2023–26 Cycling World Trip: Rough itinerary

April to June 2023 – setting off from France and cycling to Greece

Like I did in 2018, when I cycled to Azerbaijan and some of the way back, I will set off from my family’s home in the south of France with the late spring sun lighting the way. Leaving before summer is ideal for lots of reasons. One of them is that, if there’s a chilly day or two early on, you know you’ll soon be leaving them behind. And seeing summer stretch out for months ahead is a pleasant thing.

I want to see the Gorges du Tarn and the palaeolithic cave paintings at Chauvet – because that’s what I’m into now – and stretch my legs in the Alps rather than go along the coast, so I will cycle roughly due east until I get to Genoa, where I will eat fruit cake.

Then it’s time for the islands of the Mediterranean: ferry to Corsica and cycle across it*; ferry to Sardinia and cycle across it; ferry to Sicily and cycle across it. I would also like to visit Malta and see, among other things, Ġgantija. Then I’ll return to Sicily, cross to mainland Italy, cycle up the foot bit of the boot towards the top of the heel, and cross (like I did last time, except then I had come down from northern Italy overland) from Bari to Durrës, in Albania. Or from Bari to Corfu and then Sarandë, but I like Tirana, so I’d like to pass through it again.

On the way to Athens, I want to go through Pindos National Park, see the Great Meteoron Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, eat literally bucketloads of feta and olives, and maybe, if I can, have a one-to-one with Zeus himself. I’m aiming to arrive in Athens about a week before my birthday (which is 28 June).

*Google Maps automatically defaults to the ferry route from Piombino (Italy mainland, as in the picture below) to Bastia (Corsica) or Nice (France mainland) to Bastia, rather than from Genoa, but as far as I understand there is a ferry from Genoa.

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July and August 2023 – cycling from western Turkey to Baku, Azerbaijan

From Athens, Laura and I will take the ferry to İzmir, a lovely coastal city about half way down western Turkey. We’ll cycle across the country, west to east, stopping at Cappadocia, Mount Nemrut, Göbekli Tepe, Mount Ararat (where people think, or used to think, Noah’s Ark may have come to rest. It probably didn’t.) and Kars. Some of this is me retracing my steps from 2018 but these places are unbelievably cool and I want to show Laura.

Besides, the other option is what people call the Black Sea route – because it’s a route that goes along the coast of the Black Sea – but the cyclists I met who did that in 2018 or before said it was relatively dull. Quicker and maybe easier, but less awesome.

There are three crossing points connecting Turkey and Georgia. One is on the Black Sea coast. That’s the one people cycling the Black Sea route take. The one furthest to the east, which at first glance seems like the logical one to take when coming from Mt Ararat in Turkey’s far east, is not always passable. When I crossed in 2018, I was advised not to try it. So probably, to be safe, we’ll take the one in the middle. Then we’ll freewheel down from the Caucasus Mountains and glide over Georgia’s lush green alpine planes, to Tbilisi, one of the best cities in the world.

Cycling from Tbilisi to Baku, we’ll probably meet a few other round-the-world cyclists. At least, I did in 2018. There’s a sort of bottleneck – similar to the one that shunts drivers and cyclists together on the big road that enters Istanbul (not that we’ll experience it this time, since we’re taking the ferry from Greece to Turkey rather than cycling overland).

And if we don’t meet them on the road to Baku, we’ll almost certainly meet them in or around Baku, because of the way the boats run across the Caspian Sea.

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August, September and October 2023 – Caspian Sea, Central Asia and the Pamir Highway

Ferries cross the Caspian Sea from the port of Alat (on the coast of Azerbaijan, about 75km south of Baku) to Aktau (in Kazakhstan) and Turkmenbashi (in Turkmenistan). As in, there are two routes, one to each. They don’t have fixed timetables, and by all accounts leave when they fill up, which could be anything from a few times a week to once every two weeks.

Getting a transit visa for Turkmenistan is time-consuming at best – they say it can take weeks. It’s a relatively closed-off country, and the cyclists I met in 2018 were having headaches waiting for their Turkmenistan visas while stationed in Tbilisi, which then only gave them four or five days, depending on how generous the authorities were feeling on the day, to cross the desert into Uzbekistan. Now I think you can get five or seven days.

(They were also waiting for their China visas, which is a whole separate headache.)

Going to Turkmenistan would mean potentially being able to see the Darvaza gas crater, also called the Door to Hell. It’s a giant hole in the ground that’s been burning continuously for decades. But the country’s leader Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow, who is the father of the country’s other leader Serdar Gurbangulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow, announced in early 2022 that they were going to seal it up, or otherwise stop it from burning. So, there goes that dream.

So anyway, crossing to Kazakhstan makes more sense. Both options involve a lot of cycling through the desert; Kazakhstan lets you take your time doing it. UK citizens get visa-free entry to Kazakhstan for 30 days. It’s the same for Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are also relatively lenient. So what we’ll do is buy tickets for the Alat to Aktau ferry, get to the port and hop aboard. Some days later, we will roll into the Kazakh desert, and cycle to Uzbekistan and then Tajikistan.

From Dushanbe, we will snake our way onto the Pamir Highway, through Kulob, Kalai Khum, Rushan, Khorog, Langar, Murghab, Karakul and Tulparkul before arriving in Osh. The thing here will be to get up and over the highlands before the cold really sets in. The highest point on the Pamir Highway is at 4,655m. So, very high. This means it gets very cold. So, the quicker we can get onto it, the better.

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The China Visa Headache

From Osh, we’ll wend our way through Bishkek and back into Kazakhstan, where our Central Asian odyssey will come to an end. This is because of the logistical challenge of obtaining a tourist visa for China while on the road. It used to be possible – though not guaranteed – to get them in Tbilisi. Depending on where you’re from, it might also, in the past, have been possible to get one in Bishkek, Tashkent or Dushanbe. But for UK citizens, based on information that’s available online (mostly from the Caravanistan China visa forum), the only way is to apply in person in the UK, and to do so with in-bound and out-bound flights purchased.

Also, they’re only valid for three months from the point of obtainment. As in, you have a 90-day window during which you can enter the country. As I’ll be setting off from France and Laura will be setting off from Greece (she’ll arrive by air from the Philippines), this would mean returning to the UK (probably from Georgia) and paying for express processing. The whole thing would cost us more than £1,000 and bring with it the psychological weirdness of coming sort-of-home (but not having any time to see anyone) having barely started The Trip. And we mightn’t even get the visas, on time or at all.

We’ll try our luck in Tbilisi, but the upshot is basically that we’ll most likely fly over China, from Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Hanoi (Vietnam). Out of the desert and into the tropics. Thankfully – really, it is something we appreciate – the China Visa Headache is the only one of its kind. The route has been planned so as to avoid headaches, and as UK citizens we can (still) come and go from most places quite freely.

November 2023 to April 2024 – Southeast Asia

Up to this point, there have been imperatives driving route planning. We have to go from Turkey to Georgia to Azerbaijan, because Armenia doesn’t allow people to cross into it from Turkey (or to Azerbaijan from it). We have to go through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan because (as UK citizens) we can’t go (independently) through Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. We can’t (or at least probably won’t) go through China because of the China Visa Headache.

This part of The Trip is where imperatives relax. And besides, planning it is really Laura’s job, since she’s more familiar with the lay of the land in Southeast Asia.

But there are places I’d like to go, things I’d like to see and do. These include walking around Angkor Wat, cycling along the Vietnamese coast, visiting Gunung Padang, and seeing Komodo dragons. We’d both like to go to Laos, and stomp around Laura’s old stomping ground in and around Siem Reap. If possible, we’d also like to take a boat to Borneo, see friends who will by then be living in Kota Kinabalu, and get a picture of me standing next to a Welcome To Brunei sign while covering up the last two letters with my head. That sort of thing. We’ll see.

Note: for anyone who is toying with the idea of coming out for some adventuring, this leg presents such an opportunity. We will need some recuperation time after the Pamir Highway, and will otherwise be meandering flexibly here, stopping relaxedly there. Just beam the outline of a bicycle into the sky and we’ll be in touch. (Not really. You have to get in touch with us.)

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April 2024 for several months – Arbeit in Australia and/or New Zealand

As with Turkey, our route across Australia will basically be west to east. Around Perth is where you find quokkas, which is one reason we’re planning to start there. Unfortunately, there aren’t any viable options for travelling from Southeast Asia to Australia by boat, although we might try our luck at various ports. Investigating options with our noses. There are cargo ships that theoretically allow foot passengers, but they take a long time, they seem to be quite unpredictable, and they are very expensive. They’re not really supposed to take anything that isn’t cargo.

Australia is also home to the longest straight road in the world. It’s 90 miles long and, to someone like me, that’s sort of exciting. We’ll cycle along or close to the coast, skirting round the edge of the arid outback until we pass Adelaide and trundle into Melbourne, where Laura’s brother lives. Out to the east of Melbourne are some highlands and the 7 Peaks – Mt Baw Baw, Mt Buffalo, Mt Buller, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Hotham and Lake Mountain – which I’d like to ride up and around.

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Maybe it makes sense to go up the east coast and see Sydney, and possibly even the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Or we could take the boat across to Tasmania and back and do some Looney Tunes reenactments. Either way, what comes next is a visit to New Zealand to see two friends who live there now, and possibly do some Lord of the Rings reenactments.

There are direct flights from Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest transport hub) to Santiago (Chile’s capital). When it comes to putting bicycles on planes, direct flights are always better. Fewer stopovers means less chance of luggage getting thrown around, forks bent and frames dinked, etc., and of getting stung with an oversized baggage fee at check-in.

So what I think we might do is fly to Queenstown, New Zealand, cycle south to Dunedin and then, after a week or two, cycle up to Picton. This could be north/west coast, or south/east coast. North/west looks more interesting. More mountains and glaciers. Ferries connect Picton and Wellington, and Auckland is just a few hundred kilometres north of Wellington. Then it’s bye-bye Oceania and hello Pacific.

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November 2024 ish onwards – Argentina to Colombia

It’s impossible to know exactly how long we’ll spend cycling from Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost tip of Argentina/Patagonia) to Turbo, on the northern coast of Colombia. Turbo is where we’ll hopefully get a boat to take us around the Darién Gap.

Starting right down at the bottom, it might be 12,000km. It could easily work out being significantly more. And there will be glaciers, deserts, serpentine mountain passes and stretches of gravel. Some people say it took them a year, others say they spent 18 months cycling from tip to tip. In terms of raw kilometres, it should be doable in eight months, but we’ll see where the wind takes us.

Which, by the way, is one of the reasons we’re going south to north for this part of the trip. It seems counterintuitive, since that means it’s technically all up hill, but the prevailing winds are more likely to be with us travelling in this direction than they otherwise would be. It’s so windy in Patagonia that this apparently counteracts the uphill climbs. We’ll take every gust we can get.

This part of the trip will include some real spectacles: the glacial lakes of Patagonia; La Paz and Puma Punku; Cusco, Saqsaywaman, Pisac, and Machu Picchu; the Nazca Lines and the Sarcofagos de Karajia; and the Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza that overlooks Bogotá.


We might get out of South America by Christmas 2024, but it remains to be seen. The thing is, because of the way Earth orbits the sun, the knock-on effect of taking longer in South America could put us back a whole year.

Setting off from Ushuaia in March 2024 means cycling from Very Far South during the southern hemisphere’s autumn. Tierra del Fuego will already be coming out of its mild summer and moving towards real cold. As we travel north, it will get warmer for two reasons: the beginning of summer and our proximity to the equator.

It follows that the best time to arrive in Alaska is in the northern hemisphere’s summer. So, if we get to the top of South America by the end of 2024, that leaves us with eight(ish) months until the end of the Alaskan summer. In other words, it might make sense to keep going without pausing for a cup of tea, because otherwise the mild Alaskan summer will be over by the time we get there.

If, on the other hand, it takes us longer to travel the length of South America and we end up in Colombia in, say, the first few months of 2025, then it might make more sense to hang tight there until the end of 2025 – find work, volunteer – so as to avoid travelling north as the northern reaches of North America enter winter. Winter is always coming. Unless you live in the Philippines. Or I guess Central America.

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202_ – Central America to Alaska

The same goes for Northern America. The route I’d like to take goes via the Yucatán Peninsula and Tabasco, through New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, Navajo Nation, Moab, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park and the Rockies, Kootenai National Forest, Washington State’s scablands, and Yukon.

In other words, lots of cool stuff. Maybe we’ll be sailing past it all, at pace, in 2025. But there’s always the possibility that things change by the time we’re on the continent and/or we’ve taken an eight-month breather in Costa Rica. If so, that’s another great time to visit. 😉

That’s all for now. I hope this was informative and/or interesting. Life is a moveable feast, so check in here or, hell, with us directly for more up to date info on how we’re getting on. I will be posting stuff here as we go, and we’ve set up a joint Instagram account with a really clever name that will be publicly viewable – meaning you don’t have to have an Instagram account to see the content on it – so stay tuned for that. Lots of love to all of you who got this far. X

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