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CyclingFurther

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Ukraine and Crimea

Entering Ukraine has been harder than expected, as the border we intended to cross, by boat on the Danube delta, had been closed from the ukranian side in Izmail. We therefore had to cycle back to Galati, ride an extra 200 km backwards,then cross Moldova before entering Ukraine. 

We cycled in rural areas of the south west Ukraine, experienced the poor state of the roads, flat landscapes, huge fields, and great hospitability of the people, who always provided us shelter for the nights, tasty food and vodka toasts. The only big city we stayed in was Odessa, where we first met the black sea, its beach resorts and night clubs, mainly filled by ukranians and russian on holidays. 

The area we explored the most was Crimea, an autonomous peninsula surrounded both by the Black and Azov sea. Fascinating piece of land with several types of people armenians, bulgars, tatars, moldovian, russians, ukranians ; and  landscapes -flat lands, high mountains, canyons, beaches, small villages and party towns. We found there awesome people, among which a fisherman only fishing by hands in apnea who let us put our tent at his place, a 60 years old uzbek cyclist on his way for a 7 months trip around the black sea, a retired clinical researcher whom we camped with, advocating his raw food diet and fasting habits that helped him cure his cancer, or hippies from the ex-USSR gathering for a month lost in the nature.
We've cycled between mountains and beaches under strong heat, and wild camped most of the time surrounded by breathtaking landscapes.
Crimea has been a hard piece of cycling, but very rewarding and we'll keep unforgettable memories from the area, which you should visit before it gets too known in the west.

After a week spent in the nature, we got back to Kerch, the last city before Russia, and took a 2 days ride in a cargo boat that led us to Georgia, allowing us to bypass Abkhasia, a disputed territory between Russia and Georgia that considers himself an independant state, but only recognized by a handful of countries. As a west european, it is nearly impossible to get a visa and cross the territory.

We just arrived in Georgia, where we are experiencing a whole new world, a crossroad between the north and the south, the west and the east...
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CyclingFurther's profile photoAlexander Felker's profile photoZsolt Pinter's profile photoBenedicte Martinez's profile photo
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+Michał Dziewoński we just came back to Belgium, after 7600 km on the road! Updating the Google+ page became more and more difficult, but now that I m back, I ll work on it!
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CyclingFurther

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Transfagarasan

We just spent 2 days crossing the Carpatians from north to south through one of the most incredible road in the world, the Transfagarasan, built by Ceausescu in the 70s for military purposes. 6000 tons of dynamite were needed to build just half of the road, and 40 soldiers died in explosions.
The road opens only 3 months a year, usually from june to september, and is therefore currently closed. Locals were telling us we could be able to make with our bicycles, so we gave it a try....even if the only people we've met on the way were going on the other side, telling us the road was blocked with snow at some point. Anyway, we kept on cycling.

We gained 1500 meters elevation on the first day, encountered a bit of snow, then a lot of snow, then too much snow. We had to unload and carry the bicycles to go through several parts and ended up on sketchy areas, as some parts of the road were completely covered with huge amounts of snow, leaving us with our bikes walking next to the cliffs.
After 5 hours of struggle and the steepest, thoughest 30 km of the trip, we finally made it to the top at the lake Baleal before the sunset, and stayed there for the night, exhausted.
The way down was supposed to be friendlier (south side), but the first bit turned out to be even more complicated. We entered the longest tunnel in Romania, closed as well, riding in pitch black on black ice, then faced 5 meters high snow walls covering the entire road and leaving us with big cliffs on our right side. We carefully made it through the hard part, arrived safely on the road, and cycled for the next 60 km without seeing anyone except truck drivers carrying trees, and pedo bear with a kid.

So, all in all, pretty happy to be back on flat land, and proud to be the first people crossing the Transfagarasan with a vehicle in 2012 :)
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Sébastien Gaboriau's profile photoMarcin Lipowiecki's profile photoBenedicte Martinez's profile photoAlexandru Burlacu's profile photo
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+Philipp Weimer the countryside is definitely not belonging to our times :) On the other hand, we are just back from Bucharest, which we found pretty high tech.
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CyclingFurther

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After a 127 km ride from the hungarian border, we are now in Plescuta, a remote village hidden in romanian hills. Supermarkets, discotheques and fancy cars have been replaced by homemade cheese, tractors, horses and chickens running around. Rural life is being carried on by the older generation, as most of the 25-60 years old have moved towards bigger cities. It feels like centuries ago, here.
We've met Tuica distillers, pork killers, and retired accordion gypsy players who came back from France decades ago.
Next stop : Deva, one step closer from the Carpates. Cycling there tomorrow!

More pictures and detailed stories on the blog, http://cyclingfurther.com/
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Michał Dziewoński's profile photoJonas Voss's profile photo
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CyclingFurther

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Szechenyi spa baths in Budapest, where people play chess and go to dry sauna above 100 degrees celcius.
Great place to relax before the start :)
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Julien Blanchez's profile photoCharlotte Blanchez's profile photoGabor Kocsis's profile photoCharlotte De Poorter's profile photo
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everything burned. Footage burned too.
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CyclingFurther

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3 weeks away from the start of our journey, we're currently busy with all our visas applications. As european citizens, we are allowed to freely travel with our passports in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia, but need visas for all the other countries (6 in total).

If you're considering such a trip, here are few things you should know about :

Most visas can be used only within 3 months after emission.
If you travel for longer, it is important to know where you can get visas on the way, and have all the papers ready, otherwise troubles might delay your trip for several weeks. We'll most likely get our visas for China and Mongolia in Bishkek or Tashkent.

Papers you might be required to provide at embassies
1) Contract from employer.
2) Bank statements.
3) Letter of invitation from local citizen. If you don't know anyone from the country, +CouchSurfing (couchsurfing.org) can be very useful to quickly get in touch with friendly locals willing to host you.
4) Hotel booking, especially if you don't have letter of invitation from a citizen.
5) Proof of travel and medical insurance. We got insured with http://www.mondial-assistance.com/, it seems to be recognized everywhere, and pretty good overal (270€ for a year)
6) Fingerprints (!)
Scanning all official papers and upload them in Google Docs is to best way we found to make sure we can get them back even if we lose paper versions.

Country specific requirements
- It was fairly quick and easy to get our visas issued for kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan at their embassies in Brussels (even with procuration, as I was in Dublin). It looks like those 2 countries are very welcoming to european tourists, even on bicycles :)
- Azerbaijan : Fingerprints and onsite picture needed, no way to get it with procuration. We need an invitation letter from a local citizen, and as we travel by bicycle, we got told we need extra papers : bank statements, contract from employer, and hotel booking. Our first visit to the embassy was a fail!
- Turkmenistan : It seems to be a tough one too. You need a letter of invitation certified by the service of emigration in Ashgabat, which is not too easy to get. Otherwise, the proof that you have a guide or a certified travel agency taking care of you is required. We got an invitation and a home to stay, but we might face issues as it will be tough to get the letter certified on time. Let's see. If it doesn't work, we might have to cross Kazakhstan instead, as it is easier to get through (visa issued in a few hours in Baku).
- China and Mongolia : The whole set of papers with a certified letter of invitation is likely to be required, and it is said that the best place to get those visas in Central Asia is Tashkent, Uzbekistan (according to what I read on forums). It may be hard for cyclists to get the chinese visa, and saying you're taking the bus is apparently a good piece of advice :)

Still lots of paper work and administrative duties on our plate before leaving...If you have any tip or advice about visas in countries we cross, let us know!

Below, the first visa we got : kyrgyzstan
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Mariya Filippova's profile photoSila Awad's profile photoCyclingFurther's profile photoMariya Moeva's profile photo
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Awesome, +Mariya Filippova! It's a big country, but we can try to find each other if we make it there :)
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CyclingFurther

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Hi, and welcome to our Google+ page!
As first post, it is probably a good idea to introduce ourselves.
We are Nico (left) and +Yves Taquet (right), both belgians, knowing each other for quite some time, and having traveled together a lot over the past few years : several camping trips across eastern europe (mostly Croatian wonderful coast), music festivals (recommending Sziget and Dourfestival :), and more physical trips, such as Kilimanjaro climb with +Oxfam GB last year, where we took that picture.
This time, we decided to take it to the next level and go for a big journey on bicycle, from Hungary (starting in Budapest, where the idea was born) to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. We both quit our jobs to do it and got prepared for the past few months, getting our gear right, planning the journey, getting the visas (still some work to do there), and trying to get fit (big fail for that part on my side :)
We are starting the trip on the 1st on May in Budapest, and aim at reaching Ulan Bator somewhere in September.
We'll feed that page with pictures and hopefully interesting stories along the way!
Circle us, +1 us, comment us, etc :)
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François Le Niçois's profile photoConstantine Lopatko's profile photoSergio Schvezov's profile photoBenedicte Martinez's profile photo
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Désolé de ne pouvoir vous héberger à Nice, bonne fin de voyage
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CyclingFurther

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3 weeks in Romania and it is time to say goodbye and fly for new adventures in Ukraine!

After few days of rest and discoveries in Bucharest, the capital city, we got back on the road and cycled around 100 km a day for the past 4 days. The weather has been pretty unstable and we got hit by a few storms ; we're now used to cycle soaked :)
We have been hosted by founders of bicycle associations in all the towns we've stopped in, and experimented the unbeatable romanian hospitality all along the way.

Among the highlights of the past few days :
- Party (hard) in Bucharest clubs.
- Being received by the ambassadeur of Belgium.
- Cycling in the mud volcanoes in Buzau area, and going offroad without luggage.
- Meeting randomly, at the same place, 2 independent crews on motorbikes and jeeps also going towards Mongolia.
- Celebrating our host's birthday in a proper romanian style, and playing balkan beats for the whole neighborhood.
- Watching pelicans in Danube delta.

We've had an amazing journey through the country and met lots of amazing people. Let's hope it will be as good in Ukraine!

If you know anyone staying there who would be willing to host us or have some insights about the country, give us a shout!!
We go from Galati (Romania) to Odessa, then follow the cost and spend some time in Crimea. We aim at staying in Ukraine from 28th of may until the 12th of june or so.
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Sébastien Gaboriau's profile photoAlexandru Burlacu's profile photoAlexandru Rugina's profile photoBenedicte Martinez's profile photo
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From Plescuta to Sibiu, 3 days riding under the heat, starting to feel the mountains in our legs. We've been escorted by romani kids, had our best camping night so far, our first exposure with wolves, and got waken up by shepherd from another time. Landscapes are breathtaking, people extremely nice, food is natural and the weather is good. Romania is a big win so far. We'll start climbing the highest road in Romania tomorrow, the Transfagarasan, where we will find snow, and possibly bears too :)

More stuff on the blog, http://cyclingfurther.com/
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Philipp Weimer's profile photoJohn Randolph's profile photo
 
Good luck on that road :) Been there two years ago and this road is almost like a pass in Switzerland. So.... enjoy the ride downwhill :)
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4 days cycling in Hungary and we´re at the romanian border, precisely in Gyula. It has been flat and sunny, so we could push to 100 km a day on the good ones. Some of the things that happened to us :

- Being hosted in a farm and waken up at 3 am by the hens.
- Swim in Tisza river under the rain, and wild camp under the storm.
- Meet drunken farmers who were offering us (lots of) beer, and forcing us to stay there for the night (we still had to escape somehow!)
- Being stuck several times because of no bridge and wrong maps!
- Met hungarian 69 year old cyclist champion Laszlo Cseuz, who goes to every Olympics on bicycle for the past 20 years. We cycled with him and he even offered us to stay for the night at the local thermal resort :)
- Encountered brass band playing for village ceremony, and being offered sweets and hungarian red wine.
- Sore throat due to humid and slightly cold nights, which has to disappear soon as it s getting harder to eat now.

People are super nice and helpful with us, eventhough it is really hard to communicate as barely no one speaks english, and for us hungarian is unrelated to any language we know.

We re now being wonderfully hosted in Gyula, resting for a day, precaching google maps for the next few days enjoying thermal waters.

Back on the road soon :)
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Aaseesh Marina's profile photoClaire Grigaut's profile photo郭政霖's profile photoZsolt Horváth's profile photo
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+Philipp Weimer we're already experiencing friendliness of countryside romanian people :) We are 120 km away from the hungarian border, in a small village called Plescuta. Being hosted by retired school director, already tasted his great homemade cow cheese and apple tuica :)
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This is one of the two bikes that will carry us all the way east for a 7500 km+ ride. Both have the exact same setup so we'll need the same tools and repair kit. The key is to have the most robust and efficient bike using the most basic equipment, so that we can fix it in remote corners of the world. No hydraulic brakes, no telescopic suspensions, no carbon frame...this bike is somehow similar to what your grandparents use to cycle with :)

Here is what we got :
Fahrrad T400 bike with steel frame (weldable, as opposed to aluminium), 26 inches wheels with Schwalbe tires, and Shimano Deore 24 gears.

...and what we added :
- Ortlieb waterproof bike panniers (2 back, 2 front, and a little one on the handlebar)
- Tubus carriers, back and front. Able to carry up to 40 kg.
- Brooks saddle : leather saddle, handmade in the UK. This model is in their catalog for more than 100 years :)
- Ergotec adjustable hornbar, so that we can change position of hands and rest sollicitated muscles during the day.

Most of those rock solid products are made in a good, old fashioned german way. The whole bike worths around 1300 euros. I've been training fully loaded and it feels great riding it...incredibly efficient now that it's in perfect shape!

I'll let you know what's inside our bags in a latter post :)
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Thomas Hey'l's profile photoDanushka DeBack's profile photoClaire Grigaut's profile photoWalt Thomas's profile photo
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i want a video of the start, please!
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This is the itinerary we are aiming for, but we are well aware that it might be a very different story in the end. The idea is to start from Budapest and cycle east towards Romania, reach the coast of the black sea, go up towards Ukraine, cycle Crimea, take a boat to Georgia, cross Azerbaijan, then follow the Caspian sea down south towards Iran (or take a boat, we'll see with the timing), reach Turkmenistan then Uzbekistan (too hot at that time to cycle in the desert in Turkmenistan, we'll find another way :), cycle towards the beautiful mountains on Kyrgysztan, then land in gigantic spaces of Xinjiang in China, and finally reach Mongolia and end up the trip into the wild :)
We have no clue if this is feasible and realistic, but let's try to make it!
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King Peter's profile photoAnna Jansson's profile photoKatya Malinovska's profile photoKonstantin Zolotarev's profile photo
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How are you going to cycle accros the mountain from Osh city to Bishkek.. it's snowing up there..
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Have them in circles
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2 Belgians cycling from Hungary to Asia
Introduction
The adventures of 2 belgian guys cycling through Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Ouzbekistan, Kyrgysztan, then back to Europe and go from Hungary to Belgium.