18,000km To Save Sight
(All of the wording below is from the original website from 2006, before this trip started).
I started to make plans about retiring during late 2004 but then all three of my children decided to get married in the space of 11 months so any opportunity of retiring was delayed for one year.
As I was due to retire back to England, I thought that it was too easy to jump on an airplane and fly home. Why not do something more adventurous as I had done in 1968, when I had completed a four year working assignment in East Africa, by deciding to ship my car to Karachi and driving home from there.
One desire that I had always had was to be able to visit Tibet and Lhasa. I went and purchased the Times Atlas of the World and worked out a route that I would like to follow. This route would ultimately join up with my original journey of 1968 near to Moscow and would follow most of the route through to Norway. The only problem that I foresaw was whether I would be able to obtain approval from the Chinese Government to make such a journey.
In February 2005 I decided to write to the Chinese Premier, Mr. Hu Jintao as if a no was the response, then that was the end of the story. However, eventually a response was received from the National Tourism Administration of the People's Republic of China granting initial approval, subject to my planning the trip through a Chinese Tour Operator and having a guide for the journey, both of which were 100% acceptable.
So, the plan then really took shape as having crossed to Lhasa and over the Tibetan plateau I would join the famous Silk Road at Dunhuang in Western China and follow it all the way around to Samarakand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan.
I also wanted to visit the Aral'sk Sea before crossing into Russia and picking up my 1968 route from Moscow. However, instead of taking the ferry from Bergen to Newcastle I decided that I would drive the whole way. Except for the physical crossing via the Channel Tunnel, where I could only sit behind the wheel, the rest of the journey would be driven and would be approximately 18,000 kms in distance.
In late November I happened to be watching a programme on BBC World narrated by Sir John Major about the work of Sightsavers International in India. This fascinated me and immediately made me add the charity fundraising element to my plans.
When I was in the UK for Christmas I met up with Sightsavers International and Orbis and agreed that I would endeavour to raise money for them. The one and only faculty that no one can be without, and retain independence, is their sight. Both Sightsavers International and Orbis work around the world.
I said that he wanted any money raised spread between the countries with which I have been involved over my 48 years of working life. Namely: Nepal, Kenya; Tanzania, India; Pakistan, UAE and China. China was added as although I have visited on three occasions for business, if I had not been granted approval by the Chinese government, the journey would never have got off the ground.
After leaving school I volunteered to do my National Service and managed to be commissioned in to the 2nd/10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles. I then joined the brewers Courage and Barclay and was seconded for four years to their wine & spirit company, Saccone & Speed in Kenya and Tanzania. It was at the end of this tour that I drove from Karachi, over the Khyber Pass to Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Tehran and a window of opportunity allowed me to cross in to the Soviet Union, driving through the Caucasus, Tbilisi, Kharkov, Moscow, St. Petersburg. From there it was into Finland, over the Arctic Circle and down Norway to Bergen and the UK.
Upon my return to the UK I continued working with Courage, finally became MD of Percy Fox the Fine Wines Company of Courage. I next set up and ran my own Wine Company before joining the Future Pipe Group in 1994 in Dubai, UAE.
I have two sons and a daughter, all of whom are married. Sadly, my wife Sue died of a brain tumour in 2002.
(* Afterword, written in 2018 - I remarried in July 2007 and have three adult step-children, in addition to my own three children).