16 June 2024
FinnAir plane photo

This is just a brief overview of my travelling plans on The Silk Road for later on this year. If you managed to get to the end of my last blog, congratulations, you deserve a medal. In it, I was talking about how I’m still in the process of formulating a travel plan.

I have more or less finalised the first leg of my journey on The Silk Road. That will be from home here in Ireland through Central Asia, the Caucasus and Iran to Istanbul in Turkey. Istanbul onwards will be my home journey and I won’t plan that until I am certain about the dates. Anyway, transport is plentiful on the home route so no worries about there being only 1 train a week.

I’m leaving Dublin on 22nd of August at the very civilised time of 6pm and arriving back around the middle of November. So, those of you good at mathematics will see that I’ll be away for about 10 weeks.

Do you want to hear the gods laugh? Tell them your plans. My original plan was to travel to Moscow by air. Flights from Dublin to Moscow are relatively inexpensive. I would then spend a few days in Moscow, a city I love. From Moscow, I would travel to St Petersburg where I was intending to spend a couple of days. Last year, I had intended to do the same but had problems with my foot, so I had to curtail this part of my plan.

Following St. Petersburg, I thought I might go up to Murmansk or Arkhangelsk on the Arctic Circle just to see what it looks like. Then I would make my way back down to Moscow again and catch a train to Astana. This is about a two day journey. All this would have taken probably about two weeks. As I hate the heat, I thought September would be a good time to go in order to avoid the worst of the August heatblast.

However the best laid plans of mice and men etc etc. On reflection, I thought perhaps it might be better to focus my time and energy on places I hadn’t seen yet. As much as I like Russia, I’ve been there before. Also there seems little point in spending two days on a train so I decided to fly directly from Ireland to Kazakhstan.

I checked flights on the internet and they were pretty expensive. Around for €500 mark for the one-way trip. Most had a stop-over in in a European City. I looked around a bit more and found a flight going to Astana from Dublin, stopping at Helsinki. This was just over 200€ but the catch is that there’s a 25 hour stopover in Helsinki. Well, I thought to myself, let’s turn this into an opportunity. I have never been to Helsinki before and quite like the idea of spending a day there to see the sights. I looked at accommodation and found a Sleeping Pod, I kid you not, in Helsinki airport for €47 for 24hrs. This is useful as my flight arrives at 11:35pm. I checked with Finnair office here in Ireland and they said that I could leave the airport. This will not be a problem, as I have an EU passport.

I booked this flight, my first ticket on The Silk Road trip. I also booked a ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare on 7 November as my insurance needs evidence of start and end date. I can change gé this without penalty if my departure date home changes; as it inevitable will.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that, in my last blog, I was talking about travelling  light so I will only have a carry-on bag for my 10 week trip. Therefore, I can leave the first leg of the flight in Helsinki and bring all my luggage with me without any concern that it might go it drift or that I won’t have stuff I need. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Having spent some time in Helsinki I will then catch a flight to Astana arriving the next morning at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. By the time I get past immigration and all that, it should be around 6ish. That is, if the flight left on time.

From my experience of travelling around Asia, there are people selling things at every hour of the day and night so I shouldn’t have any problem finding somewhere to have breakfast. I would have made sure that I have accommodation booked that has a 24-hour desk so, at the very least, I can drop my bags off and have a ramble around Astana. Hopefully, I will have had a few hour’s sleep the previous night, although that can’t be guaranteed due to the shortness of the flight. After all, the flight is only about 4 hours or so.

Astana, The Silk Road
Astana, my start of The Silk Road journey

I checked with the hostel in Astana and provided I pay for the previous night, 6€, I can check in immediately, without waiting for usual check-in time of 2pm. The hostel gets very good reviews on booking.com. I might have mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I will be staying in hostels, homestays or Airbnb accommodation during my time on The Silk Road. This is because I will meet people there who can give me information about the next leg of my journey. Also, it’s an opportunity to meet other people as sometimes travelling as I do can be a bit lonesome. Cost is another consideration as I only pay a few €uro a night outside main touristy areas. Even the main sites, like Bukhara and Samarkand, are not that expensive. Every few weeks, I spend a night or two in a nice hotel to de-stress and re-pamper (not sure if that’s a real word)

My first day in Astana will be really an orientation and arriving day. It will give me time to arrive in Asia and let the experience catch up with me. I’ll spend a few days there and then a train down to Almaty to join the Silk Road and to see the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan.

That’s it for the time being, possums.  My next blog in a couple of days will be above the planning of my trip along the Silk Road.

About Author