120 days and 18.000 KM following the ancient Silk Road.
Full of breathtaking landscapes, welcoming people and old traditions. Crossing China, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the Caspian sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
I experienced amazing landscapes and impressive buildings from a glorious past on this once prosperous trade route. What made the strongest impression was, as it usually is, the warmth and curiosity of the locals from whom I keep priceless memories.
Some moments come to mind about that epic journey:
One time in China it was about to get dark and we needed to set up camp. Far away on the west of China the great the wall continues and farmers work the land right next to it. We parked near the wall, pitched our tents up and found ourselves sleeping right next to it, with the full moon shining on us while we imagined how it must have been when they were building this, now protecting us from the wind instead of hordes of Mongols.
Mongolia was truely epic. A place without roads where when you ask for directions to get to a certain town they say 100km northwest, then on the hill turn east 50km. There are no signs, just some car tracks and lots streams which quickly become rivers when it rains. Some have bridges, some...not. If you are looking for an adventure I think Mongolia is still one of those places where you can find it raw.
Kyrgyzstan had probably the most beautiful landscapes on the whole road. We were there during the summer and it was still a bit cold in some places, so I can only imagine how it must be in Winter. There are majestic mountains everywhere, great green valleys with goats and sheeps grazing. If you can speak a little Russian or read cyrillic it will help you communicate with locals a lot, who were very friendly.
In Khiva (Uzbekistan) I instantly made friends with some locals working at a carpet workshop and they invited me to spend the whole afternoon drinking tea, sharing their meal, trying to communicate with a mix of English, Uzbeki and Russian. Time, good will and creative hand gestures usually compensates for the difficulties of the language barriers.
In Tashkent (Uzbekistan) we were also invited by some locals to join them on their way to a picnic on the mountains. We just took a train with these people we barely knew and spend the most wonderful and authentic afternoon cooking shashlik (similar to a shish kebab) in the mountains outside the city.
The Darvasa Crater (Turkmenistan) is a huge crater in the ground, the size of a football stadium, which has been burning since the 1970s. It is especially majestic when visited during a moonless night, when everything is pitch black and you see this orange glow coming out of nowhere as you approach. It is the closest I have been to seen something that looks like the gates of hell. Truely an amazing image that will be with me forever.
We crossed the Caspain sea on a cargo ferry. Sharing the afternoons playing Backgammon with Turkish truck drivers and enjoying some amazing sunsets.
In Georgia we got to spend one night in the Caucassus mountains, near the border with Russia. There was thick pristine snow covering the mountains as far as you can see, which was a stark contrast with the endless sanddunes we have seen on other parts of the Silk Road, which gives you a better understanding of the wide range of difficulties and obstacles that merchants in past centuries had to overcome on these trade routes, not to mention the bandits and armies shifting control of the areas.
Finally Turkey, a beautiful place I've had the pleasure to visit before. Watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon over Capadoccia is still a classic of an immense beauty. And the charm, flavours and architecture of a city like Istanbul is the perfect setting to end (or start) a silk road adventure.
These are just very few of the memories I brought with me from this amazing and unique part of the world which still holds a lot of its authentic charm. But I encourage everyone to get their own experience on the silk road, it is a journey that will be with you for a long time.
If you want to know more in detail about the trip, click the link below:
Full trip Itinerary: dragoman.com/holidays/details/silk-route-between-istanbul-and-ulaanbaatar
Directed by Nicolás Bori vimeo.com/nicolasbori
Music: ¨Ponds¨ by Biggi Hilmars biggihilmars.com
by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd, an Imagem company
Sound and Color Correction: Nicolás Rada soundcloud.com/nicolasrada
Image Stabilization: Carl Bennett ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Panasonic Lumix GH4