We have been thinking about cycling from Sweden to Thailand for a couple of years now. The decision to go was taken in the late summer of 2012 and since then we have been busy planning everything.
Initially we had four different routes. Two of them were through Russia, one was through Ukraine and over the Caucasian mountain range and into Iran. The last option was through central Europe and then through Turkey and Iran before entering central Asia.
As you understand we have had many discussions over our dinner table regarding which route to choose. We eventually ended up going for the route through Turkey and the reasons for that were:
- start going south instead of east would mean reach spring quicker (we now know going south means going into winter…)
- We felt we wanted to see Turkey and Iran more than Russia. In cycle touring circles those two countries are seen as nice countries to cycle in.
We have now run into a problem that we didn’t forsee. There will be a presidential election in Iran in June which is when we plan to cycle through that country.
A few weeks before we started to cycle I read rumours in various forums that visas won’t be granted for independant travel in Iran during the spring and summer. It was just rumours and we thought we will find out later. Now when it is time to start the visa application procedure we have checked and double checked too and the fact is that visas will not be granted for crossing the land border on your own. Flying in is OK, but cycle across the border will not be allowed.
We are happy we got to know it already now when there is still time to change the plan.
There are two alternative routes to choose between.
A – northern route
The northern route from Bucharest to Ukraine, Crimea and southern Russia and go around the northern end of the Caspian sea
B – southern route
The southern route from Bucharest to Istanbul and then through Turkey, Georgia to Baku in Azerbadjan. From Baku we will take a ferry across the Caspian sea to Aktau in Kazakstan and then go east and join the original route somewhere in Uzbekistan.
- Northern route – Will allow a visit to Crimea. Not as hot temperatures as the southern route.
- Southern route – Corresponds to orginal route. Turkish and Georgian food and wines. More mountains!!!
- Northern route – Hard to get a visa for Russia. Less interesting nature with too much steppe
- Southern route – Long wait for unpredictable ferry crossing
For the time being our discussions is mostly about the southern route. It corresponds most to our planned route but the major drawback apart from missing out on Iran, is the very unpredictable ferry crossing. We can look forward to a lot of bureacrazy and up to two weeks wait until we can board the ferry that has no timetable.
A friend of ours who is a seasoned touring cyclist said ”it’s a no-brainer. Just look at the map and see where the mountains are. The more mountains the more interesting”.
When cycling to work or the grocery store one tends to avoid hills, but when cycling for training or for tourism as we do, mountains are always more interesting even if we get tired of them sometimes. A dead flat area can be really boring to ride on.
We have not made any final decision and we are all ears to listen to our followers opinions, so dear follower – please write a comment about what route we should choose and why… 🙂