Mashad (Iran)- Uzbequistanґs border
700kms to go in 7 days
We left Mashad and the first day of this challenge a surprise awaits for us at midday: Mehdi ( with who weґve cicled all this time in Iran and who stayed in Mashad) appears, with a friend, from no where when weґd had just started cooking lunch. They brought with them our favourite dishes, already cooked, and in a moment…they prepared a feast; under the roadґs bridge where weґd stopped, we shared the meal as a farewell and a aftewards…a nap. There, where Medhi stayed, our new “solo” adventure began.
From the very beginning the wind blew so hard against us that sometimes it seemed to be angry, as if it shouted impatiently because nobody understood it, yelling harder and harder, getting even furious.
During these 7 pedaling days weґve endeavoured a constant fight against this Great Titan that insisted on keeping us from moving forward, the same one that was our ally, seemed now determined to boycott our attemp. We lined up to pedal, Aitor went first, facing the wind like a pirate, leading the way, fighting, confronting it without fear, on this constant battle. Behind him, I felt sheltered by this protecting wall; my duty, to pedal and pedal, to keep the cadency from my shelter and carry on without thinking too much since that was our goal: to accumulate kilometres; to steal a few every day, a few more…Keeping our legs moving non stop and doing “overtime”.
We knew in the evening our enemy got weaker, its strengh seemed to soften and therefore, it was our moment. Most days we took advantage of the night time as if we were two bandits that in the dark, were perpetrating their plan. Our companion, the moon, seemed to have mercy on us and lighted our way up brighter and brighter every day and therefore, we went on all the distances we were not able to travel in the middle of the day due to the burning heat. Those hours of the day, when the sun is very high, the feeling was like being inside an oven, in a sauna where the air makes you suffocate and breathing was even distressing at times.
No chance must be missed in the desert- we often repeated when, at midday we found a shade. The time didnґt matter, if the sun was almost on its highest point, we stopped.
There we waited for the heat to come down and we were able to go back to the “arena”. Those hours seemed eternal and due to the burning heat sleeping was an utopia. We were not tired yet, we wanted more..but our only chance was to bear the thick and dry heat that soaked everything.
Luckily we found during those rough hours some small coffee shops where we repeated what it became a ritual: get there, look for the air con(usually a fan or an old machine only able to cool the temperature down by one or two degrees), sit down in front of it, order a cold bottle of water (which we drank straight away), and we were ready for the watermelon (if they had any) and after that, one or two big pots of green tea…everything in a blink. The amount of liquids one drinks in the wild desert is incredible.
To venture out to the road when weґre in the shade is a subject to debate since….itґs gambling. Decisions taken in such an extreme weather can make you suffer; honestly, thereґs no place for jokes.
Afterwards, we continued in the afternoon and with the rest of the jobs, since this challenge hasnґt been only about cycling 105 kms,, but much more: to arrive to our destiny at night time, a place far away from the road to camp, and how? Pushing the bikes in the sand, that sand that seems to want to keep them, swallow them to make them dissapear. Pitch the tent and change clothes, get everything out of the bag, eat a piece of bread (because around 10 pm thereґs no strengh to cook) and then…..to rest…..Itґs 11 and we must get up at 4.30 am to cook breakfast, collect the tent, do the washing up, pack up, push the bikes to the road and steal a few kms from the sun and the heat, just before they strike again.
After taking off: a great present. As every day, for those whose steps head to the East, the sun peeps out from the horizon. Here, red and clean, it found us already sweating, thankfully smiling for such a beautiful sight.
Yeah, waking up in the desert is a gift…the silence, the colours, the dunes at sunrise…the sunsets make you forget the dayґs suffering, the fact of having exceeded your bodyґs limits. Now, the soul is reloaded and the body as well.
We didnґt know how many kilometres we had left. When asked, some say 20 and some others 120…in the same place!! Incredible. Already on the last kms a policeman tells us to take a road that seems a scary trapdoor instead of the way to the border. Looking suspiciously about us and fighting hard against a furious wind…..WE ARRIVED!!!
Turkmenistan-Uzbequistan border: itґs around 3 pm, day 7th, we had 2.5 hours left. We are exhausted and burnt but…ladies and gentlemen…we did it!!!
(we camped 4 kms away from the border, under the first trees we found. This is over, from now on we are free to pedal how, when and as much as we want).