Thursday, 1 December 2011

Next Steps & an Interview with Social Hiking

 Since my last blog post my journey has taken me through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  I am now in Kashgar in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China and ready to start the next stage of my journey through the Taklamakan Desert following the southern Silk Road route. Taklamakan has been loosely translated as "the Desert Into Which He Who Enters Will Not Return" but I have no intention of returning to the desert once I've got through it so that's fine by me!

The below article is courtesy of Social Hiking a wonderful website that has enabled me to share my adventure.

A chat with Jilly Sherlock on the adventure so far and what’s next!

Feeling the heat in the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan
On Saturday 9th April 2011 at 11.12am Jilly Sherlock set off from Felixstowe on a heavily laden bike ‘heading East’ – on 9th November, 7 months to the day since leaving, she arrived in China having cycled a whopping 9955km with at least 60000m of altitude gain – with every kilometre shared on Social Hiking. Whilst taking a break before the next leg of her journey, I caught up with Jilly for a quick email chat about the adventure so far and what her plans were for the next leg.

Photo left by Lee Hughes (via Jilly)
As the name suggests I originally had quite a limited vision of what Social Hiking could be used for, so it was a bit of a surprise when Jilly got in touch, only a few days before setting out, about using the site for her trip. Jilly has a SPOT Personal Tracker – as well as being able to send regular check in messages and emergency alerts to family and friends, the device allows you to ping your location on a regular basis. Once hooked into Social Hiking, Jilly could combine these locations (SPOT uses satellites direct so does not require a mobile phone network and have a long battery life) with any photos or tweets she was able to send on her phone when in signal.
The end result is a media rich map which her family, friends and supporters can follow live as her adventure progresses.
Personally I have found following Jilly’s remarkable adventure absolutely amazing – as the route unfolds with tweets and photos, it really gives you a chance to share in something few of us would ever attempt ourselves, and has opened up parts of the world to me that previously were just names on a map.

Whilst Jilly has a well earned break before the next leg of her journey, I caught up with her for a quick email chat about the adventure so far and what her plans were for the next leg:
What’s your favourite bit so far?
ok.. favourite bit so far has to be the people I’ve encountered. The hospitality, generosity and warmth I’ve received has been humbling and at times overwhelming.
What’s been the worst bit so far?
Worst bit so far has been the last 2 weeks: trying to sort out the fraudulent use of my bank card with Barclays bank was more exhausting than cycling up a 4655m pass on the Pamir Highway.
What was the Pamir Highway like?
The 1000km route through Tajiikistan along the Pamir Highway was exhilarating, freezing, terrifying and at times exhausting. Due to my short term memory I have thankfully forgotten already how miserable it was camping at 4100m with my visa expiry clock ticking away and pushing my bike thru snow and over unforgiving mountain passes during their worst November snow in 20 years. Fingertips are still numb! Yet what a stunning and remote part of the world and it was an experience that will remain with me for many years to come.
Tajikistan at 4300m - struggling with snow and altitude
Tajikistan at 4300m: struggling with snow and altitude (photo from via Jilly)
How did it feel to reach China?
Cycling to the Chinese border after being holed up for 2 days on the Kyrgyzstan side due to the border being closed for a week was a delight. When I reached the ornate iron gates I must admit I did have a slight lump in my throat yet this could partially be blamed on trying to swallow an overambitious bite of frozen Snicker bar.
Where next?
ha ha – well of course I’m pedalling East! Leaving tomorrow to head east on the southern silk road towards Hotan. At Xining, (some 3000km from where I am now) I will make my decision whether to head due south or – you never know – I may continue east…
Xmas will be spent in the most desolate and inhospitable landscape: almost got depressed when I looked at the satellite view but I hope to don a red nose on a Bactarian camel, hang my Merino wool stocking outside my tent and tuck into another bowl of instant noodles.
On a final note can I say a huge thanks for all the love and support I’ve received from my dear family and friends; to all the Social Hiking bods and Twitter friends who have egged me on and thanks of course to you Phil for your patience and brilliant work on Social Hiking.
Merry Xmas to you all & tailwinds….

You can find Jilly on Twitter (@jillysherlock), read her blog of her journey ( and follow her travels live on Social Hiking (
Approaching Iran
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jilly for her truly remarkable and fantastic journey so far, and for giving us the chance to share her adventure with her. Best of luck for the next leg and happy Christmas Jilly!
Jilly has probably done more for Social Hiking than she realises – her first map crashed as she reached Germany! Since then a lot of the performance upgrades have been added to ensure her maps continue to load as quick as possible – in fact part of the last upgrade included media caching to further speed up the loading times of all her tweets and photos (and all the necessary back-end scheduling to facilitate it) – something all users will benefit from. Jilly is also pioneering new settings and features, like her camp site icons, and has helped me further improve the experience for people following someone on their adventure.
If you want to share your adventure, whether big or small, then sign up for Social Hiking and give it a whirl.

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