Day 70 and it’s a “brown” day. Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, is hot but wrapped in a thick brown haze. Smog mainly caused by traffic pollution, but with a fair bit of industrial pollution added, I suspect. China has relocated a number of their “dirty” industries here. Particularly the production of cement.
Today we start on the Pamir Highway, but before we set off we have a number of tasks to complete. First we have to go back to TCell as the SIM card we topped up yesterday isn’t working. I sit in the Land Rover and wait, but it is taking an age. Eventually Dennis returns with a young lady from the shop. She is going to take us to TCell’s head office, as her shop cannot fix the problem. She sits in the back of the Land Rover and directs us. Fortunately the technician at TCell’s head office fixes the problem easily and we run the young lady back to her shop. On the way we pass the Government building with a huge flag and flag pole. At 165 meters, supposedly, the tallest in the world. I am sure I have heard this claim to fame somewhere else. Maybe Albania, or somewhere in Eastern Europe, springs to mind. But I may be quite wrong!
Next the supermarket to stock up with 20 litres of water. Then a diesel refill and finally we set off to look for car insurance. It’s compulsory to have 3rd party insurance here. I have found a place on the iOverlander App and we follow the coordinates. We arrive at what looks like a residential street, but this particular address has an official looking sign on the wall. I go and investigate and meet a guy who speaks good English and, yes, no problem, he can do our car insurance. 5 minutes and 12 Euros later we have insurance for a year! (Am working in Euros at the moment, as it was left over Euros that I used to buy Tajik Somoni.)
Now we are off to Qalai Khum on the M41, the Pamir HIghway. The first 90 kms , or so, are good tar seal but then you would NEVER believe you were on a road, yet alone a highway! Just an unsealed track. There are 2 routes you can take. The Northern, which we took, is shorter but tougher. It is only open between May to October. Impassable due to heavy snow in the winter, but also subject to bridges being washed away and huge slips. The scenery is amazing but today was very “brown”. Driving through and climbing the sides of deep valleys surrounded by arid, rocky mountains of every shade of brown. In places the river is a raging torrent of muddy brown water, full of silt, and in others, meandering over wide, flat valleys snaking around islands of silt, stones and gravel, which have been washed down from the mountains. The Southern route is longer, but we understand the road is better.
We ford numerous small streams running across the road, often being greeted by small children trying to sell a bottle of the water, or cows or donkeys sleeping or wandering in the road. After battling the rough conditions until around 4.30, we spot a large flat area below us between the road and the river, with a large solitary tree. Our shady parking spot for the night. We make our way down there, set up for the night and have some time to relax and read and to watch 2 eagles soaring high above us. A lovely peaceful spot.