Saturday, 16 October 2010

Desert Diarrhea - 17/09/10 – 21/09/10

Location: Baykonur to Kyzylorda
Date: 17/09/10 – 21/09/10
Distance covered: 180.79 Miles
Overall distance: 4,129.14 miles

“Screech, Screech, give me the toilet roll.” The noise of Ped shouting awoke me. It was dark and the cold rain still pattered hard against the tent. “Screech, give me the toilet roll,” Ped anxiously repeated from his tent across from mine. Screech gave a some what sleepy reply. “I have been sick just give me the fucking toilet roll,” a final demand from Ped.

This moment during the last trip I made with the cycling for charity team always makes me smile. Not of course at Ped’s misfortune of being sick. But more the point that he was sick in his tent. As in his haste to be sick, instead of opening both mesh doors he only opened the one. This resulted in a rather messy and smelly tent for the rest of the expedition.

Now I have been sick on expedition before. In the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco during the Malaga to Marrakech trip I had a bad case of it. I was up all night squatted out in the cold rain. By morning I was so weak that I could not continue. This would have been a problem had I not had a good team with me. They took care of it and got me to a warm hotel to recover. Now I was asked on quite a few occasions before I left what happens if you become sick? “Then I am sick,” is all I could usually reply.

Up to this point things were going okay as well. I was covering a fair distance considering the road conditions and had just past the Russian owned section of Kazakhstan without any problems. I was a little disappointed that I never seen a rocket soar off into space as I past Baykonur at night. This is the location from where man first went into space. This was the reason for Russia owning this section of the country. On a side note three weeks after I past here, Russia would send there brand new space shuttle into space. Now that would have been something to see.

I had not long past Baykonur when a Belarusian motorcyclist stopped for a chat and told me of a café I could stay at nearby. This is always a better option than the tent. As it is warmer than a cold night out in the desert and usually food is offered. When I arrived at a village where the café should be I asked for direction. Instead of pointing out the way I should go they invited me to stay with them instead. Problem solved I thought, a bed for the night and maybe some food.

Sure enough there was food, loads of food. I was given a large bowl of besbarmak all to myself. This is meat (usually mutton) served on flat pasta with onions. It tasted a little funny but hunger soon put those thoughts to the back of my mind. Anyway the kind host kept saying “cushy, cushy, Sean, cushy, cushy.” Eat, eat, Sean, eat, eat. So I did, though he never did.

Come morning I was keen to go but strangely not hungry. I had 100 miles to do so I thanked my host and left. Something wasn’t right today though. Sure there was a headwind. But this was Kazakhstan it was always windy. It couldn’t be hunger after all the food I had the night before. Maybe just from riding so many days in a row I thought. But my legs and body really were feeling weak.

After 30 miles I would get a clue. The cramping pains hit hard around the bowels forcing me to search out for somewhere to answer the call of nature. This is no easy task in the great plains of Kazakhstan. The urgency of this forced me to a not very well hidden bush clearly visible to the road. Even in this situation the drivers would still beep their horns and wave. I chose not to wave back on this situation. I managed another 30 miles south of Kyzylorda before stopping I just couldn’t do any more.

I had been riding on the new road that they were building which ran directly beside the old one still in use. I set up camp beside the new road. I was hidden behind a large mound of soil with a distance of about 40 meters between me and the in use road. As I set up camp on the hard cracked ground I surveyed the desolate empty landscape before me. There really was nothing around me, nothing at all. Little did I realize that this would be my home the next few days.

It started to get worse during the night. The frequency of the need to go and squat outside the tent increased. I would have to leave the warmth of the tent to do the business. At first I had the strength to walk a good distance from the tent. But this became less and less. During this first day I had ran out of water. I never had any food in the first place. During this period I had some sleepy, daydream hallucinations. I was sure I had a team with me. All I had to do was wait for them to go and get food and water. It was only during one of the trips out of the tent that I noticed no one else was there. It was a little confusing to say the least. But then reality kicked. I would need water soon and would have to solve it myself.

The solution was to go to the road and beg. There really wasn’t any other choice so it wasn’t a tough decision. This however did take all my strength and I would have to take a rest during the 40 meter journey to the road. I held up my empty 5 litre water container and hoped someone would stop. Cars and buses zipped past on the road. I struggled to keep the empty bottle held high. Even though I was only there five minutes I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. Not surprisingly a truck driver stopped.

They had always been the friendliest vehicles on the road. Within half an hour I had five litres of water and four apples. On my return I again had to stop for a rest only for the police to come along and start questioning me. To be fair I was just lying down on the new unused road so quite an unusually sight to come across. They didn’t understand me explaining that I was sick so I Just ignored them and slowly walked away.

The next day it got worse still. I was weaker and now really did not have the strength to walk far from the tent. It got to the point when I could only just crawl a small distance in front of the tent. It got closer and closer until the inevitable happened. Squatting not far from the tent I managed to hit it. The only saving grace was that it was on the outside. I was thankful that my aim wasn’t a little more to the left, the open door of the tent. On the cracked floor of the desert on all fours I now knew how Ped felt. I looked back in disgust but had no energy to do anything about it. I simply crawled back into the tent.

By the morning of the fourth day I was only slightly better. I knew I couldn’t stay any longer. I hadn’t eaten in 48 hours for a start and had lost three days of riding. I tried to ride it out to Shymkent, I really did. But I was so weak and after 5 hours I had only covered 22 miles on the flat road to Shymkent. I knew then I had no choice but to hitch a ride. I had to think of the bigger picture. After all, the border crossing deadline for China was looming.

Again a truck driver came to the rescue. To be honest I wish I was able to cycle. To give an idea of how bad the roads are it took 8 hours to cover 200 miles. If you have ever felt turbulence on a plane then you will have a good idea of what this ride was like. Eight long hours of bumping and rattling, just what I did not need! In the early hours of the morning we arrived in Shymkent. I got a hotel, food, water and was looking forward to a proper day of recovery.

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