Er… I’m Not Going to Iran Anymore

Greetings! One month on and my cycling / social media rampage through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece feels like a long time ago. Since then I relapsed into London life, attended two wonderful weddings, and grew gradually more wary of the prospect of reconvening daily cycling along dusty roads for long periods of time. Not sure why. A couple of days ago I was thinking it might be because it’s boring.

So my six readers will be glad to know I added at least 10kg of camera equipment, flew back to Athens, and cycled for 45 minutes to Piraeus Port to take a ferry to Turkey, and it was epic. And I’m not going to Iran anymore because I’m going to cycle to China instead. I reneged on my vow and original mission. Fail. But I’m going to China. Through mountains 4700 metres high. Shit.

So here is the plan…

If I am going to make it to China before the mountains on the way become impassable due to winter, I need to get a bit of a move on. I want to enter China in Xinjiang province, in the very North-Western corner, across the border with Kyrgyzstan, after following the Pamir Highway through Tajikistan.

July and August are the peak months for the Pamir Highway but September is also pretty reliable. From October on the risk of snow is that bit higher, meaning impassable mountains and less cars/trucks to hitch a lift if needed. And traffic is already light. In parts the peak number of cars/trucks is apparently 2-3 per day. As high season is over, the home stays along the route also start to close. The road is the second highest international highway in the world, after Pakistan’s Karakoram Highway, and forms a major part of the Silk Road trade routes.

Getting a bit of a move on is one reason I’m no longer going to Iran. An alternate route through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, taking a ferry across the Caspian Sea, cuts down the distance. It also allows me to visit Georgia and Armenia, places that, like Iran, cycling tourists often plead you to visit. The visa situation for Iran as an independent traveller was also a bit of an issue, despite overall improvements recently. I imagine it will get even better soon and I will be back!

After the Caspian Sea I will disembark in Aktau in Kazakhstan. Visa free travel in Kazakhstan tempted me more than a trip through Turkmenistan, but I might change my mind. I then quickly dive into Uzbekistan, probably visiting Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand along the way. and then cross the border to Tajikistan and Dushanbe and the start of the highway. I think it comes in at about 1200km to the China border.

So, ahem, China before October 1 and the border closing for the “Golden Week” national holiday

Right, setting off, after a swim..

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