"Fantastic, the best country I have ever cycled in" Tim's diary
"The hardest pedal of my life." Rowena's diary
One thing we did agree on was that it was the Tajik people, their generosity and amazing hospitality, that made travelling through Tajikistan such a unique and rewarding experience. It is a fantastic country.
It was the Pamir Highway that attracted us to Tajikistan. This is a high altitude road, built by the Soviets in the 1930s, that runs through the Pamir mountains for 750km from Khorog to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. For most of its length it is above 3,000m and at it's highest point reaches 4,655m. From all the accounts we had read it was like the Karakoram Highway, only on steriods.
After independance from the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan descended into civil war and it's economy collapsed. It's been at peace now for about 10 years and its economy is recovering slowly, but it is still one of the worlds poorest countries.
The area isn't overrun with tourists. Lonely Planet estimates the total number of tourists visiting the Pamirs at less than 200 per year.
Our route through Tajikistan - click to enlarge
Dushanbe means Monday in Tajik, but we arrived at the 3am on a Friday. A whole Boeing 737, was a bit too much for the airport to cope with, so it took a while to get through immigration. By 6am we were collapsing on to comfortable sleeping mattresses at our homestay.
Rush hour in Dushanbe
In a quiet, laid-back way Dushanbe was a pleasant place to spend a couple of days. The principle attractions were:
For a capital city, it has an amazing lack of traffic.
Wide avenues and shady, tree-lined pavements.
Being dazzled by the long bright red dresses worn by the women.
Riding the trams down Rudaki avenue
Some nice brooding old buildings
A Good Guide in Dushanbe
To help us find our way round Dushanbe, we hired a guide, Mahbubullo Kholmadov. Mahubullo is a student of English at the University and an all round good bloke. We found he was a big help to us in showing us the best shops to buy supplies, tracking down some maps and brushing up our Tajik. He charges a very modest daily rate for his services and is good company. If you would like to get in touch with Mahbubullo, send us an
The first day on the road to Kalaikhum wasn't too bad. It was reasonably flat and there were some long stretches of immaculate newly laid tarmac, thanks to some Chinese road gangs who were upgarding the road. In the fields men and women were harvesting the wheat using sickles, not a tractor to be seen.
It's easier by donkey
As we cycled up the Obikhingou valley the road just got tougher and tougher. The river buried itself in the a deep gorge and the road climbed up and down the steep valley sides. After the Chinese tarmac ran out the road was in very bad condition, mostly rough gravel, The five days it took us to reach the summit of the Khaburabot Pass were by far the most stenuous of the whole trip.
This was the view from one of our camps. (The small ledge where we pitched the tent was overrun by thousands of grass hoppers)
Rowena on the road
This is Mikey Church, one of a party of three very fit americans that overtook us (and bought up all the Snickers bars ahead of us)
Campsite near Tavildara
Remains of tanks from the civil war
Starting the climb to the Khaburabot Pass
I don't know how much Rowena bribed these lads push her bike for her
Camp 2/3 up the Khaburabot (someone offered us a lift to Khorog from here)
Summit of the Khaburabot Pass 3,200m (10,500')
The descent from Khaburabot was down a very long, very steep gorge.
After about three hours we finally reached the bottom