Week 19

I cycled away from Urumqi and out of the city. It wasn’t long before I ended up in the middle of, what seemed like, nowhere! A couple of days which were fairly dull and the police checks did start to wear on me a bit (you can tell from the video!). I really thought They wouldn’t get to me, but after a couple of weeks of being watched, it was nice to cross the border and feel freedom! Interestingly, Urumqi is the farthest city away from the sea in the world. The farthest point is in Xinjiang region, but it’s a couple of hundred miles north of the city itself. Fun fact.

I don’t think I really show it in the video but I’ve found the Chinese culture really interesting and can’t wait to come back into China when I eventually leave Mongolia. The supermarkets are so interesting to walk round in comparison to the shops in Central Asia. Just a bigger variety of food – and a lot of food I don’t fancy touching!

I’m in Mongolia now and a bit behind on videos! The time between towns and cities now is growing. The country is vast and so days are turning into weeks! I will get round to editing and posting them but it just won’t be so up to date.

Week 17-18

I last left this blog in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. A fair amount has happened since then. I entered back into Kazakhstan and then made my way west into China. I was always concerned that the section of this trip between finishing the Pamir Highway (in Osh) and then getting to China would be difficult. Not physically, but mentally. It seemed in my planning, just a means of getting from one interesting section to the other, yet it was still a couple of weeks and hundreds of miles. I definitely was less motivated and less focused and it probably showed in my last video and also the fact I haven’t really got a week 17 video! Anyway, I’m back in now and excited for this next section to Beijing. I’ll have to go back to Kyrgyzstan in the future to fully appreciate it and give it the credit it’s due!

So I’m now in China and in Xinjiang region. This region has created global news headlines recently and it’s been very interesting to see the way people live and the way it’s governed. So far, it’s been a pleasant experience and any fears I previously had, have disappeared. However, not to underestimate it, I still plan on getting through it as quickly as possible and the way I’ve been doing this so far is sticking to the G30 Highway. Officially not for cyclists but unofficially accepted by many police checkpoints as they wave you on. Broadly, this region has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in the past couple of years and the way the China is trying to prevent any future disturbance is rather extreme. Very much controlled by the police, they are everywhere! I’d avoided too many police checkpoints by staying on the highway and sleeping on it too!

Yesterday, 28 Aug, was an interesting day, and unfortunately one which I really didn’t document well/at all on film! Unfortunately I was told to leave the highway by a couple of policeman. That was ok as there was an alternative road that didn’t add much extra distance but this road had a number of police checkpoints on it. 4 large ones in total. At each checkpoint you have to park the bike and take your passport inside. Answer a fairly standard set of questions about where you’re going, where you’ve come from and then wait around for a bit. They are all pretty friendly people and my last checkpoint I was given some noodles and water! Win. The region is spilt into police regions and they are just keen for you to get out of their region! I had to wait around for about an hour at one of the checkpoints yesterday while they sorted out an escort for me! When the escort arrived they tried to tell me that because there was some road works they may have to give me a lift part of the way. I was pretty sure they were lying and I explained that I didn’t want that and about my trip and they backed down and were pretty kind about it. So for two hours I had a police van trail me! They kept their distance but it was slightly odd. What a waste of their time, but I didn’t want to give them an excuse to insist on a lift, so my average speed during those two hours was pretty good! I ended up doing 114miles yesterday. I knew it was going to be a long day so the police checkpoints didn’t help! I had a hotel booked so when I rolled into Urumqi at nearly 10pm, I was pleased to have a bed waiting! I’m not sure if it’s just this region but the majority of hotels here don’t accept foreigners. I think it’s mostly down to the registering process which is taken very seriously. Most people have electronic ID cards that are contactless and can just tap in to register at the hotel. I obviously don’t have that. I tried to stay at a hotel a couple of nights ago, which I had booked but they don’t tend to take foreigners. Anyway, it ended up being a big team effort to allow me to stay there! They were all very friendly and two policeman came in to translate and ask if I needed any other help. The guesthouse manager went to another hotel to ask how it’s done for foreigners! I ended up staying there, so success on my behalf. The foreigner hotels are so much more expensive! Although my en suite was definitely unique! (Photo below).

I’m having a day off the bike today which is nice but will be back to it tomorrow. I’m heading for a border crossing into Mongolia and then my next big city will be the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, although that is still a number of weeks away yet.

Video

p.s. bar the amount of spice, Chinese food has admittedly, been pretty tasty so far!

Weeks 17-18

I last left this blog in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. A fair amount has happened since then. I entered back into Kazakhstan and then made my way west into China. I was always concerned that the section of this trip between finishing the Pamir Highway (in Osh) and then getting to China would be difficult. Not physically, but mentally. It seemed in my planning, just a means of getting from one interesting section to the other, yet it was still a couple of weeks and hundreds of miles. I definitely was less motivated and less focused and it probably showed in my last video and also the fact I haven’t really got a week 17 video! Anyway, I’m back in now and excited for this next section to Beijing. I’ll have to go back to Kyrgyzstan in the future to fully appreciate it and give it the credit it’s due!

So I’m now in China and in Xinjiang region. This region has created global news headlines recently and it’s been very interesting to see the way people live and the way it’s governed. So far, it’s been a pleasant experience and any fears I previously had, have disappeared. However, not to underestimate it, I still plan on getting through it as quickly as possible and the way I’ve been doing this so far is sticking to the G30 Highway. Officially not for cyclists but unofficially accepted by many police checkpoints as they wave you on. Broadly, this region has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in the past couple of years and the way the China is trying to prevent any future disturbance is rather extreme. Very much controlled by the police, they are everywhere! I’d avoided too many police checkpoints by staying on the highway and sleeping on it too!

Yesterday, 28 Aug, was an interesting day, and unfortunately one which I really didn’t document well/at all on film! Unfortunately I was told to leave the highway by a couple of policeman. That was ok as there was an alternative road that didn’t add much extra distance but this road had a number of police checkpoints on it. 4 large ones in total. At each checkpoint you have to park the bike and take your passport inside. Answer a fairly standard set of questions about where you’re going, where you’ve come from and then wait around for a bit. They are all pretty friendly people and my last checkpoint I was given some noodles and water! Win. The region is spilt into police regions and they are just keen for you to get out of their region! I had to wait around for about an hour at one of the checkpoints yesterday while they sorted out an escort for me! When the escort arrived they tried to tell me that because there was some road works they may have to give me a lift part of the way. I was pretty sure they were lying and I explained that I didn’t want that and about my trip and they backed down and were pretty kind about it. So for two hours I had a police van trail me! They kept their distance but it was slightly odd. What a waste of their time, but I didn’t want to give them an excuse to insist on a lift, so my average speed during those two hours was pretty good! I ended up doing 114miles yesterday. I knew it was going to be a long day so the police checkpoints didn’t help! I had a hotel booked so when I rolled into Urumqi at nearly 10pm, I was pleased to have a bed waiting! I’m not sure if it’s just this region but the majority of hotels here don’t accept foreigners. I think it’s mostly down to the registering process which is taken very seriously. Most people have electronic ID cards that are contactless and can just tap in to register at the hotel. I obviously don’t have that. I tried to stay at a hotel a couple of nights ago, which I had booked but they don’t tend to take foreigners. Anyway, it ended up being a big team effort to allow me to stay there! They were all very friendly and two policeman came in to translate and ask if I needed any other help. The guesthouse manager went to another hotel to ask how it’s done for foreigners! I ended up staying there, so success on my behalf. The foreigner hotels are so much more expensive! Although my en suite was definitely unique! (Photo below).

I’m having a day off the bike today which is nice but will be back to it tomorrow. I’m heading for a border crossing into Mongolia and then my next big city will be the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, although that is still a number of weeks away yet.

p.s. bar the amount of spice, Chinese food has admittedly, been pretty tasty so far!

Week 16

I’m currently in Bishkek which is the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I’ve now been in the city since last Tuesday and although I’ve got a lot of things done, I’ve also had some time drinking coffee and eating some nice food!

It took me a week to cycle between Osh and Bishkek and there was some incredible scenery. A lot of long distant cyclists say that they enjoy Kyrgyzstan the most out of all the countries they’ve visited. I can understand why. Good roads, mountains and rivers. Much greener than Tajikistan and less crazy altitude. I did enjoy the week but for me, I think it had been a very long time since I took more than one full day off the bike (flying home for my Chinese visa was the last time!), so you may be able to tell from the video, my body and legs were getting tired having come off the Pamir highway and straight into another long stretch. 4 days off the bike later, a new Mongolian visa in the passport, a drone on its way home and a bike serviced; I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow and starting my next section to Beijing.

It will take me a week now to get into China. I’ll head North back into Kazakhstan, through the city of Almaty and then turning East again, cross the border into China. This section is one I have had to do some thinking about. I have spoken to many other cyclists who have also cycled through Xinjiang (an autonomous region of China, in the NW of the country) and understand what I am going to come up against. One thing I know is, I will not be allowed to cycled the entire distance. Rest assured, if I’m allowed to cycle I will, but I will be fully conforming to the authorities so if there is a section the police want to give me a lift through, so be it. I’ll be taking the most direct route between the two border crossings and heading into Mongolia. Then up to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, before turning the wheels South and heading for Beijing. I have booked a flight to take me to San Diego at the end of October, so I have a deadline now (I did get a flexible ticket, just in case!).

As mentioned above, I have sent my drone home, sad times. This is because of Xinjiang and a necessary decision. The plan at the moment is I’ll be meeting my sister, Polly, in San Diego, and she’ll bring me the drone for my cycle across the US. Disappointed not to have the drone for my time in Mongolia; the Mongolian Steppe is exactly what a drone is there for, but oh well.

As ever, thanks for the support.

Week 15

So the Pamir Highway is over. It was beautiful and tough. Didn’t help that I got ill half way through but thankfully it didn’t slow me down too much. I climbed, and climbed some more before getting to the mountain passes that felt so good! I’m now in the city of Osh and enjoying a coffee and substantial amounts of food. I won’t miss the barren towns that line the highway. I really struggle to understand why people live in these villages and towns that are at such mercy to geography. I can see that’s it’s now holiday season and I’ve bumped into more cyclists in the last couple of days than I have on the whole trip so far. It’s been good to hear people’s stories and compare notes.

I’m still going to head further north from here to the capital, Bishkek. Only reason for this is to get my Mongolian visa. I’ve got a lot of planning still to do for the next part of my trip, especially heading into China and the Xinjiang region. That is a future Kezia problem though! I’ll think about that in Bishkek! Next week…

(When I first put all my videos into the editing programme on my phone, it was over an hour long! And I haven’t even added my GoPro footage! So, as much as this video is nearly 14mins long, there is soooooooo much more that I couldn’t include!!)

Week 14

I’m still enjoying the natural delights of Tajikistan and the hospitality remains top notch. I’m gradually getting higher and higher and the roads have been getting worse, which means the mileage gets less and less! I apologise to my bike numerous times a day, when I feel, and hear the bike clatter into pot holes and rocks. I met an Italian cyclist the other day who had a broken wheel, so I’m feeling very lucky that, so far, the bike has remained intact.

Still a fair distance to travel in Tajikistan yet but tomorrow morning I set off and leave the Afghanistan border behind me and head inland.

The WiFi here is not strong at all and if I try and upload a video directly onto this blog it cuts out before its fully uploaded. So the solution is I upload it to Dropbox (it has taken all day to do this!) and then my friend, Susie, downloads it onto the blog, saves it as a draft and I add words and publish!! Thanks Susie

Week 13

Week 13

I spent two weeks in Uzbekistan, and although the long days in the desert were tough, the towns and historic architecture made up for it. However, I was very much ready to leave the country and head for some cooler temperatures and some more natural beauty. Introducing Tajikistan! I was thrilled to cross the border and the country did not disappoint. Straight into the mountains and instantly there were very different challenges facing me. I’m currently in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan and I’ll spend two nights here before setting off on the Pamir highway. There is a more direct route to Kyrgyzstan and then into China, but the Pamir highway is a well known route that will take me further south in the country and through some much higher passes. I’m not sure how long it will take me; weeks rather than days but I’m really looking forward to it.

Week 12

I’m currently in the city of Bukhara. I’m getting a small insight into what generations of traders travelling along the Silk Road felt when they escaped the emptiness of the desert and arrived in the hubbub of an Uzbek city; spectacular buildings, food, water and people. Bukhara is similar to Khiva, just bigger, and I can imagine that Samarkand, my next stop, will also bring the same architecture and atmosphere, just once again, on a larger scale. My trusted Lonely Planet guide informed me that even Genghis Khan was so impressed with one of the minarets here in Bukhara that he spared it as his troops came rampaging through the region.

The desert is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. No navigation required, I have remained on the same road for the last four days! You need to have short term goals to work towards and with this terrain, you have to be inventive! With all the negatives, there are positives. I enjoy the freedom. Which may well be a false sensation as I’m fairly constrained to the one road but I guess, if I really wanted to, I could verge left or right and head out into the vast wilderness. The majority of cyclists I’ve spoken to skip my last couple of weeks by hopping on the train. I fully understand why, but I’m also proud to have got through it. It’s made me appreciate water, food and shade more than ever. Although I’m sure the appreciation will be short lived. Only a couple of days to Samarkand and then I’m in touching distance of Tajikistan, which, if I’m being honest, is the main reason I’ve travelled to this region

Another low quality video, which is such a shame as it doesn’t do some of the footage justice. But it seemed better than none. The WiFi in this hostel is just not strong enough.

Enjoy

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Week 11

Unfortunately week 11 has not been fruitful with a video. I am using my IPhone for so many things on this trip: camera, map, podcasts, audio books etc. space is precious. So I turned to the iCloud to store my photos and videos safely for when I return home. Unfortunately this automatically uploaded all my recent videos to the Cloud before I had edited a montage of videos this week. Even with a full day of WiFi, these videos are stubbornly staying in the cloud and refusing to come back to my phone to create a video. For one moment I thought I had lost them, so I guess it could be worse. I thought about putting out some of the videos I have managed to retrieve but I don’t think it does the week justice. So you’ll just have to wait!

On Monday I left the two German cyclists, Johannes and Tobi, I had been with in Kazakhstan and crossed the border into Uzbekistan. I knew that there was still a large amount of desert to come and had, what I hoped was, enough food and water to get me through. The border brought the usually confusion of whether I join the car/vehicle queue or I cross as a pedestrian. But soon enough my passport got stamped, my bags were sort of x-rayed, I showed my route to all the interested guards, changed some money and I was hurried along as it was getting late and they were concerned I needed to find somewhere to camp. Although I had money on me, it was not until day three that there was anywhere to spend it; no cafe or shops for hundreds of miles. I unexpectedly came across a basic bnb on day three to stay in before I came out of the desert and arrived in the town of Nukus. My body was tired and my knees were unhappy with me but I knew as much as I needed a day off, Nukus was dull and one more big day would get me to Khiva and some interesting sights. A hot 116miles later (my biggest daily distance so far!) I arrived in Khiva and slept very well that night. Today has been my day off the bike and my body feels better for it.

Khiva is amazing. A city persevered to such an extent it’s been criticised in the past for being held as a museum rather than a living city. The photos explain why it is a draw for tourists and, I guess, why I took a detour to visit.

I was considering taking an extra day off the bike here but have decided to leave tomorrow (back into the desert!) and spend 4 days on the bike before getting to the city of Bukhara, where I’ll also spent a full day taking in the sights and resting my legs.

It won’t be long until I arrive in the city of Samarkand and start to make the long climb into Tajikistan and into the Pamir mountains – maybe I’ll wish for the flat desert at that point!

Week 10

Into Kazakhstan and the desert. Amazing scenery if not a tad repetitive! It’s been a week since I got to the ferry port in Azerbaijan and since arriving in Kazakhstan on Tuesday it’s been a series of days absorbing 40+degC heat while camel and horse spotting and trying to avoid head winds! By far the best stars and sunrises I’ve seen so far (maybe because I’ve woken up early enough to see them!). You have to plan a lot more in this environment and be sensible with water but worst case scenario would be to ask a passing car or lorry which are fairly frequent.

Today I’m heading towards Uzbekistan and leaving Johannes and Tobi to cycle in the other direction. It’s been great to have the company through this part of the trip. I’m about halfway through this desert now as I have a similar distance in Uzbekistan to tackle this week. Some really exciting towns and sights to come afterwards though so I’ll focus on them.

(Video is fairly low quality as the WiFi here is not great – I spent a long time trying to upload a better version but this one will have to do!)