Monday, July 28, 2008

The Pamir Highway

The Pamir Highway runs from Khorog in Tajikistan all the way to Osh in Kyrgyzstan, now the use of the word highway is a very loose term that's for sure but its basically a road that runs through the Pamir mountains with many high passes, most around and over 4000 meters. Still riding with Dirk we wound our way down along the Afghan border, stopping at tea houses for lunch and breaks, the people were friendly but of course there was some trouble, plenty of rock throwing children in this part of the world. Most are ignored but after about the tenth one gets a little tired of it, we caught one child and kicked his arse, only to look up and some men from the village running at us waving shovels, I said to Dirk, "what you think, you reckon they want trouble?" Dirk replied "well lets not hang about to find out" we rode off leaving them in our dust not feeling any better about the situation wondering weather we make it worse or better for the next guy on a bike passing that particular village??

Many suspension bridges are strung across the raging river below.

Tajik Lady.
Along the border with Afghanistan there were loads of signs waning of landmines, evidence of a troubled past, along with this and the sharp corners and drop offs into the raging river below the concentration levels always had to be high. We continued along an area called the Whakkan Valley, again following he Afghan border for about 2 days, we would toot our horns to the Afghan people walking on the other side of the river, all that separates the two countries, they would wave back with both arms, hard to believe looking across that right there in that country is the Taliban and thousands of troops, this area though is a world away from that, maybe Osama is hiding up here somewhere!
A tank from a troubled past, not a good place to park!

Photo Taken at around 3500 metres, one of many high passes.

Fuel from a bucket, reminds me of back in Africa.

The road climbed in altitude after leaving the Valley to around 3500 meters, it was a dramatic rise and the first night I felt the effects of the altitude with a splitting headache but after 24 hours my body seemed to adjust, lucky as the road continued at this height for the remainder of the time in Tajikistan. High in the mountains also bought another world, the people with big round faces, dark skin from the harsh conditions, Yaks roaming the flat high plains, not a tree in sight, why would people want to live here was my thought, what a place, it was amazing.

Dirk having a closer look at the terrain!

Manpower at the gates to Afghanistan.

It once was the former USSR!

That's Afghanistan in the background.

Dirk at it again!

One of many road blokes encountered on the Pamir Highway.

Lets Go!
Now leaving Tajikistan we had a small problem, well Dirk did not me, his visa for Kyrygzstan wasnot starting for another 8 days but if he wanted to come through Russia and Mongolia with me then I was not about to wait 8 days in Tajikistan, besides the mountains there ain't much else to entertain. So we decided to see if we could get across the border anyway, the border post was at almost 4000 metres so went in with the altitude sickness angle, it was going well until Dirk pulled something from his pannier in front of the guards and his crap paper fell out and started rolling down the mountain, his natural reaction was to set chase, not so sick after all, at least the officials laughed, then inside the little wooden shack getting our passports stamped an official was interested in my bike gloves, he pulled his pistol from his hip and waved it in my face suggesting we swap, hmmm very bizarre scene. Out of Tajik was no worries, they believed he was sick but it was stamping into Kyrygz was the test. We rode of across the 20 kilometers of no mans land and just as we got out of sight of the Tajik border Dirks bike decided to stop so here we were at about 4200 meters, in No mans land, Dirk supposedly sick and the bike would not start, after some fiddling we discovered it to be the fuel pump so by passing it was the quick solution until at least we got of this bloody mountain! The Kyrygz side was a breeze we could not believe our luck, the guy did not even noticed the visa start date as we both stood there nervously waiting for the obvious answer of, "problem". After about 10 minutes we were in, great it meant I did not have to wait a week somewhere and Dirk did not have to Spend a week in Tajikisatan.

Curious on looker.

Tajik men sitting about.

This fence separates Tajikistan China, I hope to be on the other side of it in a few months.

The road between the two countries, most beautiful no mans land I have ever seen.