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Silk Road Adventure 2015

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Dispatch from Jim Mattison

We found out that there is a monument at the lowest spot in Central Asia near where we were staying in Turpan, China. It is either the second lowest or the fifth lowest place on earth depending whether you count all the depressions around the Dead Sea as one place or four different ones.


In any case, there is a "park" created out on the desert and you have to pay to enter and the when you get to the parking lot, some guy with a donkey cart will take you the final 3 km to the monument.

Four of us got up at 4:30 in the morning to ride the 45 minutes out to the monument to see it. When we got to the park gates, the gate was closed but the bikes woke the guard up and, once we paid the entry fee, he let us in. We rode to the parking lot and there was no sign of man or beast so we rode our bikes down the cart path to the monument. My GPS says -161 m but the monument says -154.31 so I guess that is the correct elevation.


We waited for the sun to rise, took some pictures, then rode back and woke the guard to let us out.

Jim Mattison







Dispatch from Ken Southam

China – 9 June 2015


We crossed the border from Sart-Tash, Kyrgyzstan to Kashgar China on a road and border crossing that Google says does not exist but it does. The Chineese border crossing became our longest border crossing of all time.


The road was nicely paved and we went through 3 border checks before we were officially in China over about 100 km later. Border check 1 was a drop gate across the road in the mountains with several guards, an old camouflaged truck box office, big guard dog, outhouse and then we rode another 30 km and met our new Chinese guide at the second checkpoint, a larger gate and several very large empty customs buildings. There we had to clear Chinese immigration, which was the start of the hurry up, and wait exercises to come over the next 3 days. The second border post was getting a formal inspection by a ‘big boss’ and there were a lot of people running through the building standing at attention each time the big boss drove around the buildings to inspect that everyone was working.


The foreigners at the border crossing were outnumbered by about 5 to 1 by border personnel trying to look busy for the inspection at a border that only had the Globerides group and the vanload of other people over a 3 hour period. I think we were not processed while the big boss was there so that they had people at the border for the big boss to see. We waited in a room for about two hours before we were processed with 10 or so people who subsequently arrived at the border in a van. Our passports were checked again and then our bags were x-rayed and some searched lasting another hour or so.


After our bags were x-rayed and searched then a group of guards came out and decided to search the motorcycles pointing to random bags to open and close before we were told to wait again. We waited another hour before we given clearance to ride our motorcycles in convoy to the next border checkpoint 60 km further down a brand new nicely paved hi-way with no traffic. The next border checkpoint was larger and had a lot of trucks waiting to be cleared and we were told to wait in the customs hall for another hour before we again had our passports checked and stamped and again our bags were re-x-rayed and then we were told to wait another hour before they decided to disinfect one side of our motorcycles with some unknown chemical they were spraying all the trucks with. Then we were allowed to load up and proceed in convoy to our hotel. Welcome to China.


We were now officially in China but our motorcycles were not legal yet. The next morning after breakfast we rode our motorcycles 40 km to an inspection station that rubbed the serial numbers on some paper strip after another 1 hour wait and then we proceeded to the traffic police office and waited another three hours before the traffic police came and rechecked everyone’s motorcycle serial number and then we headed back to hotel for an afternoon tour of Kashgar. At 11:15 pm we were given a safety briefing that was supposed to happen at 10 pm by a police officer that told us the three road rules of China. Maximum speed limit is 120 kph; drive on the right, and to fasten our seat belts! Then the lady police officer had us pose for pictures with her and we were done with official road safety lesson. Some Swiss overlanders (2 landrovers and 8 people) also got their road safety lesson with us.


On the third morning we headed back out to the police inspection station to pick up our Chinese drivers licences and licence plates and waited another 3 hours before we left Kashgar without the proper paperwork to ride 465km to Akasu and to have the licences eventually follow whenever they were done by the chase vehicle. It made for a long travel day, as we did not start until 1 pm, but at least the roads were 4 lanes, empty and smooth as a billiard table. 120 kph became the minimum speed limit for almost everyone for the remainder of the day. The road was straight, smooth, toll hi-way (no motorcycles allowed) and absolutely no traffic. The toll booth guards let us pass to the right of the toll booth barricades. Welcome to China were traffic laws are often just suggestions. If you miss a turn on the toll hi-way you just turn around and drive the wrong way on the hi-way shoulder. No need to go 30 km down road to next exit at least in the western provinces.


We drove through the desert for 3 days and 1,400 km before eventually reaching Turpan the lowest spot in China and the second lowest depression in the world at 154 metres below sea level. Turpan is an oasis in the middle of the desert and was a major trading city on the ancient silk road. The local population is overwhelmingly Uighur and Muslim in this area of China far beyond the boundaries of the Great Wall of China that does not start until Jiayuguan another 1,200 km (3 days) further to the east through desert. On the way to Jiayuguan we visited the Mogao Grottoes from 366AD in Dunhuang, the best preserved Buddhist Grottoes we saw on the trip. Also in Dunhuang we visited the Mingsha sand dunes; big white sand dunes in the middle of the desert. All in all - the Gobi desert was 2,600km of desert and 6 riding days before we reached the western reaches of Great Wall of China and the start of agricultural farmland in China.


China is vast and it was further 4 days of riding and 1,400 km along the Great Wall of China before we ultimately reached the stone fortress walled city of Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Warriors - 53 days from start to the end of our Silk Road Journey. We packed our motorcycles with sadness in containers or crates for shipment out of China on day 54 before sightseeing in Xi’an for our final day at the end of our awesome silk road journey. What started out, as a group of mostly strangers is now a good group of friends from all around the world. Time to reflect, return home to our families and to dream about the next big adventure.


56 Days (19 days in China)


36 Hotels


14,015 km (8,760 miles)


17 motorcycles (15 BMW, 1 KTM, 1 Suzuki)


1 BMW sidecar rig


1 major breakdown – 2015 BMW R1200 GSA died by Kashgar and had to be trucked to Xi’an and shipped to Germany for warranty repair


Tried and tested – New Continental Tire TKC70, I would highly recommend, great tire life, lasted complete trip 14,015 km and there was still significant tread left on both the front and rear tires for I would guesstimate at least another 3,000 km. There is some cupping on the front tire, but not too bad as to make the tire run rough. My new go-to tire!


Essential New Tool to add to kit post trip – Best Rest Products, Bead Brakr or Adventure Designs Bead Breaker tire irons. Both worked on a Metzler tire that would not budge with the sidestand tire breaker method and 4 of us trying on the road near the Mongolian Border in China. We used Ian’s Bead Breaker 3 times (to repair) and Helge’s Adventure Designs Bead Breaker back at the hotel to replace Kurt’s tire. Without one of these tools the tire was not coming off the rim – period.




Dispatch from David Dardaris

I missed the last dispatch, so a bit of catching up to do concerning travels through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. My last comments in chapter two were from Bukhara, noting what a beautiful, vibrant city it was. Then on to Samarkand, which was the same type of place. Lots of people out and about, a very lively city with lots of history on display - old mosques, madrassas, bustling markets evoking the days of trade along the Silk Road. Certainly these two cities, in my mind at least, evoke the essence of what I was looking for in traveling through this part of the world.


Then we were into Tajikistan. Certainly, still connections with the trade of the Silk Road, but the history paled in comparison with the grandeur of the mountains and challenges presented by some of the poorest roads we have ridden on. Those of us who have lots of dirt riding experience thought it was great, me – not so much. First was the “Tunnel of Death”, a 3 mile excursion through an unlit tunnel, water falling through the ceiling forming large puddles which hid the numerous potholes in the crumbling, practically non existent pavement, pieces of rebar poking up through what remains of that crumbling pavement, oncoming traffic coming at you on the nominally 2 lane road with many places where construction machinery was blocking one of the lanes, very dark with the water on the road absorbing almost all of the light your headlight put out. We all made it through the tunnel intact, but I didn’t hear anybody saying “That was fun, let’s go through it again!”

That tunnel brought us to Dushanbe, another hub of the Silk Road with historical connections, but, most importantly for us, a chance for some bike maintenance – oil changes for most of us, tire changes for some. From Dushanbe, heading east and into the Pamir  Mountains, riding along the Tajik/Afghan border on one side of the Panj River, Afghanistan on the other side, for 2 days. We spent two nights in Horog, some taking the chance to ride into Afghanistan, some of us staying in town for the day and trying to go to museums only to find that they were all closed today for some reason. Took the chance to wander around the local bazaar and do some shopping at local handicrafts stores. Then, away from the river and into the real mountains. A couple of days riding on the most challenging roads so far. As I said, some really enjoyed the ride but it was a real challenge for me. I do have to say that I learned a lot about riding on these roads, I spent more time standing on my footpegs going through Tajikistan than in the whole rest of my life. A couple of days more riding in Tajikistan, a couple of spectacular mountain passes, then into Kyrgyzstan. Snow falling as we left the Tajik/Kyrgyz border, the air was cold but the road was  warm enough that it wasn’t sticking on the ground, not really a fun ride. But Kurt told me later that I looked great, standing on my pegs and ripping along the bumpy dirt road, looking almost like I knew what I was doing.


Only one night in Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan. Accommodations were two yurts for those who chose to sleep outside, or several shared rooms inside. I rushed into one of the yurts to stake my claim to sleep there, an unnecessary act on my part, as most everybody chose to sleep inside. I slept in one yurt with two others, two guys slept in the other. Not the most elegant facility – one pit toilet for all to share, no showers, but one of my favorite nights of the trip. A trip to the outhouse late in the evening revealed a clear sky and one of the most spectacular views of more stars than I have ever seen before.


By morning it was cloudy again, but dry, as we left Sary-Tash for the Chinese border. But not for long, we soon ran into more snow for most of the ride to the border. Hours of waiting at our border crossing, not unusual, but probably the longest wait time so far. Thankfully our last border crossing for this trip until  we actually head for home in a couple weeks.


As we came down from the mountains into China it got a lot warmer. Traveling into Kashgar through the Taklimakan Desert was interesting – windy, and the sky was filled with fine dust, making it almost look like fog, except it was very dry. The western provinces of China are mostly Muslim, the local natives are Uighur, of Turk descent, although the Chinese government has moved a lot of Han Chinese into the area, presumably to dilute the Muslim influence. Most of our first full day in Kashgar was spent at the Motor Vehicles office to have our bikes inspected and registered and for us to obtain our Chinese drivers licences. The inspection consisted of checking that our turn signals were in working order, we left at the end of the day without new license plates or drivers licenses. That evening we waited for an hour at our hotel for an official to come and brief us on Chinese driving laws. Then the official finally arrived about 10PM, spent about 5 minutes to tell us that the speed limit on highways was 120 km/hr and that seat belts must be worn. That was it. Back to the Motor Vehicle office next morning, hang out a couple of more hours with absolutely nothing happening before finally leaving to go on to our next overnight stop, about 300 miles away.

The next couple of weeks are mostly a blur in my mind – whether from brain overload from 5 weeks on the road and all we have seen and done, or just less interesting, I’m not sure. But there were interesting highlights too. One was seeing the Karez irrigation system at Turpan – a series of underground water channels dug a couple of millennia ago to bring water from the snow-capped mountains to the north into the desert that surrounds Turpan and a visit to the Bezelik Thousand Buddha caves, most of which have been defaced over the centuries.  Dinner in Turpan included a traditional Uighur performance of music and dancing which was a lot of fun.

Further adventures in China included visits to the Great Wall, at both restored touristy places and at original unrestored areas, rides on camels up onto big sand dunes, rides back down the dunes on toboggan-like sleds, a visit to the Mogao Grottoes, a series of more Buddhist caves which are still pretty much intact with several large Buddha statues, more interesting museum visits exploring the millennia old cultures which have existed in China, and a visit to the original site of the discovery of the Terra Cotta Warriors.


All the new styles of traffic in every country we’ve been in, the friendly people we’ve met everywhere, and… , and… , and … and …   And all the different foods we have eaten on this trip, but I’ve gotten a bit long-winded already, so I won’t go into that, except to say that we didn’t go hungry.






Dispatch from Kurt Durrant

Hi All,

The Globeriders Silk Road 2015 motorcycle adventure is in the books and i am safe and sound (open to discussion)
at home in bangkok with my wife Piyaphan and our son Loy.


  1. +15,000 KM or +9,000 miles rode over 55 days starting in Istanbul Turkey and ending in Xian China

  3. 11 countries
    Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, China

  5. Highest point:
    Ak-Baital Pass on the Pamir Highway Tajikistan, +4,655 M or 15,300 Feet above sea level

  7. Lowest point:
    - 154 M or - 505 Feet below sea level in far western China

  9. Bike Issues, 2012 BMW 1200 GSA ran fabulous, i have no water cooled envy.
    A. on the ground 5 times, 2 minor crashes and 3 drops of stupidity
    B. 3 punctures on the first rear tire, 2 on the tire one on a tube that i put in, it was replaced with extreme prejudice
    and second tire finished without incident, front tire made 15,500 KM without an issue.

  11. Best of the ride anything in Tajikistan and particularly the Pamir Highway including the Tajikistan Anzob tunnel of death (you can see it on you tube) 5 KM of deep water, pot holes, no light, no ventilation, exposed rebar and construction.

  13. We started with 18 bikes and 19 riders (2 people on a motorcycle with sidecar) as mostly strangers and ended as close friends
    bonded by an exceptional experience that make words superficial. we had riders from South Africa, Spain, Israel, Canada, Thailand(me) and USA and all arrived safe and sound. i have never participated in this type of group travel and never really expected
    the emotion of the end of ride, i love you guys.

  15. Globeriders ROCK!!, helge and chris ran a great operation, experience counts and our adventure speaks for itself, thank you.

  17. I have to give biggest thank you to my wife Piyaphan for her patience and tolerance of this venture and her sacrifice and support
    made the trip worry free and most enjoyable. she was there to toast the start in Istanbul and gave me a good and needed scrubbing
    on arrival in Xian, she's a keeper, but we have to ask her if i am?






Dispatch from John McKittrick

For anybody out there that’s still reading the live journal, it’s all about China.


Crossing into China and acquiring the Drivers License and License for the motorcycle proved to be one of the most difficult times of the trip. It took us nearly 2-1/2 days to get it done. For we Americans, this is excruciating. Our pace of life moves very much quicker than that of China. And, the only answer that is given about the pace is - it’s China. That phrase can be used about so many things in China. Many of the cultural difference and bureaucracy can only be answered by - it’s China. Western expectations need to left at the border. I was able to make friends with the local police.




The first stop of significance after two days of riding desert roads was Turpan (Turfan). Since it is the 2nd lowest place on earth & is know for high temperatures, I expected the worst, The weather proved to be quite tolerable. Turpan turned out to be an oasis in the desert as water seemed to be brought everywhere through man made structures and wells. The climate is perfect for fruit of all kinds and we enjoyed many of the produce products available in markets.


Leaving Turpan, we were faced with riding through the Gobi Desert. It is known as on of the hottest places on the planet. But, we were very fortunate to have comfortable riding as my thermometer only reached the low 90’s. Most unexpected was the last day in the Gobi. The day started in a downpour and never let up. My thermometer never got above 58 degrees and we were all absolutely soaked by the time we arrived at our hotel.


Before the adventure started I was excited to see the Terra-cotta Warriors, What an amazing site. Words aren’t adequate.





A visit to the Mangos Grottos in Dunhuang was terrific - even if the tour guide was long winded and we couldn’t take pictures of the Buddha.


Although excited to return home, I dreaded the thought of long flights and was sad to leave my new friends who are welcome in my Montana home at anytime.






Dispatch from Gary Schmidt

I can’t believe the trip is over and both the bike and I made it in one piece. I’m still decompressing from the incredible trip I had.


We spent the last 18 days of the trip in China. That was an entirely different experience from the first 35 days of the trip. I would have to say that China is not quite ready for prime time. Particularly the drivers. Some seem to be on a suicide mission. I got run off the road twice but fortuneatly there was a dirt shoulder and no harm, no foul. It was an incredible experience riding across western China from Kashgar to Xian. We rode through the Gobi desert which seems to have more rocks than sand. It’s very different from other deserts that I have seen.

It was interesting to see the Great Wall of China as it really is today rather than the pictures we see of tourists walking along a reconstructed “Great Wall”. Over 2,000 years of nature and humans have reduced the actual wall to something less than the pictures we see on TV.


It was interesting to see the amount of money and effort that the Chinese government is putting into cleaning up the huge pollution problem they have. They have huge wind and solar farms all over the place. I saw thousands of large wind generators and miles of solar panel farms throughout the country. They are also subsidizing the purchase of electric scooters to replace gas driven scooters in cities that have the infrastructure to recharge the scooters. In some cities it appears that all you see are electric scooters that have their own paths just for them. Of course pedestrians walk in these paths as well as in the streets and anyplace else they want. Some of them also seem to be on suicide missions.


We spent a couple of hours at a Jr. High School in Xian and that was very interesting. They go to school from 7:30 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening and then have homework to around midnight. Their least favorite class is Chinese. They study English everyday. They don’t seem to be happy with their situation but understand that it is necessary if China is to become the most important power in the world.


Other than the “Tunnel of Death” my favorite country was Tajikistan because of the Pamir Highway. It goes through the most beautiful and scenic countryside of the whole trip.


Overall, I think the biggest surprise of the trip was how wonderful and friendly all the people were. I think our bikes first draw their attention but then it’s clear that they are really friendly. This was particularly true in Iran. So I feel encouraged by what I felt and saw in my ride through central Asia.


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Dispatch from Ian Craigie



If nothing else I have realized that a trip like this does nothing to shorten ones bucket list. Here is a list of countries I travelled through over the course of 80-days and over 11000 miles:


England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China.


Here is the list of countries I would very much like to go back to and ride some more:


Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.


On a more serious note there was an additional person who was supposed to ride with us on this adventure but due to a health issue had to cancel at the last minute. My uncle, Brian Wallace, who had hand crafted a bag full of clay medallions that he had been intending to give away as he travelled along the Silk Road.




He trusted me with the task, the only requirement being that I document each dispersement with a picture (preferably a selfie) and a story. I was never sure what the biggest challenge would be that I would face on this trip; right then I knew it would be being nice to small children and having my picture taken willingly. But I changed the rules a bit on him. One of the medallions (two actually thanks to Chris...) had his name written on it and was to be returned to him upon my return from this little trip around the world. Helping with this were the other riders on the GlobeRiders Silk Road Adventure Tour who offered up to ride with Brian. Admittedly they were bribed as this then entitled them to gift one of the medallions themselves to someone they met on the road. The same picture stipulation existed as did a request that they share their ride together with Brian via an email to him.


Some of the pictures have shown up before in the galleries of previous dispatches but here they mostly are with story behind them.


From Georgia and Azerbaijan.



From Iran and Turkmenistan.



From Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.



From China.





One of the medallions even made into the traditional GlobeRiders geocache buried at the base of A Great Wall Of China.





At the final dinner Helge received with a brief note from Brian the last medallion to be given out on the trip.





And I delivered the Brian Medallion yesterday in Victoria BC where the actual Brian is well on the way to recovery.





Bill Shea's Photo Gallery



Bill Shea also is posting his photo's daily on his Twitter feed: @sidecarmonkey


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Helge's Photo Gallery

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