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Published: November 4th 2013
PAMIR x 2! THE RETURN!
Riding on the Pamir Highway from Alichur, Tajikistan, to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan.
To make it short for those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing... I ended up riding on the Pamir Highway again, this time with a nice tail wind (except the last day to the border) and as you can imagine, it was fantastic, with blue sky, snow capped-mountains, clear streams, turquoise lakes, peaceful camping at high altitude and serenity all over! Loved the Pamir!
I had been riding with Sacha (young man from Geneva) through the Wakhan Corridor and the area around Bulunkul for 6 days when we reached Alichur. Sacha’s friends were waiting for us in a yurt outside town. When we got there, the 2 girls (Maria and Manon, both from Switzerland) informed us the owners had left for an emergency and so we had the yurt to ourselves. Maria rode her bicycle all the way from Europe but she was still carrying cookies, chocolate and other goodies from Switzerland! I had briefly met these girls in Khorog and it was very nice to catch up again. The following day we hit the road to
Murghab. This is the stretch of road that I had really struggled on (I had accepted to be pulled by a truck for a few km) on my way down the first time. The headwind was so strong coming the other way, but this time, it was blowing from behind and we flew all the way to Murghab! It was interesting for me to notice that on the way from Murghab to Alichur (the first time) I had taken very few pics, but the other way around, with this nice tailwind, I stopped all the time to take a hundred photos.
In Murghab I took Sacha, Manon and Maria to the same guesthouse I had stayed in on my way down, the one with the sauna (luxury! :-) and Sacha and Manon met up with 2 other friends (also from Geneva). We enjoyed a nice day off from riding. We had ridden for 7 consecutive days and I was pleased to give my legs some rest. Murghab is a pretty laid-back little town (the biggest on the Pamir Highway) with a bazaar made off shipping containers where people sell dry fruit, chocolate bars, bread, biscuits, yogurt, and vegetables. I
filled up my panniers once again. The town was built on a hill and down in the valley, there is a nice river that runs through grassland. I went there to read and relax with my feet in the water. Kids were playing football; moms were washing carpets in the river; farther down some men were cleaning their cars (in the river as well) and mosquitoes were buzzing around!
The Swiss had to register at the police station the next day so I told them I would get going (early) and they could always catch up at night as I would set camp early to wait for them. But they never caught up... It was nice to ride alone after having company for a week. It was just me and immensity. The Pamir offers such vastness. What an amazing place to let your mind wander! It was me, the wind, the sun, the rocks, the blue sky, the snow on top of the mountains, a few marmots, 2 very young shepherds and more uphill. I reached the bottom of the pass early in the afternoon and decided to take a nap to wait for the Swiss (they were supposed
to leave Murghab right after registering, so I thought they weren’t far behind). But After a long nap on rocks (haha!), I decided to tackle the pass alone and camp on top (altitude 4655m). I went up slowly and stopped to take many pictures (and catch my breath!). At the top the road rolled down a bit into a little plateau with a clear stream surrounded by grass. I carried my bike down to the river and pitched my tent. I guess I was at altitude 4550m. It was so quiet. 2 cars passed by on the road and then… nothing! I had the place to myself. I cooked noodles with carrots, ate a tin of sardines and found refuge in my sleeping bag as the cold quickly set in. The following morning my tent was covered in frost. I went down the pass carefully (I forgot to say that I go so many punctures on the Wakhan that I was tired of patching my inner-tubes) and enjoyed a bumpy ride to Karakul. But once again, in 6 hours on the bike, I only ran into a minibus of Chinese tourists and one guy from Poland on a motorbike. I
felt so free and also pretty proud at the thought of riding the Pamir Highway for the second time in a month. Because it was my second time there, I was able to relax and fully appreciate my surroundings without that feeling of excitement that sometimes blurs my mind. At first I intended to stay in Karakul one day and then go off to the Bartang Valley for 2 or 3 days, but once on the banks of turquoise Karakul Lake, I felt lazy and decided to stay there for a while to read, relax and play with the local kids. And on my second day there, the Swiss showed up. And on the 3rd
, some other cyclists (Dan from Wales, Peter from Germany, James from the US) met us. We played cards by the lake, played Frisbee with a plate and laughed at Sacha’s accent whenever he spoke English ;-)
There isn’t much in Karakul… One shop (Sneakers were expensive there!), 2 guesthouses (we always had dinner at Algerim GH), 2 water pumps, a basketball court and a beautiful blue lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The best time of the day was when I’d wake up in the
morning; I’d unzip my tent and glaze at the blue water just a few meters away from me, with the peaks in the background. Sigh… It felt so relaxing, so smooth and easy. Then the local kids would come around. One morning they helped me fix my bike and we invited them to hang out.
One morning 2 policemen from the checkpoint at the entrance of the village stopped by for a little chat. I was the eldest of our group (I know, it’s crazy! All these young people cycling around the world! I’m only 31!) and when I told the policemen I was a teacher in China, they kept on calling me “Professor.” They invited us to watch football over in their tent and maybe play some ping pong too. Later on this afternoon, 3 of them came back and started gesturing and asking me to (I thought) move my tent next to theirs on the road by the checkpoint. I refused. The driver got out of his car, started inspecting my tent. He looked like he wanted to pick it up, put it on the back of his truck and take me and the tent to the
check point. I couldn’t understand why they wanted me to move there with them. I didn’t like the fact that the driver kept on telling me “I am police, niet problem” with his gun swinging under his arm the whole time. I tried to explain I was perfectly happy here, able to enjoy the scenery by the lake, instead of on the road! This lasted a good 15-20 minutes, then a local guide passed by with a tourist and she helped us translate. It turned out the policemen had bought a tent but they couldn’t put it up so they wanted the “professor’s help.” Ha! I went with 2 other fellow travelers and we put up their tent in 5 minutes. It was weird they couldn’t do it themselves. We suppose the tent was just an excuse for them to talk to us and get away from their daily work. Eventually we ended up drinking vodka and coffee in their tent, asking them questions about narcotic traffic in the area (from Afghanistan) and their many wives each…
I left Karakul with a pinch of sadness. I don’t know whose idea it was, but we all agreed to leave in
The Swiss team + Dan + I
the afternoon when the wind was the strongest… It was tough going uphill with crazy headwind. We ended up camping in an abandoned stable and it was freezing! The following day the 4 young Swiss, Dan from Wales, and I reached the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border as it started haling on us. We were done with the Pamir. I am now bond to get a tattoo that says “PAMIR X 2.” ;-)
The ride to Sary Tash was downhill all the way but the wind was so strong that it was hard work. We stayed 2 nights in Sary Tash. Dan and I rode to Sary Mogul and back in one day to have a look at Peak Lenin that culminates at 7134m. The ride from Sary Tash to Sary Mogul is beautiful. We followed the mountains with high summits the entire way. I hope you enjoy the pictures! Next = More to come on Kyrgyzstan!
J’ai donc rejoint le Pamir Highway après avoir fait le Couloir du Wakhan. C’était la même route que j’avais empruntée 2 semaines auparavant mais quel bonheur d’être a nouveau en altitude (à plus de 4000m) et de savourer les montagnes, le silence, le ciel
bleu, la tranquillité propre au Pamir. Et cette fois-ci, j’avais le vent dans le dos pour changer ! J’ai passé 4 belles journées au bord du lac Karakul. Je pense que vous comprendrez pourquoi en voyant les photos. Quelle aventure en tout cas ! Le monde a tellement à nous offrir.
Tot: 2.661s; Tpl: 0.062s; cc: 26; qc: 161; dbt: 0.1162s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.8mb