We had a final couple of days in Tajikistan staying at the remote town of Murghab - a very bleak place where there is nothing green and all the food has to be imported as nothing grows. It was a sociable time as first we saw Al and Dave from the 'Stan Clan, my Horizons bike riders' group- they are on a whirlwind ride through to Vladivostock (Pacific coast) via Mongolia and have just six weeks left to get there- which is a lot of hard riding.
We then had Tim and three other friends from the GS Club come through and stay over - they are doing a journey similar to mine but have gone in the opposite direction - they left England the day beofre me and raced across Russia to reach Ulan Baatar in 18 days, a saddle sore experience. They are now heading back to England and should be there in five weeks I think. They have got a landrover as support vehicle so they've got a few more luxuries than we have, it was really nice to see familiar faces, especially in such a remote area. Ever the hostess, I cooked up a big pan of mashed potato for tea and fed them all. We then had a bit of international money market dealing as we exchanged currencies for the various countries, at one point there were five different cuurencies on the table.
Two days ago we took the final road heading north towards the border - there was a very high pass, 4700m which was a bit chilly, Thelma wasstill pulling strongly though which was good news. At one point a golden eagle was soaring overhead, but it was a bit camera shy. We also had to ride through some herds of yaks which were scattered across the road and they were in no hurry to move out of our way as we rode at walking speed past them.
They are incredible, almost prehistoric-looking and a bit fierce in appearance, as always a healthy respect for any animal (says the woman who ran away from an anteater because it gave me a funny look).
The border crossing was very straightforward, a half-hearted attempt by the guard to extort money and we were through which is good as it is the second highest border crossing in the world and oxygen is at a premium, we were not keen to hang around, especially as there was snow underfoot and friends had been caught up in a snowstorm here a week ago (soemthing I had neglected to tell Annie). Kyrgyrstan almost straight away looks very different to Tajik, incredibly green, yurts dotting the hills and herds of very healthy looking horses roaming around.
We camped in the hills for a night before heading into Osh, the country's second largest town with a fantastic bazaar so loaded with produce we have dubbed Osh the Land of Plenty.
In many ways it feels like I have been transported to Penang - there is the hustle and bustle of south east Asian commerce, lots of street hawkers selling stuff from indvidual pram wheels, to second hand saucepans and baby clothes, there is also a lots of street food which I am enjoying; "yuk gusht" is the phrase for "no meat". There is also an amazing range of nationalities here, we had lunch with some Uzbekis, dinner with a Tartar (Russian) and morning tea with Kygyrz poeple, and as we are very close to the Chinese border there are also a lot of Chinese poeple here.
The Uzbeki family have helped me out with the dodgy Daewoo repair, which as I suspected did not last very long, I now have a part from a Zazda, soviet-made car; Rakim the mechanic was extolling the virtues of soviet machinery and quoting Brezhnev as he replaced the part. I will have to see how this new part fares, I don't think the roads here will be anything as bad as the ones in Tajikistan.
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