Distance / 距離： 47.7km
Time / 時間： 3h 38m
Average speed / 平均速度： 13.2km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 3214.2km
English summary: Uybulaq Pass was a no brainer, and after that a long downhill to Karakol Lake. I was counting on getting water from the lake, but I’m a bit concerned about the fact that the lake isn’t fresh water. It is slightly salty…filtered some anyway, and I guess I’ll find out soon enough if it is a bad idea to drink it.
Distance / 距離： 45km
Time / 時間： 4h 54m
Average speed / 平均速度： 9.4km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 3166.5km
I have ascended and then descended on rough gravel roads into a moon-like landscape – absolutely barren at a present altitude of 4000 metres.
The day began with cold but fair weather, but just as I was about to pack my tent away, wet snow began to fall. I dithered for too long as to whether I should wait for the snow to stop, or just continue packing my things away and get going. In the end I decided to go for it, and by the time I had donned my wet weather gear and packed away a now very wet and slushy tent, the snow had stopped.
Fearing that it might snow again, I kept all my warm clothing on as I started to pedal. Of course in no time I was overheating, so the morning consisted of frustrating stops and starts as I tried to figure out a good balance of layering for warmth while pedalling. The dodgy weather lasted all day, with dark clouds always only a few kilometers away.
At around 1pm I arrived at the Kyrgyzstan customs and immigration post, this still being about 15km from the actual border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (seeing that the actual border is at 4280m, you can understand why).
The Kyrgyzstan customs and immigration people are in a word, corrupt. After he had a quick look through my bags, the customs guy said in good English with gold front teeth glistening, “So, Robert. Do you have a present for me? If present, immigration is very easy. Open gates for you!”
“No, no present, I’m afraid” I replied.
He let me go, but warned me that immigration might be tough. I said I would risk it.
I wheeled my bike over to the immigration building, and instantly had six or seven border guards jostling to have a go on it while I went inside with the immigration officer, a large man with thick glasses and of course the compulsory gold front teeth.
Immigration was easy. The officer took my passport and wrote down my details in the register. Then in Russian, “OK, Robert, $5 please.”
I don’t speak Russian, but I made clear that I wanted to know what the $5 was for. The officer indicated it was for the registry entry. I thought that this was very odd, considering I had never been asked for money at any other immigration post before.
I tried to inidicate that I wanted to see the official written rule that tourists must pay $5 for registry entry. Either he didn’t understand, or chose not to, but he just insisted that the $5 must be paid. Still not convinced, I gave him a $5 note anyway. As I was walking out the door, I saw him put it into his pocket.
Um, that is not where money paid to a goverment instituion usually goes, buddy. “Niet good, niet good” I said.
We walked back into the registry office, and the officer asked what the problem was. I asked why the money was going into his pocket, and that I would like the money back. Perhaps he thought I was going to snark on him, because he gave me the money back, and said “Durug, yes?” Head tilted back to see through the glasses that had slid down his nose. I think durug means friend.
He wasn’t giving up though. He explained that if I give him the $5, then he could call the Tajikistan immigration and ask that I am let through without any hassles.
I said I would risk it.
Tajikistan immigration was a no-brainer. The immigration officer was more interested in whether I had any New Zealand coins on me. He is a coin collector you see. He has coins from 119 countries. Africa is the most difficult to get coins from, apparently.
So here I am, well and truely in Tajikistan on the Pamir Plateau. The silence is what amazes me. So silent.
English Summary: I must admit, I freaked out when I saw those mountains. A massive wall of cold, dark mountains, and my road going straight into them. I had to ask myself, ‘am I ready for this?’ This is no longer your Sunday avo bike ride. There are a few well stocked stores in Sari-Tash. I was able to buy instant noodles, eggs, sardines etc.
Distance / 距離： 68.91km
Time / 時間： 6h 32m
Average speed / 平均速度： 10.5km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 3070.3km
Tough day. The tail wind that I had enjoyed yesterday had turned on me and was for most of the day a headwind. Without mention is the fact that it was all uphill today also. This road is heading up up up into the highlands of Tajikistan…
To my surprise there were three cafe places along this stretch of road. All of which were in the middle of no where. Certainly not in tows. The first I stopped at and had some colourless but tasty enough permenyi (mutton wrapped in pasta). The second place I gave a miss, and the third I bought some bread. My guess is that these places make their money from the regular truck traffic along this road. Most of the trucks seem to be coming from China loaded with bales of cotton of all things.
There were some small villages along this stretch, but I wouldn’t count on finding any stores to buy food.
I’ve had a real mix of experiences with the locals today. Kids are a delight but a little annoying when they run along behind you and hang onto your bike. This means you’re dragging them up the hill too! At the third cafe a couple of drunks were having goes trying to ride my bike while I bought my bread. They started getting agro when I refused to let them continue playing on the bike when I needed to leave. I got really close to yelling at them. After their friend dragged them off into their car, I noticed that my map and a water bottle were missing (always attached to a pannier).
I was 98% sure that the drunks had taken off with them, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, figuring that they may have fallen off the bike on one of the short downhills further back. This did not stop me from getting more and more upset that they would steal my map! In the end, to my immense relief the map (in a map case) and bottle were on the road about 3km back.
The best experience of the Kyrgyz people has been left to last it seems, however. My image that I had built up regarding Kyrgyz people was ‘look, a foreigner – let’s see how much money we can make off him!’
This image was broken down this evening when two local lads (I’m thinking twins, since they were brothers but the same age – they were 20) discovered my tent and promptly set about spending the entire evening with me. They spoke no English, I spoke no Russian or Kyrgyz. No problem. We managed to have a conversation over dinner (my rolled oats, potato, tomato, egg, onion, cheese and carrot stew), them sitting around the entrance of the tent where I sat.
While I was preparing the stew, one o the brothers, Jilkalbek, said “You’re going to need some more potatoes! And how about some eggs?”
I explained that I would love to have some more potatoes and some eggs would be great. How much do you want for them?
Jilkabek would hear nothing of it. It was his gift for me. He sent his brother Ulanbek off to their house (apparently just over the hill) to get them, and sure enough he came back half an hour later with about 2kg of potatoes, several onions, three eggs, and to top it off, 1.5 litres of freshly milked cow’s milk (like, it was still warm).
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Thank you seemed pathetic.
It was pitch black by the time Jilkalbek and Ulanbek left to go home (about 8:30pm). I offered to light the way with my torch, but they said they knew the way. I suppose when you live in what I consider to be wilderness, you get to know your way around…
Distance / 距離： 87.02km
Time / 時間： 5h 35m
Average speed / 平均速度： 15.5km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 3000.7km
English Summary: Yeah, I reckon I done good today. Wasn’t totally sure if I could get over the pass (Chirchik Pass – 2408m) in one day, but I kept the pressure on all day and it is done. Heard from two British motorcyclists that there were two cyclists 35kms behind me in a hurry to make it over to China before the border closes for ten days. Apparently they have three days. That’s tough Possible to buy some food in Gulcho. I bought bread and sardines..
Ugh. Slow internet. Internet that doesn’t work…
But finally I have found an internet cafe with decent internet. Once again, the photos are uploades, but I don’t have the time to put them into posts. But do check them out in the Photo Gallery section.
Right then, tomorrow I head for Tajikistan. At least 3000m altitude gain, 220km to cover. I have 5 days left on my Kyrgyz visa. It will be a mission, but it will be done. I doubt my ability to be able to do any updates for up to 15 days as I cycle the Pamir Highway from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Dushanbe (Tajikistan). But you can be assured that there will be some major adventure to read about once I do get to Dushanbe.
By the way, thank you all for your great encouraging comments on the site. They are really appreciated, and I am torn up not to be able to answer to all of them. I am looking forward to getting to Uzbekistan, where I can take it a little easier and spend more time on the website. At the moment, the highlands of Tajikistan (altitude 4000m plus) are on my mind and with cold weather approaching, it makes me all the more keen to get through the big mountains as soon as possible!
If you need something to mull over while I hoof it over ‘the roof of the world’, then take a look at this post and let me know if you know the answer.
Till my next post…
Distance / 距離： 119.51km
Time / 時間： 7h 20m
Average speed / 平均速度： 16.3km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 2914.2km
English summary: Feeling the pressure of my Kyrgyz visa end date (in 6 days time) I pushed for Osh and actully made it. Stoked.
Distance / 距離： 102.59km
Time / 時間： 6h 53m
Average speed / 平均速度： 14.9km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 2794.7km
Once again amazed at the strength of this bicycle. Absolutely bombing it down the pass at between 30 to 40 km/h, hitting some fairly chunky rocks, and not a scratch…the suspension really comes into play in these situations. There have been many times on the trip so far that I am certain I would have bent a rim or broken a spoke if it had not been for the suspension. Also, even though the bike has abou 35kg of gear strapped to it, you’d never know it. It is extremely nimble, and the disc brakes are a real bonus too – you stop when you want to stop.
As for surroundings, I feel as though I have dropped into another country all together. Lush valleys with apple trees, walnut trees, and then wide valleys with sunflower plantations.
Distance / 距離： 34.31km
Time / 時間： 3h 45m
Average speed / 平均速度： 9.1km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 2692.1km
English Summary: Stopped early at a good campsite at the foot of the zig zags. But more importantly, time for you mathematicians to put your thinking caps on. The question of the day is, can you work out the gradient of a road using the variables ‘velocity’ and ‘altitude gain’. Example: I am cycling at a speed of 5km/h, and I am gaining altitude at a speed of 8 metres per minute. What is the gradient of the road I am on? I thought it had something to do with the amount of fies buzzing around my head divided by pie….mmmmm, pie…
Distance / 距離： 76.80km
Time / 時間： 6h 01m
Average speed / 平均速度： 12.7km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離： 2657.8km
My hopes for a nice long dowhill to Kazarman were dashed with a big fat pass in the middle. This did give me reason however to continue to marvel at the incredible piece of engineering that is this bike that I am riding on. The roads here are appalling. Very rocky, very bumpy. However, no matter how hard I ride the bike down these steep steep passes, the bike just laps it up. I am quite convinced that it is most entirely indestructable…
I sleep with no tent tonight. Just because.