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GO-60 Expedition - Monday 14 July

Mon 14th July

The plan was to get an early start today, meeting our interpreter at 7am to get to the customs office early.  I met Steve, Ian and Pete and we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Just before 9am, he appeared and off we went to speak to the customs officers about bringing the vehicles into Vietnam. 

The whole day was one long interrupted discussion about different options with different people in different places.  Essentially, we can’t bring the vehicles in without a letter of authority from the Prime Minister if we are to drive them ourselves, and this is simply not going to happen.

The only workable solution, we think, is to get a local company (Mr Chien) to officially import them, truck them to the Laos border, and then export them.  Of course, money and time are the key issues here.  Lots of both it seems.  Still, there doesn’t really seem any other way round the problem.

Today was incredibly frustrating and was compounded by the fact that the town here is pretty dull to say the least.  Very little to see or do, just hot, dusty and noisy.  We could still be here a few days to come – we’ll just have to make the most of it.

Leg 3 must be tired and frustrated.  Leg 4 are perhaps less tired but are still very frustrated.  We’ve effectively been in transit for a week, haven’t got near the vehicles and are facing a diminishing window of opportunity ahead.

At last, a piece of good news arrived.  Leg 3 had been given the all clear to walk across the border, leaving the Land Rovers in customs, to be brought over when the necessary onward arrangements are made.

It still took a couple of hours for them to clear customs but finally they were through.  They looked exhausted, and had all lost weight, but were all in high spirits.  They had achieved an amazing feat - seven of them had driven the vehicles 6200km in about nine days, much of it effectively off-road.  No wonder they looked tired.

After a quick shower, we took them to a nearby hotel for a modest celebratory meal and a couple of beers though most didn’t drink, knowing they still had a 12-13 hour bus journey through the night to Hanoi.

We waved them off; Mel must have had mixed emotions having bonded with her small team in adverse conditions and then having to leave them and join our team.  A strange experience no doubt.

At last though, we now have our complete team together and we all sat up talking about the previous leg with Mel, trying to glean from her invaluable practical experience.  Everything from packing the vehicles, to driving, to comms on the move and convoy drills.

Let’s hope we get driving soon.

Dr Malcolm Russell