We have just finished a 10 day ride that has taken us along the Afghan border, much on 4 wheel drive road or road in poor condition, and the weather sent its trials with snow and sand storms. The scenery and contact with various ethnic groups have made this a ride to remember. Margo will write some posts on this portion; this post is about our options for continuing our journey after a rest here in Khorog. We will go next to Dushanbe to collect bicycle parts left by a friend, and new chargers for computer and cell phone sent by courier by my son, John. We will use a taxi for some or all this next portion to Dushanbe for our safety, because it is a semi-war zone. Rumours have it that a Afghan (Taliban) warlord has crossed the border, and this might explain the fact that the normal Khorog-Dushanbe road is closed. The official line is it that closure is due to avalanches.
Not surprisingly, given recent events, we have been refused our Iran visas. After discussions with Stantours (who have been very useful throughout this trip on visa questions) we feel our options for getting to Europe are:
- Cycle/train to Aktau (Kazakstan) on the Caspian Sea, then boat to Baku(Azerbaijan) .
- Cycle through Turkmenistan to Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) on the Caspian Sea, then boat to Baku(Azerbaijan) .
- Fly from Tashkent to Baku
- Cycle north of the Caspian Sea to Sochi (Russia) on the Black Sea
We reject 4 because of corrupt police/army in that part of Russia. We prefer to not use 3 because of potential damage to our bikes. That leaves 1 and 2 both of which have advantages and disadvantages:
- The boats from Aktau to Baku are irregular and we might have to wait a long time in Aktau, and the bikes go on a different train to us arriving a day later! But the corridor that goes from Bukhara (Uzbekistan) goes along the river that used to feed the Aral Sea and has interesting cities.
- The boats from Turkmenbashi to Baku are regular. But we have to be accompanied by a cycling guide for our trip through Turkmenistan, so we lose our independence. Also much of the journey is without much interest unless you want to look into a oil well that is blown up and still burning — “the gates of hell“.
So we prefer the option of going via Aktau, but that is after only a few hours thought as to our options. We will keep you posted.
Map showing our three possible cycling routes:
View China to Europe: Possible Silk-Road Route in a larger map