ende +43 699 131 88 770 tour@travel-with-henry.com

Silk Road & Pamirs #15 – Around Murghab

Travel with Henry > All adventures > Silk Road & Pamirs #15 – Around Murghab

overview

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

the local story – what happened

Murghab is the largest settlement in eastern Pamir. The people who live here call their plateau, which lies between 3800m and 4500m, the roof of the world. Accordingly inhospitable is the nature, there are hardly any green areas and only sparse vegetation, only yaks, sheep and goats can survive here. The surrounding mountain ranges rise to 5000m to 7500m, during the day temperatures can reach up to 15 degrees Celsius in good weather, at night regelmaeЯig falls below the zero degree limit even in summer. In the almost two weeks from mid to end of June, during which I stayed in this part of the Pamir, it snowed in the evening except for one day all day long. 

The only paved road in very bad condition is the Pamir Hiqhway, which leads over 750 km from Khorog to Osh in Kyrgyzstan – in the main valleys there are some gravel roads or just lanes – the rest is off-road. You just ride as far as you can – and if it doesn’t work anymore you turn around and try another way – the conditions are paradisiacal. You can roam through the countless side valleys for days on end without meeting people – only the limited fuel capacity led me back to Murghab again and again. There is no petrol station in Murghab, but you can buy petrol from a canister in some private houses.

The plain of Alichur

In between you can find cultural assets, such as the 12000 year old rock paintings of Shaty-Kar-Teshe in the Kurtesiskei valley.

If you get high enough and the weather is right, you can even see the Chinese mountains Muztag Ata with 7546 m and Kongur Chan with 7719 m.

Or you may come across an abandoned hunting camp somewhere, with the remains of long gone Soviet times.

Here I have the horns of a Marco Polo sheep in my hand.

For a couple of hikes over 5000 m I made an appointment with Dennis, a Belgian – together we could climb some mountains and passes. He had rented a jeep with driver in Murghab. As a starting point for the ascent of the Belairek Pass we stayed with a shepherd in Kensiber at about 4200 m.

As everywhere else, there is milk and bread for dinner, while the main room for the overnight stay was left to us, the family slept in an adjoining room together with a dead yak.

..and apparently there are gremlins here too.

Shukur Ermek-Bay, the shepherd told us that one of his yaks was torn by a snow leopard this winter. This area is the home of extremely rare predators, as well as the Marco Polo sheep and the Ibex (ibex). The probability of encountering them here in the Alichur range is very high, and was one of the main reasons for climbing this mountain. The Marco Polo sheep are very much sought after by European and American hunters, a shot costs between 25.000 and 45.000 USD.

From the ridge of the pass you can see the Zoer-Kul and the Wakhan range – both are in Afghanistan.

We didn’t see any Marco-Polo sheep, only their tracks – nevertheless the 8-hour hike through the snow was fantastic.

In between we went back to Murghab again and again to do the necessary shopping and to take a deep breath.

At the Murghab Bazaar

Alex from Paris, with his BMW on the way to Kathmandu.

The two Russian companions for successful ascents and cold nights have been added to the team…

Further in the east, at the Chinese border there are some mountains to climb. To be allowed to drive into this area beyond Rangkul, you need a permit from the KGB (the secret service is still called that in Tajikistan) – but the effort to get it is worth it.

In Rangkul, just before the Chinese border, the yak dung is closely guarded…

Further up in the mountains we stayed in the yurt of Talant – Bek. The shepherd lives in the mountains all year round with his family and looks after sheep and yaks.

Even if it doesn’t look like much from the outside, inside the yurts are very spacious and when heated they are cosy and warm. But when it rains or the snow melts, it drips in…

Talant-Beks favourite sideline is poaching – that’s why Marco-Polo’s sheep and noodles are served in the evening. Actually I am a vegetarian, but I had to taste a bite of the rare meat…

Here a wolf has come too close to him, he has pulled the fur over his ears without further ado.

From the ascent to the 5200m high Chotastostuslar I promised myself a wonderful view of the Chinese mountains around the Muztag Ata. Hip high snow and sharp scree edges made the attempt extremely difficult. Dennis had to give up 200m below the summit because of shortness of breath – I continued with Talant-Bek until about 20m below the summit. A sudden snow storm forced us to turn back after a waiting time of half an hour schlieЯlich shortly before the finish.

If it has snowed during the night and the snow melts in the morning, it is almost impossible to get through with the motorcycle. The groeЯte problem is not the difficult ground conditions, but the loss of performance of Kati. Because of the bad petrol (80 octane) and the low oxygen content of the air she loses an estimated 50% of her power. With the low ground conditions, inclines at 4500m above sea level become an insurmountable obstacle.

If it has snowed during the night and the snow melts in the morning, it is almost impossible to get through with the motorcycle. The groeЯte problem is not the difficult ground conditions, but the loss of performance of Kati. Because of the bad petrol (80 octane) and the low oxygen content of the air she loses an estimated 50% of her power. With the low ground conditions, inclines at 4500m above sea level become an insurmountable obstacle.

Leave a Reply

Copied!