May 5

I wake early and pack up before the others are out of their tents.  It’s a beautiful morning and I look across the valley to see a herd of sheep and cattle being driven across the river and up the road I’m on.  I wave to them as they come closer and pull out my camera for some photos.  The men on horseback pose with their whips for me before they drive the cattle onwards. 

We would spent the next couple of days leapfrogging each other.  We would pass them pretty quickly, but they would never stop, while we enjoyed a break now and again for lunch, whereupon they would pass us.  It was enjoyable sharing the road with a big herd of animals, even if a little inconvenient to pass them when they filled the whole road. 

I wait for them to pass out of sight and and before I know it, 10am rolls around and I’m waiting by the side of the road.  Suddenly, two tourers come flying down the hill towards me.  I wave them down and they turn out to be the Italian couple an English guy mentioned in Osh!  They were super friendly, and had been on the road for a year, including a winter in Kazakhstan so they had a lot of cold weather kit with them.  We chatted for an hour and then realised we really needed to hit the road.  We had three passes to climb before China, and this morning we took on the first one.  It took a fair while, and when I finally got to the top there was, obviously, two groups of people practising volleyball.  I climbed to the top of the nearby hill and there was a wee statue and a place for people to sit.

The rest of the gang arrived half an hour later or so, and the descent was just beautiful, one of the most beautiful rides I’ve done. There was a sheer valley to ride through, with towering cliffs on either side, just exhilaratingly beautiful.  We made it to gul’cha and went to the only market in town where we all picked up a little food for the next few days, as we weren’t sure we would have any thing before China really.  Headed out of gul’cha and managed to get about 20k before it started getting dark.  We set up camp beside a river where there was a bunch of weird staves propped up with things tied onto them.  I made a fire to keep the mozzies away and we sat up until 11 or so chatting. Beautiful night.

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