Khorog was a nice town to hang out in before moving on. There is an excellent Indian restaurant in the middle of town where we ate both nights as well as a number of excellent local cafes.
It felt amazing to eat some different tasting meals as we have largely been living off the same tomato based dish when camping. We were also able to draw cash (although ended up using our debit visa AGAIN after our Caxton MasterCard wouldn’t work in any of the machines….) and spent the best part of our day off lazing in the towns lovely park, swimming in the lido, playing cards and drinking lots of beer.
We were able to stock up on all the essentials at the market which including the normal hunt for porridge oats… We weren’t going to carry as much food with us from now on as there would be many more towns and shops on the forthcoming road.
So we set off out of Khorog the next morning. We had stayed at the Pamir Lodge which is where most other tourists, especially cycle tourers end up. We had an OK stay but in some ways it was a mistake for us to go there mainly because we both caught an ugly stomach bug which didn’t manifest itself until we were back on the road.
We didn’t cover as many kilometres as we wanted the first day only managing 72km before camping outside the town of Rushon.
The bug hit me first (the next morning) and we managed 30km before I admitted defeat and told Paddy I couldn’t go on. We set up camp in a lovely spot along the shores of the river and I spent the majority of the afternoon sleeping, waiting for the Imodium and antibiotics to kick in.
By the evening I was feeling pretty good at which point the same bug hit Paddy who was up half the night being violently sick…
Despite the bad night we managed to set off the next morning and did a good day of cycling.
At 4ish we’re stopped at a checkpoint and got chatting to the friendly army guys manning the post. This friendly chat ended up with us being invited into their office for vodka shots (I say ‘shots’ it was more like large glasses).
By the time we left I was rather tipsy (as was Paddy) and we’re not ashamed to admit that we had a little stop overlooking the river and sang along to Elton John for a while at the top of our lungs. Half way through Paddy’s passionate performance of ‘Don’t let the sun go down on me‘ a guy pulls up in a silver car and despite out cheery waves flashes an official looking government card. Clearly we’re meant to be highly intimidated by this although we have no idea what the card means or who this random person is. Nevertheless we act all meek and he drives off after telling us to move on.
The wind had seriously picked up at this point and we struggled onto the next village where a nice family and their huge turkeys let us camp in their garden.
We want to reach Qal’ai Khumb by the next evening but the road – which had largely been decent asphalt since Khorog – turned back into a stony potholed nightmare.
We stop at a cafe to have an early lunch and met some other cyclists, one of whom has just had a small bag stolen from his bike…
We keep a watchful eye over the bike at lunch.
We continue on for another 22km where we discover our wallet is missing… Not understanding quite how this happened, as I had had it moments before getting on the bike, we discuss whether it’s worth cycling back in case it’s somewhere in the cafe.
Fortunately, it only contained about £5 worth of cash and one bank card (Paddy’s) so we decide it’s not the end of the world – the wallet itself is probably the biggest loss.
Amazingly, we manage to call the card company over Skype via our Tajik SIM card and have it cancelled there and then! The world is an amazing place…
While getting back on the bike I realise that I have also lost my new cotton shirt – scatter brain comes to mind…
After a long day in the saddle – six and a half hours! – we reach the extremely modern town of Qal’ai Khumb where there are modern facilities such as street lamps and late night restaurants! We find a lovely homestay and have our first hot shower in five days. It turns out we weren’t as tanned as we thought – just filthy!
Tomorrow is Monday and we need to get to Dushanbe as quickly as possible to start the Turkmen visa process so we will take a shared taxi from here to the capital.