Uzbekistan: Beyneu to Nukus and the Aral Sea – 18th to 20th June

Sunday 18th June – Beyneu to Nukus
Distance: 6.19 km
Total Distance: 14034.98 km

We were rudely awoken at 1am by our hotel proprietor, Murat. It gave us both a hell of a scare, thinking we’d overslept and missed our train but it was just minutes before our alarm. Shower, pack and out the door. We’re at the train station at 1.20am (yup we’ve got this routine down to a fine art). At the station we need to work out what to do. It’s not actually possible to get on a platform next to the train as there isn’t a platform. We have to carry everything down some steps, then I go onto the train and find a ‘train official’ type person.

He looks at our tickets and sends us to coach 1 (the one at the very end, back end, not front). We load up and cycle to the end, it’s some way, it’s a very long train. Then unload again and carry everything across 2 sets of tracks. OK now the really difficult part. The steps into the coach are very steep, narrow and there’s a considerable gap between the ground and the first step. Nightmare. We get all the luggage inside and we have our own sitting/sleeping compartment. Now the trikes. Our first attempt to get one in fails, it’s too wide so off come the seats, and we manage to get it onto the train. But the only space we can utilise is the small corridor area between coaches.

If we just park the trike there it blocks the door to the next coach and there’s no room for the 2nd trike. The train official doesn’t seem inclined to give us another area. So after various positions and manhandling 2 awkward trikes in a very confined space, they’re parked up the wall (stood on their back wheel against the main coach doors). And then bungied into position. At least the official is content that the main access door to the carriage stay locked otherwise someone trying to get up into our carriage would have a trike on their head! All of this has been done in the pitch dark because the train interior lights are still off.
Thank goodness that’s sorted.

We settle into our compartment and nap, there’s still an hour before the train leaves for Nukus. About 2.50am the train lights come on and I realise this coach is already full of sleeping passengers. They were already aboard when we loaded our stuff on.

Finally we set off. On board there are Kazak custom guards and we’re frequently disturbed by requests for our passports, where we’re from, whether we’re tourists and where we’re going. At 5.20am we stop at the Uzbekistan border. So it’s taken 2 hours 20 to cover 90 kilometers – the definition of a slow train?
Now come the Uzbek officials. They check through all our bags. They’re particularly interested in our medicine. No drugs containing codeine are allowed in Uzbekistan. They also look at our photos on our phone and notepad. We complete a registration form and we have to declare how much money we’re taking into Uzbekistan. Once that’s done they take away all the passports. Just before 8.30am our passports are returned and off we jolly well go.
Once we set off we realise why the connecting door between coaches had to be kept clear, there is an endless amount of people walking up and down the train selling food, clothes, black market currency etc. These ‘traders’ appear to change after each stop so they must all have their own ‘manor’.
The day drags on. The train which was deliciously cool at 5am warms up and there’s the smell of piss, the sound of snoring and the constant hawking of phlegm – OMG these guys love to spit. We’re frequently disturbed by the traders and others.


They see nothing wrong in just sitting down beside us to read our kindles with us or to pick up our stuff scattered on the table. At one point I’m lying down reading my kindle and I realise there’s another head right next to mine, trying to read my kindle.

We stop one lady selling ‘plov’, she has a large cooking pot wrapped in towels and plastic bags, inside is some steaming hot rice with vegetables. We order some and she whips out a bowl and 2 spoons. She also has a jar of cucumber and tomato and a jar of cooked meat in small lumps. She dishes some of each out and we pay her 5000 Som, about 60 pence we think! It’s quite delicious, we also buy some pancakes to supplement it. A guy stops in our compartment to entertain us with some card tricks. And Daz, unhappy to have no attention, shows some of his tricks.

By 7.00pm we have been on the train nearly 17 hours and we are finally pulling into Nukus. We thank the young Uzbek girl who has helped us with translating. Then it’s time to unload the trikes and baggage from the train. Surprisingly both trikes have survived unscathed from being parked on their tail end (thank God).

Now we just need to get to the centre of town. We have been told that a visit to the shrinking Aral sea is a must whilst we are here, so we need to speak to a tour operator about going tomorrow. Fortunately we have found a hotel, Jipek Joli, that runs tours. So that’s where we’re heading. With a bit of haggling we manage to get a reduced price on the tour and on a hotel room for the night. We would normally camp, but in Uzbekistan it is the law that foreign tourists need to register every 3 days in a hotel. It’s actually supposed to be everyday, but as cycle tourists there is a little leeway. Once we’ve got all our kit in our room we head straight out to see the central Bazaar which is still open at 8pm. There are loads of people out and about, and lots of local cyclists riding about the city.

As we wander back to the hotel looking for a restaurant /cafe we hear loud music coming from a restaurant, and with hunger prowling at the door we pop our heads in to see what’s going on. It seems there are a number of parties in the restaurant, and a lively disco. Everyone is up and dancing too. We manage to convey our hunger to the waiters and are shown to a table. After some confusion, due to noise, language and no prices on the menu we order food. Whilst we wait I’m suddenly grabbed by an ornately dressed woman and dragged onto the dance floor! Oh well, in for a penny… Daz joins in as well (eventually) and we dance with all these crazy Uzbek ladies until our dinner arrives!

After eating we sidle out before we are dragged up again and head back to the hotel, knackered, but knowing we have an early start tomorrow.

Monday 19th June
Nukus to Aral Sea Tour

Our alarm goes off at 7am. Arghhhhh we could both sleep longer but our tour starts at 8am. We head to breakfast and we’re given the first course; fruit, pancakes and cake. We’re offered a choice of eggs or porridge. I opt for eggs and Daz, the porridge. And then we wait, and wait and wait. We see our 4×4 outside and still we wait.

We’re getting a little restless and impatient. We came down in plenty of time and now we’re late and still no food. Finally, after Daz has gone into the kitchen to kick arse, we get some food. Daz’s porridge is actually rice but not a lovely creamy rice pudding (although to my mind there’s never a ‘lovely rice pudding’ ‘bleughhhhh’) but a sad bowl of rice cooked in water and then dumped into milk. I get my eggs (they haven’t messed up 2 fried eggs) and just as we’re about to leave along comes my toast. A rushed pack and we’re out the door. We have a very comfy Toyota Land Cruiser with our driver, Kazim and ‘security’ Urdal. And off we go.
A quick side note: we’re now working in US$ and Uzbek Som. Having been told not to use ATMs in Uzbekistan we withdrew a wad of dollars in Kazakhstan. On the train (as we’d been told by Beth and Max – it’s so handy we now have 3 sets of cyclists ahead, feeding us useful information! ) there’s numerous black market money changers. We were told to expect 8000 Som :1$. We fail to get this on the train but finally settle for 7,800 Som:1$. Daz wants to change 200$ but I want to get a feel for how expensive things are here so we change $100 = 780,000 Som. It’s a huge wad of notes. What a ridiculous currency. Our dinner last night had no prices marked but finally we settled for a Thai(?) beef dish with rice and 4 beers. Cost 65,000Som = 8$.
Back to the tour. Our target for today is the Aral Sea.
The Aral sea, or what’s left of it, is not a nice place in that it represents one of the biggest disasters that humankind has created. Back in 1960 the Aral Sea was known as the 4th biggest lake in the world and covered 66000 square kilometres. Nowadays the lake a mere 5th of its original size, only 12,000 square kilometres. The drying of the Aral Sea has ravaged a region roughly the size of Germany with disease, birth defects, agricultural and economic devastation.

The two rivers that feed the Aral Sea are the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, respectively reaching the Sea through the South and the North. The Soviet government decided in the 1960s to divert those rivers so that they could irrigate the desert region surrounding the Sea in order to favor agriculture rather than supply the Aral Sea basin. The salinity of the lake has increased more than 10 fold as it has shrunk and now the lake which once supplied thousands of tons of fish each year, contains no fish.
On the way we stop for lunch at a fishermen’s settlement at Sudochie Lake.  Above it sits an ancient Watch Tower.

Just above the fishermen’s camp there’s the ruins of a Gulag and a cemetery for the Polish and Soviet dissidents that died during their incarceration. En route we see rice fields, cotton fields and a number of gas and oil installations. We also drive along and then over the Ushyut plateau, it covers 180,000 square kms, stretching from here to the Caspian Sea.


Kazim ordering bread.

 A typical Uzbekistan toilet!


It’s a long drive (mostly on sand and dirt tracks) but the campground overlooking the Aral Sea is incredible. There’s 2 Yurts here (one just for me and Daz) and a shower and toilet cubicles. There’s also 2 puppies and a pregnant cat. There’s a guy here looking after it and this is when we realise that Urdal, the ‘security’ guy is his relief. They spend up to a month at a time here looking after the tourists that visit the camp.

After dumping our kit we’re driven down to the beach for a swim in the Aral Sea. Well it’s not so much a swim but a float. Neither of us have ever been to the Dead Sea but we assume the experience is similar. After wading out (no easy task because the floor is thick, squelching, stinking, black mud) we’re buoyed up by the salinity of the water. It’s a little bit smelly and stinging (on some of our more sensitive nether regions) but Wow, amazing. There’s no-one for miles, it’s totally deserted. It’s actually a very sad shadow of what it once was. A sad testament to Man’s destructive capabilities but beautiful nonetheless.

After our swim it’s back to the campsite. After showering off the stinky mud and layer of salt from our bodies we enjoy chatting to Kazim.

The guys prepare our dinner of fried fish, salad and bread and afterwards we nip up the hill for sundowners. Sadly we’re a bit late so instead we watch the light fade and then return to camp and the fire pit for a lovely log fire.

We don’t last long though and we soon head to bed.

Tuesday 20th June
Aral Sea Tour

We want to see the sunrise over the Aral Sea. We do a practice run at 3am. Yup it’s definitely too early but Daz failed the alarm setting test. One of the puppies and the cat have decided we needed closer scrutiny and broke into our Yurt to provide close protection. Since we’re awake and need a wee we see how beautiful the sky is here with zero light pollution.

At 5am we’re up again for the sunrise. It’s beautiful.

Then Daz goes back to bed but I take the puppies for a walk. Actually I need them for protection to scare off any scorpions and snakes. Plus they’re fun and soooo cute.

Back at camp for breakfast of egg and chips, yogurt and cookies and lashings of tea and then back in the truck for the long drive back. We have a couple of stops on the way back: the burial grounds of the Nomadic tribes that travelled the silk route; the canyons of the Ushyut plateau; the ships’ cemetery in Moynaq and the Mizdakhan complex, once a big city on 3 hills dating from IV BC to XIV AD.

And that’s it. We’re back at the hotel at just passed 4pm feeling shattered and very hot. Kazim and his partner test our trikes before heading off.

We had planned to go forth this evening on our bikes but decide we need a decent night’s sleep. No alarm setting tonight Daz!


The Kazakhstan desert from Aktau to Beyneu – 8th to 17th June

Thursday 8th June – Aboard the ferry boat from Alat to Aktau

We wake at 5am and the ferry still feels like it’s not moving.  We go off to investigate and find the hold is now full of lorries but we’re still in the docks.  About 6am we finally set sail.

8am – breakfast.  2 boiled eggs, stale bread, jam, honey, cheese and çay.

10am.  Ferry drops anchor.

12pm Lunch  – soup and chicken and pasta.  The ferry is still at anchor.  We’re still only 30km east of Baku.  Apparently there are strong winds out at sea and we’re not moving until they ebb.


We’ve spent our time today reading, playing cards and planning our Uzbekistan phase.  So both relaxing and constructive.  In Uzbekistan we only have a 30 day visa but from border to border it’s 1800km.  That’s 36 day’s cycling at our usual pace.  So we definitely can’t cycle the length of Uzbekistan instead we’re hoping we’ll be able to use the train for the desert areas.

8pm.  Dinner – soup and chicken and potatoes and more stale bread.


Friday 9th June – Aboard the ferry boat to Alat

4am.  Finally the anchor is raised and we set sail.

8am.  Breakfast.   

  1.  Lunch

8pm Dinner

The remainder of the day is spent snoozing, reading and playing cards.  We even persuade Marta and Coco to play cards too but Nominations probably was a bad choice.   It’s tough enough explaining the rules to British players.  

Saturday 10th June – Aktau port to Aktau town and Zhetybai

Distance:  95.62 km
Total Distance: 13734.62  km

4am. There’s a knock on the door, we’re in Aktau port.  The ferry is still reversing into its dock but we manage to get our bags down into the hold before being evicted.

We have to wait for the custom officials and their sniffer dog.  Then we’re sent to the quayside before being driven to the customs office.

Once our passports and registration slips have been stamped we walk back to the ferry, sort out our gear and head off.

But then we called into a holding area whilst the officials check the contents of our bags.  One of Daz’s front tyres is a bit low, as is one of mine so Daz takes this opportunity to pump them up.  Disaster our new pump fails and Daz is not impressed.  The other cyclists are also having their bags checked so we borrow a pump from Thomas.  Tyres inflated and off we head but the officials still hold us at the main barrier – personally I think it’s just so they can take a selfie with the trikes.  Finally at about 6.30am we’re out.  We head into Aktau town centre.

In the centre there are many soldiers and police formed up – perhaps for a parade.  I spot a Holiday Inn.  They’ll be able to help; we need money and the exchange rate, a Kazakhstan SIM,  location of the Migration office and location of a bike shop.  We get money ; it’s the Kazak Tenge.  352:1€.  Lyzzat, the receptionist, tells us the Migration Office won’t open until 9am and the shops perhaps not until 10am.  But they’re serving breakfast and there’s WIFI so that’s where we head.  Lyzzat prints some documents for us and then at 10am takes us to the shopping mall and helps us buy a SIM.  

 She’s also phoned bike shops and the Migration Office for us.  She gives us her phone number and tells us to call if we have any problems.  Our first Kazak encounter and she’s been unbelievably kind and helpful.

We cycle out with the intention of going to the Migration police officer but bump into the other cyclists who have just been and they say we don’t need to register.  We join them in a supermarket to stock provisions then head to a bike shop.  It’s already incredibly hot. We get there but no bikeshop. Fortunately a mechanic, Alexander, asks us what we are after and his friend, the Pastor, Maxim, offers to take Daz in his car as it is a long way.  I wait around, drinking tea with the workers. Finally they are back successful,  new pump acquired.   

We swap numbers with Alexander and Maxim and they tell us it’s going to be tough going and tell us to ring if we have any problems on the road.  Then we cycle out of Aktau into the Kazakh desert.  We need to cycle 80 km to get to our next probable water stop. Just before leaving the outskirts we stock up with 8 litres of water.  What follows is an unbelievable exhausting 8 hours of cycling in blistering heat. At times we both feel nauseous from the temperatures. Fortunately we are given water a couple of times by passing cars and roadworkers otherwise we wouldn’t have made it.  At its hottest our thermometer reads 43.7 degrees. By 6 pm it’s still over 40!! Not only is it hot but it’s unremitting barren plains.  

There’s nothing to see, no wildlife just dry scrubland with the occasional camel or herd of horses.  We both slip into zombie mode desperate to stop but without shade, there’s no point.  We finally sight our garage stop in the distance and arrive at 8.30 pm. There’s a little shop and we guzzle cold drink after cold drink.  We buy 2 big 6 litre waterbottles then cycle around the back to some scrubland and pitch camp. We eat some tomatoes and bread with olive oil and herbs and 2 ladies come to visit.  They want us to join them for çay and use their shower but we’re just too tired.  

We use one of the 6 litre bottles to wash the sand and grime off our bodies. By now it’s 10 pm.  And the moon comes up.

Within minutes of getting into bed we are asleep!  What a day – hellish just about covers it.  In fact it probably was the temperature of hell!!!  At least now I’m acclimatised to what awaits me in the afterlife lol.


Sunday 11th June – Zhetybai to Shetpe
Distance:  85.95 km
Total Distance: 13820.57 km

A light shower during the night and this morning it’s overcast and cloudy.  We’re so pleased, it should keep the temperature down.

After a porridge breakfast we head off.  We were warned by Björn that the winds across Kazakhstan were formidable but we’re much more aerodynamic than conventional bikes and stable in cross winds.  An initial strong headwind soon switches to a tail wind when we turn onto another road and we make good progress.

We know the key points today are the village Zhetybai at 10km, a hamlet, Bika, at 50km and then Shepte at 85km.  There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, in between.  At the first village progress is good so we push on.  The cloud cover means we have a cooling 27deg C. Such a relief after yesterday.  At Bika there’s a roadside restaurant (in the Kazak sense) and we stop for dumpling soup, burger and mash followed by coffee.  Delicious.


 We have an hour’s break to prepare for the last phase.  Today, like most of yesterday,  there’s abundant roadworks and often one lane of the dual carriageway is closed.  This is our special domain.  It means often having to negotiate earth banks (used to block the lane), trenches and holes that are being dug and handrailing the road along the dirttrack if there’s fresh tar or tarmac.  But regardless it beats being on the main drag and reduces the dust clouds we have to endure.  It also means we meet many of the road construction gangs who make us stop, not for a bollocking, but for group photos.

The last phase is tough.  We’re tiring and the wind isn’t so favourable.  Finally we hit Shetpe.  As we come over the hill and see it lying in the basin below, I feel almost tearful.  I can’t believe we made it.  We fly down the hill and cycle into the town.  I wish we’d videoed it, it’s like coming into a modern wild west town.  It’s just bizarre.

We find a place for dinner and then on the outskirts a spot to pitch camp.  The last 2 days have been the toughest cycling to date and it’s not the terrain which fortunately lends to our strengths – flat, good roads.

It’s the distances we need to achieve to get to the next water stop.  We carry full water bottles and about 5L in our reservoir for top ups.  It’s extra weight we’d rather do without but we need the water!


Monday 12th June – Shetpe to Sayotesh
Distance:  128.00 km
Total Distance: 13834.78 km

Last night the storm clouds that had chased us most of the afternoon, finally caught up but by the time the rain hit we were tucked up in bed.  This morning after a porridge breakfast we supplement our water reserves at the petrol station and then we’re on our way.

Today there’s a village at 28km and a railway station (possibly also a village) at 70km.  Other than those there’s nothing out there in these desolate plains.  70km should be doable but today there’s no cloud cover and it’s already incredibly hot and it’s only 9.30am.  We’ve only just started when a truck pulls up in front.  We’re muttering to ourselves about a photo session but no, the driver gets out and there’s no evidence of the camera or phone.  Ahhhh he’s just checking his truck.  But no he wants us to stop.  And then he only wants to give us a lift to Beyneu.  He has an empty box body truck.   Ummmm decisions,  decisions.   So we take the lift – why? Because we can and because we feel it’s our duty, afterall our site is ‘Any which way you can!’.

So we load all our stuff into the truck and off we go.  Our hero today is Polad, originally from Azerbaijan, but now living in Astrakhan, Russia with his wife and 2 children.   We decide Beyneu is just too far.  It’s almost at the Uzbekistan border but since our UZ visa doesn’t start until the 18th June, it would just be too much time to kill.  So we decide on Sayotesh which was our intended destination for tomorrow.   We drive through the desert, now it’s a pleasure to see the miles flying by rather than dragging.

Especially when we hit some big hills.  After the hills it’s just flatness. A row of pylons crossing the desert plains the only feature except for the occasional camel.  On the outskirts of Sayotesh Polad stops at a cafe.  He treats us to coffee and we swap WhatsApp and Facebook details.

We unload our gear and say farewell to Polad – what a wonderful chap.  We return to the cafe for more coffee and ham and eggs.  A guy, Ruslan, from Kazakhstan comes in – he eats at the table next to us. He’s travelling around in an old Soviet 4 wheel drive, radio command truck. For the spotters out there – a Gaz-66 R-142N Command vehicle.

He’s really chatty but sadly the internet connection here is so poor we can’t communicate well.  But he shows us his truck, gives Darren a special bracelet – it’s like a James Bond accessory with firestriker, whistle and paracord.

We swap details and we’re told to send him messages and selfies.  We decide to head into the town of Sayotesh – big mistake!  The kids follow us on their bikes and keep kicking out at us and trying to hang onto our panniers.

We’d hoped to find a bar/cafe/restaurant so we could just relax for the afternoon,out of the sun, but there’s only a train station and 2 shops.  We can’t decide what to do but we know we want to get away from the kids who keep messing with our trikes and gear.  We buy some provisions and then head out of the village.  On the outskirts we see a house that’s half built.  Perhaps we can camp next to it for shade.

When we arrive we discover there’s a house next door.   We knock on their door and ask if we can camp in their backyard.  They agree and that’s what we do.


Tuesday 13th June – Sayotesh to Railroad Siding 6
Distance:  54.28 km
Total Distance: 13889.06 km

Porridge and flies for breakfast. We hit the road and that’s it for the next 54 kilometers.   It’s flat, well maybe we are gaining a couple of metres per kilometer,  but with a slight tailwind we are scooting along at about 20 kmph. We are passed by the occasional truck, and we in turn pass the odd camel or herd of wild horses. It’s great seeing the stallion watching us as he protects his mares. There are a lot of foals at this time of year too.

Apart from that it’s dull, but with the music playing and feeling strong after yesterday’s rest day we make good progress.  Highlight of the day was seeing loads of desert rats scurrying through the low scrub.  There are no trees here, and very few birds. It’s weird thinking we are side by side cycling down this dead straight road through the desert for miles.   With a couple of kilometers to go we can see our stop for the day materialise out of the heat haze.  On the map it’s marked as Railroad Siding number 6. It’s actually about 3 km to the left of the road down a side track, but when we reach the turning we see that there’s actually a cafe – restaurant on the junction.  From the Sayotesh experience we know we’re better off with these roadside cafes than the actual villages.  They have 2 tables and we sit at one.  Ramen soup followed by eggs and fried processed ham.

After eating we get some Internet time using our phone as a hotspot.  We receive messages from the Defence Attache in Tashkent.  This is great for us because we’ve been planning to send a parcel by the BFPO system to the Embassy.   Unfortunately whilst it’s possible to use a courier it’s incredibly expensive and there’s no guarantee the locals will allow it through customs without a hefty bribe.  We also hear from the Defence Attache in Astana, Kazakhstan.  He’s been chatting to Dave and Tracey (Tbilisi)  and he’s offering assistance (24/7). Loving the Embassy network – what an incredible bunch of people.  We also agree they can put our blog on the Embassy website. Fame once again.

Admin done we relax, write the blog then go round the back of the cafe to pitch our tent in the desert.  The kids come out to watch and assist.


Wednesday 14th June – Railroad Siding 6 to Railway Siding 1
Distance:  100.41 km
Total Distance: 13989.47 km

We’ve decided desert camping is a tough gig.  Invariably there’s no shade but a guaranteed strong wind ensuring we’re enveloped in a dust/grit cloud of varying severity.  Sand gets into the tent and into all our bags and even into my tea (sacrilege).   Despite having an easy schedule the wind drives us out of the tent at 8am (in the wind the tent makes hell of a din so it’s impossible to lie in).  After our breakfast (yup still eating porridge, but now more gritty)  we pop into the cafe for some water.  She gives us some donuts for our trip.  They’ve been lovely here and seem genuinely pleased to see travellers.

We hit the road at 9am.  Our target today is Ushyurt, next to a railway siding, at 48 km.  Between us and it, nothing.  There’s no cloud cover today so it gradually heats to a barmy 37 deg C.  At 12.30 we reach today’s destination.   

There’s the obligatory cafe/restaurant next to the road and in we go for lunch.  It seems the only thing on the menu is ham and eggs and a mug of tea.  By the way, in Kazakhstan they serve white tea, it’s with camels’ milk.  Sadly the proprietor doesn’t seem that friendly.  No smiles and no attempt to converse (yes I know we can’t speak her language but usually there’s some degree of receptivity, but not here).  Yesterday we spent hours in the cafe before setting up camp next to it.  Since we’re not feeling the love we decide to push on.  We’ve made good time this morning, so Siding 1 at 100km should be achievable.  An afternoon of heat, miles of straight road disappearing in a heat haze and………. well nothing really!  Highlights of the day; a car stops and the guy gives us 5L of water, a box of biscuits and a packet of Tuc biscuits.  Another guy gives us a packet of nuts and a ribbon for our bike and we meet a very inquisitive lizard.  

We’re tiring and just shy of Siding 1 when we spot a restaurant.   Gutted, it’s closed.  We make Siding 1 and there’s…….. nothing.  Bugger, the obligatory cafe/restaurant isn’t here.  This is a huge disappointment.  Thank God Daz took the 5L of water off that guy.  We spot an abandoned building.  These are scarce indeed.  We walk over to investigate.   It’s an unfinished house with no roof that’s just been abandoned.   Inside it’s clean and there’s shade.  Perfect.  Our home for tonight.  Our abandoned house was a perfect site. Quiet and shaded!  Daz was shattered so he had a nap whilst I made dinner, a rare event indeed.  


Spaghetti with garlic, chilli, oregano and lashings of olive oil.  We ran out of milk, 3 in 1 coffee sachets and had less water than usual so a wet-wipe wash and wet-wipe washing up after dinner – disgusting admin drills.


Thursday 15th June – Railway Siding 1 to Beyneu
Distance:  39.32 km
Total Distance: 14028.79 km

  After a porridge breakfast and a very late start (10.15 – Daz wanted to finish his book) we hit the road.  It’s going to be a hot one, it’s already 37 deg C.  The ride into Beyneu is as interesting as the last few days although a goat herder comes to check us out and we’re surprised when a van passes and we spot Thomas hanging out of the passenger window waving frantically!  

On the outskirts of Beyneu the wind is hitting us head on and the dust clouds are severe.  Finally we arrive at the train station. We are pretty much strip searched on the way in, obviously the guards are bored! We want a ticket from Beyneu, Kazakhstan to Nukus, Uzbekistan on 18th June, the day our Uzbekistan visa starts.  It takes ages, about 90 minutes, before we manage to purchase our ticket. People queuing or queue jumping; the fact each person takes about 10 minutes to get a ticket and one guy takes about 40 minutes to get his ticket.   And the language barrier all add to the frustration.  But we finally have tickets in our mitts. It’s a shame the train leaves at 03:57 am on Sunday, oh wait… all train times in Kazakhstan run on Astana (capital city) time, so that’s actually 02:57am here!

No we set off to find a hotel. There are 4 to choose from but we opt for one near the central square.  The manager drove past us this morning and told us to drop in if we needed a place to stay. Obviously he was touting for business but we are fair game and it’s not a bad price.  They’ll even do our stinky washing for one pound fifty!  

Showered and with clean clothes on we need to head back out.  Our next country, Uzbekistan, is a bit of a banking rip off, if we use an ATM we can get maybe 3000 Som for 1 US $. Whereas on the Black market it’s more like 8000. So we need to hit the banks, withdraw enough US$ to last us the month in country and convert it to Som.  This will mean several trips to the bank as both our cards have a daily limit!  We initially tried cash withdrawal in Tenge but then discovered the other bank does an ‘over the counter’ US$ transaction.   We withdraw the maximum we can and will repeat tomorrow.   Job done we grab some food in Burger King, no wait… Beyneu King, a rip off local version that only has pasties, chips and pizza ( the pizza had cucumber on it and was cooked in the microwave… go figure!)

As we come back out onto the square we see Coco, Marta and Perry with their bikes. They have just arrived in town, can’t believe we beat them.  Turns out they were advised of a short cut from Aktau which meant they took 2 days to get to our lunch stop on day 2! It was very cross country they said! We chat for a while and catch up but they need to get some accommodation sorted (we took the last rooms in our hotel) so we say goodbye and head back to our hotel for a cold beer and to catch up on some Internet admin, no rest for the wicked!!


Friday 16th June – Beyneu

A day of chores, napping and reading.   We hit the bank early for another wad of US$.  We apply for our Tajikistan visa, research various elements of our forthcoming trip, catch up with people at home and do some UK admin.  And that’s a day off.  Oh yes and Daz washed and checked our trikes.  

Saturday 17th June – Beyneu

Today is our last day in Beyneu.   Tonight we’ll catch the train to Nukus,  Uzbekistan.  


Our 30 day visas start tomorrow so we want to maximise our time there.  The other cyclists,  Perry,  Magda and Coco intend to speed through in 14 days.  We’re just finishing breakfast when a guy, Daren,  comes over to chat.  He’s from Brighton and he flew to Almaty about 2 months ago and has just cycled the route we’re about to cycle but in the opposite direction.   We tell him what to expect from here to Aktau and then Baku and glean some information from him about the Pamir Highway.   

Then we go off to explore the Beyneu Bazaar and then head to a supermarket.  

 We’re not sure what to expect from our 15 hour train journey to Nukus so we get some provisions.   There really isn’t much to be said for Beyneu although we love the sock / shoe combination.   The fashion police would be on overtime here.  


Azerbaijan – 23rd May to 7th June

Tuesday 23rd May – Lagodekhi to Zagatala

Distance:  39.95 km
Average Speed: 10.6 kmh
Fastest Speed: 47.8 kmh
Total Distance: 13183.3  km

Last night we found a beautiful spot to wild camp just 2km from the Azerbaijan border.

We enjoyed cheese and biscuits and a final bottle of good Georgian wine in the beautiful sunshine.  We couldn’t have our wash until after 7pm because we were still sweating in the heat.  We had a lovely quiet night although there were a few rain showers. And again the sauna-like heat in the tent sent us scurrying outside at 8am. It wasn’t much cooler outside and by the time I’d eaten my porridge, I was breaking out in a sweat.  Do porridge and warm climates go together?  This morning we had a rejig of our packing because we were dividing our food and cooking equipment between 2 bags.  Now all our food is in one place – a very heavy white ratpack on the back of my trike.  But Brucie bonus – I passed back the toolkit within an hour.  We crossed out of Georgia easily but there was a peculiar system at the Azerbaijan border.

Possibly there was some order to it but people just seemed to mill around until the administrators decided to deal with their papers.  Also we were searched (yup full cavity for Daz).  No, just the trikes in the most random pattern.  Open this bag, take that out, put that away, open that bag.  He made us open every bag but I don’t imagine he had any idea what he was looking at.  Once our passports and visas were stamped and our little exit tokens we cycled downhill to the last barrier between us and Azerbaijan.   And the computer (well military gate guard) said ‘nah’.  He sent us back up to the passport check.  Oh they’d forgotten to stamp our little exit tokens.  Back down the hill, through the gate and into Azerbaijan.

We cycled to the first main town of Balakan where we found a bank to withdraw Azeri Manat.  Last night we changed all our Georgian Lari into US $.  In both Georgia and Azerbaijan we’ve been offered the choice ; local currency or US $ at the ATMs.  We also stopped for lunch and pointed at a meat dish a guy was eating at the adjacent table.  It looked yummy until it came to our table, kidneys and liver and potatoes and green lemonade.

Fortunately Daz loves liver and kidneys so he ate all the meat, and me, all the potatoes.   We also wanted an Azeri SIM and another computer battery.  Fortunately a local chap who spoke some Engish directed us to the places we needed.   Phone SIM done and my bike computer finally working again (bike computer problem – flat battery in headset dead.  Battery replaced but some water in computer as a result of torrential rain crossing Gombori pass.  Computer dried out and headset registering but battery in sensor also dead and needed replacing).

Just outside of Balakan we stopped for çay with some guys that called us over.  They offered us food and vodka but we declined.  

We moved on pretty smartish when they’d necked a bottle of vodka in the time it took us to drink a glass of çay.  

After the next village the local policemen sent us to their old disused police station for the night.  It’s a bit dirty but we’ve got full cover and I’m convinced there’s going to be heavy rain tonight, Daz thinks otherwise, we shall see who wins that bet!

Initial impressions of Azerbaijan:  People are more extrovert and friendly than in Georgia. The ladies dressed up more and also the kids coming home from school. Everyone wants to take photos of us.  The roads are as bad as Georgia but the traffic relatively light so far.  Mind you, there are alot more Ladas and Trabants on the road!


Wednesday 24th May – Zagatala

The rain I predicted last night didn’t come until this morning and so we decided to stay put.  A restful day of eating and reading.  The highlight was when Daz spotted 2 cyclists.  We invited them in from the rain and made them a cuppa.  2 English cyclists from Nottingham, Beth and Max, taking a year out to cycle the ‘Stans’ and Nepal.  

Thursday 25th May – Zagatala to Abbas

Distance:  60.27 km
Average Speed: 10.21 kmh
Fastest Speed: 49.69 kmh
Total Distance: 13243.57  km

This morning the weather appears to have cleared and we’re about to set off when Daz spots he has a flat.  Bugger!  By the time that’s sorted more rain has arrived.  We push on but stop in the first town, Zaxatala, for provisions.   Then we push on for Qax.  We’re stopped constantly by people in the street or by passing cars wanting photos.

OMG we must be famous in Azerbaijan,  we’ve even been filmed by men with big-arse shoulder mounted video cameras. The road surface changes almost by the minute; one minute decent tarmac; then numerous potholes; then just gravel and potholes.

We can see the snow capped hills to our left and between us and them, green fields and forests.  It’s beautiful and birds are flying along the hedgerows; horses, cows and sheep graze along the verges.  We’ve had a number of horse related problems in the last few days.  Basically we scare them.  When grazing horses start to get nervy we chat to them and hopefully reassure them we’re human and no threat.  But there’s been a number of horses and traps where we’ve tried to warn the driver that their horse might well panic.

But of course they don’t understand until their horse attempts a panicked 180 to get away from us!  We stop in a village for coffee – we get free hot water and then use our coffee sachets.  Then we sit and watch a group of men playing……..well initially we thought it was backgammon but they seem to be using some sort of blocking technique by filling each line with a single counter ( so not the backgammon we play) although they then exit the board as we would.

About 5km after coffee we stop for an egg and sausage bap cooked by Daz.

After lunch we continue on our gravel track to Qax.  We head for the centre but it’s not really that interesting.  We stop to ask for directions and within minutes we’re surrounded by a group of men.  We’ve noticed that whenever and wherever we stop a group of men will materialise, as if from nowhere, and poke and prod our trikes and generally discuss them in Azeri?  Russian?

Out of Qax and it’s a lovely downhill on good tarmac.  Finally we spot a camping spot.   We’re sitting by our tent enjoying a beer when the local cowsman comes by. We check he’s happy that we’re here and he is but then warns us about snakes.  Thanks very much – I’m sure I’ll sleep soundly and not be listening for the slither and hiss of some scary, poisonous snake.  Oops – nearly forgot to mention the spotting of our first Azeri tortoise!


Friday 26th May – Abbas to Bucaq

Distance:  45.76 km
Average Speed: 9.83 kmh
Fastest Speed: 46.82 kmh
Total Distance: 13289.33  km

A night without snakey visitors – thank God.  It’s overcast today and there’s a little rain in the air so not much hope of drying our wet tent.  We picked up an escort – a local cyclist – who seemed determined to cycle with us and video the experience.

Our big plan today was to visit Şeki, it’s on the top 10 places to visit in Azerbaijan.   It was a long slog uphill but we finally made it.  We found a hotel receptionist who pointed us to the Palace/ Caravanserais – only 1km he said.  Well it was a damned sight longer and uphill and when we got there it wasn’t a total disappointment.

Back in the town centre we realised it’s prayer day and the town is full of men going to prayer.  We stopped for a delicious chicken kebab and then headed out.  We’ve had the usual photograph sessions and crowds of men staring at our trikes. Just before we camp I spot a roadside water stand and fill up our 10 litre bag then wash our waterbottles out as they are going a little green. The group of men are augmented this time by a couple of cops in a cop car. As we are sorting the water out we realise one of the men has jumped on Daz’s trike and is riding around on it. Daz normally doesn’t mind, but all the Azeri attention has hit the mark today. It’s worse as he hasn’t disengaged the parking brakes so Daz has a right go, even waving at the cops who stood there and did nothing! Anyhoo, we cycle on, one more car stops to speak to us then we find a secluded camp spot behind a line of trees and bushes.  It’s a bit noisy but private! Not much else to report.

Saturday 27th May – Bucaq to Qabala

Distance:  61.36 km
Average Speed:  11.11 kmh
Fastest Speed: 47.68 kmh
Total Distance: 13350.69  km

After an initial climb first thing, it’s an easy day.  We stop after about 3km to do a live video feed from a bridge.  At this point there’s thick cloud cover and it definitely looks like rain.  But 10km later the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day.  We cycle through a village where every 5m or so there’s a lady with a tandor oven baking flat breads.

They start with balls of bread, knead them into a flatbread, brush with egg and then stick to the sides of the oven.  Some time later there’s numerous stalls selling jars of pickled produce.

Today we treat ourselves to a restaurant lunch; salad, bread and lamb chops, ribs and cutlets – it’s tasty but 31manat (that’s about triple what we’ve been paying for kebabs).  We stop at a petrol station – here a litre of premium petrol costs about 0.60€ – cheap!

We’ve done our 50km but decide to push on for Qabala.  Possibly a mistake because it’s 10km uphill.  We start to tire and ask at a petrol station if we can put our tent up but they say ‘No’.  There’s a track nearby and then loads of houses being built but sadly we can’t break in.

We carry on to Qabala but now it’s becoming built up and the rain is coming.  We’re looking everywhere to find a spot for our tent and then a group of men see us and tell us to go with them.  We’re taken to a house with a huge lean-to where we hope to put our tent but the man insists we use the house.  We even have a hot shower,  our first shower in 8 days.  Fabulous!   Unfortunately the man returns and wants money.

He doesn’t speak any English but rubs his fingers together in the universal sign and puts ‘50′ into his phone. We tell him we thought he was being kind. We feel really pissed off, but although we threaten to go (and possibly make him look bad in front of his friends) we really can’t be bothered and offer him 20.  He begrudgingly takes it, then tries to be all friendly again.


Sunday 28th May – Qabala to Tarcan

Distance:  54.38 km
Average Speed:  10.95 kmh
Fastest Speed: 53.72 kmh
Total Distance: 13405.07  km

Despite the money issue with the guy last night we were relieved we’d stayed when there was yet another storm with torrential rain and even hailstones – 8mm hailstones – got to be pleased we weren’t in our tent.  We’re up early and because there’s less stuff to pack, out the gates by 0830hrs.  Within 10 minutes we once again drenched in sweat, the humidity here seems to be the problem.  We head into Qabala because we need to print some documents that are needed in the UK.  What a pain!  We think a posh hotel will have printing equipment but then I spot an Internet Cafe.  Sadly no printers but plenty of PS4s for gaming.  Fortunately a young lad understands our problem and takes us to a photo processing shop where I can log into my Hotmail and print.  I’m pleasantly surprised,  I’d resigned myself to spending most of the day trying to get this job done.  After a coffee break to celebrate we head to the post office.  It’s Sunday but it’s open, in fact the whole town is open, it’s like a weekday.   However,  the post office might be open but to post a letter to the UK they’re technically shut.  (Apparently they can’t work out the cost on a Sunday).  All this has taken 2 hours so we best get cycling.

We stop for an early lunch since breakfast was so long ago and have beautiful views down over the valley and we can just see Ismayilli, our destination,  in the distance.  For most of the day we’ve got beautiful deciduous woods either side with picnic spots, çay and kebab cafes in abundance.  It’s very pretty, the sun glistens through the overhead canopy and thankfully the trees give us some respite from the heat.  Early afternoon we’re caught and stopped by 2 Portugese cyclists, Claudia and Luis.  They had spent some time with Beth and Max, the British cyclists we met on 24th May.  We chat for awhile but then they push on.  They want to be in Baku tomorrow and that’s about 195km away.

We reach Ismayilli and get some milk and shower gel.  We were hoping the woods and picnic spots would continue so we could find a cosy camping spot instead we’ve got open, rolling countryside.   

Once we’ve done our 50km quota we’re lucky enough to find water to fill our 10L reservoir and a couple of kilometers later stop to camp.  


Monday 29th May – Tarcan to Acidere River

Distance:  54.82 km
Average Speed:  9.89 kmh
Fastest Speed: 54.58 kmh
Total Distance: 13459.89  km

Last night we watched the lightning over the distant hills.  Daz said it wasn’t coming our way but he was wrong.

Happily I barely registered the event, just a dim awareness that it was raining and then back to sleep.  For me every second night is usually when I sleep long and deeply.  For Daz he usually sleeps 12+ hours every night but now he’s had 2 rotten nights’ sleep; last night because his air mattress deflated and he was lying on stones and the night before in Qabala wasn’t conducive to sleep!  We have more visitors, come to examine the strange British couple,  their tent and trikes.

It’s a beautiful sunny day but our rolling hills are no longer rolling, instead there’s basically 2 very long climbs between us and Samaxi and of course equally long descents.  On the first hill we spot a diplomatic plate (red with white letters).  The vehicle pulls over, it’s only the Cultural Attache, Elizabeth,  from the British Embassy in Baku.  

We have a nice chat and we’ll hopefully meet her again in Baku.  Conveniently she’s able to solve one of my problems; I need an independent witness to my signature for that pesky paperwork.   So she signs my paperwork on the side of the road – surreal!  Finally we hit the top of hill number 1 and stop for an early lunch.  

Then there’s an incredible downhill to the river but depressingly we can see the horrendous climb the other side.  And now it’s about 30 deg C.  It’s sweaty work.  It takes us a good couple of hours to make the top of the next hill (not because it’s long but because on a tough uphill I’m lucky if I can make 2.8kmph).

 Poor Daz is struggling too, his knees hurt and he’s got calf pains.  A nice drink break then we head down the other side.  We make a special detour into Samaxi to post that pesky paperwork only to discover it’s a public holiday.  Bizarrely, just like yesterday, the post office is open but not for this type of transaction.  No I don’t have any idea what transaction they are able to complete on a public holiday.  

So it’s back to the main road and once we’ve hit our quota we find somewhere to camp.  Actually there isn’t much choice because there’s a big hill right in front of us and I’m not grinding up there with my additional 10L of water!  So we end up on the veranda of an old Chapel (?).  I’m convinced it’s going to rain again tonight hence the desire for overhead cover.  Sausage and egg for tea tonight – tasty.

Tuesday 30th May – Acidere River to Musfiqabad

Distance:  87.28 km
Average Speed:  12.70 kmh
Fastest Speed: 66.21 kmh
Total Distance: 13547.17  km

Ahhhh – no rain last night and despite the traffic noise a good night’s sleep for all.  We’re in the Acidere valley and there are birds everywhere.  A pair of Hoppee birds, swallows in abundance and the yellow birds – the yellow Oriole.  There’s also 2 pairs of kestrels (definitely small hawks), one pair are nesting in the roof space of our building and if we weren’t in their way,would be entering and exiting through the loft hatch above our heads.  Unfortunately the heat in the tent drives us out by 8 am.  Yeuchhh – hating these early mornings.

We start with a long climb out of the valley and everything is beautifully green with herdsmen tending their flocks on the hills, some on horseback (the herdsmen not the sheep!)  Just after our start we spot another butcher with live chickens tethered by the leg and an enclosure with several sheep awaiting the chop.  There’s some meat hanging in the shop but none of it is refrigerated!  After about 20km we leave behind the beautiful green hills and move into a brown, rather arid area with a very strong wind which is mostly behind us, thank goodness!  There’s a pretty good dual carriageway for most of the day but for huge sections one side or the other is closed for roadworks.  But we cycle on the closed section and have the 2 lanes to ourselves – mostly.

However we do come a cropper when are progress is interrupted by a huge hole in the road.  Fortunately with a bit of effort we’re able to get through it.

This part of Azerbaijan is known as it desert region, there’s nothing about but brown hills and plains and few villages. We’ve struggled today to find any decent food so after a day of eating cake, biscuits, chocolate and other crap from petrol stations we’re overjoyed to hit the outskirts of Musfiqabad and a restaurant.

Meat and salad – result!  We cycle on and as we near Baku (only 25km to go) we manage to find a park with some trees for cover between the road and a row of factories.

Tent up and we are just in time to see the sun dipping down into the desert behind us.


Wednesday 31st May – Musfiqabad to Baku

Distance:  21.53 km
Average Speed:  14.13 kmh
Fastest Speed: 50.27 kmh
Total Distance: 13568.7  km

Another hot day and it seems we’re cycling into Baku in rush hour.  The traffic is heavy and smog and fumes are pretty horrendous but it’s great fun cycling into the centre of Baku.

We head straight to the British Embassy – well except we’re distracted by a McDonald’s and the thought of a sausage and egg McMuffin (it’s not even 1030hrs yet).   But sadly the Azeri breakfast menu in McDonald’s is a poor reflection of the real thing – looks like bread and cheese.  But we stop for coffee – there’s a fabulous view over the city centre and then a couple of blocks and we’re in the British Embassy.

Billy comes out to meet us and we go into the Embassy. We meet the British Ambassador – Carole and others. I need more documents to be printed and signed for the UK and once it’s all in the post we head to Billy’s gaff.  And what a fantastic apartment, next to Hard Rock Cafe with balconies and views out over the city.

After cleaning up it’s time for a curry – fabulous we haven’t had a curry since Portugal and it doesn’t disappoint.  Billy has a work function tonight so we just relax and enjoy some home comforts.


Thursday 1st June


Our main task today is to register with the Migration police.  If you’re staying longer that 10 days in Azerbaijan you have to register.  We head off to the Migration office, details supplied by Caravanistan but nope, they can’t help us, apparently we’re in the wrong place.  They tell us to get bus 202 and have given us the address of the correct office.  Off we trot and catch bus 202.  We show people the address, right bus, wrong direction.    

We catch another bus and show about 6 people the address and soon find someone who can help, who tells us which stop we need.  We’re at the Regional Migration Office, 189 Atatürk.  Brilliant we’re at the right place we have our passports, our visas and Billy’s address but we should have brought his ID number but then she decides we need the name and ID number of the guy who owns Billy’s apartment.   Several phone calls later and we’re sorted.  Next job – find equipment for our trikes; we need new tyres, tubes, a mudguard, bike shoes for Daz and a solar charger. Sadly after visiting several shops we’ve only managed bike tyres (and they’re not the Marathon Schwalbe we wanted) and tubes.  Bugger!  We’ve been chatting to Max and Beth (British cycling couple) and Luis and Claudia (Portuguese couple)  and they’re planning to leave on the next boat which they think is departing Friday.  We still haven’t received our Uzbekistan (UZ) LOIs so can’t leave until we’ve got that and our UZ visas.  Tonight we have a few drinks and food at the HardRock Cafe.


Friday 2nd June


This morning I realise my mail has been going into the ‘junk’ folder and there’s our LOIs.  We’ve unwittingly had them since Tuesday.   But we need  prints and passport photos before we visit the UZ Embassy.   Daz still has some bike shops to visit but depressingly he’s unsuccessful on his shopping mission.  Billy is a fabulous host and tonight he takes us to the Harbour Bar and we meet his colleague Steve.  


Saturday 3rd June


OK what pointless shopping mission should we attempt today.  We want a solar charger because if we have a couple of days of low speed and low mileage our SON dynamo can’t keep things charged.  Claudine (a teacher from Australia who works for BP) thinks there’s a camping shop that might help.  So we decide we’ll tie that in with walking Teddy and sightseeing.   Sadly the shopping trip is a complete failure but the sightseeing is great.

Baku, one of the world’s most beautiful cities is located at the joint of Europe and Asia. The capital’s name itself is interpreted as a “wind blow”, “city of winds” or “hill”, “city on the hill”.

The port city of Baku, the cultural, industrial and political capital of Azerbaijan is located on the western Caspian seaside, on the bay shores of the same name in the southern part of the Apsheron Peninsula, rich in its oil fields. Baku consists of 11 administrative districts and 5 townships.


We visit Martyrs Row the focal point of which is the main memorial with the eternal flame at the bottom at the end of the central avenue. The eternal flame is indeed a massive one – you can feel the heat from a couple of yards away (so don’t get too close or you might burn yourself).
The monument stands in the centre of a round open plaza right at the edge of the hillside. From up here you get one of the best views over Baku and the bay curving to the horizon to the east.
Closer to the bottom of the hillside you can also catch a good glimpse into the harbour and shipyards – as well as the new National Flag Square.  The central avenue is lined with walls of white marble into which polished black marble stones are set with the names of the martyrs honoured here and mostly also a photographic portrait etched on. Note that a few of the martyrs remain nameless. Here and there you may find a rose placed on the marble … on the anniversary date there’ll be thousands of them.


We also see the less trendy side of Baku with little shops selling local produce and even walk through an area where the locals have their own oil derricks.  

Back in the centre we’re going to head off and visit the Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower.  
Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th-century Shirvanshahs’ Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture.

Baku is currently preparing for the Grand Prix. The 2016 season saw Azerbaijan become the latest addition to the Formula One calendar, with capital city Baku playing host to the fastest street circuit in Formula One racing, on a layout designed by renowned F1 track architect Hermann Tilke.  “Our brief to Tilke Engineering was simple – create a circuit that is unique, one that will help the Grand Prix in Baku quickly establish itself as one of the most exciting, thrilling venues on the F1 calendar, and one that the fans and teams alike are excited about,” said Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport.

Sadly Billy is flying to the UK for a course so he’s leaving at midnight.  It a shame that he has to leave – Billy is an extraordinary chap and he has had many incredible experiences but due to the sensitive nature of his job I’ve been told it’s best not to repeat them .   Discretion is my watchword.  

Our last Billy night, but he’s very generously said we can use his flat as long as we need it.  Thank you Billy.


Sunday 4th June


This morning Daz heads downstairs to replace his tyres, correct his tracking and generally check over the trikes.  Someone has only gone and stolen our pump – arghhhhh.  So only the tracking is done.  We have a Brunch date at Four Seasons with Claudine, Karen, Greg and Casey.  All Australians and on the teaching circuit except Casey who’s a travelling journalist.  Freeflow Prosecco and Bloody Marys pretty much terminates constructive activity but the food, ambiance and service is superb and only 44 Manat per head – about 20Euros.

Brunch ends at 2.30pm and so we head back to our gaff (well Billy’s)  with Claudine, Karen and Teddy and decide since Billy is due posting in a couple of weeks we should help clear his drinks cupboard – yup very stupid and very naughty.   I know we’ll regret this tomorrow but not as much as Karen and Claudine who have to go to work.

Monday 5th June


Today is Uzbekistan visa day.  We’re up early and even though we know the Embassy doesn’t open until 10am we’re there at 9.30.  We’ve been beaten by 2 other cyclists, Thomas (Italian) and Perry (Australian).   At 9.50 they’re allowed into the Embassy whilst everyone else sits outside in the street, waiting.  About 15 minutes and they come out.  Our turn.  On this first visit we’re just given our paying slip (of course we all have our VISA application and UZ LOI from various tour companies).  Now back into town to the International Bank of Azerbaijan.  Daz and I had hopped in a taxi to get to the Embassy and asked him to wait.  So he takes the 4 of us to the bank, pay $75, get proof of payment, then back into taxi and return to the Embassy.  Of course all this takes time and now there are others queuing outside the Embassy.   So we sit and wait and wonder if we’ll make it before the Embassy closes for lunch.  Finally we’re called in and issued our UZ visa.  We’ve all amended the date of arrival into Uzbekistan from the date we put on our LOI.  Visa – done.

Next job visit the ferry office.  So once more our taxi driver is available. Each leg has been approximately 5km and he’s done 4 legs and been driving us or waiting for us for 3 hours.  Since 9.30.  He charges us 20Manat (so about 10€) and drops us by the ferry port.  We’ve been given directions to the Ferry office by Björn, Luis and Claudia so we know where to go.  We’re told to ring daily at 11am to check if there’s a ferry.  Vika (ticket sales) thinks there’ll be a ferry in the next 2 days.   So everything is sorted.  We just need to visit a Notary, to complete some paperwork for the UK and then a siesta is in order.  In the evening a quiet night in – movie night, Monster starring Charlize Theron.


Tuesday 6th June


Online shopping time.  Having failed to find numerous items in Baku, including new bike shoes for Daz and a solar charger, the only solution is to buy them online and then our admin hero (Debbie)  will forward them to somewhere down the line, perhaps Samarkand.  Next job fix the trikes.  So Daz, equipped with our new (but crappier) pump, replaces our inner tubes, his front tyres and fixes his rear mudguard.   Meanwhile I attempt to replace our Facebook Group with a Facebook page for more widespread publicity.  In the evening we join Claudine at the Hard Rock Cafe to listen to her school musicians perform.

Wednesday 7th June – Baku to Alat Ferry port

Distance:  70.30 km
Average Speed: 16.14 kmh
Fastest Speed: 35.05 kmh
Total Distance: 13639  km

In the morning we wake up a little weary.  Another late night, too many beers and not enough sleep and we’re feeling jaded.  But we’re convinced there won’t be a boat today.

11am – make duty phone call to Vika at the port, “Any boat today?”… “Yes. Come and buy ticket.” Arghhhhh, mad rush!!

11.05. Daz heads off to buy the ferry tickets, I clean, pack, and draft the Azerbaijan blog.

12.00.  Daz returns with ferry tickets.  80US$ each.  We need to be at Alat by 8/9pm tonight.

1pm – We’re all packed and our trikes are loaded and it’s time to say ‘Goodbye’ to our incredible flat.  Billy thank you again for hosting us and providing such fabulous entertainment.   You are one in a million (or possibly 10million????). We head out of Baku – aren’t we lucky that it’s now probably the hottest part of the day!


1 – 6.30pm.  70km to Alat on a flat, open road.  We make good time but we’re fortunate it’s not a head wind.  We stop a few times for drinks and food.  At its hottest it’s 37 deg C.


6.30pm.  We arrive at Alat port and meet Perry, Thomas (Australian and Italian cyclist), Justin (UK), Marta and Coco (Spanish couple).  They decided not to cycle but came by taxis. After a compulsory photoshoot with the guards at the barriers we go through and we’re told to wait.

6.30-10.30pm.  It’s a waiting game.  There’s a portacabin shop/restaurant and banks to exchange money so Daz gets rid of his remaining Azeri Manat.  We’ve been told by Björn and then Luis that after a long wait, the lorries will load and then the cyclist.  They loaded at 6am and 3am respectively.   So since we’re pretty tired we put our tent up so we can at least relax and read and possibly snooze.

10.30pm.  The guys call us.  Apparently it’s loading time.  After packing up it’s another long wait.


1am.  Finally we’re called forward, our documents are checked and we cycle into the ferry hold.  We take essentials from our baggage and struggle up hellishly steep steps to the reception area.  We know we can have a cabin and because there’s 2 couples we’re (Magda, Coco, Daz and me) allocated a 4-man room with an ensuite.  The other lads are less fortunate and end up in a tiny 4 man room with no bathroom and no window.  Their room is sweltering.  A quick shower in the very grubby toilet space and into bed! We made it! Kazakhstan here we come.