Saturday, 7 June 2014

and they're off

All of a sudden the lethargy, the apathy, the indecision comes to an end.  I opt for the muesli with the tropical fruits. We have got our Russian visas in our passports - nyet problem - and joy of joys, permits are being issued for the Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast i.e. we can cycle the Pamir Highway.  After a lot of dithering, Chris finally opts to head off along the Highway.  Franzi, Jona and Daniel have to go northwards because they don't have enough days left on their visas. Gabor has been waiting for the permit too but we tell him we don't want to cycle together.  We realised in Uzbekistan that our cycling rhythms are so different and we are looking forward to cycling on our own again.  But then Rob asks if he can join us and we feel awkward saying no.  So finally we say our farewells and set off.

As we head out of town we realise that Gabor is with us.  There's a horrible moment when we ask him not to cycle with us.  It is nothing personal but because Rob is with us it seems very personal.  Oh well. The road very soon becomes hilly and surrounded by farmland.  We are pootling along after lunch when we notice that Rob is chatting to someone on the side of the road.  Could it be Chris? It is. Did he wake up this morning and set off in the wrong direction? Did he forget his laundry?  Did he leave his heart in Dushanbe?  It turns out that after setting off the day before he seems to have suffered some sort of existentialist crisis not uncommon in solo cyclists and has decided to come and look for us.  So in one way we're happy he has found us. While we are chatting Gabor arrives.  

Now two's company but five's a pain in the arse.  Wild camping with four tents?  The notion of hiding out of sight seems improbable, but in the end it's not a big deal.  After cycling through Uzbekistan where all the main roads are lined with houses, the camping along the road here is much easier.  Our first night is on the edge of a fruit orchard,  and the second is on a grassy ledge overlooking the big river gorge we pass through.  The landscape gets better each day.  Although we want to cycle and camp on our own we don't want to say anything to the others and anyway the conversation has picked up with Chris in the group.  He is full of philosophical questions to amuse and trouble us in equal measure over the cooking stoves.  Gabor is his usual lugubrious self - carefully setting up camp and preparing his dinner to the quiet accompaniment of the occasional "ho ha" or "oh fuck".  Rob meanwhile worries about things that I might worry about but never vocalise.  Well, no, even I don't worry as much as Rob.  In fact his worrying makes me feel quite relaxed and blase.  At the end of the second day we arrive at a village in a narrow gorge.  Gayle and I don't want to camp near the village but we're all feeling a bit knackered and Rob looks tempted to camp on the edge of the fields on the outskirts.  What would Chris do in such a situation? He grins "Ride for another two hours until it gets dark."  It's exactly this kind of situation we've been trying to avoid - the negotiation and decision-making. It's hard enough with just the two of us.  We turn to ask Gabor what he thinks.  He's got off his bike in search of something in a shop.  So we ride off.  Up a steep climb and round the corner is the grassy ledge where we find camping, thus proving Gayle's claim that there's always somewhere to camp......

stopped bus

The tarmac on the road has virtually disappeared but the scenery continues to unbelievably get better.  How can it get better?  Well, snow-capped mountains peak up in the distance, there are more climbs and as all good cyclists know, the hillier it is the better the views.  Group morale is good, especially when we pass the first police checkpoint and don't get turned back. The Pamir Highway is open and we're on our way.  It's a great feeling.  The only thing that could ruin this would be bad weather. 

mobile petrol station

1 comment:

  1. It seems that humans are just social animals. Are we made to stay alone ?

    Great adventure friends.