I finished my studies at McGill University in Canada and I didn’t want to work right away. Unlike my American and Canadian fellows, I didn’t have to reimburse a loan for my university studies and I wanted to travel for a couple of months before looking for a job. I flew in January 2004 to Istanbul with my good friend Maxime, a camcorder and an online photo’s blog still available at: http://overlandstory.com/go/.
Our plan was to reach New Delhi using local transportations such as trains, bus, cars, horse cars, donkeys… We spent a couple of days in Istanbul and we left right after for Bursa, a large city in Turkey, located in northwestern Anatolia, within the Marmara Region. We had to wait for our Iranian visa and it was to expensive for us to stay in Istanbul for days. We spent some time in a snow storm in Bursa before going back to Istanbul to get our visas. Then, we crossed Turkey by train and we stopped in Ephes, Pamukkale, Cappadoce and Dogubayazit. All these places were amazing. I loved walking on white terraces of Pamukkale, visiting caves in Cappadoce and climbing to the Ishak Pasha Palace in Dogubayazit.
From Dogubayazit, we took a bus to go to the Iranian border. A long line of trucks were waiting for days to cross the border. We were lucky enough to cross it quickly and find a transportation for the city of Maku, our first stop in Iran. We went visiting a west Azerbaijan Kara Church in Ghara-Kelisa. It was a huge ancient Armenian monastery located in the mountainous area of Iran’s West Azarbaijan Province, about 20 kilometers from the town of Maku. Then, we went to Almut on the way to the hilltop fortress of the Assassins before going to Tabriz during the Emam Hussein ceremony. We went snowbording in Dizin, met an Iranian family in Teheran, visited the caravanserail of Kashan, be amazed by mosques in Esfahan, relaxing in Yazd, discovering Shiraz and the ancient city of Persepolis, and stopped in Kerman and Bam right after the earthquake.
The Baluchistan desert begins right after Bam, we took a bus to go to the Pakistani border and we had a 56 hours bus trip to cross the Baluchistan to reach Quetta in Pakistan. This bus trip was intense, we were in a tribal area next to Afghanistan and we traveled for more than two days and nights packed in this colored pakistani bus. We spent one night in Quetta while it was not a good place to stay for western people. We took a train for Bahawalpur and we went visiting the tomb of Bibi Jawindi in Uch Sharif. From Bahawalpur, we went straight to the Wagah border to go to India.
India was way more developed than Pakistan and our first stop was Amritsar, the Holy City of Sikhism. We spent a couple of days at the Golden temple where we stayed with the Sikh pelgrims. We slept in a dorm, we ate with pelgrims and we visited the golden temple in the middle of rituals and ceremonies.
Then we left for a haven of peace in the mountain named Kasar Devi. It was our second time in this peaceful village lost over Almora. The end of the trip was coming for Maxime while he had to go back to France and it was the beginning of a long lonely trip for me. We went together to New Delhi where we spent a couple of days in this stressful capital. I stayed in India for a couple of weeks and I visited McLeod Ganj, Shimla, Chandigarh, Varanasi, Darjeeling and Calcutta. It was a real pleasure to be back in India and to take time to visit all these places.
After India, I went to Bangladesh for a month. My first stop was in Dhaka where I spent a couple of days at the French Ambassador residence. I knew his wife and him for a couple of years and I was delighted to see them in Dhaka. It was time to relax, enjoy the garden and the huge mansion.
Dhaka was a noisy city and I was glad to go outside in the beautiful countryside. I discovered Sonargaon the country’s first capital, Chittagong the main port of Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar the country’s biggest beach resort, Mahastangarh, a 3rd century BC city, Paharpur the biggest Buddist monastery south of Himalaya and the country’s finest example of hindu temple in Kantanagar.
Then, I went to Nepal, one of my favorite countries in Asia. Nepal was not new for me, it was the third time that I was here and I took time to relax in Kathmandu.
After a couple of days in the noisy capital, I rented a motorbike to get lost in the Kathmandu valley. My last stop in Nepal was the birthplace of the Buddha in Lumbini before going back to India then Pakistan.
At the Pakistani border, I meet Yves, another French traveler, and we spent three weeks together in this beautiful country. We spent a couple of days in Lahore then we went to Peshawar. Our goal was to reach Chitral and the Kalash valleys. Kalash are indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language and are considered a unique tribe among the Indo-Iranian peoples of Pakistan.
We spent about a week with them and it was a terrific experience. Indeed, they were not used to receive foreign visitors and we lived with them in a local life style for a week.
After the Kalash valleys, we left further more in the mountains to Gilgit then Karimabad. We finally met the Karakoram Highway, one of the highest roads in the world between China and Pakistan. We crossed the Khunjerab pass at the elevation of 4,693 meters or 15,397 feet to go to China in Kashgar. Yves went to the East of China and I left to Kirghizstan after some time in the muslim part of China.
My first city in Kirghizstan was Osh then I went to Bishkek where I spent a couple of days visiting this soviet style town. I left for the beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake where I was attacked by three local guys at night. It was of course a bad experience and I had to go to a rural hospital in the middle of the night to have my cheek and mouth stitched by a sleepy kirghiz physician supported by a russian nurse. I left in the morning to Bishkek to check if everything was alright and I had to warn my insurance. They wanted me to go back to France so I took a plane to Istanbul to be checked by a French doctor then I went back to Paris.
Anyway, I started to look for a job and four months after, I left for Burkina-Faso for the French Embassy to start working at the University Polytechnic of Bobo-Dioulasso. It took a couple of months to summarize this overland trip in photos and videos in a Flash website and I finally did it while I was living in burkina. This website is still online at: http://overlandstory.com.