All right, let’s get this started. As promised to several friends and the family, I’ll report from the road on this trip. I was a bit reluctant at the beginning, as I did not plan to do a structured journey, with a mission or specific destination or a topic, like during Eurasia2013. This journey wasn’t planned extensively. It is happening in a period of time where I’m in limbo, between projects and chapters in life, until the end of this summer. This isn’t enough time to do a “proper” adventure, with an off-road car, to far away places. But my old Mini was waiting in Barcelona, abandoned in a garage while I was living in NY. During a recent flash visit and weekend escapada to the Penedès wine region, the road took me through the beautiful mountain roads of the Garraf. A handful of curves into it, I knew I needed to get back on the road…
Over the past years I had added pins to my Google map every time I read about an interesting place to see anywhere in the world. Insta posts, books, magazines, hearsay, friends’ accounts – it adds up. Looking at the map of Europe a few months back, there was a certain density of pins in Russia and Central Asia. There are huge blind spots for me in what is the biggest country on earth by area. And the silk road countries, the “Stans”, have a fascination on their own. Mini in BCN + Russia + Stans + summer in the Mediterranean = let’s go.
Visa requirements have gotten less and a lot easier over the past 6 years. I needed visas only for Belarus and Russia, plus 2 eVisas for other countries. I wanted to also get visas for Turkmenistan & Iran, but courtesy to a passport shipment clusterfuck by the idiots at Packlink.com and DHL, my documents got stuck in customs for 3 weeks – the time needed for these visas. Now that I’m on the road I need to carry the one passport I have with me, and probably won’t get these visas on time. Really sad, a night at the Dervaza crater and spending more time in Iran would have been wonderful.
The Mini got a full check-up, new tires and AC repair at BMW in Barcelona. Unfortunately a spare part had to be shipped from Germany, and the repair took almost a week longer than promised. This delay blew up my plan to spend a full week in Berlin. The past days in Barcelona have been very hectic, as BMW loves to keep comms short and cryptic, and isn’t giving exact date and time. First re-learnings of this trip: go with the flow, take things as they come, improvise, be flexible.
Barcelona is really a good city to do so. When anxiety tried to overcome me, I just ate and drank until all worries were gone. And I’m lucky to have such wonderful friends in town that have tried very successfully to make every one of the past days a memorable gourmet experience. Jordi, Andrea, Jordi, Chris, Ivan – gracias por todo! As a result, I ended up like on the pic of the day of departure. As somebody pointed these days, my face screams “major hangover”.
I spent quite some time on the warehouse where I have all my stuff, looking for the things I needed to take with me. The Mini is small, and that’s great to keep it simple, reduce to the max. I just have 3 weeks of basic clothes with me + a wedding suit (Ciao Andrea & Stefi, see you in Lampedusa!), a spare gas tank, camping gear, yoga mat, field kitchen, Spanish delicacies, and some photo/video equipment. Most stuff is from a few years back, so I hope all ladrones I’ll meet on my way will see it’s not worth stealing.
And that’s pretty much it. I’ll have forgotten things for sure, but in the coming weeks it’s not a problem. From Barcelona to Berlin to Moscow I have a pretty clear route, after that it’s very vague, and I’ll see where the roads take me – and what roads the Mini can take. No off-road as the car is just 10cm from the ground, just enjoying the go-cart feeling. And lots of time to relax, free the mind, think about what’s coming next. If all goes well I should pass in Tblisi, Istanbul and Athens in July/August, and Italy in September. But let’s see, let me get there.