What a ride, and the miles keep coming! I set off from Yorkshire calculating this distance would get me all the way to Sydney. Instead, I’m just hours from Cyclone Nari hitting the Vietnamese coast, and home feels like a long way away…
I hit 21, 000 on the odometer just inside Uzbekistan. For all of us we were feeling exhausted from The Turkmen Dash and continuing heat, so we stopped quite a lot to soak ourselves in the wells of the villages. I had also just picked up a parasite that was to knock me around for the next two months. By the early afternoon we rode past the Rajasthan in Bukhara; one of the major cities along the silk road of Central Asia.
22, 000 was reached kilometres after being robbed by a drunkard by the name of Akmal. It was my last afternoon in Uzbekistan and it was such a shame that my last experience was an encounter with some of the worst affects of Russian vodka. Being so close to the border, he had expected me to ride on when he drove away with my sunglasses. I still had a week on my visa and I had grown fond of the glasses I had bought in Persia, so I stubbornly interrogated the neighborhood for hours until he showed up. The police finally tracked him down and we made a cash settlement, and with a variety of animated language I was given the chance to tell him just how I felt! Anyways, twenty-two thousand set amongst the trees used to feed the growing silk worms in the village homes throughout the region…
Soviet architecture at its best! I’m here on the streets of Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. I spent a few days in the city to make the compulsory registration with the police, as well as relax with my Couchsurfing hosts Alexey and Julia. I came to really appreciate much of the communist architecture in the region, especially the monstrous apartment blocks. In cities such as Bishkek the apartments are usually surrounded by quiet neighborhood parks, and with all the children roaming around it looked like a fun place to grow up.
The good old G30 road; I stayed on this one for nearly a month in Western China. I was averaging over 100km/day, and traversing a vastness that took me from mountains to deserts, Kazakh Yurts to Uighur houses. I’m just west of Urumqi here, enjoying the wide highway shoulder that glided me into the regional capital in the early evening. I enjoyed a day off in the city, keeping out of the way of the suppressive police patrols that saturate the streets every few hundred meters. Less known internationally, the Uighur struggle for freedom has often resulted in brutal police violence or by simply turning the internet off for an entire year! Urumqi is now very much a Han Chinese city after a process that many observers call ‘demographic genocide’. It was a fascinating ride, although unfortunately the G30 Highway bypassed many towns that kept me inside my isolated bubble until Qinghai Province.
The hilariously helpful Gansu Province signs had just informed me that I was entering the ‘Dry Barren Desert Nature Reserve’. I really enjoyed the riding through the deserts, providing there was no headwind. Camping alone in the evening under the stars amongst desert foxes was one of the most memorable experiences of China. The image reveals the long and seemingly endless inclines of the desert. And yep, still on the G30…
Just east of Xining city I hit 26 thousand on the odometer. This was by far the most picturesque dam I saw in all of China, and I couldn’t believe my luck for me to reach another thousand milestone by its side. As the world’s largest producer of concrete, the Chinese architects usually struggle to build anything that is aesthetically pleasing. With a new visa in the passport an hour earlier, this was the start of the second stage in China which would take me through Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
The scenery along the Dadu River was simply stunning, especially with traditional enclaves of Tibetan villages spread along the riverbank. The heat was suffocating for most of the week, but unlike in the desert of Western China there were plenty of pit stops to enjoy a cool ice tea in the village stores. I spent this week comfortably aiming at 75km/day as I thought that I was on track to reach Laos; I soon discovered that I had created a GPS route to the wrong country and would have to ride about 120km/day to compensate for my lower miles along this river!
A brief stop here in the rain to capture the 28 thousand. I’m between the towns of Nanhua and Chuxiong, and really enjoying the rural rides through the countryside of China. I went about a month without entering a Chinese city, bypassing Chengdu and Kunming to take me directly to Laos…
Victor and Sveta were the first tourists I had had a conversation with for about a month, and it was great to have a chat and enjoy the thousand milestone on the Laos roadside. Together they had hitchhiked from Moscow before buying a Vietnamese motorbike to loop around the region. In the background you can see children making their way back from school; joining convoys of schoolchildren in northern Laos was always a laugh!
Between Savannakhet and Seno in Laos I reached 30, 000 on the odometer. I’m wearing my latest addition to my cycling outfit; a broad-rimmed-face-masked-hat to keep the worst of the sun off me. In my hand is thirty thousand kip to show the distance. The next day I would reach the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and for the next week would explore the battlefields and legacy of the Vietnamese conflict. It was a tricky and at times hazardous experience trying to stealth camp with all the unexploded ordinance (UXO) left over from the wars.