Firstly, what a place! I don’t really know where to start. Tajikistan is the poorest of the ‘stans and it was visibly obvious. It doesn’t help that the country is so mountainous, making it hard to access and also hard to grow crops and keep animals. We were in the Pamirs during the short season when it’s warm enough to be comfortable and enjoyable to cycle through, we can’t imagine what it’s like in the harsh winter (ok maybe Andy can with his love of skiing and scoping out where would be amazing to ski). With the high peaks brought incredible scenery, like nowhere we have seen before. Fifty percent of the country is over 3,000m. It was breathtaking and constantly changing. It was tough going and some of the most challenging cycling we have ever done, and somewhere we will always look back upon and be proud we managed to cycle it.
August 22nd to 31st. 524km
After a couple of days off in Khorog we were ready to tackle the final leg to Dushanbe. This stretch, although technically part of the Pamir Highway, doesn’t have the high altitude passes and we didn’t really know too much about the road ahead. We’d heard there is a northern route and a southern route to Dushanbe, the northern being shorter but tougher. Riding out of Khorog a road sign told us Dushanbe was 608km away. Presumably this is on the southern route, as we took the north route and covered 524km. Initially the road was similar to the ride in to Khorog from the Wakhan Valley. The surface was good and it followed the Panj river with Afghanistan just over the water to our left. We’d left quite late after a lie in then a trip to the supermarket and petrol station to stock up our supplies. Through the afternoon we met a few cyclists coming the other way, full of questions for us about our ride from Osh. Suddenly we’d become the experienced veterans who’d finished the Pamir Highway proper.
August 13th to 19th 445km
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Murghab, but we re-stocked our food supplies at the bazaar and had a couple of decent meals. The Pamir Hotel is a strange place. After a week of isolation, suddenly we were surrounded by European tourists arriving by 4×4, motorbike or bicycle. It was especially busy as Murghab was hosting an annual horse festival that weekend. We went down to check it out as we were leaving. We ran into Kim the Korean cyclist, as well as Frenchies, Tim and Claire who were shooting video for their documentary. Being animal lovers (and vets) the festival was right up their street, but we were happy just to watch a couple of rounds of a horseback ‘kiss chase’ type game before hitting the road. And just as we did, we ticked over 13,000km.
August 5th – 11th Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Murghab (Tajikistan). 420km.
Osh sits at about 900 metres above sea level, the lowest we’d be for a while, which means only one thing. We’ve been riding uphill. A lot. Well rested and fed, with panniers full of supplies for the coming days, we set off to the South-East on the M41. Our first day was all uphill, gradually at first through the agricultural area surrounding Osh. It was a hot day so we stopped regularly for drinks at roadside magazins, making the most of them while they were still available. At one stop we met a young couple from Scotland who’d just returned from an attempt to climb Peak Lenin, (7,134m) but unfortunately the weather forced them to turn back just short of the summit. Later we met yet another South Korean cyclist heading our way, Kim. He was heavily loaded and riding quite slowly, so we rode on ahead after a chat, but our paths would cross regularly for the next few days.