(Tajikistan) Cycling just across Afghanistan and greeting to Afghan People!

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I had worst stomachache in my life from last night. I was not sure which food was wrong. From the midnight, I had to go out for a toilet endlessly. In the morning, it was still too bad that I tried to hitchhike to go back to the city for a hospital. But it was Pamir highway which was the toughest road that I couldn’t get any ambulance or lift. I gave up everything and lay down on the dusty road.

I was not sure how long I lay on the road. Later one car stopped and asked me I was okay. I told him what happened. He said his car had some space for my bicycle and me that he would take me a local guest house at the next village. In the car, there were a driver, guy talking to me in English, and old grandmother. The road became so bumpy that I could feel that old grandma was having difficult time.

Maybe after 50 km (31 mi), the car stopped at a village. The guy was talking to some local people and then back to me “It is $7 and they would take care of you.” I thanked to the guy from the car that he saved me from worst day. The local people’s house was 10 minutes far from the road. It seemed it was family house. They gave me some typical Tajik room. As soon as I got the room, I just lay down because I didn’t have any energy. Local people came and gave me tea and bread. I couldn’t eat that I refused eating. But they said with their body language I should eat. I just ate some and then passed out.

I was not sure how many hours passed. When I opened my eyes by some noise, it was already dark. The local people brought me some dinner, Plov. I didn’t want to eat but then again local people told me I must eat. I ate half of them and just went to sleep again.

When I came at their house, it was around 1pm and I woke up 6 am next morning that I almost slept for 17 hours. I felt better although there was still little bit of diarrhea. I thought it would be okay to cycle if I moved slowly.

 

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There was river flowing and Afghanistan was just across the water. It was such a weird experience because Afghanistan was known for the most dangerous country. But that country was just next to me.

 

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Actually I started seeing Afghanistan village after I passed the city where north and south road met to Dushanbe the day before. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing the country where my country banned visiting. It was illegal to visit Afghanistan as a tourist by Korean law.

 

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The river was not too wide that I could see Afghan village. Even I could communicate with Afghan children.

 

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They greeted at me and shouted to invite. I guessed they said “Hey swim to visit us!!”

 

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Tajik road in Wakhan valley was too bad for cycling. But actually compared Afghan road, it was way better.

 

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I had a 16-300mm telephoto lens that I could see Afghan people from far away.

 

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Some Afghan road was under construction.

 

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Sometimes I could see Afghan house.

 

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I was wondering how people could survive there because it was middle of nowhere. Once I looked into, I could see they were planting something.

 

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The road was really mystery that sometimes it was disconnected. Then how people on a village would travel to the next village?

 

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Some people was living on the road maybe for construction.

 

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If you see the picture at the middle, you could see Afghan people.

 

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They looked far at the picture, but actually it was distance I could greet at them. Especially when I zoomed in, I could see them closely.

 

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Some people worked on the cliff dangerously.

 

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After seeing Afghan road, I thanked to Tajik road. I could see some asphalt sometimes on Tajik side. It meant that they made the road but it was covered by rocks and sands falling from the cliff later. The road condition was depending on route. Sometimes it was okay and the other time it was worst. It was quite dangerous when big trucks passed on a narrow unpaved road.

 

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It was weird feeling to cycle at the next to Afghanistan which was forbidden to visit.

 

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Two Afghan girls were taking their sheep and goats to their home.

 

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When I saw the media about Afghanistan, it was only about terror and war. If I showed people this picture without any hint, how many people would know where they are from.

 

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I bought something to eat where cars stopped for the rest. My stomach was getting better that it was not much difficult to cycle.

 

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The sun went down behind Afghan mountain.

 

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There were some houses at amazing Afghan mountain side and even there were cars. I couldn’t understand how come they would drive their car because I saw the road was cut. I felt like they cannot get out of their area.

 

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I set up my tent at local people’s house for the night. When I went to a toilet, I was shocked. There was hole and the water was flowing under that hole. I didn’t know that local people poop on the river. Two days ago when I took the shower with 1.5L in my tent, Kristian was taking the shower on the river. Some traveler swam or took the shower on the river. I would like to tell people who would travel there “Don’t swim at poop river”.

 

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I took the picture with them. They had really cute baby.

 

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A beautiful morning started. Afghanistan got far because river became wide.

 

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Today the road was easier to cycle.

 

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I met cyclists couple and we tried to exchange Instagram. But we laughed because we already followed each other. They knew I had stomachache although we didn’t talk about it before. This was actually nothing surprised one because it was Pamir Highway. When cyclists saw each other on the road, we must stop, have chat, and exchange info. Then we talked about some cyclists we met. That’s how they knew I was sick although we never met before. Traveler’s world in Pamir was very small.

 

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I had some rest just near the river at lunch time.

 

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I felt like I could go to Afghanistan if I crossed the bridge.

 

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Khorog was important city like Dushanbe, which was quite a big city in Tajikistan. Many travelers maintained vehicle and prepared the food here that it was good to stay for two or three days.

Khorog was the same as Dushanbe that many travelers traveling with camping car, bicycle, and motor cycle stayed at the same hostel. I usually didn’t like to stay where all travelers go. But this time I wanted to try. Actually another reason was to find some traveler to cycle together. When I arrived at the hostel in Khorog, I met Kevin which I was cycling for two days on the mountain with Kristian. We had chat about what’s happened. Kristian went to different way later that Kevin arrived at Khorog alone.

At the next day, Kevin had stomachache too. Many travelers had stomachache in Tajikistan Pamir that it was really mysterious. I thought there would be some special bacteria which people could not digest. Tajikistan’s hygiene was not that bad compared to some Latin or African countries. So there must be some special germ that if you know any biologist, tell them to visit Pamir!!!!

At the hostel, there were two guys having similar name, Max and Tex. They were friend that they cycled together from Europe. They decided to cycle separately in Pamir to have their own time. Max left the hostel when I arrived. At the next day, Text left, which was on the picture.

 

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The way to Khorog hostel was actually difficult to find and cycle because it was on the uphill and behind somewhere. When I arrived the hostel, I thought it was refuge. On the second floor, people could sleep outside with their blanket, which was cheaper option. But I paid $9 and got twin bed room. It was kinda dormitory room that other people could use other bed. But nobody came to this room that I used alone.

 

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Three of them I met at the hostel left one day earlier than me. Sam, who was cycling at the front, told me he knew about me because he stayed at same host’s house in Ethiopian capital. He said he saw the picture I gave host in Ethiopian. What a coincidence!

 

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I met some Korean cyclists, too. I was talking to the left girl on the picture on messenger before and finally we met. She was cycling alone too but she had to go back home for knee surgery. She just came back to the road that she needed to recover her knee. So she and other girl took the car to Khorog.

The right one was cycling with her husband, but she met other Korean cyclists on the way. Three other Korean guys included her husband were cycling on the way to Khorog that I thought I might meet them on the road.

 

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Tajikistan gave 45 days visa on online, but if I stayed longer than 30 days, I must register at OVIR office. Some people told me I didn’t need it, but I wanted to make sure. In front OVIR office, there was one of the best chicken bbq restaurant ever. It was cheap as well. One of the reason I had to go back to Tajikistan would be this amazing chicken!

 

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I prepared everything while staying in Khorog for two days. People I met at the hostel left one day earlier than me. It was like wave at the hostel that some people left together and the hostel looked empty suddenly. But then one or two days later another new people came. I didn’t want to wait other people to cycle together because I knew if I found someone to cycle together, it would be too difficult to move together for me because I cycled too slowly. So, I didn’t care I would cycle alone in Pamir Highway.

To cycle toward Kyrgyzstan had two ways.

 

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One way was a main road, M41, that had better pavement road. The other way was crazy difficult road, Wakhan valley. When I heard about the road condition of Wakhan valley, I thought that I would not cycle there. When other travelers had asked me which road I would go, I answered “M41”. But after I chatted to other travelers at Khorog, I decided to go to Wakhan valley because my heart was pounding at adventure story. M41 was not easy too, but I loved challenging which would not kill me, but make me stronger. The more the road was hard, the more I could see beautiful view.

 

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I met Dutch couple who converted an old car to a nice traveling camping van. They stopped car and asked me if I needed anything. They carried lots of water, but I didn’t have extra water bottle, so I just said thank them.

 

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Local family who asked me about my traveling at the resturant

 

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I met very funny traveler that he carved small woods in each country and hung on his bicycle. He made a bag from old tube.

 

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Even he wore shoes made of tube. I knew him coming from opposite side because Korean girl at the hostel told me she met him on the road. I told him he would meet his Korean friend at the hostel. This was how travelers were networking in Pamir highway. We knew who was coming from opposite side and who was behind us.

 

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It was very dry area but there were many trees around villages. Some village made nice roads with threes.

 

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My front panniers kept getting off from racks that I had to tie with some band. At this time, my front rack under handle bar was broken. But it was okay because I only put my tripod and lock there.

 

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Afghanistan was just opposite side of river. Sometimes the river was really narrow that I could cross easily. There was one funny rumor among travelers “If you camp next to river in Tajikistan, Taliban will swim and kill you”. But nobody cared it that all of travelers just camped on the river side.

 

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The landscape was really beautiful but as usual I asked local people for setting my tent because I was scared of wild camping alone. They had a small sauna building that I could take the shower there. I imagined that they would love having sauna in freezing cold winter.

 

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At the hostel, I asked the road condition to some traveler who passed Wakhan valley by a tour car. He said it was flat that it would be easy to cycle. I asked him about he was sure that it would be not hilly. He said he was from flat country, Netherlands that it was 100% sure it must be flat.

Once I started cycling, I did hate him ever on the earth because it was very steep up and down on bumpy road.

People traveling by car didn’t have such a sense about the road. When they told me “It is so flat but there is nothing, no grocery shop for hours.”, But once I started cycling, it was hilly road and I found many villages and small grocery shops. It was always better to ask some traveler who was similar like me.

 

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There was one bridge I could just cross easily to go to Afghanistan. I met Italian traveler traveling with 4*4 car. He went Afghanistan by
his car in Wakhan area. He told me the trip was amazing that he really enjoyed and people were so nice to him. Only problem was there was no such a food he liked because of poor economy.

Also, I met some girl traveler that she would fly to Afghanistan for traveling.

I had realized that it was not such a forbidden land that still people could travel at some area.

 

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I saw some cute local house.

 

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Two kids telling me it was their homestay that I should stay there. In Tajikistan, many travelers passed Pamir highway, so many houses turned to homestay.

 

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The grocery shop looked nice that I thought I could buy good things. But there was nothing except sweeties.

 

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Some part was flat little bit.

 

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It was just stunning to see Afghanistan side mountain.

 

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What a surprising gift that I could see high snow beautiful mountain. I did wish always to hike on a high snow mountain. I failed hiking high
snow mountain in Latin America. So, whenever I saw snow mountain, I was so sick that I did want to hike badly. I heard that some mountain
was popular for hiking in Afghanistan. When I saw the map around that area, I could see many guest houses.

 

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The sun went down in Afghanistan side with beautiful snow mountains.

 

I was not interested of traveling in Afghanistan before because my country’s Embassy didn’t allow traveler to visit there.
So it was very unique experience to see them. The only thing I knew about Afghanistan was terrorism. But one time I saw so beautiful video about Afghanistan nature and people. I couldn’t find it again. But I was thinking the thing I really missed was the behind the scene of media that there were real people living and they were not much different from us. There was always propaganda on the news but most people didn’t know or care. One of good things to travel was I could open my eyes from media’s propaganda that I could see other real world on my way.
This time I saw little small part of Afghanistan which I could never hear from the media.

 

I found beautiful Afghanistan video on Youtube

 

Afghan life in Wakhan Valley

6 Comments
  1. Thanks for another great post. Stay safe.

  2. Makes me want to go on bicycle adventure. Beautiful pictures from little known places!

  3. Great expirience!

  4. I haven’t included the Pamir Highway in my trip. But, of course, it’s not set in stone. 🙂

  5. Great that those local people took care of you when you were sick.

  6. Another excellent account and good to see how people were so willing to assist when you were unwell.

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