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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by guerreronegro, Apr 18, 2020.
Geez, the guy is on the otherside of the world, yet, still Mom finds him!
I forgot to attach last day´s itinerary
When I woke up in the morning, the family from the restaurant invited me to have breakfast with them. The daughter spoke English and told me about how one of the neighbors were actually thinking on opening a hostel at the other end of the street.
Many foreigners pass through here in the summer both in bicycles and motorcycles. The town was minuscule with barely anything but maybe four houses, the restaurant and now this ongoing project so for sure it will be attracting more tourism as there is not much in a big radius. Like in many other towns around, there is a lack of sanitation facilities and a common toilet is used for the whole village. This was likely one of the worst public toilets I had to use. I couldn´t even be bothered to take a picture of it as I was in a bit of a race to finish and get out. I felt sorry for the people using it.
It was a bit cold in the morning but as the sun rise temperature came back to its usual 25 celsius. I had not seen any rain since Georgia and I was starting to ask me when I would run in bad weather especially now that I was at such an altitude. First order of the day as always, was to clean and lube the chain and check oil levels. With everything in order, I moved towards Khorugh 120 km away.
This relatively short distance took me about 4 hours to complete and payed a toll in my neck, shoulder and legs. It did not matter much. I was having the time of my life crossing small villages with really friendly people waving hands, meeting cyclists doing the Pamirs and taking breaks every now and then in truly idyllic landscapes.
Again, my biggest fear of all was to bend the alloy wheels so I cover this distance at a very slow pace.
Eventually the path turned into a road and I arrived in Khorugh, the biggest town in the area. From here I had two choices, to keep going down towards Ishkoshim continuing the border with Afghanistan; or taking a kind of a shortcut going east. After riding yesterday´s section I decided to go with the latter. I was told this section would be easier terrain but with altitudes close to the 5000 metres (16400 ft). Another option was to take the Bartang Valley detour although with this bike was kind of a lost bet. I would meet more solo riders on the way who attempted this and had to turn around in maxi-trails. The Varadero was lighter but had no power and was loaded to the bone so I sticked with the most realistic goal.
The rugged scenery in that region never ceases to amaze me. It has an outer worldly beauty but seems at the same time sort of forbidding and unforgiving for humans. Still people seem to manage to make a living there. They must be a special kind. I really wish to see it through my own eyes one day.
very much looking forward to the next episode!
A special section of the world indeed. One place that we don't often get to see, so thanks again for sharing your story with us!
Muy interesante viaje y muy buen ejercicio de memoria que te habrá hecho disfrutar esta gran aventura por segunda vez mientras estábamos encerrados.
Es posible que yo haya visto esta moto por Villaviciosa recientemente?
Outstanding report and pictures in part of the world most of us will never see and special people offering so much having so little. You're helping a lot of us better understand that part of the world. Gracias, Marcos
Gracias, me alegro que te este gustando. Si te refieres a Villaviciosa de Odon si, estoy actualmente viviendo alli y uso la Varadero como moto para conmutar a diario.
Fantastic RR. Your thoughts on life and society, driven by your experiences in faraway lands, are inspiring. The photography and writing complement each other perfectly.
These kind of trips (people) change your life. Sometimes takes years to reflect and fully realise. Muchos gracias.
For sure they did, this trip was all about the peoples and their notion of ethics.
Driving styles in this part of the world tends to be chaotic to say the least. No major problems happened until today when crossing Khorugh. While zigzagging some stand-still traffic one car reversing in the middle of the street did not see me and hit me with the rear bumper lightly enough to unbalance me breaking the gyroscopic effect. For a bit I though I was falling but somehow I managed to recover and stopped a few meters without a scratch. The driver was completely alien to the situation and for him it was as if nothing would have happened so there was no point in stopping to talk over it. To be fair I recognize it was in part my fault for filtering traffic but there was enough distance for the guy to see me in advance and predict my move.
My left saddle bag had a big tear in the sewing union but it was still structural so nothing critical. I kept riding following now what appeared in the GPS as the Pamir Hwy. I had to cross another military checkpoint with again very friendly staff inviting me to have some pastries, fruits and water after checking the passport and visas. At the beginning they though I was recording them with one camera mounted on the bike and they did not like that but when I explained them it was just mounted so I could press quickly the button and record when necessary they were cool. I was not aware of it at the time but since I was carrying two passports sometimes, I would give them the wrong one (the one without visas) without realizing it. It seems they did not care much either as the only thing they wrote down was the number and the name in a good old-fashioned notebook and return it to me with a big smile. When I realized this a few miles later I wondered if I could have some problem derived from this, but I guessed I would just have to wait until I crossed to Kirghistan and switch passports again.
Most of the day was spent in going uphill and for the first time I notice engine knocking. Firstly I thought my exhaust was loose as to what happened back in Italy. When I stopped a couple times and double check everything was tight I realized it had to do with the low quality petrol and the altitude already passing 4000 metres or 13100 ft. It was tricky to ride the motorcycle because the knocking would not appear in the low end of RPMs but as soon as the bike started to develop power, that is around 7000 RPM out of 12000 RPM. That then translated into going very slow in second gear watching out for that and the temperature needle. The bike overheated a couple times and I had to stop for a bit to cool it down.
Taking that out of the equation I was again surrounded by amazing landscapes and stopped every time the bike was exhausted to either let it rest or rest myself while also drinking some water. There was not much settlements nor nomads around this part of Tajikistan. Only commercial trucks for which I had to watch out as they would overtake me also very slowly. I also saw some overlanders with Iveco Daily 4x4s and bikers this time from Russia. These tracks were the perfect terrain for any big trail bike like the GS to go fast and comfy in irregular gravel surfaces. The terrain although it looked at plain sight flat, it had some serious irregularities or undulations that my suspension just could not handle. I had to use my body also as a suspension element and that also wore me down by the end of the day.
Landscape kept switching between mountains and valleys. It was truly astonishing to see and ride. The fact that I was riding at a very slow pace suddenly did not matter anymore. Weather was great and in terms of planning I was confident I would be able to reach the next settlement with daylight. Camping was another option I would not have minded, but it would for sure be a very cold night at such altitudes for which my equipment was a bit unmatched. Rivers and lakes were so pristine the color looked like nothing I had seen before.
I stopped to eat something next to a suspended bridge for pedestrians that inspired zero confidence to cross. While observing the bridge a guy in a Chinese minivan stopped to say hi. His name was Ruslan and he happened to live at the other side of the bridge. When he saw me eating an apple, he kept insisting to come join him for lunch with his family. This was again unreal. While I am writing this I find it difficult to believe that just by randomly stopping in the middle of nowhere I had this luck of meeting a local kind enough to share with me lunch. Ruslan called his wife and let her know he was coming home with a foreigner. And just like that after 10 minutes of off-roading at the other side of the river we came to his farm. He introduced me to his family and kids, and we ate all together some goat meat (fresh as they just killed it a few hours ago) with salad which was really good. The wife also tried to repair my tore saddle bag and because she saw it was going to take some time, she gave me a needle and some thread so I could do it myself later.
Departure from that humble house was not easy. All of Ruslan’s family was super kind but I still have most of the day to cover some more terrain. Same as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan was turning out to be unreal in terms of hospitality. After saying goodbye, I went back to the main road crossing the bridge once again. Altitude was quickly rising and soon I found myself cruising in first gear very slowly monitoring the noises and the water temperature. If it was difficult for me, I do not want to imagine what it would mean for the English riders with their air-cooled bikes. If I had to stop for whatever reason, resuming the ride would be hell for the clutch. The power was easily diminished by at least half, that meant around 7 HP to move more than 250 kg with me on top. Amazingly, the bike kept going only stopping to take pictures, drink water and wait to cool down.
It seemed I would be making it to Murghab for the night. I did not buy a SIM card in this country, not that it would have been a good investment with the amount of mountains in between but I was in need to connect to the Internet to throw and update to the loved ones. I crossed once again many cyclists, ralliers and Toyota Land cruisers with Japanese tourists. I also started to see some dispersed yurts far away. Highland cattle started to appear, interesting to see cows with so much hair but it was indeed cold as the sun started to hide. I ended up riding two hours in the dark and crossed the last military checkpoint at 8:20 PM. The first hotel in Murghab was full but luckily the same owners had also a hostel, so I headed there. I met another rider from Slovenia there, it seemed it was just the two of us there. He had some beers with him, and he shared with me some so that was nice to have at the end of the day. I was exhausted, after a quick shower the lady from the hostel came and offered me some dinner. It seemed the goat I had previously in the day although it was fresh, it was not doing very well inside of me so I was not able to satisfy my appetite. Luckily my new friend had some medication with him. I cannot remember his name but if he is around here, well, thanks for the beer and the meds. He was riding a BMW GS solo from Slovenia and was about to do the same itinerary as me but in reverse. Out of convenience we exchanged the remaining currency, he gave me some Kirghizstan money and I gave him Uzbekistan sums. After some chit chat we both went to bed.
Found this video corresponding to day 35.
Must have a been a great feeling shifting out of first gear. Outstanding.
Thank god I had some music to listen to
It's so refreshing to read about the kindness you experienced over and over again @guerreronegro; especially with the way this year has gone. Incredible scenery and the hospitality of strangers - simply fantastic.
I can't imagine riding at 13k feet, must have been trying to keep her in 1st gear so as not to overheat as well as not blow up the motor because of low quality fuel.
Look forward to the next update, very glad you're keeping this going.
Today it was the day in which I realized how much I have underestimated the Pamirs. When I arrived last night, it was already starting to get very cold. So far, I had been very lucky with the weather. In the morning, it was mild , nothing extreme. I dressed accordingly without any layers of thermal clothing thinking it would stay like this like every day so far. I would be regretting this decision all day. As soon as I started to move the temperature dropped like crazy and the road will not cease to go up which did not help certainly. The lady in the hostel offered yesterday to try to fix the saddle bags but it was very difficult due to the thickness of the material it was extremely hard to pass the needle in order to sew it. Somehow, she managed to do about an inch of sewing for which I was really grateful. I wished the best to the Slovenian guy and then we departed ways.
After a quick breakfast trying to ingest in as much calories as the body would allow me, I headed to the one and only petrol station in town. This was just a big fuel deposit like the ones used for heating. The guy in charge asked me how many liters did I want and then took a Jerry can to transfer from the deposit by gravity to the can, and then to the motorcycle.
The day started with strong winds that blocked me from surpassing 30 mph. Then the road passed from tarmac to a mix of different kinds of gravel and then eventually to a dirt track. The danger was at the beginning with the tarmac road as I started to build up confidence and lost focus for a second. It was then that I would ran into massive pot holes that I do not how the alluminium Enkei wheels were able to endure nor the tires. The only solution was to build up patience and decrease speed to 15 mph. RPMs were also a big factor in this equation. It seemed to be that every time I refueled the knocking would start to appear at a different range. This time I was not able to surpass 9000 RPM without hearing the clinking sound of imminent engine death. Then the wind started to drag the ice-cold temperatures from the mountains nearby and I started to get really cold. I had to stop and put all my clothes, but without the contention thermal layer it was not too effective. I looked like a penguin and it did help at the beginning but since the M41 Pamir road was all the time going up this feeling lasted only a few minutes.
The highest section of this road ended at roughly 15000 ft – 4500 meters but there was a slope of a 15 to 20% incline in which the Varadero almost gave up. Going in first gear all in despite the knocking and just seeing how your revs are decreasing at a dramatic rate was not very fun to see. I really thought at that point I would have had to take all of the bags off and walk with it to the summit. Luckily, I was able to reach the top barely and stopped the bike to let it rest. When I spoke with the rest of the bikers in the WhatsApp group out of curiosity Simon told us he was not able to go up and had indeed to walk with the bike. While taking a break I met Raul, a French cyclist also doing the Pamir road solo. It felt nice to have someone to talk to while contemplating the landscape and the overall sense of achievement. Next it was the Kara-kul lake just before crossing to Kyrghizstan.
Stunning scenery and a great update to an amazing trip, have to keep checking in to get my fix
Listening to a detonating engine on low quality fuel, revs dropping and dropping, increasing fear of not going to make it......I can imagine the tension you must have felt.
but making it up must have given you a sense of reward and accomplishment that no 100+ big adv bike could have ever given you!
the scenery is just breath taking....words cannot do it justice
Damn man, 15k feet and concern about the bike making it when you’re miles from anything. Can only imagine the trepidation and stress. Crazy to think of a pedal power biker doing it, that’s something else.
Enjoyed the update @guerreronegro! Fantastic pictures of a place I’ll likely never see in person. Thanks for posting ‘em and your story