Tuk to the Road

The trials and tukulations of Jo, Ants and Ting Tong the tuk tuk and our three-wheeled odyssey from Bangkok to Brighton...in aid of the mental health charity Mind. For more information please see www.tuktotheroad.com

Friday, September 22, 2006

Reflections on being back


I just had to write this for www.gapyear.com so I thought I'd wack it on the blog too.... Ants

Coming home....

It seems like only yesterday that I was driving through Russia, wondering what life was going to be like once Jo and I had completed our mission of driving a tuk tuk all the way from Bangkok to Brighton. Doing any sort of expedition is so exhilarating, so different and so totally consuming that coming back to reality is never going to easy, and the closer we got to home, the more I knew that life after tukking was not going to be an easy ride.

We all know that post-exam feeling; you've been focusing on something for weeks, unable to see beyond that final wonderful moment when you walk out of the exam room for the last time. You celebrate wildly, then the Void appears. What next you wonder? Arriving in Brighton three weeks ago was akin to walking out of that exam room, reaching that point which always seemed so far away. As we rounded the corner into Bartholomew Square a crowd of friends, family, supporters and press surged toward us, clapping, waving, shouting. It was a fantastic moment. Yet at the same time it was very surreal, and for the rest of that day Jo and I drifted around in a dreamland, unable to grasp that we had actually done it. After 14 weeks on the road we'd made it home and completed a journey that so many people had doubted we could do. The wild celebrations lasted well into the early hours of the next morning and the next week was a blur of interviews, phonecalls and 'How was the trip?' questions. The surrealness continued all that week, neither of us able to get our heads round being back. Already those long days in China seemed like another world, like they had happened to someone else.

Moreover, everything at home seemed so alien. I remember seeing a familiar looking man in the paper the day we got back and taking a good 20 seconds to realise it was David Cameron. I didn't know any of the songs blaring out of Radio 1, I hadn't heard of the new Almodovar film everyone was raving about or the band that had won The Mercury Music prize, and in my 16 weeks absence three of my friends had got pregnant.

Worst of all was having to drive a normal car again. Having spent 14 weeks tukking across the globe in a three-wheeler I had to rediscover the joys of right hand drive and a normal gear stick. My first four wheeled foray was in my mother's Saab. Within one journey I stalled several times and nudged a wall in a multi-storey car park; I felt like a 17 year old who'd never driven before. Thank goodness after three weeks I am now driving normally again and no longer a hazard to other road users.

Yet the hardest thing I have found about coming back is not really knowing what to do next. I would recommend anyone considering a trip like this to have a solid plan in place for their return: know where you are going to be living and have a firm idea of what you are going to do to fill the post-expedition void. Many people speak of falling into depression when they return from such epic adventures, and I can understand why. Having a positive idea of what you want to do when you return is a good way of avoiding this. Also, try and take some time out to reflect on what you have done, where you have been and all the incredible experiences you have had. Jo and I saw and learnt so much on our tukathon that I think I will be digesting it for years to come. However hard it has been coming back I keep reminding myself of how lucky I have been to have seen the world from three-wheels, when so many of the people we met along the way have hardly enough money to feed and clothe themselves. Its easy to forget, in our cosy Western World, how lucky we are to have what we do and doing this trip has made me realise that more than ever. It is hard coming back, and reality has been hard to swallow but in the bigger picture these are minor details. Tukking across 12 countries in 14 weeks was the best thing I have ever done and although the post-tukking twilight zone is a little gloomy, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

India Kitai

Mamallapuram (India) 16th September

Yes, Jo has hit the road again and after a mere 10 days in Blighty I have fled the country. The reason is that I am visiting my fiance for 5 days, because once I start medical school this wednesday there will be no time to see him before Christmas.

The weather is warm and cloudy and the driving is pretty reckless. To illustrate this point we were going to the cinema yesterday evening and as we turned in a motorbike crashed into us. Or to put it another way, we forced the motorbike to crash into us because we left him no other option. Thank goodness nobody was hurt, because there was a father, his wife and their 10 year old daughter on the bike. Of course none of them were wearing helmets and the mother was sitting side saddle because she was wearing a sari. So, that was last night's drama and miraculously it was not a serious incident. The driver informed me afterwards that it was not his fault, but if this had occurred in the UK I think the police would take a slightly different stance.

The title of this blog is the name of my new ferret. Pebbles passed away while we were in China and she was replaced by a baby in my absence. She is called India because obviously I love India and Kitai is China in Russian.

The money we've raised is slowly rising and once I have amended Just Giving we will be at about 28k. Keep checking this blog for any more tukking news or further crazy antics we are planning.

Love from India,



P.S. Seeing all the Indian autos i.e. tuk tuks is giving me itchy feet for another Ting Tong mission- watch this space!!!!

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Brighton 11th september, past my bed time

We (Jo, Ants and TT) would like to say a huge big thank you to a number of people.

Indrum (www.indrum.com)- darling Brian, you have been an absolute star for creating such a wonderful website for Tuk to the Road; our site is the voice of this whole project and it is thanks to you that people have found out about our trip and helped us raise £24,000 for Mind to date; we will forever be indebted to you

Bob Carden (Brighton's mayor)- thank you for welcoming us back to Brighton after our 14 week adventure; it was the best day of my life and you helped make it that

The Brighton tuc tucs- for escorting us the last couple of miles home; it was great fun and a fitting way to finish- 3 is the magic number

Mind- for believing in us and supporting us throughout our trip; only another £26,000 to go

Expertise (www.yourtuktuk.com)- Anuwat, you are a genius and built us the best tuk tuk in the world

David Fall (British ambassador to Thailand)- for giving us the best send off in Bangkok, providing moral support throughout and travelling to be there at the finish line too

Sally- for bringing my darling bully boys to meet us at the end, looking after them, saving Shrimp's life and teaching them how to email and blog

Lara, Kaye and Patsy- for looking after the rest of my babies so well; I am so grateful

Skype (www.skype.com)- the whole team and particularly Hannah, for your support throughout; a friend for life

PI Direct (www.pidirect.co.uk Tel: 020 7337 7500)- for your sponsorship and support throughout

Activair (www.activair.com)- for your sponsorship and support

Brighton Square (www.brightonsquare.co.uk)- for your sponsorship and support

Travelfish (www.travelfish.org)- for your sponsorship, journalistic talents, great photographs and reliable info on SE Asia

Cellhire (www.cellhire.co.uk)- for providing us with the BGAN which enabled us to blog and communicate throughout the trip; also, for the endless support

Liftshare (www.liftshare.com)- for your sponsorship and support

Imperial Hotels (www.imperialhotels.co.uk)- for your sponsorship and support

Mazars (www.mazars.co.uk)- for your sponsorship and support

PDC (www.pdc-brighton.co.uk)- for designing and producing our leaflets and business cards

Toniks languages (www.toniks.com)- for providing Russian lessons so that Ants could navigate us safely through Kazakhstan, Russia and the Ukraine

Silva (www.silva.se)- for providing our environmentally friendly solar panels

Whtiby and Co (www.whitbyandco.co.uk)- for providing us a leatherman, an essential mutlitool that we used every day

Nomad (www.nomadtravel.co.uk)- for providing us with our comprehensive medical kit, which we would have been in trouble without on more than one occassion

Ultraseal (www.ultraseal.biz)- for providing us with Ultraseal for all of TT's tyres, so that we didn't get a single puncture; all vehicles should use this product

Shaz- for your support and technical skills regarding all things relating to video cameras; sorry for my occassional nudity

Dad, mum and Nick- without you this trip would never have happened; I love you all so much

And of course not forgetting my partners in crime........

TT aka Ting Tong, Tingers, Ting a Ling, little minx etc....you got us home safe and sound and I love every inch of your pink and chrome body....but, you were built by the tuk tuk genius of the world

Mr Ant, Antonia Banderas, Fez, ferret, Ants, Antonia, woofy.....etc....

...couldn't have wished for a better partner...for all your hard work, organisation, support and love....if it wasn't for you I would still be asleep and snoring in China....I LOVE YOU

To everyone who has donated to Mind- your money will make a difference to those out there suffering with mental health problems; from us and them, thank you.

To all those who I haven't mentioned above and there are many more, you know who you are and we love you all for your support and kindness over the last eight months.

Thank you and goodnight,



Joanna, you really need to tidy your bedroom!!!!!

Brighton, 10th september

You really know you're home when a parent instructs you that your bedroom is a mess- "it's not my fault, I've been away all summer". Neither am I taking responsibility for the 'wild' garden and blocked drain. I think my brother must have been sitting on his backside all summer and not tending to grown up duties.

It still feels a little weird to be back, but not as strange as I felt just after disembarking the Eurotunnel. I have returned to drinking copious amounts of tea, playing with the ferrets, reading trashy mags and going to bed too late with great ease. Life is still the same, the only thing is that I now have four months of great memories to dip into whenever I feel like it. I have successfully forgotten how challenging the trip was and am already fantasising about driving back to Thailand the southerly route i.e. Iran, Pakistan, India.

Driving my car has been a challenge, as I have managed to stall four times and almost run over a cat- thank goodness for ABS brakes. TT is much more fun to drive than a car and once she has been sorted and registered I will take her for a spin to Surrey and Norfolk.

I have finally started to sleep well and for the last few days I have been suffering from a common condition called velcro bed. I've had quite a chilled weekend- playing with the ferrets, tidying all my stuff from the trip, dancing to Boney M in the kitchen, writing lists of things 'to do' and most recently a BBQ. A local cat decided to invite himself round and I was tossing up whether to have a cat kebab or give him some steak- I decided that as I am not currently in China I would give him some steak.

I will recap over our arrival last sunday. As Ants has said, it was pretty strange driving the last stretch to Brighton. I couldn't believe that we had actually made it in one piece and was totally paranoid about crashing just before we ended. We pulled up on the outskirts of Brighton to meet the Brighton tuc tucs, who looked so diddy next to TT. We then began the ceremonious two mile drive to the finishing line, lead by the Union Jack tuc tuc and beeping most of the way into town. Most people waved but one guy shouted 'shut the f*** up', to which I replied 'stop being a miserable English ?**?'. We pulled up just around the corner from Bartholomew Square so that Shaz could get the camera set up. I had a quick cigarette to calm the nerves and we drove the last hundred yards into the Square. We drove through a pink ribbon and were greated by shouts and screams of family and friends- it was such an amazing moment and completely overwhelming. I thought I would burst into tears, but my eyes remained totally dry until one of my ferrets (Shrimp) was placed in my arms and the waterwroks started. My mum said she thought it was nice the way I cried over a ferret but not over her- sorry mum, but if you had whiskers, fur and a pink diamonte collar you would make me cry too.

We had photos taken and a couple of interviews and then it was time to say hi to everyone who'd been kind enough to welcome us back. Unfortunately, there was not enough time and too many people there to properly speak to everyone. However, I would like to say a really big thank you to everyone who turned up- it was very special and probably one of the best moments of my life. TT then had to be driven back to her new home and we had to unload our bags, before a quick turnaround and back into town to the pub. For some reason I only had a couple of drinks and remained sober the entire evening. After the pub we went to a Thai restaurant, followed by home for my gang and partying for Ants' gang. The following morning was a horribly early radio interview, which went fine considering how tired we were.

That's pretty much it for this last week, as the rest of the time has been boring admin, tidying and ferret collecting. We have already raised a fantastic £24,000 for Mind, so thank you so much to all of those who have already donated. We still have another £26,000 to raise to reach our target for Mind and so the thinking cap is on for more wacky fundraising ideas. Oh yeah, one more thing- Ants and I have made it into the final two for Cosmo's Fun Fearless Female awards in the friends/family category. That means we get to go to a snazzy black tie do in november and hopefully increase the profile of our trip to raise even more money for Mind.

I'm off to play with my ferrets now, all 12 of them- bet you're jealous.



The post-tukking twilight zone

The Unthank Arms, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

The worst thing about doing something like drive 20,453 km in a tuk tuk is having to step out at the end and return to the real world. Jo and I both knew it would be hard, that after 16 weeks away from home Reality would be a hard concept to grasp....and we were right. We've been back a week now and everything still feels strange. I keep thinking about all that's happened since we left Bangkok in May, all those dusty roads we've travelled, and I can't get my head round it. It feels like a dream. Even odder is the fact that everyone always says, 'Oh nothing will have changed when you get back, everyone will be doing the same thing still'. But since I left home on May 14 three of my friends have got pregnant, one has got married, three family friends have died and my sister has split up with her long term boyfriend. So some things do change. Seeing my friends getting hitched and pregnant scares me somewhat, I feel as if everyone is growing up and settling down and I'm still behaving like an adolescent and galavanting round the world on three-wheels. But then life is what you make it and for the moment the three-wheeled path is the one I have chosen.

Now back to last Sunday.

Driving those last 30 km to Brighton was dreamlike. Neither Jo or I could really believe that we had done it, and we were both really worried about having a crash in the very final stages. I felt very emotional driving the last stretch from Lewes to Brighton, so aware that the greatest adventure of my life so far was about to come to an abrupt halt. For the last few km we were escorted into town by two of the new Brighton tuc tuc taxis (the CNG ones that have been all over the press this summer). The three of us tukked into Brighton and along the seafront beep beep beeping with lots of people waving and shoouting things like 'Are you the ones from Asia?' Our official finish line was in Bartholomew Square and as we rounded the corner into the square all our families and friends ran out, jumping up and down, waving, squealing, shouting and generally looking quite happy that we had actually made it. The next hour was most surreal; driving through a pink ribbon, saying hello to everyone, being greeted by the Mayor, Jo's ferrets appearing - cue tears - interviews with the BBC, the Argus, the EDP, lots of photos being taken. Then it was time for the PUB, where much champagne was drunk and lots of hugs and kisses dispensed. The PUB was followed by supper at, appropriately, a Thai restaurant, which was followed by a club. By the latter stages the numbers had dwindled to the faithful few; my sister, my cousins, my boyfriend, my wonderful friend Charlie (who had flown all the way from Scotland), and a few mates from Norfolk. All I can say is that at 5 a.m Charlie, my sister and my boyfriend were dancing on podiums at The Zap Club and a helluva lot of champagne had been consumed. Needless to say our 8 a.m radio interview with BBC Southern Counties was a little bleary eyed.

At 1 a.m the next night, after my Pa had decided to take the scenic route from Brighton to Norfolk, I eventually made it HOME, to my own bed, which after 16 weeks away was ODD.

Its now a week later and I feel as if I'm only just coming round and realising that we are back and that life has to go on. There are all those dull things like tax returns, bills and dodgy cars to sort out, plus scary questions to address like what comes next. London, Norfolk or some far off land??? Life is never simple.

Got to dash...having a pint now. More soon xx

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We've only gone and done it.

The Stable Gallery, Kelling, Norfolk, UK

We've done it we've done it we've done it....yeeeeeeehhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaah.

A mega blog will follow very shortly but just wanted to post a very, very quick one to say we're back. I'm feeling a bit lost without Jo and Ting Tong, like I've lost a limb, and spent a lot of time yesterday wandering round my house aimlessly wandering what to do with myself. I think the next few weeks will be quite odd, but we've got to hold on to all those amazing things we've seen.

Thanks all those who have read this and supported us and keep reading as hopefully there'll be some exciting developments in the next few months.

Heid - where were you on Sunday then??

More later today or tomorrow.... x x Ants

Monday, September 04, 2006

We've tukking made it

4th september, Brighton (UK)

All three of us are back home safe and sound. We finished yesterday in Brighton and it was a very emotional and incredible moment. There were so many special faces there and it was almost too much to absorb all at once. A big thank you to everyone who came to meet us.

I now feel slightly less like a stranger in my own country, although it is all still a bit weird. Very very tired after 3 hours sleep last night and so am planning an undisturbed 8 hours in my own bed tonight.

Ants and I went our seperate ways today and it was really sad to say goodbye, although we spoke on the phone within the hour and will see each other very soon.

We will both have a short rest before planning a way to raise another 25k for Mind to reach our target of £50,000. Thanks to all those who have supported Mind and our trip so far.

Off to bed now- goodnight and thank you. Will post a proper blog about how it all feels when I have a little more brain power.



Saturday, September 02, 2006

The final leg

East Sussex- sept 2nd

We have spent the last week flying through the wind and cold of western europe, driving on 'proper' roads and meeting some great people.

Prague- a lovely weekend with Ants and dad, followed by a press conference at the British embassy

Germany- met Daniel and Susi, who travelled from Bangkok to Germany in their own TT last year; thanks so much guys for looking after us

Belgium- met up with a BBC cameraman and then stayed with Sam and B, who we first met about 6 months ago when we were squeezing people for advice; they treated us like superstars and we had a great night- thank you

France- the tunnel under the sea; French drivers are not much better than the Germans and definitely worse than the Belgians

UK- yes, can you believe it. TT has arrived back in Blighty and we are holed up in a secret location in East sussex, ready for the last 50km tomorrow

So many emotions I cannot really articulate now. However, I feel like a stranger in my own country- WEIRD.

Hopefully see some of you faithful bloggers in Brighton tomorrow. 3.30pm 3rd september, Bartholomew Square


Touch Down

A Secret Location in South East England....

14 weeks and over 20,000 km's later we have made it...as far as England at least. At 3.30 pm this afternoon the three of us waved goodbye to foreign fields and tukked onto the Eurostar. An hour later we were hogging the inside lane of the M20 and heading for Brighton. Now here we are, tukked away in a leafy corner of the south of England, preparing for the final touch down tommorrow afternoon.

Being in England is VERY strange; Jo and I have both got the sensation of being imposters in our own country. It feels like we have been away for ages, seen so much, its almost too much to take in that tomorrow it all comes to an end. Its very sad. Last night, after a few too many glasses of white wine and champagne, the thought of coming back to England and finishing this glorious adventure made me cry. I know it will be wonderful to see everyone, but after that its Monday, and reality, and all those What Next? questions.

Our last night abroad could not have been more perfect. We had the privilege of staying with Sam and Bea Rutherford in Brussels, who spoilt us rotten and fed us amazing Belgian chocolate brownies and champagne. I mentioned them both on a blog months ago: Sam drove from london to Sydney in a pink landrover -called Pinky - in 1998-9, and gave us lots of invaluable advice before we left. It seems like months and months ago that he and Bea, over a glass of wine in Winchester, asked us to come and stay with them as we tukked past Brussels. Thanks guys for a wonderful European send off.

So many thoughts and feelings are galloping through my head about the last few months, about tomorrow, about next week, next month, next year....but they'll have to wait till next week to be blogged. All I can say is that the last few months have been both the most exhilarating and challenging times of my life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do such a journey, to meet the people I have, and to have travelled with two such wonderful companions. I know there will be more tears tomorrow.

FINALLY...and very importantly...here are the details about tomorrow.

We are landing in Bartholomew Square, Brighton, England, at 3.30 p.m. Click on the below link for details fo how to get there:


You won't be able to miss us, we're pink and we have three-wheels. The Mayor of Brighton is welcoming us and as far as we know BBC South Today and a few other journalists are coming. There will also be some diamonte encrusted ferrets in a 'Weasel Wagon' in attendance. The more the merrier and if you live in the Brighton area and have nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon then do come down. We're not quite sure what happens after, but the general idea is to have a PARTY / few drinks somewhere in Brighton, after we have tukked up TT in her PJs in her new home.

More blogs next week, when we have recovered from the shock of finishing. Happy Saturday night xx Ants