Welcome to our Cycle Touring Videos from our France to China cycle trip, Canada trip and other cycle trips. I hope you enjoy them. The photos and videos are shot on a GoPro Hero 2, a Lumix GF1 camera and an iphone SE.
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.
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 France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Iran. Click on the country name to read more about our cycle trip through those countries.
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.
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.
Other Cycle Touring Videos
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.
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.
After spending the winter in Halifax, we were ready to start the next leg of our cycle trip, cycling to the US! This video is about our last week in Canada, cycling from Halifax to the US border.
Cycling the USA
Michael and I, entered the USA in Maine, then headed down the coast to Boston. We spent about 3 weeks cycling in New England, before heading West to New York state. From there we had a ‘slight’ change in plan!
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
Cycling Uzbekistan was probably the most mental and physically exhausting segment of our cycle trip. That being said, it is still a country worth visiting – just don’t do it on a bicycle!
It could have been the 5 consecutive months on a bicycle, it could have been that I was still recovering from gastro, it could have been the terrible roads, or it could have been the tight tourist restrictions. Most likely it was a combination of all these things plus more, but either way I felt broken and don’t quite know how I managed to cycle out of the country.
Let’s start with the first hurdle – tourist visa restrictions.
When applying for our visa we were given a whole list of rules we were supposed to abide by while cycling Uzbekistan. This included, having to register with the government, through a licenced hotel, every night (apparently, every third night is also acceptable, though technically not legal). Licenced hotels only exist in tourist areas, which meant we had to bust out at least 300km on the bicycle in just 2.5 days, each time we travel from one city to the other. Our hardest cycle section being a 340km stint, with a 2200m mountain pass from Tashkent to the border town, Uch-kurgan.
On top of this camping is technically illegal, as is couchsurfing. This also includes staying with ANY local that invite you into stay with them (something that no one in Uzbekistan seems to be aware of). These rules obviously made cycling Uzbekistan a bit of a challenge! We did try and abide by these rules, as much as possible – honest! My argument is, if you don’t want people cycling through the country, then don’t approve visas for cyclists, luckily I never actually had to put this argument into use.
We spent the entire time in Uzbekistan, racing from one town to another.
We were attempting to cycle around about 120-130km per day on absolutely terrible, dusty roads (or dirt tracks). One thing we learnt early on, never stray far from the major roads, even if you see a shorter route. The shorter road is barely a road at all and will end up taking you twice the time. Not only were the roads terrible and very dusty, the scenery is repetitive and quite boring. There is also limited water available on route. As well as so many rules and restrictions, there were also lots of road kill dogs, including many puppies. It was quite heart breaking, and unsurprisingly to those that know me and know how much I love animals, Uzbekistan is my least favourite country for cycling so far.
One little puppy, about 10km from the Turkmenistan border broke my heart.
We stopped for a water break and this little puppy bounced out of the bush with a broken leg. She was wagging her tail and super happy to see us. We fed her, gave her some water and I unsuccessfully searched for her mother. Not knowing what else to do, we sadly had to leave her. She chased after our bikes for about 15 minutes, and it brought tears to my eyes, knowing there wasn’t much more we could do for her. Later in Bukhara I tried to contact some animal shelters, but I could only one in the whole of Uzbekistan. It was in Tashkent, and they only worked locally in Tashkent (or so they told me).
Though the roads and cycle conditions in Uzbekistan were horrible, the people were unexpectedly super nice. We had people constantly waving, plenty of gold-toothed smiles, people following us on their bicycle, kids running out of their houses to wave or give us a high-five, plus people pulling over in their cars to give us fruit. We even had a restaurant owner cook us a special veggie, Uzbek feast for free – it was delicious! This was after he agreed to let us camp at his restaurant. At the bazaar in Tashkent, a stall owner even gave me a beanie as a present – AMAZING! It is also a country where people whistle and make strange noises as we cycled past – a bit like spectators at a marathon or sports match.
People always seemed curious to know where we were from. The first Russian word I learnt was “Atkuda?” which means, “where are you from?” I never knew how many words, Australia, could sound like. The convo went a bit like this;
Me: Kangaroos followed by me mimicing some strange jumping creature.
Local: stares at me in confusion
Me: Tim Cahill? Kangaroo? Owww…stray…la…ya
Local: Oh, Australia.
I used to think Australians always traveled.
Australians travel, but I think most of them just all go to the same ‘Australian-friendly’ spots, like Thailand, Western Europe, Canada, USA etc. In Central Asia however, Australians are apparently much more rare. A couple of Australians cycling Uzbekistan on 2 bicycles was as rare as you could get. We were told more than once, that we were ‘exotic’ – a funny thing to think of Australians as being exotic. Most people seemed delighted to know that Uzbekistan had some visitors from Australia. If I ever return to Central Asia, one thing I’ll definitely do, is bring some Australian memorabilia. I may even go all out and fly an Aussie flag from the back of my bike – so no one will have to ask me where I’m from.
In Bukhara Michael got gastro really bad. We ended up staying an extra couple of nights. Bukhara was a nice city, extremely touristy – probably the most touristic place we had been to since Cappadocia in Turkey. The majority of the tourists were Russian and German, there was even a Germany bakery in the town.
After a few days recovery, Michael was feeling a little better, though not 100%. He also ‘kindly’ shared his gastro with me so I ended up sick again – thanks Michael. Anyway, time was ticking, so we decided to attempt to cycle the to the next city, Samarkand – another 300km+ stint. So we continued our journey cycling Uzbekistan!
The cycle to Samarkand was pretty uneventful.
We passed lots of cotton fields that are owned by the government – apparently people in rural areas are made to shut up shop for the cotton season, and work the cotton fields, picking cotton. 1kg of cotton = 200 som (or about 10 cents). Other than that and the pot holes, there were plenty of donkeys, sheep, and cars loaded up with what looked like, the entire contents of a house, or overflowing with melons, or some other local fruit.
Samarkand was nice, very touristic, but still quite beautiful. The thing I liked the most was actually our guesthouse, and originally I was going to write that the staff in Samarkand are probably the most trust worthy workers I have met, but since then I’ve discovered they gave me a $20US bill that I can’t change anywhere. They still had the best value dinners available – $3 for a huge Uzbek feast with tea.
Onwards to Tashkent
The next city after Samarkand was Tashkent. To sum up our cycle to Tashkent; 5 punctures, 1 destroyed tyre, 1 broken brake cable, 1 loose wheel, a load of shitty, dusty roads and one broken Kelly. This cycle stint is probably the worst 3 days of the trip for me. I cried, I yelled, I swore, I cried some more, then yelled some more and poor Michael had to put up with all of it. I was almost ready to call off the entire trip by the time we got to Tashkent.
After arriving in Tashkent and resting for a few days, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the bikes, and be cycling Uzbekistan for another 3 or 4 days. I cannot emphasize this more, I would have rather pulled my toe nails off with plyers then continued cycling Uzbekistan, however I felt guilty. Michael wanted to keep going, and I had committed to this charity cycle trip. We had already gotten so far so, somehow (and I really don’t know how), I managed to get back on the bikes.
** Right, so, I’m probably going to go on about the little puppy we found in Tashkent for quite a bit. It’s quite sad, and I’ve made people cry telling this story. So feel free to skip this part if you wish.**
We were on the bikes, and ready to hit the horrendous Uzbek roads, once again. 3km from our guesthouse I spotted what at first looked like roadkill (dead dog) lying in the road. Sadly, this is not uncommon in Uzbekistan. I suddenly noticed the dog was looking up and moving his head as cars whizzed passed, missing the dog by centimetres. The dog must have just been hit, and was clearly still alive.
Michael ran out to pick the dog up and bring him to the side of the road. He was clearly in pain, and at first we thought he was dying and had no idea what to do other than try and comfort the poor thing. Locals were walking past, giving us odd looks but no one gave two shits about the poor puppy. We had no idea what to do, but I had already discovered an ‘animal shelter’, that existed in Tashkent, from our previous attempt at rescuing a puppy.
They told me they could help stray dogs in Tashkent.
So I cycled back to the hostel in hope to contact someone that might help. Michael stayed with the puppy. Honestly I thought the puppy would probably pass away during this time I was gone. When I left he could barely move. Either way, I thought I could do something to help. Turned out it wasn’t as simple as I first thought.
We ended up spending 2 more nights in Tashkent, trying to find someone to look after the puppy. We even snuck him into our hotel room. It was heartbreaking and it felt like no one gave a shit. We were just crazy tourists that didn’t know better. It made me so angry and frustrated! I don’t care what anyone thinks of people back in Australia or my second home, the UK – if a dog got hit by a car and was still alive, 95% of people would pull over to help it!
Unfortunately, it turned out the animal shelter, wasn’t actually an animal shelter.
No animal shelter existed in Tashkent and we couldn’t find anyone to look after the poor thing. We had to put him back on the streets, with some food and water. After I left Tashkent, the ‘animal shelter’ gave me the link to a Russian facebook page of people in Tashkent that help animals (a bit late!!!). So, I posted something on this site, with maps of where we left the puppy, and surprisingly people on this site actually went out searching for him, but with no luck. They told me they did rescue a dying cat in the search, so at least some good came of it.
It upset me even more that we discovered people in Tashkent that were willing to help the poor puppy, but after it was too late. And I keep questioning whether we should have done more. The only thing that made me feel better was knowing that there were people in Tashkent that cared enough about animals and were trying to help them. I can image there are lots of restrictions they have to deal with in doing this, so though their impact is small, it’s still amazing!
** And back to cycling Uzbekistan **
So we finally left Tashkent. At this point I wanted nothing more than to leave the country. I was even more mentally and physically exhausted than when we first arrived in Tashkent and I was greatly missing home comforts. The last thing I wanted to do was head back on the pothole covered roads, and climb some 2200m mountain pass in the rain – but that is what I did.
We cycled through one town, Angren – a sterotypical soviet town. It had a grimy and dirty vibe to it. Surrounded by nuclear power plants, people living in what appeared to be abandoned buildings, burnt out cars – and this is where we were meant to spend the night! Luckily on the outskirts of town we found a small (closed) garage, with a friendly owner that let us camp there. The strange thing we notice while cycling Uzbekistan, is that everyone drives, a lot, but fuel is so rare, most of the gas stations are closed down. Gas trucks are protected by armoured vehicles and people sell gasoline by the litre on the side of the road (from empty coke bottles).
The killer mountain pass!
Due to registration restrictions we were meant to cycle 120km for the next 3 days, which includes a mountain pass climb that went from 500m to 2200m across 60km, in one day – very bloody steep! There were road works the entire way, the road was extremely busy, cars drove fast, it rained, it stormed, there was wind, there was sun, there was so much air pollution from cars and the nearby power plants and the scenery was not at all motivating. We finally made it to the top. Just before the storm.
That night we spent in an old cafe next to some 24 hour shops on the side of the road – it seemed like a good set up (as it was still raining), until the drunk guys showed up. It wasnt too bad, he just tried to force feed us vodka and beer – not really a great idea when you’re already dehydrated and on a tight schedule. Eventually they got the hint and we were left in peace. The following morning we hit the incredibly horrendous road again, but at least there was no rain!
We had planned to make it to Namangan, find a hotel and register.
This however seemed to be mission impossible – we spent 3 hours cycling around the city looking for a hotel – no luck! There was no way we were making it to the border. So we had no choice but to head out of town, camp and hope we have no issues at the border crossing the following day. On the way out of town we met some Uzbek ladies – an English teacher and her mum. It was fate! They invited us back to their house for dinner and to stay the night – we accepted!
We had a great night, a good rest and met some lovely people. They also had a pet dog, so they were definitely awesome people in my mind. The following day we were refreshed and in a positive frame of mind! We had a good cycle to the border crossing (once we actually found it), and had no issues crossing the border! Within the hour we were no longer cycling Uzbekistan and into the next country, Kyrgyzstan.
Overall, I had a really hard time cycling Uzbekistan.
I felt exhausted from the day I arrived until the day I left. I never felt safe actually cycling on the roads, and all the rules just made it too much. It’s not a country I recommend visiting on a bicycle! For me, the people were the best thing about the country and I am happy I got to leave the country on a positive note.
* On the off-chance that someone is reading this because they found an animal in Tashkent that needs help (which is likely while cycling Uzbekistan)*
So despite what you might find on the internet, there is no animal shelter in Tashkent or in Uzbekistan. There is however a facebook group that can probably help. It’s all in Russian, but some people on there will be able to help and translate for you. You need to join the group to post anything, but they are very quick to respond. I’m not sure whether they just operate in Tashkent or in the whole of Uzbekistan, but either way they are your best beat. I’ve also started a post listing all the animal shelters or contacts in countries around the world.