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Heading east to the Caspian and beyond

From our Cumbrian home, through the land of 'The Silk Roads' to the mountains of Central Asia

14,329 km (8,904 miles) over 343 days from September 27, 2012 to September 4, 2013

Topic: Bicycle Touring  
Categories: Tour diaries, Custom bikes, Equipment lists, Expedition touring bikes, 6-12 months
Locales: Europe, France, Corsica, Italy, Sardegna, Sicilia, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Greece, Achaias, Ileias, Arkadias, Messinias, Lakonias, Rethymnis, Irakleiou, Lasithiou, Turkey, Asia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan
Years: 2012, 2013


Copyright © 2012-2014 By Pauline Symonds - (contact)

Status: Completed Jan 2014Featured Journal #541
Last update: Saturday January 11, 2014 08:53 (US/Pacific) (edited Thu 3 Jul 2014 13:02 (US/Pacific))
448,111 hits since September 11, 2012 (hitcounts updated nightly)
3,418 pics

Click here to see this page

Table of Contents

Preamable: Have a nice holiday!

      Why are we doing this?: Coping with addiction

      Tinkering with the bikes: The excitement of getting ready

      The insurance nightmare Part 2 (see our South American Journal for Part 1): Is there insurance for nomads?

      The Three C' s: Comfort Convenience and Communication

      The Kit: Can't believe we carry all this stuff

            The medicine chest: Stuff we hope we don't need too much
            Money, documents and gadgets
            Pauline's Kit: Lots of it!
            Hugh's Kit: Some cool Salomon gear and lots of socks
            Bike kit: Equipment, tools and spares
            Camping, cooking and repairs

      On the eve of departure: So where are we going?


      Turkey: The easy one

      Azerbaijan: 3 days with a DIY LOI

      Kazakhstan: 4 days, no LOI

      Uzbekistan: 4 days - no LOI

      Tajikistan: 4 Days, no LOI

      Kazakhstan again: 1 day in Dushanbe

A Rough guide to the whole route: Map

The Journey: Is this the way to Mongolia?

      Stage 1: From home to the capital of Europe (Maps)

            Day 1: Sedbergh to Redmire (near Leyburn)
            Day 2 - negotiating the floods!: Redmire to Green Hammerton
            Day 3 - the waters subside: Green Hammerton to Blacktoft
            Day 4: Blacktoft to King George Dock, Hull
            Day 5: Zeebrugge to Brugge
            Day 6: Brugge to Gent via Meulebeke
            Day 7: Gent to Bruxelles
            Day 8: Browsing in Bruxelles

      Stage 2: Travelling south through France: Bruxelles to Marseille (Map)

            Day 9: Bruxelles to Ecaussinnes
            Day 10: Ecaussinnes to Etang du Hayon (Trelon)
            Day 11: Etang du Hayon to Gignicourt
            Day 12: Gignicourt to Romilly-sur-Seine
            Day 13: Romilly-sur-Seine to Marcenay (near Laignes)
            Day 14: Marcenay to Sansange (near Arnay-le-Duc)
            Day 15: Chilling avec Bob et Colleen a Sansange
            Day 16: Sansange to Varennes-Vauzelles (near Nevers)
            Days 17-19: Avec la famille a Varennes-Vauzelles
            Day 20: Varennes-Vauzelles to Moulins
            Day 21: Moulins to Melay (Marcigny)
            Day 22: Melay to Feurs
            Day 23: Feurs to Dunières
            Day 24: Dunieres to Lamastre
            Day 25: Lamastre to Le Pertius (near Saou)
            Day 26: Le Pertius to Nyons
            Day 27: Nyons to Beaumes-de-Venise
            Day 28: Beaumes-de-Venise to Lagnes
            Days 29-39: reloading and lounging in Lagnes
            Day 40: Preparing to head south again
            Day 41: Lagnes to Aix-en-Provence
            Day 42: Aix-en-Provence to Marseille

      Stage 3: Across the roof of Corsica (Summary and map)

            Day 43: Bastia to Murato
            Day 44: Murato to Popolasca
            Day 45: Popolasca to Pietroso
            Day 46: Pietroso to 8 km south of Zicavo
            Day 47: 8 km south of Zicavo to Zonza
            Day 48: Zonza to Bonifacio

      Stage 4: Searching for solitude in Sardinia (Summary and map)

            Day 49: Bonifacio to Santa Teresa di Gallura
            Day 50: Santa Teresa to Aglientu
            Day 51: Aglientu to somewhere between Tergu and Osilo
            Day 52: Wild camp to Alghero
            Day 53: Alghero to Bosa
            Day 54: Bosa to between Paulilatino and Busachi
            Day 55: Wild camp to Barumini
            Day 56: Barumini to Nurri
            Day 57: Nurri to somewhere between Ballao and San Nicolo Gerrei
            Day 58: Wild camp to Cagliari
            Day 59: Cappuccini in Cagliari
            Day 60: Overnight slow boat to Palermo

      Stage 5: Sicily (Summary and map)

            Day 61: Arriving in Sicily - "improbable Palermo" - and - "impossible Politics"
            Day 62: Palermo to Altofonte
            Day 63: Altofonte to Bosco d. Ficuzza
            Day 64: Bosco d. Ficuzza to Santo Stefano Quisquina
            Day 65: Santo Stefano Quiscina to Agrigento
            Day 66: Roaming round ruins - Agrigento
            Day 67: Agrigento to Delia
            Day 68: Delia to Colonia (Piazza Armerina)
            Day 69: Colonia to Piazza Armerina
            Day 70: Piazza Armerina to somewhere between Raddusa and Regalbuto
            Day 71: Somewhere between R&R and 6 km south of Bronte
            Day 72: 6 km south of Bronte to Randazzo
            Day 73: Randazzo to Castiglione di Sicilia
            Day 74: Castiglione to Taormina
            Day 75: Taormina to Reggio di Calabria

      Stage 6: Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia - "The Foot of Italy" (Summary and map)

            Day 76: Reggio di Calabria to Capo Bruzzano
            Day 77: Capo Bruzzano to between Passo Croce Ferrata and Fabrizia
            Day 78: Snowy camp near Fabrizia to Serra San Bruno
            Day 79: Serra san Bruno to Amaroni
            Day 80: Amaroni to Maione (near Grimaldi)
            Day 81: Maione to Cosenza
            Day 82: Cosenza to Villapiana
            Day 83: Villapiana to 4 km west of Policoro
            Day 84: Policoro to Matera
            Day 85: Exploring the Sassi of Matera
            Day 86: A walk across the gorge and looking around the museums
            Day 87: Matera to Alberobello
            Day 88: Pretending to be Trolls in Trulli country
            Day 89: Alberobello to Ostuni
            Day 90: Ostuni to Brindisi

      Stage 7: Across The Peloponnese (Summary and map)

            Day 91: Patra and the beginning of travels in Greece
            Day 92: Patra - half open half closed
            Day 93: Patra to Pighi
            Day 94: Pighi to Ano Vlasia
            Day 95: Ano Vlasia to Ano Psofis
            Day 96: Ano Psofis to Olympia
            Day 97: Running around Olympia without bikes
            Day 98: Olympia to 4km SE of Kalithea
            Day 99: Near Kalithea to near the Temple of Apollo Epikourios
            Day 100: Near the Temple of Apollo to Longanikos
            Day 101: Longanikos to Mystras
            Day 102: Mysteries of Mystras
            Day 103: Almost a day off
            Day 104: Mystras to the High Pass on the Sparti to Kalamata road near Aghios Vasilios
            Day 105: High pass to Kitries
            Day 106: Kitries to Stoupa
            Day 107: Stoupa to Areopoli
            Day 108: Areopoli to Tigani peninsula
            Day 109: Tigani to 3km S of Vathia
            Day 110: 3km S of Vathia to Laghia
            Day 111: Laghia to Gythio
            Day 112: Gythio - time to learn about the Mani Towers
            Day 113: Gythio - fish, yachts and bike maintenance
            Day 114: Gythio to Kastro Monemvasia
            Day 115: Kastro Monemvasia to Monemvasia harbour with multiple trips to the ticket office

      The End of Mainland Europe: What are we doing? - Where are we going?

      Stage 8: Cruising across Crete (Summary and map)

            Day 116: Monemvasia to Kissamos (Crete) - mainly by ferry
            Day 117: Kissamos to Chania
            Day 118: Chania to Kares
            Day 119: Kares to Plakias
            Day 120: Plakias to Agh. Galini
            Day 121: Agh.Galini to Pyrgos
            Day 122: Pyrgos to Dermatos
            Day 123: Dermatos to Sidonia
            Day 124: Sidonia on a Sunday - a place in between
            Day 125: Sidonia to Prophet Helia's Church by Sykia
            Day 126: Sykia to Sitia
            Day 127: Sitia to Rhodes - mainly by a very bouncy boat

      Stage 9: Growing old and roaming around in Rhodes (Summary and map)

            Day 128: Old Rhodes
            Day 129: Old Man
            Day 130: Rhodes city to 3km east of Archipoli
            Day 131: Near Archipoli to Stelies
            Day 132: Stelies to Lindos
            Day 133: Lindos to 3km NE of Archipoli
            Day 134: Near Archipoli to Rhodes Old Town
            Day 135: Oil change and 'is this the end of the Euro?'
            Day 136: No - it isn't the end of the Euro
            Day 137: Looks like there won't be a Grexit
            Days 138 and 139: Rhodes
            Day 140: Turkey on a Tuesday with a pancake sea to Marmaris

      Stage 10: Turkey - new country and new continent (Summary and Map)

            Day 141: Marmaris to Dalaman
            Day 142: Dalaman to Fethiye
            Day 143: Friday in Fethiye preparing for cold Turkey
            Day 144: Fethiye to near Arpacik
            Day 145: Arpacik to Gölhisar
            Day 146: Gölhisar to Burdur
            Day 147: Burdur to Yeşibaskoy (near Sagalassos)
            Day 148: Yeşibaskoy to 4km north of Akbelenli
            Day 149: near Akbelenli to Egirdir
            Day 150: Egirdir to Yaka Koyu
            Day 151: Yaka Koyu to Beyşehir
            Day 152: Beyşehir to Konya
            Day 153: Konya to 2km east of Kizoren
            Day 154: Kizoren to near Gözlükuyu
            Day 155: Gözlükuyu to Derinkuyu
            Day 156: Derinkuyu to Soğanli
            Day 157: Soğanli to Göreme
            Day 158: The Zelve to Göreme hike - bikes would be difficult
            Day 159: Göreme + Uchisar
            Day 160: Göreme + Cavusin and Devrent Valley
            Day 161: Göreme to Kapakı
            Day 162: Kapaklı to Çayıralan
            Day 163: Çayıralan to Şarkışla
            Day 164: Şarkışla to Çamurlu
            Day 165: Çamurlu to 3km east of Çetinkaya
            Day 166: near Çetinkaya to Divriği
            Day 167: Discovering Divriği
            Day 168: Divriği to near Altintaş
            Day 169: Near Altintaş to near Kuşlu
            Day 170: Near Kuşlu to Erzincan
            Day 171: Erzincan to Aşağiozlüce
            Day 172: Aşağiozlüce to Bayburt
            Day 173: Bayburt to Ispir
            Day 174: Regaining energy and inspiration in Ispir
            Day 175: Ispir to Yusufeli
            Day 176: Yusufeli to 7km east of Taşhkoy
            Day 177: Near Taşhkoy to Göle
            Day 178: Göle to Ardahan
            Day 179: Ardahan to Posof

      Stage 11: Georgia - is this really a return to Europe? (Summary and map)

            Day 180: Posof (Turkey) to Akhaltsikhe ( ახალციხე - Georgia)
            Day 181: Akhaltsikhe to Borjomi (ბორჯომი)
            Day 182: Borjomi to Gori (გორი)
            Day 183: Gori to Mtskheta (მცხეთა)
            Day 184: Mtskheta to Tbilisi (თბილისი)
            Day 185: Tension in Tbilisi (no rims, spokes or wheel builders!)
            Day 186: Thinking (a bit) in Tbilisi
            Day 187: Time out in Tbilisi
            Day 188: A knock at the door of the Azerbaijan embassy in Tbilisi
            Day 189: One of the President's men in Tbilisi
            Day 190: Timed out in Tbilisi
            Day 191: Post it in Tbilisi
            Day 192: Tbilisi to Paldo
            Day 193: Paldo to Kvareli ( ყვარელი)
            Day 194: Kvareli to Lagodekhi ( ლაგოდეხი)

      Stage 12: Azerbaijan (map)

            Day 195: Lagodekhi to 10km west of Qax
            Day 196: Near Qax to Şǝki
            Day 197: Şǝki's caravanserai and a trip to Kiş
            Day 198: Şǝki to 5km south east of Qǝbǝlǝ
            Day 199: Near Qǝbǝlǝ to Şamaxi
            Day 200: Şamaxi to 8 km east of Cǝngi
            Day 201: Near Cǝngi to Baku
            Day 202: Finding embassies in Baku
            Day 203: Another visa and the old town of Baku
            Days 204 and 205: It can rain in Baku too
            Day 206: Collecting visas
            Day 207: Welding and moving in Baku
            Day 208: Mud volcanoes near Baku
            Day 209: Biding time in Baku
            Day 210: Still stuck in Baku
            Day 211: Parcelfarce aids decision
            Day 212: No boat today - come back tomorrow
            Day 213: Boat or no boat? - night out in Baku's port
            Day 214: Sea Change - cruising The Caspian
            Day 215: Kazakhstan or no Kazakhstan? - waiting offshore to disembark

      Stage 13: Beyond the Caspian through a corner of Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan (Summary and map)

            Aqtau to Qonghirat (Kungrad) - the great expanse of nothing: Useful info for cyclists
            Day 216: Adjusting to the sea change in Aqtau
            Day 217: Aqtau to 25km South of Tawshiq
            Day 218: near Tawshiq to Shetpe
            Day 219: Shetpe to 10km East of Razveza no 10
            Day 220: near Razveza no 10 to 34 km North East of Sayotesh
            Day 221: near Sayotesh to 15 km North East of Kamennoye
            Day 222: near Kamennoye to Beyneu
            Day 223: Beyneu and beyond?
            Day 224: Beyneu to 15 km south east of Akzhigit
            Day 225: near Akzhigit to 90 km south east of Qaraqalpaghistan
            Day 226: somewhere in the middle of nowhere to 80 km south east of Jaslyk
            Day 227: another place in the middle of nowhere to 18 km south east of Qonghirat
            Day 228: near Qonghirat to Nukus

      Stage 14: Uzbekistan (map)

            Day 229: The reason for visiting Nukus - Igor Savitsy
            Day 230: Nukus to 2 km south of Gurlan
            Day 231: Bike Ride to Khiva
            Days 232 and 233: Chilling - or is it cooking - in Khiva?
            Day 234: Khiva to somewhere too near to Turkmenistan
            Day 235: Frontier camp to 50 km north west of Gazli
            Day 236: Bush camp to Bukhara
            Day 237: Welcome to Bukhara
            Days 238-239: The buzz of Bukhara
            Day 240: Bukhara to near Soqayti
            Day 241: Near Soqayti to Tim
            Day 242: Tim to 15km north east of Nurabad
            Day 243: Near Nurabad to Samarkand
            Day 244: Samarkand
            Day 245: Самарканд
            Day 246: Samarqand
            Day 247: Samarkand to Shakrisabz
            Day 248: Shakrisabz to 10km south east of Ghuzar
            Day 249: Near Ghuzar to Iron Gates Pass
            Day 250: Iron Gates Pass to 25km south east of Boysun
            Day 251: Near Boysun to Tursunzade

      Stage 15: Tajikistan (Map)

            Day 252: Tursunzade to Dushanbe
            Day 253: Done a permit in Dushanbe
            Day 254: Route planning in Dushanbe
            Day 255: Cracked Kazakhstan visas
            Day 256: Dushanbe to near Fayzobod
            Day 257: near Fayzobod to 15km north east of Obigarm
            Day 258: near Obigarm to 25km east of Komsomolabad
            Day 259: near Komsomolabad to 2km west of Tavildara
            Day 260: near Tavildara to 5km south of Safedoron
            Day 261: near Safedoron to Kala-i Khumb
            Day 262: Kala-i Khumb to near Kurgovad
            Day 263: near Kurgovad to Dech
            Day 264: Dech to near Barzud
            Day 265: near Barzud to Khorog
            Days 266-268: Cooling off in Khorog
            Day 269: Grounded in Khorog
            Day 270: What happened to the Saturday market?
            Day 271: Khorog to near Kolkhozobod
            Day 272: near Kolkhozobod to near Wer (2770m)
            Day 273: near Wer to near Morj (3190m)
            Day 274: near Morj to Jelondy (3470m)
            Day 275: Jelondy to 20km NE of Koitezek Pass (3940m)
            Day 276: near Koitezek Pass to Bulunkul (3650m)
            Day 277: Bulunkul to Alichur (3860m)
            Day 278: Alichur to Mamazair (4000m)
            Day 279: Mamazair to Murghab (3630m)
            Day 280: Nothing much in Murghab
            Day 281: Murghab to 22km East of Akbaital Pass (by Chinese frontier) (4150m)
            Day 282: near Akbaital Pass to18km NW of Akbaital Pass (4200m)
            Day 283: near Akbaital Pass to 23 km North of Karakul (4030m)
            Day 284: near Karakul to Sary Tash (3200m)

      The Pamir Highway: One of the World's top cycle routes

      Stage 16: Kyrgyzstan (Map)

            Day 285: Sary Tash to Kyrkol near Gulcha (1660m)
            Day 286: Kyrkol to Osh (1100m - oxygen again)
            Day 287: Lost it in Osh but not the dosh
            Days 288-291: Scoffing and dossing in Osh
            Day 292: Osh to 5 km North of Uzgen
            Day 293: Near Uzgen to 20 km north east of Jalal-Abad
            Day 294: 20 km north east of Jalal-Abad to 55 km north east of Jalal-Abad
            Day 295: 55 km north east of Jalal-Abad to 16 km north east of Koldama
            Day 296: near Koldama to Kazarman
            Day 297: Kazarman to 26 km west of Akkyia Pass
            Day 298: Crossing the Akkyia Pass (2930m) to 10 km east of the pass
            Day 299: near the Akkyia Pass to 40 km west of Baetovo
            Day 300: 40 km west of Baetovo to 12 km north of Baetovo
            Day 301: 12 km north of Baetovo to Jany Talap
            Day 302: Jany Talap to 20 km north of Jany Talap
            Day 303: near Jany Talap to Song Kul (tourist camp) via the Moldu Ashu Pass (3300m)
            Day 304: Song Kul tourist camp to Song Kul shepherdess' camp
            Day 305: Song Kul shepherdess' camp to Song Kul CBT festival
            Day 306: Song Kul
            Day 307: Song Kul to near Keng-Suu
            Day 308: near Keng-Suu to Kochkur
            Days 309-310: Catching up in Kochkur
            Day 311: Kochkur to jailoo 34 km east of Kochkur
            Day 312: High jailoo to near Den-Talaa
            Day 313: Den-Talaa to Kadji-Sai
            Day 314: Kadji-Sai to Jengish by Issyk Kul
            Day 315: Jengish to Svetov Dolina (Valley of the Flowers)
            Day 316: Svetov Dolina to Karakol
            Day 317: Karakol - planning the end game
            Day 318: Karakol to near Jyrgalang

      Stage 17: Kazakhstan (ii) (Map)

            Day 319: near Jyrgalang to Kegen
            Day 320: Kegen to 28 km north of Kegen
            Day 321: 28 km north of Kegen to Sharyn Canyon (river)
            Day 322: Sharyn Canyon to 4 km SW of Kokpek
            Day 323: near Kokpek to 10 km east of Asy - heading for the Asy Plateau
            Day 324: 10 km east of Asy to 10 km west of Asy
            Day 325: 10 km west of Asy to near Batan
            Day 326: Almost Almaty - near Batan to Esik
            Day 327: Esik to Almaty - the last kms in Central Asia
            Days 328 and 329: Ambling around Almaty
            Day 330: With family Galyamov
            Days 331 and 332: More ambling around Almaty
            Day 333: Packing the bikes
            Days 334 to 336: Almaty's playgrounds

      Central Asia: Looking back

      How has the kit fared?

            Day 337: Preparing to fly

      Stage 18: Almaty to the Yorkshire Dales

            Day 338: Almaty to Amsterdam
            Day 339: Amsterdam to Leiden
            Day 340: Leiden to Rotterdam (Europoort)
            Day 341: Hull to Blacktoft (Hope and Anchor)
            Day 342: Blacktoft to Green Hammerton (The Bay Horse)
            Day 343: Green Hammerton to Redmire (The Jonas Centre)
            Day 344: Redmire to Sedbergh (oh no - it's the end of the ride)

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