The Wakhan is a somewhat "popular" destination for "jeep" tourists, so I think this is the result of foreigners giving sweets, pens and the like to kids in the village. It makes me very angry when I see such behaviour. All it does is teach the kids to beg, it doesn't help them at all.
|Guest House Langar|
|Typical Wakhan house|
|Good companyfor dinner in Ptup Tajikistan|
|Pierre working hard uphill|
|After the climb the great views|
|Riding in Tajikistan with Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush in the background|
|Traffic Jam close to Kargush Pass|
|Shelter after a great day cycling|
The next day was great, with nice views and a feeling of finally being in the mountains. This is what I came to Tajikistan for... "riding through big scenery"! There was one little river crossing, but this was a piece of cake compard to Afghanistan. We hardly saw any vehicles on the road, it was a nice feeling to be alone on the road. The last day, in theory, after the Kargush pass, it was downhill, but the road was so rough (washboard from Hell and sand traps!!) that it took us almost all day to get to the M41. At the junction with the M41 Anne and Pierre are going west to Yashil Kul and I am going east to Alichur. My visa expires August 21st so I must keep going. For the next 9 days I will be on my own. I will wait for them in Sary-Tash Kyrkyzstan and we will resume our journey together into China. I cycled the next 23 km to Alichur with a nice tail wind and on a smooth paved road. What a delight!
|Endless riding above treeline|
Coming to the village I stopped to take advantage of some great evening light. While I was taking picture a young boy came to visit and practice his English. His mom owned the only restaurant in town so I ended up spending the might there. The night was short as they were up until midnight and dogs were barking all night. I was on my bike at 6:30 the next day hoping to make it to Murghab which turned out to be an easy task. In Alichur half of the people are Tajiks and half are Kyrkyzs. Then from Alichur to the Kyrkyz/Tajik border people are Kyrkyzs living in Tajikistan.
|Typical blue lake on the Pamir Highway|
|Great evening light on Alichur|
|Evening light Alichur, Tajikistan|
The road between Alichur and Murghab was great. A slow climb for the first 50km then downhill for 50km on a paved road and a fantastic scenery. What can I ask more than that! YAHOO!!! At around 7AM I stopped to have a chat with couple guys on the side of the road. One had good English and at some point he told me I was very lucky to be able to travel and to come to Tajikistan. I guess we take the opportunity to travel for granted. It is very true that I was lucky enough to be born in Canada and have to opportunity to travel the world. I had a very good day. My first day of riding solo! For the first time during the trip I put on my Ipod and listened to some great music. Thanks to my friend Rob for his fantastic compilations.....In the entire day I saw about 6 cars and 2 Kyrgyz on their horses! I had the road for myself, enjoying the landscape and singing my lung out some Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Chris Smitters and to climb the hills there is DJ Champion!!! I had also treated myself to some Bose earphone. The best purchase ever!
|Pamir plateau - the road to myself|
My few days cycling the Pamirs were amongst the finest days of cycling. Way up there with the days riding in Eastern Tibet. Riding by myself in the "mountain desert" also gave me some time to absorb fully the last few weeks spent in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and also realize one more time that the mountains are where I belong. Whether it is in Canada in Tajikistan or elsewhere if I am in the mountains I am happy I have dreamt of cycling the Pamir Highway for a few years now and now that dream came true. I am now slowing starting to dream of other remote mountainous roads to cycle. What I would like to do next time I come to this country is a combination of cycling and trekking in the more remote areas. Here in Tajikistan it is all possible and the best part is that there is hardly any tourist compare to Ladakh or Nepal.... In Murghab I thought I would be lucky enough to get internet access but of course it was broken! Murghab wasn't that great of a town but I could buy lots of food at the Bazar....well lots of food means noodle soup, rice cereals, raisins, snickers, rice and candies!
|Kyrgyz kids - Akbaital Pass|
|Now time to go down!|
|Just for me!|
|Descente towards Karakul|
|Oops - one more river crossing!|
This is the last leg of my journey in Tajikistan. I had a 45 days visa and will exit the country on the 45th day!! In order to make it on time to the border I took a jeep for the first 50 km outside of Murghab. This will allow me to cross the Akbaital Pass and get to Kara Kul in one day. Few km from the pass (4655m) I was waved in to a house by few children. A herder Kyrgyz family live there. I had one of the best breakfast ever. Warm milk, yogurt, creamy cheese and of course bread and Chai. The kids were super nice and I wish I could have spent the night there. The scenery was so great that I stopped too many times for photos and had a long lunch in the sun with the end result that I was still cycling at 9PM in the dark trying to make it to Karakul. The last 20km I had a bad headwind so I ended up camping on the side of the road without having dinner! The next morning I realized that I was at about 1.5 km from Karakul but in the dark (no electricity) I could not see it. I was right on the edge of the lake so I packed and went for a great morning of photography and cooked breakfast by the lake (wearing my down parka!!! At 4000m it was about 10C). Just the way I like it!
|Evening riding Karakkul|
|Sunset in the Pamirs|
|Sunrise Karakul lake|
|Sunrise Karakul lake|
|Karakul kids carrying water back home|
|Arpasan's mother making bread|
|Fresh bread and both kids sleeping!|
On my way across town I stopped by a home stay and decided to take a day off in Karakul because they were very nice. It's Arpasan's family. Arpasan is a cute little 2 years old Kyrgyz boy. He lives with his parents, his baby brother, his grand-mother and his 80 year old great grand-mother. I spent time with the women in the kitchen, went for a nice walk along the lake and of course worked on sorting out photos for the blog. Every time I have a chance I do a bit of work to make sure my blog is ready when I get to the next internet access! I really liked Kara Kul. I am not sure why but it had a very strong attraction for me. Maybe the beautiful surrounding and the remoteness of it. Only one small shop in the village and one small school. Small village at 4000m of altitude away from everything.....Would be a great place to spend few months. Travelling by bike is great because it slows me down and give me a lot of freedom but mostly we only spend one day in a place. I often wonder what it would be like to stop in a village and spend few months....maybe it is something I should consider when I travel.....
|My guest house in Karakul|
|Lunch spot on my last day in Tajikistan|
I wanted to leave Kara Kul early to make sure I reached the Tajik border not too late the same day but Arpasan's family were so nice to me that I ended up having a late start as well as frequent stops for photography. I thought of camping before the border but there were no place to hide and the wind was howling like crazy so I pushed and got to the Tajik border at 5:30. I was a little worried about crossing the border late in the day, alone but everything went just fine. The Tajik border is just before a 4344m pass and the Kyrgyz border is 20 km further. It is a little strange but this is the way it is. Right after the pass there is a Kyrgyz family living in a tiny house so I spent the night with them. They had an absolutely ADD 6 years old son Mohamed but other than that it was a great evening spent trying to understand each other and looking at their family photo album. Of course the next morning the father took a spin on my bike as well as the older cousin visiting the family. My arrival in Kyrgyzstan was without any problem other than I almost passed through custom without stopping (there was no one and no sign to go to the small building) which got the custom officer a little excited! I thought he was going to search my bags inside out but I could see in his face that he didn't feel like going through smelly dirty cyclist clothes!!! Got to Sary-Tash early enough to have time to climb a little hill in town for sunset view over the Alai Range (a wall of snow-capped mountains) with Peak Lenin the highest at 7134m.
|Ladybug at the Tajik border - Bye Bye Tajikistan|
This complete the first leg of the Himalayan Journey. The next step is to go through Kyrgyzstan for about one week then enter China and make a decision on our attempt to cross Tibet or go down the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan. We need to evaluate the situation for independent cyclists in Tibet this year and the situation in Pakistan before we make a decision. Hopefully when we get to Kashgar we will have some fresh reports on that. I hope you will enjoy this posting and please send me any comments or feedback directly on my blog or at my
email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathmandu is still far away but I am confident now that I can reach my goal of cycling to Kathmandu from Dushanbe and I also hope to reach my fundraising goal for the Ladakh Project via the Mary A. Tidlund foundation. Should you have any question about the Ladakh Project please let me know.
Note: All pictures can be seen on my flickr stream (link below). Only few selected photos were included in the Blog. From the Flickr page you can select "slide show".