So if you’re reading this it means I have captured your attention long enough in my first post to pique your interest in this adventure I’ve decided to embark on. Well done to you and well done to me.
So let’s move on. As you might have guessed from the map, my trip this time will take me across 20 or so borders exploring the largest land mass on the planet, Eurasia. As the name suggests this is the conglomeration of Europe and Asia which stretches from Siberia in the East through to Portugal in the West. Technically it includes all the islands surrounding as well like Japan and the United Kingdom but for all intents and purposes let’s just say it’s all the bits you can ride a bike on.
Eurasia covers around 55,000,000 square kilometres (21,000,000 sq mi), or around 36% of the Earth’s total land area and approximately 70% of the world’s population live there. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean to the south.
Version 1 (I say that because there probably will be many) of the plan is to ship my bike to Busan in South Korea from Brisbane where I live in the May of 2017. While it sails the 26 odd days through Indonesia to Singapore then the South China Sea and East China Sea to South Korea, I’ll fly to Tokyo, Japan to begin my travels with a bit of traditional backpacker sightseeing. I’ll travel south any way that suits down to Fukuoka where I’ll catch the ferry over to Busan to be reunited with my two-wheeled travelling companion. From here, I’ll take the scenic route through South Korea via Seoul to Dong Hae on the west coast for another ferry ride to Vladivostok. This is where the rubber hits the road for real and apart from the ferry across the Caspian Sea, my wheels will continue to turn all the way to London.
I think listing the specifics of the route before I begin is both lengthy and time consuming (and probably a bit hard to follow for you the reader) and maybe even a little bit fraught with danger by jinxing it. What I will do is talk about some of my must-go places that will make this whole journey truly memorable.
Lake Baikal, Southern Siberia
Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, holding approximately 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. It’s also the deepest at over 1.6km down. Clearly visible from space, it stretches over 600km long and 70km wide and is considered to be the world oldest lake at around 25 million years old. Being landlocked also means it is one the clearest bodies of water in the world with visibility up to 40m on clear days. Frozen in the dead of winter from January to May, I should arrive soon after the thaw.
Known today as the M41 highway, it traverses the Pamir Mountains through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan before dipping into Afghanistan. I’ll be jumping off before I get to Afghanistan though for obvious reasons. I don’t think appearing on CNN as the latest Taliban trophy is the sort of publicity I need. It’s one of the highest altitude international highways in the world at over 4500m. As you can see from the pictures though, the term highway means different things in different countries!
It’s the world’s largest inland body of water and is often listed as the world’s largest lake, though it is not a freshwater one like Lake Baikal. Due to the large inflows from rivers in the north from Russia, the northern end of the Caspian Sea is fresh and the southern Iranian end is about 1/3 the saltiness (if that’s a word) of seawater. It’s best known however for being one of the oldest oil-producing areas in the world, with extraction dating back to as early as the 1870’s.
Not the first destination in mind by many when planning an overseas holiday but a rich and diverse history nonetheless and I have a real interest in learning more. Growing up in the 80’s in the midst of the East vs West Cold War era, all the bad guys in movies were Russian and our perception of Russia and Moscow were one of a cold and bleak existence where your life consisted of vodka, ushankas (you know, those fluffy ear flap caps) and driving poorly made Ladas. I hope to be proven grossly misinformed.
If I’m going to cross the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland on my way around the Gulf of Bothnia toward Sweden and Norway, I may as well detour the extra 700km to Nordkapp, the northernmost point of Europe accessible by road. All of Scandinavia really is going to be a highlight I think. I have been compiling a list of what is considered to be the world’s greatest driving/riding roads and many of them are here.
Being a certified car and bike nut, I can hardly go anywhere near Germany without visiting the many manufacturers originating from here. I’m also looking forward to digging further into my own Eastern European ancestry while in the area. Chasing the ultimate ride once more through the world’s most famous and picturesque mountain range of the Alps before more automotive nirvana in Italy with some fanboy sightseeing of the supercar marques.
One of the real reasons for getting this adventure off the ground with the blessing of my ever understanding wife is the end goal of meeting her in the UK when I arrive. Having family there, I know she has been desperate to get back there to reconnect with her brothers and their families. So this brings me to the first of what I expect to be many ‘Top Tips’ in planning and executing the trip of a lifetime.
So there you have it. Next post in the can. During the next 12 months of planning, I will be regularly posting more route planning, bike prep, gear selection and general all-round ramblings. Once the journey starts, I will post more regularly and whenever wi-fi allows to take you all with me. So tell your friends, bookmark this page and stay tuned.