Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 191 (Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan): Karakul - noman’s land (two passes, snow … and still happy)

daily distance: 70 km
total distance: 11,403km
riding time: 5-6h

Gloomy skies greeted me early in the morning. There was no great sunrise to be seen. And then the snow came. My hosts had said that there wouldn’t be any snow. So much for local experience with the weather.

After some time it seemed good enough to go. It was cold, but it seemed that things would be improving … and they did. The weather cleared up for some time and revealed the stunning scenery around me.

At a cemetery not far from Karakul I put in my first stop. For some reason I find the cemeteries here quite moving. They are not polished at all and exposed to the elements here at 4000m - they have a special mystery I think. See for yourself (granted, few cemeteries can compete when it comes to remoteness and scenery).

Then the road climbed up to the first pass and what I had thought before already came true. I felt like !@#$. Despite good food and plenty of sleep the previous night I seemed to have no energy. This was also supposed to be an easy pass, but for me it certainly wasn’t.

I could have yelled were it not for the thin air. Save your breath, you need every single one. The thought of flagging down the next car was tempting. But alas, there weren’t any. There were two all day, one each way. My hunch is that the the Ak-Baytal pass was not open and the through-traffic therefore non-existent.

Eventually I was up at this rather uninspiring pass and headed for the downhill. Fingers freezing (at least the feet were warm in the seal skins) I got into a mess. Temperatures dropped precipitously (-5C plus wind chill) and snow began to fall. Fun stuff. The downhill was like flying into a bank of fog. I am sure the scenery is stunning, but on the first plateau I had no vision whatsoever. Hence no pictures.

Then the scene became ghastly. See for yourself.

It was here that my spirits actually got a boost. Believe it or not. I found the area strangely mysterious, ominous and forbidding. But at the same time intensely beautiful. The snow had crept to the road, but never covered it and so riding itself was not a problem.

It did become one once the asphalt stopped and the washboard began. It lasted for 9km.

But the fun never stops and I couldn’t resist heading into the big neighbor of the country I was in. What? you say! Well, there was an open gate and apparently no one around. And so I couldn’t resist.

Just after snapping these, Jan appeared from a slight bump in the road. A French cyclist (make that two cars and one cyclist then for the day) on his way home we chatted for a while, exchanging information on the situation ahead.

My work was in plain sight and with the weather improving things turned to be amazing. What had been lying under fog, clouds and snowfall was now in full view - including brooding clouds on one side and blue skies on the other. Where I was heading.

The Tajik border guards weren’t fun. I had to show my passport not once, not twice, but three times. I had enough. The guys in the last container were the worst. Where are you going? Well, the road goes to Kyrgyzstan, right? And then where? Brazil, rolling my eyes. The guy didn’t like that answer and it was unnecessary. I had to unpack and was only let go after a while.

Hence the good mood.

1 comment

1 Casondra { 10.27.08 at 7:10 pm }

People should read this.

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