Uralistan: Bishkek to Kabul

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tourist, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. xhungus

    xhungus Misadventurer

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    Fantastic RR... the brilliance of your adventure is in its simplicity, enjoy every minute of it!

    As many others have pointed out as well, brilliant photography!
    #81
  2. Golden_Cliff

    Golden_Cliff Adventurer

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    Thank you so much for sharing. You are super world class photographer, indeed.
    #82
  3. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    Wow Thanks!

    There's very few atm's in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and even less that take foreign cards. When I entered Afghanistan I was holding about 500$ cash (plenty for my planned 2-3wks). I was never worried about people robbing me in my travels, It's in their culture and religion to welcome you as a guest to their country and they really do as much as they can to look after you and you really do feel safe & comfortable. However I did have some money problems but that's coming up in future posts. If some one was to come and rob me, well I would worry about it then instead of it hampering on my travel plans now. :D
    #83
  4. Tigris_GER

    Tigris_GER Adventure-Finder

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    Signed in.
    #84
  5. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    Incredible! Thanks for sharing.
    #85
  6. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    After a couple of days resting the feet in Sarhad a tourist 4x4 comes in loaded, the first vehicle to make there it for a week now. I'm not too bothered about not having the Ural with me here, sure it would have been great to get it all this way but my experiences that I had walking was something i would've had to trade.
    The tourists that arrive have an arranged Buzkashi game in which i have a free ticket, Its really quite a mess of a game not having any defined limits for the playing field. On occasion you inevitibly find yourself in the middle of it with a half dozen horses galloping straight towards you at full tit. The game goes on for over an hour with music and dancing on the sidelines.
    I meet Moritz a german tour guide who is by himself, he's on a scouting mission for future tourist expeditions to the same area in the little Pamir that I'm heading to. The next day, 7am our pack horses and donkeys arrive with their handlers. Once laden we head up out of Sarhad over the steep pass. When I first arrived in Sarhad I planned for 4 days in into the Pamirs, by the time I had left it was up to 7 and by the time I got back to Sarhad some 10 days later I could only have wished for more.
    I could ramble on about 10 days without a bike and bore you all, So I will just leave the photo's do the talking this time.

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    Buzkashi Boys.

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    No Sports shop here; Take a goat, off with its head and empty via it's throat then you're ready to play.

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    Buzkashi.

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    I'm sure he was riding a minute ago.

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    My horseman Hoib Nazar; when he wasn't pulling his horse along he was making tea, when he wasn't making tea
    he was smoking hash. By our return journey he was multitasking.

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    Into the great wide open.

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    Dinner party's at shepherds huts. It was a rare occasion having pasta but really its just flour & water just like my bread and tea..
    After 2 weeks on this diet I was really looking forward to getting my bike back to Khorog for a long Kebab and Beer session by the river.
    In fact I think I repeated this over and over to Moritz everyday.

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    Horse vision, Argh! where are the handlebars!

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    Turning back every now and again to hear thunder, there was some rough weather coming.

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    Reaching the start of the Little Pamir 4 days later. China's border to the left while Pakistan's Irshad pass is off to the right.

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    Kygyz Kid's kicking a ball around at over 4000m. The Kygyz live all year round above 4000m, their children have the
    highest infant mortality rate in the world with only 50% seeing their 5th birthday.

    [​IMG]
    Kygyz Summer Camp. The Kygyz live through 10 months of winter up here but snow in late July is a bit ridiculous.
    Over a foot had fallen over night and half of the next day. My plans for returning over a different route with
    high passes and Wakhi traders homes to Sarhad shattered. We would have to return the way we came.

    [​IMG]
    Even though we had to return the way we had came, It was still an unforgetable journey.

    [​IMG]
    A different breed of an ADVrider.

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    The closest I got to seeing a Marco Polo.

    Having left the last Shepards hut on my 10th day at 4.30am we had 2 steep passes to climb and descend before reaching Sarhad some 4 hours later. I meet Moritz back there as they returned 2 days earlier than I and he was waiting for a 4x4. I scoff down some bread and tea and pay my horseman and guesthouse and thank them both for the marvelous time. I re pack some items that I had left at the guesthouse while reminding Moritz about my mission for Kebabs and cold Beer as he was questioning my haste. I left within 15minutes of arriving, this time I would return back to Sargaz on the other side of the river bank. This would give me the opportunity to meet some more villages and with the road in good shape I made quick progress back to Sargaz. Fat dripping kebabs and cold beer being the carrot that dangled in front of my eyes, In the 2 days walking back to the Ural. I had half expected to see the Ural Butchered up into a donkey wagon or something...

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    Even though river levels had dropped and there was some traffic on the roads, There were still plenty of crossings on my return to Sargaz.

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    The Original Tablet.

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    One more night Before I'm reunited with my Ural. It feels like xmas eve.

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    A father and Son ride for days down the valley.



    Returning in the early evening to Sargaz I walked through into the yard to see it leaning happily beside the same wall under the same heavy canvas horse blankets I had left it in. I was woken the following morning by a Swiss couple that I met in the little Pamir. They were cycle touring the Wakhan, they too were heading back to Eshkasheim and back to Khorog. I'm sure I even told them I would see them at the Kebab and beer garden [​IMG] as now it was constantly on my mind, (I later was to find out I had lost 8kg from this forced diet)

    After breakfast of yet again yes more bread and tea I uncovered the Ural I wondered its been 2 weeks here in the cold all alone, was it going to start for me?
    I reconnect the battery, turn the Ignition on and whisper some sweet nothings to her; the dash light illuminates, fuel on... kick.. nothing, then nothing again, then seriously 3rd kick she rumbled back into life again! albeit with a bit of blue smoke out the back of her and my hosts looking on with excitement. I sit there for a few minutes warming her up before checking fluids. I pour in a 1/2 litre of oil and top up with fuel, fit my bags and canister once again. I pay up and push on for Eshkasheim, it was now 10am, I doubted that I would reach the border in time so i would have to settle for my kebabs and beer tomorrow.
    #86
  7. Pamirski

    Pamirski Adventurer

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    Hi Tourist

    thank you for the great pictures and the whole story.
    #87
  8. CanadianX

    CanadianX Oh!? That is deep.

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    Spent a couple of years in Afghanistan, saw a lot of places that I'd like to see again. Had a tour of Massoud's tomb with his former second in command, almost had a horse to ride in a buzkashi game but the fear for my safety by my host nix'd that idea (good thing, it's a rough ass game) Amazing place and amazing people. Hope to some day go back on a bike try and find some friends and see it through another lens. Great RR, thanks for sharing.
    Inscription at Massouds Tomb [​IMG]
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    Old Soviet equipment litters the country.
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    #88
  9. SteveTheLocal

    SteveTheLocal Been here awhile

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    On the great RR. Nice to see there's no agenda...no bleeding orange, GS bashing, shilling for producers. You are the real McKoy and so deserve kudos. Pax vobiscum.
    #89
  10. poppawheelie

    poppawheelie Been here awhile

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    Ditto. :nod
    #90
  11. tvbh40a

    tvbh40a PSUViking

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    :clap
    #91
  12. davesupreme

    davesupreme grand poobah

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    yeah, you can't argue w/that.... :deal
    #92
  13. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    Back at Juma's I meet the swiss couple once again and an unlikely American and Italian couple on an organized tour. We are all ready to get back to Tajikistan and cannot wait for the 9am open but most importantly I would have my beer and Kebabs today! Juma's is renowned for king sized portions of delicious food, he's the most pleasant and noble host one can hope for and is always looking out for you. I pack up and thank him for his Hospitality and roll down the hill.

    [​IMG]
    Arriving at the Border.

    Day 1:
    The next day we all meet down at the border as the Swiss are cycling, the Unlikely couple are taxiing and I'm on the Ural.
    It's all down hill but it's really quite a brutal road with its bad corrugations, pot holes and dust stirred up from the rushing taxi drivers. At the border we all meet and wait for the Afghans to open up the gates to the bridge to pass onto the customs house. The Swiss, Christian and Dina tell me that they had came down yesterday just as the border was closing and said there was a rumor that the Tajik's have closed the border... But then we are relieved to see the Afghans racing off on their Polaris quad to open up. It's not too long until we are ushered over to customs, we tell our stories to one another while they are opening up. 1/2 an hour passes with no activity on the Tajik side, The corrupt customs police man comes over and tells us they have closed for 3 weeks but if we pay 50$ we can pass with his usual smart ass smile. We talk it over convinced that this thieving f@*! has cooked some scheme up to extract more money out of us. We tell him we wish to talk to the Tajik's ourselves to discuss any such payment but we hear nothing more of this. As the day wears on we hear more and more stories about why the Tajik's have closed their border, Drug's & corruption, Security problems, presidential "Elections", but they weren't until November so that didn't stick. A group of tourists on a organized tour front up on the Tajik side wishing to enter Afghanistan for their Wakhan tour. There is some talk from the officials and we are told the Afghan commander wont let them in unless we are also allowed to cross (as Tajikistan were letting people out but not in). So a "tourist swap" was in place and the next day it sounded hopeful that it would go ahead.

    Day 2:
    We are all again at the border for 9am and so are the tourists on the other side. With no new news , we make contact to our respective embassies, I am without a phone so the Swiss make photos of our passports and visa's to send on and to inform them of whats happening. Since there is no New Zealand embassy in central Asia I would use the British consulate in Dushanbe. The hours pass by while I watch every new visitor to the border go over my bike, pressing every button and switching every switch. (there is nothing more irritating than this to me) by the end of the day we are once again assured that the deal would go ahead tomorrow morning.

    [​IMG]
    Spying on the Tajik's.

    Day 3.
    Riding up and down from Juma's every day along with packing thinking it was my last day really started to become tiring, But then I thought about the Swiss having to do this by pedal power. We meet the policeman at the border, himself saying nothing is happening and always making some smart comment that doesn't help our moods. throughout the morning the Afghan Commander racers down in a 4x4 to the customs fence in order to make a cross border deal with the Tajik commander, this happens 3-4 times and by the 4pm close he says that the deal is off, the Tajik's won't let anyone in.
    Despite our embassies saying that they are all working together not one is keeping in regular touch with us, well except for the American woman Julie constantly on her phone to various forms of govt. I over hear one conversation in which I can only assume she was asked "who is there with you at the border?" she replied "Ohh it's only me and my Italian travel partner here" in her irritating east coast accent. from then on I keep my distance.

    [​IMG]
    Border Police.

    Day 4.

    Once again arriving at the border at 9am but today with no real agenda just in hope that our Embassy's involved have contacted the Tajik foreign affairs to make a case for us to pass. We hear at the border that the Tajiks are citing a Cholera epidemic in Afghanistan close to Khorog for sealing off the border, its seems plausible but not convincing. The afghans put on lunch for us in the form of a huge platter of rice, naan and tea. My beer and kebabs is slipping away from me every day now. Christian and myself discuss possible exit plans if the embassy cannot do anything as both of us are starting to run low on cash, I calculate I can only stay at the border for a few more days then I will be down to my last 100$. We come up with crossing at Zorkul lake into Tajikistan would be probably be the most feasible, with the Irshad crossing into Pakistan next and going all the way to Kabul last as there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding that idea. After lunch the unlikely couple come down with their guide to the border saying their embassy's have made arrangements for them to cross, so for the afternoon we sit back and watch the spectacle of this woman yelling down the phone and to the Afghans about what is and whats not happening. The Afghan commander somehow takes this and once again storms off to the border in his 4x4, comes back after 15minutes and has a open meeting with his juniors. Apparently its on they can cross, but then its not on, as the Italian embassy haven't passed on his information to the Tajik border commander to make an exception. Then we hear Julies accent asking "But I can cross right?" So with disbelief by everyone at the border she leaves her partner behind and crosses into Tajikistan.

    That night we didn't want to go all the way back to Juma's so the swiss and I ride slowly up the road looking for a suitable camping spot. we run into the immigration officer while passing one small village and he invites us into his home for the night, While there we meet the Afghan Minster of Agriculture, he's just come from Kabul via Shugnan, he says its safe at the moment then says to me, "you could probably even be able to ride your motorcycle" and so he plants an idea into my head that i cannot shake all night long.
    There are only 2 roads to Kabul from Eshkasheim, one passing through Varduj which has a very heavy Taliban presence with daily fighting going on. The Other from Shugnan (border to Khorog) passing through Shiwa lake district which has only occasional Taliban from Varduj and Kunduz setting up road blocks and other fun stuff in the area.

    [​IMG]
    "Afghani Olympics" to pass the time.

    Day 5.

    By now the Border guards were getting a little tired of us hanging around the border and we are told not to come again until our embassy's have made arrangements. After sitting in the shade just up the road half the day becoming a spectacle for locals as they passed by. We return to Juma's. it's the only place in Eshkasheim to receive Tajik T-cell mobile reception which just so happened to be on top of the Guesthouse and that is where Christian received his phone call in advising that he and Dina can pass, they are in an excited fluster while they ready their bikes, a quick good bye and well wishing and arrangements to see them in the lodge shortly back in Khorog.

    I am feeling a little deflated about being the last one here, I walk back to the Bazaar to buy a phone, 12$ later I have my own Nokia brick. It bringing back memories of 2001.
    Over the next 3 days I call the Dushanbe Embassy morning and afternoon always to be greeted the same way, With excuses for not once returning my messages and that no progress has been made, I thought you were working with the other embassy's involved?! and so I made the decision then and there that I would get myself out of this mess myself as It was evident this office was too incompetent to.

    [​IMG]
    In Eshkasheim Bazaar one last time.

    Dealing with people in the Bazaar on an almost daily basis they were well aware of my situation and became interested in the Ural, So much so they started to give me offers for it or suggested that I should forget about Tajikistan and stay here and start up a cricket team... My last morning at Juma's was indeed to be my last. I could see his pain for me in his eyes as i told him I would be going to Kabul as it was my only choice. Once all paid up he wishes me good luck. After filling at the only petrol pump in town I have $124 left with me, I figured it must be something like a week to get to Kabul from here so I wouldn't have much time for sightseeing, on top of that today was the last day of my visa.

    [​IMG]
    Riding Downstream to Shugnan.

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    Harvest time.

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    Passing through villages.

    Riding to Shugnan would also give the embassy another day to see if they can work anything out too, as I might be able to cross there to Khorog instead. Well it was worth a try and It felt good just to do something. Riding down it was a good road for a change, some long sandy sections though but all in all a nice ride. The road follows the river border all the way down so here I am with Tajikistan to my right, seeing people and even tourists on the other side really was frustrating. I felt so close but yet.. yes so far. I made mental notes of some places where I could swim across with a raft perhaps made out of the Urals tyres..? no even they would be too heavy!

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    An Army helicopter roars up the valley.

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    As the Valley closed in the closer I got to Shugnan, it was frustrating to see Tajikistan so close.
    #93
  14. jackalsour

    jackalsour Dreamer

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    :bow :bow :bow Great show!! I'm always wondering what it would be like to motorbike these valleys, looking down from 20k
    #94
  15. Lacedaemon

    Lacedaemon Been here awhile

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    That lady sure doesn't do the US proud, especially abandoning her own travelling companion like that (even ignoring the rudeness of acting like no one else was stranded at the border).

    As a Virginian, I am just quietly hoping that the "irritating east coast accent" was more Fran Drescher than mid-Atlantic or Southern (no need to resolve the ambiguity for me, I might not like the outcome :evil)

    On a happier note, your trip is amazing. Frankly, getting off the bike for a couple of weeks and just walking has been the most amazing part for me. If getting on a motorcycle lets you see three times as much as driving in a car, walking is at least that much again. Maybe more. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and openness to see the world on foot. I admire that tremendously.
    #95
  16. I.Will.Ride.On.Mars

    I.Will.Ride.On.Mars Adventurer

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    Hi Tourist this is such an awesome RR. Can you post a rough route that you're taking? I'd love to see that.
    #96
  17. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    Thanks mate,

    I apologize for my amateurish attempt at providing some maps for reference regarding my route but you should get the general idea. :cob

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    Overview of my route.

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    Kygyz Route

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    Tajik Route.

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    Afghan Route.
    #97
  18. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

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    This photo speaks volumes. Definitely front page material.

    I'm more agog at each post. I may have missed you mentioning this, but your 10-day excursion into the Pamirs: Did you somehow arrange that in advance (if so, how?), or was it an ad hoc thing once you had reached Sarhad?

    White, English-speaking dude riding solo to Kabul, Afghanistan. :bow
    #98
  19. Lacedaemon

    Lacedaemon Been here awhile

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    Agreed. http://advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=22564661&postcount=540
    #99
  20. Hair

    Hair Free to a good home.

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    This is one ride report that I keep coming back to. The photos are great. The write-up is well written too.
    It's the trip of a life time. I would love to do it. But I worry that my country of origin listed on my passport might buy me more trouble than I can deal with.