Kyrgyzstan Bike-Packing Day 16: The Grand Migration
I awake at 05h30. It’s still bucketing down. My bladder is fit to burst. I decide to make a dash for it at the first sign of let up. The wait is interminable. Eventually The sound of the rain diminishes a tad and I do what has to be done. My bladder is so full though, that the flow is backed up. It comes out in a slow trickle and I am squatting in the wet grass for what seems like forever, getting more and more soaked by the second. I grab some water bottles off the bikes and am a dripping mess when I get back into the tent and attempt to dry off with my very un-absorbent camping towel.
I can’t sleep anymore, but it’s freezing, so I climb back into the bag and proceed to write my blog. (Luckily, I am riding with a Dynamo hub, which provides charge for the cell phone or I would be without power by now). Next to me Steve continues to snore away, oblivious.
At around 07h00 he starts to stir and I suggest we make some coffee. It’s quite a palaver and against all safety precautions to light the cooker inside the tent, but we do it anyway. We still have half of the big round loaf, so I divvy it up into 4 portions (one each plus one spare) and Steve and I have ours spread with honey. If only we could let the honey guys know how much their gift has been appreciated!
Eventually Kati’s voice calls out, all pitiful “Are we going to make dinner now?” Too late, that ship has sailed…
We’ll make yesterday’s dinner at around 17h00, we decide. Until then we distract ourselves with watching through a crack in the zip, as herd upon herd of sheep pass by on the annual migration to Summer pastures – some higher up on the slope behind our back door, some straight past our front door. The din is tremendous. I am fascinated. It’s like watching a TV series – The Great Migration: episode 1, the 10h05 train goes by. We can see the 10h45 hanging back until they have moved well past. Can’t have the flocks inter-mingling. How would you figure out what belongs to who?
They are branded with splashes of colour and various patterns, but there are duplications and it could get confusing. Each herd has at least 3 or 4 horsemen with whips, plus sheep dogs of various shapes and sizes. Thank goodness they are not aggressive like the Anatolian sheep dogs in Georgia last year! The riders all wear the same standard issue, green rain poncho. They are clearly tough men, not afraid of the elements and they handle the horses with consummate ease. “Close the flap, it’s freezing!”, Kati & Steve entreat, but I am enjoying the spectacle too much. “Ah come on, just one more episode, pleeease”
Eventually I zip up again. What now? We should’ve brought cards… “Read us your blog” says Kati, so we have story time until the tale runs dry. Then Kati gaps it back to her tent to nap and I continue typing up the saga. “See you at 17h00 for dinner. Bring the pasta (and a bottle of wine, and dessert, ha, ha)”
Steve is snoozing and I’m blogging, when we both hear what sounds distinctly like squeaking bike brakes… listen… it’s definitely squeaking bike brakes and its coming closer. Next thing we hear “Haallor”, we unzip and peer out and yes indeed, a fellow bike-packer from Norway coming from the opposite direction. He is dressed in the very best rain kit and seems entirely unfazed by the weather. “This is perfect riding weather, no?” We have a nice chat and it passes the time. He’s headed back to Bishkek the fastest was possible, since he has a plane to catch in 3 days’ time – no hanging around in a tent for 36 hours for him!!
Finally, 17h00 arrives. Our tummies are all grumbling wildly. It’s quite a manoeuvre to cook with 3 people in the tent, but we manage. The result on any other day would’ve been horrendous (cheap spaghetti with onion, garlic, red pepper, olive oil and thick tomato paste), but we wolf it down hungrily – context is everything!
We are still hungry. We do an inventory of all edibles that each of us is carrying – confession time. Do not hold back any secret stashes. It amounts to not much and we have tomorrow to get through, so I hand out 2 precious squares of chocolate each and the kitchen is closed.
I watch a few more episodes of The Great Migration, then brave the wet to clean my teeth and pee. The charge on my phone has run out. Nothing left to do now but go back to sleep. Please God, let the weather be clear tomorrow!