Day 456: Bish Bash Bosh

01.04.10: Sorry about the lack of blog updates this month – I’ve been hammering the website to make it all fabby and groovy for when the telly show starts in July and people pop in for a visit! So, where I was I? Oh yeah, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!! So I was up and at ’em at the crack and to the Tajikistan embassy. Visa in hand, I raced over to the bus station to pick up a shared taxi back to Osh. My taxi driver, Rustlan, was a wonderfully friendly guy and the little old ladies in the back didn’t complain too much that I wanted to stop every ten minutes to take a photo of the INCREDIBLE scenery. It was a long drive through the mountains to Osh, but the hours seemed to fly by and, once again, I got the feeling that this wouldn’t be…

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Day 457: The Land That Time Forgot

02.04.10: By 5am I had made it around that pesky enclave of Sohk and had arrived at the border of Tajikistan. Chances are you know Afghanistan and Pakistan rather well, and Kazakhstan too thanks to a certain Mr. Sagdiyev, maybe you’ve noticed Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan while glancing over an atlas, and maybe once you pulled 10 letters out of a Scrabble bag and they spelt out KYRGYZSTAN by sheer luck, but I’m guessing you know nothing about Tajikistan. Well, don’t feel bad, neither do I. For instance, I knew nothing of the brutal civil war that raged here during the 90s and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. I didn’t know that until 1991 Tajikistan was completely closed to foreigners for over 100 years. In fact, the amount I don’t know about Tajikistan is only equalled by the amount I don’t know about the history…

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The Final Fifty…

So, I have fifty countries left to visit, and then I’m done. I can go home, put my feet up, stuff my face with Anzacs and have a nice hot cup of tea. But like Sam in the last episode of Quantum Leap, I ain't going home any time soon - in fact, the leaps are going to get harder. Much harder. The final fifty include some of the most difficult places on Earth to step foot in. I’ve still got to (somehow) get into Turkmenistan (the North Korea of Central Asia), Eritrea (the North Korea of Africa) and North Korea (the North Korea of... oh). Add to that The Seychelles, Maldives, Taiwan and - gulp! - the Pacific Island states, I’ve really got my work cut out. So, where next? Well after Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, I’ll be heading into Iran. Now the original plan was…

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Day 458: Can You Imagine?

03.04.10: So where to next? The plan is on Monday to head off towards Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Three of the hardest countries in the world to visit and visit safely and I’m planning to step in all three in just one day. Impossible? Nah. Just takes a bit of planning, that’s all.  So the bulk of today was spent using the treacle-slow free wi-fi in the Blinoff café sussing out my next few moves, checking on the security situations and pulling anything I could off the usual suspects – bulletin boards, thorntree, all that kind of jazz. Later on I was joined by Rafael’s mate Oybek and his rather fetching ladyfriend Alla, along with Younne and Cloe from last night. After stuffing our faces full of cheap but yummy food, we set off into the night to go to the ‘Can You Imagine?’ night at…

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Day 459: Doctorin’ The Docket

04.04.10: I may have mentioned this before, but for some stupid reason you have to register three days after you arrive in Uzbekistan.  The problem is you cannot register that you’re staying with a private citizen without a ton of hassle and paperwork.  As a consequence, CouchSurfing is technically illegal. What most people do is check into a hotel for the night and then doctor the docket that they’re given (as I did last week) so the dates imply you stayed in the hotel longer than you really did.  However our sweet French couple, Younne and Cloe neglected to register within their three day period of grace.  You see the Uzbek government is a little stuck in it’s ways and thinks that every westerner who would like to visit their country is James Bond come to blow up their secret volcano fortresses. It’s when you hear…

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IT’S A NEW WORLD RECORD!!!!

GREAT GREAT NEWS!!!! Even though he is only three-quarters of the way through his quest, the good folks at Guinness World Records have just come through with the wonderful news that Graham has already achieved a NEW GUINNESS WORLD RECORD™!! It's an incredible feat and an amazing journey, and it's not over yet! To celebrate his feat, please please donate to WaterAid...and tell your friends to donate - WaterAid need it. You can do so via any of the WaterAid donation links on this website or by clicking on this link. Congratulations again to Graham...we salute you, sir. TM

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Day 460: The Wizard of Uz

05.04.10: Today was yet another D-Day in terms of getting visas and getting going.  Within minutes of me wiping the sleep from my eyes I arrived at the Turkmenistan embassy to meet no other than Atabek, my friend from last week who had helped me out with the whole getting-my-Stanistan-visas shenanigans.  Again, the system for getting the visa required me to put my name down on a list and then wait my turn.  While Atabek held my place in the queue I darted over to the Afghan embassy to throw in my second passport for my second Afghan visa (another time-consuming trip to the bank required).  Upon my return, it looked like if I got my passport in this morning, I’d have the visa this afternoon.  Atabek and I waited for a good three hours, but finally – finally – they opened the gate and let…

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Day 461: The Forbidden Stan

06.04.10: Groggy and grumpy I awoke from my nightborn passage through Uzbekistan. Like Alexander The Great so many years before (and Michael Caine and Sean Connery more recently), I was in Samarkand – the legendary and (arguably) most famous city of Central Asia. Stumbling bleary-eyed out of the taxi I lost my phone and before I knew what the hell was going on I had slept-walked into another taxi and was hurling out of town. Sacrilege, I know. I’m sorry. I’ll tell you a little story: About eight years ago I was travelling through the Andes with an old flame of mine (she’d hate me saying that, but watchagonnado?) and I got increasingly ratty with what I saw as her lack of interest in the soaring grandeur of one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. I couldn’t believe somebody would come all this…

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Day 462: The Herat of the Matter

07.04.10: Part of the reason I’m doing The Odyssey is to prove that the world is a lot more open than people think.  If I, an ordinary bod from Liverpool, can step foot into every country in the world overland using just my British passport and a winning smile, then I think we can proudly say that our battered bewildered planet is doing better than we are otherwise led to believe. But that’s not to say I walk without trepidation.  I would be a fool to suggest that visiting every country in the world is not without its risks, and Afghanistan is not a place to be taken lightly.  I originally planned to pop into Masar-e-Sherif from Uzbekistan, but in the end, the safest and easiest (allowing for the bananas visa regulation around these parts) route seemed to be to hit Herat (I really wish my…

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Day 463: Iran ROCKS MY WORLD!

08.04.10: The train pulled into Tehran central at around 9am.  I fannied about for a while trying to find somewhere that would change my US dollars before heading off to the Indian embassy. Some of you might remember a few months ago we ran the story about Mr. Samaddar, the chap from India who holds the current world record for visiting every country in the world.  He did it flying, though, so I’m not treading on his toes with my record attempt.  Mr. Samaddar got in touch with me not long afterwards and invited me for dinner when I arrive in Dubai were he lives, and asked if I needed any help with visas and stuff.  I asked him if there was any way to get an Indian visa double-quick smart while on the road (it usually takes 10 working days).  He suggested I talk to…

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