Resting, re-grouping, reconsidering plans in Novosibirsk
Ja mach nur einen Plan …
sei ein grosses Licht
mach dann noch einen zweiten Plan
gehn tun sie beide nicht.
… that’s what Berthold Brecht put in his ballade “VON DER UNZULÄNGLICHKEIT MENSCHLICHEN PLANENS” loosely translated: about the insufficiency of human planning.
I had this poem on my desk when working in Germany in the 1980-ties. I always felt it confirmed my suspicion about spending too much time in making plans. My good wife Louise says it is plain laziness on my end … Well, it made me into a non-planner, or plan-avoider. I confess to the probability that Louise is indeed right: it is the lazy option.
Nevertheless, I stick to my belief that almost all plans change regardless how well they had been conceived and considered. In my world, the word ‘Plan’ has inherently the word ‘Change’ in it! Therefore is it really worthwhile to invest too much into planning….?
I know, I know … I hear you say ”What is too much???”
Well, I dunno. Guess this is a rather personal measurement.
As you are about to see, dear reader, I shall be fishing for your confirmation.
Cognitive Dissonance is a term introduced to me when studying The Art of Marketing. It kind-of says that whenever we make a decision, important to us, then we seek – consciously and more often subconsciously – confirmation that we’ve made the right decision.
For example imagine you just bought a new car. All of the sudden, you will spot this same model car much more often on the road!? You are a little surprised to see so many, but more importantly, you feel a little pleased and confirmed about your buying decision.
So, what am I trying to say?
I have changed my plan! … and I am seeking confirmation. Naaah, really trying to clear my head of options, changed routes, dropped-off countries and new places to be seen (well, ALL are new to my eyes anyway).
I decided on a different, new route going west!
Here is my own Cognitive Dissonance, dragged to the light of consciousness:
But first let me put on the record that a lot of consideration, percolation and hard ‘uhm-ing’ and even harder ‘ahh-ing’ has gone into this. It was by no means an easy decision. I looked into my current situation, weighting up all known facts and sprinkled it with a good dose of ‘sound assumptions’. All this shaped the new, revised route.
But before, let me explain the cause for this need to re-visit, re-plan and/or re-route?
The technical problem with my fork seals in Mongolia were the biggest contributor. This mishap took almost two weeks from my schedule. The annoying bit is that:
a) I actually had thought about replacing them – just in case – prior to leaving Australia. But, alas I didn’t.
b) I hadn’t taken any spare fork seals with me. The old adage came true stating that whatever breaks on the bike is a spare part that you won’t have aboard. So I ordered from the UK right upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, but even Fed.Express takes more days than I wished.
Another major contributor was the slower-than-planned progress over Mongolian roads. All up I had planned just about 16 days max. in Mongolia. Indeed, with all of the above I just made it out of the country with one single day to spare on my 30-day visa.
A final contributor was trouble with obtaining visas. My faith in my visa agent in Melbourne rapidly descended, as I learnt about limitations that the agent was unable to get ALL the required visas. Perhaps this was communicated at the start of our business-relationship, however I always had operated from the belief that this would be exactly his purpose: organise all aspects to obtain all the required visas. Spilled milk now, so I move on.
Another important consideration was that I always dearly wanted to avoid ‘chasing a schedule’. This was my single most common observation when reading the accounts of other travellers. They wrote about needing to catch a pre-booked ferry, or make it at a certain – pre-determined – date for a border crossing, or ensuring to be at a certain spot at a certain date. All these pressures I wanted to avoid. Hence the title of this blog, to set the ‘right’ tone.
Now I was at risk to give into these unpleasant considerations and, as a result, rush through the remainder of the ‘plan’. Surely that would lead to me enjoying almost nothing.
To avoid this, the plan had to change! Such a change had mainly to do with changing my original route: leave out certain countries; rather circumnavigate them through other countries.
I could see visa-difficulties for Tajikistan. My visa agent told me that they “don’t do” them!?? So I would need to arrive in a large city in the previous country, find the Tajikistan embassy and apply there. This costs more time.
Additional visa trouble for Turkmenistan was on the horizon. This appears to be a country which does not to want tourists. Any other than a 5-day transit visa requires shelling out for a tour guide, driver and car hire every day, therefore making this an expensive country.
The neighbouring Iran requires some documentation I do not have, neither want to pay for: a Carnet de Passage. Google it. I believe this is an outmoded and money-making way for agencies to ensure that you don’t sell your vehicle in the country you are traveling through?! Most countries have gotten rid of it, don’t require one, but Iran still insists! I had carefully studied the official documentation and could not find any reference to a motorcycle. Nevertheless a big amount of money (>600Euro) is required just for the privilege of travelling through Iran. This does not sit well with me. Even the fact re-told by travellers that Iranians show absolutely great hospitality and are friendly wherever you turn, will not outweigh the principle and the cost factor. Risking entry without may have meant being stuck in no-mans land between Iran and Turkmenistan, what a pleasant thought …
Add to the above Khazastan. First-hand reports from fellow-motorcycle travellers are almost all negative: boring scenery and corrupt police everywhere, creating traffic offences for non-existing violations to gain some Schmiergeld. (I do like this word, so much more befitting the act than ‘bribe’.) However, this was a more minor consideration.
How to build-in these constraints into my getting onwards?
Well, I could truncate the trip. This would mean I still travel through Kazakstan (no visa required). Kazakstan must be traversed in order to reach Uzbekistan (visa required and indeed lined-up by my agent, thank you) and riding on to Kyrgyzstan (no visa required). Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran would ‘fall off the plate’.
Then I could return to Kazakstan and turn west crossing the Caspian Sea into Azerbaijan (visa required). This new country is a must in this option, as I by then I would have used-up my two entries into Russia. It is way-too-hard to obtain a new Russia visa on the road. From Azerbaijan I would be able to turn into Georgia (no visa needed) and from there entering the north-east of Turkey (volatile situation with ample of travel warnings). Once in Turkey I could pick up my original route through Greece, the Mediterranean coast, then north and into Germany etc etc.
Choosing this way would mean that I was still doing the – perhaps unpleasant – Kazak route, but at least I would experience some part of the Silk-road, but missing out on the Pamir and other sights.
The risk with this approach was potential visa delays for Uzbekistan and/or Azerbaijan. I so, they would bite even more into my time and risking making the remainder of my trip rushed.
So I decided not to do this route. I’d rather see the Silk Road towns ‘complete’. The thought is to return to this part of the world solely for exploring it, ideally with four or six wheels and being with my much better half.
My revised plan therefore looks like this:
- upon return from Mongolia into Russia I will have used-up my Russia entries, subsequently I will need to stay in Russia
- I will ride/drive/move west towards Moscow
Time permitting I might see St. Petersburg, but will turn south right down towards Sochi
- About there I shall cross the border to Georgia (no visa required) and join back into the original route by riding into Turkey’s north-east.
Dropping out Inner-Asia (Silk Road) buys back some time I had ‘lost’ in Mongolia. It reduces any potential rushing risk, rather let’s me meander again.
Alea jacta est!