Posted from Barnaul, Altai Krai, Russia.
I’m delighted to announce that since the last blog we’ve managed to get going again, but lack of time and internet access has prevented me from posting an update till now.
So here we go…
Thursday 16th August to Monday 20th August
Just spent the days hanging around really. It was far too hot to go out during the day, so it was early morning walks, retire to the room and then out again in the late afternoon for strolling around and having dinner.
The highlight was being invited by the hotel owners to join them on the Sunday for their Eid-al-Fitr (breaking the fast) dinner to mark the end of Ramadan. Of course the main attraction was the national dish of plov (rice, meat and carrots, with the ubiquitous oil), all washed down with copious amounts of vodka. I rolled off to bed rather the worse for wear, but surprisingly woke with a clear head the next morning.
Tuesday 21st August
At breakfast we met a lovely group of Italians who were on a sightseeing tour of Uzbekistan. They invited us to go with them in their minibus on a tour of various sights outside Bukhara. This was a great change from our usual routine and we spent a lovely morning in their company.
Posted from Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan.
So you think we’ve dropped off the radar? Well we have and we haven’t. Since we left Khiva on Sunday 5th August, Kevin and I have arrived in Bukhara, but got no further, due to our clutch problem. So read on.
Sunday 5th August
We had an early breakfast and set off for Bukhara. It was a 398km ride, of which we had been warned 80kms would be on extremely poor roads. Petrol stations were conspicuous by their absence, and as we were travelling through the Kyzylkum (‘Red Sand’) Desert we were forced to fill up at a roadside petrol stop early on to ensure we had sufficient fuel. These stops are nothing more than people selling black market fuel of indeterminate quality out of plastic bottles, but needs must. And to be fair the bikes seemed to run okay on it.
Before filling up, Kevin tinkered with the clutch, and as he was doing so a group of motorcyclists, all on Yamaha XT660Zs stopped to offer help, Ian from Devon, Neil from London, and Nacho, an Argentinean now living in France. We managed to get going again, but the roads took their toll. Kevin, who was riding my bike at the time, had a crash at speed when he hit a rut, spinning him off in a cloud of dust. The only damage, apart from injured pride, was a bent crash bar and a broken spork (my food/cooking pannier bag took the brunt of the tumble). Neil also had a burst tyre from a giant pothole. The cover was split and things looked bad until a passing lorry driver patched the tyre up sufficiently well to get him to Bukhara.
Posted from Khiva, Khorezm Province, Uzbekistan.
This next instalment of our adventures takes us through Turkmenistan to our first Silk Road City, Khiva, in Uzbekistan.
Tuesday 31st July
We woke at 7:00am and for a supposed 5-star hotel (read: low 4-star in the UK) had a poor breakfast – watered down juice, no proper bread, and no eggs. Well I think there were eggs but the waiter couldn’t tell me how they could cook them, so I went without in the end.
This was to be our first foray into the desert, going north some 500kms to Dasoguz near the border with Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan is a forbidding place, mostly desert, and with a surprising dearth of petrol stations that needs careful planning if you are not to run out in such a hostile environment. We filled up just outside Ashkabat when we set off. There are only two filling stations to be found between there and Dasoguz, over 300 miles away. Just to assist any poor souls in need, they are to be found at Grid: N38.76160, E58.48437, and N41.73667, E58.68480.
Posted from Ashgabat, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Well you’ve stuck with me so far, dear reader, so here’s the next instalment of our journey ever east.
Today’s theme is that every adventure must have its highs and lows. This one has proved to be no exception, so here’s what’s gone on (the lows as you can imagine).
Friday 27th July & Saturday 28th July
We woke early so we could get to the Turkmenistan Embassy at 266 Calil (Jalil) Mammadguluzada Street to get our visas. By the way, ignore any internet references to other addresses for the Embassy, they are incorrect. The entrance which you need to go to for your visa is round the back of the Embassy (Grid: N40.39557 E49.82651).
We were greeted by a local fixer, Ishmael, who will arrange everything (visa and ferry ticket) for a fee, which seemed to amount to around $30 when you finally get on board. He will also text you when the ferry is ready to load, so overall the exercise is well worthwhile, as you can sleep or see the sights of Baku whilst you are waiting. If he’s not hanging around the Embassy you can contact him on +994 55 286 1200.
And indeed our text came at about 3:00pm that we should be at the port at 5:30pm as there was an imminent sailing. Of course I didn’t get it until 5:20pm so panic ensued as we threw everything onto the bikes and paid for an unused night at the hotel. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 6:30pm, and as you might expect all sorts of mayhem ensued and we didn’t actually end up boarding until 3:00am. Despite all this the ferry didn’t even leave until 11:00am as they still had to load the cargo.
Posted from Azerbaijan.
Well a lot’s happened since my last blog. We’re now in Baku, awaiting our visas to Turkmenistan so we can board the ferry. The easier part of our trip has come to an end after 3,500 miles and one-third of the journey.
So what’s gone on?
Saturday 21st July
The morning saw us being waved off by our host, Enver Battaloglu, from the Hotel Suadiye in Istanbul. This was quite exciting for me as it was a journey into new territory. I’ve been to Istanbul before (by plane) and ridden my other bike as far south as Slovenia, but heading east into Asia was, for me, the start of the journey proper.
During the day Kevin and I both cut it too fine with our fuel and ended up running out, him first and me next, irritatingly just 1km from a service station. Not a problem as we had some fuel in the spare cells on the bikes, but an unnecessary delay nonetheless. This was compounded by Kevin’s gear selector bolt stripping at the same time. We found a replacement at a service station, which worked fine for a couple of days, but then loosened off. This eventually ended up being swapped for one of my handlebar wind deflector bolts, which was a better fit. My offside deflector now flaps like an elephant’s ear.
Oh, and late afternoon we got lost up a mountain looking for somewhere to stay. Don’t trust mapping tools by the way, the hotel (worryingly 8kms up a dirt track, which was a good clue really) was actually a farm, and the bemused farmer seemed to be telling us we were the fifth person that week to end up in his farmyard, and he was sick of it.
We finally ended up in some random but most welcome hotel about 10kms away, just as it was getting dark. And no beer, as it was Ramadan.
Posted from Istanbul, Istanbul Province, Turkey.
Well I really shouldn’t have moaned earlier because it turned warm as soon as we arrived in Bulgaria, and now we’re in Istanbul it’s too hot.
So, how’s the week gone?
Firstly, the countries have flown by. It rained as far as Höchberg (near Wurzburg) in Germany. Well, more of a constant downpour. Fortunately for me I was cocooned in an oversuit. Kevin wasn’t and just got soaked.
Since then it’s been dry, so the riding’s been more pleasant. But it’s been demanding because of the bikes’ cruising speed of about 85kph, with the average a fair bit lower due to fuel and drink stops. This has meant we’ve had longer days than we anticipated – our planned mileages were an average of 350 a day through to Istanbul to get the European leg over as quickly as possible.
Sunday 15th July
We saw quite a few rallyers on this, our longest ride of all at 716kms. This was because we were so wet we stopped on Saturday night at a hotel as soon as we left the Tunnel in Calais rather than press on to Brussels. Our eventual arrival at Hotel Lamm in Höchberg (near Wurzburg) in Germany was brightened by the receptionist taking all our soaked clothes and washing them for us, returning them to us lovely and dry during our most welcome dinner. (Note: this trip is turning into a bit of a gastrotour, but this will no doubt change further on when we’re reduced to yak burgers and steamed goat’s head).
Posted from Graz, Steiermark, Austria.
We were given the most encouraging send off from the Birmingham Children’s Hospital on Friday 13th, and the sun even shone for a few moments. A big thanks to everyone who was there, it was a great moral boost for us. After 11 months’ planning we were finally off!
Never mind Après nous le deluge, for the last two days the rain’s been right on top of us. Big time. It’s tipped it down from the moment we left the Hospital, through the Rally start at Goodwood, and until we arrived in Höchberg (near Wurzburg) in Germany on Sunday night. I was wetter than an otter’s pocket, and that’s about as moist as a man who’s cocooned in his one-piece oversuit can get. (Memo to self: do NOT over tighten the leg straps otherwise the rain will run into your boot)
Some statistics to follow, but for now, one bike repair, one accident and one breakdown.
- On the Sunday morning at the Formule 1 hotel in Calais, Kevin had to remove the supplementary inline fuel filter on Nick’s bike to eliminate the petrol leak that had started in the night.
- Kevin then accidentally knocked the bike over onto the wing of the car parked alongside (see picture below).
- In putting the bike back together, the vacuum hose became kinked, and on Monday the engine cut out without warning on the German autobahn. Very hairy with Audis and Mercs flying past at 155!
Posted from Birmingham, England, United Kingdom.
A few photos from Nick and Kevin’s send off from Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Please let us know if you see anything in the papers over the next couple of weeks, as there were a few press photographers there and it would be great to put the articles up on the site for everyone to see!
Keep watching as Nick will be posting more photos/updates on here or you can track his progress live via THIS page!!!
Best of luck to Nick and Kevin on their big adventure…
In the end we actually required 8 Visas in advance, plus 2 Letters of Invitation (all indicated below). We will still need to get a visa on arrival at the Turkish border, but surprisingly we don’t require a visa for Georgia (but only because we will be in the country for less than 90 days).
So for those of you anoraks who would simply die without a list, our (proposed) route is as follows:-
- Azerbaijan (V)
- Turkmenistan (LOI)
- Uzbekistan (V)
- Tajikistan (V)
- Kyrgyzstan (V)
- Kazakhstan (V)
- Russia (V)(LOI)
- Mongolia (V)
followed by the Trans-Mongolian Railway to Beijing in China (V) and then fly home to a hot bath!