Today was very adventurous if nothing else. It drizzled through the night but luckily, come morning, there was just enough warmth in the air that my tent dried in the few rays of sunshine breaking through the overcast sky. I was ecstatic to discover that a cold night and dry morning had hardened the mud that caused me so much angst yesterday and it was possible to ride again. It turned out the top of the pass was just 1.5km away. After this initial short distance, I basically didn’t need to pedal again for the next 18km. At the end of this lovely descent, I was forced to come to a sudden halt. Mud. Worse than before. I spent the next three hours moving about 3km. The only way I could progress was to unload my bicycle and carry all my stuff piecemeal along the muddy road. The worst bit was the mudslide affected area, which was so sloppy my sandals disappeared within balls of mud attached to my legs. Very annoying was the fact that three guys sitting around a bulldozer just sat and watched me struggle the entire time. My mood improved a bit when I spied another cyclist approaching from down the road. They were riding, suggesting the mud was about to end. I smiled a little when they also hit the mud and stopped. Knowing others are suffering just as much seems to make everything a little easier. The cyclist was French girl, ahead of her two riding partners. She brought the depressing news that the mud will continue for another 3km. I was able to depress her with exactly the same news, adding that there is also mud at the top of the pass. By the time the other two cyclists arrived, a French couple driving a massive travel truck had pulled up. They suggested I hitch a ride down and for the first time I seriously considered it. When a 4WD with an empty roof rack came by a few minutes later, I jumped at the chance. As they passed, I pointed to my bike and mimed lifting it up onto their roof racks. It worked. They stopped and I was able to ask through sign language if they could give me a ride for the next few kilometres. With no English being spoken, I managed to arrange the lift and five minutes later I was slipping and sliding down the hill inside the 4WD with my stuff safely secured on top. Once we had gotten through the mud, I indicated I was ready to get out, but the driver insisted on taking me a couple of kilometres further. On more solid ground, we unloaded my stuff and I handed over a 30s payment. During the ride a couple of the passengers had made it clear they wanted me to pay something.  I had been thinking I would pay them 50s for the help – a generous amount from a Tajik point of view, but fine by me when I thought of it as paying a little over AU$1 for every kilometre I don’t have to torturously haul my stuff through mud. I didn’t have a 50s note, so I ended up just handing over the 30s, which the driver seemed happy with.

I loaded my bike and rode on for about 5km before stopping to eat and gather my thoughts. By the time I was ready to move on again I had hit the refresh button in my mind, pushing aside the frustration of the pass and mud, and readying myself for a ‘new start’. Soon after I passed a police checkpoint, I had to push my bike through a waterway beside a collapsed bridge. When I realised all the caked on mud was washing from my feet, I got the idea of cleaning my bike. I parked it in the middle of the rushing stream and began throwing water all over it. The mud slowly came off and my bike began to shine again. The sad thing was that I dropped the titanium knife I had been using as a mud scraper and it disappeared down the river, gone from me forever. Bike and body clean, I resumed my ride. The road continued to be a bit muddy, but nothing like up the mountain I had just descended. It wasn’t long before I was keeping an earnest eye out for a camp spot. I have found a very nice one in a fairly big open area between the road and the river. I had enough time to do some filming for the video I intend to make to document my time in the Pamirs, recording myself set up my tent and preparing dinner. Earlier in the day, in the mud situation, I also did some filming to show myself carrying my things through the mud. I cooked the same thing as last night, but got the seasoning mix just right and it was very enjoyable. For dessert I treated myself to my last orange. It has gotten dark while I have been writing and I am a bit cold, being out of my sleeping bag. It’s time to snuggle down and get some rest. Hopefully tomorrow I can get some decent kilometres completed.

Not fun

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 37.23km
Average cycling speed 12.1kph
Total distance ridden 20,661km