My original route plan was always destined to change. Even before I left I had decided that I would travel across the USA instead of South America. Despite having always dreamt of travelling in Latin America, I was drawn in by the easier, flatter terrain, the culture and scenery in the bayous of the south east and the shared language. Another factor in this debate was that I prefer the idea of saving south America for a dedicated trip, rather than simply bolting it on the end of this journey, when funds and energy may
Iran was high on my list of countries to cycle through, but due to the political situation between Iran and the UK and subsequent restrictions on independent travel there, it became clear before I made a single pedal stroke that I would have to find an alternative route. To obtain a tourist visa now, I would have to be on a guided tour and stay in registered accommodation every night. Not well suited to cycle touring.
When I began cycling I was fairly hopeful of finding a route to and through Mongolia, as I researched that path, I was confronted with complex visa strategising which, however I worked it, seemed to leave me stretched for time and having to rush through a region I wanted to savour. Although close, Kazakhstan and Mongolia don’t share a land border so to get there i would need to go through Russia or China. Russia won’t give me a visa while I’m on the road and even if I had one it would be expensive for a stretch of a few hundred kilometres. A Chinese visa would be easier, but after crossing Mongolia, I would have to re-enter China to get to south east Asia, my Chinese visa would still be ticking during my stay in Mongolia, so unless I hurried through Mongolia I would not have enough time to get out of china.
Plan B for the route to south east Asia was through India and, as I rode, I thought a lot about plan B until it became more appealing than my original route. India and the UK have a shared history and I think I will enjoy learning about their culture and experiencing the beautiful chaos I hear so much about. Cycling there will likely add a new type of challenge to my journey. Adding India, however, added the complication of getting there from central Asia.
My decision was made to FLY south to India for a few reasons, firstly a Chinese visa long enough for me to cycle either east to Myanmar, or south to India is tricky to get. Both Tibet (occupied by China) and the Kashmir region (disputed by India, Pakistan and China) presented difficult challenges due to the political situations. Both of these options, while technically possible and less concerning than many believe, would take time and, with my limited budget, time is not something I have an abundance of. As, technically, north to south distances don’t count towards my target, this would not be the best use of funds. I honestly didn’t fancy visiting China, not for the length of time required to get to Myanmar and especially the west where I would be entering. To top it off, I was planning to meet a friend from home in Delhi, as she will be flying in. Arranging to meet at the same time is far easier if I simply arrive by aeroplane too.
My trip has already undergone various changes, yet there could be a lot more to come. From India I plan to enter Myanmar and then take an indirect route down to Indonesia. Australia looks to be back on the agenda now and New Zealand is a possibility too. Thankfully, with the exception of Myanmar who are new to the tourism gig, visas from here on are far more simple to obtain which means my planning can be done as I move without much long term preparation needed. The idea of cycling through south America is still tempting, and Africa has crossed my mind from time to time. The charity I’m raising money for is focussed in Africa after all.
The great thing is I have the flexibility to make the changes as I go. I set myself the target of circumnavigating the world by bicycle. I chose to try to do it by the rules laid out in the Guinness Book of Records, many people I meet find it strange that I set rules for a trip, but the rules themselves allow for a large amount of flexibility whilst still giving me the challenge and a tangible target. My main ethos remains the same; keep heading east!