Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tashkurgen to Kashgar

We took a sit down breakfast in Tashkurgen and enjoyed the morning calmness before setting out. The streets were empty but for a few Tajik women in high heels, nylons and colourful dresses cleaning the street (where was my camera when I needed it!).


After breakfast, I had an incident with a public toilet (squattie pottie) that involved a broken pipe and getting blasted at high pressure while I was locked in the cubicle.

It may take me a while to recover from that.

Sometimes people tell me that they think that I'm living the dream. I will assume that they are not talking about these sorts of moments.


Leaving from Tashkurgen, we began ascending another pass. Although it was not as high as Khunjareb Pass (4000m instead of 4800m), which we drove over yesterday, the fact that we were pedaling meant that we could feel the thin air. The difference between what our brains thought we should do, and what out lungs and legs could do, seemed enormous.

I was reminded of a conversation that we had with our hippie friend, Quyam, when we were back in Gilgit. He told us that he knew of a great way to manage the altitude. At the time, I thought for sure he was going to try to sell us some hash. He simply said "apricots".

I wished that I'd brought some apricots with me.


We took three days to pedal the 300 or so kilometers between Tashkurgen and Kashgar. The first night we slept in a Kyrgyz yurt next to Karakul Lake. It was idyllic and peaceful and there were snow covered mountains on either side of the lake.

The second night was slightly less glamorous. We slept on the concrete floor of a storage unit next to a tire changing shop that was located about 20 meters off the highway. We could feel the vibration from the impact drill until 2am and had to walk 100m to use the "toilets" (which were concrete blocks perched over the edge of a steep cliff - not the sort of place you want to stumble around at in the dark).

You win some, you lose some.


One sure sign that we are not in Pakistan anymore is that gender roles have shifted. First, there is now a normal (by my standards) proportion of adult women on the street. Second, these women actually play a real (by my standards) role in what is happening.

Case in point, Gerry and I stopped for a coke at a roadside shop. Two men came to check out Gerry's bike, cautiously examining its every detail. They showed constrained curiosity as they discussed how it worked, while resisting the temptation to touch it. Then, a woman arrived, stood the bike up and tried, without hesitation, for herself. Playing with the shifters, rolling the bike back and forth, pushing on the pedals.

It was such an exciting moment, as though it marked the passage into a world in which women are people. (I still don't consider myself a feminist - I'm just a human who had parents who had a sensible perspective on gender roles).


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