Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 186 (Tajikistan): Upalisai - Ak-Balyk (two down, many more passes to go and feeling strange)

daily distance: 81km
total distance: 11,162km
riding time: 6h

It was still bittercold when we woke up the next morning. I was happy to stay under the blanket for a while as the road leading up to the pass was in the shadow and it seemed to make little sense to go up without the sun warming things up a bit.

When they did, it was still a steep, steep battle. Parts were again not fit for biking, the upper part of the pass being obliterated by the big trucks that are taking this route and for some reason there being no asphalt. This is the case so often here - you get to the most challenging part and it is made even harder. Very few vehicles passed me over the course of the next 45 minutes or so. Which was great. And here is to yesterday’s picture of me pointing up …

The pass flattens out towards the end and then you’re up at 4272m and it’s a cool feeling to be up that high under your own steam.

The other great thing here is the complete change of scenery from the valley I had been following to the other side of things. It is sometimes described as a lunar landscape - at any rate the mountains are more rolling than anything and there is a salt plateau further on. It is an amazing scenery once you can enjoy it when being on asphalt again. Which takes a while and the haphazard efforts of the Tajik construction workers don’t seem to make things a whole lot better.

Just as things were getting nice in terms of the asphalt, the next climb looms ominously in the distance and it was clear that there was no blacktop and that it was steep again. Unrideable for me in parts, but with great views.

Once over the pass and getting through some rough road on the other side, a plain comes into view with several lakes dotting it.

It was here - after passing the turnoff to the Whakan Valley that I seemed to be running out of steam completely. Nothing seemed to help much. Water was OK, I had eaten, but I was running on empty it seemed. It may have been the altitude (still at 3900m) that made want to go no further. Plus, the weather seemed to be turning as well, so the detour I had thought about taking was out of the question. I didn’t have much of a choice I felt and continued at a snail’s pace until Alichur. Bonk - what a drab place. It may have been the weather, gloomy and cold, it may have been the place. But I didn’t want to stay. Got myself some chocolate after which I seemed to be doing better again and slugged on for another 13km or so. The plain was still sparsely inhabited by Kyrgyz people in yurts. But I ended up in a home not far from which I had asked for some water source. I was invited in, the place turned out to be a restaurant and because of the wind and how I felt I decided to stay for the night instead of heading for a different place.

Good choice. Bek and his wife are fun people, they invited me into their kitchen after the other guests had left. The kitchen consisting of a tiny space and a stove where an atrocious soup was cooked up. It wasn’t really tasty I must admit, but hey. There also wasn’t any more space than the four of us (one other person helping out) and the stove. But it was warm. Heated by dried up cow doo-doo (no, it doesn’t smell, everyone heats with this stuff here) and light supplied by batteries powered by a solar panel we spent the evening together.


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