Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 190 (Tajikistan): nowhereland - Karakul (on top of things … all that biking has to offer in one day)

daily distance: 74 km
total distance: 11,323km
riding time: 6h

Today was the day. Going up the Aik-Baital Pass. I have to admit that I was apprehensive, I had never been this high on a bike. But on the other hand, it was only just over 12km to the top from where I had slept, so it should be doable. I had come all the way after all … the things you tell yourself in these situations.

The night had been good. No problems whatsoever with the low temperatures (all I can say is that at 7am it was -8C outside the tent), my sleeping bag held up nicely. I didn’t need any add-ons (such as the silk liner I have for this purpose and for sleeping in warmer temperatures, but those times are over I guess) and the wind had been a factor early on in the night, but died down soon enough.

The morning was glorious though cold. And the birds were singing. No idea what keeps them up here at this altitude.

I took it easy, figuring that I needed to warm up in the sun. The altitude wasn’t much of a factor at first and so I had a go at the pass. Here it is. Looks easy, but the hard part is around the corner.

The ride towards the pass isn’t really bad at all. But then it’s all out war. It’s short, but it’s steep. Within only 2.5km you gain 250m. What this means is steepness. Don’t ask for an average percentage - U and P can figure that out maybe.

This is a view from the last climb.

Things took longer than usual owing to the altitude and I had to play the mindgame thing again. But the feeling on the top was nothing short of amazing. Here’s an impression.

Wait, no …

There was also an Iranian tourist group / camera crew on the top of the pass which had slightly annoyed me on the uphill. You want to be by yourself then and there (I do at least) and they kept shooting. I told them to stop, but they wouldn’t.

On the top they were really nice though. We had a short chat and they gave me some tea and then I was on my own again. The feeling though is hard to describe. It felt like the top of the world a bit. It’s the highest point on my trip (4655m - just over 15,000ft) and I felt elated (alright, the altitude got to me) and glad that I had been able to get here.

With a grin on my face I headed down against the increasingly cold wind. And beautiful valley.

Good at first, the road turned to …. well, nothingness. It was bad. Washboard for km on end. I have never seen anything like this. It got to the point where I chose the old road that runs parallel with the “new” one and was at least not worse. Sometimes I ditched the roads entirely and went cross-country. Whatever works I guess. Tough going for sure though.

The wind was playing its usual game, coming from the side mainly, but in the end blowing me straight into Karakul.

Not without stopping to take some shots of where I had been and the lake I was running alongside. Again, the area is absolutely stunning. At Karakul I decided to stay in some family’s homestay instead of camping. The wind was too fierce and the only places for good camping were … on the Chinese side of things. Karakul itself is depressing - but interesting as well.

Including the donkey wars that were going on in the squares and alleys …

There is not much there, the lakefront property is a dump - a shame given how beautiful it is.

1 comment

1 Antoinette Morgan { 10.08.08 at 12:39 pm }

My god this place is beautiful!!

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