I sit in my tent tonight at the top of the pass (3910m) an exhausted wreck, but relieved and overjoyed that I have made it through one of the most mentally and physically challenging days of the trip so far.
I awoke from my fitful hungry rest since the night before still hungry. No longer able to stomach the pasta cooked, I crunched down on it raw, washing it down with the last of my Gatorade powdered drink mix. As I packed up my sleeping bag and organised my gear for the day, I was torn between going back the way I had come (it was downhill, after all) to get to somewhere with real food, or to push on to the top of the pass. The terrain over the last two days and slow pace had taken its toll on my phsyce and body. I have lost much weight – how much I don’t know. The diahorrea was still at its worst this morning. I cracked and the tears flowed for an instant when an unexpected movement ended up in my pants…
Right, that’s it. I’m going home. Home to New Zealand.
Don’t be so hasty, I told myself, and decided to decide once the tent was all packed up and the bike was loaded.
I stood there with the bike leaning against me, and looked back the way I had come. Two days to get back to where there were other humans around to help if things got tough. Stores where I could buy potatoes, cheese, and all the other things I craved. Out here, there is nothing. No one. I haven’t seen another person in two days.
I also looked ahead. The top of the pass seemed so close. The slope leveled off too – perhaps I could actually push the bike without hinderance of rocks and steep gullies. As much as I hated the pasta, I knew that I would not die of starvation for at least another four or five days.
I in no way decided there and then that I was going all the way to Naryn, but I did decided to do the same as I had done yesterday – detatch the lowrider panniers, leave the bike, and walk uphill for an hour to see how things would pan out. I decided that after an hour of walking with the front panniers, I would either give up and turn back, or drop the panniers and go back for the bike.
Walking up the pass with my panniers, I lost the track at least three times, and each time ended up walking over large streams of big boulders that would have been impossible to negotiate with the bike with its heavy rear panniers. However each time after crossing the boulders, I would notice the track heading down and away from the obstacles. I saw that the track was actually quite smooth and definitely negotiable if I had stuck to it.
Finally I walked up and over a small hill to see a massive high plateau stretch out in front of me. Then I saw it. An old tractor tyre. That was the sign that I was going to be able to make it. If they can get a tractor up here, then it is guranteed to be terrain that is at least half cycleable. Sure enough, ahead in the distance were two perfectly parallel tracks in the grass. After almost three days, I had found my ‘road’.
I dropped my panniers close to the track, and headed back down hill for the bike. Just as I arrived at the bike, a lone hearder on his horse trotted by, uninterested. Watching him as I pushed the bike, I saw where the track was supposed to go when crossing the numerous small streams. Two and a half hours later I reunited my bike with its panniers. From here I could actually ride the bike along the tractor tyre tracks.
The top of the pass was however much further than I had anticipated, and the further up the plateau I got, the boggier and wider the river crossings got. They were never deeper than knee height, with a river bed that consisted of rocks with mud in between, pushing the bike through them was tough going.
At last, after three and a half days of pushing, hauling, carrying and cursing the bike, I was now at the top of the pass. Due to the ferrying of lugguage and bike, I had effectively walked the track three times. Anyone wanting to know about the conditions, I can give you a detailed account, I assure you.
Dinner was again dry pasta, but this time washed down with a salty broth made from the soup mix I have. Add to this the compulsory three or four tablespoons of olive oil and it makes a perfectly palatable dinner. Not at all filling however.