THE PAMIR HIGHWAY (TAJIKISTAN)

16/06/12 - 5km mark, very quiet, running water on road side giving me a fright as I pass by. Much more desolute here than on Kygyzstan side, no more green grass, ferret loike creatures are smaller too (less than 500mm, while in Kygyzstan they were up to 1m in length) Met a couple from the netherlands who had very nice bikes with belt drives. Rough corrugations, 9km mark stopped to assist an old russian van to pump up their tyre. They had a pump but it was broken. I was pumping for a solid 15 minutes but my little bicycle pump wasn't designed to inflate large volume car tyres so told them to go slow and that I would see them in town later that day. 12km mark met lone german riding BMW GS motorbike. 13km mark sticky bitumen up to 4270m (really slowed me down, and was surprising how strong the sun was up here, even with the cool air temparature) 25km mark abandoned building (no roof) 28km mark, 1730, superb snow capped mountain scenery and blue lakes. 4% descent at 30kph to 38km mark, then gentle down to the town of Karakol sitting at 3950m altitude, which I rolled into at 1900. Eerily quiet village with homestays, lakeside setting, little power - most houses have solar panel on roof to charge battery which powers TV/DVD and lights. I setup camp next to some stables where I was sheltered from possible winds. 2030 wander around town, invited in for bread, butter and tea. Found a hidden shop near the centre of town selling 100% cherry juice 200ml poppers (superb), biscuits and lollies - not much else. Visited a home stay to get a nice hone cooked meal - paid 20som for all you can eat meat, potatoes, pasta, fresh bread, biscuits, lollies and endless pots of tea............stuffed myself silly, mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Took a nice sunset photo by the lake and hit the sack 2330.

17/06/12 - Alt 3950m, On the road 1145 after bread, butter & tea at local home stay. Filled 2 water bottles from village well to filter later. Gentle undulating road around 4000m mark with grades <3%. 28km bigger undulations up to 8%. 30km mark 1330 eat, met germans in 2 4x4s. 38km mark rubble gaeloo 39km mark farmhouse, unsealed road, slow corrugated climb up to 4600m. 1600 met french cyclists, 51km mark 1700 4260m rubble bldg, decided to setup camp here as I was at the base of the big climb up to the highest point on the Pamir hwy. Eat, setup camp. Very dusty spot, river started overflowing, was a bit worried I might get flooded but luckily water started to recede as night fell.
 

18/06/12 - Alt 4260m, On the road 1115 start long climb up to pass at 4685m with combination of riding and walking. 5km mark bloke on BMW GS didn't stop. 9km mark, 1445 I was at the top, 8C, met Oz couple in 4wd, eat. 11km mark abandoned house at base climb on other side. 20km mark, 1600 met french couple on recumbents. At this time my rear tyre was flat, pumped it up. 36km mark abandoned house, pumped up tyre - was valve playing up again. 42km mark met german couple with small dog, 10 min shower, dark clouds behind, headwind. Gentle downhill all the way to Murgab (2-4%) 58km mark vanishing sandstorm, headwind switching to tailwind as the road changed direction. 62km mark village off the road to the right. 77km mark village off road to the left. 82km mark 1930 Murgab at 3670m. Found tourist centre with english speaking lady, went to bazaar to restock, setup camp on backstreets after finding overpriced homestays (15USD). Cooked, got invited in by locals but I was already setup and comfortable.
 

19/06/12 - 3670m, Rest Day at Murgab, wandered around town, invited in for bread, butter, tea, coffee. Visit small museum, research & plan rest of trip through central asia. 1500 invited in for lunch by same family that gave me breakfast - pasta with ketchup, bread, tea, coffee with butter. Go to bazzar & buy spirits from chemist (3x100ml bottles) Met elderly Belgium cycling couple on their way to Bishkek. Walk to towns electricity supply (half day electricity only) Walk to west end of town on mountainside, invited in for bread, coffee and tea. Back to base where I was invited in for dinner by the usual family.
 

20/06/12 - 3670m, On the road 1115 after breakfast with usual family of bread, butter and tea. 5km mark passport checkpoint, met german cyclist. 15km mark yurts, 20km mark met french couple on bikes, started raining with temp drop to 7C. Gentle climb <4% to 3990m. 39km mark, 1430, eat. 53km mark, 1600, 4150m. 61km mark headwinds. 65km mark abandoned buildings 68km mark met american living in belgium travelling by truck - gave me 10 som for lunch. 75km mark farmhouse - decicied to call it a day as I was struggling into the headwinds. 1700 setup camp, 3946m, cook, filter water, get water from well. Invited in for dinner by man of the house - bread, yak yogurt, floury pasta & tea. Time -2h here.
 

21/06/12 - 3946m, On the road 1115 showers o'nite and morning, tent dry by the time I left. Light undulations around 3900m, bumpy bitumen. 12km mark farmhouse 16km mark farmhouse and fish restaraunt - this was recommended by belgium in truck yesterday, but it was too early to eat so decided to push on and spend the 10 som later. 20km mark light headwinds 28km Alchir - small anti toursit town, ate at restaraunt dumplings, bread & tea. Ride around town, found hidden shop with out of date crappy mango juice & biscuits. 41km, 52km marks farmhouses. 54km mark, 1600 turnoff for Kargush - decidied to stick to main Pamir Hwy as I needed to get to Dushanbe ASAP. Tough steep climb. 59km mark, 1700, 4260m met spanish cyclists. 61km mark very rough, unsealed, strong headwinds. 63km mark met NZ man with Hun chick cycling from england to singapore. 69km mark bitumen returns. 72km mark 1900 4018m, farmhouse - invited in by old man and wife, I was knackered by headwinds. Given, bread, creamy butter, yogurt and place to sleep next to warm stove.
 

22/06/12 - 4018m, on the road 1045, gave 10USD for hospitality, 5km mark 1km unsealed, 9km mark unsealed for 7km, 12km mark met english/american couple on dirt bike 14km mark farmhouse 17km mark 4295m, unsealed, 1300. 21km mark very rough, slow 12% descent. 24km mark bitumen returns, farmhouse - invited in for bread, butter & tea. Descend into valley, 32km mark farmhouse 44km mark met oz/nz couple. 51-95km marks string of gaeloos. 72km mark, 1700 2 stores (juices, soft drink, biscuits, lollies) 77km mark 2 more stores. 101km mark found abandoned house with roof in small village at 2910m. Owner had new house across rd and invited me in for warm milk & bread. Flowing river nearby ment I could wash. Bumpy bitumen, greenery, trees, younger population not so friendly - gypsy looking, with some giving me the evil eye. Headwinds strong by afternoon.
 

23/06/12 - 2910m, on the road 1145, string of villages more spread out, 30km mark stores selling expired stuff. People stare, gypsies. 42km mark met german lady on bike. 52km mark eat at servo. 1630, 61km mark corrupt passport checkpoint - gave them worthless yuan I had left. 71km mark, 1700 rolled into Khorog at 2105m. Asked around town for safe place to setup my tent - got invited in by mother & son. Got bread, butter, apricot jam, tea & traditional dinner + place to sleep inside.
 

24/06/12 - 2105m, Rest Day, wander around town, update website.
 

25/06/12 - 2105m, on the road 1130, string of villages every 5-10km. 30km mark 2 stores 36km mark, 1400, eat. 45km mark store. 65km mark, 1600 village with stores and bank. 94km mark, 1830 village with store met 6 cyclists (oz, bel, swiss) setup camp on school grounds 1973m 1930 under big tree for shelter. Cook. Wander around village, found cherry tree with plenty of fruit for dessert. Undulating down, rough bitumen, strong headwinds at times. Tough day, calm waters on river.
 

26/06/12 - 1973m, on the road 1145, villages every 15km, 53km mark, 1515 eat. smoother bitumen than yesterday but many rough bits. Undulating down, short steep climbs, headwinds. 62km mark passport checkpoint. 75km mark village. 88km mark setup camp inside bus stop at 1452m 2000. Cook, tough day, raging river again.
 

27/06/12 - 1452m, on the road 1130, 5km mark vilage with stores, met dutch girl cyclist. 21km mark met spanish couple on bikes. 29km mark village with store, eat. short, steep rough sections. 56km mark, 1700 village with store. 1745, 61km mark Kalikum - I turned left here for back road to Dushanbe to avoid big climb up to pass. Rough patches, but gentler undulations. 90km mark 2000 Yoged, 1162m, invited in by elderly couple, setup camp in front yard. They had a big veggie garden with corn, shallots, herbs, tomatoes, cucumber, cherries. Got homemade honey, cherry juice, almonds, bread, soup, tea.
 

28/06/12 - 1162m, on the road 1100, gave $5 lady not too happy, wanted 10, seemed more interested in money than me. Smooth bitumen to 35km mark, Zigar. 38km mark passport checkpoint and rough road with roadworks. 49km mark water & restaraunt. 76km mark village, 960m, quiet, dry, hot setup camp on back streets opposite well, cook, given bread & yogurt by locals. Very tough day, steep climbs, rough road, roadworks.
 

29/06/12 - 960m, on the road 1030, 6km mark village, 11km mark village with store tough climb up pass. 35km mark met 2 belgium cyclists. 42km mark met 2 german cyclists, reached top flat 1950m, 1930. Fast, bumpy/smooth bitumen down other side. 2100, 600m, Kolob, setup camp under awning of building in park.
 

30/06/12 - 600m, on the road 1030, given breakfast & 50 som by stranger, 1130 change money at bank, repair sandals (no charge), given 2kg of bread and mother offered me daughter? Smooth bitumen, rolling green hills, villages/cold drinks every 10km. 64km mark, 1530, eat at servo - pulled up when they were about to eat and got invited to join them for a feast. 82km mark rolled into Dangara 1830, 650m, given tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit, bread, razors and drink powder at markets. Setup camp on vacant lot in back streets with running water out front. Clean up, wander around town, get beard shaven at hairdressers for 3 som.
 

01/07/12 - 650m, on the road 1200 after being invited to breakfast feast, climb to 1150m, 15km mark, 1345. 20km mark, 1400, village with store. 43km mark village/servo/store. 58km mark, 2000, village with store at 1400m. Setup camp in back yard of farmers' house. Tough day climbing up and over 3 passes. Wild west town with single well - villagers queueing up with donkeys to fill up. Blokes with Ladas' hanging out at front of store tinkering.
 

02/07/12 - 1400m, on the road 1130, up and over pass at 1530m, 30km mark, town, eat. 50km mark Dushanbe. Locate Turkmenistan embassy, told to come back tomorrow morning when open. (M-F 0930-1230) Found nearby house to setup tent. 895m. Given soup, bread, tea & biscuits. Wash up and go to internet cafe. Back to base for traditional dinner - rice, salad, biscuits & tea. Met swiss girl selena, who is here for 5 months studying.
 

 

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