Leg 1 was an overland adventure from Phuket in Thailand to Den Helder in The Netherlands where we picked up our bike for Leg 2.
The blog for Leg 1 can be found at Leg 1
Initially we intended to travel south to Sumatra before turning north, but the monsoon was against us, so we turned north instead. We travelled by public transport through Thailand and Laos (hiring private cars and drivers for some more arduous or perilous stretches), intending to continue through Cambodia and Vietnam to China. But SE Asia wasn’t for us – too urban for our children – so we re-routed to Nepal for a few weeks’ trekking. (Shane and Helen are hopeless Nepal-philes, we couldn’t help ourselves.)
So! After immersing ourselves for a marvellous month in Boudhanath, Langtang and Tamang we flew onto Beijing and recommenced our overland route.
A highlight of Leg 1 was the arrival of Shane’s mum Lee in Beijing. She was to accompany us through China, up to frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia before turning west across Russia and into Europe. At 76, and traveling independently for the first time, she was thrilled from start to finish. Her chronic asthma didn’t prevent her walking on ice, experiencing the thrill of dog-sledding, or running through blizzards to catch trains in Moscow. She shared her train berths with an assortment of Chinese and Russians and made many friends along the way. It was a privelege to provide, and share, such a wonderful experience for her.
After a wonderful unplanned week in Tallinn, Estonia, Lee left us in Stockholm to join an arranged tour of Prague, Vienna and Budapest while we continued to Oslo to spend ten fine days (but for the weather) with our dear friends Cameron and Jan. We reconnected at a train station in Germany and continued to Bruges where we met Helen’s parents Pat and John for five glorious days.
This leg was four months of high adventure, with many firsts, highs, challenges and sub-zero temperatures. We guided our children through the school of life as well as more traditional distance educational apps and workbooks. We guided Lee through youth hostels and independent travel after years of 4-5 stars. We created memories that we are yet to fully process; some of these, moulded with three generations traveling together, will be very dear indeed.
We would return to Laos and Nepal like a shot; would entertain another visit to China if we could guarantee cleaner air; are excited by any prospect of returning to Mongolia; would live the rest of our days in Tallinn, and are glad to have completed the traverse of Russia (something we have talked of doing for too long).!
Facts and figures for those who like them, from Phuket to Den Helder
Distance travelled by train – 13,400km across 25 journeys
Distance travelled by bus, minibus or private car – 1000km across 10 journeys
Distance travelled by plane Flights so far – 14,398km across 5 journeys
Cost of public transport per adult, approx – AU$990, children AU$700
Cost of flights per adult, approx – AU$1800, children AU$1600
Total cost (including all transport), approx – AU$19,000
Days travelled -132 days
Average daily cost, exc transport – AU$66 per day
Health dramas – one night of vomiting in Nepal (kids); vomity virus on Trans Siberian (all except Rosie); food poisoning, one night (Lee, from 5 star dinner); minor giardia (Helen – twice, Shane & Tom once, always traceable to water in urns for hot drinks that was not sufficiently hot/boiling).