Osh to River Bed with horses, 63km
To Gulcha River, 76km
The command was clear, precise and directed at me, by an elderly man sitting at a bus stop. I was climbing what seemed like a never ending uphill, not steep, but continuous, so I was looking for any excuse to rest, so gladly swung across the road. "You speak English then. Where are you from? Where are you going?" All the normal questions, but in perfect English, and for once, with a perfect understanding of the answers. He was an English teacher, and being holiday time, he was just hanging out at the bus stop, watching the world go buy.....as teachers on holiday do. It was certainly nice to be understood for a change. I'm trying desperately to learn the crylic script, but my old brain makes hard work of it, unlike Sonya and Taylor, the two newly graduated kiwis, who were picking it up really quickly. But being able to maybe read a sign, does not help with speaking the lingo. My "sign" is pretty good, having got me by in 14 different countries, but spoken language.....I guess I'll have to leave it to the young brains.
I left Osh early, trying to beat the heat, but it caught me, as the incline reduced me to a crawl. But the road surface was good, and there's very little traffic, and I'm in no hurry. I've got eight days to go 350km to the border, but I do have three passes to cross. Today's is 2400m.
The teacher was just one of several stops I made at the request of locals. Still climbing, I hear a whistle. I spot the whistler, an old fella, working his bees. I wave, and continue. He whistles again, and beckons me over. In his hand he has a chunk of honey cone. It's for me. He gives me a big grin and goes back to his hives. How the heck do I eat that? It's dribbling all over my hands. As I turn, two cyclists turn up. Swiss, heading towards Osh, from the Pamirs. I break the cone into three, and pass it around. They bite into it, suck and slurp, and spit out the wax. I follow suit. It's very yummy. In between slurps, we exchange stories and advice. I love the comraderie of touring cyclists. A German tour bus group, that had passed me this morning, with toots and yells, had told them to look out for me.
There's lots of mud brick house building in this area. I've seen almost every stage, from mixing poo, straw and mud to make the bricks, to building the house walls, and plastering the surfaces that are exposed to the weather. Looks a lot simpler than all the regulations that NZ council inspectors throw at those doing the same at home.
Lots of donkeys being used for transport. Often it's kids riding them, but sometimes it's a very large man or woman, normally on a very small donkey, and you have to wonder how the animal copes. Strong critters, as my mate Bill D would say.
60km, and I've had enough. I turn down a quiet dirt road, cross a stream, and find a campsite .....except it's not a quiet road. All afternoon cars and small trucks go by. They're all coming and going from a small village of Yurts a couple of kms up the road. Lots a friendly waves. A couple of youngsters, maybe 7 or 8 years old, turn up on their horse, and watch me set up camp and eat. Then they ride up a very steep hill, round up some cattle, and head back to the village. They're
back again in the morning, riding down the very steep hill, to watch me break camp and eat breakfast.
Day 2 and it's another 5km to the pass, then 20km of brilliant downhill. Unfortunately, every km downhill, means more climbing later. Oh well. I meet another cyclist, a Frenchman. He's very relaxed, has no set plans, and is just loving his cycling and freedom to make choices. He's not even phased when I tell him about the 20km uphill.
My reading of crylic script doesn't help me find restaurants, as most don't have signage, but my "sign" gets me directions. I'm shown a really nice place, built on the bank of the river, where I'm served a yummy omelet, around a meat pattie..... Hmmmm. I eat it, because I know I need the protein and fat, and there isn't any other choice. Who would have thought.....Grum eating meat....
I'm getting tired, as the road has started climbing again. Also tired of kids chasing me on their bikes. They don't have the spacial awareness, or realise how much room I need. And they all want photos, and to race me, and to ask me the same questions... in Russian, and won't accept that I can't answer them in Russian.... and these linear villages are endless. Finally I find a clear patch of road, next to the river, and find a camp spot, and just in time. Thunder and lightening surrounds me. I get the tent up, and everything inside, just as it starts pouring. But I've slipped up. 20 mosquitos, and as many flies, have got into the tent with me. A massive killing frenzie, before they can set upon me, and then I relax. Five hours until dark. Read, snooze and eat. No other choice really.