The M41, known as the Pamir Highway, runs for the most part through Tajikistan. It is the only ongoing route across the hard-to-reach Pamir Mountains. The Pamir Highway is known as the second highest international highway in the world with a mountain pass at 4655 meters. The name “highway” reminds us of a tarmac road, but nothing else is less true. The road consists of stones, mud, gravel and sand. In short, ideal conditions to test our motorbikes and ourselves to the utmost!
Tuesday 22nd August 2017 Border Denau / Tursunzade – Dushanbe
After we have checked out literally in Uzbekistan, it’s time for the Tajik border post. The visa for Tajikistan is easy to get through the internet, so let’s hope that the border post is that easy as well. After a passport and visa check, we can proceed to the next box, but where is the next office actually? We drive on, but arrive at a closed gate where there is no one around. A little back there is a barrier, but nobody is here as well. A little further back is a customs office. Maybe we should report there? A Tajik customs guy explains the procedure. We have not seen this clarity before. First, the passports are scanned, then we have to go to the ‘bank’ and then back to this customs guy where we get an insurance paper. He indicates that the bank employee is now out for lunch and that he will be there after 15 minutes. We do not mind waiting at the border, provided we know what we are up to. In addition, we are prepared. With a full bag of grapes from Uzbekistan, Erik starts with the next level CandyCrush while Bertha is starting her next book written by Samuel Bjork ‘I’m traveling alone’.
Sharp on time, the bank employee walks in with a smile “Welcome to my office”. We have to pay 10 USD for the 15-day insurance for our motorbikes, which we may extend in Dushanbe or Khorog. We do not understand that the paper for the bikes is only 15 days valid, while we have a visa for 45 days, but it seems to be normal. Then we suddenly see all the stickers on his desk cabinet of overland travellers from different countries. Apparently the employee has a special hobby. We also see the sticker of the two Romanian gentlemen of Just4Touring who helped us with our chains in Ashgabat. Bertha asks if he wants to have our sticker too. “Yes, please!” And Bertha puts it full in sight. This is the greatest and nicest border crossing until now!
After some formal handling back at the first customs guy we may enter Tajikistan. “Have a nice day!”, he yells at us. The barrier is opened and we travel to Tajikistan on fairly good asphalt. Let’s go to Dushanbe! It soon turns out that the tight asphalt is not good for our speed. A policeman with a laser gun stops us to the side of the road. Bertha is clocked at 86 km / h, where we are aloud to drive 60. Erik takes over the conversation and indicates that we are just entering the country and are not aware of the speed limits in this country. After apologies and the promise to not drive that fast anymore, we can drive further. Less than 5 kilometres later, we see police officers with laser guns again, and this continues until Dushanbe. Speed limitation is apparently priority number 1 in this country.
After an hour and a half we arrive in the maze Dushanbe. One out of 10 streets in the city is closed, it looks like Amsterdam! Arriving at Greenhouse Hostel, the gates are opened right away, allowing us to park the bikes inside. It turns out to be a real travellers hostel, we see two more bikes standing and around 8 bicycles, some still in the box. It turns out to be popular to send your bike to Dushanbe, cycle the Pamir Highway, and then send it back. In the evening the two French and the German cyclists, who did cycle from their own country, and which we met at the border, also arrived in the hostel. The hostel is a cozy place. We exchange experiences with people entering Uzbekistan and get tips from those who have already cycled or driven the Pamir Highway. According to a German couple who arrived on a motorbike all the way from Singapore we do not seem to need the spare fuel tanks until this country. We decide to hold two and give two spare tanks to this couple as a present. They will need them in Uzbekistan. The tanks are thankfully received in return for some Tajik cold beers. Cheers!
Wednesday 23rd August 2017 Dushanbe
Today will be a busy day. We do the laundry in the hostel, because sometimes it is nice to not wash it by hand. Besides that, it costs only 1.50 EUR per wash. After breakfast Erik demounts the motorbike. It’s time to clean the K & N air filter, according to the booklet, this must be every 15,000 kilometres, a good task for Bertha. First, the filter must be injected with a cleaning spray, then rinse under the shower with lukewarm water, dry it in the sun and then re-inject with special oil so that they are as new again.
The air filter can be placed on the bike again and Erik can remount the tank and all the covers. Finally, Erik removes the carter protection of both bikes. In this case we easily get to the oil filter that we want to replace at the garage tomorrow.
Bertha went to the bazaar at the end of the day to get fresh vegetables, which was about 15 minutes’ walk. After having lived for two months on peppers, onions and tomatoes, we can now enjoy a home-made cauliflower chicken curry dish. We like it!
Thursday 24th August 2017 Dushanbe
For a few days, we have been thinking of returning a package of redundant clothing home with some t-shirts, thermos and the summer jacket of Macna. When we started the trip this summer jacket had to be really nice, especially in the hot countries. However, in practice we find that the bags and extra space that this jacket does not have, and which the Mace Vosges Motorjack does have, are needed. We use it to keep personal papers, keys, camera, sunglasses and sweets. The summer jacket is a lot lighter and blows a lot more wind than the thicker adventure jack, but when it’s warm we’re sweating anyway. And the more we sweat, the colder it is when we ride again and feel the wind through the Vosges Jack, allowing us to open all zippers. We are so happy with the Vosges Jacket!
In any case, we are exactly 5 kilos lighter. It takes a while before we find the post office. The old post office is grounded and nobody in the city knows the new location. Eventually, a hotel employee knows where it is, he arranged a taxi for us and explained to the driver how to drive. It appears to be near the bus station. Our package is first scanned to see what’s in it. The women make a sense that the package that is completely tapped up must be opened. But when we say there’s only clothes in it’s okay. Then, by hand, a small jacket is sewn around the box, followed by seven seal stamps. We have to pay around 20 euros. Not cheap, but if you are lighter, you are automatically a happier person!
The next station for today is the motorbike garage Bike House. Here we would actually replace our Heidenau K60 tires after 16,500 kilometres by Shinko tires, but we decide not to do this now. The first reason to replace them is because our Heidenau’s are still looking good, they seem to be able to drive another 5,000 kilometres, with a current minimum of 4 mm profile. The second reason is because we are very happy with the current Heidenau tires and the Shinkos we do not know (some people don’t trust anything they don’t know …). The third reason for not doing is because the Shinkos are imported from South Korea and importing in Tajikistan is extremely expensive. For example, the tires here are 140 EUR each, while they are for sale in the Netherlands for 70 EUR. Dutch people do not like to spend too much! The last reason for not replacing them is that we can probably get the Heidenau’s in India for a nice price, and this is about 4,500 kilometres away, so we go for it !! Nevertheless, we still go past the garage to mount a new chain for Bertha. Crazy enough, the old sprockets look like new, despite all the noise, so we keep them on the bike. In addition, both bikes get a new oil filter and new oil. They do not have the usual 10W40 oil, so we switch to 10W50. The first figure determines how thick the oil is in a cold state. The second digit determines how thick the oil is in warm condition. The higher the number the thicker the oil. So now we have thicker oil when the engine is hot, but this oil should also be fine for the Honda Transalp. Two hours later and 110 EUR lighter for oil and labour we drive the bikes back to the hostel.
In the afternoon we do groceries in the big Auchan Supermarket to prepare for our adventure at the Pamir. We buy some canned vegetables and tomato puree for the evening meals combined with noodles. At higher altitudes it is harder or impossible to boil water, so plain pasta is almost impossible to finish. Noodles can be cooked in hot water and the cans only have to be heated. We also buy durable milk to make oatmeal as breakfast.
In the evening we enjoy a meal with fresh green broccoli, now it’s still possible! We also drink some beer with the German couple from Singapore who ride on one Triumph, a Polish man riding a BMW and a Slovenian couple riding a BMW 1200 who already made our trip 20 years ago.
Friday 25th August 2017 Dushanbe
Bertha drives again to the garage this morning because her right handlebar is loose. We finally fixed it with 2 layers of insulation tape. We also got some spare spikes and valve caps. For safety reasons we also buy octane boosters. The octane content of the gasoline in Uzbekistan was low, sometimes 92, sometimes 80. Our bikes run well on this gasoline, but the number of kilometres with a full tank is sharply decreasing. An octane booster ensures more efficient fuel consumption and therefore the bike runs more kilometres with a full tank. We brought 8 bottles octane boosters from the Netherlands, but after Uzbekistan we have finished our stock and it’s no harm to have it with us if we need it again.
In the evening Bertha goes for a run with Lisa Murray, a Cornwall (England) girl who currently combines travel and work in the Stan countries. Both of them have not run for a while and decide to do 6 km, with at the end a nice viewpoint over the city of Dushanbe!
Saturday 26th August 2017 Dushanbe – Shurobod
Today we start our route towards the Pamir Mountains, exciting! However, from Dushanbe we do not take the M41 (Pamir Highway) to the east, but decide on the recommendation of fellow travelers to take the southern route to Qal’ai Khumb. This route, in contrast to the northern one, has mostly asphalt and appears to have more beautiful views towards the Afghan border. One and one is two, so the choice was made fast!
The well-paved road leads us through Kölob, from where we go into the height. Dushanbe is 1000 meters high and from Kölob we rise about 500 meters, then descend with steep hairpin bends to our camping site at 1200 meters altitude. Our location (GPS: 37.82110, 70.18141) we found with the I-Overlander app and gives a beautiful view of the Afghan mountains. Wow! Unfortunately, the place is still visible from the main road, but the road is at a sufficient distance, so we cannot be seen at night.
Because the wild campsite is on an app, it’s no wonder that another motorcycle rider arrives at the end of the afternoon, it’s the Slovene Martin on his Triumph Tiger. We chat, but leave each other alone in the evening. Because the place is really far out of town, and the moon is not too big, the starry sky is very clear in the evening. In addition, we also see the milky way for the first time, a light band of stars that move slowly through the sky. For the both of us it is an incomprehensible and unique experience.
When we sleep in our tent in the evening we suddenly hear more people and it appears that a lifting couple from England / Turkey has arrived.
Sunday 27th August 2017 Shurobod – Poshkharv
After 20 kilometers the misery begins. The asphalt makes room for potholes and the closer we get to Qal’ai Khumb, the worse the road becomes. Potholes make way for pieces of gravel with stones and full of dust we arrive in Qal’ai Khumb.
In this small town, the southern route and the northern route (M41 Pamir Highway) come together and it is significantly busier here. We have not seen so many people before during the last two days. In a restaurant along the Panj river, that we already follow from the campsite, we also see the Slovenian motorcyclist and the English-Turkish couple. In the restaurant they speak only Russian, but fortunately the Slovenian can translate for us. We order Goulash, Plov (a typical Stan-country rice dish with lamb and orange and yellow carrots) and a juice of fermented fruit.
After lunch Bertha has an almost-dead experience on the toilet. The smell that comes out of a hole really bad. As she walks into the toilet, the smell penetrates so deeply into her brain that she almost has to give up or go out. She decided to drop her pants outside the toilet, take a deep breath and try again. It is incomprehensible that some women take the whole family onto the toilet, this must be unhealthy!
In the village we fill our water supply, we refuel the motorbikes and continue our route over the gravel and sandy roads. Throughout the day we drive along the river, with the distance to Afghanistan getting smaller to 30 meters. The roads are becoming narrower and the valley to the river is steeper. The fear of heights for Bertha is occasionally awkward.
Along the way we pass two military posts. These soldiers are located across the entire Pamir Highway, in order to counteract illegal border crossings. Passing such a post is not as exciting as it may sound. We give our passport with the visa and the GBAO permit we need to drive through the Pamir Mountains. The data is recorded in a booklet and after a few minutes we receive them back and we may drive further. Some military posts are very formal, military are not laughing or speaking unnecessarily. Other border posts are rather cozy and we can stick a sticker with our name and website or talk about Tajikistan and its culture and cultural differences.
We drive around 180 km today. The purpose was actually to drive to Khorog, but because of the state of the roads it is unfortunately not possible for us. At 16:00 we start looking to find a camping site. This is necessary because around 19:00 it is already dark and you do not want to drive in the dark with those narrow mountain passes while there are always crazy drivers without lights. During our trip, we are always amazed at the cars, lorries and buses that drive without light through tunnels.
After an hour Erik sees a path towards a fallen house (GPS: 38.403163, 71.145575). Maybe we can sleep here in the garden? Arriving at the house there are people in the garden working. However, there seems to be a piece of lawn, shielded with stones, but with a small gate accessible with our motorbikes. Erik asks the oldest man if he has an objection that we camp here, with hand gestures he makes clear that we are welcome. We quickly set up the tent and wash ourselves behind a few stones. When we have finished our dinner, the workers are ready and go home, but not before they have treated us to fresh apples and tomatoes. Great for breakfast tomorrow morning!
In the evening, Erik makes use of the opportunity to build a campfire at 1684 meters. When the fire is on, he is doubting about the situation. Perhaps this is not such a good idea so close to the border, in addition we make ourselves immensely visible. We let the fire go out quickly and enjoy the bright starry sky. What a beautiful place!
Monday 28th August 2017 Poshkharv – Khorog
We have breakfast with oatmeal wrapped with bananas and local apples. Breakfast is a bit heavy, but we will need that today. We continue our road over the M41, although the distance with the river in height is now getting smaller, we are still rising. It’s difficult to enjoy the view with these bad roads, but if we have a chance, we see what’s about to hit us. When we realize we have all the time, especially no hurry, we drive calmly with about 30 km per hour and relax. We often stop for a sip of water or a beautiful photo. We make up our mind and know that it is very cool and special to ride here.
At the end of the afternoon we arrive at Pamir Lodge in Khorog at 2000 meters where it is busy but very cozy. Unfortunately, the double room is just forgiven to another couple. We decide to set up the tent in the garden, which is a good value option, 5 USD p.p.. There are also some Dutch people in the hostel; 2 cyclists and 1 motorcycle rider. The motorbike rider drives the bike from a Dutch friend from Bishkek to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the friend has broken a leg and is unable to drive the engine herself. Among Dutch cyclists, we suddenly see Bas! We have met this cyclist in Azerbaijan before. He has taken the boat from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan and cycled through Uzbekistan to arrive here. It is a pity to hear that he has been very ill for the past few weeks. Fortunately, you almost receive money when you buy antibiotics.
Tuesday 29th August 2017 Khorog – Darshai
We have breakfast together with Bas and chat with each other about the adventures we experience. At the hostel we exchange $ 150 for Tajik Somoni at a rate of 8.8 which is normal here. As in Uzbekistan, it is normal in this country to pay the hotels in dollars and the rest in the local currency. But if you only own the local currency, it is often possible to pay your nights as well. However, in all Stan countries, the dollar is worth gold. You cannot always get dollars with your creditcard everywhere you want, but once you own the dollar, you can exchange it everywhere and often at a better rate than at the bank.
We continue our road southwards towards the Wakhan Valley. This part of the route is not the official M41 or Pamir Highway. However, many bikers or taxis do this route because it appears to be more beautiful than the M41. In addition, this route remains relatively low, while the M41 is going higher. This gives us the opportunity to acclimatize and get used to the height. Many cyclists, on the other hand, take the M41 eastwards to Alichur, which is halfway shorter and better asphalted.
The start of the route today is quite good, long pieces of asphalt with sometimes a pothole. After half an hour we see two other motorbikes in our mirrors: Holger & Anja from Germany! They are in the same China tour group and we have seen them earlier in Nukus and Khiva. We have a short chat with them and decide to proceed. After an hour we see them again, but now with 3 Swiss gentlemen who go the opposite direction. We also stop, for us it was time for a break anyway.
In the end, we are invited by Anja for a tea, but we decide to look for shadow somewhere. Just after we stop and find a beautiful place among a tree between the goats and meandering streams. Just take our rest in the beautiful scenery. The calm is gone when Holger is burning the grass with his MRS gasoline stove. It takes a while, but eventually the burner works and we enjoy coffee, tea and cookies.
After the tea, we divide again and we each drive on our own pace. The more we drive south, the wider the views become. Deep valleys make way for grasslands where mainly sheep and goats graze. Along the way, we travel through many villages where all the children are waving. Sometimes we feel almost pissed off when we cannot wave back because we have to climb roadways or cross a river and keep our hands on the handlebars. High five while driving is very popular here, but some boys are clapping so extremely hard that Erik has decided to withdraw his hand at last. Bertha has found her solution in using here claxon. On the way many dogs are barking behind us. Some look terrifying. It is understandable that they are so careful, because they see us as a danger for their flock of sheep or goats that they guard. Despite our protective clothing, it’s not always nice to see a dog with bare teeth in front of you.
We built our camp at the beginning of the Wakhan Valley at 2700 meters altitude (GPS: 36.78508, 71.98682), on a farmerland near the main road, but at night out of sight of passing traffic. We keep our motorsuits on on arrival, because it is cold here, 17 degrees and with fresh breeze. During cooking we view the snow tops in Afghanistan, a fantastic view. Young boys pick up their oxen in the evening and pass our tent. What are those animals big!
Wednesday 30th August 2017 Darshai – Langar
There were no clouds last night and the stars were so bright. Because of this it was an extremely cold night. During breakfast, Holger & Anja pass, this time we treat them with a coffee and tea.
Today we have a relatively short ride on our schedule of 80 kilometres. We have been told that it is wise to sleep in Langar. After Langar the road rises quickly and it will be difficult for 150km to camp. In addition, the road we drive today is the worst. We drive over everything and anything, big pebbles, loose stones, over roads with 30cm deep water and even through sand.
Loose sand is difficult to drive. It is often only 100 meters long, too short to deflate our tires for more grip. Just before the end of one of the sandy roads, Bertha cannot keep her motorbike in balance and falls. The advantage of sand is that the landing is soft, both for Bertha and for the motorbike.
After we have lifted up the bike together, Erik is in turn. Also, he does not drive in a straight line, unknowingly jumps from the left lane to the right track, but knows to his own surprise to keep his motorbike in balance. A group of men at the end of the sand road is watching. Apparently this epicaricacy is their daily activity.
We stay for 30 USD, including dinner and breakfast and without Wifi, at Homestay Yodgor. At this height, 2800 meters, it is currently too cold for us to camp. We see that some cyclists do, but we do not see the fun of it anymore. And in Homestay Yodgor, the owner had drunk a little too much and is very funny. There is also an Italian couple with their guide and driver. They have clearly paid more for the overnight stay and have a more extensive menu. In the price there is also a traditional song, played by the owner with the accordion and we are now also enjoying it. Perhaps because of the alcohol, the owner feels not awkward and he shouts the song with all his strength and feelings. After eating, the Italians are treated to a bottle of Vodka, but they clearly do not like it. The driver asks if we want a shot. With these temperatures we don’t say ‘no’! Together with the driver and the guide we empty the bottle. At last we start to get a little warm again. The guide then says that it’s actually a crazy trip. The Italians have booked this tour with an English guide, but do not speak English themselves. During the meal, nothing is said and the guide is glad that he can finally have a normal conversation with a few young tourists. The questions and answers of the Russian driver are translated by the English-speaking guide and so we all have a nice evening. Nastrovja!
Thursday 31st August 2017 Langar – Alichur
Although the bed lacks a mattress and that Erik has a cold, we both slept great. It was undoubtedly because of the Vodka. The sober owner asks us if we are married (“yes”) and whether we have children (“no”). People find it strange that we do not have children at our age. We explain “first traveling then maybe children”. The owner suggests that if we return with child(s) next year, the stay is then free.
We inflate the tires and leave at 8 o’clock in the direction of the Wakhan Valley. From Langar we go straight up with hairpin bends. 3000 meters, 3200, 3400 and then 4344 meters at Khargush Pass. By mid-day we decide to use the 2 inner lining of the Macna motorcycle jackets and winter gloves. The heated handlebars on the bikes go to full strength.
Today only one car passed by. It was a car with researchers from a Russian Federation. They were recording with a drone just when Erik drove through the valley. They asked if we were interested in the movie. “Yes, please !!!” Erik gets to see the movie and is looking forward to receive the movie in his email box. We hope they keep their word!
The roads today are bad again, only gravel, pebbles and loose sand. Bertha falls once again in the sand. New today are the washboard roads. When the washboards are low, we can catch the cuts at about 30 to 40 kilometres per hour, while standing on the bikes. But with higher waves this is not possible and then literally everything is shaking. Even the eardrums in our ears catch some of the whacks. Experienced motorcyclists say that at higher waves you need to drive about 70 kilometers per hour to drive smoothly over the washboard, but we do not dare to drive that fast yet. In addition, there is a lot of alternation between washboard and loose sand or gravel, which may make such a speed dangerous. The many vibrations also make it easier for us to pee a lot. Should there be a reader who knows how a washboard is created, please let us know! We’ve been thinking about it for days, but really do not have any idea, and Google also seems to let us down.
The higher we get, the thinner the air and the landscapes are becoming boring. There are no trees at this height. The snow tops in combination with the cloud skies make the view enjoyable. It was an emotional day for us. When we reach the top of the Khargush Pass we must almost cry. It’s so great to reach such a height with our own motorbikes, so far from home. It’s almost unreal that we really do this with the two of us.
At Khargush we arrive at a stop sign with barbed wire we cannot surround. We have to wait for soldiers who are not at their office. From the intersection where we continue on the M41, the road is suddenly asphalted. Nevertheless, it seems more beautiful than it is when we dodge the first very deep potholes (0.5m) after a kilometre. Here too we do not drive faster than 50 km per hour.
With a light headache at a height of 3884 meters we get off our motorbikes. We do not really suffer from high altitude sickness, but are dizzy when we get back from our knees. Even after we have brought the heavy bags into our room we have to wait for our breath again. It is said that it is wise not to sleep more than 500 meters higher than last night, to prevent altitude sickness. It is also advisable to drink one litter of water more per day from 3000 meters, each 1000 meters higher.
Tonight we sleep in a yurt (10 USD p.p. incl lunch, dinner and breakfast) in Alichur (GPS: 37.754298, 73.260452). Traditionally, a yurt, a round tent, is used in this area by nomads traveling with their cattle from one place to another. Upon arrival we receive tea, bread and yak yogurt. Meanwhile, in the shower building, the water is heated and we can take a shower one and a half hour later. The cottage is very hot and filled with a lot of smoke, but we enjoy the buckets of hot water that we throw over us. Honestly, this shower is even better than in most hotels or homestays!
After dinner, soup filled with potatoes and pasta, the stove is heated in the yurt. Suddenly it is extremely hot in the yurt. Despite the heat we get extra blankets from the owner and he makes us clear that we will need them tonight.
In the heat, we philosophize about the day and we find out that during this trip we learned a special lesson: Always and everywhere to take the right moment on the right time! Sometimes we are not into it or think we can do it later, but before you know, your chance is over and you missed your chance. Just crazy practical examples that we can imagine are:
– Shave in a private clean bathroom with good hot shower.
– Wash the motorbikes where possible.
We think, however, that this is not only applicable to our journey, but also to our life in the Netherlands, where you also have to take your chance when it comes to a job, friends, home, etc.
At night the fire goes out and it’s suddenly cold in the yurt, but with the many blankets we have it’s a good night to sleep.
Friday 1st September 2017 Alichur – Murghab
We went to sleep at 20.30 yesterday and wake up at 6.30am, a nice long night. The fire stopped last night, but Bertha obviously had to go to the WC. So first put all the clothes on and then through the hard wind with the feeling temperature to the freezing point towards the toilet cubicle. Fortunately no scary animals at this height.
Now, in the morning, the weather is warmer, about 15 degrees with the sun. They say that temperatures here fall in the winter to -50 degrees Celsius! Brrr … we should not think about it!
From today until September 3rd, the Tajik celebrate the sacrifice party (Eid al-Adha). Next to the yurt, two sheep are slaughtered and prepared for the soup. The scene looks admirably clean.
It is about 2.5 hours drive to Murghab on a road with deep potholes and again we do not drive faster than 50 km per hour. Despite the fact that Murghab is slightly lower at 3630 meters altitude, we are very cold on our way. After 15 minutes, we stop to pull extra jackets and sweaters and to get the inner pants in the motorcycle pants.
A double room at the Pamir Hotel in Murghab costs USD 30 excluding food and drink. The hotel has no WiFi at all and there is no power today because of the holiday. The quality of the room is not better than most homestays. What a deception! In addition, there is a lot of smoke in the room, it smells of fried sheep because of the sacrifice, because throughout the village sheep are slaughtered and cooked. When we walk through the village we see children walking with bags of candy. They also ask us ‘Candy, candy?’. It seems that this holiday day for children is the same as November 11th, Sint Maarten in The Netherlands. On the streets we see sheep legs and woollen lamb fleeces. It seems that everything you do not need is throwing away on the streets. The bazaar in Murghab consists of sea containers in a row. Unfortunately, most are closed because of the holiday. Fortunately, we’ve been able to buy 2 Snickers, fruits and water.
When we look for a dish for tonight in the motorbike pannier, we come to the conclusion that the height for one of the cans has become too much. Throughout the pannier it smells like sour beans. Easy to choose, then it will be beans for tonight!
After dinner we do not want to sleep and decide to watch the TV in the living room. While enjoying a tea, together under a blanket we look at the Kyrgyz news. After the news, we fly over to a sports channel where the national Kyrgyz horse sport called Ulak Tartysh appears, which looks like a kind of polo. We have heard of the sport before, but could not imagine it. Now that we see it on television, we find it disgusting. The game is played with two teams and about 10 people per team. In the middle of a large field there is a round bucket. The goal is to get the ball as fast as possible in the bucket. The “ball” is not round in this case but woolly in the form of a cadaver of a beheaded goat or sheep. The cadaver is heavy and everything is done to get it. The horses and their riders take it hard and the horses are sometimes lying on the ground, it’s terrible to see. The thought and wish that the horses are treated well outside the game wipes the slate somehow clean.
Saturday 2nd September 2017 Murghab – Karakul
After an oil check, we leave again to the height, now to the high Akbaital Pass at 4655 meters, the highest point with our bikes so far.
It’s a cold day again and the road with potholes does not seem to end. Halfway, we have a 30 kilometre long washboard road, very annoying!! (However, does anyone know already how these roads appear?!) We call names and hope the bikes and panniers will last.
In the afternoon we arrive at Mexmohxoha Homestay, which is 3700 meters. The Slovene boy on the Triumph and a Polish couple with a 4×4 Lada that we have met before are here as well. We actually want to drive to Kyrgyzstan, but decide during a lunch soup that the distance may be a bit too far for the time we still have today. We keep calm and decide to stay. We pay 19 USD p.p. for an overnight stay including lunch, dinner and breakfast. Now that we have time left, we choose to clean the chains. With all the mud, water and sand in recent days, they can use a refresher again. Working in the sun is hot. Erik’s head is even burned a little today.
After the cleaning we walk around the village and along the Karakul Lake overlooking the snow tops, it is a beautiful sight. Later there are some boys swimming in the lake. But with this temperature we should not think about it ourselves!
Later in the afternoon, Holger & Anja also attend the homestay. Like last night we sleep in the same accommodation. We dine together with the Slovene, Holger & Anja, an older German couple and another German couple. This last couple complains about the tables that are not completely dust free. What do you expect from this country? He tells the hostess what to do. Hahaha! What does he think he is? “Am Deutschen Wesen mag die Welt genesen.” He indicates that they have paid 50 USD for this accommodation and that they expect the tables to be clean. They had a lot of experience with homestays in this area, but this one is the worst one they have seen. Secretly, the bikers think differently, the people here do not live according to Dutch or German standards. Getting water at the pump is more important to them than cleaning the tables and you can and may not change this as a tourist. While the disagreement is going on, the bikers play a game Beverbende. There are more important things in the world ….
Sunday 3rd September 2017 Karakul – Border Kyrgyzstan
When Bertha goes outside for a pee at 6 in the morning, it’s snowing! Wow! Fortunately, the motorbikes start immediately after this snowstorm with the help of the choke! Together we yell and dance and we leave for the border with Kyrgyzstan.
On the way we see many long-tailed marmots with brown-red fur crossing the road. After another 10km washboard we arrive at half past 9 at the Tajik border which is 4336 meters high. The cold on the top was also not good for one of the customs in training suit. Erik offers him a little bit of Dampo for under his nose, which he seems to be very happy with. Together they sniffle. The scene resembles the Fisherman’s Friend advertising “Strong stuff hè ?!”.
About 20 minutes later we may drive to the Kyrgyz border. The Kyrgyz people chose much better where to have the border than the Tajik in terms of height and heat. The Kyrgyz border is 1000 meters lower at 3300 meters. We enjoy the hour of driving in no man’s land with mud roads, river crossings and snowtop views. In the distance we see a glimpse of Peak Lenin (7134m), the second highest mountain in the Pamir which is on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Now that we drive down, the area starts getting greener. We are very curious what the pristine Kyrgyzstan will bring us!
*** If you have read this blog in English and you wish to read much more about our adventures in the future in English, could you please let us know by commenting this blog or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org? Because of the time it takes to translate, we are thinking about only blogging in Dutch in the future, but we would not do that if there is much interest from abroad! Thank you! ***