Monday, 9 June 2014

mud, sweat and tears

before the rain
It rains.  It really rains.  The sky turns black and there's thunder and lightning.  We have reached the village of Tavildara where the last good shop is.  It's a relative term.  Rob goes in and out of the two shops and comes out empty-handed, looking a bit bewildered.  What to buy?  There are few vegetables, and those that are sitting in sacks look a little sad and sorry.  On the shelves are boring biscuits, UHT cream from Pakistan, tins of tomato puree.  On the floor sacks of flour, rice and pasta.  Under the counter Snickers and Mars Bars.  Gayle comes out with bags bursting just as the rain starts.  Chris has been chatting with Mahmoud, the local English teacher, who invites all five of us back to his uncle's house.  It's the end of the day and there's a torrential downpour outside.  We accept happily.

At the house we park our bikes in the garden and sit around the low table in the back room of the house.  Mahmoud is very talkative, opinionated, interesting and interested.  We are fed well by his aunt and although most of  us enter a vague zombie-like trance, Rob keeps up the conversation.  I only wince once when he asks Mahmoud if he has ever visited other countries on holiday. Mahmoud also makes us wince when he asks about niggers in England.  We tell him that we don't use this word - it's derogatory - a bit like Russians calling him a dirty Tajik.  Mahmoud has worked in Moscow, and nods in understanding.  "In Russia they call all of us from the Caucuses and Central Asia, tree stumps."  He and his uncle are more bemused when the subject of marriage comes up.  Whilst me and Gayle get off lightly, Chris, Rob and Gabor are quizzed incredulously as to why they are not married.  We are amused - it seems obvious to us.

how many cyclists does it take.....
The next day the skies look ominously grey.   We set off along the valley before reaching the washed-out bridge.  we have heard a lot about this river-crossing.  However, we've already crossed several so we keep asking ourselves 'is this the river-crossing?'  But this is definitely the one.  Wide and deep on the far side.  The water is the colour of Nesquik and rocks are being rolled along under the surface.  One by one we make the crossing before being held up at another police checkpoint.  We don't know what the problem is, but we are not allowed to continue.  The policeman holding our passports smirks like a naughty schoolboy before finally releasing us.  We now have the pleasure of a steep climb to a 3,000 metre pass.  This pleasure is made even greater by the dirt road that has turned to mud in the rain.  It rains on and off.  The mud is so bad we resort to pushing.  And pushing.  And pushing.  Our feet disappear in the mud. Gayle looks back at me and we burst out laughing.  This is so awful it's funny.  We finally push past the last village in the valley and come to rest at a closed tea house where we meet two more cyclists who greet us with the offer of tea.  Wonderful.  It turns out that Claudi and Bill Murray (for it is he) have only cycled 6km today.  At the tea house is covered space for tents and a water fountain - the perfect rest place.  Just before there's more rain, Gabor arrives.  

In the morning Chris and Rob arrive early from their camp near the village below.  We all start to plod up the road to the pass.  At some point it hails.  We find shelter in a ruined building.  It's a slog to the top and I'm not in the mood for cycling.  I push a long way.  Gayle cycles in her granny gear.  At the pass we pause for photos, lunch and tears of exhilaration. Bloody hell.

Bill can't stop joking around. 
He and Claudi had paid the policeman at the checkpoint
 some money to get through - which is why he held us up.......

1 comment:

  1. Ho shit, it seems so hard from here.
    Maybe it's easier to take it in a philosophic way when you are several people.

    Keep going.