Pedalling Prescotts crossed through Central Asia
Note: I had first interview of Steven Prescott and his wife Catherine Prescott in February 2015 when I met them in Samarkand Uzbekistan. This is their second interview. Since their journey is still On— therefore their interviews will keep coming up. Photos by Prescotts.
By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Question: How did you cross Central Asia? How many days weeks months etc
We arrived in Central Asia at the beginning of January by container ship in the port of Aktau, which we had caught from the Azerbaijan capital Baku. It was always our intention to cycle the entire way, however on our first day out in the Kazakhstan desert we had major bike issues. This meant that we had to hitch hike back to Aktau, catch a train to Almaty and get a bike mechanic to fix the problems. We then had a choice to make, take the easy option and wait in Almaty for a few days and then head to Nukus in Uzbekistan by train and start cycling; or take the train back west to Beyneu (a much tougher option) and cycle from there. That is what we did.
So breaking down our time in Central Asia can be done as follows:
4 nights in Aktau
3 nights on the train to Almaty
1 night in Almaty
3 nights back west to Beyneu on the train
From Beyneu we cycled the rest of the way. A total of 2,922km over 75 days. In this time we had 14 days off the bike in various places and 24 days off in Bishkek whilst we waited for a Chinese visa. In the end we had to fly to Hong Kong and back again to obtain our Chinese visa.
Question: What country fascinated you most in Central Asia?
At the time of year we crossed Central Asia the country that interested us the most was Uzbekistan. The remote desert, the Aral Sea, the cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand were all special places.
We absolutely loved Khiva and the guest house we stayed at was so nice and cosy and welcoming that it made us feel as though we belonged there. We also both love the stories of the Russian-British power struggle in Central Asia (AKA The Great Game), so seeing Uzbekistan in particular was a dream come true.
Had we been cycling through in the warmer months then our favourite country may well have been Kyrgyzstan; the mountains and scenery there look amazing. Hopefully one day we can return and cross the Pamir Highway by bicycle; fingers crossed.
Question: Any special event or memory regarding Central Asia or happened in Central Asia?
There are a number of special of memories, probably too many to write down.
I guess if I was to pick a moment that took our breath away it would be seeing the shore of the Aral Sea come out of the mist. That was amazing.
This said, the cycling from Tashkent to Bishkek via Kazakhstan was incredible. The beautiful mountains running next to the road were really special. The road from Bishkek to the Chinese border was also amazing, particularly for camping. We absolutely loved the plateau near the Charon Canyon in Kazakhstan.
On a human kindness side it would have to be our last night in Kazakhstan in the city of Merke. An English teacher pulled over and invited us back to a colleagues house for the evening. We were looked after like one of the family. Such a great experience and one that you just don’t get on a normal tour.
Other than those experiences I would have to say it was just the kind hearted nature of the people that made a huge impression on us; always willing to help, always wiling to look after us. This was really evident when we were on the train.
Question: What were your fears when you was crossing the lands of Stans (Central Asian republics
Our only fear of crossing this part of the world was the weather. Cycling huge distances across the Uzbek desert in the winter is dangerous. It is very cold and if you are not mentally and physically prepared it would be very easy to freeze. We were quite lucky out in the desert although on one day between Khiva and Bukhara we found it incredibly tough… but once again we pulled into a tea house and were really looked after by some incredible people.
Question: Anything you wish to share with us
If people are thinking of adventure then take the plunge. The first step is always the hardest and you can’t put a monetary value on the experiences you have and the valuable life lessons you learn. We like to say Live The Dream… life is short so live it well.