Saturday, February 29, 2020

Iceland Bike Trip 2016 // Exploring Europe's best tour destination // Slow Bicycle Touring // World Bicycle Travel

Cycling in Iceland has been a highlight for my transitional year back in Canada. After a decade teaching in South Korea and China, I landed labor jobs in my hometown - including professional lawn mowing the past few months for Rosati construction. Although I wasn't ready to ride, with the help of my brother/father (Pub rescue the night before the train/plane/flight, I made it to Keflavik, Iceland and checked into Start Hostel.


 Arrival on Iceland Airlines. Keflavik airport. then assembled and cycled into Start Hostel. (: I slept for several hours and awoke, still daylight outside (18 hours of sunlight in August). I returned to the parking lot where I rode the rental bus shuttle, the driver understood I needed to drop at a safe spot and assemble my bicycle, load the panniers and suitcase (overloaded) and then I returned for the 29er box. I used the same box from Windsor to Toronto, Ontario (VIA Rail train), Icelandair to Keflavik, Iceland.
On the first few days, I wanted to avoid the busy Route 1, so I started south towards Hafnir and jogged the southern coast to Grindavik (day 1) after visiting the Blue Lagoon (sight seeing only) I cycled through the rains and strong winds into a campground. The next day, the weather lightened up to 10 Celcius and sunny, I continued to pedal through Selvogur, and settled into another camp site in Porlakshofen (day 2). I explored the local spas/family swimming pools and started to soak up the Icelandic sun.

Keflavik Airport is conveniently located nearby a former U.S. Air Force base. The housing complexes are now home to friendly Icelanders and Hostels like the Start pictured above. Hostels are not cheap in Iceland, this place had beds in shared rooms for $70 USD per night. It's best to start/finish a tour here. And camping runs about $17 USD per night across Iceland, plan to add $10 for the local Spa/Swimming Pools. It is well worth it to plan ahead for Iceland, or visiting Europe for a bicycle tour. It's expensive for bike travelers.
Smooth bike path and Highway access to Reykjavik, Iceland for those traveling North towards the West Fjords is a popular route from Keflavik airport in the southwest. I chose to pedal across the southern coastline towards the Blue Lagoon.

Smooth Icelandic open roads beckon and welcome travelers, campers, cyclists, caravans from Europe and Iceland. I met German, American, Canadian, French, Italian, Spanish, and many other Europeans at campsites and some visiting the local municipal swimming pools to soak in geothermal water. It's awesome!
 Expect different types of weather, I was soaked to the bones - absolutely frozen wet inside and out.

Land Rovers are popular vehicles for F-Roads and camping across Iceland.

My Daily Routine in Iceland:

Each day, sleep, eat, cycle all day, find a municipal swimming pool with spa and check into a campsite. I would setup my tent, lock the bike, and enter the swimming pool as soon as possible for a warm soak. Once I settled down for the day, I would swim, socialize and sun tan poolside, and repeat!.











I cycled inland and up to Selfoss (Day 3/4) (the southern hub for trekking/cycling trips into the interior. There I met David at the local Spa/Geothermal Swimming pool in Selfoss. We also met some Norweigians and had a great conversation about the country. The warm waters in the jacuzzis contrasted perfectly following ice-cold days cycling, the hardest being wet from sweat, and wet from rain blowing in horizontal due to all the prevailing winds. Iceland lives up to it's name, even in summer, but the geothermal energy is harnessed and water flows into the Spas in most larger towns. Icelanders prefer hydroelectric and geothermal power over the wind-turbine technologies being towered across Canada today. The prefer to preserve the natural landscapes, and I am sure visitors from around the world on tours prefer it.

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More stories and photos coming soon! (:

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 (Foss) Waterfalls are abundant in Iceland, they are marked on maps and roadsigns. Some are 500 meters from the main roads, others are hidden throughout the backroads. It's easy to explore here, 100,000 square Kilometers of landscape, with a local population of 320,000 people, Iceland is a unique country with culture, customs, language and friendly locals that take their time and welcome visitors. It's the place to explore.
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Pedal slowly, see more Flora details in the landscape. Here in Iceland, it's a world to explore.
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“Riding bicycles will not only benefit the individual doing it, but the world at large.”
Udo E. Simonis, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Policy at the Science Centre, Berlin
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MORE STORIES AND PHOTOS COMING SOON FROM ICELAND, ENGLAND, FRANCE 2016

Bicycle Touring Adventures in Turkestan, China // Exploring the Himalayas on Bicycles // Fitness test

The Plan: To Cross China from the Deserts of East Turkestan (Taklamakan Desert Region and the Tian Shan Mountain Ranges to the Silk Road) and emerge across the Himalayas. 
Duration: Approximately 50-60 days.
Cycling Route: 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles 
East to West (Train to Urumqi 3700 kilometers, 36 hours)

HIMALAYAS X 2011 STATS:
MODE: MTB Mountain Bike
TOTAL DAYS: 45 
DAYS ON: 38 days pedaling
DAYS OFF: 7 rest and injury days
ALTITUDE: N/A meters / feet of altitude change on course
DISTANCE: 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles
FOOD CONSUMED: 20 loaves of Nan bread, 2 kilograms of oatmeal with raisins, apricots and dates, 45 mega-packs of vitamins/minerals, 1.5 kilogram of Gatorade (making 50 liters)
6 jars of pickles, 10 liters of grazing Goat milk, 8 bowls of noodles/meat/fat, 2 kilograms of rice.
WEIGHT: Start 96 kilograms. 10 weeks cross-fit 85 kilograms. Completion weight 70 kilograms. 
EQUIPMENT CARRIED: Northface Tadpole2 Tent, Thermarest Lite, 4-season down sleeping bag.
EQUIPMENT DAMAGED: Rear wheel split 360 degrees, repaired with block of wood, hammer and electrical PVC tape roll, 1 bicycle tube patch.
PHOTOS TAKEN: 1500
SONGS PLAYED: 14
TRAIN RIDES: 37.5 HOURS
FERRY: Incheon, South Korea to Tianjin, China

In late June 2011, I started driving at 3:00am from Gangneung, Gangwon-do Province, South Korea across South Korea and arrived at 6:00am at the Incheon port.  I was in time for the large passenger-freight Ferry scheduled to cross over the Sea of China, To travel onwards from the Korean port City of Incheon with 3,000,000 inhabitants across the sea that separates the Korean peninsula from mainland China's Tianjin City, home to 12,500,000 people! The passenger ferry was the cheapest option with a bicycle and camping equipment to reach China overland or sea, about 140,000 Won.

Getting to Beijing from Tianjin port was actually fairly simple but you needed to be persuasive to get into any public transportation. I needed to take a local bus from the Port of Tianjin into the city center, then transfer to a Bullet train into Beijing home to 21,500,000 people!  The Chinese train personnel like to say, May-O (no) and I would reply, Cui ma! (yes). Be prepared to win the argument.

Beixingchao was a neighbourhood which I was the most familiar with navigating. Late nights or morning restaurants and bars were busy until 6:00am, and the back alleys with little signage presented some challenges to find my friend's apartment, but even then, 50 days later, I found the old bike chained to a lamp post, and knocked on Craig Kirk's door again, after cycling across China.

The train loading all persons in Beijing was overcrowded, oversold, overworked, hot and humid. I took my place in between the train's passenger cars, but the ticket to travel 3000 kilometers costs only $50.00.  In full cycling clothing, prepared for the enduring 36 hours of standing straight up, this is what you can expect when you haven't made a reservation and schools out for the summer.
I want to share the view from between the train cars, this is where I stayed for a day and a half en route to Urumqi. My fellow train travelers both Uighur and Chinese, all were friendly and we all had the same goal to reach our distance destinations. I had no idea the train ride would take as long as it did, and the conditions, it was definitely one of the challenging situations I had to be patient enough to complete, no bathrooms, no food, I just kept drinking boiled water and sweat for hours and hours across the deserts of China. Here's a 1 minute video of conditions inside the train across China, now imagine being in this exact situation for 3700 kilometers or 36 hours, respectively. It's rough on the swelling legs and ankles, when I reached Urumqi, I began taking large horse pill sized aspirins 3x a day to thin the blood which pooled inside my legs and ankles. The physical condition improved once I was cycling again, outside of Urumqi, I spent about 3 days there with a host that hosted me in my recovery condition before leaving on the bicycle tour on my own again.


My overland train ride from Beijing to the destination city of Urumqi, in Xinjiang which is also known as East Turkestan by the local Uighur Turkic speaking, mostly Muslim inhabitants whose ancestors had crossed over the Silk Road through Kashgar, hundreds of generations ago from Turkey and the Middle East. In 2011, the year of my travels, the civil unrest in Urumqi had boiled over the previous year with violent clashes between the Uighur people and the ethnic immigating Chinese from the East. This summer, the police forces were visible in groups of 5-10 officers marching along streets in Urumqi and Korla, the cities all along the route were closely patrolled, but for my time here, I only had a few confrontations with any police authorities, not to say, Uyghurs had their lives dictated and closely controlled by these Chinese and co-participating Uighur police officers.

Individually, the Chinese and the Uyghurs were some of the friendliest people I have ever met on the road. Unfortunately, the Chinese developments in East Turkestan oil and mineral rich region come without a mutually-participating local Uyghur people involved in that development process. So, the new highway is indeed silk, cities are developing and growing with Chinese immigrating there, but it displaced the Uyghurs and this boiled over into civil unrest. As a visitor, I was treated with respect by Uyghurs and Chinese, but I witnessed the bullying Chinese police who enlist Uyghur officers to harass innocent people. It was much worse in this region for the Uyghur people when I read from  the news and websites, the discrimination of Uyghurs continues to this day.


It's politically western China today, this wilder western edge containing the Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim Basin lay between the Tian Shan Mountains in the north and the Southern Silk Road (Marco Polo) in the South, the Taklamakan Desert runs between them, and the Tarim Desert Highway stretches (552 kilometers) between Luntai and Meifung. I chose the Tarim Desert Highway because of a family I stayed with over the weekend in Korla, their father and his friend had worked there for China Petrol companies and recommended the route directly across the desert. The desert highway route consists of undulating desert hills which have been conquered by smooth tarmac ashphalt roads with small patches of grassland alongside it, protecting from the entrenching desert sands. The highway is frequented by truckers hauling gasoline tankers mostly, or the highway is deserted for most of the 5 days and 552 kilometers I pedaled through there.

From Urumqi, the bicycle route follows a main highway south that crosses the Tian Shan Mountains. Finding adequate water resupply thins right out in the mountains, I had to ask truckers for refills from their thermos bottles. Many boiled their water on stoves, and often passing motorists would hand out a bottle of water. There were streams running in the Tian Shan mountains, and Uighur villages with mud brick houses, but they were off the highway and seen in the distance. Once I reached Korla, you enter a new city, and it was well developed with paved wide roads and apartment blocks, street food vendors on main boulevards. I met a family in Korla, and the father's were coworkers from China Petrol, they expalined the way through the Taklamakan Desert which I made part of my route towards the Tibetan plateau. I took a long approach to reach the Tibetan region south of the Taklamakan and Aksai Chin Mountains because I had no idea if my access south would be permitted or not.
 
Do it yourself front racks assembled in Beijing.

These sisters helped their parents and sold watermelons from this blue moto-truck. 


Having a Map of China, helped ease navigation because it had Chinese characters and English. I could correlate between the highway signs and the map. It is also a great segway when talking to locals to refer to the map and to name all the places you have visited, and to point out where you are heading. They will sometimes make suggestions, and it engages everyone in conversation.

The Belt highway G314 was built right beside villages like this one. 
 A Mosque in Toksun small village. The G314 runs southwest from Urumqi, Xinjiang towards Khunjerab Pass, which is on the northern border of Pakistan. It is 1,948 kilometres (1,210 mi) in length. It goes southeast from Urumchi and south of Toksun it turns west and follows the north side of the Tarim Basin to Kashgar.   //   Source: [Wikipedia]

I visited a Chinese-themed park outside of Korla. My hosts all emigrated to this region from Eastern China. They were excellent and generous hosts! I saw the city developments, much like in Urumqi, developed by Chinese and populated by Chinese. In these settings, it would be easy to not see the plight of the Uyghur culture, whom have lived in this region for a much longer time.



My hosts and their families playing Mahjong by the man-made lake park in Korla. 





See that soldier on the horse, I will do that on a bicycle over the next few months.
Uyghurs in East Turkestan were friendly and curious about my bicycle and tour ahead, I told them I was from Canada, there was little response, I would refer to my paternal grandmother and say ROMANIA! And I would always get a positive response from people along this section of the Silk Road. (: My grandmother was born in Satu Mare, capital of Satu Mare County, Romania. The Uyghur people reminded me of unknown distant relatives, and I received their welcome on this journey.
Modern asphalt highway built by the Chinese, the Belt Road or New Silk Road, and the Tian Shan Mountains, the surrounding deserts, contrasting with aquaducts and trees seen in the left of the above photo in the populated town of Luntai, north of the Taklamakan Desert.





The locals boil water and drink it. I suspect that thermophiles still exist in the post-boiled water that is distributed and widely available from plastic thermos bottles in small hotels, gas stations, truck drivers, etc. since I collected it to refill bottles randomly, I consumed the water and had explosive diarrhea, see above photo! The cure was concentrated ginseng in paper cartons of glass flasks available at local shops and pharmacies in larger cities. Ginseng, indeed cured my shits and helped me throughout the roughest parts of this journey. I also used the remedy in the Himalayas.












Bam! And a fly already there to cash in on it!  I was hanging off bridges to launch these stomach eruptions into the culverts, this one got away too early! 













Through the barb wire fence, and into the rocky desert field, this was my campsite location for the night. Fortunately, having the Thermarest, and there was a sandy bank near those shrubs, allowed me to sleep flat on the ground off the rocky surface. I would ride until dark and setup camp in places like this. The Tian Shan Mountains southern border is in the background of this photo.







Refreshments all the products are Made in China. I would buy their sweet tea bottles.






 Road camp / Truck stop along the G314.

 Rough living at it's best. The Uighur cook prepared meat dishes for truckers and myself.

This truck driver and I got along well, he understood some English and acted as a translator. Later in the evening when more local truckers gathered, we hung out together and talked before I went back to my tent for some sleep. The cook (on left with white cylinder hat) had a gas generator running to light his open air street restaurant. The meat he served there, was laying out all day in the sun.

The cook and road stop restaurant entrepreneur. He burned random branches and wood that washed or blew across fields adjacent to the highway.





I got along with everyone except one man, he wasn't in any of my pictures. He threw stones at my tent and over my head hitting the other tent building. Eventually, I confronted him and grabbed his shirt by his neck while others translated to cool off the situation. He was a redneck in these parts.
Truckers took time to test ride the bike, many asked where was my engine, suggesting still, that I needed to travel by motorcycle as it is so much faster than a bicycle.

 Highway sign for Luntai. The road south from the G314 to the Tarim Desert Highway.
Local shop in Luntai. Definite must-stop before crossing the 552 kilometer Tarim Desert Highway.















 With City officials in Korla, Turkestan.

 Wonderful hosts in Korla, we met at a petrol station and I ended spending the entire weekend.
 Street meats, no kidding there! Meat and bones out in the fresh air to view!















PART TWO of this Post: 
Himalayan Bicycle Touring along the Tibetan plateau.
 Further into the journey I cycled from Chengdu into the Himalayas. This is guest meal check in at a hostel. The group of cyclists I'm with are cycling to Lhasa, I woke from a wild camp in a field to see 10 cyclists all riding by above me. I flagged them down and joined their touring group en route.
 Kangding, Gateway to Tibet.
 The open rooftop of the Kangding Guest house / Hostel.






 A professor and student I met from Fudong University, Shanghai
 The professor and I walked up into the mountains surrounding Kangding City





 Tibetan scripts, which should be better preserved and respected than this.

 Local students on a school picnic.



 Inside a hair salon in Kangding, and outside the hair salon in Kangding. Remains of a Yak.








 Commercial Tour Operator's group of American students in front of another Guesthouse




Met a cool French traveller on the streets in Kangding, he is traveling western China for the summer






 This is how they build a house in this region. Bricks and cement, not a traditional Tibetan wooden structure.
Some cyclists designed this T-shirt, my favorite part is the Tibetan language.

 Himalayan bonfire near the hotsprings, it was a spooky highlight of the visit. A hike up into the mountains at night and then a soak in the thermal pools.


More adventures from the Himalayas coming soon! (From old photo stock...)

Please share the free inspiration and adventure cookbook with all your friends and families (:

Ted Simon Foundation

The Ted Simon Foundation

About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.


In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.


Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.


The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).


Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

Thanks for visiting my Journal from Asia

I hope you enjoy the updates!

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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