I promised in my last post to write a more detailed report on the places I will be travelling to. Here it is! These steps and stops along the way are both Brief and Detailed overviews of my itineraries, outlining my day to day travelling on Oasis Overland Expedition truck. I have also included some of the specs of the Oasis Overland Expedition Truck I will be travelling in. These details, by the way, are just the middle bit of my trip. I’ll spend a few weeks in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan before I start on the organised part of the trip. Day 1, as outlined below, is actually day 16 of the whole trip.
The journey home is uncertain at the moment. One option is to fly from Istanbul to Dublin on Saturday 10 November. This would give me 5 days or so in Istanbul, in a nice hotel. Flights are cheap at that time of year and an 05:15 departure would take 11.5hrs to get me to Dublin and cost 79€. A later departure, leaving at 11:50, would take just over 7hrs to get to Dublin and would cost 105€. Both are by air France and have 1 stopover in Charles de Gaulle Paris. I would go for the 2nd one. For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost etc etc.
Another option is to go back overland. This would be much more fun but would be far more expensive, travel costs alone would be around 400€ with as much again in accommodation; Europe is more expensive, naturally; say 1000€ if I took around 10 days to do it. This would be my preferred route but I’m not sure how practical it would be. I’ll wait until I’m halfway on my trip before I decide. I have all the info stored in the cloud and on a flash drive so I just need a wifi connection to book trains, planes or hotels. No sweat.
Why, you might ask yourself, am I writing all this. I ask myself the same question. All this blathering on about places I haven’t visited yet; seems a bit pointless. What’s the point? Boring dreary old shite, you could say.
Well, I’m writing this because it often is boring dreary old shite. I used to write much better. I’m capable of writing much better. Decades of academic writing and clinical note taking seems to have taken the fire out of my writing. Especially clinical note taking where I have to take myself completely out of the equation and examine my inner experience as active or reactive counter-transference and map this to bodies of theory.
Then there’s the idea that the notes aren’t mine. They could be subpoenaed by a judge and read out in open court where I might be asked to explain every little nuance. A great disincentive, that. So, I develop a boring dreary writing style to narrate my inner experiences, intuitions, observations and assessments. And then bitch about it.
If you sup with the devil, be sure to have a long spoon. Well, the detail is the devil and he has a long grasp. He took my creativity hostage ; just for a while, sez he. He, and he is a he, promised me a life beyond my wildest dream. I could be a healer; a wounded healer but a healer nevertheless. This Faustian bargain has left me a little short-changed.
So, I write this to practice writing with the knowledge that it might be witnessed and critiqued. It’s practice.
The last time my writing felt some real fire was around the start of the new millennium. This was during my Buddhist phase. I was living at the time in a community called Padmaloka in Norfolk, near Norwich. It was really more than just more than just a retreat centre, it was in essence a Buddhist seminary, a semi-monastic religious community of men striving to place the Buddhas teachings at the centre of their lives and helping others to do the same. All who came here joined the Padmaloka community in an ongoing exploration of the great treasury of Buddhist tradition, working out its relevance to life today. A truly special place, for me.
I was there because I wanted to get ordained into the Western Buddhist Order. Following the death of my mother I began to get strangled by very passive and passive-aggressive rage. This made me a bit of a pain in the arse to be around and I decided to leave Padmaloka and the ordination process. The community had a leaving ritual for me, as was customary when a community member left. Following the puja we gathered around a big open-air fire. I decided that this marked a liminal phase for me; that I was leaving one magico-religious state and about to enter another. I thought that this rite of passage needed a symbolic initiation, a sort of emotional circumcision.
At that time, I had a load of diaries I had kept since getting sober. I also used them to practice writing. If you squeezed them hard enough, the resulting screams would circle the world seven times. I thought that burning them would be a ritual cleansing of my past pain and that I could enter my new phase of life a tad unburdened. So I chucked all my journals into the blazing fire and watched them burn. Ho hum.
This was right for the place I was in at the time although I kicked myself shortly afterwards for doing it. I’m much kinder now and, like we all do, I did the best I could at the time given the resources, understanding, and awareness I had at the time. Writing this helps me remember how I felt than.
So that’s why I’m writing this blog. it’s kindling. Fire transforms. Let’s hope that the dreary old shite becomes rich fertiliser and allows some fine plants to grow. Not your nice roses or carnations though; maybe some interesting thorny plant with mildly toxic foliage.
Another reason I write these is to be able to look back with fondness at my travels and marvel how differently everything turned out. This is more true for blogs actually written while on the road. I look back at older posts and just reading them allows the memories to flood back.
Then there’s the excitement I experience while researching and writing about places I’m going to visit. Such is the power of imagination.
Itineraries are not set in stone and can be subject to change. The trip starts on 6 September 2018. For a more detailed description of the steps and stops along the way on Oasis Overland Expedition, with lots of photos and info, please see below
Days 1 to 4
- Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve – green valleys, wildlife and snow-capped peaks!
- Time to explore this southern corner of Kazakhstan.
Days 5 to 15
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital
- Samarkand – as old as Babylon, view the beauty of the Registan, medressas & mosques.
- Kyzylkum Desert – beauty & harshness in one.
- Bukhara – an important stop on the Silk Road of old & home to over 350 mosques & 100 Islamic colleges.
- Khiva – explore the ancient madrassas, mausoleums and museums.
- Aral Sea – see ships marooned in the desert
Days 16 to 19
- Kunye Ugench – see the 60mtr high minaret!
- Darvaza Gas Craters – a result of Soviet-era gas exploration.
- Kara-Kum Desert – arduous days are rewarded by camping out in this barren terrain.
- Ashgabat – the fascinating and slightly bizarre ‘White City’, fashioned out of marble.
- Ashgabat – Free time and City Tour
Days 20 to 34
- Mashhad – home to the stunning Imam Reza Mosque
- Dasht e Kavir Desert – in search of the Asiatic Cheetah
- Shiraz & Yazd
- Persepolis – ancient ruins partly destroyed by Alexander the Great
- Esfahan – explore this historic and beautiful city
- Tabriz – explore the 35km labyrinthine bazaar and the Blue (Kabud) Mosque
Days 35 to 38
- Yerevan – World-famous brandy distillery
- Sevanavank – monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan
Days 39 to 50
- Telavi – ancient wine-growing region
- Tbilisi – Georgia’s capital city
- Gori – birthplace of Stalin
- Kutaisi – Georgia’s second largest city
- Foothills of the Caucasus – bush camps in rural Georgia
- Batumi – on the Black Sea Coast
Days 51 to 61
- Cappadocia – explore dwellings carved from the eerily eroded landscape
- Pamukkale – hot springs and stunning waterways
- Ephesus – built by the Greeks 1000 years BCE, then rebuilt by the Romans
- Gallipoli – visit the battlegrounds and war graves of the forces that fought here in WWI.
- Istanbul – trip ends after breakfast
The steps and stops along the way on Oasis Overland Expedition. Itineraries are not set in stone and can be subject to change.
Days 1 to 4 (6-9 Sept)
Leaving Bishkek, we cross the border into another former Soviet country, Kazakhstan. We head west across the southern corner of the country, bush camping on the way to Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve. The oldest nature reserve in Central Asia and covering the far northwest of the Tien Shan mountain range, the reserve is a stunning spot and rich in flora and fauna. We camp for a coupler of nights with free time to explore the walking trails or optional horse riding through the grasslands and forests, past mountain rivers and rugged mountain peaks.
Days 5 to 6 (10-11 Sept)
Leaving Kazakhstan we turn south and enter Uzbekistan, a country synonymous with the Silk Road and famous for its evocative and historic ancient cities. Our first stop, however, is the modern and cosmopolitan capital of Tashkent where we will stay in a hotel for a couple of nights and have a free day to explore. Much of the city was destroyed during an earthquake in 1966, and is now a mixtures of ancient, Soviet and ultra-modern buildings, making it a fascinating introduction to Uzbekistan as the country continues to develop and modernise after independence.
For many travellers one of the highlights of any visit to Tashkent is riding its subway, with ornately decorated stations much like the Moscow subway, while the Old Town has a vibrant bazaar where locals in their traditional colourful dress barter for goods. There are also a number of museums, national monuments and even the Tashkentland amusement park with some rollercoasters and other rides!
Days 7 to 10 (12-15 Sept)
In Uzbekistan we will find well preserved relics from the time when Asia was a centre of empire, learning, and trade along the famous silk route. Some of its cities have abundant old architecture, mosques and minarets cloaked with the mystery of the orient dating back thousands of years.
Samarkand, the second largest city in the country. The history of Samarkand is about 2,500 years old and it’s as old as Babylon or Rome. Here we have a couple of days to explore the splendid architecture such as the 15th century Bibi-Khanum Mosque which when it was built was considered to have the largest dome in the Muslim world. Today it stands next to a noisy and colourful Oriental market. No trip here is complete without a wander around the three edifices of the Registan, once Medieval Samarkand’s commercial plaza and today quite possibly the most awesome sight in Central Asia.
The Kyzylkum Desert is about 300,000 sq km and lies between the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers. This is a vast arid plain with a number of isolated bare mountains rising to 900 metres and we journey across it on our way to Bukhara. Time and schedules permitting, we will take the trip from Bukhara to Samarkand by train, giving us an opportunity to travel with the locals as we pass through the arid landscape.
Bukhara, our next stop, is situated on a sacred hill, and was founded in the 13th century BCE and it is home to over 350 mosques and some 100 Islamic colleges. The city is intrinsically linked to the history of the Silk Road and later ‘Great Game’ that played out in the nineteenth century between Russia and Great Britain. One of the most famous individuals involved in this historical period, the Englishman Alexander Burnes, was known as ‘Burnes of Bukhara’ and the books he authored based on his adventures in this part of Asia gave him celebrity status in Victorian England.Bukhara today is an attractive city with narrow streets, green parks and gardens, and is a pleasure to wander around and there will be the opportunity for a bout of good humoured haggling in the bazaar.
Days 11 to 15 (16-20 Sept)
Continuing north, we bush camp out in the desert before reaching Khiva, another town with much historical influence, that was also on the great silk route. This, our last city stop, is one of the most noteworthy of the cities and towns of Central Asia. It is a unique monument town, completely preserved in the cultural style of the region, and is a World Heritage Site for its historical significance. It has more minarets than any other place in Asia, and the Juma Mosque, which has an amazing 218 ornate carved wooden columns, is another of the main attractions. We will spend a couple of nights here to explore the ancient medressas, medinas, mausoleums and museums and soak up the unique atmosphere
Road conditions permitting, we will then drive to the edge of where the Aral Sea used to lie. In the 1960s the Soviet Union began an intense irrigation project to boost cotton growth in the region using the then vast sea as its source. The project led to the sea shrinking to just 10% of its original size and today as we reach where its edge formerly was, we can see ships sitting incongruously in the middle of what is now a huge desert where we camp for the night.
Days 16 to 18 (21-23 Sept)
We cross the border into Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most secretive and mysterious countries, largely cut off from the outside world. Most of Turkmenistan is covered by the vast Kara-Kum (Black Sand) desert and conditions can be challenging with hot weather and some poor roads to travel along, but it is all worth it with some memorable stops along the way and also the opportunity to travel through this rarely-visited country.
Our first stop is Kunye Urgench, a UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient stop on the Silk Road; now largely abandoned we are able to bush camp near the site. It is said that the 60 metre high Kutlug-Timur minaret so impressed Genghis Khan that he specifically ordered for it not to destroyed when his Mongol hordes invaded the area in the thirteenth-century, so we are able to see it for ourselves today!
Continuing south through the desert our next stop is one of Central Asia’s most curious and impressive sights, the Darvaza Gas Crater. Also known as the ‘Door to Hell’ or ‘Gates of Hell’, this remarkable sight is the result of a Soviet-era gas exploration accident, when the ground beneath a drilling rig gave way and to prevent poisonous gas leaking out it was decided to burn it off. Originally engineers believed it would all be burned in a few days, but that was in 1971 and the field is still burning to this day. The result is a sight quite like no other as we are able to peer down into the crater and see the fire, and feel the intense heat coming from the flames. Road conditions permitting we will get to the crater in the truck and bush camp nearby in the remote desert.
Leaving Darvaza we then have around a half-day drive to reach Turkmenistan’s unique and bizarre capital city Ashgabat where we check into a hotel to wash off the sand from the desert and enjoy a well-earned bed for the night.
Day 19 (24 Sept)
We have some free time and enjoy a city tour of Ashgabat. Turkmenistan’s capital, founded in the 1880s by the Russian Tsarist government, sits between the foothills of the Koptedag mountains to the south, and the vast Karakum Desert to the north. The city was almost entirely destroyed following an earthquake in 1948 and rebuilt in the Soviet style. Following independence in 1991 the city has been transformed into a futuristic, and in many ways bizarre collection of unique structures and wide streets lined with marble. For many travellers, Ashgabat is one of the most mystifying and unusual cities they will ever experience.
On the city tour we visit Independence Park, the Ertogrul Gazi Mozque, the Arch of Neutrality, the Turkmenbashi Mosque Mausoleum and many other sites throughout the city. There are plenty of fantastic photo opportunities, and we will have the chance to explore some of the markets and meet the locals.
Days 20 to 24 (25-29 Sept)
We wave goodbye to fascinating Ashgabat and head to the border of Iran. Our first destination here is Mashhad, the second most visited pilgrimage city in the Islamic world (besides Mecca). The holy city, meaning The Place of Martyrdom in Arabic is said to have over 20 million pilgrims a year visiting the Imam Reza shrine. We have time to explore the stunning Iranian architecture and monuments of religious significance.
Leaving Mashhad, we venture into the dust and heat, the beautiful but stark Dasht e Kavir Desert. Driving through the sandy scenes is incredible but can be challenging, so a stopover at the wonderful Garmeh Oasis provides welcome relief. You can relax under the date palms and cool your feet in the streams, or hike the surrounding hills if you need to stretch your legs. On the way we’ll pretend to be Nomads and visit an old Caravanserai, an ancient stopping point for camel trains travelling the old Silk Road.
Days 25 to 28 (30 Sept-3 Oct)
Continuing south we travel to Yazd and are able to find out about Zoroastrian history and culture by visiting the Towers of Silence. With its mudbrick old town and winding lanes, Yazd is one of Iran’s highlights. The city has a very relaxed atmosphere and we have a free day to explore.
Leaving Yazd our next destination is Shiraz; once famous for its vineyards; Shiraz portrays a certain sophistication. Whether you visit the exquisite mosques and mausoleums or just soak up the atmosphere in the tranquil gardens, you are sure to enjoy your time here. It’s also a great place to try typical Iranian food or get a fast food fix!
Near Shiraz we follow in Alexander the Great’s footsteps, with the opportunity to visit Persepolis. This ruined city was formerly the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, and dates back to the fifth century BCE, with some well-preserved relics and buildings to be found. Some compare this magnificent site to other ancient constructions such as Angkor Wat or the Great Pyramids.
Days 29 to 31 (4-6 Oct)
We next move on to Esfahan, for many the jewel in Iran’s crown. Esfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world and served as the capital of Persia in the 16th Century. We have the option of a guided city tour to take in the majestic Imam Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is home to the famous blue mosaic tiled Imam Mosque, the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah and the Ali Qapu Palace. Other highlights are the historic bridges on the Zayandeh River and the old Shah Caravanserai that used to be the port of call for caravans on the ancient Silk Road. Esfahan is a great city to wander around, while away the day in local tea houses, converse with the incredibly hospitable and friendly Iranians, watch artists at work in bazaars and marvel at the silk Persian rugs in the carpet emporiums.
Days 32 to 34 (7-9 Oct)
A long drive day north brings us to Iran’s capital, Tehran, a cosmopolitan and frenetic city in the shadow of another mountain range – the Alborz. We have a free day here to discover the numerous mosques, museums and pay a visit to the former US Embassy and the fascinating painted murals close by.
As we continue northwest our last stop in Iran is Tabriz, a large city and important trading post between Iran, the Caucasus and Turkey on the Silk Road. The city’s most famous sites is the Blue Mosque, known for the ornate calligraphy displayed on the tiles that cover the building. Another highlight is the labyrinthine bazaar, the largest covered bazaar in the world and a great way to spend our last few Iranian Rials before we leave Iran and enter the next country on our Asian adventure.
Days 35 to 39 (10-14 Oct)
We cross the border and enter Armenia, where we instantly see the landscape change from dry and arid to lush, forested hills and flowing rivers. After bush camping just after the border we enjoy a stunning drive through the Sikavogh Reserve on our way to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city.
Yerevan is a cosmopolitan and relaxed city, where we will spend a few free days. There is no shortage of things to keep us occupied, with numerous museums, walking tours, and brandy distilleries to visit (Armenian brandy is the only type made outside of France that is permitted to call itself ‘cognac’). Yerevan has a culture of pavement cafes, and one of the real pleasure of the city is sitting back enjoying a drink by one of the city’s imperious Soviet-era squares while watching the locals go about their day-to-day business. Yerevan also has a vibrant nightlife, with numerous local bars to be found, many of which offer live music.
Not far from Yerevan it is also possible to visit the Geghard Monastery, a still-functioning site built in a picturesque hillside location, some parts of which are carved into the rock. Also nearby you can visit the Temple of Garni, a site that dates to the time of Ancient Greece and before Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. It holds the distinction of being the only Greco-Roman complex surviving in the whole of the former Soviet Union, and the views across the surrounding countryside are similarly impressive.
Leaving Yerevan we continue north through Armenia, stopping off at Sevanavank, a small monastery sat on a hill overlooking Lake Sevan. Formerly situated on an island, following the draining of the lake as during the time of Stalin’s rule, the monastery is now sat at the end of a small peninsula and is a picturesque spot well worth a short detour. We will bush camp for the night before heading the next day into Georgia.
Days 40 to 42 (15-17 Oct)
Our first stop in Georgia is Telavi, the principal town of the Kakheti region, famous for its vineyards and wineries. Wine has been produced in Georgia since 4000 BCE and the industry has played a small but significant role in the country’s history ever since, as winemaking (and its consumption) has enjoyed an important role in Georgian culture and society. Here we have the option of taking a wine tour to find out more about the history of the area, why wine production has been so important, and of course to try some ourselves!
Telavi itself is a fascinating and relaxing place to spend a couple of nights with many good restaurants and cafes, and not far from the town there are other sites well worth a visit, such as the monastery of Akhali Shuamta, and the small village of Ikalta and its Church of the Transfiguration which dates from the 8th Century BCE.
We depart Telavi and turn west before arriving in Georgia’s historic and multicultural capital, Tbilisi.
Days 43 to 50 (18-25 Oct)
We spend a few days in Tbilisi, and there is no shortage of things to do. There are countless bars and restaurants offering tasty local dishes and Georgian wine, and exploring the Old Town you are rewarded with a huge range of bohemian-style buildings housing anything from private homes through to art galleries. There is a famous flea market, which sells items as diverse as household furniture through to Soviet-era memorabilia, and a number of different museums to check out.
Leaving Tbilisi we visit Gori the birthplace of Georgia’s most infamous son, Josef Stalin and we have time to visit the museum dedicated to him which is built alongside the house in which he was born, which still stands today. Here you will find many items from Stalin’s reign, and also his bullet-proof train carriage, in which he travelled across the Soviet Union.
There may also be the chance to stop at Uplistsikhe, an ancient cave city built into the mountains not far from Tbilisi. Dating from the early Iron Age, this historic site says much about Georgia’s long and often turbulent past at the crossroads of a number of might empires throughout the centuries.
The next of our steps and stops along the way is Kutaisi¸ the country’s second largest city and home to a buzzing fruit and vegetable market where you can barter for goods with the local traders. Kutaisi offers a glimpse of what modern day life in urban Georgia is like, and the real joy of the city is found in simply wandering the streets and observing the locals go about their routine. This is also an opportunity to top up on some food and drink supplies before we head into the foothills of Caucasus and some more remote areas in the next few days.
We spend the next two days exploring the Svaneti region. This mountainous area is beautiful and untamed, and offer fantastic hiking options with the mighty Caucasus mountain range as a stunning backdrop. Using our overland truck as our base we will bush camp and spend some time travelling around, including a visit to Mestia, a pretty small town that forms the centre of the region. Weather and climate can be unpredictable so this part of the trip is kept quite loose to allow for itinerary changes, depending on what is our best option at the time, but with the truck carrying all of our camping and cooking gear we are free to travel almost anywhere!
Returning to civilisation we reach the port city of Batumi. Here we spend a couple of nights to check out the city with its modern and often bizarre architecture and enjoy our first taste of Georgia’s famous warm hospitality. A walk along the waterfront promenade is always popular, especially at night when the buildings are lit up in bright neon colours.
Days 51 to 61 (26 Oct-5 Nov)
Leaving Georgia, we have some long drives to reach our next destination as we crossing rural Turkey. We head towards the Black Sea before following the coast west. This captures the essence of an overland adventure expedition, as we stop for bush camps in the evening and are able to watch as the stunning and varied scenery of this rarely-vested part of the country rolls past, stopping off to meet locals and buy food and drinks as we go.
We arrive in Cappadocia, where we stay for a few nights. Here, over the centuries, houses, churches, fortresses and even underground cities have been carved into this eerily eroded volcanic rock. The Goreme Valley provides us with an astonishing setting to spend a few days investigating the region. Why not take in the scenery from the skies in a Hot Air Balloon flight (optional). We will take you to one of the underground cities where you can explore alone or with a guide this ancient and mysterious area!
After a few days in Goreme we continue west towards Pamukkale where we will spend a night and there is the opportunity to swim in warm, mineral-rich waters. We then travel further west and finally reach the Aegean Sea in Selcuk where we will spend a couple of nights. Here we find Ephesus. Built by the Greeks a thousand years before Christ and then rebuilt by the Romans, this immense ancient city boasts an amphitheatre that can seat 24000 and a harbour with no water – still in good condition after all these years.
Turning north drive through olive groves and rural settlements to Gallipoli and the Straits of the Dardanelles. In World War I, on this blustery and exposed peninsula, ANZAC and British Forces struggled unsuccessfully for nine horrendous months to dislodge Turkish troops from the hills above the beaches. It is a moving experience to visit the war graves and battlegrounds where so much suffering and unnecessary loss of life took place. We camp overnight here before arriving in the city where East meets West, the huge metropolis of Istanbul.
Day 62 (6 Nov)
This is where this part of the steps and stops along the way come to an end. We arrive in Istanbul, where our trips ends after breakfast, but with so much to see and do you will almost definitely want to stay a bit longer! An urban area of nearly 15 million, and one of the world’s liveliest cities, it is a place full of history and rich in culture. You can choose to spend visiting one of the many famous sights such as the iconic Hagia Sophia and stunning Blue Mosque, or strolling around the Grand Bazaar on the lookout for some bargains. During the evening be sure to try some of the wonderful local cuisine, such as authentic kebabs, baklava or any of the many other treats on offer.
All Oasis Overland Expedition Trucks are Equipped With:
- A mixture of 23 or 24 inward, forward and rear facing coach seats with headrests, providing more storage space for your souvenirs and luggage, as well as extra leg room to stretch out on the longer journeys (thus avoiding the typical ‘bus’ type layout of all forward facing seats with narrow aisles and cramped leg room with less storage)
- Internal heating for those high altitudes that are part and parcel of our South America overland trips
- Under-seat storage for your backpack so you have easy access – even when driving
- A mixture of sliding & fixed windows, providing extensive all round viewing
- All trucks are equipped with sand mats and where necessary, tyre chains
- 12V charging points for Camera, Video and Mobile phone batteries
- A comprehensive range of spare parts and tools
- Large dried and fresh food storage capacities
- Overhead lockers for cameras and day bags
- Onboard truck safe for valuables & money
- Stereo with MP3 & iPod adaptor
- Large water carrying capacity
- Internal truck buzzer system – to communicate with the crew
- Internal & external lighting
- Insulated for your comfort
- Long range fuel tanks
- Fitted Seatbelts
Oasis Overland Expedition Accessory Equipment Carried:
- Spacious ‘Dome’ style two-person tents with in-built ground sheets and mosquito netting
- Cooler boxes (for storage of fresh food and drink)
- All weather cook tent for wet weather and shade
- Professionally compiled expedition medical kit
- All cooking and cutlery equipment
- Well stocked on-board library
- Gas cooker & fire grate
- Camp stools
This is the End, My Friend
If you got this far, well done. Service above and beyond the call of duty. That’s all for the moment. Everything is ready and prepared for departure in a few weeks time. I’ll post an update before I leave.