Day 72 – 75: Pamir. Take 3…

Days Km: 693 , Total Km: 11815

So suffice it to say I have not started foaming at the mouth due to rabies and am still capable of typing the odd word, we are however in Tibet at the moment and so trying to access unrestricted internet is challenging at best. So apologies for the delays.

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I’ll try to get the route map up once we’re out of china, but for now you can just admire that scenery..

Right, where were we. We had just limped back into Khorog after a failed second attempt on the Pamir and it seemed everyone we’d met back in Dushanbe had caught us up, the place was teeming with motorcyclists. Which meant, thankfully, we had a full pit crew on hand to help change the rear flat and beggar a couple of spares off. 

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The only redeeming factor of this photo is that beer… Bruce sure doesn’t do things in half measures…

With new tubes and new travelling companions in the form of Matteo and Valentina, our 2 new Italian friends, we hit the road earliesh. Which to be honest is the best we can manage these days, the bodies are getting tired.. The days destination being Yamchun fort, our original target a couple of days back.

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On the road. Look at that gorgeous inflated tyre.

It was with great relief that we made it to the checkpoint that had been our nemesis the day before without a hitch and carried on through without seeing a single dog. The landscape also started to play ball and the sheer cliffs that had been closing us in for the first leg of the Pamir and had begun getting a bit claustrophobic started to open up as we entered the Wakhan corridor to reveal some incredibly beautiful vistas of snow-capped mountains framing the flood plains.

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Great photo courtesy of Valentina.

The highlight of the days ride however has to be the 6km of switch back hairpins leading up to the Yamchun fort. An ancient fortress from antiquity said to be built by the kings of old to guard the silk trade routes below.. And then finally what better way to wind down from a hard day of riding than relaxing in the Bibi Fatima hot springs, by far the nicest hot springs in the area and great to ease fatigued muscles.. All in all round 3 was off to a roaring start.

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The fort.

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Taking in the incredible views from the fort. 

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The morning saw us finally leaving the Afghan border and heading into the mountains. Which of course meant switchback, after switchback. Great fun but slow going.. With the mountains looming all around civilisation seemed to disappear. It was just us, the road and the odd goat.. 

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The rather barren landscape.

That nights stop was lake Bulunkul one of the coldest place in Tajikistan and in fact Central Asia with the lowest registered temperature being -63 Centigrade. It’s hard to imagine how people survive out here but survive they do and even thrive. It’s a happy if small village with the local homestay providing some delicious if plain food, comfy bedding and even a sauna heated from the  yak dung they spend all summer collecting and all winter burning. I truly do admire their tenacity to carve out a life in such a barren yet breathtakingly beautiful landscape, spending most of the year just preparing to survive the bitter cold and yet doing it with a smile.

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The scenery helps distract from the quality of ablutions….

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Quite the volley ball team in Bulunkul, lots of great smiles and laughs.. 

So I spent the next morning helping out churning the freshly gathered milk. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried churning milk at 4000m altitude, but it’s not easy. And when your replacement is a 80-year-old lady that’s fallen asleep you’re guilted into churning far longer than any sane person would churn. I was pretty churned out…

As a reward for all our hard labour we thought we’d pop to the local hot springs which are pretty much in the middle of nowhere and we were guaranteed by the locals we’d have it to ourselves. Turns out it was laundry day however and so our tranquil hot spring was inundated with piles of carpets and hordes of washerwoman. C’est la vie..

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The four horsemen…

From there its was off to Murgab, the largest town in the area and our one and only chance at some working plumbing! It was also our only chance at fuel. Here I think the phrase beggars can’t be choosers really came into its own as we filled the bikes at probably our dodgiest stop yet. Well at least he fleeced us with a smile..

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Not much tourism around these parts apparently

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Yeah that doesn’t look too promising at all…

Next up. A 4650m pass, our highest yet. Even treating us to some gentle snow drifting down and white-capped peaks all around. Now we really have driven through all weathers..

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I’m rather surprised Bruce actually took his cosy heated glove off to take this photo..

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Descending back down we were treated to 2 very exciting views. Our first but definitely not last herd of shaggy yaks and then the incredibly beautiful Karakul lake. Which I must say puts the man-made blues of Registan square to shame. Turquoise flows to jade and sea becomes pale blue as the sky meets lake. We sat for ages just staring until Bruce piped up “Those colours are pretty impressive and I’m colour blind..” Add a couple of expletives in if you want the real quote.. In fact, add a lot…

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With such an amazing backdrop we decided to stop for lunch at the quaint homestay in the delightful little village. Unfortunately what we hadn’t realised was that that much still water breeds hordes of mosquitos! And I mean hordes. It was a mad rush when we left the homestay to get geared up and back on the road in search of a mosquito free campsite.

Then disaster struck. I got a flat! Now I’m not going to go so far as to say all our previous puncture problems were a good thing but the one benefit is definitely our increased tyre changing skills! We had to really put our pit crew skills to good use to narrowly avoid being sucked dry by the army of buzzing buggers..

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Escaping mosquitos.

Thankfully we got it changed in no time and after a couple of attempts finally found a mosquito free campsite to spend the night that still overlooked the lake where we could admire the brisk evening breeze, and stunning sunset made all the better by the rain clouds threatening all around..

It was a great way to end our ride through the Pamir with a warm fire, lovely company and conversation and then even a bit of harmonica under the stars…

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Best campfire of the trip so far..

One thought on “Day 72 – 75: Pamir. Take 3…

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