In Kala-i Khum we had a lush night in the most expensive hotel in town – which was only 30 USD, by the way. Birk and Lukas were keen on moving a few kms forward but after a beer, they were easily convinced that staying and enjoying some comfort and a proper shower was the best decision.We were so content with our rooms that decided to take full advantage of it until the check out time, midday of the day after.
Having a pretty late start we didn’t cycle much at all. Lethargy and laziness definitely took over and after 30km or so we found a spot for the tent on a sandy beach right on the Panj river.
The view was pretty stunning, and looking over the Afghan side was very fascinating too. Not everyday happens to have a pick into the day to day life of a country you’ll probably never want/imagine to visit.
After dinner we sat down on the beach, watching the sky slowly getting darker and darker, until a million stars and the Milky Way were clearly visible.
The day after we were up for an early start and by 8:15 we were on the road. We planned on doing around 70km but we soon found out that sticking to the plan was impossible. The road got really rough again, and steep uphills completely drained us.
Lukas felt sick with the stomach and threw up on the side of the road. Ross and I, just a little further ahead, had a complete energy breakdown (he says it’s called bonking) and sat down on the dusty road eating any sort of carbohydrates and energy bars we had in our bags. The little village we had just passed was way too weird and creepy to stop at, having almost the same sense of unrealness as in a Tim Burton’s movie. Don’t ask me why, I wouldn’t know what to answer.
After 46km and 700m gained we called it a day and relied on a kind farmer and his beautifully grassed land for a safe spot. We also found out that he had hosted other cyclists before as he looked quite the expert in showing us the best spots where to pitch the tents. Lukas fell asleep on his mattress right away, while Birk, Ross and I had dinner and retired to our tents when the wind started blowing strong.
On the third day on our way to Khorog from Kalaikhumb we woke up breathing exhaustion. After 6km we had already stopped by a cafe, a little oasis in the middle of sand dunes where we had two portions each of sausages and eggs.
We just struggled to move and started dreaming of that nice Airbnb we saw in Khorog, complete with 4 bedrooms and a bath tub. “Only” 160km were between it and us. And crappy roads. And steep climbs. And god knows what else. We heard that this 200 or so kms would have been easier but it seemed like the Pamir Highway kept throwing at us a challenge after the other.
When we finally decided to make a move, Birk found a couple of punctures in his front wheel. It was midday and the Garmin was still fixed on the same 6km as before.
But as we got on our bikes a miracle happened. The quality of the road magically increased, and we could also feel the Berocca and the eggs kicking in. We were high on proteins, multivitamins, minerals and tarmac!
We cycled through more amazing valleys and canyons, we saw the Afghans precariously hanging on steep cliffs drilling and blowing them up with dynamite to create roads. We waved at them and they waved back – or maybe they were just telling us to move away as the dynamite was about to go off.
And we met 4 more cyclists. We camped altogether on a nice grassy piece of land which was marked as a campground on Maps.me by some other cyclists who have passed by there in the past. Everything was good as the Pamir Highway finally seemed to have decided to give our bodies, and brains, a hint of ceasefire.
We had another early start and after the first 25km a valley opened up. It became less steep and we happily rolled into Rushan, where we decided to rest in Murabak’s Guest House. We “risked” an early dinner in a local restaurant and had plenty of rest for the final 65km ride to Khorog. A shot of Tajik vodka to kill any possible bacteria and food poisoning, and then it was bed time.
The day after, we made it to Khorog at about 4pm; the thought of resting for a few days had never been so sweet. A final hell of a climb led us to the Pamir Lodge, a nice hostel which is often considered to be the equivalent version of the Green House Hostel in Dushanbe (not quite the same to tell the truth). A good few interesting chats about Chinese expansion and development abroad, a couple of Israeli Hippies, the ritual questions about the rest of the M41, some pizzas on the way, a day bed to lie on, and we were done. Our much awaited days off the bikes were finally there. And all those scary stories about the road lying ahead of us did not matter, at least not for another couple of days.