(This is for John, who wanted words as well as pictures…..it’s great to know I’ve got at least one regular reader, cheers mate)
After finishing the amazing Bartang Valley Road we came out onto the Pamir Highway, the second highest Highway in the world, much of which is over 13,000 ft high for mile after mile.
We had the choice of head to Murghab which was in the wrong direction but lower down so better for sleeping, or try and get through the border into Kyrgyzstan. We’d been told that this was a pretty easy/quick border crossing so we went for it.
Unfortunately Ian’s bike had other idea’s and wasn’t running right and it wasn’t just the altitude of 13,000 ft that was affecting it. As it was getting late it was also bloody cold up at this height and we were both shivering like mad. Although we knew it wasn’t wise to sleep at this altitude without acclimatisation we didn’t really have an option and checked into a homestay in Karakul by a beautiful lake.
The lady was so friendly and helpful and had the cutest daughter you could imagine. Tired we scoffed some food and it was an early night. It seems that all of these villagers in remote area’s run their lives around sunrise and sunset when the get up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset. Wonder if it’s the same in winter?
8 pm and we’re fast asleep. Both of us woke up at midnight with really bad headaches and tossed and turned all night afterwards. So this is what happens when you’re not used to the thin air. I was glad to see sunlight and get up after one of the worst nights sleep ever.
These people up here live a tough life in what to us Westerners are pretty basic conditions and heavnes forbid the thought of how cold it gets in winter.
The washing facilities were an inside sink with a container above that you filled with cold water that came out throughn the tap and drained into a container below, no drains. No sign of a shower, and the loo was a brick outhouse, hole in the ground 20 metres away with no roof. I wouldn’t be reading the paper in there in the winter for sure.
None of this is criticism, they want the best they can get and it’s an observation about how so many people in the world have to live, and how lucky and privileged us pampered Europeans are.
We paid the bill and Ian gave the littgle girl some loose change and she jumped for joy shouting “Chocolate, shop, chocolate, shop”
Her mum expalined he daughter was off to buy some chocolate. This had made her day. These kids don’t have play stations, ipads etc but they’re happy. Every village we go through the kids rush out when they hear the bikes to wave and cheer. We always wave back or sometimes stop for a chat.
Turns out Ian’s bike problem was a blocked fuel filter with all of the dodgy petrol out of cans so normal service was resumed when the fuel filter was changed.
All the way along this section of road in some places less than 50 metres away was the fence that divided us from China. No crossing point here though and no palns to cross either due to visa’s and more expensive. Independant bike travel in China isn’t easy or cheap. Shame though. If only I’d swam the river into Afghanistan and climbed the fence into China I could have added another 2 countries to the list and probably an unwelcome diplomatic incident as well!
So it was off to the border between Tadjikistan and Kyrgyzstan, a very quick border crossing up in the mountains. The border guards on both sides mercilessly took the mickey out of for being English due to our football teams performance in the World Cup.
Thanks guys and I’m glad I missed the games due to lack of TV.
One of the Tadjik border guys tried it on demanding 10 US dollars for a piece of paperwork we had that didn’t have a receipt. I told him we’d paid and it wasn’t my fault if the issuing officer hadn’t given me a small receipt to go with the main piece of apaper so he quickly relented.
Kyrgyzstan seemed far greener, smoother more rounded mountains once over the border. The abundance of yurts and horses was the other thing that struck me, whereas is was Kyrgyz bird shit that struck Ian on the head, meant to be lucky.
On one of the mountain passes we came across a long queue of stationary traffic, here we go; another lorry stuck on a hairpin we thought. One of the lorry drivers waved us down this rough track by the side of the road, this dropped us into a drainage ditch below the hairpin. We were stuck in this deep concrete drainage ditch so the pair of us had to drag each bike out of the ditch much to the amusement of the crowd above.
Clear road ahead, well for half a mile when we rounded another hairpin and there was a big earthmover digging through a landslide that had blocked the road. They’d cleared enough for bikes to get through but a very irate man started throwing big rocks at us and screaming his head off whilst coming over indicating that we should go back. I got off the bike, smiled as sweetly as possible at a man who’s just been throwing rocks at you, said sorry and tried to aplogise. It was now apparent why the traffic had been held up.
Luckily one of the earthmover drivers laughed and told Mr Angry to let us through. Good on you mate, so we were off. Only sneaked one quick picture of the scene as it didn’t seem prudent to aggravate the situation with our rock throwing friend.
Plain sailing after that to Osh for a night sleeping in a yurt and troll round Osh and eat some great food, far better than what we’d had for the last week in the Pamir. Even an English guy called Wesley who married a Tadjik girl says the food isn’t great in the Pamir region or indeed Tadjikistan.
Osh also gave us another chance for a day of bike maintenance as the take quite a beating off road in these conditions and wash them for the first time on the trip