I saw the adds for the OshenWatch and decided to order it because of its advertised ability to monitor blood pressure. I ordered it in mid July and received it after two weeks. See their advert: OshenWatch
Charging and connect to smart phone
After receiving the watch I set about charging it and it took a while to figure out how to do this. It’s actually pretty clever and what you need to do is remove the strap on one side of the watch and plug the tab directly in to a phone USB charger. Since the strap is not easy to remove and requires some force and jiggles to make it come off I’m worried that the tab might break off after some time.
While charging I downloaded the FitPro app to my Android phone and after an hour of charging I tried several times to connect the watch and after 4 or 5 tries I managed to connect it. You must do the connection with the FitPro app and not do it via the phone’s bluetooth settings. The connection works well and data from the watch is shared with the phone and you can use the app to adjust the settings on the watch. I did notice that if the connection is broken by moving the phone too far from the watch it will not auto-connect once you get within bluetooth distance but you must manually reconnect.
After charging and connecting I eagerly tested the heart-rate beats per minute(bpm), O2, and blood-pressure monitors. I quickly found to my dismay that they give readings but the readings are way off. I compared the bpm against my Xiaomi band 4 and manual readings and the OshenWatch was several bpm off while the OshenWatch blood pressure readings were way off at 100/70 compared to my medical bp reader at 130/90.
I went outside for a run in fairly bright conditions and found it almost impossible to read the watch, the display is very dull and much worse than my Xiaomi watch. The step counter did seem to tally with the Xiaomi and my phone so at least that is working on the OshenWatch.
I wore the watch for a week in the hope that it might calibrate itself but no such luck! The health readings were still off after a week of tries.
After my disappointing experience with the OshenWatch I wrote to email@example.com and they quickly agreed to refund me half of the cost, ie. around $30. In itself and admission that the watch does not meet the advertised functionality.
In conclusion I can’t recommend the OshenWatch, the advertised functions do not work, the display is very dull and there are watches at half the price that are better!
I found a blog on the internet by a group who did a round trip in the western USA with a route that includes many interesting and scenic places. This inspired me to plan for and make my first long trip on the motorcycle in the USA.
July 1 2016. Missouri City to Lubbock 520 miles
The route today will take me to Texas 36 which takes me up to Abilene, then along I-20 and finally on US-84 to Lubbock. Texas is a big state and the first day will be a long ride.
The wife and baby got up early to see me off and then I was on my way.
I stopped for a water break at Comanche. When I was a kid you knew about some of the different Indian tribes from TV wild-west shows and the Comanche tribe was one of them. So quite special to stop here for a short while to refuel the body. It’s July in Texas so the temperature is bound to get high and today is no exception.
After lunch in Abilene I made it to Lubbock around 5pm, so the first day is completed! It was pretty hard work with temperatures reaching 36C (97F). Also, the scenery in the parts of Texas I traveled through is not the most interesting… On the road from Abilene there are many wind-turbines as well as donkey-head oil pumps so wind above ground and oil below ground.
I had dinner at an Appleby’s close to the hotel. After a nice chicken meal with a Margarita I felt much better but still wondering what I had got myself into. Maybe, I was dehydrated after the long ride, but I didn’t really feel too optimistic about spending another 16 days away from home on my own.
Lubbock to Fort Sumner 273 miles
Early morning setting off after some freshly made waffles with coffee. I slept from 2030 to close to 0600, soo tired after the first day of riding. Well, today was not nearly as far as the first day and with some nice scenery along the way so should be pretty good.
The map shows I will first be traveling north to Palo Duro Canyon state park on I27 and then on to US60 which I will be on for the next few days.
The Palo Duro canyon Texas state park is the 2nd biggest canyon in the US, of course, after the Grand Canyon! It’s located in the Texas pan-handle and close to Amarillo. After an early morning easy ride north from Lubbock on I-27 I entered the park. It clearly is a huge canyon 120 miles long and 5-6 miles wide with an average depth of 250m. There is a road from the top leading down to the base and I rode along this. I was getting low on fuel and didn’t want to risk running out so I turned back before getting to the end.
After refueling I set off along US 60 towards the west and Fort Sumner. It’s a straight dual carriage highway and with few cars which made for easy but not very exciting riding and I reached the town early afternoon. Fort Sumner is pretty bleak place in the middle of nowhere. However, it’s the town where Billy the Kid is buried. So, of course, there is a museum to celebrate the outlaw. So I went to the museum – right next door to the motel, and learnt a bit more about the kid. He was only 21 when he died and, maybe, he wasn’t all bad. His father died when he was young and his mother when he was 15 and he started his criminal career soon after. After 6 years of criminal activities he was captured by sheriff Pat Garret and was sentenced to be hanged. He escaped and came to Fort Sumner where he was found and shot by Sheriff Garret.
There was also a collection of old cars, tractors and wagons in the museum so and I snapped some pics of them.
Later on I went to the burial site of the kid a few miles from the town.
I thought I’d find a local restaurant for dinner but couldn’t find anything open so luckily I found a supermarket and bought a microwave dinner. It wasn’t fantastic but eatable…
Well kept or restored 1950’s car. No idea which make or model.
Billy the kid with his gun.
July 3, Fort Sumner to Springerville – 342 miles
I got away early at 0630 , a nice and cool start of the day! Beautiful weather, hardly a cloud in the sky so should be another fantastic day in the saddle!
Stopped here for first break of the day. You could clearly see people had used the plaque for target shooting so it was now unreadable…
Later on I stopped to admire the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) which is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, some 50 miles (80 km) west of Socorro, New Mexico. It comprises 27 25-meter radio telescopes in a Y-shaped array and all the equipment, instrumentation, and computing power to function as an interferometer. Each of the massive telescopes is mounted on double parallel railroad tracks, so the radius and density of the array can be transformed to focus on particular bands of wavelength. Astronomers using the VLA have made key observations of black holes and discovered magnetic filaments and traced complex gas motions at the Milky Way’s center, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters, and provided new knowledge about the physical mechanisms that produce radio emission.
It is also the setting for scenes in Contact, a 1997 science fiction movie starring Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey.
Vaughn, New Mexico.
Before hitting Pie Town I passed by the continental divide so waterways further west will drain into the Pacific.
The name comes from an early bakery that specialized in dried-apple pies and was established in the early 1920s. It is to this day the location of several establishments serving mouth wateringly new baked pies. Of course, I had to have one with a dollop of ice-cream. Very delicious!
I stopped here for the day after 330 miles today in pleasant temperatures. The town is called Springerville which is located at an altitude of 2100m and I found a room at Reeds lodge, a rustic kinda place. Because of the 4th of July holidays and the proximity to Phoenix and Tucson, it was not easy to find a room so I had to settle for a smoking room 🙁 however, they ran an ionizer to reduce the smell of smoke and it worked pretty well.
I had dinner at a restaurant which John Wayne with his ranch hands used to frequent in the 60’s. Apparently he owned several ranches in the area.
After the in room chicken microwave yesterday today’s rib-eye tasted exceptionally well. The waitress poured me a very generous glass of red wine so dinner was very good.
Since Arizona decided not to have daylight savings I’m now two hours behind Texas time.
Springerville is at such a high altitude that the temperature is much lower than in the big cities of Tucson and Phoenix and consequently people of those cities low to come here to cool down, that’s why it’s difficult to find a room, especially at extended weekends such as the 4th of July.
Reeds lodge interior.
Very traditional looking diner in Springerville.
Missouri CIty – Lubbock – Fort Sumner to Springerville
Springerville to Payson 231 miles
Had a very early start at 0600 and rode to Ft Apache. The road crossed some high hills and at one stage the elevation was more than 2700m and with a temperature of 10C it felt rather cold.
After an hour or so the road was descending and had some very nice sweeping turns and in the middle of a turn I met a police car, in the mirror I saw him quickly turning around and putting his lights and sirens on and I knew he was coming after me! I stopped before he caught me up in a parking space along the road and sure enough he stopped right behind me. After coming out of his Ford explorer the cop said I was doing 75 in a 55 zone. He turned out to be a nice chap and after checking license and insurance he lowered my speed to less than 65mph and gave me a ticket for wasting energy by going to fast! But no points on my license… He was a great guy and we then had a chat about the area which turned out to be Indian land. So, not fun with a ticket but it could have been a lot worse 🙂
After this I rode a bit slower and soon reached Fort Apache. This used to be a military fort and played an important part in the indian wars in the late 19th century but was converted into a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school after its military use ended. I spent a bit of time here trying to picture in my mind indian wars from the many Wild West movies I’ve seen.
Not far from Fort Apache I stopped at the Kinishba ruins. Estimates suggest the buildings were built and occupied from the 12th to 14th centuries as part of the ancient population boom within the Mogollon Rim region and beyond. Centralized in the lush mountains of the Mt. Baldy watershed, the area has been linked to both Mogollon and Anazazi cultures. They were considered part of the western Pueblo complex.
There you go, the benefit of having Wikipedia handy!
Tonto national monument
The Tonto National Monument provides a place to explore and learn about a unique part of America’s heritage. Wikipedia states; “The Salado Phenomena, 700 years ago, blended ideas of neighboring Native American cultures to emerge a unique and vibrant society. Tonto National Monument showcases two Salado-style cliff dwellings. Colorful pottery, woven cotton cloth, and other artifacts tell a story of people living and using resources from the northern Sonoran Desert from 1250 to 1450 CE. ”
To see the cave dwellings required a steep walk and in the 38C temperature I decided I would be happy with a photograph!
It’s a beautiful area with desert like terrain meeting a lake, very picturesque!
I saw the cactus in the picture along the road, it’s absolutely enormous! It’s a tree looking cactus called the Saguaro and it can grow to 12m height and 150-200 years age! Amazing!
I reached Payson late afternoon and checked in to Quality Inn.
The day started with cool temperature of 15C going down to 10C at the summit of 2700m. The trip then gradually came down to lower elevations with increasing temperatures and the reading on the bike showed 40C for some time.
The roads where the best so far on the trip for a bike, quite a few twisties, mainly sweepers but also some sharp corners when riding across the Salt River Canyon which also had some spectacular views, see photos.
Being caught for speeding put a damper on the day but the cop was nice and the fine only $67.50 with no points on the licence, so could have been a lot worse. However, going at 55mph on a good road is not much fun on a motorcycle, particularly if there are some nice long sweepers:-( I was going to ask the cop if I could take a photo of him but thought it might not be apropriate. It seems speed limits in New Mexico and Arizona are lower in general than Texas. I was riding on a minor road leading to the Duro Canyon and the speed-limit was 75mph! OK, that actually seemed too fast for the fairly narrow road…
The Quality inn hotel was very nice with a huge room and s small pool. Had Mexican Fajitas for dinner – also pretty tasty.
Payson to Cameron 236 miles
Today’s route should be exciting going along US 89A to Jerome which is a twisty road going up and down a mountainous area then to the beautiful area at Sedona before going on towards Flagstaff and then west of Grand Canyon to the Cameron trading post.
Stopped for breakfast at Starbucks, latté and an almond croissant. Enjoyed some wonderful riding this morning along US 87 and Arizona 260. A lot of flowing sweepers and no cars!
Stopped in Jerome, an old mining town after first riding along 89a, amazing road with supposedly 127 turns! Almost as good as Stelvio – or maybe not, but very nice. Jerome used to mine copper until the 1950s. In the 20s it had a population of 15000 but after the copper boom was over the population dwindled to some 50 people in the late 50s! Stopped in the bar for a drink.
Stopped for a long time for road works.
Interesting bar in Jerome.
Red rock formations around Sedona.
Stopped to admire the view at Oak Creek Canyon scenic overlook. I just came up that road – very nice!
Cameron Trading post. West of Grand Canyon
Checked in at Cameron trading post. Seems like a really nice place in the middle of nowhere. The good thing is that it’s only 30 miles east of Grand Canyon. Today saw some great scenery and some great riding. I started early at 0630 on Arizona 260 with many great sweepers and very few cars. The road came up as high as 2100m and then down to 1200m where it joined I-27. After a few miles south on I-27 Arizona 169 led to US89A that went up the pass and then down again to Jerome. It supposedly has 127 turns during a 12 mile stretch. I stopped in Jerome for some refreshments and enjoing the old copper mining town. I then came back on US89A towards Flagstaff and passed through Sedona in the red rock country, very beautiful and dramatic red rock formations. The road followed Oak creek and again climbed through many turns up the side of the creek before eventually leading to Flagstaff. I did not stop there but went straight on to Cameron. The last bit of the road was straight but heavy cross-winds made the riding somewhat hard work. Cameron is in Navajo reservation land and most of the staff at the trading post appear to be Indians. Interesting. I’m staying here for two nights with a round trip to Grand Canyon tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to seeing the magnificent natural wonder again, it’s the third time I see it but it’s something you can come back to again and again.
I reached Grand Canyon by 0700 and got the beautiful morning light and a nice cool breeze welcoming me. Coming in from the east there are many vistas where to admire the view with the first one being desert view where there’s also a tower built in an old style. The views are breathtaking but as you go along to see more and more different views you do, perhaps, get saturated? It’s difficult to find a place to have breakfast but finally I found a place. It’s funny – I can see 3 blocks with restrooms but nowhere to eat – what’s the logic in that?
Walked 4 km along the rim to the El Tovar hotel digesting the overwhelming views as I walked along. Will such experiences change your outlook on life? Haha, that’s too deep for me to answer. After another coffee in the hotel I’ll walk to the Bright Angel trail head, the name comes from a cambrian shale which is part of the Grand Canyon section. I did walk to the trail and walked down it for 10 minutes or so and then back up. I was afraid to use too much energy since I had to ride back to the hotel in Cameron which turned out to be 50 miles. Or, maybe I was just lazy? I now felt I’d had enough of GC after spending 6 hours there and decided to go back to the hotel in Cameron.
July 7, 2016. Cameron trading post to Panguitch 230 miles
Standing on the old bridge crossing the Colorado river 100m below. Beautiful bridge and amazing scenery. I got up at 0530 , as usual, and had a proper breakfast before setting off going north on us 89 and then turning on to 89A – this is the road that you take to get to the Grand Canyon north rim. This is the first stop of the day. Being early and high altitude the temperature was in the mid 20C. A very pleasant morning.
The Colorado river looks really serene and still. Nevertheless, the power of the river as it flows on the soft rocks formed Grand Canyon over the millenia.
Yet another canyon but very different from Grand Canyon. Beautiful orange sandstone that’s eroded to create figure like formations. This place is just incredible! I walked along the rim and went down some way on the Navajo trail, quite a descent (in my mc gear!).
Checked in to Day’s Inn – room seems ok. I went to the post office to get some stamps and hoped to find a bar where I could write some postcards. Turns out there are no bars, not sure if that’s because of Mormon rules? Anyway, a local told me I could get a beer at the chevron station and it turned out the smallest single bottle they had was a pint size can! So much for keeping people sober!
It seems several towns are proud of the outlaws that used to live there or even visited at one time or another. Panguitch claims that Butch Cassidy at least visited the town and celebrates this with big photos and plaques. I had dinner at what purported to be a Tandoori place, however, it was more of a mixture of Indian and Mexican food, not nearly as good as our Indian place in Sugarland… Nevertheless, I talked to the proprietor for a while and found out that her father in law works for Statoil in Houston as a geologist! After dinner I walked back to the hotel through the back street in an almost cool temperature. The town’s at 2000m altitude so in the evening the temperature drops. In fact, I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far on this trip. The last few days the temperature has not hit 30C.
Panguitch to Salt Lake City – 327 miles
Salt Lake City is famous the world over for being the center of the Mormon church and it was a must visit place on this trip. I’m now in Utah and will be traveling through the state for the next 2-3 days. Along the road I see many beautiful church-like buildings were no expense was spared in their construction. I reached Salt Lake around noon time and found motorcycle parking spaces close to the center of town. After surveying the area I set about looking at the Temple Square which was the original area set aside for the Mormons in the 1840s. The Tabernacle is a rather unusual building that has been praised as an architectural wonder but has also received negative reviews as being ugly and dreadful. For it’s time the roof span of 150×450 ft with no supporting pillars was ahead of it’s time when it was finished in 1867.
Salt Lake Mormon Temple
After lunch in the Nauvoo Cafe housed in the Joseph Smith Memorial building I rode north towards Ogden and the hotel I had booked for the night. However, I got somewhat lost and decided to carry on until the first decent motel along the way. So I ended up in a Comfort Inn outside of the town Logan, if only I had known that in the town itself there were lots of accommodation and then I wouldn’t have had to ride the bike to get to a restaurant. Oh well, no big deal.
Today was not so exciting, I suppose the previous 3-4 days have set my expectations too high. Salt Lake was nice but not hugely so:=( I also felt a bit tired. I hope a good night’s sleep will get me off to a good start tomorrow for the ride to Jackson Wyoming. So far I’ve been in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Tomorrow I’ll briefly touch Idaho before going into Wyoming.
A note about time zones which is kind of confusing. New Mexico and Arizona are in the mountain time zone. However, Arizona decided not to go with daylight saving so they’re 2 hours behind Texas. To complicate matters the Native American reservations decided to go with daylight savings. Utah is on mountain time with daylight savings…
Logan to Jackson Hole Wyoming – 193 miles
Jackson Hole is known for it’s wintertime skiing but it’s also busy during the summer so I needed to get there early to secure lodging for the night. After the usual motel breakfast of hot waffles and weak coffee I got going but I missed the turnoff to the west along US 89 and ended up going along US 91 instead which was due north. It took me some time to figure out I was going the wrong way but when I did I found that road 36 would take me back on the 89 and what a delight the road turned out to be! It went up a mountain pass to 2200m and then down again along twists and contortions making for a beautiful ride on a my Trophy.
Back on 89 I stopped in the town called Afton for a coffee. It boasts it has the largest elk antler arch in the world spanning 4 lanes across the US 89 with 3000 antlers used in its construction and weighing in at 15 tonnes. BTW… “Afton” is a funny name for a swede, in swedish it means evening!
Once I arrived in Jackson I managed to get a room at motel 6 at an outrageous price. I changed into “civilian” gear and taking the bus to the center of town for some relaxation. It’s Saturday and a busy day with lots of tourists walking around not doing much apart from being touristy. There are four entrances to the Town Square and there are basking musicians in front of three of them. They must have shot a lot of elk in Wisconsin since there are so many arches built by elk antlers! Very nice though, it must be a lot of work getting them all in place, I wonder if they glue the pieces together?
The famed elk antler arches that lead into the town’s lovely, tree-shaded Town Square where locals and visitors come to relax or enjoy special events.
Riding police keeps the order in town and attracts attention from visitors.
Great ski slope close to center of Jackson Hole.
The Jackson ski slope is very close to the center of town and it seems like a good slope. I saw that the lift was going so I strolled down to it and asked the lift guy, he said its 479m elevation change which is really good. I’m sure the skiing there is fantastic! It’s also lit in the winter meaning you can ski to late evening.
Cameron, AZ to Jackson Hole, WY
Jackson Hole through Yellowstone National Park to Gardiner, Montana – 190 miles
It’s cold when I start and I wish I had heated grips on the bike. The weather is clear when and I get really good views of the Tetons just to the west of me. I stop at the, apparently, most photographed barn in the US to get some photos of the mountains with the barn in the foreground. The sky is darkening to the north and not boding well for my passing through the Yellowstone National Park.
As I pass by Jackson lake the sky is looking really dark and it starts to rain and as I get to the Yellowstone entrance the rain turns into hail and it gets really cold. I stop to put on the cold weather gear I brought, which is not enough, when I set off from home I had no idea that it would get this cold. With the rain gear on I start the trip through Yellowstone, brr. After a couple of hours in these conditions I finally reached Ye old faithful Inn and stop for breakfast and to warm and dry up. Food is really nice and I start to thaw up pretty well.
Ye old faithful hotel.
It was a relief to arrive at the “Yellowstone River Motel” in Gardiner. The day started out beautifully with grand views of the Grand Teton mountains but just as I was entering Yellowstone national park it started hailing and with the low temperature of 7C I felt pretty miserable on the motorcycle ????.
With the road being white in places from the hail I tiptoed my way, very afraid of slipping. My hands were getting numb from the wetness and the cold plus me being tense… This does not make for very pleasurable riding and you also loose the feeling for the road when you need it most on wet and pretty rough asphalt roads. But I managed to get to Old Faithful Inn to warm up and as I was having breakfast the rain stopped.
Gardiner is located right at the northern entrance to Yellowstone and is a small town living off people stopping by before entering the park I presume. Not sure what they do in the winter with so many fewer tourists?
I found a laundromat and washed my clothes, good, that means I don’t need to wash em by hand????
There’s a grill place so I had a nice rib-eye washed down with a glass of Malbec which got me in a really good mood.
The river in the picture is the Yellowstone river and is just to the back of the door to my room.
July 11, 2016 Gardiner to Gillette (400 miles)
Today is a pure transport day and there are not a lot of sights along the way. I stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s close to the town of Sheridan. I was sharing the table with a local guy and had to listen to him talking incessantly about his family history and how he spent 35k on his research including dna tests. Yawn yawn????. Of course, he also told me the country would be safer if people had more guns and/or fierce dogs to keep the bad guys away. He was voting for Trump, he also told me ???????? If nothing else it gave me company and some entertainment for lunch.
Checked in to Day’s Inn Gillette Wyoming after a 400 mile ride today. Most of the ride was in light rain with strong cross-winds and a temperature around 11C making for a somewhat hard ride. The last couple of hours, after lunch, the weather got better with no rain and 20C allowing me to take the rain gear off.
The speed limits in Montana and and Wyoming are at 80 and 75mph so I could make fairly rapid progress. With the strong cross-winds it was dodgy going even that fast. With water on the road the big trucks create an enormous amount of wet mist and when passing them it’s like going into a fountain of mist with very limited visibility.
I met a guy on an old Ducati Monster at a rest stop who was on his way from Seattle to Mount Rushmore. With little protection from the elements and cramped riding position on that bike he must have suffered. He was also camping… Well, he was young.
Tomorrow I’m first going to Devils tower which is an laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming. It looks quite spectacular on the pictures I’ve seen.
If I get up early and the weather is cooperating I should be able to see Mount Rushmore tomorrow as well.
Gillette, WY, to Keystone,SD, taking in Devil’s tower and Mount Rushmore
This is an amazing natural “monument”. I’m walking the trail around the tower among Ponderosa pines and I’m here early so hardly any people. An incredibly peaceful experience in awe of what nature can accomplish.
Steven Spielberg fans are likely familiar with Devils Tower, even if they don’t know it by name. The dramatic butte—which towers 1267 feet above the plains of northeastern Wyoming and the Belle Fourche River—was famously featured in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, culminating in a scene in which an alien mothership descended upon the rock formation. Interestingly, it was also the first national monument in the US.
After a couple of hours at Devil’s tower I continued towards Mont Rushmore and stopped by the Pactola Dam on 385. As I was admiring the views a motorcycle trike (3 wheels) stopped at the same place. It was towing a dog trailer with 2 dogs in it! I had a chat with the owners and one of the dogs was not so happy being in the trailer. I can imagine the trailer sways quite a lot so I’m not surprised the dog wasn’t happy.
The guy told me he broke his foot last autumn and his doctor advised him not to go two up on the bike anymore so he converted his bike to a trike and so far he was very happy with the result.
Ok, finally made it to Mount Rushmore. Ever since I saw Hitchkock’s North by Northwest (one of my favorite movies) I wanted to see the monument. And finally here I am! I’m not sure I’m as impressed as I thought I would be, but the scale of the Monument is amazing. I walked the presidents trail that takes you much closer to the carvings and you can get some good close ups of the faces with a zoom camera. So who are the presidents? Well, from the left its George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. I guess all Americans know this from an early age? Constructed between 1927 and 1941 it was not completed to its original design but the work stopped due to lack of funding. It seems they did not need to complete it – there are two million visitors every year!
Checked in to a super 8 in Keystone, just down the hill from Rushmore. It’s coming towards the end of the trip and tomorrow I will start on the 1300 or so miles to Houston. It’s been a great trip where I’ve seen so many amazing sites! I’ve also been lucky with the motorcycle working flawlessly throughout. Its true I could have had some better luck with the weather on the Yellowstone part of the trip but I will certainly remember that passage for how miserable it was… And I got to see the geysers.
When talking to the guy with the dog trailer he mentioned there was a rally for trikes next week so that’s the reason there are so many of them about. By the motel there were several strange looking trikes…
Keystone to Salina (610 miles)
Checked in at Days Inn. Supposedly I’ll get a free night now that I stayed more than two nights but they probably make it so complicated that it’s not worth the effort?
Did 620 miles today and still feel pretty good. Guess mind and body is more used to sitting on a bike for about 9 hours..
The day started out pretty cold at 10C but gradually warmed up as I got further south and lower elevation to end up at 34C. Mainly going on non-interstates and single carriageway, but they are in good condition with little traffic so my average speed today was 68 mph (if you believe the statistics produced by the bike).
Today I’ve ridden through South Dakota, Nebraska and now Kansas. Seems like they are all big farming states – riding past huge fields of cereal and corn. They’re harvesting the cereal fields with huge combine harvesters as I ride past.
I had a salad dinner at the nearby Mexican restaurant, it was nice with a cold beer after today’s time in the saddle! When on your own it’s nice to sit at the bar where you can chat to the bar staff and other people seated there. I talked to the bar girl and she said you pronounce Salina as it rimes with “saliva”. Strange pronunciation…
Tomorrow towards Oklahoma City, Dallas and possibly Houston… Home trip going quicker than I originally thought.
July 15, 2016 – Salina to Houston (719 miles)
Stopped at a scenic outlook and came across a wing for a wind turbine. It looked massive but the guys transporting it said it was a baby, maybe around 40m. The biggest ones in Europe are 85 m long they told me.
At the same spot there was a stone commemorating the birth of reflection seismic! J Karcher did the first experiments in the area in 1921. What a coincidence! I’ve spent my entire career on reflection seismic and haphazardly coming across this memorial stone is quite amazing!
More fuel and some junk food. Only 180 or so miles to home…its been very hot with temperatures as high as 40c. Coming through Fort Worth was a big pain with a lot of road construction and it felt very uncomfortable going very slowly as the traffic was crawling. You also ride between huge trucks and it doesn’t feel so safe. Nevertheless, I got through it, but it delayed me by an hour! Once I cleared the road works and later an accident that stopped the flow for 10 mins or so I made rapid progress to Waco where I left I-35 and joined Tx 6. I should reach home before it gets dark.????
Home sweet home!
In total I did 4627 miles using 97 gallons of fuel. I rode the bike for 82 hours. The longest day in the saddle was the last day when I did 716 miles. I saw a lot of beautiful scenery on the trip starting with the Duro Canyon in the northern part of Texas and ending with the mammoth carvings of the four presidents at Mount Rushmore. An absolutely amazing trip! The map shows today’s ride – a bit over 700 miles. The bike was absolutely problem free, it’s a great bike when you’re on the open road but heavy when manouvering at slow speeds and when parking. The panniers are 7 kg when empty so when full they’re probably around 15 kg adding 30kg. The Michelin pilot road 4 are really good with the photo showing the rear tyre after 4700 miles. The tread depth is still between 4 and 5 mm – when new it’s around 6mm!
The Big Bend national park is nestled in at the border between Mexico and Texas in a remote area of the state. There are several interesting roads to get to and from the park and I’ve been thinking of going there for some time. The idea is to go to Fredericksburg, then south-west through the Texas hill country taking in the so called twisted sisters roads, then follow US 90 westwards and in to the Big Bend park.
July 2, 2017 Sugarland to Fredericksburg 378 km.
Started from home around 0730. Nice weather. Goal for today is Fredericksburg. Going via Austin.
At home in 4210 Lakecrest Dr with little Eva 18 months old.
Lyndon B Johnson historical park
Stopped at president Lyndon B Johnsons ranch close to Fredericksburg. He spent a quarter of his time as president there and they called it the Texas white house. He had a landing strip allowing airforce 1 to land there , it’s still operational but only his grandson is allowed to use it!
I’m glad I stopped, he is in my generation’s history so it was interesting to see. LBJ lived a pretty hard live and suffered 3 heart attacks, the last one killed him when he was only 65…
President Johnson at the Texas White House
House where LBJ grew up.
View to the south from the LBJ ranch.
Checked into a super 8 motel… I walked around in the German wannabe town where many of the signs are in German. I had dinner at the rathskeller with jaeger schnitzel and a German dunkel bier. It was actually very nice! Chester Nimitz, the US admiral of the Pacific in ww2 comes from Fredericksburg.
Home for the night.
German inspired dinner.
Fredericksburg to Comstock 370km
I’m looking forward to today’s ride. I will ride two the three ranch roads named the twisted sisters. These roads are famous in Texas and showcased in many motorcycle magazines as some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. I will then ride close to the Mexican border to go further west.
Start of ranch road 336 taking off from Texas 41.
In the magazines the twisted sisters are described as very difficult and you should not exceed the posted speed limits. However, I did not find the roads particularly difficult and you can easily go 10 or 20 mph faster without it feeling dangerous.
After ranch road 336 I took ranch road 337 in Leakey – the 2nd of the the three sisters.
In Leakey at the start of ranch road 337.
Nice ranch gate.
Comstock motel manager.
Parked in front of my room.
OK! Not the Ritz – but it will do.
Houses not in the best of shape.
Stopped in Comstock for the day. A motel along 90 close to the Mexican border. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere ????. There are no restaurants open I’m told but a petrol station where you can buy not sure what… Exciting!
However, the restaurant turned out to be open and I had a good dinner of chicken fried steak. Not bad! Chatted with some locals about living here. Comstock is a town of 300 people and the school caters from k1 to high school. For grocery shopping they go to Del Rio and the nearest big town is San Antonio about 3 hours drive. Amazon prime takes 3 to 4 days, which doesn’t seem so bad… A lot of the non retired locals work as border patrols. They thought the idea of building Trumps wall a waste of money and it wouldn’t work in this area with deep canyons along the border.
The temperature got to 38C in late afternoon… so blazing hot, but dry heat and today with a strong Breeze. So doesn’t feel so bad… In the restaurant they had two posters from my favorite bands playing in California in the 60’s and 80’s. Cool!
Comstock to Big Bend (356 km)
Today I will be riding west along US 90 to Marathon and then south to the Big Bend park. I made an early start and was on my way by 0730. The road goes very close to the Mexican border and there were many border patrols along the way, some parked on high ground looking through binoculars to the south.
US border patrol having a morning chat.
You often see signs like this along highways in the US.
Big train. Trains could be kilometer long. Apparently, the US has one of the most extensive goods railway tracks in the world and I saw a lot of trains during my journeys.
Along the roads in the US I see a lot of trains and it turns out that much more goods are transported by train in the US at 40% compared to Europe at 17%. Trucks in the US carries 33% while trucks in Europe carries 76%, all measured in tonne-distance. Interesting that USA often gets a bad wrap use more envirnmetally friendly transport solutions.
Stopped in Marathon for Petrol before turning south
Inside the petrol station diner
Big Bend national park
I reached the national park entrance before noon and spent what seems like a long time, going at 45mph, along a boring straight road to the Panther Junction visitor center. After understanding the lay of the land I set off for the last section of the day to reach the Chisos mountain lodge nestled in a valley below the tallest peaks of the park.
In the Panther Junction building – 3D model map showing the layout of the park. I will be staying in the green area among the peaks of the park.
Chisos mountain lodge area.
Chisos mountain lodge cafeteria. Serving nice food and drink!
The last bit of road is almost like in the alps, switch backs with 180 degree turns. The lodge is at around 5000 ft altitude so a bit cooler but still very hot at 35C. After checking in at the Chisos mountain lodge I went to find my room which was nice with a balcony but no internet connection… Perhaps I should not expect wifi in a national park? However, later I found there is wifi at the main lodge…
After a well deserved rest I walked around and took some pictures, it really is a very beautiful area.
Mountain lion. They are surprisingly large animals.
The tallest peak in Big Bend?
The man himself…
Before dinner I hiked the Chisos loop trail, around 3km with beautiful views over the surrounding mountains and the Chisos basin.
Bouquillas canyon (100 km return)
I’m staying two nights in Chisos and today I made an excursion to the Bouquillas canyon which separates Texas and Mexico with the Rio Grande river running through it.
The road towards the Bouquillas canyon. Mexico in the background.
Rio Grande separating the US and Mexico. It’s not very grand or not very wide. Very easy to cross either way and I saw Mexican salesmen selling Mexican wares.
Grand views north over the Big Bend pasrk.
The Bouquillas Canyon. Dug out by the river over the millenias.
Very desert like.
Once back to my room I sat on my balcony as the sun was setting and getting some nice sunset pictures.
Big Bend to Carlsbad 594 km
I started early and took the western exit of Big Bend going towards Terlingua and then further along the Rio Grande to Presidio. Road TX 170 is designated an amazing road for motorcycles and it didn’t let me down! Numerous twisties and ups and downs made for very exciting riding. Mind you, at one point there was some stones on the road but I managed to avoid most of them… For a long while the road is just to the side of the Rio Grande, there is no fence and there were no border patrols to be seen along the whole stretch. Why is this? There are only two roads leading out of the area and there were road blocks where I had to show my credentials before being allowed to carry on, so perhaps the area is considered safe from people crossing the border?
I stopped after a few hours in Presidio which is a border town with roads leading into Mexico. Filled gas and had some food. In the petrol kiosk I saw papers in both english and spanish so there must be a lot of cross-traffic between the two countries during the day.
Deserted petrol station in Presidio.
From Presidio I went north on road 67 which also seem to carry on in Mexico with the same number. The road to Marfa was great with fast sweepers and really good asphalt. There was, what looked like, a huge pipeline being built along the road, I assume to transport oil from the unconventionals being produced further north towards New Mexico, but not sure to where? It seems unlikely the pipeline would lead to Mexico, but where else?
I arrived in Marfa which is known as an arts hub, apparently an artist named Donald Judd started the Chinati Foundation, which displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on an old military base. I guess I should have stopped here for lunch rather than carrying on to Van Horn along US 90 where I had lunch in a boring roadside chain restaurent. Oh well.
After lunch I crossed I10 and carried on north along Texas 54 before hitting US 62 which climbs the Guadalupe mountains in to New Mexico. US 62 is a beautiful wide road going up the incline in fast sweepers – great for a motorcycle!
I stopped at Carlsbad Caverns to descend into the darkness and 13C environment. I took the lift down and walked around the giant cavern for a couple of hours. It’s beautifully done with an asphalt path and subdued lighting. The pictures don’t do the experience justice….
The queue to go up the lift was one hour so instead of waiting I walked the 2km and 270m ascend path to the surface. It took me about half an hour, I felt pretty good that I could do it in a relatively good time…
Asphalt trail leading from the caverns 270m underground. It was sweaty work, but worth it walking the 2km path!
After climbing up the path I got my riding gear on and continued to Carlsbad where I found a room at a Day’s Inn. There were a lot of tourists and most hotels were full and the cost of my room was $170! Outrageous:-)
Carlsbad to Missouri City 1042 km
I’m not sure if I can make it all the way home today, I guess I will go until I’m tired… I’ll start the trip by going on US 285 through the Permian basin unconventional oil extraction area, through Pecos and on to I10 at Fort Stockton.
The road past the Permian basin was very busy with big trucks going in both directions. I assume carrying ingredients used in the fracturing of the oil bearing shales as well as the extracted oil. It was very interesting to see all the activity in the area – which with other shale areas have made the US a net exporter of oil during the past 5-10 years. It is talked about as the shale revolution! Unfortunately for us in the seismic business there is no or very little seismic used to locate the oil bearing shales before drilling. 🙁
Permian basin area.
Lots of traffic and activity in the Permian basin area straddling New Mexico and Texas.
After the excitement of the Permian basin activity I rode through Pecos and onwards to Fort Stockton for fuel and food before getting on the I10 for the treck back to Houston and home.
It was with great relief that I got to the Kazakh/Russia border! The last 50 km in Kazakhstan had been on horrible road where old broken tarmac was mixed with new road construction. It was dusty and sandy in places – perhaps the worst surface for a motorcycle.
We made the optimistic plan to start at 5 am from Atirau so I got up at 4.45 and started to get ready, however, it was still dark and wouldn’t get light until closer to 6. The “Green hotel” served breakfast early so we had a bite before leaving a bit after 6. The first 150 km of the road wasn’t too bad (but with deep tracks from heavy trucks) and we could keep a good speed. As we got closer to the border the road got worse to culminate in the terrible conditions of the last 50 km.
Horrible road leading west out of Kazakhstan to Russia.
Road under construction.
“Donkey head” oil pumps. Must be oil under ground.
Lots of free running horses along the road.
Since we gained an hour in Russia we were at the border around noon. My entry into Russia was straight forward but Mike’s took some time. He had a general entry into a number of countries, including Russia, and the immigration people at this entry point had not seen this before. After an hour we were in Russia! The road was now beautiful asphalt and it felt like heaven!
At one point we crossed a part of the river Volga that makes up the delta of the river as it enters the Caspian and it was a pontoon bridge made of metal, it was kind of weird as the tracks in the metal was pulling the bike in one direction. Before entering the bridge we had to pay a toll and we had no Rubles, however, Mike’s visa card worked without problems! Back to civilization were credit-cards and, later, ATM’s work! A big relief after the problems in, particularly, Uzbekistan to obtain cash. Surprisingly, “Pay-wave” works where you can make payments by waving the card close to the detector machine. Amazing!
Astrakhan 25 June, 2019
I wasn’t feeling great so I mainly stayed in the hotel but went out to see the sights and get something to eat. I found a burger place called “Kotleta” spelled with the Latin alphabet and they served me a very nice burger. As it happened one of the staff had a birthday and I was invited to join the celebration with tea and cake. It was very nice and they were very curious about my trip.
Astrakhan is a nice city with lots of green parks and the “Astrakhan Kremlin” which is very close to our hotel.
Lots of green parks.
Astrakhan to Volgograd (420 km)
We’re heading towards Moscow and the first leg was to Volgograd. Of course, Volgograd used to be Stalingrad where the most decisive battle of the 2nd world war took place with the Soviets beating the Nazis. It was the bloodiest battle in the history of warfare with close to 2 million casualties.
Coming into the city, it looked like a grimy industrial town, but as we got closer to the center it started to look nice. We’re staying in the center within walking distance of the Volga river and we went there for dinner and have a look around. There’s a park along the river with lots of activities for kids and adults and there were a lot of people around.
By the Volga river.
Kids playing in the water park by the river.
Volgograd June 27, 2019
Mamayev Kurgan is a dominant height fiercely fought over in the battle of Stalingrad, now it’s a large memorial park that commemorates the battle. It is very impressive with the big statue “The Motherland Calls” being 85m high. It was installed in 1967 and was under renovation at our visit but the scale of it is still clear.
The Motherland Calls.
The eternal flame with the walls showing names of soldiers that died during the battle.
Changing of the guards.
Murals depicting the street fighting nature of the battle of Stalingrad.
Volgograd to Tambov (520 km)
We’re getting further north and the temperature kept a pleasant 20-25 C for the duration of today’s ride. The road was good but many stretches of road construction slowed us down a bit. The vegetation is changing and there are a lot more birch trees and also pine trees which we have not seen before on the trip. The road goes straight for pretty much the whole stretch over very open land and to stop the wind being too strong on the road birch trees are planted along the road to break up the wind. The road goes in the middle in a wide swath of close to 100m with the birch trees being the boundary to the enormous wheat fields and steppe to the sides.
Birch trees planted on both sides of the road to stop the crosswind.
Finally some fir trees. Looks almost like Sweden!
The total distance traveled so far is 13964 km and around 4000 km since leaving China.
Tambov to Ryazan (320 km)
The weather turned cold and rainy when we set off. The plan was to go to Vladimir, 180 km east of Moscow, to attend a blues and bike festival but after 150 km in the miserable weather and worn road I decided to turn along M5 towards Moscow and stop in Ryazan while Mike carried on to Vladimir for the festival and to meet his friend. I figured the festival would not be much fun in the inclement weather and I saw for myself a muddy field with bikes falling over in the wet terrain which also might have meant the end for my clutch..
I thought M5 meant motorway 5 but as it turned out for most of the distance it was no motorway so I believe the M stands for Moscow. After 150 km along the M5 I turned off to Ryazan leaving around 200 km to Moscow. It’s continued raining all day but I think tomorrow is going to be better.
Ryazan to Moscow (220 km)
It was a Sunday and the traffic was light, there were some holdups in a town 50 km from Moscow but nothing major. My hotel is in the center of town and I rode past some of the buildings I’ve seen in the news. Later on I walked to the red square and admired it’s buildings and the sheer size of it. The centre of Moscow is very impressive!
The Moscow white house.
Moscow Jul 1, 2019
I spent the day sightseeing and in the afternoon I joined a Subway tour since I’ve read the subway stations are beautifully decorated.
Karl Marx monument on the Revolution square.
Our subway tour guide, Alina, took us to several stations and explained the art in them and the history behind and since we were only three in the group we had the chance to ask a lot of questions. The subway system was started to be constructed during the 1930s while Stalin was in power. The reason, we were told, to make such beautiful and elaborate stations was to motivate and make people happy while going to work in the morning. I’m not sure if it worked but it certainly made the Moscow subway a tourist attraction today!
Lenin. Alina told us there used to be a lot more pictures of Lenin previously but a lot of them had been taken down. Of course, Stalin, has been totally discredited and it’s difficult to find a single picture or statue of him.
The station where the motive was related to intellectuals.
Station depicting people of all walks of life, including soldiers, students, parents and athletes.
Moscow to Velikiye Luki (460 km)
I wanted to get out of Moscow while the traffic was light so I started a bit after 6 and was soon on the M9 highway leading to Riga. In the beginning there were 5 lanes diminishing to a normal highway after around 120km. I had booked a hotel at the halfway point to Riga and reached there soon after midday. The weather was sunny but cool and I was wearing the cold weather gear. The hotel turned out to be a motel with lots of big trucks parked and idling their engines making for a slightly noisy place to rest.
First Motel of the trip. Characterless but very practical!
Velikiye Luki to Paldiski – ferry port close to Tallinn (640 km)
The weather was gray, windy and rainy for most of the time to the Russia/Estonia border crossing which I reached around noon. The Russian official took a long time to figure out how to clear my bike out of the country and in the end his boss, a stern looking woman in a green uniform, came out and gave him an earful and soon after I was cleared to go to the immigration counter. The woman there looked at my forms and asked me which city I lived in and I told her Singapore. She asked; where is that – in Spain. I explained it was in Asia and it was it’s own country and after a while she said OK, you can go.
Miserable weather on road towards Tallinn!
So finally, in to Europe and Estonia where the immigration and custom formalities took all of 10 mins! Amazing! After all the long border crossings in Asia it was nice to come to a place where they really knew what they were doing and being very efficient at it. The weather also cleared up and gave me a good welcome to Europe and the 300 km to the ferry port went by pretty quickly.
I had to wait a few hours before I could board and found a nice restaurant nearby after I checked in to the ferry. Paldiski is right by the baltic sea and was very windy and I was afraid the bike would blow over so had to be careful how I parked it.
While waiting for the ferry I saw this home built vehicle based on a Ford V8. The couple riding it had been brave to take it to Russia.
The ferry arrived around 8.30 pm and they started to unload it. There were very few passenger cars but hundreds of huge trucks and I was impressed to see them reversing these juggernauts from the ferry. The ferry was emptied in about an hour and I was waved forward to board.
Bike tied down on the ferry to Sweden.
Kappelskar to Eksjo (400 km)
The ferry arrived early morning at Kappellskar, the port in Sweden which is about 100 km north-east of Stockholm. Riding the bike off the ferry posed no problem and I was soon on my way south. I stopped after a while to get some breakfast and had the classic Swedish Sibylla grilled sausages with mashed potatoes.
Swedish fighter jets displayed along the road in Linkoping. The one on the right is the “Draken” and on the left is the “Viggen”.
It was another windy day with some rain as I was getting closer to Eksjo but I arrived without problem at my sisters early afternoon.
Eksjo Jul 5 – 8, 2019
Spent several days in the lovely town of Eksjo. They were clever in the 60’s and 70’s not to demolish the old wooden houses in the center of the town and it’s now a tourist attraction. On the Saturday a marching band was playing in front of the church with a lot of people attending.
Well kept wooden houses in the center of the town which has kept it’s layout for centuries.
A stream runs through the town.
Every Saturday the marching band plays in front of the church and while marching through the town.
Eksjo to Goteborg (200 km)
I left my sisters place around noon to catch the ferry from Goteborg to Kiel leaving at 6.45 pm. Gray skies to begin with that gradually lightened up as I got closer to Goteborg. The road was great as it was snaking it’s way through the hills but not enough turns to make it interesting on a motorcycle. No jams until I reached Goteborg where I was stuck in traffic for a bit before getting to the ferry terminal where I was able to board the ferry pretty much immediately. There were around 20 bikes on the boat and I chatted with some of the riders. One couple had spent 6 weeks riding through Finland to North cape and back and the guy said he started on a Harley but was now standing by a very new RT 1250 and I asked him how the Harley could have transformed into the very new BMW. He said the Harley developed problems with the bearings and there was none available and somehow his insurance got him a BMW to continue his trip. Sounds like a great insurance! I had a cabin and after dinner I went straight to bed.
On board Stena Germanica, quite a few bikes on the ferry from Gothenburg to Kiel.
Kiel to Hook of Holland (600 km)
The ferry was a bit late so I wasn’t able to get off it until around 10 am after a good night sleep in the nice cabin. It seems I sleep well on ferries… There had been some discussion while with the group in China that a carnet de passage was required for non-European vehicles entering Germany so I was relieved that there were no checks whatsoever when driving off the ferry and into the town of Kiel. The road layout in the town was good for transiting the town and I was soon on the motorway to Hamburg. There were a lot of roadworks around Hamburg but the traffic was still flowing well with no queues. The autobahn in Germany is fantastic and with no speed limit! I was doing around 125 kph and was being overtaken making me feel like I was standing still!
For short stretches the speed was reduced to 120 km/h!
The weather was very good and I was by the Dutch boarder after 350 km around 2 pm and then it started raining which it carried on doing all the way to the ferry. There was a lot of traffic in Holland and several jams but I made it to the ferry and, again, boarded very quickly. I had a nice shower to warm up and had a good fish and chips dinner. The ferry would take me to Harwich and the start of the last day of my adventure.
Harwich to Feltham close to Heathrow airport(200 km)
The main reason for going to London was so that I could ship the bike back to Singapore. I was not able to find a shipper in Sweden and a couple of international shippers first said they could ship from Sweden but later said no. I also had a quote to ship from Rotterdam but that was close to twice the cost of shipping from London so to London I went, although it meant spending an extra day and ferry to get there. Anyway, the ferry arrived in Harwich on time and I started the ride to Feltham knowing I had to go on the London circular road, the M25, and as expected there were several accidents which meant the trip took a lot longer than it should have. However, I made it to Feltham and motofreight where I was warmly welcomed. It took me an hour to repack and get the bike ready for shipment and then I walked to a nearby pub for lunch.
So now fly to Stockholm for three weeks of vacation before going back to the trip origin in Singapore.
People asked me how I packed and what I brought along for the trip. The picture shows the bike with the two aluminium side bags (on a bike they’re called panniers). Above it is the yellow waterproof bag and on the tank the tank-bag. I packed so that I kept everything I need at the end of the day when not on the bike in the yellow bag such as change of clothes, toiletries etc. I kept my camera and snacks and drinks in the tank-bag so I could quickly access these needed while riding. In the panniers I kept spare parts (bearings, levers, break pads, fork-seals, light-bulbs, fuses), tools, electric air-pump, clothes I didn’t think I would need for a few days, tent, sleeping bag and air-mattress, and rain clothes. Also some medication like antibiotics, altitude medication, stomach upset tablets, band aid patches and some other stuff.
I know now that I should have carried an inner tube and tools for getting the tire off the rim. I was very lucky I was riding with Mike who had these. I should also have brought spare clutch plates (or changed them before leaving).
Summary and thanks
I did 18500 km in 10 weeks and had an amazing experience! It was hard work and worrying at times such as when I bent the rim so badly it did not hold air and for a while I was at a loss of what to do to carry on. The ride through China was far too compressed and I’m at a loss to remember many of the days there while I remember the more relaxed days after China a lot better.
My bike, the Triumph 800 Xrx performed exceptionally well and started every time I pressed the start button. It was among the most fuel efficient of all the bikes in the group through China, while still having great power to go uphill on the serpentine roads. The bike was great for 95% of the distance but for the other 5% it would have been better to have a bike with lower gearing, spoked bigger wheels with inner tubes, and longer suspension travel. The Honda Africa Twin was used by several guys on the trip and that bike is more suitable for the worst road conditions and much more suitable for off-road use. However, I should not complain – the Tiger got me from Singapore to London!
I thank you for having had the tenacity to follow along on my trip and hope you enjoyed my photos and ramblings.
Of course, special thanks goes to my lovely wife who gave me her blessings to go on the trip and supported me morally all along!
This was going to be a short day in my mind — but no! We started around 10 am with a new guide to take us to the Chinese/Kirghistan border. After about 50km we stopped at the first check-point. They checked papers and also wanted to check our cameras to make sure we had not taken pictures of “sensitive” areas”. After some time they got fed up and let us go and after a few kms we came to the immigration and customs control. We got there before noon and were not finished until 5 pm! The bikes were x-rayed (!) – not sure what they were checking for. Cameras were then checked again for illegal pictures and we were stamped out of the country. Then the personnel went for a long lunch and so did we, which was taken in a yurd (big tent) with kebabs, bread and ice-cream – actually very nice.
So at 5 pm we were finally cleared and set off for the border which was another 120km away. Getting out of China was fairly straight forward and then into Kirghistan. There was a big gate blocking the entrance but after some time a guard came and opened up. The procedure of immigration and customs was then fairly straight forward taking about one hour. We then set off for Naryn 180 km away. As the sun was setting I had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and fields, actually, looking very different from the Chinese ones. The mountains had a softer shape and there was a lot more green nature to be seen. The last hour was in the dark, not much fun! Rule number one is to never ride in the dark but sometimes you must make an exception.
Naryn to Kazarman (200 km)
I was in a quandary where to go from Naryn. The first option was to go to Bishkek and then on to Osh on reportedly good roads while the second option was to go direct to Osh on smaller roads that were probably not great. I was persuaded to choose the 2nd option… For the first 100 km, or so, the road was not too bad with very coarse asphalt. Then this turned into coarse gravel and then as the road was ascending to cross a pass it turned into mud… With the tires on by bike this turned out to be troublesome and I was stuck in the mud. Not fun! One of the other guys helped and he got it a bit further up but then it wouldn’t go any further and he thought the clutch was burned… So two of the guys went ahead to the next village to get help and me and Andy were stuck on the mountain. Andy adjusted the clutch and managed to get the bike up the hill – a great achievement! So far I had fallen off the bike 3 times during that day and when we were setting off down the hill Andy fell off as well – even though his tires were much better suited for the conditions.
These beasts are heavy to raise!
Anyway, we managed to get down the hill! However, it was getting dark and started to rain so we decided to stop and set up the tent. After some swearing and perseverance we managed to raise the tent in the howling wind – not easy! As we were trying to sleep the rescue vehicle arrived and we were told to rush and get everything in the van. In my mind, the rush was completely unnecessary, and led to my bike was pounded in the van on the horribly poor road. So the result was a broken pannier on the bike and a big mess.
The bed and breakfast accommodation was brilliant when we finally reached at around midnight. We were welcomed with a nice hot dinner before going to bed and not so good sleep. It had been a nightmarish kind of day and it was difficult to drift off to sleep. Maybe, one day I will appreciate the adventures of the day but for now I’d rather not think about it.
Kazarman to Osh (could not make it with my bike)
We set off in the rain and it took us some time to find the road to Osh, it seems road signs are not a priority. The road would cross a pass at 3300 m and as i got higher up the mud became worse and it was clear that I could not make it. I decided to turn around and go back to Kazarman where I found a free room at the same b&b. When I arrived 4 motorcyclists from Holland had already arrived and I chatted for some time with them. They had come over the pass but on much more suitable bikes with good off road tires. Later, a party of 3 motorcyclists from New Zealand arrived, they had rented bikes in Bishkek and were doing a circle of the country, mainly off road.
Kazarman – June 7
Spent the day drying stuff that got wet the other night and wander around the village. I also needed to get some cash for the van transport so I went to the bank. It was a small one and it took some time for me to get some cash. There was a guard in military fatigues sitting by a desk supervising proceedings. I wanted to change a fairly small amount but they took their time investigating my passport and finally the cashier said OK. After a few signatures I got my money, quite a procedure!
Many of the buildings are left from the Soviet era and look really drab. However, it was nice to see kids playing outside in the sun shine, similar games as I was doing in Sweden in the 50’s and 60’s… Kids in the western world don’t know what they are missing!.
When traveling on the roads you can’t fail to notice there are a lot of old Audi 100’s around. About 30-35 years old and they’re still going strong! Having had two of these I know they were great cars, but why so many in Kirghistan? I guess they are fairly simple compared to modern cars and easy and cheap to maintain, or? Also note that they have adopted the European sign convention using the same pictograms.
A German guy who I met at the b&b is spending 3 years on a round the world trip on his bicycle and had spent 6 months on the road already. He will get to Singapore later this year so we’ll catch up then.
Remember the 80’s Audi 100? I think they’re all in Kirgistan!
Kazarman to Jalal-Abad – van transport
The lady running the b&b was quite formidable and hard working. She cooked great dinner and breakfast and also organized the transports of my bike. She was very strict not to allow anyone going indoors with the boots on and I was told off several times… The driver of the van to take me and the bike to Jalal-Abad was a friendly chap and organized 2 additional men to get the bike into the van and the loading went well. I brought straps for occasions like this and was able to securely tie the bike down properly. The trip took 5 hours on, sometimes, atrocious roads and we stopped several times to check on the bike straps but everything went without problems and once arrived the driver quickly rounded up another couple of guys to get the bike off the van. The driver’s 12 year old son came along on the trip and he was sick due to the road conditions many times during the trip so we had stop and let him throw up.
Secure tie down of bike in van. It’s the front yellow straps pushing the suspension half way down that kept the bike secure.
Pretty cold with lots of snow at the top of the pass at 3300m.
Atrocious road conditions on the mountain.
I walked around the town in the afternoon, it was market day and lots of people about. I managed to find a data only sim card and the girls selling it helped me install it in the phone while giggling. They tried to speak some English but showed with a small pinch how little they knew. I replied that my Russian was even worse than their English. The sim card was valid for a week and has unlimited data so should cover me for my time in Kirghistan and cost a paltry 200 Som (about 3 USD).
There was a cafe 20 m from the hotel that served nice food and tea in vast quantities. I had afternoon snack, dinner and breakfast there and the food tasted great!
Jalal-Abad to Osh (100 km)
As I handed the key to my room back and said thank you to the elderly platinum blond hotel lady she did not raise an eye-lid or acknowledge me in any way, and continued smoking her cigarette. However, her colleague rushed to the room to make sure I hadn’t wrecked it or stolen anything, mind you, the thread-bare towels were hardly worth stealing … It was if I had entered a time warp, the hotel block clearly came from the bygone Soviet era and the minuscule room had wall paper that looked like what we used to have in the 50’s.
My steed and Soviet style hotel block.
Well underway the usual road closure happened and the GPS desperately wanted me to turn back to the closed road. I finally stopped and asked for the way to Osh and with those directions the GPS finally gave up insisting I turn back and got on track again. The weather was beautiful and so was the scenery and I was starting to enjoy being on the bike again. I arrived in Osh after a couple of hours and got to the hotel without any further GPS malfunction. As I turned the bike off the bell-boy came out and helped me carry my stuff to the reception, amazing service!
Close to the hotel there was a car wash so I brought the bike there for a thorough cleaning, it was horribly muddy so really needed to get the grime off.
Had new tires mounted on the bike and walked around town, Osh does not have a lot to offer! A big square with a big statue, probably of Lenin. The square has a lot of lanes which perhaps is/was used for military displays on May 1?
Some of the pictures from my walks around town:
Statue of Lenin (?).
I walked past this wedding. They seemed happy to see me.
In the evening Jah and missus as well as Mike arrived at the hotel and we went out for a really nice meal of beef Stroganoff and red wine.
Osh to Tashkent in Uzbekistan (390 km)
Me and Mike did not get away until 11-ish and were at the border after 15 minutes. Getting out of Kirghistan only took a few minutes while the customs formalities in Uzbekistan took close to an hour. However, the Uzbek guards were very friendly and chatty and wanted to know everything about our trip. We were let go but without a temporary immigration form which as slightly worrying. Hopefully this will not cause a problem when we leave the country.
We stopped at a mobile phone shop to get sim cards but were told we needed to have local id’s. Of course we don’t have such, but a couple of local ladies allowed us to use their id’s! Amazing! So we ended up with 4G SIM cards that will last us for the time in Uzbekistan.
Coal fired power plant.
About halfway through the journey there was a pass with quite high elevation and a new and beautifully constructed highway led across it. The temperature sank by 10-15 degrees so the pass might have been 2000m high. However, there was some wet patches and with the new unfamiliar tires I rode very carefully… We found a hotel close to the city and made our way there without problems. Drivers in Uzbekistan seem to have a death wish going at high speed and worryingly for motorcyclists they give us very little space as the fly past.
Tashkent to Samarkand (320 km)
We rode through the city before turning south west towards Samarkand. Tashkent is a modern city with lots of new buildings, and wide tree lined avenues. However, there are no “famous” historic buildings in the city. Someone said it was the 2nd or third biggest city in the former Soviet union.
Hay transport. Nice stacking of the hay bales.
The road was good most of the way and we arrived mid afternoon to Samarkand. The temperature is getting higher – around 31C during the day-time. At night the temperature was a very pleasant 22C.
It’s not easy to get cash in this country, we have not found an ATM that will give us the local currency and credit cards are not accepted in many places. The only way to get local currency is to exchange pristine US $ bills, a slight crease in the bill will make it non-acceptable! It’s a real pain!
Samarkand – June 13
Walked around beautiful Samarkand, beautiful mosques and people.
Very old Lada. Lots of old cars on the road.
Ladies in beautiful dresses relaxing before a wedding reception at the Registan.
First night in Samarkand hotel. Very nice but no room available for the 2nd night.
Mosque close to the 2nd hotel.
Mosque at the Registan.
Registan is a big area with various mosques and buildings. The buildings are clad in beautiful tiles – very colourful.
When we got back from the Registan, Jah and his missus had arrived in our hotel. We spent a lovely evening in a restaurant driven there by our resident taxi driver.
Samarkand to Bukhara (280 km)
Before we left we said bye to Anton who I’d met a year ago in Bogota. I wonder where we’ll meet next?
Pretty boring but, oh so hot, ride from Samarkand to Bukhara. The temperature was getting close to 40C with very low humidity and I was pretty exhausted by the time I arrived at the “Old house hotel” which was located in a small street, only accessible by motorcycle, and which took some time for me to find. It’s newly refurbished and the beds are not concrete hard – hurray! Mike arrived a bit later than me and we went for a walk in the town. It’s much more touristy than Samarkand but very nicely done.
We found the “Ark” the most famous structure in the town and an exert from Wikipedia states:
“The Ark is a large earthen fortification located in the northwestern part of contemporary Bukhara. In layout it resembles a modified rectangle, a little elongated from the west to the east. The perimeter of the external walls is 789.6 metres (2,591 ft), the area enclosed being 3.96 hectares (9.8 acres). The height of the walls varies from 16 to 20 metres (52 to 66 ft).”
Entrance to the Ark!
Wall of the Ark in Bukhara.
It’s a huge and very impressive structure!
We found a nice place for dinner with some entertainment to go along.
My progress the last few weeks:
Rest day in Bukhara
We decided to stay a day in Bukhara before going on to Khiva.
Bukhara ladies just happened to be lining up for a photo.
Sunset in Bukhara.
Bukhara to Khiva (470 km)
We started early at 7 to avoid the heat. The first 100 km was pretty badly rutted asphalt and then there was an amazingly good 4 lane highway for 270 km so the day was a lot easier than we thought it would be. The landscape along the highway was very boring, almost desert like.
New highway in the desert landscape.
It’s low season in Khiva so no problem to find a hotel and we’re the only ones at this one. I walked around in the beautiful historic area in the evening. Amazing minarets and mosques.
Colourful minaret in Khiva
Protective wall surrounding the Khiva historical area.
Full moon shining on Khiva.
There were a couple of camels inside the Khiva historical area. A bit scraggly?
I’m sure all “adventure travelers” have doubts from time to time about what’s the point of the trip. You get to a new destination and wonder “what am I doing here?” and then stay a day or two and go to the next town. I’ve been traveling for 7 weeks and am starting to wonder “maybe I should cut the trip short”? When I get into Kazakhstan I can choose to go northwest towards Latvia and take a ferry across to Stockholm and finish the trip in a couple of weeks, or I can go south towards Georgia, Turkey and come up through Europe and spend, at least, another month. I do get tired of sitting on a motorcycle day in and out and I’m having some aches and pains and wondering if I’m still enjoying the adventure… I’ll have to make up my mind in the next week or so…
Khiva – June 17 – 19
Mike’s front tyre is shot! He talked to the hotel manager who found a tire in Tashkent so now we’re waiting for it to arrive in Khiva. People here are very friendly and helpful and will go out of their way to help, like the hotel manager did. I told him I was suffering from some hip pain and he quickly found a nurse to come to the hotel and give me a massage and some pain relieving pills. The nurse gave me a nice massage but I’m not sure that it will help with my hip ache…
We found a salon to cut our hair and the person doing the cutting was a boy of 17! He had his 12 year old twin brothers in the shop while we were getting the hair cut and they were very boisterous and curious about us. The 17 year old had a diploma and did a nice job!
Later in the afternoon Jah and missus arrived and stayed at the same hotel. Dinner was taken at a rooftop restaurant inside the historical area and was very nice. The full moon was amazingly yellow and together with the lit minarets produced a stunning display. Unfortunately I only had the phone camera so the image is not so good.
Khiva minaret along full moon.
It looks like we’ll be staying another day or two since Mike’s tire will not arrive until tomorrow the 19th…
The road from here to Kazakhstan is not so good in places and there is also a 300 km stretch with no petrol stations and in combination with the available fuel being only 80 octane we need to bring some extra fuel to make sure we’re not stranded in the middle of nowhere. I asked the hotel manager and he got us two 10 liter water containers we can use for fuel and this should be enough to get us safely to Kazakhstan.
I walked around the non historic part of town and got some pictures.
The hotel manager said this was a famous author from Khiva.
Couples getting married would walk around this statue for good luck…
On the last day in Khiva the hotel owner gave us a farewell dinner. We had a very nice 4 course meal with beer, red wine and vodka. We felt very full and slightly worried we wouldn’t be in good shape to get up early the next day.
Khiva farewell dinner
Khiva to Kungirot (300 km)
An early start at 7.30 meant it was pretty cool and we made good speed both on the rough potholed road and some newly built stretches so we arrived noon time. Kungirot town does not have a lot to show for itself, it’s dusty and with terrible roads.
As the day wore on first a German couple arrived on Husqvarna bikes having come from Kazakstan and later in the evening a group of more Germans arrived also from Kazakhstan. We chatted and they told us about the bad road close to the border of Uzbekistan. It was nice to meet other bikers.
Kungirot to Beyneu in Kazakhstan (430 km)
We started at 6 in the morning and made good speed the first 150 km on fairly good sealed roads. We were thinking this is not so bad but then the road got worse and worse with huge pot holes. I hit a big one and I knew straight away that something was wrong, the steering did not feel right… I stopped and confirmed a front wheel puncture and saw immediately that the rim was badly bent. I tried pumping up the wheel and kept going at 40 kph but it was no good, the air gradually went out. So I stopped and wondered what to do, there was no phone connection and I really was in the middle of nowhere with the temperature climbing into the mid thirties. Some people stopped to help but there was not much that could be done. So I waited for Mike who was way ahead of me and he appeared after some time. He immediately suggested we had to put a tube in the tire and luckily he had one. So we managed to get the wheel off, break the bead and get one side of the tire off. We put the tube in and managed to get the tire back on and pumped it up and put the wheel back on. Sounds simple but is not easy and in the blazing midday sun with temperatures reaching 40C it was a heroic effort!
Badly bent front rim. Can this be safely fixed?
Mike packing away the tools after fitting the tube on my front-wheel.
With this I could get going again and managed to ride to the border with Kazakhstan going over, possibly, the worst road on the planet…
After two hours at the border the road to Beyneu was fantastic for 60 km and then turned into a road of hell, first terrible dirt road and the last 5 km made up of sand as fine as flour. It was very difficult to ride in this but we eventually found the hotel after a 12 hour long day. I was completely exhausted but managed to go out to get some food and drink.
Beyneu to Atirau (420 km)
I was so tired I doubted I could make the trip to Atirau but somehow I managed to get going. Temperatures of 40C made the going tough and we had to stop to drink a lot. On top of that the front wheel is no longer round so the front of the bike vibrates a lot at slower speeds while at around 100 kph it was bearable.
A flock of sheep crossing the road.
A lot of camels along the road. They look incredibly docile and stoic and not one got onto the road.
I saw several O&G rigs.
This is what Wikipedia say about Kazakhstan Kashagan oil field:
“With 9 – 11 billion barrels, Kashagan is the largest oil field outside of the Middle East. It is estimated to come on stream in 2016 and reach production of 1.5 million barrels per day at its peak. Kazakhstan is a major oil producer with an estimated total production of 1.64 million barrels per day in 2013.”
Areas beside the road looked like it was covered by snow… It’s dried lakes covered in salt.
Lots of poles!
Atirau Jun 23, 2019
It is Sunday and I’m worried there will be no garages or workshops to straighten my rim. With the help of the iOverlander app I was able to find the area of some workshops and set off to find the place around 10. It was straight forward and we soon found the workshop that had previously helped to fix a bent rim. It took some time for the guy to get going and with the help of heat and a hammer he was able to straighten out the rim. Mike found a 19 inch inner tube and after a few hours I was on the road and the rim was now much better – mission accomplished!
I had thoughts about going due north towards Moscow to avoid the terrible road to Astrakhan but in the end we decided to go towards Astrakhan tomorrow. I’m worried that if I bend the rim again it might not be safe to fix it so I will need to take it very gingerly.
Route after China from Naryn, Kirghistan to Astrakhan, Russia.
Route after China from Naryn, Kirghistan to Astrakhan, Russia.
The video shows the trip from Khiva to Astrakhan which was a real adventure.
After riding for 10 days without a break it certainly was nice with a rest day in Lhasa, and today people, including me, were ready for another day on the road. To get out of Lhasa took the usual crazy manoeuvres but we did it without mishaps. As we have traveled we’ve seen a lot of engineering projects being done or that has been completed. Amazing concrete pillars for the construction of new high speed railways over deep valleys, or bridges for the road. I didn’t manage to photograph some of the more impressive ones but here is a nice looking bridge we passed early in the day.
Bride over the river at Lhasa.
The road was in good condition and we rode by some scenic lakes before starting the climb to higher elevations reaching 4800 m later in the day.
Mountains and water look nice on a sunny day.
Reflecting lake by the road.
Surrounded by dark looking mountains.
Sheep and rocks.
Impressive rock formations.
Interesting geology. Looks like sandstone brechsia?
Close to the glacier.
Beautiful lake nestled in between the mountains at around 4500 m.
After a very scenic day of riding we reached the destination around 5.30 and were to meet for a walk to the local fortress but I did my own thing staying at the hotel and having a nice meal of onion soup and spaghetti bolognese. Back to my room I worked on this missive. As we travel further west and north daylight lasts longer and today it got dark a bit after 9.
Gyangtse to Tingri (320 km)
We saw Everest for the first time today! However, it was far in the distance.
Mount Everest in the far distance.
Otherwise the ride was similar to yesterday’s one, a little bit longer, but only one high pass which was at 5200 m which is higher than the Mt Everest base camp where we are going tomorrow.
Snow by the roadside.
Cereal or grass fields at a high altitude.
Interesting gathering of colourful indians. Some of them were riding their horses up and down a stretch.
May 22, 2019 Tingri to Everest base camp (90km)
We are getting close to Everest! Tingri is a small town by any standards of 500 people and tiny by Chinese standards. It’s basically a town with a hotel or two and a petrol station… At the hotel we met up with another biker tour group that started the ride in Kathmandu and were also going to Everest base camp today. They were all riding Royal Enfield bikes and they claimed they were good for the riding they had done.
Back to Everest – we had an easy ride crossing one mountain pass at 5200m with amazing views of 5 peaks above 8000m. The 20km road up to the pass was made up of beautiful switchbacks on nice smooth road surface – pure joy on a motorcycle!
5 peaks above 8000m. The photo does not give justice to the amazing view.
Interesting geologic layering.
Mount Everest in all it’s glory.
Tonight we’re sleeping at a guest house close to the base camp, there is no heating so I’m afraid it’s going to get cold with a biting wind and sub zero temperatures.
Everest base camp to Xigaze (320 km)
We started the day very early and got up at 6 for breakfast at 6.30 and bus transport from the lodgings to the place where the bikes were stored. In previous years you were allowed to ride the motorcycle all the way, but now, because of environmental concerns, you have to take the electric bus. By 8 we were down by the bikes and made sure they would start since the temperature had been sub-zero during the night and we had to scrape some frost off the seats. Also scrambling to change into riding gear, that was stored in the service van during the night.
Mount Everest just before sunrise.
Well, we finally got away without incident and started riding in the cold morning – brrr… Today we would ride the same way we came – in the other direction. We again rode the amazing switch-back road, it must be one of the best roads in the world for a motorcycle. It’s close to 40 km going up and then coming down.
Race track or mountain road? The road leading to the Tibetan Everest base camp.
It’s not easy to get trees to grow at an altitude above 4500m.
Maybe not so easy to image this with seismic?
Desolate. Very inhospitable in winter.
We reached the hotel in Xigaze early – for a change around 4.30 and had time for a snooze before diner.
Xigaze rest day
Some people went to the famous and large local monastery, some worked on their bikes and I took it easy working on the blog to keep it to date. Anyway, it was very nice with a rest day before starting the last 2500km to Khasgar.
May 25, 2019 Xigaze to Saga (400km)
Before setting off we took farewell of 3 people in the group, they were going back to Lhasa to catch a flight either home or other vacation destinations. It was the third time we rode the first 150 km of today’s route and the rest was on the G219 that will lead us to northern Tibet and Khashgar. The ride went without problems although there were stretches with big pot holes that we had to navigate carefully. As we got closer to Saga the wind got much stronger and you had to ride at a lean angle to go straight.
Saga to Bagaxiang (490 km)
Nice views for the entire ride of the Tibetan landscape. It’s incredible grand with new mountains showing up all the time . The road was in general in good condition. One problem was that there was a distance of around 250km between petrol stations and some of the bikes could not handle that distance, the strong wind making the fuel consumption go up as well.
Map showing route from Lhasa to Everest base camp, back to Xigaze and onwards to Bagaxiang.
The vastness of the Tibetan high plateau can only be experienced by being there…
This is close to 5000m elevation and it was cold.
At the highest point of every pass there is colourful bunting.
Golden bull and a black tiger.
Ice on the water.
And it was cold! In the morning below freezing and at noon below 4C. Luckily I have electrically heated pants and jacket to help me keep warm but it’s still chilly.
Mountain on the Chinese side – still the Himalayas.
Bagaxiang to Tsaparang (540 km)
This was to be a day of true adventure! The ride was supposed to be a short one but me and Andy pulled out in front, got into a good rhythm and followed the main road, we had a great time without thoughts of if we were going the right way. After 170 km we stopped at a check point and sat down to wait for the rest of the group to arrive. We waited and waited… Finally I messaged Jah, the tour leader. He informed me we missed a turn off and were far away from where we should be and he had sent Mike to “retrieve” us. Mike arrived but the problem was we were out of fuel and to get to the petrol station we had to cross the check point.
We approached the police officers who turned out to be very nice (they even offered us a can of Red Bull) and after showing scans of our passports (the passports were carried by the Tibetan guide) and after various discussions we were let through to find fuel. Then we had to go back for 250 kms to find our nightly stop. After 130 km we turned off onto the X705 road that led us through some very scenic areas. The last part went through an area of clay-rock that displayed various colours and were amazingly beautiful.
Amazing views along X705 road.
Clay rock formations flanked by snow covered mountains – beautiful!
Tsaparang rest day
A beautiful day with glorious sunshine and blue skies, and at 3700 m much lower than the usual 4500 m so the outside temperature was higher. Some people went to look at some local site but I decided to stay at the hotel and relax – it’s so nice not being on the bike for a full day!
May 29, 2019 Tsaparang to Rutog (330 km)
We backtracked the 250 km we went wrong two days before. Since we were leaving Tibet and entering into a new province, Xinjiang, there was a long holdup before we could continue the last 120km to our hotel in Rutog. The hotel was not nice, no heating and in a rather dilapidated state, however, with electrically heated blankets it was still possible to keep warm. It got to -5 C during the night because the altitude was still large at around 3600m.
Filling up 12 motorcycles with petrol always takes time since the rules requires the use of a 2-stage process where first a can is filled and this is used to fill the bike. SOmetimes, we were allowed to push the bikes to the pump and fill.
Always beautiful scenery in the mountains of Tibet.
Rutog to Da Hong Liu Tan (580 km)
A long day on the road involving riding but also stops at check points which were starting to take even longer time. There was 370 km between petrol stations and we had to fill spare tanks with fuel for some of the bikes that did not have the required range using their “built in” tanks. We all made it so someone had made the right calculations.
India on the other side of the lake.
Colorful bunting in many places. Nice or an eye sore?
We arrived at the hotel town which turned out to be more of a military town late and was subjected to a thorough investigation to make sure we were the same person as shown in the passport. This took a considerable amount of time and, of course, we had to take it with a smile. So late in the evening we were finally in the hotel which turned out to be the worst on of the trip. There were no showers and heating and the toilets were broken. At night it got to several degrees below zero so the rooms got chilly during the night.
May 31, 2019 Da Hong Liu Tan to Kashgar (600 km)
This is the last leg of the trip through China and the longest day, both in terms of kilometers and hours. We started at 6 am while it was still dark and the first few hours were extremely cold – some people reported their bike thermometer as saying -8 C. We climbed to an elevation of 5000 m when the sun had just come up with the views from the top of the pass being fantastic. The road was really rutted with big pot-holes in places and, although some people love these conditions, I feel with my motorcycle for all the hard hits it takes when hitting the pot holes… As it turned out I had hit one so badly that the front wheel rim was badly bent, luckily, not so bad that the air leaked out.
View from the 5000 m pass early in the morning.
The road leading up to the pass. It was in a bad state of repair.
Camels in China? Oh yes! I was told the people here come from eastern Turkey originally and they brought camels.
After many stops for petrol and security check points we arrived in Kasgar at the hotel around 10.30, pm, any later and it would have been dark. We had ridden for 16.5 hours!
Kashgar rest days
There was a lot of work to be carried out on our bikes including oil and filter changes as well as other repairs. My front rim was miraculously bent back to it’s original shape without problems – I was really pleased to see that it could be done so well! We were originally planning to stay for 2 days but because the required work on the bikes could not be completed in that time we are staying for an additional day.
Kashgar, or Kashi, as it’s also known, has a history stretching back to 200 BC and with a current population of 500,000 it has served as a trading post and strategically important city on the silk road between China, the middle east and Europe. It’s modern day layout is pleasant with wide avenues lined with trees – so different from our travels through Tibet which showed very little greenery and was more dessert like. Kashgar is at an altitude of 1200 m and is nice and warm with daytime temperatures in the 30’s. So nice after the freezing temperatures we;ve seen the last few weeks.
The old bazaar.
Lots and lots of electric mopeds going at pretty high speed in their designated lanes. It’s an efficient and pollution free way of transport.
Tree lined wide avenues. In the middle the car lanes, to the side of that the moped lanes and at the edges the pedestrian lanes.
Since leaving Singapore I have ridden 10301 km in one month. The first 3000 km from Singapore to the Boten China border were easy with good roads and took no more than 5 days in the saddle. The 7000 km in China has been hard work with the first 10 days without a break. We’ve had more breaks since then but we did 7000 km in around 21 days on, at times, bad roads and 15-20 mountain passes. The Tibetan scenery has been breath taking – no doubt about that! However, somewhat sterile and very brown.
The RideChina company with Jah, it’s leader, did a brilliant job of putting together the trip and organizing hotels etc. The hard schedule could very well be because of the Chinese authorities putting a lot of restrictions on what they would accept. The group was not very disciplined with people disappearing for some time but Jah never let that affect his temper but remained calm throughout. I don’t think I could have in the same situation.
We left a bit after 7 to get to the border with China at the opening time at 8. After getting out of Laos we were met at the Chinese border by the organizer, Jah. After an hour or two of border formalities we were in China! We stopped for a lovely lunch before continuing to the next city to finalize the formalities allowing us to drive our bikes in the country. This involves getting a Chinese driving license and having the bikes inspected.
The formalities were finished around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and we got on the highway to Jinghong, the goal for the day. The highway is new and beautifully constructed but at one point it was closed and we had to get off it and ride the old road which was very twisty so should be fun on a bike, however, with a lot of big trucks going very slowly and difficult to overtake it was pretty hard work. After 60km of the old road we were back on the highway and were soon in Jinghong.
Our intrepid leaders
Boten China border
It had been a long day and I was very tired by the end of it.
Jinghong to Kunming (530 km)
We stayed in a nice hotel and were offered a very nice spread for breakfast. The idea was to start at 8 and we were probably on the road about that time.
Morning preparations and chats before setting off
Getting in and out of the Chinese cities is not easy and luckily our guide knows his way around. The traffic seems very chaotic, much more so than other Asian countries where I’ve been riding and it seems like a minor miracle that people do not get hurt.
We stopped for lunch at the halfway point and, unfortunately, one of the guys lost his phone and after reviewing CCTV footage it turned out that someone nicked it and he had taken off, but they knew the culprits car registration. Wonder what will happen to him?
Discussions with the police reagarding the missing phpne
So after a lengthy delay we were on our ways again. The highway is beautiful ly constructed as it cuts its way through the very hilly country. There are a large number of viaducts and tunnels with sweeping turns in between – it’s a very nice road to navigate on a motorcycle. Along the way there were other, very, impressive constructions with huge viaducts being built.
We stop every so often to drink water and stretch our legs.
We arrived at the Kunming hotel around 6.30 where we met additional adventurers joining the group.
Kunming to Linjiang (500km)
Another group of 5 people joined us so we are all together 14 bikes. This took some time to organize and then one guy had a scare thinking he’d lost his passport delaying us by close to an hour. He re-traced his walk to and fro the bank and finally figured out h’ed put it in a hidden pocket in his jacket. Without passport would probably mean aborting the trip plus having a lot of problems getting out of the country. So everyone drew a sigh of relief once it was found.
All this meant we didn’t get on the road until after 11 and we had a long way to go. On the way we we’re stopped at a roadblock because of an accident further along the road and it was quite a gathering of people with the locals wanting pictures of the bikers, a bit like we were from another planet. After half an hour the policeman let us go so we had the entire road to ourselves for quite some time. When we reached the accident it was a relatively small one and I can’t understand why the whole road was blocked for that.
Road block gathering
We arrived in the beautiful town of Linjiang after 6 some time and stayed in the old part of town which a a pedestrian precinct with cobblestone streets and old buildings – very nice! However, since we were so late there was no time to explore the town and I was very tired so after dinner I went back to the hotel and bed.
Linjian old town
Our hotel – very nice!
Linjiang to Shangri La (270 km)
Today was the first day we’d traverse a mountain pass and on the way admire the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After the first stop there was a bit of a problem and some guys, including me, got lost. It took some time to gather the group back together again and then we set off for the Gorge. It’s pretty amazing scenery with tall mountains surrounding it.
The Yangtze river in all it’s might flows at the bottom of the gorge.
The leaping tiger.
After admiring the gorge we had some nice twisty roads for 150 km reaching an elevation of 3800 m. The temperature also dropped to 10C and it felt pretty cold after the days of extremely hot riding conditions.
Shangri La to Guibading (190 km)
Today was a fairly short ride so we set off from Shangri La a bit later. On the way we stopped at a monastery and listen in on the service for a while. The buildings are set nicely on the mountain side.
By the entrance to the inner court yard of the monastery
Monks out in the courtyard after (or in between) services.
Rather than following the new main road which goes by a tunnel through the mountain we took the old road which goes over the pass at close to 4300m. The road is not well maintained so there were several places of dirt-road and stream crossings as well as rock-fall for most of the way. Some of the stretches were pretty rough so I got to practice my off-road riding skills which is nice and I’m getting more confident when not having full control of where the bike is going.
The lads having a laugh at the peak of today’s ride.
We’re now at the foothills of the Himalayas and tonight we’re staying at an elevation of around 3500 m and I can see the snow covered mountains from my hotel window.
Guibading to Zogang and into Tibet (380 km) Total distance 5164 km
We had an early start – this was going to be a long day. Some of the people in the group love roads that are not so good and today they were very happy. The road quality leaves a lot to be desired with a lot of gravel and ruts. We traversed two high passes with the 2nd one being above 5000m. It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we got there and it was rather cold so we quickly descended and reached the hotel at seven. It was indeed a long day.
Filling up the tank in Tibet
The pace is rather relentless with long days in the saddle, late dinners and early mornings. It is starting to not feel like a vacation but a grueling test of stamina. I did not have this in mind when I signed up :-(. The original itinerary included more rest days and some shorter riding days. However, I think there will be more rest days once we get to Lhasa.
Zogang to Ranwo (180 km)
We had our first puncture today! The wheel had an inner tube and to replace this the wheel had to come off and since the service van had a tire we fit both a new tire and inner tube. This took at least an hour but we had stopped at a sunny meadow with yaks eating of the grass. Quite serene really.
Once done we continued to lunch and then climbed up to above 4000 m. Beautiful scenery for most of the day.
Ranwo to Bayi (360 km)
This was another long day and I had no energy to update these pages and now a few days later I have a hard time remembering what went on during this ride… However, there was some nice mountainous scenery with wooded passages.
Bayi to Lhasa (400 km) Total distance 6255 km
A nice ride on undulating roads with good asphalt. Along the road we see a lot of Tibetan pilgrims on the way to the holy city of Lhasa. Many of them cycle, some walk while the most arduous walk a few steps (the length of their body) then lie and kiss the ground before repeating the process. There was risk of rain at one point and we stopped to don rain gear but it turned out to be false alarm since very little rain actually came down.
Morning sun on mountain lake
Snow covered mountain all around
There are yaks everywhere along the road and you must be prepared to stop at any time.
Highest point on today’s ride at 4900 m.
Since entering China in Mohan we first went due north until we reached the kink and since then pretty much due west. The map shows the route through China so far.
So we’re now due north of Bhutan and tomorrow we’ll continue our westward journey towards Mount Everest base camp. Since entering China I have traveled 3200 km which is more than half the total distance through the country. Lhasa is around 29 degrees north while the endpoint of London is at 51 degrees which means I’ve come more than half way north from SIngapore.
Today is a day off the bike and we spent several hours at the Potala palace. From wikipedia:
First day of the trip and I wanted to get through Malaysia into Thailand. I left home at 6 in the morning and got to the Tuas border station. Because of having acquired the Carnet de Passage I had to go through a special procedure at the border and it was obvious that customs rarely go through this procedure and it turned out they did not have the correct stamp, so the lady had to phone to get the stamp brought to the office… Still, the whole process did not take more than half an hour so can’t complain too much.
Leaving early in the morning on the 30th of April.
The Carnet duly filled in. About to leave Singapore.
The north-south highway in Malaysia is great for a quick transfer through the country and I made good time to Kuala Lumpur. Going on the road west of the capital it started raining and the traffic got really bad and I had to stop for a while in the thought I could wait the rain out. However, the rain did not let off so I had to don my rain gear and set off at a slow pace.
Gloomy and rainy around KL.
It was then raining on and off all through the Malaysia. Pretty miserable! Nevertheless, I persevered and got to the border with Thailand around 4pm. Since I was there last, the border crossing is completely redesigned and newly constructed. Getting out of Malaysia was no problem but the procedure to get into Thailand took a bit of time so the whole process took an hour and then I was on my way to Hat Yai where I found my hotel after the GPS got me lost a few times.
Once settled in I went to the Post Laser Disc Pub where I had dinner and some fluid replenishment. While sitting there this geezer had problems starting his moped and he spent a lot of time trying to make it go. He cleaned the spark plug and it would start but then stop and repeating the process several times. He did not let this affect his mood but had a good laugh while working. I started talking to another angmo (non-asian), turned out he was a British guy who had been in the town for 30 years teaching business English at the Songhkla university. He loved the town and the freedom of Thailand in general and had no plans to move back to the UK. Interesting!
May 1, 2019 Day 2 Hat Yai to Prachuap Khiri Khan (700km)
I felt so knackered after the first day that I thought I might stay another day in Hat Yai but when I woke up I felt reasonably OK so I set off towards Khiri Khan. It’s the 1st of May holiday so the traffic should be pretty good and in general it wasn’t so bad. I was surprised to see a lot of trucks towards the afternoon on a holiday, however, the traffic flowed well the whole day and I made good time and reached Khiri Khan around 4 in the afternoon. It was hot at 35C most of the day but I managed to keep going.
The main and state oil company in Thailand is PTT and their petrol stations are well equipped with stalls serving Thai food and 7-11 stores as well as Amazon coffee shops serving nice lattes. They are also air conditioned giving a respite from the blazing hot weather.
Amazon coffee shop serving nice coffee. There is one of these at every PTT petrol station.
Khiri Khan is a small town on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand set beautifully close to the water.
Khiri Khan beach in evening sunlight.
Khiri Khan with dramatic cloud
The nearest restaurant was German(!) so I went there and had a pork schnitzel. I talked to the German owner who moved here a few years ago after retiring. He loved it here and has a good crowd in the high season which is when northern Europeans come here to escape the cold and darkness of their home countries in winter. The low season has started and there weren’t many guests in the restaurant. However, outside there were a number of Europeans having beers and discussing football!
Local Europeans discussing football.
Khiri Khan days 3-4
Relaxing for a couple of days before going on towards Laos. The last couple of days have been sizzling with temperatures as high as 38C and high humidity. Unbearable to be outside in the mid-day sun.
Discussions at the dinner table. Probably football.
Locals having a morning coffee.
The morning catch laid to dry in the hot sun.
Feels like 49!
Feels like 49!
May 4, 2019 Khiri Khan to Nakhon Sawan (500km)
I got up very early at 5 to set off at first light because I knew it was going to be very hot. Nakhon Sawan is 200 km north of Bangkok and rather than go through Bangkok I turned north to the west of the city. I had no real problems apart from handling the hot weather getting up to 41C as I was nearing my destination. When you’re up to speed the heat is still bad but bearable while when stopping at a traffic light you really feel like melting. Luckily there were not so many stoplights so I managed to survive.
Nakhon Sawan to Lampang (370km)
Repeat of yesterday, pretty much. Still very hot! Did a shorter distance and arrived at the guesthouse in Lampang at 11. It’s located beautifully on the edge of the river Wang with a balcony area overlooking the flowing water. Very serene.
Riverside guesthouse by river Wang.
It’s run by a European woman who said she’s been here for 38 years. Her Thai husband has a garage with several bikes, the latest acquisition being a 2014 BMW GS.
After meeting Andy, who is also joining the group through China, we went for a walk and take in the night market. A whole km of various stands selling everything from food to clothes.
Busy night market.
Bridge over river Wang.
May 6, 2019 Lampang to Chiang Kong (319km)
Today I’m riding with Andy. Rather than riding the main road we took minor, but good, roads and stopped after 60km to look at a Buddhist temple high on a hill. This involved going up a few hundred meters from the main road and taking a car ride up a very steep road and a further one km walk up a steep path to the temple. We met with two Russian bikers that I’d met the day before in Lampang who had also stopped to view the temple.
Very hazy conditions.
At the top of the Wat. Exhausted after the steep climb in 38C heat.
Preparing to fly the drone.
Built on top of a height with towers scattered on the hill.
May 7, 2019 Chiang Kong to Louang Namtha in Laos (310 km) Total distance so far: 3051 km
Northern Laos was the destination today so we had to go through exit procedures in Thailand and entry procedures in Laos. It took a couple of hours and with a lot of papers with various stamps. Laos has introduced a new rule for bikers meaning payment of around USD 50 to the tourist police. I had a letter from the Laos ambassador in Singapore saying I was allowed to ride the bike in Laos but this, I was told, had no value so I still had to pay up. Never mind, I’m sure as we get into border crossings in the Stans there will also be unexpected charges so I’d better get used to it…
Laos is very hilly so the road was twisty with a lot of ups and downs and was reasonably good for 150 km, but after that it got a lot worse with stretches of gravel, huge potholes and washboard surface. The road is trafficked by big trucks going from China to Thailand and back and the road was not built for this kind of traffic. Maybe the China belt and road program will spend the money to improve the road?
I decided to split up and go straight to the guesthouse where we’re meeting the China ride organizers for the ride into China on Friday. I felt, I needed a few days off the bike and get some rest before China. I have done 3000 km in 8 days so I don’t feel so bad about it.
When I came to open my bag I found the lid of the skin moisturizer had partly come undone and there was cream everywhere and on everything – what a mess! It took me an hour to clean it up while swearing under my breath, damn, can’t I remember to close it tightly!
After this ordeal I found a bar and sat down with a beer to calm myself. Then three young Irishmen (do women count as Irishmen?) came in and we started a conversation covering many topics including what beer people in Ireland drink and the demise of local beers with big international companies buying up the smaller local breweries. There are quite a lot of young back-packers at the guest house, they come here for trecking in the national park and also river rafting.
Spent a couple of relaxing days in this town and met up with the group going through China. It’s an interesting bunch of characters with people from the UK, Switzerland, New Zealand and possibly others with varying professions like helicopter mechanic, plumber, solicitor and management consultant.
I started looking into this last year and found you are not allowed to ride through China on your own but must join a government approved travel agency organized ride. I found an agency called ridechina (https://www.ridechina.com) who seemed to have organized many tours in China over the years. I contacted them with my plans and they came back with a tour that would fit them. They will meet me at the border between Laos and China and get the formalities on entering China sorted out – which includes getting me a Chinese driving licence and Chinese plates on the bike!
After discussions on the home front I was given the go ahead :-), so now I need to get the bike ready and figure out what I need to bring. I found a place in Osh, Kirghistan that has the tires I need so I won’t need to bring tires with me. I’ll bring some spare parts though, such as bearings, levers and possibly fork seals.
I serviced the forks – new seals and fork oil. Although I asked a mechanic if my chain would do another 20k km, and he said no problem, I was not so sure since the chain was adjusted so far back that there was not much room for further adjustment. I went to the same workshop and another mechanic immediately said the chain was bad and needed changing!
The route up until the exit of China into Kirghistan is set, but from there to Europe there are several options – well actually 3. 1) Go through Russia either all the way to Europe or west of the Caspian through Georgia into Turkey and further towards Europe, or 2) Go through Turkmenistan to Iran and south of the Caspian into Turkey, or 3) Cross the Caspian on a boat from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan. The big problem with option 1) is getting a visa to go through Russia, I might get it in time for the trip but possibly not. Option 2 is problematic. Getting visas to enter both Turkmenistan and Iran is not straight forward and seems to require “fixers” inside the countries. Iran also requires a Carnet de passage (CDP) and I’m in the process of applying for one through the Automobile Association of Singapore and I will get that before leaving. However, I’ve seen reports that you are not allowed to bring in motorcycles larger than 250cc to Iran, which if true, makes this option not useful. Option 3) is a possibility but the boats are not ferries, but rather cargo ships, and do not go on a regular schedule which makes this option somewhat uncertain. However, it might be the only option if the Russian visa does not materialize.
The following are the potential coutries I will be passing through:
Laos: Need visa and temporary import permit for the motorcycle. Got that at Singapore Laos embassy last week.
Kirghistan: Visa Waiver
Uzbekistan: Visa exemption
Tajikistan: Electronic visa acquired – no problem.
Turkmenistan: Need visa and not straight forward to obtain. However, people in the group have been in contact with an agency inside the country and it appears we can get a visa at the border with an invitation from the agency.
Azerbaijan: Electronic visa acquired. Will need this if we have to take the ferry across the Caspian.
Iran: When you fly into the country you can get a visa when you land but not sure what the situation is when crossing a land border. I also need the CDP.
Kazakhstan: No visa required.
Russia: Require an “Auto-visa” to be able to drive your own vehicle through russia. The russian embassy/consulate has said it will take 2-4 weeks to obtain the visa so I might need to give this up – not enough time.
Georgia: Visa free
Turkey: Visa free
The above are for me with a Swedish passport but European union countries in general have the same visa requirements.
So three weeks before departure the route after China is not clear…
Today is 25th April and it’s only 5 days until I set off! I picked up my passport with the approved Russia Visa today – Yay! This gives me more options regarding the route after leaving China, I can go through Russia on the western side of the Caspian sea to Georgia and then Turkey, or, if I feel really fed up after China, I can go straight to Latvia and get a ferry to Sweden… I also received the Carnet today but I think it will be of little use since Iran has banned any motorcycles larger than 250cc to enter the country and this was the only country along the route that requires the Carnet.
After picking up the pp I walked around the Marina bay area and snapped some photos, it’s really amazing what Singapore has accomplished in the last 20 years. Most of the buildings in the pictures were built after I arrived to Singapore 20 years ago.
I’m planning to ride my motorcycle from Singapore to Europe starting April/May this year, 2019. I will go through Malaysia, Thailand and Laos before joining a group ride through western China. After a month in China riding through Tibet I will enter Kirghistan. Then into Kazakhstan and further towards Europe.
This will be a long trip and there’s lot’s of stuff to prepare. I will be going through many countries and visa requirements will vary from country to country. There are also preparations to do for the bike.
Once out of China the real adventure starts! Kirghistan starts off as a bit of a bad dream, but Uzbekistan through Samarkand is amazing while the route through Kazakhstan is more of a transport stretch.
Russia turned out to be a lot nicer than it’s reputation and I particularly enjoyed Volgograd. Of course, Moscow was amazing and I got to see the famous buildings we often see on the news. After a ferry across the Baltic I spent some time in Sweden before going to London and the end of my adventure.