Saturday, September 2, 2006


I got up early to fix a couple of bike problems. I was greeted by the Sun coming up from behind Kongur Shan. It had been pretty cold during the night & water had partially frozen in my water bottle.

When we got on the road at 9am it was comfortably t-shirt weather. The tail wind that had propelled us up the valley the previous day abandoned us & a head wind grew stronger & stronger as the day progressed.

We climbed up to Kara Kul lake, which sat at the foot of both Kongur Shan & Mustagh Ata. It was quite a lovely spot but had become quite a tourist spot. There was a resort inside a large fenced off area right beside the lake & lots of fake concrete yurts. The inhabitants of the area were ethnic Kyrgyz. I felt little of the generous hospitality that was one of the highlights of yurt country in Kyrgyzstan. Here we were seen as commercial opportunities, with trinkets for sale being waved at us & offers of accommodation (at 10am, go figure!) as we passed.

From Karakul the excellent road went South along a green plateau fed by snow melt from the mountains above & scattered with real yurts, the occasional settlement & a huge number of grazing cattle, yaks & camels. We left the plateau climbed up to 4100m pass, which gave yet more scenic views of the 2 mountains that dominated the landscape.

The pass should have been the last significant barrier before Tashkurgan but the wind was getting stronger & stronger. We dropped down through the arid highlands into a wide valley with Mustagh Ata on one side & the mountainous border of Tajikistan on the other. We crossed into the Tajik area of China at the pass & I started seeing distinctly non-Oriental faces in the villages along the way.

Though Tashkurgan was around 100km from the Pakistani border it was the location of the Chinese border control. Due to their concern over the ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan they made cyclists take a bus across the Pakistani border. We didn't know what times the bus left & to avoid missing perhaps the only chance in a day we stayed in Tashkurgan. Though I was quite strong throughout the day Nick was having issues with the wind & we finally reached Tashkurgan in the dark. Our accommodation was a slightly nasty but cheap dorm room. The shared toilets, a row of cubicles over a single trough through which a flow a water was periodically flushed, were something to get used to. Neither of us ventured to have a shower.

I cycled 109 km in 7 hours & 44 minutes
Total so far 10551 km in 158 days

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