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We plan to set off on 3rd July from the European side of Istanbul, crossing of the Bosphorus bridge will officially signify our entrance into Asia early in the morning before we follow the Mediterranean coast to Izmit. From there, we will head towards Samsun going through some of the wildest parts of Northern Turkey before following the Black Sea (Northern Coast) to Sürmene. A ‘little’ detour to the wonderful town of Uzungöl will take us inland once more and up to around 1500m altitude before we come back towards the coast to cross into Georgia.
We will cross Georgia from Poti to Lagodekhi passing through Tbilisi, the capital. We will then traverse Azerbaijan along the Northern (more scenic) route all the way to Baku, where we hope to arrive on approximately 18th August. A short hop across the Caspian Sea on the notoriously irregular ferry to Aktau should see us arrive in Kazakhstan a few days later, with a desert crossing along the Aral Sea into Uzbekistan. Following the huge sand walled fortress of Khiva, the major Silk Road towns of Bukhara and Samarkand will undoubtedly involve a couple of rest days as we explore the marvels of this country and discover the work of the Bukhara Craft School.
Our departure from Uzbekistan will signify the start of the toughest section of our trip – Tajikistan and its infamous Pamir highway. Over 4500m in multiple places, this route is known as the second highest road in the world and brings with it a host of challenges both for ourselves and our trusty bicycles. Depending on the weather (and the mood of the border patrol) when we reach the Chinese border, we may or may not need to divert into Kyrgyzstan in order to cross into China and Kashgar, another major Silk Road stopping point. At this point, we will have reached halfway through the trip and will decide on the exact route through China depending on various factors. Most likely is a route up towards Urumqi, crossing Xinjiang province before heading South East along Gansu province and along Henan and Sichuan provinces towards Shanghai. One of our aims is to visit Zhangjiajie on our way – google it, it looks amazing!
Overall, the distance of our route is highly dependent on the size of roads we will take and our daily detours to interesting places. We estimate it as approximately 8,000 miles (nearly 13,000km), taking us from 50 Degree heat in the deserts of Kazakhstan to -30 Degrees at night in the Pamirs at around 4500m altitude. Our blog should contain more detailed distances as we progress.