Pamir Highway Part II: Khorog – Alichur

Pakistan on the BackgroundSince the M41 was still blocked due to heavy landslide that washed away a big part of the road we continued our way along the Wakhan valley and the Afghanistan border. Here the river bed gets wider and the towering valley walls regularly open for glimpses of the breathtaking panorama on the dramatic, glacier caped Hindu Kush mountain range marking the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Entering the Valley

Occasionally the wider valley here allows the river to form vast sandy beaches on the bank and on an especially hot day, we decided to stop cycling earlier to enjoy a cold bath in the freezing cold waters and the feeling of hot sand between our toes. Although it’s normally forbidden to camp on the Afghan side of the road, we pitched out tent hidden behind a dune and started preparing our daily pasta ration, when suddenly two familiar faces on bicycles passed by! It was a hearty reencounter with Florina and David, the Swiss couple we had met in Istanbul and in Uzbekistan, and they didn’t need much of an invitation to join us on our paradisial white beach. But it shouldn’t take long until our little paradise turned into a sandy hell! Out of a sudden a real squall was catching our tents and within 10 minutes we were in the middle of a sandstorm. The wind was so strong that it was literally blowing our tents away and we had to run for shelter, where we could reinforce our stakes with 10kg stones and start to clean out the sand of every pannier, every layer of clothing, and every fold of our tent and finally finish our sand interspersed dinner.

Natural hot Pool

But the Wakhan Valley was holding also some very pleasant surprises for us. Just in time for Gui’s Birthday we reached the junction to Garam-Chasma, hometown to one of Pamir’s most beautiful hot springs and Tajikistan’s only Las Vegas hotel with rainbow colored lighting all over the façade. And after fighting an incredibly bad road that had more resemblance with a dry river bed than with a street for 10km, we were soaking our tired thighs in a natural pool of boiling mineral saturated water for two days and celebrating his birthday with a huge campfire candle and the best choco-cookies we could find in the local “Magazine”, that offers – like all the other stores along the way – mainly canned sardines, candies, 5kg packages of pasta and shoes. Even the sky was sending Gui a special birthday present in form of a heavy hail storm – quite enjoyable to watch from a warm, cozy bed 🙂

Up to Langar

After Iskashim the occasional bits of rundown asphalt were irretrievably gone and reaching our daily kilometer stint on a road partly washboard, partly completely covered in sand was costing all our energy, physically as well as mentally. Even the constant strong . Since our bikes are clearly not made for those off-road conditions, we had to accept that after Langar, where the … reaches its climax, it was impossible to think of going further and we took a lift to bring us to Alichur and back to the paved (!!) M41.

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