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Thursday, April 16, 1998 Published at 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst

Practice makes perfect: preparing for the roads of Central Asia

Darius Bazargan reports:

Five men and one vehicle over three continents; it all adds up to one very big headache. Putting together even a relatively modest expedition like EurAsia 98 is a lot more difficult than you might think says the BBC's Darius Bazargan.

[ image: Darius Bazargan will be reporting the progress of EurAsia 98]
Darius Bazargan will be reporting the progress of EurAsia 98
Transport was a concern. We knew we needed a petrol driven vehicle, because most diesel in Central Asia is under military control, and it had to be de-tuned to run on the shoddy fuel available at roadside stops in that part of the world. Sponsors Land Rover provided us with a brand new V8 Discovery confidently assuring us that maintenance would not be problem.

A course in off-road driving gave us a feel for the vehicle and provided lots of fun, although if things go according to plan we shouldn't need to put our newly acquired skills into action. Still, when putting together this kind of escapade, "better safe than sorry" has to be our operating philosophy.

Tools of the trade

Putting together a digital kit bag of equipment met with mixed success: Olympus donated a digital camera but the sole manufacturers of equipment we need to send information via sat-phone chose not to sponsor us in the end. We have opted instead to download to the web-site via fixed landlines on a bi-weekly basis.

[ image: There are beautiful sights ...]
There are beautiful sights ...
Then there is the plethora of visas, inoculations and insurance for every country; finding people who can help us with problems as they arise; and generally garnering advice from all quarters. For instance, how much good will can be bought at a difficult border crossing with a gift of one of the World Cup T-shirts we hope to acquire?

I also decided to invest some time and money in a variety of practical, hands-on training courses. A "Hostile Environments Risk Awareness" course run by the Royal Marines and the Royal Geographical Society's "Expedition First Aid" training weekend.

[ image: ... and dangerous situations]
... and dangerous situations
Although I hope not to put my new-found knowledge into practice, I now know how to recognise an AK-47 with its safety catch off, how to avoid potential vehicle hijacking scenarios and what to do if we blunder into a minefield. By the way, using tourniquets on arterial wounds is passť and don't even think about sucking venom out of a snakebite - Indiana Jones take note.

Only time will tell if our preparations have been thorough, our research comprehensive and our training absorbed although we are feeling confident if exhausted. In fact, the only thing that is really going to disturb my sleep at night is the dreadful possibility that wherever we are in June - we won't be able to watch the World Cup.

Darius Bazargan is accompanying the EurAsia 98 expedition, you can read his regular reports here.

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