The Pamirs – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan – Part 3b: The Diary
Almost Alichor to foot of mountain 67km
Probably the hardest day yet mentally.
Ate porridge with condensed milk, dried banana and raisins. Thought about doing the morning business down a marmot hole as is perfect size to rest one’s buttocks on but thought the marmot might object.
Seems a shame to be spending every minute looking 3m in front of the wheel rather than the surroundings because of the ridiculous head wind.
Met German motorcyclists and American who was getting married straight after trip – good way to escape all the work and painful decisions, note to self. Met French couple on bikes. V nice and recommended place to eat deep fried white fish. Interesting change but not quite the Fish ‘n Chips Oli was hoping for. Kept on drafting which helped the pace and gave us something to think about.
Rolled into Alichor. Strange place. Went to shop where an American geologist was eating with his Tajik partners. Using maps from Soviet 70s.
Found campsite at foot of mountain we need to climb tomorrow. Great camp site though wind picking up even more so could be a storm coming. Only covered 120km in two days so need to do 200km in next two. Going to be tough but we need some luck so fingers crossed for tomorrow.
Foot of mountain to outside of Jilandi 88km
Wind seemed ok when we woke. Had bread, jam and coffee with great view. Headed off before 10am. First climb steep but ok. Then got tough. Thought maybe could get to Jilandi for lunch but quickly realized this would be lucky even as our final destination. Wind reached ridiculous levels as we neared the top of the pass and could see snow cloud brewing.
Top was not really the top as after going down a little was a bit more to climb. V cold so put on full winter kit. Ride down was steep at first but good roads. By 6pm were v hungry and wanted to stay somewhere other than a tent. Looking for Jilandi but found a building with Chinese truck drivers, one of whom gave us some cream cheese crackers. Started speaking to a couple, one was local but looked Russian and lived in St Petersburg with Rusky husband visiting her mum and hot springs to try and get pregnant. They gave us a piece of chicken, watermelon and bread. Saviours and very nice to speak to, the grandmother was an English teacher in Khorog. Told us Jilandi was 10km behind us so we had missed it.
Outside Jilandi to Khorog 104km
Probably most beautiful and enjoyable riding of trip so far. Big meadows, flowers in bloom, wonderful smells, huge rock faces, lovely river flowing all the way down.
Stopped after one hr to buy snickers in a tin shed. Pretty girl spoke ok English and we chatted with her aunt for 15mins. Very nice and welcoming people.
No obvious place for lunch so had pâté “Hénaff” (offered as emergency food by Tata Angeline in Shanghai – thanks!) with bread given to us by randoms on side of road. Pâté was heaven.
Went for curry at recommended Indian restaurant. Saw big group from the Lodge so joined them. Felt bad guzzling beers next to couple from Oz fasting for Ramadam but not that bad. After two the food still had not arrived and felt pissed. Food was excellent. Paneer v good indeed. Sat next to Belgium guy who’s been touring for 25 years on and off. Hilarious. Was in Iran 20 yrs ago and was asked to star in a film so was taken all over country. Funny stories though unfortunately most ended with “and then i got diarrhea”.
Internet hard to find but finally got in youth centre. So slow and frustrating but good to catch up with everyone.
Back to Lodge. Washing, shower from tap then off to Indian again with Belgium and American-Greek cyclist who does 6 months in Antarctica with US scientific base fixing diesel engines and 6 months traveling. Seems ok but no potential for gfriends!
Good night, back on road tomorrow though suspect we will be late getting off.
Khorog-100km down Afghan border
Big group eating breakfast outside our door. We in turn had ours – biscuits, warm bread, cherry jam, fried eggs and black tea. Excellent chow.
Beautiful road out of Khorog past airport(!!) and down gentle hills with Afghanistan to our left over the river. Strange to think there is a war going on just a few hundred km inside.
Ride was awesome all day. Went through small villages, great kids and friendly adults. “Asalaamalaikum!” with hand to heart and head bow seems to get people smiling. One guy holding baby asked us in for tea and we asked for some food. Wifey brought out big bowl of fresh apricots from the tree we were sitting under, bread and black tea. Could have done with proper food but the family was very sweet. Gave us apricots to take away.
Holy shitbags. Woke up to Kalashnikov (see Pamir part 2)
After one hr came across trucker cafe up on rock with waterfall and fresh running water. Filled up Dromedary as neither of us had water and decided to get food – a kind of beef bourguignon with bread, yoghurt (fizzy) and black tea. Excellent.
Afghan still on other side of bank and looking beautiful. Very thin path/road follows on other side, sometimes very precariously. Would make a great adventure. Would need guide to take you through villages though.
Lots of towns but nothing to buy, everything closed maybe because is Sunday. All shops could find had nothing decent in. Stopped in one and asked if shop could open. Nothing inside except expired apple juice which bought. Asked kid if could have some apricots and he scuttled up a tree with milk urn and came down full. SOOO good, sweet and moreish. Ate around 12 each.
Weird passport checkpoint with fat guards, half in civvy clothes, half uniformed, both with semi-automatics, flies everywhere.
Everyone we asked for restaurant/food said keep going 10km but this continued for 30km. Finally found a place with a shop and brought some weird Iranian Swiss rolls. Looked like rain on horizon. Over next hill two kids motioned us into amazing orchard gesturing sleep. Did not need a second ask and went in. Apricots and tiny apples both lovely and ripe. Asked kid for bread and he went off to get.