Sunday, July 2, 2006


Apparently sometime in the last couple of days I crossed into a new unofficial time zone. Badakshan time is 2 hours ahead of Dushanbe time that I'd become accustomed to. Actually it really makes little difference,
it gets light therefore I wake, the Sun gets low I seek a campsite.

I left my homestay quite late, after lunch, with a couple of loaves of freshly made bread from their oven. I couldn't shake off the fatigue of the last couple of days. I didn't choose a good way to relax in the morning. In the morning I tried to cycle up (leaving my luggage at the homestay) to the remains of an impressive castle. However I ended out pushing the bike to the castle so steep & poor was the road.

The Pyanj & the valley floor became quite wide with big banks of sand. I had some impressive views of valleys going up to high peaks of the Hindu Kush over the other side of the river. The road while fine for cars was awful for cycling. Asphalt was but a memory, instead the road was often corrugated or deep gravel with patches of sand & large river stones. It took so much energy to get anywhere & concentration to find a ridable line. In the late afternoon a really strong tail wind started. I looked behind me & thought I was seeing mist coming up the valley so obscured had the mountains become. Instead it was sand blown from the valley floor. I was very fortunate not to have to fight my way against this. I was glad to be propelled into Langar.

It was ironic that even though I was traveling in Tajikistan the best sights were in Afghanistan. This should soon change as I start to head North up the Pamir river. Once I pass the military checkpoint at Khargush I'll have Tajikistan on both sides of the road.

I have been a bit soft of late, I've only camped twice since arriving in Badakshan. It's been relatively difficult to find suitably secluded spots even in this sparsely populated place. Most of the land beside the road is steep rock going up 2000m & most that's flat is occupied by crops or villages. So I've either stayed in a guesthouse, chaykhana or homestay. This night was no different. I stayed at a guesthouse in a museum for the Pamiri house. It was a lovingly crafted house in the traditional style, with an entrance hall leading onto a single 20m by 20m living area. Above the centre of the living area was a square skylight set in a series of rotated squares one on top of another made from solid wooden beams. A raised platform covered in carpets & cushions ran around the edges of the room with the exception of the area around the entrance door. The ceiling was supported by 5 wooden columns at the inside edges of the raised platform, 4 by the corners & 1 more which with 1 of the corner columns flanked the entrance way. Each column was named after 1 of the 5 Ismaeli prophets, Mohammed, Ali, Fatima, Hassan & Hussein. The wooden beams supporting the ceiling & framing the skylight as well as the vertical columns were carved in a simple rustic style with lots of geometric patterns. The walls were 50cm thick of plastered mudbrick with decorative scenes painted on the inside. The roof was flat, made of mud on a wood frame, which must be quite strong as the region gets a lot of snow in winter. The house I'd stayed at the previous night had also been built in the same way though with less put into carving & painting. Both places had a portrait of the current Aga Klan hanging on one of the columns.

I had the place all to myself & judging by the guestbook most people do. While the administrator of the place was hospitable enough he was a bit reluctant at first. I think he didn't want to put in the effort for just 1 person. After the previous night's warm hospitality it felt a bit dry. I didn't really mind. I was too tired to respond to hospitality, even though I'd not cycled long. I was fed a rather bare plov of just rice with no vegetables or meat. The town is at the far extreme of Badakshan, 200km from the regional capital Khorog over a bad road in 1 direction & 2 4000m passes in another. Being fairly high, at 2800m up it doesn't produce much itself. It had a pretty tenuous electricity supply, it came on at 10pm Badakshan time & was gone in the morning.

I cycled 41 km in 3 hours & 30 minutes
Total so far 7879 km in 115 days

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