Great camp site last night, but we are on our way by 8.30am.
Not too far down the barely road which is marked on the mp as ‘Highway 41’ we had a choice of tracks to follow, straight ahead or right, over a bridge. While trying to get MapMe to respond and give us a clue, as there were no signs which made any sense to us, along side us pulls up a Hyundai Terrican 4X4 with a young lady at the wheel. She was Deedrah, partner to Valentin and they are from Switzerland. Fabio and Andrea had said we would meet up with them in time. They had started the Pamir highway once already but had to return to Dushanbe as their front right wheel had collapsed due to a failed top wishbone swivel joint. They had managed to effect some temporary repairs and limp back to Dushanbe for some new parts. Fortunately Hyundai are represented there. Wouldn’t fancy my chances of getting any Land Rover spares!
From that turnoff the trip really began. Narrow winding track that had never seen bitumen, thankfully. Climb and climb we did, in tandem. On the ascent we came across a couple of cyclists and a chap on a Suzuki 400cc Enduro bike, loaded to the gunnels. He was Paul from Suffolk. The two cyclists were German, from Berlin and I think a little out of their depth. They had flown in to Dushanbe and not hardened themselves for what was ahead. Not sure if that was why they were circumspect or….. Paul tells us he has a TD5 Defender at home, which gave him huge kudos:)… He’s on his way to NZ soon for a nephew’s wedding. He has our card and maybe he will find his way to Rotorua, which would be great. Come to think of it, we may be very busy with the number of people we have met on the road. One of the joys of adventure touring. Yep, you need to know all this stuff…:) Peaking at 3252m Sagirdasht Pass has the highest bus stop in the world. Not that there seems to be anyone around who would catch a bus, but never mind.
I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say the scene around us was spectacular. After a lunch stop where Valentin discovered that his front suspension/steering was seriously causing concern he found the top wishbone loose on both sides!!!! With a great set of tools, that caused me some envy, he had things in hand and also took the 20mm play out of the right front wheel bearings….Jeez!!
The decent was different again. Rocky and precipitous Heaven in a 4X4…:).
The roads are so damaged the occasional stint in 4th gear is a luxury. We are averaging 23kph which means if we don’t get a wriggle on, we will be on this road for another fortnight!! Valentin and Deedrah are on their way to Vladivostok too but they don’t expect to get there till November, so we cut a track and left them to their own speed. They are shipping to Aus via Korea.
At the bottom of the decent we were met with a barrier across the road manned by armed military? I had mentioned to Jen earlier, that there would have been no need to spend an extra £100 for entry onto the Pamir Highway, as no one was going to be checking we had it. Well, here was proof to the contrary. After inspection of our passports and a record of us having the required visa, we were allowed to pass. Whew! The area of autonomy, Gorno-Badakashan Autonomous Oblast makes up approx 45% of the country’s land area but has only 2% of the country’s population confined to settlements in ravines and the river edge. They clearly take their independence seriously, as with Afghanistan only meters away on the other side of river, will be trying to limit the flow of drugs?
Managing only 113miles or approx. 180ks, is not very much for a hard day at the office. Finding a camp site was our next problem because we have been following the river with mountains on the other side and there is nowhere to park up. Not before time did we see a slight elevated clearing away from the road as it’s 6.30pm and darkness is closing in. My first chore is to change the air filter as I have been noticing black diesel smoke from the exhaust and thinking it was probably due to the altitude. However, it was quite clogged up with dust, so should run cleaner in the morning. I had asked Gumtree to fit a pre cleaning filter to the top of the snorkel but for one reason or another, mainly our lack of time available, it didn’t happen and clogged filters are the result. Not long before we found a place off the road we passed a big yellow truck/bus with GB plates, it turned out that the girl in the passenger seat next to the driver was hanging out the window waving to us. We met her in the Tajik embassy in London making an application for her visa. She is English but had lived in NZ for a number of years and we had discussed the possibility of meeting on the road. Sadly, I don’t recall her name. So if you are reading this, young lady. It was great to see you and hope you are enjoying your trip as much as we are, ours..:)
It’s 9.20pm and I am writing this on Apple Pages on the Mac as we have no internet again. and need it to update the blog.
We’ve had a great meal, showered and about to turn in.
Night, or morning to all.