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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, Jan 26, 2010.
Strangely Enough, GPS didnt work too well here
The ever present Chinese road workers:
Sometimes dirt and sometimes paved Chinese built roads:
Holy sh-wow!! This is just an unbelievable scene!
Your reports, they are simply amazing, no adjectives can do justice. You have set the bar so high, I can see these words at the beginning of many future reports: "Well, this wasn't a Colebatch epic, but it was still great. Let's begin...."
Keep it up! Your marketing has sucked me in, I'm up for the DVD and whatever else comes along.
Excellent as always ........
Bet you were the only bike going over that pass with the ice all over the place
The range I had seen from the Shakhristan Pass in yesterday evenings dim light was the morning's objective. It also had a pass up at 3400 metres but that was rarely used now, as the Iranians and Chinese had built a tunnel 700 metres below the pass. I will lift this passage regarding the Anzob Tunnel straight from the upcoming book text!
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This second range (Hissar Range) had something new to fear. Mad Max had briefed me about it in Tashkent. The Chinese built a tunnel through this range at about 2700 metres altitude. The tunnel opened in 2006, but it has been beset by drainage problems. Max warned that the 6km long tunnel is more of a hazard than the old road that previously went over the top of the pass. For some reason I was looking forward to the challenge of this Tunnel of Doom.
The bike climbed rapidly from the base of the range at about 1200 metres up through 1500, 1800, 2100, 2400 and reached the tunnel entrance at about 2750 metres. It was a hive of activity, with the Chinese construction workers building a number of additional tunnels. I am not sure if these are to function as service tunnels or to replace the initial leaky tunnel.
I reset my odometer, and plunged in. Max had said it was pretty much right on 6km long. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, and in fact very few lights in the tunnel. By the time I had done 200 metres it was pretty much pitch black and I was riding through 2 inches of water. I turned on both headlights, on high beam to get a better idea what I was in for. It didn’t really help. The tunnel was full of diesel fumes – Thick with diesel fumes. Even the rare tunnel lights were impossible to be seen in the dark gloom until you were 50 metres away. Broken down cars and trucks had been abandoned inside the tunnel and could be seen every few hundred metres. By now I was two kilometres into the tunnel. Ventilation fans lay idle – perhaps broken, perhaps never connected. The diesel fumes began to sting the eyes. Max had warned me that by the time I exited the tunnel my eyes would be barely able to see and my lungs would be screaming for fresh air. I had 4 more kilometres to look forward to.
The initial few hundred metres of the tunnel had me thinking I could do this in 3rd gear, through the 2 inches of water, but as I progressed into the tunnel, extra hazards made that an over-optimistic assessment. Under the water surface, which now stretched from one tunnel wall to the other, making it impossible to see any of the road surface at all, the actual road surface under the water went from being relatively smooth and predictable concrete to a random mix of all sorts of unpredictable hazards. Potholes a foot deep were only detectable once the front wheel had plunged into them. Steel tubes lying at angles also lay concealed beneath the water surface. It was impossible to ride in more than 2nd gear and often I needed to revert to 1st.
By the middle of the tunnel the water across the floor of the tunnel was moving … in the same direction as I was. So they had made the tunnel at a downhill slop to drain it … but it wasn’t working that well. A lot of water dripped from the ceiling. It was bad … but I had been briefed on each and every one of these hazards. I was not expecting it to get any worse, because Max had not mentioned anything more. Max was always spot on with his information.
I gritted the teeth and ploughed on with the eyes stinging more and the lungs struggling with the extreme concentration of diesel and assorted noxious fumes in the air. Past dozens of abandoned vehicles I rode; 5km down, 1 to go. The further I went into the tunnel the faster the water flowed. It was becoming a regular river in here.
I looked down at the odometer … 5.7km it said. I looked ahead and saw nothing but blackness and the continuing tunnel. Max had got it wrong. It obviously wasn’t 6km long. It must be more. I should be able to see the exit by now … bright sunshine and snow outside and pitch blackness here … in a dead straight tunnel. I was hoping to see the exit ever since the halfway mark to be honest … just to give me that psychological boost.
At 5.9km, with my lungs choking and eyes burning, I began to see a faint yellowish outline of what appeared to be a tunnel mouth. It was incredible. The tunnel was indeed 6km long but you couldn’t see the end of this dead straight tunnel until you were 100 metres from it, that’s how thick the diesel fumes were. I burst out the entrance, which was now a maze of streams, and killed the engine. I needed to clean out my lungs and eyes.
The GPS had me now at 2700 metres; I had descended 45 metres in the tunnel. Max, as usual, was right. As hazardous as the pass is (and indeed was yesterday on the more northerly Tien Shan range) I think it’s preferable to that tunnel.
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A still (not mine) from inside the Anzob from 2007:
This is a kiwi cyclists video from the tunnel a couple of years earlier, clearly with less diesel fume accumulation than this year.
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Another car driving thru video:
<font face="Verdana" size="1" color="#999999"><br/><a style="font: Verdana" href="http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=34180378">The Road to Dushanbe</a><br/><object width="425px" height="360px" ><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"/><param name="wmode" value="transparent"/><param name="movie" value="http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=34180378,t=1,mt=video"/><embed src="http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=34180378,t=1,mt=video" width="425" height="360" allowFullScreen="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent"></embed></object><br/><a style="font: Verdana" href="http://www.myspace.com/daristeiad">DaristeiaD</a>*|*<a style="font: Verdana" href="http://vids.myspace.com">Видео на MySpace</a></font>
Me breathing in the fresh air on the southern entrance to the tunnel.
I was happy to have put that behind me, and headed on down through yet more amazing scenery to Dushanbe, the capital of TJ:
Just check out the power line pylons either side of the valley for a sense of scale:
A nice new road takes me the last few miles into Dushanbe:
Simply amazing landscapes.
Sorry colebatch, I have small correction. In the matter of fact you were not in Tien Shan. Tunnel is in Hissar Mountains which are a part of western Pamir-Alay mountain system.
Mountains are not so high but are very beautifull and tourists love to trek in this area. View from Azob Pass is beautifull and it is worth to visit the pass if you have time.
As to the tunnel: they built 2 parallel tunnels (auto tunnel and ventilation drainage tunnel) and 26 connecting tunnels. System is not finished so there are problems for bikers. Some mistakes was made during construction and situation will not improve in the future.
To tell you the truth I prefer to ride this bloody tunnel in 15 minutes than spend 2 hours climbing to the pass at night
Beautifull pics Colebatch! Hope to meet you in my city in Ampril/May...
Apologies Sambor, yes you are probably right. But the more I look into it, the more of a gray area it is. The border between Pamir and Tien Shan seems to have no clear definition and different sources define the limits of the mountians differently. Some sources of info consider it Tien Shan and others Pamir ... I would be interested in what the USSR Academy of Sciences opinion was ... I guess that would be the most "definitive" source.
Of course I am coming in April ... I hope to be there in Southern Poland about 20th ... roughly
Most bike travellers in this part of the world headed for to Dushanbe go thru Penjikent and Samarkand ... so they do the tunnel in the southern range (Zarafshan or Hissar range) but dont cross the pass on the northern range (Turkestan Range), as the road to Samarkand runs up the valley in between the ranges. Only when you come thru Khujand and Tashkent will to have to deal with the Turkestan range and Shakhristan Pass.
But there are a still quite a few dozen bikers who would be crossing that pass each year. I think I may have been one of the earliest ... I was there around May 20th.
I know Tiffany Coates rode across it 2-up about 6 weeks later.!! (2 girls, 2 up on an R80GS) She still had to deal with plenty of sort of ice and snow even in July! (http://www.tiffanystravels.co.uk/node/140)
For what its worth, the Chinese are trying to build a tunnel (at roughly the same altitude (2700m) under the Shakhristan Pass as well. No idea on hoped for completion date for that tunnel ... Sambor might know.
I've been lurking all your threads for some time. I'm currently starting to learn some russian... Not entirely your fault, but you did your part
(by the way. not all norwegians are that hopeless..)
Beautiful and detailed itinerary,with lots of wonderful pictures !!!
One question:my friend was driving a 2003 years of part time and then in Uzbekistan was not legal to buy gasoline but the children in bottles of coca cola.Route ,which would be driven this year,going partly as your(Uzbekistan)and we are interested in what was the situation with gasoline for your trip and what is the price?
Thanks,and anticipation of continuing
No, in fact the opposite ... normally they are excellent in the outdoors. Maybe even the best in the world on average ... which its why its so strange to read about clue-less norwegians. You just dont expect that!