We left Osh in the morning and rode south on the M41, the Pamirsky Trakt as the Russians say. It starts off with perfect tarmac. Here and there you see a yurt by the roadside. The hills are green, the mountains have every colour.
We stopped in a village to get some snacks and talk to the kids turning up at the sight of our bikes.
Then we were stopped by two policemen. The accusation: speeding. The fine: 150 dollars each. We knew the procedure so we shook our heads, we didn’t understand, we were confused. The policemen “offered” 100 dollars, then 50. When it was obvious to everyone that this had nothing to do with laws anymore, we kindly wondered if we should call the embassy to inform ourselves – and they let us go straight away. Without paying a dime.
The whole thing had taken at least 20 minutes. We got back on our bikes. Annoyed but with anticipation. The first pass of the Pamir Highway was ahead of us.
The Taldyk Pass winds up to 3615 meters. The highest we’d ever been with our bikes.
In the afternoon we arrived in Sary Tash, a little village at 3170 meters above sea level. The atmosphere was a bit grim.
Sary Tash consists of a gas station and a few houses. Most importantly it is a junction of two streets: the Pamir Highway going south and the A371 coming from Kaxgar in the east. It connects Kyrgyztan with China and is an important trade route. We stayed there to get used to the altitude. And this was our home for the night.
It belongs to this friendly man who rents it out to travellers.
Some other permanent residents of Sary Tash were not so lucky and had to spend the night outside:
It was sunny at 10 degrees the next morning. We headed for the border. The road’s quality varied a great deal from now on. What started as good asphalt soon saw lots of potholes. Gravel, mud and wheel ruts came in the mix. And the good thing was: we had our new tires. So riding this nightmare turned out to be great fun.
The border itself was a sweep-though. “Germany?! Modern Talking, CC Catch!“ and we were good to go.
Behind the Kyrgyz border post lie 20 kilometer of no man’s land. Enduro country.
In this strip between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan lies the Kyzyl Art Pass. Thin air at 4282 meters.
Between the two countries is also a farm house that seems to be occupied. Who lives there? Stateless persons? We only met their dog.
Temperatures were just above zero. Muddy hairpin bends led up to the Tajik border post. We had to wake the guards up.
After the usual eco tax here, certificate there we officially entered Tajikistan. The landscape was still dark, but impressive.
The weather changes fast on the plateau. And so we got into a little snow storm.
But it lasted only a little while. The road led along a fence that marks a neutral zone between Tajikistan and China. Apparently at one point, the Chinese border was only seven kilometres away from us. And the landscape was as breath taking as the altitude.
We passed the Karakul lake at 3960 meters. Karakul means “black lake” in Kyrgyz but that day it was light blue.
Afterwards got into another little snow storm again.
And then we bumped into the four guys from Munich. We had first met them with their BMW GS motorcycles at our homestay in Sary Tash. Then we met them at the border and here they were again. We decided to ride together for a bit.
So the six of us took on the highest pass there is on the Pamir Highway. The Ak Baital pass.
4655 meters above sea level. Time to get silly.
The pass was all white, but the road was free.
We reached Murgab without the GS guys: The top case of one of the GS bikes broke off so they had to fix that first.
At 3650 meters, Murgab is the highest town in Tajikistan. It was founded in 1893 by the Russians as their last outpost near China. And that’s exactly what this town feels like: an outpost. Like it’s part of an expedition in a land that’s not really made for humans.
We stayed the night and went to the bazar the next morning. It’s made of old containers, each of them containing a shop. Since the goods have travelled far, it’s not a cheap place to live. The population of Murgab is 75% Kyrgyz so you can see the typical Kyrgyz felt hats quite often. It seems to be warm and also adds some height.
Back on the Pamir Highway the weather was changing quickly again.
We caught up with the GS guys again and met a Russian biker on a KTM 990. He suggested a sort of bike parade. There you go.
Near Sasyk-kel we passed another mountain lake.
And then it was time to say goodbye to the GS guys. In the middle of a hailstorm.
Shortly before we had met an Austrian biker who had ranted about the terrible road conditions on the so called Southern Route. It goes along the Afghan border and according to the Austrian, it was impossible to ride. Deep sand and steep slopes made it no fun at all. The GS guys hence decided to take the northern route. We wanted to find out for ourselves if the Austrian was right. And went south. Off to new heights.