Geordie Stewart, 29 years old, hometown — London, traveller, In Search of Sisu book author
About how it all began
When I was 22 years old, I became the youngest British who climbed all the highest points on all continents. Even in Antarctica, I climbed the highest mountain called Vinson Massif which about 4892 m. After that, I wrote a book in Search of Sisu.
I did climbing while I was studying at University in Scotland. After graduation, I worked in the army for five years. I liked the army, and it was interesting to work as an officer, but in some way, you lose freedom. Even when you rest on the beach you still army officer. I needed my freedom and decided to leave.
I saved up money, and instead of sitting down somewhere, getting married and working in the office, I decided to be on my own and meet many different people.
In August 2018, I started travelling on the bicycle from the UK. My goal is to cycle the whole world. From London, I travelled to Europe, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, got to Aktau and arrived in Astana. This journey took me three months. But according to my initial plan, I should have been in India by now. I know many people who travelled by the southern route through Tajikistan and India, but no one travelled here. So I decided to go North to Kazakhstan.
Travelling by bike everything can be seen from the interesting side. You're on your own and have to communicate with people. Sometimes you get into situations you weren't supposed to be in. In such cases, you must find solutions to problems. I think it's a hard but amazing experience. A lot of time to think, to analyze the world. A real pleasure is the opportunity to be in beautiful places.
I have already visited 13 countries. By the time I finish the trip, I think it will be 30 countries. At first, I thought to travel through warmer places — Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but chose Kazakhstan, because it seemed to me more interesting. After Kazakhstan, I will go to China.
I spent two weeks in Astana. I knew a little about Kazakhstan before coming here, because I follow many sports, and you have many good athletes: boxer Golovkin and cyclist Vinokourov.
I had a cultural shock when I saw the difference between the capital and other cities of Kazakhstan, but I liked Astana. The architecture is unique and unusual, it differs.
I tried visiting the main monuments: the monument on Independence Square, Bayterek and Akorda. I cycled around the city and noticed that tall modern buildings in one part of the city and small and old buildings in the other. I met the owner of a bike shop in the old part of the city and spent a lot of time there.
I have not used bicycle paths in Astana because of the snow. In London, the bike path is a bike path. They are on the other side of the road and only for cyclists. In Astana, pedestrians walk along bicycle paths. Riding a bike here is uneasy. Another problem that ice sprinkled with sand, what makes sense, but it ends up on the road where the cars and also cyclists drive. In this case, the cyclist has two choices either to slip on the ice or to be hit by a car. It's stressful.
About travel in Kazakhstan
I spent about four weeks in a very isolated space because steppes are wide, there are no people, only road, and it was shocking to me.
Most of all I was surprised by people — they are friendly and hospitable. There are not so many cyclists in Kazakhstan, and when I drove through the cities, people helped me: gave me water, bread, sausages, pizza. Once I stopped at a cafe and people bought me lunch. I can survive on my own, but it feels good when people help. Kazakhstan turned out to be kind in this case.
During the trip, I eat ordinary and simple food, because I do not want to spend money and need to survive. I eat bread, lots of noodles, cookies and sweets. Every time I manage to eat fruits, I'm happy because I love fruits. And I love peanut butter — when I found it in Kostanay, I was happy.
I also tried Kazakh food. I liked pilaf and beshbarmak. I also tried camel milk and liked it more than the mare's.
I can't drive at night, so an hour before sunset I'm finding a place to settle down, pitch a tent. I was told about wolves in the steppes of Kazakhstan, but I never met them. A guy from a bicycle shop in Astana gave me a protective flashlight from wolves, on one side of which is a lantern, and on the other a signal sound, he advised me to pull out this lantern every night.
I did not expect such cold.
I became friends with many truck drivers on the road from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan. I talked with them about Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. If you stick to the main roads, connected Aktau and Atyrau, Almaty and Astana, Pavlodar, then everything will be fine. If you would not stick to them, interesting things can happen to you. I was driving from Atyrau to Aktobe, and according to Google Maps, there should be a road uniting two roads to the main one, but turned out that it was off-road for 500 km. An unpleasant experience. Many offers to hitch a ride, but I refuse because I have to cycle only.
My journey will last another two years. My route is next to China, Mongolia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and maybe South America. I will try to take a trip around the world. Depend on my want to move on. Maybe when I get to New Zealand, I understand I'm done with the trip. And a lot depends on the money, of course. Therefore, I economise on food and accommodation, and I need money for further trips.