How will I get home again? My big aim was to reach my friends in China and I’ve now done that, so I could fly home and the trip would be a success on those terms … but that would be no fun, would it? No, far better to ride home.
Before I set off, this was my declared route. I was going to cross America, ride Japan and then down and across China to Guiyang. It’s what I’ve done – more or less.
Here are the traces of the route I actually took. I skipped the bit from Qingdao to Hong Kong but other than that I’ve stuck to script. What am I going to do next though?
In the original plan I was going to ride down Southeast Asia as far as I could get – to Bali, which is the last major airport before Australia, or maybe even to Australia itself I’ve come to realise on this trip though that I don’t want to fly home from the other side of the world; the sudden adaptation to living and working back in Britain would be tough. I’d like to gain some sense of completion, and to have some way of easing myself back into Western life. That gives me a few options.
The Pacific Rim
If I felt really keen I could do a token ride in Australia and then fly to South America, riding north to complete the Pacific loop. That’s probably a bit too ambitious a plan for my preferred timescale though, and South America is famously windy – and importantly, the winds are blowing the wrong way. I’m content to leave that continent for another time, preferably riding north to south.
If I’m not heading east, I’ll have to ride west across Asia, completing the circuit of the world (or at least the Northern Hemisphere). The problem is, that’s easier said than done: if you remember this post, I took the western route to China because Asia was proving to be so much trouble!
Across Asia: The Northern Route
I could ride across China to Xinjiang in the north west, enter Kazakhstan and ride home that way. The problems with that are twofold:
1) I don’t have enough time left on my Chinese visa
2) It would be absolutely freezing! I might well have taken this route if I’d got to China the other way (and done it in summer), but doing it in winter wouldn’t be fun.
Across Asia: The Southern Route
I could cross into India through Burma – except that the Burmese don’t let you do that: you’ve got to exit the country by the point you entered. It’s a shame really, as north east India, Nepal and Bhutan would all be amazing.
The other problem with India is getting out the other side. If you want a visa to Pakistan then you have to apply in your own country – Dean found this out when he tried to ride there a few years ago. After that you’ve either got to enter Afghanistan (no thanks*) or else ride through Iran, which for British independent cycle tourers is a complete no-no.
It’s always in the image below, really.
- First I’ll ride to Singapore. I’ll keep going through Indonesia if I’ve made really fast progress , but otherwise the plan is to …
- … Fly to Chennai on the southern tip of India and ride north to New Delhi. Hopefully I’ll get further up into Kashmir and the Indian Himalayas, right near the border, but that will depend on the security situation at the time.
- Fly over Pakistan and Afghanistan to Dushanbe. This is the western end of the Pamir Highway which I’d hoped to do last year, but I won’t be going that way, I’ll be heading west into Uzbekistan.
- Cross at the Penjikent crossing (which has usefully just opened, after being closed for years), ride through the Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva to the Caspian Sea at Aqtau and sail to Azerbaijan.
- Ride across the Caucasus to the Black Sea and then either ride along Turkey to Istanbul or else (probably) cross the Black Sea to Odessa and ride home through Europe across the northern side of the Alps.
The plan is to get home in summer 2019. Hopefully that’ll be the early summer as there are some things I’d like to do back in Britain, but this trip is far too much fun so it’s going to take priority: everything I want to do back home can wait if necessary. The usual disclaimer applies too: I might change route halfway, so don’t complain if I decide to go somewhere else!
See you in England when I get there.
* I don’t have any great desire to ride in Australia to be honest: things like this seem a bit too common.
** I’d have considered Afghanistan if I could get through the Wakhan Corridor, which is almost completely cut off from the rest of the country and is only Afghanistan at all because the British and Russians gifted it to them in the 19th Century after they couldn’t bear staring each other down over the border between Russia and India. However, the border crossing between Pakistan and the Wakhan is bilateral, for locals only, so I’d have to go through the main body of Afghanistan itself. No thanks.