Monday, 5 May 2014

Cycling through the Clouds in Central Asia

May 5, 2014: The Thought
After riding my bike from Barcelona to Tehran in the summer of 2012, I thought of starting my next trip from Iran eastward. I kind of like connecting the start points and end points of my trips. Besides,  I was always fascinated by Central Asia and the historic Silk Road. So the entertaining of the idea began in Sept 2013, and I have been planning for this trip since. 

On my previous trip in Turkey, I was fortunate to run into Fausto, an Italian cyclist who was riding his bike to Thailand through Iran. We traveled together for ten days in Turkey. So I contacted him and asked if he is also interested in doing Central Asia. Sure enough, he was crazy about  the idea. We first decided to start the trip from Iran, into Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Mongolia, but due to many challenges, including visa complications, our plans got changed a few times until we finally decided to start from Dushanbe in Tajikistan, into China, through Tibet, into Laos, and finish in Thailand. 

To get a Chinese visa, I called the Chinese Consulate in Toronto and told them about my plan. The response was disappointing; they said I should contact the local government of the provence I was going to cross the border into China and ask for a letter of invitation and a permit to have a vehicle with me (my bicycle!). Besides, I was told that the only way to travel to Tibet was to go with an agency. A solo cyclist in Tibet would be arrested, fined, and deported. 

Then, I lied to them. I booked a flight to Beijing, I found and booked a cheep hostel, and I wrote an itinerary for a 20-day plan in China. When I got a 30-day visa, I canceled the flight and the hostel. 

To get a Tajik Visa was tricky! First of all, there are only a handful of Tajik embassies around the world, so I had to call Tajik embassy in Washington a few times to realize that as a Canadian, I didn't need a visa, but I need a letter of invitation from a travel agency in Tajikistan. The challenge was finding a reliable travel agent. I accidentally found one when I emailed Tajik Hotels Website to ask a question about booking accommodation. I sent $60 via Western Union to a name. I had no Website or anything--only a name. I took the risk and they sure sent me an invitation letter with which I could get a visa as well as a GBAO permit to cycle in areas bordering Afghanistan. 

For Laos and Thailand, we will  figure out what we should do when we get there. We will also need to extend our Chinese visa since we are going to cover a very huge area. 30 days are not enough. 

6 months ago, I didn't know what happened that I injured my left shoulder. So much so that I stopped rock climbing. I could not even wear my jacket without suffering from a lot of pain. So... Physically, I am by no means ready. I am going to take it easy the first days of the trip until I get used to riding. 

Bicycle (Surly LHT 2011)
Panniers (Ortlieb: back, front, and handle bar bags)
Solar panel (Guide Zero)
Cameras (Gopro Hero 3, Fuji)
Gopro monopod (jaw) 
iPad and IPhone 
Head light
Garmin GPS
Batteries and charger
Cloths: down jacket, fleas, long pants, short pants, cycling shorts, cycling jersey, rain gear, underwear, hat, gloves, buff, cap, T-shirts
Cook wear(Perimus Multifuel stove, pots and pans, kettle, spices, 
Bicycle repair tools
Three spare tubes, a spare tire, and patches
Lock and cable
Burglar alarm (Deafcon 1)
Water bottles
Foldable water bottles
Water filter with pills
Water purifier 
First aid kit
Bike lights
Extra break pads

My Equipment


Goodbye Party


  1. Hi buddy,

    All you need to do is warm up well, which means go easy the first few days.

    We are following you.

    Med (Medwin)

  2. Hey Man,
    I read about your shoulder injury. I think I know what it was. It was an inflammation in your "rotator cuff" group of muscles. It usually takes some physio and will go away with care. You just need to avoid lifting up your arm as much as possible for the time you are on your trip until you feel comfortable.
    All the best on your way forward! Daver

    1. Thanks for your comment, Davar. My shoulder is fine now. It is little bit weak, which the trip will take care of it. You enjoy the summer.

  3. Dude, I will be following you while you are pedaling the summer away. Good luck with huffing and puffing!

  4. Good luck dude! I'm gonna check here everyday! :)

    All the best,


  5. Hello my friend. I finally just figured out the URL to find you. I hope you are having fun. Come back to Seneca safe and sound.