CONTINUED : JOURNEY BY BIKE TO MONGOLIA ( BY NORBERT AND YOUSONG ) – EPISODE 10 – PAMIR MOUNTAIN RANGE
May 10, 2018
On the way to Chorough ( KHOROG ) – here we come!
Our next destination for the day is Chorough, from where the Pamir Highway swings east into the mountains. ( Pamir mountains read : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamir_Mountains )
So we are on our way – two hundred and forty miles are quickly unwound, or at least we think so – and we already are pounding through the first potholes. On left Tajikistan, on right Afghanistan, in between a river and a mule track, which is called M 41.
At some point in time, the road seems to have been well paved, between gravel, sand, and holes now and then a few meters of asphalt peep out.
Impossible to drive faster than walking speed, sometimes a twenty-ton truck including trailer appears around a bend in the rock face.
Then we have to push as far as possible to the right side of the road without falling into the border river and being driven off to Afghanistan.
After five hours almost crawling it is clear to us: there seems little chances of reaching Chorough ( KHOROG ) today. So we start looking for accommodation, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Although we pass some villages, nowhere is an indication of a guesthouse or other overnight accommodation.
Since it gets dark, I consult our navigation system. If it gives us a proper address now I will overlook the detour it caused us to take back at the Tajik border.
And indeed: in fourteen kilometers there is a place to stay, says the GPS. We drive along a lake and reach Rushan.
A redeemable sign: “Guesthouse” stands next to the street, and we find a beautiful room on the first floor with a balcony. The housewife was a deputy, but is now retired and cooks for two days, during which we prepare for the high section of the Pamir Highway.
Finally, we commence again. Nothing changes until Chorugh, we drive along the Afghan border through a rugged valley.
From time to time the road gets a bit better, but only up to the next potholes, which are insidiously waiting for us. And finally the climb to the Pamir Mountains begins.
The Pamir range
We have a map of the elevation profile of the track and shudder in front of the extended section, which elevates to over three thousand five hundred meters, so we want to stay one or two more nights somewhere here before really crossing over the high passes.
But we can not find a lodging. The road winds ever higher, the last piece over the first pass at four thousand three hundred meters is again the grimmest gravel.
Behind it goes slightly downhill, but only up to about three thousand nine hundred meters. We are desperately looking for a place to stay, but there is nothing that looks like an accommodation.
Grandiose mountains left and right, a desert plateau in between but no village far and wide. We see herds of sheep and goats and even a herd of yaks.
As soon as the sun disappears behind the mountain peaks, it gets freezing. Then, after a curve around a hill, a few houses. As it turns out, we are in Alichur, and here is a Homestay. I drive from the road on the gravel road through the village, and we already can see a welcoming sign on the outside wall of a farmstead.
We knock and, indeed, we can stay here. The room is simple but warm, and we also get tea and dinner.
The height is already bothering us, every little movement is exhausting, but we sleep surprisingly well on the mats on the ground. In the morning, the host brings us a breakfast – tea with biscuits and rice soup – before he goes to guard his goats.
Again we wonder how easy it is to live, the people here are used to the height and have what they need. The difference to our luxury western luxury society is indeed huge.
The packing process the next morning takes even longer than usual, after every three steps we take a puffing break. We are glad that we did not get any altitude sickness and driving on we have no problems.
Today we will drive only about a hundred kilometers to Murghab; this is a small town which is also a bit lower (at just about three thousand five hundred meters). There we want to prepare for the final leg of the Pamir Highway, which will take us over the highest pass (four thousand six hundred meters).