Friday, 26 July 2013

We have the Jimnys!!!

You would not believe the day we have had.....

Thursday 9.00am we're at Gabrielle's office. From there we go to the customs office to complete the paperwork and receive the certificate to say that the vehicles have past the contamination test.  However, we can't move them until we have insurance.  Off we all go, a 30 minute drive to the insurance office, Gabrielle goes back to her office. 

We talk to the insurance people about how we can obtain the insurance that we need and an hour and a half later it transpires that we cannot get what we need from them we have to travel for an hour to the other side of Vancouver to the registration office.  There we should obtain special short term insurance cover. 

An hour later we leave with both cars being insured until the end of August.  By now it's 3.45pm and the customs closes at 4.30. We won't make it in time, we all feel sick and tired. I phone Gabrielle to tell we won't make it in time, but she insists we come to her office as there was more papers to sign.

We arrive at her office at 4.45 to find our two little cars waiting for us!!!!!!   What a relief. She had managed to get the customs to release them into her custody.  I had wondered why she insisted we come to her office.

So now we're ready to go early Friday Vancouver time. The vehicles are ok apart from the slight vibration in the front somewhere on 03, but apart from that everything seems good

It's now 10pm here so I am going to have a shower now and get ready for radio Solent at12.40. Les

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Has our luck changed???

It looks like we are going to have some luck at long last. It has all happened at once.  The Jimnys passed the decontamination check yesterday and the container has been collected from the docks today (Wednesday Vancouver time) and taken to the customs area.  The paperwork will be completed ready for the customs at 9.30 Vancouver time Thursday 25th.

When that is done, Gabriell and myself will go to the insurance office, then when that is sorted out, we'll take a few hours to get the Jimny's ready and we should be on our way to Anchorage by around mid day if all goes to plan.

I will try to let you know when we actually get going ........ fingers crossed.  Les

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Up, up and ......

Hi Guys, here's another journey incident worth telling while we wait for the Jimnys. It was May 14th day 45 of the challenge. We had crossed the border at Tashanta from Russia into Mongolia, and were on our way to Ulgij. Our first shock was that the tarmac road as we crossed the border only lasted for a few kilometres and then the sand roads started. The dust was unbelievable, you could not drive with the windows open and you could not use the air conditioning as it consumes about 20% of the power of the engine. Anyway, we had been driving for best part of the morning when we came across a small village, so to make sure we were going in the right direction, I showed the map to a local man who pointed to a track and as you followed it by eye it zig zagged a bit but then made its way up the side of what I would only describe as a very high hill or a small mountain. Either way you looked at it, it didn't look good. I thought this is scary, you know that feeling when you know you have to do it, but you would rather not because it will frighten the living daylights out of you. Hesitantly we pushed on. The Jimny I drive is 02 with an all up weight of about 1.5 ton, a bit heavier than 03, so I struggle at times with some of the things we had to do and this was definitely one of them. Never the less we proceeded skywards.

As we went higher and higher the power of the little 13hp engine seemed to be getting less and less. I naturally thought the problem was the quality of the fuel, but later realised it was the altitude we were at that was the problem. The air was too thin and the engine could not suck in enough air to function efficiently. If that wasn't bad enough, the track was blocked for some reason so you just followed the tyre marks made by the vehicles that had gone before and turned off the track. This meant looking down the side of the mountain at an alarming angle. I swallowed, held my breath and with my backside playing the national anthem, I went over the edge looking at the village that we passed a long way below and away in the distance. The surface was loose sand and flint chips and was moving side ways as I inched along what passed as some sort of track. To my horror, it ended with nowhere to turn. I was on the side of the hill, come mountain and in deep poo!! I couldn't even get out of the car.

There I was looking straight down and as I looked around expecting to find the other guys ready to help, they were no where to be seen. I was on my own. A situation that had occurred on two other occasions throughout the journey. We were always supposed to be in sight of one and other for safety and security reasons. I tried the radio but no response. I decided to try and reverse back to where I came off the the main track. It was not possible to get back onto the track from where I was, it was too steep. Maybe I could turn around and drive the other way as there were tyre tracks in that direction.

I shunted the little Jimny backwards and forwards, sometimes at an alarming angle, but I finally made the turn and inched my way back to see if I could get back onto the track, only to be faced with a scarily steep incline. As the car was on the level at this point, I got out and had a good look at my precarious situation and thought about what to do. I climbed up the slope and looked back at the car contemplating what I could do. I thought to myself 'what the ***** hell am I doing here'. I got back in the car, backed up as far as I could, selected second gear and hit the throttle, thinking I must be mad. I hit the ramp and up I went, this little car was simply amazing. Its four wheel drive dragged us up to the top and back onto the track with ease. When my breathing returned to normal I set out to find where the other car was. I wasn't to happy that they had gone off and left me, but relieved when I saw them coming towards me.

It appeared that we had taken the wrong track somewhere on our way up this hill and had to go back down to find the right one. This lost us time but we were soon on our way again driving up the mountain. The right track was much better, however three quarters of the way up I ran out of steam again and had to drive the last part to the top in reverse with the clutch smelling like burnt porridge. We had made it to the top. Going down the other side was no joke either, trying to stop on loose sand and flint chips is not easy. This time I learnt from my mistakes, I let the other guys go in front so if they went over the edge I was not to go follow them! Les 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

From Les ....

Hi guys, if you have been following the blog you will know about the problems we have had as a result of our container being left on the docks at Hong Kong. Well that hopefully is behind us now and it is on a ship at sea and pointing at Vancouver. Everybody involved tells me not to worry, but as far as I'm concerned until I see the cars for myself I will feel uneasy. I can see it now, the container arrives, the doors are thrown open and it's full of Chinese woks!

With that nightmare still on my mind, last Friday morning I got a call from Gabrielle, our agent in Vancouver, telling me that for some reason one of the Jimnys was listed on the ships Bill of Lading as Mike Bailey being the principal driver. Because of that, he will have to be at the Canadian customs to receive his Jimny, or I would have to ask Mike to give our agent Power of Attorney to receive it on his behalf. This is crazy I thought.

I emailed Gabrielle back to say I will look at the paperwork and get back to her. Driving around the world isn't easy, the complications just seem to go on and on. I had this picture of Roger and Glyn, my Stage Four travelling companions, turning up, but us having only one car available. I studied the paperwork and what it appears had happened was, as we crossed the borders from the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia, they all excepted that I was the registered owner of both vehicles, except one. The Mongolian / Russian crossing at Kyakta. They insisted that I cannot be the owner of both vehicles and registered Mike as owner of the other one and let us cross the border. 

All the paperwork was in place with the additional piece that said Mike was the principal driver. I was looking at the papers pulling at the last three strands of hair left on my head wondering what to do. I decided to ask Mike to sign a disclaimer and we get it witnessed to the effect that he was not the owner, so this we did. I also drafted a note as to how the problem occurred, and sent it off to Gabrielle. When I meet her on Tuesday, (local time in Vancouver) and will give her fresh copies of the vehicle registration papers and purchase invoices, and hope that will do.

What else can go wrong, if I don't come back to you by the 23rd, it means I have hung myself. Not because of the problems with customs, it will be because when we opened the container it was full of woks!!

Monday, 15 July 2013

A lucky escape

I said that I would let you know about some of the things that happened as we travelled from Southampton to Vladivostok Russia and this is one of those stories. It makes me sweat every time I think of it.

As you know we have two Suzuki Jiminys that we're driving around the world, LC02SUZ is the one that I'm driving and I intend to drive the whole way around myself. LCO3SUZ, the second vehicle was being driven in this instance by Graham Higgins and Mike Bailey on a shared driving basis. 

It was Stage 3 of the journey and we had crossed the border at Kyakhta, from Mongolia, back into Russia on Monday May 20th, day 51. We had found ourselves driving on a few kilometres of decent road for a change, good for overtaking, because there was lot of traffic in both directions. We had had a fair bit of hassle crossing the border that morning, it seemed to take for ever before they opened the gates and let us pass. During the drive that day I wasn’t tired, more frustrated at wasting time at the border and wanted to push on as we still had a long way to go before dark. Both the Jimnys are standard UK specification with the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car. Cars in all the countries that we have driven through have the steering wheel on the left, so we are at a disadvantage because we can’t see to overtake easily. What we have to do when behind a big truck is drop back a bit, hope that nothing is coming in the opposite direction, ease out enough so you can see if there is anything coming or not before overtaking. Not a problem if you are doing the odd journey, but if you are doing it day in and day out you get sick of looking at the backs of lorries and end up taking chances.

This particular day I had already overtaken slow moving lorries a few times by going up on the inside using the gravel side of the road. Not the right thing to do but it breaks the monotony. Anyway I knew things weren't right with me because I was talking to myself, never a good sign. I was irritable, trying to catch up on the time we had lost and taking chances. I came upon two very big 30 wheeler trucks travelling at a speed just a little bit slower than myself. Waiting a while for an opportunity to overtake, my frustration was getting the better of me. I was swinging from side to side looking to see how I could overtake when the road started to turn in a long ark to the right. I went to the right hand side of the road to give me a clear view in front of the trucks. I had to let two cars pass and there was a small truck some way off. I let the cars pass and it was then clear to overtake. I wound the little Jimny up to give me all the power I could get, eased out to overtake, and started clawing past the first lorry. At that point I saw that there were three trucks not two and I'm now halfway past the second truck when my speed started to drop off. We had entered a small incline. It didn’t affect the trucks speed but my Jimny wasn’t going forward as quickly now. I looked up to see where the small truck was and I froze.  It wasn’t a truck, it was a fast moving white Toyota flashing his lights and he was almost on me. 

I started braking hard and watched as my life drifted by. The same time the driver of the first truck must have been watching what was happening and dropped back a little.  So as I'm watching the Toyota coming at me I dived for the gap just making it as the Toyota, horn blearing, went hurtling past.

Boy was I lucky that day. I've started sweating again just writing about it. So I'm sandwiched between trucks thinking what a stupid fool I had been and thanking the Almighty for another chance, when the truck drivers eventually took pity on me. The truck in front started flashing to telling me it was clear to overtake.

This very near miss frightened the life out of me. God knows what my travelling companions thought of it, they had had to watch it all unfold and it was only the day before that I was giving them a lecture about driving safely!

Nearly not Les

next time ..... does Les get both the Jimnys through Canadian Customs????

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Graham visits Suzuki HQ

From Les ...

I was very disappointed that we were not able to get clearance to drive the Jimnys on Japanese roads. The bureaucratic merry-go-round made it to difficult so in the end I decided to bypass Japan altogether and ship the vehicles direct from Vladivostok to Vancouver. By this time I was flagging a bit and felt that I needed to make a decision and give myself some rest time so that I will be fit enough to under take the last stage of the journey.

Having seen the Jimnys safely tucked up in their container I set off for Greece for a bit of R & R and Graham and Mike boarded a ferry to Japan for a few days site seeing.

From Graham ….

After the basic conditions encountered on our journey across Mongolia and and Russia, Japan was a complete contrast, modern, clean and civilised.  On a hot and humid day I took the bullet train from Tokyo to Hamamatsu. I was on my way to visit Suzuki Head Office on behalf of Heaven Can Wait I'm Busy. The journey was about 160 miles and it took 90 minutes. With five stops that's an average of over 100mph. The trains in Japan are fantastic.

I arrived about 2pm and was met at the Suzuki Head Office by Mr Osamu Shibata, the General Manager of European Sales and Marketing, and Mr Kenta Gotoh, the coordinator of European Sales and Marketing.

Graham and Mr Gotoh and one of the first Jimnys from 1970

We talked for about half an hour and I explained our journey so far and that we were raising money for Save the Children and Oakhaven Hospice. I assured them that the Suzuki Jimnys had performed very well on tracks where most people were driving much bigger 4x4s, and that they had come through their ordeal with only minor problems considering the conditions they had to content with.

One of the first open top Jimnys from 1972

I was given a tour of the Suzuki museum, which records the history of the Suzuki company from its beginnings when Mr Michio Suzuki started making weaving machines in 1909, through to 1952, when they started putting engines into pedal cycles up to the present day.

One of Mr Suzuki's early weaving machines

The museum also showed the manufacturing process of a modern Suzuki car, which was very interesting. 

Cut away example of a modern Suzuki

 The manufacture of the basic components was shown in a 3D cinema. 

Me in the 3D cinema

The film included making steel sheet, pressing the steel sheets into body panels, welding the panels together to form the complete body, casting the engine block and components and moulding the plastic bumpers.  After the film, the assembly track was shown as a series of full size working models of the various processes involved, until the complete car went into final testing and quality control.

A display of the way plastics are moulded and the end result is a model Suzuki

I left about 5pm and caught the bullet train back to Tokyo, a very enjoyable and interesting day.

 Me saying goodbye to Mr Gotoh

Our next blog in a few days will reveal the new Stage Four Itinerary so watch out for that.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Jimnys new arrival date

We have had a frustrating time over the past weeks as a result of the shipping company. Our agent in Vladivostok incorrectly coded our container incorrectly, resulting in it being left on the Hong Kong docks while they sorted out the problem.This happened not once but twice, with the result of missing two sailings. 

However, the good news came from our agent late yesterday confirming that our container, with, I hope, our cars inside, has been loaded on to the ship Clementine Muersk and will arrive at Vancouver on July 21st.  

The programme now is that I will travel to Vancouver on July 15th  to deal with the paperwork and port clearance of the vehicles, check the equipment and re-victual.  Then I'll be ready for Roger Winkworth and Glyn Maher, my traveling companions for Stage 4, and begin the final stage of the journey around the world. 

My task now is to re-schedule the itinerary, to overcome the problem the shipping company has caused of the Jimnys arriving 20 days later than originally planned.  I have already produced a new draft of the route and some information on the itinerary which Maureen will publish together with further information as it becomes available. I will keep you posted     Les