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Published: April 28th 2018
It was 100km or so from Karakul Lake, Tajikistan to Sary Tash, the first town over the border in Kyrgyzstan. With the border crossing it took us around 4 hours to get to the Sary Mogol, the next village over. We left at the same time as the other bloggers from our homestay, so for the first little while we were basically a convoy of 3 vehicles of travel bloggers, which was fun.
Not so fun was the slightly gurgly stomach and persistent stomach ache I'd had after eating for the last couple of days decided to turn productive and we were in a flat landscape. So we nearly completed Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway without either of us getting sick, but not quite. Luckily it was just mild and once my stomach was empty I felt fine for the rest of the day.
Tajik money is useless outside of the country so I'd done a deal with some motorbikers in Murghab to get rid of our excess before the border.
The scenery on the Tajik side of the border is stunning. Their border post is at the top of a 4,282m pass and then there is 25km
of rough track in no mans land to the Kyrgyzstan border post as they have sensibly put it at the bottom of the mountain. At the Tajik border post there were 4 huts to go to - we didn't need to get out of the jeep to even present our passports ourselves. At the second hut Abdesh obviously paid some tea money as we saw him pulling the change out of his pocket as he walked to it.
There are 3 huts on the Kyrgz side - we got the Spanish inquisition at the immigration hut that included questioning such as "where are your husbands?' but it was still much faster than the other foreigners who were in front of us. It was a much more professional and modern set up than the Tajik side.
Amazingly the moment we crossed the border the landscape immediately changed - hills suddenly became green, yurts dotted the plains, there were herds of horses and caravans, like old gypsy caravans, and converted railway carriages with wheels on. Not that most of them looked capable of going anywhere. There were also lots of Russian jeeps, many of them crank start.
off the mountain the road crossed a wide open valley, and on the left of the road the army seemed to be building some kind of shooting range (facing away from the road!), they were digging in some quite heavy artillery.
Before heading to find somewhere to sleep we went to the next village to the west - Sary Moghol. We picked up a Spanish hitchhiker, he was cycling the Pamir Highway but had decided to leave his bike in Sary Tash and hitchhike a side trip into the mountains. We dropped him off in Sary Mogol and then headed up a dirt track into the foothills of the mountains to get a close up view of Peak Lenin. It spans the Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border and at 7,134m is the second highest point of both countries. It also has a reputation for being one of the easiest +7,000m peaks to climb.
We stopped at a scenic yurt camp and left Abdesh to change the hissing tyre. We walked higher up over the rolling hills. Abdesh thinks we had a big walk as we were gone quite some time, but we didn't - we only walked a short distance (avoiding
a frisky yak bull) and just sat on top of a small hill and enjoyed the sun and scenery. We pretty much had a 360 degree vista - big snowy mountins in front, behind us across the valley was another snowy mountain range, and there were green hills, a valley, yaks, yurts and horses in between
That night we stayed back in Sary Tash, ready to hit the Highway again for our last push up to Osh. When you look at our photos of Sary Tash you'll probably wonder why we were there, but we really liked the place. There are always a few nerves when you change countries and leave behind one that you've enjoyed, and worked out how to survive and get around, but we spent the evening walking round the village and people were really friendly and all of the kids spoke and wanted their photo taking. I waved to one of the truck drivers and he waved back, so we figured we'd like it.
We stayed at the most basic 'hotel' and as we'd been the first there we'd had the pick of rooms, so had picked a sunny one with actual beds -
Striking a pose
This little lad wanted us to take his photo, his grandfather gestured to ask us and he gave us his best photo pose
a double and a single - it was at the end so we had to walk through a twin room to get to it. Like Tajikistan there were no locks on the doors so everything was open. The toilet was a hole in the ground across the back yard and there was a shower where water was pumped into a suspended barrel in a tin shed, but 4 cyclists turned up - they had cycled the same road we had driven and had stayed at the same homestay at Karakul Lake as us in a different building. They were covered in dirt and dust and had battled some big headwinds, so we stayed out of the way while chaos ensued to get them showered. We had a good chat to them over dinner, which was surprisingly good and like at a homestay we had got in the room rate. The manty (dumplings) particularly were excellent.
We'd lost around 700m in height (to about 3,200m) and it made a big difference. It still went really cold at night but the air didn't take your breath away. We just dealt with it by pulling the duvet off the spare bed and
slept like bugs in rugs layered under 2.
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