We've been hosting AirBnB since about the beginning of 2016 for a bit of extra cash and to meet people. In the last few months (it now being the end of April) we've hosted quite a few people. It's been interesting to meet them (they've arrived from far and wide) and learn about what it means to open up your home; especially ours, which is quite small and consequently both us and our guests cannot avoid each other.
In the meantime we've been planning a big trip for some time. The lads are now all grown up and at University and so we decided that it was high time for us to take a gap year. We say year, but actually it's only going to be three months away. However we have also both been off for some time - most of the year, so it is an almost six month stint out of the rat race; the labourious treadmill of modern day-to-day existence.
So on to the trip: Alex did Soviet Studies when she was at University and as part of the course had visited the USSR as it was then; she always wanted to go back following Glasnost to see how it had changed, and to see more of the vast country that is now The Russian Federation. Mike had for a long time wanted to go to Mongolia for some inexplicable and hopelessly romantic premise of meeting some horseback riders and seeing some of the wind-swept timeless landscapes of the Earth's least populated country.
After about three months of planning we came up with roughly the following route:
- Eurostar from London to Bruxelles
- Interrail from Buxelles to Warsaw
- Train from Warsaw to Moscow via Smolensk
- Trans-Mongolian railway to Ulaan Baatar
- Trans-Mongolian back to Ulan-Ude near to Lake Bical
- Trains from there around Sibera and the Russian Far East
- Fit in a visit to Yakutsk (by plane it's looking like)
- Hop over to Sakhalin Island and from there catch a ferry to Japan
- Train it around Japan for a couple of weeks
- Catch a plane out of Tokyo (for Sydney)
I wanted to try to make a map of this and being a techophyl, I merrily navigated my way to Google Maps to make one. Unfortunately the experience was poor as it seemed that it couldn't really handle making routes over such large distances all that well.
Having mentioned my frustrations to a friend the other day, and whilst showing him a map of Russia, he came up with the idea of using a piece of string to make what of the route the length of the string would allow; here's the result:
The string wasn't quite long enough to do the last bit and ends in the far eastern town of Khabarovsk. So from there imagine it crossing over onto an island just off the page to the north-east (Sakhalin Isaland) and then hopping across to the purple island to the very right edge of the map (that's Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan).
Something to note: Russia is absolutely bloody huge! All that green is the Russian Federation. Also, Mongolia is pretty damn massive as well; and Kazakstan is enormous too. Britian really is a tiny chunk of rock (as you can see by looking way back to where the string starts).
So that's the route. Our intention with this blog is to write about our experiences, post pictures for family and friends and document our experiences of staying in as many AirBnBs as possible along the way. Everyone's doing AirBnB now and you can find places to stay all over the planet.
That's that for now; more on the blog to come soon.