Flights of Fancy (and other means of transport)

One of the problems with the UK is that it's just too small.  I can drive from Oxford to the southern-most tip of Cornwall on the same day, I can make it to northern Scotland in under two days, and even our blessed train companies can match sort of range in a couple of days.  Maybe this is why I've got a fascination with long journeys - and particularly with trying to do more ground based travelling.  When we first visited India nearly 20 years ago we pushed our travel companies really hard to figure out ground-based itineraries (and when one of the trips coincided with a pilots strike this turned out to have been a really good idea).  The plus for us then was that we got to see a lot more of rural and village India than we would have done otherwise - and the food on the journeys was certainly better.  It was probably better for the environment too - but I don't remember that being talked about in 1991. When did we acquire 'Carbon Footprints'?

In the 'maybe' pile at the end of my desk I've currently got plans and ideas for three long, mostly ground-based, journeys.  There was a fourth idea - involving the Silk Road and the Karakorum Highway, but the trip to Xinjiang last year seems to have got these out of my system (temporarily at least).

The first long journey doubles as an ego trip (Is this where the term "ego trip" comes from?).  I thought it might be fun to go to the Ross Sea via Mackenzie Country.  A little bit of investigation suggested that while it is possible to get to the Ross Sea via South America and the Antarctic Peninsula it is only occasionally possible and is stupidly expensive, so it would make more sense to get to the Ross Sea from southern New Zealand (that's how Captain Scott and all the other early Antarctic explorers got there), and if I'm going to have to go to New Zealand I might as well spend a bit of time there in Mackenzie Country too.  Getting to New Zealand is pretty difficult these days without spending some time on planes - even the Man in Seat61 only offers a few suggestions about looking for passenger places on freighters, but there are ways.

The second folder hooks into my desire to spend some time talking photographs of wildlife in Africa - the easy way is to jump on a plane at Heathrow and fly due south for 10 or 12 hours.  A much more entertaining way to contemplate this (in my book at least) is to look to the last Royal Mail ship still in regular service which shuttles regularly between Ascension Island, St Helena and South Africa - with the occasional loop back to Portland in southern England.  The added bonus would be the chance to spend a bit of time on Ascension Island or St Helena - I spent a few hours on Ascension last year but didn't manage to leave the airport, next time it would be fun to stay a bit longer.  The real attraction of this would be to spend a bit of time seeing what life was like on a really isolated island.  St Helena is due to get an airport at some time, but the current economic climate means that it won't be any time soon.  

The third folder (which is actually at the top of the pile at the moment) is mostly about Japan, which is ideal for train-based travel - with the observation that it ought to be possible to get there by train (and boat) too.  The Eurostar link is the obvious first step (snow in Kent permitting) - then sleepers across Europe to Moscow and then the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok.  In theory at least it's possible to get a scheduled ferry from Vladivostok to Japan - but I gather that it's actually pretty challenging to book a passage on it.  So maybe I'll agree to fly for the last leg of the journey if I've done the first 12,000 km by train.  I did wonder about completing a round the world rail trip by finding a way to get across the Pacific, and then crossing Canada or the US by train (another 6,000 km) before heading back to the UK.

The real problem with all these journeys is the time they take (and the money too) - Phileas Fogg and Michael Palin both gave themselves 80 days to get round the world - and I suspect that doing any of these trips without resorting to jumping on a plane to get home who take this sort of time too.  A friend recently suggested that going round the world on 80K would be a very pleasant way to do the journey - I wasn't sure if she was talking in dollars, pounds or euros.  I don't think it would take quite as much as £80K to do any (or even all of these) but it's going to cost more than a couple of weeks in the Med.   

I haven't quite figured how to break the time-money conundrum (I'd like to have both), but I'm working on it.  Then I'll figure out if there are enough blank pages in my current passport. 

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