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Last week, I pondered whether to head East via Central Asia (Tashkent, Samarkand – Uzbekistan; Bishkek – Kyrgystan; Almaty – Kazakhstan) or via Russia and Mongolia (Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal; Ulaan Baatur). The simplest way, of course, would be to go one way (e.g. trans-Mongolian) on the way out, and the other (Silk Road) on the way back. The problem comes that I don’t want to come back that way, I want to head off to Tibet. Or Japan. Or Cambodia. Or, you know, anywhere that’s not back to Russia. This is also not entirely due to the fact that getting visas for Russia is a royal pain in the arse. You need letters of invitation and precise itineraries for everything. Or, you know, to be be Ewan McGregor.

At the same time, I could go down to Kazakhstan, faff around that way for a while, head back to Moscow and then head East. But going back on yourself just feels wrong when travelling. Just as flying does.

Bah. I’d also quite like to go on a tour. I’ll probably be travelling on my own quite a bit and, well, I’m mildly insufferable and am unwilling to inflict myself on, uhh, myself for large periods of time. However, tours seem to be split extremely between slightly more active Saga trips and legions of drunk Australians. Why is there no middle ground?

Should probably learn Cyrillic too.

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Alberta
Ontario
Western United States
Eastern United States
Central America
Argentina
Great Britain
Northern Europe
Western Europe
Southern Europe
North Africa
South Africa
China
Japan
Siam

…are all the Risk territories I’ve visited. 15. That’s pretty poor. Even worse, I’m nowhere near getting a continent.

When travelling overland to Beijing, where do you start from?

London?
Lisbon?
Kaliningrad?
Paris?
Berlin?
Istanbul?
Helsinki?
St Petersburg?

While going through Siberia and then Ulaan Baatur would allow you to pick up Ural, Yakutsk, Irkutsk and Mongolia on the way – which is worth at least one extra army per turn, would it be more interesting to cut through Kazakhstan and visit Samarkand and Almaty?

If you were to visit every province on a Risk board and play Risk there, in the spirit of the game would you be honour-bound to start in Australia? (Or if you were a thinking man, in South America).

Is New Zealand the largest island not to feature on the Risk board?

Is my interest in travel being rapidly overtaken by my interest in Risk?

Recently, my work has begun to… fade toward tedium. I’m not saying that this is a direct result of my (not particularly dynamic) company being bought by another (even less dynamic) company, actually, wait, no, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m saying. There are lots of complexities about this takeover, but despite an abundance of naive optimism on my and many other’s parts, the new entity appears to be moving towards a conservative, protectionist base.

The result of this decrease in pressure at work is that I have more time outside of work to let my mind wander. And when my mind wanders it goes straight to travel (especially when Roxane‘s having so much fun). So over the next few weeks, I’m gonna start looking at journeys, organised and not, looking at countries and cities I want to visit. Yup, it’s an excuse to perve over maps. My current top ten places I want to visit is below, it’ll be interesting to see as I read and investigate how these change.

Top Ten Places to Go (in no particular order)

New Zealand
Australia
Japan*
China*
Russia
Nepal
Canada*
Tanzania
Argentina*
Borneo

*Countries I’ve previously visited

While being slowly converted to snowboarding by a small group of nefarious colleagues (ref. here and here) I’ve historically been more of a skiier. Fortunately, my lovely girlfriend and her family are thoroughly uncharmed by boards and invited me along to their annual stick-and-pole excursion – in this case in Val D’Isere.

After an initial struggle with easyjet, baggage handlers, French roads and chalet girls who can only be described as lacking hap (© A!F) we girded ourselves for some hardcore rocking of the pow-pow. Sadly, I had forgotten that my skis hadn’t been waxed or sharpened in over 3 years – not conducive to the most elegant of swishing down the slopes. A swift overnight service got them back to their glidy best and it was onwards and downwards.

(Short aside, I’m now fully of the opinion that it is of no value whatsoever to own skis – or a snowboard for that matter – in my position. Once or twice a year is nowhere near enough to justify them. Adding the cost up – easyjet charge £20 each way for carriage and it’s another £20 to get them serviced. That £60 plus the hassle of carting them around adds up to pretty much the same cost as renting them in the first place – and then you get the latest model. If I lived somewhere that I could just head off and ski one afternoon it’d be worth it. Sadly, Putney is not such a location. Boots, however, are another matter, definitely worth having those, they’re easy to cart around, don’t cost any more to transport and are always more comfortable than rentals.)

(Shorter aside, any comments about boots will be dealt with harshly. Declan.)

Anyway, the second day was far more fun, with swishing and elegance a-plenty. Sadly no one could see this as we spent pretty much the entire day skiing in a whiteout snowstorm. 48 constant hours of snow would normally get anyone salivating, sadly it was snowing so much the piste beasties couldn’t bash their way around the mountain so we just had a lot of cut-up lumps of snow all over the shop – and as you could barely see 5m in front of you, life was a challenge.

Day three, however, dawned beautifully – clear, sun-filled skies smiled down upon us. I have to say it’s probably the best day’s skiing I’ve had in over a decade, beautiful pistes with just the right amount of powder. We skiied from lift-opening until after they all shut. Towards the end, there was an eerie silence over the mountain broken only by the spray of snow from our smart turns and the far off trumpetings of the apres-ski bars. It was truly brilliant fun.

Karma then decided I was having far too much fun and the bunged nose I’d been duelling with turned into a full on fever (with accompanied night-time writhings – not in a good way) with hacking cough. As I type, I’m missing my second consecutive day – and each has looked as glorious as the last one. I’m hoping to be hale and hearty for tomorrow’s final day, sadly the forecast suggest this will be a return to the low visibility bad days. Ah well. It’s been a good holiday nonetheless and I’ve been able to catch up on some music and books. That, plus fever has coloured my normally idiosyncratic philosophising. More on all three shortly…

For the past 10 days, I’ve been riding a mountain like it ain’t no thang. Reflections on Canada, books that were read and music that was listened to to follow.

Anyway, while it’s fairly well established that my preferences run to prickishness with sticks (i.e. skiing), I am edging towards enjoying a bit of gaying on a tray too (i.e. boarding). As a ski patroller remarked unto me:

“Switch, eh? A bit of AC/DC? Double the opportunities, double the fun!”

He’s got a point…

Por aqui…

What Has Gone Before

June 2019
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i miss your disposition and your strength to see the best in everyone
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