The day has come. The day when I am departing for the mountain pass. I fixed all the things on my bicycle in the morning. The ice axe was holding the rack with 2 straps, now I replaced the ice axe with a single firewood stick. I just saw that the housekeeper brings firewood which has the same diameter as my ice axe and I realized that it could replace the ice axe. I asked the housekeeper to cut the wood to an appropriate size and carved it a little bit for a proper geometry.
Then I went for a walk around the village to take some photos. I have seen only one subject: the camels.
I was watching them probably the same way as the Afghan people were watching me with my recumbent bicycle. It was a totally unusual view for me, so I took several pictures of them. Camels in the blizzard! What is that???
I left the guesthouse around noon. The concept was the following: about 25 kg in my backpack and about 15 kg ont he bicycle. I paid the landlord, then I departed. It was not a hard job to push the bike, as the snow wasn’t very thick. I pushed it almost to the river, then a horserider man came and started to wistle and show me something with his hands. It approached me, I couldn’t do anything. I started to change direction and I was pushing in the direction where he was pointing, maybe I can get rid of him as I obey his suggestions. But no, he approached continuously. When he arrived very close, he said that it is impossible to cross the river at this point. I have to go towards east, where we can find a good shallow. I became a bit nervous but at the same time I was also glad, that maybe I will be less wet after the river crossing. I had to walk pretty muck, like 1,5 km. The crossing wasn’t that slick. I took off my boots, my socks, then I ran across the river with the bicycle. The river divided to 2 smaller streams and 1 bigger stream. It was pretty wide at this section, but the bigger stream’s level was still over my knees. I put down the bike, fleed back for my backpack. The man was just struggling to put the backpack on the horse. Because the horse didn’t allow me to get close to itself and put it on its back. I didn’t wait till he finishes struggling, just picked up my backpack and ran across again. Why can’t he simply get off that horse, pick up the backpack on his back and get back on the horse? I can’t understand. I don’t screw around, I just go with the bag and run across. I can’t feel my feet at the end! I get out to the bank, wiping my toes and trying to swing the blood into my feet. So tough, but I just get on my boots and it feels sooo good agan! Then I am going further about 50 metres, there is a river again. Nooo! But I am sure, the sooner I get through, the better will be for me. Meanwhile the man comes close to me, now the horse isn’t afraid, comes to arm reach distance. I give him the backpack, he goes through the river, I am carrying only the bike. My feet freeze again, but on the other side I don’t care about that, but I shy of the man who has left with my backpack. He is away! I am starting to sprint ahead him, I didn’t understand what has happened. Definitely, it was a stupid thing to sprint, I can’t chase him as he is with a horse and if he wants to steal my bag, he can do it easily. Well he noticed that I am running towards him so he stopped and turned back. He asked:
- Why didn’t you bring your bicycle?
- Because you have disappeared with my bag and I didn’t understand, what’s going on!
- I asked the locals here, you can sleep in that house for free, if you want. I was just heading that house.
- Got it.
Well, I didn’t expect this. He was supposed to go in the totally opposite direction after crossing the river. But he was still heading east But now I got it. I was happy and I was sad at the same time. I knew that the climb will be postponed one day, but on the other hand I could dry up all my clothes. I was pushing another half kilometre and I was only thinking about that I am just getting further from my destination, the pass. So finally I pushed my bike in that small village.
They invited me in a small black hole, which became pretty cosy after lighting up a lamp. It was a nice tiny room. The owner heated up the room and the man on the horse, the owner and his friend accompanied me during the evening. There was a plenty tray of dinner arriving. I really ate as much as I could, I knew that I won’t have such a food for a while.
Unfortunately the small iron heater was releasing a lot of smoke into the room, it resulted a great concentration of fume when we went for sleep. As I went out of the room for toilet, I left the door open for 5 minutes, then the smoke went away. I rather sleep in coldness than in smoke.
In the morning it stopped snowing and the clouds started scattering. It really stoked me up! I squeezed my bags and quickly took some pictures with the family in the kitchen. I lied them that I will go for a 2 days trip into the neighbouring valley and I will climb some peaks there. They knew that I am a climber, so they believed me. I didn’t want them to know, that I am going to leave the country here.
I departed. Finally. I was heading west on the trail made by yaks. The trail was going upwards on a steep embankment, where I had to carry my backpack and push the bike separately. Thus it took me about 2 hours to get through the embankment and arrive at the valley perpendicular to the Wakhan corridor.
It was an awesome feeling! I could push my bicycle with the backpack on my back, and my speed was about 3 km/h. Then I had to go through another stream. I did the same way as before, no boots and no socks. But this time I didn’t freeze too much, it was okay. Surprisingly I arrived at a small village. Strange, because the guesthouse’s owner told me that there are no villages in this valley. He was wrong. In fact the map doesn’t show, maybe this is recognized only as a temporary farming village. I had to push for a looong loooong while after the village to reach the steep uphill section. The beginning of the gorge was totally isolate from the wide glacier valley, they had a pronounced boundary. Where the gorge starts, that’s the point where I have to start the steep uphill. Till that certain point I had to get through several small creeks and snowfields. It was very disadvantageous as the wet tyres always picked up a lot of snow and both weels got stuck in the frame. So that I had to kick my wheels regularly with my feet, with the crampons attached. I used crampons only to increase effectiveness. I didn’t slide at all, so it was more effective to push the heavy bike. The valley was almost flat, but the snow became deeper and deeper. In the afternoon I could barely push the bike continuously. Meanwhile I realized that my front dareilleur has broken. Probably the lower Teflon chain protector rolled in the crankset when I was pushing the bike backwards and the frozen chain grabbed with itself. And the Teflon chain protector smashed the dareilleur. Crazy. I was angry, but I knew that I will only need the smallest chainring on the other side. I wasn’t concerning too much about it. I came very close to the gorge, I have made 11 km since the village. It was a successful day, but I still haven’t gained elevation. I pitched up my tent on a symphatic spot and started cooking. After cooking I stretched down, patched my puncture in the front wheel and I fell asleep. I didn’t have too much food: 2 pack of biscuits, 2 cakes, 1 Snickers, 300 g peanuts, 200 g sunflower seed (from Iraq), 1 kg rice, 1 kg lentils, 2 noodle soup, a half pack of tajik butter, 50 g marmalade, a dry bread from the guesthouse. I saved the bread during one lunch serving in the guesthouse. I didn’t believe that I can get bread otherwise, as it was struggling to get a bread in all the Wakhan.
There was severe freeze in the morning. My boots became rocks of ice, so it was super hard to get them on my feet, as my heels started to have wounds. It was pretty disadvantageous to leave the wheel outside in the night with water and snow on the rim, without a mounted tyre. The edge of the rim was full of ice all around! I started to crash the ice with my ice axe.
My hands got totally frozen, so I used my big gloves. Packing the tent is usually a totally hand-freezing process, as the canvas has a lot of condense-ice inside, which cools down my fingers so much. I packed everything, then I set up a bike-carrying strap with the ortlieb bags’ straps. After half an hour pushing I reached the steep section. The trail was visible! I saw a lot of footsteps on the hillside which correlated properly with the trail signed on google maps. Great then! Backpack up! Come back down. Bicycle up! Again. Backpack up! Come back down. Bicycle up!
This is how I ascended all the day. Sometimes I took pictures, made some footages, flew my drone. I ate and drank just a little. I could have drunk maybe half litre during the day. It was still freezing during the day, but I didn’t feel cold with the strong labour I did. My backpack and my bike were both around 30 kg. I could make about one kilometre in one hour. I didn’t reach the pass on that day. No problem, I still have enough food, no need to hurry. I was camping on a great spot, there was a beautiful view on the mountains around, my elevation was around 3700 m asl. I tried to make a time lapse, but I didn’t really succeed. I didn’t set manual white balance again. I messed up the intervals again… I am not a big time lapse master.
The view was magical in the morning! It was super cold, but the sky was clear again, I was so glad about it. I drank about ¾ litre tea and I squeezed my feet ridiculously into my frozen boots. I was still following the footsteps, which were still going according to the trail signed on the map. My fingers and toes melted quickly and I started to feel warm, it was harder to move. I had to eat and drink. I reached a stable, where all the footsteps split apart every direction.
I was thinking, what could have happened here. There was a low pass SSW direction from me. There was another one W direction from me. But which is my pass to Pakistan? The first seemed too low, the second one seemed too high. I checked the google maps. It isn’t showing anything. What happened? I waited a few minutes, maybe it loads the maps slowly. Nothing happened. I became totally upset. I almost broke my phone. Never happened such a thing. The google maps deleted all the downloaded map details from one day to another! It deleted even my own saved places! Everything!!! It is showing a raw, undetailed map, which is useless. Bastard!!! I was using the map in the last 4 months of the expedition as follows: I downloaded the map details when I had wifi or reception and then I went offline and the maps remained in my phone’s RAM. It didn’t matter, how many times I rebooted my phone, the maps remained saved in my phone. But now NO! I am here on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan at 3800 m asl. and I don’t know, where is the pass! F**k you!!!!!!!!!!! I collapsed and I wanted to cry. Seriously. But I don’t give it up, I will find out, where is that pass! Maps.me, you are coming! It is totally useless in these situations but at least it shows the border line kind of detailed. I remember that there was a village on the Pakistan side. The border line had a shape of “W” and the pass was at the west side of this “W” shape, north from the village. Okay, I can see the shape, I have to go to the left side of it. I don’t trust the compass usually on my smartphone’s map, so I decided to make a movement: I start climbing without bags and bike in the direction of the higher pass. If my displacement is not towards the appropriate point, then the lower pass will be my pass. I climbed about half an hour towards the higher pass, then I checked my displacement. It was totally the bad direction, the lower is mine! Yesss!
I walked back to my bike and then I felt extremely exhausted, hungry and thirsty. I ate all my peanuts and drank about 3 dl water. Then finally I resumed. The pass seemed to be close to me, but it was not an easy task to reach. On this section the snow was relatively deep. I had to go downhill a bit, which was doable with the backpack on my bag, pushing the bike downwards. Then a long plain section came. The border was about 2 kilometres far from me. I am very weak, it is hard to move. Okay, I collect all my power and I am carrying only my backpack to the border line! I got my mind set on it and started. Maybe should I use my snowshoes now? Let’s try. I get them on my boots, I start and my thighs get acidy immediately. Get them off, crampon will make it. I am going. The soundtrack of Everest, the Imax movie made in 1996 started to play in my head, as usual. As usual, when my body says NO! and my head says BUT!!!!!!! So I succeeded to take the backpack to the border line with one single break. The backpack and one pannier is here! I deserve a Snickers and a little water. I walked back for my bicycle. I was aware that it will be a painful round as my shoulders barely had skin. No worries, I have already made the traces, steps will be easy. As I get back to my bike, 40 minutes elapsed and the air is also colder, fortunately. I get my bike on my back and going towards the border. I stop only once, before the steep part. I am thinking about this section, as if I lose balance here, I might fall on my back, and the bike might damage my skeleton seriously. I have to take a break or push the bike. I chose the break for 5 minutes and then I carried up the bike on my back. It could look good, I am sorry that there was no photo made of it. I didn’t have energy for taking a single shot of myself. But from here I made it in one row till the border. When I put down the bike, I shouted so loud that probably all the wild animals ran away to China of the fright. It was TOTALLY demanding. Mental job! My body gave up a thousand times already. But I am here, standing on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the mountain pass of Hindukush. It could be as difficult as Alexander Csoma’s Passover through the Hindukush. He passed through west from here, but in November, too. He didn’t have an easy job as well.
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