30.09.2019 - 06.11.2019
First things first - I've secured my Chinese visa! Game on! Obtaining a visa can be a rather stressful and tedious process. My cousin Rais Hussain accompanied me to the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre earlier in the month and was asking about the process. I had to enlighten him in regards to different countries having different procedures and it simply isn't as easy as applying online and getting immediate confirmation. The Chinese visa application was done online and a form was self populated. I've had to obtain an appointment so I can physically hand over my application along with any associated paperwork. To get a Chinese visa, one must also provide their biometrics, in my case fingerprints. The usual issue with getting visa's is there is NO confirmation that the application has been successful or not there and then. I provided everything I could and as always, honesty is the best policy. Where I am going there is some political tensions and being a Muslim and going to Xinjiang gave me a nervous wait. In the end, alhamdulillah, I have secured my visa and I've pretty much got everything that I need now. Flights, visa's and some accommodation has been arranged. The administration side of things is done.
I must also give a huge shout out to my niece Safoora Amani and her amazing mother, Shazia Uddin! Following submitting my visa application, I happened to go and visit both for a catch up in Bradford. They were both expecting me and said they'd find some camping gear for me which Safoora invested in a few years earlier for Duke of Edinburgh activities. To my surprise and bewilderment, they had a whole bedroom full of unused gear! I was amazed - why does a girl need 4 tents? Why does she need 3 sleeping bags? I reckon my sister Shazia never told me that she probably secretly bought herself some of that stuff to use - which has remained unused. I have never seen so much gear in one place - it was literally like walking into a Go Outdoors. The one thing I did have my eye on was a self inflating sleeping mat but unfortunately the weight meant it was unsuitable for my needs. However, I wasn't allowed to walk away empty handed as is Pakistani custom - I was given a small lightweight microfibre towel! I gladly took that as I actually needed one. Apa Shazia and Safoora, thank you so much and it was amazing catching up with you and reminiscing about the good old days. Those photo's of Safoora were all adorable and hope she has a fabulous birthday later in the month. May Allah SWT grant you both better health and happiness.
I've had a bit of a shock today when packing my gear. I've managed to get my bike packed into a fairly durable heavyweight bike bag. The issue is it's come in at 21 KG (bike and bag)! I've also packed both my pannier bags and they both weigh in at 11 KG! Thats 32 KG tut tut. My hand held bag weighs in at 7 KG so pretty much got that sorted. I'm required to lose 2-3 KG from my bike bag and pannier bags - struggling how that's going to be possible! I don't fancy being charged 40 USD per KG! I think the only option is for me to wear 8 layers of clothing to save a few bob!
Whilst I'm on point about some of my struggles - how hard is it take off a couple of pedals on a bike?!?! I don't particularly have much upper body strength (come to think of it, nor do I have much lower body strength) but the pedals have given me a huge challenge. I still haven't managed to get them loose. I need to take them off so they don't become damaged and the main reason being is that bike can fit into the bag properly. I've Youtube'd several video's with instructions taking off pedals and even with those, they aren't moving. I reckon whoever put them on, clearly hasn't greased them prior to screwing them on. I will get them off at some stage - I have no choice!
Despite these minor issues and challenges, I cannot wait to begin my tour..........only another 50 days now. I keep thinking I am extremely fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity and just pray I can have a successful mission. The only thing I would ask of my family and friends (and those that don't know me but happen to read my blog) is pray for me. A prayer cost nothing but a few seconds of your time, but it goes so far helping a fellow human being.
Bismi-Allahi wa al-hamdu li-Allahi. Subhana-alladhi sakh-khara la-na hadha wa ma kunna la-hu muqrinin. Wa inna ila Rabbi-na la munqalibun.
In the name of Allah, and Praise be to Allah. Glory unto Him Who created this transportation, for us, though we were unable to create it on our own. And unto our Lord we shall return.
Phase 2: Training
You may think I have been in training mode for a while. I will make a confession and share the fact I have not officially been out on my touring bike as yet! Yep - even I am shocked! Rightly or wrongly, I'm banking on the fact I've been able to cycle 70-100 miles in the past . That said, the whole dynamic is different and I totally get the fact I have a new bike, a completely different geometry and set up, the bike will be laden and substantially heavier and all this will pose it's own challenges. At time of writing this, I'm actually just thinking about getting myself to Kashgar and starting the trip there and then! A bit fool hardy I know - but I don't seem to have enough time in the day. The fact is - I have to make time for this! Although I am still training for my half marathon - even that isn't going to plan. I was aiming for 3 runs a week over a 12 week period but it hasn't quite materialised in the way I would have hoped. I've just got a bit lazy and have been enjoying the comforts of life. I need to stop being weak and get a grip and put in some tough training for the next 7 weeks, which is all I have before I fly out.
So, my schedule should look something like this
- 2 runs a week (1 x 5 miles and 1 x 10 miles)
- 2 cycling activities a week (1 x 20 miles and 1 x 40+ miles)
Anything else is a bonus!
50 days to go