Tajikistan and the Pamir “Highway” Pargol to Murgab
Initially our plan was to get at least another 1/3 of the way to Murgab. We were up at 6 as we were in bed at asleep at 830.
First some breakfast and then we hit the road just before 9.
Now we think maybe we can make it all the way to Murgab today. Google will not route that way so here is the SPOT map. It is about 300 km and half is unpaved.
From our home stay near to Pagol it is 30 km more along the river before the road heads north. Most of this is unpaved and there are long stretches of deep gravel they have dumped on the road and a fair amount of sand. The rest is terrible wash board.
When we head north off the river and the Afghan border the fist section is 6 tight, steep, rocky off camber switchbacks, but then the road surface is mostly firm going up into the mountains. There are just a few short sandy sections to contend with.
We came upon a huge waterfall and there were 8 cyclists and Jo in a truck. We had a nice rest and talked to the other traveler. We gave 2 of the girls some candy bars and food as they had run out of food except pasta and ketchup. (there is nowhere to buy food until you reach Murgab in 200 km).
There continues to be a good gravel road until you drop back into the valley near the next river, where there is a lot of wash board and sand. This makes for slow and bone shaking riding.
We did however see some Bactrian camels just across the river in Afghanistan.
At 1230 we arrived to the next turn in the road this is where we meet the cross road to connect back to the 41. This is 100 km from the pavement and passes over 4300m. There is a military camp here at Khargush and a check point to register your passport and GBAO permit. We discussed stopping to cook something, but it was very windy and so we pressed on.
The road rises, but between there rises are plains that are either gravel washboard or sand roads. This is getting to be a very tiring day.
Reaching the summit there is no marker but we used the GPS to locate it at 4307 m. The downward road was again a lot of sand and washboard.
We finally used our spare gas to top us up, but Trevor did not have any and the only village we have seen all day is 160 km from Murgab was at 4000m and he drove around and asked for Benzene. While we were waiting for him some local ladies came to talk to us. They asked where we had come from and when we said the Wakhan valley. They said that road is terrible! They then of course offered us tea. There are a lot of very cool looking yurts. Trevor did not have to look very hard for gas as the first guy he asked said i will take you to the gas guy. He siphoned out 4 litres from a big drum for 32 Somoni (3.60$US).
Leaving the mountain again there was another plain about 30 km from the 41. It was very painful washboard and sandy road. Orvar managed to keep upright, but Sara had one spectacular crash in some very deep sand. The last 15 km to the 41 mentally took forever with the washboard and sand. It was awesome to finally hit the paved road after 4 days and this particularly challenging one.
Finally a break from the washboard from hell!
It is a paved road, but very bumpy with dips and heaves. We have 130 km to Murgab and we finally arrived there after 6. The views on the way are incredible and you are at 4000 m until the town, which is at 3600. Just after we hit the pavement we met this Korean guy who had ridden across Russia and to Tajikistan. We warned him that his bike was not for the Wakhan Valley road.
The last 80 km seemed to take forever. We stopped a lot for photos. Orvar was bitten in the face by a wasp and it really started to swell. He had to take a Benadryl it was getting so bad. 50 km from our destination we had to stop as Orvar getting drowsy and we were all starved. We broke into the emergency tuna and boiled up some noodles in Trevor’s jet boil. Lunch after 5 ADV style.
The last part we just booked it as the sun was very low. There is a military check point 5 km from the hotel. Murgab town is really in the middle of nowhere.
Murgab looks like something you would see in Star wars. There is of course no wifi and there is power only by generator from 7 am to 11. We pulled into the only hotel in town and got rooms for 30$ including breakfast. We are all bagged and suffering a bit from the altitude as last night were at 2500 m and today at 3600. There are shared cooed showers, which makes things interesting. They have a restaurant here and luckily a local guide translated for us. There is lots of beer but none is cold and so we settled on a bottle on Tajik “Cognac” for 4$. Its for shooting only and was terrible.