Tajikistan: Part 2 – The Pamir highway and along the Wakhan Corridor (A ride next to Afghanistan)

Having survived the tunnel of death I reached Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan! I arrived late at night I ended up at one of the most popular Overlander hostels. I planned to stay so I could do a service on the bike.

I spent a couple of days trying to get (and not necessarily succeeding) the service done. I couldn’t get hold of the tyre’s I wanted as after 10,000km my MT21’s were finish and I also couldn’t get an air or an oil filter either. I did try and order them in advance but to no luck! The garage who changed my tyres wanted my bike key so they could turn it on to flush out the remaining oil after they drained the oil! Needless to say I kept my key!

I could barely watch!

I met many people at the hostel including some that I had met on my way. Along those that I met two new guys.

Brian, a Danish guy riding a Suzuki DL1000 and Boris, a French guy riding a AJP. I reached out to Brian and Boris and we decided to ride the Pamir highway (M41) and the along the Wakhan corridor together.

The three musketeers (I realize I always have my eyes shut in photos!)

These two roads (mainly offroad) run pretty much along the Afghanistan border the whole way, following the river! This was to be an experience I will (I hope), always remember!
There were two options regarding the first part of the route. A north more offroad route but scenic or a southern route that is more road orientated (Pamir Highway). The reason I say most people take is because we took neither! Brian had an idea of going further south, hit the border and then meet up with the road later on. Being south of the southern route I will call this the Deep South route!

The route we took across Tajikistan.

After an hour or so riding south we hit road work after road work. Brian on the DL1000 was a little nervous of the gravel but Boris showed him that it was nothing to be worried about as he bombed passed him at what I guess to be 70kmph!
Shortly after Brian was warming up to the offload which was good as we would have roughly 1100km ahead to reach Kyrgyzstan! The Deep South route lead up through some small towns and after a quick bite to eat we hit the border and our ride West began. Not long after heading west the landscape seemed to change to a more desert environment and not dissimilar to Uzbekistan.
I remember as I climbed sand had blown off across the road and I begged that it would not completely cover the road as the road climbed up and between the sandy mountains. (Writing this reminded me of a sandy moment Brian would later have! – more on that later).
Brain was the first one to have an issue with his bike, the bumps had shaken 3 bolts out of front fender! I lent him three bolts (never did get them back) and after some photos we were riding again.

It wasn’t long before we heard this horrible noise come from Brian’s bike! A loud clung from the back end. We didn’t find out what it was at the time but later we would find out the rear tyre was eating the rear hugger!
It was starting to get dark just as we hit a police checkpoint. This was a common feature of Tajikistan, police check points scattered along the road but thankfully these were quick (can be speed up by having many copied of your passport and visa/permit).

The police asked if we were hungry and handed us about 3kg of bread, one large melon and one small melon. Now carrying these would be a problem as we were really loaded! You may think that the answer of who to give which item to which bike would be easy. Me being on the 250 should take the small melon, Boris on the med size bike take the 3kg of bread and Brian being on the large bike should take the large melon . What I haven’t told you yet is that during our few day of riding Brian have not only throw one, nor two bottle of water at me an Boris but three! He either was trying to get rid of us, a bomber pilot in a previous life or hadn’t managed to find a way to strap water day. To this day I still don’t know which of on those it was.
We gave Brian the bread as it was the softest thing he could throw at us, Boris the medium sized melon and my self the small one.

We headed to where there should be a hotel (Ioverlander app to locate) but unfortunately in the dark we would not find it but we did eventually find this hotel on the main road that sold breakfast included!
Our first day complete but everyday from now would be more and more offroad!

The breakfast wasn’t great! 3 lots of sludge, I define sludge as watery rice pudding in glupe and not sweet at all. Me and Brian asked for some eggs but Boris being well, Boris, seemed to enjoy it! Fair play to him, you would have to put chocolate in there before I even thought of eating it! (That was how I was made to eat breakfast as a child).

So day two of our ride together. This was where we really started the Pamir highway. The views were spectacular. Massive mountain scenery with a river to the right that separated Tajikistan and Afghanistan! The majority of the ride was on super smooth roads a was an absolutely pleasure, that was until Brian’s bike decided to role forward and fall off the side stand. As I came round the corner after stopping to take some photos I could see Brian’s bike laying in the road. I pulled behind jumped off my bike and he explained what happened. We lifted it up and both of us were surprised to see that the left foot peg had snapped off!

Less than ideal, it was 240km before the next big city where it may have been possible to have it repaired.
Brain jumped back on the bike and to my amazement he managed to ride the 30km to the hostel we stayed at without stopping! We tried to get it fixed there but we were unable to, so it meant the next day he would have to ride 210km without a foot peg!

What I knew at this point the smooth tarmac road disappears and would soon turn to gravel but thought it maybe best stay quiet at this point! The road now was very much off road but the views were absolutely amazing! Those picturesque mountains and river combination was phenomenal! I decided to give Brian an award for riding through a river whilst high fiving a girl and kicking an attacking dog all with one foot peg! Impressive!
Such an enjoyable ride! Brian somehow manage to ride the whole way to Khorugh which is where we hoped to get the foot peg fixed!

Brian’s Award

We started riding late the next day after Brian managed to get his foot peg fixed. This is where we started the Wakhan corridor and detoured from the Pamir Highway. The ride was pleasant,half of it was the really enjoyable curvy small roads and the other part moved to a gentle off road. We stayed at home stay which was really nice and we were the only ones here! I can’t remember what it cost but it was very cheap!

The day after on our first break we got around to talking about the accommodation and how good it was. I said yes it was great but would have been even better if it was a western toilet and not a pit toilet. Both of my “friends” look at me at this point and then started laughing. It turns out (and they have not let me forget) that there were two toilets outside, one of them a western toilet and one a pit toilet to my disappointment. Tip: always check both toilets!

This is where Boris’ karma for laughing at me came into play! His bike was having starting issues, we were having to push start his bike half of the time and the bike would only always start when there was a downhill! I decided that the brand AJP must stand for “Always Just Pushing”.

Boris’ Award! “Always Just Pushing”

Next it was time for Brian’s Karma for laughing at me. Brian’s Karma came in the way of sand! To this day I have no idea why he chose the line he did! It was completely avoidable but whilst riding along the tarmac road a section of sand split out on to the road. Now I’m sure you can guess what happened here. All of a sudden Brian hits the sand back, slides left, right and over he goes. Now the best thing about this was I have it on video. Here have a watch!

I found the car of one of the Mongal rally groups at the guest house we stayed at! So I got in touch with the drivers I had met in Azerbaijan and found out the story of how the next section of road killed it!

We were told that we would have the hardest part of the Wakhan corridor to do tomorrow! It had a 2km stretch of sand, climb up a mountain, was only wide enough for one vehicle and sloped off to the edge of the road with a high fall if you went over!
That night the thought of this really played on my mind. Should we turn back? How bad is it going to be? Can we do this?!

Morning came and we set off early, a lay in certainly wasn’t possible on the rock hard bed and the food there was not to our tastes! We wanted to get to the next town and have an enjoyable meal! With that motivation we went on to tackle this next section.

The road was steep and had hairpins, mainly gravel to begin with. Every time we stopped we had to push the AJP to get it going, its condition certainly wasn’t improving. The views were as ever in Tajikistan, amazing! The road wasn’t as scary as I thought and you could, in places, play around a little with your lines. It was truly enjoyable. Enjoyable until the 2km of sand that was. This was tough! All you could do was stay on the power and slide around,eventually we all made it through there. A few more challenges later and we had done it! We had rode the Wakhan Corridor!
For this next picture none of use needed to be told to smile! We were so happy to get back to the road and have completed it!

The final part of Tajikistan was the ride to the Kyrgyzstan border. This border is very high and by very high I mean 4280m! Now the issue I had apart from the corrugation of the dirt which was not a pleasure to ride, was the bike was fighting for air! (Or so I think it was – more on this later on in Tibet)
The bike wasn’t fueling properly, everyone had lost some power but for me my bike was surging. At times I was limited to 20kmph! I simply put this down to the air filter which I guessed may need changing! In hindsight I wish that I had taken it out and check but it was very dusty so I decided to play it safe.
Leaving Tajikistan was easy and now it was time for Kyrgyzstan!

I had thoroughly enjoyed Tajikistan and would definitely come back again!I can truly say Tajikistan was the country that really stood out, my expectations were blown away and replaced with a country I will definitely come back to for more adventure in the future given the chance!
It was certainly an adventure and the freedom to explore and camp there I should imagine is near unending!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: