Simon’s Kyrgyz Video

Simon

Since Fearghal and I were cycling separately from Mid China through Central Asia, I am the sole actor and cameraman (with the help of some sturdy rocks) of this video. This video shows footage as I cycled from the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, up into the spectacular snowy Sussamyr Too Mountains, over the Ala Bel pass and down to the beautiful Toktogul Lake at the end of my Perfect Day.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8589737&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

Again, Like our China Video, the video has been squidged crossways while putting it onto vimeo, but if you fancy, you can download the original at the bottom of this page.

Rainy Days

New Bıcycles

Simon

Corum – Turkey

It’s been a wet few weeks for us since Christmas and as I write this, all my clothes are soaked and the roads are covered in a smattering of snow. After spending Christmas week in Yerevan, we cycled up to Lake Sevan in Northern Armenia where we camped overnight, and beat the cold weather by lighting a big fire and making some yummy hot brandys.

After leaving Tom to make his way back to Yerevan, Fearghal and I were called off the slushy road and into a tunnel operators digs where the elderly Armenian chap tried to ply us with vodka. We managed to down a couple of shots then making a swift exit before our host made us as drunk as he was, but not before he gave us a huge supply of cakes, fruit, bread and of course, a bottle of vodka for the road.

From there made our way through the rolling mountains to the Georgian border which we passed through swiftly. Only a few km down the road, we saw a wedding taking place in a small town, and hung about outside, hoping to gate-crash the party. Sure enough, after only a couple of minutes wait, we were led inside by one of the guests and again given vodka (can you see a recurring theme here?) and grub, though we had to earn our feed, and so proceeded to amuse the other guests by dancing to the Georgian music. We’re both old hands at dancing to traditional music, having practiced in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran so we have our technique down to a tee.

Tbilisi, Georgian’s beautiful capital city was our next destination where we relaxed in the steamy sulphur baths to sooth our aching muscles, and gobbled up dozens of Khinkali, Georgian dumplings stuffed with mushrooms, potato or meat. It was an esy cycle to the Black Sea coast, where we delighted in seeing open water after being landlocked for many months.

On a rainy evening a week ago, we crossed over into Turkey, and haven’t had a day without rain since. We followed the Black Sea coast for the first few days, enjoying the flat smooth roads after the horrendously steep and winding roads in Armenia. We can feel Europe sneaking in faster now; seeing European trucks and having a plethora of EU products available in shops that wouldn’t look out of place at home.

We’re now on our way through the coastal mountains toward the interior of Turkey which we hope will bring dryer weather, and are looking forward to a week off in Istanbul.

Let Them Eat Cake

Fearghal likes Bread

Simon

I’m always amazed by the sheer quantity of different breads that are eaten around the world. From the same basic ingredients of flour, yeast, water and salt there are breads that are crumbly, chewy, crispy, flakey, bland, full flavoured, thin sheets, long baguettes, round loaves, rectangular loaves and everything in between.

At home, getting bread is a very simple matter but in some places it can be exceedingly difficult. After crossing the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, we stopped in a small village to get some bread from one of the tiny cluttered grocery shops. We were told that their bread normally came from Oruro (about 300km away), but because it had rained, the dirt roads turned to mud and thus the bread van couldn’t get through!

In China bread is pretty much non existent, apart from the XinJiang region (the Capital Urumchi was the location of the riots last June) where the Uyghur people live, but as soon as I crossed the border into Kazakhstan, bread was available in abundance. In Central Asia, the loaves are usually a saucer shape with a thick outer crust and thin patternated centre. At the end of a long day in the Kyrgyz mountains I was searching a town for bread to no avail, when my nose picked up a faint whiff of fresh bread. I followed the sweet enticing aroma to the local bakers where they were cooking a fresh batch in an outdoor clay pot oven. First I watched as the baker placed and spread the slightly sticky dough onto a clay disc (which formed the pattern in the centre), then lean into the open topped oven and stick the dough to the side. Once cooked it was absolutely delicious, and I ate an entire loaf before moving on.

Bread is believed to be blessed by God in Iran and Uzbekistan (and perhaps other countries too), and thus there are certain faux pas to be avoided. For example, you should not put bread on a plate upside down, and if it becomes inedible and you must throw it away, it should be put in a separate bread bin and not mixed in with the other rubbish. If you see bread lying on the street, you should not step over it, but move it over to the to the side where it will not be trodden on.

The best bread I’ve tasted so far was in Mashad, Iran, which was “Sangak” (in photo above, Fearghal did manage to leave me a little!) a gigantic 3ft long sheet of chewy bread that had been cooked on small pebbles which indent the dough and give a lovely proportion of crispy edges and soft middle.

And as Mr Kipling would say, it was “Exceedingly Good”.

Route Update

Simon

Tiblisi – Georgia

At the time of writing this blog, we were in Tiblisi in the warmer than expected winter. My odometer showed 20800km, over 2/3rds of the way around the World (total to cycle is 28,900km). I figured it was about time to update our route map, so here it is below, with blue for where we’ve cycled, red for cycling left to do and green for flights/boats.

The basic plan from Here is to head to Istanbul via the Black Sea coast, then Northwards to catch the Danube river which we’ll follow via Budapest and Vienna, until we reach the Alpes. Then we’ll hook down towards Italy, skirt the Mediterranean coast of France (if anyone has a contact in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco who’ll let in 2 grubby cyclists, please let us know. No, we don’t have tuxedos with us!!), then back Northward through the Rhone and Rhine Valleys to Calais where we’ll catch a boat to England. From there it’s back to cycling on the left of the road (after 17 months on the right), which we can hopefully manage to do safely until we reach Stranraer, Belfast and finally, Greystones, hopefully on the 17th April in time for a huge party!

Happy Holidays

Winter seems pretty bleak on the Irish Isles at the moment. With Dublin and a London in the grip of a big freeze, I’m guessing many people are dreaming of summer, long warm days, sunshine, birds chirping in the trees, maybe a glass of chilled white wine. Sounds Good?

Add a day’s mountainbiking on grassy single-track followed by dinner, maybe some fresh pasta with organic tomato and basil sauce, eaten with sun setting on the shores of Lake Garda and things get really tempting.

If that whets you whistle, book a bespoke holiday with our friends at allmountainexperience.com. Why now? because there’s 20% off if you book before the end of January. Both Tarja and Niall are accomplished bikers, Tarja represented Ireland at the Olympics, Niall in the MTB world cup, so you’re in good hands.  They also have a fleet of tasty KTM‘s, similiar to the one’s we’re riding, so you’ll be on top quality bikes. Most importantly though, they’re all round nice people.  

If you still need convincing check out the video below. 

For more info go to allmountainexperience.com 

Potential Energy

road goes up

Simon

Tiblisi – Georgia

As I whizzed downhill into the Georgian capital of Tiblisi, I felt the cold wind in my hair and bushy beard, the tingling of my nearly knumb hands, and enjoyed the lack of effort as my bike rolled downward. I had earned that enjoyment sometime earlier in the day, when I used the power in my muscles to spin the pedals which gave me forward thrust up some hill. By climbing upward, I gained potential energy, and the higher I went, the more energy I gained, like a rollercoaster carriage waiting to be released for a thrilling ride.

But there is another type of potential that we have within ourselves, and that is the potential to get out and do some exercise, no matter how tired you feel. I always find that I feel vitalised after a cycle, walk or run, even if I felt sh*te beforehand. The urge to stay in the comforts of ones home often overrides the exercise we know we need, but deny ourselves.

I also find that the more exercise I do, the better and more energised I feel. For example after the Christmas slobfest in Armenia, I felt low on energy, despite sleeping lots and doing nothing. Conversely, when I was doing consecutive 180km days in western China, I had boundless energy.  No doubt you’ll be feeling a little sluggish after the Christmas excesses, so raise your potential energy, get out on your bike, or go for a run, walk or swim. Yes, I know it’s it’s freezing cold outside (I’ve seen the news), but I guarantee you’ll come back feeling better than when you went out.

And the fitness you gain will keep you going when you come along for our homecoming cycle this April……..

Courting Impossible

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8235991&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

The Global Triathlon from Daniel Martin on Vimeo.

Fearghal

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men, at least that’s what Mohommed Ali reckoned. He was a big man, and didn’t seem to be held back by impossiblity. Dan Martin is another big man who doesn’t let im get in the way of his possible.  

Dan’s planning a global triathlon! Even trying to think up the craziest expedition I could imagine I never would have dared dream of something like this; swim the Atlantic, bike across Siberia in winter, then run across North America!

Quite simply its nuts and maybe not possible.

But, Dan is going to give it a bash all the same. He’ll be spending four months at sea then hopping on his bike to the bearing straits then running to New York in time for the City Marathon. Like I said nuts, and maybe impossible.

We’ll be following Dan’s historic adventure closely. I really hope he can redefine a global Triathlon as possible.