Archive for the ‘Preparations’ Category

Friends, visits and preparations

Friday, June 19th, 2009

17 km around town

Sorry everyone, we have been pitifully slow at updating the blog over the last week. Our energies have been devoted to visiting, shopping, and sorting through all our stuff. After a week, we are definitely feeling more at home back in Canada and our ready to get back on the road.

We went to Vancouver on Tuesday to spend a day visiting with our friend Meike and her kids Kate and Lucas. We enjoyed a wonderful hot pot dinner at the Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – the same restaurant chain that we enjoyed so much on our last day in China (in Tanggu). We can attest that the Canadian version is almost as good, and the Tuesday night all you can eat special was a nice bonus. The one almost touristy thing we did was to drive over the new Golden Ears Bridge in Vancouver – opened on Tuesday, apparently just for us. It was great to spend some time visiting with Meike and her family. We wish her a speedy recovery and will continue to send lots of energy from our yoga practice to her.

We have been staying with Rowena, another of Becky’s friends from university, in Victoria in her lovely new condo blocks from downtown. We did not get as much time visiting as we would have liked, but it was definitely nice catching up – thanks so much for your generous hospitality Rowena! On Thursday night, Rowena brought us out to the weekly Victoria Couchsurfing shindig. It was nice to meet several of the Victoria couch surfing hosts, and another surfer – Wayne who has been driving his RV around Canada for more than a year!

Thanks to Scott’s parents, we had a big box of spares waiting for us, and were able to replace tires and shifters, and replenish our stock of brake pads and other bits and pieces. Our bikes have had a tune up, at Fairfield Bicycles, which actually stocks our bikes and even Rohloff hubs! Amazingly, our chains were measured as “no stretch” and given the thumbs up, so we did not need to replace them. Not bad for 5000 km – it appears the SRAM PC-870 chains are much more durable than the stock PC-830 chains provided by HP Velotechnik, which had damaged the rear cog after less than 4000 km. The guy at the shop thinks they might make it all the way back to Ottawa – but if not, we will have a few opportunities to change them. The bikes are now ready for the next phase of our journey.

Packing prove to be a challenge, as we had to sort through everything, figure out what needed replacing, replace it, and then figure out what needed to be shipped to Kitimat for possible use in Northern BC and what needed to be sent home. We thought that getting the large parcels to the post office would be a real challenge but in the end, we were able to strap them to the back of our bikes for transport. We mailed 20.6 kg home and 7.4 kg to Kitimat – we hope our bikes will be feeling a fair bit lighter now. (To be fair, we also received about 20 kg here, some mailed ahead from Singapore as well as the spare parts from Scott’s parents, but we’re still a fair bit ahead – especially since we are now carrying all our cold weather gear again).

Our planned journey for June and July currently looks like this:

  • June 20 – 28: Ride from Victoria to Port Hardy via Salt Spring, Comox, and Campbell River
  • June 29: Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert
  • June 30-July 1: Ride from Prince Rupert to Kitimat
  • July 1 – 5: Visit with Becky’s parents, attend Becky’s 20th high school reunion
  • July 6 – 11: Ride from Terrace to Prince George
  • July 13 – July 31: Ride from Prince George to Saskatoon via Jasper, Icefields Parkway, Saskatchewan crossing, Rocky Mountain House, and Red Deer
  • Aug 1: Attend Jodi and Cameron’s wedding in Saskatoon
  • Aug 2 – Aug 8: Ride from Saskatoon to Winnipeg

We have not yet decided what we will do after Winnipeg. We have the option of either a cross-Canada ride via the Trans-Canada north of Lake Superior or change to a cross-North-America ride via some less busy roads south of Lake Superior. If you have any advice on routes, we would love to hear it.

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Little Sheep restaurant – clearly the same chain as in Tanggu, China, but this time we can read the tagline.

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Us, enjoying the hotpot. The spicy half was a bit much – even for Scott and Kate, but everyone was happy with the original flavour.

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Golden Ears Bridge

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Coastal Celebration ferry. It’s one of three brand new ferries, which are the largest double-ended ferries in the world. Not just ramps at both ends, but two bridges, two props, two engines…

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Some of the stuff we’re sending home

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Scott’s clothing pile

The visa list continues

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

As Canadians, getting visas is often not difficult; however, we usually need to pay more for visas than others. This is because Canada charges more for visas than many other countries. Here is a summary of the visas we have acquired and a bit about our experiencing acquiring them.

The following countries did not require visas: United States (the first time), Spain, Italy, and Greece.

The only visa we have left to purchases is Laos, unless we decide to travel through Vietnam, in which we’ll need that visa too. To reduce hassles at the border, we’ll try and get the Laos visa when we are in Bankok.

Turkey COST: 45 Euro each

We acquired our Turkish visa at the border upon entering the country. The process was trivial, and we paid for the visa with Euros.

Syria COST: $141 CAD each

Since the timing worked out, we applied for our Syrian Visas in Canada – although it was certainly possible to get a visa at the border. Having the multi-entry visa made the border crossing much easier, and gave us more options when we took the bus from Amman to Damascus. The visa itself said it was a 15-day multiple entry visa; however, we successfully used it twice with more than 15-days between uses, and we were in Syria for 11 days the first time and 9 days the second. We had applied for a 60-day visa, so we suspect what we actually had was a 60-day visa, but were required to check in with Visa officials after 15-days, which is a standard requirement for most non-Arab foreigners.

Note that Syria also charges an exit fee. We paid 500 Syrian Pounds the first time we exited in 2008 and 550 SP the second exit in 2009. We suspect the second was just an annual cost adjustment.

Syrian duty free only accepted payment in USA Dollars, which was unfortunate, as we had hoped to use up our Syrian Pounds there.

Jordan COST: $10 Jordanian Dollars each

Upon arriving at the land border crossing in Jordan, we needed to purchase the tourist visa. The fee had to be paid in Jordanian dollars. Fortunately, they have official exchange counters available to exchange currency for anyone who requires it. Once we handed over our money, the visa was issued immediately, and the customs official welcomed us to Jordan.

Note that Jordan also charges an exit fee, which must be paid in Jordanian Dollars.

Singapore and Malaysia COST: Free

Upon entry into both Singapore and Malaysia, we were issued a visa for free. For Singapore we were given 30 days and for Malaysia we were given 90 days.

Thailand COST: $50 Singapore Dollar each

Since we had heard from other cyclists that the Thailand land crossings were only issuing 15-day visas, we applied for a 60-day visa while in Singapore. The process was pretty simple – go to embassy in the morning, fill in form, submit with $50, return the next day after 2 pm to retrieve the visa. No problem. We have since heard from Kat and Mike (http://katandmikebike.com) that they received free 90-day double-entry Thailand visas in Kota Bahru Malaysia.

China COST: 130 Malaysian Ringgit plus 150 RG express fee each

We noticed that the application form for the Chinese visa in Singapore required much more detailed information than the application form in Malaysia. So, we recommend getting the visa in Kuala Lumpur rather than Singapore if you have the option. We only applied for a 30-day single entry visa because that is all we will require for this trip, but the form had boxes for longer duration visas. The process was very simple, fill in form, submit, pay, pick up visa. We paid for the same day processing, as we needed our passports for the USA embassy the following day. Normal processing time is 4-5 days. They also have quick but not express 1-2 day service. We were surprised at how easy this turned out to be.

USA COST: 485 Malaysian Ringget plus 32 RG administration free each

The USA Visa was by far our most expensive visa, and most annoyingly the one we did not really need. NSB, the company that operates the freighter ran into a problem a few years ago with a Canadian citizen being denied entry to the US due to lack of a visa. The Department of Homeland Security required that the person be removed from the country and caused a delay in the ship’s cargo operations, which is very expensive. Even though our travel agent has a letter from Homeland Security and we had a letter from the USA Embassy in Singapore stating that we did not need a Visa, the company would not allow us passage on the freighter without a USA Visa. So, we applied for a Visa while we were in Kuala Lumpur.

The visa process involves filling out a form online, paying the visa fee at a specific bank (the Alliance bank), booking an appointment, and then going to the embassy for fingerprinting and an interview. Scott spent several hours agonizing over the forms and the various pieces of paperwork that we might require. After paying the fee, we had to wait overnight to book the appointment. There were several appointment options, the soonest being the next day (that is 2 days after paying the fee).

When we arrived at the USA embassy, we:

  1. registered at information to receive a guest pass
  2. went through security screening (metal detector)
  3. checked our cell phone (you can’t bring any electronics in)
  4. entered the main building where we again went through a metal detector
  5. took a number and waited until we were called
  6. upon being called, our paperwork was validated and we were again sent back to the waiting room
  7. upon being called the second time, our finger prints were taken and we were again sent back to the waiting room
  8. upon being called the third time, we were briefly interviewed. The interviewer asked one question “Why are you here?”. Once we explained, she approved the visa. She mentioned that having the visa may cause us to need to answer additional questions at the border, which we also were concerned about, so she kindly added a note to our files to hopefully prevent future problems.

The interviewer let us know immediately that we would receive a visa, and provided us with the claim forms for our passports. The actual visa processing occurs overnight, so we pick up our passports the next afternoon. The interview at the embassy took about 2 ½ hours (including wait time to get through security).

We almost completely screwed up picking up our passports with USA visas. We saw the address and were looking for the WISMA building. To our surprise, there were many Wisma buildings. Becky was wondering just how rich this Wisma guy is anyways. We have since learned that Wisma is “building” or “plaza”, and the important part of the address was the three letters after the word Wisma, MCA – oops! Fortunately, we were going in the right direction and found the correct building to collect our passports.

Our 10 minutes of fame

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

On Thursday, Scott and I were interviewed on the CBC Radio Ottawa drive home show: All in a Day. We arrived early and got the opportunity to watch the show being produced for 10 minutes before we went on air. I was struck by how calm the producer was given that she was producing a live show, so all her decisions had to be made quickly and she had to react on the fly to what just happened.

The interview is posted on the CBC website here. Note: Requires Real player to be installed.

A glitch …

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Freighter travel requires that you be completely flexible. After recieving our package in the mail, we became aware of a couple of additional glitches.

First, the freighter companies no longer accept packages for travellers. We had planned on receiving resupplies parcels as we arrived at each of our freighter trips. We now need to figure out how to receive packages within the cities of departure and manage picking them up.

Second, even though we specifically asked the question when we did our original immunizations, it was made clear that freighters that pass through either the Suez or Panama canals require Yellow Fever immunizations. Because our second trip requires a Suez transit, we needed to get the additional immunization. This isn’t a huge deal, just one more thing to add to the list of many other things that we need to do before we leave (theoretically on Friday!).

We are making progress packing up the house.

All our packages have arrived in Ogdensburg, so tomorrow I’ll be driving out to pick them up.

In all the craziness things are coming together … but I don’t yet feel 100% that a Friday departure is going to happen. Oh well, what happens happens :).

Freighter Update – Savannah to Gioia Tauro

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Things did seem like they were settled for a little while, but alas it was not to be. The boat we thought we were taking from Charleston to Antwerp is no longer running on that route. Our plan now is to take a boat (MSC Alessia) from Savannah, Georgia to Gioia Tauro, Italy. The boat leaves Savannah on or about October 2nd. That is a little later than we wanted to leave North America, but c’est la vie. The extra time will allow us to ride through a little more of Nova Scotia and part way to Savannah.Gioia Tauro Italy

We made it to Kingston … and didn’t get too wet!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

96 km later. We have stopped briefly to eat and then we will catch the 7pm Wolfe Island Ferry. I’ll write more later and update in a day or two – depending on when we get Internet next.

We are going, heaven knows where we are going …

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know with-in.
And we will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.
It will be hard, we know, and the road will be muddy and rough, but we’ll get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but know we will.
Woyaya
by Loughty Amoa, Solomon Amarfio, Robert M. Bailey, Roy Bedeau, Francis T. Osei, Whendell K. Richardson, and Mac Tontoh

Today’s church service started with this song, which really resonated with me. It was like the song was written specifically for us and was appropriate to mark the beginning of our journey.

Technically speaking, our journey doesn’t begin until July 4th, when we leave Ottawa for our world tour, but in some ways the beginning is tomorrow. Tomorrow morning (or more likely afternoon looking at how organized we are – NOT) we will load up our bikes and begin our shakedown cruise around Lake Ontario. I can’t believe the time has finally come. I only with the weather was a little more agreeable.

This trip will be a journey in more ways that one. It will be a spiritual journey and an emotional one, in addition to the physical journey. So, although we have an idea where we are going physically, it is the spiritual and emotional journeys where we know we are going, but we don’t really know where!

Photo Shoot

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

On Sunday, Scott and I went up to visit our friends Mike and Sasha and asked them to take some action shots of us on the bikes. They did a great job! Here are some of the highlights:

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Shakedown Cruise – Itinerary update

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Here is the latest plan:

  • June 2-7: Ottawa to Rochester (approx. 420 km in 6 days).
  • June 8-10: Off bikes. Visiting Becky’s family, getting bikes tuned.
  • June 11-22: Rochester to Ottawa via Toronto (approx. 800 km in 12 days).

Here is the plan for immediately after the shakedown cruise:

  • June 23-27: Pack, prepare, take first aid course.
  • June 28: Open house.
  • June 29-30: Finish packing.
  • July 1: Canada Day.
  • July 2: Moving day (all furniture leave the house).
  • July 3: Pack up bicycles – final gear organization.
  • July 4: Departure.

Stage 1 – Map

Saturday, May 24th, 2008


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