Off road in Kazakhstan
August 1999 Andy Boxall joined a group of cyclists from England, Belgium, Australia, Alaska, & Switzerland to cycle the Silk trade route through Kazakhstan, along the border with China and over the border in to Kirghistan.The trip went over the Celestial mountain range and we covered 360 miles on old Jeep roads and horse tracks & miles of grass land.With single hill climbs of over 17 miles up to a height of 4000 meters and a maximum speed recorded of 43.4 miles per hour this was an eventful trip.
We flew with our bikes to the City of Almaty and spent the first night in a hotel, In the morning we unpacked our bikes and assembled them before hiring a six wheel ex army bus, a canvas back truck and a back up team of two drivers, one mountain guide, one translator and one camp manager.
We loaded our bikes on to the truck and set off to the foot hills of the Celestial mountains, here we set camp for the night and checked our kit for the week ahead.
Full days in the saddle
We soon found out how hard the week was going to be as the first hill climb on the first day was an eight mile climb with a height gain of 1155 meters but as we came round the last hair pin bend on the old jeep track our guide led us over about half a mile of grass land so we could see the valley that we had just cycled up, The view was stunning. We rode 30 miles the first day and the camp was a very welcome sight with most of the tents already pitched.
The going was tough
The terrain could not have been more varied from short rough tar roads to the rough jeep tracks that made up most of our trip, long deep grass open planes and single tracks made by horses, we also had to cross rivers, some fast flowing and waist deep as well as boulder fields like the one pictured here.
There could be trouble ahead.
We had to over come a variety of dangers and problems along the way such as the extremes of temperature from searing heat of the mid day sun to the sub zero night time temperature in the mountains.
The bureaucracy trying to cross from Kazakhstan in to Kyrgyzstan when we had to sit in the open, under the sun for over two hours while our translator tried to get us access in to the country.
We spent one night camping at the base camp of Khan Tengri and Peak Podedy when a violent argument broke out between some climbers and the locals, which ended up in gun shots being fired, we rolled up in our tents to make ourselves as small as we could and in the morning the spent gun cartridges were on the ground about ten yards from where we were sleeping.
We also had an encounter with the snake pictured here as well as dogs guarding the villages along out route.
Half way through out trip we had two days of pure indulgence by hiring a helecopter to take us up to the top of the mountains and ride back down all the way to camp starting in an area with no track to follow at all and then on to sheep and pony tracks, then rough rock covered Jeep tracks and finally on to the unmade roads of the silk trade route.
One decent went on for over twenty six miles with out a single hill climb and we reached speeds of over forty three miles per hour on one part of the track.
We did not count these days in our total distance or total altitude gained.
The picture on the left was at the top of a seventeen mile hill climb up to a height of 4,300 meters, the air was thin and each pedal stroke could not have been harder.
We cycled for ten days.
We cycled 360 miles "excluding the helibiking".
We climbed over 8,550 meters in total.
I had four punctures and one broken spoke.