Iskosim to Khorug 109km
Khorug to Afghan Border 85km
I'd done 99km, and was just saying to myself how much of a great day cycling it had been, almost all downhill, following an amazing river, through an incredible gorge, on a reasonably good surface, in pleasant weather, and only a few kms to a hostel......when this small dog appeared, seemingly jumping backwards out of a pile of rubbish, and turned straight into my front wheel, when I'm going 60kph.... ooops. Next second, I'm sliding along the tarseal, thinking.....damn this might end up hurting...... The dog was yelping, and looking at me and Fiona, wondering what had hit him. Then it got up and snuck back into the rubbish heap. I didn't really jump up, maybe groaned up. My knee and elbow were bleeding, and my shoulder was sore. I was more concerned with Fiona.....I'm like that. ...caring.......
Fiona looked pretty good, but I did mutter at the disappearing dog...." if you've broken Fiona I'm going to be pi.... annoyed." She seemed okay, so I jumped back on, and the adrenalin in my system got me up the last hill, into Kharog, and to the Pamir Lodge, blooded, sore, and suddenly feeling very weary. I had noticed along the way that Fiona had a slight buckle in her front wheel. It took a while to get the tent up, but the eventual hot shower was pretty good, so the day wasn't completely ruined.
I'd hung around my accommodation for a bit, to see whether the Afghan Market was opening. This market happens on an island in the middle of the river, officially in Afghanistan, but you can get there without a visa. A great opportunity to buy Afghan goods, and get some pretty good photos. Only problem is, it's a little tense along the border at the moment, some cross border shootings, and some drug (opium) busts, so the Army dudes decided no market. Oh well. Another time. A Polish couple are really annoyed with their guide, who has brought them 100km out of their way to a "closed" market. (The guide is always at fault).
I'm just happy to get on my bike, and head down the "highway". There are soldiers patrolling both sides of the river, though the Tajik ones look pretty casual, some are not even armed. Perhaps they couldn't find their weapons. Early this morning Tajik side had a power cut, and it was very dark on out side of the river. However, the Afghan side had lights therefore some sort of power.
It's pretty amazing looking over a river to a foreign country, especially one that we are all meant to be a little scared about. It's really mountainous, as is this side of the river, but the alluvial fans coming out of the Afghan mountains seem greener, and more productive....isn't the grass always greener on the other side.
The river itself is scarey. From the road you look down on some of the scariest rapids I've ever seen. I wouldn't get in a raft anywhere near them, even if my mate Billy D was on the stick. To my kayaking and rafting friends.....please don't tell me you're going to try to boat this river. Getting permission would probably be impossible anyway, being a border, so you'd have to boat it "stealth mode", but I still wouldn't want to know until after the trip....just too scarey to contemplate.
Anyway, other than the dog, it was one of my most enjoyable days cycling on this adventure. I'm certainly cycling the Wakhan Corridoor in the right direction. A few big climbs early on, and then a downhill trend for the rest of the trip. My advice......ride East to West.
Met Patrick, a kiwi from Wellington, cycling the wrong way, 30km out of Kharog. Man he's got some uphill to bike. Good on ya mate.
The Pamir Lodge was great. I licked my wounds, and then licked Fiona's. The dog had hit the spokes on the front wheel, and ripped part of the hub apart. We tried glue, contemplated welding, but in the end drilled two new holes for the loosened spokes. Managed to get the buckle sorted, and so far it's worked a treat. Hopefully I can get some new parts in Dushanbe. She needs a new bottom bracket as well, but with no cycle shop for parts or repairs in Dushanbe..... the Warmshowers network has been alerted, and with some luck, it might all work out.
The people at Pamir Lodge were great too. Caught up with Dr Steve, (Cyclingthe6) and smiling Nick from Australia, a couple of lovely European ladies, the young Irish couple, and several others. The Pamir area is just one big happy family. Oh, and who else should I bang into, but Lars and his crew, and the lovely Dutch couple in their campervan. We all went out together to the Indian Restaurant, which proved to be just too much for the restaurant staff....... yes, wouldn't recommend anyone going there. One Israeli guy was sick for the next four days........and that was the food, and had nothing to do with the arrogance and rudeness of the restaurant's manager.
Breakfast today at PL was eggs and lots of very yummy freshly baked bread with homemade apricot jam.....Hmmmm. And then everyone went their own way