Below is a rough outline of our route across Asia and Europe, from South Korea to Ireland. It is not a fixed route and will probably change as we go along, especially in Central Asia where we may need to re-route for visa purposes, or changes in the local political landscape. However, the countries that we travel through will remain largely the same, and they are as follows:
South Korea ➤ China (via ferry from Incheon to Qingdao) ➤ Kazakhstan ➤ Kyrgyzstan ➤ Tajikistan ➤
Uzbekistan ➤ Turkmenistan ➤ Iran ➤ Turkey ➤ Bulgaria ➤ Serbia ➤ Hungary ➤ Slovakia ➤ Austria ➤ Germany ➤ Netherlands ➤ United Kingdom (via ferry from Rotterdam to Hull) ➤ Ireland (via ferry from Holyhead to Dublin)
For anyone interested, here's a little more detail of some aspects of the trip....
Of the 15,000 kilometres or so that we expect to travel overall, almost 5000 of those will be in China and will take us between two and three months to cycle. Urumqi, where we are heading from Qingdao, in the far north west of the country, is the most remote city from any sea in the world. Once we leave the built up east coast and head west, we will skirt some serious mountains before then passing over the Taklamakan Desert. Although it will be the first country we come to, by the time we've cycled across it and into Kazakstan, one third of our journey will be complete!
The next major part of our trip will be cycling the Pamir Highway, or route M41, from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, via the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. It is the 2nd highest international highway in the world at an altitude of 4655m, and it's roughly 1250 kilometres long. At that altitude, which is almost as high as Mont Blanc, and if I've done my maths right, there is 40% less oxygen available! There will be stretches along it where we won't have any access to food for up to four days at a time so we'll be stocking up on plenty of supplies before we leave Osh to keep us going for the most remote sections. Cycling the Pamirs will be a major point in the trip, both mentally and physically, and will signal roughly the half way mark.
With the Pamirs behind us, our next challenge will be the 5 day dash we'll have to make across Turkmenistan. Getting anything other than a 5 day transit visa is impossible unless on a very pricey tour of the country but 5 days should be just enough time to peddle like hell across the narrowest section of about 600km. We'll have our fingers, toes and everything else crossed that we won't have to deal with a sandstorm - a not altogether impossible scenario apparently. Once at the Iranian border, I'll have to don a head scarf, long sleeves and long legs before being allowed into the country.
***We were rejected the Turkmenistan transit visa so had to fly from Dushanbe, Tajikistan to Tehran, Iran, missing out on both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the process. A very disappointing turn of events.
From Dushanbe, after the Pamir Highway, through the south-west of Uzbekistan, across Turkmenistan, into Iran and all the way across Turkey to Istanbul will be approximately another 4500 kilometres - or less than the total distance we'll have peddled across China!
Once we get into Turkey we won't have to worry about visas for the rest of the trip which will be lovely. We're planning on finding one of the many EuroVelo routes and sticking to it, probably picking up route 13 in Bulgaria. As of yet, we haven't done much research on the European leg hoping that from Istanbul it'll be plan sailing all the way to Rotterdam where we'll get the ferry to England. At that stage we'll be as good as home and dry!
As, I said before, the route we've planned is a very rough outline of the route we'll take. I've created a new map to show where we actually end up passing through. You can see it below....enjoy!