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.

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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

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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.

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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
WhatsApp Image 2019-08-08 at 13.20.04
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

20190803_BRJ_Odometer

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

Deserts and Camels

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Dale plays a dombyra (a long-necked Kazakh lute)

How Far Have They Got?

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190726_CharityDonations

Week 6 Summary: Ural River & Caspian Sea

This map shows this weeks ride.

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This week: 448miles, 3,224ft and 39:32 hours riding

Accumulated totals: 3667 miles, 76,238ft and 278:52 hours riding

Day 38: Sunday July 21st: First Camels

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Route Day 38 – July 21st

Fly-through Map of Day 38.

After we found a little hotel/hostel in the town we were unsure if the deal included any food but sure enough the lady knocked on the door with a couple of trays of food. Excellent! It was quite good rice and chicken with salad, Keith and Linney were pleased as I could just lift my chicken off the bowl.

Then we thought we had ordered a couple of beers each, though it turnedout to be tea!

We did manage to find some beers later.

In the morning it was a gamble again as we ordered breakfast at 07:00. Nothing turned up so we dug into our supplies, and then hit the road just before 08:00.

On the first section we had to retrace our route back over the river,where we stopped for water and then hit the road proper. Linney had done his research: a breakfast stop at 16 miles, then a 34 mile section and then a 24 mile section to finish with one possible place to stay. But we were not very hopeful of this.

Keith picks up the skull of a cow. Dale is not amused.
Keith picks up the skull of a cow. Dale is not amused.

We cruised the first section and stopped for breakfast. After this the road had started to get a little bit rough. Linney spotted a rotten cow carcass in the ditch by the side of the road and Keith went down and salvaged the skull and horns for some pictures. Not for me!

They have Camel Crossings in Kazakhstan!
They have Camel Crossings in Kazakhstan!

As we put on the miles Keith spotted the first camels by the side of the road, I had noticed two on our side of the road but thought they were horses! We stopped for some pictures and then pushed on. Further on we saw a shepherd with his herd of goats driving them across the road.

There really is not much on this road, so we carried on nearly to the end point. We stopped at a petrol station for an ice cream – Kazazh petrol stations do not do ice creams, much to Keith disgust! He settled for a chocolate bar, then was dismayed when the girl behind the counter tipped herself with a chocolate bar rather than giving him the change. A bit of a mistake on her part, she soon relented and gave him is change, or we would still be there.

With around 2 miles to go we pulled over and chatted to some local young lads. They said there was an hotel about 3 miles down the main road, but also made a few laughs and giggles, hence we decided to stock up on supplies in the village supermarket first.

As we came out of the shop a shady guy approached us, asked us where were heading and staying, we told him what we were doing, then he said come back to his house, we could camp there. So we followed him home. It later transpired that it was his parents house. We arrived at the house all hot and sweaty and then we were ushered into a large shed with seats and a basic kitchen.

Within minutes they were serving us with a bowl of yogurt drink “kumys” not ideal but we all tried it, then homemade bread, jam and sugar. Keith politely ask the guy how to eat it. He just picked up a lump of bread stuck it in the jam then put it straight in his mouth – pretty easy really. The came the tea “char” which was really good.

We then started to ask were we could put up our tents and went out into the garden and decided on two pitches. Linney & Keith started to get the tents ready while I tried to look busy. I did strike a little bit lucky as I was talking to the older guy and he said why not sleep in the big shed were we had just eaten. Result all around – so the tents were put away for another day.

Now it’s shower time! It was a wooden shack at the bottom of next doors garden with an 80 gallon plastic drum on the top. Though I must say it did work and we did feel a lot cleaner afterwards. We asked the guy where the local ATM was and he offered to walk down with us. Unfortunately it did not work so he flagged a passing car down and they gave us a lift to the next one. It seems to be a local thing that you can flag cars down and ask for a lift. We also got some beers for our host and us and then made are way back, via another flagged down car.

Beers and salted Perch
Beers and salted Perch
Salted Perch for dinner
Salted Perch for dinner
Keith tastes the salted Perch.
Keith tastes the salted Perch

We later found out it was an anniversary party for the guys parents over the weekend, we sat outside on an old hay cart chatted and shared the beers. Then the old guy got some dried salted perch out to go with the beers. I quickly reverted back to vegetarian and offered Keith up to taste it. Later I saw him throw it in the long grass!

Family dinner - crossed-legs on carpet.
Family dinner – crossed-legs on carpet.
Family dinner - crossed-legs on carpet.
Family dinner – crossed-legs on carpet.
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Dale plays a dombyra (a long-necked Kazakh lute)

The party just kept on going with all the men sitting on the old hay cart, guys playing the guitar and dombyra (a long-necked Kazakh lute) and singing partisan songs all very lively. More food was served: meat soup with fresh bread, fruits and more char, all served up by the ladies but they did not join in. We eventually was able to go to bed around midnight, a really long, but great day.

Day 39: Monday July 22nd: Home Cooking

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Route Day 39 – July 22nd

Fly-through Map of Day 39.

We woke up pretty early considering how late we got to bed last night and had to go through the none European ablutions test again in the morning, well I did! I walked around the shed three times, then went for it, really scared I would fall in and then that would be that last they heard from me! Linney & Keith decided to wait.

We slept on the kitchen floor here!
We slept on the kitchen floor here!
Breakfast at home
Breakfast at home

As we were getting our kit ready breakfast was prepared: porridge, bread and jam and char. Very nice! We had to drag Linney away. The older guy explained the best route to Atyrau was out of the village then over the river, not what we had in mind, but he assured us the road was better that way, he even hand drew us a map. I wrote a thank you note to them with a gift of English money. We did not want to offend them but really wanted to show our gratitude. After the customary photo shoot and handshakes the older guy escorted us out of the village to the new bridge a distance of about 5 miles in his 4 wheel drive Lada. We said are final farewell to him as we carried on.

Dale saying farewell
Dale saying farewell

We have planned a relatively steady day in the saddle around 55 miles with a plan of getting to a bike shop in Atyrau. With no real urgency we just ghosted through the miles and stopped at a little truck stop for a coffee. The proprietor and her family were really nice so we went through the photo shoot routine again, the lovely lady came out with bottles of water and coke for us, we took on the water but thanked her for the coke and said we had no room.

Then Linney said he needed to clean his teeth, never seen it before but he managed to open his front pannier bag, get his wash bag out locate his tooth brush and paste and clean his teeth all on the go. Keith and I can barely manage a wave!.

The Ural River
The Ural River

As we go closer to Atyrau the traffic built up. The waving and horn blowing stopped as a good will gesture, now it just meant ‘get out of the way’. We tried to find a bike shop. Found one but it did not have the gear we wanted so we made our way to the hotel that Linney had booked. We booked in no problem and I went to the bar to order a beer – no alcohol, he has only booked a dry hotel!

We went out later to locate the last cycling shop on our list. The Hotel receptionist ordered us a taxi and told us how much to pay. She even gave us her number in case we got into trouble. We went nt to the shop and managed to get some inner tubes but not pannier brackets. We got a taxi back into town where, as anticipated, the driver tried to rip us off. We phoned the lady from the hotel who managed to sort it out. The taxi driver was not happy.

We had a meal then went back to the hotel to rest up and start to plan the next few days.

Day 40: Tuesday July 23rd: Salt Pans and Snakes

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Route Day 40 – July 23rd

Fly-through Map of Day 40.

Linney and Keith went down for a coffee in the hotel around 21:00. I was busy catching up on the blog stuff, then the hotel dished out another meal for them chicken and rice, still no beer so I was OK with that.

Dale. Bear and Gnome
Dale. Bear and Gnome

We were up at the normal time just after 06:00.  After getting ready we went down for our fried egg breakfast. It had a little twist today: fried bread not fresh.

We were just about to hit the road when we noticed Linney’s back tyre was a little flat, which is a little concerning as his spare is very dodgy too. We gave it a bit of air and we’ll see how we go.

Linney expertly got us out of the city in under 20 mins, mainly because we were on the dry side of the city! Then on the road to Dossor against a bit of a head wind which looked like it would stay with us all day. Hey ho!, just have to pedal a little harder.

Keith with a dried up salt-pan behind
Keith with a dried up salt-pan behind

We stopped at little truck stop for a coffee and cake. Well I had the last bit of cake and pulled the vegetarian card again. Keith and Linney had a potato fritter (it’s a gamble what is inside them), then went next door to the garage to see if we could get an ice cream – no luck. We filled up with water and took on some extra water, as the next stop, looked like it was just a picnic stop, in around 24 miles time.

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), beside the road
Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), beside the road
Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), beside the road
Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), beside the road
Salt-Pans
Salt-Pans

Still pushing against an ever increasing head wind we pedalled on, looking at the dried out salt lakes. Then Linney made a little bit of a girlie dance on his bike – only he can do that. Then he shouted snake! Keith was on its trail like a flash, jumping off his bike and handing it to me. All I could see was bloody desert but then finally a spotted it. Keith chased it down the bank, then dangerously back up the bank towards me, clicking madly on his camera. I was ready to ditch his bike if it came any closer to me, luckily it went down a hole about a metre before it reached us. When it all calmed down Linney identified the snake as a fast slow worm or “tardum velox vermis” we will have to wait for the editor (Dale’s gone all Boris with his Latin: Ed) to confirm this exciting discovery.

European mantis (Mantis religiosa) - probably
European mantis (Mantis religiosa) – probably

Before we knew it we were approaching the second stop: not the picnic site we thoughtbut  a little café, with some very pleasant girls serving. We had coffee and the normal fare: a meat goulash thing for Linney and Keith and rice for me – all very good. We all had a really good rest as the head wind was taking its toll a little. Keith made the effort to say come on “lets go” (the only phrase the Kazakhi’s know) so Linney and I followed, though Linney stalled at the entrance spotting a Praying mantis or “Orantes mantis” once again the ED will confirm the species (Dales got the hang of Google Translate: Ed).

Dale and Linford, with Eagle
Dale and Linford, with Eagle
Keith and Dale and a boundary marker. The Eagle has landed!
Keith and Dale and a boundary marker. The Eagle has landed!

Just as Keith and I were pulling out onto the road we heard a shout from Linney ‘I have a flat!’ Back we turned. His tyre is worn out. Keith cut up a plastic bottle to cover the two worst wear patches on the tyre, fitted a new inner tube and off we set again. Within a mile, another puncture.The plastic had rubbed on the inner tube. We tried Linneys spare tyre that does not sit correctly on the wheel, still no good, so went with the worm tyre at a lower pressure hopefully that will work. On we went for the last 18 mile. Thankfully it lasted!

On the way to Dossor both Linney and Keith cut up some old truck inner tubes to patch up the tyre when we get to our unknown hotel/camp tonight. We stopped just outside Dossor. Keith ordered a coffee, I quickly done the maths we were less than 5 miles from the town, so I had a beer. In the end we all had a beer.

We rolled into the town with Linney at the helm guiding us to the hotel/hostel which we duly found with ease. We managed to book in easily: the guy and his wife were very helpful and gave us a bucket and sponge to clean our bikes down. Linney had a plan to line his tyre with the old truck inner tube so he started on that. I cleaned and serviced my bike as best I could. Keith did the same to Linneys and then went down to the supermarket and bank with the hostel owner.

I cleaned Keiths bike and then when he returned told him he had loose spokes on the back wheel and a broken spoke on the front wheel – not good, but repairable, which Keith easily managed.

Kazakh food. Delicious.
Kazakh food. Delicious.

The place didn’t have a shower but I manged a bucket wash before the water ran out, so we just went out as we were. Eventually we found a place that was open athough it was only traditional Kazazh food which was good for us.

Then it was back to the hostel for some well-earned rest.

Day 41: Wednesday July 24th: Flats and Markets

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Route Day 41 – July 24th

Fly-through Map of Day 41.

Happy 60th Birthday to Ray Skelton: a true athlete and a valuable member of many of our Tours. We were all stirring in our beds, Ray would have been doing star jumps or some yoga pose, but as laid back athletes, we just laid about knackered!

Breakfast in style
Breakfast in style

The owner knocked on the door to say breakfast was ready. We had to go over to the annex and Linney was impressed with the ceiling detail: he is getting right into his architecture. We were more impressed with the breakfast: three fried eggs, home-made bread and biscuits and char – all good.

Linford, ready to leave
Linford, ready to leave

We set off about 08:15 with cloudy skies, and as it is Ray’s birthday Keith did the weather report: sorry Ray not raining, but overcast until the afternoon. We soon made our way out of the small town into a bit of a head-wind, with the knowledge that there is not a lot going on this road today, just a matter of riding through the head-wind. Easy – really better than working for a living.

After a couple of hours of riding we did spot a small truck stop where we managed to get a coffee and replenish our water supply. There was another stop about an hours ride away and that’s were we planned to have our lunch stop. On we went into the head-wind again. We are getting used to these Kazazh stops. I had the fried rice, with Keith and Linney having the pasta and dumplings.

Lunch in style
Lunch in style – lie down and have tea

After lunch we knew we had about a 40 mile ride with nothing between. Allegedly the wind was going to die down, according to Keith’s weather App. Just after this stop Linney had the first of his back tyre incidents, with a really worn out back tyre, in which he had glued strips of an old truck inner tube onto the inside to try and protect it. Well this did not work: the patches rubbed on the tube causing punctures. We tried Linney’s spare tyre again, with no luck as very soon half of it had come off the rim again. So back to the old tyre, with less pressure than normal. We still had around 20 miles to go before we hit Kulsary, even then we did not know if we could get a replacement tyre there.

Railway tracks. Soviet Gauge 5' or 1520mm
Railway tracks. Soviet Gauge 5′ or 1520mm
Triumphal Arch arrival for Dale
Triumphal Arch arrival for Dale

With a bit of luck we were soon at another truck stop 10 miles from the town. Keiths app was correct, the sun was out and the wind had died down so we made good progress. We had the normal coffee, soft drinks and photographs with the locals before we headed to Kulsary.

The local market
The local market
Keith buying tyres and inner tubes at the local market
Keith buying tyres and inner tubes at the local market

As we entered the town it was the normal chaos: cars and buses everywhere. Linney was leading the way and then he stopped and said he’d just spotted some cycle tyres in a market over the road about 50m away. I could just about see the entrance to the market stalls, never mind the tyres. Sure enough there were a couple of stores selling tyres and such. I looked after the bikes while Linney and Keith investigated further. They came back with two tyres, quality unknown but 100% better that what we currently have, another great result.

Dinner in style. I think that's tea in the long tube.
Dinner in style. I think that’s tea in the long tube.

With still no hotel booked we carried on into the town chatting with the locals via their open car windows – all good fun – then found the hotel. Within 20 minutes we were all sorted. With a plan to find a place to eat, and sort the tyres out in the morning. After a quick shower we set of for the restaurant, for some well-earned food.

All in all a pretty frustrating day in the saddle, but all’s well that ends well.

Day 42: Thursday July 25th: Fellow Cyclist

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Fly-though Map for Day 42.

Breakfast at the hotel was not until 08.00, so it was up at the normal time, then sort the bikes out and replace Linney’s tyre. With that done and all the bags loaded we went for breakfast: cottage cheese, fried eggs, yoghurt, bread and char tea.

Ready for departure
Ready for departure

We were on our bikes rolling just after 9. This was not a problem as we only had 60 odd miles to do today (easy!). We stopped just of town to stock up on water and the normal photo shoot. We soon made it out of town on a long road with a little head wind.

Once again we get pulled over by some security guys who want the customary photos and a telephone conversation with their friend who spoke English. Off we went again, with both the temperature and wind rising. Next the familiar shout went up Linneys rear tyre had disintergrated – it only lasted 12 miles. Obviously it was made in the same place and same quality as the cleats Dave Austen once brought on a previous tour.

We swapped the rear tyre for his spare, thinking and hoping this one is better. Off we went again at a slow pace into the ever increasing headwind. We were following a railway line and after 2 1/2 hours riding we had only covered 24 miles.

Keith and Dale meet a fellow cycle-tourist from Belarus
Keith and Dale meet a fellow cycle-tourist from Belarus
LInford and Dale meet a fellow cycle-tourist from Belarus
LInford and Dale meet a fellow cycle-tourist from Belarus

Linney spotted a railway halt and tried to knock on the door to get more water to no answer, so we had 10 minutes in the shade. We then heard a train come, we all had the same thought let’s jump on it, unfortunately it was going the wrong way! Though the guy did come out with his flags, shooed the camels of the track and then waved the train through.

We asked if he had any water and he just pointed over the track and gave us a bucket with a rope on. We found the well and lifted the cover and lowered the bucket. The water was cold and looked OK but we ran it through our water purifier and drank it no problem. After filling all our water bottles up we set off again. The temperature was rising now,  and this coupled with the head wind made for extremely difficult cycling.

The temperature soars to 42 degrees
The temperature soars to 42 degrees

We limped along to the next truck stop. Had lunch and I had a power nap: Linney obviously captured it on his phone. When we came out the heat was unbelievable – 40 plus degrees so we decided to lay in the shade for a while. About 45 mins later we set off with the knowledge that we had around 30 miles to go. On we went pushing against the head wind in soaring temperatures. We thought there might be a truck stop in 12 miles and this took us over an hour and half.

Oil Country
Oil Country

Here we filled up on soft drinks and snacks and rested up with the final 18miles left to go. We also stocked up to camp if required. It was still tough going but we pulled through. A car stopped and offered Keith and I water, which we thankfully received and he ended up giving us the 5 Litre bottle.

As we pulled into the stop pictures of kebabs, chicken and pizza were on the wall. Linney said I don’t think this is the stop but Keith and I just looked and said ‘we are eating’. The only other people in the place are a load of mums, grandparents and children having some sort of party with really loud music. I was too knackered to join in.

After we finished eating we cycled down the road about a mile and came to the hostel that Linney had pin-dropped earlier. They had a room, so it was literally a cup of tea (no beer), shower and bed.

We had arranged for an early breakfast at 5 in the morning in an attempt to beat the heat.

Day 43: Friday July 26th: Plains and Trains

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Route Day 42 – July 26th

Keith set his alarm for 04:45 and it was a bit of a shock to the system when it went off, but we all knew it would be a lot cooler riding in the morning. When we went around to the eating area you could tell we were all thinking the same thing: that wind seems worse than yesterday.

After breakfast we packed up all the gear and set off and sure enough the wind was worse and we were struggling to ride above 6 mph. We just toiled along using every bit of energy we had. Linney and I stopped and waited for Kieth and he explained that his crank was making a horrible noise. He stopped and tightened it up but the noise was still there.

Great Gerbil (Rhombomys opimus), possibly
Great Gerbil (Rhombomys opimus), possibly

We finally made it to our first stop at 36 miles and had lunch and took on loads of fluids. When we were ready to we realised that Keith’s crank needed to be stripped down and cleaned out. We tried to carry on but to no avail. Linney checked the mapand it looked like there was a train station further on, so we limped to the station and found out there was a train to Beyneu in 3 1/2 hours time.

Dale and Slide Away Bear waiting for a train at Korkol Railway Station
Dale and Slide Away Bear waiting for a train at Korkol Railway Station
Linford at Korkol Railway Station
Linford at Korkol Railway Station
The Slide Away Bear at  Korkol Railway Station
The Slide Away Bear at Korkol Railway Station
Loading the train at Korkol Railway Station
Loading the train at Korkol Railway Station

We all sat down and took stock and finally decided to take the train for the last 20 miles and use the time to service the bikes etc. Obviously getting three fully laden bikes onto an already over crowed train was a bit of a nightmare but we managed it. Tt was the same at Beyneu station – but all part of the journey.

We eventually got out of the station and found an hotel in the city chao. We settled down with a beer and this always seems to make thing right.

Day 44: Saturday July 27th:

[No word from the team for a couple of days. Assuming wifi issues. Ed] [we heard from them on the Monday: so I’ve updated below: Ed]

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Route Day 44 – July 27th

Fly-through Map of Day 44.

We met up with some interesting guys last night they were from Portugal driving a beat up Renault from China back to Portugal. The car broke down 3 yrs ago and they had only just picked it up! Then we also met some Italian guys on motorbikes riding the Silk Road: they were in the same restaurant as us. Hence we are not the only crazy souls, just a little bit madder than them for doing it on a bicycle.

We had a border crossing today so we were all in out clean kit. Breakfast was at 08:00 so we had a bit of a lie in. It was a bit convoluted getting out of the town: we went all  out of the town the wrong way then over the railway line and then back the way we came!

Our a road was still being laid so the first ten miles was like swimming through treacle. when we came to the finished section it was music to our ears. The forty miles flew past at speeds we had not achieved for a good four days. We had a little stop just before the border to stock up on supplies.

We got through the Kazakhstan side with ease though coming out of a country is always easier. Then it was on to the Uzbekistan side. To be perfectly honest we sailed through there too. We also met two USA travellers on motorbikes, one of them got stopped for some reason.

We had a little bowl of soup and a beer in the border cafe, though we were pestered by the guys wanting to change currency. We changed what we had of Kazakhstan money about a tenner: bit of a mistake as we should have changed more. We were soon on our way on a quite good road and with only 14 miles to go so we were there in less than an hour.

The town was nothing more than a village with a garrison and custom centre. We had a cup of tea just before the village and had to be careful with our cash. We rode into the village and out of the desert came this guy on a beat up old bike with a flat tyre. He wanted it pumped up. I could see Keith wanting to say get lost, but we needed the karma so we duly obliged.

There was a bank but it was closed. We tried the little shop but they did not take a card. We then met up with an Army guy and some Customs guys who arranged for us to exchange Euros to Uzbek things [Uzbekistan Som: Ed]. We celebrated with an ice cream from the shop and decided to ride on a little bit more and camp.

Just before we rejoined the main road we stocked up on water and bought 2 beers each for the night. I had the bright idea to drink the beers in the shade while they were cold, rather than carrying them and having warm beers. If I say so myself: one of my better ideas. After we drunk the beers in the shade of a bus shelter we rode on another 12 miles until Linney decided on the camp site. On his head be it!

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.

Actually we’ve had no update from them this week. It’s possible they stayed the whole week in Istanbul.

But here’s an excerpt from a previous blog.

20190727_JessBen

Into Kazakhstan

Dale, Linford and Keith arrive in Kazakhstan
Dale, Linford and Keith arrive in Kazakhstan

How Far Have They Got?

Map of progress so far.

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

 

20190720_CharityDonations

Week 5 Summary: Towards the Deserts

This map shows this weeks ride.

This week: 645miles, 8,161ft and 51:45 hours riding

20190720_BRJ_Odometer
Percentage of the 8200 miles completed

Accumulated totals: 3284miles, 76,689ft and 239:36 hours riding

Day 31: Sunday July 14th: East is East

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Route Day 31 – July 14th

Fly-through video and Map of Day 31.

After a really nice meal in the Tokyo restaurant in town we all felt pretty good that we had sorted out our route: Option 2 carry on east to Oral [Uralsk: Ed], then drop down to Tashkent to pick up our original route (very close anyway) [this was Option 3: Option 2 was riding down the Ural river valley: Ed].

We had breakfast in out room from stuff purchased from the local supermarket: yoghurt, muesli, fruit and coffee – pretty good and all ready to roll at 7am. But Linney had a flat rear tyre. We had no inner-tubes left (Linney rides 26 inch wheels), so Keith and & I patched one each: all done in less the 15 min and we hit the road.

We only had a vague idea of where we where staying tonight: either a truck stop thing at around 85 miles or push on through and investigate a possible place at 110 mile, or we could camp. We are prepared for the camping as I am even carry a tin of sweet corn!

The roads are still very good. I have been very impressed with the Russian roads and more importantly how clean and tidy they are kept. The road we are on today (A38) had very few towns, villages or even petrol stations, though we managed to find a little shop open at around 40 mile mark and had a coffee. Linney and Keith had some sort of pie, both said it was nice. I was still ok from our breakfast.

Linney checked the map and said we had another place in 24 miles or so. We carried on in light traffic and on really good roads. Though the weather started to break up we were just in front of the rain until just before our designated stop, when it started to rain egg cups full. Somehow missing us: very strange.

We pulled into the petrol station and had a coffee, soft drink and cheese & ham toastie. I am still pursuing with the vegetarian diet as much as I can, so Keith & Linny share the extra ham. We set of again with about 20 miles to the first possible stay at 85 miles. The weather had improved and the road, though never ending, rolled in our favour and before we knew it Linney shouted out that there is the road-side café. The hostel should be around 2 miles away: and it was.

We pulled in feeling a bit apprehensive about the place, however it all seem clean so we had a coffee and beer in the adjoining café, while they sorted out the dormitory. The guy was really helpful and thanks to google translate gave us the downstairs dormitory with room to store our bikes: excellent result.

Linny volunteered to cook our supper, although I had to go out in the pouring rain (good job we where not camping) to get the water & beers. He made a great job of the starter, not sure if we are going to get the main and pudding though!

We have no WIFI so we will have to talk to each other tonight, with no updates to friends and family. [this was the first night that we’d had no contact – felt a bit strange – assumed they were camping: Ed]

Day 32: Monday July 15th: To the Volga

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Route Day 32 – July 15th

Fly-through video and Map of Day 32.

As we were staying in a truckers hostel on the ground floor it was fairly likely that we would get disturbed in the night, sure enough, so Linney and Keith say, a guy did come and made a bit of noise. I slept through it all. Also we had a bit of confusion on what time zone we where in, the phones had jumped forward an hour during yesterdays ride, but the garmins stayed as they were. We finally sorted it out, the clocks had gone forward.

A bit of bad planning or lack of planning meant we only had dried cereal for breakfast, hence we set of quite early around 7am, with nothing on the route until the 30ish mile mark. We headed for that and it turned out to be some sort of bus terminus. Anyway we had a coffee and bite to eat.

 

Keith takes a roadside break
Keith takes a roadside break

We then carried on to Stavotol along the same road that was getting a bit bumpy in places: very little along the way. We stopped again at a little petrol station for water and refreshments and then pushed on until we came to a restaurant. We went in ordered the food and then realised we did not have much cash: however we managed to get together just enough to cover the bill.

I also had a slow puncture on my front wheel, so I just put some air in it and off we went. I had to stop around 8 mile from Stavotol to put a bit more air in my tyre for the final push to the hotel. We’d booked it in one of the petrol stations. I also found out we had won the cricket world cup by the most slender of margins – but still a great result.

When we got to the hotel, Keith and Linney booked us as I changed and then repaired my front inner ready for the morning.

 

We then showered and were ready to eat and plan the next day.

Day 33: Tuesday July 16th: Heading East

Once again Linney came up trumps with the restaurant choice, though the waitress must wonder what has hit them when we come in, ordering things all over the place and having no idea in which order the food will come out. One thing for sure though everything is eaten!

We went to the supermarket before making our way back to the hotel, but only got some pasta and fruit. We therefore decided to wait until the morning to get what we needed for camping.

Around 6am in the morning there was a little knock on our door. Obviously Keith & I are up like a shot as breakfast is ready directly outside our room: porridge the food for cyclists, a fried egg and a plastic frankfurter, followed by pancakes and condensed milk. All quite nice.

Off we set around 7am with no particular end. We have planned a double days riding 180 ish miles, with possible stops at 85 miles (doubtful), 106 mile (even less doubtful) , then 112 mile as a possible or camp!

Linford crossing the mighty Volga river in Saratov, Russia
Linford crossing the mighty Volga river in Saratov, Russia
Steam Train, Russia
П 1578 Soviet Locomotive, Saratov, Russia

Linney navigated through the city of Saratov with ease, though it still took as an hour to get out of the city limits, after crossing the huge Volga river. Then we turned into a head wind. It was brutal with no respite, just head down and pedal which we are all pretty good at. I noticed my front tyre was going down again, but pushed through to the next stop. I took the tyre off again – it was a new inner tube, and Keith & I once again checked the tyre but could not find anything.

A lonely road in Russia
A lonely road in Russia

After we set off again within 20 mins the tyre was going down again. On these rough roads you cannot ride like that, so I swapped the tyre for the spare and away we went again. It was still a fierce head wind. All we had to do was carry on pedalling: nothing can go wrong.

Linney was at the front by about a mile (perfaps further) he does not get to much involved in the mechanical issues, he is more for the map reading and restaurant and hotel finding jobs. He waited for us at the next petrol station with the good news that there is another petrol station in 24 miles, then nothing for 28 miles until a small café and then a possible hotel in another 6 miles.

That’s what it is then, so we pushed on into the head wind with clouds building up behind us. On we went, then we turned a bit more eastly, thankfully the head wind turned with us, what a result! Then the road got really bumpy for the next 20 odd miles, making us wonder what was worse – we are all not sure!

We stopped at the petrol station, filled up the water bottles and carried on to the next place on our map a very little “café”. All it takes is will-power. On we went through some of the worst roads we have met. Before we knew it you could see a few little houses and farms in the foreground but still it was 2 hours riding to get there!

Dale and Linford
Dale and Linford

Linney led us into a little shack, the lady came out to greet us told us where to park our bikes and seemed really welcoming. I was last in and Keith had already ordered a coffee, and asked me if I wanted one, I looked at him with a smile and said I am having a beer!

Normally we have not had a single beer when we have been riding: my excuse was we either have 6 mile to go or we are camping-  good enough for me! They had fresh bread baked in an outside oven and some great rustic food. We later found out they were originally from Uzbekistan. The hospitably was excellent as was the food: rice with vegetables. Noodle soup and kebab, with fresh baked bread.

They told us there will be an hotel down the road in 10 km, with a friendly farewell we set off for the last 6 mile. Rolled into the hotel and the girl on the desk could tell from my eyes that I need a room, she duly obliged.

It had been a really tough day up there with the Pyrenees, the rocket launcher and Dumbledore forest rides to name a few from our past rides.

Day 34: Wednesday July 17th: To Another Border

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Route of Day 34 – July 17th

Fly-through and map of Day 34.

Hotel for the night, Russia
Hotel for the night, Russia

After yesterdays epic ride, we had a little lie in as breakfast was not until 07:30. We used the time to do a little bike maintenance. Breakfast was the standard Russian fare fried eggs , plastic frankfurter, tomatoes and bread.

Linford on the road
Linford on the road

We set off around 8am, a little bit apprehensive, not knowing what the roads and wind would be like. As it soon transpired: not very good with a massive head wind and really bumpy torn up roads. We carried on like this for 30 odd miles at a really slow pace.

Alternative travel on the road to Kazakhstan, Russia
Alternative travel on the road to Kazakhstan, Russia
A friendly herdsman and dog
A friendly herdsman and dog

We had a drink and left – we all knew we just had to grind this ride out. Just before we were due to stop we met this cowboy guy herding his cattle, he seemed very contented. Keith took a photograph. We then stopped again at a rustic transport café where Linney and I had some cold soup with bread – it was ok – Keith had a meat soup.

A strange monument, Russia
A strange monument, Russia

We worked out that we had another stop in 18 miles, then another with 28 miles to go. Another thing we were running out of Russian rubles although we all had cards etc. We stopped at a little village with the most moody shop keepers in the world and even told me off for putting my plastic bottle into her waste bin. We could only afford two bottles of water and dry biscuits. Living the high life again.

With 28 miles to go we all got going, the first 10 miles was not to bad, the wind had dropped a little and the road was bearable. Then it all went a little pear shaped, they were rebuilding the road, we just had to ride along beside the tippers, dumpers and transport lorries, it was pretty hectic stuff. This went on for around 12 miles of difficult riding to say the least.

Linford gets a ride to the shops
Linford gets a ride to the shops

When the road works finished we were just glad to get back on to the bumpy road for the final 6 miles, with no hotel booked the plan was to ride into the own, get to a café/ bar use their WIFI and find a place to stay. The first part was OK, found a shop had a beer and ice cream – but no WIFI. We rode on a little and then met some kids and asked them if they knew where a hotel was (we use google translate). The next thing we knew we were in their house! It was a bed and breakfast place, the kids took Linney to the nearest ATM and we all got sorted.

Showered and ready to find an eating place.

Day 35: Thursday July 18th: Into Kazakhstan

All the best and Happy Birthday to our sister Joanne and good luck with all the wedding shenanigans in Italy coming up. Have a great day and a fabulous holiday.

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Route of Day 35 – Jul 18th

Fly-through and Map of Day 35.

We nearly had a disco experience at last nights restaurant! We were the only other people in the restaurant with two Russian ladies who wanted a dance. Obviously I was up for it but the other two only wanted an ice cream – so I went for an ice cream too and the opportunity passed.

All set for the border crossing to Kazakhstan
All set for the border crossing to Kazakhstan

With the supermarket shop still open we added some pot noddle stuff to our camping store as we were all still not sure what we had to eat.

We had breakfast in the room: fruit, muesli, fruit and coffee – all good. Then we all had the normal ablutions in the eastern fashion which is hard on the legs – Keith then pointed out that the next door lavatory was in the European style!

We were on the road around 07:30 with a view to going to the local supermarket to pick up some water but it did not open till 08:00 so we moved on to the local garage.

Then we started the ride to the border on rough un-made roads. With 80 miles and a border crossing this could be a long day. We were soon passed by the guys who stayed at the same place as us – they waved and tooted us ‘good luck’.

Dale and LInford find the 4 hour border crossing tedious
Dale and LInford find the 4 hour border crossing tedious

Before we knew it we were at the Russian border. All went well and we then passed on to the Kazakhstan border control with a mile ride between. We queued up behind about 20 cars and then a nice girl came up and said in perfect English ‘have you got a problem?’. Keith said ‘are we in the right queue?’, she said ‘go to the front’, so we did and they let us through. On we went through an open gate when the shout went up ‘stop!’ Linney and I turned around and the guard just said ‘wait here’.

So we had to wait there. We showed are passports to the guy, and then waited and waited for around 3 hours. The border control guys were all quite nice and had a chat and a laugh with us. One even had a go on Linney`s bike, it was just so slow. Then they waved us through, and after another little wait we went through the passport control procedure. All done in around 3 ½ hours – not too bad.

We had a little snack and then set off on clear flat rolling roads. The best we had seen since Germany which seems long ago. The quality of the road and the tail wind made our minds up to head for Oral [Oral (Kazakh: Орал, romanized: Oral), Ural’sk (Russian: Уральск) in Russian, formerly known as Yaitsk (Russian: Яицк, until 1775): Ed].

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) in Kazakhstan
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) in Kazakhstan

After another 60 ish miles, with a decent speed and a few little breaks we were soon on the outskirts of the city. With Linney in full map reading mode we made our way to a hotel. The guy was really helpful, but they had no rooms. He made a few calls, but the hotel was too far away. The next plan was to find a bar with WIFI, have a beer and find a place to stay, the plan worked and the beer was excellent (a bit like the end of the film “Ice cold in Alex”.

Linney booked an apartment and we spent the extra £1, we tried to phone the guy but got into some language issues, but thought we had to meet him in 10 mins at the apartment just around the block. Keith went to the ATM as this place will break the bank!

Linford chose his own room for his last night in Russia
Linford chose his own room for his last night in Russia (or was it the first night in Kazakhstan?)

As Linney and I were waiting this guy came out of a bar and with a smile introduced himself as an English language teacher – result – we got him to talk to the apartment owner and it was all sorted in 10 mins. We arranged to meet the guy in the bar after we had all showered and cleaned up. It took Keith & I about 5 mins but Linney, naturally, a bit longer. The teacher guy (Kanat) was really keen to chat with us and then invited us to his school the next day. We arranged to meet him at 10:30 the next day, all quite convenient as we had arranged to check out of the apartment at 10:00. The guy then walked with us past his School (Number 7) on to a fancy restaurant, we really are living the high life today. We all had a great meal washed down with a few beers, then went back to our apartment.

Dale, Linford and Keith arrive in Kazakhstan
Dale, Linford and Keith arrive in Kazakhstan

The last few days in Russia have been really tough. Long days on shitty tracks, with no sign of improvement. But we made it into Kazakhstan after a 4 hour wait at the border and what a difference it has been already. Lovely smooth roads, and the people have been so friendly, beeping their horns, waving and stopping us for photos. Even pulling over in their cars/lorries for a selfie with us. I can only hope it continues. Looking forward to a more relaxing morning tomorrow and then possibly our first night under the stars as we go go further into the wilderness. [Linford]

Day 36: Friday July 19th: South with the Oral River

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Route of Day 36 – July 19th

Fly through and Map of Day 36.

We all thought we had a little lie in this morning, though we were still confused with the time zone! Anyway Keith and Linney went out to the supermarket and bike shop to get some breakfast things and get more inner tubes at 26″. I stayed behind and repaired my two inner tubes. They were back in 20 mins as it was still too early for the bike shop, but they had the breakfast stuff. After breakfast they tried the bike shop again to no avail.

We checked out of the apartment with no problems and then made are way to Oral school number 7 to meet Kanat and his pupils. As we arrived at the school gates and walked in we where all a bit nervous – not sure what to expect. Linney phoned Kanat and he duly came out with a big smile on his face and walked us into the school and the classroom.

Our first surprise was that they were all adults! It transpired they were trainee English Teachers. We sat down in front of the class and introduced ourselves, me first, then Linney and Keith. At first is was all a bit weird with the two lecturers asking most of the questions and me with my speech impediment getting all the countries mixed up! Then it all opened up with questions flying everywhere. We were like celebrities and then the selfies started. Obviously Keith & I were not in the same demand as Linney. He was signing autographs like a really big cheese. We finished off with a couple of group shots and even the class next door got involved.

We finally got on our bikes around 11:30, with a rough plan of doing around 80 miles then trying our luck at a truckers hostel or camping. We soon hit the road out of the city and started to roll. At around 20 mile mark Linney got a bit scared that I may sail past a truckers café so he pulled out all the stops and made sure we stopped. The locals were again very hospitable and we had a salad, soup and coffee before setting off again. We were making really good time.

Even a Police vehicle waved at us and Linney gave the driver a ‘high five’ as we rode past. Also all the fruit sellers and drivers were honking their horns and waving at us. I must admit it does spur us on. Before we knew it we were closing in on the truckers hostel.

Well when we got there it was the polar opposite of last nights apartment: four in a room on bunk beds and we had a guest in our room. Then had to pay extra for a shower! This is not what us celebrities are used to.

We had a few beers in the café and then showered as best we could. The water smelt like it came from the ditch outside. Anyway the guests all seemed very friendly and we sat and had a chat and a beer with them before we made our way to the other café.

After a slow start the owner started to open up and said she had a friend who worked in London. Before we knew it we had a video conference with her via WhatsApp and then a photograph with the owner to send to her friend. We are still living the big ‘I am’ life style.

Then it was off to our prison bunks. I felt sorry for the guy sharing with Keith and I: well he should have spent the extra £1.

Day 37: Saturday July 20th: From Europe to Asia

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Route of Day 37 – July 20th

Fly through and Map of Day 37.

We all got up really early, Linney’s alarm went off at 05:30 – he must have really wanted to get going, but I think he did not have a clue on the time-zone. Anyway up we got, breakfast in the café (not the good café, it wasn’t open): custard roll two meat and potato fritters for Keith & Linney and a couple of mugs of coffee.

We set off at around 07:15 and it was getting hot already. The plan, stan, was just to ride until we couldn’t ride anymore. We had suppliers for camping and just needed to make sure we had enough water. Linney had looked at the route: stops were few and far between but we had potential places at 45 miles, 90 miles then a town on the river at 126 miles – which seemed too much!

Off we set keeping a steady pace and with the Steppe marmots in abundance, jumping around the side of the road and keeping us occupied. Before we knew it we were at the first stop where we had a coffee and soft drink. We then moved next door as it seemed better. Keith was a bit late as he got involved with some locals with selfies.

Keith commandeered a table and ordered for me as I was trying to sort out a solar panel charger. My spare tyre is getting in the way and I need to rearrange it. Anyway, I come in to three fried eggs & bread: it seems pretty standard fare in these parts. They they have meat pasta and it’s all very friendly with a few photographs

Linney gave us the good news – the next stop in 46 miles, so off we set, the road was still pretty good but not as smooth as yesterday although we were still getting the horns blowing and people waving at us, which really boosts our morale. As the stops are few and far between we have started to carry extra water and break the sections up with a little rest every now and again.

As we had one of these little breaks, we noticed a Police car go past. About 10 miles down the road they pulled us over: for speeding? They just wanted to know want we were up to and we had a little chat and a few photographs. We were soon back on are way.

We hit the 90 mile mark in good time, stopped for some drinks and then pushed on to Inderbor town with the bridge across the Oral (Ural) river – the bridge that crosses from Europe to Asia.

We all felt smashed especially as Keith had had a mad hour coming from the last stop, pushing hard at high speeds. I for one was glad when he pulled up and said ‘carry on I need to tighten my front pannier’. The speed came down to a more reasonable pace.

With 10 miles to we all started to feel the strain and then we had a head wind for a couple of miles it was like riding in treacle! But as you do we pushed through and sailed into Inderbor and Asia.

We found the only hotel in town and settled in for the night after a few beers and food.

Worryingly though the beers are becoming a little bit more difficult to source.

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.

They are currently crossing from Europe to Asia as they arrive in Istanbul, Turkey.

You can follow them here: https://jezzlejournal.tumblr.com/ and here is a taster …

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Ben and Jess arrive in Istanbul

Ukraine Part 2

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Keith and Linford with the son of the workshop owner

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190704_CharityDonations

Week 3 Summary: Across Ukraine

This week: 529.8 miles, 12,083ft and 41:26 hours riding

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Percentage of the 8200 miles completed

Accumulated totals: 2105 miles, 53380ft and 152.49 hours riding

Day 17: Sunday June 30th: Nearly Forced to Camp!

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Route Day 17 – June 30th

Video, map and photos from Day 17

 

After a long hot day in the saddle we arrived at a one hotel town whose name translated as New Archangel. Naturally the hotel was full. The barmaid knew someone who ran a campsite in the forest, back across the river. It looked like the future was a hot night with mosquitoes. Or it was full until, after a few beers, Dale worked his charm and miraculously a room became available. Naturally a few more beers were required to celebrate putting off any thoughts of camping for another night.

 

Keith had been riding on a temporary spoke and it was beginning look like the pot-holed Ukraine roads had taken a toll. We’d have to look for a bike-shop of some description tomorrow. We tinkered with the bike, had dinner, a couple more beers and then bed.

Meanwhile the disco in the hotel had cranked up and serenaded us to sleep.

Day 18: Monday July 1st: Bicycle Repair Man

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Route Day 18 – July 1st

Video, map and photos from Day 18

The party was still going in the Villa Maria when we woke up. Not sure what sort of hotel it was, but it was clean and very modern. The guy from the bar came out to see us off just after 07: 15.

We were straight onto bumpy road, though the traffic was pretty light, and we pushed on for around an hour then stopped at a little shop for a bit of breakfast: loaf of bread cheese and cheese spread and an espresso coffee set us up for the day.

The road never really improved all day: it was rough, exposed road through arable farm land and it made for really hard work in temperatures around 38 degrees. Keith’s wheel was holding up, however the plan was to get to Kropyvnytskyi as soon as possible to get Keith’s wheel fixed. Stopped at the CO-OP in a very small village for the customary ice cream and soft drink. We sat under a corrugated tin shelter and Linney was scared as he thought there was something on the roof (cat)!

Off we went again into the heat and really another rough road. About 20 miles out we stopped in a garage: more for the shade than anything else then pushed on to Kropyvnytskyi. Linney had pin dropped a cycle shop, and we found that no problem, they where really helpful but could not fix the wheel, though they did make a phone call and arranged for us to go to another shop, just about a mile away.

At this shop they undertook the repair with no problem, Keith will update the info later as they where really helpful and very enthusiastic about our trip. Linney & I sourced an hotel fairly local to the shop, Keith arrived within half an hour all sorted. A really hard day in the saddle in extreme heat and rough exposed roads, something we will need to get used to.

Day 19: Tuesday July 2nd: Melting Tarmac and a Downpour

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Route Day 19 – July 2nd

Video, Map and photos from Day 19

 

We had a packed breakfast organised by the hotel, which we ate in the hotel drive way as we set off around 07:15. It was a really hot morning and very soon the road deteriorated.

 

On we pushed on exposed rough roads with no respite from the heat, just rolling through arable farm land with either wheat or sunflowers: no shade at all. The only thing on our minds was concentrating on the ever worsening road surfac. It’s only going to get worse was Keith’s thought and Linneys was to turn up his music. I just carried on with my Tourettes: powered by swearing.

We soon came to the usual truckers cafe, Linney had a salad, Keith and I went for the Borscht soup & beetroot respectively though I think they were the same. My veggie diet broken, if you count a bit of gristle as meat, but hey ho I need to eat.

Off we pressed again into the searing heat with tarmac melting (you could see our tracks in it) on to our destination, via another little stop. One of the hardest rides I have ever done, on roads that needed 100% concentration in temperatures reaching 42 degrees C.

 

And then a downpour.,

Day 20: Wednesday July 3rd: Reaching the Dneiper River

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Route Day 20 – July 3rd

Video, map and photos from Day 20

 

After last night storm we woke up to a lovely morning. A little knock on our door around 06:50 and they brought breakfast into the room, Keith had already gone looking for it, by the time he came back, Linny and I where tucking into Ukrainian porridge with butter (tasted OK mixed in with banana) white bread, cheese slices, frankfurter things and six boiled eggs, all in all pretty good.

 

Pretty difficult start to the ride in the city, but the roads seemed pretty good, will they last? We soon got out of the city on quite good road and after about 15 mile called into a petrol station. Keith was having a bit of trouble with his front panniers and had to replace the fixings. We also adjusted Linney’s saddle.

Off we went again to no particular destination either Svitlohirskev which had one possible hotel at around 65 miles or Dnipro with loads of hotels but at 94 miles.

The road soon deteriorated to the usual patch-work of repairs and pot holes, but we are all getting used to riding through them now. Pushed on to a little village with two old ladies gossiping, rather than serving us. Disaster struck! No ice creams, so we quickly moved on and left them chatting. We then stopped at a petrol station a few miles down the road: still no ice creams. We were all suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

However we were all still in good frame of mind, mainly due to the hearty breakfas.t Porridge rules! We soon ended up at Svitlohirskev in a pretty bland hotel with no lunch menu and so we made our mind up to head for Dnipro. Linney did the calcs around 30 miles to go. Keith did the ice cream search, possible place 16 miles. So off we set after a soft drink, Keith pushing the pace (ice cream deficiency kicking in) Linney and I taking it all in our stride. We were soon flagged down by Keith with a big smile and a Magnum.

Normal service resumed we had a coffee, some ice cream and nuts and crisps: still full up from breakfast. The had the last 12 miles or so to go and we where soon into the city limits with trolley buses, trams and the usual rush hour traffic. Not sure how we all stayed together but made it to the Maba hotel. We really need.do more research on the hotels: this time we had to manhandle the touring bikes down two sets of steps! But we had a nice room: all three of us in the same room, always fun.

Once again a great day riding.

Day 21: Thursday July 4th: Buses, Trams and Trolleys

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Route Day 21 – July 4th

Video, map and photos from Day 21.

A short ride is planned for today: 45 miles or so to the small town of Pavlohrad. It meant we could have a little lie in and undertake some essential bike maintenance in the afternoon.

Breakfast arrived in our rooms at 07:0:0 pancakes with cream cheese, pancakes with meat, and the usual cumber and tomatoes, also a nice pot of tea that went down well. We left the hotel around 08:30, right in the middle of the morning rush hour, pretty hectic with the trams and trolley buses all over the place. We soon crossed the famous Dneiper river on a bumpy track along the side the road.

 

Once we got out of the the city the traffic calmed down, and as we knew we only had a short distance to go, everyone just took it easy. We stopped at a truckers cafe for water and a coffee, then pushed on before we knew we were only 15 miles from our destination, another little break, then within the hour we where at the hotel in Pavlohrad. After a spot of lunch next door all of us gave the bikes the once over, and then started the planning for crossing the Russian border in a few days time.

Day 22: Friday July 5th: More Repairs

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Route Day 22 – July 5th

Video, map and photos from Day 22.

We made an early start as no breakfast at the digs, though they where very nice, set off just before 7 in the morning, with a plan to stop at a Wogs (best service stations in Ukraine) for breakfast, however Bingo soon dropped off, Linny and & I waited until we could see him, then carried on to the Wogs! for breakfast.

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Keith admiring the pithead gear

Bingo informed us the the reason for his delay was another pannier problem, the welds had broke on his front off-side pannier, we looked at doing a temporary but Bingo decided on lashing his front pannier to his rear panniers.

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This is that part of Ukraine

After a nice coffee, and rolls minus the chicken for me and pastries off we set again. The road did deteriorate for about 10 miles, but then we hit some nice smooth roads, though we where climbing all the way. We managed to keep a good pace, with around 6 miles from our destination Linny gave the shout out for more food, Low and behold another Wogs – he has their app. After soft drinks and the obligatory ice cream we rolled into town, at 13:30.

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In the workshop repairing the front pannier bracket
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Repairing the front pannier bracket
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Repainting after the front pannier bracket repair

Our first mission was to find the cycle shop we had located on google. Though they where very attentive to us they could not repair the pannier or supplier us with a new set, but after a few phone calls we followed a guy up a few side streets, then he shouted a few things knocked on a few doors with no success. Then a guy came out from across the street, looked at the pannier bracket nodded his head and said he could fix it.

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Keith and Linford with the son of the workshop owner

What a great result he took it into his shed, and within an hour it was all sorted and even painted. He did not even want to take any money, but after a little discussion he relented and let Bingo give 200 Ukrainian things to his son, who was brilliant thoughout the repair.

Day 23: Saturday July 6th: There and Back Again

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BRJ Day 23 July 6th – Blocked at the gates of Donetsk

Once again the hotel did not serve breakfast so we did what we normally do, crack on and see what we can find. Guess what we found a petrol station and had porridge, cake and coffee. We then set off proper and passed the first check point on reasonably good roads, we then came to a turning, which said bear right, Linney our map reader specialist reckoned we should carry on on the good road (Not are first mistake of the day). On we went, only for one of us to comment that the road was very quite, with mainly army vehicles going in both directions.

On we travelled, passed another check point. Then even the villages seemed deserted and bombed out. We then noticed two 4 wheel drive vehicles with the logo OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). They gave us the thumbs up as they passed, and around 3 miles further on we spotted a little shop open: just had to have the normal ice cream and an instant coffee! We were just minding our own business when a local drunk turned up smiling and going on about stuff: we paid little attention to him.

The OSCE vehicles returned, and a fellow came over for a chat which was appreciated by all of us. Julian the lead guy seemed really nice and very interested in what we were doing, however he then went on to say that in his opinion we should not go through the next check point, which was around 500m away. He also said they probably would not let us through anyway.

He then suggested another check point. Linney checked it out and in meant putting another 20 miles on the day. We all agreed this was the best option mainly due to Julian advice.

He then he went on to warn us about land mines: do not wander off the road (landmines), do not use roadside toilets (booby-trapped) and do not take photographs. Be very careful!

Off we set backtracking on our route for 6 miles (not the last time this will happen today). Then off on a rough road for the next check point, which also went pear shaped as I did not hear the call to turn left, so added a few more miles on. These roads were even more deserted: dozens of abandoned mines and mine towns – it all looked deserted.

On we pressed with very little on the road. Eventually we came to the check point. All the cars were stationary, so we went down the outside of them, to the front. Then a soldier told us to join the pedestrians: no proper queueing here – everyone for their own. A nice Ukrainian guy explained to the guard what we were doing, and the guard led us through to the front (so we thought), but just into another queue. We waited here for around 45 minutes, and then they let us through the first check.

A guy made us wait, and then called me outside with him to explain what we where doing in the area. I showed him our hotel booking and Russian visa, he seem quite responsive and got the other two to join us. I thought great we are through, but to no avail, the boss seemed adamant that we could not cross. It seemed to be that if the other republic (not sure of the name [Malorossiya: ed]) stamped our passports then we would not be allowed back in to the Ukraine. Me (the diplomat) wanted to say we would never be coming back here again anyway – but I  just could not say it!

After three reiterations of the same argument, the boss guy said ‘NO!’. So we had no alternative but to go back. Our first plan was to ride to the nearest town for an internet connection and food. It was only 5 miles away and we soon arrived. We got the food, but found no internet connection. The town was deserted. Bombed out factories and empty mines and houses all over the place.

We then went to the next town which was even worse. We could see the machine gun fire on the building. We did however find a cafe with wifi. It then sunk into us that we had to go back to our original start point about 35 miles away. This was a pretty difficult decision but our only option: a tough decision for tough guys.

So on we pressed back to the same town we started from this morning. We chose a different hotel. None of us could face the walk of shame through the foyer!

 

The final straw was getting stung in the eye by a bee with 20 miles to go. It has now swollen up. Naturally sympathy is in short supply and they are all taking the piss.

Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.

You can follow them here: https://jezzlejournal.tumblr.com/ and here is a taster …

20190706_OverlandIndia

 

Into Ukraine

Fundraiser for Aylesham boy and Little Mix fan Charlie Golden, 8, hit while playing on scooter

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Wishing all the best for Charlie and his parents during his long recovery

As followers will know Dave, a team member for the ride to Krakow, was hospitalised on a training ride and found himself in King’s College Hospital: he’s now recovering well and out of hospital, but will require further surgery before recuperating fully.

At about the same time this young boy was knocked over in our village and was in the same hospital. Our families are well known to each other.

More details on Kent Online here.

So we are wishing young Charlie all the best during his long recovery and all the best for his parents Paul and Lauren and brother Joe during this difficult time.

Lee Tonk, who has started a JustGiving page, said: “The reason for raising money is to help them with mortgage and bill payments, help them with the train fares or to even put towards a holiday with Charlie and his 11-year-old brother Joe once he’s back on his feet.”

Please help if you can here.

The Bike Rugby Japan team will dedicate their ride on August 31st to the young boy and his family (wherever they will be on that date!) and will be honoured to make a contribution to Charlie’s charity.


The Slide Away bear at the Ukraine border
The Slide Away bear at the Ukraine border

Charity Update

We cannot express enough our appreciation and many thanks to those that have donated.

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Chuffed to recieve a personal thanks from Michal of Kalno, Poland

 


Week 2 Summary: from Krakow into Ukraine

502.1 miles, 12,435ft and 40.32 hours riding

Day 10: Sunday June 23rd: 1st day on the Touring Bikes

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Day 10 June 23rd – First day on touring bikes as they leave Krakow

Video, map and photos of the first day on the road.

Here they are wobbling off to Shanghai: only 7000 miles to go!

And here they are somewhere down the road.

Bingo, Linford and Dale all looked a bit apprehensive at the start of the touring, and the bikes looked over-packed.

Off we set with Linney leading the way through the busy streets of Krakow. We were soon on our way out of town steadily getting used to the weight and feel of the bikes.

With the weather very hot and sticky we all realised we will need to keep our water bottles topped up. Luckily we managed to find a small shop open on a Sunday, about the 30 mile mark where we stopped for a cold soft drink and filled the water bottles up.

We carried on through forest trails that seem so much better on a touring bike. Next up was a lunch stop at a weird pizza restaurant, though the proprietor was helpful, ordered a massive pizza each, then ended up strapping the left overs on to Linneys bike for tomorrows breakfast.

From here we only had approx 20 miles to go, though inevitably Dale had his first fall on a sandy trail! We managed to re-route and we all got back to our first over-night stop. The place was deserted when we arrived, though Bingo called the owner, he duly arrived within 10 mins. All in all a good days riding.

Day 11: Monday June 24th: Pilzno to Przeworsk

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Day 11 June 24th – working in the heat

Video, map and photos of Day 11 (9 days to Krakow with Carl & Cathal and 2nd day out.

We set off around 08:15 after filling up our water bottles and grabbing a banana in a local shop. None of us could face the leftover pizza we had in the apartment fridge. All of us still a little bit fussy, which I think think this will change very quickly.

We are getting used to the bikes and how they handle surprisingly well, even on the dirt and forest tracks. We had breakfast in a MacDonalds: just a coffee and a pancake thing  – obviously nothing special.

We then pushed on through quite nice roads and trails, and then stopped for an ice cream and cold drink with about 24 miles to go. Soon we were on the busy A4 road. It wasn’t pleasant but we all kept together for the last 10 miles and made a quick stop for more cold drinks and a plate of chips: originally we tried to get the soup but failed to make the lady understand! We arrived at the hotel around 17:00.

Day 12: Tuesday June 25th: Przeworsk (Poland), Korezowa (Border) to Yavoriv (Ukraine)

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Day 12 June 25th: Into Ukraine by truck

Video, map and photos (if any) as they ride(!) into Ukraine.

First road in the Ukraine
First road in the Ukraine

Crossing into Ukraine.

It was the best meal of the Tour so far for Dale last night: Horseradish & egg soup followed by cabbage filled with risotto in a mushroom sauce. Early start for today’s stage, all of us a bit wary of the Polish – Ukraine border crossing.

We made really good progress to the crossing, first road had traffic lights and a barrier, so turned around went up another side road, you could see the border crossing on left.

The a Polish border control guard shouted at Linney “get away this is a border crossing”.

We then went back to the original barrier waited about 5 min until a big lorry came. The barrier opened so on we went, through tto he next barrier, then down the outside lane past 100 or so lorries. We came to the original Polish guard, who then arranged via his boss to allow us to put our bikes in the back of an Ukrainian guys van. Great result managed to get through the border in around an hour, which was a relief all round.

We had ice-cream and cold soft drink to celebrate our first major border crossing, and then a steady 17 miles to the digs.

Dale at the Ukraine border
Dale at the Ukraine border

Day 13: Wednesday June 26th: Yavoriv to Yaktoriv and further to Zolochiv

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Putting some miles in the bank

Video, map and photos of Day 13.

After an early start at 07:30 as we knew we had some extra miles to put in. Had quick breakfast from supermarket oranges, bananas and a peanut butter thing. Made good progress to the outside of the city Lviv, then the cobbles took over for the entry into the city: it makes Paris – Roubiax look like tarmac. Had a quick snack in the city centre, and then pushed on up the steep cobbled exit road with trams and traffic, great fun! Finally got out of the city, on to rolling roads, stopped for an ice cream and soft drink 18 miles out, then rolled into town past the Ukrainian Infantry memorial, got into town and it was still 30+ degrees. Cooled down with a few beers, then on to the Hotel, not good but heyho. Another good day in the saddle.

Day 14: Thursday June 27th: Zolchiv to Pysarivka 78.6m

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Video, map and photos of Day 14.

Everyone likes a friendly dog from Ukraine.

Another early start in the morning mainly due to the hotel not providing anything. Breakfast consisted of yesterdays left over fruit and a cake brought last night. The Hotel lady was very pleasant in the morning but none of us could understand what she was saying.

The weather is a bit cooler with thunderstorms predicted. We started off on good roads and made steady progress, stopping of at the usual place: petrol station! Met two guys very interested in the ride: one gave us 50 Ukrainian things, about £1.50 for a coffee great lad. Then we made our way to the city of Ternopil just as the predicted thunderstorm arrived. We shelter in a nice cafe overlooking the lake for lunch and made plans for the rest of the day.

Decided to crack on for the whole 80 mile and see if we could book a place to stay later. It was a difficult ascent out of the city again with trolley buses and traffic all over the place, but we then got into a steady pace and arrived at a nice road ide bar 16 miles from our proposed destination. The great proprietor took a selfie with us, sorted out his wi-fi for us, while Linney ate again, and Bingo and Dale had another soft drink. We booked a place with no difficulties roughly about 16 miles away. After the selfie on we made great progress on roads that needed a lot to me desired, got to a really nice hotel. It was not ours! Ours was 500m up the road, still ok, few beers and relaxed.

Day 15: Friday June 28th: Viitivtsi to Dʼyakovtsy 72.5m

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Ploughing ahead of schedule through Ukraine

Video, map and photos from Day 15.

The day started with an early breakfast in the trucker’s cafe, with not much to choose from. Linney managed a plate of rice and meat followed by a couple of fried eggs, Bingo just had the fried eggs, I had a few biscuits and coffees. On the road for 7:30 on the best road we have had in Ukraine nice surface and a 2 metre hard shoulder: this road lasted for about 30 miles and we made really good time and so decided to have a early lunch stop in Khmelnyiskyi. However it was not much of a town centre, so we rode through and stopped at a little shop for some snacks, just outside the town. After pushing ahead again the road very soon became awful, with pot-holes and up turned tarmac: really difficult to keep your line on. Later Dale’s other front pannier came adrift, so we had to cable-tie it back into place. The we carried on to another little town.

Linford, thinking a horse and cart might be a better option
Linford, thinking a horse and cart might be a better option

Day 16: Saturday June 29th: DyaKivan to Hassyn 89.8m

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Video, map and photos from Day 16.

After an early night while the locals has a party, we could still hear the music as we drifted off to sleep. Bingo reckons he heard them close up.

We were up bright an early for the breakfast fried eggs again and made an impressive start on nice flat smooth roads covering the first 32 mile in less than 2 hours.  We tried to stop by the river in Vinnaytsia but a grumpy man said no, so we settled for a coffee and Pain au chocolat by the side of the road. It seemed like a nice city but it was a little early,

 


Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.

You can follow them here: https://jezzlejournal.tumblr.com/ and here is a taster …

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Ben and Jess are currently in Austria and taking a close look at some wildlife