It turns out Tajikistan is having a three-day holiday. I think it must be the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Even fewer shops were open compared with yesterday and none of the open ones sold SIM cards. Fortunately, the shop outside the Pamir Hotel still opened its doors and I was able to complete my food shopping without trouble. Internet access will have to wait at least another week.

I didn’t leave Murghab until late morning, despite having every intention of getting going early. I had set my alarm for 7am when breakfast starts, but I was surprised to find the hotel bustling at this time. I finally learned that the hotel runs on ‘local time’, which is one hour later than Tajikistan time, so I should have set my alarm for 6am. A fruitless walk to the bazaar (finding the shops closed) wasted further time. And generally I just took ages packing everything up and getting ready to go.

I passed eight cyclists today, all in separate pairs. The first pair was a Kiwi couple riding lightly-loaded fat bikes about 20km into my day. They told me that the headwind ahead of me is so strong I should just find a place to camp and get going as early as possible in the morning, stay in Alichur tomorrow night and attempt the off-road pass (Khargush) in the Wakhan Valley the following day after another early start. They also alerted me to a 4,100m mountain pass that wasn’t on my radar but was within 30km. As I rode on, I decided to consider their advice over lunch when I would look at Maps.me. While having lunch a Swiss couple rode past and stopped for a quick chat. By then I had looked at the map and decided not to take the advice of the Kiwi couple, instead sticking to my original plan, which is to ride 70km today and 70km tomorrow in an effort to place me within 10km of Khargush Pass. I would camp there before tackling the pass first thing the following morning while I’m relatively fresh and energetic. The third couple was French while the final one was Russian.

Crossing the pass today wasn’t much of a drama, as the road was in good condition and provided a steady climb. The difficult thing was the headwind, which was incredibly strong. So strong that at times I was moving less than 5km/h. However, the idea of camping early and sitting around never became attractive enough to persuade me to stop forging on. My knees are a little sore from fighting the wind with such a heavy load, but otherwise I feel fine. I have made camp at 3,980m in a dry riverbed whose bank is high enough to completely hide me from the road. Dinner went off without a hitch and was quite enjoyable: pasta with vegetables (onion, potato, carrot and capsicum) in a mixed vegetable sauce. The wind has died down to a breeze and it has just got dark. Time for sleep.

The road ahead

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 61.15km
Average cycling speed 11.1kph
Total distance ridden 19,949km