Friday, June 16, 2006

Near Ayni

Not wanting to deal with the staring kids longer than necessary I ate breakfast quickly & got away as soon as possible.

The valley became narrower & narrower. The road surface grew worse & worse. The combination of this & the climbing turned this into a slow day. There was lots of water flowing. In each village there were spouts from which water gushed. I saw signs announcing a project sponsored by the German government to provide drinking water. I risked that these spouts were part of this & took water from them as did the locals.

I had lunch in a chaykhana. I'd hoped to find a restaurant that made plov, the Central Asian dish of rice, vegetables & meat. However restaurants were pretty slim on the ground & there wasn't one when I got hungry. When I arrived there was a group of locals lunching on conserved meat, fried (beef) sausage, tomatoes & bread. They invited me to join them. Soon a bottle of vodka came out & rounds started. I declined to join in with the vodka & stuck to tea which was graciously accepted. A number of toasts to Tajikistan & New Zealand were made.

At Ayni the valley became a gorge, with the only flat land being the road. I could see that this road took quite a battering from the elements & didn't get much more than essential maintenance. The road was the only one between Dushanbe & Kokand, an ethnically Uzbek city that Stalin decided should be part of the Tajik Soviet Republic, & the Uzbek capital Tashkent. During the winter the only way between these places & Dushanbe was by air.

Quite late in the day I realised that decent camping opportunities would be hard to find by this road. I passed up an invitation to stay at a house by the road, I really wanted privacy. A short distance later I came to a flat spot with space to pitch my tent. It was a far from ideal spot, completely visible to passing cars but I became invisible once it got dark & the traffic died down as it did anyway. I didn't want to push on further on the hope of finding something better.

I cycled 90 km in 8 hours & 19 minutes
Total so far 6880 km in 100 days
GPS Coordinates of end point - N 39°17.122, E 68°32.550

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