Janne Corax 2001: "This sh..s on KKH".
Day 11: 71 km.  In the morning I was just as clueless as the night before. At least I didn't let it interfere with my sleep: I slept quite nice.
A lot of worries yesterday and today - what a waste of health and energy - it all turned out it's own way, differently and naturally.
I started early in the morning in cold and strong headwind. Couple of hours later I reached the Tajik immigration post. There is a 3-course procedure. First you face the drug-squad. They turn up your luggage inside out, pretending to search for drugs, but are in fact just amused of what sort of idiotic stuff the foreigners are carrying with them. They were most impressed with my card reader - as all of my other stuff it is stripped of unnecessary plastic and appears as a mysterious microscopic electronic gadget. The card reader disappeared, but as a compensation they warmed up a tin of beef meat for me to devour it right there and gave me another tin to take away. After the drug-squad there is customs. They meticulously fill in data from your passport into their big ledger book. Then there is immigration. They do the same thing as customs, just that they are much more important, so you are facing a long wait before you are allowed into their quarters. The immigration also puts an exit stamp to your passport, which is the final act of the whole procedure.
My host's kids in Sary Tash.
I went through all this, still tormented about what would happen on the other side of the 17 km no-man land. These 17 km are quite scenic, it's this part of the road which made Janne Corax proclaim: 'This shits on KKH!'. But as I said, I was too tormented to appreciate the view, I even lost interest in photographing. From Tajik immigration there is a short climb to Kyzyl-Art pass with the famous monument of big-horn sheep. Then it's big downhill on terrible surface and quite a lot of water. Some 8 km further the asphalt starts and lasts until the Kyrgyz immigration point. There it all went more then smoothly. While waiting for the gate to open I tried to seduce the young border soldier with sweet smiles, and it seemed to have worked, as he recommended me to higher ranked officer for mild treatment. I started babbling right away about no-visa regime for Slovenia and managed to persuade the officer. He nodded and gave my passport to a subordinate to put in an entry stamp. So there it was, I was let into Kyrgyzstan without the visa. Just then it started raining, so I hung around the border post for another hour, having a meal with the soldiers.
The road to Sary Tash is flat and paved. Just before the village the rain storm caught me. I was here four years ago and nothing seems to have changed. I think I got a room at the same family house as years ago. It surely was the same kind of food: nan and tea.

Lookout on Pamir where I came from.
Day 12: 86 km.  'Down the memory lane' day. I rode in my own tracks traced back in August 2004. I remembered the road very well: first a long gentle climb on gravel which you can escape by riding on secondary roads through the field; then crossing the Irkeshtam ridge - this is probably the part that gives this road a 'Irkeshtam pass' notation; from the top of the ridge you descent on big stone surface, which had seen quite a few blown out tyres; at the base of the descent there is a check point - the guard will want to try out your bicycle and will give you his Kalashnikov in hold; you then climb another smaller pass and descend to the village of Nura; from Nura is it 6 flattish kilometers to the Irkeshtam border post.
On the Irkeshtam ridge, just at the location where my rear tyre blew out in 2004, I stop and inspect the tyres. Quite incredibly, I find a 4 cm long cut in the middle of the thread of the rear one. Are Gods trying to tell me something? I look more closely and find out that only the outer rubber is damaged, the inner casing is still sound and strong. I put a piece of duct tape over it. I am quite sure it will hold, Gods or no Gods involved.
Summer camp.
Irkeshtam ridge is still maintaining its glorious status of disastrous road where your only chance of surviving is to walk the bike downhill. But the road from the checkpoint to the border has been recently paved. What an incredible contrast in half a kilometer! I ride this impeccable piece of asphalt with utmost respect. I feel like being in one of those car commercials where a car is driving through magical desert landscape on traffic-less road, black and smooth as Zimbabwe's baby's bottom. At the Kyrgyz immigration post they remind me of the new visa regime, but it's too late to be worried. With a remark that I should get a visa next time, they wave me out of Kyrgyzstan. There is again a couple of kilometers of no-man's land to the Chinese immigration post, although now days it should be called truck-man's land: for a couple of kilometers I overtake an endless queue of waiting trucks. One chinese official is interested in my camera. He scrolls through my last photos, but soon looses interest (maybe not finding pornography?). Few more kms and I head right into the immigration building where Chinese officials treat me as undercover VIP. In no time they greet me out of the building, richer for an entry stamp in the passport. I change a little money there, just enough to get me to Kashgar, and then head straight on. 8 km later I decide to make a camp.

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