This year, La Route de la Pierre will be on the road for eight months. From June 2024 to January 2025, Orianne Pieragnolo and Louis Dutrieux will be cycling through the workshops and quarries of Central Asia. Their route will take them through four countries: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.


Louis Dutrieux

6/4/20243 min read

It was a Friday in February, in Paris. We were still in the midst of preparations for the second stage of La Route de la Pierre. At the time, we still needed additional information to organise the route through Central Asia. So I went to the Uzbek embassy with Orianne and Jules, the expedition's geopolitical adviser.

That day, the journey really began. On the corner of a street in the 8ᵉ arrondissement, we pushed open a heavy wooden door into a small courtyard, where smells of coal warmed the wintry atmosphere. Two imposing men in black suits were bustling around a steaming cauldron. With the tips of their wooden spoons, they pointed us in the direction of the entrance.

In the hall, against all expectations, a lady asked us for our coats and invited us to take a seat in the middle of a room lined with white moucharabieh. It was in this way that we attended a conference on the country's tourist potential. A little surprised, but open to adventure, we sat down, attentive. The presentations, in English, Russian and French, unfolded, revealing monuments that caught our attention, revealing an architectural beauty that held out promise for the expedition. At the end, we went into another room, just as richly decorated. Sweet, fragrant Uzbek specialities were on display for us to sample. We took advantage of this moment to make some useful contacts for our next visit to the country. This afternoon of Asian flavours heralded, without us being fully aware of it, the imminence of our return to the saddle.

The second part of the planned expedition through Central Asia is a real leap into the unknown. We'll be heading for Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A route covering more than 6,000 km through countries dotted with cities with enchanting names such as Tbilisi, Baku, Samarkand and Almaty. These cities, rich in history and mysterious cultures, are already making us dream. For this new departure, Central Asia represents not only a change of continent, but also a plunge into lands of varied cultures and geographies.

This part of the route appears to be the most complex of the expedition. For our team, the first taste of Uzbekistan brought home the scale of the preparations required for this second stage. To ensure the success of the project, we had to find out about the formalities involved in obtaining the visas required in most countries. This is a crucial administrative aspect that will determine our ability to travel more freely in these countries for eight months, a significant difference from our first trip to Europe.

On board our bikes, we'll also have to take into account the varied geological and climatic conditions. Between the Caucasus mountain range, the beginnings of the Himalayan plateau and the immense arid plains of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, we will inevitably have to adapt the route, our travel strategies and our equipment. Our mounts may miss the peaceful Danube route.

But what drives us despite the challenges remains discovering the heritage of these very ancient cultures, evocative of very special architecture and forms. They fuel our desire to continue the adventure. Information on the craft of stonemasonry and the use of the material is even less easy to find than in previous countries. Given the richness of the surrounding geology, we are unlikely to be disappointed by the diversity of the stones and monuments.

The first experience in Europe was rich and exciting, but the exoticism of this new departure is even more inspiring. Four months after this short Uzbek stay in Paris, next Friday the expedition will pick up where it left off in July 2023. We will leave Bulgaria by ferry, crossing the Black Sea for three days, to arrive in Georgia, the first country on this new adventure in search of our fellow stonemasons.

From left to right: The amical bridge on the border between Roumania and Bulgaria / louis looks through the window in a bulgarian train / View of the Black Sea in Bulgaria.

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