As we sit on a train, travelling 6 hours from Vinh to Hanoi, I came across this blog written in Murgrab that never made press. It was great to read it after a few months and hopefully you will enjoy it too!
It’s amazing the thoughts that go through your head while on the bike. I always thought that They would be about the future when finally reaching Melbourne, but it still seems so far away to be concerned. I tend to worry a lot on the bike. No so much about where to sleep, or what’s for dinner, or other daily challenges, but instead about things that would cause the end of the trip. When flying down a hill, navigating sharp rocks and pot-holes, I wonder, what if my frame just gives in? I’m a big guy – leaving London weighing a few kebabs short of 100kgs (although on a recent weigh-in back in Dushanbe I had dropped down to 86kgs).
A snapped frame, a bent fork, a bowed wheel. I don’t think about sickness, however. After reading and hearing the many stories of others who have been forced to abort their journeys due to health issues, I really should care. We are quite cautious, though. We’ve been filtering water since leaving Dushanbe, and 95% of all food eaten has been cooked by ourselves. We avoid fresh produce – not that the Pamir’s have a plethora of options – and have declined Homestay-cooked meals on many occasions.
The other thought that goes through my mind on a regular basis is about Alessia. How is she? How is she, REALLY? She’s jumped head-first into this, and that’s no mean feat. She’s pretty much been blindfolded and dragged along on this trip and I’m immensely proud of her for accepting and achieving everything so far. She’s a tough little thing, but sometimes it does get too much. And climbing up the 4300m pass after Jelandy she fell apart. I looked down from a few hairpins up the road to see her bike lying on its side, and she sat next to it, with her face in her palms. This tears me up inside. I blame myself for being so ignorant in not thinking that this would be too much for her.
After rolling down to meet her at the side of the road, she exclaims that she’s hating it, questioning what we are doing and why the hell we are here. More feelings of guilt come over me, but I’m not going to let this stop us. We are only a couple of kilometers from the top and I recollect that we have been in this situation before. It was the third day out of London, climbing up Dover Hill. We had got through this before. The solution? Get up the climb, one way or another, admire the view and reap the rewards of a glorious descent. In these cases, the road is always more enjoyable on the other side. And the smile on Alessia’s face quickly returns.
After days on the road camping in freezing cold and cooking instant noodles, the thought of a roof, warm room, cooked dinner, and a wash are enough to make your legs turn a little faster, push those few kilometers more to get to a Homestay. Although, after spending a night in somebody else’s house, we generally agree that we are more comfortable sleeping in our tent.
Flying down the M41 towards Murghab, the familiar thoughts drift into my mind again – am I tracking the most efficient line on the road? What if there’s a pothole that throws me off my bike? These thoughts don’t last long on this road. I can’t find the words to describe the view. Epic, stunning, breathtaking. All don’t seem to do it justice.
Any cyclist will know. When you are panting up a climb or coasting down a descent, you always aim for the best line – the easiest, safest, fastest, most efficient. And most tourers will concur that, when climbing up rough gravel inclines for hours, the urge to cross to the other side of the road in hope of a smoother ascent occurs more often than the mile markers on the trip computer. 9 times out of 10, however, the gravel wasn’t smoother on the other side.
When I was around 12 years old I was obsessed with the Toyota Celica GT, and whenever one would pass us in the car around Melbourne I would wind my window down so I could see it without any filter impeding my view. The M41 has forced me to do the same on occasion. I would remove my sunglasses to look at the landscape in awe. Occasionally I would look over my shoulder and glance at Alessia with a smile on my face – she would return my grin, and confirm that where we are and what we are doing is something so magical that we wouldn’t change it for the world.