through tajikistan, towards kyrgyzstan

The last post was written – uhm – a long time ago. Below a few notes about how I got from Khorugh, Tajikistan to Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

shakhdara valley (roshtqala road)

Continuing from Khorugh, there are three possible routes towards Kyrgyzstan. By far the most popular ones are either along the M41, or riding further along the border to Afghanistan in the Wakhan valley. Little known is the Shakhdara valley that lies between these two routes. I had played with the idea of taking the latter since Dushanbe – simply based on reciprocal popularity and the prospect of having a bit of solitude and isolation.

And solitude it was. There were no other cyclists, barely any cars and only very few villages. On my last day, I literally met nobody except for one shepherd who only stared at me with hist mouth wide open. The road was not easy, consisting only of gravel after Roshtqala. Supplies were difficult to find, too. It was tough and strenuous, but magic and very well worth it.

After three days I left the valley and crossed over the Maysara pass to the M41. The uphill was hard and I had to push a few meters here and there after wheel spinning in the gravel and subsequent falling over without managing to unclip from the pedals. But the prospect of conquering my highest pass yet with over 4200 meters of altitude kept me going. While the uphill had been tough, the 400 m downhill from the pass was horrendous. It is beyond me how anyone could do this route in the other direction – I ate it another two times. At the bottom of the downhill, four touring cyclists stopped and we had a quick chat. They were going the other direction on the M41 towards Khorugh.

m41 to osh, kyrgyzstan

I had planned to reach Alichur the same day as leaving the Shakhdara valley. Another 4200 meter pass thwarted this plan, however. Instead I pitched my tent in a gravel pit to camp in 4100 m of altitude along the road and continued the next morning. During the short ride to Alichur, I met four other touring cyclists – solitude and isolation were definitely over. Granted, the German at Hotel Nur in Alichur was a great resource and inspiration for whether and where to go after the Stan countries – I’m very happy I met him. I highly recommend Hotel Nur, we had great food and an amazing Banya which was amazing after four days without a shower.

From Alichur to Murgab I spotted yet another touring cyclist in front of me and caught up after a while. It was Everhard Bulten. I had met him in Horasan, Turkey for the first time and then again in Tehran, Iran. It was not too surprising to see a familiar face on this route, but still exciting. When he asked what I had been up to, I just shrugged my shoulders and said I just cycled it all the way. We stayed at the Pamir Hotel in Murgab. He would take a rest day here, I left the next morning again to climb the 4655 meter Okbadal pass on the way to Karakul.

Climbing Okbadal was difficult. It was cold, windy, gravel road and snow fall at the top. The downhill was worse. Washboard downhill that did not seem to end. Tired and freezing, I asked at the only Caravanistan along the road for food and a bed – it was a very special experience. The room was heated with a stove fired by dung fuel, food was simple but just what I needed and electricity for lights came from car batteries.

The day after, it started snowing in the afternoon. I camped on the second to last pass before the Tajik border knowing it would be the last place I could refill water. Towards the border included riding close to the Chinese border. There is a prominent fence along the road indicating this. Leaving Tajikistan was easy, one officer stamped my passport and noted down my details while another one took out the all the Vodka bottles from the room next door. After the border, there are 16 kilometres of no-mans land, where I met a group of six cyclists headed in the other direction. Then Kyrgyzstan and Sary Tash where I would catch my first stomach bug since entering Tajikistan – it would not keep me from riding.

Two days later and around 2000 meters less in altitude I reached Osh and stayed in the Tes Guesthouse for a few nights.

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