Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Pamir Highway, Osh to Khorog

Supporters accompany me as I near the top of Taldyk Pass (3700m), one of the mountain barriers we must cross as we slowly climb towards the Pamir Plateau.

Route Summary:
- We rode from Osh, Kyrgyzstan up the Gulcha Valley, over two passes to Sary Tash, the final outpost village in the south east corner of Kyrgyzstan.
- In Sary Tash we stocked up on food to ride over Kyzyl Art Pass which doubles as the Tajikistan border and the gateway to the High Pamirs.
- Six days after leaving Osh we crossed our highest point in the Pamir Highway (Ak-Baital Pass at 4650m), and rolled down to the town of Murghab. We had climbed 5,500m in 5.5 days.
- Three more days saw us gaining our final pass (Koizetek Pass 4370m), before we dropped down towards Khorog on the Panj River.
- We will now continue on the Pamir Highway from Khorog to Dushanbe.

As we ride out of Sary Tash towards the Pamir and the Tajik border a dramatic sunset graces our last night in Kyrgyzstan.

Riding into the Pamir, an impressive Lenin Peak (7000m) guarding our entrance. Our pass onto the plateau (Kyzyl Art Pass) is hidden somewhere up ahead.

Having gained the plateau, we roll down from Kyzl Art Pass to Lake Karakul.


Our camp in the salt desert valley below Ak-Baital Pass


The High Pamir

It is the light that is different up there. The vast plateau scapes glow with a shimmering clarity; the plain browns and ochres take on an incredible richness. In the arching bowl of sky above us, the cloudscapes against the deep blue have an intense 3D quality.  And when it is quiet, and the daytime winds die away, you feel the stillness reach away from you right to the distant horizons of this roof of the world. 

Morning riding, still and bright.

On Ak-Baital Pass, our highpoint at 4650m

Murghab, the regional centre of the Eastern Pamir.

A welcome break from some windy riding, in the form of a lovely family who feed us fresh bread, tangy yoghurt, cream and chai in their stunning yurt.

Getting a little afternoon nap in the peacefulness of the yurt.

A facinating array of hardy and well adapted plants still survive the challenging conditions up on the High Pamir.
 We were fascinated by how desert like the Pamir Plateau is. The white streaks on the dry soil turned out to be salt, and many little lakes contained salty water. We were captivated by the number of plants that live here, and animal life of marmots, Marco Polo sheep, ibex, snow leopard, eagles, griffins and wolves (sadly most of these are very rare, and marmots, hoofprints and some unidentifiable large birds were all we glimpsed).

We were also fascinated by altitude related phenomena. The tarseal on the roads was in many places very soft and spongy. Is melting temperature reduced at altitude, as well as boiling temperature?? After noticing our hearts were beating extra fast, we took our resting pulses at a high camp. They were about 80 up at 4100m, and dropped to 48 when we dropped to 2500m. No wonder we got a bit tired!


Enjoying a calm evening above our campsite. If you went 50km up the valley to the right, you would drop into the Wakhan Corridor and the border with Afghanistan.

I bought these beautiful Pamir socks from this lady in Pish Village, Ghund Valley. She bargained hard, but once the purchase was made I was her best buddy!!

As we dropped off the Plateau to the east, we revelled in the lushness, growth and warmth of the lower lands on the Ghund Valley.

The beautiful Ghund Valley.

Shitam Village is nestled at the mouth of this rough side valley. Their irrigation channels allow them to grow trees for shade, snippets of pasture, and a few vegetables like potatoes and onions.

We were overwhelmed by the sharp peaks of the Western Pamir that towered over us as we rolled down the Ghund.

A delicious lunch of watermelon,a massive flat bread and a delicious pasta dish was offered by this kind group of workers. They are building the stone walls around these new houses, one of the many Aid funded programmes we saw in the valley.

What incredible greeness after the barreness of the Eastern high Pamir. We are nearing Khorog, a town on the Panj River (the Upper Oxus)  in the Western Pamir.

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