23 august

I woke up to the screams of local youths and the sounds of their livestock, along with the thundering traffic below.

I rode downhill for a few kilometers before crossing a beautiful blue-green shimmering river called Vakhsh, which is also home to one of the world’s highest hydroelectric dams, the Nurek Dam. Hydroelectric power is one of Tajikistan’s export assets.

Crossing Vakhsh river at Nurek

Then, I faced a tough uphill climb of nearly 10 kilometers before reaching the next tunnel to pass through. The heat, which had now risen above thirty degrees, made cycling quite a challenge, and the water I had with me was lukewarm.

The tunnel was unlit, and cycling through it was no fun. When I emerged on the other side, I was greeted by a breathtaking view down to a lake that the road signs referred to as the Blue Sea. It’s actually the reservoir of the Nurek Dam.

Blue Sea, Nurek dam from above

A few hundred meters ahead, after a mountain cut, I saw a large gravel area with numerous tents set up, serving food and drinks. Many cars, trucks, and buses had already stopped here for a meal and a break so did I. Was hungry and also need some rest, especially from the heat and sun.I ordered soup with boiled meat.

While eating, I enjoyed the view of the large blue lake with several prominent mountain formations. Again, it’s the reservoir of the Nurek Dam. After this  lunch, I had a challenging climb left before completing the final 25 kilometers on relatively easy roads.

Unfortunately, I noticed that my front tire had a slow leak, but it wasn’t bad enough to prevent me from pumping it up and cycling a few kilometers at a time. I decided to wait until my evening camp to change the inner tube. I also needed to replace two broken spokes, which I planned to do when I reached Kulob.

At a roadside eatery, I stopped when I saw a few other cyclists and parked my bike beside their table. I changed the inner tube, pumped it up, and was about to go inside for some coffee or a glass of beer when I noticed that the couple had parked their bikes in a courtyard and had a room for the night.

The eatery had a large yellow-green grassy area in the courtyard where you could pitch a few tents, but they also had three or four rooms that you could essentially stay in for free if you dined there. There were shower facilities, but the water supply wasn’t up to our usual standards.

The German couple, a man my age and his wife about 15 years younger, were wearing light blue T-shirts that piqued my interest. I found out that the man had been battling blood cancer for twelve years, and the text on the back of their T-shirts read, ”Cycling for Cancer.” It was quite an achievement, as he had cycled in many countries, including Iceland six times. Apparently, exercise is good for both the mind and keeping diseases at bay.

The room had four bare white walls with two electrical outlets, no carpets, no tables, so I inflated the mattress and brought out my sleeping bag. Before settling in, I had to chase out all those pesky ants, but the flies were harder to deal with.
Despite the heat, I fell asleep fairly quickly.

Today’s distance: 68.5 km
Travel time: 4 hours and 16 minutes
Total time: 10 hours and 11 minutes
Max speed: 53.8 km/h
Average speed: 16.3 km/h
Max altitude: 1311 m.a.s.l
Min altitude: 615 m.a.s.l
Total ascent: 813 meters