After camping near Kevron (where the M41 hits Afghanistan) on quite a nice spot on the River (Afghanistan a stone throw away), we woke up to drive to Horugh which is also known as Khorog, depending on how the Cyrillic is transliterated (so annoying).
We were feeling pretty bad because we were supposed to be in Khorog that night in order to keep to the plan to do the Pamirs in just 3 days in order not to overrun our Tajikistan visa.
When we finally arrived in Khorog around lunch we were delighted that we caught up with the Icelanders who we've hung out before in Turkmenistan. We were convinced they were a day ahead of us, so we were really surprised we somehow caught up with them.
We also came across an Ambulance rally team who were stuck in Khorog because of some repairs they needed. They said they predicted they would only be in Almaty on the 2nd of September (last Mongol Rally party is on the 3rd in UB). All this time I had thought we were running incredibly late. I'm writing this from Almaty and we plan on leaving on the 29th, so we are days and days ahead of that convoy we came across in the Pamirs.
So we hastily pushed on east on the Pamir in convoy with Thor, Gunnar & Ale, and we made good progress. The roads were actually quite alright, it was only the first stretch around Khist where it was crazy.
We didn't make Murgarb and by nightfall but we found a "Yurt hotel" and agreed on 50USD for 5 of us to sleep there, including a dinner of Plov and a breakfast of slightly sour, undercooked rice pudding.
I've never stayed in a yurt before, though after freezing my ass off in there with a bit of altitude sickness (we were at 4200m+), I must say I am not keen on ever staying in a yurt again. Our hostess was very nice, but it was clear to me she was extremely poor so the food et al was pretty unsophisciated and meagre by my snobbish standards.
The next day we made a bid for the border in order not to overrun our visa.
After being frankly disappointed by Samarqand town, I was looking forward to getting into Tajkistan to do the Pamirs.
We crossed from Denov from the south as advised by our kind host Zafar. Unfortunately the direct border has been closed from 2001. So it was quite a long drive and thankfully we did find a place with petrol along the way.
For the first time we looked close at our Tajik visas and my heart sank as I saw the visa expires on the 24th and it was the 21st. I allocated 1 week in my mind to do Pamirs, there was no way we could do it!
The Uzbek/Tajik border near Denov was probably our quickest, but we had to pay 10USD bribe / dodgy admin fee and the car insurance seemed to be negotiable from 45USD down to 25USD. All very silly.
Getting into Dashunbe in darkness was not so bad, since there was good car I followed all the way into town. I was copying his every move and flinch through pot-holed roads. Next finding the recommended hostel "Adventurer's Inn" must have consumed a good hour, but we found it after a taxi driver rode with us for 5USD.
We then tried to get some food which always seems to be a chore. Everyone eats at sundown and then seemingly closes up. Nonetheless we ordered an expensive Chinese take out, which later transpired could have fed four.
Jamie chatted to the English and rag tag bunch of "adventurers" in the Inn. Most if not all were cycling or motorbiking the Pamirs. Although many of them took weeks if not an entire month, though they all agreed we could do it in the time we had.
- Down south from Dushanbe to Kulob, up and around to Horugh should take 15hrs (22nd)
- Horugh to Murghab (23rd)
- Mughab to the Kyrgyz border for the 24th (the same day the visa expires)
Tbh I previously thought Osh was in Tajikistan, so I agreed to this plan. Previously I assumed we had to go straight up to Kyrgystan to avoid over-running our visa.
So we woke early. Jamie had a bad night sleep as there weren't any free beds that night. I had the shits all night, so I pledged I would not eat meat again.
The long drive to the Pamir Highway itself, from Dushanbe through Kulob, turned out to be some of the most spectacular driving, possibly even more so than the the traditional M41 Pamir highway itself. It started winding up and down bigger and bigger hills, eventually turning into very colourful mountains and sheer drops. The going was fairly slow, as we were quite concious of the terrible condition of the road and our tiny front wheel drive car. We even had to stop while a very large landslide was cleared by some heavy machinery.
We reached the Pamir proper, where there is a roaring river separating Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and it was stunning. The road was quite challenging at first, then we later got used it and in fact started to enjoy it.