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Terrorist or Tourist?

We left Mashhad before the weekend and headed to Yazd. Our first stop-over was in Tabas, a small city along the way where we found a simple hotel and met three Italians and their Iranian guide and had a great evening in the desert-heat (of app. 42 degrees) discussing all possible travel destinations together.   The next morning we left Tabas and arrived in Yazd a little after lunch. We didn’t find the busy street life, people and chaos here. Yazd is a charming city with an old, walled city centre consisting of all mud-brick houses and buildings. It is also famous for its Badgirs, we called it wind towers, a genius system of natural air conditioning by separating the warmth and cooling the wind with cold water drums. Our hotel was located in the middle of the old city, in a beautiful building with a large courtyard… but it…

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Blown away by Iran(ians)

Another border crossing last Tuesday: Turkmenistan – Iran. Now that’s a border you don’t cross every day. Although the Turkmen soldiers at the border took their sweet time having lunch and taking it easy, while we were waiting together with dozens of others… leaving Turkmenistan went fairly quickly. No extensive car-check, no filling out of 60 forms, no more payments. So we were ready for Iran. The Iranian border is directly attached to the Turkmen border (normally there is a small or larger driving distance between two posts, but not here). So, within 100 meters I had to put on my long sleeves and headscarf and I managed :-). We were welcomed by three Iranian soldiers who started talking about Van Persie and Robben with Bert right away, gave him travel tips for nice places to visit in Iran and were probably entertained by the fact that I was driving…

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Heat, Heart and History

With Samarkand a three-city trip in Uzbekistan started. As mentioned before, the more cultural part of our trip began. It was only just before we started sightseeing in Samarkand that we got to know more (just from the guidebook :-)) about some of the history of Uzbekistan. And this made the sightseeing surely more interesting. The buildings in Samarkand are not that old (relatively). The madrases and facades of the Registan date from the 14th century onwards – everything that was there before that time was destroyed by Ghinggis Kahn (so said the guidebook). The 14th century in Uzbekistan was known for the rule of Timur, a warrior Uzbekistan (and the guidebook) claims was as successful, brutal and ruthless as Ghinggis Khan only less famous. And that last fact seems to still frustrate some.   The mosque of Bibi-Khanym has a beautiful story about Bibi-Khanym, the Chinese and most special…

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Mountain Roads, Waterfalls and Walnuts

After leaving our fine B&B in Karakol, we started driving back to Bishkek – the starting point of the road to Osh. We’ve read that the road between Bishkek and Osh (in the south of Kyrgyzstan) is one of the most beautiful ones in the world. After an extra day in Bishkek, on Thursday we started driving from Bishkek down. Within an hour after leaving the capital the mountains started looming. White mountain tops again, nice villages along the way (donkeys, horses, flower gardens, little stalls with fruit, etc). And soon the road indeed took us through amazing passes, high (sometimes rainy) peaks and sunny valleys. Our first stop along the route was in Toktogul, a relatively large village at the shores of the Toktogul Reservoir. Another almost unreal blue-colored (artificial) lake. We stayed in a simple hotel where we sat outside for a local dinner and where the locals,…

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Under the spell of Issyk-Köl Lake

On wednesday we had a very productive morning – two new visa’s in the passport (Iran and Tajikistan) and our car was taken care of (we now have new gearbox oil, a new rubber band around the front axle, new belts in the engine, etc etc). And yes, this was NOT an official Toyota garage ;-). As we couldn’t prolong our stay at the Futuro Hotel (which we absolutely loved) we decided to drive towards the Issyk-Köl Lake in the afternoon. We stocked up on some extra food and drinks and off we went. First stop along the way was the Burana Tower, an old minaret left from a mosque and fortress from the 11th century. There was not much left, but we really like it – especially the view from above over the valley and the old city walls of Burana.   Then we continued our drive to Issyk-Köl…

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Bye bye Kazakhstan, hello Kyrgyzstan

The past days we’ve enjoyed Almaty. As we said before, it is an amazing city with great temperatures, blue skies, sun, a lot of trees, parks, terraces, nice restaurants and always set in front of the Tien Shan mountains with its snowy tops. We had some things to arrange, like our visa for Uzbekistan (which we got), an attempt to get an all-round car insurance for all ‘Stan’-countries (which failed) and another check-up for the car (which failed as well)…. Though we had our Blue Beast washed again and it is shiny and looks like new! But besides the necessary arrangements, we fortunately had enough time to enjoy the city and its surroundings. On Friday morning we set off to the ‘Great Almaty Lake’ – beautiful!! And so was the trip there through the mountains with great sceneries and passes. We coincidently passed the lake at first, which was a…

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The Sky is the Limit

This evening, after 4 hours of sleep due to a very very long quarter final match Netherlands-Cost Rica, we arrived in Rubtsovsk. Rubtsovsk is a small town just half an hour away from the Russia-Kazakhstan border. The drive from Novosibirsk to here today was smooth and quick – main thing was to keep our eyes open. But we arrived, had a nice dinner, caught up with some family members on Skype and are now relaxing a little in our hotel room (Hotel Alisa with clean rooms, TV and Internet – today we’re watching the Wimbledon final). Tomorrow morning we aim to be at the border around 9.00 am, ready for our third border crossing this trip! In the meantime, we use this evening to give you an impression of all the skies we have been seeing along the way. It is amazing how blue, how ominous, how colourful, how clear…

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From Russia with/in Love

After the final repairs in Olgii it was finally time to leave Mongolia (with a car reborn – and Mongolian car machenics who are probably really happy never seeing us again). The two things left on the ‘to do/to see’-list of Mongolia were ‘The Black Lake’ and ‘Tavan Bogd’ – the last one we didn’t make due to the broken stabilisation rod for which we had to turn back to Olgii before we made it to the snowy mountain. The road from Olgii to Tsagaan Nuur, the last Mongolian town before the border with Russia, was tarmac :-)… That was a nice drive. A few more amazing pictures before leaving this wonderful, empty, unforgettable, beautiful country.   At the border post of Mongolia everything went supersmooth and fast. An immigration officer was very serious and asked us not to talk so much… and then a quick inspection of the car…

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The Blue Beast – Back on Track

   Ulaanbaatar (UB) is such a charming city – it’s developing fast, missing a certain context, people seem lost (many are drunk) but everything just ‘goes’. It has a good atmosphere, fresh streets, proud people, good food, international characteristics and a clear sense of culture/style. We loved being in UB two years ago and we were as happy being there again this time. We met up with Haldi, our new Mongolian friend (introduced to us by Floris – thanks again, Floris!!), over the weekend. He was on the road with us for two days arranging a new air-conditioning for the car (this included a stop at the ‘Car Doctor’, where we did a thorough test of the car which it passed after changing a battery again…. the Auto Plaza and the ‘Black Auto Market’). He also helped us to get a local SIM-card with 3G-service and translated anything for us…

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Goodbye Shanghai

   On May 30th we had our farewell party. At the time (maybe two months earlier) we picked the date and venue for that party, we were convinced that our Blue Beast would be showcased in the garden of the Kaiba (2) Belgian Beer Bar so that everyone could see it. In the end we received our car literally two hours before the party started and we practically drove the Blue Beast straight from its container at the port into Kaiba’s garden. It was an amazing farewell party! So many people came to say goodbye and partied with us one last time in ‘our’ Shanghai. We got surprised with a Lion’s Dance to officially ‘open’ the car and many of our friends prepared a sticker to stick on the car in order to ‘drive with us’. We also prepared three larger stickers ourselves – one with our logo (on the…

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How to get a foreign car into China

Six months ago we started investigating the possibilities of getting ourselves a car in China. The car – a rather essential part of the planned journey – was to be bought in China and eventually imported in Holland once we arrived there.
 That was six months ago. Let me explain what happened in the meantime: So, buying a car in China (for a foreigner as myself) is only possible in the city or town where you have your residence permit – which in our case is Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the cities in China where cars are sold separately from a license plate. This has to do with the fact that the local government is trying to control the amount of ‘new’ cars that hit the road. They will auction a limited number of license plates every month and the Shanghai-citizens can bid against each other to get one….

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