Ah the traditionally heavy St Patrick’s Day/Jill’s birthday night hangover, how we hate you but OH how you are worth it!! Awaking in our suite in Almaty we were really enjoying the luxury with it’s amazing comfy beds (especially Jill’s middle class bed – although sadly they didn’t have any instructions on how to predict an earthquake by observing the behaviour of cats) and black out curtains, so it will come as no surprise at all to hear that we didn’t surface until mid-afternoon. Thankfully our flight wasn’t until 6.30pm (nicely timed, Transaero!), so we just sat on our lovely big balcony drinking minibar boozes in the sun and debriefing each other on the shenanigans of the previous night until the time came to head down to check out, order a taxi and neck a quick vodka and fresh orange at the bar before heading to the airport. We got there in sufficient (not “good” obviously, this is us we’re talking about) time to catch the flight no problem, but there was a MASSIVE queue at passport control, only one window was open and he seemed to be taking ages to let each person through (we thought maybe he was using Tajik security methods of getting a yak to stare at people’s documents) and we were getting very restless and tetchy as we anxiously awaited our turn.
Nice relaxing balcony beers
Lovely view from Hotel Kazakh
Finally we got through and managed to board the flight just in time. After take-off when the complimentary drinks trolley came round we asked for a beer, which was met with shaken heads. “Wine?”, “Vodka?” and “Whisky?” were also similarly dismissed. Even when we offered to pay extra. Turns out there was only NO BOOZE on the flipping plane! This was just not cricket, as we were in dire need of a mender and it was over four hours to Moscow (that we were actually allowed to go to this time as our connecting flight was with the same airline so we were “officially” transitting). Four miserable hours, that we spent mostly bitching about the lack of booze or trying to nap. Very badly played Transaero! We had thought better of a Russian airline!!
Well, we don’t even know where to start on this one. Just as Susan and Vita were panicking and running through Dublin airport as they had heard a gate closed tannoy for their flight to Gatwick , a message arrived from Jill saying she had boarded the wrong plane and almost flown to Belfast ! Resulting in her missing her Gatwick flight and having to pay a fortune to detour through Heathrow with British Airways instead.
After a few hours in the No. 1 lounge in Gatwick of Susan trying to teach Vita how to play playstation, and Vita throwing a variety of pastries around, Jill finally made it to Gatwick and we were reunited as a shark with 3 privvy legs. We celebrated it in style with Bloody Marys and some nice relaxing episodes of Charmed, which made us realise that as we had the power of three we may also possess witchy powers, which we used to refill the porridge kettle with chilli – coincidence? We think not!
On top form and with joy in our hearts we merrily skipped to the gate to catch our flight to Moscow, from where we had a harrowing 6 hour wait in the lounge with free bar and food to catch another flight to Ashgabat. Upon proudly displaying our boarding passes to the gate keepers we were asked where our visas for Moscow were, well we don’t need any as we are only transiting and not leaving the airport (we had done much research on the subject and found that this was all fine and dandy so were certain of our status), to which they replied “Easyjet is a point to point airline and as such we don’t do transit”. A phrase which was about to be burned into our brains from hearing it repeatedly during the next few hours. Whilst on the phone to the manager, Phillipe, we sadly watched our flight to Moscow depart down the runway, so close and yet so far away. An emotion to which we were about to become very accustomed. Heads still held high and refusing to be cowed by The Man we defiantly strode back to the obvious next outpost, Wetherspoons, to weigh up our options.
You all may be thinking that it’s been a bit quiet on the Pinge and Wang front recently (we admit it and we’re sorry – we’re never going to get on Ellen at this rate with this lack of commitment to our social media outlets and with our knees at our time of life!!!) but behind the scenes it has been a hive of activity, working away to finalise the itinerary for this year’s amazing trip: The Stannering. We’ve come up against a lot of obstacles – closed borders, routes, visas etc… It’s been a logistical nightmare, but now we are basking in the warm glow of having proposed another fabulous trajectory that would make Peter Powell proud!
We’ve also had no end of bother with bureaucracy, involving Jill having to get a new passport (because Uzbekistan refused her visa with the scruffy, beef sauce covered, guilty-stamped one that has been with us on all our previous adventures), Susan having to take a day trip to Northern Ireland to buy return UK postage for her Uzbek and Tajikstan visas (but getting a fun evening in dubious bars in Newry being fought over by old men out of it) and being concerned about Turkmenistan’s fear of good for nothing Latvians.
Oh yes! We forgot to tell you! We have a companion for the first (and maybe second) leg of this trip – our lovely friend Vita will be joining us as we rock the shit out of Turkmenistan! You know that usually we’re partners in crime and don’t want anyone else along for the ride (and no one else could put up with us to be honest), but this year is kind of special as it’s Susan’s 40th birthday! She had wanted to spend it on the moon, but budget tourist space flights aren’t a thing quite yet so she’s settled for camping at the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan as the next best thing (“Turkmenistan – the next best thing to the moon” – Turkmen Tourist Board, you can use that if you like!) and invited a few close friends along for that leg of the trip. BUT, our Turkmen tour organiser (you can’t get a visa without an organised tour – booo) has warned us that it is unlikely that Vita will be issued a visa as Turkmenistan think that “people from all ex-soviet countries are trouble makers”! The cheek! Of course, Vita is no trouble maker and we’re hoping that he’s talking bollocks (the Turkmen Embassy in London seemed to think when we asked!) and that the consul will be won over by her very angelic-looking visa photos!
So the progress report for the day is so far we have: finished the trajectory, booked the tour in Turkmenistan, booked the Almaty- Yerevan flights and applied for Uzbekistan visas (Jill for the 2nd time!). Shit’s starting to get reeeeeal!!!
Coming soon – the moment you have all been waiting for… OUR 2015 ROUTE MAP!!!!
Wandering in search of a nice loose egg, your favourite idiot broads abroad embarking on an yet another enchanting voyage of self-discovery (not the kind that's in those arty french films with subtitles and hairy biffs). Join us in our journey!