Monday, July 17, 2006

Near Ala-Bel Pass

I got up good & early & while having breakfast I watched the first rays of the Sun touch the hills around the lake before eventually arriving at the camping spot.

I left the campsite a bit earlier than Sebastien & Roman so as to be able to meet up with them later. I liked hanging out with them but they had a different rhythm of cycling than I, they stopped less frequently & most importantly were faster. They didn't mind waiting for me but it bothered me, making me go faster & stop less often than I liked. My solution was to leave earlier than them & cycle by myself during the day, which I liked. They would pass me at some point. Thereby they would only need to wait for me at the end of the day. It worked today.

The road skirted around the lake then cut over a ridge into a valley. A kilometres on I arrived at the town of Toktogul. It was a fairly bleak place. I'd hoped for an Internet cafй & a cafй to eat fish caught in the lake but it had neither. Though it had a bazaar.

I'd been told earlier that there were few places to buy food from Toktogul until over the mountain range that separated the region from the North of the country, a distance of over 100km. I was very relieved when a cyclist coming in the opposite direction that there were lots of restaurants at least up to the Ala-Bel, some 70km further on & 2600m up from Toktogul. Indeed as the road rose I passed many small road-side cafйs, many of them serving fish freshly caught from the Chychkan river that ran beside the road. I regretted that I hadn't been able to hold out beyond the first cafй that I came to for lunch, which didn't have fish.

The climb up the Chychkan river valley was lovely. The road ran parallel to the Chychkan river which was a white water river that had carved a twisted path through the mountains. The lower section of the road was lined with apricot trees that were heavy with almost ripe fruit. There were lots of beehives along the way & every couple of hundred metres there was a small stall selling some delicious honey. I cleared some space in my panniers at the end of the day in order to be able to buy some. The mountains rose steeply on either side of the road. A little snow on the high points could be seen though there was none lower down. To 1900m & beyond, where I met up Sebastien & Roman, the banks of the river were thickly wooded where it wasn't to steep.

We found a really nice camping spot by a bend in the river in a small forest clearing. It had recently finished raining & the forest was filled with the nice 'wet' smells of the pine trees. It was far enough away from the road that the rushing of the river over the rocks drowned out all traffic noise besides that of large trucks. I cooked up a large & satisfying dinner which had as a dessert wild strawberries picked from beside the campsite.

I cycled 83 km in 7 hours & 16 minutes
Total so far 9000 km in 131 days
GPS Coordinates of end point - N 42°9.287, E 72°50.257

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