Bike Packing Day 8: Into the Swiss Alps
After a hearty breakfast we bid a reluctant goodbye to our comfy yurt camp and head towards Moldo-Ashuu Pass. It is a steady, but rideable climb to the top at 3346 m, where the most astounding vistas await. We spend ages in a futile attempt to capture the majesty, then take equally long to descend the endless switchbacks, as each respective twist and turn promises to be The Money Shot. One would swear we are in the Swiss Alps with all the fir trees covering the snow-capped mountainside!
When we finally make it down, we follow the river to an inviting picnic spot and cook up that freeze-dried risotto that’s been waiting in the wings since Day 5. It’s a serving for one, which we divide by 3 and it’s truly pathetic and flavourless. The price tag is still on – R165. What a rip-off! We make the last cuppa soup, so we can dunk the last of the stale bread and make some coffee, so that we can dunk the last 3 stale doughnuts. Seriously we need to re-stock. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel!
The terrain hereafter becomes dry & dusty. The road is bumpy and corrugated. It is a hard slog into the next village, where we peruse the pitiful shelves of the local store. We get some cookies & chocolates to snack on plus pasta, tomatoes and what looks like tuna fish, for dinner and sit outside on the steps drinking warm peach “iced” tea.
Then Steve notices that one of my panniers is hanging funny. On closer inspection it appears I have lost a crucial screw – brand new German engineered Ortlieb panniers!
We dig out the tool kit and as luck would have it, there is one screw of just the right size. Steven, you beauty! He has it fixed in no time. Kati quips: “Steve’s always there when Di needs a screw…”
We drag ourselves back into the searing heat and decide to look for a campsite as soon as we are well away from town. The road is right next to the river and there is a fair amount of passing traffic. We want to be well out of sight, so it could prove tricky.
We end up taking the bikes down a steep embankment and setting up camp under some trees on a little beach. We can see the cars, but we are pretty sure they can’t see us, except coming towards us from the far side, while we are bathing and washing our clothes (and then we have a watchman system in place).
Steve is not feeling great. He has stomach cramps. He disappears into the bushes with paper and matches and emerges looking grim-uh oh, this doesn’t bode well.
Maybe he drank the river water too soon after adding purifying drops? He manages our pasta & tomato dinner though, which is surely a good sign.
We can’t use the “tuna”, as it turns out to be something else – weird little grey and white fishes that look entirely gross and on inspection, expired in 2016! We bury them…
I ruefully settle down on my non-existent “mattress” and determine to make the best of it. Thank goodness it’s a quiet night, with no local vodka- drinking revellers and just the sound of the river to lull us to sleep.