There we are, on the floor of the guest room of the only house somewhere between Jelandy and Alichur. Who had hoped this when we left for Kirgiz Osh, from Tajik Dushanbe? In any case, it fits perfectly now! The short week from Khorog to Murgab, the heart of the Pamir Highway, is so different from everything in other Tropical Cyclist tours. For more than 300 kilometers there is really nothing that appeals to modern life, in fact there is no village in sight. At an altitude of more than 3,500 meters, that is not surprising. The sporadic house or 'yurt' that pops up after a long time offers us the opportunity to set up the tents and to use the cooking stoves. We are always invited to sleep on the carpets indoor close to the fire. Not many people live in this remote part of the world, but we are in close contact with those few. Nature is in control here, nothing or nobody else. And nature is so beautiful! Riding through the remote, through the empty, through the rough: everything in these days is 'basic'. It can be so incredibly beautiful to be thrown back to the fundamentals of life.
First thing that comes to mind: beautiful trip! First along the Panj river, where Afghan life passes you by, and then into the Pamir mountains, with unbelievably beautiful landscapes and nice people.
The highlight was the passage of the Ak-Baital Pass. When I reached the top, I really had the feeling that I had reached the roof of the world. I have the photo of it printed on my credit card! In addition, certainly also the first part of the journey along the winding Panj river. Breathtaking landscapes and the tranquility with which Afghan life takes place on the other side.
The days between Dushanbe and Khorog had not been average neither. We cycled gradually from 900 to 2000 meters, along the Panj. This wild river is the border with Afghanistan and all the while we could see Afghan life on the other side; as if we were traveling through this maligned country. It was scorchingly hot then, in contrast to the sunny coolness on the Pamir plateau.
And after Murgab we go the extra mile. This remote corner of Tajikistan has possibly even less activity. From two cars per hour to a maximum of one. And: to the highest point of the tour, the Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655 meters. Spend the night at a few kilometers from the top, get up with snow on the bikes, bright sun just afterwards and above all: beautiful panoramas in the descent to the blue-glittering Lake Karakul.
Only in Kyrgyzstan, after almost two and a half weeks, do we enter the civilized world again. Of course enjoying the comfort for a while, but soon all of us feel the nostalgia for Tajikistan, for the cycling experience that very few have ever had.
Jan Schuttert wrote an article about his Pamir experiences:
ROUTE CYCLING HOLIDAY PAMIR HIGHWAY
- Day 1: welcome to Dushanbe and the only transfer of the trip to Zigar, from where the beautiful cycling can begin.
- Days 2 to 5: via Kalaikum (75 km), Vanch (80 km) and Rushan (80 km) to Khorog (50 km).
- Day 6: day of rest in Khorog, at an altitude of 2,000 meters.
- Days 7 to 11: over Wer (70 km to 2,900 m), Jelandy (60 km, thermal baths at 3,500 m), Lake Tuzkul (65 km, 3,800 m) and Mamazir (80 km, 4,100 m) to Murgab (45 km, 3,700 m). Murgab is an outpost, nothing more. Good to bring the supplies up to standard.
- Days 12 and 13: over the Ak-Baital Pass (70 km, sleeping at 4,400 meters), to the beautiful Karakul Lake (45 km, rest afternoon at 3,900 m).
- Day 14: over the Kyzl-Art Pass into Kyrgyzstan, to the border town of Sary Tash (95 km, at 3,100 m).
- Day 15: nice asphalt and much down to Gulcho (100 km, at 1,600 m).
- Day 16: over the Chyrchyk Pass (2,400 m) to Osh (85 km, at 1,000 m). The second city of Kyrgyzstan, with one of the liveliest bazaars in Central Asia.
- Days 17 and 18: a day for Osh and goodbye.
Cycling along the Pamir Highway is quite tough; certainly not too heavy. The road surface is pretty good - about a third of it unpaved - but the altitude is challenging from Khorog on and therefore day distances of 60-80 kilometers are long enough! A good condition, not that of a top athlete, is a requirement; as well as feeling at home on a mountain bike or sturdy randonneur. Above all, a flexible travel mentality is needed to optimally enjoy this expedition-like journey.
PRICES CYCLING TOUR PAMIR HIGHWAY
The comfort-price ratio of a bicycle trip on the Pamir Highway is different from the quality-price ratio: the latter is actually very high. It's about a truly unique experience. Our combination of small groups, foreign areas and full care cannot possibly be low-budget. On the other hand, the price for participating in a tour covers almost all costs on the spot, because included are:
- all overnight stays
- the complete supply of drinks and food (except alcoholic drinks other than local beer).
- our (cycling) Dutch- and English-speaking guidance and that of the Tajik-Kyrgyz team of cook, interpreter and driver of the trailer/bus that transports luggage - and possibly bicycles and people
all transport and logistics between the start in Dushanbe and the finish in Osh
- all entrance fees
Participation in the tour costs 2,495 euros per person. Those who want a single room/tent pay a supplement of 245 euros.
Almost no pocket money is needed in practice; simply because there is almost never anything to buy along the way!
- the daily cleaning, maintenance and repair of clothes and bicycle. In other words, in cycling terms: the care of mechanic and soigneur. This option costs 130 euros once, and then also applies to all future (hopefully many) Tropical Cyclist trips.
Turkish Airlines is the designated airline, with a ticket that flies to Dushanbe and returns from Bishkek. There are many cheap domestic flights from Osh to Bishkek.
Are you interested in this expedition-like trip? firstname.lastname@example.org