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30,000 kilometres
Venice (Italy) to Netherlands, November and December 2014

It's early November when we check the weather forecasts for the next few weeks at the campsite in Venice on the Internet. Our idea is to be in The Netherlands again in mid-November. We want to drive to Monaco via Milan and Genoa, and then northwards to the Netherlands through France, Luxembourg and Belgium. However, the weather forecasts forces us to change our plans. There is rain coming; lots of rain. We look at each other and come very quickly to the conclusion that we do not want the rain to spoil our last few weeks during this journey with the car. The decision is made quickly. We stay an extra day at the campsite in Venice to update our website and Ivonne’s diary, and then we drive in two long days through Austria and Germany back to the Netherlands.

On November 3, we arrive after 30,000 kilometres with our jeep in the yard at Edwin's parents again. We have been away almost eleven months with the Land Cruiser, and the car did a good job. Eight flat tires, a cracked exhaust, a leaking clutch cylinder, a leaking seal at the rear axle and a torn diaphragm are all the minor technical issues we had. The last three issues are due to the age of the car, but didn’t force us to get the car repaired abroad. We could proceed with our journey and wait to The Netherlands before we had to repair these issues.

Fun on the sand dunes of Maspalomas with Edwin's sister and her family

We had the last eleven months a wonderful ride. It began last December with the drive to the Balkans. In hindsight, we had great weather. It was cold, but sunny and no snow. If we now look at the weather in the Balkans, we realize that it could have been very different. It is now freezing cold there with lots of snow and blocked roads. The ride through the heart of Turkey to the border with Iraq was also grandiose. Again we were lucky with the weather. Local Turks told us it was very rare that there was no snow at this time of the year. In this 'warm' winter we could even visit the Nemrut Mountain in eastern Turkey, which is normally not accessible in January.

The drive through the Kurdish part of Iraq was exciting too, and absolutely worth it. The people were extremely friendly and we never felt that we were in an unsafe area. Unfortunately that is different today. Not long after we had exchanged Iraq for Iran we heard the first reports in the news about the advancing armies of the Islamic State (IS). Regularly, we must think of all those friendly and hospitable Kurds who now live with the fear that the advancing terrorists of IS also will also enter their area. Iraqi Kurdistan is rich in oil, and that is something that IS would like to have under control in order to financially support their struggle.

Iran was as expected great again. This still remains a beautiful and pleasant country to travel in. We were there for the fourth time, but for the first time with our own car. And that gave this visit an extra dimension to this country. We visited Iranian Kurdistan, the well-known cities in the heart of Iran such as Esfahan, and the desert, where we had never been before. Driving in Iran was not easy. Traffic rules are not respected and everyone runs where there is place. It is not uncommon for cars to drive in five rows of traffic, while there are only two lanes. Pedestrian are having a difficult time in Iran. They are the weakest in the traffic and nobody takes care for them. They literally have to risk their lives to cross the street. Tehran was the low point of driving in Iran. This city is the nightmare of every motorist.

Happy 2015 with the parents of Ivonne

Through north-western Iran, we drove to the Caucasus. Armenia was our first destination. A small and photogenic country where time has stood still since the fall of the Soviet Union. This poor country of the former Soviet republics remains the most Soviet Authentic. Small old wooden houses, rusty Ladas, Russian trucks from the 60's, bad roads and above ground exposed gas pipes are still normal things in society. Adjacent Georgia is a world of difference. This country has made real development and is much closer to countries like Romania or Bulgaria, than for example to Russia or Armenia. In 2008, Georgia was still terrorized by organized crime and large parts of the country were 'no-go' areas, not only for tourists but also for local people. But things changed. Most parts of the country are safe, and with the modern developments, it has become a very pleasant country to travel in. Georgia will the next decade undoubtedly develop into a top destination in Europe for the more adventurous traveller.

We had to cancel our trip to Central Asia during our stay in Georgia, because the only open border crossing between Georgia and Russia was blocked by the collapse of a mountain. We have waited for more than three weeks with the hope that the border would soon be open again. But when it appeared that after three weeks of waiting, there was still no due date that the border would be opened again, we drove back to Europe via Turkey. We travelled several months in the Balkans and then we crossed the Adriatic Sea to Italy to visit Sicily. Via Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice we drove back to cold and snowy northern Europe. We are now awaiting our departure to warmer areas. In early January we leave the cold and snow of the Netherlands for the steamy climate of Cuba.

Our jeep on the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, on our way back home
Posing in front of Roque Nublo on Gran Canaria
The fabulous sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria
Ivonne and her father working on tapas dishes
Making Tapas dishes is a time-consuming job
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