Panj to Rushan – Day 1 with James

Having ridden well the previous day, James and I had reduced our average distance to cover in order to reach Khorog in two more days to 70km. On a random escapade in Dushanbe, I had met a nice Pamiri chap whose mother happened to live 60km further along our route. He had offered we should call him when we arrived so he could let his mum know. Unfortunately the plan could only really work via his cousin who spoke English… Nonetheless, we decided to try and make it work.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that James made coffee in the mornings and could not resist to share in the early boost. We cycled along the Panj for 20km or so, with beautiful rocky cliffs either side of us and the Afghan border flowing below until we decided to stop in a beautiful shaded village for a bite to eat. We were given some bread by a local lady and started eating it, along with my delectable honey, on top of a mud hut to avoid the gluttonous demands of the stray dogs. Much to our delight, the same lady then brought us out some tea, biscuits, sugar and sweets to complete a terrific breakfast!

The morning’s riding was over up-down segments of road, often dirt covered and not asphalt but rideable and enjoyable with plenty of superb photo opportunities. We were waved over at lunchtime by an enthusiastic crowd of men 50m off the road. As we soon realised, they were hosting a big celebration for a newborn in the family. Along with at least 50 other locals, the quantities of food were overwhelming, from delicious plov cooked in a cauldron, to meat stew and plenty of sweets with tea. James and I were generously regaled for a few hours before we felt the need to keep going down the now very sunny and sweaty valley.

Unfortunately, our potential host for the night turned out not to have his mother’s phone number, so we later pedalled on a bit further to Rushan, drank a beer, and put up our tents in the town park much to the amusement of many locals. We swiftly took them down again when Muslim, a contact I had been given in Dushanbe, came out of his house and told us to come in for the night! More tasty homemade plov as part of our third offered meal of the day and we retired to comfy beds superbly fed – the generosity of people here does not fail to continue surprising us!

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