As I am again travelling on the silkroad, now on its southern branch, I will reuse the blog I wrote during my last big bicycle trip in 2010 going from Antakia in Turkey till Zhangye in Gansu province in China, i.e. the west end of the Chinese wall.
Now, seven years later there is again opportunity for a long bicycle trip. This trip will lead from the Pakistan capital Islamabad through all of China till Hong Kong at the coast of the Chinese Sea.
Starting date was May 1st 2017. Beforehand I managed to get my visa ready. For China the first attempt was declined and I was told that cycling in China would be illegal for foreigners. In the second trial one week later I did not mention my mode of transport and finally got a 60 days tourist visa. This more than expected but not enough because I will spend about two and a half months in China. So I need to extend it at a later date, probably in Chengdu.
Also the Pakistan visa didn't go through smoothly: I applied already 6 week before my departure. When I enquired 10 days before departure they told me that I would need an invitation letter from a Pakistani citizen or tour operator. With the help of the internet and 100$ money transfer to a travel agency in Islamabad (Karakorum Adventures) this was also solved and I got the needed letter.
Furthermore I invested in my Velotraum travel bike which I bought for my last trip in 2010 and replaced the complete wheels as the rims were a bit worn, at least I was not sure if they would be good enough for another 7-8000 km. I don't wanna take the risk of having a broken rim somewhere in the desert or on a remote mountain pass above 4000m. The handlebar was changed from a race type to one that is common on a mountain bike for a better harmonisation of brake lever and V-brake and hopefully less problems with sleepy fingers.
Flights and a few hotel stays in 4 Chinese cities were booked as both was needed for the visa application.
And finally I updated some of my vaccinations, especially polio which is a must for Pakistan. The Pakistani government wants to avoid bad reputation of spreading polio into the world and now when leaving the country one needs proof of a recent vaccination or one is vaccinated orally.
For the luggage I took my list of 2010 and optimised further. At that time I had about 22 kg luggage, now I boiled it down to 17 kg luggage (without food and without water), because especially when riding up mountains each kilo more reduces your speed considerably. E.g instead of having thick guide books (Lonely Planet) I now have an iPad and the electronic version of the books. The number of clothes is also reduced to a minimum, hence on photos I will probably always wear the same ;-).
By this I managed to put all my belongings in the two new Ortlieb back panniers and the small bag on the handlebar, tent, sleeping bag and mattress on top. Hence I could leave the front rack (low rider) and front panniers at home saving me at least another 2 kg.
The bike alone has also 17 kg. This plus the 17 kg luggage will be supplemented with ca. 0.5 - 1 kg food and 1.5 to 6 ltr water depending on the course ahead.