I rode like a madman today and loved it. Having dodged the full brunt of Giardia (with my early application of medication) and with my bum seemingly recovering, I felt good and ready to go hard and go hard I did. First I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and slower than planned pack up. Not slower than expected though, as I can always expect to be slow. I didn’t leave until 8am, whereas I had planned to get going by 7am. I promptly gritted my teeth and went for it, chewing up the kilometres at a surprisingly rapid pace. Part of my motivation to make it to Khorog today was that it would mean I could send my brother a birthday message (lack of internet otherwise preventing me from doing so). I managed to complete 50km before stopping for a lunch break. By this time I had sneaking thoughts that I might be able to make it to Khorog in one day, but I kept these at bay with more realistic thinking. There was no chance I could make the 105km in a single day, especially with a headwind. Unlike yesterday, the headwind was slow to appear. For much of the day I was riding the edge of small storms rolling off the hills of Afghanistan and I began to think that maybe these were drawing power out of the usual wind that rushes up the valley. I began to face some trouble from about 1.30pm onwards, when at times I was stopped dead and even almost blown off my bike by strong wind. Such times were only fleeting, however, and I managed to continue at a good pace despite these momentary challenges.
One downside to riding so fast was that I didn’t get to take in the scenery as much as I would have if I was cruising slowly. The roughness of the road meant my eyes were firmly glued to the ground for most of the day. When I did look up and take in my surroundings, I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw, as I have been through all of the Wakhan Valley. Little hamlets watered by runoff from the mountains were scattered along the riverside and for the first time I began to see settlements and people within Afghanistan. I had ridden about 70km when I came across a Swiss guy who gave me the good news that Khorog was actually 10km closer than I originally thought. It was then that I realised I was probably going to make it. The last little part of the ride involved a long, steep climb around a bend in the river, then all of a sudden I was competing for space on the road with the bustling traffic of a busy town. Might even call it a city. My first port of call was a shop where I far too quickly consumed several treats: an icy pole, bottle of cola and a mars bar (10s, AU$1.50).
A short ride uphill took me to Pamir Lodge, the place to stay in Khorog. What an oasis! I chatted to a French cyclist for a bit before enjoying a hot shower. I fell in love with the Lodge instantly. Thoughtful design and engineering has gone into creating rustic, homely accommodation that instantly makes you slow down, relax and breathe in the clear mountain air. After my shower, I settled down to devour what was left of my food, then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening chatting to fellow cyclists. I particularly made friends with a French couple named Etienne and Mathilde, who were so nice as to shout me a refreshing beer. I left the group around 7.45pm to search for dinner. I went for a walk in town before returning to a café at the bottom of the hill leading to the Lodge where a gorgeous girl served me soup and a chicken and potato dish (24s, AU$3.60). Back at home I spent the rest of the night glued to my phone catching up on news, having had no internet for two weeks.
|Distance ridden today||106.1km|
|Average cycling speed||16.3kph|
|Total distance ridden||20,343km|