(Tajikistan) Cycling At Toughest Road With Good Friends

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I went deep into the heart of Wakhan Valley. I could see far road which I would pass soon. The road was so bumpy to cycle, but it was really beautiful. If I took M41 highway which was main road, it would be less hard. But I liked to have challenging sometimes because I loved to have the adventure. It was such a fair game that when the road was harder, then it would be more amazing.

 

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At some part, there was sand around.

 

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Just after two hours cycling in the morning, I saw cyclists whom I met at the hostel. They started one day earlier than me, but they told me they spent time on hot spring and moved slowly. I didn’t know that I could catch them that I was surprised.

 

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I started cycling together with them. The sand was really deep that it was so hard.

(Photo-Kevin)

 

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There were sands, gravels, and slippery roads endlessly. We were total six of us cycling together on this road.

 

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We stopped to have chat with cyclist couple coming from opposite way. I had never seen this amount of cycling travelers that it was so much fun.

 

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Sometimes it was really slippery on the uphill if there were gravels.

 

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At this time, we met a couple traveling with a huge truck. They showed us inside. I tried to take some rest by using less energy when people exchanged information like now. It was like football’s break time. When one player got injured, other players drank water and had little rest.

 

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The view around valley was so pretty.

 

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It was the place we set up our tent. Camping with bunch of world traveler was very unique experience that I would remember it for long time. It was so much fun to cook and chat in the night together during wild camping.

 

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At the next morning, when we were about to start, there was big machine passing which made the road flat. But actually it was really unhelpful for cycling because the road became smooth that tyre was going deep between gravels.

 

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We needed to buy vegetables and some food. We asked local children for it. They led us a small road. It was far from the main road that we had to walk a bit. There was beautiful flowers and old car in front of grocery shop.

 

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We were so excited to buy foods. It was like finding oasis on the desert.

 

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Later we found some local people selling food at their house for travelers. When we ordered the lunch, two kids were playing around us. This was typical local people’s house that they decorated the wall with carpet.

 

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We didn’t know we had to wait over one hour for lunch. At least local lady provided us fresh bread at the beginning that we didn’t die from hunger. Later we got plov which was typical Central Asian food that they fried meet and vegetables on oil first. Later they boiled them with water and rice. The meat was always from sheep.

 

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After meal, we had to climb extremely steep uphill that we had to push our bike. Suddenly some local kids ran to us and pushed our bikes with saying “Give me money”. It was really difficult to keep the balance when someone pushed my bicycle from behind without caring me. I had told them several times “Please don’t touch my bicycle.” But they ignored me, pushed my bicycle, and asked money. Eventually I had to shouted out “DO NOT TOUCH!!!!!!!!!!” Then they ran to other cycling friends and did same thing. Later on the top, one of us told “Oh, I am helpless. I gave them money.” I said “You didn’t see how I became devil by shouting out at kids?” Then other guys started laughing. I have never shouted out or done such a rude thing in front of them before. So maybe it was shocking for them first and then they realized it was so funny to see the opposite side of my character.

 

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To go uphill after having heavy meal was really difficult, but hard uphill was worth because there was beautiful scenery.

 

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I met friends of other Korean cyclists I met in Khorog’s hostel. They came from opposite way. It seemed they went to many small roads that they enjoyed adventure. I asked them later on online that which roads were more difficult about Wakhan Valley and North Road to Dushanbe. They told Wakhan Valley was more difficult. But for me the road from Dushanbe was toughest one. I guessed it depended on the way where coming from. Maybe I didn’t feel hard on Wakhan valley because I had amazing friends cycling together.

 

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I could see them disappeared far away

 

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After crazy hard uphill, we played, made joke, and took some break that I really enjoyed.

 

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We set up tent under beautiful sky and cooked together. Once I came back to my tent, I took off one side of inner tent to make space for a shower because I sweated lot at the day time. But soon I put water on my body, I had realized that it was insane decision because it became too cold. It could make me have flu. For sure, next night, I would not take shower. After 10 minute crazy cold shower, I felt better. This was always happening on my trip. Crazy coldest 10 minutes shower could make my night so comfortably. No pain, No gain.

 

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One of reasons I loved to live on the earth was to see beautiful stars.

 

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At the next morning, opening my tent, I got stunned by beautiful mountain view.

 

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We really set up our tent just next to the road. Usually there was cliff at the edge of the road that it was not possible to hide. Actually there was no reason to hide because we were bunch of people together that it was very safe.

 

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I was so excited to have another beautiful day and I shouted to other guys “Yeah!! Let’s GO!!” Then someone told me “I didn’t see someone like you who was so crazy happy in the morning. Morning was the time where people usually got sleepy and tired.”

In my memory, I didn’t like the morning much when I was teenager. But on this trip, I had learned that to wake up in the morning meant I had survived from last dark night that I must enjoy now.

 

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We had to take the water from stream because small grocery shop didn’t sell water that it was almost impossible to get bottle of water in Wakhan Valley area. In my five years trip, I had never taken water from the nature for drinking that it was really special experience.

My new cycling friends usually had a filter or pill to kill germs. I borrowed the filter from Jamy, a girl from England. It was very small like thumb size and the weight was so light. There was one con that it took longer time to filter water like almost 10 minutes for 1.5 L water.

At the bottom and the top of filter, I could connect the water bottle. So I tied the bottle having stream water at one side and on the other side I tied empty bottle water. Then I turned upside down and dirty water would be filtered to empty bottle. The filter was only $20!

But in my cycling trip, I really didn’t need it because I could find water easily. So the filter would be good for Pamir Highway or crazy adventurous people who would be far away from any village for a few days.

Here is filter -> http://amzn.to/2zQcxvM

 

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There were much steep uphill. Mostly I tried to not push my bicycle. There were two things I did on the uphill. First thing was that I didn’t look at the top, but only the ground while pedaling. It rid of pressure and fear to go up. The other thing was I pedaled with very strong power to not fall off. But actually the speed of my cycling was same as Same pushing his bicycle sometimes. He was usually leading.

Sometimes I stopped at the middle of the hill with losing power or slippery ground. Then I must push my bicycle because it was impossible to cycle again on slippery steep road.

 

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At the afternoon, we found fresh water from the mountain that we all were excited to get water.

 

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I got water too!

 

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Taking water, we saw another cyclist coming. When we talked to her, she started almost crying. We were not sure what happened to her. Once she calmed down, she started talking.

She said she set up her tent at local people’s yard and she was invited at dinner. It sounded very friendly family. But middle of the night around 3 am, the guy tried to open her tent. But he didn’t know well how to open it. So, she was holding tightly zippers and pushed him away. He also pushed her to open the tent. Fortunately, after a while, he gave up and went back home. At the next morning, she left their house without telling his wife. I asked why she did like that. She said she was only a guest from other country that she didn’t want to destroy her family.

We told her we would cycle with her that she didn’t need to worry. But actually we all were angry at that guy. I was talking to one guy about it and he told me “It can happen to anyone like you and me that sometimes it can be really dangerous.” Then suddenly I got so scared. Yes, it can happen to me especially because I set up my tent at local people’s yard often when I am alone. I decided to not pitch my tent at local people’s house for a while because I was very afraid.

After she joined, we became 7 cyclists big group. The left guy on the picture was Kevin whom I met on the north way from Dushanbe. The front left guy was Francesco from Switzerland whom I talked a bit often than other guy. And the front center was Jamy whom I also talked often. Sometimes people treated us as sis. But I didn’t know why. haha. The right was Ya Tsu who just joined us. And On the top, Sam and Chalie, and me.

 

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We cooked at middle of the day because there was no any restaurant.

 

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What I had realized at this time was when there were many people cycling together, it gave a big fun for camping and others.

I bought Carbonara sauce in Dushanbe and Francesco and I made a nice spaghetti with it. Of course, the taste would be nothing special compared to European one, but it was the best one in Pamir at least.

 

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At the next day, Kevin wanted to cycle with his own speed that he left alone. So we became six members again.

The road became very difficult. At some part, we had to push our bicycle. This picture was my most favorite one because it explained well Wakhan Valley. At the left of the picture, Francesco stopped and looked at the front. At the center with blue jacket, Jamy was pushing her bicycle. Ya Tsu, at the right of picture, was same as Francesco, exhausted. And between Jamy and Ya Tsu, Chalie was pushing her bicycle hard to go forward. Sam got out of hard part and went far.

 

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After hard cycling in the morning, we had lunch together. There was no any grocery shop that all we had were from last grocery. We checked the map and saw there were extremely hard uphill waiting after our lunch. So far we cycled on Wakhan Valley and after lunch we were heading to Wakhan Corridor. The difference was the road of Wakhan Valley was between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The road of Wakhan Corridor was at the middle of Tajikistan mountain. There was one pass at Wakhan Corridor which was 4,313 m (14,150.26 ft) above sea level. I was not sure we could reach there today.

 

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I had to fight with the narrow steep uphill. At some point, it was not possible to cycle that I had to push my bicycle. And it started snowing. After crazy hard uphill, we had some rest. Ya Tsu from Taiwan was so happy because she never saw the snow before. We were so happy to share her special moment.

 

While taking the rest, I took the video of other guys and me.

 

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It seemed we could not reach to the pass before sunset that we decided to set up the tent near the lake.

 

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It kept snowing and the weather was too cold. So we decided to cook separately. But my stove didn’t work well. I was not sure it was because of high altitude or some problem at the inside. I had to eat half-cooked pasta.

Another problem was I had some headache. I hoped it was not flu, but high altitude sickness because once we went to lower altitude, I would be better.

 

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At the next day, my tent was totally covered by the snow. It was only 1st of September. But maybe it was so high altitude that we could not avoid snow.

 

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I really loved the snow that I was excited to start. But my excitement didn’t help my fingers and toes frozen.

 

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It was really hot just a few days ago, but suddenly I had to fight with coldness. I didn’t have winter gloves yet that it was really painful. However, the scenery was so beautiful that I wanted to stop to take the picture and celebrated the pass of 4,313 m (14,150.26 ft). But no one stopped but just kept cycling.

 

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(Picture from Ya Tsu)

 

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After pass, the road had changed to the downhill. I usually was at the last on the group. But on downhill, I became the first because I did enjoy the speed. There was no dangerous cliff that I cycled fast. It was similar to riding horse because of bumpy road.

 

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Later everyone stopped, I asked them why they didn’t stop for beautiful views. They told it was too cold to enjoy.

 

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There was one good thing that Francesco was like me that he loved to take the picture. So we took the picture of each other time to time.

 

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I couldn’t believe that we were reaching to almost the end of Wakhan Corridor. The paved road, M41, was waiting us at the front.

 

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It was such an amazing memory that we cycled one of hardest road together.

 

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The weather changed so quickly. At the front, there was blue sky.

 

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But at the behind, it was very cloudy.

 

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It was a bit weird that Wakhan’s road was really bad for cycling. But once I hit the good road, M41, I felt bored.

 

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Alichor was a small village we were about to stay for a night.

 

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The view of village was beautiful with mountains and small brook.

 

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It was downhill to the village that I arrived first and waited other guys.

 

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It was my first time to see yak which looked same as cow but had thick fur.

 

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There were a few guest houses although it was a small village because it was a bit important stop before or after Wakhan valley. We chose one of the guest houses. There was a small stream next to the house and the lady from the guesthouse got water from it and heated on the oven for shower water. I could take shower with very hot water from basket on the cement building, which made me so happy and thankful.

After having shower, I felt so fresh that I looked around. Then I found something. On the stream she took water, there was Yak’s poop. It reminded me of Korean folk story. A monk stayed for one night at the cave. He was very thirsty during the night that he got water and drank at the dark without knowing where it was from. Next morning, he realized that the water was on skeleton. He had learnt the life lesson “It depends how you think of it.”

But my life lesson from it was it was better to not know everything sometimes.

 

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Francesco, Jamy, Ya Tsu, and I slept on yurt and other people slept on the main house. I was really excited to sleep at traditional nomad house.

 

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I met Dutch couple again who traveled with the caravan car. The guy at the next to me was Roderick and the next of him was his girlfriend, Marleen.

 

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It was on my fifth year of my traveling and Roderick and Marleen made amazing cake on their camping car to celebrate my trip. It was one of the sweetest cake ever in my life because it was totally different from any other food I could get in Pamir.

 

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The guest house prepared our dinner.

 

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We played some card game in the night, which I didn’t know before. It took the time to understand at the beginning. But as knowing the trick, I had so much fun. It was important to pretend I didn’t have a good card to finish. So when I got amazing cards which I can finish the game with, my heart was so pumping. The problem was very high altitude we were on that it was above sea level 3,991m (13,093.83 ft). When I had best cards, I thought I would get heart attack. I got another lesson; Don’t play trick game on the high altitude.

 

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We were supposed to stay only one day but it was very cloudy that we were not sure we could reach to another pass at the same day. If it rained, we would be stuck at the middle of the road without reaching to the pass. So we chose staying one more day. The lady milked from yak for our breakfast.

 

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Of course she left some milk for baby. There was really one funny thing about yak. The yak made weird noise when they cried. So I told my crew on our yurt “Hey guys, did you hear how yak cry? It is weird sound more than pig. So if you hear something during the night, it would be not from my snoring, but from Yak!!!”

 

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She made porridge with yak’s milk which was not much different from average cow milk.

 

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There was nothing to do that people went to hike and I just stayed to save my energy.

 

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Just one thing I started was drawing. It didn’t matter it was good or worse drawing. Just I liked to capture the moment of now. It gave strong memory than picture.

 

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Our lunch was with potatoes and yak meat. Actually the guest house was quite simple that there was no electricity, and toilet was outside with small hole, and there was no running water that lady should get water from the stream. For me, it was all okay except one thing; they had very weak Electric generator that I could not charge my phone and power bank. One lucky thing was I had extra battery for my camera.

 

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It was so shining morning that our decision about staying one more day was perfect.

 

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The sun melted the frost from last night.

 

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It was time to leave peaceful village.

 

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The owner was from Kyrgyzstan, the next country. Many nomads were actually from Kyrgyzstan in Tajikistan.

 

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There were a few more guest came last night that we became so big group, 9 cyclists!

 

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The weather was just amazing that I felt like I could fly.

 

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When bungee cord was not tightened, a bag would be easy to lean at one side and I could lose things from the top of the bag easily. So I should not put my stuff on the top of rear bag. But sometimes when my front panniers were full, I just tied at the rear.

 

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The scenery on Pamir highway was different from Wakhan that the view opened out more. I asked other guys which scenery they liked more. Their answer was actually Pamir, now. But for me I really enjoyed Wakhan because all things were closer to me. However, I could take more amazing picture on Pamir.

 

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I heard fish from this area was so good. But I was not sure those were for a fish farm or natural one. But I could guess that local people would not have the problem to find the food to eat.

 

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Sometimes I could see that nomad lived really in the middle of nowhere.

 

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Today the road was easy going, just a bit uphill. But the distance to other guys became far that I couldn’t see them for a while. In Wakhan valley, the view was very narrow and the road was very steep that I didn’t feel much pressure to catch other friends. But this morning I had too much pressure to enjoy my cycling day. I wanted to enjoy than feeling guilty and sorry.
At lunch time, they were about to cook and I said I would cycle alone from now and see you at the next time to enjoy my cycling trip.

 

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Once I started cycling alone again, I felt so excited to taste freedom, which I forgot. I didn’t eat or stop with excitement for a few hours.

 

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After pass, it was really easy to cycle to the next city, Murghab. There was a check point to enter into the city that I had to show my passport.

When I had cycled in Europe, America, or any other country, I really didn’t see people putting stickers on the road sign. But in Pamir, travelers put stickers everywhere. I guessed if they did in their own country, they must get penalty from police officers because it damaged public property. I saw even Tajik government changed new road sign because travelers messed up. When I visited Egyptians ruins which was about 3,000 years old, I saw European scribbling in 18c. I understood many people wanted to be like Christopher Columbus, awesome adventurer that people scribe or put sticker to prove how much they were awesome. But I thought to respect local thing was more important.

To be honest, I doubted that I was an amazing traveler while passing Pamir Highway. I had all expensive gears with me and I just passed Pamir for a few weeks. But local nomad people had almost nothing that there were no electricity, running water, and any grocery shop near. They just lived with what they had from the nature. So I felt that my traveling was just too luxury compared to local people. Although I took the picture with opened my arms acting like awesome traveler to have a good memory, I was really nothing in front of nomad people living hundreds years there.

 

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Murghab was actually a small town, but it was the biggest city in the north. There was one big hostel where most of the travelers went. After taking shower, I had some dinner at hotel’s restaurant. I could have chicken that I was so happy. In Pamir, I ate only lamb that I started to hate it. While having nice dinner and beer, I saw my dear friends arriving. I was really happy to see them and say hello. Later when I was back to my room, I had realized I dropped my winter jacket which was $70 from Decathlon. Although it was cheap one, the quality was really good. I was not sure how I could find a such a good quality jacket with that price in Pamir.
I just hoped my jacket I lost was not destroyed by car passing. It would be nice if local people took it.

 

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I started cycling at the next day while other guys stayed for one more day to have the rest.

There was no any good grocery shop. The local markets were on the container. When I went early morning, most them were closed

 

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After looking around, I found some shop opened. I bought the foods for two or three days. I really enjoyed cycling with many other friends. But from now it was time to go through by myself and to be brave.

2 Comments
  1. Love hearing your stories, you are inspirational! How do you take the pictures of yourself??

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