I've spent hours on end looking at this map, trying to perfect the outlined route. I haven't actually managed to perfect it, so for now this will have to do. I guess not having an exact route as such is part of the charm of cycle-touring anyways. That being said, there is quite a bit of thought behind the outline, so for those of you interested, let me explain!
The route as outlined passes through 26 countries. It is based on current political situations around the world, and as these change, the route might change as well. I've decided on a southern route as opposed to going north through Russia, the reason being that I want to experience Turkey and the Middle East. The total length of the route is about 18,000 km, and I'm planning on spending about 1 year to complete the challenge. A small fraction of the route will have to be done using other means of transport, but the vast majority of the trip will be done cycling. Since planning a journey of this size is somewhat overwhelming, I've mentally split the journey into a number of stretches:
I'll be starting in south-western Finland in the city of Turku. For me, the essence of traveling is experiencing new things. Since I know both Denmark and Sweden quite well, and I've got quite a long bike ride ahead of me, I thought I'd save the effort of cycling to Finland by simply starting there instead. Moving on, I'm taking the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn in Estonia, and from there on I'll (hopefully) be traveling overland all the way to Singapore. The eastern European countries are quite a lot cheaper to travel in than the western counterpart, so that is one of the thoughts behind the European leg of the journey. There are also quite a few of the eastern European countries that I haven't been to yet. Originally, I wanted to pass through Belarus before entering Ukraine. Obtaining a visa for Belarus seems to be somewhat of a hassle though, so for the sake of simplicity, I'll be revisiting Poland instead. Following Ukraine, I'll be going to Moldova and the eastern part of Romania. Going this way as opposed to going through central Romania will not only allow me to experience Moldova, but it'll also save my legs the effort of cycling through the Carpathian Mountains. It does, however, make the overall journey slightly longer, so I might change my mind once I get going. I plan on utilizing Warmshowers and Couchsurfing for part of my accommodation in Europe.
Turkey, Caucasus, and Iran
Being a citizen of Denmark, I'm allowed to stay in Turkey for up to 90 days without a visa. Though I'm not planning on spending quite that long, Turkey will be the first really long single-country stretch. It is about 1400 km's as the crow flies. But since I'm on a bike it'll be more than that. Going to the Caucasus, I'll most likely be starting in Georgia, which reportedly is the most varied of the Caucasian countries. Sadly, I'll have to choose between visiting either Armenia or Azerbaijan. Apparently, the somewhat tense relations between these two countries mean that visiting one will exclude you from visiting the other on the same passport. Getting information on this matter is somewhat difficult, so please let me know if I'm wrong! For now, I'm counting on Armenia due to the fact that it's visa-free. Next up is Iran. Like Turkey, it's a truly massive country. While in Iran, I'll be sticking to the north, heading towards the border town of Sarakhs.
To me, the Central Asian part of the trip is one of the most exciting. All of the countries in this region see very little tourism and are therefore somewhat mysterious to most people outside of the region (including myself). First up is Turkmenistan. Traveling overland, you are limited to a 5-day transit visa. The country is pretty big though and will require at least 500 km of travel. Realistically, I'll have to cover more than 100 km per day while in Turkmenistan. Supposedly, this is going to be a somewhat stressful stretch. If need be, I'll hitch a ride. Since avoiding Turkmenistan would mean cycling through a war zone (as per Jamie McDonald, who was shot at in Tajikistan), I'll be opting for 5 potentially stressful days instead. Entering Uzbekistan, I'll be going north of the Pamirs and Tian Shan Mountains into Kazakhstan before heading to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. From there, I'll have to meander my way through the mountains until I hit the city of Kashgar, by which time I will have made it to China.
China and Pakistan
Depending on my pace up until Kashgar, I will either have to take the bus or fly to Islamabad. I would very much like to experience the Karakoram Mountains, and for that reason, I will be trying to get to Kashgar before the 1st of December. This would mean cycling the first 10,000 km stretch in about 7 months. The border between China And Pakistan over the Karakoram Highway is closed from the 1st of December until the beginning of may. Also, cycling over the border is illegal, so if I make it in time, I'll be opting for the bus. Judging by the pictures, I don't think cycling the Karakoram Highway in its entirety would be the best idea anyway. If I don't make it to Kashgar in time, I will be flying to Islamabad instead. Anyways, I plan on checking out the mountain Mustagh Ata before leaving China. Climbing Mustagh Ata has long been a dream of mine, but for now seeing it up close will have to do. I'll save the climbing for later.
India and Nepal
My original thought was to enter India close to Lahore, and then ride into Nepal, cross in to Bangladesh and head on to Myanmar from there. Turns out that's a bad idea. The way things are now, it's actually pretty close to being impossible. Going from to Bangladesh to Myanmar over land would require trotting through a jungle full of landmines, so I've decided on skipping Bangladesh for now. Anyways, I'll be heading into India close to Lahore, and then entering the eastern part of Nepal. I've got a couple of friends that I'd like to visit in Nepal, and it's an amazing country. After crossing Nepal, I'll be heading back into India, passing north of Bangladesh to then enter Myanmar from the north. From what I've heard, the sheer amount of people and attention in India will make wild camping a challenge.
This is probably going to be the longest leg of the journey. Though I've been to this part of the world before, I honestly don't know what to expect from cycling here. I've decided on Indonesia as being my goal, simply because I'd really like to see it. Going south of the equator by bicycle does sound sort of cool aswell. I'll most likely be going to Singapore first. Going to Singapore naturally limits me to going any further by bicycle, so I'll be taking a ferry or a plane frome there to Indonesia. Once I've made it to Indonesia, I'll have to decide on heading home or staying on the road.
Something along those lines anyways... Remember to check out my post on The Association for Greenlandic Children. Your support is my main motivation for this project!