The day was going exceedingly well until I hit mud. Before then I was pleasantly surprised to find that the climb wasn’t half as difficult as I imagined it would be, based on other people’s reports of the road condition. I have learnt during this Pamir adventure that it is sometimes good to expect the worst, as things will likely seem much easier then. I think people coming from Dushanbe will be in for a shock when they realise what a bad road actually looks like. The northern road out of Kalai Khumb was in okay condition. The dirt sections were hard-packed without patches of sand or loose gravel, so even though my rear wheel slipped on occasion, I was always able to get going again from the same spot. Of course all of this refers to that part of the road before the mud. I was just 3km from the top of the pass when I hit it and was quite literally stopped in my tracks. The occasional rain shower throughout the day (which I had thought was fortuitous as it kept the temperature down and hardened some of the dirt) had made a complete mess of things at the pass. The mud is so sticky that my wheels and mudguards became clogged immediately. I have enough clearance in my front mudguard for it to not be too much of a problem, but my rear mud guard is set very close to the wheel. As I struggled to push my bike through the muck, I had to stop every ten metres or so to unclog my rear wheel. I quickly realised the distance I would make by pushing my bike in the mud would not be worth the huge amount of energy expended.

Beaten, I began searching for the best place to set up my tent. I probably should have waited on the road and flagged down a 4WD with enough room for me and my bike, hitching a ride through the mud. At the same time, I didn’t want to wait through the time I would need to make camp and cook dinner. Potential camp spots were limited, so I have ended up just below the road on a slope covered in stubbly green plants. When I started carting my gear to the site, I was feeling fairly downhearted and negative about the whole situation. Then I thought, ‘I can stay in my tent for as long as I feel like it…and I can take as long as I want to get over the pass…there is nothing really to feel so negative about’. This thought instantly calmed me down and I was worry-free as I set up my tent in light rain and got dinner on. My stove finally performed perfectly when needed and I enjoyed the meal I made: rice with vegetables (onion, potato, capsicum, garlic and beetroot), seasoned with salt and with some of the contents of three different spice packets. I majorly overdid it with the spices but it was still nice nonetheless.

After dinner I spent about half an hour digging out the mud that had clogged up my bike. By this time the temperature, which was already cold, had really dropped, so I returned to my nylon home and set about cleaning myself and getting snug in my thermals and sleeping bag. With this diary entry coming to an end, I am free to get out my kindle and read for a while before falling asleep. My legs are incredibly sore – not surprising after climbing 2,052m over 35km. They actually started the day quite sore – my left one seemed to be filled with some kind of fluid, which dissipated as the day wore on. My bum blisters are painful as always. I am hoping the rain, which has just stopped, will stay away through the night so the road has a chance to dry out a little before I see it tomorrow.

Climbing out of Kalai Khumb

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 33.24km
Average cycling speed 5.9kph
Total distance ridden 20,624km