Ford Model: Fiesta
Ford Year: 2002
Welcome to Dan's travel blog!
Dan is currently driving around the world in his 16 year-old Ford Fiesta and is posting his updates through the Ford Owners Club.
You can follow his exploits here, so pop back periodically to see where he is next and to read more about his adventures.
Friday at 06:27 AM My story so far:
I write this in part as you guys may be interested in my achievements which I haven't really publicised - for no other reason than the fact I'm travelling for my own personal experience. In 2016 I left England on what so far has been a 2-year road trip across the northern hemisphere (with a brief visit to west-coast America whilst I applied for Central Asian visas) in my 2002 Ford Fiesta.
I've driven to date over 25,000 miles and explored countries such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Russia, Georgia ... In late 2016 I visited the northern Russian city of Murmansk experiencing temperatures as low as -22 and my car was fine! In the coming days, I will cross the Ural river, the geographical feature separating Asia and Europe; and arrive for the first time in the continent of Asia.
I've severely neglected social media and wasn't sure how best to 'advertise' my travels, I simply thought someone may be interested. I'm not looking for fame, simply, I have accumulated so many interesting stories, both car and non-car related, along with tens of thousands of DSLR photos and 'car selfies.' I just thought as my story is perhaps unusual and in a Ford Fiesta, someone/you all may be interested.
I never took a traditional gap year so have taken a hiatus from my career to travel for 2 years. I left the UK in 2016 with an odometer reading of 68,267 - I'm now just over 91,000 miles. My road-trip to-date can in effect be can be broken into 2 parts.
Part 1: Predominantly exploring Europe: (August 2016-May 2017)
Returning to the UK to obtain Central Asian VISAs
Yellow line = Primary road-trip in the Fiesta; to be read > leaving England towards Scandinavia,
Of particular note:- My entry into Kosovo via Serbia from the north, all roads due to the war have been deliberately destroyed bar a single road used for goods vehicles which was shelled by mortars during the war. This hasn't been fixed, needless to say my suspension had a good work out. I was in Kosovo for their annual Day of Independence [from Serbia] celebrations in February 2017.
Orange line = Detour road-trips in the Fiesta; Of note: to the northern Russian city of Murmansk situated over 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in October 2016 Personal best of -22, car was fine! I was cold.
Red line = A single flight to Bulgaria and back into Saint Petersburg - Sep 2016
Part 2: My current road trip: Russia into Central Asia: (Sep 2017-Current)
Yellow line = Primary road-trip in the Fiesta; leaving England straight for Saint Petersburg, Russia -
Of particular note:- My entry in Annexed Crimea, [The FCO advises against all travel to this region for British nationals] was via mainland Russia and thus not through a border controlled by Ukrainian forces - as the UK.. and well most of the world don't consider Crimea part of the Russian Federation - According to UK law I've committed an international crime and face arrest. I'm very proud of this amusing feat. Without hesitation I can say I had an amazing time in Crimea, I will have fond memories of this place for a long time. Christmas 2017
I entered Chechnya and Dagestan, both of these regions the FCO point blank advises all British nationals not to travel under any circumstance, this was the 3rd region I've explored that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises point blank against all travel for British nationals... and this was the third region I've had a positive experience.
My interactions with people through these two caucus regions have been nothing but warm and welcoming, very humbling. Once again people asking for car selfies, one driver aged about 60 was so amazed by my presence here, he filmed me for a good few miles! From personal experience and through talking to locals, I've released tourists here are incredibly well received, and respected.
Red line = My planned main route - I write this currently in Astrakhan near the western Kazakhstan border. With a rough plan to be at Baikal for April 2017
Orange line = Planned detour route from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Baikonur, Kazakhstan - Arrival date in Baikonur 10th March, for the purpose of watching live manned Soyuz launch Expedition 55/56 to the ISS.
I've recently crossed onto the Western Steppes, and successfully crossed into Kazakhstan. The border itself this time of year is rather unique, from experience a conventional border crossing via road consists of a country's exit border, a section of 'no man's land' then the new country's entry border.
However, the border between Russia and Western Kazakhstan lies across a section of the Reka Kigach river which at this time of year has frozen over. You have the Russian exit border but then stretched across the bridges are a series of no less than 2 Kazakhstan check-points. At each checkpoint, you're issued a stamp and the car is roughly checked for contraband when you finally arrive at the Kazakhstan entry border across the river you present your stamps as proof you've legitimately travelled via road across the frozen river and haven't simply illegally driven across the frozen ice.
One of my last Russian cities before crossing is unique. Named Elista, a fascinating region, and the only part in all of Europe which is Buddhist.
The steppes here are a sight, flat grasslands for as far as the eye can see, remarkable. Herds of animals wander freely. I should cross the Ural river by car for the first time in the coming day and therefore arrive on the continent of Asia for the first time. Washing the car is futile!
There are 2 main geographical landscapes separating the continent of Asia and Europe: the Ural mountains in the north, and the Ural River to the south, both of these geographical features now lie to my west meaning for the first time I have set foot in Asia. In fact, the Ural river is frozen this time of year, so my first trip into Asia I actually walked across the frozen ice which in itself is a doubly cool feat from my perspective. Continent number 2 for the Fiesta, very, very proud!
Western Kazakhstan is amazing, and I'll try to write in detail about my short time here when I have better battery life on the laptop. I really wish I could have stayed in this region longer. However my goal was to enter Uzbekistan asap, I have a single month, single entry Visa for Uzbekistan which started on the 1st January and expires 31st January 2018. I explored the Greater Caucasus for longer than originally planned which has had a rough knock on effect in my itinerary.
Today after a very long drive (due to road surface in the region, approx 100 miles takes about 3 hours) I've crossed from Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan and write this from their city 'Nukus' I've already had a very friendly welcome; from the border guards amazed by my presence - to the friendly drivers giving me a warm thumbs up and toot toot.
My car remains dirty which is a good thing; I have written in Russian on my bonnet in big letters 'Hello from an Englishman' this has resulted in an accumulation of various forms of reply; randoms welcoming me to their regions or country. I'll travel to Tashkent over the coming week, but for now, I'll rest for a couple of days and explore the region.
Attached are a few pictures, including the frozen Ural River. Also, I was able to capture a 'rainbow' which in-fact curved in on itself near the horizon making a 270 degree arc, but as there was no moisture in the sky I assume this was some form of solar/atmospheric effect caused by the sun (it almost looks like camera flare, but I assure you it isn't, I was deliberately trying to photograph this phenomenon.)
It's difficult to photograph the true scale of these steppes... perfect flat lands for thousands (literally, as they stretch into Mongolia) of miles. If there's is something on the horizon like a power pylon, it's noticeable, and evident I must have a view range of 10 square miles at least.
January 28th 2018
There have been 2 main updates since I last wrote about my progress last Monday...
Its worth interjecting quickly to note: The 'roads' I've experienced since entering central Asia have been rough, to say the least. About a week ago I drove into what can only be initially described as a 'crevasse' at roughly 25mph, but I've now come to the realization this can more accurately be described as a 'minor and frequent pothole' This was with sufficient impact to smash both my fog lights, but upon a check of the car I didn't' see any fundamental problems. Which basically means my tires and suspension were fine so I drove forth with due care.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago, with over 1000 miles travelled since the pothole in question - and the car experiencing no issues - after a scheduled stop at a petrol station, the car randomly didn't start. A single turn of the ignition and dash lights worked and all lights were bright. The car didn't even attempt to start of try and turn over. Were it not for the very kind Uzbek locals i would have been somewhat stranded, however, the car was perfectly happy once push started and I made it into my scheduled stop for the night, the historic city of Khiva. After turning the engine off I experienced identical issues, we were able to push start it again with little effort and took it to the local competent car mechanic. (See below for this reference to make more sense, but this push start in Khiva was initiated by a very friendly police officer who after being informed at what we were doing, called over no less than 3 members of his police force colleagues to help)
The mechanic was able to diagnose the specific reason for the engine not starting was due to a blown 60A fuse in my Auxiliary fuse box in the engine bay. In addition, after a check of the car, he was able to see that my front end was smashed more than my initial lamen inspection. The front radiator fan had clearly not been working for some time and my radiator itself was a good 10 degrees offset. I hadn't experienced any overheating and oil temperatures have remained normal. However, it's his professional diagnosis that my car was overheating and the reason for the blown fuse.
Some of you may have seen my recent post titled 'Fuse box diagram needed' Long story but the fuse box diagram for my car is harder to find than one assumes, but thankfully due to the help of the forums here (specifically @dansallis TY! and the guys over on the Puma forums specifically 'Ian G') I was able to locate not only my fuse box diagram but find out the specific fuse blowing is a 60A Engine Management fuse. The explanation of this fuse is vague but after a search and through talking with some mates - a guesstimate is that this fuse could be blowing as I have loose Ignition Capacitor or Radio Suppressor wires which are earthing somewhere. (Incidentally - I couldn't actually locate these personally, are they behind my radio?)
However, after a thorough check we couldn't see any loose wires and all earthing wires are connected accordingly. The car is now out of the shop, and I'm very saddened I wasn't present to take images of the car being worked on as I've never seen the front end off my car. Anyways, the car now starts perfectly and the front end has been fixed (which isn't a bad thing regardless) I guess the only way to know if the car has indeed been fixed is to continue to drive and see if my Fuse continues to blow - if so then perhaps I do indeed have a loose wire which is earthing, and I guess if it doesn't blow then the problem was indeed something to do with the front fan not spinning. Any additional opinions on the cause on why my F51 60A Engine Management fuse blew are welcomed.
I mentioned 2 main updates, the second is that totally unrelated to recent car issues (as I say: it now starts fine and is presumably fixed) I've had to return home to Yorkshire with immediate effect. This isn't something I will discuss further, but needless to say, I've temporarily abandoned the car in Khiva, Uzbekistan. All non-essentials I've brought back to the UK including all car and import documentation.
I'm very humbled by the response from the local community in Khiva, I've given the owners of where I was staying the car keys and they've kindly said they will look after it until I return, also the local police have been very friendly, and one officer specifically has been so so helpful, I get the feeling he almost feels personally compelled to ensure my car remains perfectly fine during his watch, and during my absence.
This is a non-scheduled return to the UK and thus a new visa is required for me to enter Uzbekistan, but I anticipate returning to the car to continue my road-trip in 4-5 weeks.
With several stories from my road trip around Europe prior to entering Central Asia, this perhaps is a good and logical time to have an intermission from chronological events, and near future posts will be of events past.
Attached are images from a very random event, in-fact immediately prior to my petrol stop mentioned above; whilst driving I noticed a plane on the horizon. Risking multiple punctures I drove somewhat off-piste to investigate.
Very randomly from my perspective just sat there in the middle of the steppes I came across an old abandoned Yak 42 with a tail number of 42305 - you can see, but not go, inside - as the rear has been welded shut and I didn't want to risk tetanus investigating further! I've been unable to find further information on this...
- - - Intermission from chronological events, road trip on pause, car is currently in Khiva, Uzbekistan. - - -
Thank you for your patience on the recent infrequency of my posts, to start off with stories of the past I rewind you to February 2016 where I was exploring Slovakia. I knew nothing really about this country (or rather embarrassing about most countries across Europe) and arrived to what was a beautiful amazing experience surrounded in deep history.
Whilst driving on a hill I saw the largest castle I have ever seen.. and doing good for time and daylight I naturally deviated from my plans to explore. There's a little car park near the bottom which stated the castle was closed due to the winter season.
The walk to the top was long, considering the deep snow, with old tyre tracks to the top this has at one point been used by the odd staff at some point likely the residing gatekeeper. So with this in mind, I decided to drive onwards and reached a little drawbridge and the gatehouse courtyard. The castle was indeed closed and guarded by a very loud guard dog which thankfully was too big to squeeze under the gate to get to me.
I spent some time taking amazing photos and drove around a little bit in the courtyard.... perhaps in hindsight to casually drive about here wasn't my wisest move as I later out of interest researched where I was... this is "one of the biggest European castles by area" and in 1993 made a UNESCO World Heritage site... welcome to Spiš Castle.
Just an update: I've applied for my Uzbekistan visa, so should be reunited with the car sometime around early/mid-March I will be able to continue on my travels. In the meantime, I have one or two stories for past travels to update you.
In the meantime...
Taken just after the new year, here's a small collection of photos from my time in the Greater Caucasus. The white monument 'Grozniy' is the capital city of Chechnya, the car selfie with the monument of Makhachkala is the Capital city of Dagestan: both these regions the FCO advise against all travel, but my personal experience from travelling through these regions was very warm and welcoming, tourists are respected here.
Some may wonder why I chose to detour around these parts of the world, sadly deteriorating on a dry dock to the Caspian Sea is what is known as the Caspian Sea Monster, a remarkable feat in Soviet engineering...
However google advertises this as a tourist attraction, so I blindly went there to take photos, in truth: its located INSIDE the Kaspiysk Naval base home to the Kaspiysk flotilla...
Arriving here to a naval base with a camera landed me nearly 5 hours of being questioned by Russian intelligence police on topics ranging from terrorism, being a spy and espionage.
Treated nicely I can't complain at security doing their job, especially considering the region. Had coffee and biscuits, and we even went out on a trip to a local Dagestan art exhibition with paintings made by children while we waited for the translator.
I, of course, wasn't allowed entry, genuinely saddened. (Following image from Google - in my defence it was obviously once accessible) So sad not to see it in a museum.
In March 2017 the Kremlin-approved a major overhaul of the Kaspiysk naval base.
With several expansions and upgrades, what was once a minor naval base became a major base used with Russian operations in Syria.
Sadly I was a little too late, but happy to have explored new regions.