I’ve looked at the maps, studied the countries, cities and regions along the way, I’ve more or less determined the bureaucratic requirements of visas and customs, and now I have a set itinerary for the 9,000 km of Silk.
There have been a couple of detours and additions to the route. Samarkand is the obvious culmination of the journey and where I will be spending the most days taking in the ancient Silk Road crossroads. But Iran has turned out to be more of a treasure then I originally expected, and I have allotted a few more days to spend in the vast country.
Instead of shooting straight through Tehran and to the Turkmen border, I’ll go South to Isfahan, visiting Kashan along the way. All of the information from locals that I’ve heard is that Isfahan is the place to go especially for a first trip to Iran. With less traffic and noise, and more sights and culture, Isfahan is one of the most beautiful cities on the Silk Road. On top of that, I will be able to go through Dasht-e Kavir, Iran’s Great Salt Desert, and spend the night there. There’s a certain obsession I’ve developed with spending nights in deserts.
On my return leg, I’ll pass by the Aral Sea, which was drained in Soviet times to supply water for cotton farming in the area. The ecological toll has been very high but it also resulted in millions of people being able to settle in the area which is mostly a desert. In the past couple of decades though, conservation efforts have lead to a recovery in the lake’s size.
Finally, I will retrace my steps from the Georgia – Armenia tour and come home through the Caucasus Mountains. From Kazakhstan, I will cut through Russia passing Astrakhan, Dagestan and Chechnya. I will stop in Georgia for a few days for some rest and relaxation before heading home.
Don’t forget to help children along the journey by donating to Unicef. Just a little can go a long way toward keeping children safe, healthy and educated.