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Silk Road & Pamirs #16 – Goodbye Pamirs

Travel with Henry > All adventures > Silk Road & Pamirs #16 – Goodbye Pamirs


Center map

the local story – what happened

The last days in the Pamir belonged to the Kara-Kol – the largest lake of Tajikistan in the north-east of the plateau. The way there led over the Pamir-Highway and the 4655 m high Akbaital-Pass, the road surface was as usual – gravel and corrugated iron, so in bad condition. Kati suffered extremely from the lack of oxygen, with 30 Km/h we went uphill in dense snowfall. The drop in performance seems even higher in high humidity than in dry conditions.

When leaving Murghab again a short view of the city

From the pass, the road runs for the next 100 km along the border fence with China to Kyrgyzstan. Although not really much changes, this area around the Kara-Kol seems even more inhospitable than the rest of the Pamir. Sven Hedin reached the lake several times from Kashgar on his journey through West China and Central Asia – even in winter – and described his stays there as the most extreme and coldest experiences on his travels.

The border fence to China directly on the road – in Soviet times it was under power, today it is no longer. This leads to the fact that in cold winters fence posts are stolen by the people living here and used as fuel. Every spring it has to be repaired anew.

The village of Karakol – situated directly on the lake…and the surrounding area. 

Despite the warming evening sun, this was the coldest place of my journey so far

The view over the lake towards the Alai Range compensates for the extreme weather conditions.

20 km south of Karakol, a 7-hour hike takes you up to the 5050m high Peak Ortobosz, from where you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the mountains and the lake. The only downside was the icy cold and the wind, therefore longer rest periods were impossible.

The ascent to the Ortobosz with traces of Marco Polo sheep

To the east is the Chinese Sarykol mountain range

After nearly 4000 km and 5 weeks in Tajikistan we have to say goodbye. The Fan Mountains and the Pamir have been the highlight of my trip so far in all areas. No matter if it is about motorcycling, nature and mountains or the hospitality of the people, it will be difficult to improve what I experienced here.

On the last kilometers in Tajikistan again the old Russian jeep UAZ – needs 20 liters per 100 km, is extremely spartan equipped but very cross-country

At the Tajik / Kyrgyz border – once again Bakshish demands had to be fended off on the Tajik side before 30 km through no man’s land went downhill steadily.

The Kyrgyz take the entry very seriously – everyone is systematically checked for drugs with dogs. After another 30 km you reach Sary-Tash – the first Kyrgyz village after the Pamir – within a short time you overcome 1500m altitude difference and the temperatures rise by 20 degrees. From there you are in Osh in 3 hours – down another 1500m and up another 20 degrees.

The first Kyrgyz shepherds

Pik Lenin – actually I wanted to climb the mountain, but the bad weather conditions in the Pamirs would mean a too long waiting time.

From Sary-Tash the view back to the mountains of the Pamir

The way down to Osh with ideal Kati conditions – with the jeep it takes 6 hours, Kati makes it in 2.

Osh used to be a trading centre and central hub on the way from/to China, the Central Asian states and the countries along the Western Silk Road. Today the city is a hub for backpackers on their way between West China and Uzbekistan. After Kyrgyzstan has been fully developed for tourism, masses of individual travellers are once again meeting here, taking a break, true to Lonely Planet. After 5 weeks in Tajikistan, the huge bazaar is a welcome change and gives the opportunity to buy fruit and vegetables in abundance as well as those things that were lost or destroyed in the mountains. As you can find here mainly goods from nearby China, the products are consistently cheap but unfortunately of modest quality. Osh was also the ideal place for me to regenerate for a few days.

So, with fruit and vegetables I have again and again taken up… but with such a sight one gladly renounces carnal pleasures. 

The number of guesthouses and hotels is as manageable as the number of restaurants and bars. Thus, one always meets other travellers with whom one can spend a pleasant evening.

The two Chinese are filmmakers, work for National Geographic Asia and are currently shooting a documentary about their trip by car from Beijing to Berlin.

A Burgenlander who is on his way home by bicycle from South-East Asia via China, a Japanese woman travelling around the world, Dennis the Belgian, an Israeli banker with an American passport who is gaining distance from the financial crisis by backpacking for 2 months and a young Frenchman who has been hiking through Kyrgyzstan for 3 months.

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