UK to New Zealand without Flying

July 8th, 2010

This site contains information and links on what was fundamentally a pointless adventure in trying to go from Sheffield in the UK to Sheffield in New Zealand by any means but flying.

As I also had the random task of trying to avoid places I'd been to before, which after visiting 94 countries before I left, was quite difficult and neadless to say, quite challenging.

After arriving in New Zealand, the blog continues with my journey home, back to Sheffield, trying to avoid flights longer than 5 hours and no more than three hour time zone changes!  As such this site was mainly aimed at friends and family who did, like me, have no idea where I was or when I'd be there!

To see what happened and what I did please click on the links to the right. 

Finally, please see the contact information if you need to get in touch or leave a message.

01. Sheffield UK

July 10th, 2010

The journey starts, 10th July 2010.

From Sheffield UK to Sheffield NZ by any means but flying.....

02. Over before it began

July 14th, 2010

(14th July 2010)

So it's been 5 days, 7 countries, 1700 miles, 5 trains, 2 ferries, 4 busses.   Well that's Western Europe done quicker than any Japanese package tour of Europe. But now I've got those bits I've been to before out of the way I can now relax and head to the old soviet block, should be easy as I'm fluent in Russian!

Talinn, Estonia

Anyway, not much to add in this first blog other that the journey may be over before it begins thanks to the lovely Chinese embassy not giving me a visa.  But hey ho, we'll see what I can do on the way.

Weird point so far:

Buying a bottle of water in Copenhagen for 4 Krone but at the till being asked to pay 3 more as the price did not include the cost of the bottle! I asked why anyone would buy water in a shop not in a bottle as I didn't think the paper bags would work.  She looked confused so I asked why they just didn't say 7 to which she replied you get the three back as a deposit.  So I emptied the water into my water bottle and asked for the deposit back, she said fine that's 2 Krone as there's a 1 Krone handling fee! I was flumexed, and just left saying the water's 5 Krone then isn't it.

Denmark, Copenhagen

Highlight of the trip so far:
Watching the world cup final in Eindhoven with thousands of Orange clad Dutch.  They took the defeat quite well but if I was Spanish I'd avoid the place for a bit.

This will be tonight.... I'm sharing a cabin on the ferry between Stockholm and Tallinn in Estonia with two rather large Russian blokes so I reckon my chances of sleep are limited in between snoring and drinking vodka!

UPDATE: Snorring was very bad...  Very little sleep.....

Stockholm, Sweden


03. Санкт-Петербург, Moscow Mugging and the Communist Hat-Trick

July 22nd, 2010

(22nd July 2010)

Это как если бы кто-то заснул на клавиатуре при "особых" символов нажатием клавиши!

Arrgg, the whole world looks like this to me at the moment. It's as if someone has fallen asleep on a keyboard with the "special" characters key pressed!  However it does provide for an interesting opportunity to see sights you would otherwise not by getting lost on the metro!

So, what about Russia, I’ve been here a week and well, I don’t know what to say.  It’s all been a bit disappointing really. Санкт-Петербург, or St Petersburg to you and I is a really nice place, it is beautiful but it lacks something.  It’s like Budapest but without the Castle, or Prague without the vibrancy.  As pretty as it is, there is no warm inviting centre, somewhere to sit outside in a nice square and have a beer.   It's very much as place where you come to tick boxes such as the Hermitage museum or the fort but get no sense of the real Russia.

Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia

Then there’s Moscow.  I’ve always been a bit apprehensive of this place.  I’m from the last generation where we were shown the 3 minute warning (in case of nuclear attack) video at school and it scared the life out of me.  This created a fear of immanent attack which added to the film Threads (nuclear war drama set in Sheffield) and the images of the Brezhnev and Andropov funerals gave me a real sense of fear of this place.  So entering Red Square was a little weird, I could see the red towers of the Kremlin wall, the massive communist shop (the infamous GUM) to the right, the iconic St Basil’s cathedral straight ahead and Lenin’s mausoleum to the left.  From all my school boy images I always thought this place was massive, but now to me it looked small and Lenin’s tomb from where many a leader stood and watched the 1st May march past was tiny, especially compared to the ones in Beijing (Mao) and Hanoi (Ho Chi Minh).  Although as a tourist spectacle it is nice, seeing the tomb of Stalin behind Lenin’s covered in red roses made me feel somewhat uneasy, but I don’t know why.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

Then as I was heading back to the hostel on an amazingly long escalator up to the metro ticket office I noticed a guy walk up and stop behind me and then place his leg in front of me to stop me getting passed, he then started to do things to distract me.  Then I heard the distinct rip of Velcro behind and which point I checked my bag and noticed that the plastic buckle had been undone.  To confirm this the guy behind held his hands up as if to say, hey it wasn’t me even though I’d said nothing.  It was unlucky that I usually padlock the clip closed but had not on this occasion as I had been taking pictures of the impressive metro stations, however I was very lucky that the bag has a double fastening and the Velcro took the guy by surprise.  If I hadn’t heard this then I would have lost a £400 video camera!

But then it got a little worse, it turned out that I was surrounded by 4 of them as they worked as a team, and they took offence that I had discovered what they were doing and had the audacity to look at them.  The then physically started pushing and pulling me trying to get my bag off me but I managed to hold on knowing that that the top and bottom of all escalators on the metro there’s security.  One thing you can’t imagine though is how long the escalators are and it seemed to take a life time.  At the top they stopped and waited for me outside, so I waited with the security for a time but they could not understand a word, saw they guys not looking, headed back down the escalator onto the first metro train and got out of there.  It's really hit home how dangerous it can be travlling alone, you really have to be on your guard 24/7, I usually am but lapsed just for a few minutes. I really do not feel safe in this city.

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

To me this pretty much sums up Russia, this and a taxi driver who refused to give me my bag if I did not pay the 1500 rubbles charge for putting it in the back of the car (this is about £40!).  When you are here you get the sense that you are in a western country with all the sights and sounds you expect, hence me letting my guard down, but scratch beneath the surface it has problems and issues worse than any developing country I know.  There is an acceptable level of being ripped off in developing countries, it’s part of the bartering game, but here they try to get money out of you by extortion or even theft.  Never been anywhere like it before, never want to again. (let’s hope I don’t have to come back and do the trans-Siberian express!)

So Russia, in summary..... I don’t get it..... and it's a hole!

Worst moment:

Moscow Mugging...

Best Moment:
Completing the communist hat-trick of seeing three dead guys in boxes! Lenin completes the hat trick with Mao and Ho Chi Minh!

(Sorry, this is more of a diary but don’t really know what a blog should be!)

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

04. Mobileless

July 28th, 2010

(28th July 2010)

Just a quick request that no one sends texts to contact me. In Russia my SIM appears to have been cloned and I haven't recieved anything or been able to send anything since the 22nd July.

I'm currently arguing with the carphone warehouse as I placed a £20 limit on my account "just in case" but they have just charged me £100 as that's what the "cloner" has used. They seemed to have conveniently forgotten about the £20 limit!

You can't possily imagine how much I hate Russia at this moment. I'm sure I'll give a proper update once I've calmed down a bit! ..... and never use carphone warehouse.


Lenin Station, Moscow