The Pamir Highway – a long road of thousands of kilometres traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Especially the part between Dushanbe, Tajikistan and Osh, Kyrgyzstan becomes more and more popular among travelers and cyclists. Many of them want to challenge themselves and you can hear many stories about it, some of them are funny, some of them are scary.

So we wanted to try it too and get to know, whether those stories are true or not. And at the end to have our own stories to tell…

Our plan was to leave Dushanbe on May 19 and follow the Pamir Highway (also called M41) all the way to Osh. There are some variations, such as Bartang or Wakhan valley, but we decided to stay on the original M41 and spend more time in higher altitudes.

Right after arriving in Dushanbe we knew we were going to like it here. Streets were clean and quiet and no honking. People were nice and friendly and they behaved more like Europeans than Asians. And because the Russian language is quite similar to the Czech, it was kind of easy to talk to them. What a pleasure!

The first three days upon leaving Dushanbe were a little boring. The South route through the town Kulob isn’t very interesting but once we got to the Panj River, we started to enjoy it. The river makes the physical border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The road was mostly a nice tarmac with some gravel sections. We cycled through nice villages, met locals, enjoyed views of Pamir mountains but the most interesting things were on the other side of the river. We liked those small villages, mainly only a few clay houses – one stuck next to the other – and lush green forest around them. We saw kids playing by the river or ladies doing the laundry or simply people walking or riding motorbikes. Everything looked so peaceful and normal. Is this the real Afghanistan? We didn’t know…

After next 7 days including a rest day in Qalai-Khumb we arrived in the town Khorog. We spent a day with shopping, maintaining our bikes, doing the laundry etc. The next day we said good bye to the Panj river and together with two Irish guys Eddie and Jo and one English man George started the next chapter. There weren’t many other tourists in general. We met some jeeps and motorbikers few times a day, that’s all. The season had basically just started.

From Khorog (2000m asl.) we started climbing up to the first big pass – Koitezek pass (4271m asl.). I was surprised that it wasn’t as hard as I had expected. Mainly because we had very strong tail winds and probably we were still well acclimatised from Nepal. On the other side of the pass, the plateau was even more windy so we rejected the idea of camping and all 5 of us moved to a tiny house (the third house since we left Jelondy 70km back) of a Kyrgyz family that night. Here on the plateau live neither Tajik nor Pamir people. Only Kyrgyz people live here together with herds of goats, sheep, cows and yaks. Their cuisine is simple: Pamirsky chai – tea with mik, salt, butter and bread. Or just milk and bread. And their cuisine became ours. But we weren’t used to drinking so much milk so we got a funny tummy and we often had to stop on our way to Murghab the next day.

The town Murghab is the highest town of Tajikistan in the atitude 3600m. The word „town“ might sounds nice but in the reaity it was just a few houses, a hotel, a statue of Lenin and a bazaar made of old metal shipping containers. There was electricity only for a couple of hours in the evening but we kind of liked that dusty town. We took a rest day. We had done most than a half of the Pamir Highway but the hardest part was still about to come – three more passes with a height over 4000m.

The highest one – Ak Baital (4655m asl.) was right behind Murghab. We started our ascent but this time it was way more harder. We caught a very strong headwind and every single meter was well earned. The altitude also affected us a little. We were slower and breathed deeply but except that, we were fine. Two days after we left Murghab we stood on the top of the highest pass. But we weren’t super excited. The wind was blowing like crazy and there were storms around us so we didn’t want to camp in such conditions and we carried on next 60kms to the town Karakol where we stayed in a nice homestay with a lovely family. We got food and place to sleep and it was all we needed.

The next day we headed for the town Sary Tash – 100km away with two passes and a border crossing in the middle. We set off quite early in the morning and we were amazed by the beauty of the Karakol Lake. But the storms which popped from behind a hill were a little less beautiful. We got some rain and snow on our way to the first pass but no big deal. We couldn’t wait to start descending, but heeey..? The wind picked up and we had to pedal down like two idiots. After a minute it started snowing and after a while we were covered by snow. We had to stop and put waterproof trousers on. We reached the second pass late in the afternoon, tired and sick of the wind but it wasn’t over yet.

There was a downhill through no-man’s land between two borders – Tajik and Kyrgyz. The muddy road and some stream crossings were exactly what we needed and moods were high again. And the scenery! We bombed down through green valley with glaciers in the background. When we stop at Kyrgyz border we thought, the hardest part was over. Now only easy 25km to the town Sary Tash. We couldn’t be more wrong…

I will remember those 25km for the rest of my life. We cycled through a hailstorm, with a headwind, and we were soaked, tired and hungry. We didn’t talk to each other. But I talked to myself: You can do it. It is not too far. Everything is ok. Don’t cry. Not yet…not yet…. Ok, now… We arrived in the guesthouse Muras, I parked my bike and finally allowed myself to cry… Two lovely ladies looked after us and after a hot shower and a delicious dinner we felt like humans again. Before we fell asleep we agreed that this day with almost 100km and 11hours had been the hardest day so far…

There was still about 190km between us and Osh. After a rest day in Sary Tash we were ready to go. We did 100km the first day and we smashed the rest the second day. Yes, we made it! We finished the Pamir Highway. The beautiful, tough, hard a (literally) breathtaking Pamir Highway. There was everything you need for a great adventure – the good and the bad moments. And plus something extra…

So what is the next plan? Have a rest in Osh and get ready for the next adventure. Kyrgyzstan is waiting…


One thought on “Pamir Highway”

  1. Goosebumbs! What a story and such beautiful pictures of the stunning landscape! Thanks for bringing me back there for a moment.
    Big R.E.S.P.E.C.T for you two!
    Enjoy the further adventures waiting for you in Kyrgystan!

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