Interview 024: Viktor Zicho | Amazing moments in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan + 1 Month in Pakistani Prison

 In Afghanistan you always have to ask the locals about the current situation, because the locals always know where is the Taliban right now, where is risky in the moment.

Having started bike touring at the age of 12, it was natural that Viktor would eventually go on some epic cycling adventures, combining his favourite pastimes of photography, climbing and cycling into one epic adventure. Having previously toured from Hungary to Mt. Ararat in Eastern Turkey, Viktor decided it would be great to do a longer trip, cycling from Hungary to India in the footsteps of a famous Hungarian philologist and orientalist, professor Alexander Csoma, credited with writing the first Tibetan-English dictionary.

Following the footsteps of this famous Hungarian professor, beginning his trip exactly 200 years to the day after Alexander began his voyage, Viktor departed from his home in Hungary and slowly made his way to Turkey, all the while leaned back and chilled out on his Dutch recumbent bike, which he had adapted to better be able to handle big mountain climbs. 

Viktor says that as soon as you cross the border from Bulgaria to Turkey, everything changes in an instant. You no longer have that sense of being in Europe and people are so much friendlier and more welcoming, forever offering you tea, food, and even a place to sleep for the night. 

Following in Alexander’s footsteps also included a ride through Iraqi Kurdistan, which apparently is pretty easy to enter, so long as you stay in Kurdish territory and don’t try to go to the big cities of Mosul and Baghdad, as they are out of the Kurdish area and are not deemed to be safe for travel. Viktor wanted to go through Kabul, Torkham and the Khyber Pass just as Alexander Csoma did, but had to pass by Kabul, as he was told that it would be an unnecessary risk to his life when he asked around in Ishkashim. 

Wow. People are lovely. People are really lovely. I just felt very very good, because everybody just wanted to make me a guest, wanted to accommodate me. Everybody wanted to invite me for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. For every meal. 

One of the problems when riding a recumbent is that people often want to give it a try. However, unlike a conventional bike, it’s difficult to balance, especially with bags on, and easily damaged when an over-zealous border guard refuses to take no for an answer. Such was the case when crossing into Iran. Luckily, after crossing through into Iran, Viktor had one of the most amazing rides through the mountains as he headed south towards Kermanshah, which was quickly followed by a terrible time cycling along the highway going towards Tehran, dealing with difficult situation after difficult situation, from irate farmers to young guys on a motorbike trying to steal his camera. 

Luckily things picked up for him when he reached Tehran and was constantly hosted and spoiled for the remainder of his time in Iran, all the way until he crossed the border near Mashhad into Turkmenistan. 

Unlike most bike tourers going through the Pamir Highway from Dushanbe, tajikistan to Osh, Kyrgyzstan, Viktor had an alternate route in mind, which would take him across the border at Khorog and into Afghanistan where he would then cycle and climb through some of the most epic scenery he’d ever see: the Wakhan Corridor. From there, when the roads ran out, he told people he was going to go hiking and camping in the mountains, but in actuality, he was going to illegally cross into Pakistan and continue his quest of following the footsteps of Alexander. 

Cycling and hiking in the Wakhan and Hindukush was something he speaks very highly of and he says that the people there were some of the best and most kind he had ever met. Unfortunately for Viktor, by using his method of entering Pakistan, this meant that he never got an entrance stamp and was actually in the country illegally, ultimately leading to his arrest when trying to leave the country via the border crossing in Lahore. Luckily for Viktor, after 4 weeks of hard work on the part of his consul general and the lawyers that the Hungarian government hired for him, he was released, given a proper 1 month visa and can now continue on with his journey. 

Although not something he would recommend others to do, Viktor is not sure if he would have done things differently were he able to do it all over again.

Cheers Viktor and thanks for the story.
Keep on pedalling.

Chris

Follow Viktor on his adventures at: 

Show Notes

~ 01 min       Intro to Episode 24 with Viktor Zicho and all about him
~ 4m 30s      Motivation for bike tour to India
~ 08 min       Viktor’s recumbent bike and all about it
~ 19 min       Cost of the tour and sponsorships
~ 21 min       Talking about the tour, how different Turkey is from Europe, and his route through Turkey
~ 27 min       Riding through Iraqi Kurdistan
~ 34 min       The terrible highway experiences riding from Kermanshah to Tehran, Iran
~ 42 min       Becoming famous in Tehran and cycling Chalus Road to the Caspian Sea
~ 52 min       Central Asia: 2 weeks in Khorog, Tajikistan, cycling into Afghanistan and through the Wakhan Corridor
~ 1h 3m        Illegally crossing into Pakistan & Tips for cycling in Afghanistan and Pakistan
~ 1h 11m      The people of Northern Pakistan and being hosted by a Prince
~ 1h 16m      Most amazing part of the trip
~ 1h 21m      What parts of his bike needed fixing after finishing the Hindukush
~ 1h 24m      Temporary goodbye
~ 1h 25m      Catch-up call after he gets out of prison
~ 1h 28m      What it’s like in a Pakistani prison and getting saved by his government
~ 1h 32m      Conclusions and next time on Bike Tour Adventures

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.
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