Turning left or right

From time to time, stuff happens that you can’t predict.

Donald Rumsfeld knows this for he quite famously said:
… there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

I like to think I’m fairly resilient and can go with the flow, accommodating change, but this change to our plans has taken a while to assimilate and consider how it all might work for me and us.   Yes, I was/am disappointed, but am working with what we know and what I want, and will see how things pan out over the next few months.

What’s happened is that Thomas, the leader of our convoy, has scrapped his plans to drive from KL to Paris this year. Instead, the route will turn right at Lake Baikal in Russia, just north of Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, and not left. Left is towards Moscow – some 4000km, and Paris, another 4000km – mostly on tarmac roads.   Thomas is one for adventure, and he has planned a route along the road of bones from Lake Baikal to Magadan on the far eastern side of Russia. This route equals adventure and is on many European adventurists bucket list.

This was a route completed by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman in their epic adventure tale of “A Long Way Round”, where they circumnavigated the globe across Europe, Russia, then into Canada and the US before returning to the UK.  It’s remote, rough, long, risky, adventurous, and really not for me. I’m not into winching cars through creeks and muddy bogs, I like an easier tour.

From Magadan, Thomas and the crew will backtrack for part of the way, turn south and then leave Russia at Vladivostok, near the border with North Korea. Like I said, adventurous.

Where does that leave me?  And Brian and Virginia, and Jacob…  and Kerry. Will our plans to meet in a cafe in Moscow come to fruition?

Thomas’s excellent and very detailed planning takes us through Malaysia, Thailand, Loas, and into China, before heading to Nanjing and cross the Yellow Sea on a ferry to avoid driving through Beijing. There will be lots of (left hand drive) highway tarmac driving. Once north of Beijing we will head into Mongolia, Ulan Bator, and then into Russia and Lake Baikal. This lake is something impressive and apparently contains 20% of the worlds unfrozen fresh water.

My current thinking is that, dependent on costs, and time, I will drive the Green Landcruiser from KL to Lake Baikal. On the way, I’ll pick up Brian in northern China as he probably won’t be able to spend the entire scheduled trip away. We’ll travel together for a couple of weeks and I will hand the vehicle over to him at Lake Baikal and leave them to the adventurous stuff on the road of bones to Magadan.

One option is to leave Russia, head back into Mongolia and catch a flight to Beijing, KL, and home. A equal cost option is to catch the Trans Siberian Railway to Moscow, and fly home from there – or keep travelling as time and money permit.

I’ve been helped in all this by our great friends Vi and Ju from France who did the Trans Siberian a couple of years back before coming to Australia the last time. Their blog is a great expose of what to be expected. It’s in French, but if you use Google Chrome browser, it will translate it for you and you’ll get the idea. Start at this first page, click on this link, and work your way to the newest entries. They also spend time in Japan, great reading.

So …., we’ll see how it all unfolds.

On the home front, Red is likely to be painted to lift it’s appearance. Green has been detailed and looks many times better than the unloved beast we picked up. I was also able to diagnose then resolve, with a few tips from others, the dreadful miss and rough running. The plug for the oxygen sensor has been damaged and allowed water ingress, which shorted terminals and this vital sensor could not operate properly. Once fixed, the engine runs sweetly and quietly, just as the previous owner said it had before he parked it up.

We’ve had a day of grease and mess changing the front hub seals on both vehicles. Red needs new CV joints and we are waiting for parts before continuing. Green is completed. The axle seals were gone on both, Red worse than Green, and a black greasy soup flowed out into the dishes on the floor. This was a mixture of diff oil and wheel bearing grease, where they shouldn’t be mixing. We planned to do two in one day, far too big an ask. It’s nice to have a rest between such messy jobs.

Brian’s ability to find bargains is striking. He came back from the local tip, he lives just around the corner – I wonder if that’s why he chose that house to live in…. hmmm.  Anyway, he came back from the tip with two side steps in reasonable conditions, Toyota factory sidesteps for $30 in total. Bargain.  A little straightening and they replaced the mangled ones Green had been wearing.

I was also able to sell off the HF radio for a good fair price and that has eased the financial cost of carrying the development of two cars a little. We’ve bought some used parts to help bring Red and Green up to serviceable vehicles and add value to them. Here’s Green after being polished up. We also took all the seats out of Green, lifted the carpet which was pressure cleaned, knocked all the fine sands of Esperance out of the carpet and reassembled it all with extra sound deadening under the carpet. Nice job to be done.

Clean Green
A good clean and buff has brought Green back to life again.

A funny thing that happened was that when I was looking through the logbook, it turns out that the car was first owned by Todd, a sheet metal chap we’ve had contact with recently. He was quite chuffed when I took the cleaned car around to show him as it brought back many memories of his travels in the past. 

I’ll update again after more happens.