Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Camping in 4150 Meters; Today: 55 km; total: 1116 km

May 23, 2014

After traveling in two for two weeks, we left the hotel in four along with Radu (the Romanian cyclist) and Raimon (the Catalan cyclist) in such very good weather incomparable to yesterday which was snowy and windy. The sun was shining and there was no wind. Fausto and I had planned to camp close to the pass, the highest pass in Pamir with 4670 meters, and the next day attack the pass. Raimon was going to be following us, but Radu was going to be going over the pass on one day.

At 2 pm, after passing a herd of yaks, we arrived at 4150 meters and had already cycled 55 km. We, except for Radu, decided to camp because we didn't want to be on the pass late afternoon. Besides, at this altitude, the weather could be very unpredictable. Radu went on; we started to camp.

We found a flat place near a bridge to get some protection from the horrible cold wind. It would be a dangerous spot if it rained, but we were sure if anything, it would be snow not rain, so we pitched up our tents when we saw Radu caming back to camp with us. He said the weather even two km higher was stormy!

We all then ate pasta and tea, and fixed our bicycles. Radu had a flat.

It is 6 pm now and we all are in our tents getting ready for a cold, snowy, windy night. 

Morning Ride

Changeable Weather


Raimon, Fausto, me; Photographer: Radu

An Old Cemetery; Photographer: Radu

Seeking Shelter form Lashing Wind; Photographer: Radu


Photographer: Radu

Photographer: Radu

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Harnessing the Tail Wind; Today: 98 km, Total: 1061 km

May 21 and 22, 2014

After having a bad-night sleep, we were awakened by the heavy steps of our hosts at 5 am. They were marching to prepare the breakfast for us for which they had to bring the yak dung in, make the fire, and cook. Unlike dinner, we had a not-so-good breakfast: four eggs over fried in god knows what kind of oil with a lot of salt, so much so that for about two hours after breakfast, we could still feel some kind of upset stomach. 

On a more positive note, as we were slowly gaining elevation, we were enjoying a tail wind all morning on a flat, straight road; then, in 4150 meters, we started coasting down slowly to Morghab in 3600 meters. We found a hotel, or the only hotel in Morghab, and checked in for $12 each. It's a nice hotel with decent food. After taking a shower and having some good food, we met some tourists: a guy from France traveling on a motorbike, a young guy from Japan traveling by bus, and a cyclist, Radu, from Romania who had started his trip from Romania to go to Bishkek and climb a 7500-meter- high mountain and bike back home.    

The next day, we woke up at 5 again. I guess it was impossible to kick the habit of waking up at dawn. We tossed and turned in bed until the cafe was open and we had some good breakfast. We, then, went to the Bazar to see if we could find some kind of gloves for me because mine were not warm enough for this condition. When I say Bazar or market, I mean a group of tractor-trailer containers with in a row on the side of the town. The only pair of gloves I could find was not water proof. Well, I bought them and applied some grease on top of them to make them water proof.

The weather on our rest day in Morghab was very changeable: sunny, snowy, and blizzard. We sat in our hotel room and watched the weather change from the window, wishing to have good weather the next day. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Cycling above and around 4000 Meters All Day; today: 100 km; Total: 963 km

May 20, 2014

For some reason, I didn't sleep well last night. I woke up again and again wishing to see the morning light from the window. The house we stayed at was very warm because the water from the hot spring was the source of the heating system (radiator). All we could do was to open the window.

After having a coffee and some bread, which by no means was enough for the kind of activity we did everyday, we left the house.

We started gaining altitude in a very changeable weather. We were close to 4000 meter, so in a second, there was snow, and a second later, sun.

Close to 4000 meter, the road turned into gravel and very steep. To make it more challenging for us, we were struggling with a very strong head wind too. So... The altitude, the wind, the condition of the road, made it very difficult for us to ride our bikes. From 3900 to 4240 meters, we walked our bikes, which in fact, was more difficult than riding it, but at least when we got dizzy because of the altitude, we would easily stop. So we walked all the last 300 meters.

We thought we would coast down from the top, but we went down to 3800 meters in a very bumpy road with big gravels. I was not enjoying the ride down at all. There was an incredibly strong wind from behind that pushed us forward, but what a waste because I had to break harder to slow down the bike on the bumpy, stony road.

I had seen a lot of pictures of this place on the Internet, and I had been dreaming of biking in this place, but little did I know how tough it would be. No water, no vegetation... Only nothingness and beautiful scenery.

After going down to 3800, we had to climb again to 4115 meters. Then we stayed in this altitude for an hour or so until we went down again to 3800 meters. In general, we were biking at 4000 all day. The only good thing was the tale wind.

It was getting late for camping. We had to decide what to do. We were in a tough situation: either we had to camp in 4000 in an incredible wind, or we had to keep cycling to see if at some point, the road takes a dive down. The more we biked, the more we realized that the road stayed in the same altitude. Finally, at about 6:30, we saw another ugly village, like the one last night, and decided to stay there.

A man invited us to stay in his house for $20  including dinner and breakfast. 


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Climbing to 3600 Meter; Today: 70 km; Total: 863 km

May 19, 2014

We left our beautiful camping spot at 8:20. The weather was fine, but later it started raining, so we had our rain gear on when cycling--not fun.

Pangs of hunger kept distracting me because I had only a coffee and some bread for breakfast. We stopped at a village and bought some eggs, but we couldnt find any bread. The shopkeeper, a nice lady, made some calls and asked someone to bring us some bread, for free. How nice of her! We then had a good breakfast: six eggs.

We were gaining altitude, so it got colder and colder. At about 3 o'clock, we reached  3500 meters where there was a statue of "the goat",  the statue I had been dreaming to see for some years. This statue, and statues alike, are placed in the highest mountain passes in Tajikistan. I was so excited to finally cycle to one of them. We took a moment to take pictures, but all of a sudden, it started hailing. It got really cold. I could not wear my warm clothes because they were at the bottom of my pannier. I did not want to stop in that weather and dig my clothes out. I would have snow and hail in my panniers, so I rode along. My hands were numb with cold. It was not fun at all.

After half hour or so, when we were still climbing, we got to a very ugly village. No trees, no farms, just very ugly houses. We had to stop there, so we asked a couple of guys where we could stay for the night and if there was a shop in the village. The guys took us to the shop. Like many shops in Pamir, the shop was a small room with a pile of stuff here and there. On the shelf, you could see expired cans of food. There was a freezer in the corner with some chicken legs in it. We bought two chicken legs and some potatoes.  One of the guys offered us his house for some money. We checked his house which was very close to the hot spring. It was OK. He asked for 50 Somoni for both of us. It was cold and miserable. My hands were frozen, so we decided to stay.

In the house, his sister also lives. She is a Russian teacher in the village. The guy, himself, works in Moscow two years and takes a two-month break. What a life! Of course, I don't blame them. In this village there is nothing to do. There is a hot spring, that's it, that's all. 

The Pass: 3600 meters

The Goat and the Scene

These men load trucks with boulders; that's their job. The Balaclava is their UV protection.

The Way to the Pass

Clouds Closing in on the Way Down

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Pamir at Last! Today: 60 km; Total: 793 km

May 18, 2014

Feeling very tired, we left the lodge at 8: 30. With no energy in our legs, we kept riding on a very steep road. Fausto had a lot of problems with his panniers. At one point, his rear pannier fell off the bike! So strange! We were not having a good morning at all.

We were registered by the first checkpoint at the beginning of Pamir Highway. Then we went to a small grocery shop and the only edible thing we could find was a loaf of bread and a Fanta (soft drink). There were no restaurants or cafes anywhere. The bread and Fanta tasted OK (I remembered that Coca Cola and bread was the only thing many poor construction workers in Tehran could afford to have on their lunch break). Feeling hungry, we stopped at another shop to get some biscuits and yoghurt. The guy then brought us some bread from home for free. From then, the good Karma started--people on the way being Tajik again and offering us tea by showing their mouths and their houses.

It was about two o'clock when an old lady gestured "tea" to me. I asked her if she had some vegetables to spare for our dinner. She had been talking to her friend when I asked her. She said goodbye to her friend and went to her house to bring me some veggies. Fausto and I were waiting outside her house when two young girls came out to invite us in. We first didn't want to, but then we decided to experience a Tajik house.

They took us inside the building, into the living room. Their mother and the girls waited at us with such hospitality I had never seen before; they brought us anything they had: Tea, food, butter, cookies, etc! I was speechless. I was thinking about my neighbour who would sue me if I stepped on his grass. What has modernity done to us? The concept of "my property" in Canada or in any modern society is destroying our humanity.

For about an hour, we were waited at with tea and food. And who were we? Total strangers! Some guys on their bikes who would never be seen again.  

We said goodbye to the family with a plastic bag full of carrots and onions. We kept riding in beautiful mountains on a relatively good road, gaining altitude little by little. At the end, at 5:30, we were at 3000 meters above the sea level, 1000 meters more than Khorough.

We are now camping in a beautiful spot surrounded by snow-covered mountains. We had dinner: boiled chopped carrots, onions, and potatoes.

My Achilles' tendon was not hurting as much today. I guess the pain is very much related to the condition of the road.