They say bad things come in threes. Or is it good things? The first bad thing came about five minutes into my day when a truck with about seven teenagers standing on the back passed me. All seven pelted me with mulberries. The second came mid-morning, when I bought some potato-filled bread things from a little girl who promptly pretended I hadn’t paid her anything and not give me any change.  It blew up into a bit of a scene from which I just had to walk away. The third came towards the end of the day when a kid held out his hand for a high five as I passed (like so many do here), but grabbed my hand and tried to yank me off my bike. They are all little things, but they contribute to a negative impression of Tajik people. Yes, some are friendly and nice, but a lot are not. I put a fair bit of brain power into sending the perpetrators of the bad deeds negative vibes, as much for a distraction from the hard riding as anything else. I took it as karma when the truck containing the teenagers passed me again in the other direction. Out of mulberries, most were quiet, but one wearing a red cap made some rude gestures at me. When the truck was a couple of hundred metres ahead, I came across the red cap sitting on the road. Clearly it had blown off the ringleader’s head. They could all see me stop next to the hat and pick it up, but then they were too far ahead to see what I did with it. Let’s just say he won’t ever find it again (wrong approach I know, but it made me feel better at the time). Several kilometres further on, I was riding up a small hill when the teenagers emerged from the side of the road. They had obviously just been dropped off after their ride. Because there were so many of them (about eight now, aged between about 14 and 19), I got off my bike and started pushing it instead of riding, so that I was in a less vulnerable position. As they walked towards me, the ringleader gestured to his head and said ‘cap’. I said, ‘What cap?’ and kept on pushing my bike. To my surprise, they let me pass through them without creating further incident.

After a morning spent riding hard on rough gravel roads, I finally hit bitumen. Oh the joy! It was good bitumen too. I was finally able to move along at a decent pace and even a headwind didn’t bother me. After an epic climb, I had just crossed the peak and was readying myself for a fast descent and hard final push before looking for a place to camp when I came across a Kiwi cyclist called Nige. Probably in his sixties, Nige is a well-seasoned cyclist, having been riding since 2015. He was keen for a chat. I enjoyed talking with him, but then it became hard to get away. I really wanted to make some more distance in the day but in the end I wasn’t able to. After saying goodbye, I rode on about three kilometres before jumping at the chance to get off the main road and hide myself behind a row of mulberry and apple trees. Being just below the road, it’s a bit noisy with the traffic, but it should quieten down soon. I made another delicious dinner tonight out of the same ingredients as the last two nights’ dinners, but with the addition of polony meat. For dessert I had a packet of strawberry flavoured wafer biscuits. There is a small chance I will reach Dushanbe tomorrow, so I am preparing myself for an early start in the morning.

Meanwhile…

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 87.75km
Average cycling speed 12.2kph
Total distance ridden 20,749km