My memories of cycling from Alichur to Osh are hazy. This section forms the 'Pamir Plateau'; the road flattens out slightly but hovers around the 4,000 metre mark, except for the handful of times it climbs even higher, eventually peaking at 4,655 metres on the lung-bursting Ak-Baital pass, notorious amongst cyclists. Having ascended to the Pamir Plateau gradually over the course of two weeks I had believed I was well-acclimatised. I was wrong. It was only when I eventually reached the low-lying city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan that I at last began to feel human again, and could reflect on what had been the toughest part of the trip.
Waking up each morning my clock indicated I had slept for 13+ hours, but it made little difference. I never felt rested. I was in a state of consciousness where I only ever felt half-awake. An internal battle raged not to fall asleep during breakfast. My pedal strokes on the bike were weary, my legs leaden from the cumulation of seemingly endless rotation of my legs. Each pedal stroke was a little more difficult than the one before, until my mind could will me no further and I had to stop for a break.
This lack of rest was exacerbated by my obliterated appetite. I don't know whether I lost my appetite because of the altitude or because my body finally began to reject Central Asian food, much like a body might reject a new organ. Maybe it was a combination. Regardless, the effect was the same, and I struggled to find the energy to continue. For days I fantasised, much to the humour of my cycling companions, about having a bacon sandwich, a taste of familiarity and home.
It was hard... but sometimes the most worthwhile things are. I have always firmly believed that the fact something is a challenge should not dissuade you from tackling it. And indeed, that was the case here; the Pamir are stupendously beautiful and my time there was rich with 'WOW' moments. I'm sure I will look back on the experience as a highlight of the trip, and I look forward to one day returning. The following pictures tell the story better than I can with words.
It wasn't easy... but if I wanted easy I would have never set off to cycle around the world! And look how much I would have missed out on.