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London

Whilst I have been peddling around the european countryside, Don has spent two weeks in the Scottish highlands with 16 other lads.

In between drinking (lots of) beer and whisky, they played 14 rounds of golf across 11 different golf courses.

If you want to know any more about the golf, you’ll need to ask him directly.

It’s a boys trip; which means “what goes on tour stays on tour.”  And do I really want to know?

At the end of the golf, which included a day at St Andrews to watch the British Open, Don headed to London and was fortunate enough to secure some tickets to Lords for the 2nd Test (cricket, if you weren’t sure).

This was also an opportunity to catch-up with a tribe of friends from home: Neil & Margie, Paul & Michelle, Leeanne, Dale, Michael & Dianne.

We are staying in Blackheath with Steve, who we met on our cycling trip in Cuba.

Everyone throws out post holiday superlatives and offers of “come and stay anytime” to your travel companions, not thinking that anyone will ever take you up on the offer.

6 months later; we’re on Steve’s doorstep!  The problem with the Callanders – they will take you up on the offer!

Steve warmly welcomed us for the week and his generosity included hosting more of the group for a small reunion.

Andy and Sarah took a day off work and traveled down from Manchester. Kate (who does not live in Oxford) traipsed across London (from wherever she does live) to spend the night at Steve’s.

Unfortunately, Rachel missed her plane (from Melbourne) and couldn’t make it.

Cuban cigars and beret in hand, it was a night filled with lots of laughter, banter and music quiz’s (I don’t remember who won).  Plans were also hatched for a future cycle tour through Vietnam.

Our week was busy; not so much sightseeing, but lots of catching up with friends and even some family – new and old.

Drinks with Colin, who we met on our tour through Mexico. Don sees Linda and Alistair Callander. Leeanne shouts us lunch, after a number of years in the UK she has decided to return to Australia.  Which is good news for us, we have a future dog sitter lined up, for the in-future dog.

A visit to London would not have been complete without seeing Mark and Alison. They hold a special place in our travels, having now seen them three times throughout our tour.

Family friends, Sandra and David took us for a lovely stroll through the grounds of Knole Estate, the property which dates back to 1603, and includes a deer park and golf course.

Our main purpose for detouring through London was to collect a visa for China.  You can only apply for a visa three months before your travel date, which makes it a bit difficult when you are traveling.

I checked out everything online to make sure we’ve got what we need, know where to go and when. We have a tight timeframe given it takes three days to process, so we don’t have room for delay…

Tuesday morning we rock-up at the Chinese Visa office, paperwork in hand.
Visa Office: “What time is your appointment”
Me: “We want to make an appointment”
Visa Office: “the next appointment is in two weeks”
Me: “Where does it say that on your website?”
Visa office: “Oh, page three”
Me: “Perhaps you need to make that a bit clearer”!

We resort to finding a visa application service who, for a generous fee, can fast-track the wait and have our visas by the end of the week.

They did raise some concern about our itinerary including Kashgar. The province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, is considered a ‘sensitive area’ and a hot-spot for extremism.

If our application is delayed we didn’t have a ‘Plan B’, so we are relived to collect our passports on Friday, stamped with our China visas.

Time to resume our travels.

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