Hong Kong to Poland
We heard about Maurice and Anne’s latest travel plans through our son Andrew, whose friends were renting the O’Reillys’ apartment ajoining their beautifully renovated Victorian villa, and when we were next together, we wanted to know more. They were going to ship a vehicle from Auckland to Hong Kong and drive via the Silk Road to Europe. They already owned the ideal vehicle they said, a Nissan Terrano from 1998, before the days of too much computerisation in cars. Hong Kong, they thought, was the best Chinese port as English was reasonably widespread. The lands between Hong Kong and Poland were reasonably open to travellers and they wanted to do it soon as the cultures were changing so quickly, particularly in China, where the old life styles were disappearing rapidly under the government’s strong drive towards modernisation. They had hoped to go in 2010 but had run out of preparation time and now had their sights on March 2011.
We listened with disinterested curiosity as one does to friends’ travel plans. How exciting for them, we thought. Then came the catch. They were looking for another couple to accompany them. Would we be interested?
Over the next few weeks we could not forget the conversation. Our thoughts kept returning to the possibility of travelling the Silk Road and we discussed it back and forth. We could not leave it alone. We have always been ones to take an opportunity offered and this one would not come again. I was planning to retire in late 2010 and Martin would follow not to long after. We had the time; the money? That was an unknown quantity, but we had some available cash that could be used. Another plus was that we owned a car very similar to the O’Reillys that would be ideal for the trip.
But was Maurice serious when he invited us to consider joining them? “Maurice,” I asked over the phone, “were you for real when you asked us to join you?” They conferred and agreed they were. It was a deal and we were committed.
Although we had both travelled widely, including to some off-the-the-beaten-track places like the Kachar Mountains on the Turkish border with Georgia, neither of us had been to China, Central Asia or Russia. Our geographical and historical knowledge was very sketchy and inaccurate. At least eighteen months preparation would be necessary.