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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, Jan 26, 2010.
It was worth it
now lets move along ...
TJ - Thats not Tijuana ... its Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is one of those places that is just different. Its different to all of the other Central Asian countries because its inhabitants are not Turko-Mongolic steppe people. They are Farsi ... close to the Afghans and the Iranians. Many Tajiks actually look European. It's different because its probably the most mountainous country on earth. And as soon as you cross the border it just feels different. The spine tingles with excitement as you ride away from the Tajik border post. I dont know why, it just does.
I was alone again on the road. The last 2 weeks had been with Andrei and Max on the road in UZ, and then with Vlad, Zhenya and the Korean Hairdresser in Tashkent. After being cooped up for a few days, I love being solo on the road in exotic lands. There is a sense of freedom and risk that is hard to beat. The heart beats strongly and your senses just come alive and alert.
Here is an early example I came across in Tajikistan, of the completely different ethnicity that are the Tajiks. This guy could have been eastern european car mechanic from appearances.
It didn't lake long in TJ before I began climbing ... it was the Tien Shan again, The Turkestan Range branch. This time I was heading south across it. This time the range was 5000 metres (16000 feet) high (with passes at 3400m (11000 feet) and this time there were two parallel branches of the Tien Shan to cross, between Khojand and Dushanbe. The road wound up, and up and up ...
By 2000 metres (6000 feet) the asphalt stopped and it became a dirt road.
By 2500 metres (8000 feet) snow and ice began appearing all over the dirt road.
At 3000 metres (10,000 feet) I passed a bulldozer, hauling a car up the steep mountainside and asked what happened.
Earlier in the day, the unfortunate driver had slipped on the icy surface and plunged over the side to his death, about 1000 feet below.
by 3200 metres, the road was not only narrow, but the surface was 80% or more ice. In this picture you see the small trickle of water running down the middle of the road ... thats the only bit you can ride on ... either side of that is ice.
with two more tucks coming I just rammed the bike up on the ice and waited for the trucks to crawl past.
I made it to the pass ok .. but it was getting late in the day and daylight was fading
As I crested the pass, I looked south ... my route ahead, and saw the next range 40km (25 miles) in the distance. Just as high. Just as intimidationg. In between them I had to drop all the back down to 1000 metres (3000 feet) and the town of Aini.
As I descended from the first range (Turkestan Range / Shakhristan Pass) darkness fell and so did light rain. Fortunately, at about 2500 metres a decent Chinese made asphalt road began, making the descent considerably safer.
Its worth noting that this isnt some out of the way track here I am riding, its THE MAIN ROAD (the M34) linking the south and the north of the country. The two main cities in Tajikistan, Khojand and Dushanbe, are only linked by this "highway"!
The road got better as the altitude dropped ... but the mountains were just as spectacular.
by the time I descended to 1800 metres, I was back in the land of the living. A village appeared about 5km before Aini town, and I stopped for dinner in a Chaikhana there. It was now totally dark, and I ended up sleeping the night on one of the Chaikhanas large benches.
Food was different here in Tajikistan. In the other Turko-Mongolic stans, its all about lamb and mutton. In TJ, I was finding beef was the main meat they used for cooking.
Those are some bung hole puckering drops off the edge:eek1 Did you have any close calls while trying to stay off the ice?
I have finally smartened up and have been tracking your route on google maps. Incredible journey.
No close calls ... I was taking it very cautiously ... I was aware that in the space of about 2 hours I had gone from 300 m (1000 feet) at Khojand (aka Khujand) to 3400 metres (11,000 feet) at the pass. I was constantly reminding myself that I would be a lot less sharp and a lot less alert due to the air at that altitude being much thinner than sea level and a couple of hours is definately not enough time to adjust. As a result of that, I took it easy and had no close calls.
Thank you for posting this incredible ride report! It is unlikely that I will get to any of these countries soon--so it is wonderful to be able to share your experience through your photos and text. I especially loved the pictures of the former Aral sea, the bikes in front of the Kalyan Minaret, the Uzbek "footbridge", and the Tien Shen road at 3200 meters. Just amazing!!!!
wow!!! fantastic !!! Thankyou!!!
heading into one of the steepest valleys / gorges I have seen!