As indicated earlier in this blog, I needed to reconsider my resources and possibilities for this long bicycle tour and I now declare my resignation from BalticCycle 2008 Olympia-Beijing after 99 adventurous and wild days and more than six and a half thousand kilometres of cycling. I admit I do so with a certain sigh of relief. It has been a tightly scheduled, physically demanding tour but also a very rewarding time to literally feel the climate and landforms of the Peloponnesos, the Turkish Egean, the entire width of the Black Sea, the foothills of the Caucasus, the inhospitable Garagum desert, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan and finally the Mannerheim expedition trail over the Tien-Shan mountains between February and May of this year. Not really a relaxing holiday, but certainly an intensive study trip with numerous impressions of landscapes and local populations and besides a real survival exercise in many situations both on and off the road. So it is time to thank participants and organizers of this big project for letting me share in their experience, sometimes dragging me along and always being helpful.
So, many thanks to Sigitas ("Maybe!"), initiator and indefatigable organizer of this as well as all other previous BalticCycle trips, the splendid team of drivers and sleeping place hunters Adam and Marcin and to fietsmaat Mark ("Did you saw the van?"), who taught me a lot of Dutch language on the road and who is and will be the only person with whom to share boerenkool and rookworst at 3400 metres altitude in the middle of Asia.
Farewell in Kashgar. Bon voyage to Beijing, fietsmaat!
Besides these persons, let me wish all the best of luck for a safe and successful completion of the journey to Beijing to all cyclists of the Olympia-Beijing core team, namely Carlotta from Italy ("Incredibile!"), our physician and chief photographer Dr. Valentinas from Lithuania ("You must not drink Coca-Cola. You understand, yes?"), Monica ("No!", with very steep intonation drop), Andrzej and Ryszard from Poland ("Czesc!"), Vassileos ("F...", besides being a lover of polyphonic early chorale music he is the first and only Greek ever having cycled around the world) and Danae ("Are you alright?") from Greece. I deeply admire your perseverance and I will often think of you and the thirty or so other cyclists that have joined and still will join for longer and shorter parts of the route while you cycle the huge and hot Taklimakan desert and along the Great Wall of China for another 5,000 kilometres.
Here endeth my report on the Olympic Bike Ride. If you come back to this site in a few weeks time, you may find some mileage and altitude statistics, links to track recordings with height profiles and more photos and possibly some comments about useful and useless bicycle and camping gear (comment postings by other cyclists welcome). And please bookmark the following links if you want to follow up the progress of BalticCycle towards Beijing 2008:
http://www.bicycle.pl. For English, watch out for "Bob's reports".
http://www.pentacycle.com In English.
http://www.pageline.nl In Dutch.
As for myself, I both humbly and gladly remember the advice (was it a warning?) given to their former teacher of Geography by the kids of 9C in Kulosaari Secondary School in Helsinki earlier this year that
China is a wide and big country.
I wish to congratulate these bright young people on the occasion of their graduation on Saturday this week and I am sure that we will all enjoy a very relaxing summer holiday, many travelling, some at home...