Pamirs (September 14th – 18th)

After another cab journey which I don’t have the patience to recount, I checked into the Adventurers’ Inn in Dushanbe where they let you camp in the garden for $5. The place was heaving with other cycle tourists; some heading West waiting to scoop up other Central Asian visas, some relaxing before heading East and taking on the Pamirs. I met some interesting folk. To name a few..A couple cycling from Australia to Ireland, a British guy travelling around with his paraglide (who left on a flight to Kabul the day after the US embassy was attacked), a Canadian couple who flew all the way over just to do the Pamirs, and one Australian guy on a hero’s 8 year world tour journey (currently 2.5 years in if I understood correctly) . Wow.

 

I got on with finding a replacement rim for my bike. Amazingly the bike workshop did have old 36spoke, 26inch rims. The other thing I had to do was extend my Tajiki visa because it runs out at the end of the month and I wanted more time to do the Pamirs in full. This proved to be impossible. To extend your visa (which you could only do my 14days) you had have your old one cancelled and so this was an entirely pointless exercise. I tried the British embassy in the hope they could help but all they couldn’t do anything. I suggested to them I could change the handwritten ‘01’ in the visa to an ‘09’ but they strongly recommend against this; one British guy a short while back had done just this and ended up in a detention centre for a few days. For a while it seemed like the Kyrgyz wouldn’t accept him in which case he would have been sent packing on an airplane back to Europe. I’ve heard so many stupid stories about visas now it’s a joke. The only reason I needed an LOI for China was because I told them I was cycling. Get this one: a French guy who camped outside the Chinese embassy in Tashkent so he could be first the following morning was told to F-off there was no way he was getting a visa….because the French government had just invited the Dalai Lama to France!

 

 

I caught up with Matze again who had just taxied it back from Khorog to fly out to India to meet his girlfriend and it was this evening of the 13th that I really didn’t start to feel good. For hours it felt like I wanted to chunder, and finally it came to pass. The majority of that night was spent projectile vomiting and crapping, occasionally simultaneously. 10minutes after drinking water it came straight back up, or down. The next days the squits continued… I definitely was not the only one down with the Lurgy in the hostel. Practically everyone there had diarrhea at some point. The Aussies reckoned they had Giardia – some sort of parasite which affects your strength, general well being, digestion, gives you diarrhea, and comes and goes. After being offered a pharmacopeia of medicines from various travelers and still pooping water after several days I decided to go to the chemist to buy some antibiotics.

 

One night there was a thunder storm and minor heavy rain. The ‘Afghan winds’ apparently had brought this colder snap of weather. The following day a biker at the hostel said that the same pass I tackled a few days back had 5cm of snow over 2500 metres (it was 3600high)! So here it was: the first snow on the second  week of September. It was the 14th so was bang on schedule..

 

I met Nino a Swiss tourer who is heading same direction as me to China and then to South East Asia. We looked into getting a taxi to Khorog so we wouldn’t be behind schedule to do the rest of the Pamirs before our visas ran out. I had eaten barely anything in 3 days and had to do a 100 things that day final day in Dushanbe which was pretty stressful. We planned to meet a German couple at the bus station the next day. The small cycle to the station was the most of Dushanbe I got to see. Pretty entertaining seeing the guards going crazy with ushering people on outside the presidential palace.

 

The Landrover ride was a blog entry in itself. The guy wanted 7 people in there but we paid extra to have it for the four of us, plus an Italian who had joined us (we were told it could be a 21 hour ride and so didn’t really fancy doing it like sardines). 50km or so of paved road soon turned into the rugged offroad the Pamirs are famous for. This didn’t really slow the Landrover driver much. It felt great to be living one of those Landrover adverts and to experience this machine being used for what it’s built for. The driver ragged it along the mountain top path often at speeds  around 80kph. The mountains got bigger and bigger. In ascending order: The Gherkin, The Shard, The Khalifa, The Khalonka, The Overlord, The Mastodonolord, and The Megazord (photo to come 😉 Once again it was great to see them in the moonlight. The filthiest tajiki gabba Soothing traditional Tajiki music and loud Russian pop towards the end to of the journey to keep the driver awake played on the stereo. At 2am this morning after an epic 15hours of driving or thereabouts the driver dropped us off at the Pamir Lodge in Khorog. What a hero driving that length of time on those roads…

 

I’m really gutted I wasn’t able to upload all the photos in Dushanbe but I simply wasn’t up to it, or a whole bunch of emailing and other stuff I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Internet here in Khorog is way too slow for photos so there will be no photo updates for a while now. I’ve been toying with the idea of sacking off India entirely and heading from China directly to South East Asia. While it would be great to see in the New Year on a beach, it really doesn’t sound all that fun to cycle in India to be honest. And it doesn’t set up particularly well for a continuation to South East Asia (i.e. not possible to go by land to Burma etc). More about this over the next few weeks…

 

Today I finished my course of antibiotics and I’m still feeling wiped out and don’t really have much appetite to speak of. Starting back on the bike in the mountains while feeling rough feels a bit like burning the candle at both ends, and with the added effects of altitude probably burning it in the middle too, but we gotta get a move-on. Earlier today we picked up enough food to last us one week which I’ve never had to do before. Quite funny walking out of a shop with 40 Twix, Mars, Snickers, and KitKat Chunkies (10 of each). You can pick buy them in the valley we are travelling to but you will pay double. The weather here has a pleasant autumnal crispness to it, but it is still shorts and T-shirt weather during the day…

 

Tim Barnes described the Pamirs as the Karakoram on roids (which itself is the edge of the Himayalas I think). If the Landrover ride here was anything to go by then it is most definitely the real deal. Tomorrow the Wakhan valley banked by 7000metre peaks along the Afghan border beckons. I’ll send the warm wishes of the British people to any Taliban we encounter. This is it then. This trip is about to reach one its scenic climaxes and I cannot wait. Tomorrow morning we leave early. Jetzt geht’s los……

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