Planning a trip like this has to be a dynamic process because you never know what's going to happen, or whether you'll be setback, poverty stricken, or half eaten by a shark at any point in your itinerary.

Originally, we'd planned to go south from Russia, ferry the car across the Black Sea and drive the adriatic coast from Turkey up through Albania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia etc. Part of the reason for this was seasonal - it would be getting cold by then and it would therefore be better to go south towards the Meditteranean rather than towards the Arctic. The other part was pure adventurism.

But, several challenges have presented. Firstly, we don't yet have Russian visas. Russia make it particularly challenging. You need to apply for your visa in your home country and you cannot apply more than 3 months in advance of your entry to Russia. Our best option looked like getting a transit visa, which they only give you 1 day per 500km you intend to travel.

This would have been fine, if we knew the ferry timetable for the Black Sea ferry from Sochi (Russia) to Trabzon (Turkey). But as the lovely Russsian lady bellowed down the phone when we tried to find out:


So that was that. We couldn't risk turning up at a ferry port with visa's running out and a ferry that leaves 'when its good and bloody ready'. Add to that the cost of getting the car and both of us on - estimated at about $800 - and it didnt seem worth it. We needed to look at other options.

We could easily drive to the Ukraine as a back up option, and head south from there - but I would need to get a visa first. I applied for a letter of invitation and diligently went along to the Ukraine Consulate in Bangkok with all my paperwork. But the biggest, ugliest, most inbred looking Ukrainian man i'd ever seen refused to be helpful. Amongst a long list of 'necessary'  paperwork, I needed to show a copy of the licence of the tourist company, evidence of entry clearance into the next country (even though i dont need a visa to get to Poland), Michael Jackson's original autograph taken with a backdrop of yesterday's paper and then pay him twice the price to get it processed in 5 days!

Rather than give this man the pleasure of waiting for me to flounder around gathering this absurd list, we decided that we didnt really want to go to the Ukraine, and that we would aim our itinerary northwards, toward the more visa friendly country of Latvia instead.

So, the route now goes dramatically north through Latvia, Lithuania and then to Poland, and we will no doubt reap the benefits of having packed our ski jackets and ugg boots.

I managed to get my Russian Tourist Visa in Vientiane yesterday too, which means now that 50% of the roadtripofalifetime team are definitely going to Russia!