"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
- Abraham Lincoln
So, key to a successful trip is preparation, apparently. This particular blog is dedicated to inveterate, preppers and list builders. As someone who loves mental lists only, but suffers from a very dodgy memory, I don’t worry about them very much. So this trip has put me slightly out of my comfort zone.
Having decided upon a trip to the Silk Road, it is difficult to know precisely when ‘preparation’ kicks in, as opposed to vaguely adding some colour to the monochrome of a mere destination. In my case, there isn’t really a destination. As my departure point is not far from my final arrival, the destinations are several and they are the stopovers in between. But once these are being added, initially cursory glances about some places to form a route of sorts, the preparation is underway.
The car obviously needs to have a reasonable hope of making it to the end. Then the are the practicalities of accommodation, money, visas, a rough schedule and unexpected emergencies.
The car list is split into two sub-headings (ooh, list makers will love that!). The first is about things to prepare on the car itself, some of which I’ve added already. These is a danger here of over preparation. I read a blog about a 4X4er who packed a huge list of spares and tools. He broke down with a failed suspension – a result of the excessive weight he was carrying! In my case, I have limited mechanical knowledge so there’s no point ‘over preparing’.
1. Full Service, including new timing belt, main pulley, water pump, and brakes
2. New windscreen (existing one had a teeny hole which caused no bother but might, after some less kindly roads, have developed into a spidery mess.
3. New tyres all round, plus spare, plus another tyre.
4. MOT (French version)
5. Partial paint respray.
6. Fitting of rooftop cage for stuff like spare tyre, fuel, water and lower value, less frequently used items.
7. ‘Dog cage’ to stop items flying forward behind the rear seats.
8. Tow bar – to maybe help anyone else stuck but also to act as a disincentive to tailgaters and dodgy parkers!
…the second list comprises items to take in the car to help when/if things go wrong with the car.
1. Air inflation compressor
2. 3 x tyre repair gas
3. Decent set of tools
4. Battery booster
5. Exhaust repair kit
6. Spare alternator belt
7. Spare fuses, connectors and bulbs
8. Jacks, wheel brace and warning triangle
9. Circuit tester
10. Spare engine oil and auto gearbox/power steering fluid
11. WD40 (Should fix everything!)
12. Rubber mats to help drive out of sand/mud holes.
13. Hose repair tape, jubilee clips, bits of cable and odd nuts and bolts
16. Hi-vis jackets (doh, but legally required in much of Europe).
17. Trusty Haynes workshop manual.
18. Good old-fashioned paper maps (GPS backup)
Health and Safety (yes, really!)
Some travel specialists will make fortunes sticking all sorts of potions into you. For example, there was one malaria case over 25 years ago, so although it’s sensible to avoid being bitten by pesky mozzies, there’s not a lot of point going through the anti-malaria course. Hepatitis is a concern (the hand to hand transmission one) in food etc so I’ve had this. My GP surgery also gave me cholera, polio and diphtheria (multiple jab). Rabies is common out there but it’s better to just steer clear of animals with foaming mouths really. I read somewhere that marmots in the region carry bubonic plague but I’m unlikely to stroke (or eat) one that I may see. Whilst on the subject of wild animals, there are also brown bears and wolves in the region though should I come across any of these, I’m not sure an injection would help much! I think taking pepper spray might be a little OTT (and get me into trouble at border controls).
I have a reasonable first aid kit, able to cope with most issues. It includes:
1. Sterile plasters, lint and bandages
2. Antiseptic spray and cream
3. Mosquito repellent (and net)
4. 7-day antibiotic course
5. Burns treatment
6. Blisters plasters
7. Dental repair kit
8. Sun protection cream and spray
9. Sterile swabs, Steri-strips and Superglue
10. Eye bath
11. Disposable gloves
14. Aspirin/Paracetamol (Not codeine based !)
16. Safety pins
17. Eye patch
19. Exposure blanket
20. Anti-histamine tablets
The comfort list
This list is about making things more comfy. Or maybe less uncomfy. I don’t think any of them is essential – they will just make things a bit less arduous. The plan is only to camp overnight if stuck somewhere although food preparation might be handy for daytime stops for lunch/tea. In the more remote areas, accommodation is more of the hostel/homestay type where the sleeping area is designated by just a rug on the floor.
1. Self-inflating sleeping mat/pillow
2. Sleeping bag
3. Bed liner
4. Solar shower
5. 3-man tent
6. Sleeping bag
7. Camping gas burner and pots
8. Cutlery and crockery
9. 2 x chairs
10. Tin opener/Corkscrew
11. Knife (nothing too Crocodile Dundee)
12. Back up ‘long life’ food
13. Roof solar panel
14. Kites, cards and torches for kids en route
16. 12V kettle
17. 12V coolbox
18. Garmin GPS (now with Asia maps cleverly reformatted by IT guru Pat)
I won’t bore you with the detail here, but two months is rather a long time to pack for! The blistering 40 odd degrees expected in Uzbekistan might be countered by near freezing conditions in the Pamirs. I need sun hats and a wardrobe for a hot, dry and a cold, wet climate, and rather a lot of it. Hopefully, the cities will have laundry facilities. I need specs to read. And I have a habit of sitting/treading on them, so I need loads. And sunglasses. And, oh I won’t go on.
Preparation is all very well but somebody said that too much preparation loses the joy of the surprise. And…
“ The problem with preparing for the worst is that that has the power to attract the worst.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana