About the Trip

An early start from Dunhuang saw us following the new rail line out of town, still under construction with tent villages along its path. We climbed for about four hours up a shallow incline to 3,800 metres. Even with the cool weather, the incline caused a heating problem for the Dodge, being as it was at that tipping point between second and third gear, but mainly second. This caused the engine to run hotter than usual. Arriving at the pass we brewed up coffee, and it started to snow! Even though it was mid-June and, supposedly, northern summer.

This was the beginning of the last leg of our journey through China.

Into the Desert

Ian Neuss had spent a couple decades as Australian Exploration Manager for Outokumpou, a Finnish company specialising in minerals exploration, mining and mining equipment. On retirement, while busy with the restoration of his 1920 Dodge, his old Finnish manager and friend, Kari Airas, had questioned what he planned to do with it when he had finished. Ian suggested that he might just drive it to Finland for a visit. Kari then told him about Finland’s national hero, Baron Gustav Mannerheim, who in 1906, as an Intelligence Officer in the Russian Imperial Army, had travelled on horseback from Russian Turkestan (now Uzbekistan) to Peking (Beijing). If Ian was serious he could retrace the Baron’s trip in reverse, and Kari offered to organise an official welcome and a parade of Dodges down Mannerheim Avenue in Helsinki.

So Ian put together an expedition crew, a key member being his old exploration mate, Bill Amann, a skilled bush mechanic and owner of a couple of vintage cars, including a Dodge. Bill was a bit precious about his Dodge so brought along his newly purchased, but definitely not fully restored, Whippet.

Given a maximum cruising speed of about 50 kph, the team decided to split the journey into two legs, through Thailand, Laos, China and Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan in the first year, then a northern Winter break followed by a Spring/Summer trek through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia to Finland. They would follow the ancient Silk Roads, and take in the ancient wine and brandy history of the southern Caucasus. The route also happened to traverse most of the old Cold War enemy territories of China and what was once the Soviet Union.

They loaded swags and camping equipment, intending to rough it where possible. They also set up a blog, just to keep friends and family informed of their adventure. The blog eventually attracted over 60,000 hits from all over the world with thousands of followers in Russia as they made their way across that country.

BONDI TO THE BALTIC

A vintage Silk Road journey

Two vintage cars, a few old mates, and the journey of a lifetime – Bondi to the Baltic is a fascinating story told through photos and the distillation of blogs and diary entries by some foolhardy, adventurous blokes

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Map of the trip