Cycle Touring Videos

Cycle Touring Videos

Welcome to our Cycle Touring Videos from our France to China cycle trip and our World Cycle Tour. I hope you enjoy them. The photos and videos are shot on a GoPro Hero 2, a Lumix GF1 camera and an iphone SE.

Safe travels!

Kelly & Michael x

France to China by bike Cycle Touring Videos

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. The first 5000km (France to Iran)
  4. Iran
  5. Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan
  6. Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan
  7. Kazakhstan & China
  8. A Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist

World Cycle Tour Cycle Touring Videos

  1. Canada
  2. Snapshot Canada: every 100km across Canada
  3. Farewell Canada

The Cycle Touring Videos

France to China by bike Cycle Touring Videos

France

This is where the journey began at Sty Foy ski station in the Alps! We were working a ski season in the French Alps, when Kelly was in a ski accident, and was no longer able to ski, run, walk, or do anything, except cook and eat. The doctor advised her, that cycling would be good rehab for the knee… and so, with that, the idea of cycling to China was born. With absolutely no experience, next to no planning, and several injuries, we headed off – feeling… confident! Lucky for us the first few days were all down hill, followed by the rest of the week conquering 2 mountains passes. Read more about our cycle trip through France.

Italy

When we made it to Italy, we knew that we would be able to make it the whole way to China – despite what others thought. This was the first country we cycle the whole way across. Read more about our cycle across Italy.

The first 5000km from France to China

Unfortunately, we lost all our original video footage from the first half of our trip. This happened at some point during the trip, but we didn’t realise until we got home, and by this time it was too late to do much about it. We did however manage to retrieve this video about the first 5000km cycling through FranceItalyCroatiaMontenegroAlbaniaMacedoniaGreeceTurkey and Iran. Click on the country name to read more about our cycle trip through those countries.

 

Iran

We didn’t know what to expect when cycling through Iran, but as soon as we crossed the border from Turkey, we were welcomed by friendly and extremely generous people. A day didn’t go by where we weren’t given gifts of fresh fruit, water, smiles and waves. One of the hottest, but also one of my favourite countries on the cycle trip.

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

We were only able to get a 5 day transit visa for Turkmenistan, which meant 5 days to cycle 600km across a very hot desert on a very bad road. Luckily, we made it to the border in time. After Turkmenistan was Uzbekistan. The most challenging country during our cycle trip. Bad roads, injured dogs, boring scenery, a killer headwind, but some amazing people. Read more about our adventures in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan

When we arrived into Kyrgyzstan we were greeted with smooth highways, beautiful scenery and lots of cows, oh and mountains. We made it to Bishkek, and then from there cycled into the last Stan of the trip, Kazakhstan. Read more about our adventures in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan & China

The last few days cycling in Kazakhstan were cold! We were looking forward to getting to China and exchanging our bikes for backpacks. The cycle into China was easy, however the bad pollution lead us to hitchhike to Urumqi. Once in Urumqi we sold the bikes, and made our way to Beijing as backpackers. Read more about our China experience.

A Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a cycling nomad? This video gives a glimpse into the life of a cycle tourist, while we cycled through the Kazakh desert, during our France to China cycle trip.

World Cycle Touring Videos

In June 2016, we decided to head off on a world cycle tour. This epic journey started in Vancouver, Canada, where we first headed across Canada to Halifax. After Canada the plan is to head south across the USA and continuing south through Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Canada

The cycle journey started on 27th June 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia. We then spent the next 3.5 months cycling 7000km across Canada to Halifax. The cycle trip took us through the Rocky Mountains, the Prairie lands, the lake lands of Ontario, French Canada and finally the Maritimes.

Click here to read about our cycle trip across Canada.

Snapshot Canada: every 100km across Canada 

We decided to take a photo every 100km that we cycled across Canada. The idea was to put the photos together as a slide show in the hope that it will give a perspective of how the Canadian landscape changes coast to coast. I think it definitely puts the prairies and also Ontario into perspective in terms of distance. The road quality also changes drastically. In total we cycled 7000km across the country.

Farewell Canada: Cycling Canada to Argentina

After spending the winter in Halifax, we were ready to start the next leg of our cycle trip: Cycling Canada to Argentina! This video is about our last week in Canada, cycling from Halifax to the US border.

France to China by toilet: World Toilet Day

france to china by toilet

In honour of World Toilet Day, I’m reposting my ‘France to China by toilet‘ blog post, which I posted on my other site last year during our France to China cycle tour. During the cycle trip I was raising money and awareness about the global sanitation crisis, through the charity, Wateraid.

In 2014, I was cycling to raise money and awareness for the global sanitation crisis, however it never really occurred to me that while cycling I would find myself face to face with some of the issues related to this global crisis, such as open deification, no running water and poor hygiene.

The countries I cycled through aren’t necessarily the world’s poorest countries, however many of the countries (Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and even China), are still developing and though many of the major cities in these countries have incredibly high tech, hygienic toilets with running water and soap available, this contrasted greatly with the more rural communities. The ‘average’ tourist that’s visits these countries are unlikely to see, experience or even be aware of some of the sanitation issues that the country is experiencing. I could even go as far as saying, most locals that live in the developed cities of these countries, in cities such as Almaty or Beijing, are unlikely to even be aware of the sanitation issues in their own countries. The extremes of toilet quality within one country is just unbelievable.

From France to Turkey, Iran, China and Australia, here is France to China by toilet.

EUROPEAN TOILETS:

We started our France to China by toilet journey in the French Alps. The standard Western toilet, clean, hygienic and private – they tick all the boxes on safe sanitation. My only complaint in Europe was, why do men always leave the toilet seat up? We also came across a ‘drop toilet’ on a hike in the French Alps. Though no running water, it still offers privacy and is in a much better condition than most the toilets I have used since.

 

TURKEY:

After Europe our France to China by toilet journey took us through Turkey. This is where we started to notice a difference in toilet quality throughout the country. We also were introduced to the ‘squat toilet’. With sore legs, ‘squats’ aren’t really that great for cycle tourists. Turkey is also a country where you couldn’t always flush your toilet paper. Toilets ranged from ultimate hygienic, with toilet seat covers, soap, air fresheners (this includes public toilets), to absolutely disgusting squat toilets. I even have my suspicions that a lot of the gas stations (that are mostly run by men), only clean the bloke’s toilets. Turkey was also the first country where we would sometimes cycle for an entire day before coming across a toile. So open defication became more frequent (hence the landscape pic).

IRAN:

More ‘squats’! Some people believe it’s healthier to use a squat toilet. There might be some truth in that, but I still prefer the Western. My worse memory of going to the toilet in Iran was using a public toilet in a park. The ground in the toilet block was soaking wet and dirty. Each cubicle has a hose, as people tend to use a hose instead of toilet paper and unfortunately, someone left the hose running.

All toilets are private and most are clean and have soap and running water. The ‘hole in the ground’ toilet photo below, was actually in a house of a family near the Turkmenistan border. It was the first toilet I had ever seen like that (and this one was actually really clean), but it wasn’t the last. I discovered, though they are rare in Iran and Turkey, they were common in Central Asia.

CENTRAL ASIA (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan):

It’s funny that I didn’t actually take any photos of the squat toilets. I feared I was going to accidentally drop my phone into the hole. The Western toilet was in a hotel (yes, most hotels that cater for Westerners), but the majority of toilets are ‘squats’. Similar to the ‘hole in the ground’ photo above, and usually in outhouses like the ones below. They usually don’t have a cubicle doors. I discovered this as I entered the shack below to find a girl staring at me, while squatting and ‘doing her business’. I screamed in shock, then retreated out of the toilet.

The lack of hygiene and privacy in these toilets actually meant I felt more comfortable ‘doing my business’ in the open. Strangely, this is now a issue in many of the slums in India where toilets have been installed. One thing that I always had that some people in these areas didn’t was hand sanitiser and toilet paper!

CHINA:

The country where there was the most extreme and noticeable difference in toilet quality. It was in China where I experienced the best toilet of my life and probably some of the worst. The fancy toilets, with heated toilet seat options and massage facilities, in contrast to the mould covered squat toilets. One thing about China is that there are plenty of public toilets. Probably more so than in any of the Western countries we cycled through. It was just the standard of toilet tended to vary largely. So, we made it from France to China by toilet, as well as by bike.

 

That sums up my toilet experience while cycling from France to China by toilet. One thing that I have gained from this experience is an appreciation of clean, private (and Western) toilets.

Find out how to get involved in World Toilet Day. Without access to a safe toilets, women and children (and even men) are forced to put themselves at risk of sexual abuse, disease and illness each and every day.

Happy World Toilet day!!!

Discovering Persian Hospitality: our 2 week break

Discovering Iran by bicycle

Holiday time!

We decided to take a 2 week break off the bikes to explore a bit more of Iran, as backpackers. Discovering Persian hospitality was definitely a highlight so far, but we were keen to see some more of the culture. With that being said, we didn’t see a whole lot in Tehran, besides the traffic and main roads. To be honest, it wasn’t a city I cared much about seeing. It’s massive, busy and polluted. What should be a 30 minute cab ride or cycle could easily turn into a 2 or 3 hour trip. There are however some nice parks and good coffee shops. We had the pleasure of staying with some awesome couchsurfers, Ashkan and his sister, whom definitely made the stay a lot more pleasant.

Discovering Iran by bicycle
We made it to Tehran!

Our main reason for visiting Tehran was visas

We needed visas for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China! Plus we needed to make a stop in at the immigration office and the Australian embassy. After spending 5 days in Tehran, attempting to sort out all our visas, we were keen to take a break and visit some of Iran. Unfortunately, we did have to return to Tehran, to sort out the rest of our visas. This did mean we were able to leave our bikes in Tehran for the week and head south, bike free!

Discovering the power of the motor vehicle

It’s easy to forget the distance that can be travelled in just a few hours in a car or bus. It’s almost soul destroying knowing that the distance we traveled to Kashan in just a couple of hours, would have taken us 3 days. The further south we travelled, the hotter it got and some days reached the mid-40’s – definitely too hot for cycling! Aside from the heat, we also experienced the strongest sand storms of the trip. If we were cycling, I’m sure we would have been thrown from our bikes.

From Tehran we drove to Kashan with 2 Swiss guys, Alex and Flo, whom we met at one of the embassies in Tehran. They were on their way to Mongolia, but like us wanted to see some of Iran before continuing. We weren’t planning on visiting Kashan, but I’m glad we did – I loved it there, and preferred it to both Isfahan and Shiraz. We stayed in a beautiful (and cheap), traditional house, and visited some of the ancient sights in the city. Less people, less traffic, less smog – heaven!

Discovering Persian hospitality
Driving to Kashan with some new friends

Beautiful Isfahan and Discovering Persian hospitality

After Kashan we headed to Isfahan with Alex and Flo. Isfahan was nice, lots of beautiful mosques, palaces, bazaars and parks. We continued to experience Persian generosity and friendlessness, however maybe not quite as much as in the North or when we are on the bikes. One evening in Isfahan, we did get invited to eat dinner and drink tea with a local family in Imam square. Something that has happened numerous times in Iran, however this time we weren’t exhausted (or smelly) from cycling all day. Even though we had a huge language barrier, it was very enjoyable. I guess all those years of playing charades when I was a kid came in handy for something.

Shiraz and Persepolis

From Isfahan we caught the night bus to Shiraz – apparently the city of love! The only love I saw was between 2 guys, lying on the grass, playing with each others hair, stroking arms and chests and snuggling – not something you would expect to see in a country where being gay can cost you your life. I also saw a man raise a hand to his wife at a public bus station. No one did anything, not even the security. I wonder what the unofficial domestic violence rate is? Anyway, Shiraz – the City of “Love”, I remain unconvinced!!

Unless you’re into Persian poetry, the main attraction for visiting Shiraz is Persepolis (about 60km North). A city built by the guy that burnt down Athens, Alexander the Great. He then repaid the favour by burning Persepolis to the ground. It was a nice change from visiting mosques and bazaars and the carvings where very impressive.

Discovering Persian hospitality
Shiraz

The desert city, Yazd

From Shiraz we travelled to the ancient desert city, Yazd, where we had the fun chore, of renewing our Iranian visa. Luckily this turned out to be quite a simple process and only took 3 days. I loved Yazd, from the moment we arrived. We had no issues hanging around for a couple of extra days. We also were staying at another beautiful, traditional Persian house, so a great place to relax.

Discovering Persian hospitality
Zorastrian tomb near Shiraz

Then it was back to Tehran, and more visa stuff – fun!!!

Tehran is like a black hole, it just keeps sucking you in. We planned on staying only 1 day. 3 days later and we were still there. No matter how simple something may seem, Tehran makes it complicated. Even to print some documents is not an easy chore, and can end up taking several hours. To our surprise, Alex and Flo had also been sucked back into Tehran, and were also staying at Ashkan’s apartment.

Off to the Caspian Sea

We had to wait 5 days for our China visas to be processed, so to escape Tehran once again, we headed to the Caspian Sea. We decided to catch the train to Sari, then a bus to the Sea. The train ride was awesome, with awesome views of the mountains and jungle. Getting to the Sea from Sari by bus turned out to be impossible, and taxis were expensive. We did however eventually manage to reach the coast, at Balbosar, an Iranian seaside resort town. It was a bit of a disappointment; very dirty and busy, though the temperature of the water was good. I think growing up in a coastal city that has access to some of the best beaches in the world, makes you a bit of a “beach snob.”

It was extremely hot and humid around the Caspian Sea. It was made even worse by having to wear so many layers of clothes, plus a hijab! After spending only one night, camping in the unbearable humidity we decided to head back to Tehran early to wait for our visas.

Discovering Persian hospitality
Our awesome couchsurfers in Tehran

Change in plans

Due to some visa complications we didn’t have enough time to cycle from Tehran to Mashhad. The cycle would have taken 9 days, through a very harsh and barren desert, where temperatures reached the late 40s. So we weren’t to upset about missing out on the cycle. Instead we caught the VIP bus to Mashhad.

Creating a riot

The bus to Mashhad turned out to be an epic ordeal. If we could have predicted what was about to happen, we probably would have cycled/ hitchhiked our way to Mashhad. In short we caused a riot on the bus – and this is no exaggeration. The bus driver wanted 5 times the amount to store the bikes on the bus than what we were originally told. We haggled the price, and agreed on paying double. The next thing we knew another bus driver was on the bus, yelling at us in Farsi, and trying to kick us off the bus. Luckily all the passengers on the bus stood up for us. They said they knew we were being ripped off, and that the man was a bad man. This disruption lead to a riot on the bus. Everyone yelling and pushing, then the police got called on.

After about an hour of this, we were finally off. The crazy bus driver was unfortunately still on the bus, and kept losing his temper at people. He even went to hit a few passengers. It was friggin’ nuts. To be honest, we don’t really know what happened, as it was all in Farsi, but I think the bus driver had something wrong with him, because he completely flipped out. I should also point out that this bus driver does not at all reflect on the Iranian people.

Unfortunately, there are douchebags in every country, and the fact that so many people on the bus stood up for us and helped us out, just proves even more how lovely the Iranian people are. I’m sure in most other countries, we would have just got kicked off the bus. 1 douchebag, but 30 awesome people, and in the end, we won the fight. Crazy Man: 0 vs. Cyclists and a bus full of passengers: 1.

We finally made it to Mashhad

Surprisingly we got our bikes off the bus with no more dramas and cycled off to meet our next couchsurfer, Amir and his wife, Hani. We spent 3 nights with them. They did their best to try and fatten us up, before we headed back off on the road. Another example of discovering Persian hospitality!

So the 2 week break, turned into 3.5 weeks. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was worried about getting back on the bikes after having such a long break. From here on the roads would be getting worse, and the terrain much harsher. We had about a 250km cycle to the border, which included 80km of mountain passes. It was not easy, but the scenery was beautiful and discovering Persian hospitality was definitely one of the highlights of the country.

We got to camp in the garden of a small village house, next to some sheep. I think it was a traditional Kurdish family – they were lovely. We also camped outside a military post and in another park at the border. It felt good to be back on the bikes and on the road again.

Unfortunately during this time we both got mild tummy bugs and colds… which little did we know would linger around for the next few weeks, making the cycling even more difficult.

The next challenge: The Turkmen Dash! Hello desert!

Discovering Iran by bicycle
Visiting a Sultanhani in Zanjan

Discovering Iran by bicycle: to Tehran

Discovering Persian hospitality

There was a sense of relief when we finally crossed into Iran from Turkey.

Technically we weren’t supposed to be entering Iran with our own transport. This included bicycles, so we were a little worried we would be turned away at the border. After the horrible cycle from Dogubayazit to the border crossing, the last thing I wanted to do was cycle back. The border crossing was however surprisingly easy. A couple of questions, followed by a passport stamp, and a friendly “Welcome to Iran.” They didn’t even check our bags – just think of all the alcohol we could have smuggled in! We were extremely happy to have made it and were able to start discovering Iran by bicycle.

Cycling through Kurdistan was stressful and not at all fun. When we entered Iran however, the cries for “money” changed to cries of “I love you” and “Thank you”. 2km after crossing the border, one car stopped to offer us food, drink and a place to stay in Tehran. This was the first of many cars and people that stopped us to offer us food, drink and even money. At one point Michael had 2 melons and a giant sunflower tied to the back of his bicycle, along with a couple of bags of peaches and apples – all gifts, mostly from farmers.

Discovering Iran by bicycle
The best present ever!

Ali Baba the friendly Persian

The most surprising and memorable meeting was with a guy from Maku, called Ali Baba (no joke). We were cycling down a busy road, hungry and thirsty. A car pulls over, and a very happy and friendly man gets out. Before we know it he’s giving us fresh bread, olives, cheese and tea. He tells us he’s on his way to Tabriz for the day. After making sure we are well fed, he’s off on his way again. But, the hospitality doesn’t end then. 80km and 8 hours later, a car pulls up, and we are surprised to see Ali. He gives us some more tea and cakes that he bought from a bakery in Tabriz, especially for us. He knew he would pass us on the way back home so thought it would treat us. Amazing!!!

A new adventure every day

Unlike Turkey, where we got into a cycle routine. Discovering Iran by bicycle offered a new, exciting experience every day. In Turkey we slept mostly at gas stations. In Iran we slept outside police stations, mosques, inside the Red Crescent (the Islamic version of the Red Cross), people’s houses and city parks. We also met so many people that wanted to stop and chat. Farmers, students, shop owners, police officers, families, children. To our surprise, most of these people were even conversational in English.

In every country I have ever visited, sleeping or camping in city parks was a big no-no, reserved only for druggies, drunks and homeless people. In Iran however, during summer, city parks are full of families camping and picnicking until the early hours of the morning. I guess making alcohol illegal and having such high penalties for drugs is the reason for this? Whenever we camped in a park we were always the center of attention. Often we had groups of children, followed by groups of adults, crowding around, watching us put up our tent, cook, read. Whatever we were doing, the people around us were intrigued. After “Kurdistan” we were a little bit wary of groups of children, however these children seemed quite innocent – how young children should be.

Discovering Iran by bicycle
Discovering Iran by bicycle

Being on show

Sometimes the attention is welcomed. It’s a great opportunity to interact with so many different people that you wouldn’t usually get the chance to speak to. Sometimes, however when you’ve been cycling all day in extreme heat, and you just want to relax and be left alone. Having people continuously staring and asking questions can get a bit tiring. The worse incident for me, was just before we were about to get in the tent for the night after a long, hot cycle day.

One older lady came up to us and started asking us questions (in Farsi), before we knew it there was 15 adults crowded around our little tent. People asking to borrow our bikes, to see inside our tent, to take photos with us, and other things we didn’t understand – it was a little too much. Often these situations make me feel a bit like celebrity and a bit like rare zoo animal. I don’t envy either!

I do try to remember that most people in these small towns have little of no interaction with Westerners and most are just curious to learn about us. It must be a funny sight seeing 2, smelly, white people rock up in a park, with nothing but bicycles, to set up camp for the night. It does sometimes make me miss France or Italy though, where we are near enough invisible and were left in peace.

The cycle network in Iran is really well developed.

Everyone knows everyone in the Iranian cycle world. Constantly throughout our time discovering Iran by bicycle we met people from different towns that, by chance knew other cyclists we had met earlier on during the trip. Some of these amazing cyclists we had the pleasure to stay with. This includes the famous, Akbar Nadi from Marand. We were searching for a campsite when Akbar found us at a gas station. Akbar was told by a truck driver that we were cycling towards Marand. He escorted us to Marand, bought us dinner and arranged for us to sleep at a school. He also gave us the contact details for our host in Zanjan, Farhad.

Farhad and his family and friend’s were absolutely lovely. They provided a haven and much needed break from our cycle trip. At their home we enjoyed some of the best meals of our entire time we were in Iran. In Tehran, we stayed with some couchsurfers, Ashkan and Elis. They also turned out to be from Zanjan, and knew some of the people we met there. We also discovered the Ashkan was also on warmshowers and apart of the cycle community. It wasn’t only the cycle community that helped us out. Hamid and his friend, came to the rescue in Miyaneh, and kindly let us stay at their apartment, after a horrible, long cycle day. The shower was greatly appreciated.

Discovering Iran by bicycle
The famous Akbar in Marand

In truth, Iranians are some of the friendliest people I have met.

We found that the majority of Iranians want tourists to visit Iran, and want nothing but good things for “their guests”. I do even worry that some tourists may end up taking advantage of the kindness of the Iranian people. I hope if there is an increase in tourism it won’t change the Persian culture for the worse, the way tourism has in many other countries.

The common misconception of Iran is that it is dangerous, and full or terrorists. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact I have felt more safe traveling in Iran than in most of Australia and Europe. I guess the government doesn’t always reflect on the people. Just look at Tony Abbott and his shit government, I’m constantly telling people that the majority of the Australian people don’t agree with the ridiculous policies of our government. Yes, I just used this as an opportunity to take a dig at the Australian government!!

Iranians: Amazing people… but terrible drivers!!!

I had more near misses during the 2 day cycle into Tehran (the capital), than I have had during the entire cycle tour. It seems like there are no rules on the road, each man, woman or child for themselves. Cars reversing down busy roads, car doors swinging open as we cycle past, car squeezing through tight gaps, almost hitting us on the way. It’s not just the cars that cause the problems, pedestrians are just as bad. They just don’t look where they are going and practically walk into you as they cross roads. I don’t know how half of them have made it through life without getting hit by a car. Pure madness. Pure hell. I feel like that 2 days of cycling aged me by about 10 years. I will never criticize an Aussie driver again – well, not any time soon!!

Discovering Iran by bicycle
Cycling on the highway in Iran

Busy roads, lots of wind and an awesome decent

Up until the cycle into Tehran, the roads had been busy, but most of the time there was a wide hard shoulder. Except for the odd car that just decided to suddenly stop in front of us, there was little we had to worry about. The roads weren’t as good as in Turkey, but they were manageable, with the odd pot-hole or gravel section. There weren’t even as many mountain passes to cross. My favourite day discovering Iran by bicycle included a 120km gradual decline, on a fairly good and mostly “pot-hole free” road.

The biggest challenge, however, was the unbelievably strong crosswinds. This is something that apparently, Iran is known for – someone just forgot to mention it to us. On one occasion it took us 3 hours to cycle 20km because of the wind. By the time we were finished for the day, I was close to tears, feeling very defeated, exhausted and extremely dehydrated. You can’t feel the heat as much in the wind, and we were stopping less for water and food.

Discovering Iran by bicycle has been amazing!

Cycling in Iran so far has been a great experience, but also an extremely challenging one. I am extremely happy to have arrived safely in Tehran, and happy to be off the bikes for the next 2 weeks!!!

Iran is a beautiful country, but it’s people are even more beautiful. If I was to include a mention of everyone that helped us in Iran, this blog post would be triple the length. To everyone that we met, thank you for making discovering Iran by bicycle an amazing experience – and of course my door is always open, if you ever decide to visit Perth!

Discovering Iran by bicycle
Dinner with the family in Zanjan