By Brianna 31/December/16 India
Merry Christmas friends! You were all supposed to get Christmas cards, honest, but blogposts are cheaper and require less navigating of the maze that is Indian admin. We know our blogging has ground to a halt in the last couple of months, but all that is about to change. Here is an update on our slight change of plans for the New Year...
A very merry Christmas and happy New Years! We were infinitely jealous of all the roasts, family and friends' time and the cold weather (ok, maybe not that last one) that you guys got to have. Our Keralan Christmas was lovely, filled with Syrian Orthodox midnight mass, fish curry for xmas lunch, great company, skype, cake and hammocks. I'd write a blogpost about it, if the blog wasn't still hanging around in Georgia, when Mariah Carey was yet to make her first appearance on UK radio. It's no-one's fault we got so behind. Apart from Alex's, who's PhD applications have selfishly been hogging valuable computer/wifi time. Things are changing, however, and our New Year's resolution is to be up to date and improved on all platforms before commencing UpRouted stage two. If you are curious about what part two entails, please keep reading. If you're not interested, you can go back to trolling through Buzzfeed or Social Media.
A series of unfortunate events lead to a drastic but exiting route change. And it all began with Iran; the obvious overland choice to keep us on track East past Azerbaijan. It was going so well. We read books, drew on maps and watched the political situation steadily improve for two years. We were very disappointed that, when the time came, it hadn't yet improved enough to let us Brits, Americans or Canadians into the country without a guide or pre-arranged tour. The first re-routing needed to occur.
With Iran off-limits, we had two options: tackle Russia or set sail across the Caspian sea. We chose the latter, because it seemed more diverse and opened us up to an area of the map we had never really given much thought to. A trucker's ferry welcomed us to Central Asia, allowing us to keep heading East through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and, finally, Kyrgyzstan. Here, we hit stumbling block two.
From Kyrgyzstan you have a few fiddly options: you can head South to Tajikstan with a relatively easy visa process. But then you have Afghanistan and Pakistan to get yourselves through. As for our preferred direction of East, there is the option of China, which, if we had organised the trip in advance and arranged our visas in the UK, would have been difficult and costly, but possible. We could have transited through in a few days to reach our desired destination of India, the next big, 'BNOC' country on our list if we had been able to follow our original Iran plan. We had bureaucratic nightmare looming over us, with the additional threat that winter was coming - not the ideal time to get across the Himalayas.
On top of that, we had the issue of Indian e-visas, our on-the-road visa type of choice, only being accepted on entry via airports. So we cheated. We booked a two-hour flight south from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to Delhi, India. We didn't change time-zones, but it was a slippery slope into the ease of flying and during the last 2 months our overall gained distance East has been minimal compared to our shameful air miles. We didn't like the prospect of flying, after doing so well for so long, but, when we weighed up the options, our plans and principals of overland adventures were getting in the way of something we really wanted to do. It was a difficult decision, but in our eyes 100% the right one. The moment we landed in India we had no regrets. However, after two months of easy(er) logistics, we were keen to jump on board the overland train once more. We missed having direction and purpose to our global meanderings. Being able to watch faces, clothing, culture and custom gradually change from the UK was really special. And having an ultimate goal of East made all those lengthy, overnight buses and trains a lot more bearable than they have felt recently.
So back to overland travel we go! It was decided. India, however, said no thank you, try again. As did its neighbours, who don't always get on so well. Bangladesh and Myanmar are closed to each other due to their volatile political situation. China's issues remained unchanged. It seemed like the small north eastern border between India and Myanmar was the answer to our prayers, even though it came with expensive permits and guides. Until the very same week we began organising our transit through official channels, the rules changed. You could still enter Myanmar overland if you were prepared to exit over the same border - not very helpful to our East-bound mission or complementary of our restricted entry Indian visas. India won this round.
Hence our dilemma. Again it seemed like nothing was working out quite the way we wanted it to. We thought long and hard about alternate routes, in comparison to what our bank accounts would allow. If we were prepared to take an inevitable flight at some point, we had enough cash to keep going East, possibly make it all the way to Australia. Once we got down under, we'd probably be resigned to flying home, or working the traditional 'gap yah' joints to afford a flight ticket back. It wouldn't have been the journey or ending we were hoping for, having to settle for a disjoint and jerky trajectory across the world instead of the smooth line we started off with.
It was time to think behind the box and turn the whole trip upside down. If we have to fly out of India, let's not do it by halves. So, on the penultimate day of the year, we fly to Melbourne, Australia. While there, we hope to re-stock the wallets for a few months, ensuring that we have enough dollar to continue our overland adventure in the Spring.
East is almost over. It's so 2016. The New Year is all about change and so we've changing our direction. Hopefully a smooth line of travel out of Australia can take us all the way back to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to join up both overland adventures into one, huge global circumnavigation. Sans airplane!
West is best, after all.
Happy New Year!