A Travellerspoint blog

Travelling by bike from Greece to China

Summary Olympia - Kashgar

View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.


My geotagged photo gallery is now on http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25750.

Tracks for Google Earth or GPS-Download:



[*]Georgia (Sarpi to Tblisi)

[*]Georgia and Azerbaijan (Tblisi to Baku)


[*]Kyrgyzstan and China (Osh to Kashgar)

Elevation profile Osh-Kashgar

Posted by Lent 08:52 Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

I'm off my bike...

...but the tour is going on to Beijing 2008

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...

Posted by Lent 08:16 Comments (3)

Down to Kashgar

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

Wind erosion creates bizarre landforms

Uyghur graveyard. 1906 or 2008 - difficult to tell the difference

180 km and two more days to go until Kashgar. This part of the world's most populous country is almost completely uninhabited, but there are some small settlements consisting of low one-storey mudbrick buildings. Other signs of a cultural landscape are the Muslim graveyards with their burial mounds and mausoleums. Everything looks really like on Mannerheim's photos from 1906.
The road is in excellent condition, practically no private vehicles but every now and then a truck that "helps" lazy cyclists - like me - up the still frequent uphills by allowing to hook on. Only 50 km before Kashgar we descend below the 2000 m line and the scenery turns green, agricultural and populated.
The final day of travelling is thus a fast one, the last twenty kilometres on a six-lane motorway that connects China's westernmost city with the rest of the country.
After an adventurous and exhausting eight days in the mountains we are there. Checking in at Hotel Seman, located in the former Russian consulate, where also Mannerheim stayed after his three month expedition on the same route from Osh. It takes us a while to figure out, when and where we were the previous time in a place with a hot shower - it must have been weeks ago...

Like in Helsinki, all sign-posting is in two languages. But where to go?

For GPS and photos between Uluggchat and Kashgar: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25118

To see the entire route from Osh to Kashgar, go to: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25841

Posted by Lent 04:58 Archived in China Comments (0)

To China by bike

sunny 20 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

The most exciting, though not the most difficult border crossing of this journey. (That honor remains with entering Turkmenistan in Turkmenbashy.) After 97 days of travelling from Olympia we enter China by bicycle!
After going through the various Kyrgyz control points - including a "health check" - about 7 km of nomansland have to be crossed' the one and only time with full gear on bicycle because we are leaving our car and Adam, one of our two drivers - behind and expect a new car to be waiting for us on the Chinese side. A giant flag mosaic on the slope and a fence indicate that we have entered Chinese territory! A few moments for having some very private feelings after 6300 km of cycling and the customs drag everyone into a small shack and search evrery of our bags rather carefully, paying special attention to books, notes and cameras. Arriving at the modern border terminal building for final passport control and health declaration (avian flu!) we meet our new van, driver and tour guide until Kashgar. And because entering China takes away another two hours of our day and puts us into Beijing time, we start cycling rather late in the afternoon after the very first encounter with Chinese food on Chinese soil.
Still this afternoon is probably one of the most memorable of the entire journey, as we seem to be seeing now the completely different side of the Tien-Shan mountains. An apocalyptic landscape of bare wind-eroded towering cliffs taking the most bizarre forms and presenting themselves to us in a beautiful bright afternoon sunshine. I can't remember any other day or place where taking photos was so easy and enjoyable.


First nighstay in China: a yurt, a few kilometres from the village of Uluqchat. We have entered the Kyrgyz autonomous region within Xinjiang, where the majority of the poulation adhere to Islam. So: same, same, but in China different...

Here our car has to turn around. Good bye to Adam! Chinese border officials are actually very helpful in carrying the extra gear to the border terminal.

Entering Chinese territory, a moving moment

Incredible landforms in the Tien-Shan

Yes, it's China!

Track and photos of this exciting first day in China on http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25065. Definitely worth watching in Google Earth!

Posted by Lent 04:12 Archived in China Comments (1)


overcast 14 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

Used as a pass on the Silk Road for centuries, one cannot be but astonished by the bumpy and stoney dirt track that leads to China, all the more that an uninterrupted chain of new Chinese trucks carrying modern sea-going containers try to make their way through this remote area. Compared with the the antiquated Kyrgyz trucks going the opposite direction this is a very tangible sign of how the booming Chinese economy is spilling over into neighboring countries.
The Kyrgyz side of the border at Irkeshtam offers a depressing view of an agglomeration of rotting shacks (where probably certain "services" are offered) and lorries. Somewhere in this mess there is a gate that will open on Monday morning to allow us to leave Kyrgyzstan for China...

Kyrgyz children - however remote, this area is not completely uninhabited

Nura - very last village before the Chinese border. The last kilometres to the border are brandnew asphalt.

GPS and photos: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25133

Posted by Lent 03:44 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Comments (0)

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