Sunday, 30 September 2012

The road goes ever on ....

When Graham and I road across the USA the route we took had many attractions. It linked the eastern states and the west coast, traverising the varied geographies of the US from the deserts to the plains. From sea to shining sea (well almost).

But most of all it is Route 66. The iconic route of song and novel. Immortalised by Steinbeck and the Stones. It is part of the story of America. It is "Main Street USA" and the "Mother Road". It is a road that everyone knows.

That laid down the challenge: To ride the world's famous routes wherever they may be.

Next up was Ruta 40, the gravel track that links Tierra del Fuego to the north of Argentina across the wild and remote lands of Patagonia. From the furthest south to Bariloche and on over the Andes to Santiago in Chile.

Next came Route 1 - the Ring Road that joins the scattered settlements of Iceland. Circling the volcanoes and ice caps, crossing the fault lines of the newest land on earth.

And now, the ultimate route. The most ancient trading route in the world. The Silk Road that for thousands of years has joined the civilizations of East and West. The route, or to be more accurate, routes that brought silk, paper and gunpowder to the emerging civilisation of Western Europe and the Mediterranean.

The start and end points of the route depended on who you were, when you lived and what you were trading, But for many years the Chinese end would have been at Xi'an the ancient capital of China and the western end at Constantinople, the richest city of the West.

So that's the route, London to Beijng via Istanbul and Xi'an, Tracing the old way through Turkey, Central Asia, across the Pamirs and the high plateau of Tibet and central China.