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Tour d'Afrique Newsletter/Silk Route 2008


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Tour d'Afrique Ltd. bicycle and expedition company
The Silk Route is the undisputed number one travel and trade route on earth: an intricate web of tracks and trails across Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. At over 11,000km this is a considerable step up from your average 'Coast to Coast' ride and if you go the distance, you'll be emulating some of the greatest adventurers in history, including Marco Polo and Genghis Khan. Learn more about the route!

The geography is about as daunting as it gets. Poets may have likened the Silk Route to a necklace of Asia's finest and most romantic cities but in between are some of the world's most barren and mountainous wastelands.

You'll end up crossing more than one stretch of desert, some that regularly burn their inhabitants to a crisp with temperatures of over 45 degrees. In China's Xinjiang province you'll find yourself below sea level yet further away from salt water than at any other point on the planet.

Some sections en route traverse some of the highest roads in the world, are biting cold in winter and often become blocked by metres of snow (even in summer blizzards have been known to strike). Learn more on the differnt sections of the Silk Route.

Northeastern Turkey, and onward through Georgia and Azerbaijan are made for great cycling. Quiet country roads, some paved, some not. Scenery that sometimes was striking enough to make you forget that your legs were burning as you ascended one of many long tough climbs in the baking heat. The deserts in Turkmenistan and China were flat and windy, but they were also breathtaking in their vastness and serenity at times. Throughout the rest of Central Asia we started flat in Uzbekistan cycling past cotton fields and horsedrawn carts while in Kyrgyzstan we climbed a lot, through beautiful mountain passes with the temperature dropping with every pedal stroke. Then we lost significant altitude into China through beautiful mountain ranges, painted in diagonal brushstrokes of vibrant earth tones. Then through the rest of China it gradually transformed into the hustle bustle of eastern China with colour and action and noises filling your senses. Overwhelming at times, and intriguing at others. All forms of transportation take to the streets and jostle for position in a whirling storm of controlled chaos. But then every so often this gets broken up when the route meanders through quiet countryside with farmers smiling and waving as you pass, and time available to enjoy the crisp morning air at a roadside dumpling house or tea shop. Read more about the 2007 Silk Route.

On your time off you can spend hours exploring the legendary markets of Central Asia! You will experience a multitude of new foods from local restaurants. The local cuisine in many of the countries we pass through is scrumptious and diverse – though due to language difficulties, you may be amazed to have ordered a steaming bowl of steam urchins, or a nice crispy chicken beak. More often than not you will enjoy such local delicacies as: Lamb Kebab, Fresh fried Anchovies, Raki, Helva, Beautiful Tomatoes, Khinkali (Meat Dumplings with lots of butter) Cha Cha (Georgian moonshine, only for the experienced drinker), Plov (made with pine nuts, vegetables, dried fruit, rice and mutton), Sturgeon Caviar, Cognac, Mutton, Sour Milk and lots of Vodka.

One of the biggest pleasures of travelling to mythical places is meeting real people trying to live normal lives. But who are these people? On an expedition such as the Silk Route, as a result of mass nomadic movements and massive upheavals, one can see the features of many ethnic groups. The ancient tribes of the Scynthians, Sogdians, Khorezmeians and a myriad of Turkic peoples form the foundation of today’s Turks, Uzbeks, Kazahs, Kyrgyz and even Tajiks. The Xinjiang province, the largest province in China, has as a majority of its population, the Turkic people called Uygur, whose language, religion and customs are related to the Turks. Naturally once you leave the Autonomous Uygur region, the predominant Han Chinese are in the majority.

Of course the pleasure of meeting and seeing these people is not whether they are of Tartar, Russian or Jewish origin but rather in the magic that comes when two lives from different parts of the world intersect and share a tea, a joke or even simple a facial expression that speaks more than a thousand words.


But life along the Silk Road is changing. Cities on China's eastern seaboard already resemble every other big Asian metropolis, Central Asia is opening up to the West and the Middle East is undergoing major upheaval. Now is the time to see the marvels of the Silk Road for yourself and witness its unique mosaic of cultures before it is too late.
Spaces are still available for 2008. Register today!


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