After a huge and unforgettable breakfast we leave Dushanbe accompanied by Eric and Tiff… we’re going to the mountains!
Where some kilometers and some mountain passes are waiting for us…
… the beginning is encouragings, in a few kilometers a car is stopped and gives us all these good breads…
We were told that the storms were frequent… the first night, while having dinner, we see the spectacle of one in the distance, which dropped us over while we slept. It was the first, but not the last.
We were also told that the wind was going to be in our direction… but it has not been always like this.
Now is the time that lead animals to eat the pastures of the mountain´s green meadows… we had to cross many of them using a scream of Shepherd.
Although we are still not properly in the Pamirs, the road show us the beauty of the nature of this part of the planet. The sky changes the landscape every minute and we are all day prepared to seek shelter at any time…
However the water falls on us soak ourselves up shoes and we decide to stay in the Valley, before entering what looks like the mouth of the Wolf.
The storms that make the roads muddy continuous, what make more difficult some sections.
And they do grow rivers that pass along the road and where, in some of them, we wet our feet.
Until is so much rain and the sky is so black, that we think that it isn´t fleeting and decided to stop in a house… this time is hospitality in exchange for money, but we still appreciate it, because we can dry us, the clothes and the tent that were soaked.
In this part we feel that invitations to food and chay are far from which we´ve been receiving in the last months. It is not a question of saving some euros, but simply that one feel more wecomed when there´s no money through, when they simply invite you by humanity, or because they have interest in knowing someone from outside… But I really don’t feel able to judge, because they are those who live in those towns, quite remote from other, where the winters are hard and only have the summers for breathing… and of course, if it comes a little extra money from a foreigner, it isn´t bad for them.
We learn that here, as soon it´s raining…
… as the sun rises, but the temperature is good, so we know that although we get wet we are going to dry fast.
As always, at the time we need, someone appears… here the river had eaten the road and we had to go through this stony ground to go back again into the road… it would have been quite hard if we don´t meet these boys who went to visit his grandparents to another village.
And in the morning we remember Eric and Tiff, they gave us, among other things, two packages of coffee, but real coffee, not the one that here call coffee and is soluble. But thanks to our friends we started the days with force… and for the first big pass, 3252 m, double coffee.
In just one day can happen lots of things… mud…
… a hailstorm that massages our body.
We met “the Simpsons”, a French family that after selling its part of the restaurant, he, leave work at Paris Airport, she, and quit school, them, they bought a truck and prepared as a house and a garage for 4 motorcycle and start a trip through Asia, Africa and South America. You can learn more about Yannick, Muriel, Victor and Robin on his blog: http://www.lessimpsonsenvadrouille.fr/
We got the top, waiting in every turn for the asphalt that three Germans cyclist told us… Dust, stones and mud, which together with the height make me feel that sensation of breathlessness, which later will be stronger.
What a slope!!… happy not to cycle in the other direction and remembering Laura and Aitor that had to do it, pushing the bicycles through the snow. We talk with the French family to sleep together, but there were a few spot to place the truck and the tent at the begining, but they weren´t there, so we continue and continue, and the road became a closed canyon… spectacular, but without even place for a tent, so the night came and we ended up camping in the check point, saved by a friendly military.
In a few kilometers Afghanistan is in front of us… just a river as a border… and the life is even more simple than in this side. The villages, scattered along the banks of the river, are orchards linked by a dirt road, that in more than one section seems very dangerous, if you fall out there… you´ll stay in the river for ever…
It´s a rare feeling observe the lives of these people from the other side. Women washing clothes in the river, children bathing, men plowing, fixing their houses, clothes hanging, women talking… There are parts where the river narrows so much that they are very close, but the curious thing is that you can not go, neither they coming… is like a film of about 200 kms, which we’re pedaling until our road go into the Pamir mountain range.
It´s very hot, but the way is full of water everywhere, and we can refresh and continue to the next creek.
Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, and the one who more aid receives from the European Union. Along the way we see numerous posters made by Swiss, schools, feeding programs and big four wheel drive cars of different organizations driving around very fast.
In Rushan the landscape opens in a wide green valley. We feel the people happy, they greet you with a sincere smile and we hear fewer offers of chay-chay-sleep! You can see that people enjoy these moments outside of their homes, feeling the warmth of the Sun, although they have to work in the fields.
And right there we met Fakhridin, who invited us to his house, by the simple fact of being with us. And we accept, although we had already seen an amazing site for camping along the river, by the simple fact of being with him and his family.
Although we are in the territory of the Pamir mountains, we still have a few kms to reach Khorog, village that is considered by many people the official beginning of the Pamir Highway, because the most serious climb to the plateau starts there.
In khorog we rest a few days. We check the bicycle and we find that some saddlebag has suffered the bumpy road, but we can fix it, at least to avoid its break. We meet again with Guillaume and Sebastian, now pedaling with Francesco, another Italian ciclist. And more travelers, a French couple traveling in tandem, three Polish cyclist (later we´ll be asked if they are a myth or reality), some other backpakers and Adams (http://shortwayround.co.uk/), an English traveling 6 years around the world with his motorbike, probably now he is in Siberia… good people.
This man rescue us from a tremendous storm, I doubt if stop or continue, because the wind is pushing our backs so strongly that sometimes we don´t have to pedal even climbing.
We continue experiencing the hospitality of the Pamirs, friendly people and proud of their region, they don´t feel from Tajikistan, “we are Pamirs and we speak pamir”.
We meet again with Guillaume, Sebastian and Francesco and cycle a few days with them. Great group, we´ll meet again to enter in Kyrgyzstan.
More hospitality, this time not even to know us, but help us. There we were the five of us in the larger room of the house, we only had to go out for two hours, because they had to pray… time that we use to dip in the hot springs of Jelondy.
In the high altitud the heat disappears and the rain turns into snow.
We enter the plateau with a cover sky. After a pass of 4271m, where the need to stop to catch breath is more frequent, we had to do another climb on the same day, to avoid sleep too high…
… and we arrived at night at this house, thinking was abandoned, in the middle of nowhere, and where we were welcomed by a quiet family but friendly, who invited us into his small kitchen with fire, where we warm up our bodies after a while and where we took a bowl of milk with bread. And when it came the time to sleep, when they showed us the room, we met Eloise, a french woman who is traveling alone, walking and hitchhiking trough the Pamir. It will not be the last time we see her.
Here we separate again, they went to Yashil kul, a lake with thermal waters, and we decided to continue through the main road and rest in Alichur, just 20 kms from where we were, among other things because Zigor spent the night with headache and somewhat uneasy… this is what the height has.
After filling the stomach and taking a nap, we went for a walk through Alichur, a very quiet town, where every glance is a photo.
After one day resting we climbed with power the next passs, 4314 m, a progressive climb of 50kms, with good asphalt, which is appreciated. The end of the pass is not marked, like the others, but you know that it´s over when you stop seeing a climb, after the down hill that had made you believe you had come to the end.
This time we didn´t mind to sleep high. We descended around 300 metres, when the road took us to a broad and green valley, with a creek, perfect for our dinner, and a yurt, attached to the mountainside protected from the wind. It was very clear for booth that we wanted to spend the night there, also, the wheather, which had been all day changing as usual, was calmed, stopped blowing wind and cleared the sky… was the perfect night… although after dinner I started shivering and I had to got into the sleepingbag with everything I was wearing and I didn´t heated me until I took an infusion that Zigor brought me… this is what the height has.
And about the sky, I can not talk you about, it´s impossible to describe what I saw in one of the trip to the “toilet”… When you look up, for a few seconds the cold of the night disappears and time stops.
The morning presented us a Sun, which warmed my body for a while, until the clouds reappeared and deleted from our head the possibility of staying one more night over there.
The landscape until Murgap, is more arid and inhospitable, but also full of beauty. There is occasionally a yurt that tells you that near there´s water. There is a cold wind blowing against in almost all sections, the good thing is that there´re less clouds, so we look for some place sheltered from the wind (which the body begins to reject it) and we lay to rest a bit in the sun.
The descent to the valley of Murgap is very nice, reappears the abundant water and the green in the landscape… the river meanders in the grass, which invites you to plant tent. But when you get down the wind makes you change your mind. We were lucky to find to this family that was fishing and had a homestay and with which, after a little haggling, decided to go… we gorged ourself on potatoes and fresh fish… it was too much, it´s not a joke, my belly was like a watermelon and I had to read for a while sat before go to sleep… still I hear the girl bringing us potatoes and more potatoes and the fried fish: “We are hungry, we eat more”…
Akbaytal, the last pass, with 4655 m, is around 75 km from Murgap, is a very soft and progressive climb until you are about 4 kms… but that story I tell you latter.
Because now I want to present to you Somaye and Soha, one Iranian cyclists couple who we met in the middle of the road, where we decided to pitch the tent. They left 14 months ago and, we don’t know exactly why, the bank account they had in Azerbaijan, from which they could withdraw money abroad (from a iranian account you cannot), somehow was blocked, but they decided to continue and trust in life… in the moment we were with them they just had 5$ in the pocket and they just donate 800$ to an orphanage, everything they took from an exhibition of pictures of the trip… when they need something just comes. We wanted to spend more time with them, but they were going in the other direction (http://dreammakers.co/).
And now I continue with the last 4 kms… those kilometer that you see suddenly there in the distance… one of these slopes that make you think, maybe when I approach is not so steep… and hey, it happens a little, but when the body has to do a slightly larger effort and as you go up and up, there comes a time when the lungs fail to work and you have to stop, with a desperate breath, as if they had been lifeless and suddenly they noticed that they can catch it again. You recover quite fast, you look at the slope you have ahead and think, I can do this in a time, but not… this’s what the height has.
And the worst thing (not because of him) was when in the middle of the slope we met with Bostjan (http://travelmetka.smugmug.com/), a Slovenian ciclist coming down and we stopped to talk to him too much time. When I wanted to start again, my legs seemed to have been transformed into wood, there were no muscles that moved them… so I couldn’t do nothing but push, but Zigor pushed me for a few meters while I was cycling, until the wood turned into muscles, and part by part I could reach the top.
At the top… where all suffering disappears… has been hard, but not enough to make me give up to cross this mountain, like almost all the mountains of the life.
For this supper, special menu, rice (the richest in the entire trip) with chapatis… day deserves it.
We sleep as kids and only in the morning we realized the frost that fell overnight.
The road, which had to basically go down, gave us some uphills, as Zigor says, to not forget where we are… I remember you, they say, in the second highest international road in the world, which was called in the past with Tibet, the “Roof of the World”.
And finally we saw Lake, which moved away and moved away while we pedaled through this endless straight. At the end Karakul, where we rest two days.
And where we met again with Eloise, other travelers and…
… Guillaume, Sebastian and Francesco… we cycled all together to Osh.
Only two more passes, 4232 and 4280 m, to leave the plateau. Although it is always nice to move, now we have not so eager to abandon the heights. The tranquility of these days, few cars, Nature, the effort and the silence, have made us enjoy a lots.
Camp on the heights.
This is the real border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, although Tajikistan check point border is one km before, not very strange, and Kyrguitan check point 20kms after! For us it isn´t a big problem, but for the one that goes in the other direction, like this New Zealand couple, has to know that you cannot sleep in the middle, so you have to climb and reach the border before they close.
When we meet motorcyclists, they speak us with admiration and when we meet with a walker, we are who open our mouth and are impressed. He´s German and he´s 14 months walking with his dog, the cause to not be allowed to enter in China. He travel with a very small backpack, no tent, neither stove, just the basic… amazing!!
With the descent, the green appears again and you can see yaks enjoying the fresh grass and many free horses, one of the things for which Kyrgyzstan is famous.
And smilling children.
The last pass before reaching Osh, now yes, everything down…
… leads us into a festival of the 60s, yurts everywhere, horses… just missing the hippies.
Our last night of camping in this phase, surprises us with the biggest storm we’ve ever had. Wind, rain, hail, lightning and thunder. From the inside of the tent we push against the wind fearing that it was going to brake it, lightning and thunder come to be very close one to each other and, as the rain was so sudden, the ground couldn´t absorb all the water, so we could feel a water layer under the floor of the tent. Luckily, within our tent everything remained dry. In the morning each had his adventure, some stakes lost, rain entering the tent by the wind, some wet floor and some soaked sleeping bag.
In Osh, we separated from Guillame, we will follow him in http://experiencecyclonomade.wordpress.com/, until we meet again to cross another border .
Also from Francesco (http://ivegotabike.wordpress.com/), who will go back to his rhythm.
And Sebastian (http://www.sebistan.com/) was got into the van that drove the 3 of us, 3 bicycles and 3 Japanese to Bishkek.
And in Bishkek, we found a very nice Guest House, completely new, Kyrkyz host, where we have been like at home. Chinese visa, Kazakhs visa, dinners and reencounters.
We share very good times with Jana and Alex (http://worldsdiversity.wordpress.com/), the german cyclist couple we met in Tehran.
And we met again with Chris (http:cycling4cancer.wordpress.com), our australian companion in Turkmenistan, if you want you can watch a video that he made of those days: http://www.vimeo.com/68762041. He had to return to Bishkek, because when he arrived at the border with China, it was the birthday of the President of Kazakhstan and he decided to give three days of holidays. And in those days his visa expired, so if he waited till the opening of the border he would have to pay some extra money, so he took a bus to here to take a new visa…
After two weeks resting and eating good food, on Tuesday we´ll leave Bishkek to Almaty, still do not know how we are going to reach Xining, but we know that we will arrive and there we´ll meet with Laura and Aitor and start another stage together… how exciting!