Slowly we get used to not having to pack our tent first in the morning, to have a real bed every night and to know where we will be in the evening. We enjoy the luxury of being able to stay
indoor on rainy days, of unlimited electrical power supply and drinking water right from the tab, with proper temperature control. We work hard not to just climb on our bicycles after
breakfast to discover new landscapes, new amazing people and wait for the unknown.
Just kidding. We still miss cycling but get along well without so much of it. We both missed our jobs and are looking for new challenges with lots of positive energy. While Christian most
likely will have the possibility to go back to his old position, Moni needs to chose: She will definitely start a new position and already submitted some applications. We are excited.
We reported, we escaped the freezing cold region by train... and arrived in drizzle, fog and smog... Around
lunchtime the sun starts shining through the clouds and now we are sure our decision was good. Our next destination is close: The Maijishan Grottoes. Impressive and in dizzying heights lots
of small and large Buddha statues have been carved into the rock. A path leads along the smooth, vertical face of the rock, challenging as we both suffer from fear of heights
Every day the same routine… Read how we got here. We pedal
the same ascent for the second time, healthy it feels less steep though. Unfortunately the weather changed in the meantime: It is even more freezing now. At 2500 m altitude we reach the
snowline, at 3000 m the road becomes ice, as smooth as a mirror. The road is full of ice and queued trucks, only few vehicles drive downhill, with snow chains. We test the way, sliding is fun
– but not for more than 100 kilometers. What should we do now? Sun will set soon and it is getting colder and colder. Back is the only option. 1000 meters downhill to the wrong direction and
no idea how to go on. Usually we look forward to riding downhill, now we would prefer climbing to keep warm. So we put on literally all our cloth, not enough at 30 km/h! Plus the idea to set
up camp and sleep outdoor makes us shiver. The hotel where Moni cured her cold and form where we started in the morning comes to our minds. Ironically we could hardly wait to leave, now we
long for being back.
Tailwind supports us on our last kilometers in Xinjiang province, which is necessary because we have to climb another 1000 meters. Incredible how we got used to this up and down. The
temperature drops roughly 1°C per 100m, additionally the difference between day and night temperatures is about 25°C here in the desert. Why are we telling you this? We started the last climb
in shorts and shirts and arrive during sunset at the summit, where the last police checkpoint is located. The policemen who stop us already wear gloves, hats and scarfs – and seem rather
shocked because of our summer outfits… Funny! Having passed the last checkpoint we change to winter clothes – but only once we are out of sight ;)
In the middle of the night we have to take down our tent. If you don’t know yet how we got here, read our
last blog article. Everything we don’t grab or fix somehow, gets blown away. The heavy things simply roll in the direction of the wind, the light ones fly away. So we pack up everything
inside the tent and immediately attach it to the bikes. The most exciting task is to pack the tent, it blows like a sail. 12 arms would have been great, but somehow we manage with four. What
now? More or less sheltered we lay down next to a little pump house. Every gust throws new sand onto us. We do not think we will find sleep.
Early in the morning we roll towards the border again and hope that today we are allowed to pass. The evening before we were stopped by the Kazakh border officials because the Chinese closed
the border (read here). Thus we had the opportunity for a night in a hotel and a shower – but not a
single penny left. Therefore we plan to finish the border controls and find a restaurant before lunchtime – and an ATM before of course. We are not the first to arrive at the border, a long
queue of trucks is already waiting. Luckily again we are allowed to overtake them, the gate is opened for us and we roll towards China. Our hearts start to beat faster…
The ninth largest country of the world welcomes us unpretentiously. Located somewhere in the mountains we find two cabins, everything seems very familiarly – we get the impression that all
the other passerbys and border officials know each other. Very comfortable. After a while we finished immigration and roll towards the next city. Here we meet a French couple on the way to
Kyrgyzstan, we exchange our remaining money, Sim cards and information. Unfortunately we have to go separate ways soon. We stock up our food supplies and quickly disappear towards the
steppe. The asphalt roads feel great and we are quite fast. While the gigantic country consists mainly of steppe and desert, the short stretch to China leads us through its mountainous south
east, which is probably the most exciting part of the country.
A close view on the map promises almost no flat kilometer for the next 350 km, the whole way will be uphill and downhill. We have to climb 3 times to more than 3000m above sea level, just to
roll down below 1500 again. For the last pass we climb 1600m to a total of 3400m above sea level at our next destination, the Sonkul lake. There are almost no villages during the whole way,
but lots of fresh water springs. The first cyclist we meet destroys our hope for a paved road, it is only gravel in different qualities. We cannot exactly say we look forward to this, but as
usual on the worst roads the nature rewards the effort.
We glance out of our tent into the dark night – and in the lightbeam of our torches discover a river flowing on the right side of our tent. If you don’t know how we got here, read our last blog article. While we still consider what to do, another stream evokes on the left side of
the tent. Impressive how the water masses rise, how the dry desert transforms into a broad, meandering river. As fast as possible we fetch all our stuff and move on top of the dam. In the
morning all the water is gone, having left behind just a thin layer of ice.
As usual during the last weeks the sun functions as our alarm clock in the morning. During the nights we still have to endure sub-zero temperatures, but the sun helps to warm up. Short after
we got up we exchange our down jackets to shirts and when we open our tent we dive into that magic world made of grey and stones. In the mornings our legs feel as if they already had done a
long day cycling, instead of it laying ahead. We feel how empty our batteries are after those exhausting weeks in the Pamir mountains. Our shoulders hurt all the time and cry for some days
After the exertion during the last kilometres we go for wellness time for us. If we came straight from Germany and had to go shopping here, we probably would be horrified by the lack of
diverse products in the shops. Compared to the last days we are in a Cockaigne: Indian food, Italian food, Burgers, chips, ... Besides we hunt down soeme new patches, after a long search we
find huge ones normally used for car tires – as long as they might work – ok. The last point on our ToDo list is the choice of our route. After we discussed advantages and disadvantages of
the 4 options, we nail it down to two. As we can’t find good reasons for the decision, we let matches decide. The winner is: The Bartang valley. That means for us we have to take lots of food
with us, as it will get lonely, remote and bumpy.
The first part oft the Pamir highway M41 connects Dushanbe and Khorog. Principally there are two options, a northern and a southern route. Many times one of them is blocked due to landslides.
On our way to Dushanbe we met some members of the American embassy who warn us about issues on the southern route. When we arrive in Dushanbe, rumours go round that the northern route is
blocked. It is impossible to gather safe and more important recent information. As we are a bit in a rush because we already planned a three week visit in Germany to visit our families and
apply for the Chinese visa, we decide for the northern route. Not only is it the shorter option and we have to climb less, but also we read that it provides more scenic views and we have to
climb less. On the way to Khorog there are still a lot of villages so we don’t have to carry too many supplies.
The border between Usbekistan and Tajikistan is uncomplicated, we quickly get all formal things done and exchange our remaining money from Som to Somoni. It is love at first sight: Super
roads, super weather and a super mountain panorama. We cycle towards huge, snowy peaks.
The border controls to leafe Turkmenistan were a bit chaotic, seemingly lots of tradesmen had been qaiting already rather long. We have to fill a form, to get this soldiers send us from one
person to the next... In the end we get back to the first person, get the forms and after luggage and several passport scans we are allowed to leave. On the usbek side, Kalachnikows got
replaced by M16 guns and the mood from tense to relaxed. For the first time in a while we don’t need to take off our panniers for xray but can directly start pedalling. Our first aim in
Usbekistan is Buchara, but we decide to camp just before the city and cycle in the city in the morning. Now we notice how much the landscape had changed: Agriculure is everywhere now,
cornfields, orchanrds, canals, houses, shelters and people everywhere... Thus we often camp in hidden in plantations and cover our cycles with a tarp so reduce the risk of getting spotted
during the nights. One morning we wake up because of weird noise: Rustling, crackling, ... We cannot tell where it comes from and fear someone is trying to steal our bicycles. Completely
wrong, when we get up we realize that the farmers started to harvest apricots. One of them is sitting in the tree and shakes the branches. The others directly catch them with a tarp. As soon
as they notice we are awake, they prepare a package for us together with some fresh milk. We start cycling rather early this day.