Uralistan: Bishkek to Kabul

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

  1. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    In the mountains?
    I was thinking the same thing and I wasn't even going to go to Tajikistan this summer. A friend of mine slapped me over an email and said I need to ride the Pamir highway and wahkan corridor. I am so glad I decided to. I had no troubles. The people are very very nice. I did not go into Afghanistan but I would like to. Don't be afraid to travel because of where your passport is from.
  2. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    When I was in Pakistan months before, I Stayed at Alam Jan Dario's home stay in Chapusan Valley (http://www.pamirtrails.com/) which is on the other side of Irshad pass still in the pamirs. The People there are the same Tajik Wakhi who are in the Wakhan. He advised me more on the area and costs etc as he has been everywhere on his horse in this region. I never really travel with an itinerary as such but more of a planned direction. After riding down the Tajik Wakhan from Khargush pass and the M41 last year, I was always wondering what was on the otherside of that river :D so put that on a must do list.
  3. waturz

    waturz Panhandler

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    As a long time lurker here, I had to comment on this thread. As everyone has said, your photos are fantastic! You've now cost me $1,200 + dollars as I had to have a camera capable of pictures like yours! Also, as a purveyor of old and wayward bike resurrections, I think your choice of bike adds volumes to the trip. You've got to find a way to get that Ural back home with you! Good luck and thanks for the great RR.
  4. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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    Well, you'll never get through there on those rough roads, in the dangerous situation with the locals, on that P.O.S. bike.
    What you already did ?
    Carry on then !
  5. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    One thing I would like anyone to come away with after reading my RR is that it is YOU that makes the adventure not the bike.
  6. J-Dub

    J-Dub Combat Commuter

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    Millions of GS riders around the world just walked away from this thread in disgust! :lol3
  7. I.Will.Ride.On.Mars

    I.Will.Ride.On.Mars Adventurer

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    Just to confirm Tourist, you're from Australia? What kind of issues did you have getting in and out of Afghanistan? I'd really, really love to go there, but I'm not sure it would fly as a US citizen.

    Cheers!
  8. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    I'm on a New Zealand Passport but have been living on and off in Australia for the past 8yrs.
    The Afghan Visa is a tricky one, almost everywhere other than in Khorog, Tjk. It is very difficult to get. I have only been told of this though not from first hand experience. Apparently you will need a letter from your own consulate giving you permission to visit Afghanistan before you can officially make an application.
  9. Hair

    Hair Free to a good home.

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    Thanks, Years ago I spent time in Turkey. The Turks were very good at identifying my European Heritage.
    All-in-all the people were very nice. It makes me want to head back that way ASAP.
  10. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    I was told there’s a guesthouse in Shugnan but on arrival I pass through the outskirts and bazaar without seeing any such sign, on my return through the bazaar with shop keepers stirred and staring now from the sight and sound of my soviet steed. I am stopped and asked if I’m looking for a guesthouse. I follow the man to a presumed guesthouse that turns out to be the police station. After the usual formalities of checking my passport and asking where I’ve been and where I’m going they then go on to tell me I have a problem with my expired visa and that it is too dangerous to go through Shiwa lake district to Baharak by motorcycle or by taxi simply because I am a foreigner. (It’s only been in the past few years tourists have been targeted by the Taliban, I’ve heard reports of tourists walking and traveling through Taliban controlled Afghanistan right up to the 2001 invasion with no problems.) I ask them what other options do I have? They just shrug their shoulders and repeat, yes you have a problem! The officers offer me chai and nan while we wait for the chief of police to arrive to talk to me. We wait a couple of hours before the officers give up hope of the chief meeting with me today so we arrange a time for 8am the following morning to discuss my problem err plans.

    On my way back to the guesthouse I meet an Aga Khan NGO worker, It turns out he frequently travels the road from Faizabad through Shiwa lake to Shugnan. We talk about my plans more in detail. He tells me its “4 hours to the pass (Khajawin pass) then approximately 2 hours of Taliban area but then after that it should be fine to Baharak” he Also then goes on to say “If the Taliban (from Vaduj and Kunduz) are not there, the local farmers will try to stop and rob you, so you must not go alone! But… its possible” We come up with a plan for me to ride in convoy with one of the 2 shared Taxis that run the 10 hours between Shugnan and Baharak daily, Tomorrow morning.

    After being given directions from the officers I find the guesthouse and arrange for dinner and a bed. Dinner is 2 hours away so I take a walk back through the village, walking through wedding preparations and band rehearsals. Coming back the now stoned owner has made me a massive dinner of fried fish and chips, rice, salad, nan, juice and noodle soup that after eating puts me to asleep in no time. I wake and am running a little late so skip breakfast and go directly back to the police station for the meeting with the Chief. After he makes some calls to locals in the area, I’m informed that last month government workers were kidnapped and killed, but he goes on to say, “the day before yesterday there was no problem, yesterday there was no problem, Today? I don’t know“ I take this as good news but I wonder if perhaps he’s just telling me what I want to hear.

    You have to be careful when asking questions to Afghan’s as it’s in their nature to always please the guest, So much so they will tell you basically what you want to hear and not the real deal. Asking plenty of different people and restructuring your question as many times over again helps to paint an overall picture.

    [​IMG]
    "If you think I'm bad, You should see my dad!" oh great hope he's not from Vaduj.

    I walk back through the village stopping off at the Taxi rank asking when the next taxi is to Baharak, The first one left at 6am the 2nd goes at 12pm. It’s almost 9 when I make it back for breakfast. Over my chai and Nan I stare out of the window and follow the winding road with my eyes up the mountain, wondering what the hell is up there today! I think perhaps I should wait an extra day and leave with the first taxi in the morning. But then I am tired of constantly thinking is today ok but maybe tomorrow is better but then again today might be better than tomorrow! you never really know. So with no time like the present I scoff down the remaining Nan and pack my bags to leave today.

    I push the Ural over to some shade beside the house to check on fluids after topping the engine and gearbox up I decide on replacing the final drive oil. I think it was more just so mentally I would have some more confidence in the bike not breaking down in a Taliban controlled area. While it drains away I make some jokes to myself about my situation… to ease the nerves I guess before topping it back up with some new heavy gear oil.

    I ditch my side canister and now my Chinese helmet chinstrap has broken for the last time, I hand the canister on to a much appreciated guesthouse owner and bin my $12 helmet. OK ok no helmet, yes I’m a fool but really you can’t beat riding with the wind rushing through your hair, I feel it’s the ultimate sense of freedom. Pack on, I fuel up then ride through the village and through a wedding procession. There must be like 100 photos of me in their wedding album as the streets were jammed full and the guests were astounded to see a tourist on a motorcycle. Just before the turn off to go up the hill and out of the village an army officer stops me. He insists that I have to come to the barracks with my passport. I complain a bit but he insists and quickly there’s 3 of his fellow officers to back him up. I agree and then go to pull out to move my bike off the street when one of the young officers gets jumpy and pulls his ak-47 up to his shoulder and points it in my face, I tell him “calm the f@#k down!!” and I motion with my hands that I need to move my bike out of the way of the oncoming trucks and that he is crazy. They all go ohh ok and laugh a little.

    I am brought into the commander’s room where a room of roughly 20 people is just staring at me. One comes over and speaks some bad English and interrogates me then relays it back to our audience. I am already tired of telling my story to the police yesterday and this morning so my patience is wearing a little thin and then a local off the street who speaks very good English goes through all the questions once again while flipping through my passport. The commander speaks and is interpreted; I am told that It’s impossible for me to go to Baharak due to the safety of course, they try to scare me by saying my head will be cut off if I am caught by the Taliban. Hearing this after the police telling me earlier all is ok really pissed me off so frustratingly I answer “what am I suppose to do then?! I either go to Baharak or swim across the river! I have no other options” He says I will be shot if I try to swim and then finishes with “Yes you have a problem!” Now having been told I have a problem every day for the past week I reach boiling point and snatch my passport back, turn and leave with out a customary thank you or good bye. Nobody stops me leaving, So then its fuel on, ignition on … One kick and I’m off up the hill passing the taxi rank behind, My stress levels decreasing the higher in altitude I rise.

    [​IMG]
    Riding up to Khajawin Pass.

    Riding up, it is very quiet on the road, This is real adventure I think to myself, Not knowing what will happen today and the outcome of it - one of the few times I have felt such excitement in my travels. The Road winds through some little villages, all made of stone and mud brick homes with drying wheat fields out the front, really beautiful. I am waved at by people with startled faces through the village but the same people then hold up a teapot to me to invite me over, I feel bad but today is one day I don’t want to play tourist and ignorantly I continue on.

    [​IMG]
    Last look back towards Tajikistan before I ride deeper into Afghanistan.

    It’s nice riding up the mountain with no other traffic, I make good progress on the rough road remembering what the NGO worker had told me yesterday “4hours until the Pass then 2 hours of problem area” so I am relatively relaxed and enjoy the ride up the valley. After an hour of constant ascending I need to stop to put on my fleece and rain jacket over the top of that to stop the cold. I don’t know the Height of Khajawin Pass but I could feel the Ural losing power as we continued up the mountain road, Suddenly after rounding one corner, the road forks with an equal amount of wheel tracks going in each direction. I spot a couple of people off in the distance coming my way, I wonder are they farmers or someone else? Hmm well one way to find out, I ride up and stop in front of the group and ask for directions, saying "Baharak, Baharak?" They respond with "ha ha" (yes yes) and point in the way they had just come. I told myself, you see not all farmers are dangerous, what does that NGO worker know! Probably just some city slickers opinion of country folk.

    [​IMG]
    Having just reached the pass I say to myself, "So this is it, the problem area starts... looks ok to me"

    After another hour I roll over a small rise in the road, its Khajawin pass. I am blown away with the landscape that lies out in front of me. Lake Shiwa’s blue beauty, the Hindu kush to my left and rolling hills on my right. I had arrived in a little over 2 hours, I reasoned that well if I got here in half the time it takes the taxi then crossing through the Taliban area would only be an hour instead of the 2! Somehow I had built up this image of it being a plateau up here so seeing this narrow winding road I was a little crushed to see I have a lot of work ahead of me today. The road is narrow and rutted, The area is desolate, almost every corner I take is a blind one that opens into the next valley, If there was a road block or whatever I would not see it coming so not having any control over what today will bring me I really just treat it almost as any other on the bike, Focusing on my riding, the road and enjoy my surroundings as this was truly a once in a lifetime ride.

    [​IMG]
    After worrying about the Ural breaking down in Taliban land, it was the bladder in the end that made me stop.
  11. HighTechCoonass

    HighTechCoonass Living the Dream....

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    land of the swamps!, Cajun Country LA
    Thanks for taking me along a ride in heaven! every pic blows me away!
    I will drink the that!
    [​IMG]
  12. makad

    makad P/T Shed Dwelling Hermit

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    Holy crap man! Youve got guts.
    This is the best RR in this place right now.
    Just loving the vibe of your narrative and the well chosen photo's - that Ural is a total champ. Thanks for taking us along.
    Looking forward to the unfolding adventure.
  13. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe RN

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    Concord, CA
    Agreed!!

    This is the best RR. Period.

    Wishing you the best, and safe travels.

    Jeff G.
  14. Carpe Secundus

    Carpe Secundus Adventurer

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    THANK YOU :thumb
  15. motoreiter

    motoreiter Long timer

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    :eek1:eek1

    You, sir, have rather large ones...
  16. EurasiaOverland

    EurasiaOverland n00b

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    Oct 18, 2013
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    1
    Wow, this is really a great report; refreshing to see someone who makes the people and places the theme rather than themselves and their vehicle. I am sure this will be looked at for years to come. An enviable ride indeed :D

    Props to you for having the balls to drive from Eshkasheim to Faizabad!

    I think you're the first rider / driver I've heard of driving in Afghanistan (except for just in-and-out in the Wakhan) since I was there in 2009/10.

    Looking forward to the last bit of the story.

    Are you planning on making a website?
  17. fluctuat_nec_mergitur

    fluctuat_nec_mergitur Adventurer

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    :d
  18. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    Wow. I didn't know Taliban prisons had free Wi-Fi.:D
  19. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    Brisbane
    with comments and support like this I am really thankful for having this forum to do so & look forward to telling the rest of my RR.
  20. Tourist

    Tourist Adventurer

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    Dec 26, 2012
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    Brisbane
    A good 30 minutes passes by the time I negotiate down to the lake, The lake really has potential, add cabins, a boat ramp and some bbq’s and it would be a popular destination in any country but not here, not one living organism is out here today. The road splits again but with most of the vehicle tracks favoring the right, I do too. I continue on reaching a contributory to the lake, its crystal clear with a hint of turquoise/ blue the water is almost freezing with large cobblestones forming the road through it. It’s a wide crossing, (perhaps 25-30m) I stop at the bank weighing my options up but 2 people on the other side have already made my decision for me and wave me to continue on. Fording through, it becomes quite deep up to the cylinder heads with the front and rear tires climbing over the large cobbles I reluctantly put my feet down for stability to help guide the bike in a straight line to the other side. A father and son are operating a little tea house/ store here, I stop and point up the road and ask “problem?” they reply with "ok ok" “Baharak, chand so at? (How many hours to Baharak ?) “sheesh (6)” I’m told, Its going to be a long day of riding ahead.

    [​IMG]
    Virgin riding country.

    [​IMG]
    My girl crying from all the abuse.

    [​IMG]
    About to ride through the first Village since Shugnan, I'm ushered to stop but keep on riding.

    <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style> The road to Baharak continues on up a small barren valley, I start to see farmers off in the distance while I ride along, up and over a smaller pass it gives way into a beautiful yellow valley of wheat fields. This is the real Afghanistan I feel, Farmers and their beautiful little villages, riding donkeys and sipping tea. The road follows a small clear river down the valley, the villages divert river water down small channels that feed the village and also power a number of small flour mills. While Westerners are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build self-sufficient “green” houses. These people have been doing it for thousands of years. I continue along a road that feels like it was just built for me. A small village comes into view and shortly after I am passing through it, again hands are waving, some non threatening shouts go out. A farmer leaning on his shovel at the road side has the eyes the size of grapefruit and is just paralyzed staring at this alien on a big green motorcycle. I really wish I could stop but I just didn’t want to push my luck any further than I had already today. I check the time shortly afterwards and note that I have been going for 4 hours now since Shugnan, I make the assumption that I have gotten away with riding through the Talibs back yard but remind myself It’s not over until I am out of this country and I’m still a long way away from doing just that. Another hour or so down the road I pass a German funded school so presume well if there was Talibs here this school wouldn’t be, so from here on to Baharak I just cruised after having ridden the Ural hard for the past 5 hours.


    [​IMG]
    It feels like the roads were built especially just for me.

    [​IMG]
    After 6 hours we're both still going strong.

    [​IMG]
    I just sat up here remarking at the rural beauty and how far we've come today.

    I reach the end of this Yellow valley after another hour and on a low pass over the ridge, I take a break from riding, Just sitting and taking in the landscape, sounds of the farmers off in the distance herding there sheep and goats, I have a quick late lunch and rehydrate before I push off into the next valley. The valley widens and so too the road, I relish being able to ride 60-70km/hr along this section fully using the Urals great 3<sup>rd</sup> gear torque curve. I pass more and more villages along my way and meet a few farmers herding their stock down the road. They all have bewildered and puzzled looks on their faces. I just crack a smile and give em a wave and keep at it. Rising up and over yet another ridge the land gives in to a steep and narrow valley in which the road winds down to the hotter valley floor below. I spot a town far off in the distant haze, It’s Baharak.

    [​IMG]
    The further I press on, the valley's widen and I enjoy 3rd and 4th gear.

    [​IMG]
    Simple living.

    [​IMG]
    Before the Descent with Baharak off in the distance.

    <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style> Coming into Baharak I come down from out of the valley and follow a small narrow village road that winds between homes made out of mud and stone. The Ural and I draw a lot of attention with people stopping what they were doing and following behind me down through the village, I stop out side a small shop next to a mosque, by the time I switch off my engine to ask for directions for a guesthouse I have been completely crowded by inquisitive locals, there must be at least 50-60 people fully encircling me. I don’t feel threatened in any way at all as they all have pleasant looks and really they are just curious and welcoming. An English teacher comes out of no where (these guys seem to be just waiting for me) and translates for the next 15 minutes. They assume that I am working here but tell them I am a tourist, and then they say “Terrorist?!” haha well it was funny at the time.

    [​IMG]
    "Kujol mere?"... where are you going? By the time I turned the engine off I had 50+ villagers surround and welcome me into Baharak for the night.


    I am given directions to the main Bazaar where I am found by the police and escorted to the police station where once again I tell my story. An officer here studied Russian in Moscow for 5 years so he translates for me while the Ural is perched on the corner gathering attention. After a quick bag search to just confirm that I am not indeed a terrorist they suggest that I leave my bike inside the police compound for the night as my guesthouse has turned into a Chaikhana. (tea house) and I am escorted there through the main Bazaar by a young officer and he meets with the manager and negotiates a place for me. Inside the long narrow tea house above the busy bazaar below, each side of the room there’s a raised platform perhaps almost a meter off the floor that runs full length (for approximately 10m) with rugs adorning it. The stay is free as long as you are eating dinner. ($1.40) I find a spot between some locals; there are people here from all over the country traveling through the region to sell their goods. I rest my bag up against a column and take a clean shirt and wash up, the water runs brown from all the dirt my hair and face has collected from the past 8 hours of riding. I lie down and rest in my spot and not long after a dinner mat is rolled out the entire length of the platform and I enjoy a vegetable curry with nan and endless tea with all these remarkable faces staring/ observing me, watching how I eat... being told my story from the manager and somehow I feel their respect for me. Once dinner has finished I lie back and relive the days events before drifting off to sleep for the night.