I did it. Somehow. What a day! The first 55km of the day were incredibly hard. Extremely rough roads led through rolling hills that gave the most intense interval training I have ever had. While hitting constant bitumen was a nice achievement, it also marked the start of a climb that just never seemed to end. I pushed on all the way to Abigarm, where I saw the first proper grocery shops that I have seen since China. They were small shops by any standard, but what joy to have a choice of fruit. I gorged on an icy pole, cool drink, cold water, yoghurt and nectarines before stocking up on supplies to get me through the day. At this point I was preparing my mind for the realisation that I probably won’t make it to Dushanbe, given my rate of progress through the morning. On my way into Abigarm, I passed a pair of cyclists who told me that the climb only continued for another two kilometres. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions as I slowly learned that the climb would continue for another 30km. Yes, there were some relieving downhills, but these were all too brief and did nothing to alleviate the pain of the uphill battle.
From the peak of the pass, the day just got better and better. Having averaged 10km/h on the way up, my average speed at the end of the day ended up being around 15km/h, courtesy of a general downhill that meant I could at times cruise at 30-40kph. The day was super-hot and I continued to stop for cooling energy top-ups in the form of chocolate and icy poles. The traffic was increasingly horrible the closer I got to the city. In one incredibly appalling experience, I had just passed by a head-on crash that caused serious injuries to the people involved when a car containing young guys decided it would be funny if they drove at me head-on, only just veering around me in the last second.
By the time I reached the outskirts of Dushanbe, I felt completely ready to pack it in, yet I still had another 30km to get through. With the terrain flattening out and traffic increasing, this became slow and tedious. During one of my several breaks in this time, I stopped at a bustling roadside market area where I sat on the pavement and ate some onion filled pastries and of course another cola and ice cream. I recorded a closing clip to my Pamir video and chatted to the young guys running the little shop I’d chosen. As I left, they filled up my drink bottle with cold water. I then had just 11km to go. I slowly found my way to Vero’s house (Dushanbe’s infamous Warmshowers haven), stopping for one last time at a little shop to buy a bagful of chocolates to share with the other guests. I was a bit of a mess when I rolled into her magical compound. I couldn’t hear properly as my ears were filled with sweat (a problem I have on hot days – it took a couple of hours for them to clear properly), but I was happy to be able to immediately say hello to people I have met before – Etienne and Mathilde from Khorog. It was around 7pm, so without stopping for a rest, I set up my tent, before having my first shower in four days. I got a massive shock when I saw myself in the mirror and learned how much weight I have lost over the last month. Soon after my shower, Lisi arrived home, having been out for the day. Seeing Torsten and Lisi was a moment I had really been waiting for. One of the first things she said was how skinny I was.
In a state of complete exhaustion, I didn’t know what to do with myself as the night wore on. I didn’t quite feel like crashing and instead just seemed to want to keep moving. I think this was from over-tiredness. I ended up helping cut some stuff for dinner before sinking into a chair with a beer. As I slowly adjusted to being at Vero’s I began to realise what an incredible place she has created. Lisi led dinner preparations, resulting in a beautiful rice and vegetable salad, followed by ice cream and the rest of the chocolates I’d bought for dessert. Through the evening I had been battling with the idea about whether to start my visa organisation first thing in the morning, or just sleep in and just not worry about. I decided to stay up and put together the paperwork I needed to visit both the Uzbekistan and Iranian embassies tomorrow. All going well I can get my Turkmenistan visa application submitted before Friday. It was after midnight when I finally crawled into my tent.
|Distance ridden today||126.56km|
|Average cycling speed||15.2kph|
|Total distance ridden||20,875km|