News Single

19.04.09 15:29 Age: 9 yrs

Day before departure

By: Roger and Megan

24 hours to go, and 48 hours of work to do....sleep? nah, thats for the lazy!

Departure day is tomorrow. It's been hectic - sending parcels to Kazakhstan, trying to source last minute items and gear. Our visas finally arrived today from London - 1 year Kazakh, 1 month Uzbek, 3 month Tajik and 6 month Kyrgyz visas. Very pretty in the passports! But don't ask how much they all cost!! Sleep has been minimum - most of the time up to 3 am for the past week, working on software installation, satellite phone configuration, packing and weighing our luggage and re-packing and re-weighing it. So far, we've sent 6 parcels of 20 kg each to Kazakhstan, but they all had to be posted to different addresses due to the crazy customs regulations in that country....and thats only the beginning...lots more to go still, we're basically posting a disassembled small car over!

On a lighter side, Roger has just finished his self imposed lactose tolerance test also, resulting in alot of flatulance.......Megan sincerely hopes, he's better before the 23 hour plane flight... On top of this there has also been Megan's sister's wedding so it feels like our minds are in several different worlds at once, on the one hand getting hair, make-up and dress shoes sorted while in the next breath discussing how many days we could go on one pair of underwear (each).

Our brand new custom made yowies snow shoes arrived today too, and are awesome. With the big huge Baffin Boots we are using for the winter time (we expect it to geet down to -50 degrees C here) not many snow shoes fit our boots, so we were very lucky to have Peter make us up some fabulous custom made extra long/large yowies snow shoes. Also arriving back today was the bulk of our electronics and charging gear from NiteFlux. This gear will allow us to run off Solar, or Dynamo, and store weeks' worth of power when it's available. Our awesome new Crosso bags have arrived to, 1000D nylon means their tougher than gaiters, and thus should be extremely abrasion and puncture resistant. Crosso makes the best and toughest panniers and dry bags that we have seen.

We've also had some success on the excess baggage situation. Roger's pestering and bargaining skills again came up with the goods on Thursday, where he spoke to the CEO of a freighting company, who gave us a special discount for freighting our postage and excess baggage to Astana. He said that we just had to turn up to the airport on Tuesday with excess baggage and he will ship it to Astana, on our flight (or at worst, on the next one a few days later) and we will pick it up in Astana. Seems to be about a third of the price of other alternatives for 100 kg.

We are using a Thuraya satellite phone and it is yet to be determined whether this was a good choice. It is a cheaper phone that allows much higher bandwidth transfers(allowing us to post larger and more visual updates for you guys....hopefully!) and greater coverage in some areas, but it uses geostationary satellites so if you have bad reception at a particular point (yet can still see the sky), then you have to move until you get a clear path to whichever direction the satellite sits. This is unlike the Iridium system (which we are using for our GMN tracking unit) which, if you find yourself with bad reception at one point in time, you just wait until the satellites fly overhead and you don't have to move. We're still having a bit of trouble connecting with it with the Xgate software and acquiring reception, but we think its because of some satellite mantainence issues and firmware upgrades, so hope that will be sorted soon. Xgate from GMN looks to be a fantastic tool, but our very basic computer skills is what seems to be holding us back, and not the program itself!

We've also just managed to pickup our brand spanking new Macpac Prophet jacket and pants (before they are even on sale anywhere in the world, so we have been very fortunate). However by going with this option we were cutting it rather fine, as there are only 24 hours until departure and they have only just become available for pickup - just in the nick of time!

Although we have run into some last minute trouble with only 12 or so hours to go, our video camera has been working fine up till today, and now it won't run unless plugged into the mains. Looks like we'll have to wait until we get to Astana to try out our backup battery, since we've already posted it! (Fingers crossed that does the trick and it comes to life again...) But we also have another backup configuration, where we use a NiteFlux 12 V battery, then plug that via a cigarette lighter plug into a 12 V DC to 240 V AC converter (80% efficiency), then use a mains plug and transformer to get it back to the 8.4 V necessary to power the camera via the DC in socket. Simple.

We're both now sporting some nice, new, aggressive haircuts to, Roger's being a number 1 all over, and Megan lopping off her pony tail nice and short, all for easier mantainence out in the field, though we do look like different people now, and about 5 years younger! But we're opting for function over fashion, so we don't care.

Ah well better stop right its getting late (2 am in the morning) and there's so much more packing to be done, so we'd better get back to it.

Catch all you guys (and gals) later, hopefully from Kazakhstan!

- The Crazy Quikers.