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Saturday 23rd July 2011 – Tashkent, Uzbekistan
144 days on the road 5,535 miles or 8,856 km cycled
Resting up in a cool hotel in Tashkent waiting for the Kyrgyzstan
embassy to open on Monday for our final visa application. Good news though, as of yesterday we are both the proud owners of 90 day Chinese tourist visas.
During this free time I decided to get creative and write a short poem about our time in the desert for your enjoyment, plus new Turkmenistan photos up too!
It is only just light, as he comes to be
The burning man of death
A furious face through the peaceful night
Will awaken and quicken our breath
Ruby red, then orange still, his force is yet to come
So to hasten our flight through the fleeting night
In a hope to survive as one
Like a temperature gauge through the bars of a cage
Your brow bows down with pain
The wind sets in, and you know you can’t win
It’s a hopeless trial in vein
Lashings of sand are strewn through the land
That you can taste with every breath
The sods of the ground as the wheels turn round
You know you’re dancing with death!
By Micheil Gordon
Monday 18th July 2011 – Samarkand, Uzbekistan
139 days on the road 5300 miles or 8,480 km cycled
After almost three days in Samarkand it is time for us to cycle up to the capital (Tashkent) where we will endeavor to obtain more of the all-important visas.
Iran, now seems like a long time ago and after lengthy border crossing into Turkmenistan we breathed a short sigh of relief to be out of Iran on the last day of our visa. The sigh of relief was short lived and a sigh of dread followed when we realised what lay ahead. There was 550km of desert, an angry head wind and temperatures into the 50’s. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side, Jon fell very ill with yet another stomach bug and the headwind was blowing such a gale, that it became clear we were not going to make it by bike. Turkmenistan in July is no place for cyclists!
We managed to cycle half of Turkmenistan, while the other half was spent on a comfortable night train from Mary to Turkmenabad. This taste of luxury, did make us wonder why we have been cycling in such conditions at all when there are these excellent things called trains!
Of course it was straight back on the bike and after a short 45km ride we reached
the Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan border. My first experience of Uzbekistan was sun stroke, we had got but 10km into the country when I fell foul to such a bad bout of sunstroke I could not move. It was a scary four hours of nausea and sickness and will not be repeated. Thankfully Turkmenistan is the last country with temperatures of 50+ degrees and where running out of time on our visas could be a problem.
Our first Uzbek city was the city of Bukhara and after two days to visit the many magnificent Mosques, Mausoleums and Minarets we made it to Samarkand for Jon’s birthday! Samarkand has been spectacular, Amir Temur (1365-1405) made the city the capital of his empire and it is therefore packed full of historical riches that we have been lucky enough to explore.
For the first time on our trip we have stumbled across more cyclists making similar journeys round the world, some for as long as 18 months. You can view their blogs below.
The Belgiums: Tim and Tine are heading to China via the famous Pamir Highway
Nino Trunz: The crazy Swiss is speeding around the world whereever his wheels take him, for 18 months if not more.
Zuzka and Jens: I thought they were just a hallucination when I saw these two laden bikes heading towards me through the Turkmen desert. The couple had alreadycompleted 22,000km, starting in New Zealand they were on their way home to Germany.
Monday 4th July 2011 – Mashhad, Eastern Iran – Half way to Hong Kong!
124 days on the road 4890 miles or 7,850 km cycled
After eleven days in the burning desert we have arrived in the holy city of Mashhad. We are happily relaxing in Vali’s homestay with three other cyclists waiting for the hard-working Turkmenistan Embassy to open its doors for businesses. With only two days left on our Iranian visa we need to pick up our Turkmenistan visa tomorrow morning or there will be trouble.
Our time in the desert has been the greatest challenge of the trip so far. The distances between the towns were vast (sometimes 200km) and the temperature sored into the 40’s. We came close to enormous spiders, encountered sand storms, sunstroke and running out of water. Without the incredibly hospitable and generous Iranians supplying us with food, water and sometimes a bed the desert journey would have been even harder.
Desert camping has been quite different to any kind of camping so far and a good camp
spot in such a baron dusty environment is almost impossible to find. So instead of camping out on the open sand we took shelter under the wide road bridges where we could not be seen.
Our next country to visit is Turkmenistan where we will be once again braving the desert but this time the temperatures are even greater (+50 degrees). We always knew that this five-day rush (we can only get a 5 day transit visa to travel 500km) through Turkmenistan was to be the most challenging part of the trip and with no mobile phone reception or internet access we are on our own.
Meanwhile back at home, life has been busy in the Lee family. Nicola, my cousin, gave birth to baby Erin on the 10th May and I am of course really looking forward to meeting her. Louise was married on the 2nd July to Chris Collingwood, and I wish them a happy future together.
Wednesday 22nd June 2011 – Tehran, Iran
112 days on the road 4380 miles or 7,000 km cycled
Has Iran been full of dangerous, violent Islamic fundamentalists or open, kind, friendly, generous and helpful people? Of course it has been the latter, and just when we thought we had experienced the height of hospitality in Turkey we enter Iran where the number of welcoming and hospitable people is even greater.
We entered Iran through a new border crossing 100km east of Van, Turkey without any problems, the officials at the border did not even want to inspect our belongings. Our route to Tehran took us first to Khoy then Tabriz. From Tabriz we took a small detour across the mountain range to the Caspian Sea before arriving in Tehran last Sunday.
The weather now is really heating up and we can no longer cycle between the hours of
11:30 and 2:30 which has made it slightly harder to fulfil our daily mile quota. We have both experienced some traveller’s illnesses here, first I fell ill, then while recovering and keeping off rich foods Jon indulged in some spinach, bean and chicken stew with two secret added ingredients of burnt matches and hairs, which of course made him ill too. We are both now fully recovered and preparing to leave Tehran today for a long 1,000km ride through the desert to Mashhad.
The Iranian roads are mostly good quality but the same cannot be said for the Iranian driving, they have no regard for anyone else on the road and while in Tehran we have whiteness two motorbike accidents. To compensate we have been extremely careful here and we are going to take a bus out of the city centre today.
Sunday 5th June 2011 – Van, Turkey (60 miles from the Iranian border)
3,765 miles or 6,000 kilometres cycled
Over the past week the terrain has definitaly not been any easier. The high mountain passes have been relentless with the last one topping all the others at 2,234m. Never the less we made it to Van ready to receive the king’s treatment in a comfy hotel. However we had not anticipated that in a city of 367,500 people not one hotel bed would be vacant! While looking around feeling sorry for ourselves we happened to meet an English student who offered to help us.
In the end we were kindly put up in his friend’s student dormitory accommodation for the night where we did indeed receive the King’s treatment. Warm shower, comfy bed and a lovely breakfast were all kindly given to us.
We are now busy preparing for our entrance to Iran this coming Tuesday. Many cyclists before us have passed through Iran and commented on how welcoming, friendly and generous the Iranian people are. We hope they will be the same with us!
Saturday 28th May 2011 – Kale, Turkey (30 miles past Malatya)
3410 miles or 5460 kilometres cycled
Since leaving Cappadocia it has been a constant uphill struggle. The terrain has been very unforgiving with steep prolonged climes that seem to go on for ever; these are followed by a few moments of downhill which we have found hard to enjoy with the knowledge that only one thing can follow a downhill, another up! In the last two days we have gone over THREE mountain passes one at 1900m and two at 1800m, on the positive side the mountain scenery has been spectacular.
Entering mountain villages we seemed to cause quite a stir and it was hard to get
through without exploding from the countless Turkish teas that were handed to us, even if we said no, a tea still seemed to land in our laps. Coming out of a supermarket in Gürün I found Jon surrounded by about 30 children all shouting and trying to get a glimpse of the strange travellers. Sure enough I managed to drop the shopping into the road for all to see the vast array of cakes I had bought, not the proudest moment.
Our first major breakdown occurred on Tuesday, while climbing up one of the monsters I heard a high pitched click and a snapping sound. On closer inspection
we realised it was coming from the bottom bracket, with a few more peddles the whole unit had warped, bent and the pedals turned no more. It was a game over scenario, the bike was unusable there was no fixing this it needed replacing. It happened at midday and we had got about 30 miles past a large city (Kayseri), against our will, we begrudgingly agreed we should go BACK. Three truck rides, numerous bike shops and a lot of hand gestures we were back at the scene of the incident, bike fixed and ready to push on. ‘How’s your bottom bracket doing Jon’?
23rd May 2011 – Göreme, Cappadocia (Central Turkey)
Cycled so far 3120 miles or 4990 km
The Turkish hospitality never ceases to amaze. In the large city of Eskisehir we met a Turkish family who looked after us for a whole day, giving us plentiful meals and showing their city. With a cake for the road we said good bye to our new friends and pushed on to Cappadoica.
Up until this point Jon had not had one single puncture and so late at night I snuck out of the tent to his pristine wheels to give him a small but manageable puncture to keep him in practise. This is what I thought I would have to do was it not for the following days when low and behold, a blessed four punctures was bestowed on him in the space of 2 days. It was now time for a tyre change!
En route to Cappadocia, we past the saltiest salt lake in the world and endured a good thunderstorm every evening. We are now in Cappadocia and preparing to leave for Van today, our next port of call.
14th May 2011 – Iznik (60 miles South East of Istanbul)
Since Bucharest we have travelled the width of Bulgaria, through the Balkan Mountains and into Turkey. The transition between the two countries was defiantly the most notable so far. We went from small rural towns, limited supplies and a somewhat hostile feel from the older generation in Bulgaria to a vibrant, bustling, plentiful, and very friendly and generous Turkey. In the first City we passed through (Edirne) we were blown away by this enormous Mosque and this really signalled to us we were heading East.
To enter Istanbul by bike is to commit suicide, so after
battling thunder storms, a lift in an enormous truck, two confusing bus journeys, lots of cups of tea with the locals and a tram we were safely in Sultanahmet. Here we enjoyed a few days to visit the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Palace and the Markets and Museums.
We have now left the City and are heading South East towards Cappadocia, an area containing an astonishing natural wonder. Towers of rock like chimneys tower up from the ground which were built into cities in the 2nd Century B.C.
Finally a very big thank you to all the donations so far. Please keep them coming!
23 April 2011- Hong Kong Cycle increases its fundraising target to £30,000!
We have managed to raise an incredible £16,000 so far and believe that we can make it to £30,000. Since leaving we have undertaken a variety of our own fundraising activities but we also need donations from others. Please help us to continue to raise money for WaterAid.
22 April 2011: From Belgrade to Bucharest we had a whole array of highs and lows.
Our last day in Serbia was incredible as we followed the Danube through steep narrow gorges with castles on the sides of the cliffs.
We crossed the River into Romania on the 17th April and noticed a clear difference in the two countries. Although Romania is in the EU we encountered more poverty then we did in Serbia. The people were very poor and the way of life out in the countryside completely removed from the city life. There were almost more horse and carts on the roads than cars and each house had a well for its water. There were stray dogs everywhere but these were not the ones to watch out for!
The Romanian and Serbian people were on the whole very friendly and helpful. Entering a new village we would often end up waving at everyone as they all beamed at us with smiles. The children would find it very amusing to cycle alongside us for a short time if they had a bike or get us to slap their hands as we passed. This would always lift our spirits after a tiring day!
The next major stop will be Istanbul after passing through Bulgaria. We are looking forward to seeing what Bulgaria will have to offer.
12 April 2011: Its been a long haul but we have finally broken out of the EU! One
day cycling in Serbia and we already love this country. This morning while taking an innocent picture of a dilapidated church we were offered Slivovitz from a wandering worker from the iron factory.
It would have been rude to refuse and so by 10:30am we were being given the grand tour of the factory feeling very slightly inebriated.
Very enjoyable but not something we intend to make a habit of!
Tomorrow we will arrive in Belgrade.
7th April 2011: We have both arrived in Bratislava after 2100km! From now on we
can follow the famous cycle path along the Danube all the way to the Black Sea.
Last night we received a telephone call to say that we had to be ready to leave the Hotel at 6:15am to feature LIVE ON AIR on Slovakian TV! This afternoon we have some free time to visit the Castle and then straight back to the centre for a radio interview. We have had a great response to our trip here in Bratislava. Thank you!
Hong Hong Cycle LIVE on Slovakian TV on the Morning Show.
5th April 2011: Excellent news! Thomas D from Die Fantastischen Vier uploads a
video podcast featuring the trip. While staying with Thomas he kindly made a short video to help promote our trip and hopefully get some of his fans to log on to our site and give up a few Euros. Thank you Thomas!
4th April 2011: Knock, knock. Who’s there? Micheil and I would like to camp in
your garden please!
This is how I have been finding my places to sleep. The last family (see photo) lent me their kitchen, shower, toilet as well as giving me a very hearty breakfast and making a donation to WaterAid. Everyone has been so friendly and kind I feel very lucky. Thank you to everyone who has been so accommodating to us smelly travellers.
Finally we are both now in Vienna! So far we have cycle 1433 miles, have had no punctures (touch wood), only two days of rain and been lost only a handful of times.
Today we went into a Austrian school to give a presentation to pupils aged 15 to 18, this went very well and at the end most came up and willingly handed over a few Euros to go to WaterAid.
The school visit was followed by another water bottle selling spree in the centre of Vienna. There were numerous photographers present including the popular Austrian Newspaper Der Krone and the Austrian TV channel ORF. Photos from today will be posted up soon!
31st April 2011: We have had a wonderful stay in Innsbruck but the cycling must
continue. Over the past few days we have been using the time to visit friends, go skiing, stock up on good food and spend time in the Mountains.
The cycling in Austria has been very spectacular and the way we went from Vorarlberg to Innsbruck was breathtaking (literally). The next destination is Vienna where LANXESS have arranged for us to visit another school, carry out a street collection and no doubt speak with more press.
24th March 2011: Since leaving Leverkusen and going our separate ways many things have happened.
Jon managed to arrive in Vorarlberg, Austria last Sunday and has spent some days with Melanie while I cycled a small detour into the Eifel (mountainous region in Germany). There I got to to meet Carsten and Thomas D from the popular German band Die Fantastischen Vier. After visiting the band and enjoying a very pleasant stay at there home I headed to Stuttgart to spend some much needed time with my Uncle and family and receive some Physiotherapy treatment.
We are both now in Vorarlberg after 1,000 miles and awoke this morning to a panoramic view of the Alps. Today we are going to make the very taxing clime to the Arlberg Pass at 1,793m with our bikes and 40kg of kit. Wish us luck because we will need it!
17th March 2011: 600 miles completed! We have now separated for a few days Jon has pushed on to Austria, while I am off to visit my uncle in Stuttgart. Our visit to
Cologne was a real success, we carried out another water bottle selling charity collection in the LANXESS, Leverkusen canteen. People just could not get enough of our HongKongCycle water! This time we raised a massive 380 euros for WateAid bringing the total so far to 530 Euros since leaving the UK. Thank you everyone who bought a bottle or donated it has made a massive difference.
Meanwhile, back in Bristol at Wellsway school (Jon’s old school) the students have been busy fund-raising for us as well! They have been doing a terrific job selling raffle tickets amongst other things and raised at least £500, with more still to come. Well done Wellsway and keep up the good work!
11th March 2011: We have now cycled 411 miles since last Wednesday and are
currently in the Netherlands updating our blog and gallery from beneath a Dutch Windmill. Since the last update we have visited the LANXESS production site on the outskirts of Antwerp and sold bottles of water to the employees raising a further 159 Euros for WaterAid. Thank you to all the LANXESS employees who bought a bottle! Furthermore we have been interview by FIVE Belgium newspaper reporters and been in at least three of the papers. The media section will be updated very soon with some of the Belgium media clippings.