The sparsely populated Wakhan valley – a gorge with the Panj river dividing Afghanistan from Tajikistan – was scenic wise the nicest road so far. But it was also the hardest. Hard leather saddles proved to be a great solution to prevent bottom blues for hundreds of miles. But things get nasty as the road gets tough. And the blues can reach out to other directions.
The scenery in the narrow valley was breath taking and diverse. How many faces can mountains have? During the day, these scenes show a dynamic range that is hard to capture by any camera. So we took many mental pictures.
Local, as well as Afghan children on the other side of the river, happily greeted us while passing by. After days of wash board and unpaved roads, high altitude passes asking for first gear and oxygyne, rocky tracks and mud deep enough to swallow the brake lining on our wheels, the burden took it’s toll on men and machine.
As our trusty tyres are inflated very hard to cope with us, all the luggage and torture from the road, the only real suspension is our body. Shoulders and core muscles work day in and out and started complaining at the end of the Wakhan valley. But it was worth every mile.
To leave the valley, we went North from the village of Langar. For two days, this was going to be the last village. Which meant we had to rely on our own supplies and filter water from the few streams along the road. The most adventurous part so far. And by far. One night with heavy rain. One night with snow and storm. But twice lucky enough to have breakfast when dry.
When we got back on the M41 Pamir Highway, the scene was not so dramatically good anymore, but the tarmac on this part of the M41 was a delight. We ‘flew’ into the green valley of Murghab.
Sick of it
After the Wakhan Valley, a few tough days without any shops and self-supporting camp life it was time to recover men and machine. Some TLC for the bikes and a day of rest should have been enough to cope for the next stretch: the Pamir Highway to Osh, crossing passes over 4600meters. But I got sick: a nasty blend of slight high altitude sickness and diarrhea. Definitely not sick of it I got sick of it. Longing for some hours to finish my books and edit the footage I shot, I had to close my eyes to recover. But again, it was worth every mile.
We’ll find the energy to keep going. Beside a break, especially with the help of the local power foods as nuts, dried fruits, bread, (yak) butter, chai and chocolate when we can find it.