On the 3rd March 2018 we left Denmark and drove to the start in Zadar, Croatia. Mette's parents drove us in their car with our bikes and luggage. Europe was still in a very cold winter and there was snow and ice for the majority of the journey.
Then on the 7th March we said goodbye to Mette's parents and set off on our bicycles. For the first six weeks we followed the Balkan coast through Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. Our favourite country on the first leg was Albania. This is where we met true kindness and hospitality for the first time. On the way down we visited many interesting places including Split, Mostar, Dubrovnik and Kotor. The first leg of the tour ended in Athens where Mette's parents joined us for a few days.
During the first leg we mainly camped in many different places including small campsites, in the wild and also in the grounds of kind restaurant owners.
After a nice few days in Athens we took a ferry to Turkey. We had never been to Turkey before and didn’t know too much about the country. The only thing we had read was that Turkey was rated as the seventh best country for cycle touring according to long distance cyclists. It didn’t take long to find out for ourselves that it was true. We had a wonderful time in Turkey due to the extreme warmth and kindness we met from the people everywhere. We spent 47 days in Turkey cycling 2000km across the middle from west to east. Yes, Turkey is a big country.
The country we looked forward to visiting most was Iran, but before we crossed the border to Iran, we decided to cycle through Armenia due to the recommendations we had received from other cyclists we had met.
To get to Armenia we had to pass through a small part of southern Georgia. This is because the border between Turkey and Armenia is closed. We only spent two days in Georgia so we saw only a very small part of it.
Then we crossed the border from Georgia to Armenia. This when we started to realise that we were far from home when the border guard had never heard of Denmark. It took some time before Mette and Jamie got their entry stamps. Armenia was a beautiful country just as we had been told. But it was also a challenging country for cycling. It was in Armenia that we climbed our first 2000m mountain. In 8 days we cycled over 4 mountains. The final climb before the surreal descent to Meghri was mind blowing.
Then we crossed the border to the country we were most excited about visiting - Iran. It nearly never happened though because it was very difficult for me (Andrew) to get a visa. This is because I am a British passport holder and there are restrictions at the moment for British citizens. Jamie and Mette were able to apply for E-visas and get theirs very easily.
One of the restrictions was that I needed to be accompanied by a guide. This would make it very expensive for a guide to follow us on bikes so we decided to turn it into a 10 day sightseeing tour together with Mette's parents. We were met at the border of Iran by our guide and a mini bus. We were then taken to some of the major sights in Iran according to an itinerary we had put together. We visited some of the popular cities and towns of Tabriz, Tehran, Kashan, Esfahan and Yazd. At the end of the 10 days we were driven to the border of Turkmenistan.
So after a lot of hassle to get the visa, it all worked out. We were very happy to visit Iran. It was amazing even though we didn’t get to experience it by bike. Everyone we met was very polite, friendly and helpful. We had a wonderful time in Iran and felt very safe there.
The next country we visited was Turkmenistan. We decided not to cycle here due to several reasons. The first is that it is only possible to get a 5 day transit visa and that would make it difficult to cross the country before our visas expired. Second, it was mid July and unbearably hot in the desert.
We crossed Turkmenistan in a minibus in 3 days. We didn’t see any attractions apart from passing through the newly built marble mega city in the desert - Ashgabat.
Then we crossed the border to Uzbekistan and started cycling again. It felt great after a few weeks off the bikes even though the first day we had to cycle 20 kilometres out of the desert from the border to our first hotel. It is the hottest place we cycled on this trip.
We then started cycling in Uzbekistan passing through Bukhara and Samarkand. Two places I have wanted to visit for a long time. It was the middle of summer now and Uzbekistan was very hot. To cope we set off each day at 05:00 and cycled until noon or slept under the shade of a tree in the afternoon. We always stayed in hotels because it was too hot to camp.
The original plan was that after Uzbekistan we would cycle the Pamir Highway through Tajikistan. However, a tragic terrorist attack killed 4 cyclists on the Pamir Highway just one day before we had planned to cross the border. At first we thought it was an accident, but when we found out it was an attack aimed specifically at touring cyclists, we decided to change our plans. We then continued to cycle through Uzbekistan and through the Fergana Valley heading for Kyrgyzstan. We enjoyed the attractions of Bukhara and Samarkand but the cycling in Uzbekistan was uneventful. The people however were once again very friendly.
Our next country was our biggest challenge - Kyrgyzstan. It is a beautiful country known as the Switzerland of Central Asia. It was very beautiful but also very challenging and demanding. The roads are mainly rough dirt track with many holes. It was also here that we climbed our highest mountain - the 3346m Moldo Ashhu Pass to Song Kul Lake.
The great thing about Kyrgyzstan was that we had the opportunity to wild camp in some amazing locations and stay in some great guest houses. It is a very adventurous country. We were also lucky that we by coincidentally arrived at Issyk Lake just as the World Nomad Games were about to start.
By the time we reached Kyrgyzstan Mette was getting full of experiences and missing Denmark. We decided that she would complete Kyrgystan and then we would visit India and Nepal off the bikes. Mette would then return to Denmark after Nepal together with her parents.
So we then packed the bikes in boxes and flew from Almaty in Kazakhstan to Delhi in India. Even though we didn’t cycle in India, we still had a great experience. We bought some cheap rucksacks in Old Delhi and set off as backpackers. We left our bicycles and most of our luggage at our hotel in Delhi. We visited The Taj Mahal, Jaipur and then spent two weeks learning Yoga in Palolem, Goa.
From Delhi we flew to Kathmandu in Nepal. Mette's parents joined us for 10 days holiday once again. We visited many attractions around the Kathmandu Valley. We also went hiking with amazing views towards the Himalayas and a Jungle Safari in Chitwan National Park. Nepal was another fascinating and interesting country. It was here we started to see European tourists again. It was also still clear to see the devastation the country had suffered in the 2015 earthquake.
Then the most tearful day of the tour came when Mette returned to Denmark. Myself and Jamie flew to Bangkok to start cycling again in South East Asia.
Myself and Jamie then started the final part of the tour in South East Asia. After a few days sightseeing in Bangkok, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam. The bikes were reassembled and we made our way out of Ho Chi Minh City. We had heard that the traffic was terrible in South East Asia so at first we were a little trepidatious. However, in reality, we didn’t find it a problem. There were many many scooters, but they were mainly slow moving and cautious. We were also able to cycle on smaller roads in Vietnam that took us past beautiful lush surroundings and paddy fields. It was also very flat and with little wind. This made the cycling very easy going. After all the hardships of Central Asia it took some time to get used to things being so easy. We didn’t camp due to the humidity and heat. We instead opted to stay in simple guest houses and hotels that were easy to find. There was also many small shops so finding food and water wasn’t a problem either.
After Vietnam we followed the Mekong River into Cambodia. We had read that Cambodia was the Wild West of South East Asia but due to the rapid development the country is going through, we found it once again very easy and enjoyable.
Even though Cambodia has had a terrific history, we found the country full of positive young people and a good potential for the future. We also had a great time exploring the many Khmer Temples near Angkor Wat.
After Cambodia we crossed the border to Thailand. Thailand was a country where our daily life resembled more of a cycling holiday than the adventure. Thailand has a good infrastructure with very nice roads. We followed the coast around the Gulf of Thailand to Pattaya. Everything got easier still with plenty of guest houses, modern cafes and restaurants.
From Pattaya we took a ferry across the Gulf of Thailand to Hua Hin. This allowed us avoid cycling through Bangkok. We then enjoyed the final leg of the tour heading south to Phuket.
The trip has never had a goal or final destination. It had always been about the journey itself and enjoying one day at a time as we headed east. It was only two weeks before we arrived in Phuket that we decided the tour would end there. Before we started, we talked about that we may be able to make it to India, but Thailand was only something we joked about.
We cycled 9000km through 14 countries and passed through 22 in total. The highest mountain pass was 3346m in Kyrgyzstan. It has been the greatest adventure of our lives and the best education we could ever give our son.
The most important thing we learned, was that the world is full of friendly, kind and hospitable people.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you just keep moving".