A 20-year-old ski instructor from Eskbank returned home last week after a two month, 14,300 mile drive back from working at a Japanese ski resort.
At the end of the ski season in March, Ross Murray and his Canadian snowboard instructor friend James Toronchuck took the trip of a lifetime in a £700 Honda Odyssey car.
They drove from north to south Japan, took a ferry to South Korea, a ferry to Russia, drove through Mongolia, through all the ‘Stans’ including a visit to Afghanistan, back up to Russia, through Ukraine and then through Europe via Austria, Lichtenstein and France, arriving back in Midlothian on June 4.
Former Beeslack High School pupil Ross said: “I hurt my knee in February and had spare time, so I planned this trip to see places I wouldn’t normally go to. It wasn’t exactly a Thomas Cook holiday!
“It was really cool, an unbelievable experience. Everyone we met was so friendly. All these countries that people tell you not to go to.
“Afghanistan was ironically by far the friendliest country we went to. Everyone wanted to stop and chat or help out. We were told that if we went 50km south that was Taliban country, so we couldn’t go there. But where we were everyone was super friendly.”
The 14-year-old car, which the pair spent £1,500 on petrol for, was filled up at varying prices. Ross said: “When you go through places like Russia it’s 30p a litre. Then we got back to Europe and cringed at paying one euro 60. The car done the job and never broke down. So we can’t complain.”
The low budget ‘holiday’ was one Ross will never forget.
He said: “We slept in the back of the car where we had built a bed. We spent four nights in hostels in that two months, just to get a shower. Visas cost about £400/500. Most of the time we cooked food for ourselves which was cheap, eating rice, pasta etc.
“I’m not sure if we would go back and do it all again, but it was totally worth it. It was a brilliant experience.”
Ross added that his best moments on the trip were visiting Afghanistan and speaking to the friendly locals, or Chernobyl and seeing the abandoned town of Pripyat.
While his worst moment was getting a puncture in Mongolia – 250km from the nearest car shop!
Giving his take on the trip, James added: “Travelling the Pamir Highway along the Panj River, which separates Afghanistan and Tajikistan, was incredible. Not only were the views postcard worthy at every turn – with cliffs down to a river on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other side of us, the Afghanistan side of the river was the breathtaking jagged Hindu Kush mountains. However, trying the Central Asian delicacy of Kumis, which is fermented mare’s milk, was not so good. Not my kind of drink.”