Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Before leaving on a 2 month journey towards Mongolia, it’s good to have a list of things that need to be done before you turn your back on your home and head towards the unknown. Here’s an excerpt from mine:
  • Visas, Passport, and Letters of Invitation
    Yesterday a courier delivered a huge envelope containing my passport, which contains visas for Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and China. And today I got a PDF with the letter of invitation for Turkmenistan in my inbox. The visa for Azerbaijan we will have to get on the way in Tbilisi (Georgia).
  • The Car
    With Volvo as our sponsor, our ambulance will have superpowers and bring us to Mongolia without trouble. We have 7 spare tyres, tools, two repair manuals, and large amounts of duct tape. We also have various required and optional but recommended paperwork such as the Carnet de Passages, the International Motor Insurance Card, registration certificates, and even parking permits.
  • Camping Equipment
    It’s quite unlikely that we’ll find hotels everywhere, therefore we also bring a tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, a petrol cooker, a water filter to make drinking water, chairs and a table. Not to forget Fredrik’s awesome 12 V DC coffee machine.
  • Vaccinations and Pharmaceuticals
    It seems our route goes through areas infested with all kinds of scary diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, polio, tick-borne encephalitis, and typhoid. Last week, I went to the Travel Clinic at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at Zürich University, and got vaccinations for “everything”. They had to append yet another page to my vaccination certificate. There are no vaccinations for malaria and dengue fever, though. For the former, we have medication to treat it, for the latter we can only hope that the insect repellent is strong enough. We also have a big box containing everything ranging from cough syrup to antibiotics.
  • Insurance
    I double checked that my Rega membership is still valid. For a mere 30 CHF per year, this awesome organization will come and fly you out of any remote place in the world should you become sick or injured. We also have a SPOT connect, which has an S.O.S button that will send our cries for help over satellite should we get into trouble.
  • Mail, Bills, Plants, and Pets
    I have no pets, and my plants already died during my last trip. This reduces the problem to finding somebody to take care of my mail, scan the bills, and email them to me so I can pay them via internet banking (thanks, Dave!). Getting my mail re-routed for two months turned out to be simple, but also ridiculously expensive. It set me back almost the equivalent of 100 USD.
  • Camera
    I got my camera and lenses serviced at Nikon (and, boy, did they have a lot to fix), and I also got myself a MacBook Air to have decent image processing capabilities en route. I rehearsed uploading pictures over crappy internet connections during the last weeks. With little success, but I’m getting better at it every time. You can look forward to lots of great pictures!
  • Copies
    I made several photocopies of all important documents (passport, visas, letters of invitation, insurance, etc.). 
    We’re still working on getting Russian translations for the most important documents. I also uploaded scans of all these documents to various places so I could print them should I loose both the original and the photocopy.
  • Announce your Leave
    It’s surprising how many people still haven’t noticed what I’m up to. I frequently hear sentences like “You’re leaving for how long? To Mongolia? You mean, all the way?”. There were quite a few ad-hoc goodbye parties (“come on everyone, last chance to drink beer with Rico”). One of the most joyful moments was enabling the e-mail autoreply at work, stating that I’m out-of-office for two months.
There’s obviously a lot more than this, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted out on the way.

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