It took 6 months to prepare the trip during which the organizational effort was huge: applying forall the visas and for permits for the motorcycle for each border, to avoid hitches, or worse, no entry bans!! Can you imagine what having 22 bikes and 22 people stuck in some border would have meant?????
Booking all the flights, overnight stays, transport of motorcycles from Italy to Iran and China, first from Kashgar to Beijing and then from Beijing to Italy. Organizing gas supply for 22 motorcycles for about 2500 km. Consider that in Turkmenistan, and especially in Uzbekistan, it is almost impossible to find gasoline in standard gas stations.
And then the journey: over 4000 km to be covered riding on dirt or poorly maintained "roads". From the Turkmen desert, to the plains of Uzbekistan up to the amazing Pamir Highway, which is Highway only in name: one of the most beautiful roads in the world made of dirt, river fords, rocks!! Absolutely unmissable!!! To be done at least once in your life for those of you who love riding!
Bike chosen: 22 Guzzi V7 III Stone bikes!!! Definitely not the right bike for a trip and for roads like that but, lo and behold, once again another great Italian brand proved to be more than up to the situation. That bike never lost a beat during the whole trip!! It took on all kinds of roadsunflinchingly!! A true gem.
I can deny that I worried and took care of a lot both before and during the trip. I felt totallyresponsible for the success of such an enterprise. The Silk Road can be made. There are many solo bikers travelling on it, maybe only the Pamir Highway. But to do it with 22 bikes and 22 riders is a whole different story.
And so we get together on June 14, 2017 at the Malpensa airport in Milan. Luggage, motorcycle suits, helmets. Ready to leave for Mashad, which is considered the Islamic capital of Iran, located about 70 km from the Turkmen border where our bikes were waiting for us and where the adventure would begin.
Beside the adventure in itself, crossing six countries, two deserts and three mountain passes over 4,000 meters high, the purpose of this 'once in a lifetime' journey is to deliver humanitarian aid to Uzbekistan, one of the poorest countries amongst those born after the USSR split in 1991, whichalso counts the “stone fortress” among its treasures. This is the destination of the 2017 solidarity adventure of the Riso Scotti team, passing through the 15 stages of this itinerary that starts from Mashhad, in Iran, and arrives in Kashgar, in China, crossing Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. As soon as we leave Mashad along the road that leads to the mountains on the border with Turkmenistan, it feels like there is still the echo of the caravans that crossed Central Asia to bring silk and spices to Europe. Faded treasures and magnificence whose light still shines in the present, reflected in the majolica of the necropolis of Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand, capital of the ancient kingdom of Tamerlane. Since 2001 the Uzbek city, one of the oldest in the world, is listed in the Unesco Heritage with the title of Crossroads of cultures. But what strikes most in all these countries is the mix of ethnic groups, languages and roots. It can be seen in the faces of those living in the yurts in the desert of Turkmen Karakum or in that of Taklamakan, in Uighur’s China, an ethnic group with Chinese nationality but Turkish speaking and Islamic. All heirs of buried civilizations, intact under the sand, to be rediscovered along these routes that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, were (re) charted by scholars and adventurers who wanted to retrace the footsteps of the merchants. Since then, the myth of the Silk Road shines again.
The first hurdle presents itself right at the beginning: the Iran-Turkmenistan border. Two barracks located opposite to one another in the middle of nowhere, far away from everything. Certificates, visas, passes for people and motorcycles. All scrupulously drawn up by hand. Infinite inspections ofthe bikes and of our luggage, 11 hours patiently spent waiting for a few nods of approval. Finally, at 7 pm they let us in; a totally unknown country, hidden from mass tourism, welcomes us. And thenAshgabat the capital. The reminds you of a Pyongyang but much more lavish: gold and wealth everywhere against a virtually non-existent population. No cars. No motorcycles. And the next day, off we go crossing the Karakum desert for the whole length of the country. A tongue of asphalt in very poor conditions, and 50°C, to reach the intermediate stage: Darwaza, "The Door of Hell", i.e. an old gas field exploded in 1961 that is still burning generating a beam of light that reaches the sky, in the middle of the desert of sand where we stay overnight.