It rained lightly through the first half of the night, but my tent was dry by the morning. The alarm call of a Golden Marmot, as he emerged from a hole nearby tent and spotted the strange structure, acted as my own alarm. I left my cosy home to go to the toilet, but the temperature outside my tent, and the fact that the sun had not yet risen above the horizon of mountains, convinced me to lie in a little longer. I felt pretty disinterested in riding, but I knew there was no use complaining about being tired, as doing so wouldn’t change the fact I had another day’s ride ahead of me to reach a town. Soon enough I was back on the road and enjoying the beautiful landscape. A downhill soon into my day took me to a river flowing with bright red water. I came across the red river again a short time later, and this time it was flowing into another tributary, one of blue water. Seeing the different-coloured water come together was amazing: the water never mixed, so for as far as I could see the red and blue water ran alongside each other so that half of the river was red and the other half was blue. From here I began to climb…and climb and climb. Up and up I rode until I was in line with and then above the snowline in the surrounding mountains. It got cooler and windier the higher I went. It also got more beautiful. Nomadic camps were dotted through the landscape and out of these kids would come running to the roadside to say hello. The climb ended about 25km out of Sary Tash, wherefrom I enjoyed a gradual descent interspersed with flat stretches and the occasional short climb. As if it wasn’t beautiful enough already, the scenery just continued to impress me more and more. Adding to the permanent features was a dark storm that sat in the air not far away and was clearly dropping some torrential rain, but luckily it kept its distance so I could admire it without being caught in the downpour. Not far from Sary Tash I came across a stunning scene: a huge mob of sheep being herded up the road by a woman on horseback with a backdrop of blue skies smattered with epic clouds, snowy mountains and green rolling foothills.

Sary Tash proved to be much quieter than I imagined. I rode to the main junction where I spied the signs for Tatina Hotel and Eliza Guesthouse. As I parked my bike within easy walking distance of each, I was approached by a foreigner on a bike and had a bit of a chat. Thus I met Piotrek from Poland, who together with his German partner Dorothea is cycling west from China (13000km.com). I had a look at each accommodation offering and in the end I decided to stay at Eliza’s. When I returned to my bike I got chatting to a guy (Peter from France) who is staying at Tatina Hotel, and who is also travelling by bike (heading into China next, having started in Istanbul).

Back at my new home, I settled in before enquiring about hot water for a shower. I was told it would take an hour for some water to be heated up. While I waited, I visited Peter to see if he wanted to exchange some money. He gave me US dollars in exchange for the last of my Chinese Yuan. I now just need to sort out a little Kyrgyz cash to cover the next couple of days, as well as a bunch of Tajik cash to see me through the first part of the Pamir Highway. When I returned home, my hot water was waiting for me in a bucket, along with a bucket of cold water. I took these to the heated shower room where I had a glorious wash. Clean and ready to sit down, I booted up my phone and connected to the WIFI. Having had no internet in northern Pakistan and limited access to social media in China, I had a lot of new messages to catch up on. I spent the evening catching up on things in the internet world and chatting with Piotrek and Dorothea. Dinner, which is included in my stay, consisted of rice with two bite size pieces of meat and a small salad of tomato and cucumber.

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Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 63.64km
Average cycling speed 12.4kph
Total distance ridden 19,648km