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Georgia to NZ - My Journey Home (page 3)

I woke up to a fantastic day with perfect riding temps so I headed off to Dushanbe.

On the way I took a detour and went to check out a lake called Iskanderkul. It was really beautiful and reminded me quite a bit of some parts the South Island.

There was a conference coming up in Dushanbe with Delegates coming from over 28 countries so the inner city was going to be shut down and most rooms were booked. I felt pretty lucky as I found a dorm room with a ensuite for ten dollars and I was the only one in it. I left the next day not wanting to deal with a busy city and headed south towards the Afghan border then inland once I hit the river Panj which is the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. On the way I passed a monument which was for the four cyclists last year that were killed savagely (ran over then stabbed) by some people affliated with the Islamic State.

While I was standing there I noticed a car that looked broken down just up the road and one of the guys came walking over to me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but with his hand over his heart and the tone in his voice I believe he was trying to say sorry of some sorts. I really try not to let these events reflect what I think about the country especially after the Christcurch shootings.

I stopped to get something to eat for lunch and four men were sitting next to me. I did the usual when people try to talk to me and pull out my phone showing them NZ then showing them the countries I’ve been until where I’m at. When I went to leave they motioned me to put my wallet away and not only did they pay for my lunch but sent me on my way with a couple bottles of Coke.

Google maps didn’t do me any favours and where a road split and paralleled each other I took the one it suggested but it soon zigzagged up over a little pass turning into gravel then I had to cross a dry river bed a handful of times which seemed a bit odd. I went through a little village and the beaming smiles and waves I was used to became looks of indifference and "what the heck are you doing here". Great, I thought, is this the Grozny of Tajikistan?

I got myself back on track and an hour or so later I got my first glimpse of Afghanistan as I reached the river Panj. I followed that up the gorge looking over it at little villages along the way. It seemed so close and yet a world away while making me think that sometimes it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do but it’s where you are born that can make such a difference in a person's life and they have beendealtt a shit sandwhich which they can’t share with their classmates.

I stayed in Kalaikhum at Hostel Roma which is known for bikers to stay at and there were about 6 others there as well.

I was really eager to get back on the road and hit the Pamir HWY so it was a pretty early night for me but then I woke up early to the shits and some vomiting. Joy.

I tried to suck it up and loaded up, hitting the road about 9am and thought I would follow a couple of other guys. That lasted about 15 mins and being sick of the dust I took off and with stomach cramps I stood or sat the next 240kms of very slow-going, potholed, hard rock-embedded, rough as hell road that took me close to 6 hours with the only few stops being to take a couple photos and two check points along the way. I managed half a Snickers bar which stayed down thankfully and the spectacular views kept my spirits alive … just. Well tomorrow is another day and hopefully I’ll be able to eat and feel a bit better as I have the same to look forward to. Until next time I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did taking them.

Holy smokes where do I begin?

It seems ages ago since the last post but not that long in days.

There were two options from Khorog either take the Northern road east or continue following the border south then east to the Wakhan corridor.  I decided to head south and I was a little hesitant as the last day's road was crap and on google this road looked even smaller so I thought it might be even worse.

I woke up feeling a heap better and I was so surprised at how much better the road was as well.  I mean it’s a little rough but it was really quite fun. I actually was able to hit 5th and 6th at times and on some open gravel parts and giving it a bit.  One time I went back a couple of kms and redid it knowing what was on the otherside of a couple of the rises.

I made it to Langar by about 2.30 and was twiddling my thumbs for a couple hours until a French guy on a bicycle turned up and we had a few beers.  We had met up the road when I saw him stopped and I pulled over for a chat.  It was quite funny as I asked him how he was doing and expecting a positive answer he just pointed at the road and said "fucking shit" lol.  What I had done in five hours had taken him five days, hence my respect for cyclists!

A few other people turned up that night including two Swedes on new old school looking Royal Enfields they had brought in India and were riding home.

I left the next morning and rode to a little town called Murghab that sits at 11500ft. There’s a reason why they call this area the roof of the world as you are consistently above 10000ft and still looking up at mountains. It was another just amazing day with super fun roads and spectacular views. This is what I came for and I was just over the moon with my surroundings and everything about it.

While I was packing up my bike I saw 4 big BMWs ride by which gave me a little motivation for the day's ride.  I caught up to them as they had stopped to take some photos and we had a quick chat, then they left. I hung out and took some photos before catching them back up and passing them. I didn’t see them again until a checkpoint quite far down the road. I played leap frog with them as I would pass them, then when I stopped to take photos they would pass me.  Nice guys (Russian) but I do have to say it felt pretty good to fly by on a little old 500 which felt nothing like a 500 at that altitude.

I had a big choice to make whether to do the Bartang the next day or head to Kyrgyzstan. I had heard the views are just awesome through the Bartang but it is quite remote and about 400km of back-tracking for me which means I would have to loop back around. Most people would do it in a couple of days but then you have to add in the extra time coming back.  Had I had another person I may have done it but I also heard it was slow going and mostly first and second, maybe third, gear stuff which honestly gets a little old for me as I like to tag 4th and 5th more.

Also the weather wasn’t look fantastic for the next day in the afternoon.  Being up so high it was clear in the mornings but still around 0c or 32f.   So there were a few factors involved in my decision like my front tyre really needing to be replaced, my stand holding on with cable ties, the extra distance, would I be doing it just so I said I did it and will I regret it that much if I don’t, etc.

I had been hearing so many awesome things about the riding and views in Kygystan that I ended up not doing it and heading there instead.  I hope you don’t hold it against me and no I don’t want people to tell me what I should or shouldn’t have done and what I missed out on.

I think anyone who has traveled through many countries gets a little annoyed when someone from the one country you went through says ... oh you should of gone here or done that after the fact. The reality is that you can’t do it all and you yourself know what is and isn’t fun for you along with knowing your timeframe.

With all that said I had a bloody awesome ride to the border which took you over a 4600m pass.  

The border took a little longer than expected as on the Kyrgyzstan side they didn’t have any power. They were just getting the generator going and asking me to read the English on it. They fed a wire through the door to a panel box but it wasn’t working.  In a sense it’s lucky their system is still very backwards as most of it is written in a book but they did need to take copies of my passport. In the end they took the little copier outside and plugged it into the generator took some copies and I was on my way.

The first little town I got to was also out of power and I was running low on gas and I didn’t have any money changed yet.  Luckily the gas station had a generator and the lady took my Tajik money at a terrible exchange rate but I didn’t give a rat's arse — I had a tank of gas and still had 240km to outrun the oncoming thunderstorm to Osh, which I did with only a few drops on the way.

Well, my friends that makes country number 49 for the bike and I’m taking a day or two off to do laundry, another oil change, write a ride report and I just picked up a nail so fixing a flat. Until next time enjoy the photos!!


Aaron_Steinmann
Author of this article: Aaron_Steinmann
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