Ride Report Canberra – Warwick National Rally

Ride Report Canberra – Warwick National Rally  2-11 April 2022  – (by Glen Jones)
“All the Way There and Half-way Back”
Map – ACT to Warwick & Return
Tim, Adrian and I had come up with a rough plan for the ride to Warwick which was necessarily flexible but did specify which route we would take and where we would stay overnight. We left Saturday 2 April which would give us two days to ride up in time for rally check in on Monday 4th. Individual commitments meant that we would all have to leave Canberra at different times but it was expected we’d all catch up somewhere on the way to the first night’s stop in Coonabarabran.
Being the slowest, I resolved to leave as early as possible and rolled out of my driveway at 0-dark-hundred, watching anxiously through my visor for pre-dawn wildlife activity. I made it safely to Boorowa just as the sun came up to reveal a clear, cool morning. The Ural was buzzing along quite comfortably at 90 kays despite being loaded up with camping gear, full jerry can, clothes and spare riding gear. There’s always a risk in a slow moving side-car that you will get hassled by faster vehicles coming up from behind. My Ural is a 2011 model but the engine technology pre-dates Sputnik and doesn’t rate high on the performance scale. Unlike that pioneering space craft, I doubt the Ural is fast enough to kill any dogs.
At that time of the day there wasn’t much traffic around anyway but when it did show up they all passed calmly without frustration. Maybe the sign on the back of my bike helped to calm everybody down.

Bulldog and bike soon settled into the rhythm of the road, alternating between progress and p-stops as we trundled through Cowra and Molong. There is no vaccine for numbumitis and I was squirming uncomfortably by the time I pulled up at Wellington for brunch in the park. It was here that I started seeing other groups of Ulysses riders making their way north. They all waved and thumbs-upped as they went by.

The temperature climbed as I hit Dubbo so I changed to a lighter jacket, sucked eagerly from my Camelback, and pushed on for the day’s final leg to Coonabarabran. The Newell highway was rumbling with the usual host of B-doubles and I spent almost as much time looking behind me as I did looking forward. Carefully and adroitly, the little camo sidecar kept the hell out of the bloody way and it wasn’t too long before we coasted down the big hill into Coonabarabran. The cops were out flashing their lights and raising revenue so I made sure to keep under the limit. I amused myself by thinking how ironic it would have been to cop a speeding ticket on a sidecar that had just been overtaken by 20 heavy trucks.
I checked in at the Wagon Wheel hotel and had just lugged my bags inside when Tim arrived. He’d left Canberra a couple of hours after me and had almost caught me up. We went into town for dinner at the Chinese restaurant while we waited for Adrian who wasn’t expected until 9 or 10pm. The meal was excellent and we chatted with other Ulysses riders from Victoria and WA who were also resting for the night.
I pushed off early the next morning just ahead of Tim and Adrian with a vague plan to meet in Moree for brunch. They soon caught up and effortlessly sailed by with cheeky waves and helmet-shrouded grins. We didn’t know it at the time, but the country north of us was about to be hit with a squillionty millimetres of rain that would throw travel plans and the national rally time table into confusion.
Happily ignorant of the impending drama, I was captivated by the flat, expansive plains around Narrabri and stopped for a couple of photos. This is Big Sky country and was looking unusually lush and abundant after the wet summer. I was totally enjoying myself and living that mantra about the ride being just as enjoyable as the destination. The freedom, the wide open spaces, the blending of man and machine: I laughed uproariously into the wind, wound on more throttle and rocketed up to 93!

We all stopped at Moree for a break, but at different times and at different places. It wasn’t until Goondiwindi that Adrian, Tim and I managed to find each other again.
We’d finally arrived in Quanetoadland and I took advantage of another photo op as Adrian and Tim disappeared into the mirage. There had obviously been a lot of weather already and water was everywhere. The road had been totally rainsacked and there was some good sport to be had trying to steer three wheels through the pothole clusters.
Tim and Adrian were staying off site and both planned to go all the way to Warwick and be ready to check in on the Monday morning. I decided I’d go as far as Inglewood, stay the night and make the final jump into Warwick showground in time for check in. At Inglewood, it rained. A lot. Animals were lining up two-by-two as I splashed through the puddles to find beer and food at the pub. It wasn’t just Inglewood, Warwick and a lot of other places in south east Queensland were slowly going under.
The rain had eased up the next morning and I excitedly packed the bike and headed off to the rally site despite warnings from the locals that Warwick would be cut off by flood water before I got there. I was contemplating having to spend another night on the road when I was presented with a more immediate problem: the tube in the back tyre suffered one too many pothole strikes and literally expired. Oh great. A flat tyre.
My Ural is equipped with a spare tyre carried under the rack but a tyre change by the side of the road on a sloping, muddy shoulder is a bit of a challenge. I’ve done it a few times in the shed with a full tool board but this time I’d have to manage with just the bike tool roll. With the help of a friendly motorist, – and encouragement from Jen and Leo who happened be passing by – we got the flat tyre off and wrestled the spare up under the fender. A lot of swearing and sweat followed as we tried to fit the wheel hub over the brake shoes.
Eventually the brake shoes dislodged and fell out, prompting another round of swearing. In the end we gave up and left the shoes out, and easily fitted the wheel without them. There are brakes on the sidecar and the front wheel and I was willing to settle for 66% braking capacity just to get going again. It’s not like I go that fast anyway.

About this time, messages from the rally committee started arriving explaining that the camp ground was under water and that nobody would be checked in until they’d set up another site. When I reached the Karara pub I was waved in by other bikers who advised that the road ahead was cut by flood waters. Throughout the day the number of bikers and grey nomads grew and there was no alternative other than to sit it out. The pub had field day selling chicken burgers and beers to the stranded travellers.
Rumours began circulating that the road would open at 5pm once the Leslie Dam had released enough water but as the day wore on, I became less enthusiastic about driving into Warwick in the roo-infested twilight hours with reduced braking capability. I decided to make use of the free camp area not far from the pub and set up camp for the night.
The waters had definitely receded by the time I headed for Warwick the following morning. The rally site had similarly resurfaced but was in a very muddy state, particularly on the flats where everyone was supposed to have camped. After check in, I was directed to the high ground by volunteers and quickly found the Canberra Ulysses Banner marking Tony’s tent site. The amount of space on the hill was far less expansive which meant pitching your tent wherever you could find a space. There simply wasn’t enough real estate to allocate the 6x6m camp sites we’d all paid for. But nobody complained, everybody had been mucked around by the floods one way or another and just got on with enjoying the rally.

The local motorbike shop in Warwick is called Top Two motorcycles and they did a roaring trade tendering to the needs of the visiting Ulysses contingent. They very generously found time to fit a new tube to my flat tyre and re-fit the brake pads. I am very happy to give them a plug for their great service and very reasonable prices. Although we all lost a day due to the floods, the rest of the rally went off really well. There were a few organisational glitches but the Warwick branch and the army of volunteers quickly re-adjusted as required and provided the full range of rally experiences. The Ulysses presence was also warmly welcomed by local townsfolk and businesses. Suzy arrived on site on Thursday and took the opportunity to do some sidecar joy riding and check out a few of the local attractions. She then became my official co-pilot for the grand parade through Warwick on Saturday morning.

All too quickly, the rally concluded and it was time to pack up. The three-man gang who had road up together would again form a loose clot of bikes for the two-day trip home. Suzy set off separately for the coast and tracked via Maitland to see her parents. At Tim’s request, us three riders would make for Quirindi on the first day, stay overnight, then head for home via Coolah, Dunedoo, Wellington and Molong. As it turned out, the number of bikes that got home – and the route they took to get there – would deviate substantially from the initial plan . . . . .
It took me until mid-morning Sunday to pack up but was on the road an hour before Tim and Adrian. We crossed paths a few times on the trip south but their faster machines meant they were in Quirindi an hour ahead of me. On the way, I just HAD to stop for a photo at Uralla. It’s where my Ural and I first became a pair 11 years ago. A bit further on, we negotiated the Moonbi Ranges which is also photo-stop-worthy. We stayed at Henry’s hotel in Quirindi which was a former aged care facility. The chapel bears a plaque honouring one of Tim’s female ancestors (great grandmother, I think). We solemnly acknowledged Tim’s family connection then enjoyed a very pleasant meal in the pub. Monday 11th April. Our last day on the road. One big seven hour ride, or thereabouts, between us and home. We followed the usual pattern of staggered departure times with me leaving at dawn to get ahead of the faster folks. It was a beautiful morning as I headed west to link up with the Black Stump Way and follow it in to Coolah. The Ural was humming along nicely until it suddenly wasn’t: suddenly the engine note changed to something resembling engine braking on a truck. The bike started back-firing, lost power and speed, and I was still 40km from Coolah in the middle of nowhere.
I could only make about 20-30kph but I was still moving. I didn’t really want to stop the engine to see what was going on in case it didn’t start again, and end up stranded in the bush. So, slowly and laboriously, I crept along the side of the road and finally got into Coolah 90 minutes later. I pulled up beside the park and began my diagnoses. The left hand carburettor had been blown of the inlet manifold but reconnecting it didn’t help. The engine still backfired and wouldn’t rev. Crook fuel? Unlikely, when I removed the plug lead from the left hand cylinder, the right one idled normally. So at least, we now knew where the problem was. I really wanted to see if the exhaust valve was working properly but had no tools to get at it. Tim and Adrian had both caught up by this time and hung around while I tried to get things sorted.
The two local mechanic workshops “don’t do bikes” and were booked out anyway. My roadside assist service unhelpfully advised that they could pick up my bike and deliver it to Dunedoo – which has less auto mechanics than Coolah. The problem was beyond my capacity to fix without more tools and I definitely wasn’t going to continue on to Canberra at 20kph! My previously reliable Russian ride was clearly having its own Ukraine moment and would advance no further.

If you’re ever in Coolah, drop in to the Black Stump Inn and have a chat to the old fella who runs the pub. His name is Greg and he has a passion for old bikes, particularly BSAs and Nortons. He generously allowed me to park the Ural behind the pub in a sheltered little alcove beside the cool room. He promised to keep an eye on it until I could come back and retrieve it. I sent Tim and Adrian on their way (thanks for hanging around guys), called Suzy in Maitland and sheepishly advised that she’d have to come and pick me up.
And that is where my grand motorcycle road trip ended: having to be rescued by my wife and arriving home without my bike. It took Suzy three hours to come west from Maitland and it was a six hour trip home but somehow we managed to get back to Canberra just a half-hour behind Tim and Adrian. I can only assume they wanted to stretch out the last day’s ride and took in Mendooran, Yeoval and Orange on their way back to Cowra. I’m not sure it was all totally on purpose.
Two weekends later I hitched up a car trailer and travelled back to Coolah to pick up the bike. I stayed at the Black Stump overnight in a very plain $50 room and finally got my bike home safely the next day.

Canberra-Coonabarabran – Day 1

Glen kicked off about 530 in the morning on a Ural which can only do 85 to 90 km per hour. I didn’t bother getting away for another 2 1/2 hours and went via Boorowa where we came across six police on bikes, 4 of them in training. On to Wellington for a nice pie for lunch and then Coonabarabran arriving mid afternoon. Went for a Chinese dinner in Glen’s Ural and waited up forAdrian who arrived about 2230 after trying shorter road option which turned out to be 50km dirt roads, some covered with water.

Ulysses AGM in Launceston


Headed off with Ray & Rhonda and Rod & Maxine for the ride to the 2016 Ulysses AGM in Launceston Tasmania. We travelled via Cooma and onto Lakes Entrance on day 1 and then St Kilda for day 2.

Tim, Rod, Ray, Maxine & Rhonda queued at the ferry.

Tim, Rod, Ray, Maxine & Rhonda queued at the ferry.

On Sunday 20th we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania bound for Devonport and eventually arrived at the motel by 8pm. We had 30 minutes to get to the restaurant before the kitchen closed to have the main meal and that was it – not even any coffee but the scallops were delightful.

The town has not changed. As we came off the Spirit and over the bridge towards town, we recognised exactly where we were, bike shop and theatre and restaurants all in the same place – it’s nice to be back.


Last day in Hong Kong

Ian was having a business session with William so I headed out to Hollywood Road (named long before Hollywood in the US was even thought of) when there are numerous antique markets, all rather interesting but cannot imagine that I would want any of it sitting on a shelf at home. Notice there was a Sun Year Sen museum soon went for a look see. Rather interesting in that very little of the display was about him, it was more relevant to the guy who owned the house “Kom Tong Hall”, A Ho Kom Tong owned this first house that blended Chinese and Western architectural styles and was cheaper for the government to use the house as the museum as it required so little because it had been looked after so well. Then information displayed was regarding building of the military academy of the Chinese nationalist party so as the establish a regular army. The training was both military and political and they help build a base camp for the revolution in the province.

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Then continued to the Museum of Medical Sciences which covered the Black Pleasure of 1894 and also the man who encouraged the washing of hands in hospitals. He realized that patients attended by doctors following an autopsy had a higher mortality rate than patients being attended by midwives.  Midwives were not involved with autopsies and had an incredibly lower mortality rate.

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Headed back to the hotel so we can be ready for eviction at 16:00.



Friday 3rd October in Hong Kong

Was an individual again today and did the Big B Bus tour over on mainland Kowloon. Caught the ferry from peer 7


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and as I got off the ferry it started to rain. While getting instruction on where to catch the  Big B Bus, ponchos were provided so we would not get wet on the sudden downpours. As soon as I put it on, the rain stopped, as it should. Started witha complete tour around Kowloon (as my ticket expired at 12md).


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Finally got off at the Sky100 which is the highest tower  in Hong Kong. The lift went from bottom to top in 60 seconds and my ears popped. As there was a Peak Rail ticket spare from yesterday, I got the free ride so up I went.

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The single fare for each of the  Sky100 & the Peak funicular ride would have been $160HK –  whereas the Big B Bus ticket cost just $400HK for everything (rather economical).

Excellent 360° views (and could see our iBis hotel on Hong Kong island)  but a pity there was some smog around. Rode the lift back down and played on the underground to the Mong Kok markets via Central then wandered around enjoying the atmosphere and hassling. On the way to and from the markets, the train traveled through Admiralty station so if that is now open, the problem in the papers about demonstrators and teargas has dissipated. Took a tram ride home after getting off the train.

Whilst I was waiting to have dinner there were numerous flashes of lightning in the sky whilst I was talking pictures across the bay and this is the photo I got (much much brighter than any of the others).

Checked with reception for a local Chinese restaurant and off I went – not sure what I ordered but the head waiter seemed to realize and looked after me because I ate well and he was the only one with any splattering of English in the place. I realized during dinner that Ian had had a bad experience with a Chinese on a 2nd floor and wondered if this was where it was. Not sure but i certainly did OK.


Arrived Hong Kong – 1st October

Lightning included   Taken whilst lightning flashed

2014-10-01 20.20.12  Taken with no lightning flash (2 seconds later)

Went out to the airport on the train as it was a public holiday for their ‘National Day’ and this year it is 65 years, and we figured that with the hour and a half it took to get to the hotel, we may not get on the plane. We imagined all the people on the underground but were quite pleased with how quiet out was at 9:30. Within the 75 minutes we were at the airport and all finished in half an hour after that, ready for the plane.

It started to rain as we got on the plane so did not get wet but it poured after we were taxiing out to the runway. We had to wait a while and did not get in to Hong Kong until 5. Ian was offered an upgrade to a harbour view in the hotel for very little extra and instead of the 4th floor with views of buildings we are now on the 24th floor with a views of the harbour like this one.

When we got to the room duty manager rang us and said that that included breakfast also (the extra cost was in fact the cost of breakfast). So, after the last 2 last hotels in Russia, these last 2, especially this one has been excellent. When I was here last time I was in a hotel about 3 quarters across the photo.

This city is delightful to walk around at night, everyone well behaved, no drunks, no punch ups and many girls walking alone – seems similar to Singapore.  Look forward to seeing the town via the Big B red bus tomorrow.


Monday 29th September – on the great wall

What a brilliant day it has been today. Up at 6am and down stairs for breakfast and then we were collected by Linda at 7:10 but still kept looking for Chas who was at our hotel and heading back to Unn Zud after some time in Tashkent. He eventually turned up and so we rolled on to the next hotel for a French couple working in Abu Dhabi and then on for a Spanish family of four.

Small commuter bus but capable of 11 so we all had plenty of room. Made good friends with Chas during the day and hearing of his experiences in Tashkent which continued over dinner when we got back to the hotel.

Started at the jade shop and were given a good talk and the great opportunity to buy (i guess they all have to have their pitch and commissions) and then on to the tombs/mausoleum of Emporer Shenzong of Great Ming.  We had another good explanation and tour – interesting learning that the Emporer was buried normally in one room and then his wife or wives in adjoining rooms (they usually only had one wife unless she pre-deceased him) but he still was allowed and expected to have concubines who were buried elsewhere in a concubine grave.

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Left the Ming tombs and headed off to the Great Wall where we had a traditional Chinese meal on the way to give us strength before heading up for the long walk. We took the chairlift up to the top because it was easier and time restrained but Ian & Chas went up on the cable car – the only restriction was that they had to return the same way whereas we could choose between the chairlift or the toboggan to drop down the book. Jenene and Jon will know where I was, I went from tower 7 and climbed to tower 1 and beyond and then returned to tower 8 & started towards tower 9 before I realized it was time to get on the toboggan.

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Even ladies from Yorkshire can do it

Even ladies from Yorkshire can do it

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It was a great experience and i was surprised how hard it was to get up some of those steps. When I got back to the transfer station it was on the toboggan and off down the hill. ll was good fast running until about 90% of the way down and I could see there was a group of 3 in front who were practically stopped. The game has come to an end but what a wizzer of a run up to then.

Back into town and we were eventually dropped at the hotel by “Not English”, the bus driver who was also called Lee. It has been an absolutely brilliant day and certainly worth doing if you are in the area.

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Us since Saturday 27th September

Returned to the hotel and got organized for the flight tonight, had another walk mid afternoon and returned after a light dinner, booked out and headed to the airport.

We noticed that all toilets in Beijing have gents on the left and ladies on the right because apparently they always are!!

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Met up with a late 20s Chinese breast cancer surgeon and we enjoyed each others company until we took off. He was trying to join us in our car to the hotel but realized it was the wrong Novatel and found his own way back to his home. He was a nice lad who had just enjoyed 2 weeks in Russia.

Headed to the “Gate of Ritual and Celebration” in Tianemen Square which is rarely open to foreigners but as Wednesday is their national day, 1 October, we had today only to have a look at it and so in we went.

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There are some photos of people we did not know but certainly provided wonderful views of the city. We met a Swede, Samuel and asked him if he came from the Manchester area but no, he was born in Sweden and his Dad was from Nottingham and had always spoken English with the kids. We walked a little more round the square afterwards and he left to go to the museum.

Sorted tomorrow’s details for the great wall, tombs, Olympic web & lunch. It will be a bus tour rather than taxi but seems to be well worked out.

Ian decided on a rest so I went off to the Temple of Heaven where I spent nearly 3 hours wandering in the solitude with few interruptions – it was brilliant.

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Walked back at 6 pm and woke Ian add I opened the door. He was obviously really tired and I feel invigorated. Decided to have a light meal downstairs rather than try and find something outside as we need to get to bed also at a reasonable time, lucky breakfast starts at 6am.

The problem with smog in this city has be mentioned as a real problem, there is practically none, we just picked the right days and this is weekend and many things will be closed here tomorrow which might hold the smog off for a few days. With the celebrations on the 1st, lead up work has been done in the hope that the smog will have lifted and they have also had a few days of rain which makes a big difference.

Leaving Russia

Escape from Russia
Collectively the Russian people were glad to see our dynamic duo depart. Many people had gathered at Vladivostok airport to witness the occasion. It did not occur to them that the people may have been there for their own travel arrangements.
Tim and Ian got the Aeroexpress from Vladivostok Vokzal to the airport. The trip cost 200 rubles each, much cheaper than a taxi, and safer. The trip took 48 minutes, which was a lot faster than the previous taxi ride. It was interesting the carriage had few occupants.
The Aeroexpress appears to be a similar model train to those in Moscow. It is functional and has a moderate amount of comfort.
The last train from Vladivostok runs at 8:04 PM, so we had a while to wait at Vladivostok airport. The new facilities at the airport made the waiting comfortable. (Ian last passed through Vladivostok in August 2012, when the facilities were very Soviet)
By chance we were at the front of the queue to check in, so we got the pick of seating. We met our new best friend, Eason Qu, a medical student. He was happy to find someone speaking English, after spending 20 days in Russia. Tim resisted telling him about Boris.
As it was Saturday (on 27 Sep) there had been many weddings. Tim sat next a couple going on their honeymoon, we suppose. The bride was still wearing her veil. And further forward on the plane were another couple, where the bride had flowers in her hair.
Thankfully the flight was relatively short (2:30 hours), the processing through immigration was swift, the wait for luggage was moderate, but then the drive into Beijing was lengthy. Roadworks on the Airport Expressway made it a parking lot.
Upon arrival at the Novotel, just down the street from Beijing (main) Railway Station, we were to witness the desk clerk having a heated argument with another customer, while we were being checked in. Oh, for goodness sake! We just want to get to bed. And we did, eventually.

Departing Vladivostok

Interesting observations as we leave Vladivostok and Russia.

Before we arrived we were aware of the news of an unsafe Russia, but;

  • seen no car accidents at all,
  • seen no punch ups
  • not felt intimidated as we walked through groups of young people or older people for that matter,
  • felt safer here than on the streets of Sydney.


  • people tried to be helpful, although some could not care less,
  • interested in where we came from & knew it was far away,
  • surprised we would want to go on the Trans Siberian Railway,
  • more surprised we would come to Russia for a holiday as they see Thailand or Vietnam as holiday destinations,
  • were recognized as being different,
  • even a lady on the station suggested we move further up the platform as those carriages would go to the airport.


 Wonderful experience it has been despite Boris being here


From the 27th in Vladivostok to Beijing on the 28th

We returned to the hotel and got organized for the flight tonight and had another walk mid afternoon and returned after a light dinner, booked out and headed to the airport. Met up with a late 20s Chinese breast cancer surgeon and we enjoyed each others company until we took off. He was trying to join us in our car to the hotel but realized it was the wrong Novatel and found his own way back to his home. He was a nice lad who had just enjoyed 2 weeks in Russia.

Up at 9 and had breakfast and thought we would feel awful but today has been excellent. We headed off and found the “Gate of Ritual and Celebration” in Tienanmen Square which is rarely open to foreigners but as Wednesday is their national day, 1 October, we had today only to have a look at it and in we went. There are some photos of people we did not know but certainly wonderful views of the city.

I then headed off to the Temple of Heaven where I spent nearly 3 hours wandering in the solitude and few interruptions – it was brilliant. Ian decided to take it easy for the afternoon and lay down for a rest.

Walked back at 6 pm and woke Ian as I opened the door. Decided to have a light meal downstairs rather than try and find something outside as we need to get to bed also at a reasonable time, lucky breakfast starts at 6am.

People mention the smog here in Beijing/Peking, today there is practically none, we just picked the right days and this is weekend and many things will be closed here tomorrow which might hold the smog off for a few days. With the celebrations on the 1st, lead up work has been done in the hope that the smog will have lifted for the day and they have also had a few days of rain which makes a big difference.


A day from the journal of Mister Vasily Bond

Boris and Timofei have discovered the Far-East of Russia. However, their incompetence continues to amaze the combined intelligence agencies. They were tasked to observe and report on maritime activities. In the first instance their photo of the Pacific Ocean Flota was obscured by an inflatable matryoshka.


Next they found a beached or marooned mini-sub.


It wasn’t going anywhere. Then they discovered the last of the S-class submarines. It is on display in Zolotoy Rog, and well and truly grounded.


The couldn’t even take photos of a naval school, just the anchors holding it firmly to the ground.


Neptune, help us!

By the way, the S-class were quite successful during the Great Patriotic War, sinking 82,770 gross register tons of merchant shipping and seven warships, which accounts for about one-third of all tonnage sunk by Soviet submarines.

Khabarovsk etc

In the shadow of Graf Nikolai Murav’yov-Amurckiy
In Khabarovsk, the main street is called Ulitsa Muravyova-Amurskogo. It changes name to Karla Marxa at Lenin Square, and of course, there is a Lenin Street.There is a statue of Muravyov-Amurskiy in the park adjacent to the regional museum (Muzei im N.I. Grodekova). [It was first erected in 1891, removed and replaced by Lenin in 1929, and restored to its position in 1989] Boris and Timofei first noticed this fellow, when they fleetingly touched 5000 ruble note. They of course went behind his back and went into the museum.And upon leaving the museum, they found the United Russia headquarters.


Khabarovsk – contrasts
When Boris and Timofei arrived from Irkutsk, it was the middle of the night, but with 6:00 AM on the clock. The taxi driver had relieved 2000 rubles from them for 600 ruble trip. Mafia taxis! They were welcomed at Sapporo Hotel by a very sleepy receptionist (she had been working approx 24 hours straight). As they had not slept on the plane, they caught a little sleep, until midday. Upon looking at the view from the window, they saw possibly a less desirable side of Russia.a20140923_134127

However, they found a gem in the Tsum (ЦУМ) store in the main street.  Here there are richly decorated windows on the staircase.

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Khabarovsk in the Far East

23 Sep 2014

When we arrived at the Sapporo Hotel in Khabarovsk at 7am, a comment was made that we had arrived very early so we apologized and commented that that was when the plane landed. We were then told that our room happened to be free so we could move in straight away, just brilliant as out eyes were hanging on the floor. We crashed until about 1 pm and then decided to walk the town and headed off up the main street. Well laid out streets, clean and tidy but again the very uneven footpaths which would be hell for less agile older people and also during winter. Arrived at Lenin Square and here are the fountains

Not Lenin afterall

Not Lenin afterall

2014-09-23 12.36.37 and Ian taking the stance, as he does. XX

From here we headed downhill, and along the Amur Boulevard where the local dressed up ladies promenade along displaying themselves in their finery, and is only heading towards the local markets. The trams are incredibly varied- it seems that if they are still working then they are on the road. They don’t seem to be cleaned at all on the outside but good fun picking an older one to take us back up the hill. XX

We got off the tram at Ussuri Boulevard which serves the same purpose as Amur but much quieter today. We headed towards the Amur River and passed by the Peace Park along the way. Made of metal and showing all the major continents

North Korea Peace Monument erected 2008

North Korea Peace Monument erected 2008

was rusting away at the base and falling apart after just being created in 2008 – followed the plaque to find that it was presented by North Korea Kim Jong-Il was born here (his Russian name was Yuri Irsenovich Kim and his father was leading a battalion of Chinese exiles), a bit concerning! Came upon Komsomolskaya Square where we saw Odora Concert Hall and the church.

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Continuing back up towards the hotel along the Amur River we came across building a memorial to the Patriotic War, a ship with the name of the fallen behind it. As we took the picture a worker waved at us, posed again and has a short conversation and we all had a good laugh. XX

Ian had a desire for pizza for dinner and we ended up at V-Drova where they were dressed as Italians and kept calling out on loud voices, Mama Mia, Buono Sera and Uno Momento, all a lot of fun but meaning nothing – a most entertaining evening. XX

Baikal ozero – “nature lake”

I believe we had a rare opportunity to visit Lake Baikal.
It should be ranked as a Wonder.
Well, with 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water, with its natural beauty, with difficult to access, and with few people other than Russians and Koreans, it is a wonder.
It is the deepest lake in the world: 1600 metres. It is in an ancient rift valley. It is probably 25 million years old.
We got there after an adventurous bus ride from Irkutsk.
The driver has two speeds: and it was go more often than stop. Overtaking was more a matter of luck than calculation.
Eventually we arrived at the village of Listvyanka at the “mouth” of the Angara River. (The Angara actually drains the lake, flowing into the Yenesei and the Arctic Ocean.)
 2014-09-22 12.41.18
It is a one-street town, well with a few side streets. The main road is Gorky Street, and there is no Lenin Street. This must be a mistake. How will the Soviet Union survive?
We did the obligatory walk to the market, the purchase of souvenirs, the boat ride on the lake,
and then the Baikal Museum.
I must acknowledge the museum. It was well set out with a range of displays, including an aquarium housing Baikal seals. These are fascinating balls of blubber.
 2014-09-22 15.54.35
On the way back to the centre of Listvyanka, we hired a taxi (150 rubles),
 c20140922_1235192014-09-22 17.07.28
and the driver saw himself as a tourism ambassador, and included in his commentary identification of the mafia homes.
The ride back to Irkutsk on the bus was more extreme than the previous. It was an 18-seater bus, but at one time may have held 25 or more.
While the driver tempered his speed to match the load, his attention was not always on the road. We escaped this thrill ride at a shopping centre in the centre of Irkutsk (to make use of the free toilets) and made our way back to the hotel.
A day to remember in many ways!

Alex aye-aye-aye

Little is known about Boris and his allegedly nefarious activities.
When he is in residence in Brisbane, it is known by a few that he has a weekly sojourn with acquaintances at a competitive event.  It is trivial.  One of his associates is a fellow who resembles Tsar Alexander III.  On occasion in Russia, Boris is known to take photos of Alexander III, to remind his colleague of the likeness.


In Irkutsk there are such opportunities.  Boris found a photo of Alex aye-aye-aye (as Timofei calls him) in the city museum (note to travelers: don’t bother, not worth 120 rubles entry).  On the second occasion, it was a much grander opportunity.  There is a 5 metre statue to the fellow at the end of Karla Marxa street.  Rather ironic.


The statue was erected to commemorate the original statue erected to commemorate the arrival of the railway, and the new statue was paid for by the railway company.Boris took another photo for Allan!

The Last Train Ride – to Irkutsk

20 Sep 2014

Heading off on our last train ride from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal – another 18 hours and we should arrive at our destination….

We watched the view from the window change as we headed east,

The Last Train

The Last Train

the forests giving way to less trees & large fields growing livestock feed & the harvested chaff dumped in small haystacks.b20140920_125555-2

2014-09-20 13.58.34

2014-09-20 16.43.25

Check the engine at the front. We are in the last wagon.

Check the engine at the front. We are in the last wagon.

Headed off to dinner and were joined by some people from the carriage in front. Interestingly, there were Mongolians (who cooked their own meals in the carriage) plus English, Suisse/Deutsch and French/Deutsch.


We were in the Russian carriage (according to them) and they were not allowed through to our carriage but went and used our toilet to see what they were like whilst they had the chance at dinner. They obviously had a newer carriage with vacuum toilets but then we were mixing with Russians. We have an older carriage, the beds are bigger and we are probably less open to theft with not being a target nationality. Russians seem to be rather trusting and respect other people.

21 Sep 2014

For the 1st time we had to strip our bed in the morning & the conductresses came and collected the sheets and towel some 10 minutes later. I feel we had a good deal because Ian ordered the train in Russian directly from the Russian railway site.

Pea souper this morning as we arrived into Irkutsk probably brought about by the proximity of Lake Baikal, will see what the day brings…

Although the temperature was 0 at the station whilst waiting for the cab by early afternoon it had reached 22. The shops are open between 10 and 8 pm when it starts to get  theand then everyone goes to bed late because they then don’t start work again until late.

Back to the hotel where we grabbed a little nanna nap – the sleep on the train is practically non-existent, one does drop off bit still stays conscious of the rocking of the train.

Headed out for a walk along the “green walk” which took us through the statues of Irkutsk, loe and behold, Vladimir Ilyich is still on site to great is yet again!!!!.


Irkutsk on Sunday – Eastern Siberia

Tourism can do without the taxi mafia waiting at railway stations, ready to relieve passengers of their money. They are a nuisance, an irritation and a scourge. While our travelers have learned to avoid them, they are persistent pests. It is getting to the point where rudeness could be the only weapon in deterring them. Our travelers rang the Imperia hotel, and a real taxi eventually arrived. This was just in time as the temperature hovered around zero.  After refreshments at the hotel, our intrepid duo set out to acquaint themselves with Irkutsk. They first saw a restaurant was firmly anchored to the pavement.  It would be realised that the city is different in character from any other in Russia.  The buildings have a different appearance. The back-streets resemble suburban Melbourne, and perhaps it is just the high fences.  Boris and Timofei arrived at the [dis-]Information Centre. “How do we get to Lake Baikal?” – “Go to the Autovokzal and catch a bus with the destination, Listvyanka, and it leaves every 30 minutes (wrong)”.  Why not explore more of Irkutsk?  The marketplace was crowded with stalls. There were all manner of wares on offer, but none of interest.  Setting off to see Alexander III brought them firstly to Vladimir Ilyich.

He had to do it!!!!

He had to do it!!!!

Boris had to mimic the pose.  Finally at the riverside they encountered Alex aye-aye-aye.



He and the pigeons looked well.  At this spot, the Russian populace were holding the All Russia Running Day.

Fellows in tracksuits were running everywhere.


After Kirov square, they again saw the restaurant was well anchored and that the anchor had well served its purpose.

The restaurant is still there - the anchor has done its job.

The restaurant is still there – the anchor has done its job.

That evening they had a repast of soup, rye bread and beer.

The Restaurant Wagon on the Transmongolian

Somewhere between Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Udinsk
Timofei and Boris had retired to the restaurant wagon on the Transmongolian (Moscow to Ulaanbaator, but boarded in Krasnoyarsk, and were to detrain at Irkutsk).



The purpose of their venture was food and beer (Baltica No 7).  It all started when some loud poms arrived.  They occupied a table and began to complain about the weather.  Soon Timofei introduced himself and had every piece of information that could be extracted without resorting to tools of the inquisition.  It turns out they were travelling from Moscow to Beijing.  And they were doing the trip in one journey.


Sounds as exciting and boring as a Butlin holiday camp. Our heroes felt this group had missed Russia in the process.  They were soon joined by the Swiss Germans who were traveling from Zurich to Bangkok by train – what an objective! They were stopping off along the way.  The Swiss French remained in their compartment.  After much conversation, the groups called it a night and allowed the officientka clean up the restaurant wagon.

The cockatoo said nothing

An encounter at the Zoopark
It is interesting how in the Russian language the word, zoopark, is pronounced.   They voice both o vowels individually with emphasis on the first. So it is pronounced “z-oh-ah-park”.   When Boris met the taxist outside the hotel, he firstly mistakenly used the Engrish pronunciation, then realised his mistake.   Finally the taxist took the dynamic duo to the Zoopark.  They had received informations that a cockatoo would tell them something.  After Timofei upset the old woman in the Kassa, by giving her 1000 ruble note – this is a country without change for moderate size notes – so it seems – they entered the park.  They made their way to many exhibits.  The European bison were extremely dangerous, 2014-09-18 11.35.25  and the keeper was more dangerous and less impressed when Timofei approached too close to the enclosure.  It seems that his standard answer of “ya ne govoroo par russki” is not being understood nor well received.  English is not his strong language either.  When they saw one of Santa’s reindeer, they were circumspect. a20140918_114855 They did not mention they had consumed one of his cousins. (Alas Kevin Radd was no more – only jerky).  The oryx kept pointing their behinds towards the observers. a20140918_115952 Maybe they had good sense.  Timofei and Boris were grateful after they saw the stork had been imprisoned a20140918_130304 for delivering so many babies – doubt whether this fairy-tale translates to Russian folk-lore.  Finally they met the cockatoo.a20140918_130959  It was a bloody bird! How could it tell them a coded message.

This spy business is fraught with many mis-informations.

Anthropology will never be the same again

Boris and Timofei will pretend to be anything. 20140917_113123

Now they are studying the eskimos. 20140917_113744

Not being politically correct they wouldn’t know a Ket from a Yakut, let alone an Entsa. 20140917_11355920140917_113437

They studied the exhibits in the Krasnoyarsk Krai Regional Museum. 20140917_11382620140917_113158

Perhaps they got an education.20140917_113925

20140917_114752  The world awaits this positive outcome.


The spy story begins

The great spy novel: The Least Wanted Men.



Boris:   Timofei, I know we are close to FSB Headquarters, but do you think they have installed a camera here or is it a funny looking rivet in a cement wall. Perhaps we should be careful about what we say.
Timofei:   Da. Ze walls have ears and eyes here in the James Shark Pub. We will be very careful. We will not give away any secrets, especially the recipe to womabt stew.Think of the damage the FSB could do with that informations, comrade.
Andrei/Andrew:   Hello. My name is Andrei, err, Andrew. I am your contact, err, waiter. Would you like some service? Perhaps some food? We have reindeer jerky (don’t tell Santa Claus – it is one her slow reindeers; her name was Kevin Radd) and we have nuts. {Stage whisper: the nuts will not be alone} I recommend the good James Shark Beer. It is our local beer. No. Not brewed in this pub. It is brewed in a zavod in this city. Perhaps you would like some more food. No. That is not a code word. Perhaps you would like some Shashlik. We have very good selection. I agree. Pork and chicken will be very good.

Arriving in Krasnoyarsk


Boris caught with an old friend today.

2014-09-16 09.49.43

Some locals

Krasnoyarsk Bokzal

Krasnoyarsk Bokzal

Our home for last 33 hours

Our home for last 33 hours

He had arrived in Krasnoyarsk and had to introduce Timofei to his acquaintances.

This fellow resides on the corner of Lomonsova and Dekabristov and has been there for some time.2014SepTim-2

Boris claimed that he was a good judge of vodka. Timofei observed that his dog was relieving himself on the fellow’s leg.
The dog is a good judge of locations. 20140916_195126


Yekaterinburg and surrounds

date: 14 Sep 2014
Boris meets his equal.
When our heroes finished their night symphony on a low note, they peered out the hotel window and saw rain. After breakfast they made their way along Malisheva to 8th March Street. There they established their base at the Traveler Coffee cafe.
There they asked how they could get to Europe-Asia monument. A helpful and attentive waitress called an unknown party, possibly family or friend or mafia. Soon a driver arrived and he introduced himself as Sergei. Now here was a fellow to challenge Boris, in many ways.
Timofei described him as a pleasant fellow.
Sergei drove the duo to the line and monument marking the boundary between Europe and Asia in the Ural Mountains. The place was perhaps 20 km west of Yekaterinburg on the Siberian Highway towards Perm. The road was wet. The traffic was constant, and there were the ever present roadworks. a20140914_120732
At the site there were numerous ribbons tied around trees, fences, any pole or bar, to mark weddings.
Asia & Europe

Asia & Europe

Each now stood in front of the monument, with legs spread across the line. Stories were told, reminiscing about the meridian at Greenwich.
(There is no coincidence that there is a shopping centre in Yekaterinburg called Grinvich)
At the conclusion of the activity, Sergei suggested all go to the site of the murder and burial of the last royal family (Nicholas and Alexandra and children). He knew it was near the village of Sredniuralsk (middle of the Urals), but also he had been to the Boris School of Navigation. He got lost!
a20140914_1318332014-09-14 13.23.52
To his credit he did stop several times to ask several old women where to go.
It seems he has the charm of Boris as well.
Eventually Sergei arrives at the destination. Timofei and Boris rushed to the toilets, only to find smelly and unsightly Asian squat units.
de Loo

de Loo

Thankfully they were only there to pee.
All entered the compound and found many churches commemorating all family members. Boris unwisely asked if a small building was a memorial to the family pet.
Timofei noticed that Sergei was very proud to show them around the site.
They entered a church clambering past and pushing aside old ladies on a religious pilgrimage. If a miracle were to occur they would be there first. It was a miracle that no one fell because of the darkness encountered as people entered the church.
Inside was an array of icons. Also Timofei was taken with a portrait of the royal family. It is a basic church but holds a special place in the hearts of the believers.
Upon return to the city, Boris and Timofei paid Sergei 1000 rubles for his services and entertainment. They arranged for him to meet them at the hotel in the evening, and to transport them to the vokzal.
The duo spent their remaining time in Yekaterinburg exploring the city centre. The were numerous monuments and sculptures, which they had to mimic. a20140914_160410
There was a coffee shop in Grinvich, where a delightfully happy waitress, Maria, served their needs.
On the way back to the hotel, Timofei terrorised the wildlife in a large park, especially hunting squirrels (Tom Lehrer?
In the evening Sergei combated the traffic and made good time in getting to Yekaterinburg Passenger Vokzal. There our duo waited in a crowded sitting hall for more than an hour. And upon arrival of the train 056 Moscow to Krasnoyarsk, they made quick time to the platform 2, line 4. Wagon 3 was at the end of the train, and they were greeted by a cheerful conductor, Larisa.
Soon they were settled in their compartment for 33 hour journey.


Yekaterinburg, the Tsar’s Murder and squirrels

We have straddled the European/Asian border a20140914_121223(but with any Vodka, pity) – it was a lot of fun with the cabby who only charged us about $30 for 2-3 hours and we used him because there was a bit of rain and the day did not look good. Only had a few light showers but mostly just a bit of wind.

Went off to where the Tsar Nicholas II was murdered in 1918 – just stunning – a church has been erected for him, thea20140914_131833 Tsarina, each of the 3 daughters and the son who probably would not have reached 20 anyhow because of his acute haemophilia.a20140914_131531

The Tsar’s church burned down a couple of years ago so it is being rebuilt and they are all made of wood.

Got a good shot of a squirrel in the parka20140914_172043 this afternoon whilst we were enjoying a walk around the town and some photos will be loaded when we have Wi-Fi again.


Kungar cave through to Yekaterinburg

Yesterday was a good day in Kungar at the Ice Cave. Michail and Tina were excellent guides. Tina was an individual tourist guide who was employed by Michail because of her English. We were collected from the hotel and it was explained how the day would progress. We were given a tour of Kungar, being shown the river from good vantage points and also the local church where 3 weddings seemed to be taking place simultaneously and although everyone was dressed up, they still appeared to have been civil weddings. We then went into the cave and were guided by Olga who was very short and would never have hit her head. It was brilliant to see but Jenolen caves have many more stalagmites – our caves are certainly a hard act to follow.

After coming out of the cave, we saw the fairy tale part of the forest with all the little forest folk easy to find. And then it was off to lunch, our 1st full Russian meal of the trip and to help us recover from the coldness of the cave (even though the effects had made us 3 years younger), we chucked down a vodka with thanks to Michail who abstained because he was driving.

We then returned to the hotel before 5. Excellent day and glad we did it.


Got out of Perm via a taxi to the rail station and eventually found out where platform 4 was located – signage is not to good here and some people do not seem willing to help even though they are on the information desk.

Pines and birch trees by the lots of, some are just starting to take up the autumn colors – could be interesting in the next week or so. Sun outside is very bright.

We arrived in Yekaterinburg and contacted the hotel to arrange a taxi for us as we now know this is the cheapest method for using Russian taxis. Arrived in the room and then went off for a walk and hopefully find dinner. This has been noted in Boris’ comments on the day.

Perm to Yekat

The cafe at Perm 2 vokzal is basic. If you want tea, water is poured into a glass with a teabag. If you want coffee water is poured into a glass with a mystery beige powder. Timofei is still getting used to Russia. There are many surprises in store. And then they had to rush to platform (Путь) 4 – not an easy task against the oncoming swarm leaving the train.Our heroes left Perm at 11:45. The carriage was a little dated, however, it was clean due to the efforts of the conductor. During the journey she mopped it out.They sought out refreshment in the restaurant wagon, but at 1:00 pm they were told that it was zakrit. This had to be good for the diet and waistlines. Boris and Timofei were in a compartment with a talkative Russian fellow. He said, hello and goodbye, and nothing more.
The change in seasons is occurring. Timofei noted the change in leaf colour as they progressed eastward. a20140913_151415 They traveled through birch forests which are turning orange and brown. A lovely sight.
The city of Yekaterinburg is quaint. The streets are well paved, but the footpaths are uneven. The buildings are a mix of new glass and concrete, a few soviet era buildings and some old wooden buildings. a20140913_161911
Timofei and Boris found a cafe (more a canteen), named Fork and Spoon (Вилка Ложка), serving a very cheap meal (475 rubles for both). a20140913_163357 They were proud that they are eating like the natives, standard Russian fare. They progressed to a patisserie for dessert and coffee. a20140913_191145 And on the way back to the hotel Timofei had to buy fruit from a kiosk (Boris did not feel that health conscious).
All is well as our heroes head east.

Chinese adventurers

Chinese adventurers going from Guangzhou to Paris.
As we stepped out of the hotel, we headed down a narrow street towards a green glass building. a20140913_155758 At that point we saw five new Chinese cars with distinctive registration plates. a20140913_160333 (Later we determined they were GAC Triumpchi GS5 five-door sport utility vehicles).  They looked good.
By the time Ian made it to the vehicles, Tim had well engaged them in conversation. They were a little surprised to find people speaking English in the depths of Russia. Ian greeted them with Ni Hao, and the smiles grew bigger. They helped him with his pronunciation of Wo shi oo-da-li-ra-yen. In a short time it was discovered they were traveling from Guangzhou to Paris. They were not totally aware of the route they had taken – each car had three drivers, and we guessed they had additional navigators. a20140913_160356 Before we could find out more, a minder got the drivers back to their tasks.  They certainly have set out on an adventure.

Kungur adventure

Krasnov Travel – a good tour
We were met at our hotel in Perm by Mikhail (but introduced himself as Michael) and Valentina (who introduced herself as Tina). We were driven in a comfortable SUV (Mitsubishi Pajero) from Perm to the town of Kungur.

View of Kungar river

View of Kungar river

The sights of the town were covered: several churches and magnificent views of the Silva (Сылва) River. 20140912_095534 Tina gave a running commentary in perfect English as we went. She brought the town alive with historical stories and pointed out the significance of landmarks. The trip included a tour of the Kungur Ice Cave. This is an interesting geological formation. The tour of the cave was led by Olga, who pointed out in detail every grotto and rock and ice formation. The tour of the cave lasted 2 hours. We were well dressed in warm clothing for the tour, which is essential. The temperatures vary between -3C to +5C (26F to 41F).

Entrance to Kungar Cave

Entrance to Kungar Cave


20140912_104602 20140912_104313 20140912_110038

20140912_115656 The tour ended with a traditional Russian meal in the Stalagmit Hotel cafe adjacent to the cave (consisting of Russian salad, solyanka soup, cotlets with vegetables, and tarts).

Ian & Michael

Ian & Michael

Michael also supplies an invigorating ryumka of vodka to warm the participants after the cave. Michael and Tina provided a relaxed atmosphere where everyone felt welcome and looked after.

Arriving in Perm

One does not sleep too well on rocking trains so we were awake at 6. Consumed the supplied breakfast of strawberry jam cake, which really wasn’t to bad for a cake, quite moist and followed that with what looked like an apple jam which maybe we should have put on our bread roll last night. It was an apple puree, incredibly sweat. Ian is now cleaning his shoes with the shoe cleaner that was also supplied. It has been a most interesting trip. Lots of forest beside the track but have just noticed some oil well caps not far away.

We arrived in Perm and found Alla as we walked to the bus. She used her unique method to get us in a taxi to the hotel, delightful.

We had a shower and freshened up, grabbed an hours sleep and asked Ksenia at reception to sort us a walking tour without the standard Lenin type photos as we had so many. She listed our bus numbers, 1941-45 memorial, the apple which was half eaten, Popov who invented radio, Perm bear

Perm Bear

Perm Bear

, big ears

Big Ears

Big Ears

photography 20140911_163651

, movie statues

Movie statues & Ian

Movie statues & Ian

– all totally different to the other cities we had visited. The only glitch was when catching the 13 in what seemed the correct direction of home and then it turned left, not right. Easy fix, change buses and home we went.

Moscow to Perm

Looks like this one is a very old train, no

The old train to Perm

The old train to Perm

power to cabins, only a point at each end of the carriage and 2 part way along. Means one needs to stand guarding electronic device whilst it charges. Good view out the window whilst this is happening. The girls have just delivered a breakfast package with toothbrush included. About an hour later dinner comprising of bread roll, buckwheat kasha and probably small bits of lamb shavings. That was about 1630, and it is now 7pm and she has come through and vacuumed the hall and our rooms, most interesting.  We just went and tried to fill our mugs with hot water to make a coffee and Elena would not allow us to do it. She filled our mugs and took them back to our room for us. She and Tatiana have been delightful.

By the time we got to Nishky Novgorod there were only a couple of people that got on the train so we have the cabin to ourselves for the night, so of we went to bed at 9pm.

We did meet up with Alla who was a research chemist in Moscow going to Perm to see her family. The only English speaker we encountered on this train. She would short or taxi for us when we arrived in Perm although we did not know it at this time. She saw us walking towards the buses looking obviously lost check where our hotel was and rang them to send us a taxi. We will use this technique again.


Emailing from Moscow railway station

Arrived in Moscow at 630 this morning, beds on the train are like rock but they are 2nd class. We had 2 delightful people in our cabin, 1 Gregory(pronounced Gre. Goary) and the 4 th person in the cabin was Katya.

Ian, Gregory & Katya on the train from Pskov to Moscow

Ian, Gregory & Katya on the train from Pskov to Moscow

She had just got married on 23 August and was back in Pskov after sorting out change of name and getting new identity documents and passport. Her English was impeccable and his did not exist, so just like Ian and I.

The conversation was very easy and Ian had a lot of practice with his Russian. Katya was able to help him with words he did not know. She was taught English by an Irishman so had an interesting accent.

Red Square

Red Square

We went off to red square after

Red Square

Red Square

putting our luggage into storage, had

Red Square

Red Square

some breakfast and then returned to the station (the one next door to where we arrived – there are 3 all together). We tried to find somewhere for a shower but no luck, guess we stay dirty and just have a bird bath on the train to Perm. We leave here at 1400 and get to the destination at
1000 tomorrow midday local time). Will be a long ride so our bums are likely to be sure as it is again 2nd class but hopefully we will meet some nice people.
Temperature a bit warm, my jacket has been off all day – about 12 when we arrived this morning. We expect to quieten down from the crowd as we head further east which will be good after 3 very busy days in Peters.

Night train from Pskov to Moscow

At Pskov Passenger Vokzal, our heroes waited with the sad crowd in the sitting hall for the train. As there was only one train at that time (the next from St Petersburg to Riga was at midnight) it was safe to assume all were going to Moscow. Among the crowd there was a youthful man having an animated and joyful conversation on an old Nokia mobile phone, which he held with difficulty because of the handcuffs he was wearing. Occasionally he made comments to his captors, two large athletic and well-groomed men, sitting opposite. It seemed a contradiction that the only happy man should be a prisoner. Shortly the train hauled by a heavy diesel locomotive pulled into the station. It was still moving when Boris and Timofei made their way to platform 2. Soon carriage 8 appeared, drew level, and went by. They scurried along the platform to where the carriage stopped, and waited. Eventually their tickets and passports were checked and they climbed up a ladder onto the train. Places 005 and 006 were found in kupe 2. They settled in for the journey. Soon they were joined in the compartment by Grigory, an older man, who could have been an artillery officer, and sporting a huge moustache. He occupied place 007. Boris engaged him in conversation in Russian. He was going to Moscow for a holiday. Just before the train departed Pskov, all were joined by agent Katyushka. She was a slim built tall blonde with a pretty face and a charming smile. She introduced herself, and came right out to say she is an agent of the Poultry Production Authority (a euphemism for the Egg Marketing Board), and was responsible for the transportation of chooks (fowls) in the western region. At this point Boris and Timofei started to panic. Had they been found out? Had Katyushka been placed in the compartment to spy on them? After a little polite conversation, our heroes made a tactical move to the restaurant wagon. There they dined on bitter soup and rye bread, and hatched a plan.They would be retired kangaroo farmers on a fact finding mission to the Soviet Union, traveling across Russia and China. (Not too bright! The SU has long gone.). Upon return to the compartment the stories began. They related the story of the huge drought of 2007 where stock were depleted to a new low, and had it not been for weeds growing around a place called The Lodge, their stocks would have been eradicated. Also they told of the menace of drop bears.  At this time Grigory had assessed that this was all a load of compost and to the surprise of Boris and Timofei he contributed tales of his own. Was he trying to prove there could be bigger liars in Russia than in Australia?After a discussion of current news events between all, it was agreed that the works of fiction could be ascribed to both sides. While Grigory had a tactical victory, Katyushka was pleased to be invested with the Order of the Koala (and they gave one to Grigory too). After dropping off to sleep, with dreams of kangaroos chasing sheep, all too soon the conductor was banging on the door to advise of impending arrival at Moscow Leningradsky Vokzal. With cups of tea, this event closed. And all said farewell at the station.

Pskov 8-9 Sep & more

The bus from St Petersburg

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

arrived in Pskov by simply becoming part of the traffic on the main street, where the flow was not very heavy but it was Constant. Before our heroes realised the situation the bus had gone well past where they should have alighted. The driver agreed to drop them at a place where it was convenient to find a taxi. They crossed the main road to a parking area where two taxis were waiting.  The driver of the first grabbed their bags and shoved them in the front seat. He indicated that both should get in the back seat from the right side. Boris slid across, but had to climb over a large 12 volt battery to get seated. The driver went about trying to start the vehicle. Boris had illusions of him getting out and hitting the engine in strategic places with a large hammer or an oversized shifting spanner. Finally the engine farted and all were on their way.

While Boris has illusions of speaking Russian, the driver could not comprehend any description of the hotel or the street. It is strange that the hotel name is only in English – The Old Estate Hotel & Spa.

Hotel at Pskov

Hotel at Pskov

Finally the driver was shown the phone number and he rang the hotel for instructions. Soon he was a happy fellow and switched from confused taxist to a tourism salesman selling the virtues and talking endlessly about the sights of Pskov.  The fare was 150 rubles. Boris and Timofei were surprised they had not been ripped off.

At dinner that night our heroes were the only patrons in the hotel restaurant. Perhaps all of Pskov had known Timofei and Boris would be present and it was wise to stay away. The meal ended with a grand cheese platter. It consisted of an aged cheddar, something like an edam, a camembert and a blue brie – it was definitely blue and definitely soft. Some were skewered with plastic toothpicks. With the cheeses were nuts and fruits. The waiter, Denis, explained an exotic fruit, appearing to be an orange gooseberry, was a physalis. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physalis)
Denis tried his best in all things. He was a pleasant fellow. And he
struggled a little with Timofei’s English and marginally less with Boris’

After breakfast (there were two other people in the restaurant) on the
following, the duo checked out of the hotel and proceeded to find the
landmarks in the town of Pskov. The Mirozhsky Monastery was illusive and according to Timofei would be just around the next corner. Alas it was not. His compass was broken. (It was at the other end of town, in the
opposite direction).

Ian on the parapet

Ian on the parapet

Thankfully the Krom (old kremlin in Pskov) was obvious and easier to find. It is situated in a manicured park, across a creek, and beside the Velikaya (Great) River. It provided good defences in the past, especially against the Teutonic Knights. Restoration works had commenced in 1952 and are continuing. Timofei

It was 1952

It was 1952

had to tell Boris that 1952 was the year, not the hour. Boris remarked that they had not done much. Some people!

The duo made their way around the grounds of the Krom and up onto the battlements. At the kremlin office, Boris made enquiries about a toilet, and was pointed to the kino theatre next door.

For the sum of 20 rubles, he could make use of a half-height cubicle, affording no privacy, nor protection from Timofei’s camera.
Upon completion of their duties, they made their way to a cafe, where tea could be bought for 40 rubles.
After the comfort of the pause, and being entertained by an Italian movie dubbed into Russian, and without need of dialog, they left to explore the town further, especially across the River Velikaya. They saw shopping centres, specialty shops, strangely decorated cafes, churches and more churches, and a post office where it was not possible to get any service.  They had roamed far and needed to get a bus back.
Boris alarmed an old woman when he asked which bus they could catch to Ploshad Lenina. Finally a No. 17 arrived, an everyone with the aid of elbows got on the bus. The woman ticket collector advised that Ploshad Lenina would be three stops, and the fare was 18 rubles each. When the bus lurched to a halt at the next stop, the ticket collector advised that it was two further.  A Russian paratroop sergeant, dressed in camouflage uniform but displaying all insignia as well as wearing a tightly fitting powder blue beret, standing at the back, observed Boris and Timofei with suspicion. Little did he know that his suspicions were well-founded.

At the bridge over the Velikaya, the bus waited for sometime. However, the paratrooper has made his way through the crowd, and he was adjacent to the exit door. The ticket collector advised that is was next stop. The bus came to a stop opposite Ploshad Lenina. The paratrooper was first off and then waited at the pedestrian crossing for the lights to change, and then made it to the bus stop with more time to wait.
Boris and Timofei leisurely returned to the hotel, stopping occasionally to look at archeological digs or burned out buildings.

Dog found in Perm

Dog found in Perm

They had time to kill.


Nice hotel here in Pskov,

Ian catching up

Ian catching up

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

The bus we caught from Peters to Pskov

have the opportunity to complete the drying off  the washing that missed out last night in Peters. Seems to be a general lack of touristy information down at the lobby – even unable to tell us the time to get to the railway station for tomorrow. Had some fresh vegetables with dinner last night and that was a very pleasant change – they do seem hard to find. We have noticed that toilets are just impossible to find so that always keeps us on our toes – very different to back home where we have lots of vegetables AND toilets

... And when you find one, you might have company!!!

… And when you find one, you might have company!!!


Went to try and find the monastery just down the road from the hotel- it had a good write up and was very old. It was all locked up when we arrived so headed off to the Kremlin which

Pskov Kremlin

Pskov Kremlin

was really quite spectacular.

River beside Pskov Kremlin

River beside Pskov Kremlin


River beside Kremlin at Pskov

River beside Kremlin at Pskov

off to Pskov station for the night train (Taxi with tip thrown in, $5 for a 10 minute ride – not quite sure how they live on that although many things are quite cheap). Town & people are pleasant and quite helpful when trying to catch buses.


Day 2 in Peters

Washing – needed to be done and could not locate a laundromat so back to the hotel and used the bath and basin. Left the clothes hanging in the room with the fan turned on and hoping. Luba came by and we headed off to Kronstadt which used to be a used to be a naval facility where l outsiders were not allowed.2014-09-07 16.39.42  2014-09-07 16.42.25Basically you could not have access unless you worked there or had family in the town. Since the introduction of satellite access, we can get in. Huge church and there was a parade of old cars copied from many from the west – they are all Volga (like zephyr) and Ladas (like fiat).2014-09-07 16.54.39 2014-09-07 17.01.10 2014-09-07 16.52.36 2014-09-07 16.59.10 It is an all year round naval port still with access during winter. It was great that there was a lot going on. When we returned to Peters we had dinner on a roof restaurant ‘Macaroni’. Nice risotto and pizza with many cheese varieties on the one pizza 2014-09-07 21.17.37 2014-09-07 20.46.23 They even provided blankets for those that were getting cold on the breeze. 2014-09-07 20.14.24

Clothes still damp when we returned to the hotel.


St Petersburg – 1st full day

Took the Red bus (which was grey)

The Red Bus

The Red Bus

and had an excellent tour round the city. Went to check out Gosting Dvor, it was a reverse shop compared to home, few doors to enter the centre and the different shops are in the alcoves as you walk through. Obviously the locals know exactly where to come to do their shopping, the visitors just walk until they find. Benefit – toilets are free. Luba arrived and we went off to St Isaacs church and then Peter & Paul fort and the local beach, sand quite dirty but reasonably fine gained. We followed  this with a quite economical song and dance night show and dinner at Troika. There seemed to be about 60% Turkish in the audience and when the show was over we were entertained by some excellent signers by the Turlish audience.


Cafe Suliko

St Petersburg – Кафе «Сулико»Agent Romanova lured our unsuspecting heroes from Nevsky Prospekt into Nabezhnaya Kanala Griboyedova and then into the less lit Pereulok Sergeya Tyulenina.Following instructions to the letter, the party descended stairs into a basement and entered Cafe Suliko.  A Georgian waitress acknowledged Romanova, but hardly gave mention to Boris and Timofei.  They were led to a dimly-lit table at the side of the restaurant.The menus were shoved in front of all.  None were in English, so Timofei struggled to find borshch.  It wasn’t on the menu.Romanova suggested a cheese pizza.

Georgian restaurant

Georgian restaurant

That seemed a bit simple, so some good Georgian dishes were found. Timofei opted for a beetroot soup (sound too much like his favourite borshch) and Boris had a lamb casserole.  This was all served with a tasty Georgian red wine, reminiscent of an old claret.After many jokes and some banter with the официантки, it was time to leave.  A plan had been hatched for tomorrow. The food was good. The wine was fine. The atmosphere was interesting.The owner of the establishment emerged and gave Romanova a huge embrace.  Timofei demanded likewise, so the owner (a great bear of a man) gave Timofei an embrace too.  (The owner seemed a little embarrassed).  Out on the street, Boris and Timofei headed for the bright lights of Nevsky Prospekt.  Romanova dissolved into the shadows.

Sapsan – Moscow to St Petersburg

Comrades!Be alert. It has been reported Boris and Timofei have been seen in the vicinity of Leningradsky Vokzal.These photos were taken on platform 7 adjacent to the Sapsan train 758 destined for St Petersburg.

Tim getting on the Sapsan

Tim getting on the Sapsan

Ian about to get on the Sapsan

Ian about to get on the Sapsan

It is further reported that our duo boarded the train, carriage (wagon) 4 and occupied seats 55 and 56.During the journey Timofei had to restrain Boris. He had a great desire to do harm to the child in the seat behind. It is believed physical violence is not appropriate even when the child has been determined to be a little shit. Kicking the seat, throwing tantrums and abusing his mother may even make him John McEnroe. However, his arm lacked the skill of a tennis player.

Timofei observed the train travelling at great speed. The train arrived on-time at the Moscovsky Vokzal in St Petersburg. All is well. No horrid children were hurt in the making of this film.

Moscow to St Petersburg – 5 September

Quiet morning this morning. After a good sleep we got up and packed our gear ready for the trip north on the Sapsan. Out of the hotel with the aim of dropping our stuff at Leningradsky Vokzal and then wandering off to check out Red Square. A few glitches with trying to get out and back into the station and we just decided to skip Red Square as we still have 6 hours spare when we return later in the week. Traveled north reaching 226 kph at times passed some dachas and over the Volga River,

through some luesh green countryside with plenty of trees which looked similar to birch. At 1435 we arrived at Tver but have been asked not to alight unless we are getting off (for our safety).

Train speed details etc.

Train speed details etc.

Finally got to St Petersburg right on time at 6 pm and were met by Luba who escorted us to our hotel where we had a coffee and went across town to check out the beautiful church built where Alexander II jumped out of his carriage to help one of his guards who had been shot. Alexander was apparently a really nice Tsar who had done a lot for his people but that did not stop him being shot and killed as well. The church was built on the spot. We returned to the hotel for a sleep before a big day tomorrow.

Park Pobedy in Moscow

The Great Patriotic War – Великая Отечественная Война
Sometime things are too serious for Boris and Timofei to be seen or with which to be related.
Tim and Ian went to the war memorial in Moscow – Park Pobedy – Парк Победы
While it commemorates more than one war, the emphasis is on the Great Patriotic War 1941-45.
It is a moving tribute to the contribution of the Soviet Union to the Second World War.



Date: 4 Sep 2014Moscow, Thursday: Borodino PanoramaThe Battle of Borodino, 7 September 1812, was perhaps second only in importance to Waterloo during the Napoleonic War. As



many as 80,000 in total lost their lives in a single day at Borodino, a field near Mozhaisk, west of Moscow.Fili

, now a suburb of Moscow, was a farming community in 1812. Kutuzov and his council met in a farmer’s hut there to determine the fate of Moscow and the course of the war.

(The farmer, nor Boris nor Timofei were invited to attend)The Borodino Panorama is a memorial and museum, located at Fili.It is set on Kutuzov Boulevard, a busy arterial road in modern Moscow.At



the entrance is an equestrian statue, honouring Kutuzov.





It is fitting that it also represents soldiers and peasants, who contributed to the Russian war effort.After

Fitting statute for the whole community

Fitting statute for the whole community

passing through the ever-present security screening, our travellers were directed to the Kassa. They parted with 200 rubles each and were permitted entry.On the first floor there were extensive displays of memorabilia, uniforms, equipment, maps and battle plans. On the second floor is the panorama of the battlefield. And it is spectacular.After returning to the first floor, our travellers departed. And they voiced the belief that they could have helped. Such delusion!

Park Pobedy in Moscow.

The Great Patriotic War – Великая Отечественная Война
Sometime things are too serious for Boris and Timofei to be seen or with which to be related.
Tim and Ian went to the war memorial in Moscow – Park Pobedy – Парк Победы
While it commemorates more than one war, the emphasis is on the Great Patriotic War 1941-45.
It is a moving tribute to the contribution of the Soviet Union to the Second World War.

Space program


This gallery contains 8 photos.

Moscow, Wednesday: Мемориальный музей космонавтики The Russian Space Program has suffered a huge set-back. Our incompetent heroes have sought to provide their expertise to the program.Sergei Korolev, from his deathbed, strenuously advised against seeking assistance from these fools. His last … Continue reading

Moscow Kremlin

The traffic in central Moscow is constant. Whether it be on the seven lanes across Okhotny Ryad or in the narrow streets behind Lubyanka, pedestrians cannot let their attention lapse. Boris and Timofei made their way through cars and traffic control bollards to the Biblio Globus bookshop. What had once been a bright sign on the facade was now a faded almost illegible announcement. It was a mark of red against a grey background. With the rain, the sky was grey, the building always will be grey, and the faces have no sunny disposition. Inside the store they hoped to make contact. At the information desk. Timofei pushed Boris forward. He asked the code question, “Can I ask you a question in English?” To which he got a very forceful “No!” That was not the coded answer he had expected. In Russian he asked for directions to the English books, and on the second floor he found a Russian book instructing the reader on the English language. Upon return to the first floor they paid 103 rubles for the book and left the store without further contact. They rushed to Tsum department store, as Irina had shown them where to find a free toilet. Time was important, so they also hurried to Kutafiya Tower at the Kremlin. It was raining again so they pressed themselves against the Kremlin gate, only to be jostled by people leaving the Kremlin. After 2:00 pm Irina arrived, but she was accompanied by an unknown man and woman. They introduced themselves as Igor and Nataliya (not their real names) from Crimea. (He told Boris he is a jurist and she is a housewife) They were very happy that Crimea had now been incorporated into the Russian Federation. Boris and Timofei acknowledged the comment, but said no more. After Irina paid them a large sum, they departed.



Irina then led our heroes to the Kremlin office in Alexander Garden where they were met by the Kremlin official, Vera.  Both

Tim, Irina and Vera

Tim, Irina and Vera

Boris and Timofei misinterpreted Vera’s role and expected to be arrested. It was not to happen. The group walked through the Trinity Tower gate to the Arsenal. However

Cannons left behind by Napoleon in 1812

Cannons left behind by Napoleon in 1812

their attention was drawn to the glass and concrete Kremlin State Palace. After seeing the flag on the Senate building (home and offices of the president) they realized he was not at home. Again they had missed an opportunity. Timofei was greatly interested in the Tsar’s Cannon and the Tsar’s Bell. Irina

The bell with 11chopped

The bell with 11ton chip

said she likes big things. The cannon has been fired once, but never in anger. The

Ian and that little cannon

Ian and that little cannon

bell always has been silent, probably because of an eleven-ton piece that broke away when it was made. After inspecting some churches, the team left the Kremlin grounds. Timofei2014-09-02 13.12.21 and Boris headed for a restaurant in the Alexander Gardens where they had pizza. Borshch was not on the menu. During the day, they had passed through Red Square, but it was not really visiting the place. That will wait until tomorrow.

Order of the Koala

Moscow: Paveletsky Vokzal

Every morning in Moscow, Boris and Timofei have made a practice of having a coffee at Costa Coffee shop in the lounge. They have used a spatula to apply the charm to Valya, the unsuspecting barista. The poor girl didn’t see it coming. She was presented with the Order of the Koala for services to our servants abroad in RussiaOrder of the Koala

Moscow Parking

Russia is the largest country, but it impossible to find a parking space in Moscow. According to Boris there are 3.5 cars owned by residents, per authorised and marked parking bay. However, all know that his statistics are totally unreliable.

Relocating a parked car at the shopping centre

Relocating a parked car at the shopping centre

Despite the statistics, Timofei and Boris supervised the stacking of cars at VDNX. When there is no marked bay, a truck arrives to put the target car in a place above the ground. All works well until the owner returns and asks how he is supposed to drive to the shops. Boris and Timofei were silent on this question.

(Author’s note:

Parking is a severe problem in Moscow. Some people have taken to parking on footpaths for a lengthy period.

Consequently the city administration has started impounding cars. Under the supervision of a city parking official a “tow-truck” operator lifts the car onto a flat-bed truck and the vehicle is taken to an impoundment.

According to a local resident, the recovery fee is 8000 rubles ($230), and this amount has to be considered in comparison with average earnings.

With further consideration and observations, the actions of the city parking officials have not provided a sufficient deterent. Perhaps it will take time.)

Tuesday in Moscow – plus Kremlin

Met up with Irina, the nice young tour guide who guided us through the Railway Stations and the Communist Walk yesterday. She only does tours for groups that speak English and she is excellent.

Ian &

Ian & largish cannon

Entrance to the Kremlin

Entrance to the Kremlin

Ian and I were the only two on the 2 hour tour.  There are 5 churches inside the Kremlin that were all very ornate but typically Russian Orthodox. We got to see 3 of them, Necropolis of the Archangel, the Dormition Cathedral and the Anunciation Cathedral.

Outside the Kremlin

Outside the Kremlin

2014-09-01 16.45.56

Bolshoi Theater

Plenty of gold leaf on the domes not solid gold as the west believe. Many old Napoleonic cannons which he left behind in 1812 because there was no food for his troops and he had to kill the horses to feed them.The railway station tour has certainly got to be the best.

Inside the Kremlin

Inside the Kremlin

Tomorrow we will probably take the Red Bus around the city and just have a slight relax rather than walk all day. May also go back for a better look at Red Square but we will just see what pans out.

Plenty of guards around Moscow, police everywhere as one would expect but they do look bored, some will give you directions when asked but there are always those that don’t.

These people do look like they have a hard life, probably the weather and maybe the drink but it all has been very pleasant for us.


Report 31 August 2014 Comrades! Boris has found his way to Incheon. Kim Jong-un want to know, “Why wasn’t I told???”*** Undera20140831_075347 wonderful grey skies in South Chosen, all is well. Boris is taking photos of view from hotel window. Nothing strategic in photos. Distribute this notice to all party members! Keep vigilant! Viktor *** (Kim Jong-un is big fan of basket ball and television show, Number 96) a20140831_075339 a20140831_072246

Last day in Grenoble

Feeling a little better this morning but still rather tender, had small croissant for breakfast as we needed to travel via Tournon to collect my jacket which had been placed in a wardrobe rather than with the rest of my stuff. Traps for young players I guess but good that the lesson has been learned early in the holiday as there will be no going back once we are in Russia. We went off to Valence TGV station and had a coffee whilst waiting and took a nice photo of the family. Good single seat in the train facing forward so, although no good for photos at this spread, they is a brilliant view of the countryside. Sun is shining with just a few clouds, perfect summer’s day which is likely to change overnight as I go further north. Also noticed something different to home, we have a pet cat at one end of the carriage and a dog at the other, totally under the control of the owners, sorry, that was two dogs on the train, and as we are about to get out there seems to be a third dog on the train – nearly more pets that people.

Just a quiet day at home

Still suffering from dinner and spent most of the day in bed. Went off to the local lake up in the mountains but as I was so uncomfortable, was transported back home and they went off to the 30th birthday sans me. I will have a few dried biscuits for dinner and pack the bag so I can head off to Paris, Riga and Moscow tomorrow. The big journey is about to begin.

Pierre & Sylvie's home in Grenoble

Pierre & Sylvie’s home in Grenoble

Onion Festival in Tournon of to Grenoble

Onion festival day outside the window early morning. Had a little bit of fun with the guy selling mops etc outside the window and tried to get him to wash the 1st floor windows of the flat but to no avail. Did a walk around some of the markets but they had spring up all over town and time was not on or side. Started to head of towards Grenoble top stay at Pierre and Sylvie's 2nd house but will have dinner in town with an old friend of the family. I ended up having unskilled cod and shell fish. Not sure what it was but I ended up incredibly bloated and have not eaten for the last 24 hours – proves you can't trust a Frenchman.

France challenges Australia to a game of Petanque

Slept in rather late, think exhaustion probably got to me but certainly feel much better than I did when I arrived. Went for a stroll around the city and found out where we would be playing petenc this afternoon. Collected Romane from kindergarten and home for lunch. Romaine had her afternoon sleep them off to petenque where the the French were soundly beaten by 3 points

Mathilde, Julien & Romane in Tournon

Mathilde, Julien & Romane in Tournon

Sydney to Valence in France

24 August – Getting out of mascot was pretty pane free and there was plenty of time to spare. Good flight to Abu Dhabi where we enjoyed temperatures up round 39 which would have been great if not just coming out of negative numbers at home.

25 August – Caught the TGV to Valence France Map with just 7 minutes to spare due to the plane arriving in Paris about an hour late and mine was the last piece of luggage to hit the conveyor belt. Bus took just over the hour to get to Gare de Lyon rail station which was just excellent as the driver assured me I would be there on time. Had to get the tickets reprinted as the carriage number could not be read. Train reached 297 kph and yet the view from the window was quite easy – will be interesting to see how the Sapsan from Moscow to St Petersburg fares. No point taking photos out of train window due to the speed – image is just too blurry at this speed but the girls are very green and lush.

Train travelling at 297 kph - hard to take a photo

Train travelling at 297 kph – hard to take a photo

London – Munich – Canberra

Headed out of Heathrow today, 6:00 am out of bed and off to Munich where we had a good tour of Hitler’s part of the country. All the more interesting because yesterday we had checked out Churchill’s bunkers in London. Thoroughly enjoyed running round the city on the blue on-off busses. Visited the markets where we bought some nice fresh food (including some nice gorgonzola cheese) for dinner after booking back in at the airport. Caught the evening plane to Singapore, Sydney & finally on to Canberra.

Last Day In London

Left the hotel at 9:30 so we could try and pick up some cheap ticket for a show this evening. Arrived in Leicester Square and came up with some options for Janette & Bruce when they arrived at 10:30. They agreed that Chicago would be interesting so we picked up some ₤38 tickets for the 8pm session. We then headed off for the Imperial War Museum – Churchill War Rooms which follows Churchill’s career as a ‘Cold War Statesman’ statesman from 1945-65 concluding with footage of his funeral in 1965. It then explorers his early life from 1874-1900, his developing political career as a maveric politician from 1900-29, his wilderness years from 1929-39 before returning in 1940 and then again in 1951 as the Prime Minister. We were in this museum enjoying the history lesson for about 4 hours before taking a walk over Westminster Bridge, passed the London eye and on to the Blackfriars Bridge. Caught the train from Temple underground to get to the theatre and have dinner before the shows started. Had a wonderful seared salmon and salad whilst Janette & Bruce had a pasta spagetti dish. Arrived at the show in plenty of time and had a wonderful evening. What a brilliant way to finish off our English holiday.

London & Addlestone

Had a little sleep in this morning after the latish night out and went off towards Waterloo, then Addlestone to see Charlotte and Ben who had visitied us in Australia some 8 years ago in Aus. Had a lovely afternoon with them both but went back to town early so we could check our bag weights for the plane flight on Tuesday to Munich and Sydney. Quite amazing that we met the Roes at Waterloo on the way home, shared a nice thin crispy pizza together before going back to our hotel for coffee. Funny how one has to go across the other side of the world to get the time to have dinner with friends from around the corner at home. Saw them to the station about 10pm so they could go home and we could sort out our bags.

Brum to Bushy & London

After a nice sleep in a big bed we had a typical Swiss breakfast of croissants and rolls with cheese, jams, coffee & tea. Played with a bit of familiy genealogy with 3rd cousin Terry and did a bit of PC refreshing on his notebook and PC. After lunch we headed off to New Street Rail to catch the train in to London which will take us about 1½ hours and will get us to Euston by 4pm so we can book into our hotel for the next 3 nights. Headed off to Bushy Watford Junction to have dinner with the Andrea, Graeme, Harriett & Grace. Text’d them from Bushy to say we had arrived and they went of to Watford Junction to pick us up. Eventually got the misunderstanding sorted before going for dinner then returning to their new home for coffee via a shop to collect essentials for breakfast tomorrow at the hotel. Caught the train back into the city at 00:17 but we arrived just as the last train was departing for our final stop. Tried to catch a bus to no avail and ended up in a taxi which got us home nice & safely.

Market Harborough to Brum

Left the boat and Rosie & Rob drove us and all the gear to Market Harborough Rail where we caught the train through to Leicester and then changed for Birmingham. Terry collected us and took us to his home where we had a nice cold lunch. Jennifer had quiet time in the conservotory doing her needlework while Terry and Tim did work on the genealogy whilst waiting for Susanne to arrive home from work. Had a traditional Swiss dinner of ‘Raclette’ which is a solid cheese square slice with various condiments added to it on a heating tray of the same name. Each ‘frying pan’ was about 4″ square. A brilliant meal and most different.

Foxton locks to Market Harborough

Early morning was dead quiet and we realised that it was already nearly 8am. The frost was on the grass, but the sun was shining with a little bit of warmth so went and talked to the Lock Master with a view to queueing up to take our turn. There was a boat already on its way up through the 10 locks and we could not move until after 9am when he arrived at the top. We had a quiet relaxed breakfast and the locks were ready for us about 9:10. We headed off down the locks and after mooring at bottom lock walked back up to top lock for our hot chocolates and clotted cream ice-cream then continued on our way towards Saddington. We arrived at the 2nd winding point where we turned around and moored up before heading off to walk into Saddington (about ½ a mile) checking out the old and not so old headstones in the churchyard, admiring the manor house and the converted stables. Into the Queens Head pub for an Everard’s beer (because, as they say; you’re never ‘ard after Everard) and crisps then back down the hill for an on board lunch of fried halloumi cheese, tomatoes and toast. Very Yummy.
Unfortunately, it is time for our return journey to Market Harborough after a most enjoyable narrow boat week. Our Final evening meal together was at the Waterfront Restaurant & Pub at the Marina – and what a long walk home it was – must have been at least 7 metres from the rear of our Narrow Boat. What a brilliant week it has been.

Crick to Foxton Locks

Headed off from Crick this morning rather early. The sun shining brightly and warming our backs. – needed to get a fair distance down the canal to be able to go through the Foxton Locks either last thing this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning. Being realistic we would rather have a walk on the way. On the seas by 8am and the girls ran us in shifts to get through breakfast. Kept going until we arrived at Bridge 39 where we tied up and walked along the bridle path over the local fields to Welford. Feet totally blocked up with mud and we grew a little on the way. Arrived at the village and checked out the pub situation. Headed to “The Wharfe Inn” for a coffee & lunch – a nice tomato soup with a couple of slices of bread right beside the canal wharf. When we were done, we headed off along the tow path of the Welford Arm towards the Leicester Junction and then turned left with 2 bridges to pass before arriving back at No 39. Headed on again and collected Jen along the towpath and came back to the Welford Junction but turned left toward Foxton. We motored to the Foxton Locks arriving just before 6pm and moored for our early lock attack in the morning. We ate in, enjoying a home made pasta dinner and fruit salad & custard for dessert. Did a bit of genealogy work with Rosie and Rob before heading off to bed for a possible early start in the morning.

Braunston to Crick

Today we had an easy day on the narrow boat – started off from Braunston rather later than normal and headed back towards Norton Junction. It was a lovely warm and sunny morning. We travelled alongside a volunteer group that was working with some young, underpriveledged teenagers and we helped them as they learned to work the locks. It was an interesting 1-2 hours. They headed off right and we left at Norton Junction. We then went back up the Watford locks. The cloud was getting heavier, the wind stronger and halfway up the locks the rain poured heavily. We then had a reverse shot at the 2 Km Crick tunnel and obviously followed a wood fueled boat because we had to breath in his smoke throughout the tunnel. Finally arrived at Crick where we moored for the night. Checked out the local eatery near the tie up point to find that they would probably be closed for the night following a funeral lunch and the family refused to go home. Probably just as well as the menu pricing was rather exorbitant. We ended having a beer and drying out by the fire at The Wheatsheef before moving to the Red Lion for an excellent dinner and had Bumpy Lumpy (caramelised toffee sponge with cream cheese & served with ice cream) for desert. Arrived back at our boat and taught Rosie & Rob the card game we learned with Andrew & Susan Lodge.

Watford Locks to Braunston

Headed off (again) from Watford Locks and when we arrived at Norton Junction, we then turned right towards Braunston. Weather fine and sunny with periods of cloud. We had a pleasant walk around Braunston after emptying the sullage pump on the boat and picked up pork pies etc from the local butcher for lunch. The Church bells were ringing for the confirmation service as we walked to The Old Plough for dinner.

Watford Locks towards Watling Locks

Got out of bed by 8am and headed towards Watford Locks to meet up with Merv, Mike, Julie & Paul who would be coming for a day on the Narrow Boats.
They eventually arrived as we were heading down the locks and joined us for the completion. It was great to see them all again after 5 years and they seem most interested in our type of holiday. After the locks we floated towards Norton Junction before ring left in the direction of Watling street bridge. We found ‘The New Inn’ at Long Buckby Top Lock where we had lunch (anly pub lunch so far which left something to be desired) and an interesting desert – a banoffee pie (banana & toffee – bit sickly). After moving on down to Norton Junction we turned left and went through a number of locks & bridges towards the Whitton Bridge. We finally had the chance to turn round and headed back to the bottom of Watford Locks where we bid farewell to all the Franks so they could return to Manchester – some 3 hours north.

Foxton Lock through the Husband-Bosworth Tunnel

Talked to the lock master at Foxton Locks whose job it is to schedule who passes through the locks and when – we were added to a queue which would see us going up through the locks in 1½ hous time. The reason for this is that there are 10 locks connected to each other with no breaks in between so there is usually 5 narrow boats which come down the lock behind one another and each seperated by a 1 lock gap and then we lined up in the same way to go up the locks, 5 at a time. At the top, we found a little shop which supports the lock historical society – we all had hot chocolates and a couple of clotted cream ice creams (just beautiful). We continued on our way but will have no locks for the rest of the day although we did go through the Husband-Bosworth Tunnel which is 1070 metres long and wide enough for 2 boats which could pass in the middle. A walk into Husbands Bosworth stretched our legs and the local store gave us some essential provisions. The weather is chilly early morning but the sun is there and warms up even if there are small showers during the day. We have seen some lovely wildlife and we had some swans with 3 cignets chasing the boat hopeful of getting any little tid-bits we might have. Bread was quickly found for the babes.

Leek to Market Harborough & the Canal Boat

Eventually got going after breakfast and back towards Derby and Leicester where we returned the hire car and caught the train down to pick up the narrow boat from Market Harborough canal wharf. Received the run through about the idiosyncrasies of the boat and the canals before Rosie & Rob arrived from Filey. Jumped on and loaded up the narrow boat with all our necessities for the next week before placing the bags in Rob’s car as the space on board will be rather limited. Motored off towards Foxton Locks where we moored for the night right outside the Foxton Locks Inn. A great 2 course meal and then back to the boat where we had an early night.

ALERT: Boris is away again

Brisbane, 14 October 2010

All are to be awake and alert. There are reports that Boris is off again. He has been seen heading in the direction of the airport.

It seems the situation has been escalated. Someone in authority accidently signed a travel warrant. He is believed to be traveling to Paris. Sources reveal he will be departing on EK433 from BNE at 02:30 – surprised he is out of bed at that time – bound for DXB. From there he will transit to CDG on EK075.

It is believed he will be meeting with agents of that secret organisation, Alcatel, in Paris. Actually this resembles a dessert, commonly known as junket.

If he is seen sneaking into the Alcatel Dynamic Enterprise Tour as a representative of something important, all are to call the gendarmes.

That is all. More reports to follow.

Roundhay Park

13th October
A late start for the day due to essential washing etc but after collecting Violet and Doreen we drove up to Roundhay Park and enjoyed lunch in the sunny conservatory. We followed this with a lovely sunny walk around the lake and then went to see Anne and Vernon for afternoon tea. We shared a lovely salmon dinner with Jill and Andrew with many laughs.

Bolton Abbey

We headed off to Bolton Abbey and collected Violet & Doreen on the way. Started with a coffee after locating a book on ‘Brit Wit’ which has been a good laugh and then headed off on a bush track walk for 2½ hours beside the Wharfe River which ran along the valley from the abbey. Climbed the hill before dropping back down ready to cross the fjord which would have created very wet feet for most of us but we discovered an elevated footbridge which saved us this time. We went to the cafe beside the river Wharfe which was a brilliant outlook to peruse whilst we ate. Returning to the car via the road only took about 20 minutes (why did we not come this way in the 1st place?) and we travelled in the direction of Burnsell where we had a wonderful ice cream on the River Wharfe and on to Grassington where there were film crews filming a new show called “The Village” about pairs of couples who will be brought into the village to compete for a free house as a prize. They will be competing against the local village community. I was chased down the street by a huge tractor that is part of the show due to go to screen in February 2011. We finished of the day by coming home over Blubberhouses to Leeds.


Collected Violet and Doreen and headed off to Scarborough after much discussion. The sun was shining and warm but as we neared Scarborough there was this cloud cover descending on us. Walked along the beach and had a fresh fish & chip lunch – great to be eating fresh fish over frozen fish any day. Because the day had turned rather cold, we headed back to Leeds via Pickering enjoying the sunshine once again. We all shared a lovely dinner together at the Lawnswood Arms where Doreen told us many go for their “funeral teas”

Wentworth House

Headed off to see Malcolm & Carol for a mystery tour. They took us out to Wentworth House where we had morning tea and good look around the fake castle that was built for the children plus other buildings on the property and also a walk through the fields and woods filled with deer which were rutting around because it was the season. Down to the Fox and Hounds pub about 3pm for an excellent lunch and desert before heading off back to Leeds.

Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales

Picked up the car in Hunslet and was lucky enough to receive a double upgrade because the previous hirer had failed to return the keys for the Ford Mondeo. Drove out to Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales to buy a butter dish to replace the one that Jack the dog stole just days before we left home. We are yet to find the bottom of that old dish. Walked through the town and helped an 87 year old lady following a hard fall on her face until the ambulance arrived and then off to the “Cow & Calf” for a fish & chip lunch. Walked off some of the lunch on Ilkley Moor by going to the rocks and then returned to get ready to go out to see the ‘Merry Widow’ at Mirfield. Tried to leave the house at 6pm but the door handle just swivelled when turned. We had locked ourselves in as we knew the front was jammed and so we spent a quiet night watching the Olympics at Jill’s. Left a message with Malcolm & Carol about our predicament and we would see them the following morning. Malcolm called about 10pm to see if he could comeand ‘pop’ us out.

Leeds & York

Off to York with Jill by train and many lads going to either the York races or for a buck’s night. Had a good look at the National Train Museum and had lunch. The museum was great as was the one we saw in Denmark but different. Went off to do some shopping (I was with 2 girls afterall) and then to “The Coffee Shop” where I was presented with a menu showing all the teas sold but had trouble locating which variety of coffee I might like (was able to buy one anyhow). We returned to Crossgates on the train for dinner with Jill. (Andrew had gone for 3 days walking in the Lakes District with about 16 of his friends.)

Paris & Sacré-Coeur Basilica

After watching the news and finding that there was an accident on the road in to Paris, we held off our departure time to go and see the Sacré-Coeur.
We drove towards the Arc de Triomphe and of course, this particular roundabout has 5 lanes but there are no line markings at all – cars come at it from all directions and just push their way across the intersection – no wonder insurance companies will not cover any accidents that occur on it. An exhilerating experience but surprised we got through in one piece.
After parking the car under the building where the Mirage Jet is parked in the front yard within the centre of Paris we headed off and had a coffee. Julien had decided that carting our cases with us all day would be a good idea so there was to be a challenging walk with luggage up the hill to the Sacré Coeure
As I was taking photos I realised that this spot was the final scene for the film ‘Rendezvous’ which was filmed in 1976 and followed a car racing across Paris early one morning and the driver meeting his girlfriend at the top of the stairs.
Wondered off for a nice lunch and just inches away from the pass through traffic before wandering around the corner to have a look at Place de Tertre where the local artists hang out and ply their trade. Some most interesting paintings and what a variety of styles.
After coffee and sad farewells to all our French friends at Paris Norde station caught the Eurostar to London, St Pancras which ran the track at close to 300kms per hour and it only took about 2½ hours to arrive at London St Pancras. Waited for less than an hour before getting on the train through to Leeds where we were met by Jill and Andrew who took us to their home which would be a luxurious base from where we could go out each day to connect with the local area.

Mini France

Went to Mini France for the day – just fascinating. Silvie, Pierre, Mathilde & Julien had also not been here previously so it was extra special for them also. This village is just like Cockington Green in Canberra, only bigger (some 116 model replicas) – enjoyed hot dogs for lunch and were able to take our photos as if we were in a helicopter – see the ‘photos taken from the helicopter’ in the photo blog section for photos.
Yvette (Sylvie’s Sister) and Alex joined us for dinner – it was Yvette’s 65th – what a wonderful dinner yet again and a lot of fun as the birthday cake slipped down Silvie’s arm as she was taking it to the table. Pierre did his party trick and rescued it before it had to be eaten 🙂 😉

Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher

Up early and into a lovely big people mover with Julien behind the wheel. Lots of rain as we drove along the freeway but the skies cleared as we arrived at The Château de Chambord: What a great place it was. We started with a blacksmith demonstration and a smithy who was just brilliant at ramping up the crowds – very well done before going in to see the show horses with demonstrations of jousts, coronations and acrobats on the beautiful show horses. A lovely lunch followed and then we went for a horse drawn carriage ride for an hour through the woods and the forest, seeing a wild boar and deer. Im enjoyed his afternoon siesta during the ride.
We then went into the château created by Francis I in 1519 when he was 25 years old. The château was set up as a hunting lodge but Francis died before its completion and what we see today was put in place by his son and grandson (Henry II & Louis XIV). The château had a coach room, chapel, the King’s chambers, State apartment and the Queen’s apartment and a double-spiral staircase in the centre which wind independently of one another, all in an estate of 5540 acres – the same area as inner Paris.


1st October
Left our B&B in Bray after a pleasant night with internet access provided and all email etc. was up to date by the time we had gone to bed last night. Arrived in Roscrea and continued down the N62 but nothing looked familiar from 5 years back – road was too wide and well kept. Eventually we found a farmer and asked for Jean Talbot’s location. After a blank look I asked for Anthony Whitten. “Is he Frank Whitten’s brother?”, Yes – oh, that’s easy so we went back in to town and turned left at the lights and out the Limmerick Road, finding the turnoff to ‘Fancroft’ at the 3Km mark. We continued on for another 2Km and turned left at the pub then recognised Jean’s house and driveway from a photo supplied by Mary & Wes Whitten some 3 years ago.
We knocked on the door, and there was Jean with her brother Joe behind her (I had met Joe 3 years ago in Dublin). We had a nice cuppa and chatted for a while before being shown our room and getting our luggage in from the car. Sat down to a beautiful home cooked farm dinner before retiring to the loungeroom and Jean’s son David came in for a late lunch. Daughter Heather and her boy David came in for high tea which was served about 6pm but proceeded by a walk with David around the local streets looking at the cows etc.

2nd October
On Saturday evening we had Ned, Florrie and son Lester , along with Frank’s wife and son, Evelyn and William and we all chatted along with Anthony

3rd October
On Sunday after we had been to the Aghancon Irish Church and seen the most haunted house in Ireland we returned with Henry because Joe needed a quick lunch to catch the 2:30 bus back to Dublin. Went of to the Dungar Cemetary at Roscrea and returned via Billy’s where we spent a pleasant hour before returnng for tea with Henry, Heather and her David. Ned and Betty also joined us for supper.

4th October
Left jeans about 10am bound for Newbridge Silverware Factory & Dublin to see the Book of Kells in Dublin. Spent extra time at Newbridge because it was so fascinating what can be made using silver and then we enjoyed lunch using their silverware. Headed off to the Book of Kells and landed in the middle of Dublin before reslising that we just did not have enough time available to do the visit justice. Decided to head for the airport by fllowing the aeroplane signs and I think we went down every street and over many bridges because they all seemed to have one. We eventually succeeded but had to go right round the airport to fill up with fuel and then return the vehicle.
Caught the plane to Paris CDG where Julien & Mathilde collected us as promised. They had been driving for 7-8 hours to be able to get to Paris from Grenoble. Went home and finally met Syvlie and Pierre after numerous meetings via Skype over the last few months. Had a lovely dinner of Soup Feuilleteé (which was made up of Lotte fish – , wild duck with a follow up of a cheese board and some nice wine. We realised that it was 01:15 and very quickly had showers (Jen used the broken toilet which I guess is better than me breaking beds) and headed off to bed. Tomorrow looks like it will be a big and exciting day.

Leeds to Leek

Left Andrew & Jill’s home in Leeds and headed of towards Leek. We went down the M1 and branched off towards Derby finding accomodation beside the Black Sheep Baa in Ashbourne. With our bed sorted we headed towards Stoke-On-Trent where to have a look at some of the potteries’ sale houses. Not really impressed but picked up a few items to bring back home as a momento. Travelled through to Leek where we met up with Si & Julia, David & Lyn, Ben & Kimberley before going to the local pub for dinner. Also at the pub were Alan & Maureen and cousin Peter was noticed listening to the band a little later in the evening. After a lovely night we headed back to the motel for a good night’s sleep.

London to Dublin via Wales – 24-30 September

24th September – on our way to London
Arrived at Andrew & Susan’s home early evening with the wonderful Lodge taxi service waiting at the station for us.

25th September
Jennifer & Susan, along with Harry went off on the train to Brighton to shop for some size 13 shoes for Harry (amongst other things) and walk on the ‘sandy’ beaches and also to the end of the Brighton Pier before returning home to do some baking. Andrew, Toby & I went swimming or to the gym, then off to lunch in town whilst waiting for the girls to return so we could have a quick 9 holes @ Cuckfield Golf Course. Enjoyed a lovely family dinner including two of Toby’s friends who stayed overnight. Enjoyed learning a new card game like whist during the evening.

26th September
Jen, Susan, Harry & Toby disappeared early with Harry off to a theme park for the day and the other 3 off to church. Andrew & I had a sleep-in before getting up and starting to prepare the roast for lunch. Toffee (the dog) and I had an hour walk around the farmer’s field perimeters – the fields still beautifully green and Toffee just enjoying the chance for a run and chasing twigs. The opportunity of another 9 holes came up so I guess it just had to be taken :). Jennifer & Susan had a quiet afternoon with Toby but Toffee missed out on another walk.We all enjoyed the evening together

27th September
Andrew & Harry off to work & school, Jen and I headed of to Carshalton, south of London where we connected with Michael & Rosalind. Joyce, Margaret and Terry joined us for lunch with the younger members all joining us for dinner at the pub.

Jennifer, Rosalind, Michael, Tim, Catherine, Terry & Joyce having dinner at the pub

Unfortunately Jenny is at University in Bristol so was unable to join us. Chased up more stories about Dad and Bob and their cycling days in England, Germany and France during the 1930’s and 40’s.

28th September
Jumped on the train heading for Victoria where we ventured the underground to Euston. Caught the Virgin train to Chester and were greeted by our dear friend Doreen and introduced to her new partner John. We had a lovely time together staying with them in their new home in Connah’s Quay. We spent the afternoon together catching up on old times and seeing the latest photographs. Enjoyed a gorgeous apple pie for tea , made with apples from the garden.

29th September
Started off with a rather damp morning but this was breaking up and looked promising for the rest of the day. Headed off south into inner Wales by first visiting Llantwst Church and having a look at the Horseshoe Falls followed by a coffee at the Chain Bridge Hotel. Whilst there we noticed an old steam engine coming in to the Berwyn station on the other side of the river Dee. From here we went on to Llangollen and a good wander around the village before enjoying lunch up at the canal station kiosk on the Shropshire Union Canal.

The Card Shop near the Bridge in the town of LLangollen

It is most interesting that all road signs and place show both Welsh and English language. We found the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which is 1007 feet

John, Doreen & Jennifer on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

across and 123 feet high above the river so we went across on the walking path and were able to cadge a ride back on an empty tourist narrow boat. It was Doreens first ride on a narrow boat. The captain gave us a quick history of the aquaduct and explained about the plughole to drain the excess water from the canal when necessary. Thomas Telford built the aquaduct over ten years from 1795 out of iron and steel sealing it with lead and boiling sugar. After driving back up the horseshoe pass we had a stop at the top and checked out the sheep that wagged their tail behind them and the magnificent view of the Llangollen valley as by now the sun was shining. The mountains here are very old and rock faces grey with slate.

John, Jennifer & Doreen on the Betws-y-Coed bridge

We continued on to Betws-y-Coed arriving as the shops were shutting so we enjoyed the window shopping and a look at the gushing water over the rocks/falls and saw a salmon jump. We enjoyed fish for dinner together and then John drove us all safely home after a wonderful day.

30th September
Up early, washing done and then the drive to Chester. It was now time to take the train to Holyhead and board the Stena Line Adventurer for our trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin.

We picked up the hirecar and travelled down to the Old Rectory in Bray where we stayed for the night after a wonderful salmon dinner on the waterfront.