Saturday, July 8, 2006


I got up a little before the Sun touched the tent. It was a cold night. Ice had formed at the edges of the streams. The wind that had opposed me on the way up was present but lighter than the previous day.

I finished off the last few kms of the Ak-Baital pass, though it came close to finishing me off. Though I was acclimatised I still hadn't built up my red blood cell levels to the point of being able to exert myself much. The road became a bit steeper soon after I left my camping spot, nothing that would seriously hinder me at lower altitudes. However at 4400m I found myself losing breath very quickly. The only way I could go slowly enough was to push the bike, though I made a point of cycling the last few metres over the pass.

I'd hoped to have a nice cruise down to Karakul. Unfortunately the road surface & the increasingly strong headwind turned the descent into a slog. I was quite close to the Chinese border, according to my map it ran along the top of the range that was parallel to the road. I suppose the Chinese weren't happy with leaving high mountains as a natural barrier & had built a barbed fence at the level of the road which went from Murgab side of the pass to at least Karakul, a distance of over 100km.

I stopped at Karakul village which was on the shore of the lake of the same name. The lake was at just under 4000m, was lifeless, slightly saline & a beautiful azure blue. Around the lake rose mountains to over 5000m. The village had the look of the other high altitude towns I had seen in Tajikistan. Though the place was wired for electricity it wasn't available while I was there. It appeared to be quite a poor place & the food at the homestay that I slept at mirrored this. Dinner was cabbage soup followed by more cabbage & bread, not really great cyclists' fare.

I cycled 67 km in 6 hours & 14 minutes
Total so far 8246 km in 121 days

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