Day 18. Wednesday, August 16. Kairakum Reservoir to Khujand. 50km, with 210m of climbing.
We lingered over breakfast this morning, knowing we were riding only 50km today for route reasons explained in yesterday’s blog. But we did manage to spinout that easy morning to 3 ½ hours with a roadside morning tea our crew provided just 13km from Khujand, our day’s destination.
On full days, our earlier starts are as much about temperature as distance. Today it was another 20C day when we set off. That temperature held for the first hour, edged up a bit in the second hour but rocketed 10 degrees to 33C during our third hour. Thankfully, our hotel was only a bit further down the road.
Our route took us through a busy small town just as kids were heading to school, the first time on our journey we’d been in the right place at the right time to enjoy that boisterous moment in young people’s lives. From one school, speakers blasted out kids singing – but I suspected it was a recording rather than live.
Closer to Khujand, another town had the most impressive line of median strip streetlights I’ve ever seen…seemingly stretching from horizon to horizon, well at least some kilometres.
The population of Khujand, Tajikistan’s 2nd largest city, is only 200,000 yet it is one of the oldest cities in central Asia, dating back 2,500 years to the Persian empire. Under Russian-rule its name was Leninobad from 1936 to 1991.
Its massive fort, dating from the 5th century is one of the city’s famous features I hope to see on my rest day tomorrow. I can afford that luxury, given our early arrival today, my bike needing only a wash and brush up tomorrow morning and my blog being up to date for the first time since my adventure began 18 days ago.
I’m celebrating those achievements with a late lunch of beef shish kebab and salad, cooked for me by Daler, who spoke useful English, at an outdoor restaurant near my hotel.