We woke up to realise it was not a dream… We really were camping alone by a beautiful and gigantic salt lake at 4000m altitude. Additionally, the end of the bad roads was finally in sight. We only had one more more pass to reach in Tajikistan, and the next was 900m past the border into Kyrgyzstan, so we pretended it didn’t really exist for the time being – who knows what the border guards could throw up in the meantime!
We reached the first pass at 9 am after some tough but smooth climbing and were passed by our Shanghainese friends in their Toyota Rav 4, speeding along after their night in Karakul. Our bread and honey breakfast was not tempting enough to keep them stopped for long so we bade farewell until December! The next 20km quickly deteriorated into washboard gravel and we slowed down to a mind numbingly and muscle achingly slow speed towards the border and our official exit from the Pamirs.
We were joined by a seemingly local dog as the guards stamped our passports and were pleasantly surprised to see it run along with us for 25 km down 1000m elevation to the Kyrgyz border post, perhaps it was guarding us?! The descent was horribly surfaced but beautiful nonetheless, with Peak Lenin standing majestically on our left at ~7500m and the scenery changing to far richer, greener and healthier tones almost instantaneously.
By this point, we were very tired indeed and would easily have camped were it not for the pressing matter of the Chinese border. Only just reopened after a week long holiday, with a weekend looming and another holiday afterwards, we had to get there by Friday morning at 8am at the latest – it takes a whole day to get across. So we pedalled almost on autopilot into Sary Tash, gorged on some biscuits, and made our way to camp by the border with some other cyclists who had gathered in the town.