It took a long time to get here but it has been worth it.
After more than 35 hours of travel between Johannesburg and Kashi in China I was ready to join the rest of the group on their journey west cycling towards Istanbul on the Silk Road.
Setting off from Kashi we still had some dusty, sandy areas to contend with and cycling into a continuous westerly wind made the going pretty tough but we put our heads down and managed to make it all the way to the Chinese and Kyrgyzstan border after three days of riding.
Crossing the border was a long process, having to get our exit stamps from China two days before we actually reached the border, then waiting approximately three hours to cross the border when we finally arrived. We then got to cycle across no-mans-land of 7km to the Kyrgyzstan side of the border and finally we had arrived in the first of many ‘stans.
We had to climb almost 1000m to a good camping spot and this was to be our first camp site where we got to pitch our tents on grass. With views of snow-capped mountains in the distance and Edelweiss in the fields most of us were reminded of the Alps and I had to continuously tell myself I am in Central Asia and not Switzerland.
As if the scenery wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with Kyrgyzstan the locals have certainly made sure that I will forever remember this place fondly, and hopefully one day return. Kids next to the roads come running up when they see us cycling past, looking for a high five or a handshake and if you go to the trouble of walking to a local house to meet the people you are welcomed with open arms and a free lunch. Fresh bread, cream and fermented horse milk has never tasted as good thanks to the incredible hospitality we were shown by the Kyrgyz.
Today we’re at the next border, this time between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It still feels as though I’m in the Alps and tomorrow we will have to climb over the mountains looming ahead of us to cross the border but climbing on a bicycle has become less of an issue with the views we have been granted these past few days.
Tajikistan promises to be as spectacular as Kyrgyzstan as we head toward the Pamir Highway. Five tough days await but I can’t wait.
For background information on the trip visit www.tourdafrique.com.
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