Day Five – Making a Run for the Border!

31st October 2010 – 566 miles

The clock change in the UK threw us a bit (not sure why?!) but nonetheless we left on schedule and arrived at Brindisi – the ferry port that will take us to Igoumenitsa in Greece – early.

The journey was relatively uneventful, except for the fact that Shihab had lost his (wife’s) camera when getting out of the car to fill up for petrol.

It would not have been so bad had it not been for the fact that:

1. The camera was given to his wife as a birthday present.  Sorry Jasmine!
2. The 400+ snaps taken throughout last summer were not stored and so now lost … priceless!
3.  Shihab had also left his sunglasses in the hotel in Milan.
4. Shihab now no longer has a camera either!

After an eight hour ferry ride, we arrived at Igoumenitsa at 1130pm and decided to make up for lost time and attempt to drive to Istanbul through the night.

As it happened, a new motorway had been built which took us straight across Greece – albeit up and down mountains and through tunnels – the only downside being we didn’t see any of it!

With a couple of breaks napping at motorway lay-bys and a detour to seek a petrol station at 3.30am, we managed to get to within 250 miles of the Greece-Turkey border, a full 24 hours on the road!

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Day Four – When in Rome …

30th October 2010 – 437 miles

After a hearty breakfast, we set off this morning with no hiccups to report.

It’s a shame that we were so time limited as we had to drive straight through Tuscany and Umbria on the autostrada.

Once in Rome, we set out on a wild goose chase, firstly to find the guesthouse (as we were supplied with an incorrect address) and then in search of the local Bangladeshi community (input error on the satnav).

When we finally did meet them, we were greeted by Monir uz Zaman, the Italy representative for NTV, who was kind enough to buy us dinner, introduce us to fellow Bangladeshis and show us around his beautiful city.

There is a large population of Bangladeshis here in Rome that have created a very hospitable and welcoming community in Torpignattara.

We interviewed Bangladeshis, as they quizzed us, and as with Paris, we found that life was not so easy for them.

For the first time on this trip, we met a couple of Bangladeshi ladies who had created a club whereby women can improve their grasp of Italian, develop a greater understanding of the culture and also gain financial independence within their household but they found it difficult as tradition dictated certain standards.

Everyone was excited about our plans and bid us farewell for our onward journey.

To round off a great evening, we were shown around Rome and caught various sites including the Colosseum, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

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Day Three – Scaling the Alps

29th October 2010 – 532 miles

With good intentions of setting off early, we left on a shaky start.  Whilst packing the vehicle, SOMEONE had lost the one and only set of car keys.

Having stripped the car down, practically down to its nuts and bolts, they were found behind the front passenger seat.  Now the post-mortem has not established who did what but we have decided to put it behind us and make sure that it does not happen again!

Today we drove from Paris to Milan which was no mean feat given the territory covered.  Our drive included crossing countless viaducts and passing through the longest tunnels you could ever imagine – including Mont Blanc Tunnel which is over 7 miles long!

Nasir drove the first stint and then doubled up as chai wallah in the back, topping up our cups for the rest of the day.

We had a great Italian supper and checked into a decent 4 star hotel.  Aside from a slight altercation with the car parking attendant regarding an alleged scrape of our roof rack with their car park roof, we live to tell the tale.

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Day Two – In Search of Fellow Countrymen

28th October 2010 – 200 miles

We took the 1.10am Dover Calais ferry where we met a German Land Rover enthusiast who had just purchased this vehicle on eBay and was driving it back home to renovate it.  I hope that ours won’t end up as bad as his once we’ve completed our overland! 

Having braved Paris’ (early) rush hour, we arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of the city at 8am, where we were allocated room 911.  I hope that this is not an omen of things to come!

We managed to get some R&R for a couple of hours and then we were out the door, heading for Paris by Metro, in our search of fellow countrymen.

Our quest started at the Eiffel Tower where we half expected at least a couple of street hawkers being of our extraction.  This led to a wild goose chase to Champs Elysee followed by a chance encounter with some young Bangladeshi guys in Strasbourg Saint-Denis (and some militant strikers parading through the streets).

Following a well-deserved cuppa, we were then taken by these guys to Gare du Nord to meet some more brethren.  Their stories that brought them to Paris were both varied and fascinating.  One thing that was abundantly clear was that Bangladeshis in Paris were not by any means as established as their British Bangladeshi counterparts and this community are encountering major socio-economic struggles, not to dissimilar to our forefathers back in the day.  Interestingly, they commented that the French were very hospitable and the hostility that they faced were from other migrant communities. We’ve managed to film some video diaries, which we plan to edit upon our return, so watch this space!

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Day One – The Journey Begins

27th October 2010 – 203 miles

Well here we are on our first day of the overland and we’re already behind schedule!

That said, it has been a long and eventful day.

We started out at Islamic Relief’s Head Office in Birmingham to film a promotional video of our trip for their website.

Armed with a selection of muffins kindly donated by them (and hot tea provided by Johur’s wife courtesy of his flask), we had breakfast on the way down to London on the M6 / M1.

With Johur at the wheel, we flew down (figure of speech) to our press conference at Muquim Ahmed’s Cafe Naz on Brick Lane, London.  Surrounded by the good and the great from the Bangla media world, and in the heart of the Bangladeshi community, it felt like we cashed in on our 15 minutes of fame! We’d particularly like to thank Nasir’s brother-in-law, Roushan bhai, for picking up the tab.

From London we headed on to the Dover coast and stopped at Kitchlu Bokth’s restaurant [close friend of Shihab] in Canterbury, the Ancient Raj.  This is likely to be the last good curry that we’ll be eating in a long time!

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Introducing … Our Mode of Transport

To most people, our vehicle is big, black and with chunky tyres.

For any Land Rover (Landy) nuts out there, this is a Defender 110 TD5.  We have prepared her for the trip with 285/75/16 All Terrain tyres, a Safari snorkel, bull bars and side steps.  And to ensure that we’re seen at night by those big Bedford trucks, we’ve fitted WIPAC spotlights and NAS lights on the front and rear.  And for storage, the Hannibal roof rack will house spare parts, jerry cans and a spare tyre. 

Defenders are not built with comfort in mind, especially for long journeys, but are certainly the most rugged.  The vehicle has been sound-proofed by Noisekiller and fitted with Blaupunkt Marine speakers in the rear to drown out as much road and engine noise as possible.  As there are three of us travelling, we’ve also installed a couple of seats in the back and cut out some sliding side windows.

To make up some time on the autoroutes and autostradas in Europe, the truck has also been modified by Twisted Performance.

Special thanks goes to Russell Bodley and his team at MM 4×4 at Droitwich for preparing the car mechanically for the rally.  We’d also like to thank BOAB, Devon 4×4, Nene Overland and Halfords for supplying parts and accessories.

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Full House

We have now been issued our Iranian visas and finally we’re ready to travel!

Please tune in and we’ll try and supply you with regular updates.

And please donate whatever you can towards Islamic Relief’s Flood Appeal by simply clicking on the Virgin Money Giving icon in the right hand column of this page.

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A bit of bad news

It’s going to take a couple more days for our Iranian visa to come through and our car now won’t be ready until early next week.

As a result, we’ve had to postpone our departure date until next Wednesday but we still plan to reach Bangladesh by Eid.

In the meantime, we’re tying up loose ends such as finalising our itinerary with Islamic Relief, purchasing malaria tablets, obtaining European car insurance cover and our IDPs.

We will require International Driving Permits [along with our UK driving licence and passport] for Iran, Pakistan and India.  The simplest way of obtaining these are at main Post Offices.

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2 Down, 1 To Go

Our Indian visas have now been granted!

If you’re contemplating a trip like this, make sure you’ve filled out their most recent application form [same information required but in a different format], ensure that your signature is exactly the same as the one in your passport, write full contact details of next-of-kin in the smallest possible space provided on the form and be absolutely clear of your parents’ old and new nationalities!  That said, their manager, Mr Sidhu at Birmingham was very efficient and professional at all times.

Just the Iranian one left now, for which we’ll be travelling down to the Iranian Consulate in London tomorrow for an interview and to supply fingerprints.  We’re on the home straight now.

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FYSHnet Doing Business in Bangladesh

A few of the FYSHnet team and its members have just returned from a Market Visit to Bangladesh in conjunction with Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, supported by West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Forum and UK Trade & Investment.

The purpose of the visit was to develop our respective businesses in Bangladesh, which indirectly created publicity for the London Dhaka Rally.  We had a couple of good write-ups in The Daily Star on Tuesday 5th & Wednesday 13th October and hope to create some further awareness of our cause in the run-up to and throughout our journey so watch this space!

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