Afghan Border to Dry River Bed 85km
Dry River Bed to Iskosim 84km
While I'm having my passport checked, and my luggage searched, a relief from the boredom more than anything, three Frenchman are being hassled over at the Military Base. They can see me, but I can't see them. I ride on unaware of them. Perhaps it's my appearance that makes the Military Officer decide to return the Frenchmen their Passports. (I like to think I'm their saviour).
The young Frenchman soon catch me. They are Morgan, Siphay, and Brian, "Solidream", Film makers and cyclists. They cycled around the world together, taking three years, and made a movie, "Solidream", and several "You Tube" and "Vimeo" clips about it. Now they are here in Tajikistan, riding bamboo fat tyre bikes, with Surly additions, making another movie. I'd heard they were about, and was hoping to meet them. They were in trouble, because they'd come through to the border region on back tracks, as you would on "Fat tyres", and had missed the check point...Oooops. The Military were being very difficult, as they can be, and causing the lads some headaches. But now they were free, with their passports, and really glad to find someone they could talk to, having not seen another foreigner for over a week.
We decided to camp together, near a clean stream, so they could "shower". Looked too damn cold for me, (sorry Tessa), but they loved it. We set up camp, and the guys offered to share some of their freeze dry meals, donated by some Polish trekkers. I threw in some peanuts, and bread, and a feast was had. These guys have spent so much time together that they have some interesting routines. They each take a spoon full of food, then pass the packet on. They had three different packets on the go, but they all got an equal share of each. They all sleep in the same tent, like sardines. In the tent is their "personal" space. They said they seldom talk then, but read or write before sleeping. Anyway, we had an interesting evening. I think I've convinced them to come to NZ to make another movie about cycling. Anyone with some suggestions about the movie, and/or ways we might be able to help them get to NZ, financially, let me know.
In the morning, as we were packing up, we were visited by the Military. The guys were no comfortable. But it seems the Army have lost a soldier. At first they told us they were looking for Taliban, but weren't expecting to find any, because the river was deep and swift, and "Teleban can't swim".
The Military left, after trying to con us out of cigarettes and booze, and the Dutch campervan arrived. They'd checked out the road I'd sent them to, but it was even worse than this one, so they'd followed me. They were moved on by the Military searching for Taliban.
The Frenchmen were planning on climbing up a trekkers track over a Pass, about 10km along the road, and meeting another road on the other side, and heading to Karog. Don't know what happened, but I'm pretty sure I followed their tyre tracks all day.
As for me, the trend was downhill. The road was still rough, corrigated, and with patches of deep sand. After a couple of hours, I found Lars and his friends. One is a 77 year old, who drove his Toyota from Germany, but suffering from the altitude. The other, the friend Lars went to pick up in Osh, is a German Firefighter. A Paramedic with a Firefighter mate. How unusual. They pass me after a bit, but I catch them again, just as they're coming out of a restaurant in a small village. Lars recommends the soup, but warns me that the kids in this town are known for pilfering cyclists gear. So soup it is for me, with Fiona in full view the whole time.
The road is high above the river, and I'm still going slightly downhill. Two cyclists approach me....."Well this is a long way from Hanmer Springs". It's Chris and Jane, and they're wearing some Prostate Cancer Hats, just like mine. I met them at the Bivouac Outdoors Mt Isobel Challenge. They're cycling the Pamirs for two months. You don't know how fantastic it is to hear a kiwi accent, and to chat to someone who really understands you. Thanks heaps guys. I'm sorry I held you up for so long, and wouldn't shut up. Hope the rest of your trip was great. Heck you climbed some hills.
Not me, I'm going down, and down and down some more. I meet a solo French woman. I cross a very tricky cascading waterfall that rushes across the road (I wonder how the Dutch campervan coped?), and finally I reach the river valley, and everything changes. Down here there are people. They are farming. There are crops. There is green. There are orderly houses, not just ruined shells. And there is nowhere to camp.
A car has run off the road into the river. There are about 50 men trying to man handle the wreck back up onto the road. The women are sitting at vantage points waiting. I'm sure there must have been some badly injured, if not deaths. I'm about to offer assistance, but a guy tells me to move on.