Day 10 Wednesday 11 July. Chandara - Tongul 30km.

I dress Alan’s toe and extend the hole in his cycling shoe to allow his toe to freely poke out of his shoe. We were riding down the road by 7am. It was extremely rough and we only averaged about 10km/hr, perhaps less. Alan will not give up. None of the small towns have tea shops as there are not enough people passing by or enough people in the village to support them. We stopped for noodles and a cup of tea beside the road as children walked past on the way to school. We are getting low on food again.

The road is like a bed of river pebbles and it is extremely difficult to keep the bike upright and travelling in a straight line. There are road gangs sometimes consisting of whole families building and rebuilding rock walls to hold back the continuous movement of mountain scree. It is extremely hard work. They break the large river pebbles to make gravel. Trucks drop loads of rock and rubble for workers to spread over the road surface then rollers flatten it all out into a smooth surface.

Alan still keeps falling over while clipped into his pedals. He is becoming tired and we have to regularly rest. We are not pressed for time so it doesn’t really matter but I know Alan is conscious that he is finding it harder than he had expected. Despite the difficulty of the ride, we are having a great time. The scenery is spectacular and we are seeing interesting culture at close quarters. We are getting on well together and agree on day to day decisions like where to stay, what to eat, where to go and when to stop.

It is desolate and bleak between the villages and the constant climbing and poor road conditions wear you down. I knew Alan needed to stop so I surveyed the rocky landscape for a possible campsite, but each bend we cornered only revealed more rocks. The first place the ground leveled off I knew would have to do. We pulled off the road somewhere between the village of Tongul and Parkachac. It was blowing a gale so we sheltered behind a boulder about 50m from the road that also provided some privacy, not that there was anyone else using the road. We cleared rock away and set up the tent. The tent has no floor and I have no sleeping mat but I am so tired I won’t have any trouble sleeping. Except for the occasional sparse woody herb there is no vegetation as far as the eye can see. The mountains are huge and their peaks covered in snow.

We only have a little water so I leave Alan to rest while I head down a ravine to collect some. It is quite an effort to scramble down as the valley side is just loose rock and it would be easy to fall in and get swept away. The river is grey with sediment and I filled all our bottles. As I returned I scanned the horizon for the tent behind the boulder. It looked so insignificant in the vastness I felt strangely vulnerable. Alan is a mess but the rest lifted his spirits. We cooked boiled lentils, onions and tomatoes with masala powder for flavour. We boiled the billy for over an hour and the lentils were still as hard as the gravel we were sitting on.

Tonight is the first night we have been alone. It is cloudy, overcast and not very photogenic despite the surrounding snow capped mountains. We slept well.