Sunday, April 29, 2007

Letting the pot go to your head ...

What a busy time since my last post ...

I've been making a few final arrangements for the trip, before heading to Amsterdam for 3 days with the Sales Team from work. This is one city where there is always plenty to see and do, and as "trip organiser" I decided the best way to let everyone see the city and have fun was to organise a treasure hunt.
So I could take part too I drafted in some help with the clues (thanks Jo!) which had us careering around Amsterdam on foot and by tram to get photos of the team solving as many clues and bonus task points as possible.

See Team 1 (left) earning 10 points by getting their photos taken aboard a houseboat - with an extra 5 points for getting the owner in the shot too.

We quickly discovered that some tasks are easier than others - strangely both teams managed to find time to complete the "have a beer" task as shown by Team 2 below right.

The unseaonsally warm weather (upto 27 degrees C) and hard work put in by both teams left us all in need of a seriously relaxing drink before dinner - enter our boat the Paradis, which took us around the city in rather more style as we enjoyed some chilled drinks from the bar.

For our final destination of treasure hunt day our skipper dropped us off at the Sea Palace floating Chinese restaurant near to Amserdam's Centraal Station - good food, even if the waitress was a little domineering!

One of my favourite moments of the trip has to be down to Mikey - who, after untangling a young lady from her bicycle following a collision, managed to complete his charming introduction by dropping the bike on her - apparently this is de rigeur in Mike's hometown of Liverpool.

The final photo sums up what Amsterdam is all about ... this guy was so obviously "on the pot" ... or is that the other way around?

3 fantastically fun but exhausting days later and I'm back in the office for one final day - before we complete our final preparations over this weekend.

Friday, April 20, 2007

greetings from N 53 50.378, W 1 30.273

And here's the view from that very spot, just 0.16 miles from my front door ... it would have been a photo of a Lemur from Tropical World - but they only seem to come out on sunnier days.

I've spent this afternoon in my local park testing out my new GPS - a big thanks to everyone in the office for such a great leaving gift.

Last night was my official leaving drinks from work, it was great to have a final beer with you - over the last 10 years I've made some really good friends and I know I'll miss you all. I don't recall it's name, or even who bought it ... but I'm sure it was the shot with the whole cherry at the bottom that did for me in the end. Enough said.

Over the next 3 days I'll be sorting the last few items of kit, taking one last riding lesson and seeing family for the last time before we leave.

I fly to Amsterdam on Monday for 3 days - not part of our main trip, but it'll be good to have some actual travel to report back on - bring it on!

Friday, April 13, 2007

blueprint Mongolia ...

At last our plans for Mongolia are in place ...

With the help of a guesthouse in the capital, we've organised 3 weeks in a Jeep with camping equipment exploring the country in big loop down to the Gobi Desert in the South - then back up to the pine forests & pristine lakes of Northern Mongolia for our horseback expedition.

The trip promises everything from a visit to a Soviet-era spa resort (where you get covered in mud & take vitamin injections !?!) to the ruins of monasteries and ancient cities.

It should be a real wilderness adventure, and other than a night staying with a Nomadic family in a traditional Ger we'll be in a tent for the whole 3 weeks - it should really test our resolve (and definitely our toilet habits).

Anyway, much more on that after the event.

The last big task on the list got done this week - we sold our Smart Roadster on Ebay in just 48 hours - at £12.99 for a classified ad and no "tyre kickers" I was impressed - Autotrader watch out !

So with all the hard stuff done, it's just a question of sorting our gear out, along with hotel bookings for those few spots where our dates are fixed. If we get really stuck of course, we can always try a spot of couch surfing - now if I can just find the Ger section of the website ...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Putin is my hero ...

Last night we had our official leaving party - only 3 weeks left now !

Big thanks to Anton and Mike for DJ-ing - I hope you both still managed to have a good time.

Here's our new Russian emergency pack - miniatures with Russian-English translations of phrases designed to introduce us to the locals - courtesy of Dan & Alison.

Putin is my hero

We'll need to pick our moment carefully if we're going to use the Putin one ... I'll certainly need to improve my knowledge of Russian politics first!

Passports & visa's finally arrived this week - and the dreaded tax return is done (far worse to do when away). Otherwise it's been intense email traffic between Leeds and Mongolia, hopefully we should get our plans finalised this week.

Check out the new media section - links to my photos and video, so you can go beyond the few highlights that make it here.

Due to the Easter weekend we didn't manage to catch up with all of you last night - but remember, there are still 21 drinking days left - so we'll try and fit you all in before the end of the month !

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lichtenstein calling ...

Despite the fact that it is the 1st of April, I am still the fool.

Of course I should have checked which day trains leave Ulan-Bator for Beijing before choosing the dates for our visas ... but despite this realisation that I definitely haven't thought of everything, I still think I can reflect on a good week of travel planning.

Firstly, on Monday my horse-riding lesson was dramatically different - something "clicked" and I seem to have made the transition from arkward, overbalancing fool to having a nice relaxed rising motion and generally in substantially greater control of my horse. This is very good news indeed, as we arrive in Mongolia 6 short weeks from today ...

Then, on Wednesday our trans-Mongolian train tickets made a suprise early arrival (just 3 days after the Sunday they went on sale in Russia) - I would definitely use Real Russia again, great service - thanks guys. We also had the very last of our vaccinations - I'm not sure whether my arm or wallet is hurting most - the final killer blow? £175 worth of Malaria medication on private prescription.

Friday saw me doing something I've been putting off for a long while and I went shopping for an international mobile phone service. Now I've got to be honest and say that despite my very low expectations, it really wasn't so bad after all in the Carphone Warehouse and I ended up choosing the pay-as-you-go service from SIM4travel. With free (or reduced cost) inbound texts and calls this would be a great option for anyone on holiday - plus you get a Lichtenstein phone number!

This weekend my internet research led me to travel to Lancashire for a visit to Whalley Warm & Dry to get properly kitted out for the elements. They have a superb range of Paramo waterproofs, and excellent discount prices on their website (available in-store if you ask).

Finally (and probably best of all) on Friday night I went to Elland Road to see Leeds United finally win a match, beating Preston NE 2-1 in a glorious victory to lift Leeds off the bottom of the Championship for the first time in weeks!

Now, you're probably thinking "what has this got to do with travelling round the world?" - so in order to make the connection it looks like I'll have to seriously consider "adopting" some new teams by going to see them play (sorry Mel) - Katmandu United here we come!