We decided to keep it pretty low key in London. Mainly because Jess lived here, I’ve been here before and its expensive. So not so much of the touristy stuff that you would usually expect.
We have spent some time catching up with Jess’s friends and family. Was really good to meet her dad, Marc and 4 year old half brother, Myles for the first time. Marc has been kind enough to let us stay in his apartment while he stays with his girlfriend’s and brothers. We are very grateful!
It was Jess’s uncle Keith’s birthday so there was a big family gathering to celebrate with lots more family to meet and names to try and remember.
Keith is quite a character, he makes a living researching ship wrecks and salving different precious metals and other valuables, from ivory to gold. A real life modern day treasure hunter. He’s currently fighting over the rights of salvage of the merchant royal which reportedly sunk with what’s worth up to a billion dollars of gold coins.
Another highlight was catching up with an old family friend of Jess’s, Ian. He a works for British Telcom in the BT towers and must be a big swinging dick because we had the whole revolving floor of the BT towers to ourselves complete with a very well catered for afternoon tea.
It was a great view of London especially because the weather was good and we felt very privileged looking down on the rest of London.
Beth and Aiden, Jess’s cousins are both voluntary actors of the London Secret cinema. Its a cool event where once a year the organisers choose a movie then try to recreate the whole experience from the venue to the era. You are given little hints and clues as to what the movie is about and how to dress for the occasion but never actually told what the movie is going to be. We were told to dress as if we were from the 1920’s. So a quick stop at the local op shop and we both had ourselves a costume for under 10 pounds each. It was a really fun night, almost like you were actually living in that era, I highly recommend it.
Apart from catching up with people we have been flat out with all our paper work visas, passports insurance etc. we were hoping to get all our Central Asian and Russian visas before we left. Not as easy as we thought. The Russians have knocked us back twice for our visa and are making it as hard as possible for us to get in. We think maybe it’s because of the current political situation over there, particularly with the UK putting sanctions on Russia.
Either way they are satisfied they we have provided all the right paperwork they need, but all these delays have left us with no passports for a month. This makes applying for other visas impossible, so after a month we will only have one visa!
Further to that I have a family reunion in Laren, just outside of Amsterdam. It’s in a house my great grandfather built and where my grandfather grew up for some of his younger years. I have a few aunties from Australia who will be there, also family are coming from as far as Mexico and the USA as well as all over Europe.
Problem is I don’t have my passport and the Russians won’t give it back until they have finished processing the visa. Meaning I won’t be able to leave the country. Luckily the Australian embassy were able help us arrange a concurrent passport. They granted me a second passport valid for 18 months. That way we are able to leave the country and I have a second passport which comes in very handy when having to apply for multiple visas. There was a lot of paper work and jumping through hoops with this. If anyone would like to know what’s involved please contact us.
We dropped off the final forms they required today and have been told a new passport should be ready for me at 3:00 tomorrow, we have booked the only train to Amsterdam, via Brussels for 4:30 that same day!
Back to the Russian visas, they were a major pain we provided all the necessary documents, which include a tourist voucher (same as letter of invitation) they rejected it because we are travelling with out own vehicle. They told us we required an automobile tourist voucher, and had to include a cover note with our route and itinerary.
After contacting our Russian agent and having the tourist voucher amended we resubmitted the application hoping that was that. No such luck. Later that day we received a call from the embassy, they said they couldn’t process it until we provided a current vehicle insurance policy that covered us for our journey through Russia.
This has never been the case, after all the research we have done on the net our understanding was that this insurance could only be purchased at the border before entering Russia. We explained this to the staff at the embassy but they told us we needed it to get our visas. I even contacted a bloke back in oz who arranged Russian visas and everything for overland travellers. He said in all his 15 years of doing this he had never heard of them requesting such a document.
Long story short, we wasted a day battling with all the insurance companies here in the UK and some Russian ones but none of them wanted a bar of us.
After more digging around on the net, we ended up contacting Alessie from Assurantiekantoor in Holland. She was able to set us up with a green card insurance policy that covers all countries in Europe, Russia, Israel and a few North African countries. It covers us for 7 months and cost €889. Alessie was very courteous and efficient (unlike the Russians) and had the green card insurance sorted within a few hours. I highly recommend her for anyone planning on driving around Europe and Russia.
We finally sent this off to the Russians which they accepted and then added another 5 days onto the processing time. A whole month in total. As long as they are satisfied and we get the visas we are happy.
We still don’t have the troopy, it was supposed to land yesterday but we haven’t heard from the shipping company yet. Will give them a little more time to unload the boat and deal with customs etc. We have our fingers crossed that customs won’t inspect the container. Not because we are smuggling drugs or anything dodgy but because it just causes more delays and they do the inspection at your expense which could be up to £1000.