2 trucks for X-ray, so a further charge of $800 each on top of the $800 we had already paid. A much more expensive exercise shipping into the States, than into Asia. However, we are off to Carlsbad, San Diego, to visit with a delightful 83yr old friend, who is truly inspirational!

** La Vonne and 1 of her 3 cars

The truck has been serviced, and we are $2200 poorer, but confident of a good trip. Our group have chosen to head in different directions, each having their own preferred routes to follow, where the maps are clear, the language is mostly understandable, and this world is our oyster! The weather is gorgeous, but cold at night. Carlsbad is one of several lovely towns hugging the coast, and enjoys spectacular sunsets.
13 Nov and we drive a circuitous country road to stay with delightful Americans, Dan & Nancy Ruops, who drive a similar but much larger vehicle. We are invited to a Book Review dinner evening, which is South African themed and reviewing Bryce Courtney’s “The Power of One”. Reluctantly, we farewell these new, wonderful, friends.

** Boys and Toys

15 Nov and we head to another friend from our 2004 trip. Travelling through amazing cacti deserts to Phoenix.

** Saguaro Cacti

Each November, around 17th, it is possible to view a ‘meteor shower’, as earth passes through the dust of the comet Temple Tuttle, called Leonid shower as appears to come from the constellation of Leo. We all wake at 4am and head out of town. We only see 6 meteors, before the cold drives us home, but is an awesome sight though. Every 33 years it is normal to see around 1000 meteors each HOUR!
Greg takes us to Cave Creek, a fascinating town, full of old relics, and stunning homes.
We leave the highways, and head through Prescott, a very pretty town, up and over a mountain range to Jerome,a trendy village perched on the hillside, then down into the prettiest spot of all - Sedona – with its spectacular backdrop of red cliffs of all shapes and stunning colours, and with the trees turned golden.
** Sedona Red Rock Canyon

In fact, the ‘service’ in this country is wonderful. Everywhere, we are greeted with a smile and welcome; the shop assistants constantly check we find all we want. Australia could learn a lot in customer service!

** Don’t Look down John

We plan to hike another beautiful canyon, (Oak River Canyon), but after a lovely campfire it snows all night, resulting in a cloudy cold day, so we push on to Flagstaff. With a powered site, we buy a heater! It is well below zero at night outside, and not much more inside our ‘glorified tent’!!!

** A cold night
** So pretty

23 Nov and east to Meteor Crater - 1 mile across, ½ mile down.(Our new Nikon ‘point & shoot’ camera does an awesome panorama!) The landowner spent 26 years and the family fortune, drilling, hoping to find the iron ore rich meteor.... the vast majority of which had vaporised on impact, leaving only small meteorites scattered afar. And at least one weighing about 650kg about a meter across.

** Meteorite

Then onto The Petrified Forest, which again is an amazing sight. Hundreds of trees, buried under layers of silt. Over time, silica-laden waters filtered through and petrified the wood by encasing the the trees’ organic material with minerals, to produce spectacular colours!
** Petrified Wood x 3

Then on through The Painted Desert, with hues that remind me of cappuccinos I am missing! Soft warm colours of pinks, white, grey, brown.

** Painted Desert

A terrifying drive through snow, mud and ice – yikes, try stopping or controlling over 4tonne when it’s sliding sideways on ice and mud! It takes us about 2 hrs to cover 30 odd miles, driving a back road to Canyon de Chelly. We didn’t expect it to be snow covered! Quite a challenge for John’s excellent driving skills and Teefer’s (the truck) abilities.

** Back road to Canyon de Chelly!

What a stunning country this is, and we have lots more to see yet! Hoping the snow and cold doesn’t drive us south! We drive the rim and hike down, and enjoy stunning vistas! We wake to snow around, after a freezing night. It was -13 outside, and - 8 INSIDE our truck!

** Spires in Canyon de Chelly

** Indian ruins at base

Canyonlands – another stunning landscape of spires, fins, frozen puddles, towering formations, and super weather! We are constantly in awe, as every aspect is different, but mind boggling, whether on the top, or in the canyon.

** Islands in the Sky

An incredible sunset this evening and the whole sky is scarlet and orange! Too many photos to chose from!

** Sunset at Dead Horse campgrounds

We have woken to a brilliantly sunny day again, after snowing last night, so off to The Arches! Another fabulous day, with a rather long hike of 12kms up ravines, through fins, up and over massive sandstone ridges in some freezing blustery winds, but great viewing of Landscape Arch (which dropped a chunk in 1991 of 180 tons!) then we decided to catch the sunset at Delicate Arch, so another hike, and the poor legs are aching, but worth it! We hiked back out in the dark, with a sky of diamonds above.

** Delicate Arch

** Double O Arch

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blog 11 - Back to China Again


An early start, collected by cab at 5.30am for the bus to Harbin. A long boring 15hr trip, but arrive at The Holiday Inn, to a luxurious room with the best bed we have slept in! Oooh luxury!

Once we negotiate our way across the road, dodging crazy drivers as is customary in China, we prowl a great shopping area, with beautifully illuminated older buildings. Walk to the waterfront, but is cold, and of course, so much smog, you can't see beyond the other side!

We spend 2 lovely days here. This is the Ice & Snow city, where the Ice Sculptures are done in January.

Then, we fly to Beijing. Good 2hour flight.
Caught a cab to Capital Hotel – right in downtown Beijing. I am amazed that there are not nearly as many people as I expected!

Except when we went to watch the changing of the guard at sunset - then we saw some of the 1.6billion people! We paused a moment to visualise the young student
who stood alone and faced an army of tanks, during the student revolution. An awesome tour of The Great Wall, where we climb to the 12th Tower. The crowds are immense, and it is push and shove.Takes an hour just to get up to here! On return, are directed down a dirt track to the bottom! No chance of ‘downward’ photos! But guess that they have to control the crowds somehow.

Then to Jade Factory – excellent, with some incredible carvings, and to a Silk Factory- fascinating again, and could have bought beautiful silk doona for around $100. (didn’t need one!) Finally to a Chinese Medicine Centre, where we are all given wonderful foot massage (tip of 20y - $3.) and doctors check our pulse, to ascertain what is wrong with us. Doubtful results, there! I was prepared to be convinced, but wasn’t.

At night, we wander the “walking Street” – a closed to traffic area, and it is packed. We find a great underground eatery, but cannot find a seat!

Next day we visited the Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace - an amazing place and really well preserved. Some of the exhibits are priceless and date back to 1400 ad.

We walked about 5km to the Bell Tower where they sounded the bell to let the people know the time of day. We went up the Drum Tower which is in the same complex and watched a fantastic display of drumming which happens daily.

That night we walked back thru Tienanmen Square and watched the biggest TV screen you have ever seen - 50meters long and really high definition, showing a kaleidoscope of scenes of China.

And that was it!! We left the smog behind us for the crystal clear skies of Brisbane..

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blog 10 Russia

Blog 10 - Russia

Aug 15th

We reluctantly leave our lovely riverside camp, to queue overnight at the border, amidst all the comings and goings! A very cold, noisy, night ensures we don’t get much sleep. The usual bedlam with all the pushing, shoving and queue jumping, and we are 5th in line for opening at 8am. Well, 6 hours later we leave Mongolia, 3 hrs later we enter Russia! 9 hrs! Enough said! However, we have been able to leave Mongolia, with not too many hassles!
Having sufficient water is always an issue, and we never know where we might find it next. We stop at a gorgeous well, where locals queue to get theirs, and a friendly Russian tries to converse. He brings us a cup of tea, then returns with milk, then a big jar of raspberries!! Of course, he invites us into his log home – to drink vodka - 9am!

Russian Watering hole

Siberian Watering hole

The homes are old, small, log cabins, with brightly decorated window and door frames – mainly in shades of blue. Usually a little vegie garden. Not sure if there is water, but a coal/woodburning stove, and quite normal inside. The villages are rather scruffy, small, with tiny homes, and seldom a cafe. Russians do not dine out much!

Typical Russian homes.

We enjoy the glorious colours of autumn- just exquisite as the lower sun illuminates every coloured leaf. Contrasting with this beauty, are many decaying remains of Gulag camps, where millions perished during the Stalin era. Lyn & Kym, Bill & Gaye drove the infamous Road of Bones, from Tynda to Magadan in 2007 – 2000kms of rough, rugged driving. 3000 froze to death on a ship trapped in ice, and several million perished in the work camps.

The Russian Churches fascinate us, and we enter one, and are amazed – no seats – standing room only!
Our 100th different campsite, and there is ice on the trucks! Our coldest night so far, but more surprises are in store...

Last night while we were sleeping!!!

Snow flakes fall on us as we make our campfire! Quite cold, but we always eat outside, together, unless raining,(seldom), and even then, sometimes! We are fascinated by these amazing little perfectly shaped flakes that settle on us, each one different. We drive thru several brief snowstorms, and the roadsides are quickly blanketed in white. We cross 54deg north – our most northerly point, and temp is minus 4deg.

We drive 3000kms across Siberia into Far East Russia, through grasslands, then rather monotonous tundra style landscape. I was unaware that Russia is now 4 divisions – west to east – Russia, The Urals,Siberia, Far East Russia.

Hay there

The highway for half the distance is excellent, with traffic police everywhere, but about 1000kms is shocking. And of course...

Under Arrest??

The police invariably pull us over! Mostly out of curiosity, but officiously check our papers anyway,and when we have infringed the traffic rules, it is all in “the too hard basket” and we are waved off. (Fortunately!) These guys passed us several times, then curiosity got the better of them, and they pulled us over. We have found most very friendly, and toot and wave as they pass.

We have arrived in Vladivostok, to spend days washing, cleaning trucks, getting quotes to ship to USA. No fun!

After 23,000kms of the most amazing experiences , this part of our incredible venture is almost over. We have visited people and places most tourists could never see, and truly appreciate this incredible opportunity. Our trucks, now in their containers and will sail shortly, as we return home to our families and friends.... then to LA on 1st Nov to release our vehicles... and continue!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blog 9 - Mongolia

We have now arranged a guide (compulsory) to spend 2.5 weeks with us, taking us to restricted areas, so our adventures continue!

Getting directions

Home on the range
With Muugi, a 25yr old Mongolian, we head east through Genghis Khan lands, towards the Strictly Protected Area of Nomrod. We do not have permits yet – they are to be flown out to us, at Choibalsan. 2 days hard drive brings us there – and no permits! They will arrive by plane 2 days later. Frustration! Shades of China! When we get the permit, it does not include the Nomrod area! Apparently 2 Germans camped there recently, and didn’t extinguish their fire, which caught alight! We camp at a huge lake, and watch camels and horses...
The lake has China at northern side.

Then we head to the site of the Mongolian/Japanese war. The Russians assisted Mongolia, who defeated Japan. Apparently, WWII could have had different outcome if the Japanese had not been defeated here, as then they turned their attention away from Europe, towards the Pacific.We head across more steppes, days and days of driving thru grasslands, and are rewarded with most magnificent huge herds of gazelle! There is around 20,000 in a herd, and we see herds all day long. Hundreds of thousands of gazelle! What an incredible sight! We clock them, passing us, at 46kms.
We camp, watching a fantastic lightning show, and are a little alarmed at what appears to be an area of fire on the horizon. We prepare for a quick evacuation if necessary, but awake safely, and as we head south we come across thousands of acres of burnt land! It wasn’t far away, and if the wind had blown the other direction.... We camp on a windy mountain top above the devastation, watching hundreds of “smoke devils” whirl across the burned land. We visit a salt farm, which is surrounded by burnt earth (top right of photo).

In this remote area, Kym has plotted a CONVERGENCE POINT which is where the latitude and longitude lines intersect. If that exact point has not been found by anyone, the finder can lay claim to it. After hours of grassland driving, we zone in on the correct coordinance, and Kym hammers in a “Goanna Tracks” stake. We all sign, and take dozens of photos! Most have already been found, throughout the world, so this is quite exciting.

Kym has a “Spot” which he can position anywhere, and by satellite co-ordinates it sends an email to his family saying exactly where he is, and that he is OK!
Border patrols! We can see the China border, and today we are’ detained’ for 6 hours! Apparently we shouldn’t be within 50kms of the border, but we (& our guide) did not know this! We are eventually fined 80,000 Mongolian togrots ($80) which is a hell of a lot of money here. We are not impressed!! Can’t argue with (a) an AK47 rifle, or (b) being sent home!
We are advised we will be the last of the public permitted to enter this region. A cow is sick, so the area is ‘fragile’. So what? Tonight we camp on a sacred mountain, and rise at 4.30am to climb and view the sunrise. Awesome! And very important to Mongolian people. We are first up there, but are joined by about 25 Mongolians, and we wonder where on earth they have come from. We haven’t seen a soul in days!!! There are over 200 extinct volcanoes, so the view is stunning, but the tracks are dreadful, with vicious rocks attacking our tyres all the way.

Our next drama isn’t far away. The sick cow...... we are now looking at possible 1-2 weeks quarantine! God, what next! We camp within the confines of a guard post. Mongolia is the region from which the Black Plague killed thousands through Europe – from Marmots! We break speed records, 2 trucks springs (not ours), and 2 eggs, racing back across wicked tracks in case WE are quarantined; then to be denied early entry into Russia. “Nyet”!! So here we wait!