View Central Asia Cycle Tour 2010 in a larger map
The team members of the Five Elements Expedition are certainly no strangers to cycling through Asia. At various times between 2001 to 2007, Kevin cycled extensively in Asia with an impressive list of countries that included Singapore, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Lao, Malaysia, Japan and Eastern Tibet. Chris spent 2006 to 2007, cycling in some of the former Soviet countries, which began in Kyrgyzstan and included Tajikistan, Pakistan, China, Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao.
We are stoked to have the chance to return to this region we have been wanting to explore for the past years. In particular, we are looking forward to reaching Karakol, Kyrgyzstan where we will plan to take full advantage of the mountain and spend all of our day off, hiking and exploring the potential for a return ski touring expedition. Further down the road, there is also Tajikistan and the very remote and demanding Bartang Valley followed by the beautiful and friendly Wahan Valley that skirts the Afghanistan border.
Our planned adventure is unusually late in the season, although we are excited to push the weather window a bit and explore this region in the late fall to early winter season. We have both experienced cold while touring and are confident in keeping warm while touring in winter conditions. Perhaps that is part of the appeal of this trip after all.....
Now, onto the planned route. We begin this crazy adventure by flying out of Vancouver, BC, and into Beijing, China. Upon touch down, we will be spending a couple of days in the city, buying last minute items before purchasing our train ticket to Urumqi, with a short stop in Xi'an.
Leaving Urumqi, we spend about two weeks cycling in China before reaching the Kazakhstan border. The daily mileage will remain low as our bodies acclimatize to life on a heavily loaded bike before we start pushing for longer distances. Once over the border, we will only be spending a week in Kazakhstan, cycling to Almaty, the countries capital, where we will finalize our visa's and gather our GBAO permits for Tajikistan.
The two countries we perhaps are most excited about exploring is Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both home to mountainous terrain. In Kyrgyzstan, we plan on spending a full month, cycling the steep dirt roads and hiking in Karakol, a beautiful city cradled by snow peaked mountains. We continue south, past Osh, a city that was ripped apart by violence earlier this year and into quiet Tajikistan.
With only one month, one road (the M41) and the beautiful Pamir Mountains to look forward to, we continue cycling south toward the village of Kara Kul and the picturesque saline lake that shares the same name. Shortly after Kara Kul, we leave the M41 and head west, following dirt tracks in hope of finding and cycling through the remote and challenging Bartang Valley.
Eventually, we will return to the M41 after having explored the Bartang Valley and head south, past numerous hot springs and into the Wahan Valley. Here we will spend several days cycling along the Pamir River, which divides Tajikistan and Afghanistan and looking forward to meeting with the friendly families that hosted us on the last trip through the valley in 2006. For one final time, we will regain our spot on the M41 and head north, back into Kyrgyzstan for quick stop before heading east, entering China and finally reaching the ancient silk road city, Kashgar.
Our return trip home is still up in the air at this moment. We both have a secret ambition to visit Pakistan and the mighty Karakorum Highway but with the recent instability, we will have to wait and see.