Friday, July 7, 2006

Near Ak-Baital Pass

I left Murgab after a nice breakfast & headed North. The road would be running through pretty desolate country for the next while. The next settlement of any size that I'd come to would be the village of Karakul 130km from Murgab. There was a 1000m climb to the 4655m Ak-Baital pass along the way.

My French friends Sebastien & Roman had left town late the day before. We had a rendezvous in Karakul where Sebastien was due to give some books that had been donated by his University to some school children.

I'd been above 3500m for the last couple of days & for times above 4000m. I appeared to be acclimatised though I wasn't used to the low amount of oxygen available. I found myself panting after the smallest amount of mildly intense activity. If I got carried away while talking & didn't take a breath in time I'd be gasping for air. When my breathing would relax prior to sleep sometimes it became too shallow to get enough oxygen & I would need to breath more deeply which would disturb me. None of this was serious, I just needed to take it into account. Cycling up slopes was quite challenging & I had to be careful not to rush myself.

The pass was 70km from Murgab & the road gently rose. Around Murgab the land was completely bare, all vegetation had long been stripped away for use as fuel. Only the area beside the Murgab river was green. High mountains rose above the valley. The 7500m Mustagh Ata across the border in China could just be made out.

I took it easy & at 5pm still had almost 500m of altitude to gain to get over the pass. I stopped & setup my tent by a small stream. The altitude was just over 4300m, the highest I'd ever bedded down. As the Sun went down it became quite chilly but I had enough clothes so didn't get cold. There was a stiff breeze & the fly which I'd been carrying unused for the last 3 1/2 months was put to good use as a wind break.

I cycled 67 km in 6 hours & 17 minutes
Total so far 8179 km in 120 days
GPS Coordinates of end point - N 38°34.295, E 73°40.454

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