Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Gear & Coomunications Update

On previous trips we've written a daily log in a notebook and communicated with our kids by phone and/or by finding internet cafes and sending emails. Last year in particular the spread of wifi became really evident by the scarcity of internet cafes in countries as different as Ireland and Iran. It became obvious that we had to update.

Another issue was the number of bulky books that we had to carry with us. We are both avid readers, so we had 2 or 3 novels in our baggage along with a couple of Lonely Planet guides. Those books weigh a few kilos and take up a lot of space.

This year, instead of the books we'll take a Kindle each (the model with wifi and free 3G) so we can download new books as necessary  during our journey. On my recently acquired Kindle I have already downloaded the Lonely Planet Guide to Mediterranean Europe at a fraction of the price of the paper version and a copy of a guide to Tokyo as we'll be having a 3 night stoppover there on our way to Europe.

Our main means of communication will be via an Asus Netbook that I bought a couple of days ago. In a protective case it's no bulkier than just one large Lonely Planet guide and the intention is that I'll use the free wifi at hotels and cafes to update this blog (instead of keeping a paper diary) and receive and send emails.

I intially felt a bit guilty about taking my business away from bookshops and abandoning the book exchange facilities at hotels and hostels, but none of the bookshops I've visited had a copy of the Guide to Med Europe and to be honest the books in overseas book exchanges are inevitably crap and/or have pages missing. By using wifi I might be adding another nail to the coffins of internet cafes but what I am doing is a reaction to a situation that already exists - if I can't find them anymore I have no real alternative.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Each year for several years now my wife Gail and I have done an overseas motorcycle trip. The exception was 3 or 4 years ago when she insisted that we did a trip that didn't involve motorcycles. Part of her argument was that she wanted to do something "safer". So where did she take me? To Egypt to see the pyramids and to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas. At that time Egypt was still firmly under the control of its President of several decades and was very safe for tourists; but Uganda? One week before we were due to head off to Uganda I had a look at the Aussie Government's website that gives travel advice. "Do not travel near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, because of the risk of armed incursions by rebels and the risk of kidnap". What! Isn't it Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where we're going camping? Of course we had a great time and we weren't kidnapped, but it made it tricky for her to sustain an argument that motorcycle travel is always more dangerous than the alternatives.

In 2011 we bought a 1994 Honda ST 1100 (known in the UK and Europe as a Pan European - a strange name to my Aussie ear as it sounds like an insult to Europeans!) on UK ebay with the assistance of a friend in England who was kind enough to then collect it and garage it until we arrived there. I used it to go to the Isle of Man TT motorbike races and then Gail and I toured Ireland and Scotland. The bike is currently in my friend's garage again waiting for us to return for our 2012 trip.

The plan for May/June 2012 is to take the Portsmouth to Caen ferry to France, see the Le Mans MotoGP motorbike races, ride to Marseille and then ferry hop to Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, mainland Italy, Greece, ride into Turkey and tour around, and then return to Athens where we'll sell the bike and then fly home. Through the Horizons Unlimited website ( we have arranged to sell it to a Scotsman who will meet us in Athens and then ride it home via eastern Europe. Flights are booked and a rough itinerary worked out.

Keep posted as the details are firmed up. What to take? Where to go? Will the eventuality turn out to be anything like the plan?