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Friday, August 22, 2014
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Saturday, August 16, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014
But for now, Turkmenistan is quite worth blogging about (and this one's a bit of a rant without spellcheck, as this is the first internet access i've had since entering the country!).
I reckon I was pretty surprised at how locked up this country is. We spent a good number of hours waiting at immigration for visas---I guess that isn't too surprising. But after our first night in the country, we found out we'd been assigned a police escort. Our cop took to driving up and down the long line of us cyclists that undoubtedly reaches 10-20 miles, telling us something over the loudspeaker in Russian. Later I learned he was telling us to stick together, so that he can properly escort us. Well, that's not going to happen -- that's not how we roll out here.
Apparently, the previous and current presidents here have spent garrish amounts on fabulous buildings and highways -- that apparently the people can't use?
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Sunday, July 20, 2014
Yesterday was nearly surreal as we swooped down from a series of mountain passes that separated us from a rich river valley filled with Tajik villages.
The passes were a formiddable hurdle in the first place, not only because of the height of the climbs, but also the quality of the roads. I knew there were dirt roads on this tour, but these roads were washboarded, very rocky, sandy - not the worst you could expect, but close. They just about reduced me to tears, as I painstakingly picked my way over in the smallest granny gear, kilometer after kilometer on my suspensionless bike, as the big Chinese trucks kicked up dust and exhaust in my face. (Fortunately, the pavement would reappear between segments of dirt road, and overall a good majority of the road was paved. But those steep dirt segments were hellish.)
On descending from the final pass, we were in a long river valley. We stayed one night at a hot spring, frequented by locals (suffocatingly hot sulphur, nude bath with the local women). The next day we passed through a number of villages, lined by the first trees we've seen in a while; or rough fences; or fields of something sneezable. Houses were flat roofed clay houses straight out of some ancient world, or the more modern blue-roofed construction. Women cover their heads with scarves, and many cover their faces with more scarves. Children yell out "Hello" - sometimes from some hiding spot - and you just yell "hello" back. Men gather in groups around cars, and stare as you pass. Many will wave and greet you. Cows sit alongside the road. The road winds back and forth across the milky-blue river, majestic mountains hem in the valley on either side.
I regret not learning some Russian before this trip, to talk more substantially with all the folks we pass.
We've seen a small trickle of folks along this tourist trail. Other (solo) bicycle tourists; a few German and Swedish motorbikers. The secret is out; this is the place to be!
Today: day of rest in Khorog. Several of us happened across some kids in the park last night who wanted to play frisbee with us, so we have another frisbee date with the kids in the park this evening. Laundry, exploring, etc. Tomorrow, we head off into the wifi-less wilderness for several days til we reach Dushanbe.
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Kyrgyzstan: verdant grasslands, purple mountains; children run out from their yurts where they spend summer to greet you. Horses, donkeys, cows, yaks. Was invited into one yurt with a few other riders to drink fermented mare's milk (blech!), thick cow's cream with breads and tea.
Only in Kyrgyzstan for few days, but learned that boundaries for countries formed by Russians were somewhat arbitrary. There are Kyrgyz people (high cheekbones, own Turkic language) in Tajikistan, and Tajiks (closer to Persians) who traditionally live in other countries.
Got stomach bug right before Tajikistan border, had to ride in truck for a day. Ugh
Tajikistan was vastly different on crossing border. Dry as a bone; barren mountains, but with the deep blue salt lake Karakul visible for miles. Tiny villages made of corrugated tin roofs, clay bricks. The tiny town of karakul with 10? huts next to the lake is where some of nomads we talked to spend winter... smell of locals burning cow dung in the mornings.
Yesterday we camped next to a Kyrgyz nomad summer camp, and our cook made a deal to buy some yak meat off of a still living yak. We watched as 5 men hobbled, prayed over, and cut the throat of the struggling yak. (We had yak stew that night.)
Today we passed over the highest point on the trip: 4664 meters (whats that in feet?); dirt washboard roads reduced me to walking (need more gears). But on the other side we quickly descended into a near Martian landscape; red, purple streaked mountains that remind me of Bolivia.
Tonight, a rare treat: a shower and a hotel in the slightly bigger town of Murghab, but still no wifi. I'm hoping the data network here will work to send this email!
We also walked down to the bazaar (market) here, and all the kiosks were set up in shipping containers, no electricity; selling jeans next to eggs and car oil...
In a few days we'll descend into Khorog (rest day), will hopefully upload some photos and send a better update there.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Today we ride 60 miles to an immigration checkpoint. Tomorrow there is 8000 feet of climbing, ending at 10,000 ft altitude. So much for a warmup ride! The 3rd day we cross the border, and we're told to expect to be stuck at the border for 4 or 5 hours. We ride for 4 days straight, and rest in the little less-than-a-town pit stop of Sary Tash.
I've been in Kashgar for 3 days now. This area is very interesting and much different from the rest of China. Xinjiang province (where I'm at now) is home to 10 million Uyghers, an ethnic group that is more Turkic than Han Chinese. They have tanner skin, rounder, sometimes greener eyes. Most of the women dress in beautifully colored dresses and scarves, but some cover their heads completely, draping a brown cloth completely over theri faces. The men wear ornate skull caps, sometimes longer goat beards. They are Muslim, and have their own language, which is a simplified Arabic.
Friday, July 4, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
It turns out that a palace in China is more of a compound of multiple buildings and courtyards, and less a Neuschwanstein castle. All the buildings within the compound and between palaces follow a similar look & feel. Red walls, columns, green rafters, litle creatures upholding the corners of the up-turned eaves. Beyond that, there have been circular and octagonal temples, gates, shrines, halls....
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
|How to write this resignation letter?|
|Clam chowder my landlord made and left for me on my late night return from my Maine bike trip. Tough to lose a nice landlord like this.|
|An Uzbek visa. ($160!) The advertised processing time was 10 days, but they processed it in about 5.|
|China Visa. I went through a Visa processing service for this one (my 1st) and paid too much. The Visa service provided step-by-step feedback on the visa application, but I think they added a couple days to the processing of it.|
The plans are coming together... Now I mostly just have to sweep up my home life into boxes, and I'm outta here!
Friday, May 30, 2014
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Sunday, May 11, 2014
|Me, in front of Bentley library on the last day of school!|
|Fun Tajikistan paper work|
|Typical cue sheet for a MA ride. 55 turns on a 40 mile ride. Note the specified Route mark, which is painted on the pavement before and after every turn.|
- Mi 25.... turn around.
|Robin and Laurie who I did most of the 32 miles with|
|Beware riders mowing down children!!|
Sunday, May 4, 2014
This was my first ride joining roadies, and I wasn't sure how my new bike would hold up to the road riders' carbon fiber bikes and skinny tires. The verdict: pretty good.
I joined the Charles River Wheelmen for their recurring South Shore Coastal Loop ride around Scituate, MA. What a cool ride! Awesome views of the ocean, massive New England coastal homes, and at least half of the ride smelled like mulch, fruity ocean, pine forest, or swamp. Super. Strong winds off the water. I got dropped by the fast group around mile 18 when I stopped to take this picture:
After I was dropped, I stopped to take more pictures, until the slower group showed up.
This is probably near Musquatchcut Pond: