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Published: October 30th 2013
After 10 wonderful days on the plateau at 4500m of altitude, getting back into town at Khorog was very difficult. I couldn’t stand the noise, the traffic, the dust (you’d think I’d be used to such things after 7 years in China!), and the owners of the guesthouse I stayed at really irritated me. My initial plan was to go on to Dushanbe but the cyclists I met, those who had ridden from the capital city told me the road was extremely bad and bumpy, with a lot of trucks, and at the time (August) the temperatures went up above 40degrees… At the same time everyone was talking about the Wakhan Corridor, which is a dirt road following the Afghan border for 300km. Everyone warned me that the road was bad with sand, bumps, holes, gravel and very few places to buy food and water along the way. The perspective to get away from people once more sounded very enticing but it also meant that, after completing the Wakhan, I would then get back on the Pamir Highway (which I had already ridden all the way from east to west), to cycle all the way back to Sary Tash. Would it
be nice to take the same road on the plateau, enjoy more isolation, quietness, breathtaking scenery with tail wind this time? DEFINITELY YES! In Khorog I met a young cyclist from Switzerland (Sacha) and we decided to attempt the Wakhan together.
It was as hard as people told me. We only had a few kilometers of paved road and the rest was dirt and nasty wash board, and of course the entire way was up hill from Khorog to Alichur. I sometimes had to push my bike and the 50kg of luggage through sand. The few downhill portions we got weren’t even relaxing because of all the bumps and gravel and the fact that my bike doesn’t have suspensions. It was very tough terrain for 5 days but… it was amazing because of the view, the silence, the open-space and the physical challenge the road presented us with.
Sacha (from Switzerland) and I followed the Afghan border, which was pretty exciting as we perceived Afghanistan as a dangerous and mysterious land. We followed the Wakhan River and we could have easily swum to Afghanistan. At a few spots we could have almost jumped over the river to enter
this country. Only once did we see an Afghan shepherd on the other side of the river. He was dressed with the typical Afghan clothes and waved at us with a huge smile on his face. At night we camped in the most beautiful places along the river. We found perfect patches of grass to pitch the tent and cook our noodles before a well-deserved night of sleep after hours on the road.
Some days we saw absolutely no one on the road. One day we met 1 guy on a motorbike, 2 locals on a bike (riding 100km on this terrible road while carrying heavy bags of rice… These guys are incredible!). And one night we met a couple from Switzerland. They have been driving around the world for 7 years! They have a fantastic truck, very well-equipped with a kitchen, a bed, everything you could dream of on the road. So we had been riding for 2 days eating noodles and bread and Sneakers… and in the middle of nowhere, just before sunset, we met this couple. And Sasha started talking to them and I got closer to have a better look at their 4wheel drive. We
shook hands and started speaking French when the woman asked us if we would like a plate of spaghetti carbonara!!!!! I tried to be polite and declined, telling her we didn’t want to eat their food, but she insisted and said they had cooked too much… They saw the smile (and drool!) on our faces and we took up her offer with obvious pleasure. It was a dream-come-true! We shared a plate of spaghetti carbonara standing on the side of the road and it was delicious with cream and cheese and little cubes of bacon! Sigh… What an amazing memory! We shared this story with every fellow traveler we met on the road afterwards and made everyone very envious!
We were very lucky on this journey because on the first day outside Khorog we met 2 (angels!) Canadian girls (born in Afghanistan) and they shared bags of M&Ms and cereal bars with us. They had planned to cross the border into Afghanistan but unfortunately the border was closed on that day, so they took the same road as us on the Tajik side of the river (they hired a driver). And we did run into them another 2 times
in the next few days, and as they hadn’t done as much hiking as they expected to, they didn’t eat their healthy snacks and gave them to us instead! Once again, it was soooooo nice because there were hardly any shops in this part of Tajikistan, and the couple of shops we found were almost empty! Thank you Girls!!
The first 2 days on the Wakhan Valley were a bit cloudy so we didn’t get to fully enjoy the snow caps on the Afghan side of the river (6000-7000m) but we completed the last leg under the sun and the landscape was phenomenal. I hope you enjoy the pictures. The greatest things in life don’t come easy, right? This proverb is very true when it comes to the Wakhan Valley.
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