Adventure travel company Tour d’Afrique offers several of my dream trips. The company specializes in cycling adventures and in addition to their signature ride across Africa they also have a fantastic 129-day cycling excursion along the famed Silk Road. Earlier this year I was invited to ride some or all of that tour, but unfortunately time commitments and scheduling issued caused me to not be able to take part in the event, much to my dismay.
But earlier this week I received a report from the Silk Road that shares some great insights into what it’s like to ride this epic route. It was written by Nate Cavalieri, who is a writer for Lonely Planet and his first hand account of the the early stages of the tour are definitely inspiring. While I certainly appreciate the contribution to my blog, it still stings a bit that I’m not enjoying the ride with the rest of the crew. I hope you enjoy Nate’s thoughts from the road as much as I did.
The Silk Route In Slow Motion
Although the connections between the historic travelers of this path are loose – a good day with camel progressed 25 kilometers in a day, on the bike we’re averaging that much in an hour – there’s something inherently different about watching the landscape change on two wheels at such a slow pace, powered only by legs and a few hundred wafer candy bars. The route connecting East to West unfolds with changes that are so gradual they are almost unperceivable – something that would be impossible to see from the view of the package tour buses which blow by on the road every day, zipping along between China’s sanctioned tourist sites.
At the market on Tuesday, you’ll spot a few melons among the fruit; at the market on Friday, the melons are the onlyfruit. The first kilometers into the rural spaces Gansu Corridor, we paused to take photos of every mosque and flock of sheep; several days further west all the women wear headscarves and the lazy flocks that block the road have become a bit of a nuisance. At the beginning, we rode under the low-hanging, relentless haze of smog and coal smoke and marveled a patch of blue; now we pray for a bit of cloud cover to mute the furiously bright sun.
Nate Cavalieri is a Lonely Planet author and on staff for the Tour de Afrique Silk Route 2012.
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