The Tajik town of Chorogh is at the western end of the southern route where it joins the M41 – the “official” Pamir Highway again.
It’s a natural stopover for travellers in the region.
We had to make up our minds about which way to take: westwards towards Duschanbe or eastwards towards Osh, riding the Pamir Highway in a loop.
We wanted to avoid another border crossing with Uzbekistan (where you have to declare every penny you own and every aspirin you’re carrying), but most importantly: we were not done with the Pamir yet.
Back on the M41, we were amazed by the vastness of the landscape. And we also met some guys again we’d seen a lot on our way: groundhogs. They run around like crazy even above 4000 meters. In places where you don’t see a blade of grass anywhere. They seem to get through and have a lot of fun along the way chasing each other. Unfortunately they’re not easy to photograph.
We got also to see how hard nature sometimes intervenes with infrastructure projects in this region. The road had simply collapsed. Luckily there was a little track we could use to bypass the problem.
While the first 100 km of the northern route still have some settlements along the way, it got lonely again afterwards.
Then the traffic picked up a little bit. While we did not see any fellow bikers that day, a now typical element of the Pamir Highway came into play: trucks.
China reopened its borders a few years ago for trade. The trucks imports all sorts of Chinese goods and have brought a significant dynamic into Tajikistan’s weak economy.
As we gained altitude the temperatures dropped accordingly. We had started at 30 degrees in Chorogh, when we reached Murgab, our stay for the night, only 12 degrees were left.
From Murgab on, we knew the road from our way down a few days ago. But the absence of snow and hail put the region in a completely new light.
Riding north, we finally saw some yaks. They also spotted us and made way for our motorcycles.
They behave a bit clumsy but seem to be very relaxed.
We carried on towards the border.
At the checkpoint we bumped into two German and three Indian bikers who had already spent some time there waiting.
The whole immigration process took more than two hours this time, then we were free to go. After climbing some passes with our bikes we bumped into a herd of horses.
Compared to sheep or cows, who we meet regularly of dirt roads (and in the middle of highways as well), horses are the trickiest to drive by because they tend to shy easily – with unforeseen consequences. But these were easy going.
From yaks to horses to… cops. The final episode of this chapter belonged to our friends from the police. We were riding very carefully because of our previous experiences with the Kyrgyz authorities. Nevertheless we got waved over by two policemen with a speed camera. When they approached us and we took off our helmets the surprise was on both sides: it was the exact same guys who had stopped us a few days ago, demanding 150 US dollars each. When they recognized us, they behaved as if we were old friends and asked how our trip was. That was it. We put our helmets back on and went to Osh without further disturbances. Groundhog days are over. We’ll see what else Kyrgyzstan has to offer.