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I now know where the expression ‘It’s bloody Baltic out there!’ comes from…

November 11, 2011

A lot like a dog with a bone, Joe can’t help himself. As soon as you so much as utter a friendly conversational line like ‘yeah, I don’t think it’d be that bad camping here in winter’ it’s like you just wandered into an Amway meeting. He’s all over you. There’s no escape.

I was almost saved by the fact that we drove into Sigulda under the cover of darkness, and at first we couldn’t find the camping ground he’d had in mind. Unfortunately he persevered and I found myself standing in front of a rather bemused middle aged camping host and her cat explaining that we wanted to sleep in our car at her campsite.

‘So you want to stay in a cabin?’ she said, attempting to understand the madness.

‘No, no, no, we’ll stay in our car’ said Joe, gesturing to Bob who was shivering outside. ‘We just need a camping pitch.’

‘Okeeeeeyyyy…’ she said, ‘but all the kitchens and showers are closed. Because now it is winter season.’ She stressed the last point, as though we hadn’t been outside recently. Then she thought for a moment and turned around to a pine shelf covered in keys. She picked one from its hook and put it on the counter.

‘This is for cabin 4.’ She said matter-o-factly. ‘You can use the shower and toilet, and use the kitchen for your cooking.’

I was under no illusion that what she was really saying was ‘You poor girl. Your boyfriend is obviously insane. Here, take this key and sleep in this nice warm cabin instead. Go on. It’s free.’

We wound around the empty site and found a spot. Then we sat in the front seat drinking a bottle of Chilean sauvignon until either of us had the courage to go outside and start setting up the back of the car for sleeping. I love camping.

Finally, in a sprint effort, everything was pushed into its new home, and we were cooking dinner and listening to ‘Moonraker’ on audio book, and all the wine was gone. And then we settled into 3 layers of clothes, sleeping bags and doona, and only my cold nose showed through the layers. And it was a very cold nose.

We woke up, heroic, and extremely cold, and the light of day showed that, yes, we were the only people who had been mad enough to camp in Latvia that night. Bob’s refridgerator-like metal walls were covered in ice, so it was actually colder inside the car than it was out, but for whatever reason, we decided that we would stay a second night. They did have a traditional sauna on site after all…

 

Lovely Little Latvia

November 10, 2011

Lovely little Latvia. So small and scenic and sociable. I was almost suspicious when the first bubbly hotel receptionist welcomed us with a warm smile, and then cut the price of the room when we hesitated at her first offer. Was this a trick? When is she going to shout at us in Russian for parking the car in the wrong place?

When the waitress spoke English too I nearly jumped ove...


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My Recollections of the Shark Attack

November 7, 2011
I've been putting off writing this blog for some time. Probably because it's not an experience that I'm too fond of reliving. However, watching the Nat Geo video clip forced me to come face to face with the memories, and I wanted to capture my thoughts of what happened that morning in this blog.

The attack took place at Balian Beach, on the west coast of Bali. Having spent four or five days at Uluwatu on the south coast, we were keen to explore different parts of the island. We'd read fantasti...

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Pain and agony on the LAST of the major borders

November 7, 2011

Of course the last major border crossing had to go out with a bang. Perhaps just to remind us that this trip hasn't been all beer and skittles, but in fact, weeks of driving pleasure punctuated by A-Hole border chiefs plotting to use their blasphemous bureaucracy to make our lives momentarily (sometimes for hours on end) living hell.

After shooting down the M9 highway that links Mo...


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'I use to think that the day would never come...'

October 30, 2011
How crazy it is that tomorrow we cross the border into the EU! Where on earth has time gone?

We're spending our final night in Russia, rather unglamourously, at a motel about 150km from the Latvian border. We're drinking down russian beers and sucking the free wifi dry whilst waiting to see what the english-free waitress has whipped up in the kitchen from the things that I pointed to (unwittingly) on the menu... I've already guessed that like everything else in Russia, it will be smothered in ...
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Uncle Pasha’s Dacha

October 30, 2011

I knew Joe wanted to master the horse riding skills he picked up in Kazakhstan, and i suspected he also wanted to get naked in a banya and slap himself with birch twigs – and before I knew it, he had found a man called Uncle Pasha on that wonderful internet thing and booke...


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Moscow, I love you down to your Metro.

October 30, 2011
I developed a massive crush on Moscow as we wandered down some steps to escape the chilly concrete sky and into an underpass, empty, save a lone babushka rugged up in her layers with a piano accordion on her lap. As Joe dropped some coins in her case she paused from her melody to coo and giggle her thanks before chirruping away again as we reached the other side. It completed an old s...
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The March to Moscow

October 27, 2011

When we were rolling out the driveway in Bondi 10 months ago in our outlandishly overpacked car, Russia seemed a milestone too far away to contemplate. It was like a made up destination on our fantasy road trip that we dare not plan too much in case it never eventuated. It seemed even more unachievable post shark attack, when we almost lost faith in being able to complete the...


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The Midas Touch

October 23, 2011
After a couple of days in a twilight zone of unbelievably generous Kazak hospitality, you’d’ve scarcely recognised Joe and I from the nervous wrecks who rolled into the little known town of Aktobe in a broken car and a blind panic.

But meeting a man who can only be described as Kazakhstan’s unofficial ambassador (if not national treasure) turned out to be a gargantuan stroke of...


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What ails Bob.

October 14, 2011
I’ve got a horrible image in my head of us driving up the M1 sitting on nothing but a chassis tethered to a small donkey.

The reason I say so is because slowly over the past month or so things have just started to, er, break. Firstly we had a leaky back window which it now plugged with a substantial slather of gaffer tape (thanks VHA – great leaving present); secondly our Garm...


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