After yesterdays highly unnecessary big day I didn’t even struggle to get out of “bed” or groan when I stood up. I do reserve some slight concern at the back of my mind that I may burn out either today or a few days down the line, I may roll off my bike and slump in the sand by the road side like a horse that has been ridden to breaking point foaming at the bridal, the chin strap in my case. Time will tell. How the likes of Mark Beaumont or Kristof Allegaert, the ultra-endurance cyclists cope I don’t know. Mark Beaumont averaged come rain, shine or headwind 240 miles for 79 days and a touch, and here I am being chuffed with a single 200 mile day.
I’m on a plateau riding north, great plums of dust and sand trail behind horses galloping across the arid landscape. Aside from this mornings equestrian display I’m in for a dull featureless slog, its going to be one of those days. Water as always remains on my mind, sweating is big business, rings of salt form on my dark cycling shorts. Rather than using expensive sports supplements, those little tablets you add to your water, I have gone budget. Dioralyte is not only cheap but can be found in pharmacies around the world, I have only used it on this stretch to try and get those essential salts, electrolytes and glucose back into my body. Its blackcurrant flavour to.
I made it through the day with no foaming at the mouth but the next day is a different story. On the boat Thomas and a few of the guys were busy checking the weather forecast, whatever for I thought. I wake up and take it as it comes, what do the do if its bad? Just lie there in their tents? An 80km stretch felt like it took me as many hours. A unfriendly head wind on a dirt slash sand road to the Uzbekistan border. Before setting out that morning a chap asked if I was Christian, I said yes for you are either Muslim or Christian here, I wasn’t going to explain atheism, he then did that cross thing they do and said a prayer; turns out I needed it.
By mid afternoon, I was low on water, high on heat and only managing 30 minute stretches on the bike before slumping forward over the handle bars. It was the head wind that hampered me and kept me out in the blazing heat but at the same time it saved me, keeping my temperature down just enough. I hadn’t urinated in quite sometime, and even then it was bioluminescent, hello the on set of heat stroke. Each time a large truck came by the world became a blustery white out and I was forced too put my foot down, literally or I might actually topple. I’ve come to the realisation that I will probably have to hitch to reach my Russian visa, so why not now? And miss this…? I cant just skip the hard stuff that’s what I am here for.
I reach the border and take a moment to lie star fish on the cool tiles of the customs interior and recover myself. I don’t like being treated as a tourist but on looking up and seeing the lengthy line with baggage mounted up for searching I groan out loud, please not today! But my hero in a peaked military cap saying, “tourist, tourist” ushers me to the front of the queue much to my relief. At home people would be furious at this special treatment for the foreigner but they all practically pat me on the back. Good people.
That evening I stay in a truck stop hotel and I see myself in the mirror, I look like a ruddy camel. My beard is thick with sand, it is as if I have been performing in a budget theatre production and the makeup artist has used flour to age me. A shower and four dinners back to back later and I feel like a new man, the waiter found my appetite very amusing. I also make the most of the opportunity to get some fresh fruit, it is a rarity in these parts and expensive. Nothing grows here not surprisingly so it is not as cheap as I had thought it would be. At a wine tasting in Bath last December I was warned by an elderly gentleman that cycling on a hard seat for such a long time but give me haemorrhoids, speaking from experience I suppose. Well its not likely that my spartan seat that poses the risk for I wear padded shorts, but the volume of through traffic is a significant risk factor.
Haveing a break when I’m joined by these two chaps from out of no where.
The next day its in the forties; I am still travelling through this featureless plateau on a long straight road, to the south a line of pylons indicates the course of the rail line on which an occasional train passes silently by. To the north is a vast featureless flat landscape of short grasses a shrubs. It is as if the world was as flat as a table top, I met a women in Botswana who was a member of The Flat Earth society, perhaps she should move here. The only break in the straight horizon is the silhouette of small herds of camels, their dark out lines make them appear as giant tortoises moving slowly across the horizon, their single humps the shell and the necks, well the necks.
Make hay when the sun is shining. I finally have a noticable tale wind and I am flying, 160km by elevenses and seeing as there is nothing out here save camel spiders, scorpions and snakes, all of which I have seen scurrying or slithering across the road, I push on to the next iota of civilisation and shade, another big day of just shy of three hundred kilometres and I am still yet to collapse like one of those blown horses in the westerns.