So it turned out that the Afghan embassy in Bishkek was really relaxed about handing out visas, not even requiring a letter of invitation. I rolled up to this large mansion of a house around 10am and asked for a visa. He asked what I was going to do there, looked at my passport and told me to go to the national bank of Pakistan, pay a fee of $60 and then return with two passport photos… I was gobsmacked it was that easy.
In disbelief I returned back to the hostel and showed Kieran the visa, as we once again found ourselves sat on the sofa in the reception, I kind of felt that now I had the visa there was no reason stopping me…
So I spent the next month getting things together and replacing all my damaged equipment. Trying to condense all my belongings down to an acceptable weight.
On the first day out of Bishkek I made it not very far until I had to camp, my back hurt and my bag was weighing down on me like never before and I decided to camp behind a small derelict building with the mountains in sight. For the rest of the night a constant reminder there in the background of my journey to come.
The next day I made my maiden voyage into the mountains and got stopped by checkpoint police, they took extreme interest in what I was doing and one spoke good enough English to give me advise about what to watch out for and where not to camp, because there were loose rocks and boulders everywhere along the route. Later in the day I met a couple from Russians who were travelling around the world with the plan to eventually end up in Australia as well, albeit more comfortably, in a car and airplane. They had planned to go to Fiji soon. It was also their two year anniversary.
I eventually managed to do my distance for the day but knew I would have to start losing some of these so called essentials I was carrying and camped on a cliff top surrounded by mountains. Very uneverving.
For the first time I utilised my camping stove which worked a treat and made myself some cous cous. Using the stove was slightly anticlimactic, having been used to Kieran’s mega-fires in the past which would need the assistance of the local fire brigade to put out, and due to my carelessness in turn burn the food, cooking on borderwalk was normally an event. But, this cooking experience, primarily because of the stove was faultless, my cous cous came out fine and there was no need for the emergency services. A very dull cooking experience, made up for by the view. (It may seem that I am sponsored by the stove company, but I am not, it just worked. To prove this I wont even give you the name of the gas stove)
During the night everything had frozen, my bag was crispy along with my bivy that was frozen stiff. It took me two hours to pack away my things and make some breakfast because of it. During these two hours the tips of my fingers became annoyingly painful which meant I had to stop every now and again. A few km’s into walking and I found a cafe so decided to stop to defrost my clothing, fingertips and electronics, that were all flashing a -°c symbol at me telling me it was too cold to work. My mp3 players, my phones and my camera all refused to function. This was a new level of cold that I hadn’t experienced before and made me very nervous, knowing I was only going higher into the mountains.
The next few days would be a continuous uphill struggle.