Visas and Jabs

Little more than a month till departure, and  – as winter begins to fade and (as in the photo on the right) Cotswolds snows thaw – the visas and jabs are beginning to come together.

Preparing to  take a bike through Russia to China and on to Vietnam isn’t working out cheap.

  • Best part of £500 for the necessary inoculations – tick-born encephalitis, Hepatitis-B, rabies (thank goodness no longer with the jabs in the stomach) and only the surgery knows what else. Two sore arms this weekend, and that’s a price with a 10% discount for a trip that’s fund-raising for charity.
  • (On which point, please do, if you haven’t already done so, consider sponsoring me for this ride, by clicking the links in the column on the right of each page.)

And on the visa front, ouch.

  • £250 for a double Russian one,  to allow me to cross the enclave of Kaliningrad, formerly the East Prussian Koenigsberg and travel on and back into Russia through Latvia and Estonia
  • £140 or so for visa support from the very friendly Russian Cycle Touring Club.
  • Around £100 for a second passport, to allow application for a Vietnam visa that has to be applied for in London, but if it’s still to be valid when I finally get there in August, can’t be submitted till I’m already long departed from the UK.
  • And more to be set aside for China…

But, all worth every kopeck and dong, and as the days lengthen, the feet are beginning to itch to get back onto Raven, to pile up tent and sleeping bag and camping cooker (a new idea, this one) and a server farm’s worth of computing power (laptop, tablet, phone, GPS, small bike computer, Kindle…. If they’ll all fit) and get going.

Marianne, good friend, has cautioned me against over-indulgent blogging. Brother Hugh commented after the Budapest trip four years ago that some of the posts then made him cringe. (But that’s what brothers are for, are they not?) But then, Netherlands-based friend and journo-colleague Jonathan Marks commended the 2008 blog as just the sort of journey this medium was invented for.

So, knowing that I won’t please everyone all of the time, here’s hoping I pitch the tone at least sufficiently right as these blogs begin to unfold – the point being that, as Marianne also correctly observed, actually the main beneficiary of a blog is the blogger him- or herself.

I know I enjoyed the writing of the blog on the last bike trip, and am already enjoying the writing of this one, more than ever I enjoyed writing for the BBC or Reuters. After all, there’s no editor to put the story on the spike, and no nagging inward sense, as there always was as a correspondent, that this piece isn’t good enough, or clever enough, or well-enough researched.

With a blog, if I don’t say it today, I can always say it tomorrow or, perhaps better, as son Alastair cautioned his over-blogging Dad on 2009’s biking journey into Scotland, in a week’s time. And if I don’t say it right next week, I can have another go the week after. Be warned.

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