We had a relaxed start to the day, and soon we were running along the flat valley floor. I wave to a man and immediately, another person – who turned out to be his son – waves me over and invites me in for lunch. I explained there was four of us and he told me it was fine, there was food and tea for all of us. Ten minutes later we were ensconced in Alan (the dad) and Tamerlane (the son)’s house where Alan’s wife served us loads of bread and apricot jam with fresh tea. After an hour of their hospitality, the dutch girls gave them a small clog, and we hopped back onto our bikes.
The ride along the valley was simply stunning, with lots of wee villages and high plateaus. There was a lot of climbing but beautiful roads throughout and loads to see. In Kyrgyzstan it’s rare for there not be someone on horseback in sight somewhere, and you really feel like you’re in a completely different world. At one point, as I was cycling along the side of a hill, I look across the valley to see a guy splashing through a river on his horse. I stop for a few photos and as soon as he hits the other side of the river he starts to gallop. I recognise a challenge when I see one, so I jump on my bike and do my best to try and race him, but horses are a damn sight faster than I am. He rode up to the road and introduced himself before trotting off down the hill. I think he just liked the idea of a race.
After about 80km of tough riding, we were still three kilometres from the base of the big climb (and a sign said 9% gradient for the next km) so I called a halt. I found a nice place to camp up beside a stream on the side of the road, and after we’d dragged our bikes over the burn, we set up camp. Food was getting low, so had an awful dinner of tuna, beans and undisclosed meat. I messaged my brother, Iffy and he was able to tell me our elevation – 2900metres – and we only had to climb to 3500, so less than I was expecting.