from the 10th of August to the 30th of August 2012 – Photos
After Hannes had been to central asia the year before (Kyrgyzstan), his exiting stories and photos he brought home arose Martin’s curiosity. So we were wondering if we should dare to go together on another short bike trip to central asia? Since our adventure in America a couple of years ago we haven’t done any activity for longer than a couple of days together. Will we get along well with each other?
As Hannes now already knows Kyrgyzstan we had to look for another destination which was found quite easily: the well-known infamous Pamir-highway in Tajikistan. It is a very remote, sparsely populated rough road leading through the spectacular Pamir mountains and winding up to passes of more than 4000 m. Due to the limited time we had, cycling the whole highway would have been impossible and, hence, we planned to do a round-trip: taking a domestic flight (supposed to be one of the most dangerous scheduled flights ;)) from Dushanbe (the capital of Tajikistan) to Khorog, following than the Pamir-highway and turning back along the afghan border and cycling back to Dushanbe.
The flights were booked, the visa with the required additional permit to enter the Pamir arranged and … about a week before departure our original plans looked like to be crossed out! Bad news from Tajikistan: an important military person had been killed in Khorog by whomsoever and now tajik military forces were on to enter the Pamir region to chase the responsible persons. Cyclists, who had been in Khorog at the same time, were reporting on shootings in that area and the German Department of Foreign Affairs advised not to travel into the Pamir, which was immediately closed for tourists by the military anyway. What next?
We actually didn’t waste any thoughts on cancelling the trip and booked another flight from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Germany instead. Because fortunately rather exactly at the same time the Kyrgyz government softened their visa policies and tourists were from now on able to get a tourist visa directly at the border. So we still wanted to fly to Dushanbe but had two options to get back to Germany now, either from Dushanbe itself or from Osh in Kyrgyzstan.
After the arrival in Dushanbe it took us a while to find the hostel we only knew its name. One really has to know the place because there isn’t any sign which identifies it as a hostel. Anyway, we found it and recognized that this place was not just the preferred hostel of ourselfs but also of about 20 other cyclists, most of them sleeping in their tents in the backyard. It felt like that all cylclists in Tajikistan were gathering in Dushanbe waiting for the Pamir to be open, what was rather unlikely.
Partly motivated by the not entirely negative news we’ve got from other cyclists we decided to give it a try and looked for a Jeep taking us into the Pamir, a ride of expected 12 hours. Even the young drivers of the Jeep assured that there ought to be no problem, but apparently they only saw the money they could earn. Hence, we tied the bikes onto the Jeeps roof, paid half of the agreed overall price and went on. After a couple of baksheeshs our drivers had to give to policemen, a lunch in the middle of nowhere, it started to get dark and we got close to the afghan border (our driver took another route than we expected he would). Then the unavoidable happened: we ran into a military barrier and were ‘kindly’ ask to get of the car and go back. We tried to discuss a bit without any success of course. Not even baksheesh helped.
As we now have been in the very South of Tajikistan we took the opportunity and followed a remote and sparsely populated road leading more or less directly to the northern part of the Pamir-Highway. It was very likely that not many cyclists have taken this road, yet. It turned out to be a good and interesting, however quite strenuous choice. We crossed many little villages with very nice locals (they wanted to invite us very often for a tea or a stay). After 1,5 days we arrived at a beautiful valley with a nice scenery, but a very bad road. The closer we came to a last pass we had to get over, the smaller and rougher got the road, till it was not more than a little steep bumpy track.
However, after that pass we were ‘back’ on the Pamir-highway and tried to get into the Pamir a second time, without success of course. So we turned around and realized our alternative plan: taking the road through the Garm-valley to the Kyrgyz border, what was actually quite interesting, too, as this road wasn’t open for tourists for years.
Despite of the heat in the lower Tajikistan and thanks to the well-paved road, Kyrgyztan was reached just a few days later. Another day later we arrived in Sary Tash and took a day off. It felt like that all cyclists and travellers who where not able to enter the Pamir are now assembled in Sary Tash. It was a great fun and interesting to hear the stories of the others. Some of them just came from the Pamir (they were entering it before the closing), others were on to go to China, many came the way we came. Hence, the main topics were directions and, of course, food (as usual among cyclists).
From Sary Tash we just can’t stop to try to enter the Pamir a third time, now from the North and with reinforcement, Thomas, a very pleasant german cyclist. It was just hopeless. But this little detour of about 60 km right in front of the impressive Pamir-mountain range was still worthwhile.
Now, we cycled towards Central-Kyrgyztan after all and said goodbye to Thomas as he had to go a bit further to the north and was stronger than we were. We also tried to go a bit more northern towards a remote city in the mountains (Kazarman), what took longer than expected because of a detour (a track in the map didn’t exist anymore) and Martin got diarrhea. With some hitch-hiking we finally got there and made a nice hike with other backbackers up to 4000 m where a historic site can be found we ancient figures carved in stones. Already the approach to the starting point of the hike with an old offroad-car on a steep and impassable track was adventurous.
On the way back to Osh we spent two additional days in Ashlanbob, a nice and popular vacation spot, even for locals. Opportunities for hiking trips, mountain biking and even skiiing in the winter are available there. We spent the nights there in a homestay which was arranged by the Kyrgyz touristic organization CBT, that can be found in many cities.