Day 6 Friday Aug 4th. Tong to Kochkor. 125km, 975m of climbing.
Dawn over Issyk Kul was spectacular this morning, as no doubt it is on many others. But I’d be astonished if I saw another here, such is the privilege of being in this place – home to locals but very remote to me.
And our caravan moves on, of course, which this morning presented us riders with a choice: another 60km or so heavily worked over by construction crews. Or take the van to the lunch stop then ride from there. Five of us opted for the latter. As unpleasant as the roadworks are, my bigger issue was the ride tomorrow – a climb to 3,000m over the Dolon Pass. I wanted to have maximum energy for that.
So, the five us had eaten our lunch and hit the road about 10.30am for a delightful ride on mainly good roads through more beautiful valleys. The climbs between were gentle.
Along the way, I spotted a well-laden touring cyclist coming the other way so I slowed down and said hello across the road. She said hello back and joined me on my side of the road. Elisabeth left Vienna four months ago, giving herself a year to cycle solo to Australia. Lots of unknowns lie ahead, not the least of which whether she’ll get a visa to ride through China, if not, her route becomes circuitous to say the least.
As pleasant as the ride was, the heat kept climbing – back to near 40c. But because it was a shorter day, I kept well-hydrated and maintained a slow pace (so not to generate even more body heat) I fared a lot better than in the first few days of the tour.
Arriving very early in camp was the great bonus of the day. Plenty of time to relax, wash in the river, go up to the petrol station for a sit-down toilet (I now have some control over my diarrhoea), write, chat with people and enjoy a leisurely dinner.
As is our daily routine, Carolina, our tour leader, gave us a 15-minute briefing before dinner on our route tomorrow. I thought…OK, I’ve ridden higher than that in the Rockies, the average grade over the last 10km to the summit is 6%, with peaks of 8-9%…yet I do 12 percent or so on short stretches in the Waitaks and elsewhere.
But it still seems a big challenge, given the heat. So I’ll leave you with a photo of the briefing board as I head to bed, to sleep soundly, I hope.