Blog

Across Gansu and Ningxia Provinces

Keith, riding a yak in a lake
Keith, riding a yak in a lake

How Far Have They Got?

Map of first 10 weeks.

Map of progress in China.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190914_CharityDonations

Week 13 Summary: Rain and Yakkety-Yak

This map shows the weeks ride.

This week: 510 miles, 15,039ft climbing and 39:01 hours riding

20190914_BRJ_OdometerAccumulated totals: 7010 miles, 151,880ft climbing and 547:42 hours riding

Day 88: Sunday September 8th: Up hill and down Dale

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Route Day 88 – September 8th

Fly-through Map of Day 88.

Temples
Temples
Chinese Temple
Chinese Temple

After last nights feast I’m sure the waitresses could not believe how much we ordered. For the first course we managed to eat the lot but then came the puddings. We did make a mistake here. We ordered from the picture menu. First came Linney’s 8 slices of pizza stuff (to be honest it was the best of a bad bunch), then came mine; 8 deep fried pastry things, really sickly, closely followed by Keith’s 8 tarts. We were not sure what was in them but they tasted ok, just could not eat them all. To save face we got a take-away bag and put 90% of the stuff in it. The next morning we accidently left the bag in the room!

It was nice getting up in the morning with no rush as we just had a short 50 mile hop to the next town with a view to getting there fairly early and sorting out the routes to Xi’an as Rylan arrives a week on Wednesday. Breakfast was the traditional Chinese OK but I do like my cereal/porridge in the morning and it’s not the same with noodles, pumpkin and celery; all very nice but not for me at breakfast. Linney loves it though.

Nomad sheep herder
Nomad sheep herder

We set off just before 10 with the first section a pretty big climb. We had around two hours of steady climbing, but nothing too steep; it just kept going. We were in no rush and were just taking our time up the mountain. We came across a traditional Muslim village perched on the side of the mountain, all very colorful. The scenery was now like the Brecon Beacons with sheep and cattle on the fields beneath the mountains, with badger like animals crossing the road in front of us possible Hyrax? [Wiki says Hyrax are restricted to Africa and the Middle-East – China does have a Ferret-Badger (Melogale moschata): Ed] Keith & Linney all so saw a wild-cat have a go at a bird. I just heard the noise. Most of the time I am in a different world.

Dale and Linford approach the mountains
Dale and Linford approach the mountains
Dale and Linford
Dale and Linford

Once again the scenery changed. This time industrial with coal and other processing plants all down the valley, modeled on the Rhondda! We stopped for a bite to eat in this area and had a nice noodle, tomato and egg special; our favorite at the moment. We then rode on taking it easy for the next 18 mile into Chaka. I must admit it was down-hill most of the way.

Linney at Chinese Museum
Linney at Chinese Museum

Here we go again; the saga of getting a hotel. However the first place, which looked very nice, told us exactly where to go to find a tourist hotel; up the road on the left, we where booked in straight away. Nice result.

Keith and Linney put their stuff in the room and went down to the salt lake, I brought a couple of beers from the shop next door (well it is a Sunday) and caught up with the blog and researched the route to Xi’an.

Day 89: Monday September 9th: Yaks and Rain

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Route Day 89 – September 9th

Fly-through Map of Day 89.

We had a coffee in the room before breakfast as we know what to expect; spicy vegetables and dumplings. Linney loves it but Keith & I tend to settle for the boiled eggs. We had another coffee in the room and discussed our options for the day; it came down to Hotels at 65 miles, 84 miles or 95 miles and the outcome was the same as always, just ride and see how we go.

New roads through the hills
New roads through the hills

We set off around 08:30 knowing we had a big 23 mile climb early on then rolling roads for the rest of the day. The first part was just a steady climb and we started off on the non-toll road, but after 5 mins we crossed over to the toll road carrying the bikes over armco barriers and fences. It was well worth the effort as it was far less busier. It was good to see the green pastures and grass covered mountains very similar to Scotland, but a lot higher.

Dale on a nomads horse
Dale on a nomads horse
Dale and Linford riding again!
Dale and Linford riding again!
Dale and nomad herder
Dale and nomad herder

As the road started to ramp up we stopped in a small village for soft drinks and sweets. It’s the little things that keep us going. Back on the bikes again we were pushing up the mountain with traditional yurts on the pastures with long horned sheep and yaks. Up we went. It took around 2 hours climbing to reach the summit at an altitude of 3817 meters (12,522 ft), not the highest we have been, but up there. At the top there was the usual signs and a few Nomad (Tibetans) on horse-back. They were all over Linney and we ended up having a few pictures with them and had a go on their horses. I think they had not seen a women for a while,as they tried to touch us. All very weird and Keith would have none of it! He even crossed the road to get away but one of the guys followed him!

Linford and Dale at the top of a pass at 3817m
Linford and Dale at the top of a pass at 3817m

We put our jackets on for the descent (I even put gloves on) and off we went. Within 5 minutes it started to rain, the first we have had since Ukraine,. It made the descent very difficult and really cold so about half way down we stopped to try and warm up a bit. We had a chat with a Chinese motorcyclist and then starteddown  again,. We were soaking when we reached the bottom, but thankfully all of us stayed upright.

We all thought a lunch stop was in order and stopped at Heinahe for lunch at 45 miles and warmed up. Just as we were leaving we spotted a tiny bike shop and managed to get two spare inner tubes from him.

With the valley filled with green pastures it was really good to see the nomads tending their yaks, cattle and sheep, with the yurts up on the hillside. They think nothing of letting a herd of yaks cross the road and some of the tourist and bus drivers get a bit cross and beep their horns. The nomads take it all in their stride with it seems not a care in the world, it was a real pleasure witnessing their way of life even for a brief period.

As we rode through we came to the first potential stop, but it was never going to be, so we push on to the next one, around 16 miles away, with yurts on the side of the road selling honey and yaks milk. It was very tempting try, but after trying camels milk earlier in the tour we decided not to. We then came to Jiangxigou our next potential stop and sat outside a pleasant shop with a bag of peanuts and soft drinks (I had a beer) and chatted with the locals, well one who could speak good English. He told us all about the nomads and their way of life. After we gave him one of our biscuits he returned the favour with a free ice cream.

Dale, Yak riding
Dale, Yak riding
Keith, Yak riding
Keith, Yak riding
Keith, Yak riding
Keith, Yak riding
Linford, Yak riding
Linford, Yak riding
Dale riding a Yak in a lake
Dale riding a Yak in a lake
Keith, riding a yak in a lake
Keith, riding a yak in a lake
Linford, Yak riding
Linford, Yak riding
Linford, Yak riding
Linford, Yak riding

So as we all knew it was onto the 95 mile place (a resort on the edge of the lake) and we were there in less than an hour. We went straight down to the waters edge,. All three of us had a ride into the lake on a Yak!. Then up to book into a hotel. At the first one we could not get past the security guard. I thought here we go again the place is full of hotels and they will not let us in! But all good as the second one we tried we had no problem. As it was late we just dropped the bags into the room and went straight out to eat.

Day 90: Tuesday September 10th: More Rain

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Route Day 90 – September 10th

Fly-through Map of Day 90.

We went out for a meal when we finally got a hotel last night even before we had had a shower; we just needed to eat. It was a little restaurant around the corner from the hotel, and felt a lot better when we had some food inside us. Then it was back to the hotel to shower and clean up.

We woke up in the morning to rain. We are certainly not used to it. We had breakfast in the hotel from the menu so went for the old favorite scrambled eggs and tomato with rice. Keith then ventured out to get some coffee. It was raining really hard now; not good.

We were like caged animals wanting to get on the bikes but not keen on the weather so we decided to give it an hour to see if dies down a little. During this time Keith had a Whats App conversation with Kristian; turns out he has raced around around the lake and the adjoining mountains so we are not the first “House” in this part of China. Well the rain seemed to be easing up so we made the effort to go but only after I had checked out the taxi fare to the next town!

We finally left the hotel around 10:30 with the rain still coming down but easing up. The first part of the day was a steady climb followed by a 8 miles of steeper climb and finally finishing with a massive descent.

With puddles all over the road and the visibility not great it was quite difficult to get going. But then a cycle path appeared on the other side of the road. This was a lot better. We only had to deal with the Nomad’s animals grazing on the verge; horses, sheep and yaks,  and we just had to be a little bit careful passing them.

Lake-side city
Lake-side city
Dale with rain-face
Dale with rain-face
Temple on the hill
Temple on the hill
On the road with prayer-flags
On the road with prayer-flags
Dale and Linford on the road
Dale and Linford on the road
Linford on the road
Linford on the road

We stayed on the cycle path until it finished, and pulled into a closed service station to adjust Linneys gears. All of the bikes need a good clean and a bit of maintenance and we will need to sort out a short day soon.

With the road starting to ramp up we stopped for lunch at the small townof Daotanghe, but before we eat we managed to get a hose pipe working at a service station and gave the bikes a bit of clean. The rain had stopped now,

With lunch over we started the 8 mile climb but Keith had done a bit of research and said we would be better on the toll road; not only do they have a really wide shoulder to ride on they also tend to be less busy. We reached the summit fairly easily and it helped that the road was being upgraded and we had one side of the carriage way all to ourselves. The workers quite happily waved us through.

I put on an extra layer and gloves for the descent and I was really glad I did as it was cold. The road was an amazing feat of engineering cutting around the mountains with stunning scenery. After around an hour of descending the road was not complete with both directions using one side of the carriageway so with our normal swagger we elected to use the other carriage way. What a result we had; at least 40 minutes descending on our own, riding three abreast, occasionally passing a few workmen who waved at us.

Then came the tunnels the main one was at least two miles long with lights and electronic signage and we just rode through. I did manage to get a puncture after the last tunnel. All repaired in the fast lane!

When we finally had to get off the road it was a bit of an epic as the slip road had not been built yet but we took the road through the building site with no problems with the workers just waving us through.

The saga of finding a hotel in Huangyuan then begins. It is very frustrating knowing there are loads of hotels, but only certain ones take foreigners. Some have signs outside, though we have tried some with these signs and still been refused. After about 5 attempts we finally managed to book into a hotel. We quickly got in there before they could change their minds.

Mongolian hotpot
Mongolian hotpot
Linford and Mongolian Hotpot
Linford and Mongolian Hotpot

After we finally managed to book into a small hotel (very clean and nice), we went straight out for a meal but ended up cooking our own. We had this Mongolian hot-pot which was basically a charcoal burner heating water then you put in what you like. In fact it was very nice and once the first layer of meat had gone I think we had seconds and thirds. Once again the waiter just looked and said something like ‘are you sure?’. We demolished the lot.

We then had a walk up by a floodlit temple in the old area of Huangyuan,. It was very good with a reference to the old wool industry from the 1800s with two UK companies and one each from Belgium and USA.

Day 91: Wednesday September 11th: Huge Cities

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Route Day 91 – September 11th

Fly-through Map of Day 91.

With no breakfast available at the hotel we had breakfast in the cafe across the road; aa big bowl of noodle soup, which will set us up for the day.

Temple
Temple
The Huangshui river at Huangyuan
The Huangshui river at Huangyuan
Dale and LInford leaving the city
Dale and LInford leaving the city

Getting out of Huangyuan and onto the correct road was very difficult and they must have known we were in town as the fireworks were going off as we tried to get out of the City. Linney actually got hit by a women opening up a taxi door in front of him and how he managed to stay on his bike was a result of his riding talent. I would of been over the handle bars, crying and swearing at everyone. Linney just smiled!

We started off on the closed road from yesterday but unfortunately they did not get my instructions until very late; this section was still being worked on so we ended on the minor road for a while. It was still very good but not much space for cyclists. We then managed to get back on the toll road and rolled into Xining just in time for lunch. The city took my breath away as I have never seen so many high rise buildings. The infrastructure around the city was astounding. China never fails to surprise me; one minute we are struggling to get a hotel room the next we go through a city of over 2 million people with all the trappings of any major city in the world.

On the road
On the road

After lunch we still had at least another 10 miles until we were out of the city. Once again we were on the toll road and with a slight down-hill we were flying and heading for the town of Haidong around 30 miles away. All of us were thinking it will be a small provincial town but in fact it was massive again with tower blocks nearly as far as you could see. It all seemed very new. We now have a hotel strategy; find a cafe with WIFI, do the research, and then send Linney in with Keith & I lurking outside. The first place was a no go as it was an old peoples home. As we left I see then nodding and pointing at me, saying ‘he can come in!’ Fair play as they did point us in the right direction for a hotel.

The strategy worked athough it did take a while; I’m sure Linney has another helping of food when he is in there as he comes out with a big smile and says all OK and I’ve been up to the room. But the main thing is we are in.

From the 10th floor in a hotel in Ledu
From the 10th floor in a hotel in Ledu

All of us had a nice shower, did our washing and hung it from our 10th floor window. Then it was out to find some food.

We had a really nice meal in a restaurant next to to the vegetable market, a family run place. Us usual everyone took photographs all over the place and the children practiced their English with us. All good fun. Then we walked home with an ice cream; living the dream.

City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night
City at night

Day 92: Thursday September 12th: More rain & soakings

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Route Day 92 – September 12th

Fly-through Map of Day 92.

Rainy morning in Ledu
Rainy morning in Ledu

We woke up to a dull grey morning. Never mind said Keith it will brighten up after breakfast but Linney & I were not convinced and rightly so the rain was coming down like stair-rods after breakfast. It was another coffee in the room then, before we said come on “lets go”. We all got ready but first Keith had a puncture and then so did Linney before we even left the hotel. We fixed them in the foyer then off we set off! Well nearly! When we got around the corner to join the express way the girl at the barrier said ‘No bikes’, so we turned around. Then Linney said his tyre had gone down again. So we went back to the hotel foyer again for another repair.

Let’s go again in the pouring rain we said as 1/2 mile up the road we went through the biggest puddle in living memory. Linney tried to get through it without pedalling but no such luck; we were soaking now, but we’ll carry on. A bit further up the road we check the GPS, well Linney does, if we go left we can join the express-way maybe. Well we could if we were prepared to slide down the embankment in the pouring rain! We turned back and stayed on the minor road.

The minor road was ok but it does not have a very wide hard shoulder to ride on or for that matter to mend punctures on. The weather was getting worse as we rode on, though we were still in a pretty good frame of mind as we followed a river down-stream, thinking there is more water on the road than in the river. As we ate up the miles Keith had another flat in his rear tyre which was not surprising really with the amount of debris on the road. Then he had another and another. Everytime we took the tyre off and checked it thoroughly but we could not find anything protruding through the tyre. We were now getting very short on inner tubes.

Finally we put the last one in and it lasted a fair while then the shout went up, ‘puncture again’. Luckily we were in a very small village with one café so in we went soaking wet with our hands full of inner tubes waiting to be repaired. First things first we ordered a large bowl of noodle soup. I think it was the only thing on the menu and it was very hot and filling,. Then we started on the repairs. A few of the locals were very intrigued about where we going.

Linney showed them on the map Lanzhou, about 23 miles away, then, using google translate said ‘if we can fix the bikes’. One of the older guys said my son could give you a lift. At first we said ‘no thanks’, then Keith checked his tyre and it was again flat and I said I had a flat front tyre as well,. So we took up the offer of the lift to Lanzhou. We had done over 70 miles in the pouring rain.

I’m not sure the son was so pleased to give us a lift in what looked like a very new people carrier. He would not let Keith anywhere near the car and it was a work of art getting three bikes (one on the roof) and all the baggage in the car. Then just as we were ready to go he said take off your dirty cycle jackets before you get in, but thankfully he got us to Lanzhou, a very busy bustling city.

He dropped us off just by the railway station and we rebuilt the bikes, and replaced and fixed the flats in me and Keith’s tyres. Linney searched for a hotel and found an Ibis just down the road. We headed for that but found another one on the way and managed to book in first time. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. We took the bags up and then went out to locate the cycle shops. We had one a mile in one direction or two more a mile and a half in the other. We chose the latter.

We marched towards the area but could not find the cycle shops but finally after using google translate we found the shop just closing up. The really nice guy stayed open for us and we ended up buying two replacement tyres and six inner tubes and he chucked in a puncture repair kit and two bottles of lubricating oil. Then we had a photo-shoot with him, before finding a place to eat.

All in all it was a pretty crap day, but all’s well that ends well. Linney finally marched the two old soldiers home through the winding backstreets of Lanzhou.

Day 93: Friday September 13th: Green fields & Terraces

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Route Day 93 – September 13th

Fly-through Map of Day 93.

Leaving the city
Leaving the city

We woke up early to give the bikes a good wash and a bit of an oil up. Keith replaced his rear tyre and I replaced the spare I had carried for over 5000 miles. With the bikes all relatively clean and oiled up we went for breakfast. It was a really good spread, best we have had since Kascher [probably Kashgar about a month ago: Ed].

With the weather still overcast but not raining we hit the road just after 09:00. With Linney guiding us out of Lanzhou our first plan was to ride the express-way. Avoiding a few closed roads along the way we managed to find the slip road up to the express-way the plan being to ride through and ignore all the toll operators. All in formation we went for it, there was a bit of shouting but nothing serious so we just rode on, joining the express way and the climb out of the city. Easy nothing could go wrong.

We stayed on the express-way for about ten miles before the patrol car stopped us. It was not the police and we had a little arm waving discussion with the guy. He did not know what to do with us so we made his mind up and back-tracked less than 1/4 mile then joined the minor road. In the end we were both happy, he got us off the expressway and we got out of the city far quicker.

Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Linford and terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape

Even though we were out of the city it was still built up with small towns virtually joining onto each other. It was like this for at least 30 miles out of the city. The towns were then gradually replaced with green fields filled with market garden produce and with stalls and vehicles selling the vegetables. It looked like lemon-grass or salsify. As we started climbing you could see the fields in terraces up the mountain just as I imagined China to be. It did look spectacular.

With Linney getting hungry he asked if we would like to stop for lunch but both Keith & I said we are ok for now about in an hour. One massive climb and two hours later we finally stop for lunch in a small cafe. With around 10 miles to go after lunch it was just a gentle roll into Dingxi. With our hotel strategy in place we breezed into the first hotel we tried. All in all a good day in the saddle.

Day 94: Saturday September 14th: People’s Liberation Army Museum

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Route Day 94 – September 14th

Fly-through Map of Day 94.

Had an earlier breakfast this morning 07:00 instead of 7:30 much to Linney’S disgust. It was not a bad breakfast; at least we had some hot stir-fried vegetables and the egg police were not around.

Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Terraced landscape
Traditional corn stacks
Traditional corn stacks

We started to ride just after 08:00. It was quite cold and overcast with spots of rain but luckily the rain did not materialise. As soon as we left the hotel we started to climb and we had this for almost all day. We were climbing up the terraced mountains with great views. It was not too steep so we could all admire the views and enjoy the ride.

We stopped for lunch in the small village of Dijasuo. The girls in the only cafe gave us a menu but when we tried to order just said the only thing available was the meat and noodle soup and soft bread. So that’s what we had.

With still more climbing to be done it was just a matter of getting in the right frame of mind, or, if you’re like me, just daydream most of the time and pedal. It seems to get me up the hills ok. We concentrate on overtaking the laboring trucks on the ascent and then keeping out of the way on the descents.

Dedication at the Museum
Dedication at the People’s Liberation Army Museum
At the Red Army Museum
At the People’s Liberation Army Museum
Red Army Memorial
At the People’s Liberation Army Museum
Linford at the museum
Linford at the People’s Liberation Army Museum

As we started one of the descents we came across a museum or monument built in the traditional Chinese style in the small town of Gaobu. We pulled over and had a look around; as far as I could make out it was all about remembering the good deeds of the “Red Army”. It was nicely laid out and kept immaculate but when we came out everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us; the adults making their children stand with us. All very bizarre and it must have taken us at least half an hour to leave the place.

When we finally left we hit an area of apple and pear orchards and were cycling through small villages with their fruit for sale outside their house. We stopped at one and asked for three asian pears (not sure what they are called, but they are very nice) the girl thought we meant three kg, when we said no only three, she just gave them to us!

It was a nice ride into the city of Jingning but Linney’s magic did not work at the first hotel though we got the next best thing as the manager jumped on his bike and showed us where the tourist hotel was. A good guy and a nice touch.

It was another good day in the saddle. We are getting very close to Xi’an now; we are meeting Rylan there on the 18th September.

Everyday and ALL the Details

Map of Progress Part 1.

Map of Progress Part 2.

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They have now reached Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

20190914_JessBen

 

Qinghai Province

Fellow cyclists

How Far Have They Got?

Map of first 10 weeks.

Map of progress in China.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190907_CharityDonation

Week 12 Summary: Around 1/3 of the World in 80 Days

This map shows the weeks ride.

This week: 550 miles, 11,268ft climbing and 41:26 hours riding

20190907_Pie
Completed 80% of ride: 6500 of 8200 miles

Accumulated totals: 6500 miles, 136,841ft climbing and 508:41 hours riding

Day 80: Sunday September 1st: Gridlock in Mangai

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Route of Day 80 – September 1st

A short ride was planned for today with a quick 40 miles to the City of Mangnai. We had breakfast in the cafe adjacent to the hotel (the same family run the place) good job as we had not paid for one of the dishes we had last night. It was all taken in good spirits.

We packed the bikes up ready to go; it was good not having to pack all the extra water and we had finally finished the cream soda. Our bikes felt pretty light and we were on the road for about 08:30. No-one was rushing this morning. With the road predominately downhill the ride was a bit of a breeze really, athough there was quite a few trucks on the road with very little room to manoeuvre out of the way.

We followed a new railway line most of the way and passed a few oil wells; this area is definitely being developed.

As we approached Mangai we went through a police check but it was nothing like the previous state. But they still made us wait there for 10 mins. Soon we are on our way again. We decided to stop at the first café with WIFI but for some reason all our phones cannot get the a signal. Either we have been had by the Chinese girl who set our phones up for September or we need to activate a message we have all been sent; probably the latter.

We had lunch in the little café and had a nice meal again and company with the owners.
Mangai is just a concreate mass of building; all new set up in a grid without much character. We managed to find a hotel that takes tourists after the third attempt. It wasn’t much of a hotel either but it is far better than camping.

The plan was to have a shower, do some washing then go and have a look for some spare inner tubes and possible a tyre. Then sort are next routes out. We may have a little plan,that entails a few more miles but has more going on between the villages, towns etc.

Day 81: Monday September 2nd: The Bear is Kidnapped

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Route of Day 81 – September 2nd
WhatsApp Image 2019-09-02 at 08.49.59
Where is it?

Bear or no bear!

With no breakfast in the hotel we had breakfast in the room, packed up and carried the bags down to the hotel foyer where the bikes were stored. Disaster then struck; Keith’s bear was gone. It had been on his bike since early May when we first got the touring bikes.

Keith was inconsolable and Linney tried to comfort him but got the cold shoulder. We gave the hotel manager both barrels. I thought he looked a little confused with the phone translation. Anyway the bears are gone. Long live the bear!

I have no doubt the British Consultant has been informed. I just hope that the incident does not get blown out of all proportion and causes a diplomatic incident and stop all the Sino-British trade deals.

Day 82: Tuesday September 3rd: Endless Pot Noodles

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Route of Day 82 – September 3rd

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-03 at 01.38.31.jpeg

As we set up camp last night the wind got really strong. And it was in the the wrong direction. We all looked at each other over our steaming coffees and cakes (we could not take another pot noodle) with apprehension. Nothing can can wrong; surely it will all die down in the morning

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise coming over the desert, though it was quite cold, but the good news, virtually no wind! We had breakfast cereal and coffee – we ate all the cakes last night.

We set off around 08:30 and with the roads having less and less traffic on it was good riding. We could go three abreast down good roads with a slight tail wind. However we knew we had a long road ahead with virtually no signs of anywhere to get supplies.

At a really good pace we came across a tourist information office; toilets, map of the area, but sadly no supplies. A kind tourist gave us three cans of red bull! Off we went again. When we came to a workers compound they waved us in though the foreman seemed a bit grumpy. We managed to get some hot water from them for our pot noodles and coffee. One of the workers took a shine to Linney and kept having his photo taken with him. He left Keith & I alone to slurp on our pot noodles.

The roads were still really good with next to no traffic and with us making good progress after about 70 miles Linney spots a garage (from about 5 miles away). We put a little spurt on and sure enough it’s a garage and it was open. That was the good news; the only thing on the shelf was one soft drink, eight bottles of water and half a dozen pot noddles! So we had three pot noodles again, all the water and the soft drink and sat outside in the shade and enjoyed our pot noodles and coffee again.

As we had done nearly 70 miles already we rode off pretty relaxed. We did hit a bit of unpaved road but that only lasted less than 1/2mile. Before we knew it we came across another tourist sign! The first to mention Shanghai: 2000 miles away (3100km on the sign). This gave us a bit of a boost. Linney checked his maps and said there was a small hamlet about 18 miles away. As the time was only just gone 4 o’clock we said go for it. It would make a total of about 110 miles for the day,

So on we pressed, finally came to the lake. It did have flocks of birds on it but it looked really salty, with the road running between two lakes, which join up in the winter, the road was pretty rough in places, but not too bad.

As we approached the hamlet which was dominated by a lithium battery factory. We pulled over and the first place we saw was a hotel/hostel with a restaurant next door. Happy days with 111 miles in the bag (all done on two pot noodles and a bowl of cereal), it was great o have a meal and a few cold beers. They needed to move some meat out of the freezer for the beers!

Day 83: Wednesday September 4th: No Change

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Route of Day 83 – September 4th
Dale & Desert
Tent, dunes and not much else
Looks good enough for me
This would be desert

We had a nice meal in the café next door to the hotel/hostel but when it came to paying for the meal and the hostel rooms we realised that we did have much cash! School boy error again. We paid for the meal and room and then counted out what we had left; around 200 yen, (£20). We dug out some Sterling, Euros and Dollars and then went to see the guy again. He preferred the Euros so we changed 70 Euros and that will have to last until we reach the next bank (ATM) about 200miles away with two nights camping.

We had to wait for the café next door to open for breakfast but it was worth the wait; noodles tomatoes and scrambled egg all in the same bowl. Hence we did not get going until just after 9.

We had only gone 20 miles down the road when Keith had a blow out in his front tyre. The tyre came straight off the rim (he did put some air in the tyre before we left, possibly to much). He changed the inner tube and set off again. Linney then said his bike was not balance correctly as we were all carrying at least 8 Litres of water as well as extra food.

He stopped and re-balanced his bags; it was just one of those days we could not seem to get going.

However we soon got going riding three abreast on quiet roads. With the lake on one side and the dunes on the other it was very pleasant. Then we came across some sort of resort. It was down a private road and we were in two minds whether to go down there or not. We decided on the latter.

There was a little hamlet showing on the map at about 45 miles so we rode on to there. Maybe we could get a meal or hot water for the pot noodles. It was better than thatas the place had a shop and a restaurant. It seemed like a posh workers complex for the new factory. So had another big fill; so much better than the pot noodles and had time for a good rest.

We had plenty of time, so just rolled on through the desert. The car drivers are getting a lot more courteous; waving , beeping their horns, and generally being very nice, even stopping for photo shoots and giving us bottles of water, cans of red bull (ice cold) and ice cold coffee. All received with thanks. We pushed on with a plan to make around 70 odd miles to day and with the same planned for the next day and then a relatively easy day to the town.

With nothing around we just kept going, Keith out in front, with Linney taking pictures of the dead straight road, just rising up and up until Keith pulled over with a flat rear tyre. That made our minds up; fix the flat and then find a suitable camping spot off the road.

Our first place was not good so we moved and then found a nice sandy spot in a hollow. I am undecided on whether to sleep under the stars and will wait till the sun goes down and see how cold it is.

Day 84: Thursday September 5th: Goats and Hares

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Route of Day 84 – September 5th
Desert Mountains
Desert Goats
Desert Hare

I decided to sleep under the stars again and found a really nice spot in the sand. I had a good nights sleep though it was very cold in the morning. Keith had a bit of a bad start to the day as I noticed his back tyre was flat. Then while taking off his rear pannier he snapped the clip. With good inner tubes in short supply I mended two while Keith sorted out the pannier clip and with the gas running out on the camping stove we changed fuel to mentholated spirits. Not a good start to the day.

Still, we were on the road for 08:30. The road started with a gentle climb, then got steeper as the day went on. What we did not account for was the head wind. It was very strong making the climbing difficult to say the least. With nothing on the road, except for a possible place at a junction with another road just before a big salt lake at around 45 miles. We planned to stop for lunch there.

We just rode on passing a few Chinese tourist waving at us and taking weird pictures; laying on the road jumping around all a bit strange. Just before the planned lunch stop my back pannier snapped causing both bags to fall behind the bike, acting as a brake. Luckily I had just levelled out after a short decent and managed to keep the bike upright.

The stays holding the pannier bracket to the bike frame behind the seat post had failed. I fixed two jubilee clips around the bracket and onto the pannier frame and it was all sorted. Keith rode back down the hill and said why stop at the bottom but then realised it was a mechanical.

It was only a few miles to the intended lunch stop but unfortunately there was nothing at the junction except a workers compound. We tried our luck again and with a wave they invited us in past two barking dogs and into their canteen room. We were offerred not only pot noodles but left over rice and a cucumber chilli thing. It was the best pot noodle ever – even better than the baked bean version and with a cup of coffee to go with it was an excellent lunch, matched only by their hospitality. We filled our water bottles up and set off again.

With the head-wind easing off slightly we made pretty decent time. As we came across another intersection Linney got excited as he could see a garage up ahead; about 8 miles away – all up!

We finally managed to reach the service station though we did not hold out much luck. But this one was ok and we had coffee, cold drinks and rested up. The next challenge was ‘will they let us onto the toll road?’ No problem, we sailed through until 6 miles further on another decision; we have been so used to just following the same road for miles after miles. Do we bear off this road onto a minor road or stay on the toll road.

As we had already done 70 odd miles we decided to stay on the toll road and look for a suitable place to camp. It was pleasant riding up through the grass mountains and we even spotted some wildlife; wild goats, hares and birds of prey.

Eventually we settled for a camping spot though it took a bit of manoeuvering to get the bikes around the fencing and away from the road.

Day 85: Friday September 6th: No Foreigners

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Route of Day 85 – September 6th
Bleak campsite
A break on the desert road
Desert Mountains

As we went to bed last night it threatened to rain so we checked all the bags and made sure everything was water-tight. We had a few drops before we got into the tent but luckily nothing in the night.

We woke to a dull cold morning but no rain. We breakfasted with a quick bowl of porridge and coffee and then were on the bikes for 8 knowing the first 8 miles was uphill. Then it was a nice descent into a small town for lunch, then another 30 odd miles of steady climbing, ending the day in a hotel. Nothing could go wrong.

The first climb was fine and with fresh legs we soon hit the summit. Then we had the nice feeling of a 30 mile descent. It was really good. Linney did get a puncture about 7 miles away from the lunch stop but it was all sorted no problem. We rolled into a tourist stop. First some Taiwan ladies stopped us as we ordered lunch. We had a quick photo shoot with them. After lunch it all got a bit chaotic as a bus load of tourist from Shanghai turned up. It was one picture after another, though we did manage to get a contact number for an English speaking guy in Shanghai. Finally we managed to prise ourselves away from the tourist and get going again.

With around 34 miles to Delingha and plenty of time we just rode easy, taking in the different scenery. Eventually we turned off the road up to Delingha through a tree lined avenue flanked by industrial plants and new housing development. It all looked really new and a bit strange but very nice.

We cycled into the centre of the city and tried the first hotel; no luck not for “foreigners”. Then we tried a few more – all were the same. We had something to eat, then tried one more place. We seemed to be getting somewhere; the receptionist took our passports and then said she would need to phone the police to check. When the Policeman came he just said no tourists allowed in this area. We will need to move on,. He just wanted us out of the City. All a bit strange, I think they where processing uranium there or something similar.

Well that just meant another nights camping. Happy days. We followed the river out of the city looking for a suitable camping spot. Keith found a great spot in the woods by the river until the irrigation system started and soaked him, we did not camp there.

We ended up camping on a building plot out of the city. It looked like they were building another reprocessing plant but luckily enough it was deserted when we turned up. We were very tired and a little frustrated but nothing that a packet of monkey nuts and a jar of coffee can fix.

Day 86: Saturday September 7th: What a Shower

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Route of Day 86 – September 7th
Bike, Desert and distant mountains
Crossing the desert
Technology in the desert
Salt pans and desert

We were not expecting to camp last night and it was no joy to wake up on the building plot we finally found last night. Though to be honest we all had a good nights sleep. Be it in a tent not a hotel room. We only had a make-shift breakfast; tinned porridge (more like bean soup) coffee, snickers bar and some cakes.

We were on the road just before 08:00 with another day of climbing into the head-wind. We soon got into the rhythm and just rode the steady climb knowing we did not have a place to eat until around the 50 mile mark though we had snacks with us and plenty of water.

The vegetation is changing and we are seeing more established trees now. The grass is getting greener and their are signs of wildlife, making the scenery so much better.
Linney did see a camel today but the poor thing had been injured on the road. How Keith & I missed it nobody knows as that was just before a break. Keith pulled over to set up his solar charger and Linney and I pulled in behind him. The next thing a Chinese tourist car pulled over for the normal photo shoot but with the added bonus of giving us water, bread and apples, which were all gratefully received. Linney broke out our jar of jam (think we have had it since Russia) though it was really nice on the bread.

They left with a wave and a smile. Then two Chinese cyclists turned up; one on a road bike with wide tyres, the other on a Cannodale Leftie. We had the photo-shoot with them with a few high fives and that, and after that we all set off together, they pulled a little ahead, but did not get away. I think they were surprised we kept up with them. That’s what 85 days of cycling does. Eventually they pulled over after about 4 miles up hill to pick some wild berries. We waved and carried on.

A few miles further on we got stopped by the highway maintenance team. I think they were saying we should have hi-vis on, but we just smiled and kept saying no Chinese. With google translate I said we would buy some at the next town and that seemed to appease them, so they let us on our way.

By this time the road was quite stunning as it cut through the mountains with the railway following the same path. We stopped for a few pictures when the road crossed the rail line.

Still going uphill we pushed on to the little town of Keke, with the promise of a restaurant or cafe. As we rode through the small town/village there did not seem to be anywhere to eat. Linney was riding up and down the street in hope. Keith went into a building that looked a bit like a hotel. As he came out, I was speaking to a guy from there and he said we could eat inside. I think it was another Asylum or something similar (another theme going on here), but least we eat; ba ig bowl of egg rice each and bowl of soup. Athough the place was a bit creepy, we said our thanks and got out before they could keep us longer. We then had an ice cream and soft drink down the road.

As we were only 14 miles from Ulan, with the great possibility of a hotel we all got a bit excited and pushed on with a stomach full of food. As we got closer to the town we rode through an avenue of trees with the mountains in the background and the smell of honeysuckle; it was very reminiscent of riding in France.

With Linney map reading to the first hotel we came to a hotel. It looked a bit posh but with six days camping in the last week … lets live it up! If they let us in! Linney went in first followed by Keith. I was tasked with looking after the bikes, or I looked so scruffy they needed to keep me away. Good news – Keith came out and asked for my passport (always a good sign). We are in; result!

It felt so so good having a shave and a shower and we felt brand new again. It has been a tough week with long climbs, head-winds and camping most of the time. But we all pulled through.

Dale tucking in
The Road
We came this way
We go this way
The road goes ever on
This is the way
Let’s camp
WhatsApp Image 2019-09-07 at 15.45.27
Which way?
WhatsApp Image 2019-09-07 at 15.45.29
Desert at sunset
WhatsApp Image 2019-09-07 at 15.45.30
Arriving … somewhere

[Pictures from the week: Ed]

Everyday and ALL the Details

Map of Progress Part 1.

Map of Progress Part 2.

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They are now in Uzbekistan.

20190907_BenJess20190907_BenJess2

 

Xinjiang Province

Charlie Golden

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-01 at 10.43.33
Riders, Medical Staff and Charlie

Aylesham lads cycling to support Charlie Golden after his road accident and 4 months at King’s hospital. [Earlier news about Charlie: Ed]

We rode to King’s College Hospital and back to raise money – 132 miles. We were greated by nurses and family and it was a great ride by all.

The best part is … young Charlie is recovering well.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-01 at 10.29.27
Riders and support crew

How Far Have They Got?

[Overall map to be included later – in fact some blog elements may be missing and I’ll add them when I can – I’m on the river!: Ed]

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190901_CharityDonationWeek 11 Summary:

This map shows the weeks ride.

This week 459 miles, 11,260ft climbing and 40:29 hours riding

20190902_Pie
How far completed

Accumulated totals: 5949 miles, 125,573ft climbing and 467:15 hours riding

Day 73: Sunday August 25th:

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Route Day 73 – August 25th
Linford and Dale on the road
Linford …
Linford … windy day!
Desert scene
Peace at a family restaurant

After a great meal last night and lashings of ice cold beer we all had a good nights sleep, well I did.

 

We broke camp early as the mosquitoes were still rampant, though for some reason I did not notice them last night. We knew we had a small town in 20 or so miles so breakfast was not an issue. We came to the small town very quickly and found a place that had just opened, with the owner very pleased to welcome us in, some friendly local also joined in and made sure we did not order too much. Once again really good local food. We have all been very impressed with the food so far in China.

As we were eating the police made their appearance on an electric scooter. They took our passports and said they would be back in a few minutes, which they duly did. What they did not say was that they would be following us all day!

As we set off we had a few road works to navigate (just like Ukraine), it was only for a few hundred meters so no big problem. Then the police stopped us again, needing clarification on where we were going. We said the same again and carried on, though once we were on the open road it was fairly obvious that we had a tail. Keith reckons the number plates finished with 008. This is non-confirmed as I can barely see the car never mind the number plate. We just rode on knowing that we had at least another 50 miles to the next stop.

As we rode on every summit or corner we hoped for a little oasis, but to no avail. We came across a brick building, but unfortunately uit was not a cafe, though they did let us in. We filled up our bottles from a tank (not very good so wekept them for emergencies). Then because we are happy souls some locals on a picnic stop in the desert offered us some melons, apples and water (we ditched the other water!). We had a great 10 minutes with them, with the normal photo shoot.

Once we started up again the tail soon found us. We came to a small police check but they just let us through but did not fill our water bottles up,

So we pushed on looking for a place to camp. We pulled over at a workers camp and watched our tail go back and forth, but did not engage with us. Eventually we could not wait any longer so we put the tents up to see what happened. We crossed the road found a site and did just that. Keith went in the tent, Linney and I had a snooze on the sand, dreaming of Barbados and the tail just watched us.

When we came around it was pot noodle time (definitely not Barbados). With our water supply not good I decided to go over to the workers compound and fill up our 5 litre water container for cooking.. It was a bit surreal; the women shouting at me and the tail looking on. She then took the bottle and filled it up for us and smiled as she gave it back to me, with my normal charm I bowed and said chee chee (thank you in Chinese).

All good. We had our pot noodles, coffee and biscuits and then went to bed, although it was a bit disconcerting when the night shift turned up as we thought we may be moved on; but all was good.

Day 74: Monday August 26th:

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Route Day 74 – August 26th
Desert Camping
Linford and Dale …
Dale – loaded up for dinner
Keith’s bike – with Slide Away bear
Another day on the road

We had a reasonable nights sleep when the workers finally dispersed and we were left alone.

 

In the morning we packed up smartly and all agreed the best time on the road is early morning, when the wind is lighter and a lot cooler. We rode the first 24 miles before stopping for breakfast, our tail 008 was also there. With another town in eight miles and another one in 24 miles we did not have a problem today. Although we completely missed the first town we made sure we hit the next for our two night grocery shop.

The bikes were fully laden then. I said I could not carry anymore, then Linney found a freezer with ice cold beers and I manged to fit a few in. Keith had 17L of fluid on board!

On we went went to find a place to camp. We ended up in a construction site, we found some shade under a partially built bridge for the new road. We all went into camp mode with Keith putting up his tent, Linney checking the WIFI, and me having a beer and finding out we had won the cricket after being all out for 67 in the 1st innings; good day.

Day 75: Tuesday August 27th:

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Route Day 75 – August 27th
Shall we camp here?
Desert road
You call this shade?
Tree – photo time!
Dale – different hat, same ride
Lonely road

We did get up a bit earlier, but not enough to make a huge difference. We left the construction site just after 8am after a coffee and biscuit breakfast.

 

With the sun just breaking through and the wind very light it made for great conditions. Linney had a flat from another piece of wire in his tyre. As we got around to fixing it I got the patch sorted but it was not to Keith’s liking so said f**** sort one out yourself. I must be tired. We were soon back on the road. We then stopped for a picture in the shade of an Acacia tree had a bit of a snack and a drink of cream soda (forgot to mention yesterday; we brought 12L of cream soda yesterday thinking it water). It’s ok but horrible in coffee.

With the wind getting up it was getting tougher and tougher but it was just a matter of getting through it. With sand blowing in our faces and the head-wind getting stronger it was good to find a little place open serving cold drinks and food. After a good fill and plenty of fluids we knew we could achieve the next 30 miles. Around about the half way mark Linney stopped at the top a hill, adjacent to the only property in miles, obviously with his rugged good looks they invited him in, but he was not so keen when the ugly brothers turned up!

With the normal photo shoots and handshakes we ended up up having another meal with them; another big plate of egg fried rice and noodles, followed by melon . They wished us luck as they waved us goodbye. Once back on the road Linneys gears played up; one of the guys had had a little ride on his bike! We played around with them a little and they soon sorted themselves out; good news.

Then we hit a police check. They are getting quicker and we just sat and waited and were back on the road after 20 mins. Just as we got going the other side of the police check, we met two English girls on touring bikes. The were Georgia and Christina from Yorkshire and Essex respectively; great girls and true adventurers. It was really good swapping stories and giving advice. After a couple of pics and all the social media swaps, we wished each other all the best on our travels. It brought a smile to all our faces to chat with them and it was great to meet them,

After that it was just a matter of finding a place to camp again, after we had got some more water water (not cream soda). We pulled off the road to find a place up a track, relaxed a little had a pot noodle with a can of baked beans, and a cup of coffee, then set up camp. We did notice a few people watching us, but hey ho.

Sure enough as soon as we had tried to get our heads down the police turned up. Keith was out in his underpants (enough to scare most people off) and soon had it all sorted. They just wanted to know when we were moving on.

Day 76: Wednesday August 28th:

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Route Day 76 – August 28th
Haven’t we seen this before?

After getting over the police and farmer invasion last night we all had agood nights sleep We packed up camp with me even making a cup of coffee; I do not have a tent to pack (only the poles and pegs).

 

Off we set and with a town in the next 12miles we knew we could get some nice breakfast. We had a plate full of freshly cooked rice and eggs with tea, what more could anyone want?

With less than 50 mile to go we all relaxed a bit although we smashed the first 30 miles. I think we all just wanted a shower and clean up. Then the wind hit us again and we just needed to buckle down and ride it out.

After a brief stop under a sign post (the only shade we could find) we had a few snacks and dreamed of our forthcoming shower. On we went with less
than 20 miles to go, just getting through the wind. As we came up to the police check the road still seemed to be under construction. The police waved us through onto an unpaved road and this went on for about a mile. When we stopped we checked the “Garmin, MapMe & Google maps” and decided to take a back road into the city? Nothing could go wrong. We rode into the back way of the city and came across a police check and a closed bridge. We did the police check ok, but the police said follow us to the hotel as they gave our passports back (!) all in bit of a rush. Well we had a 5 mile backtrack but it was all good as the road we joined was only just finished so we would have had 5 miles on an unpaved road.

Well they took us to the hotel, then I could not find my passport; the police were so good and told me not to worry: let’s back track back to the station and when we got there Keith had texted to say it was in my bag. What a relief! Finding the passport was worth all the piss taking from Linney about being old etc etc.

Well our hotel was not really 5 stars, but it has a shower and a bed. It was so good to have a shave and shower felt brand new again. Then we went out to eat. Sure the poor Chinese guy thought we were mad as we ordered plates of this and that. Honestly we eat the lot bar the soup – the soup was for four people, our mistake!

We did a bit of shopping, had a few more beers then went to bed.

Day 77: Thursday August 29th:

20190829_relivemap
Route Day 77 – August 29th
Linford … on a bike!
Another straight road
Desert
Desert and distant mountains
Desert scene with mountains
Deserts and mountains

It was nice to wake up in a hotel, definitely not 5 star, but better than a tent. Keith fixed his flat tyre and then we had breakfast in a cafe next to the hotel.

 

We knew we had two nights camping ahead, with next to nothing on the road. We go through a small town at 45 miles. The plan was to have lunch there then stock up ready for 2 nights under canvas or the stars. We left the place just after 9 on a wide flat road, it did not last too long, and with road works every 2 or so miles it was difficult to get any rythym going, especially as Keith had a couple of punctures.

As the road works finished, we got going, enjoying a tail-wind, we soon arrived at the small town. We had lunch in a tiny cafe, stocked up on two days worth of food and water, and then had a bit of a siesta as it was so hot. Keith and I on two loungers, Linney underneath an umbrella. It sounds good but in fact it was a dusty work area; but we had a good rest.

When we finally made the effort to move on  after all the thank-yous done, photos and a pocket full of free sweets. With nothing on the road for at least 100 miles, it was just a matter of seeing how far we could get, before setting up camp.

The road was pretty boring with a gentle climb and a bit of a tail wind. We managed to keep a good pace. The trucks mainly gave us plenty of room as there was no hard shoulder to ride in. One scary moment though as a truck had a blow out as it was overtaking us; big bang, and pieces of the tyre going everywhere. No-one hurt so no problem.

Just as we were deciding where to camp Keith had another puncture; his tyre was completely worn out, with the rim reinforcing wire breaking up. He replaced the tyre with our last spare.

We ended pulling off the road just after 7, found some shade behind some construction material, set up camp, had coffee and snacks, and were ready for an early night. It was too far to carry any beers.

Day 78: Friday August 30th:

20190830_relivemap
Route Day 78 – August 30th
Mountains – this way
Mountains this way
THis is what’s coming
Onward and upward
Getting there …
Dale: are we camping here?

It was a nice spot for camping last night; Linney saw some sort of mountain deer, possible Orik [I’ll check this later: Ed]. I slept under the stars, on a nice sandy spot, with a clear night and with no light pollution the night sky was brilliant.

 

We had our final coffee for breakfast as the quartermaster had not brought any more; fair play to Linney, not only is he the quartermaster but also the chef, map reader, and translator. He does have a lot to think about. Though he will be able to delegate some of these duties when Rylan joins us in under three weeks. Due to age Keith & I only have to pedal.

We were on the road just after 8, against a fierce head-wind, with the knowledge we will be climbing all day. Just a mindset; switch on to climbing mode and pedal! Better than working. The head-wind was making it tough going and with no stops on route (No possible stops indicated on Garmin, Maps Me or Goggle). Though they do some times appear out of nowhere, which is good for us. As we passed a construction compound we asked the gatekeeper if we could fill up with water, which they did. The water is ok for washing, though we put it through a “life straw for drinking and cooking”, with all the bikes full laded with water, all of us carrying around eight or more litres.

After just over 20 miles we reached our first oasis. The cafe was open and we had a big fill up. The local food has been excellent; really impressed. The we set off again the climbing getting steeper all the time. Personally I preferred the climbing rather than the desert; but both are tough though. Up we went, but thanks for small mercies the wind had died down. Then the second oasis arrived which was a weird little shack for the Jade quarry men. But they are happy to serve us, with more food. With the road getting very steep now and not so wide, it was pretty dangerous with the trucks passing so close to our bikes. Possibly the most dangerous road I have ever ridden, especially as our bikes had all the extra water on.

As we passed the 3000 meters point there was a third oasis just selling warm drinks. Although we did get some peaches in syrup from there, it was more to load on the bikes. We had a rest in the shade and discussed our options,  and decided to ride on for another hour and find a place to camp. As we left it seemed the road was even busier, probably as most of the trucks had stopped as well, pushing through the climb, we passed some massive constructions, where they are building a new super highway and railway line.

Finally we pulled over to camp. It was off the road and seemed pretty good,

We sat in the shade and waited for the sun to go down before having supper, pot noodles and peaches in syrup for pudding; nice.

Day 79: Saturday August 31st:

20190831_relivemap
Route Day 79 – August 31st

 

[Photos for this day as and when they arrive – to be added later: Ed]

We camped at 3250 meters last night, on a flat piece of ground off the road with heather gorse covering the ground. It did make Keith & I sneeze a little, but no problem. Once again I choose to sleep under the stars,. It was considerably cooler than last night, but inside the sleeping bag and liner I was fine.

We woke up to a cold morning and had breakfast of cereal and peanut milk (very nice) and coffee as we brought a couple of tins of cold coffee and warmed them up – all very nice.

We set off just after 08:15, straight onto the steep climb we left yesterday, only for around 10 miles, then a short descent, finishing with another steep climb. Though we only had 40 odd miles to do today so no big problem. With the road just as busy as yesterday it was good to get the climbing done. It was one tough climb, but we all know there is more to come. Just enjoy the descent (which we did), then we came to a gradual climb at the summit. Linney said thats it for the day as it’s all down hill from her. I’ve heard it all before; my Garmin had a big climb at the end. Which proved to be correct. Finally we reached the summit before passing through the final police check in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region China; all through no problem. We were staying in the small town of Ytimbulak. we had a meal in the first restaurant over the crossing and then located the tourist hotel with the help of the local police.

Everyday and ALL the Details

[Map and Tables to be added later: Ed]

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They have now crossed the Caspian Sea and are crossing the desert in Kazakhstan.

Tested by the desert in Kazakhstan

Into China

Dale with well-deserved beer and a proper hat
Dale with well-deserved beer and a proper hat

How Far Have They Got?

 

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190824_CharityDonations

Week 10 Summary: Getting Blue with friends in Blue

You will notice that the route is more like a dotted-line! All is revealed in the diary notes below!

This map shows the weeks ride.

This week [currently one day short due to wifi issues: Ed]: 363 miles, 4,829ft climbing and 29:22 hours riding

20190824_BRJ_Odometer
2/3 of the way across

Accumulated totals: 5409 miles, 114,044ft climbing and 419:50 hours riding

Day 66: Sunday August 18th: Rest day in Kashgar

We are staying in the poshest hotel in town and will enjoy another rest-day.

Naturally we wake up late and leisurely make our way down to breakfast. We ate like kings and it was really difficult to get Linney away from the noodle station. Finally we managed to prise him away.

Morning Tai Chi in Kashgar
Morning Tai Chi in Kashgar

The plan was to set all three of us up with a Chinese SIM card today, as Dave said “good luck with Dale’s phone he can never even get a signal in Kent”. So off we tramped down to the city centre ably led by Linney and his map reading skills. For a Sunday morning the city was quite lively especially as we went through the municipal park. There were people dancing in organised sessions, yoga sessions, lads playing basketball and table-tennis. It was a really vibrant park. No time for that though; we were on a mission. I noticed though that Keith was eyeing up the talent on the dance floors.

Like a lot of things in China getting a SIM card is not that easy; first we had to get a certificate of translation from a hotel. We went to the first hotel we could find and a really nice receptionist got one of the guards to take us to the tourist information centre to get the certificate. Yes they did it, but in took about 2 hours of waiting. We finally had it and we then took a taxi ride to the phone shop. It was only another 1 ½ later and we all had the SIMs. However my phone is still locked so mine did not work after all that. [wouldn’t it be easier to buy a phone? Ed]

Tea-house in Kashgar
Tea-house in Kashgar
street scenes, Kashgar
street scenes, Kashgar
Caravanserai sculpture with Linford
Caravanserai sculpture with Linford
Horse in town
Horse in town
Kashgar architecture
Kashgar architecture
Pedestrian market lane, Kashgar
Pedestrian market lane, Kashgar
Kashgar architecture
Kashgar architecture

Keith & Linney went sightseeing around the old town. I went back to the hotel to do some bike maintenance and try and download the routes for the next couple of weeks.

Water-park, Kashgar
Water-park, Kashgar

Then it was a restful late afternoon and evening with a few beers and nice food.

Day 67: Monday August 19th: Inspector Clouseau and Cato

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Route Day 67 – August 19th

Fly-through Map of Day 67. And when they were moved along.

With breakfast not until 08:00, we were up and raring to and get back on the bikes again. Unfortunately Linney’s back tyre was flat again; even though he repaired it yesterday. Even now we could not find the hole in the inner tube. It was all repaired before breakfast and then the feast began. As usual we had to drag Linney away with pockets overflowing with all sorts of food.

Leaving Kashgar after two rest days
Leaving Kashgar after two rest days

We were on the road just after 09:00, Linney leading us out of the City. Before long we were on the open road or so we thought. Then we hit the first police check. They pulled over and asked ‘where are you going?’. ‘Shanghai’ we said, which was probably not the best answer. In truth the police were so polite they just seemed to want to double check every last detail. Eventually a translator turned up and after that, no problem, we were back on the road.

On the road again
On the road again
Linford and Dale on the road
Linford and Dale on the road

The roads were pretty good so we made decent progress until the next town where we had the same procedure again; ‘where you from?’, ‘where are you going?’, ‘why are you here? etc.’. It was the same at the next town and with all these delays we were struggling to get the miles in that we had planned. But on we went.

After the next police stop we stopped for lunch. We just pulled into the next shop and Linney bought almost everything they had! Then we set off again.

As we rode on we noticed a white Honda following us. Every time we stopped for a comfort break he just rolled by and then started followed us again. He was looking at us through a newspaper with a hole cut in it [you are joking right? Ed]. I think Linney then waved at him so the his cover was blown. Before we knew the white car was replaced by a lime green one: we had Cato behind us, following our every move [Cato is the oriental valet character in the Pink Panther films: Ed]. When we stopped in a little village for drinks he had to back-track to get back behind us. It seemed he did not like us interacting with the locals. Then we rode on, knowing we were being followed.

Rough riders
Rough riders
Road-side noodles
Road-side noodles

We were now looking for a suitable place to camp. We spotted a place but knew we had Cato behind us; ‘just go for it’ we said bravely as we veered off the road. We sat and had a little chat knowing that Cato and friends would be around soon. Sure enough they came. Once again it was all very pleasant, ‘but we cannot camp here’. With a bit of mobile translation we managed to work out that there was a police check point in 12miles (20km) then a hotel. So with smiles and handshakes we said we would ride to the hotel .

We set off with Cato following us but after we had covered more than the 12 miles there was still no sign of the police checkpoint or for that matter the hotel. Cato was nowhere to be seen so we decided to set up camp. We picked a spot away from the road. This time we were not disturbed and so managed to get tents up and get to bed.

Day 68: Tuesday August 20th: Maize Field Heaven

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Route Day 68 – August 20th

Fly-through Map of Day 68.

You camped here?
[You camped here?: Ed]

We got up just as it was getting light with no sign of Inspector Clouseau or Cato. We had a bit of breakfast then set off. We never did go pass the police check point or hotel. We think they just wanted us out of their jurisdiction.

Looking at the Himalayas
Looking at the Himalayas

After a while we came to a small town of Yarkant and found a little cafe and managed to order a late breakfast/early lunch. We met some young students in the café and had a good bit of banter with them. They even bought us a preserved egg each; they are a bit like pickled eggs but not as strong [surprised Keith didn’t drink the juice they came in: Ed].

When we came to pay the bill they had even paid for our meal, so with the customary photos, we were about to leave, when the police turned up again. It was the usual palaver; passports and visas. Then they said it was too dangerous to go into the town. We showed where were heading to, they then said they would give us a police escort to the highway. This ended being an escort for about 12 miles. I even had a puncture while they were escorting us and they waited as we fixed it.

Bridge over Muddy Water
Bridge over Muddy Water
Leg stretching
Leg stretching

Finally they left us alone on a brand new road with very little traffic. Though the road was pretty boring at least we could get some miles under are belts. The road had no police checks as it bypassed all the small villages and towns along the way. They really do not want us going through these places.

As we were now getting a bit paranoid it suited us to stay on this road. The landscape becoming more and more into desert and with snow-capped mountains in front of us. [this section of road is heading almost directly due south so they would be looking at the Himalayas of Jammu, Kashmir and Tibet: Ed]

We had a lunch pot noodles and coffee along the edge of the road and then carried on. Soon we came to a service station which was guarded like Fort Knox. Here we stocked up on water and then pushed on.

Some shade!
Some shade!
Maize fields
Maize fields
Small village. Any shops?
Small village. Any shops?

We finally decided to come off the highway and go through the town of Kargilik so we could get our camping provisions sorted. At the first check point it was the same again; ‘where are you going?’, ‘where are you staying?’. Just the same old boring routine.

We told them we were planning on staying in a town about 50 miles away and needed to go to a supermarket to pick up some supplies. Once again we had a police escort to another police check outside the town and then another one to the supermarket. We managed to get all our supplies including some imported beer

Linford on the road
Linford on the road
Linford with his tucker-bag
Linford with his tucker-bag

(it was 16% proof, not a good idea really), then back with the police escort to the other side of town.

Once we were on our own again we started to look for a place to camp. We soon found a suitable place behind a coppice of trees in a maize field. Keith and Linney set up camp, while I tucked into the strong beers. They tasted like Port, but did the job, and I slept like a log.

Camping in a Maize field
Camping in a Maize field
Pot Noodles (again)
Pot Noodles (again)
Super-strength beers
Super-strength beers
Super-strength beers
Super-strength beers
Camping in a Maize field
Camping in a Maize field

Day 69: Wednesday August 21st: Move Along

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Route Day 69 – August 21st
Maize camp-site
Maize camp-site

We woke up to a bright sunny day without a hangover! It does not get light until around 08:00 and we decided to have breakfast in a garage just up the road. We turned up just as the garage was opening and with the normal passport checks they let us in.

Morning in the desert
Morning in the desert

We went for canned noodle things and a tube of Pringles. As soon as we got out the garage we had the first police check of the day. Once again they were very polite and friendly. They just don’t seem to know what to do with us. The officer wanted to know where we stayed last night and we explained that we had camped. He did not seem too impressed. Linney had to show him pictures of where we camped. We all thought he was going to take us back there and make us show him the place.

Luckily he then changed tack as he was more interested in Linney’s photos,. He then asked to see mine. Fortunate we had nothing incriminating on our phones. Keith just denied he had a phone so the officer just said ‘you can go’.

2 inch nail puncture
2 inch nail puncture

We stayed on the same road all day. It was a great road with lots of space and very little traffic but the down-side was there were very few potential stops. After about 10 miles on this road the familiar shout went up; Keith had a flat rear tyre. As we got the wheel off he said to me give the tyre a bit of a check over because it was strange how it went down. Well not surprisingly as there was a 2” nail through the tread and side wall! We managed to get it out, swapped the inner tube, and pressed on.

As we had bought enough food in the garage earlier the plan was to have lunch on the side of the road around the 30 mile mark, then stop again at a service station at 66 miles. We had baked beans, bread and coffee on the side of the road; living the dream again.

Chinese Camels (Bactrian)
Chinese Camels (Bactrian). [If these are genuine wild Bactrians then the team have seen all 3 species of Camel: Ed]

The desert was really barren, with next to nothing growing, though we did see our first Chinese camels.

We soon came to our next stop and we cruised into the brand new place. It was that new that it was not even open! Not good for us as we were running low on water. As we were discussing our options a tourist bus pulled and luckily they had some spare water for us. At least we got our bottles filled up.

Refreshment stop
Refreshment stop

We decided to pull off the main road and go for the minor road, even if it meant more police checks. It was a good choice. We found a little shop almost immediately and filled up on water. I even had an ice cold beer because it was so dusty. Before we left the owner gave us a corn on the cob which was a nice touch.

We then stopped for a meal in a small local restaurant. We had what the locals were having; green beans and noodles, and it was quite tasty. As we were camping again tonight we decided to roll on for another 20 or so miles then find a place to camp. As the two roads merged we came across the police check. It was all very nice and gave us some water and let Linney wash his hair with the hose pipe (no photos, not the place to take them). We selected a dusty site behind a petrol station (another theme going on), and also managed to get some beers and breakfast stuff from the local shop. All sorted “Nothing can go Wrong”

Another 'behind the garage' camp-site
Another ‘behind the garage’ camp-site
Another 'behind the garage' camp-site
Another ‘behind the garage’ camp-site

Well it did! We had just done the Waltons thing “good night Jon Boy” when the blue and twos sounded with headlights on full beam into the tent. Nothing for it. Keith went out to sort it out and I just rolled over thinking they will be gone in 5 mins. No such luck, we had to move on. All this was done via Goggle translate, though they did send for a translator as well. They said they would load us and our bikes into a van and take us to a hotel in Hotan around 80 miles away.

All this took over 5 hours to complete going through every checkpoint, with passport and visa checks at every one. We were all getting very tired now, trying to make a laugh and joke about it, but it was all wearing thin. Especially when we had been at a police check point for over an hour, before Linney pointed out to the head officer that he was looking at the wrong visa, the Russian one , not the Chinese one and that’s why he could not understand it.

We finally booked into a hotel at 04:00 in the morning, and this was after they had taken us to two other fully-booked hotels. We even unloaded the bikes and baggage at the first one.

You can imaged how tired we all were.

Day 70: Thursday August 22nd: Sandstorm

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Route Day 70 – August 22nd

Fly-though Map of Day 70 (including the bus ride).

After the debacle of last night we had a lay in until 09:00 and had breakfast in the hotel,

In Hotan.
In Hotan
In Hotan. Interesting map of China on the monument.
In Hotan. Interesting map of China on the monument.
In Hotan. Chairman Mao, but who's he with?
In Hotan. Chairman Mao, but who’s he with?

In Hotan. Chairman Mao, but who's he with?

Keith and Linney went to find a bike shop and I caught up with the blog. We had a view to get on the bikes around mid-day and with a 62 mile ride it should not be that bad (or so we thought). We set off just after 12 going out through the city of Hotan when we soon reached the first check-point. We are all resigned to the fact that they will ask the same questions, photocopy and take pictures of passports and visa, then usually let you go. This one was just like the rest. We made the mistake of having a selfie with one of the other guys in the queue; the police were not very impressed, but we got through evcentually. Unsurprisingly we had a police car tail us for the next 20 miles.

Leaving Hotan
Leaving Hotan

Then we hit the desert again and the road just got tougher and tougher. As always it was a steady incline with a head-wind getting stronger as the day wore on. We stopped for a little bit of respite in the only shade we could find, underneath the plinth of a crashed car put on show to deter speeding.

Straight road ahead
Straight road ahead
Billy the Kid rides again
Billy the Kid rides again

We had a little snack each all of us looking at the road ahead as it turned even more into the wind. We all checked our water and then set off for the last 20 mile push. It was hard going with sand blowing all over the place and always climbing. To be honest it was a relief when the police check finally arrived. Same procedure, albeit with a free ice lolly and a slice of melon, then the officer said no hotels in the town of Quira. We showed him the list we had but he said that was an old list; they are all closed. He said there was an international hotel 15 km away. When we tried to show him on the map it was around 50 miles away and we said we ca not cycle to there tonight. At first he said OK carry on, then just as we were leaving he said wait 5 minutes. We ended up boarding a bus to take us to the hotel 50 miles away. Their was not much room for negotiating, so we all unloaded the baggage off the bikes and onto the bus.

The bus went through two more police checks and we were held it up both times as they did the passport / visa checks and asked the same old questions. Finally we arrived at the town of Keriya with the international hotel. After ajnother police check we got the bikes and baggage off the bus. It was all in a bit of a hurry and I left one of my front pannier bags on the bus. Linney with his Google App managed to persuade the police to go and track the bag. I ended up in the police 4×4 chasing the bus down with the blues and twos going. In the end he spoke with the police at the next check-point and they turned the bus around and dropped off the bag. Good lads.

With a police escort to the hotel we managed to book in and it was straight up to the room for a quick change and then out next door for some food. We had the police hot on our tail again, asking us where we were going next; ‘to bed’ we all said.

After a really nice meal and a few beers and a chat about tomorrows ride which is around 70 miles to a place called Niya (with an international hotel of course).

That is exactly what we did; went to bed.

Day 71: Friday August 23rd:

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Route Day 71 – August 23rd

Fly-through Map of Day 71.

With breakfast scheduled at 09:00 we had a bit of a lazy morning and I tried to catch up on the blog but the WIFI connection was not very good.

We all had a Chinese breakfast of rice, noodles and eggs, and then loaded up and set off just before 10. We stocked up just outside the hotel with water, nuts, cakes and sweets. It was quite easy riding through the town and we went straight through the final police checkpoint and onto the main express way to Niya and beyond.

Top to tail porkishness
Top to tail porkishness

Once again as soon as we left the town the desert appeared and the head-wind but it was not quite as bad as yesterday, but still pretty strong. We also still had a steady climb. After a couple of hours, with all of us looking for a bit of shade to have a rest in, we came across a Uzbekistan style road-stop; our little oasis. We replenished our drinks, had some cakes and fruit, and basically enjoyed the rest.

Then we set off again into the strong head-wind. With less than 35 miles to go, we knew we had broken the back of the ride and it was just a matter of ploughing through with it. On we went. Keith had a flat front tyre (a slow puncture, though he tried to blame the guy last night who touched his front wheel). We stopped again at a weird pull-over place, but not for long; just to get our bearings and go for the last big effort of the day. Before long we came to the final police check before Niya. It was the same procedure; Linney showed the guy the hotel. The policeman thought we had a booking, but we had not booked it. He was a really nice guy though and was pretty interested in what we were doing, and even typed on his translator app, “see you again” as we left.

Evening dinner
Evening dinner
Linford's new pal, Henry
Linford’s new pal, Henry

With a really nice descent into the town we had 10 miles of luxury and the police even let us straight through a check with a wave and smile. When we arrived at the hotel, the police were there to greet us but this made the checking in process a bit easier. We were soon all sorted and ready to eat.

Day 72: Saturday August 24th:

The noodle lady
The noodle lady
Firepit cooking
Firepit cooking
Firepit cooking
Firepit cooking
Dale with well-deserved beer and a proper hat
Dale with well-deserved beer and a proper hat
Hoping the river doesn't overflow in the night
Hoping the river doesn’t overflow in the night
Another prime camping spot
Another prime camping spot

[Dale’s diary notes have not yet been uploaded as they are camping and out of wifi reach. I’ll update when it comes in: Ed]

Everyday and ALL the Details

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They have now crossed the Caucasus into Azerbaijan and the city of Baku on the Caspian Sea.

20190824_JessBen

Into Kyrgyzstan and out again

Rest in a corner and call it a day
Or be like a beacon and show us the way

Wherever it leads you, follow your road
Freedom will feed you and carry your load

Ben Viatte

How Far Have They Got?

 

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190817_CharityDonations

Week 9 Summary: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (Not!), Uzbekistan (Again!), Kyrgyzstan and China

This map shows the weeks ride.

Through the 5000 mile barrier. This week: 377 miles, 23,687ft climbing and 34:53 hours riding

20190818_BRJ_Odometer

Accumulated totals: 5046 miles, 109,215ft climbing and 390:28 hours riding

Day 59: Sunday August 11th:  Trains, Dogs, Prayers and the first tough climb

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Route Day 59 – August 11th

After camping in some rough ground behind a petrol station we were woken around 5ish with freight trains rattling along, incessant dog barking and the call to morning prayers.

Overnight camp near Almalyk
Overnight camp near Almalyk
Overnight camp near Almalyk
Overnight camp near Almalyk

So it was an early start, with a bowl of museli and yoghurt, and on the road just after 6. We were heading for Kokand around 105 miles away athough this may have to be amended as there is a lot of climbing today.

Approaching mountains
Approaching mountains
Approaching mountains
Approaching mountains
Double-headed train
Double-headed train

The first part was just a steady climb going through little villages and towns. We stopped at the small town of Angren for a coffee and water. Once again we were short of Uzbekistan Soms. We located a bank but it was closed (Sunday). Fortunately, this time, we did have US dollars.

Riding past the Akhangaran Reservoir
Riding past the Akhangaran Reservoir
Riding past the Akhangaran Reservoir
Riding past the Akhangaran Reservoir

As we went further the road ramped up a little but nothing too serious. We stopped for a photo-shoot with some Chinese students by a dam on a lake. We exchanged contact details which may come in handy when we enter China next week.

Sunflowers and mountains ahead
Sunflowers and mountains ahead

As we got closer to the major climb we stopped at a tiny shop and sat in the shade. We chatted with the owner and managed to exchange some US dollars for Som. At least we could eat! The owner wanted to take us fishing in the river below, but we had no time so we said our thanks, done the selfie, and moved on to the infamous hairpins.

Into the mountains
Into the mountains
On the road to Kokand
On the road to Kokand
Keith and Dale on the road to Kokand
Keith and Dale on the road to Kokand

As we started climbing the signs just repeated themselves; ‘12% for the next 2km’, then again and again. We just got into the rhythm and rode. We stopped for water and ice cream when we were about a third of the way up. After the normal photo-shoot on we went, up and up through some terrific scenery and horrendous hairpins [Switch backs!: Ed], everyone waving and tooting their horns and cars and lorries breaking down as we carried on climbing. On we went Keith leading the way with me and Linney at the back. Linney of course was only lagging because of the photographs; both taking and being taken of!

At the top of the pass (2178m) between Angren and Kokand
At the top of the pass (2178m) between Angren and Kokand

As we waited at the top there was a tunnel with an army patrol guy who made a cross with his arms. Keith went over to see the guy while I was busy taking photographs. Keith was thinking were not allowed through the tunnel, but it transpired we were not allowed to take photographs in the tunnel. No problem.

We went through this tunnel and the next one before starting the decent. However we stopped for lunch before the descent really got going and discussed our options.

We decided to go for Kokand and book a hotel. I said ‘no problem we will be there before 7’. It was already 4 :30 with over 40 miles to go!

We started the descent and it was worth all the climbing with a wide road and a fairly good surface. Linney did hit a pot-hole which made his handle bars drop a little. After less than 45 minutes we had covered half the distance to Kokand. The shout went up ‘do we want to stop’. ‘Carry on’ was the reply. The road flattened out after the descent but we still kept up the pace, riding hard.

As we enter the busy city Linney switched into overdrive trying to skip lights and jump the queues as normal I tend to hang back then which nearly caused a pile up between me and Keith, but with good skills he managed to avert the danger.

As we pulled up to the Silk Road Hotel, it was 6:59. We’d done it easily. I went through the booking-in process as they assured us we could pay by MasterCard in the morning. They also gave us a complementary beer.

It was a really nice hotel so after a good shower it was down to the restaurant for another well earned beer and some good food.

Day 60: Monday August 12th: Bike Repairs (Again)

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Route Day 60 – August 12th

Fly-through Map of Day 60.

We had a really good meal last night and a great nights sleep. It’s amazing how much you like a bed after camping. I don’t think I’m designed to sleep on the floor.

Breakfast was at 7 and we were all ready to attack the big spread. We were not disappointed, though the waiters were fussing around Keith a bit more than he liked. I left Linney and Keith as they were on their 3rd sitting to go and start the palaver of paying the bill. We thought the card machine was out of action but the hotel manager phoned me and said no problem he would take us to the bank! Well in Uzbekistan it’s never that easy but eventually we found an ATM that had US dollars not Som. The deal was done!

Then we a big photo-shoot outside the hotel before we could get going around 08:30. With a plan to ride about 80 miles to Andijan. From the profile it looked like up-hill after the first 20 miles but with no major climbs.

We got out of the city pretty quickly and soon hit a good pace; it must have been the good breakfast. We kept the pace up for a couple of hours on surprisingly good roads. Keith gave a shout to say he had a problem with his back wheel so we pulled over adjacent to some melon sellers. Keith had his back wheel off and tightened a few spokes and got the wheel as true as he could. Linney really helped out and got a free melon from the guys and bought two extra ones for later.

Wave from a fellow cyclist
Wave from a fellow cyclist

Around the 40 mile mark we stopped for a cup of tea, like all English gentlemen should. It was green tea of course but we are getting to like it. We discussed what we could do about Keith’s wheel. The plan was to nurse it through to Osh tomorrow and then see if we could purchase a new one there.

As we moved on with a planned lunch stop in a town called Shankhrikhan. We soon arrived and passed two bike shops. We had no luck in them, but one of the guys took us to a bike repair place around the corner (just like Dad’s back garden back in the day). Sure enough the guy managed to repair the wheel; the rim has split, so he reamed the spoke-hole out with a file, put a washer on the spoke nut and trued the wheel up all for the princely sum 10,000 Som! We gave him 15,000 Som, which is about £1.50. We will still need to replace the wheel ASAP, but least it will get us through the next few days, we hope.

Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan
Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan
Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan
Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan
Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan
Bike repair shop in Shankhrikhan

After the customary photo-shoot, and an extra one with Linney’s new Mum [Dale is determined to get Keith married off: Ed], we moved around the corner for some peace and quiet and to have a bowl of Yak soup and bread.

Chairs on tricycle
Chairs on tricycle

We then just rolled into the surprisingly big city of Andijan located a hotel (which was not as nice as yesterdays – we do have a budget!). We showered then went to the ATM again and found a restaurant for a few beers and a meal.

Day 61: Tuesday August 13th: Into Kyrgyzstan

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Route Day 61 – August 13th

Fly-through Map of Day 61.

For the first time on the Tour we slept untill 08:00. Not intentionally; we forgot to set the alarm. We still made time for breakfast as it’s going to be a long day, with a border crossing and some serious climbing.

We got going just after 9 through the busy city of Andijan. It was a relief to get out.

The border was around the 30 mile mark just before the City of Osh. Keith’s front pannier completely broke off just before the border and he ended up strapping it to the back of the bike as we all rolled into the border crossing.

The Uzbekistan side was the normal chaotic queues and hustle and bustle, but we got through pretty quick. Then came the Kyrgyzstan side; it was the worst border crossing ever as fighting broke out in the queues with children crying, shouting and screaming. As we were tourists we go to the front, but that really makes you feel guilty, with all the others pushing and shoving. It was horrible to see.

We finally got through and rolled into Osh, first to the market, as Linney had located some bike repair places. Once again it was chaotic, one guy seemed to understand what we wanted and took the pannier around a couple of repair places. They ended up fixing it with torx self tapping screwsso we’ll see how long this lasts. We also managed to stock up nuts, bolts, jubilee clips and tie wraps – just in case.

We had lunch and managed to find some Kyrgyzstan currency, before we made our way out of the busy hilly city. Keith and I had a run in with a driver at a roundabout, and then Linney nearly got wiped out by a taxi driver. After that we met a couple from Estonia who were cycling the other way; had a nice chat with them before we set off again.

On the road
On the road

We then started the climbing. With over 50 miles to the town of Sary Tash we had decided to camp after getting as far as we can. Linney had identified a potential site. It looked like a lovely spot for camping and the 50 miles seemed do-able.

With the road steadily getting steeper we just kept going through little villages. It was very rural with young guys on horse-back herding cattle, all the children waving etc. We stocked up on provisions where we could and carried on. The campsite Linney had chosen was up a track going steeply up the bank; it looked good, but not worth the extra work! Just down the road we found a shop selling beer, so bought a few each and decided to settle for a nice spot in a cow field overlooking the mountains.

Linford and Dale at the campsite
Linford and Dale at the campsite
Camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway
Camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway
Camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway
Camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway
Linford camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway
Linford camping near the Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway

We didn’t cook but just had a tea and a few snacks with the beers and then early to bed.

Day 62: Wednesday August 14th: Towards the Taldyk Pass

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Route Day 62 – August 14th

Fly-through Map of Day 62.

It was a good nights sleep considering we camped. We got up just after 6 and had a breakfast of jam, Nutella and bread washed down with coffee; not bad at all.

Cows and cowboys on the road
Cows and cowboys on the road
High Fives
High Fives
Linford at the first pass of the day
Linford at the first pass of the day

We were on the road just after 7 knowing we had a big days climbing. The first part was just a steady climb for 10 or so miles, then it ramped up with switch-backs every so often, it took us around 2 1/2 hours to reach the summit at about 2340 metres. We stopped for photos and admired the view, with the knowledge that we had another massive ascent either later today or early tomorrow depending on progress.

The plan was to enjoy the descent and take as many photos as possible then have lunch in the town of Gulcha. We all enjoyed the ride down. Many touring motorcycles passed us with a cheery wave and before we knew it we were outside a cafe with WIFI in Gulcha. Just outside we met 3 German cycle-tourists going the other way; once again we swapped stories and chatted about the forthcoming climbs etc.

After a nice lunch we discussed the options for the rest of today; we decided it would be best to go about 70 miles, camp out again, and then do the final push to the Kyrgyzstan border town tomorrow.

We carried on following the Gurda River, going through the strange sensation when it looks like you are going downhill when it fact you are climbing.

Just before we thought about stopping, we met a guy walking pulling a trolley (Forrest Gump!) [His name is Ben Viatte and he styles himself the Global Pilgrim: Ed], he seemed pretty happy. We stopped in a shop about 200m away and Forrest came bounding in, said hi and wanted to know what we were up to, he turned out to be a really nice guy, from the Czech Republic but with Swiss parents. He had been on the road for 3 years picking up the languages and dress-code as he went. [I added some pictures below: Ed]. We left him in his own little world. Really nice guy; a bit bonkers, but everyone to their own.

With around 20 miles to go it was just a matter of riding it out and choosing a decent campsite and getting an evening meal. We sorted the meal out and had the standard lagman (noodle broth) with melon for afters. Sadly though no beers. We found a shop and my eyes lit up when they came out, but to no avail; it will be a dry night tonight.

Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
Linford and the Pamir Mountains
Linford and the Pamir Mountains
Campsite in the mountains
Campsite in the mountains

With the sun setting and the wind getting up it was time to find the site. Within 5 mins we were setting up camp. I was dispatched to find some rocks to knock the pegs in. Keith had forgot to pack a mallet.

Looks like being a windy night and cold nightand I’m actually in the sleeping bag for the first time . Early night; if you can’t have a beer go to bed.

Day 63: Thursday August 15th: Over the Taldyk Pass

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Route Day 63 – August 15th

Flythough Map for Day 63.

Beautiful views from the campsite
Beautiful views from the campsite
Another nights camping
Another nights camping
Settling down for the night
Settling down for the night
Morning at the camp-site
Morning at the camp-site

As we camped again last night we were up early though as we had gone through another time-zone it does not get light until 6am. Breakfast was the same as yesterday; coffee, bread and jam except without the Nutella; we finished that yesterday.

Horses grazing in the valley
Horses grazing in the valley
Fabulous sculpture on the Pamir Highway
Fabulous sculpture on the Pamir Highway
Traditional Yurt
Traditional Yurt

We were on the road just after 7 and rode through the first village as the sun was coming over the mountains. Very nice but then some dogs chased us and a stroppy teenager threw a stone at Keith; brave lad! We just smiled and gave him the normal “hello” and rode on.

Looking back on the hairpins up to the Taldyk Pass
Looking back on the hairpins up to the Taldyk Pass
The last leg of the Taldyk Pass
The last leg of the Taldyk Pass
The Taldyk Pass at 3615m
The Taldyk Pass at 3615m
Keith at the Taldyk Pass (3615m)
Keith at the Taldyk Pass (3615m)
Dale, Linford and Keith at the Taldyk Pass (3615m)
Dale, Linford and Keith at the Taldyk Pass (3615m)

Within 10 miles we started the ascent of the Taldyk Pass which rising to a height of 3600 metres or so. This was really tough going  and it took us nearly three hours to reach the summit. Very ,very tough riding. Of course we had a little bit of a photo-shoot at the top, then a little descent, then another climb to the summit on the other side of the mountain, another photo-shoot with some locals and then, finally, a well earned descent.

View of the Pamir Mountains
View of the Pamir Mountains
Enjoying the descent
Enjoying the descent
Enjoying the descent and burning out brake-pads
Enjoying the descent and burning out brake-pads
Dale, Ted (from Staple, Kent) and Keith on the Pamir Highway
Dale, Ted (from Staple, Kent) and Keith on the Pamir Highway

Very early into the descent Linney noticed a lone cyclist coming up the other way. It only the guy from “Staple” [a village about 3 miles from Aylesham, Kent, UK: Ed] whose name was Ted. Gavin had mentioned him earlier [probably a week ago: Ed]. We stopped and had a chat and a few photos. We all promise to meet up in the Black Pig in November, then we are on are way again.

We stopped in Sary Tash for a bowl of soup, and fill up with water and chocolate bars: these are our replacements for melons and ice-creams.

We then started the next steady climb. The first 15 miles were all very good,with the sun shining and the snow-capped Himalayas to the right of us. [directly south they can probably see the mountains of Kashmir: Ed] Then the second climb of the day started and with weary legs it was difficult to get the muscles going but we soon got into the swing of it.

Keith, Linford and Dale at the Alay Pass
Keith, Linford and Dale at the Alay Pass

This climb was a lot more exposed than the last but luckily we did have a bit of a tail-wind. As the road got steeper up our Garmins sent us down a track (marked yellow on the map and probably the old road). It was a bit of a no-brainer with the state of our bikes, so we took the high road!. This was tough but the scenery was unbelievable. Now it is behind us it seems well worth it – half-way up you may have got a different answer! This was actually higher than the Taldyk Pass by a couple of hundred metres.

Looking back on the climb
Looking back on the climb

Then it was the descent accompanied by a massive cross-wind; I was sure I would have been blown off my road bike! We all enjoyed it tough and we stopped often for great photos.

Dale on the Pamir Highway
Dale on the Pamir Highway
Heading towards the Pamir Mountains
Heading towards the Pamir Mountains
Linford admiring the view
Linford admiring the view

I noticed Keith’s back wheel was buckled again and he said his brakes were not working, so we stopped and changed the pads on his rear wheel. We then took it easy for the rest of the descent and we still had one little climb left as well.

A traditional Yurt of the horse herders
A traditional Yurt of the horse herders

We managed to get to the border town of Irkeshtam which apparently is built out of old railway carriages and lorry containers. We booked into the hostel; In retrospect our tents would probably have been better and cleaner. We were now ready for our border crossing into China tomorrow.

Keith put the temporary “Kevlar spoke” back on to his rear wheel and changed the pads in his and Linney’s brakes.

Day 64: Friday August 16th: Border Crossing to China

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Route Day 64 – August 16th

We had stopped in a hotel/shack about 50m from the first Kyrgyzstan check point,  and although the place was dirty and a bit of a tip, we were just as dirty, so it all worked out. As a bonus they had decent WIFI and the young guy spoke a bit of English.

We had breakfast at the shack; fried eggs and fritters, and then packed our bags onto the bikes ready for the border to open at 08:00. We made ourway to the first checkpoint, showed our passport and visa to the guard, who then instructed us to go to the building over the road for the formal checks. We sailed through these and rode the bikes for a 2 miles to the first China checkpoint.

It was the same again; all passports and visas checked, then all the bags off the bikes and scanned, then physically searched. Everything had to be out of the panniers and saddle bags. It was all very polite and civil but surprisingly they were not interested in the phones or laptops.

They then explained that we would need to go through another checkpoint about 50 miles away but with the proviso that no cycling was allowed between them. We had heard about this so we were not surprised. So all the bikes, with luggage and u spiled  into the minibus for the hours drive to thenext  checkpoint. Basically it was in the middle of nowhere. Once again our passports and visas were checked and our bags scanned. Then it was back in the minibus for another 20 mins to another checkpoint.

We arrived at this checkpoint about 13:45. The driver explained that they would be closed for lunch and would re-open at 14:30. Not too bad we thought. Well 14:30 came and went and we ended up waiting until 16:30 before they finally opened the gates and let us in for yet more passport, visa and baggage checks. This time we also had to fill out a tourist form. All this took at least another 2 hours before we were finally out of the search area.

With the clocks moving forward 2 hours and the time it had taken to get through all the checks we decided to get a taxi to Kashgar. We rode out of the search area and then came to a car-park. I asked the first guy I saw ‘how much for a ride to Kashgar’, he said ‘400 Yen’   (about £45), so we loaded the bikes and baggage into his pick-up truck and set off for Kashgar. We thought it’s be about an hours drive. After two extended police checks we finally made it to the outskirts of Kashgar where the driver dropped us off. It was a bit of hassle paying him as we tried to tell him we needed an ATM but ended up paying him in $US after he had got someone to verify the exchange rate.

Well the plan was to ride into the bustling city of Kashgar and find a hotel. This certainly did not go to plan! The hotels were either fully booked or could not let foreign nationals stay. It was getting very late about 10:30. We even had a local couple doing their best for us. To no avail. They finally suggested a place where we could camp for the night again!

park benches for camping
park benches for camping

As we had not eaten properly since breakfast we decided to eat first then locate the campsite the local couple had suggested. With the fully loaded bikes we had to find a place to eat where we could also look after the bikes. We soon located a suitable place and order a massive Chinese meal. It was gone midnight before we finished our meal and we made our way to the so called site which was under construction. We ended up sleeping on benches and the floor. After four nights on the road we were all filthy dirty and tired. We just need some proper rest.

Day 65: Saturday August 17th: Rest day Kashgar

[Some Kashgar information, it’s ancient history and the ‘muslim’ problems of today: Ed]

After the worst nights sleep in living memory we wearily discussed our options; find a place to stay, clean ourselves up and locate a bike shop. We managed to drag out leaving the park benches until just before 08:00 and had a bit of a wash with a garden hose. Then Keith had a cunning plan! He tried to smarted himself up a little as he was going to be our first point of contact should we locate a place to stay.

The streets were pretty deserted as we cycled into the city and after about a mile Linney spotted what he thought was a hostel. While Linney and I hid outside, Keith went in. It was a hostel and they had a 12 bed dormitory available for tonight though we could not book in until 10:00 at least we could get a shower and clean up. We had one more possible option; a 5 star hotel on the edge of the city. So we decided to see if we could get a room there. We rode on to this place which was a massive 15 story block. They must have room here so with Linney & I hiding around the corner Keith made his way in. He come out and said they only had one luxury suite available at £120 the night for all three of us. No brainer: “let’s have it”. We have only spent a shilling on accommodation for the last four nights.

We must have looked a right sight as we wearily loaded up all our baggage onto a trolley. Even the porter was reluctant to come near us. Keith then came back from the front desk and said they had managed to find us a slightly cheaper room. I think they felt sorry for us.

We all had a great power shower, shave and felt a lot better, then went down to a 5 star buffet breakfast. It was difficult to get Linney out of there but we needed to find a bike shop.

We found the two bikes shops next door to each other. The first one did not seem very helpful but the second one could not do enough for us. We ended up buying a wheel off a brand new bike after a little bit of bargaining and pleading. They also trued Keith’s front wheel up.

After this, over lunch, we decided to have another rest day on Sunday to sort out the SIM cards for our mobiles.

Everyday and ALL the Details

The Hermit Crab

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“My name is Ben Viatte and I’m just like you: I’m not quite sure how I got here.

My search started 9 years ago, when I closed my eyes for the first time: I saw that I was free. So I started travelling the world in search of a new mindset. My current pilgrimage is bringing me on foot from Europe, through Northern asia, to holy India.”

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They have now reached Georgia (the country not the US state obviously) and have cycled 3000+ miles.

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Samarkand and Beyond

Linford at the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand
Linford at the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand [Used without permission: Ed]

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque is one of the most important monuments of Samarkand. In the 15th century it was one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in the Islamic world. By the mid-20th century only a grandiose ruin of it still survived, but major parts of the mosque were restored during the Soviet period

After his Indian campaign in 1399 Timur (Tamerlane) decided to undertake the construction of a gigantic mosque in his new capital, Samarkand. When Timur returned from his military campaign in 1404 the mosque was almost completed. However, Timur was not happy with the progress of construction, and immediately had various changes made, especially on the main cupola.

From the beginning of the construction, problems of structural integrity of the structure revealed themselves. Various reconstructions and reinforcements were undertaken in order to save the mosque. However, after just a few years, the first bricks had begun to fall out of the huge dome over the mihrab. The scale of Timur’s plans pushed the building techniques of the time to their limit, and the building’s integrity was not helped by the rushed nature of its construction.

In the late 16th century the Abdullah Khan II (1533/4-1598), the last Shaybanid Dynasty Khan of Bukhara, cancelled all restoration works in Bibi-Khanym Mosque. After that, the mosque slowly deteriorated and became a ruins gnawed at by the wind, weather, and earthquakes. The inner arch of the portal construction finally collapsed in an earthquake in 1897. During the centuries the ruins were plundered by the inhabitants of Samarkand in search of building material, especially the brick of the masonry galleries along with the marble columns.

A first basic investigation into securing the ruins was made in Soviet times. Late in the 20th century, the Uzbek government began restoration of three dome buildings and the main portal. In 1974 the government of the then Uzbek SSR began the complex reconstruction of the mosque. The decoration of domes and facades was extensively restored and supplemented. During these restorations, a band of inscriptions revealing Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) of the Quran was added to the main sanctuary iwan (a vaulted portal opening onto a courtyard) of the mosque. As of 2016, work on the mosque restoration was ongoing.

How Far Have They Got?

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190811_CharityDonations

Week 8 Summary: Waiting at Samarkand

This map shows the weeks ride.

This week: 412 miles, 5,367ft and 33:10 hours riding

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Accumulated totals: 4668miles, 85,528ft and 355:35 hours riding

Day 52: Sunday August 4th: Ride & Paddle

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Route Day 52 – August 4th

Fly-through Map of Day 52.

We spent a pleasant evening site walking around the City of Bukhara looking at the temples and Mosques. All very impressive. It was good to look at some architecture rather than the desert and the contrast between the modern city and the old city was amazing. Later we choose an authentic Uzbekistan restaurant and had a great meal. Linney & I are feeling a lot better and Keith is nearly there.

Had a bit of a lie in in this morning: breakfast at 08:00 though we were all up just after 6 after a really good nights sleep. The phone rang a just after 7 saying that breakfast was ready. It was a really good spread; best we have had since we left Europe so we all had a good fill and filled our pockets up with the fruit and biscuits.

We were on the road just after 08:00 although we knew we had to stop fairly early to fill up and water. With Linney’s expert map-reading skills and picking a hotel on the right side of the city we were soon out on the open road. However the road was bad and we had a fierce head-wind. We knew we would face this for the first 25 miles or so. We stopped after about 18 miles as it was pretty hard going for tea and soft drinks. The guy did try and sell us everything in the cafe and he even came out with a tray of kebabs; we politely said ‘no thanks’.

Hay-cart probably on the wrong side of the road. Not bothered!
Hay-cart on the wrong side of the road. Not bothered!

We still rode into the head-wind but thankfully the road was getting better. We had heard that when we turned east the wind would be in our favour; no chance! We rode on all feeling the strain but just pushing through. Then we came to an avenue of trees and some welcome shade. It was like someone turning the power back on, it gave us a boost. Before we knew it we stopped at a little cafe for samosa, soft drink, a local chilled fruit drink and the new ice-cream and water-melon (probably the most refreshing fruit in the world).

Dale and Keith get wet inside and out
Dale and Keith get wet inside and out

Linney informed us we had roughly 32 miles to go. With the road improving and the wind finally coming into our favour, the shout went up ‘do we want to stop!’ All of us were nearly out of water so it was a ‘yes’. Keith spotted a paddling pool in a cafe over the other side of the road, so it was a no brainer, we had to stop there. Before I had got the water and soft drinks, Keith was in the pool. I quickly followed but would not be photographed in there till I had a beer. That was soon rectified when Linney said we have less than 10 miles to go and it’s a Sunday; happy days.

After the refreshing swim we lounge in the water with a beer. Soon we rolled into Navoi and quickly located a hotel. Again we had a bit of a problem paying, but the owner took us into the city to get some dollars and we were all sorted.

Day 53: Monday August 5th: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

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Route Day 53 – August 5th

Fly-through Map of Day 53.

Last night we ate adjacent to the hotel in a bar restaurant which had pretty good food and it was just a short stroll back. It was good to have some good quality WIFI, so we all made good use of it.

With breakfast at 7 we were all ready to roll by 7:30. We got out of the city quickly and soon we were on the highway to Samarkand. We were unsure if we would go all the way today as it depends on our planned spares delivery. We knew they were in Uzbekistan but not sure where.

Water-melon stop
Water-melon stop
Linford in new shirt
Linford in new shirt

We had a little stop at 20 miles for a cup of tea and then rode on against an ever increasing wind. We stopped for a bowl of yak soup and tea for lunch. Still no news on the delivery so we just took it easy until the 80 mile mark.

We had another bowl of soup (nicer this time), with bread and chips washed down with a couple of cold beers. Then on to the fun! There was a possibility of a hotel about a mile away. So we went for it. As we turned into the lane all the fruit-pickers made a big fuss of Linney: he just rode through smiling. We came to some big gates where gate-keeper let us through, then on into the grounds through a vine covered avenue. It all looked very weird. One guy stopped me and asked what we wanted. When I said ‘a room’, he seemed to understand. He took us inside. We all looked at each other. Was it some sort of hospital  or asylum?

At the asylum
At the asylum
Dale, locked in for the night
Dale, locked in for the night

The guy in charge said it was not a hotel, but we could stay. He instructed Jack Nicholson to take us to another building. We parked our bikes and handed over our passports to a nurse! Then we got shown to our room. No mention of costs yet.

We all had a shower and then went out as Linney thought he had noticed a shop earlier. He did but it was closed, so we just bought a fresh water-melon and borrowed a knife from one of the inmates who followed us to make sure she got it back. We had an early night after our melon feast with a view to getting away sharply in the morning though we have to get our passports back so that may delay us.

Day 54: Tuesday August 6th: Samarkand

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Route Day 54 – August 6th

Fly-through Map of Day 54.

Well we all survived! We were up at 6 and then spent an hour trying to to get someone to locate our passports. May be we were not going anywhere. Eventually we  found a guy who was the “English teacher” (bit of a theme going on here) and he said ‘room 35 at 7’. It turned out to be more like 7:30. No problem. For a free nights sleep beggars can’t be choosers.

Escaping the Asylum
Escaping the Asylum

We quickly got away. They were lovely people but the place was eerily weird and we’re still not sure what was going on.

On the road to Samarkand
On the road to Samarkand
Arriving in Samarkand
Arriving in Samarkand

Once on the roads we knew we had only 22 miles to Samarkand: just a little pedal. When we were far enough away and brave enough to stop we pulled over to a nice little cafe, for dougnuts, fried eggs and coffee. We also booked a hotel in Samarkand whilst we were stopped and then completed the final 16 miles with ease.

We booked into the hotel, showered and freshened up, and then went into the city for a bit of sightseeing and parcel tracking  with a haircut also on the agenda.

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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand. Built by Tamerlane in the 15thC, destroyed by an earthquake in 1897 and restored by the USSR.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.
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The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.

We all look smart in our new haircuts! We had already had a little look around the Registan Square so we headed west to look at the other sights and the architecture.

Dale gets a haircut
Dale gets a haircut

Day 55: Wednesday August 7th: A Day Off

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A day off cycling around Samarkand

Fly-through Map of Day 55.

First day off the bike today since 23rd June. The plan was to have a lazy breakfast, do a bit of bike maintenance, go to the local bike shops, and then do a bit of sightseeing. We still had not heard about our spares arriving.

Cycling around Samarkand
Cycling around Samarkand

It did feel a bit strange, getting on the bikes without all the baggage, and I also noticed that the drivers do not give you so much room! We cycled up to the first bike shop it was in the local football stadium. We found the stadium OK but no sign of a bike shop. I spoke to some players hanging around and they said he was having a day off today, same as us.

So we moved on to the next one, with Linney doing the map reading, through the centre of the city. All good fun, horns blaring, tyres screaming, us smiling. After the city centre we found a group of “bike shops”; none had the stuff we wanted, though one did have a front pannier bracket on a new bike, I tried to buy it, using all my charm, but I think my charm has left me since yesterdays haircut!

We went next door to the bicycle repair man (Monty Python sketch)! It was a bit like Dad’s back garden. It was a free for all! We ended up with some stuff we could strengthen our brackets with.The guy even drilled a few extra holes in some for us.

Pilov lunch in Samarkand
Pilov lunch in Samarkand

Later we had a meal out off the city communal bowl of Pilov (a local rice dish a bit like Spanish Paella). It was really nice. Then bit of sightseeing, a tour of the market and back to the digs to fit the supports to the panniers.

Wandering around Samarkand
Wandering around Samarkand

Day 56: Thursday August 8th: Distant Mountains

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Route Day 56 – August 8th

Fly-through Map of Day_56.

We were back on the bikes today after our rest day. Unfortunately the spare parts did not arrive in time [other theories: they rode too quickly, they run out of patience or they assumed the postal services were run by camels: Ed], apparently the pannier stuff is in Moscow and the tyres are in Tashkent! So we have had to make do and mend: nothing can go wrong.

With the bikes all ready we had breakfast at the hotel then set off around 08:30. Like always it was a bit difficult getting out of the city, but we were soon heading for Jizzakh. We stopped on the outskirts for water top ups and a bit of chat with the owners.

Water-melon stop
Water-melon stop

The road was pretty good but we knew we had a head-wind for most of the day so it was just a matter of pushing through it. The scenery was changing: first through fruit orchards, apple trees mainly [this is the part of the world where the apple was first domesticated: Ed], it made a really pleasant change from the desert and, in the distance, you could see the mountain ranges through the hazy sun: all making for different riding.

Distant mountains
Distant mountains
Irrigation water-wheel
Irrigation water-wheel
Into the mountains
Into the mountains
Into the mountains
Into the mountains
Hotel? With camel statues.
Hotel? With camel statues.

We stopped for a coffee and a soft drink, Keith said ‘No coffee? What sort of cafe is this?’, the guy just smiled at him and said we have char, so thats what we had. The head-wind was getting a bit stronger but we were making reasonable progress and with the knowledge that within the next 10 miles or so we should be finished with the climbing.

On the road
Dale, on the road
On the road
Linford, on the road
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Linford in the hotel pool – training

Day 57: Friday August 9th: Another Border Approaches

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Route Day 57 – August 9th

Fly-through Map of Day 57.

After yesterday’s swim training in the hotel pool and a relaxing meal in the hotel restaurant we retired to bed pretty early.

Breakfast was at 7, but we were up checking the bikes before hand (obviously not good enough). Had breakfast then tried to pay the bill, its never that easy in Uzbekistan, had to pay in Som, not dollars, so it meant a trip to the bank after all. It took me nearly half an hour to go through the passport hotel checks, I thought the guys would be waiting for me, however they had Linney front wheel off to change the inner tube. We then went to the bank, never easy even in the UK, we did not get going till 10:00 but at least we had some cash.

Once we got going we started to make good time on relatively good roads and with a nice tail-wind. We stopped for lunch after 3 hours of good cycling and had a nice meal in a rustic place. We all had the rice dish and tea.

Just after we left Linney spotted a small cycle shop and he managed to get another spare inner-tube so that was good. With a late start and over 80 miles to do we pushed on Keith taking the front. Before long he was nowhere to be seen. Linney and I kept a reasonable pace but could not see Keith in the distance. Before long the road forked; the left hand side going to Tashkent and the right side heading towards Bekobod – our intended destination. As the junction was a bit tricky Linney & I were unsure if Keith had taken the correct route.

As we pushed on with less than 15 miles to go we were sure Keith would have pulled over, but there was no sign of him. We even got stopped by some army patrol guys in the border zone. We tried to ask them if they had seen another cyclist but could not get them to understand.

With less than 5 miles to go we pulled over at a junction and decided to wait, just got our ice cream when we received a pin drop from Keith at the hotel; good stuff so we rolled in behind him, pretty good really as it meant Keith did all the booking stuff.

We had a quick shower and then out on the bikes to the local restaurant about 2 miles away for a few beers and a well earned meal.

[Sadly no photos were forthcoming for this day – I think they fell foul of copyright regulations: Ed]

Day 58: Saturday August 10th: Trouble at the Border

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Route Day 58 – August 10th

Another border crossing day. We broke with tradition and went with Dave’s kit, more about that later. [wtf: Ed]

Once again we are celebrities as we are the hotel’s first tourists. It’s only been open 6 months and it’s been mainly contractors from the new factory. Therefore we had the customary photo shoot before leaving. Keith had also done the due diligence on the border crossing – all good – more about that later also.

Approaching the Tajikistan Border post
Approaching the Tajikistan Border post [probably: Ed]

So we left in good spirits, knowing the border crossing was about 5 miles away. We threaded are way through the town and market and then we had guys saying ‘no you will not be able to cross’, but on we went, only be told we could not go through; ‘only locals not tourists’. It was not what we wanted to hear. We showed him our visa with a smile but it was still no go. Bit of a theme going on here. We had a little bit of a re-think on the side of the road. It’s 27 miles to the next border. Let’s go!

Sluice!
Sluice!

On the way Linney was riding no-handed as he re-routed us. It’s a big day but we may be able to manage it depending on how the border crossing goes. So we just went for the crossing full steam ahead. The roads weren’t so bad and we hit the border in good time.

We had a drink and then started the well-rehearsed process. We were soon through the Uzbekistan side and into the Tajikistan side. On we went. It was really chaotic. We did meet a local tour guide in the queue and he told us they let the tourists go first. In truth it’s just a free for all and we just stayed close by him.

Keith was first at the check and after about 15 mins they told him to go and take a seat. We were about four persons back in the queue. I went next and sailed through. Then Linney was through after a comment about how nice his hair was; he has admirers at every crossing!

We waited for Keith. Eventually the tourist guide came over and said there was a problem with the date on Keith’s visa. He gave Linney his number and said give him a call if we need an interpreter. Keith came out and said they will not let him through. We had a little chat. Not an option; all through or none through. I gave it one last chance and went back and asked to see a border crossing guy. I explained we had a typo on the visa which was a wrong date; it looked like he might buy it until the original guy came over and said ‘No’. We will have to re-route. [apparently Keith’s visa had an entry stamp dated the 16th, not the 6th. Wait 6 days and it’ll be fine. Fortunately the geography is kind and it was simple to re-route and avoid Tajikistan altogether and stay in Uzbekistan – see the map above: Ed]

So back we went to Uzbekistan. Within half an hour as we were riding we had a plan; ride till as late as we can, camp, then another big ride tomorrow and we’ll be back on track. Nothing can go wrong.

We stopped around half three for a bowl of soup, soft drink, and a quick beer; it was hot. We then pushed on, Linney doing his research no-handed said we had a possible hotel at 75 miles but that made for a massive day on Sunday. We said let’s just see how we feel, so we carried on.

Cows approaching
Cows approaching
Cows and Cow-Herders
Cows and Cow-Herders

Just outside the town of Almalyk I hit a massive pot hole and got a double puncture. With Formula 1 speed we had them done in no time (naturally accompanied by the normal swearing and cursing); no sheep were to blame this time [see the Durness tour: Ed].

We stopped at the first hotel Keith noticed but it was not a hotel but a wedding venue. We sent Linney in but we still could not get a room. Then we went to the only proper hotel in town. This was also fully booked with the weddings.

Plan B: eat then get a some food for the morning and camp. By the time we had eaten and got our stuff from the supermarket it was dark. So it was lights on and find a place to camp. We did about another 9 miles through the town of Ohangaren, picked some cold beers up and selected a lovely site on the outskirts of town. We set up camp, had the beers, and then bed. It had a tough day.

Barking dogs, trains and prayers theme for tomorrow. [I think Dale was raving by this point: Ed]

[Also I totally blame the border failure on a) the wrong shirt and b) the Slide Away bear not wearing the Tajikistan badge: Ed]

Everyday and ALL the Details

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.

They have now reached Georgia (the country not the US state obviously) and have cycled 3000+ miles.

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Jess and Ben on the road from Turkey to Georgia

 

Into Uzbekistan (Update)

[The blog yesterday went out accidentally before I’d collected all the information from the boys on the road. They’d been out of contact for 3 days! This is an update. More photos, updated maps and diary entries. Apologies: Ed]

How Far Have They Got?

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190803_CharityDonations

Week 7 Summary: Desert Camping

This map shows this weeks ride.

This week: 588 miles, 3,923ft and 43:33 hours riding

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Accumulated totals: 4255miles, 80,161ft and 322:25 hours riding

Day 45: Sunday July 28th: First Camp

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Route Day 45 – July 28th

Fly-through Map for Day 45.

Fair play to Linney his chosen camp-site was excellent, free from camel poo and gerbils Ed will check the correct collective noun but we went for a sentry of gerbils. [A sentry sounds fine: google goes for horde: ED]

After a pasta meal expertly cooked by Linney  and with Keith keeping a vigil on the portions it was time for bed. Keith had put the 2 man tent up with all the fly sheet stuff, Linney had just the mesh tent. I only lasted 10 mins in the tent as it was too hot, so I took my sleeping-bag and liner outside under the stars nothings – could go wrong.

It did get cold so I sacrificed my sleeping-bag pillow and got in the bag. Then it rained! In the bloody desert! I expect the camels loved it. Linney and I just covered our faces and  slept through it. I quite liked it.

We all slept quite well. Breakfast was cornflakes and coffee after which we packed all the gear up. Just before we left Keith changed another bolt on his panniers.

We were on the road just after 7am, and as we are getting used to the rough roads we just took it all in our stride. Our main concern was water as we could not see anything along our intended route. With no WiFi it was just a case of carrying as much as we can.

After 4 hours of riding we did not come across a single shop, truck stop or anything. Not even shade, though thankfully we had been riding at a reasonable pace. So we sat down on a sand dune with warm water, peanuts and sunflower seeds – budgie food – Trill! Living it up and dreaming of Ice Cold in Alex.

With around 25 miles to go we rode on. As a lorry passed Keith waved and lifted up his water bottle. The lorry stopped and replenished all our bottles – good man. As we closed in on our destination Keith tried his luck on a building that looked like it was a cafe, in fact it was some sort of customs post, though the guy was really helpful and directed us to the hotel about 3 miles up the road. However lo and behold the water-seller across the road also had some chilled beers, obviously I had planned this, so we sat on the wall with a beer with the plan to ride to the hotel, eat, book a room and shower. and then plan the next few days riding. Think as it is a Sunday a few beers will do too.

We have no WiFi so we will try and and source a SIM card tomorrow. Linney will need it.

Day 46: Monday July 29th: Hitching

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Route Day 46 – July 29th

Fly-through Map of Day 46.

It was a bit of a quiet night last night mainly due to the road stop being miles away from anywhere. We just cleaned all the camping gear had a meal then went to bed.

We planned on an early breakfast in the morning, though the place was pretty busy at 6 in the morning. As we have nearly 70 miles before the next shop we stocked up on water and food (sadly, as it turned out, not enough) and set off just after 7am on roads that were on the whole pretty good. More importantly we had a bit of a tail wind.

After about 4 miles Keith’s back-pannier fell off. We all hoped it was not too serious as the road was pretty smooth. Luckily it was just not clipped in correctly. We were making pretty good time, when in the distance a could see a lone cyclist coming towards us. We pulled over and waxed lyrical on how mad we all were. He was from Shrewsbury (Jimmy Ritson counrty). After 10 mins we were back on our way.

Linney called a stop at around 40 miles where we sat on the edge of the road and had a drink and a Snickers bar. Linney is in charge of the biscuits so he gave Keith and I a couple each. We moved on after 10 mins happy that in the fact that we only had 30 miles to a small village with a shop and then another 14 miles to our hotel.

Within 10 mins the familiar shout went up. Linney had a blow out on his rear tyre. The tyre was split in two places. We managed to to patch the splits with bits of rubber and started off again unsure how long the tyre would last.

 

 

We did manage another 15 or so miles when the tyre blew again. Linney was all for patching the tyre up again and pushing on, but as we were taking the tyre off Keith flagged down a car. In fact two cars stopped full to the brim we people and luggage. We explained the situation and before we knew it Linney’s bike was on the roof rack of one car while he was squashed into the other car with his knees around his ear against a 40″ TV.

Off they went. Keith I carried on the remaining 17 miles to the hotel – with no biscuits! As the roads were good this took just over the hour including an impromptu stop in a workers canteen for a cup of tea.

When we got to Kunkhodzha Linney was already into his 1st beer. I also noticed two Surly touring bikes outside the restaurant. We eventually got chatting to the couple and they had started from London in May on the way to China. They seemed like a nice couple as we exchanged route information etc. It looks like we will probably bump into them along the way.

Day 47: Tuesday July 30th: Crossing the Oxus at Nukus

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Route Day 47 – July 30th

Fly-through Map of Day 47.

We all decided to have an early start in the mornings at dinner last night. So Keith set his alarm for 05:00.

Well that did not work, I got up just before 6, all I heard Keith say was FFS why did my alarm not go off, Linney quietly sniggered, I think he may have altered Keith’s alarm.

Anyway we were up and had the normal fried eggs and an extra treat of rice pudding for breakfast. With Linney’s new tyre we were full of confidence: just hoping the tyre lasts. On flat clear and smooth roads we smashed the first 30 miles, stopped for a camels milk coffee and then carried on until just outside Nukus had a little break and a bowl of potato and yak soup, while we decided on the plan for the night.

The Amu Darya (Oxus) river
The Amu Darya (Oxus) river
The Amu Darya (Oxus) river
The Amu Darya (Oxus) river
Arriving in Beruni
Arriving in Nukus

We roll into Nukus and stop at a bike shop and get a spare tyre and inner tubes for Linney. Then we go to a phone shop for a Uzbekistan SIM card and a bank. Well we managed the SIM card, the ATM at the bank did not work and the cycle shop was not there!

Cycle-Plasterer fully loaded
Cycle-Plasterer fully loaded

Linney had chosen a hotel on the right side of the city for tomorrow, so we just took our time rode to the centre of the city had a nice meal in an air conditioned restaurant and then set off for the banks and bike shops.

The National Bank in Nukus
The National Bank in Nukus

We had no luck with the bike shop and the bank was a bit of a palaver, none of the ATMs would work, in the end a kind bank lady directed us to the national bank, in parliament square, all a bit daunting. Anyway we manged to change some money into the local currency Som & get some US dollars as they seem to work best.

 

We just had the final couple of miles to go to the hotel and some well earned beers. Without wanting to tempt fate it was a good days riding with no mechanicals. Happy days.

Day 48: Wednesday July 31st: Following the Oxus

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Route Day 48 – July 31st

Fly-through Map of Day 48.

We had a meal In the hotel last night. Just a little meal as we had eaten quite well throughout the day, still no ice-cream so we had a water-melon.

We arranged to get up at 5:30 with a view to getting going around 6. Linny not to pleased as we’re going out without breakfast or water, though we stopped after about 2 miles for water and chocolate. The guy was really good and gave us three extra bottles. Great! Just a bit difficult to put on our bikes, but we managed it, and it cheered Linney up.

So we carried on the road which was a bit weird as it was a dual carriage-way but traffic was going both ways on each side! We carried on for a while on the correct side of the road, but the road seemed better on the other side, so we changed over.

We also met up with Hanna and her partner (will get his name later). At our first stop, they were having a coffee and soft drink as we pulled in and we had a nice little chat as we ordered our breakfast. Then they moved on. After the normal fried eggs and bread we moved on too.

Desert features
Desert features
Riding a long lonely road through the desert
Riding a long lonely road through the desert

The road was not great but least the wind was in our favour. We knew we only had about 50 miles left so we were in no real hurry. As we pulled into the next stop Hanna & partner had just ordered their meal so we had another little chat as we had coffee and chilled water. We knew we would be bumping into them all day, which is quite nice.

The road did not improve throughout the day, but thanks for small mercies, the wind stayed in our favour although the temperature crept up to the mid 40`s humidity was not that high so all was good.

Amazing hotel
Amazing hotel
Strange rock formations - like the Wild West
Strange rock formations – like the Wild West
Linford on the road
Linford on the road
Linford on the road with hat
Linford on the road with hat
Long roads and small hills
Long roads and small hills
Long roads and small hills
Long roads and small hills

My front pannier came adrift again so a quick replacement fixing was needed. It seems like we will have replacements in around 6 days time so hopefully we can manage till then. [They got posted today: Ed]

As we carried on riding we missed the stop we had arranged to have a meal in, so we just carried on to the outskirts of the town. Linney spotted some umbrellas so we stopped a few miles from the only hotel in town.

No beers! So we made do with an ice-cream, then a young guy came over who spoke really good English and offered his parents place to stay, though it did sound a bit crowded. We ended up going to the hotel and arranging to meet him for dinner later.

Ancient motorbike and sidecar
Ancient motorbike and sidecar
Ancient motorbike and sidecar
Ancient motorbike and sidecar

After we had showered, sure enough he was there (Zafarqrek) he took us to a restaurant which was OK, but not really good for me, ended up with a bag of peanuts, crisps and tomorrows cake.

Day 49: Thursday August 1st: Mosquito Camp

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Route Day 49 – August 1st

Well a bit of a disappointing meal last night. We had met a young Uzbek lad who wanted to practice his English, at first he offered us to stay at his house, but his shower was broken. So we booked into the only hotel in town and arranged to meet him for dinner. We just went over the road nothing special, but least he tried.

The room was baking hot, so I slept on the sofa outside of the room with the A/C on. This did actually cool the room down to.

We had breakfast in the room but I had my first dodgy stomach of the Tour. I just had a bit of bread and water.

We left just after 7 with the plan to crack 20 miles out then have a coffee and more breakfast. The road was really bumpy and uneven and it made it even worse as it was rush hour and market day in the town of Beruni. We stopped at the first place but it was not open we so moved on and eventually found a mini-market so we had ice tea and a Snickers: living the dream. We knew we had another stop in 25 miles and then a long stretch with very little showing on the map

The road did not get any better but thankfully the traffic calmed down and we had a bit of a tail-wind: thanks for small mercies. After another coffee and cold drinks and we moved on. Linney was a little concerned that the ‘Maps Me’ app he had downloaded did not show this road! We soon found out why! The road was virtually brand new, smooth as silk with a tail wind: happy days.

We soon hit the lunch stop where we met Hanna and her partner. Keith and Linney had a plate of meat, I just had a drink and dry bread and a lie down. My front pannier was playing up again so I replaced the tie wraps and tightened it all up. It did seem better. As it was so hot we had an extended stay at the restaurant and we finally moved on around after a couple of hours. With the plan to carry on for just over 25 miles, have something to eat, and then find a place to camp. Within 15 mins of setting off Linney had a puncture and we all had a go at fixing the inner tube but it was so hot the adhesive just evaporated. We ended opening the valve hole up on the wheel and putting an inner tube in with a schrader valve rather than a presta valve.

We soon completed the 25 miles once we got going. We stopped at the first place  and Linney and Keith had a coffee while I had a chat with some guys repairing the Armco barrier. I managed to get a 6mm bolt from them for my panniers.

Mosquito camp
Mosquito camp
Sunset from the camp
Sunset from the camp

We moved on a few mile down the road, had a meal to save us cooking and a few beers and then set of to find a place to camp. With a view to camping before we came to some shops about 5 miles away. We settled on a half built house, not a good idea as we found out that it was infested with mosquitos and it was red hot. Just before we settled down for the night we spotted a lone touring cyclist, we shouted out, but he just waved at us.

Day 50: Friday August 2nd: Meeting Gavin

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Route Day 50 – August 2nd

Fly-through Map of Day 50.

We were up really early mainly due to the mosquitos: never seen Linney move so fast in the morning. We were going at 6,and  in fact it was quite a nice bit of a tail-wind and cooler. Within a mile Linney spotted the touring cyclist from last night just packing up his camping gear. On straight smooth roads we were rolling, but fair play within 15 miles he had caught us up. He introduced himself as Gavin from Plymouth. A nice guy and we ended cycling all day with him and owing him some money for beers! Bit of an Aylesham trait. We had dollars but not enough Uzbekistan Soms.

Sunrise at mosquito camp
Sunrise at mosquito camp
Flat desert
Flat desert

On really nice clear smooth roads we did over 100 miles. No mean feat on fully laden touring bike in 40 degrees plus heat and high humidity.

We finally pulled into a truck stop with a hostel and shower. Gavin expertly haggled the price down to 45 dollars for the four of us, but it was hot. A cold beer and a shower was calling.

Scratch and sniff. Is he Superman?
Scratch and sniff. Is he Superman?

We had quite a relaxing evening sitting outside in the shade talking about the experiences we have had on our travels and what we would be going through in the next few months.

Then to bed: it was not worth the $45 bunk beds as they had a wooden mattress. Hey ho probably means another early start in the morning.

Day 51: Saturday August 3rd: Skint in the Desert

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Route Day 51 – August 3rd

Fly-through Map of Day 51.

Four of us shared a room (Gavin joined us) but it was a pretty crap place: no mattress. We may have been better off camping again. We were up at 06:00 and on the road by 06:30, good to get out of the place really.

We did have a bit of a cash flow problem this morning we had 50,000 Soms, sounds a lot but it’s about 5 quid! So we had to be a bit careful with our spending.

The road was really good for the first 5 miles and then we hit the bad roads again with a bit of a head-wind. We stopped after about 20 miles, for water bread and some tomato stuff we had in our panniers: once again living the life.

Watch out! Incoming!
Watch out! Incoming!
Travelling in style
Travelling in style

It was pretty tough going on with the road getting worse and it was just a matter of pushing through and enjoying the scenery (desert). We stopped again just after the 40 mile mark. We could only afford water, but Gavin did get us a snickers bar each, top man. I also manged to blag 2 bottles of ice water from the shop owner, once again top man. The ride was getting a bit harder as the day wore on, especially as we had not eaten very much.

With the final 24 miles to go we stopped again. I tried to change a 20 Euro note, but the Russian guy (truck driver) tried to rip us off, so we said no. Though I did blag another small bottle of ice water. On we went to Bukhara. We blew the rest of our money 10 miles out on 5 litres of water and a water melon. Really good how little things please you.

Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara
Sites in Bukhara

Rolled into Bukhara, sorted an hotel out pretty quickly, and Linney also sorted out the money and SIM card so hopefully we should be ok now, well as best we can.

Everyday and ALL the Details

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here.

20190803_JessBen