I have just had the most magical evening. I was getting quite hungry around 4.45pm and started looking for a place to stop and have a quick snack to get me through another 1.5 hours of riding. I found the perfect place to rest when the landscape changed dramatically. To the right of the road appeared a natural canyon. It was quite astonishing to come across when all I’ve seen for a couple of weeks now is completely flat plains. There was no warning at all that the earth would open up into this chasm, so it took me by surprise. I left the road for the canyon’s edge, where I prepared a little picnic. The canyon wound its way into the distance and I wondered if it finished as abruptly as it began. I saw more birds than I’ve seen in weeks, suggesting that the well-vegetated gorge is a hotspot for wildlife. It didn’t take me long to think that this would be a perfect place to camp for the night. I had already been thinking of making a camp slightly earlier than normal so it seemed like it was meant to be. When I’d finished eating, I went scouting, following the edge of the gorge along a well-worn horse trail. It wasn’t long before the track dropped just out of the sight of the road and led me to a perfectly flat area just big enough for my tent. It couldn’t be more perfect. I retrieved my bike. Being earlier than normal, I was able to take my time preparing camp and cooking dinner and while I did so, the magic happened. Five herds of Kazakhstan’s stunning horses wandered by through the evening, the latter two of these being silhouetted against a spectacular sunset. Each time a herd passed, a few horses would act as lookouts, at first approaching a little, but then seemingly urging the herd on, stopping every few seconds to turn in my direction and check what I was doing. I wasn’t doing anything except sitting quietly and admiring their majesty. All the horses were healthy and moved with stunning power and grace. I can see why Tim Cope was inspired to traverse this part of the world on horseback.
The former part of the day passed by easily. Before leaving last night’s camp, I adjusted a pedal strap and zip-tied my broken mirror the bike, my electrical tape solution not proving lasting. A gentle tailwind guided me on and the kilometres flew by. I stopped for lunch after riding 45km, but with nothing around, I was left to rest and eat on the side of the road. Later in the day I took refuge in a chaihana, where I bought a Sprite and had a nap on the ‘chill-out deck’. From here it wasn’t long before I started getting hungry and came across the geological wonder beside which I’m currently lying in my tent, the sun having just gone down and the moon beginning to shine brightly.
|Distance ridden today||105.49km|
|Average cycling speed||22.8kph|
|Total distance ridden||22,787km|