From the Blog of Emil – A Super Champ Traveler From Denmark .
After making it to Tehran, I decided on taking a few days off the bike, travelling around Iran by bus. In short, Iran is absolutely beautiful… They’ve got so much to offer. Gigantic mosques, tiny mudbrick alleys, wide open deserts, stunning mountains, and I could go on. Anyway, after a few days of exploring it was time to get back in the saddle. I started cycling towards Mashhad from where I would be picking up my Visa for Turkmenistan. After battling my way through the relentless desert heat for 350 km, I called the Turkmenistan embassy to get an update on my visa. Turns out, I had been rejected. So, there I was, in the middle of the desert with nowhere to go. I got on the first bus back to Tehran, went to the hostel I had come from, and started planning. But before I start explaining the deal, enjoy these pictures of Iran!
First thing I did was go to the Danish embassy in order to get some paperwork done, and also to discuss my next move. I had heard of fellow travelers going straight to Pakistan after Iran. I discussed it with the guys at the embassy, and they told me that they wouldn’t want to do it themselves, but that the choice was mine. So, I went to the Pakistani embassy, applied for a visa, and today I’ve received it. The visa I’ve gotten is a 14 day transit visa, with 2 months validity. I was pretty sure that I would have to go straight to Pakistan with this visa, but after asking the guy at the Pakistani Embassy, it turns out that I can enter Pakistan from wherever I like! So, I’ve now also applied for a Azerbaijan visa. The plan is to go back to Azerbaijan, Catch the ferry to Kazakhstan, travel through Centralasia, enter Pakistan from China, and enter India from Pakistan. Now, this plan is far from failsafe. There are quite a few things that could go wrong. I’ll list them beneath and explain to you why this is the plan I’ve gone with anyway.
First things first. The visa I’ve gotten for Pakistan is valid until the 10th of November. So that gives me roughly two months to get to Pakistan from here. If I were to go straight to Pakistan from here, the limiting factor would have been my Iranian visa. It runs out in a weeks’ time, and I’d have to travel more than 1500 km to make to Pakistan from here. So, I would have to get on a bus from here to the border of Pakistan. After that, I would have to be escorted by the military through Baluchistan (south of Pakistan) for 3 days before I would actually be allowed to start cycling again. Also, there’s a reason for them setting up a free military escort in Baluchistan. It’s a somewhat dangerous place to be.
The route back to Azerbaijan and through Centralasia is pretty long though. So, two months would be a bit tight for me to cycle the entire thing. I’ll probably be forced to take a few busses in order to make it in time. The ferry from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan is notorious for being delayed as well, sometimes for weeks. So, if the ferry is seriously delayed, I could potentially have to take quite a few busses through Centralasia in order to make it on time, which would sort of defeat the purpose of going there in the first place. But let’s say I do actually make it there on time.
I then have to cross the Khunjerab pass at 4600 meters in order to make it through the Karakoram mountains to Pakistan. It is not actually allowed to cycle the border, so I would have to get on a bus. The border closes in winter due to heavy snowfall at altitude. The official closing is the last day of November, but sometimes, it closes earlier. So, I could be showing up to a border that’s closed. I would then be stuck in China. If the border is still open, they could still reject me due to my visa which is a quite rare Transit visa issued in Tehran. I do not have the visa for India, which would be the country to go to after Pakistan, since I would be applying for that visa in Islamabad. That means they could deny me entry, since I don’t actually have a guaranteed visa for exit. I think I would be able to talk my way around it though.
So, as you can see, there are quite a lot of things that could go wrong with this plan I’ve come up with. A lot more of a failsafe option would have been to simply opt for a few flights or go straight to Pakistan. But after spending more than 4 months cycling, the thought of having to fly is very unsatisfying. A lot of the beauty of the trip so far, lies within the unbroken line of countries and people I’ve been experiencing. Watching a landscape, a religion, or an ethnicity turn in to another as the days go by, is an experience I really don’t want to ruin. A flight would break the continuity of the trip. The reason for travelling on a bicycle, is so that you get to see the places that connect one hotspot to the other. You meet people who only very rarely gets to meet foreigners, and these are often the people who show a genuine interest in you. The beauty of the plan I have come up with, is a continuous line, no flight, all the way from Finland to Indonesia. Just the way I had imagined it when I first came up with the idea of cycling the distance between these two places. I have not been able to find records of anyone ever having done this before though, so god knows what will happen. Maybe, if luck is on my side, the starts will align, and I will be able to travel all the way to Indonesia without taking a single flight.