Fan Mountains

With 2 weeks until our Uzbek visas started we had some time on our hands. Tim and Claire had already mentioned they were planning a trip to the Fan mountains, so we invited ourselves along. Once at Vero’s, she helped look at the numerous options for a 4 day trip.With this information we decided to head for Alauddin lake. We left early (ish) Sunday to head to the taxi area on the outskirts of town. The main road was closed off as next week was the celebrations for 25 years of independence, they were practising for the parade. We managed to get into a shared taxi which took us out to the main bus/taxi place. Even before getting out of the car a 4×4 taxi driver was at the window asking where we wanted to go. We negotiated a price to get to Alauddin lake and we were on our way. Much quicker and easier than we had expected.

The 3 ½ hour taxi ride was pretty spectacular. Climbing from Dushanbe at 800m upto Alauddin lake at 2750m. The last 27km of the drive was off road, all we could think was, ‘Glad we’re not on our bikes.’ It was stunning though, a mix of rocky mountains that were reds, browns and beige to massive snowy peaks, bright blue rivers, and plenty of cows, sheep, goats and donkeys. We finally made it to the car park and had to renegotiate with our taxi driver, he’d never driven out to this area and hadn’t realised how bad the road would be. With little choice than to pay a bit more and agree to pay more for the journey back, we said our goodbyes and crossed our fingers he would be back on Wednesday to pick us up.

Bags on our backs we started the short hike to the lake. A couple of minutes in and we were already faced with a river to get across. Tim and Andy had no problem going over the rocks, Claire and I were not so confident and took our shoes off to get across. The water was cold! It does feed down from a glacier so no real surprise.

We decided to stop for a quick lunch after this before continuing on. After lunch we had one more river to cross before arriving at the lake.

There were two options for camping, one just before the lake and one next to it. We walked on and camped next to the lake. It was only 2pm when we arrived. Set up our tents and relaxed in the sunshine. It was one of the most beautiful places we had all ever seen. It had all seemed like a hassle to get there that morning but we were all very thankful we’d made the effort.

Tim and Andy decided they would look for firewood. Whilst gone the park ranger came to see us, we had to pay a fee to be there. He was very nice and then told us he had a small ‘shop’ where we could buy drinks – including beer. It was Tim’s birthday in a couple of days so we went to buy a few cans. Once we were all back we celebrated our arrival with a beer and soon got the fire going. As soon as the sun went behind the mountain it got pretty cold quickly. We had a good evening by the fire and enjoyed watching the stars come out. We all went to bed happy to be there.

With only one big backpack each it meant we were limited with what we took, it made us realise how luxurious it can be travelling by bike, we only had one sleeping bag per couple and Tim and Claire had had a cold night. By 8am the sun was out and we were all hot in our tents so got up and had a nice leisurely start.

Andy even braved the cold and went for a quick dip in the water (crazy man!). We had decided to head to Mutnoye Lake at the foot of a glacier. We’d met a guide who had said it would take 5 hours to get there. We left our camp and started the climb. From the start we could all feel we were using different muscles to when we cycle but it was nice to be doing something different. The weather was good and the views up and down were incredible. Quite a few stops for filming (Tim and Claire) and photos.

The hike was fairly steep at points but not too hard and we were at the top at 3,600m in a couple of hours (we realised the guide had meant to return to camp it would take 5 hours). We stopped for lunch, sat on a rock enjoying the view. There were a few clouds in the sky so it felt cold when they were over the sun, but in the sun it was very comfortable.

After an hour we headed back down towards our camp.

On the way down we stopped to pick up what wood we could see for another camp fire, there was hardly anything around the camp site. I wish I’d taken a picture but we were all overloaded for ½ a kilometre with bits of wood sticking out backpacks and much larger pieces being carried. Definitely needed with it getting so cold once the sun was down. Once back at camp we had a few visitors pass through, a herd of around 1000 sheep and goats. It was quite a spectacle to watch.

Then it was another great evening by the fire.

Tim and Claire’s turn to cook a delicious meal, dessert included – a KitKat chunky. A couple of beers from our lake fridge. Overall a really great day. We lent Claire and Tim our bodywarmers in the hope they would sleep better.

Another wake up call from the warm sun on our tent. Today was Tim’s birthday, and he had been presented with a lot of thoughful gifts the night before.

With no signal at the lake it meant sadly he wouldn’t be able to receive any calls from home so we tried to make up for that with our amazing presence. We were planning to head up to Alauddin pass at 3,800m (the highest Andy and I had ever been hiking). It was a really clear, beautiful day and we set off slightly earlier. Even the start of the hike was steeper than the previous day, so we were all puffing and panting from the beginning. Mostly it was a continuous up but that also meant looking back down to the lake where we were camping was an amazing view, especially with the snow capped peaks in the background. It was all just breathtaking.

We also came across the same shepherd and his herd from the previous evening. Tim wanted to get some footage for his film, so we sat and watched for 30 minutes.

From there is was maybe another hour up to the top. We passed a group of German tourists on a guided tour with a group of donkeys overloaded carrying all of their baggage. Poor donkeys. Up at the top of the pass we made the decision not to go down the other side. We sat at the top and had lunch and relaxed for a bit, enjoying the view and the sunshine.

Before returning back down we tried taking a few action photos. Jumping photos always seem like a great idea, until you realise it’s impossible to get 4 people to jump at the same time – oh well it was fun (ish) trying.

It was a steep climb back down but pretty quick. None of us could get over the views infront of us, so lots more pictures of the same thing were taken.

On the way down Andy and Tim went a different route to pick up some more wood and so Tim could get some more pictures/video of the animals.

Claire and I had a different mission, to see if the park ranger was around to get a few more beers for Tim’s b-day. Sadly we’d just missed him and it would be a dry birthday for him. Back at camp we realised we’d been joined by a couple of other tents but also all the donkeys that had been carrying the tourists bags. They weren’t in the best condition with sores on their back. Tim went for a quick birthday dip! A fire was started and a special birthday dinner prepared (pretty much what we’d had on the first night – poor Tim). It was a really clear night and the stars were amazing. Not the most rock ‘n’ roll night but it had been another brilliant day.

We all woke up a bit earlier so that we could make sure we were back down at the car park for 10am. We felt a bit sad to leave the stunning lake and camp site but back to the city to celebrate Tim’s birthday properly. We said goodbye to the lake and headed back down.

Having to cross the river a couple of times again before making it back.

We got to the car park early and to our relief the taxi guy was already there and waiting. Another 3 ½ hour journey back to Dushanbe and this time straight back to Vero’s.

We did celebrate Tim’s birthday that evening. Claire had managed to get back bake a chocolate cake and they had some champagne in the fridge waiting. We went up to a viewpoint over the city with Manu (who we’d first met in Bishkek) to toast Tim’s birthday. It was one of the clearer evenings in the city and was really pretty with the city lights below. We then went to an Indian restaurant for dinner but Manu and Claire then had to head home not feeling 100%. We continued on to our now regular pub – Public for some beer pong. Sadly it wasn’t quite the night Tim had hoped for but hopefully he still enjoyed it.

The next day Andy and I moved to an apartment for our last 5 nights in the city. It’s always nice to have a place for a few days to relax and get things ready for the next part of the trip. We even had Claire and Tim round for some dinner one of the nights before they left, hopefully we’ll catch up with them in Samarkand. We’ve really enjoyed spending time with them, an extremely lovely couple. We also finally went to the hospital as I was still not feeling quite right after our illness as we arrived. I’m glad we went now as I found out I have amoebic dysentry, Andy luckily hasn’t but is on the same tablets as me, just in case. Not ideal but hopefully the meds will clear it. Now a few days of relaxing before we hit the road again and move on to Uzbekistan.

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