Our exit from the Wakhan corridor was crowned by a breakfast of tea and bread – the variation in diet here is nothing to write home about. However, the insistence of our hosts to fill the tea with fermented milk, cover the bread in old butter and fill the former with the latter ensured Alex and James carried their uncomfortable stomachs for a few hours more: “Truly tremendous amounts of diarrhoea” is how Alex chose to describe his next stop!
As we rode out onto the road (yes, ‘road’ not ‘dirt’) we stopped immediately to kiss it and shifted our derailleurs out of the lowest gear they had been rusting and creaking in for a few days (including snapping another link in a different chain to the first incident). Twenty kilometres over rolling hills surrounded by 5000m peaks and salt lakes followed, immediately providing a feeling of space and openness we had been missing. A spatter of white buildings appeared in the distance, minuscule relative to their surroundings, and we had apparently landed in Alichur, a town we had hoped might provide a little more in terms of sustenance!
Still over 4000m, the negative temperatures of the night were still visible in the streams, and tangible in the wind chill, yet the directness of the sun also provided a strange heat haze by 9 o’clock in the morning with glaciered peaks all around and not a cloud in sight.
We stopped in a tiny fish restaurant to savour the only meal it offered before heading up a negligible pass and down 55km of beautiful descent into the capital of this vast area: Murghab. Just a couple of Chinese truck convoys overtook us (a whole lot more than the two cars we had seen in 24 hours the previous day) which gave me a top opportunity to practice some Chinese! It turns out my mind is still very much in Russian mode… Improvements to come!
Our night in a guesthouse in Murghab included a warm shower (90 minutes in the making) and some tea.