Wednesday, 18 June 2014

off yer bike

I'm mourning the fact that my museli has run out and I can't find any when Nick, another cyclist, says "Oh, I found museli in a shop in the bazaar yesterday". My heart leaps with joy and the sense of relief this news brings me relaxes my whole body.  I feel like the monkey is off my back. "Which shop was it?" I ask eagerly.  Nick shrugs. "To be honest, I can't remember.  I went in so many".  My shoulders slump forwards with the simian weight that comes with this reply.  I feel a strong urge to bash Nick's head against the door until he remembers.

There’s no sign of any trouble here in Khorog except for the burnt out shells of two buildings on the high street – police buildings.  Now everything is back to normal again.  The town is the administrative centre of the Pamir region and there’s a university built by the Aga Khan Foundation, so it’s really the big city in these parts.  The people in this region are predominantly Ismaili and the Aga Khan is their revered leader.  Sort of a pope in Shia clothing (although he’s always dressed in snazzy suits in all the photos you see of him in folks’ houses).  We are staying at the Pamir Lodge which was built to fund the local Ismaili prayer hall.  They do not have mosques, do not observe Ramadan and the women have more equality than traditional Muslims.  Infidels.  The Lodge is the best place to meet other cyclists and travellers so what it lacks in cleanliness and comforts is made up for in sociability.  In the evenings locals come to the prayer hall and the call to prayeris sung by a woman.  It's a magical sound.

staple food

Hannah is calling her mum on Skype in the garden.  She's sitting in a chair and one of the old ladies who live here is looking over her shoulder. But the connection is not that good, apparently: "No mum, it's not Damian.  This is the woman who runs the guesthouse. No, it's not Damian."
cyclists doing what's best: eating and lounging around - Dino, Suzy, Gabor, Damian and 'Bartang' Robert

Hannah and Damian arrived after us.  We met them briefly in Dushanbe while trying to get our permits for the Badakshan region.  More cyclists arrive: Robert has come from Osh in Kyrgyzstan over the very difficult Bartang Valley route and he is circling back to Osh.  Suzy and Dino arrive with him.  We heard from them through Chris, so it's great to finally meet them, although we are daunted by their speed and strength - they've come from the UK in ten months.  Hannah and Tyson turn up from Dushanbe too.  Nick is going in the opposite direction to us all and we ask him about the Wakhan Valley route.  He seems quite unimpressed by it.  Later on this amazes us.  We want to ride up the valley but the route sounds tough - talk of bad roads, sand, and a difficult pass of about 4300 metres.  In the end we take advice from James at Untamed Borders (see links) and Bill Weir, who is one of our most respected Crazy Guy On A Bike contributors.  They convince us that the Wakhan is the way to go.
now where's the bloody museli?

Meanwhile we need to get supplies from the busy little bazaar and say our farewells to Chris and Gabor who need to keep moving because of visa constrictions.  Chris departs first up the main highway that the Chinese trucks are using.  Gabor delays and delays until we finally leave before him.  We always thought he was slow to set off but he seems determined to break his own personal best at procrastination. We know that Rob is coming our way too, but no-one else has made up their minds.  So, after a few lazy days it's time to saddle up once again.

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