Some questions I've been asked
1. From Sam, a New Zealander living in Holland and planning to ride the Pamir Highway
I was hoping you could give me some advice about cycling in Tajikistan. I've managed to wrangle six weeks off work in August and September. I've wanted to cycle the Pamir Highway for ages, and am planning to do it in this window. I see from your website that you cycled pretty much exactly the route I'm planning to do, so I was hoping I could tap you for some advice.
At this point, I'm planning to cycle Dushanbe to Osh, or vice versa. Those are the best places for me to fly into from Holland. The other options are to fly into Tashkent and out of Osh, or into and out of Dushanbe.
Here's what I'd like to know:
1. What's a realistic time estimate for cycling the Dushanbe-Pamirs-Osh route? To give you an idea of my fitness, I usually cycle 100-150km a day on a loaded tourer in the Alps. My Europe trips are usually only a week long, so I might slow down a bit over time (and at altitude), but that gives you an idea. Judging by the blogs I've read, it seems that most folks do the Dushanbe-Pamirs-Osh stretch in 30-35 days.
2. Do you have any suggestions on whether it is better to ride west-east or east-west?
3. How is the cycling between Dushanbe and Samarkand? If I can fit it in, one option is to start in Osh, cycle to Dushanbe, then kick on to Samarkand. Then I'd take transport from Samarkand to Tashkent and fly out of there. I think it's a bit ambitious in the time, but I'm interested to hear if you have any thoughts.
1. I would say 30 days including the Wakhan Valley detour should be enough to get you from Dushanbe to Osh. It's about 1,300 km for the Pamir Highway I think, so say you do 70 km per day, that's 19 days, or around 22-23 with rest days. If you wanted to detour into the Wakhan Valley (thoroughly recommended!) you would turn off the Pamir Highway at Khorog (west-to-east) or at just after Alichur (east-to-west). The Wakhan Valley is really worth the extra effort, it's stunning. You'd probably need an extra 4-5 days to do it. So that's about 28 days from one end to the other. I think that's a fairly quick pace, but definitely possible if you're fairly fit. Your visa won't last much longer than this anyway so you'll need to get through. This will give you another week or so to get to Samarkand - you could always hitch if you're behind schedule.
2. I did west-east but met many people doing it the other way. I did seem to have a headwind for a lot of the Pamir Highway but this may be bad luck, I don't know which way the prevailing wind direction is. If you did east-west, you would have a huge off-road climb from Sary-Tash to the Tajikistan border post but I'm sure you'd be fine on it. I would probably say that west-east is a better way, it would have the feeling of getting more and more remote, rather than going straight from a remote area, to the capital city. But saying that Samarkand would be a much better finishing point than Osh.
3. I didn't do the normal route for this bit because the border near Panjakent was shut due to civil unrest. This meant that I had to cross near Denov. The cycling was fantastic though, really remote desert, with awesome rock formations. The people were very friendly too. I don't know about the more normal, shorter route north of Dushanbe but I think there is a lot of climbing on it.
Bear in mind that you'll need to get an extra visa for Uzbekistan (not always that easy!)
2. From Darren, planning a trip around the globe
Thanks for the reply. I aim to set off in the Summer 2014, which should hopefully give me plenty of time to plan, fundraise and create awareness of the trip. Sounds good but bear in mind that some places you won't get through very easily in the winter (high mountains, siberia...) and that some places are very very hot in the summer; (death valley, outback...). Plan your route so that you don't go through these places at these times, unless you want that challenge - I didn't though!
What was your budget for the trip and is it really possible to live on $2 a day? $2 sounds very cheap, but $5 is do-able. It really depends on the country that you're in and how much you're willing to wild camp. I reckon I lived on $5 per day for most of the trip though.
I would like to create as big a 'hype' as possible for the trip and gather as many sponsors as possible. I would like to create a website, as you have. I believe I know people with these capabilities so I can ask them. Try making your own website on Google Sites, it isn't too difficult - that's what I did. I would send off loads of emails asking sponsors for stuff and you might get one reply out of every 50 you send. The sponsors that I used may be a good starting point as you know that they have sponsored a cyclist in the past. www.tombrucecycling.com/sponsors
Do you have any advice for creating media interest in the trip? Not really, except don't waste your time with the national newspapers, they're only interested if you're willing to do something crazy, like tow a telephone box or something stupid like that. If you are unlucky enough to have an accident or get kidnapped (not likely) then they might listen to you're story but otherwise, they are more interested in celebrity boob jobs or big news stories. The regional papers will write an article on it though, so approach any that you have a link to. At what stage of your planning did you approach potential sponsors? From about 6 months before I left For example, did you set up the website beforehand, offering them a kind of proof that you are doing it? Yes
Also how did you approach sponsors, did you ask for financial help or was it equipment that came first? Equipment - don't waste your time asking for money, you might as well spend the time you'd need to do this working and you'll almost definitely get more. (I know it's a lot easier to get equipment). What did you offer the sponsors in return? Access to my photos, a link on my website, mentions in talks/articles and my book.
I would like to document my trip as well as write about the trip. I would like to write a book on my trip, as you did. (By the way I would be interested in buying your book). I'm sure it will help me. www.tombrucecycling.com/book
I know that I would like to cycle around Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. You're probably looking at a 3-4 year trip if you want to do all of these continents - have you seen Alistair Humphrey's website? I would change the route you took through Asia to include South East Asia. In terms of the planning stage, was it the route you designed first? Yes, but it changed quite a lot due to visa problems, you'll see what I mean if you read my book. Did you also meticulously plan your financial budgets in each place? No - I just lived on the bare minimum all the time In general, what are the most important factors for planning this trip? Get decent kit, get a guideline route in place, work out a timescale (50 miles per day easy, 70 miles a day do-able with some time off in the evenings, 100 miles a day no time to see anything) and schedule in some rest days. find out which borders you can cross and where you can get visas, (you can see how early stage this is).
I also know very little about cycling, is this a problem? Definitely get a bit of training in and learn how to fix your bike because you'll certainly need to at some point I guess I can learn everything I need to know when I get a bike. I would say that I am quite fit, but I imagine the constant distances every day do wear you down, this is something the body naturally gets used to though right? For sure - you'll want to get your body and particularly your knees used to doing big miles before you go though
3. From Alex, 17 years old and planning a trip up Everest!
Planning to write a biography-style book after my record-breaking Everest climb next Spring. I think my story and age will make it quite a unique one that can appeal to a large target audience of young people. Check out my website www.alexstaniforth.com for more info.
Keen to learn as much as I can about how the process works and how to begin, if you have time to advise at all? Would really appreciate any tips/advice etc.
First up - make sure you keep a very thorough diary of what you do because you'll forget the details that can make the book great. I wish that certain sections of my dairy had been a bit more complete - it's hard to do so at the end of a long day but it'll be worth it.
Unfortunately the world of publishing is a very very competitive place and unless a publisher sees something extra special or you are a celebrity/have an unusual story (i.e. an accident or something) it is hard to get a publisher. I have tried very hard and have been offered three publishing deals, all with me putting money in, ranging in amounts from £1,500 - £5,000. I sent off probably 200+ emails and letters to publishers and these are the only offers I've had. I was tempted by the lower end offer, but decided to self publish in the end and since I have done, my book has gone down well and is selling about 100 copies/month.
Self publishing is a good option in my opinion. You get much higher royalties and have more control over getting the book completed in exactly the way that you want to.
If you want to go down the traditional publishing line, you'll have to come up with a USP, which you already have, being the youngest Brit to attempt Everest. With the people you have behind you, you will probably have a decent chance of getting published. What I would say is that if you don't get a large publisher on side, with connections and that are able to bring in sales for you, it probably isn't worth it and self-publishing is a better option.
Not may publishers these days take unsolicited manuscript submissions, but if you search on google, you will find some. To approach the larger publishers, you'll need to go through an agent, who'll take a cut of your royalties..