Trippin’ with The Travel Camel and the Tajik Outlaws


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Asia » Tajikistan » Khorog
August 8th 2017
Published: August 24th 2017
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Dusty Pamir HighwayDusty Pamir HighwayDusty Pamir Highway

Our caravan of vehicles
Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you either have an insatiable appetite for traveling in the more remote or lesser known places on this planet or you are a friend or family member. Either way, welcome to one of our more unique adventures.

Introduction

Until recently, any country containing the syllable “stan” would not have been high on our list of places to visit, but then we discovered that Shane Dallas, a.k.a. the Travel Camel was organizing a 14-day excursion to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is most worthy of note that the Travel Camel goes on the road less traveled. He is the traveler’s traveler. You will not find him hobnobbing at the Cannes Film Festival or working on his tan in San Moritz. You’re more likely to find him in Iran, Afghanistan or Somaliland.

Now, we firmly believe things happen for a reason. Last year at about this exact time, plans were in the offing for an African Safari to help Merry Jo celebrate her birthday in 2017. In fact, we were literally days away from making a deposit. That week, we Skyped with our friends David and Denise Hooper (Dancing Dave) in Australia to
One bridge to AfghanistanOne bridge to AfghanistanOne bridge to Afghanistan

Tajikistan in the foreground
get caught up with their life. While on the phone we discussed how we both had recently read about this trip that Shane had planned and the conversation quickly turned to the proposition “we’ll go if you’ll go”. It was settled. The logic was simple. The question was not why, but why not? In short order, we’d gone from planning an African safari to making a deposit on a most unique and fantastic journey…….the road less traveled…..with the Travel Camel, Dancing Dave and the lovely Denise. Oh man!

We must say that we were absolutely giddy with excitement and in the following months and never had a single hesitation. As the trip grew closer our interest in this experience only grew. We were warned this would not be a luxury tour. We were going off the beaten path and we would have clean but basic accommodations. In some locations, there were no hotels and we would do homestays or perhaps spend the night in a yurt (more details to come). This is merely a by-product of when you go where few others tread. The only promises Shane made to us was the scenery was incredibly extraordinary, this would be
Playing the satoPlaying the satoPlaying the sato

Dave attempting to jam Tajik style
a road trip like none he’d taken before and that this would be an exhilarating adventure. We can tell you that we were in awe of what we have seen and experienced on this trip and hope that we can convey this to you.

In order to get to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which was the jumping off point from our home in Florida required no fewer than four flights over two days. We overnighted in Istanbul, Turkey as our bodies aren’t quite as young as they used to be and riding in a tin can at 35,000 feet for seemingly hours on end through some nine time zones can take quite a bit out of you. It reminded us of the old saying from a state in the northeast part of the United States, “you can’t get there from here.” But we made it nonetheless, arriving at about 4:00 AM local time. Even though we were in a zombie-like state the next day, we did a bit of touring of the country’s capital, changed some money and prepared ourselves for the journey ahead.

The Majestic Pamir Mountains

We awoke the following morning to the realization that the special
Mountain sceneryMountain sceneryMountain scenery

One of the endlessly breath-taking mountain scenes
day had finally arrived. All the planning and organization was done….it was game on….. Our group consist of the Travel Camel; our esteemed trip organizer, a local guide, three drivers and a wonderfully eclectic group of world travelers… which included three from Bulgaria, one from Austria, one from Germany, one from Ireland, two from Australia and the two intrepid Americans (that would be us). A veritable melting pot of world travelers. Three Toyota Land Cruisers had pulled up in front of the hotel……it was time for our journey……

One of the reasons to take this trip is to view some of the world’s most stunning and amazing mountains that you will ever see. We are quite serious when we say this. We’ve had the good fortune to travel to many naturally beautiful places and live in a country that has some terrific scenery, but this was simply magical. As we write this blog we are still searching for words to appropriately paint the picture. The miles we traveled provided a vast array of ever changing scenery and countless examples of awesome geology. The soil colors offer a divergent sample of colors; rich reds, browns, fading to tans, copper and green. This road trip offered dramatic and ever changing mountain scenery, steep mountains that beckon the adventurous. These mountains are stunning, breath taking and enormous. They seem limitless in natural beauty, they are monumental in grandeur and voluminous in number. And then there was the River Panj…..



The Raging Panj River

For a river that we’d never heard of, it certainly is long and winding as it flows over 570 miles (900 km) and basically serves as the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. Tajikistan receives a few rainy days in spring, but the snowpack in the mountains supplies massive amounts of runoff into the river. What we observed was a wickedly powerful river moving faster and more viciously than any we’ve ever seen. Thousands of boulders in the river and a back swell that prevent this river from ever being rafted. The shear power and force of this river is almost unimaginable. The constant churning left the water in the lower elevations a steely grey color. Higher up in the mountains it was much calmer with some shades of greens and blues that appeared Caribbean like. We had to look up the length of this river because it felt
Streams aplentyStreams aplentyStreams aplenty

Even in August, there is still a lot of runoff from the tall mountains
like we followed it for hundreds of winding miles. Perhaps if you’ve been to Iceland you may be disappointed by the waterfalls on this drive, but there were several of notice. There are not too many more amazing sights than fresh, clean waters rolling down the mountainside.

Our epic road trip took us close to the Afghanistan border, very close as a matter of fact. We were separated by a mere river. On one side of the Panj river is Tajikistan and the other side is Afghanistan. When the river narrows you are a few feet away from the border. We've included a photo to show how close we were. Where this photo was taken we could see four or five children playing outside. They were waving and we waved back.

We were excited to see the border point where Shane, our tour leader, made his crossing into Afghanistan four years ago. We got to experience the Wakhan Valley. When Shane went across the border he experienced the Wakhan Corridor.... maybe we will see that someday but we think it is unlikely. We certainly enjoyed hearing of Shane's adventure.

The Rocky Roads

By trip’s end we
Deceiving imageDeceiving imageDeceiving image

Photos struggle to capture the size and scope of the landscape
will have traveled over 1200 miles (2000 kilometers). The road conditions were extremely varied. The Chinese have a vested interest and are spending money to build roads and basic infrastructure within this country because they want to move goods through Tajikistan. As we left Dushanbe the roads were excellent for about half of the day and then they turned to unsealed gravel roads. Many of the gravel roads across the country were pretty decent and but a few hundred miles were narrow, twisty, winding, curvy little tracks that were barely wide enough for two vehicles. Often one car would stop on the edge as far as they could get while the other car passed. Yikes, heart pounding and nerve wrecking for one of the Binkleys (you can decide which one). You don’t want to pull too far off the side of the road and go tumbling down the mountain. (perception of one of the Binkleys) Now with that said there were only a few places where it was really scary so don’t let these roads keep you from this amazing adventure. Fortunately, our driver Zamanbek was an excellent. He earned our trust.

We drove through some of the remotest areas in this part of Asia and even reached 15,360 feet (some 4655 meters) at one point….all while the scenery continued to take our breath away (along with the altitude). We highly recommend if you make this journey that you start in Dunshabe and finish in Osh. Many do it the other way and it does not give your body time to adjust to the high altitudes. We heard stories of people having altitude sickness.

The Lakes of Tajikistan

Each day we experienced dramatic scenery seemingly more amazing than the last. Breathtaking views. An amazing drive. An adventurous road trip. We were shocked by the Lake District and the colors of the water. The blues and greens were very Caribbean-like and seemed surreal and out of place and yet just perfect in this mountainous location. Tuzkol is a salt lake, Bulung Kol is a small lake and Yashyl Kol is a large lake.



The Dancing Car

As previously mentioned, we joined our friends David and Denise Hooper from Australia on this trip. David identifies himself on travel blog as Dancing Dave. We’ve also traveled with them on a blues cruise (you can check that out on another blog). We all share a love of music; with blues music and world music being some of our favorites. Before the trip we were attempting to come up with a catchy title for our little traveling foursome and we self-proclaimed ourselves the Tajik Outlaws. We had requested to ride in the same vehicle when possible and our request was immediately granted by the Travel Camel. Our driver Zamanbek seemed quite happy to be with us because David brought lots of compact discs of music to listen to and Dave brought his iPod with in excess of 8,000 songs available. We had the appropriate beat for each section of the trip and when it looked like Zamanbek might be growing tired we rocked out and he perked up. Zamanbek is a musician and dancer so he fit into the Tajik Outlaws car exceptionally well. To the rest of our group we became known as the dancing car. Mid-trip David received a couple of request to borrow some of his compact discs.

The Weddings

Our first day in Tajikistan we did a short city tour and also drove out to a partially restored palace about twenty miles
A stunning brideA stunning brideA stunning bride

Tajikistan Wedding
out of town. It was a Saturday and we were fortunate enough to observe two weddings taking place at the palace. They were lovely affairs with lots of dancing and smiling faces for the most part. We asked if the marriages were arranged because the second wedding we observed, the bride looked completely miserable and unhappy. We were told that weddings are not arranged anymore.... however, in this case, we were not convinced.



There is so much more to describe about our journey. At this point, we have set the stage for this magical journey……and there is so much more in store……in the next blog. In the meantime….enjoy some of the incredible images we experienced……….





Restaurants we’d recommend:

In Dushanbe: Toku

In Khorog: Shugnan, Chor Bogh, Delhi Darbar



Link to Shane Dallas, The Travel Camel - check out his tours- Tajikistan, Iran, Egypt, Kenya

TheTravelCamel


Additional photos below
Photos: 45, Displayed: 29


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Brutus does TajikistanBrutus does Tajikistan
Brutus does Tajikistan

Along the Panj River
Plenty of space for passingPlenty of space for passing
Plenty of space for passing

Usually a much tighter squeeze
Young ladies in TajikistanYoung ladies in Tajikistan
Young ladies in Tajikistan

Did not mind posing for the camera
The River PanjThe River Panj
The River Panj

A mighty river, indeed
Ever changing sceneryEver changing scenery
Ever changing scenery

Tajikistan Road Trip
Stunning sceneryStunning scenery
Stunning scenery

Epic Tajik road trip
A geologist's dreamA geologist's dream
A geologist's dream

So many different formations
Our new friendOur new friend
Our new friend

Naddya Wagner
Camels along the Panj RiverCamels along the Panj River
Camels along the Panj River

Great excitement once we found them
TuzkolTuzkol
Tuzkol

Smaller salt lake


24th August 2017

What an adventure!
Boy of boy! This makes our travels look very tame indeed! What a fantastic adventure you've been having. Can't wait for the next episode. Take care and have fun!
24th August 2017

What an adventure!
We thought we might be too old and used to creature comforts to enjoy this trip but our sense of adventure would not allow us to miss it. We are so incredibly glad we embarked on this adventure. It has been spectacular! You should consider doing this next year.
24th August 2017

Tajik outlaws
What an adventure! As usual you capture the excite and beauty of your trip. 😎
24th August 2017

Tajik outlaws
We went off the beaten path and have been rewarded with an amazing life adventure. We met some incredibly kind and welcoming people. What a lovely place. Thanks for commenting.
24th August 2017

New destinations on our bucket list
We have followed yome of your pics already on Facebook - and wow, this trip must have been so stunning and wonderful. Definitely, this is a destination we would love. So curious about your next blogs. :-)
24th August 2017

New destinations on our bucket list
You must consider this one.... an adventure right up your alley. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are spectacular beyond belief. More blogs coming soon.
24th August 2017

Stunning
What a great trip! It is refreshing to read of obscure destinations and understand that they are even more fascinating than imagined. This is a part of the world that we have been thinking about - we have some friends heading there next year and we may join them. This blog is an inspiration to all who wish to see the lesser-known regions of this remarkable planet. I am looking forward to the next instalment. D
24th August 2017

Stunning
You must do this trip next year. It left us speechless....and that rarely happens. The people are so friendly and much to my families surprise it is completely safe. Make your plans... you won't regret it.
24th August 2017

Stunning
You must do this trip next year. It left us speechless....and that rarely happens. The people are so friendly and much to my families surprise it is completely safe. Make your plans... you won't regret it.
24th August 2017

Amazing
Great descriptions and photos. Not a place I'd like to be but you are both brave souls indeed. Love you both.
24th August 2017

Amazing
This is a location for travelers, not tourists. The home stays were comfortable but extremely basic. These people do not have many materials things but they open their hearts and homes to the road weary travelers. They make wonderful soups. They are friendly and kind. An amazing adventure.
24th August 2017

Amazing!
I have never considered travelling to this area, but it looks pretty amazing! I have enjoyed reading your blogs and look forward to more entries from your Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan trip.
24th August 2017

Amazing!
We would not have gone on this trip if Shane had not been leading the trip. It was utterly amazing and I recommend you consider his trip next year. He makes all the arrangements and it is great. Stunning. Surreal. Adventure!
24th August 2017

So You're There
Hi You may or may not remember a couple of years ago we had a few chats on here when we were travelling the other way along the Pamir. Reading your blog and seeing your pictures brings back great memories for us. Hope you're remembering to look behind you - the views the other way are always spectacular as well. Looking forward to the next installment. Cheers
25th August 2017

So we are there
Glad our blog is providing you some memories. Yes, looking back on the path traveled is important. The views are endlessly spectacular. Thank you for all the information you provided. This is a road trip we would not have wanted to miss.
25th August 2017

“you can’t get there from here”
I love that saying, and I'm going to steal it! This does indeed sound like a good and proper road trip...I'd never heard of the Panj River either and looked it up when I saw your FB pics, shows how narrow our high school geography classes are! Looking forward to reading more blogs and getting more details about the places, people and food.
25th August 2017

You can't get there from here
The Panj River is forceful and raging. In some locations it could easily eat a car. Now we are all ready for geography on Jeopardy! More details soon. Thanks for following along. This location is amazing and off the beaten path. So glad we came with Shane. He is an excellent tour leader!
25th August 2017

Off Road!
Wow, that really is off road! Sounds like our sort of trip but it might be a road too far! The grey-haired-nomads
25th August 2017

Off road!
Indeed your kind of trip. Consider this trip. You'll be comfortable enough. The road less traveled is indeed worth the extra effort.
25th August 2017

More please....
I am looking forward to more stories, pictures and insights. This was a fun read and the pictures are truly worth a thousand words. What a memorable adventure. I can't wait to sit by your ocean and hear more.
25th August 2017

More please
We have more blogs coming and stories to share when we are in Florida together. This was an amazing trip. An adventure....just as Shane promised.
25th August 2017

The Tajik Outlaws
Great post guys. The experience sounds exciting and the photos are wonderful!
25th August 2017

Tajik Outlaws
Tom....you've traveled every where but we can't remember if you have been to Tajikistan? If not, you should go on Shane's tour next year. Traveling with The Travel Camel is awesome. Off the beaten path and a real adventure.
26th August 2017

Your blog post brought back lost of memories
Thanks for sharing, Dave and M.J.! Tears are running on my cheeks as I realize I never felt more free than on my bike in the Pamir. Such a remote place. Such amazing scenery! Such simplicity... Enjoy and keep sharing!
26th August 2017

Lost memories
Tears of joy are a compliment. You've described this very well. There was a sense of freedom when traleving the Pamir's. Can't imagine doing this on a bike of any kind. You are brave, a true adventurous spirit. Thanks for reading and commenting. More to come.
26th August 2017

I feel like I missed the boat!
Nice introduction to the Stans. Hello to the Travel Camel and the double D's. Such stunning scenery, interesting ports, and great comraderie, so glad you got to do this trip! Keep the stories coming.
26th August 2017

Missing the boat!
Andrea, this is your kind of trip. You must consider it for next year or the following. Shane is an excellent tour leader and the Pamir's are stunningly outrageous. Indescribable. More stories coming soon. Thanks for commenting.
26th August 2017

Wow
Wow what an adventure a great read and brilliant photos.
26th August 2017

Wow
It was an adventure.We are thrilled to have taken this voyage. We don't like all of our trips to be the same and this one was unique. Stunning vistas and more to come.
26th August 2017

Wonderful
This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing!
27th August 2017

Wonderful
It was a wonderful festival. Gives a sense of the people.
27th August 2017

"The Tajik Outlaws"
Great blog Dave and Merry Jo! It sounds like the scenery on the journey was spectacular, and I'd imagine difficult to find words for - your blog however seems to be able to convey the majesty of the landscapes perfectly - well done! Also - wonderful photos, a great combination of portraits of people and landscape photos. I look forward to reading more :0)
27th August 2017

The Tajik Outlaws
The Pamir Highway is grand, surreal and a must do. Hope you give this trip some consideration. The people and events were a bonus. Thanks for following along and commenting.
29th August 2017

Together Again!
Seeing you, Dave, Dave and the Travel Camel back together takes us back to the days when we first joined Travelblog! You guys were some of the first blogs we started following. How far everyone has come. It's was nice to follow along with your adventure. What an interesting place so far off the beaten path. I don't know if this is a country we will ever get to, but I'm glad we got to go along with you guys! Looking forward to the rest of your trip!
29th August 2017

Together again
Always good to get together with the Dancing Ones and meeting Shane was great. The Pamir Mountains are extraordinary. They leave me speechless. It is the road less traveled. Thanks for reading and commenting.
23rd September 2017
Tuzkol

So surreal!
I can't believe this place exists. It looks like a painting... WOW
24th September 2017
Tuzkol

So surreal
Yes, indeed....hard to imagine the beauty we saw. Still thinking about it and wondering if it was real. Amazing, stunning.
23rd September 2017
Yashyl Kol

Beautiful
So beautiful
24th September 2017
Yashyl Kol

Beautiful
Every corner offered another amazing thing to look at.... so many photos.
17th November 2017
Dusty Pamir Highway

Dusty Pamir Highway
Travel on at your own risk...fabulous memories...we'd return at a heartbeat...hard to beat.
18th November 2017
Dusty Pamir Highway

Dusty Pamir Highway
Agreed that we have some great memories! This was an experience of a lifetime and the views spectacular. Glad we did the trip with you.

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