Between June 1995 and May 1996 Dave Mountain and Bronwen Ley undertook a 10,000 mile tandem journey between Beijing and London. Here are some travel notes regarding their trip to give a taste of their experiences. These are followed by some specific notes covering the countries visited and the equipment used which may be of use to others considering a similar undertaking.
For further information contact:-Dave Mountain on
Bronwen Ley on
Some Travel Details
Listed below are a few relevant facts for each country. I have deliberately missed out detailed route descriptions, as half the pleasure of a long journey lies in finding a satisfactory way across a map. What we generally did was to try and steer as far away from busy main roads as possible, although in many cases a main road might carry less traffic than a British country lane.
I have also deliberately omitted mentioning personal security with the exception of a few specific instances, believing that you stand as much if not more chance of having your bike or money stolen in London, Paris or Munich as you do anywhere else, and also realising that situations change suddenly and a danger zone can become calmed overnight, or turn into a battlefield for that matter. Keep your ear to the ground via the World Service and talking to as many fellow travellers as you can.
We concealed our passports and the bulk of our money as well as possible with the use of money belts and carried enough cash for each day in a separate wallet. A money belt can be a bit uncomfortable whilst pedalling, but the unpleasant thought of losing anything by having it removed from our panniers was enough to make the slight discomfort worthwhile. We avoided hotels which wouldn't allow us to keep the bike inside overnight - the sight of two potential customers leaving usually encourages someone to find an empty cupboard somewhere. Even then we always locked the front wheel to the frame to prevent people from riding the bike around the hotel foyer.
Visa requirements change all the time, so again the best way to keep up to date is by speaking to fellow travellers or phoning embassies (quicker than personal visits).
The money section for each country has our average daily spending rate at the end. The figure given is the total for two people sharing hotel rooms and living fairly frugally with the odd blowout. It includes everything from the odd ice cream to receiving parcels, buying plane tickets (Thailand only) and purchasing visas (quite an expensive business). It would not necessarily follow that a person travelling singly could get by on half the amount that two people can.
We carried our money in three ways. First in the form of American Express Dollar traveller's cheques. We split our total projected spending for a year into three, and carried one third whilst leaving the remainder with a contact at home to be sent out as we needed it (to secure addresses rather than poste restante). We also carried some Dollars in cash - a range of notes, small ones being especially useful for situations where a little money was required (e.g.. border areas) plus an English five pound note which we were carrying to show people what English money looks like and which came in invaluable when we had to change it in an emergency. Lastly we carried a credit card (Visa) which was used very sparingly, but got us out of a few financial scrapes. Good in Europe for withdrawing cash quickly and cheaply. Don't forget to have someone at home paying the bills as they come through each month.
Language is a difficult subject when travelling through many countries in a short space of time. The phrases I have described in the China section would be just as applicable anywhere else, but China was the only country we visited where English wasn't in fairly common usage.
Bron and I are both vegetarian, so the food section tends to centre on the availability of meat free meals. Our frugal lifestyle, and the sort of towns in which we would find ourselves (i.e. very few tourist facilities) saw us using almost exclusively local restaurants and cafes. We carried a stove, and often used this for making our own hot drinks and meals in hotel bathrooms and balconies.
We were frequently offered food and accommodation by people en route - often when there was nothing available in town. We accepted these offers gladly, enjoyed almost every one and made some good friends by doing so.
For drinking water we carried a filter which saw a reasonable amount of use and was a very worthwhile piece of equipment.
Maps and guidebooks were generally bought en route, but the idea of sending these to poste restante addresses in advance could work well. Be aware that some post offices have a limit as to how long they will hold stuff for. I wouldn't be too concerned about guide books as their main text content is usually regarding the big tourist centres which are unlikely to form a significant part of a trip like this. Lonely Planet and Rough Guide are obviously the well known ones, but anything with a few town maps and a short language section will be of use.
Regarding bike parts, I would suggest carrying a bare minimum and being prepared to wait for someone at home to arrange a courier to ship parts to you in the event of a major breakdown. This relies on having a bombproof support team in the UK and I think we missed out on a valuable sponsorship opportunity by not contacting some local bike shops to see if they would provide a spares service, and likewise a major courier might have been approached to help with deliveries.
Tyres were the main article we should have thought about better. Luckily we had enough cause to send home for other emergency parts that we always got a few spare tyres included on the list.
In the event of the mechanical problems we encountered, plus some bouts of illness and laziness, we experienced no trouble in getting the bike onto any form of public transport, albeit we sometimes had to pay a little over the odds to get it carried. Hitching is also very possible on empty trucks, but be aware that in some countries (specifically China) these act as a secondary public transport system and will charge accordingly.
Finally, having mentioned sponsorship, this was a self funded trip as neither of us wanted the possible constraints imposed by owing anything to anyone. Our only source of sponsorship came in the form of some cheap equipment from various manufacturers in return for their products showing up occasionally on web sites and magazine articles.
I flew to Beijing with BA direct from Heathrow after informing them beforehand that I would be travelling with a tandem. The bike was unboxed - I simply turned the handlebars, removed the pedals and rear mech. (cable still attached and derailleur taped to the chain stay) and deflated the tyres. I was told at the Chinese embassy that bringing a bicycle into the country was not possible but had heard of many people doing it, so I just went for it and had no problems in Beijing. This is a fairly common approach in China: ask and be denied or do and be forgiven.
Visas available from the embassy in London. Initially valid for 30 days, with a one month extension available once in the country (more if you have friends in the right places). Longer visas were reputedly available from some Hong Kong travel agents.
Accommodation is available in virtually all towns, although many hotel owners are reluctant to accept foreigners. You will almost certainly find it easier if you have your details (name, father's name, DOB, home address, occupation and so on) on some official looking piece of paper (in Chinese). A business card - easily available in Beijing, would possibly do for this purpose.
Chinese hotels are generally dirt cheap, very basic and often quite filthy unless you stay in tourist hotels, which are often frustrating in their failure to produce the services they purport to provide. Hot water for washing is generally only available at specific times of the day (ask when you check in), and often never materialises even then. In even the smallest towns there is generally a room to rent - often attached to a restaurant and it is worth knowing the various names for this type of room when looking for a bed for the night.
Camping is difficult due to the density of the population.
Money is best changed in large towns. This is especially the case for traveller's cheques where large hotels seem a better option than trying to deal with Chinese banks. Cash Dollars can be changed in the banks of some smaller towns but don't rely on being able to do this. Credit cards were not very useful in '95 except for in expensive hotels, although this position will certainly change rapidly. Rooms are best paid for in advance to avoid giving the proprietors a chance to think up surcharges (bike storage) during the night.
Daily expenditure: £9
English is little spoken, and often very poorly where it is. Learn some key phrases like : "Does this town have a place I can stay?" (not does this town have a hotel - people will automatically point you to the most expensive place in town). "Is the road good? Does it have tarmac?" (Chinese roadworks are best avoided). "That's too expensive. I'll give you £*****"(many Chinese see a white face and double the price immediately. Offer what you think is fair and walk away if they refuse. They will soon come after you if your price was fair)
Food is available anywhere there are people. Generally inexpensive and very good. Always freshly cooked. Vegetarians should claim Buddhism and stress "no meat, no fish, no seafood".
Drinking water provided in all hotels is boiled and comes in flasks which are freely refilled. Likewise in restaurants.
Road conditions vary immensely - local knowledge is best. Major roads become quite busy around big towns, but the rural mountain roads were an absolute delight, regardless of their condition. Solo mountain bikes would be more appropriate than a tandem, but the interest created by a double cycle in a country where everyone has a bike easily offset this.
We used the Nelles Verlag 1:1,500,000 series maps in conjunction with a Chinese road atlas, and backed this up by continually checking with local people.
Reasonable quality bike parts are becoming available in major cities, but getting decent tyres would be a problem.
We crossed at the Friendship Gate border near Pingxiang, south of Nanning. Despite bad reports from guide books, we experienced no problems here.
Visas were obtained expensively from the embassy in Beijing and valid for two months at the time, but apparently the maximum issue has been cut to one month now. Entry and exit points had to be registered on the visas, and we incurred extra cost when we decided to change our exit point - watch this.
Accommodation is available in most big towns although foreigners seem to be restricted to certain hotels with artificially high prices. Facilities variable. Luxury hotels available in Hanoi and Saigon.
Camping would be difficult until you get off the beaten track where you should definitely BEWARE OF LAND MINES.
Money Travellers cheques easily changed in all large towns at a variety of banks. Shop around for the best rates. Dollars acceptable in many hotels but don't get you any better rate. Credit cards becoming more widely accepted
Daily expenditure: £13.50
English is widely taught in Vietnam and young people especially have a good grasp of the language. This can't be relied on off of the beaten track where a phrase book is invaluable (even if you can't pronounce this impossibly difficult language, you can try and then point to a page in your book). Counterfeit copies of Lonely Planet's phrase and guide books are widely on sale in Saigon and Hanoi. French is quite widely spoken by the older generation.
Food is very fish and meat based. Street stalls sell excellent biscuits and will give you boiling water for packets of noodles you buy from them. Bread is excellent. Vegetarians should look for "Com Chay" stalls in market places. This is traditional looking Vietnamese cuisine made entirely from vegetable produce and very inexpensive. Otherwise veggie food can be difficult. Excellent iced coffee is available widely and good cakes available in big towns.
Drinking water is unpredictable. Best boiled or filtered.
Road conditions: There is basically one north-south road - Highway One - which runs the length of the country. This can get quite busy with buses which are often inconsiderate to the extent of hostility. Air horns should be considered a signal to get out of the road. A mirror would be a useful thing. Off of the main road things quieten down considerably, but road conditions can be appalling - bridges get washed away by floods, and towns become very few and far between.
We used the Nelles Verlag 1:1,500,000 map covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This had some gross errors on it, and I would strongly advise anyone to avoid the tempting looking small road diversion close to Ha Thin which goes into the mountains via Than Lang Sha.
There are some excellent quality bike parts available in Saigon, but forget it anywhere else.
We crossed at Loa Boa on Highway 9 which runs between Vietnam and Thailand. The crossing was hassle free, although we did meet a Swiss guy travelling in the opposite direction who had been turned around by the Vietnamese authorities for having incorrect visa details. Beware of this if travelling from Thailand.
Visas were obtained at the consulate in Saigon. At the time there were only two types of visa available. The seven day transit visa which we used is officially only valid for a short stay in Vientiane, or for travel along Highway 9 between Loa Bao and Savanakhet, but we met people (not cyclists) who had come from Vientiane down to Savanakhet on such a visa and were intending to cross into Thailand from Savanakhet. The two week tourist visa is less restrictive, but much more expensive.
Accommodation is limited to the larger towns and is in the form of very cheap and basic government guesthouses which may or may not be available to foreigners on what seemed a completely random basis. Polite persistence paid off in obtaining a room for us on a couple of occasions. More luxurious hotels available in Savanakhet.
Camping would probably be quite feasible, but the warning of mines in Vietnam should be strongly considered here also.
Money would best be changed with the black marketeers or other travellers at the border as I don't recall seeing a bank outside of Savanakhet. Even here the black market seemed to offer the best rates. Cash is easier to change than traveller's cheques and we used a few Dollars for payment for rooms without any problem. Laos is cheap and you can't stay for long so don't change too much.
Daily expenditure: £4.20
English is not widely spoken, but we found a few English speakers scattered around.
Food: Little choice. Eat where you can. Specialities include barbecued frog on a stick and sticky rice. Also available in the market places are battered and fried sweet potato and plantain and delicious brightly coloured tapioca served with ice and condensed milk.
Drinking water is unpredictable. Best boiled or filtered.
Road conditions: Highway 9 is a dream after Vietnam's Highway 1. Despite some unsurfaced sections which would probably get very hard going after heavy rain, there is very little road traffic and the terrain undulates gently. Cyclists we met who had been further north suggested that some major roads there were very bad, but I have no specific details.
We used the Nelles Verlag 1:1,500,000 map covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Bike parts: Forget it.
We crossed the Thai border between Savanakhet and Mukdahan over the Mekong River. Entering Thailand was uneventful except for hauling the fully laden tandem up the bank of the river to the passport and customs shed.
Visas are not required for Brits staying less than 28 days. Your passport is simply stamped with an entry date on arrival. Visas are available for longer stays.
Accommodation: We found a variety of hotels - generally pretty good and not too expensive but beware the hotel which doubles up as a brothel. There are many budget travellers hostels in more touristy areas. A couple of nights we took refuge in private homes at people's kind invitation.
Camping would quite possibly be an option here.
Money is easily changed. Cash, travellers cheques, credit cards all acceptable.
Daily expenditure: £32 (artificially high as this includes air tickets)
English is widely spoken.
Thai food is delicious. The best way we found to eat was from market stalls where all the ingredients are on display, and you simply point to the things you want which are quickly fried up in the wok. This is an especially good option for veggies.
Drinking water: We drank tap water here with no problems.
Road conditions are generally fairly good although traffic levels can get very heavy and the modern vehicles tend to travel far too fast for comfort. Make use of the hard shoulder if you hear a horn behind. Another country where a mirror would be useful. Bangkok is a cyclist's nightmare with traffic and pollution levels being exceptionally high.
The Nelles Verlag 1:1,500,000 map of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia covered enough of Thailand for our purposes.
There are many cheap and not so cheap mountain bikes in Thailand, and obtaining fairly low quality bike parts and tyres shouldn't prove too difficult.
We flew into Kathmandu with Thai air who accepted the tandem and associated luggage without a quibble. Likewise in Nepal, we had no problems in bringing the bike into the country.
Visas were obtained at the embassy in Bangkok and valid for 30 days. Extensions are available on an expensive daily basis. Special permits required if you want to leave the bike behind for a while and head off trekking.
Accommodation is plentiful in all the major tourist areas and ranges from cheap and squalid, through excellent value for money, to complete luxury hotels at international rates. The accommodation situation becomes more difficult in peak trekking season (September/October) when people flood into the country - bear this in mind. In more out of the way places we found rooms for rent in restaurants.
Camping is unnecessary in such a cheap country, and in many tourist areas could possibly be seen as antagonistic by depriving locals of a valuable source of income.
Money: You name it, someone will change it.
Daily expenditure: £15
English is taught in school and widely spoken.
Food from most countries is imitated in the tourist centres, but outside of these usually consists of Dhall Bhat - curried lentils and rice. If you can't face this regularly, forget Nepal.
Drinking water should be filtered, treated, boiled or all three.
Road conditions are unpredictable. In a country with so many mountain roads, landslides are inevitable - especially at monsoon time. I would strongly recommend the old road to India which runs from Kathmandu to the Terrai via Daman. Although reaching Daman is a hard ride, the descent is superb albeit rough and would especially suit mountain bikers.
We used the Geo Center International 1:2,000,000 map of NorthEast India which also covers Nepal. It was adequate but not brilliant.
Bike parts may be available from some of the better bike hire places in Kathmandu, but don't rely on this and expect to pay heavily. Also worth scouring the many second hand shops stocking left over climbing and trekking gear. Low quality MTB tyres available.
We crossed the border between Lumbini (Buddha's unspectacular birthplace) and Sonauli. No particular problems here, but we met two angry Americans who had spent the weekend in jail for trying to leave India after having their passports incorrectly stamped upon entry. Also at the border were a group of stranded Westerners who had been hoodwinked into leaving their bus en route to Kathmandu and had never seen it again. "Welcome to India" reads the sign at the roadside.
Visas were obtained at the embassy in Kathmandu. This is an exasperating process which involves much queuing and three separate visits. Take a BLACK biro with you and complete your forms CLEARLY to avoid more time wasting than this process already involves. Various types of visa available. Ours was a three month multiple entry.
Accommodation was varied, but we generally found good value hotels - some with excellent restaurants attached. Once we were allowed to stay in a much simpler guest house which cost next to nothing and had facilities to match.
Camping would be fairly difficult due to the huge crowds, which gather just to look at two Westerners on a bike. I hate to imagine what would be made of the same two Westerners erecting a huge nylon tortoise and crawling inside.
Money: we changed a large amount of Nepali rupees at the border and a few dollars cash in some hotels and then used the Amex office in Delhi for changing traveller's cheques. Some hotels accept credit cards.
Daily expenditure: £19 (artificially high due to visa costs)
English is widely spoken. People love to practice and can be a source of annoyance or used positively (ask where a cheap hotel is and often you have a willing interpreter with you before you know it).
Food is delicious although sometimes dubious from a health point of view. Favourites included street snacks like samosa or pakora and the sweets available in big shops or roadside stalls. Veggies will prosper here.
Drinking water should be considered unsafe and boiled, filtered or treated.
Road conditions varied immensely. Minor roads were fairly traffic free, but tend not to lead into the larger towns one needs to find accommodation. Larger roads are inhabited by fast moving buses that have no regard for cyclists. If you hear an air horn behind then do what the Indians do and get off of the road into the brick surfaced 'slow lane'. A mirror would be useful here.
We used the Geo Center International 1:2,000,000 map of NorthEast India which was adequate but not brilliant.
Bike parts would be difficult to get here as you rarely see anyone on anything other than a classic Indian roadster.
We crossed the border between Amritsar and Lahore. This was a very lengthy and slightly nerve racking process. First there was a typically large amount of paperwork to do, then the guards hassled us to change money before finally asking us to carry a 'package' to their friends at the Pakistani post. We naturally declined, and were met by a similarly dubious set of guards when we eventually got there. We eventually eased our passage by reluctantly allowing a couple of them a ride on the tandem. Entering the Muslim world, we decided to start following their dress code (long sleeves and loose trousers for men, likewise for women plus headscarf)
Visas were obtained at the embassy in Delhi. This involves going to the British embassy for a letter of introduction (not cheap at circa $20 but managed to get one letter for both by saying we were married. It might be worth trying to get things like this sorted out with the Foreign Office before leaving the UK). We used 30 day tourist visas.
Accommodation: we used hotels in Lahore and Quetta but more often found ourselves in very simple government guest houses or invited into peoples houses.
Camping: Pakistan is a fairly lawless country and I would carefully consider the security implications of rough camping.
Money is easily changed at the border, either in the makeshift banks on either side or by the border guards themselves. Banks are fine for changing traveller's cheques, but we got a slightly better rate at some of the money changing shops (better than that offered at the Amex office in Lahore). Change enough money in Lahore to get you to Quetta or vice versa (cost of living similar to India despite the disparity in our daily expenditure figures - largely due to the offers of hospitality we encountered).
Daily expenditure: £5
English is fairly widely spoken.
Food can be a problem for veggies here as most of the curries contain meat. We ate a lot of bread (roti), fresh fruit and excellent packets of biscuits that you wouldn't be surprised to find in an English supermarket. Be aware that during Ramadam, the eating of food during daylight hours could be construed as very offensive.
Drinking water should be considered unsafe and boiled, filtered or treated.
Road conditions were similar to India, although the choice of routes is far less here. We opted for the central mountain route after warnings of security problems on the more southerly route. A fairly long (50km?) section of this was unmade but shouldn't present mountain bikers with any problems in dry weather. The road west of Quetta in the Baluchistan dessert got a bit rough at times, but sections seemed to be undergoing a fairly major upgrading at the time. Traffic levels very low here, but be prepared for headwinds.
Maps of Pakistan are not available anywhere in India. We bought a barely adequate sheet (1:1,500,000 but poor detail) in Lahore covering the whole country. Bring your own.
Bike parts would be hard to find here.
We crossed into Iran via the main road running through the Baluchistan dessert between Quetta and Zahedan. This is a journey of around a week and we were thus alarmed to be refused entry due to some irregularities with our visa. The date of issue had been entered incorrectly and then changed at the embassy where it was issued. Although this had no effect on the validity of the visa itself, the mere fact that everything was not perfectly in order was enough to cause problems - initially we were told we must return to Quetta. After an hour of patient, polite and persistent arguing we were finally allowed across to the next stage of the crossing which involved completely emptying our tightly packed panniers and disclosing exactly what we were carrying in terms of foreign currency which was duly recorded in our passports - thus enabling every hotel owner we stayed with to check our finances. We were then allowed access. On entering Iran, Islamic dress code becomes compulsory. No body hugging Lycra here.
Visas were not a simple matter. The easiest way to travel here is using a seven day transit visa, and then getting it extended (which you can do twice), for as long as possible. We managed to stay for over a month like this. Getting a transit visa was not as simple as getting an extension once inside. We got ours in Delhi, which is reputedly the easiest place to do so, but the embassy official was very reluctant to allow us the forms in the first instance insisting that we should apply in Pakistan. The problem with this is that although there is an Iranian consulate in Lahore, there is not a British one there to issue the letter of introduction needed. After a week of persistence, the Delhi official finally gave us the forms, after which the visa was issued within 48 hours. I believe that the situation has changed slightly since then, and you would thus be well advised to speak to someone in the Iranian embassy in London before departure to clarify this. Do not be tempted to apply for a tourist visa as the application process can apparently take years - literally.
Accommodation: We stayed in a variety of hotels, travellers hostels in some of the more touristy areas, guest houses and a large number of private houses where we were constantly invited by extremely generous and friendly Iranians.
Camping: Iran is an extremely safe feeling country and camping would be fine from a security point of view. I'm not sure how the police would view it, but they didn't bother us the few times that we did it.
Money: We changed a large amount of money at the Pakistani border in the restaurant that doubles as a hotel. Dollars are easily changed in banks, but the black market reputedly offers MUCH (up to four times) higher rates - be aware though that your finances are recorded and you may have to show receipts for what you have spent when you leave. By the time we found anyone wanting to trade on the black market we had reached Tehran and were desperately trying to get rid of all the Rials we could - Iran is not an expensive country at all.
Daily expenditure: £5
English is spoken by a surprising number of people, many of whom wish to practice with you. They are generally well educated and thus very useful for gaining some cultural knowledge.
Food: As veggies we found ourselves eating a lot from tins. There are good canned aubergines and beans available in most places, which accompanied by the enormous amounts of fresh and dried fruits available, plus the incredibly cheap nan breads on sale at certain times of day, made for a healthy diet. Iranian cakes are delicious, and despite being treated as special gifts by the Iranians, are cheap enough by our standards to eat a kilo + per day. Do not leave Iran without trying the superb fresh dates which come from Bam, and are sold in boxes from the refrigerated cabinets in food shops.
Drinking water was fairly good. We drank tap water all the time.
Road conditions are excellent. The surfaces are well maintained, and the drivers are generally considerate to the extent that they stop and donate food and drink quite regularly. Headwinds can be a problem.
Our map was from Geo Center International, 1:2,000,0000 scale perfectly adequate and bought in London before we left.
Bike parts would be difficult to buy here, and apparently difficult to import through customs in the event of needing something couriered out.
We entered Turkey on the main road between Tabriz and Erzurum. Despite the rigorous checks on our finances upon entering Iran, there was no mention of money on the way out. The Turkish border guard seemed to think that we should have a carnet of some sort for the bike, but was easily persuaded otherwise. We crossed at lunchtime which was a big mistake as the guards disappear for an hour leaving you in a locked room with only inquisitive Turks and Iranians for company. Despite the deliberate omission of personal security issues elsewhere in this text, the area surrounding Erzurum was particularly turbulent at the time of our visit. The Kurdish nationalists were essentially at war with Turkey and the area was being heavily patrolled by the army. As soon as we crossed the border we were offered a lift in an empty truck which we accepted having heard warnings from other travellers. During the next 200km we passed through numerous army checkpoints. The only sign of any violence we saw was when some children threw a dead goose at our lorry, but this is obviously a very volatile area and I've heard many stories of cyclists being stoned around here.
Visas valid for three months can be bought at the border itself cheaper than at the consulate in Tabriz and with no hassle whatsoever.
Accommodation starts to get more expensive here, although there are some reasonable hotel deals to be had - especially where the price includes breakfast which is fairly common. There is more scope in the tourist areas where there is stiff competition for your custom - bargain hard, but don't expect to get everything you're promised.
Camping: There are some campsites here but I've no ideas on rough camping. It certainly wouldn't be a good idea in the east.
Money is changed quite easily everywhere. There is a bank at the border offering a better rate than the black marketeers. The cost of living rises drastically inside Turkey.
Daily expenditure: £20
English is spoken widely - often by carpet sellers.
Food here is similar to that in Iran. A welcome addition for the veggie is the Turkish pizza (pida) which is essentially a long pitta bread with cheese melted on top of it. Tinned foods available include aubergine and stuffed vine leaves (dolma). Rice pudding is delicious and salep is an unusual and tasty milk drink. Drinking water should be fine here.
Road conditions are generally reasonable, although traffic levels are high and can be fairly intimidating.
Our map was a free issue from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and came from the Turkish Consulate in Tabriz. Although the scale was 1:1,850,000 it was very basic. For the amount of pedalling we did in Turkey however, it was perfectly adequate.
Quality bike parts are available in big cities.
Greece, Italy, France
If you've made it this far you don't need much advice, but here's a bit anyway. The ferries between some of the more obscure Greek islands are quite seasonal, so if you want to go 'island hopping' you will need to time it right. Maps of Greece are hard to find in Turkey.
The campsites of Italy are quite seasonal and thus we found ourselves having problems finding places to camp. Not so in France where the 'camping municipal' sights seemed to offer outstanding value.
Standard wine bottles fit perfectly into a bottle rack.