It’s the first day of his epic transcontinental land adventure, and Michael Hodson (@mobilelawyer) is in trouble.
When I finally got to the front of the line, I was told that there was no space available on the overnight train to Bordeaux, so the best I could do, in order to keep moving, was book a ticket back to Lisbon and on to Madrid, where I arrived this morning. I then took a train to Barcelona, where I am now. I think I am going to try to sneak into France on local trains and just wing it.
- Go See Write.
Meanwhile, Nora Dunn (@hobonora) is rolling eastwards, day and night…
After leaving Granada, I boarded an overnight train to Barcelona, followed by another overnight train to Zurich, where I’m currently visiting with a friend of the family who I’ve known since childhood….but alas, this visit will be (too) short, as I must move on to keep up with the Ultimate Train Challenge schedule! After Zurich, I’ll spend the weekend in Prague, then move on to the Ukraine…
…and Jeannie Mark (@nomadicchick) is slumming it on one of Spain’s new Alta Velocidad Española (‘AVE’, also Spanish for “bird”) 300mph trains.
The train I took from Madrid to Seville is the AVE high-speed line. I sank in the plush seats; there was a movie on the overhead television, solid worktables and the pièce de résistance for me? The washroom. Automatic water spouts – intelligent hand dryers – and the [W.C.] décor? A wooden seat! It felt luxurious. It didn’t smell. Best of all, no pools of suspect water. Sure, laugh. But you can assess a lot about a country by its washrooms.
Three blog-owning travellers, all taking different routes to the same destination and trying to rack up the maximum number of miles along the way. It’s called the Ultimate Train Challenge, and Hodson cooked the idea up while crossing South America by train in late 2010. Sponsors include Eurail, RealRussia and Hostelbookers, and the guiding rules for its participants are thus:
- A minimum of one train taken per day, every day.
- No train routes can be used more than once.
- No returning to the country you’ve just left, and…
- Lisbon to Ho Chi Minh (former Saigon), by train. Sightseeing and bonus challenges admissable – but all the dots must be connected by rail journeys.
Two weeks later and at the time of writing, they’ve just met up in Moscow. Here’s how they got there , and here’s what they’ve been doing enroute. (Those sensitive to bad karaoke may want a glass of something medicinal handy before clicking through). Now they’re planning the next Trans-Siberian leg – and posting a poignant reminder of the whole purpose of their adventure:
“BEFORE I GET TO THE UPDATE, I HAVE A PLEA, A REQUEST, A HEARTFELT “HELP US, PLEASE” FROM THE THREE OF US.
We are trying to raise $10,000 as part of this quest — from you, our readers and followers — all for charity. Not a penny for us. We simply want our journey to make a slight bit of difference to those that really do need our help.”
As with the recent Mongol Rally adventure undertaken by Sherry Ott, Rick Griffin and Dave & Deb of the PlanetD, collectively known as the Social Media Syndicate, it’s an adventure designed to get people reaching into their pockets for a worthy cause. At the end of September the three Ultimate Train Challengers will be presenting a cheque at the Vietnam Veterans Of America Foundation office in Da Nang – and so they’re asking for donations to help meet their $10,000 goal.
(Want to help? Go to the VVAF website for details).
For now, Michael, Jeannie and Nora are poised at the brink of one of the most famous railway journeys in the world (the lucky bloggers). We wish them a smooth ride.