Riding the Silk Road, 2002-2009)

Riding the Silk Road, 2002-2009)
Where it all began: Xian, May 2002

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Final Wrap-up

Leysin, January 2, 2011

Sitting here in my apartment in sunny Leysin, Switzerland, it's about time to draw the saga of the Silk Road Ride to a close and tie up a few loose ends. I've enjoyed just about every minute of the entire process (OK, aside from the six months spent recovering from rheumatic fever in 2002!) and I hope that this blog can help convey some of that excitement to you, my readers.

Here are a series of links that should help summarize this three-stage, eight-month, 17,750 km trip. There are maps, photo galleries, daily riding stats and a few news articles about the trip. I figured out that I rode for about 1185 hours at an average rate of 15.0 km/h, was in the saddle for 197 days (six and a half solid months), passed through 11 countries (and one semi-country, Nagorno-Karabakh), climbed an estimated 190 000 vertical metres (that's 22 times the height of Mt. Everest above sea level) and turned the pedals over 3 million times. Not bad!

These bare statistics, though, do not capture any of the essence of the trip. This trip was far more about the landscapes, the cultures, the ruins and the people along the way. Camping beside the Great Wall of China or beneath the tomb of Han Wu Di, traipsing awestruck through Bukhara, Samarkand, Esfahan and Ani, riding past emerald lakes like Sayram, Issyk Kol and Lake Van, crossing the Tien Shan and the Pamirs and the Elborz: these are what this trip was about. Staying with herders in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and townsfolk in Iran, crossing paths with fellow riders, having long conversations with people along the road, and feeling the connections between people and culture and history was what made this journey so worthwhile and helps explain why I stuck with it over the intervening years. The purely physical, while obviously integral to the trip, was really just a means to an end. I was confident that I could make it to the end of the Silk Road; what really mattered were the experiences along the way.

I hope that for some of my readers, this will inspire you to undertake your own dream voyages or projects. Life is short: play hard!!

Stay tuned to graydonstravels.blogspot.com for future trips!


Google Maps

Daily riding summary charts2002

Facebook photo galleries


An article by me in Verge magazine about the first two legs of the journey.

A brief article in English about my arrival in Venice in January, 2010.

Two more articles in Italian about the same thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The final, symbolic end of the Silk Road Ride

Carrouge, Switzerland, January 21

I'm sitting in my sister's apartment here in rural Switzerland, looking out at the freshly fallen snow and coming to terms with the fact that, after all these years, the Silk Road Ride is complete now. Although the ride really ended at the ended of October in Turkey, I had a much more symbolic closure to the trip a couple of days ago when I rode my bicycle, with its rebuilt rear wheel, from San Vito al Tagliamento into Venice, finishing at the site of Marco Polo's house in the Secondo Corte del Milion. It was a cold, cold morning, but a pleasant, flat, uneventful ride across the Veneto plain, skirting the Venetian lagoon, across the causeway and into the city that for so many centuries was Western Europe's trading window to the East. And while Marco Polo returned home from Turkey by ship, it was still nice to feel that I was crossing paths with the Silk Road's most famous Western traveller again.

My friend Manuel had set up a welcoming committee of journalists to take photos and talk to me as I pushed my bike along the streets and up and over the bridges towards my finishing point. So far, there are two stories that have come out in the Italian press:

this one (from Il Gazzetino, the main daily paper of Venice)
and this one (from Nuova Venezia)

They are in Italian but you can make amusing translations of them using online translator programs.

So the trip is over; now, after some time spent riding elsewhere (most likely Ethiopia), it will be back to Canada to start writing a book to turn this trip into an entertaining, informative read for the general public. I hope that you, my faithful readers, have enjoyed the blog, and will look for the book whenever it comes out.