I spent the day hammering the handlebar bolt straight and doing some running repairs before ollie and Jenny turned up in the evening, once the road re-opened. We then spent 5 days camping and chilling out amoung the beautiful mountain scenery.
With slightly sore heads it was now time to head to Dushanbe and get the rest of the repairs done on the bike.
I’d heard about a tunnel North of Dushanbe infamous in the biking community for it’s difficulty to negoiate. Next stop a date with some crazy riding…….
The 5km long tunnel, built by the Iranians 3 years ago, had been an engineering disaster. The Chinese, known for their road building skills, had been drafted in to correct all the previous mistakes made by the Iranians.
Approaching the tunnel we first had to negotiate a couple of big lakes before the tunnel proper. The left tunnel was completely closed due to the fact it had turned into a fast running river. Both directions were now directed through one half of the tunnel.
The start of the tunnel system
Diving into a metre deep water filled pothole for the second time I prayed that I wouldn’t go down in such a hostile environment. It was time to let the landrover lead and watch the back axel. It was impossible to tell whether the road was just covered in surface water or huge submerged potholes.
After a few k’s of hellish potholes, the tunnel suddenly turned into a lake with no way to dodge or see the potholes. Fingers crossed I plowed on….
I was finally through the worst and the light at the end of the tunnel was the most welcome sight I’d seen in a long time. I was through and back out into the fresh air!
It was then a mixture of dirt tracks and and perfect tarmac all the way to Dushanbe, time to rest and get the bike fully fixed.
The hostel owner hooked us up with a mechanic to get all the repairs done on the bike. This ended up costing a princely sum of £40 dollars! Job done it was time to head South towards the Pamirs….
With perfect tarmac to the Afgan boarder we made swift progress. The first sighting of the beautiful valley and river separating Tajikistan and Afganistan is an awe-inspiring sight.
It had been amazing, and we hadn’t even hit the start of the Pamirs…….
Entering the Pamir we took a side road to the Wakim Corridor running down the Afgan boarder, famed for being the most beautiful place in the whole of the Pamir region. Simply stunning scenery and very welcoming people were everywhere….
We arrived in Ishkashim just in time for the Saturday Afgan market situate in no-man’s-land. Depositing our passports at the Tajik side we walked across the bridge into the outdoor market. The market didn’t have a lot to offer with the most interesting element being the differences in dress between the Afgan people and the more western dressed Tajiks.
This region is different in aspect to the corridor. More desolate but equally as beautiful, it’s a series of dusty windswept isolated towns with stunning backdrops. With temperatures getting down to -60 degrees in winter it’s an extremely harsh place live. Some of the towns are dwindling in size with people moving to Khorog and Dushanbe for work and an easier life. Staying at a homestay of an English teacher I got chatting to her daughter about life in such a harsh place. She was currently on summer holiday during her break from University in Khorag with no plans to come back to the town once graduating. The activity of the city, friends and modern tajik life was too much of a draw.
With Jenny becoming really sick, and returning from the Yurt doctor with an amusing bandage on her head with Garlic and angelica underneath, the Bridges decided to push on to Osh in Kygyrzstan for some real medicine and a few home comforts.
It would be me, Herbie and Joe (a Canadian backpacker we kept bumping into everywhere who’d been hitching the Pamir) to see out the rest of Tajikistan……
Leaving Lake Karakul it was time to head to the boarder over a the highest pass i crossed to date, 4600 metres.
For me Tajikistan has been the best country so far, even surpassing Turkey. The scenery has been amazing and the people ultra friendly with a real interest in meeting foreigners passing through.
On the Kygrz side of the boarder we met the French who’d been stuck there for 3 days as they’d made a mistake on the visa dates. We said hello and then headed for the easiest, quickest boarder we’d experienced so far. No forms, 10 minutes to write our details down and stamp the passports.
We were now in Kyrgzstan! The land of the horse awaits….