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Tajikistan and Afghanistan Trip Journal from June 21 to July 06, 2010

To read the Tajikistan and Afghanistan Journal.

Our Route through TAJIKISTAN. Covered approx. 2000km on the motorcycles.

June 21, 2010. We crossed into Tajikistan from Uzbekistan 42km east of Samarkand. Our first stop is the old Sagdian town on the outskirts of PENJIKENT.

A small museum displays some of the findings of the excavation.

Frescos depicting hunting scenes and...

...other major artifacts. Some of these are copies and the original is at the National Museum in Dushanbe, which we would visit later.

A sign at the excavation site shows how the outer walls were constructed.

The site itself is the usual crumbling mud walls.

Ancient Penjikent reigned from the 5th to the 8th century.

Some of the reconstructed building for preservation.

From the outer walls is a great view of the new Penjikent in the valley below.

From Penjikent the road follows the Zeravshan River. At Anyi we turn south on a brand new paved road, following the Fan Darya River.

For 31km we wind our way through a canyon and turn off at the village of Zarafshon II.

Potholed pavement turns into gravel/dirt as we climb in elevation.

Looking back at the valley we had been riding through.

We encounter another couple, Pawel and Agnieszka, on two (2) Yamaha Enduro motorcycles from Poland.

We set up our tent at the former Soviet holiday camp at Iskandarkul Lake.

Mike prepares our dinner...

...just before a big thunderstorm moves in.

June 22, 2010. The next morning ISKANDAR KUL LAKE shows itself to us in its full glory.

A hike up the mountain behind the camp allows for an amazing view.

This is what Tajikistan is all about. Beautiful scenery.

It is the middle of the week and we are the only people at the lake.

Just as we pull out of the campsite, we notice a flat tire and find out that the air compressor no longer works. Luckily we have CO2 cartridges.

One last picture at the lake and we head back the 24km to the main road.

At 2500m we look back at Iskander Kul Lake

The road ahead into the valley/canyon below.

The road remains in good condition until the famous ANZOB TUNNEL at 2685m. It is approx. 5km long. A 60Watt lightbulb every 200m, barely makes a difference.

The headlights of the BMW give us only a few meters of visibility. Diesel and Benzin fumes are thick in the air. The road surface is uneven. Water is rushing across...

...and Mike takes a major tumble with the motorcycle. These truckers helped us. To read more about the event see the journal entry for June 22.

The exit point of the tunnel. After thanking the truckers we inspect the motorcycle.

The view after the tunnel is spectacular.

These mountains are all above 4000m.

From here it is all downhill to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

Mike had sprained his left thumb badly from the crash in the tunnel.

June 23, 2010. We visit the Museum of National Antiquities in Dushanbe.

Lights would be switched on when we entered a room and immediately turned off after we viewed the room.

It is a nicely layed out museum.

Unfortunately the artifacts had only Russian descriptions.

Most of the displays came from excavations like Penjikent and other archilogical areas within the country. Note Mike's blue booties.

The skull to the far right is interesting. When a child was born it would get their skull bandaged to disform it to look like this.

A mummified head.

Wonderful bronze figures.

Artifacts carved out of ivory.

Life size wooden statues, which had a charcoal/oil look to it.

The most impressive display is the original largest laying down Buddha found in Central Asia.

A picture of the original excavation of the Buddha.

A close up shot of the stone details.

The museum is worth a visit just for this.

The original fresco recovered from Penjikent.

Ancient dices.

The normal temperature of 35 Degree Celsius in Dushanbe.

Dushanbe has a population of 600,000. This treelined street is the Rudaki, the main street through Dushanbe.

June 24, 2010. We head to HISSAR located 30km west of Dushanbe.

This 18th century fortress is located at the outskirts of Hissar.

The fort is depicted on Tajikistan's 20 Somani Bill.

This is the usual sitting position of locals. The cell phone is never far away.

A couple of closed off madressas are situated across the fortress entrance gate.

Our (2) storey hotel in Dushanbe, not sure what it was called as the lettering was in Cyrillic.

The living room of our suite. Internet, Satellite TV and Fridge for $50.00/night.

We had to bargain with these (2) lovely ladies to get them down from $80 to $50. They were really helpful.

June 26, 2010. We are on the road just after 6am heading east through Wahdat to Abigarm. The scenery reminds us of the Okanagan Valley in BC, Canada.

Gradually the mountains are getting more rugged looking.

We follow the Kofarnigon River. Ruby notices extensive vibration in the Jesse bags...

...and we realize that the mounts are broken on both sides of the racks. Mike's Jesse mounts are also broken at the same point. Ruby's motorcycle had not been crashed yet on this trip.

The scenery gets more beautiful as we head east.

A checkpoint at Abigarm marks the start of gravel/dirt road. We come upon a road block.

A large Semi Truck got stuck in a switchback and ...

...his load was dangerously close to sliding down the hill.

Traffic was backed up, but we were able to squeeze through a barracade across the bridge with the help of the locals.

Women from a waiting vehicle watch as the truck gets pulled out by another truck.

A checkpoint marks the intersection of the road going north-east to Kyrgyzstan and south-east to the Pamir Highway.

Looking back into the valley.

A short stretch of pavement...

...before the road deteriorates to dirt.

This is the northern so called Summer road. Open only a couple of months once the snow has gone.

Spring run-offs have washed out sections of the road.

Water is still gushing down the mountains.

We have to walk each water crossing to ensure the best path through. Progress is slow.

One fall could damage the motorcycle or even worse hurt us.

The water crossings kept on coming and coming.

Beautiful yellow flowers adorn the meadows.

We get to about Hur, 210km from Dushanbe, at 3pm. The road through the village no longer exists due to a landslide and we are detoured into the river bed below.

Huge amount of mud greets us. Only seconds after Ruby dumps the motorcycle, Mike goes down as well.

The path ahead is through a river with huge rocks and elevation change.

The only way through with our 300kg motorcycles would be on the back of a truck.

Even if we made it through this section without damaging the motorcycles or ourselves, the condition over the upcoming 3252m pass was unknown. We decided to turn around.

We set up camp at this fantastic spot.

June 27, 2010. Retracing our route back to Dushanbe, we come upon a couple of girls on a donkey...

...pulling fire wood. Two (2) beautiful girls.

Traffic is backed up yet again as truck after truck tries to get around this switchback.

Each truck has to get assistance in the turn.

Stopping for a break at a roadside water fountain we are joined in minutes by four (4) 17 year old traditionally dressed girls and one of the girl's brothers who is driving the car.

It is Sunday and they are on a day trip from Dushanbe. They are very excited to see us, asking for pictures to be taken and end up giving us tonnes of food.

Back in Dushanbe we meet Roland (left) and Glenn (right) from Switzerland...

...they have each a BMW F800GS. Read the journal entry to find out more about their incredible journey from Switzerland to Tajikistan.

We are held up in Dushanbe until June 30, 2010 to get our re-entry Uzbekistan Visa. On July 01, 2010 we take the southern road (all session) to the Pamir Highway.

The road ahead descending from the SHAR-SHAR PASS.

A new road and perfectly lit tunnel brings us out on the west side of the NUREK RESERVOIR.

After the Nurek Reservoir, a short section of the road is under construction and then it is clear sailing through flat pasture country side to Vose and Kulyab.

We start climbing again over a pass.

A sign marking the SHURABAD PASS at 2200m.

The scenery from Shurabad down to the Pyandzh River and Afghanistan Border.

The start of the rugged mountains.

Our first encounter of an Afghanistan village across from the river.

The road starts to deteriorate drastically as we follow the river north. Ruby looking her best all hot and sweaty trying to keep up with the water intake via camelbag.

Only a couple of hundred meters on the eastern banks...

...of the river lies Afghanistan.

Little Afghan villages, mostly mud houses dot the river bank, ...

...connected only by a foot path.

The only transportation between villages is along this foot path via donkey.

The mountains are closing in on us and it is more like riding through a canyon with steep mountain walls on both sides of us. Note the footpath on the Afghan side cut into the cliff. We actually saw people walking along there.

After 10 hours of riding we pull into Kalaikhumb and pitch a tent in the yard of a homestay.

The friendly owners won't take any money from us and as always we appreciate their hospitality. The view from the top of the homestay.

July 02, 2010. We continue from Kalaikhumb along the Afghanistan border ...

...with only the Pyami River separating both countries.

Another caravan of donkeys making their way along the Afghan side footpath.

As we gain altitude, so do the surrounding mountains.

Snow capped Afghan mountains, most of them over 4000m.

At the base of these mountains lies another Afghan village...

...bathing in the morning sun.

There is no running water or vehicle access, but a Satellite dish on every roof top.

Afghans working the fields.

We watch them as they rip out the wheat and bundle them up. At the same time they also see us and happily wave to us.

No machinery here. It is all hands on.

Even though we are riding on the Tajikistan side,...

...most of these pictures are from the villages, people and scenery of Afghanistan.

Most people love this country, and when riding through pretty country like this it is hard not to.

Another village in Afghanistan.

We watch yet again as caravans of loaded up donkeys ...

...trot along some very dangerous sections.

The traditional dress of Afghanistan men.

Even though they are traditionally dressed they are wearing running shoes.

This was a particular dangerous section, with a switch back cut into the shear rock and a wooden bridge.

A large waterfall right beside the road makes for an interesting water crossing.

Taking a break.

We take 8hours (220km) to reach Khorog, including stopping for many pictures.

There is not a boring moment with ample opportunities to take pictures of the Afghanistan people across the river.

Close to Khorog the river widens...

...and almost looks more like a lake.

A typical road sign. Translated it reads Osh 740km, Kulbma 411km, Murgab 321km and Dshelondi (Jelandy)133km.

We stay at the Pamir "Lodge" in Khorog. All the rooms are taken by backpackers and cyclists and we set up the tent on a topchan (tea bed).

This is how we would purchase gasoline (Benzin) at the Petrol Station out of a large garbage bucket.

The Benzin is scooped from the large bucket into a smaller bucket...

...and then purred into our gas tanks.

How much Benzin we took was based on the size of bucket used.

July 03, 2010. We leave Khorog heading south to Ishkashim continuing to follow the Afghanistan border.

These pretty girls were busy carrying bundles of hay on their back and very happy to get their picture taken.

Lots of this old army utilitary from the Russian times are left on the side of the road. The border with Afghanistan along the river is still heavily mined and we were advised not to camp or wander off close to the river.

The usual river crossings along the way.

We continue to climb in altitude as we head into the WAKHAN VALLEY.

Here we are at around 2500m and surrounded by towering mountains.

Following the Pyanj River.

The scenery gets more dramatic as we head further south.

The Pyanj River widens and almost represents a lake.

In the distance we can make out the snow capped mountains towering over 6000m.

The 100km stretch from Khorog to Ishkashim is a good gravel road.

We could have not planned it any better if we tried (which we didn't)...

...every other Saturday (in the Summer only) is a CROSS BORDER BAZAAR/MARKET on the Afghanistan side.

A bridge in 2006 was built for this purpose.

We leave the motorcycles at the Tajikistan side of the bridge and hand over our passports to the millitary officers at the gate.

This is one of the most memorable experiences of this Central Asia trip, as it is very unique to mingle with Afghanis.

Traders have their goods spread out on tarps.

Women cover their face (except eyes) with a separate colorful piece of scarf.

An Afghani selling coal strips.

Common among females is the braided hair with colorful thread and bells dangling at the end.

Close up of the braided hair.

Covered face.

The fabric section is a huge hit.

Females buy yards of fabric.

Mike checks out the fabric on display.

One can clearly distinguish between Tajikistan and Afghanistan dress code. In Afghanistan men wear the vest with pockets and unique hat.

The people were super friendly.

There is probably a thousand people.

It was a great opportunity for taking pictures...

...especially close up shots.

An overview of the bazaar/market.

These group of men wanted there picture taken.

Yet again, in Central Asia it is easier for Ruby to take the pictures of people.

The perfect picture of an Afghani.

We decide to return to Khorog and the beginning of the Pamir Highway.

Enroute we come upon a group of women who flag us down ... show us their creation.

A beautiful carpet.

We also meet Stef and Anna from Belgium.

Stef suddenly found himself with (5) adopted children.

In Khorog we set up camp again at the Pamir Lodge. At the local market we get fresh vegetables and rice...

...and Mike whips up a yummy dinner.

At the Afghanistan market earlier we had met Phillipe from France/England who had spent (3) weeks in Afghanistan. Over a beer we shared some great stories.

July 04, 2010. Concrete overhangs protect the road from avalanches in the winter as we head out of Khorog along the Pamir Highway.

In the Gunt Valley, these foot bridges in various states of repair are fun to explore.

Ruby tries to make it across the Gunt River on this strongly swinging bridge.

The Gunt Valley is well watered and very green.

As we pass 3000m in elevation the vegetation is getting sparce.

The peaks are getting more pointy.

The Pamir Highway is 95% pavement...

...with a few pot holes.

Another foot bridge, which Mike willingly passes.

The fast moving Gunt River.

The construction of the foot bridge looks shaky.

After Jelandy we pass the 3500m mark.

Every so often Sheep monuments are erected on the side of the road.

We climb to the KOI-TEZEK PASS at 4299 as per GPS.

Temperatures dropped drastically...

...and it even started to snow a few flakes.

From here we remain at high altitude over 4000m for the next 150km crossing the Pamir Plateau.

The mountains look more spread out (flatter).

The scenery is lunar-like.

Our first view of the Salt Lakes... the Alichur plain.

The salt is clearly visible along the edges.

It is amazing how people still set up their yurts at this altitude.

The motorcycles are running perfect, thanks to fuel injection the altitude is not effecting the motorcycles.

The landscape is wind swept. A military checkpoint at the edge of the village records our passport information and advises us that we have to register with the KGB.

This is Murghab, located at 3600m. Mike comments in regards to "beautiful Murghab" were: "You might not be at the end of the world, but you can definitely see it from here."

We stay at the the Ibrahim/Anara Guesthouse.

The toilet is across the yard. A hole in the ground with a western toilet mounted on top.

No running water. The container above the sink is filled with water and then you can brush your teeth and wash up.

Brush-like tree branches are used for burning wood mixed in with animal dung.

The bucket contains the animal dung for fueling the wood cooking oven.

The kitchen sees most of the action in this house.

The family dinning room.

The Guesthouse is completely full when we arive but we are put up in the family living room sleeping on the floor.

Mike purchases the traditional white felt Kyrgyzstan hat called ak kalpak.

July 05, 2010. We decide to stay another day, as Ruby caught Giardia.

This village is the wild west. Walking to the local market/bazaar we see the usual strange things.

Due to the harsh conditions the shops are located in old containers and trailers...

...which have seen better days.

We are able to get the basic amenities like water and sweets.

The Kyrgyzstan influence is apparent in the dress of the locals, which wear the traditional Kyrgyzstan hat.

All you require out of a bag.

A local motorcycle with sidecar.

The village has no running water and therefore locals have to collect water from a central water pump station.

Mike notices after further inspection of the motorcycles that the luggage rack had broken at a key point.

The entire left side was held on by only one bolt. We find a local welder...

...who repairs the broken piece and only charges us $2.00... addition he helped restalling the mounting.

Mike's front Wilbers shock is also leaking oil.

July 06, 2010. The air is crisp and the motorcycles take a couple of tries to start. We can see our breath in front of us.

Heading out of Murghab going north the sun is still low in the sky. We are on the road by 6am.

The first 70km we climb from 3600m to 4655m.

The AK-BAITAL PASS at 4655m is the highest pass on the Pamir Highway ...

...and also would be the highest pass for us on this trip and up to this point for the motorcycles ever.

The ground is frozen. We noticed a smell of Benzin and confirmed, as we stopped at the pass that Benzin was running along the fairing and dripping on the left cylinder head.

We were concerned. But first we had to get off the high elevation.

The Pamir Highway follows the Chinese Border very closely as can be seen by the barbed wire.

The Pamir Highway.

Our first view of the Kara-Kul Lake.

The KARA-KUL Lake is Central Asia's highest Lake at 3900m.

The surrounding mountains are again snow capped and reach over 7000m in elevation.

This is the lowest point after the Ak-Baital Pass and the Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan border crossing.

We continue onwards and climb back to 4200m.

The Tajikistan border post is located at an inhospitable spot. The buildings are converted 1000BBL tanks lying on its side.

Our last picture on the Tajikistan side. Around the corner is the actual border post as we find out later.