Sunday, 28 April 2013

Some more photos

Early morning riding, DaQu Valley

Friendly Tibetan school kids

Dusty road through the hills to GanZi

CaoDaLa Mts enroute to GanZi

Wild west towns, Ganzi

Dealing to the dogs!


Thumb your way through any cycle touring guidebook and you’re sure to read
about problems with dogs. Browse any blog of adventurous cycle journeys and
before long you’ll read of misadventures involving beastly canines. At the very
least the cyclist might escape after an adrenaline fueled burst of sprinting, some
have fared worse and have had panniers ripped open, still others have fallen
victim, been bitten, and had to administer their own rabies shots! The dogs of
certain regions of the world have over time picked up fearsome reputations
amongst cyclists, the crazed dogs of Thailand, the wild dogs of Turkey, the guard
dogs of the Tibetan Plateau. So in all of our trip planning and research there has
always been the question in the backs of our minds…how will we deal with this
when our time comes?

There seems to be a broad range of literature and opinion regarding defensive
methods. One friend of ours, a retired rural GP, relayed to us how he used
to keep some pepper in his pocket and subtly shake it in the eyes of any
approaching dog. Some say dogs just love the thrill of the chase and lose interest
if the cyclist simply dismounts and walks, sounds pretty high risk though. Our
friend Xiao in Chengdu suggested that firecrackers would be most effective, but
I imagine once they’ve been lit and exploded any attacking dog may already
be enjoying the feast of my back steaks. High frequency noise alarms have had
mixed reviews which just doesn’t seem good enough odds. So we’ve chosen a
simple and old fashioned method recommended by both an Australian cycle
tourist we’ve met on the road, and by a kiwi friend who used to live in these
Tibetan regions of China…rocks! These need to be on hand at any moment, ready
to launch at the offending canine. So our solution has been the Rock-et launcher!
A water bottle cut in half, attached to the handlebars with zip ties and string, and
packed with stones.

Rock-et launcher product review 1: Wed 24th April, 8.50am. Sure enough within
500m of leaving the main road and turning toward more remote country we had
a hound launch from our right and hone in on our pedal powering calves. After 3
days on the main road and no serious threat from any dog we were just itching
to unleash. The poor fella was showered with a barrage of pebbles, he persisted
at first but cowered away to his home territory once we connected with his
sensitive snout!

Rock-et launcher product review 2: Thurs 25th April, 9.10am. Far from home
but inspired by the ANZACS. Not one but three canine terrors raced out onto the
road, again from our right flank. Once again they found themselves littered with
rockets, forehand, backhand, over-arm, under-arm, and soon decided to abort
their flesh-feasting mission.

A victory to the cyclists. 2 to the humans, 0 to the dogs. You would be amazed at
what a morale boost this has given us. But it’s early days, very early days, there’ll
be plenty more where those beasts came from, so it’s time to re-arm the rock-et
launcher and remain vigilant around ever corner!

Ollie


Storm

Snow, trees and mean descent!

Wooden houses of Daofu area

Main street roadworks, Luhuo

Our hosts at the trucker stop, Ya De Village

Observations and thoughts from the mountain roads, Kangding to GanZi


What has surprised me:

- Buddhist monks seem unhindered by their red and orange robes, and look
perfectly at ease doubling on motorbikes on the fast, plateau roads.
- Yaks have taken inspiration from their near Indian bovine neighbours, to
assume an elevated and stately position in their world. They unhurriedly
wander, stand and lie in unhurried serenity on the roads, be they state highways
or town mains.
- There is a feeling akin to the American Wild West in some of these western
Chinese (Tibetan) towns. Is it the bumpy main streets of concrete and mud,
the tall fronted buildings close to the street, the long hair, hats and vests of the
men, or the barren land that surrounds them? Or is it simply our own feeling of
isolation and foreign-ness that give me these vibes?
- That our faces would change colour so quickly, adopting the local red, weather-
beaten cheeks within barely a day.
- That a greeting can be said with such consistent warmth and feeling as “Tashi
Daleeeee!” is, as it is called out by all we meet or pass by through our days.
- That the food would be so good! Steamed buns, pork, vegies and rice, big
soups… And that Ollie’s favourite food ever would be commonplace here, the
wee round tasty protein balls: boiled eggs!!
- That we could comfortably ride in shorts and T-shirts at 3800metres (when the
sun is out!).
- That road works are not always done in small sections, like we find in NZ. It’s
never one street, but all the streets in a town at once. It’s not a section of the
National Highway, but nearly the whole 90km from Luhuo to GanZi, dug up
and stripped back to rugged rocks and dust, worked on by disparate groups of
workers dotted along its length.
- That the smaller the town, the easier it seems to find what we need. People
there seem to naturally understand that we want food and shelter, and they are
helpful in giving what they can, and adjusting to our stunted communication
style of charades augmented by odd, badly pronounced words. In the cities and
big towns, amongst so many options and so little obvious vulnerability on our
part, we struggle to order a bowl of rice.

Anna

Valley towards Longdeng

Hail shower welcomes us to the barren highlands

Our friends, heading out for dinner,  XinDuQiao

Tibetan country. Stunning houses

Tagong and Mt Yala

Summary Stats so far, for those who like such things


Total kms to date: 788km
Days on the bike: 11
Longest Day: 94km
Shortest Day: 17km
Biggest climb: 1300m
Total climb estimate: 6800m
Highest altitude: 4298m
Lowest altitude: 700m (in the last six days, 2900m).
Longest continuous stretch of road works: 63km

On the road from Kangding


Little did we know but riding on the Southern Sichuan-Tibet Highway is akin
to the Central Otago Rail Trail! Well actually it has not much in common other
than the masses of cyclists encountered. We were fortunate to meet a friendly
team of Chinese on their month-long two-wheeled pilgrimage to Lhasa, one of
whom had studied in Hamilton for three years. For three days we were blessed
with their cheerful company and their English language skills. With them we
climbed our first big passes, we rode through sun, snow and hail, we bathed
in natural hot springs, and we entered the Tibetan highlands. They were truly
fine companions! In the small town of XinDuXaio we shared a final meal and
celebrated the miles we’d covered together. Then our new cycling buddies
carried on their westward journey while we swung north onto smaller rural
roads.

For the first time we experienced quiet, peaceful Tibetan villages, and we were
struck by the fine stonework and the stunningly vibrant decoration of their
homes. The roads continued quietly ahead with the exception of the odd section
of road works, these now come as no surprise! We have enjoyed passing by small
towns bursting with friendliness and the striking maroon of Tibetan Buddhist
monks walking their streets, some sporting Nikes beneath their robes and ipods
in their ears!

The variety of landscapes has been a wonderful treat as we pass the km’s by,
sometimes surrounded by rolling hill country, other times lonely high country
expanses. At times we’ve sidled deep gorges with tumbling rivers, or enjoyed
whizzing down winding mountain roads amongst forest clad slopes. We’ve gazed
out on desert-like plateaus backed by jagged high snow-clad peaks. We even saw
some monkey’s dash into the forest as we flashed by on a fast downhill cruise!

As we entered the DaoFu county we were blown away by the sudden change of
housing. In this region the local people use predominantly timber rather than
stone and the small villages were incredibly beautiful and uniquely tidy. The
locals seemed proud of what they had!

In the small village of YaDe just 15km north of LuHuo we were spoilt by the
hospitality of a Tibetan couple, along with their adult son. They took us in for the
night, warmed us around their fire, gave us a bed on which to sleep the night, and
most special of all we all sat around ‘speaking’ of home and family with very few
words, many creative gestures, our treasured photos, and what felt like a whole
lot of love and interest!

We’ve enjoyed the smoothest of roads for the first 10 days. We knew things had
to change. On Day 11, our final day before a rest day in GanZi, we hit construction
like we’d never seen before. The smooth seal abruptly ended, finished! For the
next 60km we bounced and crashed our way at snails pace amidst the trucks, the
diggers, the shovel and pick wielding work parties, and the clouds of dust. The
big picture was stunning as we climbed high and enjoyed huge mountain vistas,
but the travel was hard grind and the micro view an ugly one. GanZi has indeed

been a haven from which to rest, plan and anticipate what the next stage will
bring.

The Chinese approach to road construction means the way ahead is a huge
mystery. It may be fast and smooth, but the odds of that are low. My money’s on
more of the bounce and crash style. So tomorrow we continue on our northwest
journey, aiming for ShiQu/SerXu in a few days and then swing northeast toward
Xining. The pace is unknown, but if we just keep pedaling then we will continue
moving forward!

Ollie










Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Into the mountains we go

Perhaps we stumbled upon a workers lunch? A community picnic? Our language limitations meant we ended up sharing a free lunch at what was definitely not a restaurant for travellers! Whatever we had stumbled upon it was a festive welcome and introduction to rural mountain culture.

Just when we thought we might be on track to experience a day with no chaos we met this scene. "The hole is too small" (Quote from Chinese cycle tourist). I felt vindicated that these drivers are actually insane and deserve a few problems from time to time for the stupidity. Perhaps the hole is big enough but too big trucks should take their time a little more?!

After a beautiful night in a small mountain village we cycled up through an amazing section of deep gorges and remote forest covered hills towering above us with rivers flowing far below. Finally some quiet roads.

More climbing but all this work is good times! Day 5 on the road took us from 1300m in a town called Luding, up another beautiful mountain valley to Kangding township at 2500m.


As we transitioned into higher places and are making our way further west the smog is blowing away below revealing our first views of the high peaks. This area is also the beginning of the transition between the Han Chinese population and the Tibetan population.


Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Mystery Friend


It’s just day one on the bikes but sometimes you just cannot believe your good fortune.

We gaze ahead and can see the road turn to a great pile of rubble, blocked by dramatic looking signs filled with Mandarin characters well beyond our primitive deciphering abilities. We ride slower as if prolonging our arrival at the road block might somehow improve the situation. It didn’t. Our G108 road to Qionglai detours somewhere, all the necessary information is right in front of our eyes, and yet we are now hopelessly lost.

We had been so chuffed with our navigating the way right through and out of Chengdu city, the capital of Sichuan province, a booming city of 14 million people. We had survived chaotically crowded city streets and randomly swerving vehicles of all types. We had enjoyed half price lunch with five very friendly and thoughtful high school students on their midday break. We had found our way to the G108. Was our first day of this cycle journey about to become derailed? Sabotaged by ugly Chinese roading development? The G108 was all we understood in this foreign land, the only English on a map littered with Mandarin, the known way that was supposed to be our link from the plains to the mountains. If even this cannot be assured then what on earth, or more specifically China, can we rely on?

Then right on cue, into our lives stepped a young Chinese lad whose name I could never pronounce and I have now forgotten. He too just happened to be cycling to Qionglai! This might not seem unlikely in a country with over 1 billion people, but to put it in perspective we had already cycled 60km and seen not one other cyclist on a journey longer than the local store. So rather than take the G108 we sampled one of China’s brand new motorways. We rode past a massive industrial park that sat largely empty but looked brand new and on the cusp of a mass industry move-in. We bounced our way through a rocky by-pass. We even detoured from the detour to avoid a broken bridge.

It’s a unique feeling to be totally in the hands of a stranger, a mystery friend to guide us. It’s a worrying feeling when that mystery friend repeatedly and spontaneously leaps off his bike and runs down side roads, asking questions of locals, gesturing wildly, and looking as confused as us. It’s troubling when even the local Police appear confused and contradictory. It is a heart sinking moment when that mystery friend falls mysteriously ill on the roadside, clutching his chest desperately, complaining of terrible pain.

But in the end everything will be okay, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end. So after flicking busily through our Mandarin-English phrase book mystery friend finds the problem. He had too much MSG for lunch! Not good! So just as mystery friend has cared for us, the tables have now turned and we must care for mystery friend.

The travel is slow. The rests are many. But we dare not leave mystery friend for fear he might not survive the night, or worse yet that we will never find Qionglai! And so as a crippled trio we were bound tight by the ropes of our different weaknesses and on dusk arrived triumphantly on the smokey outskirts of Qionglai. And just as this mystery friend had entered our life at a timely moment
and showered us with kindness he left us with another act of kindness. His final act, to instruct a Tuktuk driver to lead us to a cheap motel, even insisting on paying for the service. With that we parted ways and he rode off into the night only turning to utter his final words “It’s ok, we are now friends!”

China, will everyday we travel through this land be such high adventure?!


Leaving Chengdu

Mystery Friend



Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Lost and found


A photo-less feature story: “A picture paints a thousand words, but the epics of desperation are marked by the gap in the album.”

I’m sitting in a warehouse. Stacked cardboard boxes of varied but unknown contents are stacked somewhat precariously on wooden pallets around me. I look at the concrete floor, and my dusty jandals, then glance up as a lean tough old man with a face full of wrinkles and a pair of dark green loosely gathered pants wanders slowly past me. I think about the absurdity of me being here. In this one random warehouse amongst a complex of such depots, in a sprawling, newly constructed industrial suburb of northern Chengdu.

It took some finding to get here. A kind of game of ‘Hotter and colder’, as our tireless guide, the English speaking Xiao, navigated his way here via regular cellphone calls, fiery assertions, animated conversations with whomever he could find to quiz, and a ludicrous process of trial and error. But I am so happy to be here now, because beside me sit two bike boxes from Cycle World Dunedin, and in them sit the fundamental objects on which rest the plans and hopes of our next year.

We have found our bicycles! The problem was, you see, we unknowingly sent them from the Shanghai Koala Garden House to Chengdu via a bogus company. It was Day Two in China, and after a traumatic and depressing feasibility assessment at the Shanghai Railway Station of the chance of taking them on the train with us, we happily welcomed the help of our Garden House receptionist. She suggested sending them via a courier company. She researched the options on the internet, rung several companies, and chose us the best deal. Joyfully and thankfully, we waved them off in the back of an unmarked but shiny black van (“Wow that’s pretty flash, they’ll travel better than us!”), with only a token joke that the video footage we captured of the event might be the last we ever saw of them.

“China Bailway Express!?” Xiao read off the reciept that we showed him at Sims Cozy Garden Hostel three days later. “What is this company? I think it is a fake.” With those words, anxiety enters our lives again, and leads us on a two day journey of the highs and lows of complex problem-solving. Little of the problem solving is carried out by us though, since the few words and two phrases we have mastered in Mandarin would not begin to be done justice by the term “insufficient”. So, as I described, we follow Xiao, listening to his conversations, and getting brief summary translations. It is his day off work at Sims. We are incredibly indebted and massively thankful. We follow him on the smotheringly hot northbound bus for an hour, into a taxi that promptly brakes down and then into the car of an incredibly helpful man and his wife. The afternoon ticks away, as we try complex after complex of warehouses, each full with stacked boxes, lorries unloading onto the concrete platforms outside. It is huge, and so so new. Pointed onwards again and again, we find ourselves walking through the central floor area of a tall building in what to all appearances is a stock market! Pointed on again, more intelligence is gathered, and more details are added to the address scrawled on the scrap of paper. Another warehouse suburb, another depot complex. Cool. Getting warmer. Cold again. Hotter. Hotter. Hot! We found the company. We saw one of the bikes! Hunting around we found the other. We touched them. We gazed upon them.

That is why I sit on a cardboard box in a large warehouse in northern Chengdu now. Looking at my jandals. Looking at the tin roof stretching wide above me, and saying a thankful prayer, although not without some uncertainty still. Reunited again, the journey is halfway done. In the next three hours we will pay an exorbitant ransom to release our hostage bicycles, a price set by the crooked but untraceable man in Shanghai. We will look in wonderment at the two yuan (40c) that remains to us, after monopoly-like we have stacked all our small change notes on the table. We will debate whether this is the right thing to do, or to somehow fight through the embassy, police and newspapers to have him apprehended. We will shuttle the boxes to the main road through the kindness and the sedan of a worker here. We will twice unsuccessfully attempt to board a crowded homeward bus with them. Tying them onto a rattly tuktuk we will head for the bus station, hoping for an uncrowded bus, and after several more denials we will find an amenable driver. A smooth trip, and one more bus transfer, and then a hurried, stumbling carry of the heavy, precious boxes the last few hundred meters along the now dark streets of Chengdu to our hostel, and victory!

We collapse into a couch where our fellow cycle tourist Andy and his friends sit with beers and the remains of their dinner, and spin our yarn for the first time. Heads so busy though, that it will take some distance, and some processing, to come to terms with all we have seen and experienced this Tuesday. I feel that somehow this is some kind of baptism into China, some kind of initiation. I feel different now, but can’t put my finger on how. Enough now to have some noodles, and some rest. The day is done.

Writer: Anna


Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Train across China to Chengdu. 15th April

  • We caught a train 2081km from Shanghai to Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of Western China, taking 32 hours.
  • China is huge. A large part of China seems to be under construction. They have an unfathomably big number of cranes and scaffolding!
  • We also saw many beautiful rural areas and people still working the land.
  • We are now staying in Chengdu and have retrieved our bikes after they were held hostage and we paid a ridiculous ransom for their release.




Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A quick note: Email subscriptions

Hey guys Andy here.
I'm posting these updates for Anna and Ols while they're in China. Some of you have asked me to notify you when a new post comes up. To make this automatic, you can subscribe to the feed here:

Subscribe to Passing That Way by Email

If you subscribe, you'll get a email announcing new blogs delivered to your email. I think it will send you an email at the end of the day with a summary of any posts, so don't expect it in real-time.

WOW SHANGHAI!!

Summary:

We made it to Shanghai. We have had a blast exploring the last three days. It’s
BIG! We have sent our bikes to Chengdu. We are following them now on a 31hr
sleeper train.

A bit more:

Words rung in my head as we circled above Shanghai. “I can’t think the last
time I’ve seen anyone getting a Chinese visa with no proof of onward travel.”
This from the Dunedin Airport staff as we checked in. “I”ve never heard of that
happening before,” from our travel agent Chris, after the Chinese Consulate-
General gave me a 30 minute telephone grilling me about our precise travel
plans in China, long after we had already obtained our visas. So as we looked
down on Shanghai with huge excitement for the beginnings of our journey, it was
also with some trepidation about our reception here. There is so much unknown
in this great, fascinating land!


Shanghai from the plane

So the firm sound of stamping on our passports 30 minutes later was a joyful
soundtrack to our entry! We were elated! We are in!! My glands stopped emitting
the strange odour they had been! Hello China!

Our time in Shanghai I would sum up as a time of wonderment, and of problem
solving. From the problem solving of buying our first meal in Mandarin, finding
our hostel and withdrawing money, to the greater challenge of booking our bikes
on a train to Chengdu. And there is wonderment on every corner, at the constant
stream of bicylces, scooters, taxis and buses that merge like two rivers through
the semi-controlled intersections, at the huge sprawl of apartment towers,
draped in drying washing. Wonderment at the taste of the delicious fried breads
we buy for breakfast from our alley, and at the mighty, psychedelic skyline of
Modern Shanghai/Pudong.

Fried bread breakfast in our local alley

We knew our biggest challenge in Shanghai was to get our bikes on the train
to Chengdu. So we got stuck in. And pretty quickly we got stuck! A rumoured
English-speaking counter proved elusive. We were told all sorts of things in
Mandarin. We even got a little note in Mandarin, which another office answered
with the English “Yes”. Possibly progress! But sadly we had no idea what the
original note said. With huge relief we finally found a booth titled “English
Speaking” and I promptly sat down just to look at it happily! Surely here all
difficulties will melt away! Not quite. We were met with frustration. This was
not the place for enquiries, or luggage booking. We tried some more options,
questions, gestures, streams of language we could only meet with blank stares,
and eventually turned for the half hour walk home. Not quite sure how we’ll do
it. But surely a train sorting angel will turn up! I think they’ll have to!

And yes, problem solved, there was a way! Things are often better in the
morning, and this morning, Yan appeared! A girl with wonderful English and an
amazingly helpful and realistic attitude, who appeared on the hostel reception
desk in the morning! “I think for you to send bicycles on train will be very hard.
I could write for you in Mandarin. But they will ask many questions. And staff
there are not very helpful.” Well that matched our experience! “I think you could
send them. I will find out for you.” Yan then worked hard, called, arranged,
interrogated and bargained hard, and by that afternoon we were waving off our
beloved bikes in the back of a black van. I hope not for the last time.

Exploring Shanghai together has been happy, mind-blowing fun! We’ve
seen Modern Shanghai, looking across the Huanggu River at one of the great
cityscapes of the world, architecturally mighty towers silver and gold in the
setting sun. Then crossing by ferry to walk amongst these giants, neck straining,
tops disappearing up into the night sky, lit by a thousand lights. Two Kiwis
walking among them, minds blown in wonder!

Shanghai by night

We’ve loved the Metro too. Like a time lapse video, streams of people ebb and
flow around the underground station. A swarm squeezes narrow up an escalator,
to sprawl out again at the top. Trains fly in with a rattling rush, doors slide open,
people flood out while others jostle in, the train rushes away, the escalators take
the remaining flood away, and as we watch, the bustle is gone. We’re alone again
on a brightly lit platform. Then one by one the next crowd gathers.

Navigating the metro

A good journey from east to west should start at an ocean, so we went to find
the ocean, and after some more Metro riding and some pretty funny dead end
explorations, we finally reached a spot where we could gaze out into the mouth
of the great Yangze River, where it empties into the East China Sea. We know we
were seeing only a minute section of the huge port of Shanghai, but still there
was a great bustle. Numerous ships moving to and fro. The water was brown,
and too far below me, otherwise I would have been tempted to splash my face in
this eastern sea, before we turn our faces west. Where will we next be beside the
ocean?

East China Sea, our journey begins
So now we have left Shanghai, and are on the train to Chengdu. We are thankful
for so much we have seen, and hold very happy memories of the Koala Garden
House that was our base there, the cobbled streets of our neighborhood, their
bicycle traffic and market alleys, and then all the bigness out beyond them that
we have been lucky to explore! Good bye Shanghai.

Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.

Farewell Aotearoa New Zealand


Summary

  • An amazing last 4 months in NZ savouring our amazing country, family, friends.
  • April 8th 5pm departed Dunedin, 11pm departed Auckland enroute to Shanghai.
  • Farewell, we love you!

A little deeper beneath the surface

Late last year Anna and I announced to our respective work places (Otago
University Early Childhood Centre and Balmacewen Intermediate School)
that we would be leaving and heading overseas. From that time on life has
been full of lists and jobs: booking tickets, perusing maps, google searches,
purchasing essential equipment, repairing old equipment, arranging visas, cycle
maintenance lessons, language learning, emailing and the final packing.

Times of transition are always full of mixed and heightened emotion. As our
departure drew closer we have been so fortunate to spend so many special times
with our most precious people in our home town of Dunedin and other beautiful
locations around our beloved deep south of NZ.

One special thank you to Geoff Masterton, formerly a bicycle mechanic at Cycle
Surgery. I taught Geoff’s son Sam at Balmacewen last year. Geoff has been
incredibly generous and enthusiastic and a wonderful teacher. Here’s hoping we
were wonderful students and our learning can keep the bikes rolling forward.
Thanks Geoff!

A huge thank you, and goodbye to you all. It is hard to describe how precious this
time leading to our departure has been and how proud we are of our home and
our people. I will let some pictures do the speaking. Farewell for now!







Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China. 

Welcome to Passing That Way

As I write I sit in my berth on sleeper train route K969 Shanghai to Chengdu.
We’re stopped in a small village named Yu Bei Shan, according to our map and
schedule there is no stop here. Perhaps that will sum up the journey ahead?
Maybe that is a good ethos to travel by, not just to ‘pass that way’ but to take the
unscheduled stop.

Welcome to our blog. Passing That Way. In a nutshell we plan, and hope, to travel
overland from Shanghai westward…with an unknown destination. Perhaps
Istanbul, maybe Morroco, or Spain, maybe London, who really knows?! Our
means of travel will be predominantly bicycles, interspersed with train and bus
journeys to rest weary bodies and reduce time pressures.

As we blog in future you’ll often see two sections to each entry. There are those
in the audience who will want a quick-fire summary, to cater for you we will
begin with a bullet point summary, no scrolling required, hard facts, stats and
figures only, a.k.a. the “BSc version.” For those with more time, those who enjoy
sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and reading at leisure you can scroll down
and enjoy the more thorough and artistic narrative, a.k.a. the “BA version.”

For those who love to pour over maps the intended route for our first stage
by bicycle will take us west and north from Chengdu through the Sichuan and
Xinghai provinces to Xining…we imagine around 3-4 weeks of riding. In brief
from there we train, bus and ride through the Taklamakan desert to Kashgar
in China’s far North West, cycle into Kyrgystan and westward on the ‘Pamir
Highway’ which leads through Tajikistan and into Uzbekistan. We then hope to
continue westward into Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey.
The way ahead is a great unknown, flexibility will be the key!

We hope this blog serves several purposes…keeping family and friends updated
with progress, some entertaining tales of high adventure, a few laughs, shared
thoughts and reflections, and even a place to help us as we process all that we
experience on this journey.

We are blessed to have the support and interest of friends and family, to
know that some people care enough to read our blog is very humbling. Enjoy
journeying vicariously, we feel lucky to be here doing it!

Andy is posting for Ollie and Anna while they are behind the Great Firewall of China.