Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 16 Langar – Ishkashin

Distance: 120 kms

Another phenomenal, gruelling but utterly magical day. Having become so used to solitude and isolation today was a feast for the senses. Village life was infectious and created a sensory overload of sights, sounds and interactions. The skies were also clear for the first time in weeks in this valley, creating amazing views of the Hindu Kush in nearby Pakistan (Karachi was only 50kms away as the crow flies).

The road today was a disgrace, rivalled only by the stretch through Kazarman in Kyrgyzstan. There were long sections of deep sand which I had to push the bike through, difficult work in 45 degree heat. I stopped in Vrang at the pharmacy to pick up a course of antibiotics for my deteriorating throat. A full course of 24 tablets cost 90 cents.

The road rose steeply to each village and descended just as quickly down to river level. There were lots of people working in the fields and surprisingly the women were eager for me to take their photo. In some cases the women would remove their head scarves for the camera - not what I expected. In fact Islamic culture is not what I expected. The longer this trip has gone on the more Muslim it has become. The more Muslim it has become the safer I feel and the friendlier the people.

I stopped for a break at a small store around 4pm and ordered a soda water. I took out the peanuts I'd been carrying since Murgab and sat down to eat them. The owner of the store - an elderly guy - sat down with me and we shared the peanuts. He then disappeared only to return with an armful of apples. We sat there side by side saying nothing (pictured below).

The last 30kms was into a gale. The highlight was an Afghan girl shouting at me from across the river and waving frantically. I stopped the bike and screamed back - we were just 50 metres apart and acting like a couple of schoolkids. I'm not sure what she made of this alien across the river.

I tracked down the aunt of Manovar in Ishkashim and had dinner with her two daughters. They had no spare room and so I had a mattress in the kitchen. For the second night in a row I was to wake someone if I needed to go to the toilet during the night due to the rabid dogs outside. I feel a little exposed laying here semi-naked beneath the sheet with three Muslim women wandering through my bedroom.

Today represented another 9 hours in the saddle and still no shower. I'm aiming to get to Khorog reasonably early so that I can get a few things done - washing, bathing and cleaning the bike - as well as using the Internet. The body is feeling the effects of almost two weeks without a rest day.

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