Cycling on the edge

Hi all! Marc here :-)

Greetings from Ghorogh at the border of the Pamir High Plateau (4000m+),  I finally made it after a very rough but beautiful 7 day trip.

No robberies and police adventures for me like Toon but I had some cycling on the edge as well. Cycling on the edge of the small rocky trails through steep gorges, cycling on the edge of the tajik border and cycling on the edge of my condition. It was a very though trip but I would not have wanted to miss it. Tajikistan rocks (literally).

Because of the visit to the doctor in Dushanbe I only cycled 50km and staid with a very poor but very hospital family in a school. Soon after this village the asphalt disappeared and gave way to  river bedding “pavement”, large rocks with small stones of gravel between them. I also had to cross quite a lot of small streams but with the heat it was quite nice to do so. The first 3 days of the trip I cycled over small trails through deep gorges to the base of the Haburabab pass (3260m). However, during the climb it started to rain and the road changed into a sticky glue so I camped near a chaighana (thee house) 1000m below the top and made some fish pasta. That night I woke up because of food poisoning :-( It turned out that you can not trust Russian tins. So I spend an extra day there being sick and recovering. The following day I set out at 8 ‘o clock for the pass and after a loooong but not steep climb I reached the top at 11. Another pass bites the dust! The downhill was very exiting and challenging over small hairpin loop trails with big rocks and through steep gorges. The gorges wind their way trough the mountains and the “road” goes up and down and in the end I had the feeling not getting anywhere. You cycle 70km a day but in a straight line it is only 40km and netto you only gain 20 meters in height.

After Khaleighum, at the base of the pass the asphalt started and from there I followed the border river between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan was only 100 or sometimes even less meters away so I could salam the Afghans :-) They looked quite friendly to me and they live very harsh lives on the steep hill with just a small piece of land and one cow or donkey. No road, no electricity, no nothing. How they manage to live there I do not know. Not everything is as friendly and relaxed though as one evening a saw some older men walking with big Kalashnikovs on the Afghan site. Camping is not without risks either because of some minefields but there are signs warning you and most of them are far from the road anyway and they are few.

The second night I camped near the afghan border and when I was cooking my meal I heared some shouting and 3 Russian soldiers approached me pointing there big Kalashnikovs at me. Russian: Stand up, hands up! What are you doing?! Me: Erm, cooking pasta? Russian: We do not believe you! Me: Erm, ok, have a look in the pan then? Russian: Do not move!! Me: Ok, OK, then you look. Look, there’s my tent and bicycle. Then they relaxed a little and fired their Kalashnikov in the air to warn their commander. So he came with his jeep and off we went to the military base. It turned out it was located just at the other site of the hill where I camped :-) They checked my pass and luggage and they turned out to be a friendly bunch so I slept at their base and after a great breakfast and with extra food I set off again. The following days it was easy cycling on sticky Tajik asphalt. However, I am having Giardia problems again (the Dushanbe pills did not work) so on the last days I had to fight against my energy-less body to reach Khorogh. So today I had my blood checked and they will examine my feces for parasites. I will know the result on Monday. In the meantime I got quite attached to the lovely western toilet at the Pamir Lodge where I am staying. It is a great relaxed place and cheap (5$ a night) and I really can recommend it to everyone. It is rather hidden at the outskirts of the town near Gagarin high school at 37 29.223N 071 33.736E. 

The internet connection is OK (but expensive) so perhaps I will put some photo’s online within the next days, who knows… So stay tuned :-)



  1. Thorin
    August 17th, 2007 | 17:02

    Hi Marc,
    your blog turned into a mixture of reports from your travel and your diseases ;) So i hope you’re getting it better under control. I’ve met my mother last week and told her of your travel - she wasn’t surprised that you have that problems with the food. When she was in Uzbekistan she had problems throughout without getting it handled really over time (the people there have a different stomach and immune system she mentioned ;) ). She really enjoyed your picturs as she has been to many of the places of your uploaded pictures. Furthermore she was jealous due your next goal Kashgar which she also visited some years ago and is really worth it. I think it was there were she was asked for buying a young camel - so there you could change your ride ;)
    Stay healthy - Thorin!

  2. Magdalena
    August 18th, 2007 | 13:22

    Hi Marc:)

    I hope that you feel better now. I worry about you a little bit, but you are grown, so I think you know what you are doing.

    many, many greetings
    Stay healthy:)

  3. August 19th, 2007 | 9:57

    congratulations!!! you made it!!!!!!!!!! great, dear marc, really great!! even to fight against so many difficulties with your healthy and other items.. ;-(
    but I can imagine, how happy you must be now!!!!!

    great to read you again.. I wish you to relax there a bit and to fullfill your energy-stocks, to continue your trip in a few days!! best wishes, ip

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