Sunday, 22 December 2013

133. This is England

A howling wind, rain and crashing waves greeted us on arrival at New Haven port after the four hour stint across the Channel from Dieppe. Ellie's brother Ben (hero of the Turkey trip) was also there, drenched and cold and we followed him west to Brighton, initially along the busy coast road and then on the promenade that was being battered by the sea. After a rest day with Ben and Vicky in Brighton and an early Christmas dinner with Vicky's family it was time for the last stage to Ellie's home in Norwich - a three day journey that took us first to Brixton in south London, then north to Cambridge and finally the last leg to Norwich. Ben had made sleeping arrangements with friends along the route and after saying goodbye to our wonderful host, Tom and his family in Cambridge, we were blown with a very strong tailwind much of the way to Norfolk.

It has been interesting experience, in being able to communicate properly with people once again. Ellie and I stood rather bewildered at the chaos and mayhem of a Thursday evening in downtown Brixton, ambulances and police sirens filling the night sky as touts tried to sell tickets to the nearby Pogues concert and young folk stumbled loudly down the street. As we passed through central London the next morning a group of police were studiously examining the junctions for traffic violations in the wake of the spate of cyclist fatalities a couple of weeks ago. One questioned his supervisor as to whether I had made an illegal move down the side of a bus whilst the traffic stopped at the lights. In villages people asked if were we off on holidays, assuming that the middle of winter is a normal time for people to go pedal-about. One man whom I asked for directions told us about his cycling son who had been detained in Russia after entering. Cars occasionally honked when they felt we were delaying them in their rush somewhere.

Ellie has clocked over 41,000 km since we began cycling in Colombia three years and two months ago and visited thirty countries since then. We weren't sure if tears would be shed or just relief at having finished a large, pedally chapter in Ellie's life but in the end tiredness was the dominant reaction and I passed out by the fireside after dinner as everyone else did the paper's crossword.

After a Christmas break with Ellie's family I'll do the last stretch across England and Wales to Ireland.










Pedalled: 84,164 km
Norwich, England

132. More French Days











Sunday, 15 December 2013

131. French days





130. A Tour de France without EPO

After our daily drenching in Italy that forced us to buy some new and improved winter riding gear in Genoa before coming through France, it hasn't rained since. Three weeks of cold but generally blue skies have seen us cover the 1600 km from Provence over to south western France and then an inland route up via Agen, Bergerac, Angouleme and Le Mans. Tomorrow afternoon we hope to reach Rouen and Dieppe on Tuesday where we will board a ferry for a four hour return to the Pretanic Isles at New Haven.

Following some occasional nights of rather chilly camping in southern France we relied on the amazing hospitality of France's warmshowers hosts to get us home without loss of frostbitten limbs. These evenings of wonderful food, wine and crackling fires have been really memorable. Most impressive of all, although not that surprising perhaps from a cycling hospitality network, has been a generally very active commitment to a wide range of ecological issues including organic farming and alternative energy supplies. Frequently the food we ate came from the garden outside and our hot water from solar panels whilst reminiscing over Jose Bove's attack on McDonald's over a decade ago. Veteran bicycle tourers who have crossed continents (including two families with young children) and others who cycle within their city, along with parents of pedalling travellers made our final weeks on mainland Europe a warm and wonderful experience.

Arnieres-sur-Iton, France
Pedalled: 83,657 km

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

129. Cracked rims and cappuccinos

The Italian coast appeared through the grey dusk and we were soon pedalling along the dark streets of Ancona, relieved to be out of the confines of our 18 hour ferry ride up the Adriatic. After a night in the deserted hostel up a near vertical cobbled alley by the train station we left the city and headed west through Marche. A rollercoaster ride followed that brought us through ever more interesting towns with wonderful hilltop fortifications and narrow alleys. We climbed into the hills that would bring us over the Italian spine to Umbria and Tuscany. Finding a camp spot proved difficult. Constant reminders that you were about to venture onto private property seemed stuck to every tree. Not something we have encountered since North America. Unfortunately we turned down the only real possibility, a disused quarry.  Instead we rode on along the rollercoaster in the dark for another couple of hours before reaching Sasso Ferrato and succumbing to a guesthouse. 

Apart from one night in the tent in a forest near Florence, the rest of our eleven days in Italy was spent indoors at night in the company of wonderful warmshowers hosts (Dawn and Luke in Citta di Castello and Mateo near Genoa), with a family friend of Ellie's in Florence, and a couchsurfing couple (John and Caroline near La Spezia). We were fed wonderful food and given a place of dry our generally wet clothes as we had rain most days at some point.

Descending into Florence, we stopped to investigate a new noise from Ellie's rear wheel and discovered a one inch crack. Like Ellie's tumble in Tokyo when she fractured her elbow one kilometre from the hospital, this mechanical failure could have occurred anywhere along the route from Asia to Europe and been a much more significant problem but if it had to happen then at least in Lycra-clad Italy and a city like Florence we figured a replacement would be relatively easy to come by. And it was, although we had to settle for lesser quality rims than we hoped for but within a day we had a new set of wheels (the front rim had caved in but not cracked yet) and after wandering around Florence we headed on for the Riviera. By the time we reached Genoa we had enough of permeable wet gear and our warmshowers host Mateo cycled with us to the near Decathlon store where we fitted ourselves out with winter riding gear and upgraded my dish washing gloves to something a bit warmer.

Our final day and a half to the French border was enjoyed in cold winter sunshine. Passing the deserted frontier checkpoint we entered France and continued along the coast to the principality of Monaco and then Nice where we spent a couple of nights with Yza and Simon who recently returned from their own trip from France to Indonesia by bicycle. 

Frejus, France
Pedalled: 82,236 km

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

128. It's not so far to Tipperary - on across northern Greece

After delaying our departure for a couple of extra days on Limnos island where we were staying with Ellie's brother Toby, we dragged ourselves back onto the boat (the same boat that had been impounded a few weeks prior to our arrival for its poor safety record and also because the company was apparently having problems covering the running costs of the ferry) and headed back to the mainland at Kavala. Dark skies full of rain greeted our arrival and we abandoned our attempt to escape the city at night to find a campspot and opted for a friendly guesthouse up the incredibly steep and windy lanes of the old town, where we heaved our loaded mounts up just before the deluge.

We left in the morning during a lull in the downpour but it caught us later again. Our campsite that night was a building site for a fancy looking sea-view apartment in whose shell we pitched up and dried off. 

In Thessaloniki we were hosted by a comedian and radio show host, Alex, who put us up at short notice and we swapped cycling tales over his homemade tsiphoro (the Greek version of grappa).

Our route across northern Greece to the Adriatic port town of Igoumenitsa followed the old and largely deserted national roads. After Veria, we camped in a leafless orchard and experienced the first cooler night in Greece now that we had left the warmer Aegean shoreline. Winding up to a monastery on the way to Kozani the next morning, we returned to stunning autumn scenes in the deciduous forests on the lower slopes. A couple of days later we were in the coniferous forests in the higher Pindos mountains, camped on a forest track beside a bear-warning sign when something stumbled up on the tent's guy rope. The jingling bell indicated something more domestic however like a goat or sheep. 

It's hunting season now and on permitted days the report of shotguns booms across valleys. Camouflaged middle aged men drink their coffees at the ubiquitous caf├ęs, weighed down like Pancho Villa with cartridge belts slung around their waists and their dogs whining loudly from the nearby pickup trucks.

Our final two days were a washout as we packed up our soaking home in the high Pindos before stopping in the pretty but touristy town of Metsovo where we sat in the brief sunshine drying ourselves and clothes in the central square amid well-heeled visitors and curious locals. We rode on into Ioannina in a dusk thunderstorm with ocassional flashes of lightning guiding our way. Neither our jackets and trousers nor our panniers give any pretense of being waterproof any longer. Indeed my jacket seems more adept at keeping the water in than out.

Yesterday we reached the Adriatic and stocked up on provisions for our 17 hour journey up to the Italian port city of Ancona. Celebrations for our own mini Hellenic Odyssey were a gyros (wonderful Greek fast food) and a beer. As our tent and clothes dried off in the warm passenger terminal, truckers from across Europe waited for the midnight sailing. A loud Tipperary accent shouting endless expletives down his mobile phone stood out from the rest.

Ancona, Italy
Pedalled: 81,332 km

PS apologies for those following my route on google maps. It is doing stupid things and won't display my updated info at the moment.

Monday, 4 November 2013

127. Following the Via Egnatia

Our route out of Istanbul followed the Bosphorous northwards, past families, couples and fisherman thronging the shoreline on the Sunday afternoon. Turning inland and climbing up to the Belgrade hills that have supplied the city with drinking water since the Romans built the aqueducts and cisterns, we found refuge for the night by asking one of the park's watchmen if we could camp in the picnic area near his hut. Some of the forested area is threatened by the government's plans to build a contentious third bridge across the Bosphorous, near the Black Sea coast and alleviate some of the traffic congestion in Istanbul.

After a couple of days on Thracian backroads we returned to the main highway west at Tekirdag and followed the 110 across to the Greek/Turkish border at Ipsala. On our route through both Turkish and Greek Thrace we've been encountering remnants of the original Roman highway, the Via Egnatia, that linked Rome and Byzantium via the Adriatic. 

We camped by the Aegean at night. On our second night we were about to set up camp by an abandoned fishing hut when a small four-wheel drive with tinted windows rolled slowly past. On its return back up the sandy track the uniformed figures inside - two Greek coastguards - waved back and let us be despite the 'no camping' signs. Towards the end of 2012 Greece stepped up its border controls on its land border with Turkey. Many illegal migrants now choose the maritime option - especially to Lesbos island further south of Limnos and just 6 miles away from Turkey.

We rode through the harvested cotton fields, the remains littering the roadside with a trail of cotton. Once lively villages lay quiet in the autumn sun. Reaching Kavala we caught the night ferry to Limnos island, four hours south, to visit Ellie's brother Toby and have spent the past couple of days exploring its main town, Myrina and the surroundings. Yesterday we rode out with the local cycling club that Toby has started and visited one of the guys old family house in the hills where the almond, pomegranate and persimmon trees were ready for harvesting.

Tomorrow we return to the mainland to continue our journey across northern Greece over the following week, to Igoumenitsa on the Adriatic coast and our ferry to Italy.









Myrina, Limnos, Greece
Pedalled: 80,703 km

Many thanks for the latest donation to the Peter McVerry Trust, which brought the amount raised now over 1200 euros! If you would like to make a donation, you can do so via my fundraising page on the mycharity.ie website (click here). Thank you!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

126. Across the Bosphorous

Today we will cross the Bosphorous and enter geographical Europe here in Istanbul. The past month crossing northern Turkey has seen summer become a faint memory as the snow fell on the high eastern Anatolian mountains. Conditions thawed in time for Ben's arrival in Merzifon and we continued our journey west along the backroads of Anatolia, where blue sky autumnal days in the yellowing forests turned to chilly nights around crackling campfires and made for magical cycling. 

We have spent the last two days with a wonderful warmshowers family in Istanbul who treated us like family and fed us and wined us on Dincer's wonderful homemade wine. Rocinante received loving care and attention from the crew at Biciklet Gezgini (www.bisikletgezgini.com) and today we leave Istanbul, bound for the Greek border in a few days time.

Istanbul, Turkey
Pedalled: 80,039 km

Friday, 4 October 2013

125. Riding with the Ayatollahs: westward bound in Iran

Ellie donned her headscarf and long-sleeved shirt in the simmering afternoon heat of the Sarakhs border post between Turkmenistan and Iran. The old Soviet era fences that sealed the communist bloc from its southern Islamic neighbour still stand. A long line of trucks waited on either side of the border. Most moving back and forth between Turkey and the Turkic speaking countries of Central Asia. Most of the truck drivers smiled bemusedly as we pedalled off to the Iran side.

After our three day desert marathon across Turkmenistan Ellie wasn't long in falling asleep in the comfortable, air-conditioned passenger hall on the Iran side. As her 'husband' I got to do the serious business of talking to the immigration officer of our planned itinerary for Iran. He gently admonished a couple of Asian backpackers about their shorts.

After the friendly customs officer did a cursory inspection of one pannier and highlighted the local historical sites on my map, we met our bionic friend Neil outside. We'd crossed into Turkmenistan together but Neil's pace wasn 't one we could replicate. He would go on to cross the 2000 km across northern Iran to the Turkish border in two weeks. We shared a room in one of the few hotels in town, became millionaires at the local exchange office and after dinner were pulled aside by the police until they established who we were. 

As we entered Iran, the war in Syria and the chemical weapons attacks in particular were sparking debate in the US and parts of Europe about a military intervention. Iran, a staunch supporter of shia Syria, protested loudly against such threats and if a US-led intervention occured it wasn't clear how it would play out in Iran. I had images of street protests and flag burnings. Of course, just like the US and all other governments, the distinction between the people of Iran and their government is a distinct one that many people tried to show us on a daily basis during our time there. The recent election of the reformist President Rouhani though had sparked a small flame of hope and optimism that some changes, particularly in foreign policy, may be afoot, although with the real power lying with the Ayatollahs, there is concern that a rappoachment with the US and other Western governments may not be possible. The changes in the past few months are not merely for foreign policy either as young Iranians we met rejoiced in their newfound personal freedom that had not been possible to express under the previous administration of President Ahmadinejad. Being in public with any girl other than your sister or immediate relative was not possible. Now the restrictions were much more relaxed they said and they could travel together. Another interesting trend is a resurgence in the interest of Persian culture and identity - in contrast with the Islamic/Arabic culture that many lament has supplanted Persian culture over the past several hundred years, right up to the present.

Our route through Iran followed the main road west across the desert and south of the Alborz mountain range from Mashhad to the capital of Tehran. The metropolis of 15 million inhabitants sat half-way along our 2000 km journey from the north east of the country to the Azeri-speaking northwest and our crossing point into Turkey at Bazargan. The first half of the journey was characterised by heat and tailwinds - with temperatures in the high 30s. Frequent roadside rest areas however offered a steady source of replenishment, not to mention all the Iranians who stopped numerous times every day to give us gifts of cold drinks, fruits and nuts and offers of a place to stay should we visit their home area. It was holiday time in Iran and the country was on the move. Large parks filled with tents every night in the towns along the desert highway as many families made their annual pilgrimmage to the holy city of Mashhad.

Our sleeping time in Iran was divided between camping, basic guesthouses and hotels and people I'd contacted through couchsurfing or warmshowers. In addition we stayed several times with the wonderful Red Crescent paramedics who manned the ambulance stations and rescue vehicles for the carnage that are Iranian highways. These guys work in 48 hour shifts and like Central America's firefighters, they have a legendary status among cyclists passing through the country. Located every 40 or 50 km along the highways, they offer respite, a floor to sleep on and often some dinner too. A mix of hardened vets and young students, the camaraderie was infectious and we really enjoyed our time with these guys. Unfortunately on the final night we stayed at a station, an accident happened a few kilometres back up the highway we'd ridden down and a man died as they cut him out of the car, adding another victim to Iran's reduced but still very deadly death toll of over 20,000 fatalities per year.

A few days into the country I began to have problems with a tendon behind my right knee, with a pain and stiffness and sometimes numbness that extended along the leg, including my lower back, feet etc. As rest days were infrequent it has taken weeks to get over and it seems to be every so slowly on the mend, with suggestions of an irritated nerve (sciatica?) being made by some. Occasional doses of ibuprofen help as does regular stretching but I'm still waiting for it to clear up completely.

Iran was also a time of catching up with old friends, including Paul Lombard, whom we finally got to spend a couple of days cycling together with up Highway 2 before he did a detour into Iraqi Kurdistan. Our much faster Swiss friend, Christian, who we had met with Paul in Bishkek a few months back was also in-country on his Africa Twin, bound for Pakistan and India and we had a couple of nights together in Tabriz and explored Tabriz's famous bazaar together. On the road to the Turkish border we began to meet a steady stream of cyclists heading in the opposite direction, many on the beginning of multi-year trips. It's fascinating to meet people who are starting out and adjusting to life on the road. One other character we met was German Hans. At 73 he's completing his multi-stage world tour (including kayaking as well as cycling). We watched in astonishment as the bronzed and white-haired veteran pulled up on his simple bicycle with just a small bag the size of one of my front panniers strapped to his rack. Inside, he said, was a tent, a sleeping bag and food. We looked at our over-loaded mounts and all felt like we'd a lot still to learn.

Our time in Iran was full of incredible experiences that usually emanated from the amazing acts of generousity that one receives when travelling there. On the other hand, I often felt like a crew member of the Apollo space missions when they go out of radio contact on the dark side of the moon. With the ransacked British embassy now closed since 2011, and the more recent closure of the Irish embassy in Tehran, any loss of our passports would have created a lot of problems. Foreign passports are a valuble commodity in isolated, sanctioned Iran and one of the more unsettling experiences occured when a car pulled over on the highway before Tehran and two men pretended to be police and wanted to see our documents. I'd heard of this happening before and we pedalled on and they gave up easily but it meant that every car that pulled over subsequently was treat suspiciously - even if all they wanted was a photo and to give some more presents! Shortly after leaving Tehran we had another encounter - this time with police in an unmarked car. Wary of anyone claiming to be police from our first encounter we turned around and pedalled back into the village we'd just passed through as the three burly fellows tailed us. We flagged down a passing police car and found out they were police or some form of government security officers and after getting our passports examined and photocopied at the local station we were back on the road.

Crossing the border into Turkey was less of a change than anticipated. The northeast region is quite religiously conservative and a stricter Islam still pervades. Our living costs have rocketed and are comparable with the rest of Europe. People are less curious but still offers of tea come from everyone by the roadside. A tendency to try and overcharge the foreigners is back after seeming quite absent in Iran. After a rest day in the Turkish border town of Dogubayazit, under the shadow of a snow-capped Mount Ararat, we pedalled on into the eastern Anatolian highlands which have seen some of the toughest weather conditions since southern China. We seem to have skipped autumn completely as we find ourselves in all our winter gear and with temperatures dropping to freezing at night. Snow began falling as we walked the streets of Erzurum this afternoon, resting after yesterday's mentally tiring ride with an incredible headwind that saw us cover just over 50 km in four and a half hours. Europe isn't faraway now though, with just over 1200 km left to the Bosphorous and Istanbul. Ellie's brother Ben is joining us in a week for a fortnight of Turkish delight.


View The Slow Way Home - Map 2 in a larger map

Erzurum, Turkey
Pedalled:

Many thanks for more donations to the Peter McVerry TrustIf you would like to make a donation, you can do so via my fundraising page on the mycharity.ie website (click here). Thank you!


Sunday, 1 September 2013

124. Tour de Turkmenistan

On 29th August we crossed into our last 'stan and were eventually stamped in on our three day transit visa. We had 500 km to cover in Turkmenistan from the Uzbek border near Turkmenabat to the border with Iran at Sarakhs. Thanks to a generally helpful tailwind, a 50 km police escort on our first night riding through the desert, the prospect of a 200 US dollar overstaying fine and deportment, and chocolate spread - we did it.

We rode for 26 hours out of the total 52 we had in the country and arrived at the Iranian border with one hour to spare. Ellie set a new daily record for distance covered on the first day (178 km), again on the second (184 km) and after a dawn start on the final day we covered the remaining 146 km by 3:30 pm.

Apart from one generic shot of the desert road there is no photographic evidence of our time in Turkmenistan.


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

123. Into the Kyzyl Kum

A few hundred kilometres in a few days and we are out of the mountains and into the Kyzyl Kum (Red Sand) desert. Trailing our friend Neil (cycleeatsleep.blogspot.com) during the day and catching up for the evening camp was the daily standard since arriving in Uzbekistan. One of Uzbekistan's ancient cities, Bukhara, rises out of the sand in the shape of sand-coloured minarets and blue tiled mosques and medressas. The sun scorches our tent by day on the rooftop of a guesthouse while the moon shines brightly through the night.

Our time is limited now though due to the Turkmenistan embassy in Dushanbe issuing us a three day transit visa instead of the five day one that most applicants receive. Over five hundred kilometres across the desert nation to the Iranian border. Turkmenistan was always going to be the wild card. Our friend Paul got five days whilst we got three and different entry dates to those we asked for. Others have ridden the desert marathon in three days but the wind, the bureaucracy and our bodies will determine if we succeed or not.  If not, a train or truck will get us across in time to the Iranian border at Sarakhs.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Pedalled: 75,567 km 

Friday, 16 August 2013

122. Through the High Pamirs: from Osh to Dushanbe

We left Osh in convoy, with Stefan and Tom. We all had our own goals - Stefan was bound for the mountains around Pic Lenin, Tom for Kashgar and east through China, whilst Ellie and I were bound for Tajikistan and the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous region that comprises almost half of Tajik's landmass but less than 3% of its population. After a fun three day ride to the Kyrgyz village of Sary-Tash we parted ways. Ellie and I waited another day for some bad weather to clear and then we set off for the border. Through this region that borders China and Afghanistan, the Soviet road engineers built the M41 highway (or better known as the Pamir highway) as a frontier access route in the 1930s and to exploit the region's resources. It's northern terminus is Osh, so already we had been riding the original road (in wonderful recently-paved condition) for 250 km. But the real adventure begins once you get stamped out of Kyrgyzstan and begin the semi-paved route into the High Pamirs. Several passes exceed 4000 metres and the highest, Ak-Baytal, lies at a oxygen-deficient 4655m.

By the time we'd climbed over the pass to the Tajik border post, snow and hail had already been falling on and off for the afternoon. Fortunately this was as cold as it would get for us as we woke up to a frost covered tent and belongings on our first morning in Tajikistan. The most remote stretch of the highway - from Sary Tash to Murghab - only sees a couple of vehicles a day and with only one small settlement of Karakol enroute we had stocked up on several days worth of food and fuel for the 250 km stretch. Everyday we met some cyclists (most cycle the highway from west to east) as the region is now a mecca for cyclists, motorbikers and people driving those enormous off-road vehicles that look like a cross between a mobile home and an armoured personnel carrier.

Tourism is clearly bringing in an important source of revenue for the relevant businesses to the region although it can easily be affected by continuing instability such as the fighting that occured in Khorog just over a year ago, a result of the central government trying to establish control over regions where local warlords and former commanders from the civil war era still maintain a tight grip over local politics and economy. In addition, the UNODC estimates that approximately 30% of Afghan's heroin crosses the 1200 km porous border and transits through Tajikistan enroute to Russia and Europe and the industry feeds corruption and instability. When police officers try to bribe cyclists at road checkpoints then you know that the law enforcement is not up to much and there's little hope of stemming the flow of drugs. Meanwhile, the Pamiri's found themselves on the losing side of Tajikistan's devastating civil war that followed the collapse of Soviet rule from 1992 to 1997 and as a result little government investment makes it into the region. As most of the Pamir population are Ismaili's (a separate branch of Shia faith), a strong supporter of the economy and ensuring the provision of basic services is the Aga Khan Foundation.

Like Kyrgyzstan, people have been extraordinarily kind and friendly (most of the time) and requests for a camping spot for the evening, often became invitations for food and a place to sleep. Gifts are offered on a daily basis. Trays of cake and biscuits appear as we sit by a village pump filtering the water for our bottles. On the other hand, younger teenage boys appear to have come to the conclusion in some cases that cyclists represent a fair target for their stone-throwing skills and we've had a few near misses with half-hearted attempts to lob a stone our way. I haven't really experienced this since Morocco and its an unwelcome development. When the perpetrators then felt the wrath of our tongues when we turned around to yell at them, they scurried away, afraid of the repercussions.

After eight days cycling, with one rest day in the village of Murghab, we reached Khorog, the busy riverside town that lies across the water from Afghanistan. The raging Panj river forms much of the Tajik-Afghan border and ultimately joins with the Vakhsh to form Central Asia's vital artery, the Amu Darya (the Oxus). The Pamir highway at this point is carved into the steep valley side and is narrow and only paved on some stretches. Like much of the highway, little maintenance has been carried out since the Soviet times and the paved sections have crumbled away. On the other side of the river, an even bumpier trail and track runs along the Afghan bank, linking isolated settlements with each other. At times we rode within a hundred metres of the villages and kids would whistle and wave. Yet even across the narrow valley, another world seemed to exist as men could be seen in shalwar khameez and women in more formal version's of the hijab in contrast to Tajikistan where most women wear a looser head scarf. Ellie's birthday was celebrated along the Panj river valley which we followed for four bumpy days north to Kalaikhum before turning north over the Sagirdas Pass and leaving the Gorno-Badakhshan region into Tavildara. Neil, a bionic English cyclist had left us the first morning out of Khorog and told everyone heading our direction it was Ellie's birthday. One of the present's she received was from an Irish-Australian jeep that was taking part in the Mongol Rally - a semi-solid Snickers bar!

The final pass before descending to Dushanbe, although a 'mere' 3255 metres, involved a 2000 metre ascent over 33 km, mostly on rough dirt. We were granted reprieve at least from the traffic that was stopped by a collapsed bridge. The modern day Silk Road now sees Chinese lorries ferrying shoddy plastic products from the Qolma pass to the Tajik capital of Dushanbe and one of these had crashed into the river. With the assistance of some helpful young bystanders we made our way over the collapsed bridge and torrent beneath with our bikes and bags and could continue along the wonderfully quiet road over the pass.

We arrived into Dushanbe last Sunday evening, applied for our Turkmenistan visas on Monday and have spent the week doing little except recover from the exertions of the past few weeks in the stunning mountains and steeling ourselves for the heat of the desert roads ahead.


View The Slow Way Home - Map 2 in a larger map

Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Pedalled: 74,995 km

Many thanks for the latest donation to the Peter McVerry Trust, which brought the amount raised now over 1000 euros! If you would like to make a donation, you can do so via my fundraising page on the mycharity.ie website (click here). Thank you!


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