Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Long and Winding Road to Stepanakert

Stepanakert, Saturday September 26

I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Stepanakert, the capital of the strange semi-country of Nagorno-Karabakh. Quick, how many of you know exactly where Nagorno-Karabakh is? Be honest, now! It doesn't appear on a lot of maps, because only one country (Armenia) considers it an independent country. It's a small area to the east of southern Armenia (11,000 square km and 150,000 people).

It used to be an autonomous oblast (district) within Azerbaijan but populated largely by Armenians. The Armenians and Azeris didn't get along well, and as the USSR broke up, all-out war started between the Karabakh Armenians (with the help of their ethnic kin from Armenia proper) and the Azeris (with the help of first the Soviets, and then the Turks). The Armenians eventually won, conquering adjacent chunks of Azerbaijan in the process, and ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Azeris from Karabakh and from Armenia. (The Azeris returned the favour to the Armenians in Azerbaijan; among those who had to flee were chess champion Gary Kasparov's family.)

So does Nagorno-Karabakh count as a real country? I had to get a visa to come here and I went through customs controls on the way in, and they issue their own postage stamps, so I'm going to count this one. On the other hand, people here hold Armenian passports, drive cars with Armenian license plates, are defended by Armenian soldiers and have Armenian social insurance cards, and use Armenian currency. By my count, this is the 79th country I've visited in my life (other than home base, Canada). This count includes a few places that aren't members of the UN: the Vatican, Taiwan, the Cook Islands, Northern Cyprus and now Nagorno-Karabakh. I had an interesting discussion with Natalya, my host in Baku, about what constitutes a country. She teaches a unit to her high school students about this, and she feels that the UN list is the only really legitimate list (although to me the fact that Taiwan and the Vatican don't make that list, and that Switzerland only joined a few years ago, to me makes the list incomplete). I could also count Palestine, but at least when I went there, I didn't get any separate visa or passport stamp, and the place lacked the basic ingredients of a state.

Anyway, to resume the bike ride story, I had a nice three days in Yerevan. On the Sunday, the second day I was there, I left my heavy luggage behind and zipped uphill carrying only my camera bag to Geghard Monastery and Garni temple. Both are located in the barren highlands above Yerevan: not many trees, which I think comes from long-ago deforestation followed by overgrazing by sheep. Not a very welcoming-looking landscape, but a good place to hide an important monastery (famous as the former home of the True Spear that was used to stab Jesus on the cross; there are other True Spears in Krakow, Vienna and Rome, rather as there are seven different heads of John the Baptist scattered around the world--readers of Umberto Eco's fantastic novel Baudolino will remember Eco's explanation of this profusion of holy skulls). It's a common weekend outing for Yerevanis, and the place was packed with busloads of teenagers dancing and shouting in the parking lot and hundreds of souvenir and food vendors. Even inside the monastery, people were selling sheep, which took away a little from the monastic atmosphere. Inside the atmospheric church, however, a choir was singing and the sound of Armenian hymns was absolutely beautiful.

Garni was much quieter and quite a different atmosphere. It's a reconstructed Hellenistic temple, probably to the god Mithras, from the glory days of the Armenian kingdom when they held their own in battles against the Romans and Parthians. I met an older Canadian couple, John and Maureen, from Toronto and their Armenian-Canadian friend Paul who runs a Lebanese-influenced restaurant in Yerevan. They invited me to dinner that evening, and who am I to pass up free food? It was some of the best food I've had in Armenia, and I spent a pleasant evening chatting. The British politician Baroness Cox was at the next table; I think she was in town for some sort of charitable cause.

On my way back into town from Garni, I stopped in at the excellent Armenian Genocide Museum. It's very well done, very moving and understated. It's hard to understand the continuing Turkish refusal to recognize what happened in 1915, when 90% of the Armenians in traditionally Armenian areas of the Ottoman Empire were massacred or marched out into the Syrian desert, dying of starvation and maltreatment along the way. A common Turkish response is "Yes, lots of Armenians were killed in 1915, but it wasn't a deliberate government policy to remove Armenians from Turkey, and anyway there are still Armenians left in Turkey so it wasn't a genocide." After visiting the museum, I would say that this argument does not hold water. The Turkish government also continues to allow old Armenian monuments in eastern Turkey to decay or be vandalized (or to be used as stables by local farmers), in what the Armenians see as a continuing cultural genocide, trying to erase all traces of Armenian culture from eastern Turkey. William Dalrymple's brilliant travel book From the Holy Mountain explores this issue in some detail.

I had a slothful and grey Monday that ended with a drenching downpour as the two Basque cyclists Urdin and Izaro and the Aussie couple Adam and Cat and I walked to a distant kebab restaurant, where we ate the better part of an entire lamb and much of a pig too. Cyclists need an occasional protein splurge like that!

Tuesday morning I rode up to the Karabakh Permanent Representative to Armenia (I don't know why they don't call it an embassy), got my visa, and rode out of Yerevan at 1 pm. For once, the road was almost completely flat (even sloping slightly downhill) as I raced with a brisk tailwind at 25 km/h through the agricultural heartland of Armenia, the valley of the Arax river. This broad, fertile plain is where most citizens of Armenia live, as it's relatively warm and low-lying. On the other side of the Arax is Turkey, in the form of the massive twin-peaked volcanic bulk of Mt. Ararat. It was wreathed in heavy cloud that day, so I didn't get to take the classic photo of Khor Virap monastery silhouetted against Ararat; in fact, while I was inside Khor Virap, a massive thunderstorm rolled past off the mountain, just missing me. I looked through my binoculars, but didn't spot any sign of Noah's Ark high on the icy slopes.

I liked Khor Virap, famous as the place where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a deep pit for years before he was released to convert King Trdat I to Christianity in 301. Khor Virap was actually the capital of the Armenian state for centuries before that, and was sacked by the Romans in the first century AD and then rebuilt with Roman funding. Sadly the pre-Christian ruins and excavations are not open to the public; they would be far more interesting than St. Gregory's pit.

I rode southeast along the river, past villages with increasingly unpronounceable names (see photos for proof!), getting loaded down with gifts of fruit and vegetables from roadside vendors. Eventually I hit the Nakhchivan border (at this spot, 4 countries come very close to touching at a single point: Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia), then turned steeply uphill to start the climb of the first of four major passes (and lots of smaller climbs) leading to Stepanakert. The landscape turned to barren desert, although when I camped halfway up the pass it poured rain on me all night, turning my campsite to a mud wallow.

The second day I crossed the first pass, with nice views of Ararat, chilly at 2000 metres' elevation, and dropped steeply into a more fertile landscape of fruit orchards and vineyards. I climbed up the valley, and camped just below the top of the 2350-metre Vorotan pass, in a pleasant meadow with a little brook (camping beside running water has been a rare luxury for me this summer). It was cold and very rainy that night, and I awoke to 5 degree temperatures and the sight of snow not that far above me on the mountaintops. Winter comes early to the Armenian mountains!

The third day was long, cold and grey. I finished off the Vorotan Pass, getting yet more views of distant Ararat, descending into bleak moorland that had ridiculous amounts of up and down to it as the road dropped into deep ravines and climbed back out. Eventually I dropped to warmer elevations at 1600 metres in the pleasant little town of Sissian. I had a big kebab lunch there with two Israelis whom I had met in Georgia and Yerevan, who were surprised that I had gotten to Sissian in only two full days of riding. Afterwards I found the evocative, strangely beautiful stone circle (like a smaller version of Stonehenge) of Zorats Karar (or Karahundj) just outside town. Like Stonehenge, it's believed to have been used for astronomical purposes, with lots of carefully-carved sighting holes in the tops of most of the standing rocks. Some of the theories I read seemed a bit far-fetched, but the isolated spot, high on bleak moors with snowy mountains behind, was really quite full of historical ghosts. I rode over another high pass, then plummeted into the large town of Goris in a blinding downpour that had me headed to the nearest hotel for a night under a roof in a warm bed.
Yesterday I climbed out of Goris under clear blue skies and spent the morning undulating across a plateau dissected by a frustrating series of deep canyons. After a few hours, I dropped to a mere 800 metres above sea level and entered Nagorno Karabakh. The scenery changed quite dramatically; instead of the treeless, rather unwelcoming landscape of southern Armenia, the mountains were draped in dense forest (turning very yellow with the rapid approach of winter) and the scenery became much more dramatic, with steeper slopes and glimpses of distant misty canyons. I had one more big pass to climb, and then suddenly I was dropping into Stepanakert, past the cliffs and old Azeri fortress walls of Shushi. I stayed in a little homestay where I met another cyclist, from Spain, with whom I went out for dinner and what turned out to be too many beers.
This morning I was planning to leave for the north of Karabakh, where a jeep track leads over another high pass back into Armenia at Lake Sevan. However, circumstances conspired against me. On the last day into Stepanakert, my cheap Chinese right pedal which I have been using since leaving Azerbaijan suddenly began to give up the ghost, getting loose and then starting to grind up its ball bearings. I barely made it into Stepanakert, and went off this morning to get it tightened enough to get me to Turkey. Pedals are tricky beasts to adjust, and although I know how to fix a pedal in theory, in practice it's harder. With the help of a hardware store I thought I had the pedal tight enough to ride, but a few hundred metres down the road it disintegrated completely, strewing the road with ball bearings and various nuts and washers. I gave up on fixing the pedal and set off to find a replacement. There is exactly one shop in Stepanakert that sells pedals, but they're $4 plastic ones that look as though they might last 15 minutes. (Note: they in fact lasted 10 km before bending into an unuseable shape!)

This has put a severe crimp in my plans, as I will now have to retreat to Yerevan by bus, carrying my bike on the roof, where I will need to find a more substantial pedal, or else get my original good Shimano pedal fixed properly. It's frustrating that I am being held up by something as elementary as a pedal, and that I have to take to public transport. On the other hand, I did manage to ride all the way here, and my legs will benefit from the rest after averaging 1800 vertical metres for four straight days. Once I have the pedal issue resolved, I will ride north from Yerevan to Georgia and the Turkish border crossing at Posof, ready for the final long haul of this Silk Road bicycle adventure.
489/144431.880/65746984:4717.053.6Georgia-Armenia border
499/154476.744.911238943:2213.342.7Haghpat
509/164543.967.2155712404:5313.849.6outside Vanadzor
519/174656.2112.3106212756:5616.358.4Echmiadzin
529/184721.965.711215593:5516.649.2Yerevan
539/204811.089.1112117104:4818.653.4Yerevan (daytrip)
549/224899.788.714226754:3519.332.0Near Tigranashen
559/234984.584.8200518956:1413.657.1near Saravan
569/245076.191.6129218517:0013.149.8Goris
579/255172.896.775120176:4214.451.5Stepanakert

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Road to Yerevan

Yerevan, Saturday September 19:

It's a Saturday evening in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, and the young and beautiful are strutting their stuff on the streets. The city is full of stunningly attractive women, although the men are much less striking. Physically, Armenians look extremely similar to Iranians, and quite unlike Georgians. I was out and about last night, getting a taste of Yerevan nightlife, so tonight will be a quieter affair entirely. It's a good chance to catch up on the blog after a few weeks with relatively little internet connection.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to have a day of hiking above Kazbegi, in the far north of Georgia near the Russian border. That day was one of the most spectacular days of the entire Silk Road ride so far. I set out late, having slept in and written up the blog, so I set a ridiculously quick pace up the mountain. I went past the spectacular church high above the town, then walked up along a grassy ridge which gave the impression that I was suspended in space between the massive bulk of Mt. Kazbeg above and the deep canyon below. I had lunch at the edge of one of the big glaciers which pour off the peak, then scampered down for dinner at my homestay. The views, the birdlife (lots of eagles and hawks and a couple of massive vultures), the carpets of colourful wildflowers underfoot, the sunshine, the rhododendrons and the silence made for a fantastic feast for the senses, and left me excited to come back another time to the Caucasus for a long hiking and climbing trip.

The ride out of Kazbegi, down the Georgian Military Highway, was easier than the ride up, but headwinds foiled my idea of riding all the way to Tbilisi. I camped in a meadow between Zhinvali and Mtshkheta (yes, that's really how it's spelled), and spent the next day poking around the old capital of Mtshkheta. It has some of the most important churches in the country, and is the spot where the king of Georgia officially adopted Christianity in the 4th century (a few decades before the Romans, but a couple of decades after the Armenians). It also has a dozen or so archaeological sites scattered around, and I spent a few minutes pottering around a huge prehistoric graveyard on the outskirts before looking through the museum, full of wonderful metal artifacts. Georgia is one of the earliest cradles of Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures, and there is also a site in the south of the country which seems to be the earliest non-African human remains ever discovered.

The ride into Tbilisi from Mtshkheta was easy, a coast downhill along the river that cuts Tbilisi in two. I rode into town past endless Soviet-era apartment blocks and hundreds of fishermen and drinkers (the two groups are not mutually exclusive) lining the banks of the river. I found a place to stay, a crowded but cheerful hostel called Irina's full of Israelis and Poles and their inevitable cigarettes. A few minutes after I arrived, an Australian couple, Adam and Cat, riding their bikes from England to Australia showed up and we spent much of the next three days together in Tbilisi, sharing tall tales from the road.

I can't really say that I did much concrete exploring of Tbilisi during my three days there. I did eat lots of food, send the world's most expensive postcards ($3 in postage per card!), buy a new air mattress to replace my defunct ThermaRest (it's a swimming-pool Li-Lo! Not nearly as good as the ThermaRest, and tough to roll over on, and it gets pretty cold from the ground underneath, but it's better than nothing), get my rear axle tightened and rear wheel trued, and celebrated my 41st birthday with a meal at one of the many Irish pubs that have sprung up in Tbilisi. Tbilisi struck me as somehow more liveable than Baku, and with good skiing only two hours away, it could even be quite bearable in the winter. My one regret is that I didn't go to soak in the hot springs that made Tbilisi famous in the nineteenth century.

Since we were going in the same direction, Adam and Cat and I all rode out of Tbilisi together on September 14th under blazing sunshine. We made our way down to the Armenian border through some of the poorest parts of the country that I'd seen yet. The fact that all the people living there are ethnic Azeris may explain some of the government neglect of the region. We crossed the border in the gathering darkness and camped a kilometre inside country number 78 for me.

The next two days were spent slowly making our way uphill up the Debed Canyon, a steep-sided gorge that shelters a number of ancient Armenian churches and monasteries with delightful names like Akhtala, Haghpat and Sanahin. The stone carving in these churches is of the highest quality, and as all the churches were deserted, the atmosphere was wonderful. Armenian churches are generally taller and more spacious than their Georgian counterparts, and are covered with a riot of carved crosses. The church interiors reminded me a lot of Turkish mosques and early Byzantine churches, with a central tower in place of the central dome. The churches were surrounded by dozens of khachkars, stones on which elaborately decorative crosses are carved surrounded by intricate geometric symbols, trees of life and other elements that have a distinctly Celtic feel to them. I spent a lot of time wandering around, taking photos and absorbing the beauty of these ancient sanctuaries.

It was a good thing that the monasteries were gorgeous and the scenery was nice, because modern Armenia is not really a very nice place. Akhtala sports a semi-abandoned copper mine, while Alaverdi has a fully functioning mine and smelter that blights the town and the surrounding mountains. Smog wreaths the valley all the time, while no vegetation grows above the smelter, rather like Sudbury. The town is full of derelict buildings and looks like a typical post-Soviet dystopia. The prize for the ugliest town in northern Armenia, however, goes to Vanadzor, where kilometre after kilometre of decaying petro-chemical plants line the railway tracks and depress passing cyclists. Even the non-industrial towns in the highlands have a mean, decaying, desperate air to them, full of men sitting around idly and Soviet-era buildings in the final stages of decay. Talking to locals, they all agreed that life was far better in the days of the USSR and that many, perhaps most, young people were fleeing these dying towns either to Yerevan or to work abroad in Russia, Germany, Greece and wherever else they can get to. The contrast with much of Georgia is pretty stark: the Georgians have a lot of fertile, well-watered land at low altitude, while much of Armenia is mostly stony high-altitude land with a short growing season.

I parted ways with Cat and Adam just before Vanadzor, eager to push on further towards Yerevan. After camping in a field of construction rubble, I flew up and over a 2300-metre pass near Spitak and rolled through a series of poor highland villages where the aroma of dung fires (there are almost no trees left to burn) reminded me of Tibet. These were some of the poorest areas I'd seen since the Pamirs in Tajikistan, and I hurried through, hoping to drop down into warmer climes (it was only 8 degrees at midday). After a series of ups and downs over various ancient lava flows from the surrounding volcanos, I finally came out on the endless downhill towards the Ararat plain and Yerevan. I spent the afternoon poking around a series of tiny old churches (more great names, like Saghmosavank, Hovhannavank and Karmravor, and more fine carving). Ashtarak, a small town in the midst of these churches, was the first pleasant town I'd found in Armenia; perhaps my view was influenced by the fact that after a few days of spitting rain, the sun had come out. As in much of Armenia, most of the houses and apartment buildings are made from blocks of volcanic tufa stone which gives a very distinctive feel to the architecture. In sunshine, the pinks and oranges in the stone bring the buildings to life, but on a rainy day the buildings seem to radiate greyness. I think that if I lived in a typical Armenian town, I would be like most of my neighbours and develop a vodka addiction.

I made it as far as Echmiadzin, the Vatican of the Armenian Apostolic Church, on Thursday evening and took a hotel room since a wall of black cloud was rolling down from the volcanoes, promising a night of heavy rain. The next morning (yesterday), I slept in, visited the churches of Echmiadzin and their attached treasury (pieces of the True Cross, Noah's Ark, the spear that pierced Jesus' side and various anatomical bits of John the Baptist, St. Andrew and St. Stephen, among other stuff. Echmiadzin cathedral, the Mayr Tachar, is surprisingly small for such an important religious centre, distinctly smaller than several of the more obscure churches I'd seen over the previous few days. Crowds of young seminarians in black overcoats added to the atmosphere, and for the first time I saw more than a handful of Western tourists. One Russian tourist showed a fair bit of cheek by handing me a Russian version of the JW tract The Watchtower inside Echmiadzin cathedral.

I then turned away from Yerevan to visit a wonderful archaeological museum at Metsamor that was almost impossible to find, even with local help. The friendly curators showed me around, displaying their fairly amazing collection of Bronze Age jewellery and metal-work. Armenia, perhaps even more so than Georgia, was a major centre of Bronze Age civilization, just to the north of Mesopotamia, and traded extensively with the Hittites and the Babylonians. Now, thanks to the vagaries of international politics, the Armenians can't even cross the nearby Turkish border, and are almost cut off from world trade. Ironically, the Georgian-Armenian border is clogged with Turkish trucks taking the indirect route to Armenia, while Armenian travel agents flog beach holidays in Antalya.

I rode into Yerevan under sunny skies, the enormous bulk of Mt. Ararat looming immense to the south. I managed to get lost and not get to the Nagorno-Karabakh embassy before it shut for the weekend, so I now have to go on Monday to get my visa for that strange semi-state. Today I spent time at the National Museum wishing that there were more English or Russian explanations (it's almost all in Armenian only), and tomorrow I plan to ride into the nearby mountains to see a Greek temple at Garni and return to make the obligatory visit to the Armenian Genocide museum. And then it will be time for a week-long loop through Nagorno-Karabakh, back into Armenia and off towards Georgia and Turkey. If only the Armenian-Turkish border were open, I could save myself ten days of cycling!

Peace and Tailwinds


Riding Day No.

Date

Distance

From Bushehr

Daily

Distance


Final Elevation

Vertical

Metres

Cycling

Time


Average

Speed

Maximum

Speed

Daily Destination
489/144431.880.65746984:4717.053.6Georgia-Armenia border
499/154476.744.911238943:2213.342.7Haghpat
509/164543.967.2155712404:5313.849.6outside Vanadzor
519/174656.2112.3106212756:5616.358.4Echmiadzin
529/184721.965.711215593:5516.649.2Yerevan
539/204811.089.1112117104:4818.653.4Yerevan (daytrip)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Azerbai-bai; Georgia on my Mind

Kazbeki, Georgia, September 8th

I don't have much time to type up a reasonably detailed summary of what I've been up to since Baku, so I will have to put up a Reader's Digest telegraphese summary. Suffice it to say, however, that Georgia is perhaps my favourite country so far along the entire length of the Silk Road: friendly people, great food, lovely landscape, lots of culture and history, and stupendously beautiful women. What's not to like about it?

Aug. 24: Left Baku for good; hideously long grind across bleak steppe and through construction.

Aug. 25: Scenery improves, as I enter the Caucasus foothills. Great fruit for sale, but obnoxious stone-throwing kids.

Aug. 26th: I pick up a cycling partner for the day, young Mori-san from Japan. My Japanese has been hopelessly corrupted by speaking Russian for weeks. We stay (in separate rooms) in Seki, in a converted caravansarai that is hopelessly romantic. My right pedal bearings explode into tiny fragments.

Aug. 27th: Mori-san sets off alone while I go out, buy a new pedal, try unsuccessfully to get old pedal fixed, and then ride uphill to the fantastic stone-built village of Kis to see an Albanian (a medieval Christian country that has nothing to do with the current Muslim Balkan country) church. I leave Seki at 4:20 and still manage to knock off 70 km with a brisk tailwind. My ThermaRest develops a fatal aneurism that makes it more or less useless. I take a few pictures of the ubiquitous cult-of-personality posters of the late deified President Heydar Aliyev. I have been seeing these posters for 16 days, and have yet to see two the same.

Aug. 28th: I make it over the border into Georgia and camp a few km down the road. It finally stops raining on me. I am now pedalling with mismatched pedals, one with clips and a cheapie faux-Specialized pedal without clips.

Aug. 29th: Culture and wine in the Kakheti region. I visit Kvareli, see a wonderful museum to Ilya Chavchavadze, father of modern Georgia, tour a winery, visit a monastery perched on a cliff, and camp in a wonderful meadow. Life is good.

Aug. 30th: I ride up towards the Tusheti region, through a Lost World of waterfalls, rock overhangs and no traffic on the worst road since Tajikistan. I run out of steam well before the top of the 2935-metre pass and camp beside the road in a horrible campsite.

Aug. 31st: Up and over the Abano Pass into a wonderland of high peaks, alpine meadows, ancient defensive towers, rushing rivers and pine forests, the prettiest mountains I've seen this summer. I stay in a homestay and eat like a pig. The daughters of the house take me up to their ancestral village on horseback. A week later my butt is still sore from the Marquis-de-Saddle I had to ride on. The daughters laugh at me.

Sept. 1st: A lazy day spent riding into the regional main village of Omalo, climbing up to the beautiful defensive cluster of towers and photographing and sketching them. I feel tired but elated to be in this amazing landscape. We have a massive barbecue in the evening with some visiting cowboys and devour an entire lamb.

Sept. 2nd: Returning over the pass is easier from this side, as the climb is only half as high. I stop on the way down for a soak in some hot springs, have a long conversation with a shopkeeper over beers, and find a great campsite.

Sept. 3rd: I discover that the lovely "highway" marked on my map is a Calvary of rocks and gravel. It is a long, painful and frustrating day, but it ends outside Tianeti in a campsite of bucolic beauty.

Sept. 4th: I hammer over another rockpile road to Zhinvali and then up a great road (marked as a secondary dirt road on my map) to Barisekho and Korsha, where I stay with a friendly family who run an ethnographic museum; the husband is a very accomplished painter.

Sept. 5th: I have another lazy day, hiking up into a lovely alpine meadow and watching the stormclouds gather. I make it back to the homestay minutes before the downpour starts. A voluble fellow Canadian whom I had met in Tusheti shows up looking like a drowned rat after hiking through the rain.

Sept. 6th: I fly back downhill to Zhinvali, then around a reservoir to Ananuri, where I have a lunch of Olympian proportions and explore the exquisite fortress, before riding up the storied Georgian Military Highway that connected Russia to Georgia in the 19th century. My campsite for the evening has the twin disadvantages of being on a slope, and separated from the road by a swamp. I sleep two kilometres from the disputed "border" with South Ossetia.

Sept. 7th: Energized by yesterday's luncheon, I fly up over the Cross Pass, through the interesting-looking ski resort of Gudauri, and then down into Kazbeki. I find a homestay and then hustle up to the church high above Kazbeki, perhaps the most dramatically-situated church I have ever seen. Loads of photographs, then down to more food.

I am off hiking today to the foot of 5000-metre Mt. Kazbek, and then, with the seasons changing fast (the birch trees are already turning yellow on the hillsides) I will head to Tbilisi, south into Armenia, do a loop through Nagorno Karabakh, come back to Georgia briefly, and then head into eastern Turkey before the end of September to complete the Silk Road Ride.


Peace and Tailwinds

Riding Day No.

Date

Distance

From Bushehr

Daily

Distance


Final Elevation

Vertical

Metres

Cycling

Time


Average

Speed

Maximum

Speed

Daily Destination

1

7/16

119.0

119.0

515

1075

7:55

15.1

?

Konar Takhteh

2

7/17

204.8

85.8

1047

1222

6:14

13.8

55.2

85 km from Shiraz

3

7/18

306.3

101.5

1460

1512

7:37

13.3

47.7

Shiraz

4

7/21

380.7

74.4

1630

581

4:41

15.8

66.5

Estakhr (ruins)

5

7/22

474.0

93.3

1955

777

5:58

15.7

?

Past Pasargadae

6

7/23

601.0

127.0

1950

1297

7:44

16.5

60.8

Abadeh

7

7/24

744.3

143.3

1725

456

7:55

18.2

47.1

Past Shahreza

8

7/25

813.1

68.8

1560

353

3:45

18.4

44.5

Esfahan

9

7/28
951.1
138.0
1633
1060
8:48
15.0
60.5
Natanz

10

7/29
1026.0
74.9
1005
533
4:14
17.8
52.1
Kashan

11

7/30
1133.2
107.2
990
463
6:01
17.8
31.9
Qom

12

7/31
1263.9
130.7
1415
874
7:36
17.2
39.1
40 km past Saveh

13

8/1
1383.2
119.4
1280
645
8:03
14.8
31.3
Qazvin

14


8/3
1542.0

158.8

1280

778

7:02

22.6

46.2

Qazvin

15


8/4

1630.7

88.7

1366

2385
7:22
12.0

51.8
Past Moallem Kelayeh

16

8/5
1655.2
24.5

1730

1021

2:10
11.3

55.2
Evan Lake

17


8/6

1735.5

80.3

1305

1923

6:00

13.4

53.4

Qazvin

18


8/7
1891.7

156.2

1764
828

7:55

19.8

33.4

Soltaniyeh

19


8/8

1993.9

102.1

436

1552

6:35

15.6

60.6
Past Gilvan

20


8/9

2090.5

96.2

16

809

6:35

14.6

60.3

Rasht

21

8/10
2214.3
123.8

6

342
7:50

15.8

34.6

Talesh (Hashtpar)

22

8/11
2292.8
78.5
-38
268

4:21
18.1

40.2

Astara, Azerbaijan

23


8/12

2397.2

104.4

-7

304
6:30
16.1

33.7
Celilabad

24


8/13

2504.1

106.9
-25
189

6:41
16.1 23.3
Shirvan National Park

25

8/14
2627.7
123.6
0

664
9:10

13.5
42.2
Baku

26

8/18
2695.1
67.4
0
402
3:27
19.7
52.8
Baku (day trip)

27

8/19
2793.1
98.0
0
441
5:35
17.6
41.9
Beshbarmaq

28

8/20
2886.6
93.5
968
1280
6:46
13.8
28.3
Qacras

29

8/21
2925.2
38.6
1952
1919
5:03
7.6
40.1
Xinaliq

30

8/22
3081.4
156.2
18
866
7:13
21.7
51.5
Sitalcay

31

8/23
3142.2
60.8
0
319
2:42
22.6
47.9
Baku

32

8/24
3241.9
99.7
675
1816
7:12
13.8
46.4
Maraza

33

8/25
3327.7
85.8
709
1448
6:13
13.8
54.6
Ismailiya
34
8/26
3448.4
120.8
687
1399
7:01
17.2
47.5
Seki
35
8/27
3530.7
82.3
298
689
4:34
18.0
42.0
24 km before Zaqatala
36
8/28
3632.0
101.3
438
907
6:16
16.1
44.0
Kabali (Georgia)
37
8/29
3709.6
77.6
595
670
4:41
16.7
31.2
Pshaveli
38
8/30
3748.9
39.3
2367
2018
5:34
7.1
30.9
below Abano Pass
39
8/31
3773.3
24.4
1864
653
2:57
8.4
29.2
Chala
40
9/1
3802.5
29.2
1864
831
2:48
10.4
35.4
Chala (day trip)
41
9/2
3868.9
66.4
638
1344
6:44
9.9
36.6
outside Pshaveli
42
9/3
3930.5
61.6
1293
1117
5:06
12.1
33.1
outisde Tianeti
43
9/4
3998.2
67.7
1463
1139
5:28
12.3
40.8
Korsha
44
9/6
4097.3
99.1
1447
1135
6:24
15.6
47.6
past Pasanauri
45
9/7
4152.6
55.3
1790
1291
4:32
12.3
61.2
Kazbeki
46
9/9
4262.2
109.6
680
1193
7:06
15.4
51.1
past Zhinvali
47
9/10
4311.9
49.7
481
156
2:46
18.1
36.6
Tbilisi