Which Way To Go?

Pretty fundamental really – when we get on a plane in Heathrow, is it going to fly east or west? Our first thought was that we should go west to Cuba (via Mexico) and then on to South America during their Spring & Early Summer, It turns out that nothing is easy!

Our constraints are – we want to volunteer for the Olympics in 2012 and so can’t envisage leaving before the Olympics close on 12th August 2012. On the other end, Stephen (youngest son) is likely to be graduating in late July 2013. These two dates give some hard end stops to our travels.

The table below shows the options for Westbound and Eastbound itineraries,summarising when we are likely to be in each country / area:

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Sadly, neither quite works! Going westbound, the main problems seem to be:

  1. The OneWorld round the world trip planner (used for planning and booking the flights for the major air sections) doesn’t seem to like us going from Beijing to Istanbul by land; and
  2. Iran and the various ‘Stans that the Silk Road passes through have strict visa requirements and are only valid for 3 months from date of issue.

Going east (and hence doing the Silk Road first) solves certainly the second of the above problems, but gives us other issues instead:

  1. The Irkeshtam and Torugart passes, which are the two routes from Kyrgystan into China are likely to be closed by snow between Oct and Mar so we probably wouldn’t get through in time before they shut for the winter;
  2. We still want to include Africa in our trip and so this would need to fit in at the end. OneWorld alliance don’t seem to have an airline that flies from South America to Africa (without transiting through London – which isn’t allowed since that is where we are starting from).

Problems, problems! Next steps are to spend some time with an expert on round the world airline tickets and then go and see a Silk Road specialist travel agency (probably after doing more research on visa requirements for the ‘Stans).

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