Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Near Irkeshtam Pass

The heavy dew of the evening had frozen to my tent. The washing I'd hung on my bike was stiff with frost. It was the first freezing night since March!

I'd set my alarm for 6:30am knowing that the Sun wouldn't have yet touched my tent. When it went off it took some effort to extract myself from my warm sleeping bag & head outside. Once I was outside it was all worthwhile, the view of the Pamirs that had yesterday been obscured by cloud was totally clear with the dawn Sun shining on their snowy slopes. Given that I'd slept quite high it was nice that I didn't have any of the effects of altitude sickness.

For the next few hours we cycled at a slow pace along the valley, climbing slowly. As we went the line of got closer & even more impressive. Where the road topped out, at about 3500m, a number of yurts were scattered. We were invited into one & were served tea, yogurt, bread & a kind of cream that the bread could be dipped in. The place swarmed with easy going fun kids who loved getting their photos taken. In return we promised to send them copies of the photos.

We'd given up on arriving at the border in time to cross but at a police checkpoint we were told that it was open for longer than we'd been informed. Also to our delight the rather nasty road turned into silky smooth asphalt for the last 17km. The race for the border was on. Finding ourselves in time we were invited to have a late lunch/early dinner with some friendly Kyrgyz in the village just before the border. We then arrived at the border with 1/2 an hour to spare only to find that the Chinese had shut their side down. Not wanting to stay in the rather squalid truck park beside the crossing we backtracked to a quiet & secluded spot off the main road to camp.

I cycled 64 km in 5 hours & 55 minutes
Total so far 10129 km in 149 days
GPS Coordinates of end point - N 39°9.536, E 73°2.997

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