The untold stories

It has been brought to our attention that this blog is perhaps presenting a fairly rose-tinted view of our last eight months. Therefore, in the interest of unbiased reporting and to show what lies behind the smiles and the sunsets, we have compiled a series of photos which should illustrate the somewhat less glamorous side of cycling from China to Africa.

Back to basics: bread, water and bikes have been our staples.

Not usually a fussy drinker, but the homemade Tajikistan brew was not to our liking.

The floor is often preferable to the bed.

With a limited wardrobe, all fashion sense was discarded early on.

The reason communism failed: an ex-soviet en suite bathroom.

Uzbekistan was hot! Taking a post-lunch nap under a bus shelter.

There is simply no greater (nor more widely available) refreshment.

Bike rebuild in Istanbul.

Language barriers occasionally require a more hands-on approach.

You know that storage room behind a hotel reception…. our first night in Egypt.

Finding a pesky thorn.

Another unsatisfactory breakfast.

Fire up the bedroom stove, again.

Beans for lunch and beans for dinner. Hope you like beans if you’re heading to Sudan.

Who would have ever thought that camping in a thorn field would result in multiple punctures?

Low key birthday celebrations this year.

‘Hotel’ rooms: there have been some heart-sinking moments.

Pursuit of cash in Africa has been a challenge: queuing for another empty ATM.

A familiar sight on rest/laundry day.

The washing Wife.

Don’t drop the soap… loo and shower combo.

The simple life: our luggage for the year.


Heads or tails?

A fact to which almost any cyclist will attest, is that the prevailing wind direction can make or break a day in the saddle. A headwind can cut your speed by half and your morale by even more so. Conversely, a tailwind – pushing you forward from behind – can transform the most mediocre rider into a cycling hero, and it is on tailwind days that a career as a pro cyclist really does seem like a viable option in life.

It should be stated at this point that we have been relatively fortuitous in this regard during our journey across central Asia and have certainly enjoyed some wind-assisted miles along the way. However, the open expanses of western Kazakhstan well and truly re-balanced this particular statistic.

Road and desert became one.

The confident statement declaring a likely tailwind the whole way from Beyneu to the shores of the Caspian Sea proved to be spectacularly inaccurate. The relentless Kazakh headwind punched us in the face from 6am until 9pm and was interrupted only by the occasional slightly stronger gust which would knock our unstable bikes to the ground. These conditions coupled with the non-existent road, which arguably hindered progress even more so, made for an excruciatingly slow 12km/h average speed and subsequently, very long days turning pedal. Add to this the solitude created by the truly barren landscape and understandably this situation raised the obvious question as to why on earth we were doing this. There must be something in every cyclist though that takes some reward from such a (seemingly pointless) challenge, otherwise why indeed would we be doing it? As we sank our first beer for two weeks overlooking the Caspian Sea in the surprisingly bustling city of Aktau, it did finally seem like a worthwhile thing to do.

This place did not have a single Michelin star. Not even one.

End of a very long day.