Day 890 – NEW ZEALAND: Re-discovered

Some readers may recall that way back in Uzbekistan, the un-thinkable happened. I was using a small portable hard drive to back up all my photos and videos, and on the very day that I decided I would back the drive up (all 20GB of it), it stopped working ( I thought all was lost, until the other day, my brother Chris calmly and confidently ripped the hard drive to bits, exchanged the small 1.8 inch hard drive from my portable unit with the 1.8 inch hard drive in his Ipod, and promptly proceeded to download all those lost-forever photos and videos onto my computer.

So here is a wee taster for what is to come. When I get the inspiration and time, I’ll put a couple of full edits together. Most of the footage is not particularly good (I have come a long way in video skills), but should make for some interesting videos.

Youtube version here:

Day 849 – NEW ZEALAND: Meeting Peter Yarrell in Picton

“Oh man, I just realised that this is probably the weirdest thing in the world for you,” Heather said out of the blue. She was driving her bird-pooped old Mitsubishi hatchback with me in the passenger seat, on the way to meet an acquaintance of her’s in Picton. “You’re coming along with me to meet someone that I think you should meet. How often has that happened on your travels? A stranger going 30 minutes of driving out of their way to take you to meet another stranger. Now that I think about it, this is kind of strange.”

If I tried hard, I could see her point. It did take some effort though, to see her point. To me, nothing much seems strange any more. A trip like the one I experienced teaches you to roll with it. Or, on a more philosphical note, I have been taught to be open to circumstances. Willing to approach most circumstances with a mind wide open.

I assured Heather that I was quite OK with it all, and was in fact looking forward to meeting this man that she had told me nothing but good things about.

Peter Yarrell is, among other things as I found out, the race director of the Queen Charlotte Multisport Race in the Marlborough Sounds. Heather had been singing his praises as a very inspirational person, and had mentioned my journey to him. She deemed that a mutual meeting between us was called for while I was in the area.

I have to thank Heather for her enthusiasm for arranging for Peter and I to meet. It was quite possibly the most ‘consolidating’ chance meeting since I have arrived back in New Zealand. I left Peter’s house inspired and energised, and most of all, with a real drive for the next big thing for me; a book about my travels.

A strong north-west wind stretched the New Zealand and Canadian flags flying outside Peter’s beautiful modern home in Picton. Both vehicles in the driveway were adorned with adventure race stickers and outdoor brand logos.

Heather had visited several times before, and made her way to the back door. Walked through the door, through to the entrance of the mansion. I felt slightly ill at ease, as if I was breaking and entering.

We were met by Peter’s son’s girlfriend, Sarah, who informed us that Peter was taking a nap. It was Sunday afternoon after all, and by the sounds of things, the previous weekend’s race was an organizational nightmare.

Heather had arranged to visit Peter this afternoon at 2:30pm. At 3pm he emerged as we were chatting with Sarah. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “Sorry for keeping you waiting. Terribly sorry. It has been a chaotic week cleaning up the aftermath of the race.”

He went on to tell us about the chaos of the final stages of the race. Kayakers were reported to be missing in 150km hour winds. Race placings were being muddled, Changes to the course were causing a constant stream of confused race officials bombarding him with questions. “And then, amongst all that,” he said,  “I got a call on my cell phone from a volunteer asking whether I was still planning to let the pigeons loose at the awards ceremony, since it looked like it was going to rain, and they would get wet! I tried as diplomatically as I could to tell her that pigeons were not my main concern at this point.”

What I felt emanating from Peter was a passionate enthusiasm for humanity. A passionate empathy for others. It is hard to describe how he influenced me, but I left his home two and a half hours later with a drive and direction for writing a book about my travels.

Peter is just a shade over sixty years of age, and for some reason his enthusiastic interest in my journey and what I had learned along the way woke me up to an important fact. Despite the fact that I came to view my daily life on the road as a totally and fully normal existence for that period of time, to others, the journey is in fact a multi-faceted, inspirational journey with much to offer to others from all age levels and walks of life.

So a big thanks to Peter, and thanks to Heather for taking me to a person she thought I should meet.

With Peter Yarrell in Picton, New Zealand

Day 112 – UZBEKISTAN: Samarkand

Just spending most of the day playing here in the internet cafe. Check out some video footage of the Anzob Tunnel in Tajikistan below:

(This will take you to my page)

Also uploaded recently was footage of a cool water powered flour mill I saw while in Langar in the Wakhan Valley (video below) in Tajikistan. Glad I took this footage, because that week or so spent in the Wakhan Valley is a bit of a blur (sick, weak, tired).

And one last thing – a photo taken by a Brazillian travel reporter while travelling along the Pamir Highway near Alichur. I’ve seen that guy somewhere before…

Guy on a recumbent in the Pamirs, Tajikistan

Day 110 – From Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border to Taylak Village (English Summary)

English Summary: Had another run in with border guards today (the last time was when leaving Kyrgyzstan). The Tajikistan customs official wanted US$10 for registry entry. I told him that I had not been charged for such a thing in the last five border crossings so why now? Upon hearing this he changed his story, and pointed to official charges for exporting vehicles. He stabbed a fat finger at the motorcycle entry. I almost laughed at him. I gently explained that it was a bicycle, and that he should have realised that as he watched me arrive. So once again no money for the border guard. By the way, my visa for Uzbekistan starts tomorrow (10th of Nov). The Uzbekistan immigration officials were too caught up in the novelty of my bicycle to notice however, so I am now in Uzbekistan a day earlier than my visa officially allows. Staying at Nazar’s place. Random guy I met along the road.












Motorcycle – Duty US$10

「おまえ、俺がやってきたのをみただろう!あれはどう見ても自転車ではないですか。お金はハ・ラ・イ・マ・セ・ン。No denge!」

(Denge = お金)




Methane heating/lighting in Taylaq Village, Uzbekistan / メタンガス焜炉権灯(ウズベキスタン、タイラック村)

Crazy toothless drunk Uzbek (Taylaq Village, Uzbekistan) / クレージーな、歯のない、酔払っているウズベク人(ウズベキスタン、タイラック村)

Neighbours, friends, family - all at Nazar's place to see the foreigner (Taylaq Village, Uzbekistan) / 近所の方、友達、家族、みんな外国人を会いに、ナザールさんの家に集った(ウズベキスタン、タイラック村)

Nazar's kids (Taylaq Village, Uzubekistan) / ナザールさんの子ども(ウズベキスタン、タイラック村)

Day 109 – Penjikent to Sarazm Village

Infuriated at the slow internet at apparently the best internet joint in town (the Telecom building), I left Penjikent at around 2pm after spending four hours just to do a few days worth of updates on this website. I hope New Zealand gets it’s act together and sorts out some fast cheap broadband internet before I get back…

The goal for today was to cycle the 20 or so kilometers from Penjikent to the Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border. A lovely young lass from the States (Aya – researching traiditional music and spirituality in the Pamiri peoples of Tajikistan) who I met on the Pamir Highway and lives in Dushanbe had organised for me a homestay with a Tajik family who live right on the border with Uzbekistan.

Oven, Sarazm Village, Tajikistan / オーブン(タジキスタン、サラザム村)

It was an easy ride, with a tail wind and smooth road to the border.

This 20km stretch of road had a slightly erie feel to it. It was perhaps the smoothest road I have experienced in Tajikistan so far, but had more children playing hopscotch on it than it had cars on it. It really did feel like the forgotten edge of a very poor country. Which is what it is…

The Istam family is a delight,, including their massive friendly smoochy dog. Istam himself is a taxi driver, sometimes going as far as Moscow. He is a big man, the evidence of a rather physically sedentary profession.

Butter churn, Sarazm Village, Tajikistan / バターを作る機械(日本語でなだろう) - タジキスタン、サラザム村

My dog is the best! (Sarazm Village, Tajikistan) / 僕の犬は最高!(タジキスタン、サラザム村)

Day 107 – From near Anzab (Anzob) to just past Ayni

Distance / 距離: 60km
Time / 時間: 06:30 – 17:00
Ascent / 上り: 570m
Descent / 下り: 830m
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3980km日本語要約:一日狭い谷に走っていました。途中に小さい町がたくさんあって、食べたいものが以外に買えました。今日もテントなしで寝ています。

I didn’t pitch my tent last night. I just slept in an apricot orchard under a leaf-less tree. Therefore I woke up in the morning with dew on the outside of my sleeping bag. There was dew frozen on my bike, so you can imagine how keen I was to get out of my nice warm sleeping bag…

I must say that I am feeling very good about this whole cycling thing. I am enjoying the uphills, loving the downhills, feeling strong on the flat, and even being relatively friendlly to the locals when they are the 1 kigillionth person to ask ‘Where are you from? Where are you going? How much does your bike cost? (Standard answer US$500) etc etc.

Crazy road sign near Ayni, Tajikistan

I think this has much to do with the good rest I had in Dushanbe, but also to do with the fact that I am now free from the lingering thought that ‘I must get over the Pamirs before the snow comes!’ Also, this whole travelling on a bicycle without a speedo thing is really great. No nice average speed data to get uptight about. I am able to just go at my own pace, without a screen telling me how incredibly slow I am going up the hills.

As for the terrain here, I am travelling along an extremely narrow valley/gorge, sometimes only tens of metres across, only widening after the rock walls extend 100m or so upwards. A lot of ups and downs where the road climbs over large bluffs, but for every metre climbed, there is the thought that the river is going down, so I must eventually go down too.

Narrow gorge on the way down the Anzob Valley, Tajikistan

There are plenty of places to either eat or buy food along this road from Dushanbe to Penjikent. After near to two months in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on roads that offer only major cities with not much in between, it is a luxury to be able to pull into a (very basic) cafe and order a plate full of meat (the standard fare). My yoghurt addiction is also well attended to, with well stocked stores along the way.

Tonight also I am sleeping under the stars. It appears dryer here, so hopefully my sleeping bag won’t get dewed.

Sleeping in the open near Ayni, Tajikistan

Day 106 – Through Anzob (Anzab) Tunnel on a bicycle (English Summary)

Distance / 距離: 80km
Time / 時間: 07:30 – 22:00
Ascent / 上り: 1465m
Descent / 下り: 1165m
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3920kmEnglish Summary: Somebody shoot me. I seem to have this reflex action that atracts me to dangerous places. Or perhaps I am not alone in this. If you had the choice between a 3300m snowy pass, or a 5km unlit, half completed, flooded, under construction tunnel under the Tajikistan mountains, which would you choose? I chose the Anzob tunnel, and it was awesome. Take a look at the pics below (video coming soon). Absolute madness. I had to sign a disclaimer at the entrance that waived the construction company of any responsibility should I be injured due to rock fall. And get this. This Anzab Tunnel was officially opened by the President of Tajikistan a month ago. Freaking madness I tell you. At one point I was cycling through knee deep water. You should have seen the expressions on the faces of the workers as I came out the other end of the tunnel. If you are in the area, you have to do it. Just don’t forget your helmet (think of it as caving).



Road approaching Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan



Is this tunnel really open? Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan




The 'open' Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan




The 'open' Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan


The 'open' Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan




The regular plethora of cameras in my face - near the Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan







Day 105 – Leaving Dushanbe

Right’o then. Off I go. In the direction of Penjikent, the last major town in Tajikistan before the Uzbekistan border. My Uzbek visa starts on the 10th of November, so I’ve got heaps of time to get myself over the 3300m Anzob pass (Dushanbe – my present location - is at 900m) and across the 260km to Penjikent.

I hope that there is internet access in Penjikent, but you never know in Tajikistan…therefore, my next update could either be from Penjikent (3-4 days time), or from Samarkand – famous Silk Road city - in Uzbekistan, which would be 8-10 days from today.

Take care, and why not bike to work today?

Random Dushanbe pics:

Sunset over Dushanbe, Tajikistan / ドウシャンベ市の夕焼け(タジキスタン)

A random deserted square/monument/gathering place in the hills of Dushanbe, Tajikistan / ドウシャンベ市の近くにある広場(タジキスタン)

The road in some hills skirting Dushanbe, Tajikistan / ドウシャンベ市の周りの道路(タジキスタン)

Day 105 – From Dushanbe to 40km towards Anzob Tunnel

Distance / 40km
Time / 13:30 – 17:00
Ascent / 595m
Descent 165m
Distance to date /  3840kmArgh. My speedometer (bike computer) won’t read speed! The cadence ensor works fine, but the speed sensor is kaput!

I tried many things, including swapping the sensors over, removing all the wire except the bare minimum in order to attach the sensor to the unit…

Broken speedometer (I tried hard to fit it) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

It appears now the wire has stretched, causing the wire inside the plastic outer to break, and has somehow shorted out something inside the actual computer unit. Too bad. I now ride without a speedo. Which is actully quite freeing. I like the world without speedos.

My tinkering with the speedo meant that I didn’t get away until 1:30pm. But no worries. Today was a cruisey day climbing slowly but surely up the narrow river valley that makes it way up to the Anzob Pass. Still warm here at 1375m. Camped by the river, only just out of sight of passing cars (of which there are many!).

Full moon campspot, towards Anzob Tunnel, Tajikistan