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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Blaise Trigg-Smith and Tom Damek

Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

With the right gear, anyone can cycle the desert

 • Across Uzbekistan on two wheels


The route: Cologne, Germany, to Kashgar, China, through 16 countries

Time on the road: 5 months, 4 days

Distance traveled: 6,266 miles

Average daily distance: 58 miles

Longest day: 119 miles

Highest pass: 15,272 feet

Heaviest load: Tom, 165 pounds; Blaise, 115

Flat tires: 10

Photos taken: 6,000

Trip appeal: Great scenery, the new and (often) very tasty food, the physical challenge and the people you meet.

Best thing: “The friendliness; most people are good people. Those who have the least will give the most,” said Tom Damek.

Taste experience: Fermented camel’s milk.

“Like yogurt with sparkling water … not tooo bad, so long as you can drink it cold,” said Blaise Trigg-Smith.

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Looking for adventure?

For anyone contemplating such a trip as ours, all we can say is "Do it!" We met so many people who said they would love to do a trip like this if they could.

The truth is that pretty much everyone can do it; you don't need to be super fit, rich, brave, a born bike mechanic, etc. Just do it.

Once you're out on the road, you will figure it out. We hadn't done a single overnight trip on the bikes, and in fact, Tom had never really camped in his life.

Also, on the Internet are a vast number of resources (other people's blogs, forums, and information about equipment and routes).

E-mail anyone on the road, and they will be more than happy to help.

Here's our must-have list for tackling the desert:

• Water to drink and cook (at least 3 gallons per person, per day, usually about two days' worth at a time due to the distance between towns on the map).

• Tarp to create a sun shelter during the midday heat.

• Sunhat, bandana and sunscreen.

• iPod for the precious hours the battery did last to overcome desert boredom.

• Patience and a sense of humor for the many hours when the battery was empty.

• Rice/pasta to reload as many carbohydrates as possible.

• Stove and gas to cook rice and pasta meals.

• Salt, sugar and milk powder to make the meals bearable.

• New tires and repair kit to fix the overloaded bikes.

• Mosquito net to keep the spiders and scorpions away when sleeping.

• Russian language skills to communicate with in these ex-Soviet countries.

• Thick skin (literally), to put up with not washing body parts while constantly exercising and building up a film of dirt and sweat.

Note: We found our GPS was not useful because it only tracked where we went rather than told us where to go. Then again, there's only one straight path. Also, our solar charger turned out to be rubbish and did not really work, not even in the desert!