Touring - Around the Black Sea: Am I insane?
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Here's the plan:
I fly to Paris starting May 1st, and ride clockwise around the Black sea. This will send me through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, (this is where it gets dodgy) Southern Russia, Georgia, (heading back west now) Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Northern Italy, and back to Paris.
This will be a fully self supported tour, and I hope to camp as much as possible. I plan on riding about 80km per day, with 60 of that being progression distance, while the other 20 is reserved for side trips and/or getting lost...
I've heard that southern Russia and Georgia are very sketchy politically and there are lots of guns and bullets going around, so I'm wondering if anyone knows if there is any way of taking a ferry or something like that across the black sea from Ukraine to Eastern Turkey.
I've only ever toured in Western Canada before, and my longest has been 10 days.
My Dad has said that he's going with me, and he's pretty tough on a bike, but he's never toured before, and has done almost no camping. He and I agree that he'll likely drop out by about Germany.
All comments are welcome, especially those dealing with advice on surviving, advice on getting my Dad to understand what he's getting himself into, and advice on camping.
10-13-04, 08:17 PM
Well, I can't give any advice on touring in Europe, But My Dad has said that he plans on going with me on my 1200 mile trip through VIrginia and the appalcians this coming summer. I originaly thought it would be too much for the old guy, but he just started riding a lot based on my advice to him and now he can comfortabley ride 40-50 miles at a shot multiple days in a row. All I can say is make sure he understands without a doubt what he's getting into. As for him not camping much, well thankfuly my dad used to camp alot and enjoys camping, so I have no advice there, but I am getting him one of those Thermarest 2" luxury sleeping pads so he can recover better everynight.
Nah... not insane. What a person can achieve is usually very surprising and unbelievable. Go for it!!
Oh, make sure you bring along a camera. It'll be nice to bring us to your world over there :)
Most of the trouble in Caucasus appear to be in the eastern parts, but I guess the logical thing to do is to stay away.. I did some searches for ferries guessing there would be something leaving Crimea to Trabzon (eastern Turkey), but I didn't find anything (doesn't mean there isn't any connection, of course). Odessa-Istanbul appears to be the usual route, but I did find this (http://www.ukrferry.com/eng/services/ferry.asp) from Ilyichevsk (near Odessa?) to Batumi (Georgia, but very close to the Turkish border). Leaving from Odessa would mean missing big parts of Ukraine, which is why I (if I was planning such a journey) would prefer to leave from Crimea (http://www.qsl.net/uu2jz/crimea.jpg). BTW, I'm currently in the process of convincing my touring friend that a couple of days in Ukraine (Lviv and northern Ukrainian Carpathians) would be a nice detour on a potential Gdansk-Vienna tour :).
On the "dad" issue. If the plan was that he should join you on the whole tour I would definitely suggest a shorter tour beforehand, preferably already done. However, since the plan is that he will join you for maybe 10-14 days I guess that's not really necessary - he can always drop out sooner (if he doesn't like it) or later (if he does). One way to get a feeling of what he is getting himself into is reading a bunch of travelouges, there's plenty at the Trento Bike Pages (http://www-math.science.unitn.it/Bike/).
And yes, I agree. A camera is mandatory equipment, combined with a daily journal :).
10-14-04, 06:25 AM
i say... GO FOR IT! i have had an exquisite time in eastern europe. i have never had any issues with russians, and even the ruffians turn friendly when they find an american who speaks the language. russian (language) is fairly universal, even in czech, bulgaria, yugoslavia. i wouldn't sweat it. eating and living is cheap, and the balkans are beautiful. that area also seems to be the spawning grounds for the supermodels of the world... something in the water, i guess.
10-14-04, 08:15 AM
Sounds like a great trip. Your daily distance estimate (60-80 km) is realistic and not difficult in flat terrain. Definitely allow for days off the bike so that your monthly distance will end up being considerably less than 1800 km (60 km x 30 days), say 900-1500 km/month. That's what my wife and I averaged over a long tour, and she's not much of a biker. We like to do lots off the bike: visit towns, markets, beaches, hike,...
Our long tour started along the Black Sea. We rode from Istanbul to Inebolu. The mountains are very steep along the coast and of course you're going against the grain so there's constant up and down. Even though I ride hills here in Colorado I found this terrain tiring and difficult. We had planned on riding further along the Black Sea, but instead headed inland and found the cycling much more pleasant. On the day we left the coast we climbed a ~1700m (? you can see it on the map; Ilgaz Degedci? - sorry I forgot the Turskish word for pass) pass and thought it was the easiest day of cycling so far. That of course was only 7-10 days into what turned into a 22 month trip.
I don't want to discourage you, but I thought I'd warn about those coastal mountains. When you'll get that far along, you'll know if the hills are reasonable. My wife had only ridden a loaded touring bike for two days before Istanbul, and those coastal mountains were an unfair introduction.
10-14-04, 04:10 PM
Yes, you are definitely insane. May I go with you? Oops, can't. I will be doing my cycling tour of whisky distilleries and breweries in Scotland at the same time.
Well, riding your bike through Afghanistan and Iraq would be insane. Your tour looks pretty do-able and safe, just use your common sense, that's all.
I wouldn't stress about it. Just use your common sense, pack sensibly, bring guide books about all the regions, and have respect for the cultures you're visiting. You'll do fine.
12-13-04, 02:31 AM
Buz, if you have sone problems in Bulgaria - do not hesitate, call me !http://bgbybike.tripod.com/index.htm
12-13-04, 03:15 AM
oh i want to do afghanistan and iraq, but have to wait for some time.
12-13-04, 06:00 AM
OF COURSE YOU ARE INSANE
So were Colombus, Magellan, and Drake. and prob a whole lot more of us on here
But the idea is to recognize what is important to YOU
My first long trip to Europe, 2 months past summer, opened so many new doors, that
I'm still getting e-mails and reg mail from folks I met along the way,plus I have
an invitation to meet with a Spaniard from Madrid, who I met in Germany, and ride for
a month with him in Spain in April or May next year
Smile a lot, wave a lot. If you can spare the weight and space take along some stuff
you can give away. I took postcards from Florida,six SOBE t-shirts and some ball caps.
GO, have FUN, problems along the ride always seem to disolve with some rest and
oh i want to do afghanistan and iraq, but have to wait for some time.
"Some time" is putting it mildly. Keep in mind what happened to the last backpacker (from Japan) that meandered into Iraq. He was taken hostage and killed.
12-13-04, 07:41 AM
am totally agree with Travelinguyrt, for the we-have-seen-it-all people, weīre totally insane, should be put into asylum and guarded by aliens with BGFs. why go the hard and miserable way when you can just sit comfortably in the car with airconditioning, watching the lastest, hottest movie with surround sound? why fuss with pitching a tent and cook your meal over a heartwrenchingly small stove when you can just have dinner in a big and luxurious 10 star restaurant and sleep in a bed whose pillow is bigger than your 4-season tent? why bring all these heavy and dirty gear when you can just have them all in the nice, exquisite, classy box with 2 little nice and cute wheels?
yeah, i know itīs extremely dangerous to do afghanistan and iraq now, with all these turmoils in the world sometimes i think itīs near impossible to do some countries. and i donīt like the idea at all.
12-13-04, 08:28 AM
This sounds like an excellent trip. The title caught my eye since two of my longest tours to date have involved going around bodies of water (Lake Huron and Lake Erie in North America).
Why don't you go on a weekend tour first with your dad? This would be a short, simple two day tour that lets him get a taste of touring while allowing both of you to check out your gear in advance of the big tour. In addition to hopefully having fun this would also likely give you a chance to relieve some pretour anxieties.
I am hoping that you do keep a journal and take some pictures that you will share with the rest of us. I for one would really like to hear about your tour as seen through your eyes!
12-13-04, 10:12 AM
If you want to be really adventurous, go through Kazakastan. I got an e-mail from a friend this weekend, and I copy one paragraph:
Am currently in Kazakhstan doing diligence on some copper and zinc operations in the central part of the country. Last night I was giving a going-away dinner, which included fermented camel's milk and roasted horse meat and horse *******. I managed to stomach the horse *******, but just about threw up on the fermented camel's milk. I believe its an acquired taste.
12-13-04, 10:15 AM
Hmmm, one work was censored. It referred to the part of the horse where the excrement exits.
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