We enjoy the time in Langar including a day of rest. Together with Kim, René, Hector, Lauren and Jay we spend a cosy evening, everyone has his stories to tell, plus cool beer. I'll even have a brandy with apple juice! We don't stay up for too long and go to bed early, after the exhausting stages of the last days we are dead tired.
After an extensive breakfast with eggs, sausages, bread and honey, I get to work: washing day is once again in order. I do it like the Tajiks, take a basin, kneel at the brook and start soaping up the laundry and then washing it out. I don't care that the dishes are washed less than 10 metres down, we have already got used to that. After all, in other places we don't know where and with which water what is washed! It's best to close both your eyes and not to think about it any further.
In between we say goodbye to Kim, René and Hector, they leave again today. I wonder where we'll meet them again.
The rest of the day goes quietly, just as we'd hoped. Have a chat here, talk to one of the other guests there, buy the provisions in the minimum market, nothing more is needed. After dinner, Markus and I will have the guesthouse for ourselves. All other guests make their way to the private house of the guesthouse owner. He invited everyone to watch the World Cup final between France and Croatia at his home. Markus and I renounce it.
The next morning we are early again. The road is still bumpy and dusty, we are shaken all day long. The driving speed is also not exactly intoxicating. After all, the visit of the Bibi Fatima Hot Springs is a nice change on the program today. In the early afternoon we reach the turnoff, which should lead us to the hot springs. How could it be otherwise, the spring is located 8km from the main road, high above the valley. Thank God we got the tip in Langar that villagers offer tourists to drive them up to the source. We are happy to accept this offer. We can leave the bikes and luggage in the inner courtyard of the rider. In an old rickety jeep we go up the steep mountain road. I'm not quite comfortable on the road, I see the abyss right next to me! But we arrive in one piece and walk the few meters to the entrance of the thermal bath. Markus is accompanied to the men's pool, I to the women's pool. Even if the temperature would have been better if I had cooled down, I step into the hot water. Several other women are already in the bathroom, enjoying themselves, chatting. The pebbles in this bath are supposed to be healthy, because the women are looking for them and sucking them like candy. I'll pass on that! I can't take too long in the bathroom, it's almost too hot for me. Well, it did anyway. We let ourselves be chauffeured back to the place of departure and get back on the bike. Of course, it would have been much nicer to lie down in a deckchair under a tree and indulge in the dolce far niente. But we have to go further and find an ideal campsite. We find it too, several kilometres further on. It is a nice sand place, a little off the road, which is lined by a row of trees, so that one does not see us directly. We enjoy the evening, even if it is a bit windy. When eating, the sand grinds between your teeth. Only when we go into the tent we realize that the tent is full of sand. Did we forget to close the entrances properly? We pour out our sleeping bags and remove the sand from the tent as best we can. When we wake up in the morning, everything is full of sand again. We've never seen this before. The sand must have been so fine that it could penetrate through all the cracks. We shake off the sand as best we can, backflip everything and set off again. Back on the road Markus has to pump his rear wheel before we can definitely start. Finally we are ready...and who is coming towards us from behind? Jay and Lauren - they only camped a few kilometres behind us. So the four of us leave for Ishketam. It is the first time that we are on the road with other cyclists. That's good for a change. The ride is entertaining, we talk, take a break or simply cycle all four of us, enjoy the silence, the dreamlike landscape and look at the Pamir River and the Afghan side of the valley all day long. Every now and then other cyclists come to meet us, everyone stops, exchanges ideas. It's like a big family! In the late afternoon we arrive in Ishketam. Too bad it's not Sunday. On Sundays there is a common market between Afghans and Tajiks. Even tourists are allowed to visit this market. We would have loved that.
Therefore we meet Kim and René again in the guesthouse. They approached the trip from Langar to Ishketam a little more comfortably than we did. Nice to meet you back here. Our group is getting bigger, the next day we are already six people on the road.
In Ishketam we stock up again with fresh bread, vegetables and fruits. A yoghurt is also a must. We don't need much to be quite satisfied in culinary terms. There simply doesn't have to be potatoes for dinner every day, which is usually the case in the homestays and guesthouses.
The journey of six is very pleasant. In the course of the morning René and Kim even prepare us a real Italian espresso, what a treat! We haven't had such good coffee for a long time! And all this in the great outdoors! Markus and I are really "slim" on the way, no additional amenities like an espresso machine, camping chairs or something. An inflatable cushion is already the highest of the feelings... Towards evening we look around for a camping possibility. We find these. We are allowed to camp on the land of a house owner, right next to a small stream. People are still working, cutting grass and tying this up. We set up our tents and of course we do not miss washing off the dirt and dust of the day in the cool stream. Afterwards we sit in a common round, each pair cooks its simple dinner on its cooker. How peaceful it is and how nice it is!
The next day's stage takes us to Korogh. But it's not that fast. The bad roads and the constant up and down are exhausting. Gradually I've had enough of these bad roads with their potholes. How nice would be the same drive on a good asphalt road! For the time being, we can still dream about that. The arrival in Korogh still has to be confirmed with 2 very steep climbs. Finally the city is in sight, beautifully situated at the river. We stay at Hotel LAL. Several other cyclists and motorcyclists have advised us to stay there. They say it has nice double rooms. When we arrive at the hotel, however, we are disappointed: the double rooms are all fully booked. Kim, René, Markus and I decide to stay here anyway and make a living with the dorm. We already occupy 4 of the 8 places. That should be okay. Jay and Lauren have already decided to go to a homestay. The hotel has a nice shady courtyard, cosy sitting areas, a nice furnishing, what the hell, so it is also nice to stay. There is also an Indian restaurant just around the corner. We don't want to miss this culinary variety. And right next to the hotel there is a park with a nice restaurant, right by the river, where you can spend an afternoon with tea or beer! It's almost like holidays!