Table of contents
- With the motorcycle in Tajikistan Oh, how beautiful is Pamir!
- The only thing that seems plausible: wait
- There is no WiFi or hot water
- “Guys i’m not dying. I just have to sleep.”
- Detour to Lake Bulunkul
Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the former Soviet Union. Parts of the Pamir Highway run directly along the Afghan border. Even if such facts do not sound very trustworthy, the security risk for foreign tourists is currently extremely low.
Lea Rieck on her Triumph Tiger 800 XCA in the Pamir Mountains.
Hospitable: the nice people on the Pamir Highway
82 octane? Regardless, the main thing is fuel from mobile filling stations.
Slope to Bulunkulsee off the Wakhan Valley at an altitude of 4000 meters.
Triumph made Lea the tigers available for the world tour.
Grandiose nature and bird sanctuary: the Bulunkulsee.
Humanly valuable: traveling with the enduro guys from Dushanbe.
Vital: Yak herd at Bash Gumbez at over 4,000 meters above sea level.
The locals drive old Russian two-stroke engines.
The yurts are more comfortable than in any five-star hotel.
Ladies in Lea’s convalescence hostel in leopard dresses.
Lea and hers “Cleo” baptized tigers on the Pamir Highway.
Lea is grateful for the hospitality and accommodation offer.
The rugged mountain roads of the Pamirs will forever dig into Lea’s soul.
Almost mystical: The Yamchun fortress dates from the third to the first century BC.
Bathroom with a view.
The ladies and the dirty tourist.
What little the locals own is generously shared. always!
The Pamir Mountains are an absolutely fascinating stop on Lea’s world tour. Good news for our readers: discovering the Pamir is easier than expected.
With the motorcycle in Tajikistan
With the motorcycle in Tajikistan
Oh, how beautiful is Pamir!
Lea Rieck has quit her job and apartment and is alone with her Triumph Tiger 800 XCA on a world tour. The highlight so far: Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway. Neither internet nor shower, but the most beautiful mountain landscapes and great people.
I cling to the rugged rock with one hand. My body hangs over a precipice several hundred meters. I hold my cell phone in the other hand and stretch it toward the sky as far as possible. Damn, the message couldn’t be sent again. I’m starting to suspect that the guys I met on their 250cc Yamahas, Hondas and Suzukis didn’t lure me here because of the supposedly good cell phone network. The driveway alone over a rocky, six-kilometer serpentine gravel road was absolutely spectacular. I’m standing on the very edge of a ruined castle called Yamchun. The view from above into the green, 500 meters deeper Wakhan Valley and the Afghan Hindu Kush is breathtaking not only because of the thin air at an altitude of 3,500 meters. How often might generals have stood here and watched the attackers marching through the valley? I feel like the conqueror of this ruined fortress – only that in front of it is not a saddled horse but “Cleo”, a triumph Tiger 800 XCA, which over the past few days has mastered what is perhaps the greatest test of its life so far on the demanding slopes of the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. Sighing, I put the cell phone in my pocket. My family will have to wait a little longer for a sign of life.
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With the motorcycle in Tajikistan
Oh, how beautiful is Pamir!
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The only thing that seems plausible: wait
Something mystical surrounds the Pamir Highway. All travelers I meet on my way to Tajikistan and ask about their destination get a glorified look. Whenever I tell the people back home about my next destination, however, I run into question marks. “Pamir what? Is that a freeway? Tajikistan? Where is that again? ”Apparently this area is just a blank spot on the maps in the minds of many people. Tajikistan, with its just 8.6 million inhabitants, has so much to offer topographically that it could literally outshine most of its other country colleagues with its more than 7,500 meter high mountain peaks. The infamous Pamir Highway runs through the mountain range along the Afghan border, just a stone’s throw from the Hindu Kush. “The route is only called Highway because it is so high,” the locals joke. Indeed, the Pamir Mountains are peppered with slopes that are anything but well-paved. Instead: loose scree with river crossings, sand passages and gravel. Probably one of the last adventures beyond electricity, hot running water, internet and cell phone reception. An almost alien, lonely paradise.
However, I don’t get very far when I try to conquer the first larger mountain pass on my own. In the muddy rain, the tiger lurches. Suddenly the rear wheel locks up, but somehow I don’t fall this time. In return, my machine does not want to be moved with the help of quick prayers or curses. Something is wrong. Even after an extensive inspection, I have no clue what this “anything” could be. I can’t find enough grip in the ankle-deep mud to move the tigers even an inch. And my cell phone forgot its reception in the capital, Dushanbe. So I do the only thing that seems plausible to me in this situation: wait.
There is no WiFi or hot water
Half an hour later I can hardly believe my luck. Several enduros are approaching! As it turns out, it’s an organized tour by the same motorcycle club that I had my tires changed a few days earlier in Dushanbe. Three guides and an accompanying jeep show international tourists the Pamir Mountains. The joy of seeing each other is great – and before I know it, Anton, the club’s mechanic, takes on my motorcycle with a grim look, Russian determination and a little brute force. After he has removed a few pieces of rock that had got stuck with the mud between the tire and the track, the tiger can be moved again. Would I maybe prefer to drive a bit with the group until the weather and the roads get better? I don’t think twice.
When I arrive in the village of Kalaikhum, on the other side of the river, I see the mountains of Afghanistan for the first time just a stone’s throw away. A reason to celebrate for my travel companions! So I let myself be persuaded to taste the first local beer at two in the afternoon. There is no WiFi or hot water, but 65-year-old Kasim, the group’s reserve driver, lets me try his greenish tobacco. The subsequent feeling of happiness lasts into the night. Our camp consists of mats on the floor, but this accommodation is more cozy than any five-star hotel. I enjoy the presence of these different characters: Anton, who not only saved me from the mud, but also checks my motorcycle every evening and morning as if it were part of his fleet (and repairs all the parts overnight, thanks to various falls defective), Farkhood, the president of the motorcycle club in Dushanbe, who initiates me into the customs of bribery, Kasim, who tells the same fable every evening about an owl that flies into a tree, and Marley, who runs the travel agency Edge Expeditions and the Organized tour for the international guests. I am touched that they all take me into their group so naturally, as if I had been part of them from the start.
“Guys i’m not dying. I just have to sleep.”
On the morning of day three, I feel terrible. A short time later I see my barely digested dinner again. Motorcycling? Not possible with the best will in the world. I tell Farkhood, who meets me on the way to the outhouse. “Why do we have a replacement driver?” He says. “You can take a rest in the jeep and he’ll drive your motorcycle.” I’m too weak to defy his arguments. Packing up my things is so exhausting that I throw up in front of our accommodation right in front of Marley’s feet. He holds out a tablet to me without batting an eyelid: “Against the nausea. So that doesn’t happen to you in the car. ”I am so exhausted that, despite the worst jerking, I simply sleep.
100 kilometers, two flat tires and eight hours later: we finally reach our place to stay for the night. As with most accommodations in the Pamir Mountains, the toilet here consists only of a hole in the ground and is a short walk over rough rocky cliffs from the main building. And it smells bad. As an exception, I get a separate room. A rarity in the traditional houses with their open interiors, in which people eat and sleep on raised sides at the same time. While I am vegetating in my relaxation room, not only the lady of the house in her leopard-patterned dress visits me little by little, but also every single one of the troop with his personal secret recipe. Anton brings me vodka, Kasim tea made from a herb that he collected especially for me, Kuba, the driver of the jeep, serves me coal tablets and Marley drops by with fizzy powder to prevent dehydration. At some point I’ll stop the madness. “Guys, I’m not dying. I just have to sleep. “
Detour to Lake Bulunkul
The next morning I feel better. The following days we happily ride our motorbikes over the rough mountain roads of the Pamir Mountains, spend the night with families in simple yurts, bathe in hot springs or listen to locals with their musical performances. The Pamir Highway is a stress test for motorcycles and drivers like hardly any other road. But we find that driving on bumpy slopes has a positive effect on a body afflicted by diarrhea. After a detour from the Pamir Highway on a route through the Wakhan Valley along the Afghan border, we make a detour to the lonely Lake Bulunkul. A total of 40 kilometers on the hardest corrugated iron. I fly past the rugged and at the same time so smooth-looking, sand-colored rocks that rise steeply into the sky from our slope at an altitude of 4,000 meters. Passing my colleagues on their little enduros, which are now bothered by the altitude. My Tiger does not know these problems despite the deficient fuel. Speed, thin air and an extraterrestrial landscape take my breath away. I won a trip to the moon?
Together we cross the border from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan – the border guards are bribed with change and 20 bottles of vodka. Actually it could go on forever, but one day later I have to say goodbye in the Kyrgyz city of Osh. When everyone leaves to drive back to Dushanbe, my heart is bleeding. “Come back to Tajikistan soon,” says Farkhood as we say goodbye. “At some point the Pamir Highway will just be a normal, paved road.” Later I open my tank bag and see my almost forgotten cell phone. “I’m alive. But Pamir changed it a bit, ”I reply to my family when they hear their worried news. “Message sent.” Well then. I can finally take a shower and wash off the dust of the mountains. But the Pamir Mountains with all their challenges and friendships will stay in my heart for a long time.
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