I slept well, but woke up before my alarm. My body was feeling very unhealthy until I completed my morning stretches, after which I felt ready to hit the road for the short ride into Murghab. Just out of town I came across a big river that had washed away the road. There were a group of local guys there trying to unstick a car that didn’t quite make it across. One of these guys pointed out the shallowest route across the river. I walked my bike across, cursing quietly as my feet became numb in the ice-cold water. A little further on, I recorded a short video of myself riding under the welcome archway on the edge of town and then I was free to make my way to a comfortable home in the form of the Pamir Hotel. As I pulled in I was greeted by a pair of female cyclists who were readying themselves for the ride north towards Kyrgyzstan. I checked into a dorm room, which I was happy to find was empty. As I had passed 17 cyclists yesterday, all of whom had stayed at the Pamir Hotel, I had expected there to be heaps of other cyclists here today. But after the two girls left, I was the only one. I spent my sweet time in the bathroom, having a cold shower (not wanting to wait until 11am when the hot water system kicks in) before cleaning my ears, plucking stray nose hairs and shaving.
Having had just a small breakfast to get me moving, I was starting to get pretty hungry, so I headed down the road to the bazaar, which is a gravel street lined with shipping container shops. I exchanged some US dollars for my first Tajik SOM, which I used to buy some tomatoes, cucumbers, vegetable relish and bread. I then visited a shop to buy credit for the T-Cell SIM card that Anne had given me in Kashgar. It took a while to load it up with some money, then I discovered that there is no mobile internet reception in Murghab. I thought the guys might be having me on and that they wanted to take my money without topping up the phone, but my worries were replaced with apologetic feelings when the hotel manager confirmed that money had indeed been added to the SIM.
Back at home I prepared a couple of sandwiches before lying down to assess my to-do list. I spent some time re-working my calendar and planning the next couple of weeks on the bike. Then I took my stove to a sink in the bathroom and gave it a big scrub to clean off the blackened petrol stains. When I asked the manager some general questions about hotel meals, he asked if I wanted lunch now. I forgot about the fact I had eaten a couple of big sandwiches, so I said yes, ordering a cabbage soup, yak-meat goulash and something starting with ‘s’ that was like a meat pie. Oh, and a coke that turned out to be 1L. I somehow managed to squeeze all of this in, feeling both sick and satisfied at the same time. I let this feast sit for a while before returning to the bazaar to buy a Megaphon SIM card, which I think is the only one that works in this part of Tajikistan. I saw the same guy as before and was able to tell him that all was okay with the earlier T-Cell top up. He told me that he won’t have new Megaphon SIM cards until tomorrow. This freed up my afternoon, which I was probably going to have spent attached to my phone. Instead, I decided to work on my bike. I readjusted the front brakes, rewired my bike computer and straightened both my bike seat and headlight. I also started swapping my mirror over to the other side of the handlebars but became stuck when I learned that a bolt had rusted in and was impossible to loosen. I asked the hotel manager if they had a workshop that might have a metal cutting tool and was told that in the evening a guy who has tools would be around.
In the meantime, I went for a walk through town, stopping in at a little sports ground where I joined a throng of spectators watching a volleyball match. As I left the game, I got chatting to a couple of guys from Khorog. They are in Murghab as part of an NGO team of first-aid trainers. Thus I had my first proper conversation with Tajik people. They explained the layout of Murghab to me (we could pretty much see the whole town from our vantage point) and I was able to begin learning about Tajikistan and its people. Among the things I learned: the population of the country is 7 million and love marriages have replaced arranged ones as the norm. By this time it was getting dark and a freezing wind was making us all shiver. I returned to the hotel, where I hung out in the foyer, chatting to some motorcyclists and three other cyclists who had arrived in the afternoon. When these three announced they were going for dinner, I asked if I could join them. They are two girls and one guy, all French. With the sun well and truly down by the time we finished eating, we were all falling asleep at the table (the setting sun being a cyclist’s call to bed). In a stroke of luck, I don’t have any room mates, so I have myself a private room to enjoy.
|Distance ridden today||13.14km|
|Average cycling speed||13.4kph|
|Total distance ridden||19,888km|