Thursday, July 16, 2009
TOUGHEST DAY YET
Another extraordinary day. We continued north along the river. We have faced all kinds of terrain throughout this week and so it couldn't really be seen as a surprise when the trail turned into a very difficult path of large rocks. It was just another level of difficulty. The fully loaded bikes had to lifted through many parts now. But help arrived in the form of a sheppard on a horse. Life is hard for the people out here and its the community spirit of people helping each other that makes day to day life easier. If someone can see a way in which they can help us then they automatically do so without hesitation. We loaded our bags onto the horse and continued downstream for the next few KMs. The sheppard's timing was perfect. This part of the trip would have been very difficult without the aid of a horse. Soon we were even pedalling again, fully loaded. It was then that we came across a wild gangh plantation. We had heard of wild gangh fields from the children who we had the BBQ with yesterday. I had Pink Floyd on the ipod. Markus had Bob Marley and we spent 2 hours having a 'Class A' horticultural experience. Once we had plenty saved for a bit of dessert for the evening, we continued on down the track. But again the track got difficult. This time it became very narrow along side a steep section. There just wasn't enough room to walk alongside the bike and so we turned back in search of a different route. We were soon back pedalling again, and pedalling through a field full of gangh. The broken stems would fill the air with the plants' scent. We thought we had lost our way and so I hiked on up a nearby hill to search for trails in the area. And that's when I saw it. Just 200M in front of where we were standing there was a clearly marked path where a tractor had passed. The relief. We knew we were getting close now. We shook hands believing the hardest part was behind us. It wasn't. For all the warnings people had given us, no one mentioned the Kara Su river crossing. A few KMs down the road we were faced with a 60ft wide, waist high, powerfully fast river. We searched up and down its banks looking for a bridge, but the only potential crossing was where the tractor path crossed. We all have our limits. This river crossing was mine. I managed 3 crossings of it, bringing across my luggage, but I fell many times and was almost swept away. We tied tent ropes, scarves, bags straps, belts and anything we could find to make a rope long enough to stretch across the river. We tied an inflated spare tyre tube onto the end of the rope and while one of us attempted to cross, the other would stand near the opposite shore and by keeping the rope taut, it made it easier for the person crossing. Markus was stronger than me. I was right on the limits of my capabilities carrying the bags. To take the bike was beyond me. Its a frightening, exciting adrenalin rush to know you are right on your limits. Markus coped up the river really well and he took across both bikes. Notice in the photo above, how deep he is in the water and yet how close he is to the opposite bank. I'm holding one end of the rope while he holds the other. But no photo could do justice to explain the force of that river. And anyway, we were more concerned about getting across it safely rather than taking photos of getting across it. The relief when we had everything across the river was probably the highpoint of the Osh to Bishkek run. We were immediately onto a more widely used track but we were exhausted. We pedalled only 2 KMs down the track before ending the day and setting up camp.