I’ve got no one around me to tell me so I’m going to say it to myself: “You did well today, Mark”. What a day! I woke feeling rested enough to start the day in a positive frame of mind. I even got going much earlier than I have other days. I didn’t manage to escape the wind though, but fortunately it was just a light headwind that didn’t slow me down too much. After 8km I was there: the start of the Wakhan Valley dirt road. I spent some time filming myself starting the track, then hunkered down and got on with the job of the day. I switched my odometer display from showing the day’s distance to my overall trip distance. Why? So I could count down the kilometres until I reached the monumental milestone of having cycled 20,000km*. I reached this celebratory moment about 10km from Khargush Pass, where I stopped for lunch. I also took some ‘achievement photos’, setting my camera up on self-timer and capturing a photo of myself making a ‘2’ with one hand (a peace sign) and a ‘0’ with the other. I will add in the extra zeros later. From this point on things got particularly difficult. Some sections were so steep or sandy I had to push my bike. The higher I got the more affected by the altitude I became. I have never been more out of breath in my life than I was during the last few kilometres of the climb. I could only manage to push or ride my bike short sections, then I would have to stop and get some oxygen back into my body. The strength of my puffing and the pressure on my chest was quite shocking and it would take a surprisingly long time before I felt normal again. Of course, a short distance further and I was suffering the same shortness of breath. Every now and then I would think I couldn’t make it, but slowly I ground my way up. Finally, I rolled over the last rise. I correctly assumed it was the highest point (4,344m) and I stopped to take some pictures, but as there was no sign, I wasn’t completely sure I’d done it. I saved my whoops of joy for a few minutes later when I knew for sure that I’d made it over the pass. Oh the joy! The pain of the climb instantly evaporated as I enjoyed moving without pedalling. I thought of my tattoo as I began my descent: ‘nothing serious, just temporary’. I have descended about 9km and have set up camp on a pretty piece of lush green grass beside the rushing stream that runs down the small valley I’m following. Ice-capped mountains sit on the horizon below me and every now and then a donkey wanders past. I can be proud of myself for getting through the day well.
*Unbeknownst to be at the time, and owing to slight record-keeping errors, I had actually reached this milestone yesterday.
|Distance ridden today||39.73km|
|Average cycling speed||8.8kph|
|Total distance ridden||20,051km|