- 900 km approx.
- 13 days riding
- Highest point: 2200m shortly after Kunming
For photos click here
- 1000 km approx.
- 13 days riding and no rest days
- Highest point: 3100 m between Meigu and Jinyang
From Chengdu I rode South via a busy and uninspiring road. After 100 km however I managed to escape it, taking a secondary and more mountainous road. I passed close to Leshan and Emei Shan without stopping and in Ebian the road started to climb. The first day I didn’t manage to get to the top of the pass at 2000+ m (I started at 500 m) and I camped not far from it, pitching my tent in the dark. The road went down to Meigu and started going up again soon after. I was in an area where Yi people – a chinese ethnic minority – live. The condition of the road were often bad, people were friendly and constantly saying hello, but the villages were some of the dirtiest I’ve seen and men seemed to be drinking beer constantly. I arrived in Jinyang after a huge descent and took a room for the night. The following two days I’ve pedalled along the Yangtzee river. The road was officially closed because they were rebuilding it, meaning no traffic, but a very slow speed.Shortly before Qiaojia I crossed the river and entered Yunnan, my final Chinese region. From there it was three days of riding until Kunming, finding some quiet spot for the tent at night – a rarity in this part of China. I checked in the hostel in the evening, happy to be able to apeak English again.
Xining – Chengdu
- 1200 km approx.
- 19 days riding and one rest days
- Highest point: 4000 m on a secondary road between Zoige and Jiuzhaigou.
I started with a detour to visit Youning Si, a Tibetan monastery North of Xining. Then I started riding South, following a road passing through Tibetan villages and mountains, soon started with a first pass at 3600 m. I arrived in Tongren with Marco, a German cyclist I met after I crossed the Yellow River and I met him again in Labrang, where we both stopped and then decided to keep riding together towards Chengdu. We were at 3000/3500 m of altitude, nights were cold with water freezing in the tent, but we would get sunburn during the day. After following the G213 until Zoige, we went East taking an extremely quiet secondary road. A big descent made us lose a lot of altitude, something that made the ascent to 4000 m the following day harder than we expected, but it was a really beautiful climb. When we went down enough to think the mountains were over another climb started, shortly after Jiuzhaigou, bringing us from 1200 m to 3300 m. There was even some snow on the top, which made for a very cold descent to Pingwu. From there it was uneventful riding, sometimes a little bit hilly following a river, until Chengdu. The main problem was that we were now in real China and wild camping was hard. We arrived in Chengdu on a Saturday at lunch time, a perfect timing to hit the traffic peak: entering the city has been like a video game trying to avoid everything that was on the road, but we made it safely to the hostel.
- For photos click here
- Blog post:
Tibetan Grassland and Monasteries in South Qinghai
To Chengdu via Secondary Roads
Korgas – Xining
- 2600 km approx.
- 22 days riding and no rest days
- Highest point: 3800 m before Qinghai Lake.
Entering China was a huge shock; I was now riding into the traffic and there was traffic and people everywhere. At the beginning it was not easy to find a place to camp. I passed close to Yining and then went towards the mountains via a secondary road, but still full of trucks. Two 3000+ m passes followed, followed by a big descent that brought me to Balguntay, South of Urumqi and to then to Korla, from where I headed South entering the green corridor of the Taklamakan desert. 400 km of tailwind made for good km, but, as I joined the South Silk Road close to Ruoqiang, a ferocious headwind hit me, causing a small sandstorm. I stopped in a village for the day, where someone stole my wallet, but it was found very soon thanks to some security camera. The following day the wind was as strong as before, but I kept riding, averaging 7 km/h for more than 10 hours, this was the famous wind of the Taklamakan desert. A big climb followed that brought me to Qinghai and to a plateaux at 3000 m of altitude with just desert around. I kept riding East, passing 5 villages in 800 km before the desert finished around Delingha. From there I rode until Xining passing through Tibetan villages, with a lot of yaks filling the landscape. After camping on the South shore of Qinghai Lake, China’s biggest lake, I finally arrived in Xining, just in time to extend my visa.
The Road to China: Bishkek-Korgas
- 760 km approx.
- 8 days riding and no rest days
- Highest point: 2300 m close to the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
I left Bishkek directed towards Issyk Kul following a secondary road that avoided the traffic of the main road for most of the time. From Balikchi I rode along the South Shore of the lake, spent one night in Karakol, before heading towards the border. The road from Karakol to the border, especially the last 50 km has been quite nice, slowly climbing along an unpaved and virtually traffic-free road, surrounded by the green of the mountains around. I camped in front of the custom and the next morning I entered Kazakhstan. The nice views of the mountains continued until I turned left, abandoning the main road and taking a secondary road completely flat that brought me to Shonzhy. After a nice night camping I continued towards the border where I arrived on the early afternoon of the 3rd of September, just in time to enter China the following morning.
Bishkek-Bishkek via Song Kol
- Days riding: 9 + 1 rest day.
- Days walking: 4.
- Approx. 420 km.
- Highest point: 3200 m after Bishkek.
After 3 weeks in Bishkek I was ready to ride again, with the company of Urs, a friend of mine from Germany who cycled with me also from Munich to Triest. We had an ambitious plan to cycle to Song Kol and then take a remote road that would have brought us to Isik Kol. Due to some illness and some mechanical failures things didn’t really work out as planned, we didn’t have the time to take the remote road and we did a 4-day trekking at Song Kol. Exiting Bishkek we followed the busy road I already cycled 3 weeks before, then a big climb up to 3100 m, but shortly after a tunnel we turned left out of the main road towards Susamyr. Finally out of the traffic the road was often not asphalted, but it was quite a lot of fun to ride on the trafficfree dirty tracks. In Kyzart we left our bike and we went for 4 beautiful days at Song Kol, surrounded only by yurts and animals. After we headed towards Isik Kol, spending our last day on its shore and swimming in the lake, included a swim at sunrise. From Balikchi we took a train to Bishkek.
- Days riding: 10
- Rest days: 7, all in Osh
- Approx. 700 km
- Highest point 3200 m before Bishkek
After Osh I continued alone again, following the main road until Bishkek. At the beginning I rode along the Fergana valley, not far from Uzbekistan and it was again cultivaed fields and villages for a few days. Shortly before the Toktogul reservoir there were a lot of ups and downs that ended around Toktogul (small town with a nice bazaar) where the real climbing started. It took me more than one day to climb the first pass, with a 2000 m altitude difference. The valley that followed made the effort worth: a green valley surrounded by snowy mountains and dotted by yurts and all their animals. Another climb, an horrible tunnel, where I hitched a ride, and a very long descent brought me to Bishkek. The hostel here is full of other traveller and cyclists, so I will have some company, as I am taking a break from cycling for a few days (weeks?).
- For photos click here.
- Blog post:
Crossing Kyrgyzstan: Yurts, Green Pastures and Mountains
Pedalando verso Oriente: in Kirghizistan
Khorog-Osh (the Pamir Highway)
- Days riding: 15
- Rest days: 2, in Khorog plus a very pleasant half rest day in an homestay in Karakul.
- Approx. 750 km
- Highest point: 4670 m Akbaital pass (the highest point of the trip so far!)
We (me, Sebastian and Guillaume) left Khorog after two good rest days full of food and ready to approach the Pamir plateau. It was a constant and very gentle climb that, in three days, brought us from 2000 m to 4000. On the way we also met a Spanish/Basque couple with road with us for a few days. After the beautiful detour to Yashil Kul, we rode at 4000 m under blue skies surrounded by snowy peaks. Murghab was the only village of a certain size (about 5000 inhabitants) and after it there was really it until the border. Nights were often cold (water would freeze), but camping spot were always silent and remote. Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan there are 20 km of no man’s land: a big descent, not asphalted and in very bad condition, that brought us into Kyrgyzstan where we immediately found green fields, yurts and horses. From there it was a relaxed three days riding until Osh.
- For photos click here (main Pamir) and here (detour to Yashil Kul).
- Blog post:
On the Roof of the World: the Pamir Highway
- Days riding: 12
- Rest days: 3, all in Dushanbe, where I had to obtain the GBAO pemit to enter Gorno-Badakhshan province in the East of Tajikistan.
- Approx. 600 km
- Highest point: 2000 m shortly after Kulob in South Tajikistan. Exactly here.
I left Dushanbe with other two French cyclists, Guillaume and Sebastian, and we stayed together for the whole time. After Dushanbe the riding and the landscape didn’t change too much until Kulob, with the exception of the nice sight of the Nurek reservoir. After Kulob we had a long climb and after everything changed: we started riding along the Panj river, which separetes Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the conditiond of the road further deteriorated, the villages became very small and finding (acceptable) food became much harder. From here on it was all exhausting ups and downs until Khorog along the Panj river, with some views on beautiful Afghan villages and finding a spot were to camp was extremly easy. The continuous ups and downs combined with the poor condition of the road slowed us down, we hardly made 60 km a day.
With an English teacher and his students close to Dehqanabad
- Days riding: 10
- Rest days: 8 (I took a big rest in Bukhara after the Turkmenistan slog and a few days off in Samarkand)
- Approx. 750 km
Not a lot of -est (biggest, longest, highest): I took it very easy, with short days riding, also because of the warm temperature (40+ °C at around lunch time), and the terrain was mainly flat, just a couple of easy passes after Samarkand and some ups and downs around Baysun. The main ‘attraction’ of these days were the Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, but hospitality from people, especially in the South, has been really special and somehow unexpected. It was also the period where I started to meet other tourists and cyclists and before Baysun I met Guillaume, a French cyclist, and we started riding togheter.
- Days riding: 9 + 1 day waiting at the border
- Approx. 1030 km
- Longest day: about 170 km in Turkmenistan of course
I knew I had less than 5 days to cycle 650 km in Turkmenistan. It might have been shorter, but I had to cross to a specific border which was quite far because I did a mistake when applying for the visa…
I got to the border a day earlier and after a rest day, I started the crazy run across Turkmenistan, something I would have happy avoided: I had to cycle more than 150 km a day, the roads were horrible and I didn’t have time to do anything else than cycling (and I finished the money on my second day because I didn’t change enough…). On the 5th day I made it to the border, but I had no forces left (I fell asleep in front of the Uzbek soldier that were registering me on a computer), the 100 km to Bukhara were riden with headwind and when I arrived into the city with cramps just wishing to have a big big rest, which is exactly what I did.
- Days riding: 10 + two rest days (one in Tabas and one in Kashmar)
- Approx 950 km
- Highest point: 2100 m
This part was mainly through the Dasht-e-Kavir, one of the two big Iranian desert. The desert started immediately after leaving Yazd and for about 600 km there has been very little, if not for the city of Tabas, where I took a rest day, repaired the bike that had a problem (again) and met a South Korean cyclist that was going on the other direction. Leaving Tabas the landscape didn’t change until Kashmar, where some mountains appeared. Then it was basically a question of trying to avoid the traffic until Mashhad, where I stopped for 3 days before riding towards the Turkmenistan border.
- For photos click here, here and here
- Blog post:
Dasht e Kavir: across the Iranian Desert
Pedalando verso Oriente: in Iran (italian)
- Days riding:3
- Approx 330 km
I avoided the main road and went through a desertic and dirty road; good choice as it was absolutely beautiful.
- Days riding: 7
- Highest altitude: 2820 m, completely unexpected on a secondary road before Fereydunshahr.
- Approx 600 km
This ride was mainly through the Lorestan region, and people kept remembering me that. From my experience it seems to be a quite mountaineuos region.
I left Kermanshah along a busy highway, which I luckly left after 25 km. I followed a mixture of main and secondary roads, mainly flat, for three days, when I had enough of the traffic and of guys on motorbikes trying to attract my attention and, in Chaman Soltan I turned right to a secondary and beautiful road (trying to get directions from Iranian about secondary road is almost impossible, they just tell you to go back on the main road). I’ve been hosted by a farmers’ family in Farsesh, before continuing through the mountains up to Fereydunshahr. From there I took the main road again, mainly because I was in a hurry to get in Isfahan to meet my parents. Luckly tailwind helped me and I managed to ride the 150 km from Fereydunshahr to Najaf Abad in just one day (biggest day so far…), but there was, again, too much traffic, which is sometimes making the riding not so funny. Finally got to Esfahan, full of Iranian tourist still wandering around the country for No Ruz. Big rest is waiting me.
- Days riding: 5 and a rest day in Kermanshah
- Highest altitude: 2230 m between Dezli and Howraman
- Approx 200 km
Immediately after Dezli the road started to climb and it was raining. At the top there was snow and most of the car had chains on. From there the road went down to Howraman where it started a beautiful unpaved road (this road is also advised on the Lonely Planet, at least the 2009 edition) through some mountains and tiny villages where looking at people it seemed to be on a different era: almost everybody is still wearing Kurdish traditional clothes. It took me two days to cover the 70 km to Paveh. Once in Kermanshah I didn’t really plan to take a rest day but I found myself in a sort of quiet campsite where I was allowed to spend the night. In the evening the campsite became full of Iranian family (on the 21st of March it was No Ruz, Iranian new year, and Iranians are having their holidays in this period) and I was invited for dinner by a family from Urmia where there were some people who could speak some English (and it probably was the best meal I had in Iran until now, with rice and some delicious dolma).
Urmia-Dezli (village 40 km after Marivan)
- Approx 425 Km
- Days riding: 6
- Highest altitude: 2160 m (before Marivan)
After a rest day in Urmia, I started riding along Urmia lake through a lot of traffic and I soon noticed that Iranian driving standards are very very poor. The very first day I manage to break (again) the rear derailleur, which has been instantly replaced thanks to the help of a kind Iranian who also hosted me for the night in his home in Mohammad Yar. Next days have been quite uneventful, camping most of the nights (it is finally warm and I have been riding wearing just a – shirt most of the time), and having an unpleasant head or lateral wind. I just wanted to get to Marivan, where there was a road I wanted to follow until Paveh. In Dezli I spent a very nice evening, hosted by a Kurdish family.
For photos click here
- Approx 500 km
- Days riding: 6
- Highest altitude: Guzeldere gecidi 2770 m
Really lots of mountains, probably the best part of riding so far. Also quite cold the first days both during the day (water would often partially freeze) and at night (with a night spent in the tent with at least minus 15 outside). I was in the middle of a Kurdish area, lot of military basis, helicopters and check-points (close to Yuksekova a military obliged me to delete some pictures, partially my fault as I took a picture when they could see me). Also first (and only for now) time that some children had some fun throwing rocks at me. It happened in Kurtalan, not funny for me.
- Approx 350 kms riding plus 110 km hitchhiking (from Mardin to Hasankeyf as the bike broke)
- Days riding: 7
- Highest altitude: Hazar Gölu 1280 m
Lot of rest days because in this period I took a bus to Ankara to fix the bike and I stayed there five days. I also spent three days resting in Diyarbakir, one day visiting Mardin and two days visiting Hasankeyf.
- After 10 days spent in Ankara and collecting visa I was ready to start riding again.
- Approx 750 kms and no rest days (I was really exhausted when I arrived in Malatya, also because of the many mountains…)
- Highest altitude: 1932 m (Zyiaret dagici after Pinarbasi. My map said it was only 900 m high)
- For photos click here
- Blog post:
Picnic and Caves in Cappadocia
A warm Turkish Winter
- Approx 450 kms
To avoid the traffic in Istanbul I took a ferry to Yalova and from there I went along Iznik Gölu, Geyve, Nallihan, Beypazari and Yavas. It has been great riding along empty roads. I usually asked at restaurant or petrol station along the road to pitch my tent in their garden. Only one night I slept in a tiny building close to a mosque; I was on a very small village on a secondary road and they informed me I was the 5th cyclist stopping there in the last year.