Mongolia to Tajikistan, alone on the Sibirsky Extreme Trail.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by willmaniac, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. nachtflug

    nachtflug deplorable

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    I can only see the pictures on page one?
    #81
  2. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University

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    Absolutely amazing !

    Big thumbs up :thumb from this side of the Tasman.

    S
    #82
  3. willmaniac

    willmaniac Adventurer

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    Landing back in Osh, Kyrgyzstan; it had been 10 months since I had parked Suzi the Suzuki up for the winter. I found her right where I’d left her at Muztoo, ready for the next adventure. Well, ready for the next adventure after a little TLC..

    Muztoo is the place to go for repairs, rentals and storage in Osh. Over the next couple of days I replaced the chain, sprockets, front tyre, front and rear-wheel bearings and battery. I also rebuilt the carby and took the subframe to be welded up. Along with a number of other small jobs. Not working in my own workshop was frustrating at times, things like clean rags and workspace were non-existent. George the Brit running the place is a legend. Always happy to help.

    This was the third and hopefully final attempt at trying to fix the subframe. This year I came armed with some 5mm aluminium plate, which I had the welder add for extra strength.

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    The aluminium welder of Osh.

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    Ugly welds can still be strong welds, right?


    During this time a number of other travellers drifted into Muztoo in need of mechanical assistance. Electrical problems on a 701 ,an old BMW in need of a full rebuild and a pair of Endfields with to many problems to list. A cyclist came in with a cracked frame he had first taken to a local welder. Who had tried to repair the crack in his thin steel frame with an arc welder, enviably blowing a large hole in the metal . The end result the only thing that had been welded together, was his seat post in the frame! Finally, I was ready to leave the hot and polluted city for the cool and clean mountains. Walter had given me the GPS coordinates of some tracks down south, which I hadn’t had time to explore last year. First on the list was the Nichke Suu Pass.



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    Guy I met at the bottom of the Pass on a cool old Soviet bike.

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    Note the pipe burn mark. I think every real rider has done this once or twice.

    He said the Pass was possible, so off I confidently set. As I climbed the track became increasing more and more challenging. Many steep hairpin turns covered with loose fist-sized rocks had me falling off, and Suzi spewing out coolant. As I struggled my way up I was thinking, Walter’s been up here if he can do it so can I. He later informed me that he hadn’t ridden it yet, and that I was the first that he knows that has. Unknowingly, I was the ‘guinea pig’.

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    Finally I reached the top and was rewarded with an epic view.


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    This dozer doesn't look like it has moved for awhile . I don't think we need to be worried about this mountain pass becoming a highway anytime soon!


    Halfway down the backside of the mountain I met a large and excitable family having an overnight picnic in the middle of track. They insisted that I stay the night, feeding and entertaining me well into the night.

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    The boys. As always the women were behind the scenes doing all the work. This guy was a selfie pro.


    Next on my list was crossing the Tengizbay Pass which would spit me out on the main road near Sary Mogul, a short distance from the Kyrgy/Tajik boarder crossing. Unfortunately this crossing was not to be. I didn’t have the required border permit and the military turned me back. Not even an offer to pay a ‘special fee’ could convince them to let me through. So I detoured, revisited a route I’d taken last year this time riding it in reverse.




    It was time to get the drone out. Safe to say these local boys were impressed.

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    Suzi in her natural habitat.


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    I overnighted with this family high up in the mountains. The youngster in the middle was a real troublemaker!


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    It was way to cold for an Australian up here !


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    One my way down. Home is where the yurt is .


    Tajikistan


    The border crossing into Tajikistan was uneventful. However, this year I noticed I was struggling more with the altitude then I had the year before. So unfit! In Karakol I stayed at the same guest house as last year and took the same photo. Adventurous!


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    It was here I heard the news that four foreigner cyclists had been attacked and killed on the Pamir Highway. Previously, Tajikistan had been a place where westerners could travel safely and catch a glimpse across the river into life in Afghanistan. For now the security situation is unknown. Was this an isolated incident? Or a warning of what's to come.. My plan was to ride the Bartang again, then in Rushon I would head west to Dushanbe along the Pamir highway and my 2018 adventure would start afresh.


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    The Bartang was as beautiful, remote and challenging as it had been the year before. The Village of Savnob pictured where I stayed in the guest house. Hospitality in the Bartang is legendary, unconditional offers of fresh apricots, tea and accommodation the entire way.

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    The Lower Bartang.

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    I do like an old dozer .

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    I stayed the night at the Seven Lakes (this is the sixth lake). My morning swim was very refreshing.


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    Track up. Very unique landscapes. Its amazing that my old Australian plated bike got to visit here.


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    Say Cheese.


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    First stop in Dushanbe was the bikers club house for fresh engine blood.


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    Plov is as good as the food gets in Tajik, greasy riced rice with unknown chunks of meat.


    Next post I will cross into Uzbekistan followed by the North Korea of central Asia, Turkmenistan...
    #83
  4. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Simply WOW!
    #84
  5. Dutchgit

    Dutchgit Completely clogless

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    Awesome images and the video is fantastic too !

    Please do continue :thumb
    #85
  6. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Love my Tranny Super Supporter

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    just caught up with this. Awesome trip and write up.
    #86
  7. Dan Alexander

    Dan Alexander still alive and well

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    "It was here I heard the news that four foreigner cyclists had been attacked and killed on the Pamir Highway. Previously, Tajikistan had been a place where westerners could travel safely and catch a glimpse across the river into life in Afghanistan"

    Damn sad to hear.

    Have you met anyone who's crossed into Afghanistan recently? I was in Northern Afghanistan around Mazar-I-Sharif and Balkh way back in 1971, planned on checking out the Wakhan Corridor but ran out of time and moved on east. Need to get back and finish that bucket list item one day.
    #87
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  8. Runswithscizzors

    Runswithscizzors Been here awhile

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    Glad to see you posting again. Great stuff.
    #88
  9. willmaniac

    willmaniac Adventurer

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    Sounds like a great adventure that was well before I was born !! Yes my mate took his wife over on their honey moon in October ! They said there was talk at the Afghan embassy in khorog of closing the boarder next year to foreigners. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen. The attack actually took place further west of the Wakhan along the pamir hwy closer to Dushanbe. It was on my list too but decided to give it a miss.

    #89
  10. Dan Alexander

    Dan Alexander still alive and well

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    Yup it was a long time ago, I was 19.

    There weren't many travellers around back then and I never saw any on motorcycles. Did meet a guy with a VW dune buggy with Yukon Territory plates up in Mazar LOL .... hitched a ride with him out into the desert to watch some Buzkashi games. Wild stuff! I really liked the people there better than the surrounding countries and am very saddened that the Russians tried to occupy them for so long and now more foreign influence is causing all kind of problems. Don't see an end to it all.
    #90
  11. Darryl625

    Darryl625 Adventurer

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    fantastic
    #91
  12. poppawheelie

    poppawheelie Been here awhile

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    "Wow" +1. Nice to see you back.
    #92
  13. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    I somehow overlooked your RR…my bad!

    Great trip, awesome photos! Please do continue.

    Among the 4 unfortunately killed bicyclists was a Dutch national (plus 2 Americans and a Swiss). Their group was 7 people in total. The whole incident was covered somewhat extensively in our national media. Apparently 4 perpetrators were killed by police, and a few more were put to trial. As so often, Isis claimed the attack, the accused were said to be member of a national opposition party but actual proof seems sketchy and more politically motivated. So no real explanation for the whole thing, let’s hope it is and remains an isolated incident.

    Looking very much forward to the next installment!
    #93
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  14. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    isolated to the possibility of most anyplace in the world.
    #94
  15. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Indeed. Cynical perhaps, but it is a bit like the lottery; the prize falls for sure, but what are the odds of you winning it.
    #95
  16. willmaniac

    willmaniac Adventurer

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    Exactly and your odds are still less likely Tajikistan then many western capitals going on past events… I hope I haven’t put anyone off visiting this amazing country. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are a must for every adventure rider and offcourse Mongolia.
    #96
    squadraquota likes this.
  17. willmaniac

    willmaniac Adventurer

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    Uzbekistan

    Uzbekistan was impressive mosques, long flat boring riding and shitty fuel ! The benzine at 80 Ron doesn’t disagree with Suzi to much but economy goes through the roof, close to double. In the past overlanders have reported shortages of fuel, but this was not my experience between Smakand and Nukus anyway.

    Around Smakand good fuel was available, but around 2/3 of the way to Nukus I could only find benzine .

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    I’m not usually one for major tourist attractions but the old city of Samarkand is impressive .

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    All in the detail .

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    This mongol rally team had packed it all , including a Chinese mini moto !

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    About as interesting as the scenery gets in Western Uzbekistan.

    Turkmenistan


    Having won the visa lottery, I had been granted a 5 day Turkmenistan transit visa!! In the past travellers have been given set days they had to arrive on then depart by. As you can imagine on a long trip this was very problematic. I applied at the London embassy and was emailed an invitation which gave me a more reasonable 45 day window to get to the boarder, where they would then give me the actual visa. Thankfully this system worked well, even if the first day of my five was taken mostly up by the actually paperwork ! The border guys were very friendly and helped me get many bits of paper stamped and fees paid. They had Katy Perry’s Californian girls blasting across the offices,not what I expected from a North Korean like dictatorship.

    First stop was to get some dollars changed into local manats. The first person I asked on the street was happy to exchange at 1USD to 12 Manats which I thought was a great deal as the offical rate was 1 to 3.5. The president has inforced a fixed exchange rate at banks and ATMs, this has created a black market for locals wanting to cash out. Later I found even better rates. So if visiting bring enough US dollars for your whole stay, do not use the ATMs as they only despense local currency.

    Next was petrol. With my black market manats I was very happy to discover a litre of fuel (95 Ron) cost around 10 cents US !! A whole tank of fuel for under $3 . Sounds to good to be true ? Yep, on entry they agree on a set travel route, calculate the distance and charge you a fuel offset fee. Deviating off this agreed route is highly illegal, which ofcourse I later did...


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    My approved route .

    Then it was on to the Darvaza gas crater. 30 years ago gas exploration engineers lit the crater expecting it to soon burn out, this has not yet happened. Once an embarrassment for the government they are now turning the “gates to hell” into an attraction, recently building a fence and upgrading the track in . Which ofcourse to me are massive downgrades and took away from the experience of this once hard to get to spot . None the less, it’s an impressive hole on fire .

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    Bag man of Darvaza.

    Up early keen to make the most of my limited time in Turkmenistan I set off for the Capital Ashgabat. Proudly in the Guinness Book of World Records boasting the most marble buildings in the world, Ashgabat is a very odd place. Funded by its oil and gas riches the city is full of immaculate parks , monuments, government buildings (all marble ofcourse with gold trim) with police and military outnumbering the local civilians on the streets. The city is very modern but earily empty. “A mix of Pyongyang and Las Vegas “ as described by one blog. Having been to neither I will take his word for it.

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    Ministry of education ( open book shaped building ) & Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the world globe up the top.

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    Worlds largest indoor Ferris wheel.

    Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos as I was continually told off . Being the only civilian on a street with 4 plus military guys watching you is unnerving, let alone waving a camera around. And I had no idea what the rules were.

    Some strange facts I found out about Turkmenistan.

    The president decided he didn’t like black coloured cars and banned them. This pushed up prices and demand for resprays before cars were impounded.

    Power and natural gas are free for all citizens, good way to win popularity.

    YouTube and Facebook are both blocked.

    Some Mongol Rally teams I had met cars had been fitted with GPS trackers at the boarder. Creepy.

    If anyone knows anymore please share. Five days to transit a whole country doesn’t give you a chance to scratch the surface, and I’m assuming that’s the idea !

    My plan was to catch a ship and sail across the Caspian Sea exiting Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. The ships are naturiusly unreliable and no timetable is available. With this in mind I had to rush to the port town of Turkmenbashi to not risk overstaying my visa. I had one last stop planned at Yangycala canyon . This was the one detour off my planned route, the border transport officer had not allowed this route for an unknown reason. Possibly because I ended up riding right pass the front gates to the presidential hunting lodge.

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    Yangycala canyon.

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    My new friends who took me to the Caspian Sea resort of Avaza.


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    The Turkmenbashi ferry terminal.

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    Waiting.

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    Finally on the move heading across the Caspian to Baku Azerbaijan.
    #97
  18. hoodun

    hoodun Been here awhile

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    Epic photo of the Yangycala canyon.
    #98
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  19. DGR

    DGR G650X

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    Awesome, both the trip and the quality of your report :clap
    #99
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  20. plumer1kt

    plumer1kt Adventurer

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    This should be the official AdvRider photo!!!
    Rdy2Trvl, DavidM1, willmaniac and 9 others like this.