Across Continents

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Little black book

I’d had an e-mail from an old friend in Scotland. How did I find all these people I’d met or stayed with? Surely my little black book wasn’t that extensive? No, I explained. Some arose from chance meetings on the road. Like Knut, a German now living in Tbilisi, Georgia. Our paths had crossed back in Serbia, we’d kept in touch. He’d helped with many of the introductions in the western Caucasus. Others are fellow travellers, offering their couch to those on the road. A chance visit to a petrol station in Belgrade led to dinner in the suburbs. Many other examples.

An element of luck? Possibly. But a good deal of planning. What’s the road ahead like, my probable rate of progress? When will I arrive? The art of the possible. Back in the Royal Geographical Society in London I’d sat down with Shane Winser to discuss my expedition. Over the years she’s seen what’s worked. And what hasn’t. Outlining my plans, I expected questions on routes, equipment or training. But no, how was I to manage all the information I’d need to assemble to succeed? Weather predictions, visa regulations, funds, logistics and a good deal more. Good point.

Quite a bit was done before I’d set off, but never as much as I’d liked. Problem is that if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never leave. Especially when travelling for four years. And vital local knowledge is difficult to come by until you’re there on the ground. So, like arranging to meet or stay with people, much is done on the road. A never ending game, one that won’t finish until I make it back to my humble cottage. The World Wide Web is a huge help, my small netbook an indispensable tool. Almost. Over-reliance on technology can be risky. For example, no internet in a large swathe of western China. Problem? Not if you know about it. Just need to plan around it.

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