For the First Time Ever the Silk Route Bike Tour will Travel the Pamir Highway, "the Roof of the World", and Through Iran in 2012

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Tour d’Afrique Ltd, the company known for pushing the boundaries of conventional bike touring, has made significant changes to its Silk Route Bike Tour including adding sections that will tackle the M41 Highway in Tajikistan, also know as the Pamir Highway or “Roof of the World” and a section that will take riders through Iran.

Making Friends on the Silk Route

The Pamir Highway is the second highest international highway in the world and seldom travelled by foreigners. Vestiges of the old Silk Route can be seen in the cliff top fortresses and Caravanserai along the highway

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Even though the company has run its Silk Route Bike Tour 3 times previously this years tour is almost entirely new. “Its essentially like running the tour for the first time” said tour director Paul McManus. “Not only has much of the route been changed but we’re cycling from East to West, instead of the traditional West to East direction”.

The company is very excited about two new sections of the tour, The Pamir Highway Section from Kashgar to Dushanbe in Tajikistan and The Garden of Eden Section which passes through Iran.

The Roof of the World
The Pamirs is a mountainous area in the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) of Tajikistan – known as the Roof of the World (Krisha Mira). It’s composed of some of the most remote and untouched areas in the world, including some of the tallest peaks in Central Asia.

The Pamir Highway is the second highest international highway in the world and seldom travelled by foreigners. It follows paths created long ago by traders on the ancient Silk Route and vestiges of the old route can be seen in the cliff top fortresses and old caravanserais along the highway. There are only 2 roads leading through the Pamir Mountains. One is a summer one which is covered by several feet of snow until the end of May. The other is open year-round, but is longer and in such poor condition, that you really need a 4×4 vehicle in order to get through. True to their mission of running epic bike tours, the Tour d’Afrique will be taking the longer road.

Cycling Through Iran, Finally
The company first started considering adding a section through Iran in in 2008 and even went so far as to scout the route. And now, after a few more years of planning and discussion the route has been approved and the decision was made to give it a try. The 2012 route enters Iran near Quchan and spends 19 days in the country including rest days in Bojnurd, Tehran and Tebriz.

Though Iran has a deservedly bad image in the media the company stresses the difference between governments and people. “On the scouting trip we found the people of Iran to be some of the most welcoming and friendly people we’ve met on any of our tours” Says company founder Henry Gold. “It’s important for people to realize that a government is not always a good representation of its people. Its big reason we run tours through these lesser travelled countries like Iran, so riders can see for themselves the reality of a place and not just form opinions solely on media reports.”

Dates and Details
The 2012 Silk Route bike tour starts on May 19th from the Bund in Shanghai, China and finishes on September 24th on the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey. The tour travels though seven countries and covers more than 12,000 kms. The tour is 129 days long with 104 cycling days, for an average of 125 km cycled each day, and 25 rest days. The length of each day’s ride will range from 80 km on really bad terrain to more than 180 km on good paved roads.

The tour is fully supported and includes 3 meals each riding day, vehicle support, local guides and Tour d’Afrique staff, including a medic and bike mechanic. Riders typically cycle 4-6 days in a row and then have a rest day, a day with out cycling, in a major city or place of historical interest.

Participants can register for the full tour or for one of eight shorter sections. More information can be found on the Tour d’Afrique website at http://www.tourdafrique.com/tours/silkroute

Related Articles:
Silk Route 2012 - Highlights and Changes - Tour d’Afrique Blog
The Pamir Highway - Journey to the Roof of the World - Boba’s Adventures Blog
Designing from Bones - The Ancient Silk Route - Tour d’Afrique Blog

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