There are 2 routes to Khorog- the southern route is 100km longer and goes thru lower hotter countryside. The northern route is presently closed to cars because of 2 bridge washouts and goes through the mountains, but it was not guaranteed we could get through. We liked the sound of another closed road so we headed that way.
As is our MO we were cycling out of Dushanbe before 6. The day got hotter and windier and we only made 50km before we gave in to the climatic conditions and found somewhere to stay.
5am the next morning we were biking out of town, into drizzle! Hard to predict this weather. Once we crossed a low pass the scenery started getting more dramatic as we started following the huge Vakhsh river upstream. The road had deteriorated considerably and there was little traffic. We stopped at a riverside ‘pop up’ Sunday market where we bought some food and people came over and gave us gifts of food as we sat making lunch. The undulations added up to 1000m by the time we pitched the tent at a scenic spot above the river. A car pulled up and we were given 2 large packets of jam filled cake/biscuits. We cannot believe how friendly people are.
Back to sunshine the next day and the first of many passport checks before starting up a rugged gorge with it’s foaming chocolate coloured river. We had a 2 hr siesta in the heat of the day and 2 hrs later were trying to get the tent up in wind, rain, thunder and lightening.
We have met 4 other cyclists along the way – 2 French and 2 Germans. We are the older but wiser ones with much smaller loads and much fatter tyres so can make faster progress. We didn’t leave camp till after lunch the next day because of rain and wind and our steads rode well thru all the mud and rough conditions, crocs fashioned on the carrier made good mudguards.
We were all stopped at the first missing bridge as the river was too high to cross with all the rain- locals saved the day by positioning a makeshift ‘bridge’ across the chocolate flow and we teetered across with our bikes. We had a stunning campsite at the top side of the village of kalaihussain after the short but eventful day.
The second bridge issue was early on the next day. Instead of being horizontal, one end had dropped off its foundations but luckily was still accessible by foot. Locals were ferrying supplies from vehicles on both sides for villages cut off.
We had near empty roads for the long climb to Khaburabot pass and a massive 40km and 2000m of descent to Kalaikhum township where we met the driveable route to/from Dushanbe. There was a dramatic change from green hillsides to brown. The town is on the banks of the Panj river which divides Afghanistan and Tajikistan and drains the Pamir and Hindu Khush mountains, Valerie Adams could probably lob a rock into Afghanistan – how cool is that!