Here some tips for the future bikers.
Many people ask us why are we doing this? All the answers you can find on this site at 'Who are we'.
Now after all these great cycling months we can say that such a beautiful adventure like this is a really easy thing to do. Do not worry about where you sleep at night or about all the difficulties which may happen with border crossings or not speaking the local language. Things will just go your way. The most difficult thing is just to do it. But once you have that in mind you are on the roll.
Some of our highlights:
-First of all we have seen many beautiful types of scenery (mountains, desserts, forest, grain fields, rice fields,..) along the entire route.
-Crossing borders is a really exiting thing to do. We crossed 9 borders.
-The best bazaar on the Silk Road is in Aleppo (Syria) and a wake up call at five o'clock in the morning in Hama (Syria) by tens of Muslim prays coming from different directions of the city is a beautiful Middle East experience.
-After leaving the city Dogubayazit (Turkey) in the morning, heading for the border of Iran we were welcomed by the great view of Mt Arrarat. Big volcano covered with snow. Like a cake covered by cream.
-Esfahan (Iran) is full of amazing beautiful decorated mosques and palaces. Drinking tea at the teahouse along the river in this city is a great way to finish your day.
-Mashad, the atmosphere and the architecture of this mosque is just awesome. It’s a huge place with many squares and buildings. The main building is decorated on the inside with millions of small mirrors . We got to the centre of the mosque, something which is not allowed for non-Muslims. Here is the tomb of Prophet Reza.
-Doing the Turkmenistan dessert from west to east in 6 days with 40 C.
-Pamir (Tajikistan); remote high plateau with yaks and yurts and beautiful mountains.
-Getting of the high plateau Pamir, going down into this green valley, direction Sary Tash (Kyrgistan) with behind you a range of beautiful big mountains covered with snow.
-The road from Sary Tash to Kashgar. Just do it and you will see why.
-Yummy food in China. Watch your weight!
-Xiaghe; a small town in the mountains in Gansu Province. One side of the town is with lots of Han Chinese influences. Modern buildings, shops and banks. The other side is a Tibetan town with many monks walking on the street. The highlight of this place is the diversity in Buddhist monasteries.
-Yangshou (China) is a great place with spectacular surroundings. The town is full with good western restaurants and lots of nice souvenirs. Hang out in one of the bars and meet other travelers. Doing boat tours and excellent rock climbing.
Why not to do it?
-Maybe because it is too far? Don’t think so!!
-Boring parts on the route? Highways with lots of traffic.
-Although Uzbekistan is full of friendly people and the cities Buchara and Samarqand are packed with beautiful decorated mosques, there is a bit of a funny feeling about this country. Is that because we all got sick here? You know, spending half of your day on the toilet.
-Eating yak butter, yak yoghurt and dry bread with sugar in Tajikistan is getting quite boring after 40 day's.
-According to the Lonely Planet you have to visit the bird resort at Niadou (China). Forget about it.
-Annoying Yotong busses and Dong Feng trucks using there claxon while they're driving next to you. I think I got deaf on my left ear.
-Road 315 in China, apparently you need a special permit to get on this road. The area was full of military material, like mobile rocket launchers. Is Bush watching this as well? Anyway the soldiers thought these crazy Dutch bikers must be spies. For 30 hours we were kept imprisoned and got a thousand of questions.
-Along the entire road from west to east we met so many smiling and very helpful people who made our trip of an invaluable experience.
-The curiosity of the Syrian people who were inviting us every time for having cup of teas. How can this country be a part of the Axes of Evil ?
-The people in Iran inspired us in many ways. It’s very pleasant to communicate with this intelligent population. While we were cycling on the road you heard many times a big thank you coming from different directions.
-The great people in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan who let us stay for free at their house. We wanted to give them money many times, but they refused. Is this one of the good things of the Koran, which say's that you need to give food and shelter to strangers?
-The non-stop smiling Chinese. The slogan 'nothing is impossible' suits very well in China. If you have a problem they always come up with a solution.
-The use of 'chegga' (=this) and 'negga' (=that) in every sentence while the Chinese are talking to each other.
-All these drinking games of the Chinese where 'cambe' (drink the whole glass in one go) is a common rule.
-The parcs and boulevards which are filled with old people doing Tai Tsji or some other kind of exercise in the morning.
On your nerves
-Rude Turkey boys who are gathering around you and can not stay off your bike.
-In most restaurants in Iran you could have two drinks. Cola or Fanta. And always when you order a Cola you get a Fanta. Or the other way around. I am wondering if they even listen to you if you answer their question what you want to drink. By the way, the solution to this problem is very easy.
-Boys on little motors in Iran. While driving next to us they stole one of our sunglasses and drove away. But the worst thing that happened was that a crazy motor driver hit an Irish guy who was keeping us company. He got hit just from behind. Thank god after staying a couple of days in the hospital he was on his bike again heading for India.
-People who figured out that we don't speak their language, expecting us to understand them if they start to speak louder, even start screaming at you. This started in Central Asia and kept on going well into China.
-Being confused in China. When you think something is a rip-off, later you will find out it was a bargain. And then again, the other way around as well.
The good trills of being on the road.
-Going down doing 82 km/h on the steep road just before you enter Urfa (Turkey) was an excellent rush!!
-Doing almost 170 km on one day in the dessert of Turkmenistan was really good team work. Every 5 kilometers we were shifting
-The feeling of victory after getting to the summit of Khaburabot pass (3252m, Tajikistan). Great sunset on this top.
-After working very hard on the off road in Gansu province (China) while it was snowing and raining the whole day, we got a beautiful surprise. Just a great orange sunset with black yak in the fields which were covered with white snow.
-Hours and hours going up in the perfect rhythm doing all these switch bags.
Moments you think you want to be at home instead of on the road.
-Sticky roads in Central Asia during the summer. The roads were like chewing gum. It’s very hard to bike on and takes about double the energy.
-The road to the Khaburabot pass (3252 m). This off-road was even worse then the mountain bike tracks I have done in Europe.
-Although the map showed you are cycling on a main road, it changed suddenly into a very steep, wet muddy nightmare. It forced us to walk up. It is one of these occasions where you find out whether you have a flexible mindset.
-Sitting for hours on this small saddle.
-Sore mussels in the legs and on your back.
-The Trek bike 6700 turned out to be a great bike for our trip. We all loved it. Especially on the off road. Some off-roads were really hardcore mountain bike roads where the Trek bike, with 40 kg extra luggage, felt like a fish in the water.
-We all brought one extra XT chain and XT 9 speed cassette.
-Our Regida Sputnike rims are excellent. None of them broke down.
-We had about 5 broken spokes during the entire trip
-Ortlieb bags are great. But Ortlieb should come with a better solution for closing the bags.
We used Marathon XR. They were doing really good. Also on the hardcore tough roads in Tajikistan, Kyrgistan and China. We only had to replace two after 9000 km!
-Our MSR tents were of good quality
-Two cycling shorts, one short sleaved shirt, one long sleeved cycling shirt. One pair of socks.-A not waterproof Columbia jacket is something you can leave at home
-The North Face shell jackets were used a lot. Light, waterproof and easy to stuff it in one of the bags.
-We had Adidas sunglasses. We used them also for the climb on the Peak Lenin. We could switch glasses and add an extra protection accessory which made the sunglasses closed around your face. Great when it was freezing on the mountain.
Great Canon and Panasonic digital cameras brought by Jannes, Michiel and Olivier. Check out all the great photos. Bring some extra batteries with you. Burning the photos from our memory card onto a cd in an internet-bar and send them to our webmaster was the way we filled up our website with brilliant photos.
Some downsides of our gear:
-Some of the XT bearing were finished after 9000 km.
-We had some trouble with the Tubes racks.
-My saddle did really suck. But is there a good saddle for a trip like this? I doubt there is! One Italia Sella saddle broke down.
Our tent was to luxury; get a simpler and lighter one.
We all brought our helmets, waist of weight and volume.
-At all the borders we crossed we did not have any problems at all.
-We had lots of help from www.stantours.com with getting all these visas.
-All visas were organised in The Hague or Brussels before the trip started except for the Chinese visa and the permit to enter the Pamir in Tajikistan. We got the Chinese visa ($80) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Don't talk about cycling at the embassy; just tell them you're going by plane.
-Some of us crossed the border by the Torugart pass and some through the Irkestam pass. Torugart pass is very expensive. At the Irkistam border we had to wait for many hours because the officials were having lunch. After that it went very smoothly. In Iran we needed visa extension and we organised it in Esfahan.
-In China, Leshan is a great place for visa extension. We even got two months extension.
-For question send us a mail. Jannes is the expert, he organised it all.
-The visas were very expensive for Iran
-Not so good experience: Finding out after one day searching that the lost passport of Michiel was in my pocket. It’s the best way to feel really stupid!
Our Peak Lenin experience
To be on this mountain, full of glaciers, avalanches and big ice walls is just too hard to describe (check out the journal)
Our guides and all the great food we had on the base camp was organised by Tien-shan.com. We do want to recommend this organisation.
Sometimes I'm wondering whether, if the weather condition would have been better on the mountain, we would have made the summit....