Switzerland. 7 September
We always knew that we wouldn’t be able to plan such a trip to the smallest detail. To be honest we never even wanted to do so. And when a few weeks ago we realised that this is it – the time has come to decide what we are going to do about the coming winter and trip to Himalayan mountains – we didn’t really stress too much about it.
When we started our trip we weren’t able to calculate exactly when we would reach Tajikistan. We only knew that we have to start as soon as possible. We roughly calculated and hoped to be there in September. In which case it would still be possible to reach high mountain passes before winter starts.
We’ve been cycling for four months now and we have some sort of a rhythm and a decent understanding how we want / like to travel. We are slow travellers. We like to enjoy places. We like to talk to people. We like to take in as much as we can. If we would stick to this rhythm chances are that we would reach Tajikistan only in the end of November.
We’d been gathering information about this region and people who did cycle in the end of the season long before our trip. Unfortunately the information we found wasn’t very pleasant. Winter starts early in the mountains. There are big chances of first snow even in September when the mountains are as high as in Himalaya. Winters are harsh there. Temperature can drop down to -20. And it can feel even colder on a windy day. We’ve heard many stories when snow storms bring so much snow that the roads remain closed for days.
Both Dovydas and I really wanted to go to this region as the landscape is so breath-taking. But we also knew that this part of our trip is going to be the hardest and the most challenging. The majority of mountain passes there are as high as 3-5 thousand kilometres above sea level. And cycling there during the cold season wouldn’t make it any easier. After we gathered even more information we started to think that thin air, strong minus temperatures and steep mountains combined is, frankly, an unpredictable combo.
We thought that we might have a slim chance to manage it but we weren’t sure. We did not want to spend a lot of time and money trying to get all the necessary visas and then face a wall of ice with no way forward.
I knew very well that Dovydas had the same hesitations as I did. But somehow I was feeling a bit guilty suggesting not to go. I knew very well how keen he was to go to that part of the world.
After several long discussions we finally decided how to proceed. This is our trip and we can do whatever we want. We can change our plans as much as we can, as many times as we want. So we agreed to find a different route to reach India.
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China is no longer on our route. We’ll have to find another time in the future to visit these beautiful countries. And I know we will definitely want to cycle through Pamir and Karakoram highways one day. But for now we will have other adventures in other countries.
Oh and by the way, about those best wishes from Switzerland! There is a reason why we are here. In the beginning of September our friends went to Italy to get married. We were invited long ago but said that we would not be able to be with them on this day as we were a bit short on time to get to Tajikistan. But once we decided not to cycle through Himalaya, we didn’t have any more deadlines to meet. So we left our bicycles and other belongings with an amazing Turkish family who hosted us for quite a few days and flew to Europe. We had an amazing few days in Italy by lake Como where we celebrated the wedding. We thought it might not be enough just to spend a couple of days in Europe so we decided to go to Switzerland and have a lovely holiday with friends.
In a few days’ time we are packing our backpacks and flying back to hot Turkey where we will start cycling once again. I think we’ll stay in Turkey for another two weeks or so and then we’ll go to explore Iran. We’re still unsure of how we will reach India but we’ll figure it out soon enough. Once we know our updated route, you’ll be the first to hear about it.
But for now, warm wishes from Europe!