For a lot of long distance cyclists travelling between Europe and South East Asia brings up a few possibilities. Like Barry and I, some choose to go through central Asia and for others, the middle east. Then either travel through China or fly to India to continue east. However most end up in the same place midway. Here in Tajikistan, on the renowned M41 ‘Pamir Highway’. A road starting in Afghanistan meandering through 5 countries into the mountains of Tajikistan and finishing is Kyrgystan. It poses both extremely challenging road and riding conditions. Its almost a right of passage and a real test of a riders physical and mental abilities. The reward however is incredible scenery. The Pamir highway is what a lot of us seek in a big tour. Solitude, baron landscapes, self-sufficiency and pure adventure.
I had been looking forward to this for years and was very excited to start.
Continuing where I left off, we were staying in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe at a warmshowers host property. Her name is Vero and is a legend amongst the touring community who pass through central asia. We met roughly 20 other tourers over the few days we spent there. Sharing stories and eating big communal meals together. It was a small paradise to relax and unwind.
It is here we met up with 2 Australian riders, a couple from Brisbane, Scott and Sarah. We had met in Istanbul and then again in Ankara, Turkey and stayed in contact as we made our way throuh Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, whilst they cycled through Iran and then up to Tajikistan.
Their blog is: http://www.longrodehome.com
We all decided to cycle togther through the Pamir highway as a quartet.
Our first mission was a 9 day trip to the small city of Kharog. We would have 1 mountain pass to tackle and would then start riding adjacent to the Afghanistan border.
Ok enough writing …. here are some photos!
After reaching Kharog the next destination was the town of Murghab, in the east of Tajikistan. There are 2 ways of getting there, head directly east continuing to follow the M41 or go south and follow the Afghanistan border in a ‘U’ shape and through the Wakhan valley.
Sarah and Scott had limited time remaining on their visas so chose the first option. Barry and I had more time to spare so chose the valley route.
In Kharog we also met a couple from Linconshire, Robbie and Lucy.
Barry had been in contact with them and we were only days apart throughout our rides across Europe and the Caucasus regions of Georgia and Azerbaijan. We had met for beers previously in Tbilisi, Georgia and Baku, Azerbaijan.
Their blog is: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/robbieandlucy
We rested an extra day longer than the other 4 so said our goodbyes and prepared for the next stint.
….. our first glimpse of Pakistan behind the Afghan peaks.
……. relaxing in a hot spring!
this night we slept in a campervan.
It got cold at night as we approached 4000m altitude.
-8.4 celcius in the morning.
We finally found tarmac as we rejoined the M41, 100km from Murghab.
Upon reaching Murghab I was shattered. On the way to Kharog and upon leaving the valley I had suffered prolonged bouts of severe Diarrhea (sorry for that image). This had completely drained me of energy and I was weak, I felt a broken man.
To put in perspective I’ve lost almost 12kg of weight and 4 inches off the waist since I started this trip. I’m a bag of bones you could say.
In Murghab we met up Scott and Sarah who had themsleves succumed to illness on their route and 5 other cyclists from Poland who were ill. It seemed that the ‘Tajik tummy’ was rife!
The weather was cold and it appeared to be closing in. All of us, sick of being sick, decided to get taxi’s the remaining way out of the country. All except Robbie and Lucy, two super tough iron man athletes.
On the way out we stopped to take a few last photos.
As we approached the biggest pass in the region (4600metres) we spotted Robbie and Lucy. It was freezing cold and looked like a really tough cycle.
We then continued onwards to the city of Osh, Kyrgystan.
2 days after us arriving in Osh, Robbie and Lucy both appeared at the hostel we were staying at. Unfortunately the weather had become a lot worse in the mountains. Snow blizzards and temperatures of -15 forced them to stop and a passing truck helped them out to safety.
We now are here resting. For about a week to cure of our illnesses and fatten up.
We will now head north up towards the capital city, Bishkek and the lakes to the east. We’ve heard horse riding and paragliding is cheap to do there so may give them a go!
The Pamir highway. 3 weeks and 1000km of almost completely off-road touring. What a beautiful but brutal riding adventure it has been ……. Phew!!
Next entry I will aim for the end of October.