The last few months has been quite a start – stop affair for us. Really, since Shanghai, we’ve been running on various Asian governments’ schedules, obtaining various extensions for our Chinese visas, and even acquiring them for countries such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran was a major hassle. Having to sort out visas has meant we’ve been hanging around some pretty bland, boring cities for days on end, waiting to get the official piece of paper from the guy behind the desk. Working on someone else’s timetable is the exact antithesis of what cycle touring is meant to be about, being free to do your own thing, in your own time.
But now we’ve got all the stamps and passed through this blockade of countries that have been holding us back as if we’ve been cycling through thick treacle. To demonstrate how sticky this bureaucrat treacle is, I’ll state the fact that the first, embassy laden half of Central Asia (from Almaty to Tashkent) took around two months, while the second half from Tashkent to Iran took less than 2 weeks!
It feels fantastic to be given free reign at the controls of our adventure and to cycle when we want and visit the places we want, not just the capital cities. A huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders and we can now just concentrate on cycling rather than spending much of our time queuing outside embassies. When I got on my bike in Samarquand, having obtained the last of my visas, I felt as if I was released; like a bullet from a gun.