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During this motorbike trip, you will cross three unknown countries in Central Asia. Each and every one of these countries is very different. The highlight of the trip is the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. This is a reasonably unique and challenging motorbike trip to one of the last remaining mysteries of nature on earth!
You will stay at various accommodations throughout the tour, involving Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. This trip goes through very remote areas of Tajikistan. There are no hotels here. For this reason, you will regularly stay in local people's homes in so-called "homestays". These are obviously fairly simple shelters but the plus factor is that they put you in direct contact with the locals.
You will start your journey in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek. The majority of this country consists of beautiful rolling hills. Hotels are limited here and you regularly sleep in a small guesthouse, yurt camp or in people's homes. One does not encounter many tourists in this empty desert country populated by extremely hospitable locals. After Osh, you cross the border into Uzbekistan. This is mainly a flat country, however it has wonderful ancient silk road cities. From Samarkand, you will visit the great Registan.
Tajikistan is mostly mountains. Here, you are driving on the famous Pamir Highway, far above the tree-line. This highway was originally built by the Russians as a defense line against the advancing British colonial troops from the south. The highway runs along the border with Afghanistan through one of the most rugged and most remote regions on earth. Choice in accommodation is limited in this part of the country.
You will be picked up from the airport and taken to the hotel. Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It is a busy city, but not very big. The motorbikes are not from Bishkek and will be delivered to the hotel today.
Bishkek is located in one of the few flat parts of the country. Today, you drive directly into the mountains. This starts with a beautiful climb from a gorge that will bring you from the lowlands into the mountains. You wind through the mountains to the small village of Kyzyl Oy. Here, you will spend the night in a simple guesthouse.
You drive further east and from a distance, will see the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains. Then, you turn to a dirt road. This will bring you to the beautiful Song Kul Lake. You drive around the lake and then arrive at your yurt camp. You sleep in a yurt tent, just like the local people.
Today's beautiful dirt road will take you over two high passes with beautiful views of the deserted, inhospitable landscape. Now and then, you come across men on horses who tend their sheep. Kazarman is a small village where there is no commercial accommodation. Here, you will have to sleep in a homestay.
You continue on the dirt road until you reach a paved main road around midday. This is a busier inhabited part of the country. You drive to the second city of the country, Osh. Here, people speak more Uzbek than Kyrgyz. It is a city that has been set up by the soviet with wide streets and squares and a beautiful statue of Lenin on one of the streets.
Early in the morning, you will cross the border to Uzbekistan. This brings you to the Fergana Valley. This is a fertile piece of lowland surrounded by mountain ranges. The valley was drawn during the division of the countries near Uzbekistan. It is only connected to the rest of the country with a narrow piece of land, there is only one road. You follow this road and at the most narrow point, you will cross a beautiful pass. After the descent, you arrive in the capital of the country, Tashkent.
You are now in the lowland part of the country. The Russians have planted this area full of cotton plantations. They got the irrigation water from Lake Baikal. It shrunk to less than a third of its original size. So, it's a flat landscape. The city of Samarkand is where you spend the night. The city is mainly known for its large silk route settlements. This is the Registan.
You have a day off here to visit the interesting places in the area.
It is only a short distance from Samarkand to the border of Tajikistan. This is also the border of the landscape between the flat Uzbekistan and the mountainous Tajikistan. After the border procedures, you drive to Penjikend for lunch. Then, you turn south. There is an unpaved road that runs alongside a number of lakes. The road gets worse after each lake, as you drive to the seventh lake. Here, you spend the night in a homestay. It is a deserted but beautiful area.
You start to drive back along the lakes to the main road. Once there, you continue to head east through the mountain landscape of West Tajikistan along winding roads and deep gorges. The road here is in good condition but the gorges next to it are immensely deep.
About 80 kilometers before Dushanbe, you have to go through the infamous and dangerous Anzob tunnel - "the gate to hell". The road surface in this tunnel is full of holes and the reinforcement bar is loose everywhere. The holes and channels are almost invisible because of the water that flows down from the ceiling. The cars criss-cross each other and there is no lighting, but there is sometimes a big broken fan in the way. An exciting ride that you will not soon forget. Towards the end of the afternoon, you arrive in the capital of Tajikistan: Dushanbe.
This city is one of the most beautiful cities of the former Soviet Union and is located around 160 kilometers from Afghanistan. You stay here for two nights in Rudakistraat, within walking distance of the Presidential Palace, the museum, the reclining Buddha, and the local market.
You drive out of town on the main road and after 20 kilometers, you take a narrow paved road. Along the hydroelectric power station and the large dam, you drive to Dangara where you stop for lunch. You drive south and approach the border with Afghanistan. You have checkpoints throughout the ride and local police officers can stop you. You must show respect for their work and patiently undergo the checks of your passport. Usually the agents are just curious and want to be photographed with you and your motorcycle. Today, it can again be a hot day, meandering through the curves and along the beautiful Blue Lake. You end the day driving through an endless plain with grain fields.
The route of Kulyab is partly unpaved and it is a beautiful area, even below the tree line. Almost the entire day, you drive along the Panj River that separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan, through the mountains. You pass a few checkpoints and end the day in a simple guesthouse.
You leave early and follow the border with Afghanistan and the river all day. This is a very sparsely populated rugged area and the peaks around you reach over 5,000 meters. This is the autonomous region of the Pamir people. Pamirs are rocks that have been carved by glaciers. After a particularly impressive route through the mountains, you arrive in Khorog. You spend the night in a simple hotel. The area around Khorog is beautiful and rugged. The two high mountain peaks are from the Skalinsky of 5,700 meters and the Shavash of 5,300 meters.
You continue to follow the river border with Afghanistan in the province of Badakshan. The peaks around you now reach over 6,000 meters. You visit the hot springs of Gharm Chasma. These springs are in limestone rocks and have a resemblance to the springs in Pamukkale in Turkey. Then, you slowly drive on a bad dirt road into the Wakhan Corridor, along a meandering river bed with the foothills of the Hindu Kush on one side and the Pamir Mountains on the other. Ishkashim is a border town with Afghanistan. Here, the Great Game ended and the Russians and British agreed to turn the Wakhan Corridor into a neutral zone.
You drive further into the Corridor and see Buddhist caves in the rock face and remains of what may be a Buddhist stupa. Snowy peaks appear around you and along the river, you finally arrive in Langar. Here, the Wakhi River flows together with the Panj River and becomes the Pamir River. A bridge is being built to Afghanistan to connect the Pamir Highway with the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan, which may herald a whole new era in this isolated region. You spend the night in Langar again in a simple homestay.
In Langar, you bend off the river and climb the Khargush pass of 4,344 meters and thus leave the Afghan border. From here, the Pamir Highway is an unpaved road through a deserted wasteland along various mountain lakes with salt beaches. A beautiful day that leads to the small village of Bulunkul. There are seldom foreigners in this remote village, certainly not on motorbikes. After a few hours' drive, you arrive in Murghab.
Murghab is the largest settlement in the area. You get a first look at the mountain giant Muztagh Ata, located on the Chinese side of the Pamir. Unemployment here is almost 100%, a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union on which the Russians who took care of the work almost all left. Very special is a market neighborhood that is made up of various containers.
You are now driving close to the border with China. For that reason, there is again a military control post after an hour's drive. On the other side of the border is the Chinese province of Xin Jiang with the capital Kashgar. In this still wild area, you pass the Akbaytal pass of 4,655 meters. You then arrive at Lake Karakul, an opal blue lake with snowy mountain tops in the background. You stop here for lunch.
Then, you climb to the border post. This is located on a pass of 4,300 meters. After the formalities, it is not so far to Sary Tash. You do not spend the night in the village itself, but a bit outside of it at Kamp Lenin. This camp is named after the highest peak of Kyrgyzstan, on the border with Tajikistan. If you are lucky with the weather, you can see the peak from the camp.
After Sary Tash, it only goes downhill and you leave the Pamirs behind you forever. At the end of the afternoon, you arrive in Osh. You hand in the bikes and spend another day off in this small town to do your last shopping and to recover from this impressive journey.
This is the last day of the tour.
You will ride on unpaved roads for roughly half the route. These are usually good densely-packed gravel roads but the impact of the rainy season can render them difficult to ride on. It remains necessary, of course, to watch out carefully in the tight turns.
The high passes in this region are only open in the summer months; in other seasons there is too much snow. This also means that much snow melts in the summer resulting in the meltwater flowing over the roads. This can be a harmless stream but can also be the cause of a significant landslide.
Keep in mind that a solution must be sought in such circumstances. This may be a short detour but might also require riding through the stream on your motorcycle. Flexibility is an important characteristic to have in sufficient quantity on this trip.
The combination of three factors can make this trip fairly challenging. First of all, there are the dirt roads in the mountains of Tajikistan. Secondly, the high altitude renders the journey difficult for many participants. Without exception, everyone will suffer from the high altitude.
For some, it will be limited to breathlessness and vague symptoms, whilst others will experience more annoying symptoms such as headaches and nausea. These are all normal reactions and most of the symptoms will disappear after a number of days.
This process is called acclimatization and you will find extensive information about this in the manual. To facilitate the process of acclimatization, it is important to ascend as slowly and smoothly as possible. This has been taken into account in the itinerary.
This motorbike tour will take place in three countries: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. You will go and ride through Bishkek, Kyzyl Oy, Song Kul, Kazarman, Osh, and Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan; Tashkent and Samarkand in Uzbekistan; and Seven Lakes, Dushanbe, Kalaikhum, Khorog, Langar, and Murgab in Tajikistan.
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