Travel Book - The 18,000 KM Diaries
About The 18,000 KM Diaries
China & Tibet
The 18,000 KM Diaries is a travel book written by Sir Nicholas White, Bt. about the retirement trip he undertook in 2006. Having worked in Dubai for several years, he was to return to his home in the UK, but did not want to take the usual flight home. Instead, he bought a new Volvo XC90 car and shipped it to Shanghai in China.
From Shanghai his journey would take him along the mighty Yangtse River, through the cities of Nanjing, Wuhan and to the Three Gorges Dam near Yitang. On he drove to Chongqing where a former supplier presented a large cheque in an extravagant ceremony in the city's square for the charities the trip was sponsoring. Shortly after Chongqing, he left the route along the Yangtse, heading towards Leshan and Chengdu where he respectively visited the Great Buddha statue and the panda sanctuary.
From here on, the journey took Sir Nicholas up into the hills of Sichuan and on into Tibet. The roads in many places were clinging to the side of the hills and mountains and were extremely dangerous, with sheer drops down many hundreds of metres to the valleys below.
The route in Tibet took him within 20 miles, as the crow flies, of north-eastern India. Lhasa provided a base for a few days rest and to sightsee in this magical city, visiting the Dalai Lama's seat, the Potala Palace, as well as other monasteries. The trip's most south-westerly point was reached at Shigatse in Tibet, before Sir Nicholas headed back to Lhasa and up over the Tibetan Plateau. Leaving the plateau, he skirted the Gobi Desert, heading through the Uigher country and on to the border of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan
Having left China, the adventure then began in Kazakhstan, visiting the capital city, Almaty, before slipping across into Uzbekistan.
Following the famed Silk Route, Sir Nicholas visited the cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara and their many wonderful mosques and Madrassas.
Once back in Kazakhstan, the major goal was to reach the Aral Sea to witness the sight of ships stranded in port miles from the nearest water, thanks to the Russian damming of the river, which feeds the Aral Sea.
The final stage across Kazakhstan was often on rough and rutted roads. Police corruption was a constant problem, with falsified speeding fines issued on a far too regular basis. It was on this stretch of road that the car suffered its only major problem on the journey, when a deep pothole broke a shock absorber. After an interesting night in Aktobei, where the chief of police helped him get the car repaired, but then effectively feared he was a spy, Sir Nicholas finally managed to leave Kazakhstan (after the chief of police tried to force him through the wrong border crossing) and enter Russia.
The journey across Russia took a more direct route than had been planned. Thanks to the broken shock absorber, Sir Nicholas needed to get to Moscow as soon as possible to have the car repaired at a Volvo dealership - the nearest one available. Whilst the car was being repaired, a few days of sightseeing in Moscow was undertaken, visiting Red Square and the many churches, cathedrals and museums in the city.
From Moscow it was on to St. Petersburg, where he stayed for five days, visiting the museums and famous buildings of this pretty city.
Russia was another country where police corruption was rife, being pulled over for all sorts of made-up misdemeanours.
The final stage of the 18,000 KM trip was through Scandinavia and back down to Calais and home.
Finland was the first of the Scandinavian countries to be visited, stopping at the pretty port town of Oulu and at the Arctic Circle and the inevitable Santa Claus village at Rovaniemi.
Crossing into Norway, Sir Nicholas drove north to the North Cape, the most northerly accessible point on mainland Europe. The journey south took him through many towns nestled among the Norwegian fjords - Alta, Tromso, Narvik and Trondheim. From there is was down to Lillehammer and Oslo before a short journey down the west coast of Sweden and on into Denmark, crossing via the Oresund Bridge and tunnel.
After a short stay in Copenhagen, the final leg to the ferry home took in Germany and Belgium where he stayed a couple of days in Brussels and the wonderful mediaeval city of Bruges.
Home & Charity
After Bruges, it was but a short journey to catch the Shuttle from Calais to Kent, arriving home an hour or so later. A reception had been planned to greet Sir Nicholas upon arrival, with a television news crew and journalists in attendance to interview him, as well as friends, family and representatives of the charities he raised so much money for on his long trip.
The two charities were SightSavers International and Orbis The Flying Eye Hospital. Both charities help save people from needless blindness in various parts of the world. The £175,000 raised from this journey directly benefitted hundreds of people suffering from eye problems in all the countries Sir Nicholas had a connection to during his working life - Nepal, Kenya, China, UAE, amongst others.
The final episode of the 18,000 mile journey was an audience with H.R.H. Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy at Buckingham Palace to recount the stories of the trip to her.
This travel book not only describes the countries that were travelled through, but also gives an insight into the people Sir Nicholas met along the way and their ways of life.
It is a book about a journey, which would not be possible today (in one's own car), and is thus a snapshot in history of many amazing places.
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