Saturday, 1 November 2014

Problem #1 - The Russians

Well that's one for the book.  Normally on an adventure such as this you expect some problems but not before you go!  As you know, dear reader, Sarah and I had sorted the route and after some friendly advice from friends (James and Ray) we reviewed the route to make sure we were happy that we hadn't dropped any major clangers.

We have assumed that we would get 8 hours driving time each day so with stops a 10/11 hour day travelling is what we are looking at.  What we didn't consider was visa constraints and have now discovered that we can't meet the Russian visa requirements which is 30 days from date of first entry so what this means is that we have to drive from Bernaul, through Mongolia and then back through Russia to Europe all in 30 days!

At the moment, total driving days from Benaul to Europe and leaving Russia is at best 35 days and at worst 37 days but neither situation allows for any rest days and I'm expecting that Albert is going to need a service in Ulanbataar so am allowing 3 days for that.  Also would like to visit Moscow and St Petersburg so adding a minimum of a day per city brings us to anywhere from 40 to 42 days to complete the Russia-Mongolia-Russia-Europe section.

If we assume an 11 hour driving day (that'd be 13 hour days) and maintain the same average speed of 32mph then even then our driving days are reduced to 31 days (no stops).  To make the Russian section in 30 days with a one day stop in Ulanbataar and a day in Moscow we would have to increase average mph to 38 and drive 11 hours a day.  Without wanting to appear negative this really isn't likely to happen so looks like we have a problem with the Russians :(

So, what are you going to do? I hear you ask.  Well, not going to be beaten by this, that's for certain! So, what are your options? you say.  Well there are a few that may need investigation and probably a couple we can forget.  The ones to probably not consider are;

  1. Cross from Kazhkstan to China then into Mongolia from there Russia and home
  2. Alter the route so we go through Iran to Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Mongolia and home via the Stans (miss out on Moscow and St Petersburg)

The other possible options, in order of unliklihood, are;

  1. Find someone who has a friend or relative in Russia who could invite Sarah and I over to visit them and get a private visa for 90 days.
  2. Ask someone I know from the train into work whose husband works for a Russian bank to ask the bank to sponsor Sarah and I for a business vias which again gives us 90 days in Mongolia
  3. Get SOS Children's Villages (a charity we intend to support) to get their Russian operation to invite us to visit a couple of villages in Russia and take some 'stuff' over so we apply for an Humanitarian visa which gives us 90 days in Russia

The most likely option is to get to Ulanbataar and courier our passports home to a visa company and get another single entry visa for Russia which would give us 30 days from crossing into Ulan Ude which gives us enough time (23 days) driving days at 8 hours a day so even spending a couple of days in Moscow and St Petersburg we should be OK.

As anyone who knows me, I'm not one to do things the easy way so I am actively pursuing the unlikely options first as I can leave make a decision about sending the passports back until the last moment.